As part of Kaspersky’s Bring on the Future series, we’re meeting businesses around the world who are changing their industry and society for the better.
According to a study by Gallup, 85 percent of the global workforce is disengaged. This poses a huge problem for business, and indeed communities right across the world. Disengaged workforce employees are inefficient and ineffective, which means brands struggle. That is if they aren’t familiar with this behavioral empowerment enterprise platform. beep is an AI-powered platform that encourages employees to drive innovation and be more engaged at work. It gives senior leaders the chance to listen and learn from the untapped knowledge, insights and creativity of their workforce in real-time.
Katz Kiely, the founder of beep, tells me about why giving people the power to drive change can motivate them, the importance of fostering a culture where people can speak up, and how her platform can help.
Ryan Loftus: Hi, Katz. Why did you start beep, and how did you come to found it?
Katz Kiely: Back in 2003, I set up a business that connected large corporates – who, at the time, were struggling to keep up with accelerating change – with digital startups, who could deliver fun and fast. It led me to design the first open innovation competition with Hewlett Packard in 2003, connecting big business with startups who could help them innovate. But we found that a year after we connected them, they would get chewed up and spat out by corporate antibodies.
So we turned our attention to how we could use digital to connect business cultures and dissolve the walls between silos. Three years later, I was headhunted by the United Nations (UN) – an intergovernmental organization. I’d always worked from the outside in, then suddenly, I was on the inside and really understood how complicated and inefficient operating models can be.
Bureaucracy, hierarchy and silos make it almost impossible for people to innovate. Workers have no incentive to fix things, so they put up with things being broken and get increasingly disengaged. The UN transformation program was very successful. I learned that any large organization could be transformed for the better if you do it in the right way. Doing change with people rather than to them.
Studying behavioral science explained why. I saw my research in action when I attended the Burning Man festival; the idea of beep came to me there. It’s the most incredible social experiment; for ten days, people live according to different rules of engagement. They have an incentive to be 100 percent themselves, and in that environment, they’re unbelievably creative. Their “inner-doer” and problem-solving come alive – someone has an idea, and it’s suddenly happening. Changing the rules of engagement awakes our inner problem-solver, so why don’t we do this in wider society?
So I decided to think about how we could apply this to corporates. I’d built so many digital technologies to power open-innovation, communications and collaborative design, so I pledged to tie it all together into one SaaS platform. That way, any company can unleash the problem-solving potential of its workforce. So that’s what beep is – a distributed engine that incentivizes people to unleash their inner problem solver.
That’s quite the journey. What’s the vision for beep?
It’s a continuous improvement engine that rewards and recognizes people for spotting opportunities to change for the better, then connect them with the right people from other departments and regions to develop solutions. It delivers continuous, peer-led innovation from those who really know what’s going on in companies: workers on the frontline.
Everyone wants their life at work to be more enjoyable; beep gives them the tools to fix things that frustrate them. Like customer complaints or clunky tech, inefficient spaces and services, or even if the company is doing something that feels ethically wrong. beep gives people the tools to not only expose the weak links but to find fast fixes before little problems grow bigger.
McKinsey is the latest analyst to conclude that the most successful companies understand that everything can be improved. These companies empower people to spot opportunities for improvement and to think, act and feel like designers. They get everyone at all levels and departments to focus on what really matters; how the customer experiences whatever product or service they’re offering. beep encourages business-wide innovation from the ground up.
Agile organizations that empower employees to make change from the inside out. So how does beep work?
It’s a digital platform that rewards and recognizes people for spotting weak links, like “This bit of the operational process is slowing me down,” or “Customers keep complaining about this.” Maybe even, “I’m not comfortable that we’re doing this.” They then get points and badges for posting, liking, commenting and collating challenges (‘beeps’). If enough people across the organization are talking about a similar problem, they’re invited into a ‘DEN’ (workshop).
The DENs are essential to the beep process. It’s open-source, so anyone from across the organization can program and facilitate one. The workshop still happens in a room; nothing will ever replace the bonding that happens when people collaborate face to face. But we’ve digitized the post-it notes, flip charts and sticker dot votes.
The participants refine the challenge on the app before, and then they have one day to design solutions that are shared across the organization. The data feeds into the AI, so companies learn from every challenge. And it means that the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) and Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) can actually see what’s going on across the organization.
We’ve also integrated an employee engagement tool so leaders can see how their employees are feeling in real-time, across different parts of the company.
A crowdsourced way of looking at challenges in an organization, nice. How does beep differ from similar technologies, or surveys, on the market?
With a lot of similar technologies or traditional surveys, there’s no incentive – people don’t use them, and there’s no return on investment. Centralized models for surveying are inefficient. For example, many companies do surveys four times a year to improve operational efficiency. They basically collect a bunch of data, and by the time they’ve analyzed it and done anything about it, the figures are out of date and they’re onto the next survey. If people don’t see results, they stop bothering to complete the surveys.
Open innovation platforms are good but not ideal. Why? The challenge is usually set by leadership, but the person in charge of dealing with that might receive 176 ideas to fix the problem. 175 won’t move forward. According to behavioral science, we think our ideas are always the best, so that means 175 disappointed people who are now more disengaged.
beep allows employees to discuss the things that are important to them. It exposes hidden opportunities for improvement, and it’s distributed. So people have the permission and tools to fix the little things, while leadership gets to focus on the significant strategic challenges.
One thing that drives me is that every time we sell a license to a corporate, we gift one to a not-for-profit network working towards sustainable development goals. So by buying a license, businesses are inherently supporting others to help tackle world problems.
That’s incredible. Put simply, what are the benefits of using your software?
Using beep basically means your company is in a perpetual state of continuous improvement. Senior leaders have a clear idea of what’s going on inside their business – at every level – rather than getting whatever information middle management decides to tell them. It increases transparency, makes people happier because they’re more involved, and gives them a real chance to drive change, be creative and fix things. It’s good for society, it’s suitable for employees, and most importantly, it’s good for business.
Good all round! What challenges have you faced so far?
For some legacy CXOs, this is a very new way of doing things. More traditional leaders still think that command and control is the best way to run a company. They feel safe being the expert and feel uncomfortable with opening up the knowledge and insight of their workforce.
Unless you’re exposed to this way of thinking and empowering people to find solutions from the ground up, it’s quite a big step. But saying that, there’s a marked increase in the number of businesses who are looking to change this. And now, research by McKinsey shows that these new ways of working lead to financial success. The old ways will, slowly but surely, die out.
A new-age way of problem-solving. What’s been your most significant success?
I gave myself a challenge that seemed impossible at the start. I was at Burning Man for the second time. I phoned up my colleague Matt – a tech guru – and told him that we were going to build a SaaS platform, harnessing my experience of helping businesses change for the better over the last 20 years and sell it on. He thought I was crazy at first. It’s taken a while, but by golly, we got there. I get to work with some of the smartest, most forward-thinking people too, it genuinely feels like we’re making the world a better place. What could be better than that?
What does the future hold for Beep? Have you any exciting developments?
Inside a big corporate, the idea of sourcing shared challenges and bringing people together with the tools to help them solve situations is essential. But can you imagine when we start to use beep in governments or cities?
If cities started to adopt this way of thinking, it would let citizens find shared challenges and come together – with different people with different skills and opinions – to find a solution. That excites me. My dream is to unleash the inner problem solver in all humans. I believe this is the way forward if we’ve got any chance of fixing today’s issues – environmental, social or otherwise. By empowering people to connect with others around shared challenges, by enabling people to be accountable and permitting them to be problem solvers, we can drive real positive change.