Sunday, November 23, 2014

PLAYING THE GAME


by Emmanuel Kuehn
(The following article is Part 2 in a Special Report on "Innovation In Business")

Innovation in business to an entrepreneur is like a fish in seawater. It is a natural environment. A key risk to small entrepreneurs is when they focus too much on their own organizations.

Most entrepreneurs recognize the importance of vision sharing coupled to a global understanding of the economy on a macro-economic level. It is impossible to deny what others are doing even if you are a trailblazer aka Steve Jobs. He knows through the fire of experience what happens when a firm is too focused on itself, or considers itself as so unique that no one will bother to change to your platform even if it is stimulating and innovative. It is simply unrealistic not be aware of what happens in other competing organizations and on other continents.

New entrepreneurs tend to look at business through a "telescope" as I discussed in my previous article. Like Google Earth, an entrepreneur can zoom in and zoom out depending on the criteria.

Consider that although Google Earth enables viewers to zoom in close to your home with street finder it can never open your front door and highlight your leather club chairs positioned next to the fireplace. Entrepreneurship demands a double view whether in a small or medium sized structure. They have the reflexes to move quickly and adjust policies or products to perceived market changes or forces. This can only be accomplished when you have a "broad" strategic and organizational view.

Some of us hold the idea that large global corporations understand the impact of social media and the ramifications for their business practices. Oddly enough some do and others are still dragging their feet. Some get it like Google and take appropriate action, but even Google can overplay or underplay their hand. For example, the original founders are now back in the drivers seat taking the firm back to its "entrepreneurial" start-up origins by making the firm leaner and more efficient.

Google is in a better than most firms to exercise the microscopic and telescopic points of view regarding management strategy. After all, they are one of the firms, which have successfully shaken business in general to enter a "new" age of doing things.

To say that social media have transformed business practices and communications is an understatement. New media has given business an overview of what happens in global markets as well as the world at large.

It has not been my intention to criticize diverse approaches to running organizations. Rather it has been my desire to encourage managers to put more stress on a telescopic approach to market analysis and organizational management. Business is global in a way it has never been before and the challenges are relentless without end. No longer do we have time to take a "breather". We must consistently stay on top and this means building the right "mix".

In my view, the days of the large corporation are numbered. Organizations will forge alliances with suitable partners and keep their own streamlined and lean. Firms will further specialize and thus focus on their unique assets. Specialists can regroup under an umbrella organisation when they feel that that a "new" type of economy of scale can deliver added clout.

What remains to be seen is what I refer to as the human factor. Will partner players be empowered? How much shared ownership will there be? Right now the game is open. How do you want to play the "game"?

About The Author

Emmanuel Kuehn is a Management Consultant, Business Coach & Trainer for both corporate organizations and individuals.

"Business is a matter of People!"
Emmanuel Kuehn | WisePoint B.V.



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

THE NEW RULES OF INNOVATION IN BUSINESS MANAGEMENT



by Emmanuel Kuehn

I have got this pet theory of either looking at business through a microscope or a telescope. Before I kick off, let's first define the difference between these two engaging instruments and their usefulness.

A microscope has the power to take an object or policy and to scrutinize parts of the whole close up. It has the power to magnify. A telescope on the hand has the power to bring someone up close, but only something, which is far away and perhaps not visible to the naked human eye. Call this a type of global overview.

Now, let's apply this principle to business professionals. There are two kinds of people: One type enjoys examining minutiae and the small details. The other personality type enjoys looking at much bigger objects or projects from a distance in hopes of drawing the object or project closer for inspection. Both perspectives are valid and indeed, complimentary.

In business the close up snap shot is vital to root out problems. The other perspective relies on a establishing a helicopter point of view before delivering an analysis. Prior to the wave of social media and micro-management of branding and ideas, business ownership were perhaps more concerned or focused on their own organizations than a "global" market and its impact on operations and profitability. Multinationals grew to gigantic proportions across markets and in essence wound up replicating job functions across national or regional markets.

Control was portioned out according to the business practice and specialists were appointed to manage "their" practices in product development, marketing production, logistic, sales finance, IT and so forth.

The end result made the internal organization so complicated that even the senior management could not really control and command, let alone empower people in the decision making process.

This lead to large organizations calling in the McKinseys" of this world to conduct an audit of the organisation and to restructure its activities to be more cost effective and efficient.

These external trouble-shooters would look at the company from the inside by zooming in to more closely examine the details to get a better understanding of the situation. Management consulting exercised in this capacity is certainly the "microscopic" approach to orgainsational management analysis.

Senior management of the organisation would continue to view their firms through the lenses of their hired management consultants. The more complex an organisation, the more difficult it was to understand how it operated with awareness. Complexity clearly demanded closer scrutiny. The only problem here is that if you stare too long at details, you begin to forget the bigger picture. Both market environments and the competition move on whether your firm does or not. This can create an uncomfortable dilemma.

Recent business "history" has shown us what the consequences can be when this happens. Large firms disintegrate, break up or even disappear. The cliché, "too large to fail" comes immediately to mind.

The catalyst to further intensive change has clearly kicked in with the onslaught and continued growth of social media. Today, there is no or little "lag time". Results and changes take place in seconds. Procedures are on hyper-drive and this can also cause further confusion.

Spending too much time organizing and re-organizing a company internally using a microscope creates a huge gap between what the assets the company may have and the reality of the market potential and its requirements.

Since 2000, the market place has drastically changed. You do not need to be a rocket scientist or a Nobel Prize winner in economics to see this. "Mammoth" organizations were so complex that to survive, they were in a word forced to streamline their operations. This was done using the "proverbial" microscope to get deep within the company's structure and operational processes.

Some organizations, clearly suffered and others did manage to become more cost effective, in line with the market requirements. A quick analysis of the automobile industry in the USA will bring a few stirring case studies.

A remedy to these shortsighted strategies was forthcoming and it was when senior management recognized that to "win" an entrepreneurial mindset and action plan was obligatory. React fast, think globally and get a helicopter view of the situation. Here the "telescope" metaphor becomes more poignant.

Examining business organizations today compared to those ten years ago and you will see the forces, which propelled these shifts. Today's business is an interaction of people and companies. I like to think of this as a "web of satellites".

A company no longer acts as if it operated on an island. Inter-connectivity is the key and social networks have provided the fuel to accelerate these changes. Both the firm and its customers appreciate the added value above and below the line. Think of this as innovation in business management. This has become so important that these processes are now instituted within major business schools across the world at the graduate degree levels.

(The above article is Part 1 of a Special Report on the impact of innovation in the workplace.)


About The Author

Emmanuel Kuehn is a Management Consultant, Leadership Coach & Trainer for both corporate organizations and individuals.
"Business Iis a matter of People!"
Emmanuel Kuehn | WisePoint B.V.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

SMILE AND THE WHOLE WORLD SMILES WITH YOU



by Emmanuel Kuehn
You have probably heard people saying that communication is all about action/reaction. When you look at somebody who is also laughing, you tend to laugh as well. Laughter is communications beyond language. The power of this type of communications defies logic, but it is so. Words can sometimes be superfluous.

People in business by definition tend to be primordially goal focused. When visiting customers, they concentrate on their sales targets rather than an emotive form of interaction. Although there is much to said about a "rational" tact, their emotional and intuitive sides get shunted aside so that there is no bond. I believe that this approach to business is a shame.

You may not perceive your client or colleague as a person with both thinking and emotional qualities, but they are. Both sides to the "relationship" are necessary to clinch any deal or beneficial understanding. If you don't engage, you risk underestimating the person's ability to "read" the situation. A misreading on your part could undermine an opportunity beneficial to you and your client.

Remember the key to sales is the first step, which is the "5 golden minutes". I have addressed this issue in previous posts. It is worth taking the time to establish a relationship with anyone with whom you come into contact. From my perspective and experience, I believe that it is the most important step of the entire sales process.

A cardinal mistake is to think that a deal is in the "bag". Emotional relationship building is fundamental. Why blame your "client" if your product is not sold?

With the right approach, you hold the reins to guide your meeting to a positive end and closure.

Let's examine one of the most common human responses. The act of "smiling". Smiling doesn't infer that you are silly or senile. It has a great power to transform any situation providing it is applied in the context of your environment. Every one reacts to human warmth. A "smile" can be worth a thousand words.

No need to follow any expensive sales trainings to practice this technique. No need to implement complex theories either. The business of forging workable relationships is not rocket science.

Do you find it that difficult to smile at someone?

For some of us who are hidebound this might be so. In principle however, it should not be. We smile regularly with friends and family. It is effortless. Why not in doing business?

The main reason could be that business people feel that business should be done in a serious way. The term "serious" should not be misread. I agree that business is not a place of entertainment like a circus.

Nonetheless, a dose of humor applied in the right manner allows for complicity and understanding. If humor is misused, it can clearly backfire. Don't be afraid of your emotions, but use them to a positive effect. Channel your personality do not stymie it. You can be serious and still show that you are human.

Is it possible to smile and at the same time being serious?

I have put this principle to work for years with positive results. So can you. Business can give much satisfaction when executed in a relaxed atmosphere. Why make the scenario more complex than it might already be?

Throughout my career, I have experienced the impact of a simple smile. Since any form of communication releases an action/reaction, the people with whom you share a smile are for the most part responding in kind. If they don't respond, no need to panic. At least you will be content with the effort.

Think of smiling as a free gift to share with others.

Not all scenarios are easy to navigate, I grant you this. For example, I once had to attend a meeting with four buyers who were not "user friendly". In fact, they took great pleasure in making the sales person feel terribly small.

When entered the room, I felt like a soldier in front of a military tribunal. The best response to that was to put a smile on my face. I kept smiling at them and realized they were slowly becoming "nicer", more human. Eventually, they defrosted.

Ultimately, we reached a stage in our communications where there was a shift so we could address each other as equals.

I guess my smile was strong enough to let them see that, although I fully respected their position and power that I was not impressed their initial game of intimidation. If a meeting goes nowhere, everyone looses. By the end, their attitudes shifted and they let go of their masks. Even they felt a sign of relief. I must add that although I did not make a sale, I succeeded in changing their behaviour, which was no mean feat.

In conclusion, I would like to share with you the following anonymous poem I stumbled upon and well describes the impact of smiling:

Smiling is infectious; you catch it like the flu.
When someone smiled at me today, I started smiling too.
I passed around the corner and someone saw my grin.
When he smiled, I'd realized I'd passed it on to him.
I thought about that smile then I realized its worth,
A single smile, just like mine could travel round the earth.
So if you feel a smile begin, don't leave it undetected.
Let's start and epidemic quick, and get the world infected!
Everyone needs to SMILE!!

(Author: anonymous)


About The Author

Emmanuel Kuehn is a Management Consultant, Business Coach & Trainer for both corporate organizations and individuals.

Business Is A Matter Of People
Emmanuel Kuehn | WisePoint B.V.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

THE TRUE MEANING OF SOCIAL RELATIONSHIPS

by Emmanuel Kuehn

In the ''old days'', long before the appearance of Social Media, the only way to contact or connect with people was to meet in person, talk on the telephone, or even to write a letter. Although people still meet and connect in this manner, it can seem a bit "old fashioned" given today's context and new media tools.

Did we lack something or did communications suffer?

It is my sincere belief that we did not. We conducted our affairs they way people had for years, literally with each other in real time. Relationships between people were more concrete and sincere. Why?

In business, it was done starting with a glimpse, a firm handshake, a look and shared conversation. One was in daily contact with prospects and customers. Not by letter, but via direct visits, appointments, and even telephone calls. Whichever way we chose, it was a direct relationship with mutual goals. Of course, there were misunderstandings. People are people. However, it was easier to dismiss misunderstanding and to build a consensus.

Was business easy?

It certainly was easier, when compared with the prevailing habits and changes of today. At that time one probably knew what communication was. In my view, this approach was more ''human'' and really "social".

Since the explosion of Social Media, communications between firms and individuals is more complex. Although technology allows us to talk via video conferencing to someone on the other side of the world, is it really communications as we understood the concept before?

The context of social interaction has impacted on our knowledge. The principal of networking has moved into another dimension. For example, your average teenager has hundreds of Facebook "friends", whereas before one had really a handful. The "digitalisation" of friendship has altered the concept and bonding between individuals. Real friends can usually be counted on one hand.

Communicating with friends is done today via coded language. It is much easier to say, "I love you" via a SMS or a chat message. Due to unclear communication via SMS or chat, many misunderstandings are tough to solve.
Young people move less because they do not need to go towards each other. Everything comes to them on their computer screen. They spend hours glued to their screen with a smart phone in one hand and the keyboard or joystick in the other.

Today, Social Media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Viadeo, FourSquare, and Google Buzz can be used to communicate the person's actual location and to inform "the world" that you are drinking a Starbucks coffee on a terrace because the sun is shining. People literally flood the web with information that doesn't interest anyone except the people who have nothing better to do than spend hours exercising the dexterity of their fingers on a computer keyboard or smart phone.

Where is the emotional communication between people?

Where is the real exchange and interaction? Virtual communication dominates our social interaction. The end result is a generation "social network" junkies.

In the business world, many people are travelling less in order to cut costs. Meeting clients in this context might seem more efficient, but the human bond is clearly absent. It is so much easier to send business relations an email or SMS.

My fear is that the "human" side of the equation will suffer as a consequence. Extensive Social Media has a function, however is it as effective as we think?

We have become willing "slaves" of a system that actually creates a huge gap between people. The real purpose of Social Media platforms should be to bind people with each other. After all, the human race is by definition, social. As social beings, we aim to exchange and share ideas in order to broaden our understanding and awareness.

What is the point of having so many social network "friends"? Are we just collecting marbles like we did when we were kids? Are we not blind to reality?

Real communications whether in business or socially should be to bond and meet as genuine individuals. To share a mutual goal or project requires contact. Social media should be seen as tools to supplement and foster the original ties not the other way around. The famous introduction and handshake adds a dimension which I feel is now being made redundant. And it will be our loss, if the two are not used in tandem.

We are in a transition period. Evolution does not necessary mean improvement. Within a few decades, we may even see a return to more traditional values and "old fashioned" ways of relationship building. After all, if we take the hottest musical trend of the return to vinyl as a metaphor, anything is possible.

As a human being we owe it to ourselves, colleagues, clients, and even to our children to foster the ties that count in forging a bridge between tools and the sincere interaction which can only come when we look into the eyes of another human being.

What do you think?

About The Author

Emmanuel Kuehn is a Management Consultant, Business Coach & Trainer for both corporate organizations and individuals.

Business Is A Matter Of People
Emmanuel Kuehn | WisePoint B.V.



Wednesday, May 7, 2014

" TRUST used to be the keystone in business. In the past, agreements were closed with a handshake whereas nowadays they are with a thick contract and a few attorneys!"



Sunday, May 4, 2014

THE VIRTUAL JUNKIE


by Emmanuel Kuehn

Now, don't get the wrong idea. I am not a Luddite nor do I advocate going back to a time before Edison or living with candlelight. What I do suggest is that we wake up and take stock of where we are going. I have entitled this article - Virtual Junkie - for a reason. You see, in the "old" days junkies were real. They lived their experiences in real time with real consequences. If you took the wrong drugs, you paid the piper. Just ask Thomas de Quincy.

Junkies were traditionally looked down upon by society as a whole. They were seen as escapists looking for a type of utopia stimulated by various plants or chemical agents.

In today's world, there is not much talk about junkies. Drugs and various escapist paths of this type still exist but they are a minority taste. The "new" junkies I am referring to are "virtual". Their addiction is to mobile handsets, iPods, iPads, and any other device, which allows them to stay wired 24/7. Hi-tech has revolutionised our universe. For those born into this era and coming of age to talk of another time is to speak through a time capsule.

People begin to question your sagacity: "What do you mean you do not have a mobile phone?"

Generations before Generation had other experiences and has other reference points. Mobile phones and tablets are mini computers. They are light, compact and easy to use. An advert for iPad shows toddlers using the new technology of drag and click without effort and even without instruction. It is intuitive and almost seems genetic.

Amazon for example is experiencing a boom in selling Kindle. Kindle for those you who do not know offers virtual books online. The advantages are clear. You do not need to carry a truck to read books on safari. However, the tactile relationship between the writer, reader and object is lost. Trust me on this folks there really is a relationship. How do you explain this to younger generations who don't really read or just surf? You can't because it is impossible. Are they loosing out on something? I think they are, but that's a subjective issue.

All these new trends suggest drastic shifts in consumer behaviour and our consumption of media and entertainment products. Recently I journeyed to Las Vegas, and what I saw sort of struck me. A majority of the passengers were hooked into something: an e-book, game, or movie. Or in another case, which I saw in the States is the case of the network Four Square. This social network allows you to let your "friends" know where you are and what you are doing in case they want to join you. Every idea and thought is "shared".

What happened to real bonding, I mean speaking and actually being with a live breathing human being? The excuse we don't have time seems so flimsy, don't you think?

What this points to is the nature of the way we reach out touch each other. In the back of my mind, I feel something is missing as I watch people communicate virtually. It seems like what has rapidly become a cliché: How can you have a billion Facebook connections and no real friends?

No matter. When my plane landed, It took us a good 1h30 to reach the Customs desk. Instead of fidgeting everyone consulted or spoke on their phones or handsets. The legal consequences of using handsets before customs is strictly prohibited. Most people ignore the rule. Perhaps soon the law will follow custom and be dispensed with.

The following day I journeyed to a trade fair I had come to see. The same behavioural pattern unfolded. Everyone was wired. There is almost nowhere you can go today and not be hooked in. Although I am as guilty as the next man, I realise our communitarian addiction. The danger is that there is no longer a demarcation between professional and private life. With this type of invasion of privacy, where do we draw the line?

Is it possible to re-establish a form of equilibrium?

I fear there is no going back. We even share our fetish with our children. Is it any wonder that they become just as addicted as we are?

I guess like with many other "vices" we must learn to exercise constraint and self-control? Is it possible? Do we really want to?

The judgement is out. Time will tell, but the handwriting is on the wall.


About The Author

Emmanuel Kuehn is a Management Consultant, Business Coach & Trainer for both corporate organizations and individuals.


Business Is A Matter Of People
Emmanuel Kuehn | WisePoint