What”The Start-up of You” by Reid Hoffman & Ben Casnocha, 2012 (272 pages).
Published by Random House Business Books (Penguin Random House), 2013.
ThoughtsAre our jobs and careers secure? Secure for today, for this week, for this month, for this year, for the coming 5 years? For many of us the answer will get progressively vague as the time-frame to consider is extended. Certainly, gone are the days where we could take a job and stay with that employer and progress up the ranks until being carried out with the proverbial golden watch at retirement. Increasingly this is no longer what employees are looking for.
The time span of each employment is also moving in a downward direction. This can be seen as a combination of greater workforce mobility in terms of geography, career priorities, work/life balance etc. and a greater need to flexibly adjust resource allocations on the part of employers. What we are seeing is a movement toward Free Agency, where each person is their own business if not in fact then at least in mindset.
How do we make the most of the changes that have and are still happening in the area of our work-life. One suggestion is to take lessons from entrepreneurs who in their ventures are faced with constant change, volatility, uncertainty and ambiguities that can be seen to be replicated in our personal work-life and careers.
Permanent Beta – Never FinishedHave we arrived, are we finished? If the answer to these questions is a “Yes”, we may be in for serious problems. If we allow a sense of our own achievements and position to lead to complacency and resting on laurels, we fail to move with the ever changing world. Then we will be finished in a sense and we’ll most likely arrive at a destination we do really not want to go to: obsoleteness.
If we continuously view ourselves, our careers and our private life as works in progress, we are able to iteratively make small adjustments. Making these continuous but smaller adjustments means that we will only have to face the smaller risks associated with these small changes. Further, continuous small adjustments allows us to if not outright avoid then at least quickly bounce back from life’s major curveballs as we have the adjustment process already going for us. There is no requirement to be the perfect article – but rather a requirement to grow, to expand, to seize opportunities and new experiences – warts and all.
Planning for Adaptability – One Plan is not EnoughIn their book "The Start-up of You" Hoffman & Canocha recommend being ever prepared for small and big changes by having 3 plans.
Plan A is based on our current assumptions and deals with what we are working on right now. Plan A we continuously iterate/adjust to absorb minor changes.
Then there is our Plan B, this plan is much more high-level and deals with what goals and activities we can pivot to if we meet with larger changes that make Plan A no longer viable. Plan B will probably revolve around goals and tasks in the neighborhood of what we are working on in Plan A, but sufficiently different to allow us to make a go in new circumstances.
And we must not forget to have a Plan Z, which could also be called our “rescue boat”. If all fails, Plan Z defines our way of staying afloat in the hopefully short period until we have had time to come up with new Plans A and B.
Seizing Opportunities – Go Where Others may Fear to TreadHaving adaptable plans is a good starting point, but we also need to be continuously on the lookout for those opportunities that will challenge us and move us forward. How can we hone our natural curiosity? We can be diligent in following news streams across different business areas. We can make sure we regularly expose ourselves to people, networks and events that may lie outside our natural interests and comfort zone. We can never know, who we’ll meet and what could ensue from these meetings.
Not letting the initial cards we have been dealt define what we can or cannot do is also a way to open up to new, challenging opportunities. Resourcefulness, resilience and willingness to take on calculated risks puts us in a position to pursue opportunities where others see only difficulties and problems. Most likely, they are right, there are difficulties and problems. However, our willingness to commit and follow-through means we get to harvest results in a non-crowded space, and they do not.
Network Intelligence – Mobilize Your ConnectionsIs adaptability and opportunity seizing a solo sport? Definitely not. While we can get quite far by employing our own resourcefulness, we will go so much further and likely faster, too, if we engage with the people we know or are acquainted with. It could be domain experts, personal contacts or just plain smart people.
Networks can be deep/narrow or wide/shallow. In our networks we should strive to combine deep/narrow and wide/shallow, to that we have a smaller number of close connections and a larger and diverse number of more distant connections.
Depth probably means that these connections know us well and are active in the same fields as we are. The input we get here is most likely tailored closely around who we are. The drawback may be that close connections will probably not be able to provide us with information outside our field. Another potential drawback may be that close connections may inadvertently try to make us stick to being how they prefer to see us, which may be somewhat removed from the direction into which we want to adapt.
More distant connections can provide us with fresh perspectives and potentially act as the bridge to people in different fields (2nd and 3rd level connections). However, distant connections will not be able to tailor their input based on knowledge of us. We should also keep in mind that we need to motivate input from these sources by looking to be helpful ourselves.
TakeawaysIt is hard to argue against the need to develop resourcefulness, resilience and adaptability in order for us to make the most of opportunities and challenges we meet with in work or in private life. The importance of who we know – or rather who knows us – becomes ever more important in a world of free agency and ever shifting task oriented work alliances. The ability to consult the “bigger brain” of our crowd may be what gives us the competitive lead.
Feel inspired? Have ideas? Need to launch initiatives?