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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.

 

 

It’s the Relationships that Count

 

As part of the coaching and mentoring I do for young people entering the workforce (see MentoringInternships.com), I often have to broaden their perspective: success takes more than competence with technical skills; it requires building effective relationships. (See blog last month on a study conducted at Google.)

When I heard that Warren Buffett credits 12 lessons from “How to Win Friends and Influence People” for transforming his life, I began re-reading Dale Carnegie’s book and recommending it.

I thought I’d share the lessons (as noted by Richard Feloni in Business Insider), since we can all learn from them

  • Avoid criticism, condemning or complaining
  • Praise others’ achievements
  • Be empathic
  • Know the value of charm
  • Encourage people to talk about themselves
  • Know when to use suggestions instead of direct orders
  • Acknowledge your own mistakes
  • Respect others’ dignity
  • Don’t try “winning” an argument
  • Be Friendly, no matter how angry the other person may be
  • Reach common ground as soon as possible
  • Get others to think your conclusion is their own

Which ones stand out for you? Why?  Share with us!

Is Your Company Creating Careers?

For decades, we’ve been making an effort to help young people make better career decisions through our mentoring internship program. We’ve had 600+ interns from the US and internationally. Several years ago, we launched the Mentoring Internships program to help larger companies adopt our approach.

Over the last months, we’ve noticed a number of other programs focused on helping you people and we though we’d share a few.

With increased longevity – people living to 100+ – more people also ending up needing geriatric services. This is a professional marketplace not on the radar of most young people. Accordingly, a Geriatric Career Development program was developed to give teems a pathway to a career, and provide the host with a supply of workers in an industry with exploding demand.

The New Jewish Home, an elder-care non-profit in NYC launched the program to train teens to work in a nursing home, while providing mentoring school tutoring, college prep and life-skills training. (See details.) The program accepts NYC public schools beginning in the sophomore year as long as there is genuine interest to work in the field and to graduate high school. Over the years, almost every student in the program has graduated from high school and 94% are enrolled in college or employed. Two students have gone on to medical school and two others are pursuing Ph.D. degrees in pharmacology.

Recently, there was been discussion at the federal level on spurring the creation of apprenticeship programs to give people an opportunity to learn trades. Not everyone wants to go to a 2-4 year college to work in an office, fast-food establishment or some other company where the liberal arts training has little applicability to what they will do. For centuries, Europeans have been offering high school students the option of hands-on learning in trades like construction, plumbing and electrical, with the prospect of joining the firms. Maybe the time has come to adopt more apprenticeships.

Bloomberg Business featured one company whose pitch is “Want a $1Million paycheck? Skip college and go work in a lumberyard”. 84 Lumber Co, one of the nation’s largest building-supply chains spent millions on this message. It pays manager trainers about $40K a year; those in charge of top-grossing stores can earn $200K a year, and some earn more than $1Million, including bonuses.   With skilled and high-paying blue-collar jobs going unfilled, their program offers a solution to meet the need. While society today encourages millions of young people to take out loans to pay for college degrees, studies report that about half of the students then fill jobs in which they’re not really using the skills the acquired (e.g., learning Roman history may not be  helpful for a fast-food burger server.)

What are you doing to help young people explore their career options to make the best possible decisions?

Share with us your experiences!

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