Even with nearly 15 years of experience in UX research, design and strategy, in 2017 the South African company Mantaray found itself faced with a challenge: The threat of new market players and a shortage of internal growth and development.
In the two years since, they've achieved growth and an Exponential Quotient (ExQ) that puts them among the globe's top exponential organizations. How did they get here?
A Conversation with Helga Stegmann of Mantaray
Mantaray owner and founder Helga Stegmann talks about ExO Attributes and ExO Methodology.
How have the ExO Methodology and ExO Attributes helped your team or company achieve its objectives or massive transformative purpose (MTP)?
We defined our MTP first and then looked to implement the 10 ExO attributes. Knowing that Mantaray offers boutique services, we analyzed what we deliver and asked: How can we leverage these attributes to deliver our services in a better and different way to make for a future proof service?
What were the major pain points of your process prior to applying the ExO Attributes?
The company was stagnating at the time (two years ago, before implementation) and running the risk of new players coming into the market. The team was only doing retainer work and our specialist areas were under utilized—we knew that we had to change the business substantially in order to survive.
Were there any high-level initiatives or goals that prompted you to apply the ExO Attributes? Were they core or edge?
We decided to apply some of the techniques we use with our start-ups onto our own business like Design Sprint, Lean startup and EXO to see where we have opportunities to change our business for scale. The key EXO areas we decided to reexamine were; Algorithms: We saw is that we have a large amount of interesting data which we are not harnessing. Community & Crowd: We kept creating communities, but are not leveraging insights. Interfaces and Dashboards: Also became a key consideration where we could rework to deliver excellence. Experimentation was always key to who we were so we created one day a week to work on problems, ideas, and solutions as a team with no fear of failing.
How long have you been using the ExO Methodology & Attributes?
More than two years.
Over that period of time, how have the ExO Attributes impacted your core metrics?
There was significant improvement within the functionality of the team. Our roles are highly specialized, so our people were grateful that they could stop spending time doing things that they felt wasted their time and instead focus on what they enjoy and things that challenge them. As a result, Mantaray is now delivering a better service to clients at a reduced cost.
How do you measure the value that the ExO Methodology provides?
The methodology really helped everyone understand the playbook of having a business and the items to consider when building a successful business. It also allowed room for the team to understand how to solve problems at many levels, be sustainable, and be able to visualize what they wanted to be a part of. It created a lot of opportunity and growth. Most of the team has never run a company, but the ExO methodology and attributes helped them see the bigger picture. Everyone in the business now has the potential to become business owners and Mantaray has reached the holacracy goal post. We are moving to everyone in the company growing the business together.
What are the biggest challenges on the horizon for your industry?
The biggest challenge is “real time” for clients. Clients want answers instantaneously, and Mantaray needs to go to remote areas in Africa to ask sensitive questions. Then figure out how to get these answers immediately to clients to enable them to build better services.
How can the ExO Methodology and ExO Works help you overcome those challenges to meet your goals?
We are looking at a few ways to leverage the ExO attributes to harness our data, with our community to enable real-time answers to pressing questions for our clients. We will continue to scale out and implement a wider variety of research to expand the data sets informing our decisions.
Can you share any suggested improvements on the ExO Methodology or Attributes? Do you have any feedback or advice for us?
We tried a lot of different things—and some stuff didn’t work—but I can’t recall any significant pieces that didn’t work. Mantaray’s biggest driver is to understand the problem and assumptions to fail fast and iterate until we solve it. If something doesn’t work, we take it as a learning opportunity.
What other business model innovations have you applied to your business? What has worked best?
Value proposition canvas, lean startup, and several others. All of them together with the ExO Methodology helped. We also recently did a staff strength mapping and Enneagram to align Mantaray strategy to our staff's personal goals and strengths—this has helped create excitement and opportunity to grow.
What would be your advice for other business leaders regarding becoming an ExO?
Let go! As business owners we tend to put on a lot of hats and try to control everything in an attempt to hold onto our ideas. Just let it go, and believe in the ExO methodology. Sometimes, in giving up that power and giving it to the team—they will surprise you with creative solutions. Follow the ExO methodology and process, you will find the rewards are in the smallest details. And a lot of small wins can make one major big win.
Mantaray's ExQ: Before & After
From the start of the exponential journey, Mantaray utilized the ExQ (Exponential Quotient) as a key performance benchmark.
When they first ran the diagnostic test in October of 2017, they scored an ExQ of 45.
Using their results from the diagnostic as a guide, they asked themselves how they could improve their overall score and use of attributes.
Their goal was to achieve a quotient of 77.
As of February 2019, they had reached an ExQ of 88.
More About Mantaray
UX Research, Design and strategy company specializing in understanding the African markets to design services people love to use across the continent.
Founded 2006 • 10 Employees • www.mantaray.co.za
MTP: Understanding and Crafting the Human Experience
Target Audience: International companies that service the African marketplace from the financial, healthcare, travel, entertainment to social sectors.
With more than 15 years of experience in User Experience, Mantaray’s dedicated team boasts a variety of skills and aptitudes which lend us the ability to view the customer’s needs holistically. Mantaray is passionate about understanding what drives customers to use and love certain services and products, helping businesses solve problems whilst answering business objectives.