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Innovating with others in a ‘Blockchain Circle’

Malcolm Silberman’s story

RFP
Malcolm SilbermanVisiting family in Sydney
My passion for future gazing is one of the reasons I took a role in innovation at Grant Thornton. I like exploring tools and tracking indicators that predict trends and help anticipate the future. This skill set suits my day job well because innovation is all about predicting what technology enabler will become relevant. Now, as in most of my career, I’m steeped in discovering technologies that will be mainstream and practical in the next couple of years. As director of innovation, I work with others who are also excited about the future and taking steps to be ready for it.

Malcolm Silberman Autonomous racing cars; we use AI to train them for competition
While exciting, innovation needs support to turn projects into reality. Leadership at Grant Thornton recognizes that innovation can radically propel our business and our clients’ businesses. Their receptiveness to ideas is incredibly empowering. It makes it possible to face innovation’s significant challenges, such as determining which opportunities and technologies make practical use cases. Meeting these types of challenges takes melding perspectives from across the firm, which is the culture at Grant Thornton — bringing people together. For me it’s especially gratifying to work with millennials, who tend to be both tech savvy and knowledgeable in their business areas. These blended capabilities lend themselves to innovation and are what I believe are Grant Thornton’s secret sauce.

I also believe that future success depends on enabling our people to be learners. My work philosophy is based on agile leadership, the concept that teams should be adaptable and small, controlled experiments encouraged. It’s all-important to be not a teacher but rather a facilitator or guide. My focus is showing teammates where and how to find the right tools to solve a problem. I never solve it for them. If I did, they wouldn’t learn or adapt.

Malcolm SilbermanThe real passions of my life — my sons and the Chelsea Football Club
Malcolm SilbermanIn Sydney we checked out Australian Rules, a form of football new to me

When we learn, we can facilitate others. Our Innovation team empowers colleagues in the way the firm has empowered us. We welcome people who want to get involved, and we provide them with tools for developing new ways of doing business.

Making my impact at Grant Thornton My intention is building the firm of the future through innovative efforts. At the moment, it entails leading our blockchain and artificial intelligence activities and looking for ways to generate new revenue opportunities while melding these technology changes.

Malcolm Silberman I enjoy educating about the potential of AI and blockchain
This I know about innovating — you can't do it as an isolated group of individuals. It’s why I devised the Blockchain Circle, a “people system” of individuals who come together from all parts of our firm and share thought leadership. It’s one of the best things I’ve accomplished at Grant Thornton.

To join a circle, you don’t have to be an expert in blockchain technology or even be familiar with it. We have no rules or restrictions on who can join. There’s no hierarchy; a managing director and a brand new associate have equal footing, audience and input. Anyone can be the owner-operator of the circle. We want worker bees who’ll roll up their sleeves and get going. The right people have energy because it’s like a second job, and they’re in the habit of contributing real work products.

We’re making headway. One result of our Blockchain Circle are two new products that we expect to be in clients’ hands this year. They came about from the ideas of members of the circle. As a thought leader in this space, I’m respected for knowing how to construct an innovative product, doing it for the smallest number of dollars and rapidly testing it in the marketplace. If it’s not viable, we figure out how to lead our team in a different direction.

Malcolm SilbermanThe core Blockchain Circle group
Right now, I’m focused on discovering new ways of doing business at Grant Thornton. Our Innovation team set a goal of creating solutions that professionals across our firm can use to serve each other and clients in practicing building their own innovation expertise. We think many of our skills and our knowledge about developing products and solutions can be expanded to help our clients master their own programs.

To support the upcoming period, it’s important to strike a balance between centralization and pushing innovation to the edges of the organization. Centralization helps to reduce wasted resources and also makes it easier, when the time comes, to scale innovations into full production capacity. Innovation at the edges helps us get the best thinking of people working every day with client problems. Finding the right level of collaboration and balance is always difficult but if done right will surface great rewards.