Sunday, March 19, 2017

Vapourware and Pumpelsdrop

The entrepreneur life can get quite lonely. My views  come from my perspective as a newly minted learning consultant entrepreneur. There are times when the market doesnt care if you exist. And like any other entrepreneur, such times have to be navigated.

Here is where the story of Pumpelsdrop (previous post) comes in.

Suddenly, out of the blue, one gets a phone call. To make a proposal. For a company you have always wanted to work with or sounds too exciting to be true or some work which you have always wanted to do or a new opportunity to learn something. And then, the works begins in right earnest. There is a flurry of activity, a few phonecalls, data, research, books to be read and much reading about the current state of the company, industry, concept.

It elevates the energy to a different level. Powerpoints are made. Structures are created. Frameworks are conceptualised. Meetings are arranged with alacrity. And with that last minute scramble, the said proposal is sent on mail.

This often leads to some other long pending work also being completed - lifted along with the rising tide of energy. In preparation for this new work, decks are cleared off other pending work, dates are finalized, moved and kept available in case this great new shining piece of work comes in.

And then, like the story of Pumpelsdrop, the work vanishes. The proposal makers, collaborators, requestors, company -everything. Like an illusion. Gone. And gathers the proverbial dust in a forgotten folder on the machine. And occupied space on the cloud in a forgotten folder. The whatsapp group created urgently for the proposal is deleted as part of the clean up.

But by then the vapourware has served its purpose. The work has been done. A few days lull has been taken care of. New concepts have been created - and they are unused. And they go into the ideas store.

Until the next one.  

Friday, March 17, 2017

The man who saved Pumpelsdrop

This was a story we had in college if I am not mistaken. Perhaps it was in school, but a delightful story it was.

The story goes somewhat like this (reproduced from here), but the college version we had was slightly different from this. 

It was a dull, gloomy and a depressing morning in a town named Pumpelsdrop in northern England. The Great Depression had brought all the businesses to a standstill. The bored automobile dealer was spending time alone, as usual. But, this seems to be an unusual morning as an odd entity (customer) appeared on the horizon. A man in a bright suit walks up to the dealer and says, "I need to buy a Rolls Royce Phantom II. We have a business conference coming up and I need to impress my customers". Then proceeds to pay 10% of the deal with a single check for 2000 pounds. The rest he says will pay when he takes the delivery. 

The auto dealer was stunned. He was delighted to hear that someone is holding a business conference of some kind and even more importantly someone is buying a Rolls Royce. If people are starting to buy a Rolls Royce then there must be more coming to buy those Audis, Vauxhalls and Fords. 

He called for a janitor to clean up the multi-year mess in his shop and had a decorator come in to spruce up his shop. He also shared the happy news with his wife and gave her a go for buying an expensive necklace from the down payment he received.

The jeweler was surprised that someone is buying a 1500 pound diamond necklace. He peeked at the dealer and found something new going on. He now had a huge order and a signal. It was time to replace his old, fading suit. 

Thus, the spending chain began. In no time, the local entrepreneurs thought the Depression 
was ending and were starting to get back to their business. The out of work people were now put in business by the entrepreneurs and soon all hands were running busy. 

As an anticlimax, the check that the auto dealer got from the person in the suit had been returned and he just listened to the radio that a lunatic was going around writing fake checks. But, his orders were so booked that he no longer needed that order.

So, what has this got to do with the learning consultant life? Post follows...

Friday, March 10, 2017

Steve Jobs Effect

Steve Jobs is perhaps the most quoted (or misquoted) person in business today. Perhaps even more than Peter Drucker and Warren Buffet.

Every business presentation that you go through has some reference to Steve Jobs or other.

Recently, I attended a program where almost all speakers quoted Steve Jobs.

Now, dont get me wrong, there is nothing wrong in quoting a great man such as he.

But the fact is, Steve Jobs was unique - there is exactly one person like him in the universe. Nobody else is even comparable. In terms of vision, execution, creative ability, ability to almost visualize the future and take the team there, talent, hard work. Therefore, using him as an example, will only get you so far, because you are talking outlier among outliers.

When people quote Steve Jobs and point to him as an example, mostly they miss the hard work that went into making him the icon he is today. He failed and failed big. He took an immense amount of risk. He spent time on getting everything from his presentations and products exactly right. The way he went about it. Getting every nuance right. Every screw. Every panel. Every aspect of design. There was nothing he left to chance. He was an icon and icons dont make great examples - not every time. Especially without context.

Even his own company does not seem to be the same post his departure. And obviously - that man was unique. There are no two Steve Jobs.

Second, for good or for bad, he and Apple are among the most written about in the business world. That means, unless you look for other stars, the Apple sun will always be brighter. And what does that communicate to the audience? You stopped at  Steve Jobs - because it is easy - and did not care to dig around for more gems.

So, dear speakers, if you still have to quote Steve Jobs - please quote something that is not reasonably public (and there is such stuff around still - older videos, write ups)  - if you quote something people already know (which is to say, Google and find out the first few things that show up) you are just being lazy. Unless of course, you have other examples and experiences to make your point.

And a general note, please go beyond Google and Apple in your examples.

The world of business is shifting faster than you can change your slides.