Tip 3: find your future now not after the recession

Male and female ostriches "dancing".
Image via Wikipedia

Don’t ask who will be employed now

Today I commented on Jon Ingram‘s post about the way HR managers are responding to the recession and remarked that we should not be like the proverbial ostrich – head in the HR sand, butt in the breeze, where it is likely to be shot off!

Ostriches can run really fast (I’ve ridden one). A kick from them will also de-gut you as effectively as a kick from a giraffe.

So why don’t they run or attack, which they sometimes do?

Well, partly, they are none to bright (easily dazzled and then captured by reflecting the sun off your watch into their eyes).

But they are hoping that if they are quiet, that they will be safe.

So I am not going to be quiet.  It does not make me safe.

But I’ll also be kind, and tell you why I am blathering on about the wild animals of southern Africa.

Is the knowledge I acquired in southern Africa of use here?  Well, some is and some isn’t.

The point is that the competencies of yesterday are not necessarily valuable tomorrow.

We must distinguish what of yesterday we can take forward to the future.

We can respect the rest.  We can reminisce about it. But some belongs to the past and will not contribute to the business models of tomorrow.

Don’t bury your head in employment sand!

The questions we have to ask, and should ask each year in our strategy review are:

  • What competencies is this business or my career based?
  • How are these going to change? Incrementally, or suddenly and discontinuously requiring radical back-to-school training?

And in a bad downturn, we should also ask:

  • Can I use the slow time of the downturn to re-train and get some early experience in these new technologies?

Strategies for employers and employees

Employers should be actively building their team around the technologies of tomorrow.

Employees who have switched-off employers should be networking hard to find and build the team that is coalescing around the markets and technologies of the future.

Ask who will be employed in the future?

Here is a simple procedure

1  Grab an old shoe box

  • For one month, on an A5 envelope, every day write down one url to the future of your field with some notes about why you think it is important.  Date it!
  • For one month, on an A6 envelope, write down the contact details of a person who seems to be heading towards the right future and the nature of your contact with them.  Date it!
  • On the back of some other suitable scrap, jot down a daily diary of “what were the main events of today and WHY DID IT GO SO WELL”.  Keep your rough-and-ready diary in the box.
  • Print out a calendar.  Mark off each day and “don’t break the chain”.  Get the creative thinking charged up and humming.

2  At the end of the month, review and repeat

  • But this time discard one of the A5 and A6 envelopes as you add a new pair each day.
  • Keep the rough-and-ready diary going and remember to end by asking the question “WHY DID THE DAY GO SO WELL?”
  • And remember “don’t break the chain”.  Do this exercise daily however roughly.

You’ll be in the future before me!

Now, you’ll be in the future before me, so let me know how it goes. I’m particularly interested in how many months it takes you.  My guess is three at the outside.

And when you’ve done this,  we’ll “make a plan” to come back to rescue the ostriches!  We’ll have a figured out a role for them by then.

Right now, lets go out,  scout the future and be there when it happens!

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2nd tip for looking at the future value of professional qualifications

Olney Snow Feb 2 2009 Family Lunch at Much Ado...
Image by joolney via Flickr

Doing well by doing good

On January 21st, just in time to see the inauguration, I connected up the wi-fi at Much Ado, my favourite deli and cafe in Olney.  We watched Obama’s inauguration and the owner of Much Ado, Matt Prosky, was so inspired, he invested in a brand new netbook so customers are able to check their emails while they have coffee.  Bliss!

Today, I followed up what seemed to be a surprising bill from BT and with the help of James in Glasgow, we ended the afternoon by reducing Much Ado’s bill for internet services by 400 pounds (about USD600) – that is 400 pounds less than what they paid before they offered their customers wi-fi!  So they’ve recouped their investment in the netbook by twice over!

I love it.  Much Ado did right by their customers, and gained.

Good business does not mean being tight

So many people in business confuse controlling costs with being mean and cut-throat.

Of course, it is really important to control costs in businesses – we all know that.  When margins are as low as 3 or 5%, which they often are in retail (or even less), taking care of the pennies does indeed take care of the pounds.  I go even further.  I think controlling costs is an act of beauty.  It is almost as a form of reverence and worship, as I heard a lecturer in Islamic finance say on Radio 4.  It’s fun to plan a job of work and to execute it smoothly and within budget.

But controlling costs isn’t a matter of being “tight”.  Businesses do well when they do good. Business do well when they create value and wealth.

How will the internet affect businesses?

I’ve been puzzling over my own challenge to think through the impact of the internet on my profession. It is hard.  I like the idea of branding work with flowers.  I chose a red carnation for myself, meaning I carry a torch for you.

A second technique might be to do something for free just because you believe in it.  That helps us find the core of our business – though possibly a coach would help you see it more easily (I’m not touting here – I am strictly entrepreneurial ).

My favourite deli doesn’t offer wi-fi per se.  They offer hospitality shaped by the place and time in which they work.

What you do for free is probably your competitive edge

What do you do for free because you know it is right?

That’s probably the ‘competitive edge’ that distinguishes you from non-professionals who offer a similar service.  That’s probably the subterranean skill which underpins your profession.

If you can tell me what you do for free, then I can ask the next question.   How do we express that skill in the days of the internet?

Yes this works.  How can a psychologist, for example, express commitment to their clients with internet mediated services?

What do you do for free because you know that it is right?

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Olney, United Kingdom on the internet

Olney Snow Feb 2 2009 Flower Shop pikniked
Image by joolney via Flickr

Have you built a community site before?

I’m working on a project at the moment building a community site for the town of Olney, in the UK, where I live. I’m building it on Ning, which is a read-write platform, like Facebook.

This platform, like so many others, is basically free to use and can also be make completely private so you can use it like an intranet.

There are three interdependent parts to this project

  • People
  • Site
  • Internet presence

Olney’s intriguing art gallery, IceTwice, championed the site from the outset and have contributed hugely to its vibrancy.  On the day of our Pancake Race, they illustrated the proper use of a social network beautifully by offering a discount on recipe books should a customer bring in a receipt for a pancake.

The site itself can be time consuming to maintain.  There are members to greet.  Warnings that Olney may be flooded by the River Ouse to put up and take down.  And the rich format of Ning to be explored.

And we need to build up our internet presence.  Yesterday, I was disconcerted to see that chatter about our site, Olney100, had displaced the site from the number one position when we search for Olney100.  Obviously something I don’t quite understand about SEO and prompting an important decision. Stick with the Olney100 or try to capture the keyword Olney?

So in a month, I’ve suddenly become pretty efficient about Flickr where I am joolney and in partner YouTube where I use the account name joolneyuk. I’ve linked up a Delicious account for Olney100 to the site.  I’ve learned a fair bit of CSS and HTML.  I read up Traffic Estimations and Analyse Keywords with aplomb.

And I’ve met a lot of people who’ve rapidly made the site their own integrating it with their blogs, their Twitter accounts, fundraising, and inevitably Facebook.

Will the community site help Olney to flourish?

The ultimate question though, is whether the site helps Olney to flourish and prosper.  We should be able to do more, faster, and more profitably.

Reviews please!

Would love any comments.  You can read the site and if you want to leave a comment, you can login into the guest account using the email olney100 at gmail dot com with password olney100!

Love to see you there.

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79 flowers to brand your work

Carnation~
Image by edzahid via Flickr

I’m carrying a torch for you!

A red carnation.  I think that is mine.

I set 5 hard questions about business models in the age of the internet that I am having difficulty answering myself.

So let me start close in, so to speak.  Which flower represents the commitment a psychologist has to client?

A red carnation – I am carrying a torch for you.

Which flower captures the heart of your work?

Do bookmark my blog and come back to tell me.  Please.

Sorry, the flower page seems to have been removed.  I’ve looked around the internet and haven’t found one I like so much.   Have a look at pages listed under “flowers meaning”,  just to help you put your finger on the essence of your relationship with your customers.

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