Often networking meetings follow a strict format of allowing for a few minutes for interaction, smash in a business pitch for the sponsors, hit everyone with a lengthy lecture style presentation, perhaps squeeze in one more pitch and then disperse. Business networking in this sense is very similar to church, get in and get out while speaking to as few people as possible, meanwhile the power of connection and collaboration is never harvested from the gathering. Lectures from professionals can provide a level of exposure to information that attendees might otherwise have had access to, which is a positive addition, but with so little time created for interaction to build trust, relationships or engagement the potential often flat lines. Our communities, personal and professional, are rich with individuals who have years of experience that compliment our areas of inexperience if only we would take the time to connect. Networking meetings are a medium where attendees have set aside time from their busy schedules to participate and it would be a great benefit to all parties if more of an emphasis was placed on connection and collaboration at the community level.
We have been working to build a peer to peer network for local facilities, maintenance and risk professionals which we call Local Facilities Manager's Connection (LFMC). In many ways we are breaking all the trends as we do not charge members to participate, members host at their locations to minimize costs and our primary focus is centered around discussion of a relevant topic to connect our industry peers and enable collaboration of ideas as well as resources in our community. You can read more about the LFMC network in our article featured in Facility Executive HERE and check the group out through their website - localfacilities.com.
How have you been working to create connection and collaboration in your community?
Listen: A leadership fable
There once was a business leader
You may know him rather well
He knew that change was coming
But how to get there he could not tell
So he paced and he pranced
As thoughts in his leadership mind danced
Daily he scurried about
Going to and fro
But never did he pause to listen
If answers from within he could glisten
He made a call from without
And decided to spend a great deal of money
Still never pausing to see
If his own hive had any honey
When the dollars were spent
And nothing had changed
He turned to his team members
But they were estranged
The ship had long sailed
As the leader refused to listen
Let this short story serve as your warning lesson
Or you too may find
All those who would will not any more
Refer to previous article Disruption, Innovation and Simply Listening for more on this topic.
For March 2017 Inc. magazine ran a cover that boasted the headline “Disruptors in Residence” wherein the feature article entitled “Inside Job” discussed how many of the biggest brand names around the world are buying startups and collaborating with those entrepreneurial owner bases to innovate. In short the larger and less agile business is learning from the smaller and more culturally connected entity that they have brought under their umbrella of companies. The more agile entrepreneurial leaders are enabled to continue to run within the framework of the parent organization while gaining access to systems that make their business scale-able. In essence it is a win-win as the two organizations merge. Many companies may not be in a position to purchase another organization to usher in a breath of fresh air, but many organizations don’t need to go to these extremes as they may find that they have this connection to the culture, this spirit of innovation and these fresh perspectives all working within their own organization. Large companies will spend millions on consultants, seminars and even acquisitions in search of what Inc. article author Kimberly Weisul describes as, “Inspiration, innovation and startup verve,” yet they fail to source what they already often have internally. If there are no voices offering ideas that could change and improve the organization, it’s not likely that there are no ideas rather the team has determined that the leadership does not listen. If the voices that used to share ideas have gone silent, it may not be that they are out of ideas but rather they are tired of being ignored. Before you close the files on the case of whether employees care or not, perhaps you should investigate whether they are asking the same thing about you (read more on Open Door Policies HERE) and look for our video Listen on Youtube covering this issue.
Adventures of a Breach Millennial In A World Of Business Disruption
First off, I would like to start a designation of my own. If the term Millennial is going to be thrust upon me, I reserve the right to restore some ownership of the term by referring to myself as a Breach Millennial (BM). One thing about being a Millennial is that you don't get to choose whether you are or not, classification depends upon selection of arbitrarily fluctuating dates and the assertions of a secret society of generational dignitaries. So, Breach Millennial is one who teeters between generational markers, someone like myself who is Gen X and/or Gen Y depending of who is ordaining the categorization.
As a Breach Millennialist, I have some life experiences that are more in common with Gen X than I do with Pure Millennials and one hit me rather abruptly as I sat in front of a national chain of Orange Chicken producing fast food restaurants. As a sidenote, for the purposes of this collection of ramblings, the significant distinction between a Breach Millennialist and a Pure Millenialist would be whether one can quote Top Gun...if you don't know what Top Gun is - you are a Pure Millennial. No shame in that. Not having observed or knowing Top Gun, there is shame in that.
I grew up in a small town, going to the video store was one of few universe expanding escapes from our slow paced reality. All that separated me from other worlds were several miles which friends and I could usually traverse on bicycles or as we grew older and were allowed further from the bramble, rides with friends. As I entered neared closer to the finale of my primary education experience and teetered into adulthood the portal were non existent as I had my own video store membership and my own motor vehicle.
One experience these younger generations, my own four children included, will never have reference for is the trip to the video store where you spend over an hour reading the backs of VHS tapes to decide which 5 movies you will take home for The Weekend Special. These are foundational decision metrics and formative processes that Pure Millennials will have to develop through other mean as movies for them come from a brightly colored boxes stationed outside the Golden Arches or are viewed on their non-movie-screen-sized handheld devices.
Where is this story going? Probably nowhere, but you've come this far...let's see what we can do. Back to Orange Chicken...there I was, sitting in my badass minivan, staring at a building - THAT USED TO BE A BLOCKBUSTER (did you hear tones of a Jeff Foxworthy-esque delivery there too? Probably only if you are a BM) but is now a Rice-or-Noodles assembly line and a chain dental service provider. That building used to be filled with multiple copies of varying degrees of cinematic accomplishments, now it's Beef & Broccoli with a side of halitosis.
Why did Blockbuster die? Wait, did you just say, "What's Blockbuster?" Well, young PM, that used to be where you picked up your movies. It's hard to explain but they were HUUUUGE. They died because they couldn't see the future. Redbox popped up, and at first it was a luxury because movies were $1 instead of $5 (or more). Hollywood Video disappeared even before Redbox got popular, but there was no way that Blockbuster would falter, they were too big to fail, too entrenched in the culture.
And yet it happened, an un-manned video portal with only a few copies of each move played the role of David and shot a industry transforming rock right through the Blockbuster storefront with its thousands of copies of every movie known to humanty, and exploded the bearded head of the video rental giant. Supposedly Redbox and Blockbuster met at one point to discuss merging or working together...hindsight? The video renting Philistines were shocked, but the mediums through which we receive content are constantly changing, and mammoth corporations such as Blockbuster are being disrupted by innovation.
If conventional wisdom says, "If it isn't broke, don't fix it," those that live by that philosophy better hope their retirement success isn't anchored to the sinking ship they are toiling their productive years away in. The reality is that everything around us is changing, the only constant is that the rate of change is accelerating. There is a strong possibility that Redbox will face it's Blockbuster moment far sooner than Blockbuster did, not because they aren't smart people but because of acceleration.
So what do we do, whether you think you are in a progressive field or know you are in an industry prime for disruption, we all have to keep pace with the music. There are no safe bets, but the best practice is to be engaging in leading the disruption rather than waiting for the tsunami to rip through your efforts. How do we innovate, progress and even disrupt ourselves to keep our teams moving forward?
I wish I could take full credit for the next analogy, but I was listening to the Awesome Office Podcast with guest Andres Izquieta, CEO of Four Club and he shared a story about Steve Jobs. Izquieta noted that Steve Job's favorite invention was the Sony Walkman (Pure Millennials who are still reading - Google it) which lead Jobs into creating the iPod (originally released in 2001) and completely disrupted the medium through which the public listened to music while starting a ripple through the music industry itself (another industry that was too HUUUUUGE to be disrupted). Apple made significant waves with designs, marketing, capacity and the availability of a music library at your fingertips. Because of Jobs all those Sony Walkman's were rapidly being distributed to Goodwill or the dump along with the three ring binders full of thousands of dollars worth of compact discs (sorry PM's, I know, no reference).
So, on that seventh day, Steve Jobs rested and remained satisfied in his turtle neck perch for the rest of time - right? Nope. Six years later, Apple released the iPhone which now gave you calls, text, camera and music all in one handheld device. Steve Jobs didn't wait for disruption, he disrupted himself and in so doing made his prior success (the iPod) an obsolete vessel. Think of this, disrupt yourself while people are still trying to copy your original innovation and by so doing initiate your own prior success' death.
Not all changes and disruptions are as sexy or make as far reaching of an impact, but the acceleration of the system shows no signs of slowing. If you are near retirement, you may have been smart enough to save up and ride out your days enjoying the fruits of your labors with the ones you love most. If you are starting your career, are in its prime or in the post mid-life crisis phase, you have to stay on your toes. What shall we do?
I don't have the answer but a few thoughts.
1) Think about your people - what are you doing as an organization to engage the culture, the community and the system of commerce? Do you have people on your team that are ready to face the challenges of the new economy are you empowering them to help you identify and disrupt your organization? Is your team embracing cross generational integration of ideas and collectively working to recognize and battle against entrophy?
2) Think about your processes, what are you doing as an organization that doesn't make sense? Get to work on fixing your own solvable internal problems - don't procrastinate. Small problems can become big ones when thrown in with acceleration. Not all innovations and disruptions are about massive scale or having the greatest idea of all time, there are many thriving businesses who have made a good living with serving niche markets with quality.
3) Think about your position, what is your organization doing that is making a difference in the lives of your customers and the world as a connected system? Al Gore has literally brought the global economy to our fingertips through his invention, don't miss your opportunities to be an agent of the larger picture through engagement in your local communities. It's not always bigger is better, but acceleration requires attention to cultural and marketplace shifts and meeting those challenges.
4) Think about the public that you serve, are you getting feedback from those who are invested in your brand as well as those who are not customers? Both groups can provide you with important data to determine how your products and services are being translated to those who may be willing to spend their hard earned dollars with your organization.
5) Think about the person in the mirror, what are you doing as a leader to identify, embrace and battle the challenges of the marketplace that you compete in? Are you leading by example by developing your knowledge, skills and perspectives? As I was recently challenged by our local group of Young Professionals - Get #INformed. Get #INspired. Get #INvolved.
You don't have to start wearing a turtle neck and jeans, but if you think it will help...you're wrong. Reach out and connect with other professionals, together we are stronger. If you're ever in the Eugene, Oregon area - let's get some coffee.
Thoughts on personal and professional development.
Jon Isaacson, The Intentional Restorer, is a contractor, author, and host of The DYOJO Podcast. The goal of The DYOJO is to help growth-minded restoration professionals shorten their DANG learning curve for personal and professional development. You can watch The DYOJO Podcast on YouTube on Thursdays or listen on your favorite podcast platform.