Tracy's blog

I’m Tracy Au and I have graduated from the Professional Writing program from university. I am an aspiring screenwriter, so this blog is used to promote my writing and attract people who will hire me to write for your TV show or movie. I write a lot about writing, TV, movies, jokes, and my daily life and opinions. I have another blog promoting my TV project at www.thevertexfighter.blogspot.com.

Monday, November 2, 2015

"Why strategy is dead in the water"/ Be a 'micro entrepreneur'

Sept. 7 "Why strategy is dead in the water": I cut out this article by Harvey Schachter in the Globe and Mail on Nov. 17, 2014.  I know the saying: "No matter how beautiful the strategy is, you should occasionally look at the results" by Winston Churchill.

I like this part in the article:  But now information is not scarce; it’s so abundant as to be overwhelming, and available to all. “It’s what you do with it – how you translate that information into actionable activities that is critical,” he said.

Rick Smith has an MBA, has worked as a strategy consultant and, as an entrepreneur, has set up several organizations, including World 50, which brings together the top senior executives in various fields to network. So he knows a lot about strategy. But these days, he believes strategy is dead.

He points to the Merriam-Webster definition of strategy: “A careful plan or method for achieving a particular goal usually over a long period of time.” In the past, a long period of time might be 10 years. These days, he asks, is it even nine months? Well-thought-out plans are revisited every quarter or six months, given how tumultuous the business world is. Being too methodical can leave you wide open to be overtaken by somebody who is agile.

Much of our current understanding of strategy is based on the thinking of Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter, which essentially assumes your competitors today will be your competitors forever, Mr. Smith argues. It also assumes that companies can control distribution and send out targeted marketing messages to prospects and customers. These days, competition can come at you from all directions – witness, for example, the many companies with which Amazon.com, once just a book seller, competes. Distribution is wild and woolly, and in an era of social media, companies no longer control the messages about their offerings.

“Control and predictability have been greatly diminished,” he said in an interview.
In a recent Forbes.com article, he broke that down into seven factors that prevent you from being classically strategic:

1. Incrementalism has been disrupted

While managers love to talk about “out-of-the-box thinking” and grand, paradigm-shifting innovations, most companies choose small, incremental changes. But incrementalism is simply not good enough today. What taxi company saw the possibility of Uber, a mobile app that organizes ride-sharing in more than 45 cities worldwide? The Internet of Things looms as a gigantic disruptor.

2. Outcomes are unpredictable

In planning for the future, companies used to set out the four most likely competitive or market outcomes and create a plan for each. It was nice and simple. But these days, as innovations are crushing entire markets, that old, ordered approach is ineffective. The variations in outcomes from innovations can be huge – and you can be left behind.

3. The past is no longer a predictor

We used to think we were doomed to repeat history. But these days, the future looks nothing like the past, so it’s difficult to conceive, let alone plan for. Babies leave hospitals, he says wryly in the Forbes article, with a blanket, an iPhone, a Facebook account, and a Twitter handle. That’s an exaggeration, of course – but extrapolating from the past to build future scenarios is a shaky proposition.

4. Competitive lines have dissolved

Strategists have long benefited from developing organized, narrow views of competitive sectors, with a discrete group of companies whose strengths and weaknesses can be catalogued. Not any more. Tech companies are trying to disrupt every industry in the marketplace. And even existing industries are shifting territory, he notes, pointing to GE taking on IBM in its attempt to control data. “You don’t know who will get into your marketplace. Your competitors can come from any direction. So it’s hard to plan what you want to be,” he said in the interview.

5. Information is abundant

Consultants and other strategists have thrived by being able to share information that only they have gleaned from their research and insider knowledge of various companies. But now information is not scarce; it’s so abundant as to be overwhelming, and available to all. “It’s what you do with it – how you translate that information into actionable activities that is critical,” he said.

6. It’s hard to forecast value

Traditionally, if a Canadian company was investing in a factory in a foreign market, it would estimate the revenues and costs over time, and discount those to today’s value to gauge profitability. But he notes that such an investment may open up other opportunities simply by virtue of being in that market, and that “option value” must be calculated as well. Trouble is, you don’t know what those opportunities are, or their value, until you enter that market. Indeed, much of the value of the investment might accrue from those unseen opportunities.

7. Fast trumps long-term

In recent decades, organizations would roll out programs like Six Sigma to improve processes, learning what was effective or ineffective in a deliberate, staged fashion over a number of years. These days, it’s a whirlwind, and you must be learning all the time. “Today’s game of business looks a lot less like chess, and a lot more like hockey. Don’t worry about planning four or five moves out, just get quickly to where the puck is going. Sorry, there are no timeouts,” he writes.


"Need cash and a career?  Be a 'micro entrepreneur': I cut out this article by Jared Lindzon in the Globe and Mail on Nov. 8, 2013.
 

Like many young people, Sara Aly found herself grappling with unemployment last spring after graduating with an advanced diploma in human resources from Sheridan College in Oakville, Ont.

“After you graduate it takes a while to find a job, and in the process – it happens to everybody – you get frustrated,” said the 23-year old.

Ms. Aly began looking for a job when a friend introduced her to Ask for Task, an online marketplace that allows “askers” to solicit “taskers” to do work, at a negotiated price, ranging from data entry to editing to household tasks or child care.

While searching for a full-time job, Ms. Aly spent two months completing tasks such as proofreading reports and essays and picking up groceries for her neighbours, earning about $900 in the process. She also rented out her basement, using a site called AirBnB, and turned to Ask for Task to hire people to clean up after her guests.

Ms. Aly is one of many people, dubbed “micro entrepreneurs,” who have been able to acquire invaluable work experience and build career contacts through such online connections.

It’s part of what is being called the collaborative or sharing economy, a fast-growing movement that seeks to save people time and money through co-operative efforts, such as car-sharing programs, babysitting collectives and communal agriculture. The movement is largely facilitated through online tools and websites.

“Collaboration is as old as humanity,” said Natalie Foster, executive director of Peers, a San Francisco-based non-government organization aimed at building the sharing economy.

“What’s new right now is people using technology in ways that we haven’t seen before, in ways that bring people together and allow for new sorts of interactions that can transcend geography or enhance the [local] experience,” she said.

The movement largely grew out of online collaboration tools, fuelled in part by a frustration with the traditional economy, Ms. Foster said. “We live in an era where the economy isn’t working for most people, and people are looking for alternatives and are inspired by new models that are part of the sharing and peer economy,” she said.

Young people, she added, are the driving force behind the movement, although many start out simply looking for a way to save money, or earn some cash.

“Many people enter into the sharing economy for financial reasons, but they end up staying for the human connection,” Ms. Foster said. “We’re coming out of an era where much was written about how we’re more alone as a society, how the social fabric is weaker, how we don’t know our neighbours, and all of that is changing. That’s what the sharing and peer economy is growing out of – the need for people to feel connected to one another, to know their neighbours, and to be part of communities.”

Muneeb Mushtaq, founder and chief executive officer of Toronto-based Ask for Task, said his company’s website is filled with stories about people finding work experiences and making new connections with others.

“Once you [take on] a task, you meet a new ‘asker,’ it’s all about increasing your network,” he explained. “[With such websites], now it’s really easy to get to know each other, because it’s a community of neighbours helping neighbours.”

Ask for Task exemplifies the collaborative economy’s growing reach. Only four months after going national, the site had more than 40,000 users across Canada, and registered nearly $1.25-million worth of transactions.

Mr. Mushtaq said his site helps “taskers” think of themselves as entrepreneurs running their own personal brand. Askers are encouraged to leave feedback and comments about each of the taskers, which helps build their profile on the website, and serves as a sort of “living résumé,” he said.

“I think Ask for Task and all of these collaborative consumption ideas are disrupting the economy in a very positive way,” Mr. Mushtaq said.

“When I was in university five years back, there was nothing like this … The only options were working on campus or doing odd jobs at McDonald’s or something like that,” he added.

“Bringing out that entrepreneurial spirit is very essential in these times, because platforms such as Ask for Task and AirBnB and others help you make the most of your time and make the most of your resources.”

Participants can obtain work experience while still getting an education, or while searching for a full-time position.

Ms. Aly, who landed a job as an office administrator for a rehabilitation centre in Mississauga, said her Ask for Task experiences boosted her confidence about earning a living.

And if something were to go awry, she knows she can turn to the site again. “If I lose my job because of downsizing or something, there is always a backup plan for me.”

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