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Staying Relevant with your Business

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We live in a knowledge economy, an economy where we aim to stay relevant by leveraging the the internet of things and the internet of everything to answer our every question as fast as our little, sometimes sausage-like, fingers can touch a tiny screen.

In today’s hyper-connected, digitized world there are three challenges that every business leader must face in order for his or her company to stay relevant:

1) The speed of technological advancement

2) Information overload

3) Human disposition toward change

More specifically with information accessibility is information literacy—the ability to navigate and interpretmassive amounts of information and pare it down into something not only manageable, but comprehensible and applicable for the masses.

However, it doesn’t stop there. 

The problem between the above three challenges is aligning the current systems, processes and behaviors within an organization to fit them all. Namely, you need to not only keep up with the times in terms of technological relevance but also be poised to acquire the right information you need through such technology, interpret it and disseminate it.

Welcome to the challenge of how to stay relevant.

How To Stay Relevant

The problem, of course, is this: the means by which organizations share and interpret information are outdated. In many of the companies I’ve consulted, their way of operating is based off an outdated operating model: hierarchy.

Hierarchy is a product of yesteryear. Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and place for linear-processing and rank-and-file management (the conventional military comes to mind), but in today’s day and age where companies compete at the speed of adaptability but adapt at the speed of learning, hierarchy poses another, albeit indirect, threat: an organization’s ability and capacity—the skill and will—to adapt to change.

Companies compete at the speed of adaptability but adapt at the speed of learning. 

I say indirect because more often than not, how you see a problem typically is the problem.

It’s not so easy to attribute hierarchy to a company’s failings because chances are that company has been successful over the years. It’s been profitable, it’s navigated uncertainty, so how they’ve operated in the past must be right, right?

Wrong.

The complacency of success is a very real yet indirect threat to any organization’s relevance. Just look at Kodak, Blockbuster, Hollywood Video, even HP who were completely competent in how they operated for a very long time. However, times changed, and these companies never took the time to question whether how they operated was right.

No, hierarchy is outdated. Command and control worked in the 20th century where the goal was to become more efficient, to save cost by eliminating wasted efforts and duplicative processes. But in today’s day and age of “pivoting” (a term as annoying as that mosquito in your ear) and the IoT/IoE, speed is the name of the game, and one thing hierarchy is not known for is a fast “read and react” time.

So, the question becomes, what is your organization doing to adapt to the times? What is your organization doing to align the growing trend of technology and the relevant information it affords with the current behaviors in your organization that determine how work gets accomplished?

Here’s an example of what I mean.

The first company I consulted for was a Fortune 500 company in Silicon Valley. They were in the tech space and were facing an industry shift of having to move from hard drives to the cloud and they needed to figure out how they were going to stay relevant amidst this inevitable change (and change is inevitable, which is why the complacency of success kills).

Anyway, the challenge they faced was the same challenge that every other company has faced that I’ve consulted for since: relying upon the behaviors of yesterday to carry you through tomorrow.

By behaviors I’m referring to how tasks get identified, assigned, executed, and adapted; the frequency at which groups and teams assemble and how they assemble; the cadence of meetings and the deconfliction between multiple meeting agendas; and the metrics that define right (not gonna lie, there’s a lot more to this list).

If, for instance, there are unclear job descriptions, ambiguous roles, unclear responsibilities or simply non-existent expectations, then “winning” isn’t likely to happen anytime soon. What is likely to occur is a lot of tail-chasing and a lot of turf wars because, without clearly defined boundaries, people will define their own.

If how your model for success today is how successful you were yesterday then congratulations, you’re one step closer to irrelevance.

If how your model for success today is how successful you were yesterday then congratulations, you’re… 

If you’re asking the same questions as yesterday or—and equally non-impactful—not questioning the status quo, you’re on a losing path.

And I don’t care what anybody says. Losing sucks.

To “win” in today’s day and age requires the self-awareness to recognize your blind spots, the social awareness to recognize and interpret how you mesh with others, and the situational awareness to align these two “awarenesses” into a context greater than yourself such as the organization’s mission, and the only way to weaponize yourself in these regards, is through curiosity.

Nothing begins without a question. Questions incite greater awareness because they cause the mind to wander, to explore, and to (potentially) discover something anew. Without curiosity, there would be no breakthrough ideas, no new products or services, and no mobile banking (that’s a joke because I consider mobile banking to be one of the most ingenious and convenient apps on my smartphone).

Anyway, back to behaviors.

The “behaviors” that define how work is achieved are based upon one thing and one thing only: clarity.

Clarity in purpose.

Clarity in value.

Clarity in roles, responsibilities and expectations.

Clarity in time, resources and requirements available.

All the above leads to clarity in execution and without execution, you’re dead in the water. Period.

Without execution, you’re dead in the water. Period. 

So, if you want to leverage curiosity and find clarity amidst the ever-changing chaotic landscape of business amidst technology and information overload, start by defining what winning looks like.

Prior to every meeting, any discussion and any project, for example, clarify what success will be.

If you’re an organizational leader, clarify what winning looks like for the organization as a whole and then share this definition with each functional leader so they have not only clear direction but a definition to work with that will inform how and what they execute.

A sales department will likely have different objectives than marketing or HR, for example, which is why it’s so critical for the organizational leader to take the time to clarify his or her vision for 1) what success looks like and 2) what he or she values as the vehicles for success if that leader espouses to stay relevant–as a leader and as an organization.

“Become a $100 million dollar company” or “Be the number one place to work” are too ambiguous and don’t inform anybody, since $100M could be misinterpreted between the sales and product departments to be eitherprofit or revenue.

Without a clear definition, they’re likely to pursue both, which means you’ve just undercut your winning efforts by 50 percent as well as your ability to stay relevant. Not ideal.

It’s a very simple concept, but not so simply executed. But then again, if doing so were easy, then I’d be out of a job.

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About the Author

This article was produced by Chaos Advantage. Chaos Advantage is a blog dedicated to the vision of defeating complacency and eliminating the epidemic of poor leadership within organizations today. see more.

Entrepreneurship

Is There A Coworking Space Bubble?

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An annual growth rate of nearly 100%, almost five years in a row? More than 60 coworking spaces in a city like Berlin? Are these the characteristics of a bubble? Nope, these are characteristics of a lasting change in our world of work, which has been further catalyzed by the recent economic crises in many countries. But what makes this change different to a bubble? We’ve summarized some arguments of why the coworking movement is based on a sustainable change. However, that doesn’t mean it’s an easy job to open a good working coworking space.

Five reasons why the growth of coworking spaces is based on organic and sustainable growth: 

1. Coworking spaces invest their own money and create real wealth

Already, there is a convincing argument supporting why coworking spaces are not developing in a bubble: the fact that they create real wealth.

Whether referring to the dotcom bubble a decade ago or the real estate crisis in Spain or the United States, the crisis originated in a glut of cheap money, in an environment in which the sender and the recipient were unacquainted. From funds and banks, money flowed in steady streams to investments which offered little resistance and the most promising returns – which only a little while later turned into delusions and ruined investments.

Redistributed risks create illusions. Those people who distributed the money rarely wore the risk of investment decisions. The risk was mainly taken by small shareholders or people who bought parts of those investments. This was because either both parties’ (better) judgement was drowned out by the noise of the market, or because shareholders were unaware of the risk, and were at the mercy of banks and funds for reliable information.

Another fundamental condition for the creation of bubbles are the sheer amounts of money that flow from various locations globally and are concentrated, by comparison, in much fewer places.

Most coworking spaces, however, receive their funding from local or nearby sources and do not operate within this financial system. In fact, the founders mainly inject the bulk of the required investment, and turn to friends or relatives for additional support. They wear the full brunt of the risks that are involved in small-time investment.

They have access to much more information, because it is their own project, rather than a foreign one thousands of miles away. This also includes failures and mistakes that are encountered along the way, but the risk is less redistributed, thereby decreasing the probability of failures.

2. Labor market changes demand on certain office types lastingly

Most users of coworking spaces are self-employed. The proportion of employees is also on the rise, in many cases simply because they work for small companies that increasingly opt to conduct their business in coworking spaces rather than in traditional offices. The industry of almost all coworkers fall within the Internet-based creative industries.

With flexibilisation of work markets, new mobile technologies that are changing work patterns, and the increase of external services purchasing from large and medium-sized enterprises (outsourcing), the labor market has changed radically in many parts of the world.

The long-term financial and emotional security of becoming an employee no longer exists, especially for younger generations of workers. Bigger companies are quicker to fire than hire, and precarious short-term contracts are on the rise. Promising options on the labor market are more often recuded to freelancer careers and starting your own company.

And that’s possible with less money to invest. All you need is a laptop, a brain and a good network. For years, the number of independent workers and small businesses has been growing worldwide – particularly in internet-based creative industries. Anyone who has sufficient specialized skills and the willingness to take risks may adapt more quickly to market conditions if they own a small business or are self employed; more so than if they were to work in a dependent position in an equally volatile market.

Coworking spaces provide an environment in which to do this. Once they have joined a (suitable) coworking space, these factors become apparent to coworkers, who will remain in their space for years to come.

Furthermore, independent workers rarely fire themselves in crises, and even small companies are less likely to give their employees the boot – compared to their large counterparts. This combination enables more sustainable business models – and less business models à la Groupon.

3. Coworking spaces don’t live on crises

Global economic growth is waning while the number of coworking spaces is continually growing. Do coworking spaces thus benefit from this crisis?

The current crises accelerate the formation and growth of coworking spaces, because they offer solutions and space for the resulting problems. Coworking spaces are therefore not a result of a crisis, but the product of change that pre-dates their existence. A crisis is simply the most visible expression of change.

The first coworking spaces emerged in the late 1990s; the movement’s strong growth started six years ago – before the onset of economic downturns in many countries.

4. Coworking spaces depend on the needs of their members

Most coworking spaces are rarely full. Does this mean they are unsuccessful? On average, only half of all desks are occupied. But the average occupancy rate of 50% refers only to a specific date.

In fact, coworking spaces generally serve more members than they can seat at any given time, since members do not use the spaces simultaneously. Coworking spaces are places for independents who want to work on flexible terms. Smaller spaces rely more on permanent members. Larger spaces can respond more flexibilty to the working hours of its members, and, can rent desks several times over.

If a coworking space is always overcrowded or totally empty, the purpose of said space would be defeated. Firstly, it is rather impossible to work in an overcrowded room. Second, it’s impossible to cowork in an empty room. Given the nature of flexible memberships, a coworking space only can survive if they fit the needs of their members. Members would otherwise be quick to leave, and membership would be much more transient.

5. The coworking market is far from saturation

Less than 2% of all self-employed – and even fewer employees – currently work in coworking spaces. Reporting on coworking may increase, but inflated reporting on the coworking movement in the mainstream media is still far away.

Coverage of coworking space are most likely to be found in the career or local sections in larger publications – front cover coverage remains the dream of many space operators. This is because the whole coworking movement can’t be photographed in one picture. What appears to be a disadvantage, however, is actually a beneficial truth: niche coverage allows the industry to grow organically, and avoid over inflation.

Conclusion

Coworking spaces don’t operate in parallel universes – like the financial market. Demand and supply are almost exclusively organic and operate in the real world economy.

For the same reason, there is no guarantee that opening a coworking spaces will be automaticly successful. Anyone who fails to learn how to deal with potential customers in their market, or is unfamiliar with how coworking communities function, will have a difficult time of making one work. In the same way that business people in other industries will fail if they do not understand their market.

Those who simply tack on the word ‘coworking’ to their space’s facade will need to work harder. The structure of most coworking spaces is based on real work, calculated risk, and real-world supply and demand.

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About the Author

This article was produced by Deskmag. Deskmag is the magazine about the new type of work and their places, how they look, how they function, how they could be improved and how we work in them. They especially focus on coworking spaces which are home to the new breed of independent workers and small companies. see more.

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Callum Connects

Dextre Teh, Founder of Rebirth Academy

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Dextre Teh is a consultant and marketing guru, helping F&B businesses to tighten their operations and grow their businesses.

What’s your story?
I help frustrated F&B business owners stuck in day to day operation transform from a glorified operator into a real business owner. I’m a 27 year old Singaporean second generation restaurant owner and a F&B business consultant. Entering the industry at 13 years old, I have always been obsessed with operations and systemisation. At the age of 25, I joined the insurance industry and earned a six figure yearly income. However, I left the high pay behind because it was not my passion and returned to the F&B industry. Now I help other F&B companies to tighten operations and grow their businesses with my consulting and marketing services.

What excites you most about your industry?
The food. I’m a big lover of food and even have a YouTube show on food in development. But that aside, it is really about impacting people through food. Creating moments and memories for people, be it a dating couple or families or friends. Providing that refuge from the daily grind of life. So in educating my consulting clients and training their staff to provide a better experience for their customers, I aim to shift the industry in the direction of creating memories instead of just selling food.

What’s your connection to Asia?
I was born and bred in Singapore. I love the culture, the food and travelling in Asia.

Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Singapore hands down. The environment here is built for businesses to thrive. The government is pro business and the infrastructure is built around supporting business growth. Not to mention the numerous amount of grants available in helping people start and even grow business. If I’m not mistaken, the Singaporean government is the only government in the world that offers grants to home grown businesses for overseas expansion.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Learning to do things you do not intend to master is a BIG mistake in business. Focus on what you are good at and pay others to do the rest.

Many business owners including myself are so overwhelmed by the 10,000 things that they feel they need to do everyday. We try to do everything ourselves because we think it saves us money. The only thing that, that does for us is overload our schedules and give us mediocre results. Instead we should focus on what we do best and bring in support for the rest.

Who inspires you?
Christopher M Duncan.

At 29, Chris has built multiple 7 figure businesses. He opened me to the possibility of building a business on the thing that I loved and gave me a blueprint of how to do it. He also showed me that being young doesn’t mean you cannot do great things.

Imran Mohammad and Fazil Musa
They are my mentors and inspire me every single day to pursue my dreams, to focus on celebrating life and enjoying the process of getting to where I want to be.

What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
Time is always more expensive than money. Money, you can earn over and over again but time, once you spend it, will never come back.

If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I am a firm believer that your experiences shape who you are. I am grateful for every single moment of my life be it the highs or the lows, the successes and the failures because all these experiences have led me to become the person I am and brought me to the place that I’m at so I will probably do things the same way as everything was perfect in its time.

How do you unwind?
Chilling out in a live music bar with a drink in hand, listening to my favourite live band, 53A. Other than that I’m big on retail therapy, buying cool and geeky stuff.

Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Bangkok. It feels like a home away from home where the cost of living is relatively low, the food is good and the people are friendly.

Everyone in business should read this book:
Everything you know about business is wrong by Alastair Dryburgh. It is a book that challenges commonly accepted business “truths” and inspires you to go against the grain, think different, take risks and stand your ground in the face of the challenges that will come your way as a business owner.

Shameless plug for your business:
I’m the creator of the world’s first Chilli Crab Challenge. It gained viral celebrity earlier this year with 3 major newspaper features and more than a dozen blog and online publications featuring it in the span of two weeks. In the span of the two weeks, the campaign reached well over a million people in exposure without a single cent spent in ads.

Now I help F&B companies to tighten operations, increase profits and grow their businesses with my consulting and marketing services. Chilli Crab Challenge (https://www.chillicrab.com/nationalday)

How can people connect with you?
You can connect with me on Facebook (www.facebook.com/djtehkh) or visit www.rebirthacademy.sg for more information or book a 10 minute call with me @ www.tinyurl.com/dexclar

This interview is part of the ‘Callum Connect’ series of more than 500 interviews

Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder of The Marketing Group PLC. He is the author two best selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’ and ‘Agglomerate’.

Connect with Callum here:
twitter.com/laingcallum
linkedin.com/in/callumlaing
Download free copies of his books here: www.callumlaing.com

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