Nicolas Petit is a seasoned executive, with 25 years’ career in the Pharma industry. Nicolas founded “Humanize” in 2021, a consultancy aiming at developing human centric workplaces through technology and data. For 4 years before that, he was Senior Director of Culture Transformation at GSK Vaccines, where he implemented a Viral ChangeTM novel approach to shape the culture of the company globally. Nicolas held various management positions in marketing & sales, R&D and manufacturing. He owns 2 masters (Management, Data Science), and is an alumnus of INSEAD on AI in business. He is also an internal executive coach, a facilitator for the Human Performance Institute, a black belt, and an agile coach.
Recently, in an exclusive interview with CXO Outlook Magazine, Nicolas shared his insights on how businesses can benefit from a data-driven culture, the inspiration behind establishing Humanize, challenges faced by him during the early stages of his business, future plans, and much more. The following excerpts are taken from the interview.
In your opinion, why should leaders cultivate a data-driven culture for their businesses? What are its keys benefits?
Management theories were elaborated in times when data was not available to properly test and validate scientifically. With the rise of the internet and the incredible explosion of computing power, we are encountering a real data revolution. For business leaders, this means that they can no longer rely on old theories and need to embrace the almost endless opportunities that the data they now have at their disposal is opening for them.
Where in the past, leaders were relying on instinct and gut feeling to make decisions, they can now have access to real time hyper complex analysis. This is super impactful in countless business areas. Of course, to optimize production lines, decrease variability and errors in manufacturing processes, in optimizing supply chain etc., but this is no news everyone would expect data to be central in those areas. But data is now also revolutionizing areas where it was so far not used so much, contributing to increased speed of execution and automation, but also opening brand new fields of business improvement. Think about office space optimization, hyper-customization of customer loyalty programmes, procurement strategy, pricing tactics, employee engagement endeavors etc. The one I personally am super interested in is company culture shaping. I believe that data will be the superpower of successful companies not so much because it will help them optimize their products or productivity levels, but because it will help them shape the cultures they need to outpace and beat competition.
What was the inspiration behind establishing Humanize? Tell us about its mission and vision.
Humanize is a consultancy established in 2021. Humanize helps its clients to shape their culture to be future ready and achieve superior business performance. How? By helping define and quickly spread the daily behaviors needed to support business ambition. The experience of its consultants in culture shaping is essential, but the secret sauce lies in 2 other data driven characteristics: 1) know how in leveraging behavioral science to activate informal networks and group dynamics, 2) a strong appetite towards the use of data, graph theory, modern statistics and predictive analytics.
Our 4 step approach (www.1234humanize.com) is backed up by behavioral research on group dynamics and consists on focusing effort son 5 key dimensions that create the right environment for behaviors (culture) to change at scale: a refreshing new approach to communication, authentic committed leaders, active informal influencers, clever reinforcing mechanisms and streamlined supportive processes.
The mission behind Humanize to bring humanity back in the center of organizations, i.e. re-humanize the workplace. Our approach and mindset is very different to what you are used to see with traditional consultancies. We combine the use of data, science technology with a rare attention to people and relationships. Hence our motto: data driven culture transformation.
You are also a Co-Founder of Teamersive. How does this platform enable teams & individuals to unleash their full potential?
Teamersive (www.teamersive.be) is a transformational one-day experience that combines data and behavioral science with virtual reality and professional coaching to help teams optimize their level and nature of interaction. Teamersive’s vision to make teams and their leaders stronger in the face of uncertainty, more performant and resilient during crisis, and more robust over time to be able to thrive in a volatile World with a constant and increasingly rapid flow of crisis and complex ambiguous problems to solve.
Human centered and tech powered, this experience (today only in Brussels) is unique in the World, because it is grounded in actual observed and measured behaviors (what people do) rather than based on surveys (what people say). The basic principle is simple: teams of 8 to 12 are immersed in a virtual reality stressful scenario several times during the day. These scenarios are a metaphor of real life uncertain, volatile and complex situations that the team is facing and needs to solve. During each experience, hard and soft behavioral data are gathered and analyzed in real time. Within seconds, dashboards are generated and played back to the team. The team is compared with other teams, its characteristics displayed. This is super powerful to trigger constructive discussions on actual team dynamics and find pragmatic solutions and concrete actions that will impact the performance, resilience and robustness of the team for good. The Teamersive experience is facilitated by expert team coaches with long industry and management experience, using collective intelligence techniques.
What were the main challenges you faced at the early stages of your business? And do you still encounter them to this day?
I waited far too long before jumping into the hot water of entrepreneurship. I was literally dying in large corporations, feeling fuzzy and numb, my creativity stifled by cumbersome processes and political games. I spent months preparing because I thought it would be very hard and risky. It was not. My business is still young, and I am expecting to face setbacks and disappointments in the future, but a few learnings are already emerging for me. I would strongly recommend young entrepreneurs to have 3 things absolutely clear before they start: 1°) a very clear idea of WHY they want to launch their business. What is their mission and why is it important to them. What is bigger than them is that they feel pulled by every morning when they get up. For me, it was to leverage data and technology to release more humanity in people, especially in the workplace. 2°) a clear vision. Even if it is going to change over time, having a vision & strategy is key. This means knowing your customers inside out and having a 5 to 10 years strategy in place before you actually start. 3°) a willingness and readiness to try, to fail and to learn. The first idea will not be the right one, but if the mission is clear and the vision is there, then nothing bad can happen. Just grow and adapt, like nature would. Anything will help you grow. You fail; you grow. You succeed: you grow.
In the end those are not rocket science advice. I think the trick is to run your small business with rigor and discipline in execution, and always stay true to your mission, vision and commitment to learn. Your mission will be the fire inside you, the energy to keep you going. Your vision will drive you like a compass. Your commitment to learn will give you the agility to get where you want, whatever happens to you.
How do you lead and motivate your employees to ensure that they remain productive?
Of course, there are many models we can tap into to give a well-articulated answer to this question. To me, management is about being a rainbow human. People will tend to follow someone who inspires them, and they feel close to. That means 1°) RED. relentlessly try to be the best version of yourself. Generously serve people without expecting anything in return (helping, developing, coaching, with dedication). 2°) YELLOW. follow your dreams and your heart, and let it show to contaminate others (vision, inspiration). 3°) GREEN. connect with authenticity. Watch and learn from others (listen, be open and vulnerable). 4°) BLUE. step back and learn from your actions and behaviors (humility, curiosity, reflexivity).
If you could turn the time, what would you love to do in regard to your business?
I fell too quickly into the “technician” trap. I fell in love with my product & service, wanting to dig even deeper into the data, into the tools and the technicalities of behaviour change etc. It is super interesting and intellectually highly rewarding to be doing this. Yet, to be a good entrepreneur, you need to see yourself as a balanced incarnation of both a “technician” and a “manager”. We tend to focus on the “technician” part, i.e. the content of what we offer. And we fail to spend enough time on describing and standardizing our practice to make it scalable and be able to sell it at a later point. That second part is the real secret of entrepreneurship and what makes it a successful sustainable business. I wish I had accepted less contracts (it was so tempting) and started less projects (do I have too many ideas and too much enthusiasm?) in order to intentionally invest more time into describing and standardizing my practices.
What keeps you going even in hard times?
During covid, I had lots of time to think about how to reinvent myself. This is where I discovered that a great day for me was a day where I could combine 3 things: connections, achievements, and learning. As long as I have those 3 elements, I am fine. When my business was not yet taking off, I managed to get the very same ingredients through music: connected with new musicians who became my friends, delivered my first rock concert as a drummer, learning tons on myself and my limitations in the process.
I make sure to have several of these projects ongoing in parallel to my main activity, so that in tough times, I can rely on them to get what I need to keep going.
Then of course, my mission in life of reenchanting / re-humanizing organizations is so much bigger than mine that it helps me put life events and hiccups in perspective.
What do you think it takes to succeed in business?
To me success comes with BEING and GIVING. BEING means authenticity. Being ourselves, Living Our Values Everyday (LOVE). But also, being with others, i.e., connecting. Connecting with customers of course, but also with suppliers and stakeholders, will get us a healthy business. Maybe not right away, but eventually it will. GIVING is about dedication. Giving time, but mostly giving energy. Dedication to our dream, dedication to our customers, dedication to our employees, dedication to others in general. My motto: never hesitate to go the extra mile for others. One day, it will pay off too.
Where do you see Humanize and Teamersive in the next 5 years?
I think the culture transformation consultancy will gradually become a side product of Humanize. In 5 years, Humanize will have developed into an integrated business offering universal everyday digital tools that will impact humanity in organizations. By then, our unique approach to developing humanity in organizations using data will have been copied and replicated by several other players around the globe. If we achieve that, our success will be full.
As for Teamersive, I think we will revolutionize learning and training for teams and the industry of team dynamics. In 5 years, technology will have evolved so much that we will be able to offer the service directly at the customer’s place (today you still need to go to a specific place to have this experience). Another few years, and people will not even believe that we one day we used to conduct team dynamics diagnostics and workshops based on static questionnaires and boring surveys rather than with real time behavioral data.
What is the ‘one word’ advice you will give to aspiring entrepreneurs?