Adam Jacobs on innovation, success, and the future of your work

Adam Jacobs on innovation, success, and the future of your work

The age of exponential work is coming …

BY Business Chicks, 6 min READ

In partnership with our Movers and Breakers event partner, UV-IQ.

Welcome to our series wrapping up some of the best takeaways from our annual Movers and Breakers conference in Broome. We heard from some of the world’s foremost thought and industry leaders, who inspired us to be more curious and challenge ourselves in what is possible. Here’s some of the most important lessons from Adam Jacobs, who is the co-founder and managing director of The ICONIC – Australia’s largest online fashion retailer. He is also a co-founder of Hatch – a new venture of who’s mission is to design the future of work by creating opportunities for students to do meaningful paid work while they study.  Adam Jacobs is passionate in exploring how technology can positively influence our future. 


#1. Purpose comes with practice

The ICONIC is now renowned and exists to provide outstanding customer service, from its three-hour delivery to free returns the customer is always front of mind.

But, in Adam’s own words, honing in on the company’s purpose only came three years after The ICONIC was founded.

According to Adam, a business’ purpose is “what you are willing not to sacrifice”. For The ICONIC, during the toughest times they were willing to sacrifice a third-party logistics partner and money, but never the customer service (this is how Adam ended up delivering parcels to customers at midnight after working a full day).

“A strategy is important, but you need to have a crystal-clear purpose that people will rally behind,” Adam said.


#2. Build great teams and give them problems (not solutions)

“My job as a leader was not to deliver solutions to everyone to implement,” Adam said. “My job as a leader was identify the most important problems to solve and pull together the best team to solve it.”


#3. You don’t have to be first to do it the best

Adam is completely transparent that The ICONIC was not the first online fashion retailer across the world, nor Australia. What made The ICONIC different was the commitment to customer service, which they did better than any other online retailer in the market.

Giving the comparisons of Blackberry versus Apple, Myspace versus Facebook, “[These companies] were built on the shoulders of the companies that came before them, and did it better.”


#4. Innovation also isn’t about being first

Anyone else feel like innovation has become a bit of a buzzword? Yep, we’re on the same page.

According to Adam, “Innovation is not about being first or different, innovation is about being better at the right time.”

“Innovation is seeing a problem and delivering a result for that problem,” he said, but that result doesn’t have to be brand new.

“We don’t have to be reinventing the wheel every single time.”


#5. The age of exponential work is coming

We’re coming out of the Information Age and into exponential work, with this we’re going to see a bunch of different impacts. Here’s a few you should know about:

  • Exponential work means agile work. Agile work is the move away from vocational work, that is, vocations people have specifically trained for and will engage in for their careers.
  • In 10 years, 50% of the workforce will be considered contingent/agile workers, which is freelancers or contractors.
  • The half-life of a professional skill in 2019 is five years, compared to 30 years in 1980. This means our skills are going to be becoming outdated faster, but the plus-side is that we’ll be continuously learning.


#6. The playing fields are (hopefully) changing 

For Adam, this means dismantling the boys’ club (and the hundreds of other clubs).

“There is an awakening around the benefit and power of diverse teams,” he said. “Diversity can also come in a multitude of ways, from hiring different personalities (introversion versus extroversion), cultural background, location, experience, skills and thinking types.”


#7. We’re looking for meaningful work

Previously, many people have worked or chosen their career type due to social anxieties. Motivators for these social anxieties included what friends and family thought of their work type, money, or work perks.

Instead, people are now looking for meaning and contribution, over consumption.

Adam sees meaningful work as the intersection of what you care about, what makes you feel alive, and your strengths.

Over to you now – when was the last time you felt alive at work?

Adam Jacobs will be joining us at our 9 to Thrive Summit in Melbourne this year, head here to find out all the details and book your ticket.   

Read next: Dr Stephanie Burns on how to be a lifelong learner


©2020 Business Chicks

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