A Premature Generational Gap! Can You Feel It?

On the other day I came across with an amazing cartoon, by Mashable Comics, where a guy says to another “…you kids today, with your “cloud computers” and “Google Docs”…In my days, we attached files to our Emails, and we liked it that way.” And the other replys, “Dave, you are like two years older than me”. This is a behavior that you can assist more and more within companies or even among friends. Can we call it Generational Gap? Yes, though, there is a difference between the Generational Gap from the 1960s, between a child and he’s parents generation, and what we have been assisting, happening mainly between people born in the same generation. Today’s world is faster than ever, and even if you are only a couple of years older you can feel a kind of “generational gap”. This Gap is normally boosted by technology and innovation, and have a broad and deep impact in one’s life. I believe that a lot of people is feeling, or have already felt, something similar to this. I must confess that my first time was back in the 90s when the computers start to be King. Obviously, a lot have changed but the feeling is still the same, a sour taste of falling behind! The problem today is that even if you try to cope with this fast changing, you can easily feel the same way!

How can one face this? And better, how can one overcome this? Everything moves fast, it is difficult to keep up with everything happening so fast around us. And even if you put a lot of effort on do it, you will quickly find out that you are not succeeding! That way, I would go for a better prepared mentality to face the negativity of the falling-behind feeling. Therefore, I strongly believe that better than fighting back or feel demotivated, one should instead acknowledge this new reality and stay focused. I must say that a future-oriented mind would be helpful, and this should probably start with: first, be aware of one’s limitation; second, be willing to continuously learn; and third, keep an open minded regarding novelties. Why? Well, this new century is more demanding on knowledge and asks for an along-life-learning mentality. A faster world is demanding for an open-mind orientation, and an educational system that teaches more about how to learn than on what to know. Although there is no right or wrong solution, it is really important to face this trend with humbleness, open-mind orientation, and willingness to learn in a different and continuously way. In a word, Change is needed and is part of the solution. Let’s win this Generational Gap challenge through the willingness to Change!   

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Words For Starters!

Motivation is a trendy subject nowadays! You open your Email or go for your Tweeter and is every where. Though, I believe that motivation is much more than a price on top of your salary or a firm party if the profits are up. Motivation should be in the company’s Cultural DNA, built in the company’s vision. Motivation should be felt in everyday routines, able to influence moods, or keep UP the performance. It can simply start with a word, a word to let your people know how important they are to the company and how important their thoughts and ideas are. However, instead of having their people thinking and innovating, a lot of companies still want to have them following orders and rules, like robots. Commonly we assist to companies behaving as owners of their employees, forcing them to do everything by the book with zero of spontaneity. You know what? These companies are done! There is no space for companies who lead people with in a short leash. Why? Because these companies are killing innovation and creativity, they are not future oriented, and they just want to be on the safe side of the business. Guess what? There is no safe side anymore! The today’s business world does not have compassion for those who does not want to take risks or be different. Being on the safe side and do not allow employees to think, be innovative or creative is saying you are already out of the business.

Lately, I have been writing and thinking about things that we are not used to face as competitiveness factors like happiness, sense of humor or motivation. In How can happiness be a Competitive Advantage?, I mention happiness as a competitive advantage to a business, and in Sense of Humor Keeps The Bankruptcy Away, I speak about sense of humor can keep bankruptcy away. Now, I am saying out load that motivation can help a company being stronger and more prepared for future challenges. I am also saying that a word can be a good commencement, mainly for those who are more reluctant in giving up on control and let more creativity in. 

Some questions you should ask yourself to diagnose what kind of leader you are. Is motivation key to your company’s goals and to achieve your vision? Have your team a crystal and clear view on the company’s vision? Do you allow your team to think? Do you give them time and space to come up with their own ideas? Well, If your answers are NO, then you should think about the whys on the NOs! How about starting with a word? A word of motivation when your people do well and also a word of motivation when they do less well! Motivation can be a good commencement and a strong base for you to shift from a controlling leadership style to a more delegating one, something with more autonomy and flexibility in it! If you are not too sure about it or how to do it, start with small steps, but please do something or you will not be in business any much longer!

How can happiness be a Competitive Advantage?

How can happiness help you, and your business, being more competitive? Can happiness be considered as a competitive advantage? 

Yes is my answer to both questions! Nowadays almost all the companies have discovered the power of operational efficiency and how key a good sourcing can be. And for those who haven’t discovered this yet watch out because you are probably in a very bad shape! Having this said, the companies willing to be leaders or competitive players must pay attention to other aspects like uniqueness, creativity, innovation and social responsibility. I know that these are all different and powerful aspects, though they all have something in common! If you want to have these key inside your company you need to quest for them and have the right (happy) people working with you! Well, I know! Now you are saying: oh yes, but how? I know, I know, it is not easy, and I am not able to give you the right path to achieve it, and I doubt that such a path exists. However, If you are happy doing what you are doing, and surrounded by people who are also happy with what they are doing, you are on the right track! Obviously that happiness is a flow, with ups and downs, and not a constant! However, you can say that you are happy with what you are doing even if you want to do more and differently due to your ambition to be better or mastery on something! Happiness propels people to be creative and innovative, obviously that they need some autonomy and flexibility to do that!

The tricky question here is to know, how can you keep people and yourself happy and motivated? I foresee happiness as a key competitive advantage in a very near future! A future where you need more and more to differentiate, innovate, create uniqueness and have social responsibility! Something that your “audience” is eager to have, and willing to build a community of followers and evangelists around it. These communities foresee high value on what a brand is doing and want to collaborate with it, helping with new advancements and improvements! The future is collaboration, sharing, and leverage on your uniqueness to help others. But you only do that if you are happy with what you are and do, and if you have your basic and some complementary needs covered! In other words, if you have enough money to live without thinking about how to pay your bills in the end of every single month! And that your company or the companies you buy from are also focused on being fair, helping others and collaborate on the global development!

Happiness is a key competitive advantage and the only way to development!  

Do you need inspiration? Steve Job’s Commencement Speech @Stanford University 2005

Although I am not a big fun of Apple products, I am a huge fun of Steve Jobs. I have to say that Steve Jobs changed the way we look at technology today, in a way, he democratized and demystified it. He compelled himself to be happy and like what he was doing not being afraid of failure, and ended up inspiring people to pursuit their own dreams. I must also say that his passion and enthusiasm is contagious. He is a visionary with an amazing capacity to push ahead, never give up, do things the way he think is best, and have as much pleasure as possible when doing everything he does. As he keeps saying, you want to love what you do and if you haven’t find it yet please keep looking for it until you have found it. By not being afraid of failure or make mistakes he was able to fall and stand up so many times that he started Apple, got fired from his own company, boosted Pixar into another level, and finally recovered his Apple back. Apple was in bad shape but not dead as Steve was able to show us by rethinking the whole business again and focus on people and anticipating their needs. That way he was able to be leader in markets that he “created” like MP3 music players, smartphones with special focus on connectivity or mobility, applications able to enhance the way one uses her mobile phone with Apple App Store, content with iTunes, and tablet PCs. On top of that he built a brand that means much more than just products and a huge community of followers that understood that Apple was different from the rest and were willing to pay a premium price to have it. Steve Jobs changed the way we do business today, he changed the way one interacts with a brand in a way that no own had done before. His vision, “stubbornness” to do what he really liked, passion and leadership are EXTRAORDINARY! I feel poorer for not having Steve Jobs running a business anymore, and I believe that the business world is also a bit poorer with that fact.

Please watch Steve Job’s amazing commencement speech @Stanford University in 2005!

Error: the good, the bad and the unavoidable!

A few months ago I wrote about failing and how can failing be extremely positive on your journey toward success – Have You Ever Failed?. In the same way that failing is, in my opinion, positive as part of the learning process to build something, making mistakes can also be very positive. Errors are part of the growing and learning process and can help you adapting to our word too. When everything is changing at a fast pace, it is normal that what works today can be an error tomorrow and vice-verse. Therefore, trial-and-error starts to be a good way of doing something! Solutions to problems are less definitive. So, I believe that making calculated mistakes can be a way of behaving. However, do not start making mistakes just because you have an authorization to it. An error is a positive thing when it helped advancing into the “unknown”, a way of facing a volatile situation, or a different approach for an ordinary problem in a different environment.

Although I think errors can be very positive, I must say that the systematic error without any special reason is to me a sign of a bad work and incompetence. Errors must lead to lessons learned, a step closer to a better solution, or a new approach to an old situation. If an error does not lead to something or is systematic, then you are facing incompetence, and spoiling resources that are normally scarce.

Final question: are Errors a positive thing? Yes! But they must lead to something, do not afraid making mistakes is a positive thing until the moment you fail because you did not care or understood what was at stake. The threshold here is quite thin and appears in a blur way! So, be prepared, do your best up-front, and be reasonable. You will see that even if the result is not positive you have learned and can take away some lessons from what happened. Learning with your mistakes is key to your success in21st century. Though, chose your errors wisely, it seems difficult but is doable! Fully experience your “good” errors, avoid the “bad”, and deal efficiently with the “unavoidable” ones.

Ah, and face your challenges with creativity, innovation, open mind, try to avoid spoiling resources, and care about the environment by being “green” !

Daydream, Nightmare or Just For-Real?

When discussing business strategy with a business partner she suddenly turn to me and asked, – By the way Eufémia, what is for you the difference between strategy and a business model? ~ Ah, great question – I said!

I defend that the business strategy is a company’s choice made after considering its vision, uniqueness, competitive advantages, wanted goals and available resources. And that business model, is the chosen approach to conquer the market, achieve its goals in a profitable activity, and create economic value. Therefore, a business model must be aligned with the company’s vision, business strategy. And, it must use the company’s uniqueness as a competitive advantage in order to achieve its goals with economic value. In my point of view, it is crucial to have a clear vision along with a strong business strategy before going to design the business model. I understand the Vision and Business Strategy as the “whys” and the Business model as the “how”, “when” and “where” much more connected to the implementation part. I would say that vision/business strategy and business model are two faces of the same coin.

The One-million dollar question is: what do you want to have, a daydream, a nightmare or a for-real business? Obviously, you can have a great vision but if you do not have a good model supporting the implementation plan you will not achieve your goals you will be living a Daydream. On the other way if you have an amazing business model with a strong and feasible action plan but you are missing in Vision you will be living a Nightmare! So, If you want a For-Real Business you need a vision, strategy, business model and an action plan. And, the way you mix and weigh each of these factors it is KEY to what you end up with: a Company, a Daydream, or a Nightmare! 

Lessons learned

#1 Vision should come first along with the uniqueness and competitive advantages proposal;

#2 Define Business strategy to achieve Goals and to translate your vision;

#3 Design the Business Model to be  aligned with your business strategy and to have a strong mechanism behind the business implementation and

#4 Have an Implementation plan that is based on your business model, reflects the company’s uniqueness and make the best use of its competitive advantages;

#5 Energize the company’s competitiveness by deploying the resources and action plan in articulation with the business model.

#6 Leverage on the synergies of having a “perfect” alignment between vision, strategy and action.

“Vision without Action is a daydream, but Action without Vision is a nightmare.” Japanese Proverb

Sense of Humor Keeps The Bankruptcy Away!

Good humor can smooth your day! I am used to deal with a lot of stressful situations, so I keep my sense of humor up not only as a way of venting the stress, but also as a way to avoid more stress! Having a good sense of humor as part of the company culture does not imply less rigor or commitment. Though, it can mean a healthier and more productive environment. Regardless the kind of leader you are, you should try to use this amazing skill (sense of humor) more often. You will see that in the end of the day the job will be done in a better way, more efficiently and by a highly motivated team! A “company” with sense of humor on its DNA is a much more inspired, less stressed, and more competitive company! Along with the sense of humor should come also a healthy work environment! People should be able to have flexibility when working, for instance to go to the gym, or have a place to relax and recover from tough meetings and situations! These can bring the negative stress down and help gaining in productivity.  A company with a relaxed atmosphere does not mean a company without discipline or organisation, it means a more-creative and better-prepared-to-innovative company! And this is applicable not only to Tech companies but also to all the other companies willing to be competitive in this highly challenging 21st century. Innovation and creativity are in need to face the challenges ahead, and a company can help by facilitating the right culture, mentality and environment.

Being a leader is much more than just achieve results or increase shareholders value. Being a leader is about having a vision, developing a “nose” for talent, empower people, spur innovation and creativity, cultivate uniqueness, and be an amazing listener. Obviously, on top of that if one has a good set of managerial and technical skills the better. Ah, sense of humor is a must on a Leader’s list of traits and skills! Leading people it is not easy but you can learn and improve it. I am against the idea that leadership traits are innate. I believe in learning and adapting. There is no right way for being a  Leader, though it exists a wrong one. Thus, sense of humor can help you finding your way to a good leadership.

Sense of humor keeps the company in the good way! 😉