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)

6 principles for a great team

The other day I was discussing philosophies for building and maintaining a great team with a good friend of mine.

I thought I wanted to share my philosophy here because great people and developing great people are essential to any hope of success whether it being in a startup or anywhere else. So here goes:

First of all, always look to hire someone better or smarter at what they do than yourself. We should not even discuss this point, but still I see too many “I want to be the brightest one in the room”-people recruiting essentially minions, and I think it is just detrimental to their future success.

Second, sell the vision or “the why” of what you’re doing. If people don’t get turned on by that or at the very least seem above and beyond interested in it, they will most likely be the first ones at the door if something more exciting comes along. This is not to say that people should never leave – they should (see later) – but they shouldn’t because they’re disengaged from day one.

Third, give people mandate. If you have great people around you, they will be looking to have the maximum influence on their own jobs and prospects for future success. Let them run with it.

Fourth, don’t be shy to set expectations and be transparent about hardships. If the great people want the mandate, you also have an obligation to include them on the tougher decisions and get their input. And those who really aspire to great things need to show they can step up and also take on the tougher challenges. In the end it adds to their personal development.

Fifth, always focus on developing people and help them go ‘from good to great’. Recognize their contributions and how much you appreciate them but also keep a tight focus on their development points. Not because they’re lacking, but because they have the potential to be even better and be more successful.

And finally, and sixth, always let them know that you appreciate what they’re doing, the contributions they make and how much they mean to you on a personal level. First of all, you should genuinely feel that way, so it will just be an exercise in transparency. And second of all, it is perhaps the strongest glue that will keep you together as a team and set you off towards accomplishing great things together.

That’s pretty much it, as I see it. Agree? Disagree? Why? I would love to hear your thoughts on this essential topic.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The new media mixtape

As a former insider turned outsider it continues to be interesting to follow the innovative developments within the media space.

Over a short period of years we have gone from monoliths over new entrants with ambitions to become digital monoliths to individual talents and a plethora of ambitious (monoliths-in-spe?) platforms aggressively hawking their capabilities towards said individual talents.

Name me just one other industry, where the atomization of the business model and its opportunities have been more distributed among those who have the talent to take it on and make something out of it?

Thought not.

The individualization of media is an interesting concept. You don’t subscribe to the omnibus model anymore. You subscribe to a variety of subjects and voices and you’re the editor-in-chief who pieces your own worldview together, independent of media channel(s) and content type(s).

It’s all a big mixtape. But it’s your mixtape.

On the flip side it of course puts into question what happens with the leading common narrative and the common agenda – something we can all relate to and discuss and – by extension – subject our opinions on, ultimately at the ballot box (if we’re so fortunate to live in a society where that is a real and unrestricted civil right for us).

Two points on that:

First of all, media monoliths have by and large done a less than stellar job at guarding that unique role and brought into serious question why it should continue to be theirs to steward.

Second, it is always infinitely better that the opportunities for talent and voices are out there – and more abundantly so than ever – than to have everything on relatively few hands. Like water all the news that remain fit to print will find a way.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The real drivers for success

One of the general misconceptions about startups is that too much value is being placed on the idea itself or the work you have already done, and not enough value is placed on what’s needed in order to get to where you want to be with your company in the future.

It is so easy to scoff at a product vision, but the reality of the matter is that when you define a bold and daring vision for your new venture, it becomes more apparent all the things you need to get in place in order to have any chance of getting there.

Let me mention a couple;

In-depth knowledge about the market, market dynamics and the customers, you’re addressing so you know what’s needed from the product(s) in order to get in front of the right future customers and actually convert into sales.

The talent needed to make things happen, so you make sure you have all the right competencies in place, which – if they are just remotely good at what they do – will have plenty of other options on the table than to join your merry crew.

The money needed to make the vision come through and fuel both the roadmap and the growth you have envisaged in order to get to the position, you want to get in.

And these are just to name a few.

The easy thing to do here is to just not care about these things, save them for later – and run into big, big trouble later on.

That happens;

When you build something nobody wants or there is just not a big enough market for. It remains the primary reason startups fail.

You cannot attract the talent you need because they have all chosen to join the other companies where they have a better feeling of what they are aspiring to do and they’re moving more diligently in the right direction.

Investors will turn their backs on you because your basically not fundable for above reasons or for something else.

See the connection here?

The best decision, you can make, is to focus less on past achievements and more on what is needed – not from you yourself necessarily but from everybody else – in order to get to where you want to be in a few years time. And then work towards ensuring that can actually happen.

That is going to make all the difference to your success.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Control the effort

The world is such a complex place with a gazillion moving parts that you cannot ever claim that you have got things under control.

Because how things turn out will per definition be outside of your control and sometimes for the most odd reasons.

This makes your job as the one who has to get things moving, get customers, secure sales and drive the business forward super, super hard.

Much harder than actually building the thing, which is a much more controllable process based on having the necessary skills and experience.

So in the absence of control out there, what can you ‘control’?

The effort.

What you put in.

Quick example: If you know that making one sale happen takes about 10 meetings with different leads, you can totally control that you get those 10 meetings set up, and that you get there on time and pitch the living **** out of it.

Same with partnerships, recruitment and everything else; put the required effort in and your chance for success vastly increases.

But don’t just do a lot of random stuff. Have an approach, a system of some sorts, based on always learning and adapting. Refine your approach. Plan ahead. Think it through – but don’t overthink it.

No matter what people might say having a well thought through plan and approach and spending the time on improving it over time will serve you well.

Combine that with putting in the effort, and you might get where you aspire to go.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

WFH? Not so fast

A movement is forming around the future of work; saying goodbye to the office in return for unrestricted flexibility to work from wherever whenever and however you might choose. It’s the future, damn it!

First of all, I will always be very reluctant to base any long term strategy on a short term experience of what happens, when you make the switch. Add to that that the switch was forced due to Covid-19 and add all the stress elements of anxiety, having to keep kids at home while trying to work etc, and to me it is just a big NO GO!

It’s just a poor way of using data. Almost fraudulent. Especially if you have the well-being of the people, you’re trying to determine the future of work for at heart.

Second, I strongly believe in working together – also in a physical sense. A lot of the work I do and do with others is centered around creativity, open discussions, listening to arguments and finding the best course of action going forward. I find it super hard to replicate sitting at my kitchen table versus being present in the office with the others on our team. But that’s just me.

What is not just me is the thing about workplace culture.

Let’s for a second forget that going completely WFH effectively eliminate all discussion about work-life-balance, because we take away the one thing that keeps things kind of separate for us – the commute. That’s a problem in itself.

No, the real problem is how we create a great company culture, if we’re never together? Culture is not something that happens at bi-weekly all hands meetings or the annual company picnic. It happens every day in your interactions – little and big – with your colleagues around why it is you come to work every day:

You need to see your great colleagues, your need to figure out great solutions together, your need to know and really FEEL that you’re together in creating whatever it is that your company is working to create – the big “why?”

Even though a lot of leaders talk about the importance of having a great company culture, a lot of companies still ultimately rely on people figuring the culture part out themselves and keeping it alive at the water cooler, the small chit chats and whatever else you have, where you can meet informally and bond.

That is super, super hard to do remote. It least if you care about having a team where the “why?” matters.

And that brings me to the final point:

There are lots of roles, where it makes sense to go predominantly WFH; some very well-defined roles, where you essentially have a tasklist, you can work yourself through on a daily basis, be done and call it a day knowing that somehow your contribution fits into the corporate hamsterwheel of things.

But by and large – for ordinary jobs in ordinary companies (and be honest, those are the 99,9 % of all companies) – the “why?” goes out the window during this process.

You can give people all the flexibility in the world that you want. But once everybody starts doing that, it seizes to be an advantage.

And you will be stuck with the downsides;

It will be as easy for your employees to leave as it was to onboard them. Because nothing is going to be holding them back:

They don’t have a real relationship with your company. They don’t really know the people they work with. They (probably) have an even more crap manager than in the office, because managing remote is even harder than in the physical space). And they are distanced from the mission, the “why?”

What’s not to leave behind for greener pastures?

A WFH defacto for work going forward will do nothing else than (1) make it harder for the vast majority of mediocre companies to make great things happen and (2) make it near impossible to keep the people that go the extra mile to see the vision come true as a true team effort while (3) all along giving the false sense of relief that everything is flexible, fine and dandy.

Choose WFH at your own peril.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

3 big goals for 2020

Hello 2020! It’s a new year and with that comes fresh opportunity including the opportunity to set really ambitious goals for the coming 12 monts. So naturally, I have done that on behalf of my work as Head of Studio at inQvation.

In 2020 I want us to co-found at least one startup taking on a really big problem that affects +100M people worldwide.

I want us to develop a project from idea to startup with an experienced entrepreneur-in-residence, where we use our combined strenghts and experience to make a mark. Maybe we could even combine it with the above goal?

And finally, I want us to create “A Path To Success” for great talent within the startup space in Denmark, where inQvation becomes the ‘go to’-place for those looking to unleash their potential to bring great tech solutions to people who have the problems and pains to match.

Ambitious? Yes. Doable? A stretch but if all things align right, why not? Realistic? Not if we don’t try.

(And then of course there are all the other things that comes with being part of a great team that pulls together when needed :-))

(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)