Idea's space

This blog is dedicaded to share ideas about personal and professional development.

How to face uncertainty?

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rock-climberIn my previous post, related to the choice of studies, I was talking about the fact that to predict the future is something becoming more and more difficult. Since now 25 years I am working, and looking around me, what is for sure is that uncertainty is growing. Who can predict now how will be the world in the next 6 months, or in the next 10 years? We try to make predictions in many areas and sometimes, we have to note that these predictions are not verified. How many times have we heard some economists explaining us the origins of financial crisis they were unable to predict.

The big question is how to face uncertainty as we don’t know in advance what the evolution will be in many domains? There are in my mind two types of uncertainty to take into account; the uncertainty linked to our environment and the evolution of it, and our own uncertainty, or I would say our own uncertainties. Facing uncertainties induce questions and make people worried. What will be my future? Will I have a job? Or simply will I be able to do this task, to face this challenge?

Our own uncertainties and the uncertainties linked to our environment interact. Most of you probably know the famous Peter Drucker’s quote saying “The best way to predict the future is to create it yourself”. But to be able to create something, we need to have a good perception of the future and be able to perceive the trends and the changes of our environment.  But facing the environment uncertainties means to face also our own uncertainties, with a range of questions we are putting to ourselves. What will be the future and will I be able to face it? Have I the capabilities to face challenges and what challenges will be? To face our uncertainties means to try to know a bit more about ourselves.

To consider our own uncertainties is to be aware of our lack of knowledge and experience. By mentioning this, we underline the key role of education but also of curiosity. Education and school are the fundamental tools to develop our knowledge and capabilities. Education and knowledge will give us the opportunity to become first human being and to develop our autonomy, giving us more possibilities to make choices. This is why the role of education and the way to educate people are fundamental. It is important to develop curiosity, to encourage people to learn new things by their own, to discover new interests. To develop our knowledge is probably the best answer to the question related to my previous article: what studies have I to choose? Most of the time, it is difficult to know in advance if we will enjoy things we don’t know now.

This is why people have to be encouraged to make experiences, to be curious and to try new things. It implies the necessity to take risks. By multiplying such experience in a process of serial trials, you expand your possibilities fields and you dispel your own uncertainties. You will probably enjoy something new that you never suspected before that you could enjoy. We never know in advance what things could be if we could enjoy it or not, as we don’t know them.  Such experimentation process make that your own uncertainty dispels: you know that you enjoy something, that you are able to do it or not. By expanding your interest and experience fields, you discover new possibilities, you build new competences, but you also empower your self-confidence.

Self-confidence and competences are probably the two most important key components to dispel your own uncertainties. The development of these two components will allow you to maximize your chance to attract challenges and opportunities. With all your experiences, you will build your background, a knowledge base including information that helps you to analyze situations and to develop appropriate strategies. Nevertheless, despite the fact that success cannot be guaranteed anytime, it is also important to develop and keep critical mind. When facing a similar situation we faced by the passed, we should avoid making a copy-paste of previous solutions we applied. Things are less linear than before, and we have to take all the elements of the situation into consideration to implement solutions and action plans. It is part of an efficient learning process.

It is obvious we cannot live in an environment without uncertainty. But by developing a learning attitude, we can create a virtuous circle, where experiences and risk taking contribute to empower our self-confidence. A zero risk environment doesn’t exist, but this virtuous circle will allow us to be creative and to be stronger to face it and to quit more easily our comfort zone.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

July 8, 2014 at 06:07

Predict the future or make it possible.

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StudentsRecently, I was part of a BarCamp with some entrepreneurs. The topic of the session was the passion of entrepreneurship. During a discussion, one of the members asked me the following question: “What kind of studies would you recommend to your children?” This question was a very good one, in this particular difficult time where in one hand, the level of unemployed people is high, and on the other hand, some countries are facing lacks of talents, as consequences that some jobs opportunities remain vacant.

Nevertheless, what should I tell to a teenager who has to choose studies?  My advice would be that he has to choose studies he is motivated by, independently from the fact that there are job opportunities in that field or not. My answer seems to be a bit unrealistic, but let me explain why I think so. I think and am convinced that it will be more useful and enjoyable to study something you like. One of the obvious advantages to make studies is that it contributes to open your mind, to discover new matters, to acquire knowledge. Each of us remember some matters we discovered during our studies, matters we found very interesting and that probably led us to new fields of interests and opportunities. In such movement of motivation, we can increase our chance to find our place in the society and in the professional world. Think about studies only in terms of job opportunities doesn’t make sense. If you advice somebody who hate figures to study accounting, you will make an incompetent and unhappy accountant, and his chance to convince an employer will be thin, as he will not be convinced himself.

To answer to that question is not so easy, as we are facing a strange paradox. On one hand, we try to predict the future and to organize our career, and on the other hand, we have no idea what will be our world in five years. I remember when I finished my studies, end of the eighties, we never heard about a webmaster, as the world wide web was just invented in 1989. When I finished my college in 1985, nobody could advice to do webmaster studies as it did not exist.  As said Alexandre de Saint-Exupéry with this nice quote, “Your task is not to foresee the future, but to enable it”. What we can only do is to maximize our chance to get a future job by acquiring a good basic knowledge thru studies. But does it mean that each type of studies enables us to get a job?

We know that today, a diploma is not a guarantee anymore to get a job, but the way we will make the difference by is innovation. If you remember Steve Jobs speech at Stanford University, speaking about “connecting the dots”, he was saying that you never know forward what you can do with something you learn. It is only backward when you discover new things, new interests that you see the value, the application of matters you studied, the opportunities you can catch with what you learned. To do studies can be an serendipity accelerator. Let me give you an example. I knew somebody who studies musicology in Berckley, and had a P.h.d. You are wondering what job opportunities are for such a qualification.  Music was his passion, and he was a fantastic bass player, but he had also another passion, software development. A few years later, he decided to create his own software company and start to develop software to learn music. The combination of two passions can open the doors to opportunities, and here, we are clearly in an innovation process.

Innovation is a key to invent the jobs of tomorrow. I saw around me many examples of people who made a kind of studies, taking interesting professional ways by combining what they studied with other skillsets. Often, they reinvent existing things by having another perception of the world. It is obvious today that in a fast moving environment, we are led to learn during all our live. It is a necessity but also an opportunity to find new opportunities or to build successful professional projects. But such ongoing process cannot be run without passion. Passion is the energy to build a successful life, passion is the key to convince people to subscribe to your project and to make it work. Passion is the only renewable energy.

The answer to the question of studies choice, is to listen to your inner voice, but also to be aware that you will have to manage your career in terms of knowledge development. Most of us will probably have different professional careers, or to do what we do on another way. It is only curiosity, interest and passion that will enable us to build a successful career in accordance with our expectations and our values. Passion is the key ingredient, not to predict the future, but to make it possible.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

June 23, 2014 at 17:42

Why invest in culture is good for the society and the economy?

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cultureOne of my friends shared on Facebook a video named « La parabole des tuileries », demonstrating the positive impact of culture on economy and society. The video shows a man seating in the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris in a sunny day. The person is thirsty and goes to a pub to drink something. If you order a few glasses, the first glass gives you a deep pleasure, the second one gives you a bit less pleasure than the first one, the third one no pleasure at all as you don’t feel thirsty anymore. This demonstrates a fundamental rule of the economy, named the law of diminishing marginal utility. This law is valid for most of consumption goods. When you buy a new smartphone or a new car, the pleasure is short-lived and the desire to acquire a bigger car, a more sophisticated smartphone is for some of us already in our head. The marketers name also that phenomenon the post-purchase consumer regret.  This phenomenon encourages people to buy always more and to impact positively the economy. But are people happier, and is such way of consumption based on the frustration sustainable? There is an exception to this: the culture. When, for instance, you listen to the music, you want to listen more. When you like books, you want to buy more books. The pleasure remains and is growing too. This is certainly because teachers at schools have taught you the taste for music, for book, for culture. This video demonstrates that when governments spend money in culture, they can expect a return on that investment. Culture is a necessity, an asset for the society and for the economy, for many reasons. Let’s have a look on this.

-          Basic knowledge: Culture, like education, is a fundamental basic that contribute to people development. Reading books for instance, contributes to our literary culture, but more basically to growth our vocabulary. Vocabulary is the basic of communication. Today, some statistics reveal that a range of adults shows lack of vocabulary and don’t understand what they are reading. Such lacks cause problems in the professional life, when some people don’t understand some given instructions and run things on a wrong way.

- Openness: culture is something contributing to openness, to develop our reasoning capacities. We can learn different reasoning and compare them with others. It nurtures our critical mind and judgment capacities. The knowledge of different cultures, from foreign countries is an opportunity to see the wealth of our differences. In the era of internet and social media, openness and language knowledge is clearly an asset to catch opportunities and develop global projects.

- Creativity: Culture is a reference that feed our creativity. The philosophy, for instance, includes concepts about human being principles and things, about their role in the universe. The knowledge of these concepts gives us the possibility to transpose them in another context. Luc De Brabandere, a Belgian consultant in creativity, was a mathematical engineer. His passion for creativity made that he made studies in philosophy in order to understand our environment and to apply philosophical and mathematical concepts in the creativity domain.

- Actor of the society: Culture is something you can acquire but is also something you can create. Culture is a never ending story, and by subscribing to cultural activities, you become the actor of your own life, and enjoying the fact that you can be creative, you can achieve personal goal. To consume is an act, but consumer is not an actor.

- Serenity: Culture, like education is the main thing we need to conquer our freedom. By acquiring our knowledge thru education and culture, we expand our possibilities, but we empower also our self-confidence, and reach serenity. By feeling good with yourself, you are good with other people, and build communities contributing to a better world.

- Economy:  Culture creates local economic activity. As described in the video, when people enjoy the museum, they contribute to create activity and jobs within the museum. The museum contracts goods and services to sustain the cultural activities, but contributes also to develop the tourism activity, what is benefit for hotels and restaurants around, for public transports, etc. Here is what we call the multiplier effect of the investment in culture.

Culture is something immaterial, but is probably the best investment a society can do. Culture is an investment that gains value, for a community as for each member of the community. Culture is the ferment of a sustainable and progressive society, where people can conquer their freedom.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

May 30, 2014 at 06:35

It always seems impossible until it’s done.

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"It always seems impossible until it’s done." Nelson Mandela

“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Nelson Mandela

“It always seems impossible until it’s done”.  I am not writing this quote haphazardly. This nice sentence was said by Nelson Mandela, who passed away a few days ago. I like this kind of quote we should repeat us every morning, front of our mirror. Nelson Mandela is the right person to pronounce such a quote. He spent 27 years in jail for campaigning against apartheid regime. The apartheid regime was suppressed in 1989 by Frederik De Klerk, president of the South-Africa republic, and Nelson Mandela was released from jail on the 11th February 1990. Mandela never gave up his fight against apartheid, and he paid a huge price with a large time of his life in jail, but he reached his goal by seeing the realization of his goal.

From this example, each of us we can learn a lot of positive things when we want to reach goals in our life. It begins with some dreams, and often we are thinking we will never reach such a goal because it is too complicated. Most of the time, we are the one who put obstacles on the way of our own objectives, and our dreams remain dreams. Most of the time we would like to have finished something before to start it. Today, everything is going fast, everything is ephemeral, and we lost the fact that great things require effort and pain to be realized.

I would like to take an example. I like to talk and to write in other languages than my native one. This blog is a real opportunity to do such exercise. It is obvious that most of you who are native English speaking, noticed that I am not one of you. Language is a marvelous tool to express ideas and to communicate them with other people. It becomes very interesting when you know some expressions that cannot be translated literally in your native language. When you know and pronounce such expression, it means that you have a good knowledge of the language but that you have also interests for the people you are talking with. Such interest makes that people are closer from each other. Often, I am dreaming to move to a job of translator-interpreter. Such goal means that I would have to learn and to improve significantly my language knowledge.  Is it impossible? Probably not, but it requires few things.  First, is to take the decision to realize that objective, by drawing a strategic plan, by following courses, reading books, watching to Tv programs. Second point, is to have a discipline, the discipline to study your vocabulary and your grammar on a regular basis, based on a work agenda. Third point is to take all the opportunities making that you will practice the language you are studying.  I mean that if you are French speaker who is learning English and you meet English native who speak very good French, take the opportunity to practice English and not your mother language. The language learning process is something long, that you can always improve.

Many things like to study a language take time. Most of us, we remember things we were struggling with at school, and today, we are wondering why we struggled with it. As to build a house, you will do it stone by stone. You will have to face difficulties you will have to solve. Such difficulties are opportunities to learn new things, to improve and empower your experience, to expand your knowledge. The experience make that you will be ready to face bigger challenges and, will become more confident. The fact that we will reach our goal is linked to our own decision to do it, by our courage to face difficulties and our perseverance to work hard. It is possible if our projects are driven by passion. As said Walt Disney, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them”.

So, each morning, let’s think about this quote, and about the way to realize goals. Goals are the motor of our life.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

December 9, 2013 at 00:01

Reinvent ourselves.

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Confiance et douteRecently, I was listening to the news on the radio, about the employment market. My country like probably others has to face with a lack of talents. Indeed, despite the fact that the unemployment level amounted around 12%, there are available jobs that can be filled due to a mismatching between the requested skills and competences, and the available talent on the market. Mismatching, but also lack of talents on the market. These last decades, the market and the related needs is changing faster, and the talents need to follow the same evolution. But this in theory, but practically, the gap remains.

The economical environment has a huge impact on the work market and on the career evolution.  It was not unusual to have people having the same position during a big part of their career, with an indexed salary each year.  And it was not impossible to see young people starting their career, earning a lower salary to do the same job.  Such situation today is not sustainable anymore for companies.  The competition is always harder and each invested penny has to provide a good return, not only in term of financial return, but also in term of quality, productivity and growth.

Does it mean that for seniors, the chances to find a job are low, because they are too old? I don’t believe so, but it is obvious that today, you cannot just do the same job all your life. There are always possibilities, and the acquired experience is an asset you have to use for future challenges. Such evolution implies an appropriate evolution in your career. Such evolution is an asset for companies and organizations, but is also positive for people.  This career evolution implies a permanent education, a permanent acquisition process of new competences and skills. The combination of new skills and your experience is a useful innovation tool, and innovation is an essential key to develop successful and sustainable organizations. Definitively, these are people who make the organizations.

The development of the organizations and the technologies create specific needs, niches of specific competences. To fill these needs, we need talent. Talent means people with specific and added value skills, but also with strong experiences.  Here is a major point, the specificity of what you can deliver to the organization. What will be your difference criteria, and what will be the factor making that people will work with you and not with another?  To be able to answer to that need, you need to see a matching between the needs and trends of the market, and your acquired skills, but also with complementary skills you could acquire.  For instance, people working in finance and accounting departments offers financial services, but combining this with strong IT skills, they can build powerful tools and deliver added valued solutions for the organization. This combination of skills will make you as unique.  The added value provided by such combination of skills is higher than the sum of each skill.

By growing your skills and capacities, you give you the chance to open new doors to new opportunities.  And each opportunity gives you the chance to learn new things, to live new experiences.  Such process is successful if it is initiated and driven by passion. Passion and talent will make that you will offer the best of yourself, and in the mean time you will convince people to contract your services, your talent.  By subscribing to such process, you will certainly meet success, but it will impact positively your wellness and self confidence. The feeling to be useful and to still have an active place in the society has a positive impact on your physical and psychological health.  All this things will make that you will fill yourself as a creative actor of the society and not to be a slave.

Do what you are passionate by, reinvent yourself each day. It’s good for you, it’s good for your future, it’s good for the community.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

July 26, 2013 at 07:29

The way to success…failure?

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Failure-foundation-of-success-1024x723Success is something most of us we are looking for. If to be successful is something different for each of us, the definition of the success is to reach the goals we have defined.  Success is seen positively, and appeared as something that intelligent people reach without any constraints. Does it mean that other people cannot be successful?  The question is what we name success.

To succeed is first a question of power and courage. The courage to make that our dreams become true. But often, some people never realize their dreams because they are scared to fail, and that failure is considered as a tabou. Commonly, failure is considered like something you are guilty for. This feeling of guilt comes probably from our education system based on rewarding and sanction. When a student answers wrongly to a question, he will be penalized. The education system is based on a competition system where students are scared to do not reach the arrival line. It is obvious that the integration of knowledge needs to be evaluated to be sure that students have the necessary tools to face life, but the learning process is an ongoing and iterative process. Each of us, we need more or less time to learn something, to understand the complexity linked to something, and finally to succeed. We probably remember something we struggled with at school, and that we find now very easy, wondering how it was possible to struggle with such thing. For instance, with mathematics, by doing exercises and repeating a logical process linked to a theorem, we understand it and finally integrate it. Before to succeed in a process, we probably failed a lot of times, but failure is an opportunity to know what goes wrong, to analyze the reason of the failure, and to take an appropriate action to move to the success. Henry Ford was saying that “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” Such statement should be integrated in the education programs. In companies like Google, people are encouraged to fail. If you remember, some great inventions are the result of another project that failed. For example, the Post-It was invented accidentally. The company 3M was developing a new king of strong glue. The obtained result was the opposite of the one wanted, but this accident was used as an opportunity.

Failure or more precisely the reason of failure is important to develop and to keep our critical mind. When we are succeeding, we are just enjoying our success, and attributing this success to a range of factors. There are no absolute certitudes about these success factors, but there is nothing that put the opposite in evidence. For instance, scientists describe processes based on experimentations and observations, write a theory that is valid until there is an event that makes that this theory is not valid, or need to be updated and include some exception cases.  Success is not definitive. But what appears as a failure is something that brings you matter to learn, or to discover new things, bringing information, a useful raw material to move forward in the knowledge.

Successes or failures are not final destination, but different steps of a process, of our life.  By paying attention to this, by using failure as a raw material to build our knowledge, we are empowering our self confidence and are able to face new challenges.  By considering failure in a positive way, as an opportunity to learn, we take our belief off that creates psychological obstacles, preventing us to reach our goals. Remember that the real failure is to do not try. Some people never failed because they never try something.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

July 15, 2013 at 18:17

Sustainability and outcomes

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Non-profit, focused on outcomes

Non-profit, focused on outcomes

Few days ago, I attended the General meeting of the non-profit association I am treasurer of. As each year since 3 years now, I presented the financial statements to the attendees, and the budget for this year. These two documents were approved, and employees were happy about the good results of the association even if we are crossing difficult time.

I was happy of course of this, but I remember people did not have always the same reaction. When I joined the board of directors 3 years ago, some people did not see positively a financial consultant joining a non-profit association. There were probably scared about some confusion with profit and non-profit. Such reaction was understandable, as the finance people are often seen as non-flexible people, only focused on profit and performances. Here is probably a confusion that could be done by employees of a non-profit, but by financial people too.

My first challenge was to be accepted by the people of the organization. My ambition to join this project was not to have power or to tell people how they have to do, but only to join an interesting social project as volunteer, and bring some competences in order to contribute to the success of the common project. My first thought was that I had to learn about the different activities of the organization, the interactions between the stakeholders of the different projects, in order to have a global picture of the association, to understand the work of each people and to be aware about the difficulties they were facing. This was a first condition for an efficient and harmonious collaboration. By showing interest to the work of each employee and volunteer, by asking some question to them about the different aspects of they job, I was showing my real and sincere interest in this project, and people began to trust me, as they noticed also that I did not interfere in their job. Each people his own competences.

There was clearly a need to professionalize the financial and administrative processes, in order to manage things on an efficient way, but also to provide credible financial information to the requesting subsiding authorities and potential partners. It was important to deliver a clear message about this need to get a structured financial process and to explain why. The accounting and the production of financial statement are not only legal obligations, but they represent also a financial management tool. This tool allows organization and her management team to have a clear picture of the financial situation on time, but also to have a “business” decision support. We know all that the business environment is not always a quiet story, but the non-profit environment is not quiet at all too, when your sources of financing are non-recurring sources, and that you are facing some regular crisis situations. In such situations, it is important to show that you have things on control, but also that you are able to define alternative strategies and to express what precisely your needs are, when you meet some potential donator or sponsors. People need to understand that financial tool is needed to ensure the sustainability of the project.

Here again, we speak about the confusion done by some people about things that are totally different. Indeed, what I mean here is that financial management does not mean profit. A non-profit organization does not focus on profit, but it is important to keep an eye on the balance between the expenses and the revenues, in order to preserve the owned capital. The goal is not to earn money, but to avoid to loose money. If it is the case, some decisions need to be taken in order to preserve the funds of the organization, but also to ensure the quality and the continuity of the activities and the provided services. It is not financial performance that is the focus in such environment, but the outcomes. If we try to reduce some operating and administrative expenses, it is not to save the integrality of the money, but to invest in more projects, responding to a demand and contributing to the goal of the association. The saved money will not be distributed to some shareholders, but will be reinvested in future project. This is a difficult part of the equation, to be able to have a long term vision with short term financial vision.

A long term vision is necessary, and projects have to be defined to materialize this vision. An appropriate strategy has to be implemented, in order to reach your defined goal. With these criteria, you focus on the sustainability of your project and the outcomes. These two factors contribute to social cohesion and personal satisfaction of people.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

April 19, 2013 at 22:52

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