A Tale of 2 Perspectives: The Zapien Origin Story, A Side

Welcome to Zapien

Headed by Jeremiah (branding and corporate anthropology) & Mitch (IT & business analysis). Two business professionals from different disciplines who are done playing the corporate salesy game of slick answers and posturing, as if our individual skillsets have all the answers to a client’s needs.

Separately We have skills which hold value in the commercial market; we are experts in our field, and dreamers of a better tomorrow. But, when our powers combine, as a brand, as Zapien, we are no longer dreamers, we are doers.

We’re not a movement, a consultancy firm, life coaches or a magical voodoo Zen-type business. We are not a business in the traditional sense; we don’t have any products or services we are trying to sell.

So, what ARE we trying to do?

We are trying to answer the question; what would happen if skilled individuals from different industries came together to explore & solve societal and commercial problems?

We get it. It’s not too convincing or reassuring for us to use the word trying in our pitch, but to be honest, that’s what we’re doing…trying.

We’re trying something different because from our perspectives, business, as usual, for the most part, hasn’t worked for us.

To understand why it hasn’t worked for us, we need to circle back and tell you our story for any of this to make sense, strap yourself in, here we go. 

 Meet Mitch

“I honestly believe that well implemented technology can scale human innovation like nothing else.”- Mitchell Hunt

You know the song and dance, right?

For me, the systems guy, it went something like this.

Enter Client. 

The “We need a website” Client: 

“What you have there is a systems problem, and we solve that through choosing the right technology to capture the right data, follow the right process to unlock the right insights.”

The “We’re about to change the world with our new business, and we need to be able to provide our service to everyone” Client:

“What you have there is a systems problem, and we solve that through choosing the right technology to capture the right data, follow the right process to unlock the right insights.”

The “We need to help our salespeople convert more leads” Client:

“What you have there is a systems problem, and we solve that through choosing the right technology to capture the right data, follow the right process to unlock the right insights.”

The “I am working 80hrs a week and my family is falling apart” Client:

“What you have there is a systems problem, and we solve that through choosing the right technology to capture the right data, follow the right process to unlock the right insights.”

The “We changed leadership or direction, and we need to be able to execute” Client:

“What you have there is a systems problem, and we solve that through choosing the right technology to capture the right data, follow the right process to unlock the right insights.”

You get the idea when you have a hammer everything looks like a nail and technology is a pretty versatile hammer, and I happen to be an expert at wielding it.

We got some great results, replacing over engineered solutions that cost clients $250k with more versatile and flexible solutions that cost about $20k. Or creating bespoke solutions that clients were told couldn’t be done, and we made it happen. 

But, fast forward two weeks, three months, six months, and the shine would come off. 

People would realise that after the excitement is gone, you come down to the question of, does it help me to do my job, the answer was often mixed.

Sure, their main pain points were addressed which made them feel good, but what about those things that they just took for granted and didn’t mention, now they are the pain points.

And because of the way we are usually engaged we come in, save the day and then are shunted out the door because we are external resources and therefore costs to be cut.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Now, this didn’t push me to the point of giving up on the idea that there is a solution to this cycle, but it does make me step back and ask, ‘What am I missing”.

And the answer I came to is, even though the skills I provided to those organisations helped them in the short term, they hindered them in the mid to long term.

In the same way as carrying a toddler around is a much more efficient way to get from A to B in the short term, their ability to crawl, walk and run is a slow short term solution but a much better long term solutions. 

So, what could I have done better?

I could have asked more questions of people on the front line who know the organisational needs.

We could have engaged differently and done a lot of smaller iterations rather than one project.

We could have insisted on ensuring that the internal team was part of the development process so they would take more ownership of the solution.

So why didn’t I?

Because we were actively disincentivised from doing that, we were engaged to provide a specific set of outputs rather than a broad set of outcomes.

We would walk in and listen to the Client’s problem. We would give them feedback and tell them we understood their problem and could help them to solve it. I was very good at this because I believe in the power of technology to make a significant change. 

Then they would ask us to scope exactly what they wanted into a fixed price contract with a fixed specification which would solve all the problems they had just spoken about but, still wanted us to stick within their budget.

We would pick the main pain points we heard from them and write them down in scoping documents, put estimations on time for developing, testing, releasing and bug fixing and then give them a fixed price and time for that deliverable.

The Client then receives that document, doesn’t have a hope of understanding the technical scope of the text, they only look at the price and delivery date, and even though they didn’t read the scope, they expect everything that was spoken about in any level in the first conversation is included. 

Now I didn’t do anything malicious, because we were very clear in the scoping document about what is and isn’t included. But I knew their budget wasn’t sufficient to every whim they had in the sales meeting. And I knew they didn’t read the scoping document because they didn’t have the technical skill to understand it.

But how can we get a good outcome from this situation? Before we even started, we are opposed to each other; they want to get a bargain for precisely what they wanted. We don’t want to lose money because the Client doesn’t know what they want.

So here we are.

The same song and dance gets played out in so many different consulting based relationships.

Maybe you’re a business analyst.

A change management expert. 

Or maybe you’re a software developer.

How about a personal trainer?

All you’re doing is doing your job exceptionally well and selling your services to people who want it.

But here’s the rub of it, we just happen to be selling it a little too good and they just happen to be looking for a silver bullet solution a little too much.

We all want to live the best version of lives, but don’t want to have to work with a nutritionist, a GP, a Physio, a personal trainer, a therapist and sleep 8 hours a day. 

We’d rather the one-size-fits-all version.

The slick consultant dressed up as a guru who happens to know everything about everything and looks the part too.

AKA – the silver bullet solution.

So, as I said at the beginning, I’m done with playing the corporate salesy game of posturing as if my individual skillset and services have all the answers to a clients’ need.

I don’t.

People are complicated, and businesses are even more complex.

So, what exactly are we trying to do again?

Well, we’re trying to start an open conversation.

An open conversation that invites skilled practitioners from divergent disciplines who happen to be done like us and are searching for a better way to deliver more holistic value to societal and commercial problems.

This is the makings of such a conversation.

Before you get too excited, we have to say there’s no study, New York Times best-selling book, trademarked approach. TED Talk or Podcast.

All we have right now is our experiences, our skillsets and our crazy obsession about what would happen if skilled practitioners from different spheres came together to explore societal and commercial patterns?

Who knows what this will lead to? Maybe a study will be in the mix or a tangible product? But to be honest, whatever it is, we’ll be happy as long it’s better than whatever business, as usual, is passing for at the moment.

Welcome to Zapien.