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A New Era of Remote Work

The extraordinary trajectory of the tech giants has a core message:  Data matter.  That’s a business understatement commensurate with pointing out how valuable oxygen is to breath.  It’s not new; just scaled.  Read this snippet from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and you might think it’s a TED Talk:  It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.

Staying with the theme of oversimplification … the challenge of business is to know what is effective and to do more of it.  Break the emotional bonds to cherished past practices when they can’t stand scrutiny.  You don’t often tell the market but the market will always tell you.  You need data. 

Oddly, one resource decision often made as has always-been-done is human.  It’s an expense of such magnitude that it deserves to be data-centric. To be sustainable, the employment bargain needs to work for both the enterprise and the talent.  The possibilities are myriad but fall somewhere on a continuum between assuming productivity and measuring outcomes.  We can:

  • Assume Productivity from measurements not supported by data like hours spent in an office or before a screen.  Someone’s presence, digital or otherwise, does not correlate productivity.  Even so, we use it as its surrogate.
  • Measure Outcomes from knowing the talent needs of our enterprise and the investment that can supported … all based on analysis.  Outcomes don’t rely on surrogate measurements.  The very bargain is what gets measured.  Give it an incentive.

Of course, it’s not that simple.  An enterprise needs executive corps as leadership, professional expertise, and to be the face of the organization.  Trained operators are needed for crucial ongoing tasks that can be measured in time, place, and production.  But a growing segment of work only needs a task brief and a deadline.  Nothing else.

Management of the remote workforce needs tooling. HR tools now concerned with time and productivity won’t work.  Let’s measure and incent task and outcome.

Blurred ⎟ Lines

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Industry is Education and Visa-Versa

Industry and education are cousins.  Kissing cousins.  Even if each believed in an independent way … their paths have always been converging.  It may not be clear to them, but their pace will become lock-step and unsure about who is leading whom. 

The Law of Accelerating Change (Kurzweil, March 7, 2001, an easy essay to find) says the 21st Century won’t bring 100 years of change.  It will be more like 20,000 years.  Judging from a one-fifth experience, Kurzweil might have underestimated the pace.  One truism (among many) is that accelerating change blurs the future.  The application of new tools and the resulting implications give rise to astonishing unintended outcomes.  Rapid change blurs all our futuristic assumptions.

Back to our cousins:  If there ever was a sequential relationship with clear space between years spent in education and those in industry … it has become blurry.  Even if a traditional degree earned over four years can give graduates enough to pursue opportunity, the industry will change before they walk across the stage and shake the president’s hand.  Arguable, 800 years of change since they started (if a Kurzweil year = 200). 

What will change (must change) is individual preparation to thrive in a blurry market.  Skill sets go stale quickly (remember, change has an accelerating pace).  Accurately discerning new challenges is nearly impossible.  The only answer is immediate access to learning that has been informed by industry.  Lifelong learners maintain forward momentum by constantly refreshing skills.  Regular and frequent.  

Don’t misunderstand.  A general and classic education has immeasurable value.  Our very culture depends on it.  We need artists and chroniclers and patrons to emerge, and they will.  Industry holding hands with education won’t change that. 

Recognize the emerging questions.  Apply new tools liberally.  Concoct a blend that uses what works and sidelines the rest.  Online or live?  Certification or degree?  Skill development or knowledge acquisition? Nano or macro?  Managerial or production?  It’s all of them.  Let’s figure it out.

Elegant Solutions Explored

It’s not just good taste; it’s a standard to pursue.  Using elegant to describe the merely beautiful is, in itself, inelegant.  More than good looks, elegance offers a solution.  It is refined, dignified, graceful, excellent, concise, and simple (look it up).  The word has been co-opted by design professionals … I say we take it back for business.  Seek elegant solutions; here are some pathway markers: 

  • Adornment:  Ok, sure.  There are valid reasons why we might adorn something to make it appealing. But the point of elegance is intrinsic excellence through relentless refinement.  It is not about a new look or story.  
  • Distractions:  Take a page from the minimalists.  Acquire only what you value and be certain you get that value.  Do only what is effective and be certain the effect is authentic.  Otherwise you are just accumulating distractions.  Stay focused.  Keep a loose grip.
  • Math:  It’s the language of business and it’s elegant.  Mathematics is the poetry of logical ideas (Einstein, he would know).  Math calls the iterative process successive approximations (for example, the Picard Method but not that Picard).  It leads from estimate to accuracy by converging on the solution.  If elegant solutions are refined, concise, and excellent … math will reveal them.  
  • Intentions:  You won’t wander into an elegant solution; you must be intentional.  Questions will confirm your intention – answers will test your honesty.  At least try these:  Why are we doing this?  Do we need this?  Can we sustain this?  Press successive approximation into action.

You may be well down the elegant pathway.  But don’t let dignity and tradition be just accumulated distractions.  Find your intention … focus in, do the math.  Act on successive approximations until you have the elegant solution … even if it just isn’t done that way.  A little risky, I know.

WANT TO IMPACT RESULTS?

Apple

We are riddled with competing beliefs. Nothing is more debilitating in life and in business than beliefs that separate us. Beliefs that become “the truth” because “I know”, or my data clearly states, “I’m right”.

Wonder. What if we were applauded for changing our position when more data, or a new, more rational set of thoughts have influenced us? Would we start to honor growth and change over certainty and holding onto the unchanged?

Can we hold loosely to our certainty while we wonder what we may not know?

I say YES.

To what end do we change our beliefs?

The highest good – the greatest impact – the closest we can get in any moment to truth.

Anything Other Than Another School of Thought

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Are you taking on more responsibility in a new role and struggling to get consistent results?

Is the quarterly stress to meet financial expectations keeping you from more important decisions?

Have you started up a new company and experiencing unexpected growing pains? Or, is your company stuck in a rut and you can’t figure out why?

No one chooses to get stuck, spend time on the urgent at the cost of the important, or live in fear of looking weak. Yet here we are. Why?

Because we are addicted to power, control, and winning. None of this sounds unreasonable on the surface does it?

What if you replaced taking power with giving it away? Instead of managing risk, why not design opportunity by moving into what you want rather than away from what you don’t want. Winning is a losing effort.

Lesson

When people give you their power, give it back.

Get exacting about the idea of “no more than necessary and no less than required”.

Wonder in place of winning. How can we do this better? Why did we miss that opportunity? Will that make a difference?

Practice

There is seldom a silver bullet. In the practice of leading, be aware of your surroundings. Accept the feedback loop as it is. Socialize what your learning in numbers, experiences, and the full range of senses. Listen. Test assumptions and know that every solution eventually becomes a problem.

If you struggle getting out of your head or beyond the numbers, get someone neutral to examine what you need to learn. Everyone has been too close to see what’s going on. No one needs another school of thought.

We could all use alittle time to think.

 

 

No One Noticed

Can you live a full life in the business world without a conscience? Yes, he says with regret.

What if you woke up tomorrow and decided to only do things that would impact the world in a positive way? Is it even possible? Yes, he says with certainty.

But only if you accept the role of being insane. Our society, perhaps some version of the entire business world, considers anyone willing to believe in people over profit as insane.

So, I say to you, be insane.

Of course there’s nothing insane about embracing the fullness of each person and creating products that are meant to improve lives. There’s nothing insane about going out of your way to unleash your teams potential to create amazing customer experiences.

But, it may cost you 5% more than you currently spend to solve problems. If you’re willing to allow for this investment, your top line will grow in ways you’ve never grown before. 

Take a risk and be noticed. 

The Idea of Caring

If you want a culture where people feel like they count, make sure they count.

Business today has an addiction to creating a culture that attempts to make people feel like they matter. The elementary purpose of this effort is solving for the equation; happy people produce better results. There’s plenty of research to support bottom line leaders paying someone to create the feeling of happiness.

It doesn’t work that way!

Culture is a mirror of what the owners, investors, and senior leadership believe. No one creates culture in a vacuum. We think we do, but we don’t. Culture is an outcome.