INNOVATORS VS COVID 19
Meeting Inclusivity in the Age of COVID and Beyond
Rob Hopkin, Co-founder of Axis tells us how to make every meeting matter.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
We are all well and thankful for our health.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Axis.
Rob Hopkin: I’ve spent 15 years as a management consultant, much of it facilitating effective collaboration to solve problems. Axis stems from a desire to make every collaboration session and meeting count. I’ve seen too many meetings dominated by a single loud voice or achieve little in terms of tangible or actionable outcomes. These are the challenges that we are solving.
How does Axis innovate?
Rob Hopkin: We innovate as an inclusive team, using Axis. We love structured collaboration as a way to harness the power of diversity of thought and experience to generate and prioritize innovation – we believe every voice at the company deserves to be heard.
We also regularly co-innovate with partners and customers. A lot of our future features have come from customers who use our product. For example, I have a weekly meeting with one of our strategic customers, where they share how they have used Axis across the organization and what innovations would be super-powerful for them.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Rob Hopkin: Axis is a tool that allows virtual and hybrid collaboration to work well, so the recent shift to entirely virtual has increased demand. As lockdown lifts, we expect a sustained shift to hybrid collaboration that looks to blend the best of both worlds. This is a big focus for us as Axis creates an equal footing for those who can’t be in the room and, through a simple smartphone interface, plus it doesn’t force those in the room to be locked behind their computer screens in order to participate digitally – it’s the best of both worlds.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Rob Hopkin: During COVID, we have been extremely fortunate to be able to grow the business. But we have had to make tough choices in the past. Our key lesson, particularly in the early stages, is that acting early is key. Often you are operating on a very short runway, and delaying tough decisions can be fatal.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Rob Hopkin: This is an area where we’re now investing significant effort to mature our capabilities. Historically we’ve been incubating the product with a number of big charter customers. Now we’re looking to grow and open up to everyone who wants to collaborate better – right now, that looks like implementing a CRM and re-platforming our website.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat? Yes, we’ve won funding from Innovate UK for two projects focused on inclusive and sustainable collaboration. The funding has helped evolve the product, been hugely influential in shaping our product roadmap, and building amazing relationships with our project partners. For example, the project research has enabled us to identify that in any given meeting with more than five people, 20% of the individuals take up 80% of the air time. This fact still staggers me and allows us to recognize how crucial it is to ensure every voice in the room can contribute to driving an inclusive outcome. We also learned about the importance of timed silence moments that give everyone time and space to shape and convey their thoughts without having dominant voices crowd them out.
Your final thought?
Rob Hopkin: COVID has made people fundamentally rethink how teams innovate and collaborate, accelerating existing trends and permanently changing the world of work. It’s still unclear what things will look like in the future. What is certain is that organizations need to make the most of their talent and innovate and change faster and more effectively. For Axis, our mission is to provide a product that allows individuals and organizations to rewire how they collaborate, with an approach that works whether in person, virtual or hybrid.
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