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Showing posts from February, 2020

Artistry and being indispensable

I aspire to be an artist in my work. It's a lofty claim, and one that leaves me open to derision. But I mean it.

I mean it, because in my work I endeavor to surprise and delight people - to take projects beyond the baseline expectation and create value. And on a good day this might affect someone. It might change them. It might challenge them. And that is what art does.

I learned this ethos from Seth Godin, perhaps the most influential marketer and business writer in the world. I think his attitude is downright terrific (I get a hit of Seth-ism every day from his blog).

He writes in Linchpin:'people do their art where they find it'. Shakespeare did not create the play, he wrote them because that was the sort of thing available for reinvention at the time. I don't think Elon Musk was born to transform payments systems. He was just born to transform things, period. Folks like that do astounding things across time. They pick up where the previous generation left off.

Shak…

The 'kernel' of good strategy

Strategy can be an elusive thing to define, in part because we are all given to using the word loosely in casual conversation, muddying its precise meaning. But when it comes to crafting good strategy, an imperfect grasp on the concept is problematic.

Online you can find a scrum of jostling definitions which are, if not outright contradictory, certainly wrench the locus of meaning back and forth, like tipsy suitors vying for the attention of a damsel on the dance floor.

Just to cause trouble, I'll toss a further definition into the mix:

Strategy is an articulation of how a business will get to a desired point by way of identifying obstacles, deciding on an approach for dealing with them (in keeping with your strengths and resources), and setting out actions.

It ought not wax philosophical (like a vision or mission statement), nor does it get into the operational weeds (tactics).

A popular read for those seeking to spot strategy on sight (or indeed the absence of a strategy) and cr…

Why do business?

Why do business? It's worth thinking about. We spend a lot of time working.

Sure, as George Bush put it, you need to 'put food on your family'.
But beyond this?

Here's two reasons:
1) business can be an agent of civility, cooperation and trust
2) business can be art

Business as an agent of civility, cooperation and trust...
On a recent visit to Belfast, a city once plagued by sectarian violence, I learned something remarkable. On its darkest days, after a bomb explosion or a riot or abduction had left the high street ashen, small business owners would signal they were open by displaying signs reading 'Business As Usual'.  Business as usual.

It's a hell of a gesture. With shards of glass on the ground, armed soldiers on patrol and civility flagging. Business as usual. It means means something like...we're not having that. Its a community's refusal to be be capsized by frenzied radicals. A resolve to show up and transact. We aspire to civility and trus…

On the 80/20 principle

In any given context, “a minority of causes, inputs, or effort usually leads to a majority of the results, outputs, or rewards.” 

This is observable everywhere in life. 

Therefore if you pay attention to your efforts and results, you can single out the critical minority of things having the greatest effect, and drop the time consuming, ineffectual majority of efforts giving you little joy. 

Parkinson's Law is also worth bringing up here. Work expands to meet the time you have to do it. That's quite a double whammy. If you show up having decided preemptively to work eight hours or more, and get bogged down in the less effective inputs in whatever you are working on, it is easy to see how you can spend a lifetime doing not that much. 

The inverse of this is powerful. If you constrain how long you have to do something (set ambitious deadlines and work in a focused manner within that timespan) and tend toward the more critical inputs, you'll do a lot in very little time. 

Alan Weiss on getting started in consulting

Weiss is author of Million Dollar Consulting and Getting Started in Consulting, two landmark reads in the consulting space. I sought to distil some of his key advice to inform how I can offer my consulting services, and thought it might be helpful to share.  

Assert yourself as equal
Weiss notes that many people feel like imposters going into firms. As such, they prostrate themselves in some way - they look for approval and start to act like employees. This is not helpful. You need to assert yourself as an equal to management. Because part of your role will be to challenge management. How you comport yourself vital. 

Relationships and handling rejection
Weiss stresses the importance of relationships - the lifeblood of his business. The relationships you need to strike up are with buyers within companies i.e. folks with the cause and budget to hire you. So not HR and so on. You need to come to be able to handle rejection and build a resilience and esteem. Failing does not make you a failur…