Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Kevin Benedict's 26 Strategies for Career Advancement - 2020 Edition

One of the most popular blog articles that I have ever written was on career advancement strategies.  One of the advantages of getting old is the ability to accumulate a lot of experiences and lessons.  Since the 2019 article seemed to be appreciated and useful, I have written a new edition for 2020 with eleven additional lessons learned.

My Strategies for Career Advancement:
  1. Be an Expert - Create opportunities to be recognized by your employer’s leadership team. Become an expert in your field. Experts get recognized for their contributions by their communities, industries and employers. Be the person that has read more books, studied more industry reports, attended more training classes and networked with more experts. Become THE expert.
  2. Know your trends - Know your industry's trends.  Know where your company fits in the industry, and where they rank against competition and why.  Know how the trends will impact your customers and prospects.  Talk about trends and their impact.
  3. Build a Network – As your network of contacts grows, so will your insights into more industries and businesses, trends, sales and career opportunities. Don’t be lazy and make excuses to not be on LinkedIn and other business oriented social media platforms. It’s important to your career. 
  4. Keep in touch - The crazy jock sitting in the cubicle next to you today, will run a company you want to work for in 25 years.  It is amazing how many kids I started my career working with who are now in senior executive roles.  Those friendships open many doors, so don't forget to invest in your friendships.

Culture and Humility as Competitive Advantages

In 2019, I interviewed over one hundred business leaders.  In the course of these interviews and follow up discussions I learned a great deal - some of which I want to share here.  I have seen workforces that are united with their leaders in a desire to change and improve.  I have seen organizations that bring in all new leadership eager for change, but watched them fail because of institutional resistance.  I have seen leaders and workforces passionate about winning, but without the humility to learn from their customers.  I have witnessed how difficult it is to change.

I have learned the human-work of solving problems, facing challenges and overcoming obstacles tends to share a common purpose: creating stable, secure and predictable environments. The tendency for most humans is that once we solve a challenge, we want to be done with it.  That propensity, however, does not fit with today’s reality of perpetual change.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Digital Transformation for the Greater Good

Adam Smith wrote about rational self-interest, which posits we work for the greater good when it benefits ourselves.  But what is the greater good, and how does digital transformation impact it?

I believe most of us would agree that replacing large numbers of humans with machines that result in wide scale unemployment and suffering is not in our rational self-interest or the greater good. Having massive numbers of jobs terminated by the Terminator does not result in a safer, healthier, happier civilization or vibrant economy.  So what is the greater good that we, out of rational self-interest, can strive for?

Just because something is possible, and VCs will fund it, does not mean it supports the greater good. Technology that takes all meaningful jobs away from humans resulting in their suffering will soon become a target for their wrath.  I can already imagine brands placing badges on their products that certify "Human-Made" to gain a competitive advantage over machine-made production.

At the macro level, if businesses increasingly replace human workers with machines, they will soon have difficulty finding employed customers that can pay for their products.  At what point do businesses seek to expand employment opportunities out of a rational self-interest rather than decrease them through automation? Is it even realistic to expect profit maximizing businesses to seek the greater good of the societies they operate in?  We must seriously ponder these issues as gathered humans.

I think there is value in playing out future scenarios:
  • In the short-term, manufacturers want to automate faster than their competition in order to gain economic advantages while there are sufficient numbers of consumers employed elsewhere to provide a market for their goods.
  • In the mid-term, entire industries will automate and terminate large numbers of jobs, but hope other, slower-to-automate industries will employ their customer base so there is money to spend. 
  • In the long-term, however, when digital transformation has swept through all industries, who is left to employ the consumers and provide them with living wages so goods can be purchased?
As jobs that require little training or education diminish in numbers, we have two choices, 1) Increase education levels to equip humans for employment in the digital future, or 2) subsidize and fund employment opportunities that benefit the greater good, so there are sufficient incomes available to support a healthy economy.

There are plenty of problems left on this planet to be solved, and solving these problems could employ many. Today, however, not all of these problems have economic and greater good values assigned to them. Fresh water sources, clean air, litter removal, forestation, sustainable farming, peace, better health and wellness, improved education, beautification of public spaces, etc.  All of these areas have the potential to generate enormous benefits for the greater good, but they need society to place a value on them and fund employment in these areas which are not always profit generating but support the greater good.

A vibrant economy, and a safe and secure society depends on healthy employment numbers, adequate wages, property ownership, human and property rights, hope, peace and purpose. Digital transformation must add to the greater good, or it risks accelerating a break down in our society and economy.

Kevin Benedict
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Technologies Without Strategies

Layers of GIS Maps
Fingerspitzengef├╝hl: The literal translation of this German word is finger tip feelings.  It is used to describe one's ability to maintain situational awareness by receiving real-time data. 
The problem with fingerspitzengef├╝hl, in addition to difficult pronunciation - is knowing how much data a person needs in order to maintain situational awareness without it being too much.  Today we have data coming at us from every direction.  In fact, as I am writing this article I was notified that my security camera detected humans at my front door.  I now have situational awareness, but at the cost of distraction.  What is really needed is not just any information, but information that will materially impact one's ability to succeed.

Thursday, February 06, 2020

Digital Transformation Requires a Doctrine

Knights using Stirrups for Balance
In my 30+ years in the high tech industry I have often heard the business maxim, “Develop a business strategy first, and then find the technology to support it.” This teaching I have come to believe is wrong.

Let me support my argument by first asking a few questions.  What came first e-commerce or the Internet, mobile commerce or wireless networks, commercial airline travel or the airplane, knights in shiny armour being used as shock troops, or stirrups?  Answer: Stirrups of course!  Innovations and technology have a long history of appearing first, and then doctrines and strategies forming later.

What we are learning is if your outdated business doctrines and strategies are dictating the speed of your technology adoptions - you are in big trouble! The world is moving much too fast and organizations must now align the tempo of their business doctrine and strategy evolution with the pace of technology innovations and customer adoptions.
"Strategy is the art of making use of time and space. I am less concerned about the latter than the former. Space we can recover, lost time never." -- Napoleon Bonaparte