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    Guess Who Got the Job? Three Career Blunders to Avoid in 2015

Guess Who Got the Job? Three Career Blunders to Avoid in 2015

After graduating from university, I watched classmates sail smoothly off to high-paying careers at Motorola and Intel. Meanwhile, I labored as a Silicon Valley temp to support my habit of playing in rock ‘n’ roll bands.

I don’t regret taking that path. But I committed plenty of career blunders afterwards while moving toward more suitable work. Here are just three of my faux pas, with suggestions for avoiding each in the coming year:

1. Focusing on What, Neglecting Why

I came into my own only after defining the why of my work rather than constantly emphasizing the what. As a teacher, I found my why in helping adult learners progress in their careers more efficiently than I had.

Some years ago I experienced a wonderful example of a why while interviewing a number of young Japanese engineers. All were competent, educated, and polite. But one candidate, when asked why he wanted to work as a medical device developer, instantly silenced the room with this remarkable reply:

When I was 13 years old, my mother had arteriosclerosis and nearly died from a stroke. She’s better today, but ever since then I’ve wanted to create things that fight this terrible disease.

 While other applicants focused on what, this candidate described a compelling why.

Guess who got the job?

Professionals need a “why” they work. Articulate yours. You don’t need a dramatic backstory — the truth is enough.

2. Thinking Job Titles, Ignoring Professional Identity

Note that the candidate above described himself not as an “engineer” but as a professional on a mission to create things that fight arteriosclerosis. This strong professional identity dramatically broadened his opportunities — he could work in design, engineering, marketing, sales, client services, and other capacities.

Any career consultant worth her salt will tell […]

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    Value Proposition Design — for Enterprises and Individuals

Value Proposition Design — for Enterprises and Individuals

Alex and Yves have done it again.

The Business Model Generation authors have released Value Proposition Design, a long-awaited follow-up to Business Model Generation and an important new book in its own right.

Learn more by reading Steve Blank’s excellent review, and buy the book now.

Knowing how to design value propositions is essential for enterprises (for a cautionary tale on failure to design value propositions effectively, see How My Fortune 20 Employer Innovated Itself into Bankruptcy).

Value proposition (VP) design can be terrifically helpful for individuals, too. Let’s examine one way designing VPs for enterprises differs from designing VPs for individuals: You might think of it as the difference between Market Philosophy and Resource Philosophy.

When designing a value proposition for an enterprise, it’s best to ignore existing services or products and focus on Customer Jobs-to-be Done. This is Market Philosophy: The enterprise should address the most compelling market need.

When designing a Value Proposition for individuals, though, the process is somewhat different. It’s best to focus on discovering and understanding Customer Jobs-to-be Done — but only those Jobs that we care deeply about and personally want to help with. This is Resource Philosophy: Individuals should focus only on Customer needs they’re personally interested in and have the resources to address.

For example, if you’re a biology teacher, you’re unlikely to switch to computer science just because more students are seeking programming courses.

There’s a tool individuals can use to help them define and test their personal value propositions. It’s based on the PINT

methodology that Bruce Hazen developed over many years to help career seekers understand the forces that generate work in every organization. About a year ago, we adapted Bruce’s PINT model to serve as a value proposition design and testing […]

How My Fortune 20 Employer Innovated Itself into Bankruptcy

My first real corporate job was with a Fortune 20 firm: a remarkable innovator that a century earlier had invented a game-changing technology. It dominated the new sector it created and plied innovation upon innovation — until it innovated itself into bankruptcy.

My employer was Eastman Kodak. The Kodak unit where I worked sold microfilm, high-speed copiers, and related equipment and services.

The company had a brilliant model that served it well for more than 100 years: “Manufacture a unit for 25 cents and sell it for five dollars,” as my boss would say.

When I approached Kodak, I lacked the MBA usually required for a non-technical employee. But I had one skill it sorely needed, and I soon found myself a newly minted Grade 41 Planning Specialist.

I quickly learned that inventors of game-changing technologies — such as photographic film — face an inescapable plight: They start with 100% of the market and can only lose share thereafter.

In the late 1980s, Kodak was still strong, but our share position was deteriorating fast. We had to innovate even more than ever.

And innovate we did.

The shelves of our R&D laboratories groaned with innovations: digital cameras and capture devices, robotic microfilm loaders, high-speed scanning algorithms, super-robust paper transports — and much, much more.

Yet innovation eventually drove Kodak into bankruptcy — for two reasons.

First, we failed to design and test compelling new business models for our innovations. Our inventions, stunning as they were, were too often solutions to technological challenges rather than real problems with which customers were struggling.

Innovation is wonderful and essential. But by itself, innovation creates nothing. Only when harnessed to a business model — the logic by which value is created for customers — can innovation make an […]

Why Entrepreneurship’s Not About You

Looking across the living room of his expansive flat in Hong Kong’s tony Victoria Peak neighborhood, Peter Hamilton spoke in the calm, slightly world-weary voice of a man who will never again worry about earning a living.

“The ones who made it,” he said, “are the ones who weren’t in it for the money. The fortune-seekers couldn’t sustain their passion through the hard times — and there were hard times.”

A British transplant who launched a Web production company in Hong Kong in 1995, Hamilton enjoyed a multimillion dollar payday after his firm was acquired by a company that later went public on NASDAQ.

He’s not alone. In interview after interview throughout Japan, Asia, and North America, successful entrepreneurs told me the same thing, in different words and in different languages: “It’s not about the money.”

What, then, is entrepreneurship about?

Exploiting a market opportunity? Fame? Fortune? Proving yourself? 

Here’s what it’s not about: you. It’s not about you getting rich, you proving something to the world, you struggling to overcome the odds.

Rather, it’s about you helping other people achieve their goals.

This is obvious upon reflection. Business is all about satisfying customers, and to satisfy customers, you need to help them save money, solve annoying problems, experience more satisfaction or pleasure, or earn a better living.

To succeed as an entrepreneur, you must help other people.

Successful entrepreneurs focus on others. Take Derek Sivers, for example. As a member of a touring band, he needed a way to make his music available to fans everywhere, all the time — not just at concerts.

But Derek and his bandmates were unattached to a major label, and big music sellers required bands to have in-place agreements with large distributors. What was a hard-working, independent musician […]

Career Education is Dead; Long Live Career Design

Lucy Griffith and Chris Thomas first caught my eye when they posted about using the Business Model You® methodology to conduct an extraordinary two-day career workshop at their university.

Since then, Bruce Hazen and I have met and collaborated with them in Portland, Oregon and in the UK. Now Lucy and Chris have launched Life Design, a completely new approach to career development for university students. Last week we caught up through an e-mail Q&A:

What prompted you to create Life Design?

We were helping final year students to start their own businesses, but we noticed a far more fundamental need. Many students were uncertain about their overall direction following graduation and felt poorly equipped to tackle this “wicked” career problem. From our own backgrounds, we saw the potential of Design Thinking to address this challenge.

Life Design uses applied design thinking to help pre-career individuals (who may lack significant life experience to draw upon) explore opportunities and design a range of possible futures for themselves. All this is taking place at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David.

Traditional full-time jobs are quickly disappearing and contingent (temporary) employment is becoming the norm. How does Life Design address this trend?

Life Design provides students with a design toolkit they can use at any point in their lives. Once you know how to apply design thinking to yourself, you can do this whenever you need to. We’re looking to help our graduates achieve what Opengart and Short (2002) call “employability security” — the ability to recognise and apply core transferable skills in a rapidly changing working environment.

Tell us how you use alternative program delivery methods. 

This programme is human-centred in its design, which means we put the student at the heart of our thinking. Most […]

The Surprising Truth About Why People Become Entrepreneurs

Why do people become entrepreneurs?

To make boatloads of money?

To satisfy their souls by pursuing their lifework?

Maybe they long to create organizations that will change the world or improve a community. Maybe it’s part of a grand pursuit to understand reality.

Or does the decision result from a flash of inspiration into an unmet market need? The ambition to solve a gnawing workplace problem?

Do aspiring entrepreneurs yearn for wealth? For fame? Are they psychologically driven to embrace risk? To lead others?

Maybe the reasons are more prosaic: a corporate layoff, the desire to exercise new skills, a pressing need to make more money.

None of these scenarios, as it turns out, explain why most people become entrepreneurs (remember, I’m using the definition of entrepreneurship from my previous post “3 Things Every Professional Should Understand About Entrepreneurship”).

According to a still-timely study of entrepreneurship published years ago by Scott A. Shane, a professor at Case Western Reserve University, most people start businesses in order to avoid working for others. Writes Shane:

The real reason that most people start businesses, however, has nothing to do with wanting to make money, to become famous, to better their own communities, to seek adventure, or even to improve the world. Most people start businesses simply because they just don’t like working for someone else.

Shane’s study, titled The Illusions of Entrepreneurship: The Costly Myths That Entrepreneurs, Investors, and Policy Makers Live By, contains findings that contradict most entrepreneurship folk wisdom you’ll encounter online. The results are compiled in an extremely readable book with the same title.

People who believe entrepreneurs invent marvelous technologies, create heretofore unimagined markets, or launch heroic quests to do social good will find Shane’s conclusions counterintuitive.

The key to understanding his conclusions lies in […]

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    3 Things Every Professional Should Understand About Entrepreneurship

3 Things Every Professional Should Understand About Entrepreneurship

As a longtime entrepreneurship instructor, I’ve seen how entrepreneurial skills contribute to career success, especially for employees. In this, the first in a four-essay series on entrepreneurship, I’ll share three things every professional should understand about the often-misunderstood field.

1. Definition of Entrepreneurship

The word entrepreneurship derives from the French verb entreprendre, meaning “to undertake.” An entrepreneur is someone who undertakes a new enterprise.

My own definition differs a bit. For me, the essence of entrepreneurship lies in undertaking a new enterprise with limited resources. If you’re given a multimillion dollar budget to develop a new wireless controller division within your firm, you’re a manager rather than an entrepreneur. Developing that new division would undoubtedly pose an exciting challenge. But more intriguing to me is how tiny enterprises with limited resources seize a niche — or even blindside powerful rivals.

2. Three Types of Enterprises

Entrepreneurs start three different types of enterprises.

Lifestyle-Focused or Family Businesses
These enterprises depend heavily on the founder’s skills, personality, energy, and contacts. Often founders start them to exercise personal talent or skills, achieve a flexible schedule, work with other family members, remain in a desired geographic area, or simply to express themselves. But without the founder’s deep personal involvement, these enterprises are likely to, well, flounder. That’s why professional investors rarely get involved with lifestyle businesses.

Middle-Market Companies
In the business world, people talk about the “scalability” of a company, which basically means that, thanks to well-planned systems, the company’s service or product can be quickly deployed or manufactured on short notice at a low or steadily falling cost per unit.

Software, digital music, and e-books are familiar examples of highly scalable offers: Once the “golden master” is ready, additional units can be delivered at low cost. Scalability reduces the enterprise’s dependence on the founder’s […]

3 Ways for Salaried Workers to Become More Entrepreneurial

Earlier this year, Rolf — a finance sector IT professional taking my career redesign course — asked me, “As a salaried employee, how can I become more entrepreneurial?”

Good question.

Salaried or not, anyone can benefit from learning to behave more like an entrepreneur. Here are three suggestions I shared with Rolf:

1. Care about the entire enterprise
Entrepreneurs don’t have the luxury of focusing on a narrow set of tasks linked to a single job description. They must know and care about the entire enterprise: employees, customers, community, and investors. The best way to transcend job boundaries and begin caring about the entire enterprise is to firmly grasp your organization’s business model. If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor: Study and apply to your own employer the methodology described in Alex Osterwalder’s and Yves Pigneur’s Business Model Generation.

2. Define your contribution
After grasping your employer’s business model, define how you contribute by drawing your personal business model. Your personal business model describes the value you create through your work, to whom you deliver it, and how it harmonizes with organizational goals.

 3. Sharpen your professional identity
Your professional identity, as defined by my good friend and business partner Bruce Hazen is your persistent, distinguishing essence or character as a worker that makes you unlike others. It differs from your personality in that it focuses not on your psychological essence but on your occupational essence.

If you attend our Master Class, you’ll learn to use the methodology with clients or colleagues. Understanding your personal business model will do wonders to sharpen your professional identity.

You may discover a better-than-anticipated fit between you and your employer — maybe in a previously
unconsidered area. Or you may realize it’s time to move to a different organization […]

Entrepreneurship Education is Dead

— Forget Ideas; Focus on Competence —

A Near-Death Experience
Last year a local college asked me to teach a weeklong workshop on the fundamentals of entrepreneurship. The college, which does not offer business courses, recognized that in today’s job market all students must become more entrepreneurial, so it was starting an extracurricular entrepreneurship education program. As a long-time believer that entrepreneurship instruction should be open to students in every discipline, I was delighted to accept the offer.
Nine successful entrepreneurs, all alumni of the college, joined our workshop as guest speakers. They told wonderful stories of starting and growing diverse businesses, including an onion farm, a manufacturer of cosmetics for women of color, a music store specializing in drums and imported rhythm instruments, a GPS-related smartphone application developer, a biotechnology firm, and a financial services company, among others.

Listening to their stories, I was struck by two common themes — themes that directly contradict the philosophy that underpins most college entrepreneurship education programs. At that moment, I became convinced that the traditional approach to entrepreneurship education is dead.

Two Entrepreneurship Myths
Of all the ventures the alumni described, not a single one was based on a startlingly clever or original idea. Rather, the founders started their businesses based on strong competencies, such as agricultural experience, chemical formulation, computer programming, musicianship, and accounting. In short, the bedrocks of their ventures were not ideas per se — they were competencies.

Second, with the exception of the biotechnology firm, none of these ventures used professional investors at the outset. All were built with sweat equity and funding from the “3Fs” — founders, friends, and family.

In short, the founders’ experiences contradicted two pervasive myths of entrepreneurship: that new ventures are based primarily on clever […]

The Truth Behind Worker Disengagement

— Humans Evolve While Enterprises Stay Mired in Industrial Era —

People are increasingly disillusioned with worklife inside organizations. Survey after survey shows employees disengaged from their jobs, and not only in the United States: Workers everywhere complain about workplace politics, bureaucracy, infighting, stress, lack of meaning, burnout, and resignation.

It’s a profoundly human problem — common to businesses, schools, government organizations, and hospitals — and experienced by ordinary workers, managers, and CEOs alike.

Why?

One reason workers are disengaged is that human consciousness and behavior has started transcending the industrial era, yet today’s enterprises remain industrial-age hierarchies built on a command-and-control worldview. “Parent-child” power relationships dominate workplaces, sapping worker autonomy and responsibility and crowding out adult-to-adult relationships based on self-management and self-directed action. Meanwhile, the Internet has precipitated a new worldview — one that recognizes the profound possibilities of distributed intelligence instead of top-down hierarchy, according to Frederic Laloux, author of Reinventing Organizations.

Organizational structures have always reflected human consciousness, says Laloux, and herein lies the key to understanding and restoring worker engagement. Laloux uses colors and metaphors to characterize stages of organizational development, each of which has brought tremendous economic and social progress. Here are the five most recent stages:

Red: Impulsive

Red organizations lack formal hierarchies and job titles. Like tribes, street gangs, and mafias, they focus on the continuous exercise of power in interpersonal relationships. Red organizations scale poorly and their bosses are frequently toppled. Metaphor: wolfpack.

Amber: Conformist

Amber organizations represent mankind’s leap from a tribal world to the age of agriculture, states and civilizations, institutions, bureaucracies, and organized religions, according to Laloux. Amber organizations replaced the “my way or the highway” egocentrism of red organizations with “us or them” ethnocentrism. Metaphor: army.

Orange: Achievement

Most modern global corporations are […]