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7 Questions with Ben Smith
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7 Questions with Ben Smith
Name: Ben Smith
Current title: CEO and Founder
Current organisation: Gnosis IQ
With more than 20 years of experience innovating in education, Ben has focused his energy developing solutions to improve the lives of Educators and building tools to support young learners. Despite being diagnosed with dyslexia, in addition to holding multiple professional certifications, Ben earned his MBA in 2011 and is in the process of earning his PhD in Psychology. The goal of the PhD is to better understand the psychological and emotional impact that implementing technology has had and can continue to have on socioeconomically disadvantaged and academically struggling learners.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
The most challenging part of being a CEO of an organization that is developing new technology is getting employees and customers to understand the impact it is having and will continue to have for young learners. Artificial Intelligence, while it has been around for a while, is still scary to many people. To combat this, I have worked closely with my core team to ensure they have the passion for what we're doing! I found that when my team is passionate, they are able to better articulate the benefits and their passion becomes infectious and has supported a greater adoption of the new technology that we developed.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I am the founder of the company. The core product was based on an idea I had in early 2015 to support educators and learners by using technology to predict academic weaknesses.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I work around the clock, so for me it's not about structuring my work day. Rather, it is more about making sure that my family doesn't get ignored. To accomplish this, I plan my work day around my kids school events and activities, and try to carve out one night every couple of weeks for my wife and I to go on a date.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
As a leader, I have learned to trust and delegate. When I share my vision and could see the passion in my staff, I trust that they will execute the vision and support the organization.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
As a child I struggled with reading and never really found the passion for it, but I never let that hold me back. Rather, I developed tools that kept me successful in school and allowed me to graduate early at the age of 16! As a Junior in College I finally learned that my reading struggles came as a result of an undiagnosed case of dyslexia. Since then, rather than focus on a specific inspirational book, I have focused my attention on empirical studies published in academic journals to help guide my innovation. My most recent read was an article in Cognitive Systems Research magazine written by Vanderelst and Winfield in 2018 titled, "An architecture for ethical robots inspired by the simulation theory of cognition."
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
I do not believe in glass ceilings and support every opportunity for promotion. While I am currently the CEO, I surround myself with people I trust to someday take my job. This trust and collaboration builds confidence, keeps the leaders engaged, and develops a growth path for everyone in the organization.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
For me, it's about the impact. We recently released an Academic Emotional Self-Reporting tool for K-12 learners. The tool utilizes emoji's that kids are familiar with and eliminates the social stigma of asking for help. During a recent conversation with an educator I learned that she had a student who committed suicide because he did not know how to ask for help. She said the student was bright and lacked the signs that generally appear in kids struggling with depression. She ended the conversation in tears when she told me that she was confident that the student she lost would still be alive if he had access to the tools I developed. This impact is meaningful and drives my motivation to ensure success.