Searching Chronicles

Standard

It’s easy to overlook, but at the top left hand corner there is a search box that allows this blog to be searched using any chosen word.

A visitor to the site who is interested in a certain topic can just enter it in the box, hit return and up comes every article in which the word appears.

Perhaps there is a way to place it in the right column? If anyone knows, do let me know.

The Advantage of Being in Jamaica

Standard

One of the advantages I have of living in Jamaica is that it has helped me to see what is often accepted as a normal business practice in North America from a very different perspective.

One simple example is a question that we used to ask each other in the U.S. workplace — “Are you keeping busy?”

Now, from a Jamaican perspective, this question looks like a strange one. Why should someone’s goal be to keep busy? What is the purpose?

Will we all be happier when we are busy all the time?

Is the whole point of work… to find more stuff to work on?

The Kinds of Business I am Not In

Standard

There is a temptation in business to try to build the company around whatever seems to be hot at the moment.

The logic taught in MBA schools is as follows:

  1. Do market research- Figure out what people want by asking them what their needs are
  2. Start a Business – Find a way to provide it to them at a price that can make a big profit

The logic seems to make sense, and it has created a generation of what one might call “profit chasers.” People start companies in order to make as much money as they can as quickly as they can, and they are particularly susceptible to the latest offers that come along.

On the other hand, there is a new and growing school of thought that this thinking is limited. Instead, the new thinking is as follows:

  1. Follow your passions and interests until you become an expert
  2. Find ways of packaging and selling your expertise to those who appreciate what you have to offer
  3. Continue to innovate and expand your offerings, always paying attention to where your interests are taking you

I have become a firm believer in this new approach to business, which I will call Business 2.0. I started a company in the Business 1.0 model that didn’t work — a t-shirt company that just seemed like a good idea that would make money. Instead, it lost it (even while teaching me some stern lessons about running a company).

Living in the Business 1.0 world is cold and hard. People take jobs for companies they don’t like, doing things they don’t care for, earning enough to pay their bills at the end of the month. This is as good as it gets. In Business 1.0, people give as little as they can, while trying to get as much as they can in return — what economists call “maximizing their utility.” In this particular world, it always makes sense to pursue to highest paying job, no matter what.

In the Business 2.0 world, however, the single-minded pursuit of profit and tangible gain is set aside to some degree for other commitments, such as personal fulfillment and making a difference. There is a commitment to learn, expand and grow, while taking care of one’s psychological and emotional needs along the way.

I observed an interesting contrast between these two models recently in two web sites that focus on methods of making profits through blogging.

One, problogger.net, is clearly Business 1.0 while the second, stevepavlina.com is clearly following the alternate model. While one model is not necessarily better than the other, I will say that the second is more likely to do a couple of things that i personally like:

  1. Business 2.0 is more likely to lead to a fulfilled life — it passes the deathbed test because it is asking the question “what is my life for” at each step of the way.
  2. Business 2.0 is more likely to produce well-managed companies that are strong on innovation simply because one is likely to find more innovation by people who love what they are doing, than by people who are “paid to do a job” and are focused on “doing what they need to do.”

I guess that my point here is that each of us has a choice in life, regardless of what we might argue to ourselves and others. I do know what many people complain that they have no choice, and they are more likely to bake what Kahlil Gibran, author of The Prophet, calls “a bitter bread.

Discovering Facebook

Standard

Recently, I checked out Facebook (and also Myspace) to find out what the fuss was all about.

Something about the whole social networking thing left me feeling like it was too close to match.com, and too far from something that had a serious business application.

Well, my initial suspicions were terribly wrong.

Here in the Caribbean, Facebook is a excellent way to maintain business contacts, given the geographic distance that we have to overcome, Ironically, in recent speeches I have been giving on the power of using the internet for networking, I never imagined that these tools would have a regional use, but they sure do.

As I experiment some more I’ll probably be writing about how users are able to get to know someone on all sorts of levels at the same time. Knowing someone in business terms is only a part of the overall picture that one can have, and the truth is that we in the Caribbean rely as much on social connections as we do on those related to family and business.

I am sure to get into this topic more in the future, especially as I am writing an ebook on the very topic of regional networking. More on this to come.

Transferring Expat Skills

Standard

In an interesting conversation with an expat manager yesterday, I realized a few things that might be of use not only to expats, but also to other managers.

A successful manager is not necessarily the best teacher, partly because their success may have come in ways that they are unable to clearly distinguish. This is why some of the most most accomplished sportsmen and women make terrible coaches. Their achievements came from their abundant talents, rather than from their ability to break their actions down into small elements that they then could practice diligently.

In this sense, someone who has less talent could well be a better teacher.

An expat coming to manage Jamaicans has a possible advantage.

Because they are entering a new culture, they often migrate with open minds, and they often are willing to take nothing for granted. They know that the environment they learned to manage in is very different. They know that there are some things that they learned when they were young that managers in Jamaica do not learn as readily.

What they (and Jamaican managers) can do is to take the following steps to coach those who report to them:

1. Distinguish the distinction that they possess
2. Articulate it in new-sounding language
3. Introduce it as a new item to be learned to their teams
4. Demonstrate that they are also learning how to apply it in this
environment
5. Share what they are learning and encourage others to share

An example:

The distinction “being on-time” can mean something very different to expat managers, and is often a source of irritation. This distinction can be introduced by a savvy manager who wants to create an immediate change in the way people are managed.

Sometimes an outsider can bring these distinctions to bear on a group (which is often the role I play as a consultant) but this is only needed in the exceptional circumstance where the manager
has tried everything they can think of.

Creating a Vision

Standard

It occurred to me today that many vision statements leave people unmoved.

At the same time, we all know of visions statements that were inspiring when they were said — such as “A man on the moon by the end of the decade.”

What was it that made this statement so very inspiring? Was it the clarity? Was it the fact that JFK said it? Was it the fact that it was measurable? Or is it because it was time-based?

I think these are all important, but I also think that there is a reason why a company’s goal of “being number one in it’s industry by 2010″leaves most who are listening stone cold.

It has nothing to do with the words, and everything to do with those who are listening.

Behind JFK’s goal, or Bill Gates’ (a micro-computer on every desktop) is an implicit understanding that the vision would not be realised in the normal course of events.

In other words, it was understood that a man had never walked on the moon before, and that there was not a micro-computer sitting on anyone’s desk at the moment those visions were spoken.

This tension between today’s reality and the vision being stated made it inspiring. If there were no tension between the statement and today’s reality, it would be useless.

Or, if the gap between today’s reality and the vision were not well understood, it would be toothless.

The management of this tension is essentially what management and leadership are all about. Executives do their companies a great disservice when they slip into “how great we already are” talk and start to claim that the vision is already being accomplished, or has already been accomplished. In effect, they destroy what little tension might exist in the listening of their employees.

Keeping this tension alive takes great discipline, and is the key to provoking excellence and extraordinary effort. Without it, employees are unconsciously being encouraged to merely seek the path of least resistance. Mediocre results are the guaranteed outcome.

P.S.

(Many years ago, I read a book “The Path of Least Resistance” that I can only now understand in hindsight. The author’s name is Robert Fritz.)

Building an Environment that is Open for Business

Standard

Now that we are ten days away from election day, I am remembering an article (http://urlcut.com/dchuck) that Delroy Chuck wrote about creating an environment in Jamaica that is business-friendly.

Beyond the politics of what he has to say, there is a truthful point. I recently opened a business here in Jamaica, and I finally received the legal papers in August 2007 after waiting from December, 2006.

In an earlier post entitled “The Thwarting of the Creative Class“, I shared some research that showed that Jamaica’s ranking among countries in terms of how easy it is to do business is terribly low, even after years of efforts to make things easier.

Low Trust in the Caribbean Workplace

Standard

I have written before about the low level of trust between employees in companies, and especially between managers and workers.

I thought that this article (http://urlcut.com/trustinja) from the Feb 4th, 2007 Jamaica Observer was not only useful for Jamaicans, but all of us in the Caribbean. It makes me wonder what the cost of broken promises is in regional corporations.

It also ties in with Kenneth Carter’s “Why Worker’s Won’t Work.” More on this later.