I’m Jon Maiden, the Co-Founder and CEO of Panjango based in Sheffield, UK. At Panjango, we’re on a mission to transform the way the world learns by building a world of experiential learning that connects learning to life and equips young people with the knowledge, skills and experience needed to find their purpose and fulfil their potential. We have already launched an online platform for schools which gamifies and gives context to learning, and this has been used by more than 1000 schools across the UK and beyond. We are now launching our new range of board and card games on Kickstarter. We are also busy working on an app which we plan to launch in early 2019.
1.) How does technology improve your life?
Global and instant connectivity in what immediately springs to mind as having the greatest impact. I’m able to not only keep in touch, but maintain active friendships with friends in other cities and countries, and run a business with employees and associates spread all over the UK and beyond. Technology makes this possible.
2.) What future technology are you looking forward to?
Advancements in virtual and augmented reality. I can’t wait to explore new (virtual) worlds in fun and exciting ways. Imagine standing alongside Obi Wan to fight off an army of clones on Tatooine with lightsaber in hand, or exploring the inaccessible jungles and caves of the world, all from the comfort of your own living room. The applications for gaming and learning are thrilling!
3.) Are you optimistic or pessimistic about the ever-growing usage of technology?
I am excited about advancements in technology and I always look forward to new developments. But I’m also wary that we’re spending ever increasing amounts of our life online and interacting through screens. This is one reason we’re developing offline board and card games – to get families around a table laughing, smiling and talking with each other more.
4.) Who inspired / inspires you as a leader?
I’m an Englishman writing for a German blog so it would be rude not to bring up football. I’m going for Gareth Southgate. I grew up watching him as Aston Villa captain and have never seen anyone marshal a defense so effectively. Now, as England manager, he is leading a long overdue revolution in English football by nurturing younger players and building a collective unit, rather than just putting 11 big names on a pitch as we’ve done for so long. As well as his intelligence, and ability to inspire, he’s also incredibly modest which is an attribute I particularly like in successful leaders.
5.) What do you think is crucial for modern leadership (in tech)?
Adaptability. The world is changing rapidly so any good leader needs to be able to adapt just as quickly. Modern leaders need to continually adapt and innovate in order to stay ahead of the market. Equally, success doesn’t often come from never making any mistakes, but by being able to adapt and make a new (and better) strategy having learned from mistakes.
6.) Where and how can people improve their leadership skills?
You can learn something from every single person you meet. So being open minded who you learn from, and not always just seeking to learn from ‘experts’ is important. That said, try and surround yourself with successful people. Not only will you be able to draw from their wisdom and experience, but you will draw inspiration from their success (and the hard work it usually requires behind the scenes).
7.) What were the best and worst leadership experiences you had personally?
I’ve had two proper ‘bosses’ in my life – and my experiences with them were so dire that it led me to set a goal to never work for anyone ever again in my life! Their leadership was poor because it was so ego-driven. Projects were too often delivered based on how it would make them appear in public and not because of the value it created. And their treatment of staff was appalling. That was a key part of the motivation behind me starting my own business, and my vow to always strive to create a harmonious workplace.
The best leadership I’ve encountered, but not experienced personally, is by someone called Richard Gerver. At the age of just 27, Richard took over a failing primary school and restructured the entire school around the question ‘what is school for?’. He led the way in creating a vibrant community of applied and experiential learning which the children were empowered to lead their own learning journey’s as they took on roles in the new school radio, community garden, shopping village and child-run canteen. He transformed the school, taking it right up the school league tables, and made it an exemplar globally in how a school should be run. That’s leadership!