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What’s Your Corporate Policy Concerning GROWTHH Time?

You and your children may live to 100+. How will you have a fulfilling work-life balance?

Companies are learning that, in the longevity economy, people prefer not to stop working at the “traditional retirement age”; they want to stay productive for a number of reasons, only one of which is economic. In a world with tight labor markets, how do these companies avoid losing people with expertise and experience?

The answer to both questions involves the effective use of “time-off”.  We call it GROWTHH time: Goal Re-Orientation with Time for Health & Happiness.

Just as constructing a brick building requires the proper cement between the bricks, so too does the need for time between careers/jobs for proper work-life balance. People often take a “break” after concentrating time in one “job” in order to re-calibrate for the next.

Students take a “break” after finishing school.  In Israel, people completing their army service take time to explore the world and themselves, before starting their job. Bill Gates, realizing that Microsoft had not developed an effective plan to harness the power of the internet, took time off to gain a fresh perspective and develop a plan. Like many other corporate leaders, he continued to take time off periodically to explore and think things out. Teachers are granted “sabbaticals”, time off after several years, to refresh and reinvigorate. Forrest Gump took time to run across the country to make sense of his world. People take “gap years” to stop doing what they’ve been doing and think through what should come next.

Another way in which we recognize the need for workers to get in touch with their new roles and appreciate them is to give them time off for work-life balance shifts. If you’re having a baby, you get maternity/paternity leave; some companies give time off to take care of family members, to grieve losses, etc.

The world has changed and we all need more time to reflect on our elongated lives and the longevity economy. Fewer and fewer people have one lifetime career and retire from it and/or in some cases continue working in one “encore career”.  Today, people have more jobs/careers than every before and do so for longer periods of time. Indeed, Roberta Golinkoff & Kathy Hirst-Pasek, the authors of Becoming Brilliant, predict that children today will probably have 10 careers during their lifetimes.

Now is the time for companies to develop policies which give workers of all ages sufficient GROWTH time both to ensure they can lead a fullfilling life and maximize their contribute to the company’s future. This means enabling workers to think of their futures and plan appropriately. Fundamental to all is an open line of communication between the worker, supervisor, HR and leadership.

Older workers, who were raised  believing that they’re “supposed” to retire around 65, need to know that there are many options. The traditional practice of ”cold-turkey” retirement – today you’re working here and tomorrow you’re not – is just one. Many companies are experimenting with “phased retirement”models  that benefit both worker and company. For instance, in a phased retirement process where someone reduces the number of weekly workhours over a few years, the extra time can be used as GROWTHH time to explore next steps: travel, relocation, entrepeneurship, etc. Further, during this period of time, they can explore other ways the worker can contributing in the company: training younger workers, serving as mentor, contributing on innovation committes, providing advisory conulting services, serve as back-up workers, etc. Clearly this is preferable to losing a worker to “leisure retirement” who gets bored and chooses to rejoin the workforce later, including working for your competitor. Phased retirement is a win-win policy.

Enough Horseless Carriages!

It’s time we change our frames-of-reference and language to address the reality of the world into which  our children are aging, instead of holding on to antiquated ones that reflects a world that is becoming history.

Sure, lifestyles, habits, cultures, norms, etc. change over time. At any time, we define our “present” by some aspects of the past and some of a “coming” future. There is no right or wrong there. But as role models for the next generation, we need to let go of the world we see growing around us. If we like it, great; if we don’t, we can try to change it.

Take the concept of “retirement”. In the 1880s, in a predominantly agrarian world that was moving toward industrialization, Otto van Bismarck recognized that after a life of fighting wars and working in the fields, people needed a break from work, and created the first Western “retirement system. At 74 year of age, he advanced legislation to allow people to retire with a pension at age 70; later it was dropped to 65 – which is the age that many other societies then adopted.

Fearing that workers in factories and hard labor would continue to work till they die, in 1935 Social Security was created, giving people at target: work till (about) 65, retire from work, and then enjoy a few “golden years” of non-work.

In the meanwhile, the world is changing dramatically:

  • The previous agrarian economy was replaced by an industrial one; more recently we live in a knowledge economy. It means fewer and fewer people are “laborers”, who are less able to handle the physical demands of their jobs.
  • Life spans increased – from 41.7 years at the beginning of the 20th century to mid-80s in the 21 century. If it weren’t for the opioid and related epidemics killing young adults, longevity would keep increasing. Indeed, the fastest growing subgroup is people over 85!
  • Recent research shows that beliefs propagated in the last half of the 20th century are myths. Today:
  • Increasingly, people are living to 100+. Today, over 60 million Americans are over 60; by 2030, they will constitute 20% of our population. In 2050, not very far in the future, 2 Billion people, globally, will be over the age of 60 (worth about $15 Trillion!)
  • Thirty plus years ago, industry experts referred conceptualized a world where people work and when they retire, re-wire, re-invent themselves (whatever term you like), they then seek an encore career. Today’s researchers find that people approaching “traditional” retirement age do NOT plan to retire from work; they want to continue at their jobs, take other jobs, volunteer, etc.; they want “purpose” in life. Moreover, they will have many careers, not just two; indeed, today most people have multiple jobs/careers through life; the largest group of entrepreneurs according to the Kauffman Foundation are adults past 50.
  • We perpetuate too many negative stereotypes. People do not necessarily become decrepit and depressed as they get older; many men are having children in their 60s and 70s (examples). Many important leaders (examples like Warren Buffet, etc). are between 60-100, and going strong.
  • As a result, most people age 50+ do not consider themselves part of the “old crowd” – a mistaken framework created by people who group people by whether they’re older or younger than 50.
  • Finally, get rid of stereotypes which make it harder for older workers who have so much to offer in a knowledge/relationship economy to continue contributing.

What does all this mean? We need to change our frameworks and language.

  • As Henry Ford noted when he invested the “car”, people didn’t want faster horses or buggies, they wanted faster travel. To drive a “horseless carriage” means looking backward; calling it an “automobile” addressed a future world. (We’re still making the same mistake: We’re not entering a world of “driverless cars”, but one of “autonomous vehicles”. And so on.)
  • While every generation can learn the basic development passages through school, careers and family, we’re the first generation trying to figure out how to navigate a longer life. We’re not just adding on extra years post-retirement, we’re creating new paths.
  • More important, however, is that we’re the first role models for younger generations and that’s an important responsibility. Our children and grandchildren will live elongated lives – expecting to live to 100+. We need to help them navigate adult lives (from 20-100+) according to new rules for balancing personal passions with life’s purposes (e.g., work, social causes, learning, etc.) while recognizing the importance of handling the other life basics: health, wealth and relationships.
  • For instance, in an elongated life, you will have multiple careers (the authors of Becoming Brilliant believe today’s children will have 10!) and need to take time off between life events to figure out who we were, are and want to be. (e.g., GROWTHH time- Goal Reorientation with Time for Health and Happiness).
  • Finally, just as BMW has discovered in its assembly plans, businesses should recognize that ergonomic design of facilities can meet the needs of different people and keep them productive regardless of age.

In sum, to have a fulfilling life to 100+, we need to follow the lead of Wayne Gretzky, possibly the greatest ice-hockey player ever. Instead of going to where the puck is, as other players do, he goes “to where the puck is going to be” Start planning your elongated life. Start being a role model for future generations. Start sharing your life’s wisdom – become a SharExer, sharing your expertise and experience.

Follow Steve Jobs’ Example to Achieve More

Looking for ways to increase your productivity (and that of your colleagues)? Tom Koulopoulos recently shared a habit used by Steve Jobs, that is easy to use.

To put it into perspective, “being busy” does not mean you’re “productive”.  Ask people what they did on an average day, and you’ll get answers like “A lot, it was a busy day; non-stop action, meetings, phone calls, the usual!”  It tells you nothing about what was actually achieved – which is the real reason we work.  (A sales management expert said that most sales people spend less than 25% of their time actually “selling to customers”.)

Today, distraction is running rampant. The “tyranny of now”, things we think we should do – from meetings-without-agendas to emails and social media distract us from focusing on what we are paid for: to achieve a strategic company objective.

Steve Jobs understood that there is one question that will instantly address productivity: “What did you achieve today?” And if the answer isn’t consistent with your purpose of working, then you need to change how you spend time. And your accountability partner can help you do it.

Here’s a simple process to follow to improve productivity.

  • Before going home, identify what you want to achieve tomorrow – write it down and leave on your desk, so it’s the first thing you see. (In a prior blog, we shared a double-entry time management system you can use to accomplish ongoing goals.)
  • When you come in the morning, it takes only seconds to sharply focus on what you want to accomplish by reviewing the list and making any edits based on what’s urgent/important.
  • Monitor the time it takes to do each project; make adjustments as needed so priorities are met. Note how much time is being spent on distractions and build systems to reduce their interference with achievement. Many tactics are available for reducing distractions; find the one that works best for those that interfere with your work.
  • At the end of the day, (1) write out the achievements and time management plan for the next day and (2) list your achievements for the day and take pride in them!

If your achievement rate isn’t high enough, accountability partner/coach to help you see where you can do better.

Ready to give it a try? After two weeks, share with us how these ideas are helping you achieve more and feel greater satisfaction for doing so.

What Impact Will Digital Automation Have on Your Business?

How do you plan for the future of automation?  When I’m teaching college students, I ask them to look at the jobs they’re planning to obtain in the next decade and to think through the extent to which automation, robots and algorithms are going to change those jobs. Decades ago, ATMs began weeding out bank tellers; the algorithms of Uber and its competitors, especially with driver-less vehicles is transforming the world of yellow cabs and black car services. When CEOs and I have the conversation, we look at their companies and others, to see how robots and software change how we manufacture and distribute products, work with customers, pay for goods and services etc. So I started looking for a framework that to help people manage the transition as we progress with smarter AI, bots, etc.

Frank, Roehrig and Pring offer one in What To Do When Machines Do Everything: How to Get Ahead in a World of AI, Algorithms, Bots, and Big Data.  They propose the AHEAD model, which outlines five distinct approaches for handling such digital systems:

  • Automate: Outsource rote, computational work to the new machine (e.g., ATMs)
  • Halo (or Code Halos): Instrument products and people to leverage the data they generate through connected and online behaviors to create new customer experiences and business models. (e.g., General Electric enable their products to collect halos of data, increasing the value proposition for the products)
  • Enhance: View the technology as a means to complement what you do in your job, so you can offer increased productivity and satisfaction. (e.g., GPS has made the entire driving experience easier, just as technology has enabled professionals (from sales to medicine) to know more about customers and service them better).
  • Abundance: Use the technology to drop the price of your product/service so you can make them available to new markets (e.g., RoboAdvisors now enable investing novices as well as experienced investors to make decisions based on information never before at their disposal).
  • Discovery: Leverage AI to conceive of entirely new products, services and industries. (e.g., smartphones, with apps).

Each of these offers a different way of looking at how technology can change your life and that of your company, today and tomorrow.   Share with us your experiences at adopting AI, Algorithms, Bots and Big Data.  At what level of the AHEAD framework are you working?  Try moving to the next step in the transition.  As the authors point out, the machines probably will never do everything (at least in our lifetimes), but how can they free you up and support your effort to do deeper, more meaningful things?

Understand 80 vs 8: Do You REALLY have a Competitive Advantage?

McKinsey & Company’s February 2018 magazine included an important article, Strategy to Beat the Odds, with interesting implications.

Most CEOs know the fundamentals of business strategy, including Michael Porter’s “5 Forces” model and the concept of Competitive Advantage which arises from a set of conditions that makes your company superior to rivals and facilitates greater profits.  The article notes a study which found that “80 percent of executives believe their product stands out against the competition – but only 8 percent of customers agree”.

WOW! Peter Drucker said that “the purpose of a business is to create a (profitable) customer”; therefore, it’s their opinion –not that of the executives – that really counts!

Why the discrepancy?  The reason that the article focuses on is what they call “the social side” of strategy. First, when people make decisions, there are inherent biases, such as overconfidence and cognitive biases, (e.g., anchoring, loss aversion, confirmation bias and attribution error), as Daniel Kahneman described in Thinking, Fast and Slow. While they help us filter information in our daily lives, they can distort the outcomes when we make big, consequential decisions infrequently and under high uncertainty – as we do with strategy. Also, affecting the process is the “agency” challenge: presenters who want to get a “yes” to their proposal may exclude contrary information; knowing that proposals are compromised often, executives may overstate requests; and people’s decisions are often influenced by other factors including their own egos and career aspirations.

Another reason stems from Drucker’s perspective: who are your customers? Do you really know who they are and what they want? For instance, what’s really important to potentially-loyal customers who:

  • Use the product infrequently because they are not enamored with it
  • Choose not to use it for reasons the company may not know
  • Never even considered it.

We all know the limits of what rivals can do selling similar customers, similar products for which none have a real Competitive Advantage: (e.g., McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s who fight over “dollar” meals.) Kim and Mauborge propose executives get out of the “bloody” red ocean and service new customers with a “Blue Ocean Strategy” (e.g., Shake Shack). Using value innovation, companies like Cirque do Soleil, NetJets, Curves, Salesforce and Lyft) companies can deliver REAL competitive advantages to targeted new customers.

What does all this mean for you?  Check whether your current customers really perceive your service/product as having a Competitive Advantage. If not can you fix it? If not, does it make sense to:

  • Identify the needs of potentially profitable new customers
  • Build new profitable service/product models that can offer a (sustainable) Competitive Advantage.

 

 

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