By Evgeny Likhoded, CEO and Founder of Clausematch
Read the profiles of just about every leader of a major company like Facebook, Google, Microsoft or OpenAI and you will learn about their vision for their life-changing products. How they stayed up day and night fleshing out their ideas. How they faced challenges and overcame obstacles. Their stories are inspiring for any business leader. But often, we are left wondering about what actionable, tangible takeaways we can use from these leaders.
I have been CEO of Clausematch, an award-winning regulatory technology company, for more than 10 years. I, too, have faced challenges. But I can confidently say my latest vision, the publication of the knowledge graph in open source, has been one of the most rewarding moments in my career. And I want to share my experiences of bringing a vision to life with other leaders. I want to provide actionable insights we all can use—no matter the project, no matter the task, no matter the perceived obstacles we face.
1. Be Clear And Concise
When I founded Clausematch more than a decade ago, my goal was to change the way professionals create and manage content in the regulatory and compliance space. Having worked as a lawyer in compliance for large financial institutions for years, I was exposed to the unstructured, disorganized, and non-compliant ways policies and procedures were managed and disseminated to employees. I had an idea back then: What if we could apply machine learning to that content so it’s easier to consume, track, manage and analyze for compliance?
It sounds simple enough, and that’s the point: Big ideas typically start from bits and pieces of smaller ideas, taken from experiences we glean from both our professional and personal lives. But it is essential for any leader to collect all those thoughts into one singular vision. Try to fit that vision into one sentence. Could you explain it to a stranger on the street? This practice of stating clearly and concisely your vision for a project will help focus your mind and your actions down the road.
My vision for the knowledge graph was clear: I wanted to digitize regulation into a consumable, uniform format for both regulators and regulated companies to use. That vision was my and my team’s North Star for every action we took. This laser-like focus also helped eliminate distractions and draining tasks that did not serve the purpose of the vision. Time, effort and money were saved, and what leader doesn’t want that?
2. Gather Allies
Countless articles and other thought leadership pieces have outlined how essential building a team is to achieving business goals. And it’s true: In order to execute your vision, you must gather allies to help you.
That practice is easier said than done. When gathering team members to build and deliver your vision, it can be tempting to choose those familiar to you. But I would encourage leaders to go out of their comfort zone and look for individuals who offer a variety of talents. Can you find a content creator who also understands code? What about a data scientist who also understands business acumen? The more agile and diverse your team, the greater chance you have to bring your vision to life.
In my experience bringing the knowledge graph to fruition, my team was nimble, efficient and extremely knowledgeable in artificial intelligence and machine learning. They built out the mechanics of the knowledge graph: thousands of connections between documents, programming AI to function like a regulator and so on. It was years of hard work, but working as a team, the collaboration was streamlined and robust.
3. Get Buy-In
Whenever a leader has a vision for a big project, often there is an assumption that everyone will love this new idea. In reality, that's rarely felt across the board. That’s why it is essential for any leader to get buy-in from others, hopefully outside the business, for their vision.
In the case of the Clausematch knowledge graph, my team connected with a number of subject matter experts, including regulators with the Abu Dhabi Global Market Financial System (the FSRA of ADGM). These regulators understood the same gap in the regulatory industry that I did: the need to structure, tag and visualize regulatory content in an entirely new way. And the best part was they were willing to work alongside our team to build a different way to publish regulations.
The buy-in from these regulatory experts was instrumental to our success in publishing the knowledge graph in open source. They identified blind spots we could not have seen ourselves. Plus, the experience of working with a regulatory agency has helped facilitate new conversations with other regulators about testing out the knowledge graph. Having this kind of support is essential to executing the vision.
4. Test, Test And Test Again
As I mentioned, our team built and tested the knowledge graph with ADGM regulators. They were part of our audience, and we needed them to highlight how a regulator might perceive the knowledge graph and its use cases. But the testing process has not stopped there. For any leader with a vision, testing that vision must be an ongoing process.
When Clausematch published the knowledge graph in open source, we encouraged regulators and highly regulated companies to test it out. We still want that feedback. We want to inspire and facilitate widespread adoption because digital regulation makes sense only if the majority adopts this approach. We know in order to reach that point, others will have to test it out for themselves.
Founders of companies are often known and celebrated for being visionaries. But it takes exceptional leaders to bring those visions to life. Have a clear, concise vision. Bring allies along for the journey. Get buy-in from major stakeholders and your audience. And finally, test and re-test your vision. As a leader, we are always striving to be the best. So why shouldn’t you push your vision to be the best as well?