The future of work, postponed

Flextribe, a Danish recruitment startup, wants to connect freelancers with deep subject matter expertise, who doesn’t necessarily want a full time position, with corporations who need said expertise but can struggle in attracting the necessary talent for the before mentioned reason; they don’t want to be employed.

Simple. But the Future of Work?

I am not so sure.

I mean, I like the concept. I really do. I see it very much as a flexible but quite focused low-touch agency; you put up your profile yourself, define your your hourly rates, and then you basically bet that there will either be interesting assignments up for grabs or that some potential client contacts you through the platform, and sweet music arises from the interaction.

If the solution can help the individual consultant sell his or her services, I am all for it. Having been a consultant myself, the constant need to sell your next project and basically make a living from it can be extremely stressful.

But is it the Future of Work?

I still doubt it.

First of all, I don’t think it’s for everybody to be a freelancer. It can sound so nice, easy and flexible, but in reality it is super hard work, and many people are just not cut out from it.

And at the same time I am on the fence about creating a model based on ‘the best of the best’.

Two questions immediately come to mind: One, how do you really vet it, so your promise to your clients holds true. And two – and most importantly – who are going to make the purchase decision?

The last thing is key. Because let’s look at a couple of archetypes that we normally find in corporations, and who are perhaps more skilled than most:

There are the ones who have the skills and experience and wants to achieve things by doing the right things that can really move the organization forward. Those are the ones who start out with huge ambition, gets disillusioned by corporate BS and end up leaving to join something like Flextribe instead.

And then there are the ones who have the skills and experience but more than anything else wants to climb the corporate ladder – fast. These are the ones who will most often be in a middle management position and thus buying the services of Flextribe.

Now it becomes interesting.

Will this latter group be inclined to buy into a value proposition claiming that all the best people are outside your organization? Which camp does this put this career ambitious middle manager in? The next best group, or what?

If that career minded person has already climbed the ladder a bit, he will know that the last thing he wants to do is to look stupid or out of his depth. He can choose to be brave, hire freelancers to help him accomplish the KPIs he himself has promised to deliver to upper management. Or he can choose to try to find some way of wiggling himself out of it using some typical corporate bureaucracy related excuse.

Most often he will chose the latter, as it is the least risky part. And talking himself out of potential trouble by framing the conversation to suit his own agenda is a key skill anyway for really skillful corporate climbers.

So what are we left with if this is the new Future of Work?

First of all an abundance of freelancers where ultimately it will be hard to find the best fit for the projects that will no doubt be there and require assistance. The opportunity for overpromising and underdelivering for these freelancers is huge.

Second, you will have corporations that will potentially be even more void of the required talent and expertise, and where more time will be spent reframing the conversation and casting blame rather than actually ensure that big, important projects gets decided, funded and done.

Of course this is not going to be sustainable and at some point there will be a backlash, and we will find a better way, aka the Future of Work, which is based on our experience of how not to go about organizing these things.

I am just not confident we have reached that point yet.

But I wish Flextribe and all other services like it the best of success in their endeavors.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The Catch 22 of strategy

2021 is upon us. And for many that signals the roll-out of a new strategy or annual plan.

While those often seem intuitive – sometimes even banal – getting them right is super hard.

It is vital to be able to focus on executing on the plan. Yet, it is also vital to be open to the element of surprise.

The balance between the two is super hard.

If you only focus, you will get narrow-sighted and probably not succeed.

If you’re always open for the element of surprise, you’re unlikely to be able to focus and probably not succeed.

And if you mix the two, some will focus too narrow on the former and some will be distracted by the latter.

It is just super hard to get right.

But there is no way around trying.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Capturing learnings

One of the things I am trying to do while we work to get our new MedTech startup off the ground is to document my learnings so far.

I do that in a mindmap using SimpleMind. Because when taking notes and reflecting on things the easy of speed of getting it down into some sort of structure beats trying to get the format right from the go.

Anyways, the learnings I am documenting serve a couple of purposes;

First of all, I am trying to get the learning myself. Reflect on the things we have done as a team and I have done as an individual and try to use the instances, where we could have done better or been more efficient, to become better and more efficient in the future.

Second, I am trying to document whether there are some patterns in what we have done that we can put on formula for later use and thus make the next startup startup process a bit more smooth.

Looking at the latter point, two things have already become abundantly clear:

There are a lot of learnings around process; when to do what in order to create a flow where everything around establishing the team, the corporate structure, strategy etc can happen at a pace, where people are in it and don’t risk feeling either overwhelmed, not heard or just straight out of the picture. I think those learnings are universal and can be directly applied to other future cases.

On top of that there are a lot of learnings about people; what’s important, what’s not important, how to interact in ways that builds a great degree of trust, which I think is absolutely key for a future long term corporation to work. Some of those learnings are directly applicable to future cases, but as it relates to people, and people are inherently different, some of them will have to have major adjustments on a case by case basis.

Basically, two things are fascinating for me in jotting down those learnings:

The sheer volume of notes, thoughts and reflections is just daunting and is both a reminder of the process so far and the sheer amount of work, we have put into making our new startup work for everybody. But it also has immense value in itself as a future (part) blueprint for how to do these things.

The other thing is that I will be curious to see what will end up being the differentiator for future cases and the applicability of our learnings to them? Will it be predominantly the process parts of the people parts.

The jury is still very much out on that one and as such the journaling continues.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The dangers of ‘digitalization’

The Danish Management Society‘s new focus on “Digital Reshaping” – whatever that wording means – made me think;

Whenever somebody talks about the need to ‘digitalize’ products or processes in an old industry company, you as a digital expert should be quite alert. Perhaps even worried.

Because what does the phrase really mean?

I will tell you what it seldom means;

It seldom means that the company in question is looking to question every single process and product it has in order to ask itself questions like “Is this still relevant?”, “Does the product serve a clear need in the market?” and “Have we REALLY understood what it means to make this a success in the current and future market?”. And make the necessary brutal decisions the answers demand.

It seldom means that the company is looking to change it’s entire operating model to embrace the uncertainty of a fast moving market and favor smaller, nimbler experiments as a way of understanding the need in the market before pushing for the big product delivery. And it never means a higher tolerance – embrace even – of risk. Or even a longer time horizon to get things right.

And it seldom means being really ambitious about the people you get on board and – crucially – the mandate you give them to actually make the needed changes happen and – hopefully – put the company on a better trajectory.

All of the above are in my humble opinion key elements for actually making the necessary things happen that will change the trajectory of the company into something better aligned with the needs of the current and future market and customers.

Of course you could be in luck. But alas, you will seldom see these things. What you will see when companies look to ‘digitalize’, though, is;

Doing more of the same but in a slightly different way. Typically by investing in expensive systems from convincing vendors and trying to operate them even though they are often overblown compared to the value they end up delivering to your company.

More of the ‘big bang’ releases that are being touted – using various fancy words – as ‘transformative’ or even downright ‘disruptive’ (which they never are, ed.) that end up failing in spectacular and (sometimes) even depressing ways.

The same old guard of people sitting there making all the decisions lacking the necessary insight into the depths of the matter and what needs to be done while confirming to each other that they have long ago figured this out. And the ruthless of identifying the scapegoat for failure and weeding out of everybody else, who think and try to act in a different way.

The end result?

More blindfolded investment. More wasted investment. More convenient scapegoats when things again don’t go according to the grand ol’ plan.

And very little real change.

So beware. And demand all the right answers to the proper questions, before you get involved.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Corona thoughts, part 2

It’s been a couple of weeks now. And while understandably there are a lot of businesses and startups in despair, I also sense some opportunities to look beyond the current corona pandemic and lockdown.

People are easier to get in touch with, because they’re home. Of course many are in video meetings, but it’s still easier. Negotiations become more pragmatic because we’re more left to our own devices. People will tell you ‘Yes’ more because they’re just happy somebody is offering opportunities. And people will give more thoughtful responses to propositions because they have better time to do their own personal due diligence.

I am not in any way, shape or form advocating for more of the same. I am just quietly saying that there is also opportunities in the current climate, if you just look for them and can distance yourself a bit from all the doom and gloom.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Recruit with precision

The more I work with recruiting matters, the more I come to realize the amount of effort and work you need to put in in order to get the best candidates possible. It doesn’t matter whether it is for a job opening or for participation in a case competition – it is all the same.

Advertising near and far will get you something. But it is my experience that there is a high noise-to-signal ratio in that way, and that you can quickly spend a lot of time and effort for very little result.

What seems to work better though is recruiting through precision. Basically getting someone to vouch for you and your serious interests. Going that way unlocks interesting candidates who are not really out there looking but may be interested in a conversation. And it has the potential of unearthing all sorts of different interesting profiles that might be an unconventional fit for something but nevertheless a potential fit given the initial screening. It really seems like the way to go.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Treasure the soft skills

When you’re looking to solve a problem and improve something for someone, empathy matters. You need to be able to put yourself in the shoes of the customer, feel their pain and use the insight generated to fuel your product development efforts.

When we fail to employ empathy and other soft skills like it, we may get to fabulous solutions but we run short of understanding the problem. Solving a problem. And when we do that, the odds for success are very much stacked against us.

So treasure your soft skills. And if you don’t feel you have too many of them yourself, treasure the ones in your team who do. Because you need them in order to be successful in a truly outstanding way.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Progress report – May 2019

It’s been a month since I joined inQvation Studio, and what a month it has been; fastpaced, fun and with a lot of excitement about the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

I have spent the month catching up on all the thinking that has gone into building the Studio idea. Furthermore I have been fortunate enough to be able to contribute to a couple of projects already, and I am very grateful of how that has turned out and the feedback, I have received. There are just cool, skilled, fun and generous people all over, and I never grow tired of people who passionately care about what we are all doing together.

On top of that we have spent some time getting bits and pieces in play that will help us in our exploration work going forward. Essentially we’re preparing for takeoff full well knowing that (more than) one or two things will go very differently than according to plan. The coming months will have us launch properly and will show whether we can make our trajectory. Based on the first month, I am very optimistic. Onwards and upwards.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)