When there’s no there there

The trouble with conspiracy theories is that a lack of evidence is not taken as proof it’s not real, but instead as proof the conspiracy is indeed everywhere. This is like thinking that the reason you never see elephants hiding up in treetops is because they’re good at it.

@WardQNormal (Twitter)

So. F******. True.

It’s just one of those days.

The “red tape” danger

The problem with too much process and red tape is that it creates excuses for not getting problems solved:

“Our processes dictates that I must do this”, “I am not measured on doing that”, “I cannot do anything about it, it’s the rules”, “We have a policy that…”.

Etcetera etcetera.

Of course there needs to be rules and processes, and sometimes they’re even defined by law.

But having said that it is also important to reiterate that just because you can push a set of rules, a boss or even the law in front of you, it doesn’t mean that you can’t show empathy for the person(s) in the other end obviously experiencing a problem.

One of the reasons why startups even stand a fighting chance against much larger and more resourceful organizations is that they don’t have all these rules, processes and KPIs in place.

They’re just trying to do what they think is necessary to enable them to solve issues and move forward. By showing empathy and some sort of efficient pragmatism whenever they encounter a challenge or – most importantly – a customer experiencing a problem and in need of a fix to it.

When companies grow and more people get onboard, the need for processes, policies and rules will grow – sometimes almost exponentially.

That may be fine in itself. But it should never be an excuse for throwing empathy and the ability to act and fix issues out the window.

If you start doing that you will enable precisely all the behaviour internally in your organization that you DON’T really want. And absolutely don’t need to succeed.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

What chess taught me

When I was a kid, I enjoyed playing chess. I was part of my school chess club, part of the first team and at one time actually won the local county (amt) championship in my age group.

Chess was fun and interesting. And taught me a couple of important lessons about life;

Looking and planning ahead a few moves is cool. But if it comes at the expense of taking your eye of the ball of what’s happening right here and right now, you’re still going to loose.

So. Keep. Your. Eyes. On. The. Ball.

On the other hand; if you’re acting too quickly in the spur of the moment and not showing enough patience to completely your next move so it ends being a wise one, you’re also going to loose.

As in all other aspects a life, it is a question about balance.

Don’t overthink, don’t stress.

Be smart.

Contemplate the situation – state of play.

Think in options and alternatives.

Make the move that seems to bring you closer towards your objective while at the same time preserving your interests.

Repeat. And repeat. Etc.

More people should really take up chess.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Fix education!

Looking at what is happening in the US, I think it’s fair to say that their education system is completely and utterly broken.

Forget about universities or colleges being about preparing you for a corporate career. The first order of business should be to have the fundamental ability and urge to teach kids and young adults about critical thinking, civic behavior and the likes.

To enable them to actually like in a democracy and not being taken on crazy rides by whatever authoritarian person offers to do so.

Failure to ensure that people can think the themselves and not be drawn to conspiracies and flat out lies will ensure failure in everything else – none mentioned, none forgotten.

Fixing education and the equal access to quality education is the biggest problem and – by association – the biggest opportunity for entrepreneurial spirits who thoroughly understand what’s truly at stake if this doesn’t get fixed.

We can only move too slow on this.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Defeat stupidity

…a stupid person causes damage to others while deriving no gain, or even possibly incurring losses. We invariably underestimate the number of stupid individuals in circulation as the probability that a certain person is stupid is independent of other characteristics or credentials (e.g., they can have a PhD or be president). We (the non-stupid) are vulnerable to the stupid and their actions as we find it difficult to imagine and understand — or to organize a rational defense against — an attack that lacks rational structure or predictable movements. Or, as Friedrich Schiller put it, against stupidity the gods themselves fight in vain.

Professor Scott Galloway, “Big Tech Is Now a Shadow Government”

Right on!

The problem with stupidity reigning supreme is that it’s so hard for us non-stupids to fathom that we’re rendered more or less defenceless to do anything about it. And then everybody suffers.

We need to figure out ways to root out self-inflicted stupidity long before it becomes a problem.

Better and cheaper access to education in important things such as critical thinking and civics might be an excellent place to start.

Question your self

Personal performance discussions is one of the most energizing things, I know.

Why?

Because when you sit down to discuss your personal performance with your manager, it’s a great opportunity to reflect upon what you have learned, look inward and figure out where you want to go from here in terms of your personal development.

For a curious person such as myself that brings a ton of energy. Because I am not only curious about the world around me, ideas, technologies, trends and solving problems that affect people. I am also deeply curious about myself.

Which is why I always take these discussions very seriously.

Having said that I have found that there has always been a part missing from these development discussions or – more precisely – personal reflections:

The difference between stating an intent and asking a question.

Let me try to explain, as I think this is super important as a differentiator for your ability to truly grow both professionally and personally:

When you state an intent, you say “I will do xyz…”. You paint a picture of a desired future state.

The problem with doing that is that it’s entirely non-committal. It hinges 100% on your discipline in terms of following through on the actions you need to take to get to that desired future state.

And we all know what tends to happen with discipline towards personal or professional growth? It’s fun for a short while, we start to loose interest, and before we know it we have more or less abandoned our desire and replaced it with more of the same.

Maybe it’s a bit taken to the extreme, but I am sure, you get my point.

Now, what would happen if instead of stating an intent, you framed it like a question for yourself instead?

Instead of saying “I will do zyx…” put the question “Will I do xyz?” to yourself instead.

I think doing this accomplishes two very important things:

First of all it forces to be brutally honest about your desire for that future state, the question refers to. Because if the answer is just “No”, you have no desire to do it, and it’s not really a personal growth goal for you.

You have been lying yourself, and you’re given an opportunity to stop and come up with something that is more true to what you really desire.

Second, by asking it as a question, you address all the potential barriers to your growth target up front. You will be saying to yourself that “Yes, I will but only if this this and this don’t get in the way”.

The beauty of that is that you can then start your growth journey by addressing the very things that are keeping you back and which you already know will be at the core of why you risk losing interest.

In other words: By getting rid of the barriers to your growth, you increase your chances or success in achieving your goal by a great magnitude.

Or at least so I think.

Which is why I will be using this approach for myself going forward.

Yes, it will put me on the spot in different situations. And some of it will be beyond my comfort zone, I am sure. But honestly; isn’t that what all kinds of personal growth and development is about?

One thing is for sure: It doesn’t happen by doing nothing.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The gig economy challenge

I have never been a big believer in and much less a huge fan of the gig economy.

My analysis has been pretty straightforward : A few get rich or richer by taking advantage of the misfortunes of many.

Maybe it’s time to be a bit more nuanced. Because the gig economy is not one thing; it is several. I count at least three variations, and then the question becomes which one of the three should we progress given that there are some flexibility elements in the gig economy that are appealing to many?

Let’s briefly look at the three versions:

In the privileged version you enable people to get the most of their experience and expertise by helping them build upon their personal brands and get it out to more people, who pay for the privilege of special access.

Think Substack and what they enable content providers to do through paid niche newsletters.

In the convenience version you agree to a marriage of convenience a la “I scratch your back, you scratch mine”, where you get something for your troubles, but it’s not the main thing for you.

Think Uber and their drivers, where many of the latter get an extra income whenever they want to top what they do elsewhere, and Uber gets a flock of mechanical turks to make their service work, until we have self-driving cars or some other form of non-human door-to-door transportation.

It works until it doesn’t anymore. And that’s ok. It’s life.

The final version is the exploitation version. This is the unfortunate fundamentally unsustainable business model in a modern society, where clever people with a certain kind of moral compass use the misfortunes of other people to build a business and enrich themselves.

Why is it unsustainable? Because it does nothing to even the playing field. On the contrary it expands the gulf between the ‘haves’ and the ‘haves not’ in terms of income and prosperity, and looking at it through a historical optic it seldom ends really well for society.

This is where we have services such as meal delivery service Wolt whose business model IMHO is centered around a beautiful UX – or if you prefer; lipstick on a pig – a sizeable fee for participating (typically low margin) restaurants on every transaction and very little ending up with the ‘partners’ (i.e. not ’employees’ with any rights whatsoever) who do the brunt of the actual work.

This last version of the gig economy is what is giving the gig economy a bad name in many quarters. It may sound nice and flexible, but in reality its implications are poisonous over time to a lot of people. And potentially to society at well.

Looking forward we IMHO need to ensure that the development of a sustainable gig economy focuses on providing opportunity and access to the privileged version of it, for those who seek a more flexible lifestyle related to work and living their lives the way they see fit without in effect nesting at the bottom of society.

We can start that by developing services and programs that help these people deliver enduring value that they can actually capture the brunt of themselves.

(Photo: Pixabay)

Getting partnerships right

Partnerships in business can be extremely rewarding. But making them actually work can also be super, super tough.

While many seem to think that the brunt of the work is in finding and negotiating with the right partner, the truth of the matter is that the real, tedious work begins afterwards.

When focus is on getting the partnership to work.

Herein lies three epic struggles.

The least – although many would consider it the biggest – is to actually be able to realize the potential of the partnership. If you have done your homework and your due diligence properly, you will know that you can make this happen, because all the ingredients and components you need to get the job done is there.

Which brings me to the two other struggles that will determine whether the above mentioned potential succeeds or not:

Internal and external stakeholders.

To start off with the internal, one thing you have to realize before you even start thinking about partnering is what your own internal stakeholders mean by ‘partnerships’ and ‘partners’. Because that may not be a given in any way.

Some will say they think of win-win relationships, where you give something and get something else in return, and it’s a healthy back and forth that will draw on each partners core strengths and ability to contribute. Those are the good ones.

But some will also disclose that what they think of when they think of a ‘partner’ is ‘someone who contributes, so I can win’.

Those are the troublesome ones.

Why?

Because they won’t necessarily commit to contribute what is needed from your own end in order to make the partnership a success. Worst case for you they will leave you hanging out to dry in front of the partner – and solely put the blame for the ensuing failure on you

So making sure all internal stakeholders have the same positive understanding of what it means to partner and commits to seeing it through is absolutely key.

That leaves the struggles with your external stakeholders.

What you will often find here are the exact same issues as with your internal stakeholders – why would it be any different on the other side of the table?

Because in addition to the already known and typical issues, you will also have the challenge of making sure the alliance is healthy and well, so to say.

This can be no small task. Because it works as in most romantic relationships; while the romantic feelings are on an all time high and everything is rosy, when you’re dating, the rosiness fades and the daily grind sets in once you have committed and tied the not.

This is when it becomes about making the partnership operational and durable. It will be stress tested time and time again, and just as rows occur in a marriage – sometimes with greater frequency – there will be tons of times where things will get rocky, people will want to leave and just abandon everything.

Here it is your job to keep the perspective and get everybody aligned again. And again. And again.

For the greater good that brought you together in the first place.

There is no substitute for it. It is essentially what makes every sort of partnership – personal as well as professional – work.

Now, why bother thinking about all of this stuff?

Because it is super essential when you talk about the idea of partnering and basing your strategy on partnerships that you’re fully and realistically aware of what it entails.

If not you’re going to end up in the statistics of partnerships that fails, and your only consolation will be that it’s the typical outcome of what otherwise started as a grand initiative.

Instead of getting to that place you should ensure that you have what it takes to get partnerships right;

Make sure your internal stakeholders are aligned and signed on to the approach and what it demands – yes, DEMANDS – from them. Make them sign a piece of paper, if you have to. Just get it done.

On the external front be honest and transparent. Always and from the very start. To stay in the marriage analogy get the divorce papers in order before you sign up. Tell them all the ways things are going to end up bad and make sure they understand it. And then ask them to commit.

Only when you have these things in place, should you progress with pursuing all the true benefits and value that can be unlocked through a great, mutually committed and enduring partnership.

And they can be B.I.G.

But only then.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)