Hiam Sakakini of ThinkChangeGrow

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ThinkChangeGrow is a people and culture consulting agency that was founded last year by GOOGLE alumni, HIAM SAKAKINI and MONIKA GISLER. They share a combined 20+ years of building innovative leadership capacity in one of the most disruptive workplaces in the world.

Armed with a passion to share their knowledge for the greater good, they decided to start ThinkChangeGrow as a means of building and empowering individuals to be highly self- aware and emotionally intelligent leaders who genuinely care about social impact. To become mindful and purposeful in their thinking. That they all have the potential to become the change that changes the world.

Particularly, Hiam & Monika shine a spotlight on the disability and aged sectors of the Australian health industry in a bid to raise awareness and aid one of the most vulnerable populations in Australia. With recent government policy changes, these sectors are being disrupted, posing huge opportunities if they were to approach these changes positively which is where Hiam & Monika come into the fold. With their firm belief in the power of people, they want to impart their knowledge from Google to the leaders of today for a better tomorrow. They emphasise on the significance of developing real empathy for others and the need for leaders to make a stand and make their own social impact – not only for themselves but for the world.

Can you tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?

We strongly believe that people are every organisation’s most valuable asset and the key to success for every business, big or small. No matter how great your product, or how innovative your idea, without an inclusive culture, collaborative teams and highly self-aware leaders and managers, your business is unlikely to succeed in the long run.

From the beginning, our goal was and still is to bring positive change to workplaces across the world. After 20+ combined years at Google, we felt strongly it was time to share what we’ve learned with other people and organisations to help them to thrive.

We do this in a few different ways; we work directly with organisations on their people & culture strategy. This might include things like creating an incredible onboarding experience for new hires or supporting the successful merger of companies into one stronger team…wherever there is an opportunity to strengthen the culture of an organisation we develop strategies and simple ways to support these goals. We believe simplicity is key.

We also wanted to open our doors more widely as we are a small organisation ourselves and so we have set up transformational courses that anyone can join who has an appetite to develop their people skills. An example of those would be our flagship leadership course The Greater Collective which puts participants in the thick of solving a real problem for a not-for-profit or charity.

People learn real ways of solving complex problems, influencing others, coaching and giving feedback in real-time as well as how to navigate change and ambiguity – a key skill in today’s disruptive environment. It’s wonderful to see these people form firm friendships over the course of this intensive journey and go on to work on projects together. An example of people power in action.

Could you please explain your business model to us? 

 We work B2B and B2C.

B2B meaning we consult with companies directly, creating & delivering customised strategies to people and culture challenges they would like to work on. This might include all kinds of elements sewn together such as workshops, coaching, team building programs, communication plans and change management strategy sessions.

B2C meaning we like to share our knowledge more broadly and run a few courses that anyone can join such as The Greater Collective, Getting More (Negotiation Skills using tools of emotional intelligence vs power) and many others that are all centered around soft skills & professional development.

What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next year?

 Ah, where to begin! Well, on June 5th, we will be holding our second installment of our leadership course, The Greater Collective. We remember the first time that we held our program. We could feel our hearts bursting with pride – to see that we could make a genuine difference in helping individuals grow out of their shells and blossom into amazing leaders; in helping not-for-profits gain real value from the wonderful ideas that were being presented with. We can’t wait to be in that room again, encompassed with fresh faces buzzing with fresh ideas.

Our passion is making a difference in the aged care and disability sectors of the Australian health industry. We are currently working with a few amazing organisations that deeply care about their clients who are often the most vulnerable within their community and that want to disrupt the industry in the best way possible.

We are excited to be mentors for an Inclusive Tech Accelerator called Remarkable, where we help innovative minds who want to build technology that enables inclusion in society for people with disabilities. Working with startups that are all about building positive change both for the people they are inventing for and their own teams really inspire us – we learn from them as much as they learn from us.

Developing a great future for us all begins with fostering the bright, curious minds of our young ones. After all, they are the ones who will lead us someday. That’s why we are partnering with organisations that can bring our programs to a diverse audience from high school students onwards to corporates and also to the NFP sector. All through the power of technology and the great platforms that democratise learning for everyone.

ThinkChangeGrow has been a hectic but highly rewarding ride thus far, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for us. Watch this space! 🙂

How do you make ideas happen?

Trees don’t grow without us first planting a seed into the ground. Day by day, roots and beautiful, green leaves start to blossom when we nurture it with utmost care. When it starts to look a little grey and dull, we listen to it and feed it with whatever it needs to so it can be beautiful again. This is what making ideas happen is like.

We know that our best ideas would have never come to fruition if we didn’t listen to each other. Yes, ideas do come from our respective experiences but the best ones come from collaborating with someone who you trust, someone who allows you to speak and listens.

When you get to know us, you will find that we’re complete opposites: an introverted thinker and an extroverted visionary; one very much into the details, the other flying high with big picture ideas. When we come together – that’s when we really start to find our ‘Eureka!’

It always helps to talk about and bounce off ideas with other people. To listen to their feedback and adapt if necessary but to never lose your initial ideas. Ideas only happen if we make it happen so we just go for it. Sometimes, it might not be perfect but that’s the beauty of it! We are always learning, always reflecting and that’s how truly great teams are born.

What role have mentors played in your business life?

 Mentors are incredibly important. They keep you grounded, on track and sane. They push you, question you but also pick you up when needed.

We have accumulated a wonderful group of people who don’t really know they are mentors to us but they are! They include some of the startups we mentor (we love reverse mentoring), some veteran consultants that tell us how to best run our business and who we also collaborate with on various projects, our friends at Google who have been incredible supporters since we left and also experts in specific fields like brand strategists, finance guru’s and other entrepreneurs have all found themselves on our speed dial when we run into a crossroads and we’re not sure which way to go.

What does your typical day look like?

 There is no such thing as a typical day – change is constant for an entrepreneur 🙂

We are doing the usual things all startups do, setting up processes, systems, programs and of course building our team. We are out in the market pinpointing and talking to the organisations we want to work with. We often get invited to speak at events and conferences and find that a great way to solidify our views on topics like The Future of Work or How to attract and retain top talent – 2 topics we are talking a lot about lately. We also love coaching, facilitating and developing long-term strategies for our clients so we are busy doing a lot of that alongside designing and running our open programs.

It’s a hectic life but we love it!

What challenges have you faced when starting a business in Australia?

 Making that shift from our corporate lives at Google to being owners of our own business has been tricky. After specialising in certain roles for so long, it’s quite a shock to suddenly become an all-rounder from web developing to admin to PR & social media. That was a real challenge.

When you step out of a world that you’ve been in for so long, you suddenly realise how big the world is. Getting our name out there that goes beyond our initial network and finding our target audience is no easy task. However, we are fortunate that we have a team who are genuinely passionate in what they do, thus challenges have a way of resolving themselves. 🙂

What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?

 Share your ideas and passion and you will be amazed how many doors open. We are not one’s to hide an idea for fear someone else will take it. We believe every individual has the capacity to think up 10 times more ideas than they can ever possibly implement. The trick is testing, validating, getting feedback and constantly refining – you simply can’t do that without sharing your ideas.

What people or organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry, in Australia at the moment?

 There are so many people and organisations doing amazing stuff. For example

Remarkable: Harnesses technology to build social and economic inclusion.

The Observership program facilitates the involvement of young, talented and energetic individuals in a structured experience on non-profit boards.

AbilityMate A unique collaborative project focused on life-changing, 3D printed posture & mobility equipment for children with disabilities!

Social Change Central – Australia’s premier portal for social change opportunities

Selena Griffith, Senior Lecturer at UNSW Engineering Manager, Scientia Education Experience Senior and the Centre for Social Impact

What about internationally?

Enspiral: Social enterprise ventures and social entrepreneurs working together with shared vision and values

Do you think business can play in affecting social change?

We believe business could do more than just writing cheques or spending a day doing low- level tasks for a non-for-profit as is so often the case. Social responsibility should mean developing meaningful, long-term relationships with organisations that have shared value. Connecting hearts and minds through initiatives like The Greater Collective bring people together in a meaningful way, working on a real problem that will help the not-for-profit better serve the vulnerable populations of society they care about.

When we formed The Greater Collective, we wanted to strengthen leaders and businesses to be thoughtful, empathetic and emotionally intelligent in what they do. To realise the value of their unique skills and harness that to help others in need. Affecting positive social change originates from people banding together in an electrical culture that attracts talent and repels toxicity.

The best part is that the people involved come out the other end, being better leaders themselves so there is a knock- on effect of what that means for the people they work with as well as the potential to continue working with the NFP they were introduced to through the course. The impact is endless and all we’ve done is connect 2 previously separate things – people development and social responsibility…

People and culture are the backbones of any business. Nurturing supportive and inclusive cultures where individuals are genuinely valued is essential to making a positive social impact for your business and beyond. We would love to see more organisations thinking about making simple connections like this that could create incredible impact for all involved as well as showcasing their values as a company. After all, people are the impetus for affecting any type of social change. When people come together, understand each other, support each other – that’s where the magic happens.

Is there a particular charity or social enterprise you support?

 We support many such as The Cerebral Palsy Alliance, AbilityMate, Remarkable and look forward to supporting many more through our leadership course, The Greater Collective, and also through working with organisations like these directly.

Our hope is that by empowering leaders to think more about the impact they could make in their community there will be real and lasting ripple effects from our courses and programs.

Are there 3 websites you would recommend to our readers?




Do you have any opportunities for people to get involved with your idea?

Absolutely. NGO’s and NFP’s which are facing a challenge and would like to get ideas and solutions created from a diverse group of people with different background and different skill sets.

Curious, entrepreneurial change-makers who want to participate in our leadership program with a twist.

We are always looking for people to help spread the word but also help us grow our business eg. through PR, social media, marketing and also web development. We have worked with 5 extraordinary interns so far and will be taking applications/ CVs for our next round very soon.

We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about startups, marketing or social media, accounting, what would it be?

 We hear Snapchat is the fastest growing social media platform – how could we effectively use it for our kind of business?

One of the startups we are working with asks new team members to decide their own salary – are there any other startups doing things really differently? If so we’d love to hear from them!

As entrepreneurs, we have found it quite difficult to tap into a startup network that can give practical support and help when we need it. Things like help with creating a forecasting report, understanding the laws around specific areas like IP, finding an inexpensive hub/ co-sharing space. Often experts and space are quite overpriced and we have been seriously burned on entry to the startup space. After a year we’re a little better clued in – what are the best resources to know about as a startup?

What’s your favourite café?

Oh, there are many but places with free WiFi always have a special place in our hearts. We love Green Bean Espresso in Wynyard, The Nook on Hunter St and we spend many hours at the RSL Anzac Village at Collaroy Plateau – it’s close to home, has an amazing view and the people are so warm and friendly.




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