Chris Griffiths is the founder and CEO of OpenGenius, the company behind innovative task management tool Ayoa.com. Griffiths has helped thousands of people worldwide drive business growth using highly practical innovation processes, including teams and individuals from Fortune 500 and FTSE 100 companies, the United Nations, governments, the European Commission and Nobel Laureates. He is a pioneer in combining creative thinking strategies with technology to enhance productivity… So let’s jump right in, shall we?
OpenGenius is the first ever Welsh company to join the London Stock Exchange’s Elite UK accelerator programme – what inspired you to come up with it?
One word: innovation. While our goals and ambitions are numerous, innovation is what drives us as a company. I wanted to establish an organisation that had creativity at its heart; that means looking beyond profit, and really thinking about how we can make everyday innovation a tangible thing for the average employee.
What do you enjoy the most about it?
What I enjoy most is seeing the real impact we have on our customers and users. It’s so rewarding to see the people we work with – whether that’s through training or software – actually improve their daily lives. People don’t always place importance on work systems, but realistically work takes up 40+ hours of our life every single week. When you improve the way someone works, you’re improving their quality of life, too. What we do doesn’t just make people’s lives easier, it makes their work stronger as well.
How long did it take you to create it – from the moment of conception to its actual launch?
Before OpenGenius, I was CEO of a PLC, one of Europe’s fastest growing ed-tech companies. I’d always been interested in modern brain-based learning methodologies. I knew I wanted to expand this into something more, to see how a wider understanding of creativity and innovation could intertwine. I took this opportunity to the board of the PLC but they only wanted to focus on ed-tech, so I resigned. I knew I believed in this vision of creativity – and 6 months later I’d set up OpenGenius.
An entrepreneur’s journey is usually full of ups and downs – what has been the biggest obstacle you faced so far business-wise, and how did you overcome it?
I became successful at a young age; I sold my first company at the age of 26. It gave me the false impression that everything I touched would turn to gold. It didn’t. Ultimately, this was a good thing – I learned how to handle failure after having had success at such an early point in my career. It provided me with an invaluable skill: persistence.
Why do you think your clients choose you, over your competitors?
I think they choose us because we’re honest. Being transparent about who we are and what we do is really important to OpenGenius. We view things differently – if you look at the realm of task management (which our software ‘Ayoa’ intersects with) you’ll see that all of our competitors are peddling the same thing ‘get more done, faster’ – but that’s not productivity. We turn the question on its head; rather than asking ‘are you getting things done?’ we ask “are you getting the right things done?” After all, you can productively dig a hole. Our whole ethos is about improving the work process, not just helping you work at a faster pace. If people want to be innovative they need to do more than carry on with a broken work strategy, they need to bring in fruitful ideation and effective collaboration. That’s what we offer.
What was the best piece of advice someone has ever given to you?
The best piece of advice I’ve ever been given is: “Winners fail more than losers try”. I think our work culture can still be old fashioned with how it considers mistakes and failure. Especially when you get to a corporate level – there’s so much red tape and so many people an idea has to go through before anything can come from it. When you value safety and security over risk and innovation, you essentially prevent progression; you can’t improve if you’re not willing to try new things. Plus, we learn when we fail. If you never make mistakes, then you’re not learning. I’ve built my whole career around this advice, who knows where I’d be if I hadn’t made the mistakes I have. They’ve given me the opportunity to learn and grow to get to where I am now.
What is your favourite book of all time and why?
My favourite book is one of the best business books ever written – yet it is rarely read by people in business. This is: ‘The Little Prince’ by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It was published in 1943 and sold over 140m copies worldwide. It’s a children’s book, but the underlying message is about adults and how we lose our ability to use our imagination as we age. It’s definitely a book some corporate dinosaurs could do with giving a read.
What is the most important thing in your life and why?
Family is the most important thing in my life; it’s where one is nurtured and nurture wins over nature every time.
What would you say is your best quality and how has it benefited you and others around you?
I think my best quality is my imagination. I make time for focussed daydreaming, allowing ideas to incubate. When you make that a priority, the ideas come naturally. That valued creativity is really the foundation of what we do at OpenGenius.
Entrepreneurs are known for their ability to reinvent themselves and keep evolving – what’s next for you and OpenGenius?
Our new software app, Ayoa, is the way forward for us now. I’ve talked about changing the way people work, and we’ve created the software to do just that. Our app combines Mind Mapping, Task Management and Communication. Basically, we’ve designed the software to fix the broken modern work process which sees people constantly context-switching – jumping between email, instant messenger, task management as well as their actual work. We have all of those things in one place. Mind Mapping is a key element of the work process you don’t often see mentioned; after all, good work comes from good ideas. Ayoa allows all teams, even remote ones, to brainstorm collaboratively.