Entrepreneurs – born, fostered or made?

I have worked with a number of different enterpreneurs over the years – in very different sectors (High tech, Catering, Engineering, Pharma).  What distinguished them from others?

The majority had worked for someone else, had seen something they thought they could do better and had the self belief and energy to get out and try to do it for themselves.  Some succeeded, some failed in their venture but most of them are back doing the next one.  They may have had to regroup, take a job, find some time to catch up with the family, but they are looking to get back in the game.

Read David Rowan’s piece about the Paddy Cosgrave F.ounders events.  Have attended a number of Paddy’s events and rubbed shoulders with, chatted with, listened to various entrepreneurs.  Interesting the Rowan references some ideas around the fostering of enterpreneurs – families encouraging kids down certain paths. I suppose this is not really that surprising – when I see the number of excellent sports people who have been started early by their parents.  Why would this not apply in business/ development of entrepreneurs.

Attended a seminar last night about preventing injury in sport – by identifying imbalances/ weaknesses in sports people early on and looking to rebalance these.  I wonder does this potentially have application in business?

At the end of the day I do believe  it has to be in your heart, in your makeup.  So many people see things they could do better but for any number of reasons choose to focus on something else.  However education and development systems which encourage people to think through alternatives, think about how they might develop/ implement the alternatives, will help foster entrepreneurs.

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Manage or be managed

Important to think through how you want to use these solutions and resources – distraction is not in itself a bad thing. You need to manage the distractions.

instant messaging sites
Image by Will Lion via Flickr

Read Alex Pang’s piece on contemplative computing – courtesy of this article from ReadWriteWeb.  Fits in with much of the discussion taking place across lots of enterprises – is IM, social networking, blogging contributing very much to the business?  Surely IM (now often including video) is just another distraction to people who should be getting on with ‘the task at hand’.

As an individual consultant and researcher I am constantly required to manage the distractions – notwithstanding that were there no distractions there would be no interaction and no work.  The debate reminds me of something about 10 years ago – we should not let the team have internet access because they will waster their time surfing.  We seem to have moved on from this because, thankfully, in many cases the web has become a way fo doing work, communicating, researching, whatever.

I don’t think the answer has changed.  You have to work out what you are trying to do and figure out how to use the available resources.  If you expect to gain from online interaction then you need to recognise that it is a two way street – you will need to be active (or at least be responsive) in order to gain.  When you need to work in a quiet, non distracted mode, you need to make yourself unavailable.

Business has changed.  It’s not just the desk based personnel who are being bombarded by distractions.  Smartphones mean that anyone can be online at any time.  Education in the workplace has not caught up – people need training, awareness and guidance on tools which they can use to assist them in managing the online world rather than being managed by the online world.

 

 

 

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Will poor battery life kill the smartphone?

Battery life (or lack of it) is a real pain in the ….!

Image of Samsung i5700 Galaxy Spica mobile phone
Image via Wikipedia

Having moved some months ago from my very boring but reliable Nokia E71 I am now enjoying my Samsung Galaxy.  That is, I am enjoying it when I have battery life.

Read this interesting piece about all of the things to be done to extend battery life.  Unfortunately much of it relates to making the phone less useful.

And the other key action: remember to plug it in whenever you get a chance e.g. when in bed, when in the office, etc.

Given my dependence on mobile comms I am beginning to think that I may need to carry a boring E71 as backup.

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Do I need checklists?

Checklists have their place for everyone. It is not always sufficient to rely on your memory.

Cover of "The Checklist Manifesto: How to...
Cover via Amazon

Just read Atul Gawande‘s ‘The Checklist Manifesto – how to get things right’. Thanks to Brian Dunnion for suggesting reading the book.

The answer is a resounding – YES.  I do need checklists.  And the author would suggest we all need checklists.

I found the book particularly interesting in that he references examples in which I have some direct experience: healthcare, construction/ engineering and finance/accounting.  The other key area referenced is air travel (use of checklists by pilots).

Gawande is a surgeon who has had direct involvement in development and implementation of checklists in theatres – to be used by the surgery teams.  Much of his learning about what makes for a good checklist is centered on what he learned from Daniel Boorman of Boeing – detailed in a fascinating chapter ‘The Checklist Factory’.  He provides lots of detail on the background to a checklist he developed in working with the World Health Organisation (‘WHO’).  And he deals with the change management challenges in seeking to have the same adopted across the globe.

In discussing the application of checklists Gawande introduces a method of categorising problems between Simple, Complicated and Complex (Brenda Zimmerman and Sholom Glouberman). In demonstrating the application of checklists in complex areas he provides a number of examples from the construction industry in the US.

In closing Gawande provides some of the detail re the Hudson river landing by US Airways 1549 in January 2009. Gawande profiles Sullenberger and Skiles as heroes – because they followed process and followed checklists e.g. in spite of their vast experience as two pilots they had gone through all the proper checklists before taking off, they did follow the checklists when the birds struck.

And finally he provides an example of how he believes checklists have benefited his patients in surgery in the last number of years.

All of us bring our experience, our training and our skills to the jobs we do.  But when we are distracted, working under pressure, faced with unexpected happenings, effective, relevant checklists can make the difference between success and failure.

 

 

 

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Why do I use LinkedIn?

Why do I use LinkedIn?

Image representing LinkedIn as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

I have been asked recently to discuss with a range of business people my reasons for using LinkedIn – what I like (or don’t like) about LinkedIn.

LinkedIn is the preferred social network of business people.  It is an excellent platform for me, as an independent consultant,  to provide detail about my skills, experience and interests.  Simultaneously it offers me excellent background information on other people and companies – be they clients, potential clients, competitors.

I have taken an incremental approach to using LinkedIn.  I started with basic detail and over a period of time have expanded this to provide more information about my previous experience, current areas of interest.  I have built my network incrementally – seeking introductions to some people, responding selectively to requests to LinkIn.

I have used a range of functionality offered on the site, including:

  • tags to tag/ categorise my contacts e.g.
  • polls to research specific topics with my connections
  • Answers to find answers to particular technical areas
  • Participated in groups of internet e.g. semantic web, business networks such as Kilmacud Crokes Business Network
  • Search to obtain background information prior to meetings – at both individual and corporate levels
  • Jobs to post job offers
  • the WordPress application to cross post from this blog to my LinkedIn profile.

Finally I have cross referenced from various sites which I maintain to my LinkedIn profile.

 

 

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Social networking in the enterprise – part 2

Social networking poses plenty of challenges also – we need to focus on why, what we are looking to achieve, how to manage the risks/ downsides.

As we seek to deploy social networking tools in the enterprise plenty of questions arise re potential waste of time and resources.  We set out with a number of positive objectives e.g. improve communication, improve ability to find people and information, support collaboration and team work.  But we also have a key question to address re potential downsides:

Does a facebook or twitter type application become a distraction – another source of interruptions in the day while trying to complete tasks; another temptation to move away from the task at hand?

We talk a great deal about the ability of people to multitask – but what does this really mean?  In many activities the ability to concentrate, focus on the job at hand, is paramount.  Constant interruptions/ distractions are more likely a hindrance than an aid.

In many ways we already have too many distractions at work – phones, mobiles, email, people, memos, noise, etc.  Social networking and ‘presence’ type applications generate additional potential distractions.

So what’s the way forward?  I think time management is back at the centre of the issue.  You have an amount of time to perform your role – within your role you have a range of responsibilities (and these have their own priorities).  Within the context of all of this you have a number of tools and resources (including people, templates, gadgets, software, social networks).  The real challenge is to figure out how to use these to the best possible advantage.  And I don’t think many of us are mastering this.  For instance when I use an application such as Rescue Time it gives me anindication of the amount of time I spend on social networking sites.  As someone trying to understand these environments and figure out how to harness them for productive use I allow myself generous amounts of time – but inevitably I am distracted and exceed my targets.

Interesting this week to read a piece in the Irish Times dealing with the concerns of parents and teachers about the impact of social networking on school children.  There was a time when parents worried about kids who were playing too much competitive sport close to exams to kids who had too active (traditional) social lives.  Now there are very real concerns about the amount of time spend on social networks – where there are unlimited distractions for any participant.

There are plenty of lessons in all of this for those of us rolling out these types of applications across  enterprises.  We need to remember what we are looking to achieve, we need to measure whether we are achieving this and we need to monitor the risks associated with these initiatives e.g. loss to productive time, unexpected bahavioural changes.  Notwithstanding all of this we need to figure out how to realise the potential benefits.

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rethinking corporate education

Need to look at collaborative education across enterprises

Have been reading Macrowikinomics, Rebooting Business and the World – by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams.  They include an excellent chapter: Rethinking the University: collaborative learning.  I also recently watched Ken Robinson’s excellent animation: RSA Animate – Changing Education Paradigms.

Both the chapter and the book have left me thinking about how we deliver education/ training in the corporate or enterprise environment.  Tapscott & Williams and Robinson are arguing for new approaches in education.  These changes are being seen, to different degrees, in different educational institutes.

Web 2.0 and social networking platforms have presented wonderful opportunities for business’s to engage in collaborative processes – within their own organisations and, perhaps more importantly, with people and entities outside the enterprise.  However is would seem to me that enterprises should now be looking to change their own approaches to education – to increase the collaborative content of corporate education.  This would apply both in the case of internally delivered education/ training and training delivered by professional institutes of education.

Do you know of good examples of collaborative education being employed in industry?

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Pay to see full names for 3rd degree connections on Linkedin

Dangers of providing lots of ‘free’ information to one company.

Icon for the FOAF (Friend of a Friend) project...
Image via Wikipedia

So the pricing model has changed at Linkedin.  You may have noticed in searching that you are coming across people whose full name is hidden.  That’s the deal now – if you want to see these names you pay for the privilege.

Not that surprising really that a private network should look to make money from its database.  Must feel now that they have sufficient footprint (heading for 100m members) to up the anti.  Potentially why would they not go the whole hog and charge everyone?

All of this brings us back to the discussion around open standards, open networks, FOAF, semantics, etc.  And indeed David Siegel’s ‘The Power of Pull’ and his idea about the ‘persoanal information locker’.

Interesting to see how this plays out.  Will Linkedin changes results in slower growth in the network – but greater revenues to the company?  Or will this create the opportunity for another player to up their gorwth rate in the marketplace?

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Ireland – continuing to play our part on the world stage

In my working life (25 years since graduating from engineering school in Trinity College) I have never before experienced the challenges now seen in Ireland. At the time I commenced my training contract in KPMG (then SKC) in 1984 I recall many recently qualified accountants being very concerned for their future. In 2000/2001 – three years into running our own consulting company (www.ciall.com) we faced real challenges in the post ‘.com’ dip. Today’s challenges are on a different scale.

During those 25 years Irish people have been to the fore in international affairs – be it commerce, arts, politics, education, charity. And by Irish people I refer to the 70 million or so who make up the global Irish population – including the 5 million or so on this island.

There must be a temptation within the international community to look at us – on the island of Ireland – as having had the benefit of major inward investment and squandered it. Part of facing our challenge now is to continue to take our place on the world stage. Those of us living and operating within the island of Ireland need to continue to play our part. There is a quid pro quo for looking to the greater diaspora and to Europe for further assistance and investment – we must play our part. We cannot simply get out the begging bowl. We are an established country and we’ve made some major mistakes, much of them rooted in greed. The most recent budget was the first step in convincing the international community that we are going to address our issues. The next budget must show real conviction about getting our cost base sorted.

Dan O’Brien’s article in the Irish Times is pretty hard hitting. He questions the calibre of the people representing Ireland in international affairs. He questions the effort made by the main political parties in the run up to the first referendum and their current effort in the runup to the second referendum. It does not make for pretty reading – but is deserving of reflection.

The next few years are going to witness more largescale emigration of talent from Ireland – without a doubt. Just for now the emigration options look limited – but given the changes we are beginning to see in overseas locations those opportunities will arise again. Many young talented Irish will choose to work and live overseas – not interested in staying to pay high taxes to pay off the sins of the past. A political system which is unwilling to cut overhead to match income will not provide the economic and social opportunites for many of our young talented people. Depressing though this may be, it will happen.

So let us at least recognise that this will happen – and that we need to play our part. Let’s make an effort to make it easier for international companies and individuals to interact with us. I had recent experience of an overseas student (seond generation Irish – US based) relocating here for 1 term of his undergraduate degree. He contacted the university – they advised him to come 4 weeks early and sort out his own accomodation. Given the level of fees we charge overseas students for this privilege I think this is a simple example of what’s wrong with this country at present.

Let’s make sure that the talent that goes abroad wants to continue to be part of Ireland – although they may never actually relocate to live here again. Let’s figure out a way to have them continue to be involved in the development of this country. Some of them may never contribute to our income tax revenues – but some of them may, down the line, bring the next Dell, Intel or Boston Scientific to Ireland. I, for one, would like to have them continue to have a direct role in electing our government.

I would not underestimate the challenges faced by our political leaders at present. (Nor should they underestimate the challenges faced by those of us trying to drive the economy forward). It’s not an easy time to be striding the world stage and advising the rest of the world how to do it. Nevertheless we must have a voice, have a view and play ourt part. The future for Irish business is the world stage – building international and global businesses out of Ireland, building products and delivering services to the global business community. Our innovators and our future business leaders need Irish political leadership which participates and contributes on an international level.

The first step – ensure Lisbon success.

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