INTERVIEW 17:
GRAHAM O’DONNELL

  1. Tell us your story 

I’m Graham O’Donnell and on a personal front, 65 going on 66. Married for 40 years, a couple of adult children Helen and Adam aged 35 and 32 respectively and 3 grandchildren. On the professional front, I am semi-retired and working at Deakin University and have worked for 50 years now. So, I am workaholic and can’t really retire fully because I just enjoy working. I started working as an apprentice electrician and went onto becoming an electrical engineer. Management roles really attracted my attention and ever since worked as a Managing Director, Chairman and eventually as a CEO in Programmed Electrical Technologies and now transitioning to semi-retirement.

2. The Interpreters spend a lot of time trying to understand our clients’ customers and segments within the market. How do you get to know your customers?

First of all, before I even turn-up, I try to do some research on my customer or client. I try to find out about who is the person that I am going to be talking to. My purpose behind doing so is that at the end of the day, I need to know what value I am going to add to them as an individual and to their business.   If required, I research about the people that the individual is influenced by or reporting to. I then analyse how can we get the synergy going between the 2 groups, so we can learn more about the customers’ needs and take ourselves from just a product/service provider to someone who is influencing the business and ultimately looking to become a potential strategic partner.

3. We do a lot of problem solving at The Interpreters, so we’re interested in how other people solve problems. How do you approach problem solving?

Interestingly, there are a lot of problem-solving techniques. One of them which I particularly like and apply it all the times is to get the definition of the problem and determining the size of it. I tend to get the idea of the person who has brought the problem (if there is anyone) and try to get that individuals perspective towards the problem. I then brainstorm with others to get the range of solutions to those problems. I sometimes tend to think exactly the opposite of a possible solution and the reason behind doing so is because exactly the opposite is the catalyst of a thought wherein I also consider what if I do nothing. Is it really a high priority of a problem or is it something which doesn’t even need to be fixed? And hence any problem needs to defined or prioritised first. To do this, I usually apply the risk criteria to all the problems to measure the risk that each problem is carrying & accordingly prioritising them. The risk factors that I consider are Reputational, Financial, Capital, Operational or Safety risks. So, I try to find the risk with what the problem is attached to.

I have also applied the approach of a fishbone model to the problems where I start to counter the problem from the backward. The other thing that I also do is ask myself that who would know about this more than me and get a different perspective about the problem. So, I don’t really approach a problem with one method all the time.

4. Interpretation is subjective but a key part of our analysis. We’re always interested in the ways other people might interpret key trends or things of interest from their specialism.   How do you interpret the current ‘state’ of Australian politics?

Well, I don’t want to swear but I can’t remember a time in my life apart from 50s when the Australian Labor Party broke itself apart due to getting caught up with socialism and democracy. I think we have moved into a different world due to the influence of the major parties. I would say that we are going through a period of selfishness from both parties and their ideologies is just not right for the nation. It is the far too short-term approach towards politics in Australia at the moment. The way wages have dropped and the way we are breaking down into a gig economy nowadays, is a way of introducing pyramid subcontracting which is not an Australian way. I think we are heading towards something which I personally don’t like and that is being labour-biased. I reckon one should only support someone who is bringing in the business into this country. And that is why I like the business components of the Liberal party.

But having said that, we sometimes need to hit the ground to come up again. And I am far more confident about the younger generation. I think they are more collaborative and socially balanced. So, I am very optimistic after the way the youth of this country is reacting about what is happening at the moment. So that is where we are with our politics at the moment.

5. Because we firmly believe that Information is Beautiful, we would like to give you a copy of Information is Beautiful, ‘a stunning visual journey through the most revealing trends, fascinating facts and vital statistics of the modern world’. Because first impressions matter, have a scan through and tell us which visualisation caught your attention and why?

Among these visuals that caught my eyes, I think I liked the cover of the book the most. It is because I like things that look balanced from left & right. I also like the way the data & findings are presented in a well-balanced manner. Also, the fact that despite the presented information is complex in most of the pages, it was presented with lesser data in the picture making it very simple for anyone to read and interpret it easily and clearly.

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