Archive for August, 2008

Faster, higher, stronger – Part 2

As the growth rates of emerging markets continue to accelerate and further expand beyond the current leaders – Brazil, Russia, India and China – the power of these regions in the global IT industry is becoming more pronounced.

Gartner estimates that IT spending in emerging markets will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 9.9 per cent to reach $1.3 trillion by 2011.  In comparison, mature markets will spend more overall ($2.5 trillion by 2011) but invest a smaller percentage (4.6 per cent).

And with the rapid rise in IT growth in emerging nations, analysts are predicting that the global ICT industry will be ‘borderless’ by 2015.  This means that organisations, including governments, will increasingly source their ICT from around the globe without regard to the ‘country of origin’ or ‘headquarters’ of the vendor supplying the solution, be it software, hardware, telecommunications, IT services, or people.

It’s fair to say that Australia will have more to worry about than simply how well our rowers and cyclists perform by the time London 2012 rolls around.

As organisations leverage low-cost, highly skilled labour sources, nations such as Australia will be at a significant competitive disadvantage unless we find a distinct value proposition. 

Functions which can be digitised or automated are most likely to be sent offshore, so building those skills which are valuable locally and less easy to replicate are crucial to underwrite Australia’s economic prosperity.

As the WEF report clearly demonstrates, those countries leading the world in ICT readiness have a coherent government vision of the importance of ICT, coupled with an early focus on education and innovation.

Australia possesses an abundantly-skilled, culturally and linguistically diverse workforce that excels in high value, creative problem-solving skills.  Our people have a reputation around the globe for their ability to develop integrated business solutions through applied ICT technology. 

But, just like the Aussie stars of the track and pool, our people need nurturing.  We have the capacity to develop world-beating ICT products and solutions – but we need support, investment and incentives to ensure we keep our place up the front of the pack.

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Faster, higher, stronger

As the Olympics circus packs up its tent for another four years, sports-mad Australians are left to contemplate a lighter medal haul than anticipated, alongside a sinking spot on the medal tally board.

While our less-than-impressive efforts at the velodrome and on the track have us shaking our heads, the British press are singing the praises of Old Blighty, pointing out that their athletes had shown “what can be achieved with dedication, good coaching and sensible funding”.

And there’s the rub.  Should we really be surprised when a massive financial investment in sport yields results?  And should we marvel when economic powerhouses such as China, with its huge population, and the US, with its combination of high Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and population, top the medal table? 

A high population provides a strong base from which to draw talent – whether it’s athletes or technologists.  GDP is a good indicator of a country’s prosperity, with affluent countries more likely to have the spare cash to invest in elite sports systems (or technology infrastructure, as the case may be).

But my question is this: will Australians ever experience the same sense of bruised national pride as we slip further down the global technology leader board?

There are dozens of ways to measure the competitiveness of a country’s ICT capacity, but the Global Information Technology Report, released by the World Economic Forum (WEF) in April is a good yardstick. 

The Report uses the Networked Readiness Index (NRI), covering a total of 127 economies in 2007-2008, to measure each nation’s degree of preparation to participate in and benefit from ICT developments.  The NRI assesses the economy’s ICT environment, readiness of key stakeholders and ICT usage.

And, according to WEF, Australia is nowhere near medal contention.

Top of the league this year was Denmark – which won only two gold at Beijing, but grabbed the WEF gold for the second year in a row.  Close behind was Sweden (despite just four silver medals and a bronze in Beijing), Switzerland (two gold medals), the United States (runner up at the Olympics, with 36 gold medals) and Singapore (just one silver medal). Australia came in at number 14.

So, what’s more important for our future success?  Is it golden moments in the pool or world-beating high technology performances?

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Why Gen Y are more productive

Here’s a great post on Brazen Careerist by blogger Clay Collins (author of the blog The Growing Life).

Generation Y is known for rolling into work late while wearing headphones, and dressing as if every day were casual Friday. We’re often seen TXTing in our cubicles, taking breaks, and instant messaging. While these images don’t exactly encourage others to view us as bastions of uber-productivity, we’re often a hell of a lot more productive than previous generations.

Here are seven reasons why my generation (Generation Y) is often more productive than yours:

Reason 1: We use the best tools
Generation Y is more than comfortable doing the experimentation necessary to find the right tools and technologies for most effectively completing a task. We understand the company’s project management software better than you do because we are comfortable playing with it. And we can probably recommend 2-3 other tools that would work better in the situation because we’re not afraid to rely on nearly-free, online productivity tools from unknown companies. Our to-do lists are carefully maintained, prioritized daily and synced with our PDAs and iPODs.

Reason 2. We’re good at automating
Generation Y has grown up with technology and we believe that computers can do just about anything (or that they will someday). So when we’re receive a task, the first question we ask ourselves is: “how can technology make this task go faster?” Sometimes our efforts to employ technology make things more complicated, but quite often we end up successfully automating a repetitive task, saving ourselves and our companies thousands of dollars.

Reason 3. We get better sleep
Previous generations have lived by Ben Franklin’s aphorism: “early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.” Generational Y intuitively knows what psychologists have confirmed: that a significant percentage of the population is much more productive when they go to bed late and get up late. Simply put, you’re more productive when you follow your biologically determined circadian rhythms and get up when your body tells you to.

Reason 4: We’re much more likely to love our jobs
Since Generation Y switches jobs much more frequently than previous generations, we’re much more likely to be doing things that (1) we’re good at, and (2) we actually like. All the job switching and repositioning we do means we’re much more likely to end up with professions that are actually suited to our passions and talents. And every productivity guru knows you’re most productive when you’re doing things you actually care about.

Reason 5: We stay up to date in our fields
Another upshot of changing jobs so frequently is the need to stay on top of the latest developments in our fields. Because job searching is a somewhat continual process for Generation Y, we’re likely to teach ourselves new skills, or pay for training, even if our employers don’t because we want to stay competitive. We see training and skill-building as our own responsibility – not something that our employer will necessarily do for us. And our lifestyle choices reflect a passion for constant learning and development .

Reason 6: We’re experimental
Generation Y is continually doing research and development at the individual level. And because Generation Y cares more about getting new experiences and learning new skills than about not making mistakes , we’re willing to try new things, be creative, and take new angles. While this experimental approach might not result in quantifiable productivity, it leads to the kind of shifts in thinking that save time and money over the long haul.

Reason 7: We don’t “go through the motions”
We’ve seen our washed up parents work shit jobs they hate, and we won’t go through the motions for the sake of job security. If you’re an old-school boss, then this won’t be comfortable. However, not going through the motions for the sake of going through the motions actually makes us more productive in the long run.

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The n+1 Principle

The real challenge for leaders in today’s world of work is to shape their own roles – before it is reshaped for them!

This means a commitment to pursuing life long learning goals, and facilitating and encouraging others to do the same. For leaders to stay ahead they must step outside the boundaries of their own organisation and competency to ensure they are informed about trends in population, the environment, technology, social contexts and the economy.

I like to apply the ‘n+1 Principle’ for myself and my staff. For every n (number of conferences attended in your own industry or competency), attend one that is outside your field, and use the information to make positive change.

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What do Millenials want?

What do teens want? Tech, tech and moretech, according to the What Teens Want conference held in Manhattan last month.

Technology is starting to define what’s cool in a way that fashion used to define what’s cool, reports Melbourne’s The Age. For teens, as long as it’s technology, it’s what’s hot.

The article also points to an online survey which revealed that 93 per cent of teens prefer the internet to television.  New York high school senior Jonathan Molyneaux says: “You can watch TV shows on the internet, so what’s the point?”  He says he’s cut virtually all conventional TV viewing and has email forwarded to his mobile phone, which he dubs “my life”.

Ms Wells’ research also found 57 percent of teens prefer Facebook over MySpace, 71 per cent choose text messages over instant messaging and 65 per cent would rather use a Mac computer instead of a PC. That’s a sign of brand strength, since far fewer teens own a Mac.

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Protecting your personal brand

Around 77 per cent of recruiters use search engines to find background data on candidates (according to one survey).  Of those, 35 per cent have eliminated a candidate because of what they found online.

So how do you protect your personal brand?

Web strategist Jeremiah Owyang recently examined an online dispute between a photographer and an employee at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art recently.  While I won’t go into the details of the dispute, the upshot is that the photographer blogged about the incident, called the SF MOMA employee (Simon) an ‘a-hole’ and the story was soon circulating through cyberspace.  It became the number one story on Digg, and spread to Flickr, Zoomr, Friendfeed and Twitter.

A simple Google search will now uncover hundreds of results tied to Simon being an ‘a-hole’.  As Jeremiah Owyang says, Simon had very little online footprint to start with, and “now it will be dominated online by all of these social media elements” and his reputation will be forever linked to this incident.

… we know that many recruiters use the web to find candidates, and seeing several results like this could result in a recruiter passing up a candidate. If a recruiter doesn’t care, or doesn’t see this, hiring managers are likely to do Google searches on the individual finding this.

So, the key takeaways (courtesy of Jeremiah):

  • For those that don’t already participate online, and have a small digital footprint, they don’t have a strong platform to stand from. 
  • Anyone is susceptible to brand damage, even if you’re not in this space (and even emails can do damage – see the Dianna Abala saga and marvel!).
  • Bloggers with large social media platforms are incredibly powerful, and must recognize the long-term impacts of their actions. 
  • Businesses should assume every customer (and employee) is capable of impacting an individual or company’s online reputation.
  • Simon may have to buy search ads to get his printed resume or story correctly positioned.

So, go Google yourself.  It’s not so much ego surfing as research!

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Seeking a higher purpose

In 1954, American psychologist Abraham Maslow developed his now famous ‘hierarchy of needs’.  Maslow’s theory says that the needs of all human beings fit into five broad categories: physiological, safety, belonging, esteem and self-actualisation. 

Maslow argued that some needs take precedence over others.  For example, physical needs such as food and water, are the most basic needs.  When these are fulfilled, people will focus on the need for shelter and safety. 

Those of us lucky enough to live in the Western World are in an extraordinary situation – we are wealthier and healthier than the vast majority of the people on the planet. 

For example, if you have assets of more than $61,000, then you’re in the top 10 per cent of the global wealth league table. To belong to the top 1 per cent of the world’s wealthiest adults you would need more than $500,000, something that 37 million adults have achieved.

And if you can read this, then you are already ahead of more than half the world’s population, who are illiterate. 

Sadly, most of our fellow human beings will never move past phase one or two on Maslow’s hierarchy – they’ll never have the opportunity to climb to the top of the pyramid and achieve “self-actualisation”.  They’ll never have the opportunity to ask themselves “what is my life’s purpose?”

But for those of us who do, it’s important not to waste that opportunity.  Martin Seligman’s Authentic Happiness website has a great range of questionnaires to get you thinking about your approach to life and happiness, and perhaps put you on the path to fulfilling your highest purpose.

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