Where culture meets technology

In addition to being chief executive of consultancy company Emergent, Holly Ransom has delivered a peace charter to the Dali Lama, interviewed Barack Obama on stage, was appointed by the Prime Minister in 2014 to Chair the G20 Youth Summit, and was listed by Sir Richard Branson as one of his dream dinner guests.

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Sarah O'Donovan

With a resume of achievements so long you’d expect it from someone who was nearing the end of their career, this year’s HIA National Conference keynote speaker Holly Ransom is nothing short of a trailblazer. 
 
As someone who has rubbed shoulders with, and been noticed by, the likes of entrepreneur Richard Branson, Holly understood she needed to ask better questions to solve bigger problems from a young age. 
 
‘In my late teens I discovered the quote, “How long does it take to learn from someone’s life experience? A coffee!” I thought, “Hey, I can do coffee!” It made it kind of this accessible thing. I now have notoriously called or emailed or knocked on the door of most of the leaders of Australia,’ Holly says. 
 
At 15 she became the youngest employee in the events department at a local stadium after just one week of work experience saw her secure a permanent role. It was a sign of things to come. At 22 Holly was named one of Australia’s 100 Most Influential Women by the Australian Financial Review, at 24 she co-chaired the Youth Summit Y20. By 25 she had founded strategic advisory firm Emergent. 

As CEO of Emergent, Holly works directly with leaders of businesses and companies through workshops and speaking engagements to help them identify opportunities for growth and improvement. Applying what she knows about businesses, people, and technology across a range of industries, Holly specialises in disruption strategy and social technology architecture – but what does that mean? And how do these concepts apply to the building industry?

‘Disruption presents a choice between opportunity and obsolescence – we can’t afford not to be changing,’ Holly explains. ‘While the industry itself might not have evolved a great degree in 100 years, what we do know is that the world has evolved significantly. In particular, customer expectations have evolved.’
holly ransom

Holly will be speaking at the HIA 2020 National Conference on the Gold Coast from 28–30 May

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With the phrase ‘don’t fix what isn’t broken’ echoing in the distance, it’s important to distinguish the purpose of Holly’s work: disruption isn’t about change for the sake of change, it’s about keeping up with the changes happening externally. 

‘There is a whole new world order and it is critical that building industry leaders have their finger on the pulse of what this revolution will mean.’

The changes she helps businesses keep up with are those that occur within the industry but outside of an individual business or company and outside of an individual leader’s control, such as advancements in technology. 

‘Digital technology is already having profound implications on the building industry,’ she says. ‘The “Internet of Things” is offering new opportunities to improve the efficiency of buildings, raise employee productivity, as well as helping to stimulate the development of innovative new ways of constructing buildings themselves.’

Holly believes the best approach in the building industry is inspiring action from the top down: ‘I’ve learned that the most powerful change we can make as a leader is the change we inspire in others’. 


She understands that the heart of a business is behind the technology, where the people are, so her holistic approach to consulting also considers, in addition to how people work with technology, how people work together. 
holly ransom

"Digital technology is already having profound implications on the building industry"

‘Culture is everything. Culture is inextricably linked to engagement and engagement is the major driver of workforce productivity. If people aren’t engaged, they don’t perform,’ Holly says.
‘Unhappy, emotionally distressed workers are more likely to get sick and less likely to recover from injury. On the flip side, in cultures where there is trust, psychological safety (a comfort in taking risk and speaking one’s mind) and a strong relationship between managers and their direct reports, we know people flourish.’
 
It’s for this reason that Holly continues to question everything, including herself, and recommends others do too: ‘Ask yourself every day “what am I doing today to put myself in the best position to deliver on my priorities?” every week “if I get one thing done this week that thing should be?” every month “what did I do this month to learn and stretch myself? What am I committing to do next month?” and every year “what am I going to do this year that I’ll be proud of in 12 months’ time?”

‘With the convergence of social, technological and economic factors impacting the building and construction industry, it’s a great time to ensure we are asking better questions of ourselves and our people, in order to ensure a better tomorrow,’ she adds. 


‘I have always been fascinated by “why” things were the way they were, particularly when it came to people dynamics at an individual, team and societal level,’ Holly continues, attributing this ‘forensic curiosity’ to a street side encounter with a homeless person at a young age which opened her mind to the different realities individuals around her were facing every day. 
 
‘Each interaction in our daily lives, I think, provides us with the opportunity to assess ourselves, to check-in on what matters and our own development. I’m continually learning and calibrating my beliefs and world view based on these interactions.’
 
Now on her way to attaining a Masters of Public Policy, Information Technology at Harvard University, while running her company and speaking at conferences and events around the world, it’s clear that, across sectors and continents, Holly has a wealth of knowledge to share.
 
To hear the rest of what Holly has to say about the future of the building industry, register for the national conference at www.hia.com.au/conference

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