Six Business Areas You Wish You Were Involved With

We are familiar with the idea of sunrise and sunset industries, but what about sunburst sectors ones that catch the moment or happen to be in the right place at the right time?
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Below we try to identify ones that should be doing very well at present.

  1. Let’s start with the obvious – anti bacterial hand wash and face mask sellers.
    With swine flu due a comeback when the weather gets colder, we’ll see even more of this stuff in receptions and lavatories. We’ve recently even seen it on people’s desks with passers by encouraged to have a squirt.
  2. Recruitment businesses.
    This sounds counter intuitive, they should be doing badly at present, and relative to two years ago many are, but what is interesting is the ones who are quietly meeting the returning market with a more compelling value proposition. They’ve realised that simple job filling is no longer good enough, they need to offer more; real depth in sector specialisms, consultants who have insight into the market, client and candidate management processes that are professional and service orientated that create memorable user experiences. The better ones also are working on the transformational possibilities of technology.
  3. Internet start ups.
    As the computer becomes more like a phone (or vice versa), digital TV switch over gets closer, touch screen technology enfranchises the computer illiterate and bandwidth becomes larger generating faster speeds, we will see a new wave of internet business ideas and applications. Communication convergence is going to be massive, with new users using new services and the savvy providers extending and reinventing their offerings.
  4. Celebrity driven businesses/brands.
    This is more than famous people endorsing things, but them taking real control over what they are doing and creating real new businesses. Victoria Beckham’s fashion label is growing at a phenomenal rate, created from scratch less than two years ago. Have a look at www.sarahbeeny.com; first there was the TV programme, then the ‘mysinglefriend’ dating web site, and now there is ‘tepilo’, a house selling web site, combining her celebrity reputation with internet cleverness and her property development background.
  5. Renewable energy.
    This sector has already had some false starts, whether (pun intended) caused by fluctuating government policy or the cost of fossil fuels, the UK has had an inauspicious first decade. This will change. As the climate data gets worse and more compelling/scary depending on your point of view, consumer behaviour will reach a tipping point. We all will realise we live in the age of consequences and will need to construct real lifestyle changes.
  6. Finally……the next big thing , it’s obvious isn’t it?

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What Do You Think Will Happen?

Six real time business plays that in a few years time, with hindsight, will look like obvious successes or failures.

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  1. Digital books. Will the Amazon Kindle (still to arrive in the UK) dominate? Or will Sony’s Reader do the business? Or will the iphone make (another) category jump and redefine a market category?
  2. iphone. If ever a product has disrupted a whole market this juicy Apple has. It has taken the smart phone away from its dowdy business image and created something completely different. It has forced Dell to enter the phone market, shaken Nokia up and forced Blackberry to accelerate its innovation pipeline. The interesting future speculation isn’t around whether iphone will win, but who else will be left standing.
  3. When will Tesco run out of steam? The challenges for any dominant incumbent are significant. Tesco is not growing at the pace of its main rivals in the UK and its dominance is creating some local backlash. Will it be able in reinvent itself again or will it become vulnerable to be split up?
  4. The entry of Best Buy into the UK consumer electronics market through its partnership with Carphone Warehouse will be interesting. Will it work? Will it force Currys/Dixons to make the required radical improvements to their propositions?
  5. The English Premier League business model. The amount of debt carried by the major clubs is not sustainable if they cannot qualify for the Champions League every season. Also, as UEFA develop new policies to attempt to level the playing field, these plutocratic owners will not be able to automatically buy advantage.
  6. Newspapers. Dead trees or bits and bytes? The historic cash cow of Classified and Display advertising is either disappearing or under real threat. People under the age of 28 are neither prepared to pay for a paper e.g. The Metro, or prefer to receive their news electronically. Newspapers are having to search for a new business model, and they are struggling to see it on-line. Rupert Murdoch has changed strategic direction again, giving notice that all News International on-line offerings must have a paid for component. Freemium content anyone?

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As part of our Business Leader development we sometimes ask executives to develop their own market scoping ideas. This develops their point of view to inform their own business’ future direction. How developed is your 3-5 year view of your market-place? To discuss further, please contact us.

How To Improve Your Future Thinking

Below are some random thoughts and ideas to help with developing your point of view about your business(es) future.

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  • As markets mature they commoditise and the race to the bottom begins. Choose a different race, build new sorts of value and differentiation.
  • There is a new psychological contract forming between customers and suppliers, one that will have a profound impact in the way new value propositions are developed. A partner organisation of SalesPathways, livework, is doing some groundbreaking work for clients is this area, check them out.
  • What is happening in China? (standing agenda item).
  • We increasingly live in a world of discontinuous, not linear change. The future cannot be extrapolated from the past. This creates huge opportunities for the insightful.
  • Your ability to generate insight is directly proportionate to the number of connections you can make in a given space.
  • The ability to aggregate, mine and personalise customer data will become a major source of competitive advantage.
  • Google stats are a great place to find something striking, interesting or just plain thought provoking.
  • It’s much easier to keep up with technology than catch up.
  • Why are some people able to mobilise large groups around a future change agenda? Because they have two things in abundance: a coherent point of view about what the future could look like, and influence beyond their sphere of control. These two qualities act in dynamic combination in motivating people to buy-in to change.
  • Culture defeats strategy.
  • The engaged employee is a significant enabler of growth. Definition of an engaged person: someone who freely gives their emotional commitment to creating mutual success.
  • Most organisations seem to have no idea how to engage people. Speak to Predaptive if you want to build an engaged organisation.

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  • Finally, Arthur C Clarke’s three laws of prediction are still very pertinent:
  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

How To Develop And Share Best Practice Effectively

Most organisations now have some form of intranet, a place where documents and files are shared. Some organisations have realised the power of turning that system held data into a form that drives learning and builds/deepens organisational capability.
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Let’s start with first principles. There are things your organisation does poorly, well enough and brilliantly. If you are a typical organisation the distribution of the number of times you might see those three standards will be shaped like a diamond. The majority of activities will be average, creating a bulge in the middle with the poorly and brilliantly stuff both being present but smaller in frequency. Imagine changing the distribution so creating a different shape – an inverted triangle, with brilliant activity at the top, being most common and average/ poor quality activity being rarest.

By following a conscious process of defining, capturing and disseminating activities that create value, and performed better than the industry standard, you will be driving the development of your own best practice.

However the problem quickly develops of how we maintain this best practice, making it available to others and easily updatable, with clear ownership and access rights. That’s where your IT can really start to work for you.

By building an on-line repository of best practice your organisation will have created the opportunity to accelerate the development of value added learning, knowledge that converts into real commercial advantage in increased profits.

Using industry standard, off the shelf software these on-line learning hubs can become the best practice centres of excellence.
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Take for example a sales related learning hub. Our experience has shown us that most sales processes distil into 20-25 pieces of sales best practice. Imagine those 20 odd examples of how to do things codified into exemplars. Doing things this way we know to work more effectively than doing other ways. Each piece of best practice is owned by the person who is the current standard holder, who is available for coaching/helping others, until someone else improves on the practice so becomes the new owner.

All contained in a place securely accessible 24/7 by everyone, easily updatable and be enriched with supplementary material. Adding feedback mechanisms, forums, blogs tweets and wiki elements are all possible. And the usage data can be analysed in real time, making improvements a snap.

The Recession Is Now A Year Old

The recession is now a year old (happy birthday?) and during that year employees have been under pressure. Pressure to deliver results with reduced budgets, pressure to bring in new business when leads have dried up, pressure from seeing friends and colleagues leaving their business and those of their customers and suppliers through redundancy and pressure to keep working.
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People react differently under pressure, some thrive whilst others worry and some become aggressive or irrational. Individual responses create a real challenge for managers to get the best out of people without creating a stressful environment. The responses of managers themselves go a long way towards setting the tone of the organisation and the mood of employees.

That tone will itself set the pace of recovery. Employees who feel supported and motivated will seek out new opportunities and take calculated risks to win business and out service the competition. Employees who feel that the best approach is to keep their heads down and look busy without rocking the boat won’t be in the forefront of a recovering economy.

Checking the climate in your business and taking steps to ensure that managers know which behaviours will get the best out of people has never been more important. Predaptive’s 360° feedback system gives you the insight you need to identify pockets of excellence, as well as those areas which need development. It provides individual managers with a clear action plan of how they can improve their day to day interactions to get more out of their teams as well as peers, meanwhile all employees benefit from feeling increasingly valued and listened to.
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Utilising your bespoke feedback you can be sure that any investment in development is absolutely focused on areas of need, providing a clear path to return on investment.

Making The Most Of Development On A Budget

As the economy picks up (whether into a V or a W) work patterns will become more erratic and reduced workforces will be stretched until sufficient confidence returns to add new people. This means employees working hard and carrying out tasks they aren’t used to or even trained for. Under increased work and learning pressure tempers can fray and levels of service can slip at a critical time for customer confidence.
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An ideal learning solution is to ensure that everyone has the right training and plenty of time to try out new skills, but that has to be balanced with the reality of already stretched workforces and increasing customer demands. Organisations are turning more and more to pragmatic blended solutions, giving people just enough training and support to get through whilst a better long term solution is worked out. Peer to peer coaching, just in time training, and handy user guides are all making a valuable contribution to ‘getting on with it’.

E-learning is providing a valuable link in the chain. When employees need a quick boost in knowledge, a reminder of key processes, and an improvement in confidence, a twenty minute session around a core skill provides just enough input for employees, providing motivation to carry on with learning at a later date.

As customers start placing orders and workflow increases we’re seeing signs of creative and ambitious employees seeing opportunities to grow their jobs, experience and responsibilities. Budgets remain tight and learning interventions need to be targeted, but employers that want to keep hold of their brightest talents are working hard to provide them with the development they crave. Coaching, mentoring and e-learning all provide key elements of the development mix in straightened times.
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Why A Smart Management Approach Is Critical Not Optional

The conventional management paradigm based on command and control, manager knows best, and policing people to perform no longer works effectively. Why?
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It was based on a psychological contract that was informed by the concepts of deference, loyalty and transactional pay for labour, all of which no longer work.

Deference comes from knowing your place within traditional hierarchical structures. As organisations becoming flatter authority comes from contribution and knowing stuff rather than from position and job title; respect has to be earned more than ever, it cannot be expected.

Loyalty is no longer generated as simply a function of time passing. As we all work increasingly in ‘temporary’ employment, the shift has moved to employability. Loyalty now works at the reciprocal level of the more employable someone is the more they are valued, so the more the employing organisation engages with them and vice versa. Loyalty is the by product of increased employability and engagement.

Because of needing every employee to give more than their time and labour, they need to think, suggest and contribute often outside of core working hours. Email and mobile technology has exacerbated this issue. Work cannot be as easily compartmentalised. The work life balance dichotomy is increasingly unachievable; implying life only happens outside of work and as work is encroaching more and more a real negative tension is created.

This creates is a new paradigm, one that creates a different and more sustainable psychological contract. Put simply it focuses on the manager as an enabler and coach rather than as a director and controller. By focusing on alignment around any job (both the manager and team member agreeing around the role requirements), and then building personal accountability for effectively discharging the roles’ objectives, real ownership is created.

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This approach engenders a completely different relationship between anyone in a position of authority with their team.

What Does A Smart Manager Look Like?

In a period of instability, change and turmoil are buffeting the front-line managers now more than ever. There are restructures, redundancies and re-focusing happening in many organisations right now. Front-line managers have always had one of the toughest roles in any organisation; caught between the day-to-day operational needs of their team on the one hand, and the increasing pressure of top-down demands for increased productivity and reduced costs on the other.

There will be some people, however, who will see this as a real opportunity to shine. These are the DeepSmarts Managers. They will have certain characteristics that you will recognise when you know what to look for; and with the right culture and appropriate style of development, these are the people who will ultimately drive your business into the next decade, the 2010s and beyond, leaving behind the tradition of ‘command and control’ style management.

So just how will you recognise these future leaders?

  • They are wearing the T-shirt! They are instinctively aligned with the organisation’s Purpose Framework – its Vision, Values and Goals
  • They are in-tune with their team member’s mind-set and engage with them before looking to improve their skills and knowledge
  • They identify best practices in their team/operation and promote it throughout the organisation for everyone’s benefit
  • They set up and facilitate channels of communication so that intelligence can be accessed and shared, quickly and easily, as and when it’s needed
  • They don’t settle for hitting targets or meeting deadlines, they are looking for continuous improvement as their normal way of working
  • They naturally take personal ownership and assume accountability for themselves and their team
  • They trust their people to do the right thing and train accordingly
  • They role-model the most effective behaviours and consistently set the expectations for their team, their peers and their boss
  • They act as both coach and mentor not only to achieve the required levels of competence and behaviour but to build on-going career development and succession planning
  • They are Changing the State of the Art

If you want your Front-Line Managers to become Smart Managers contact us.

Making Best Practice Work For You

As organisations of all sorts re-assess their current situations and start to plan for a post-recession future, the way forward is not always clear. Some organisations have lost key customers who they will need to replace, others have seen sections of their workforce cut leaving skill gaps which will need to be filled to compete in a tough marketplace.
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The task for Learning & Development in this climate is to make a real difference to organisational development, whilst keeping costs down and return on investment high. The competing needs of differing parts of the organisation, and demands from individuals within the business, can be hard to prioritise.

Structured Training’s  approach can help organisations to think more strategically about how Learning & Development can make an impact, identifying areas where interventions (and not always training or obviously learning ones) will transform performance.

Using a structured approach to uncovering the key people issues the organisation faces, our  consultant can enable Learning & Development to make key insights and deliver real change, whilst maintaining budget levels and minimising time away from the key priorities of customer contact and quality service delivery.