Do you know how to play the game?

I’ve been ruminating about this post for quite a while and it is being finally ‘penned’ because of the quote I ran into yesterday.

“You miss 100% of the shots you never take.” – Wayne Gretzky

I couldn’t help but think about the world of entrepreneurship and innovation, where often a shot not taken is an opportunity missed. Unfortunately, in life (and by extension, in business), when to take the shot is not always apparent. Gretzky relied on a gut feel and hours and hours of practice to know, instinctively, when was the right time to take his shot. I ask, are you practicing and ready to step up and take your turn to shoot? Will you know when this time is?

One of the more successful musicians of the last few years has been Justin Timberlake. Now, I love JT – he can wear a man-vest like no-other-man-can but that is not the reason for his success. To me, his success is attributable to his ability to practice his game rigorously and then take his shot when it was time. Not only this, but take his game to another level through amazing collaborations. In an MTV interview I saw recently with JT and Timbaland, there was one other quote which really stood out to me.

  This, is money

“You see this…this, is money” – Timbaland, MTV Interview.

These guys are an amazing example of a collabroative approach. But, also, they know their game so well that it’s merely a matter of doing ‘their thing’ to create amazing results (ahem – ‘money’). Have a read of this Rolling Stone article for more on how the two came together to create songs for the Futuresex/Lovesounds album. It’s not easy, but Gretzky never said shooting was either. For them, their partnership and the way they go about taking their shot again and again produces immense success. For me, I’m learning how to play the game of innovation and entrepreneurship. I don’t know my game perfectly yet, but I’m working everyday on getting better. And I’m practicing by taking as many shots as I can.

Innovative cultures and the Brand Me working style

 

 

Is this a test for productivity?

Is this a test for productive working cultures?

 I worked from home today, which gave me some perspective about the way that I like to work as well as the ideals of the Brand Me theory that I have spoken about on this blog before. I awoke this morning feeling a little crook, and so (full disclosure here), took myself down to the doctors where I had a urine sample taken. I’ve felt quite sore in my kidneys these past few weeks, so thought it wise to get it tested.

After the test, I felt quite jubilant as I had the whole day in front of me, and was pumped to get on with some work which has been sitting in the in tray for far too long. At World Vision HQ, we are slowly but surely breeding an innovative culture, and the open office plan helps with that. However, I feel that sometimes it also gets in the way of achieveing some real work. Sometimes. I find it hard, often, to be mindfull in the office and to really get into the ‘flow’ of things, as Daniel Golman speaks about in his book, Working With Emotional Intelligence. He describes it as:

“Flow blossoms when our skills are fully engaged and then some – say, by a work project that stretches us in new and challenging ways. The challenge absorbs us so much we lose ourselves in our work, becoming so totally concentrated we may feel ‘out of time.’ In this state we seem to mandle everything effortlessly, nimbly adopting to shifting demands. Flow itself is a pleasure.’

I love this description, and think it apt for my situation today. Having arrived home, I logged on and responded to an email from work about a present opportunity that came up today. I thought I answered it well, and efficiently. I read widely through my RSS reader (I am loving the Outlook RSS that is included through feedburner. It’s a winner!), checked out some of those emails which have been sitting dormant for far too long, and generally maintained ‘The Squiggly Line’ business…mine.

I felt alive, and very mindfull and looking forward to having a crack at the Digital Content Strategy I have been working on at WVA for the past month. It’s a piece of work I have had trouble getting into at the office, as it has required a fair space for thought. I jumped in at about 5:30pm (yes, not in work hours!) and completed the thing in about 3 hours. I feel chuffed with the results and look forward to showing it off tomorrow (yes, my ego loves it!). Yeah, I worked (on work stuff, how ‘boring’) till 8:30 and yeah, I probably didn’t do my full ‘8 Hours work’ but I think the quality of work I produced and the way I produced it has lead to much better results. That work is something I feel proud of, which is not to say that I don’t feel proud of stuff I do at the office. But often, especially lately, I have felt that I have been putting out fires and being reactive rather than proactive when things just needed to be done.

I love working where I do, and being part of the conversations and discussions about our new strategy and innovation is the highlight of my week. I’m a big fan of the open office plan, where innovation and communication are allowed to flourish. But, I think we need to be more aware of our cultures and the environments that flourish from them and, especially as players in this new talent revolution, how we react being in one culture for too long.

Bla bla bla…Knowledge Economy

Stumbled into this one today when searching for innovation unit’s at big companies. I reckon most would be disappointed. Just try the Google search “insert big company name Innovation Unit” and view the disappointment for yourself. Is there someone out there actually IN an innovation unit, can you please say hi – I’d love to hear what sort of stuff your up to. I just wish you’d publish more of it 🙂

Anyways, enough of the rant…on to the Knowledge Economy. 

The Knowledge Frontier, a document produced by the Westpac Innovation Unit, the Society for Knowledge Economics, was released in June of this year. Have a read of it here

I like the premise, and the fact that they wrote it to stimulate discussions about the future of the creative class and talent in general. I thought I contribute my two cents worth on some of the issues the paper raised.

1) Investing in Talented Individuals: This is an interesting one. In the paper, they suggest that soon there will be ‘venture capital/ASX’ style investing in talented individuals likley to assume positions of leadership and value within society. These people will gain investment, to be used for education (?) and then repay their investors with a proportion of their earnings. Sounds a little too much like human trafficking if you ask me – I’m not sure how those high-potential people will go knowing that a percentage of their wage would go to an ‘investor’ for a period…Then again, what else is HECS?

 John and Peter, my Series A investors

2) Mum, mum look at me: Should we start paying for attention rather than time? Or, more to the point, paying an employee/contractor for the amount and type of stuff they focus on, rather than dependant on their role. I know personally, I’ve had a few jobs now, all in similar roles but the stuff I actually did in those roles varied quite a bit. I’m not sure how you pay for attention – but I think a movement closer to a Brand me world, where people charge by contract, and earn their salt dependant on the skills they bring, is a move in the right direction.

3) Facebook killed email: Not yet…but sooner rather than later we will move away from email systems for internal comms. I know I hardly check it anymore – most emails are internal anyways and many people are currently using Facebook to interact around the office rather than their trusty outlook/lotus notes. I think some middle ground will be the best solution – and knowing larger companies, they will pay someone else to provide a tailored solution rather than bolt on to an existing ‘retail’ solution such as facebook. I’m thinking the corporate internal communications tool looks like Salesforce + Facebook.

                             salesforce.jpg + facebook.jpg = New Internal Communications

4) IP, therefor, I am: Yes, IP is huge. We need to drastically rethink the way we protect out intellectual output, or suffer being ripped off by larger players with deeper pockets. For small, more mobile, more ‘atomised’ workers there is no larger issue. If you can do something cool, you need to feel safe about discussing it in blogs, forums and – yes – facebook. This kind of protection is really only afforded to you if what you do is a) extremely general but YOU do it better due to personality/natural intuition or…more likely b) the competitive advantage you have over others is more tangible – such as an education/degree/PhD in the field you specialise in or a more specific/re-usable method which you may have perfected.

Interesting times. I noted the report only covers till 2015, which is a pretty short time-frame given some of the possibilities raised here. Things look like moving fast, whatever the direction. What are your thoughts?

The Pmarca Guide to career planning…get on it!

Okay – if you have been reading this blog you’ll know that I am trying to live the Brand Me life. I started this blog mainly to try to capture my portfolio of projects going on, how I was juggling the opportunities presenting themselves in each one, and to start conversations with other who were also trying to live this way.

Get ready for the next installment. If you have not already, get on to Marc Andreessen’s blog and read his guide to career planning. It’s gold…a great conversation is now set to open up about Project Life and career development not focused on HR Functions, Line Promotions and boring 9-5ers.

A few pearls from the article…

Pearl #1: Career Planning = Career Limiting.

I can’t agree with this more. I once met a guy called Bill Horman. Bill had progressed through life leading many different cool govenment projects (oxymoron?). He started as a cop, simply did a great job, always took on more than he could handle, and as a result has never been for a job interview. Every 3-4 years, he would get a call from someone he had worked with, offering him another position. Bill is now the General Manager of Crown Casino’s Community Affairs, loving trying to make great things happen with, quite honestly, a s**t load of money.

He lived (lives) his career in the moment, and is ‘on fire’ in the Melbourne Community. I have, since meeting Bill, tried to live a my life a similar way. This blog title, The Squiggly Line, denotes a life and career that are one and the same. One that doesn’t travel in a linear fashion but…well, squiggly.

But, as I posted previously, sometimes Part Time People = Part Time Results, which leads to the next pearl…

Pearl #2 – Living the portfolio life

Marc points out the importance of not planning every step of your career, but instead having an attitude more befitting of a stockbroker. I love this point – and try to pay attention to it often. I think a career is more like a portfolio, and myself being a younger person, my portfolio currently includes a start-up and undefined junior position at WVA, doing some really cool innovative thinking and projects around how the largest non-profit company in Australia can do stuff better.
Pearl #3 – Get some ‘great skills’

Finally, Marc also points to skill development vs career development. I, again, agree with this completely…but would like to take it a touch further. I think skill development is crucial. I would like to consider that I am developing a skill set primed for innovation and making things happen. This is where I take things further. Skills are good, but, observing Napoleon Dynamite, sometimes your ‘great nunchuk skills’ do not get you as much payoff as you would like. I think it’s important to have a larger, unquantifiable but guiding goal to help drive your skill progression. Case in point, mine is to Make Stuff Happen. It has a real meaning for me, and when faced with different opportunities I ask myself the one simple question – does it help me build skills to Make Stuff Happen?

gallery_napoleon_dynamite_1.jpg

Napoleon…had “great nunchuck skills”, but didn’t get him far with the ladies

If not, then I leave it. If I can see the skills I would improve by being part of that project as a key ingredient to ‘making stuff happen’ then I take the opportunity, add it my portfolio, and start the learning.

Any other thoughts? Please, do comment or share! How do you manage your portfolio?

A stranger, from the outside!!! Pixar and the Brand Me world…

Yes, continuing on from yesterdays post, I thought it would be worth talking about the Pixar a little more.

stranger-2.jpg

From the Mavericks at Work book I wrote about before, there was quite a good section which looked at some of the inner workings of the film company (valued at somewhere between 7-10 billion USD!).

“It’s fine to have wildly talented individuals. The real trick, the higher degree of difficulty, is to get a bunch of widely talented people to make productive partnerships, to produce great work”

Randy Nelson, Dean – Pixar University

Pixar seem to focus much more on the creation and preservation of partnerships than other film companies do. They employ their people, a marked difference from normal film companies that hire everyone on contract for different projects, then disperse them after the film is made. Normally, I prefer this kind of work style. I love the idea of swinging in and out of different, funky and creative projects. But, I gotta say, the Pixar model makes sense too. Because everyone is employed at Pixar, they can build on each project (film) they do. Team’s get used to working with each other, are obviously happy and consistently challenged, well paid and so choose to stay on and continue building great works.

It’s an interesting difference, and one I am always contemplating…Sheeds alluded to the benefits of people committing beyond contracts a few months ago…

“Part-time people, get part-time results”

Kevin Sheedy

sheeds.jpg

Now, whilst I am a big fan (hell, I’m trying to live the brand me life!) of the project worker ideals, the thought does consistantly cross my mind that big things do tend to happen after a lot of effort and hard work being committed to achieve them. How do you juggle this tension between committing to a company or organization for a long period to achieve great stuff, and experiencing a great many different and varied projects by not-committing to anything?

Pixar vs Tom Peters??? Business Celebrity Guru Death match #1 Comment who you think would win 🙂