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Posts Tagged ‘opportunity

When a mistake can be an opportunity

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herbie20hancock

Herbie Hancock, a famous jazz pianist.

I watched recently a video of an interview of Herbie Hancock, a great jazz pianist, who plaid with the most beautiful musicians. In this video, he explains that one day, during a concert with Miles Davis, he plaid a wrong accord during Miles solo. He was terrified and disappointed by the wrong note he did, but surprisingly, Miles pursues with a note that was in accordance with his wrong note and took another direction in his solo. It was totally improvised. Such anecdote makes thinking about serendipity, the fact that you get something different than expected.

In the industry, there are many examples of discoveries made by accident. For instance, the company 3M was experimenting glue that should be very resistant. The experience failed and it was the opposite results that the R&D team obtained. The glue was weakly adherent. Somebody saw an opportunity to use that glue, and this is how the post It was born, this small paper peace you can stick on your screen or other support.  What was considered as a failure has been transformed into an opportunity.

Talking about that wrong note and the improvised situation that followed, Herbie Hancock speaks about something that made growth each other. By playing another note to stay in tune, Miles showed he was keeping the dialog with Herbie and created another musical sentence. He was probably aware too that they can only succeed together, or fail together. The first option only was the good one. Such situation teaches about personality of each other and contributes to empower a relationship, and it is the contribution of a strong team spirit, from people who want to build something together.  Complementary skills and the desire to build an original project are the key ingredients of entrepreneurship. Like improvisation in a jazz jam session, a lot of things can happen in an entrepreneurial project, and the capacity of the team to pivot to another plan in function of the circumstances and to catch opportunities, will lead to success.

This nice story has to make think that failure is not definitive as success too. To fail doesn’t mean that you have to restart from zero. Experimenting, trying new things and make mistakes are a necessity to move things forward, to reach new level of knowledge.  Thomas Edison who filed more than one thousand patents, was used to say “I have not failed. I’ve just found then thousand ways that won’t work”. Experimenting and trying many times can only foster the emergence of serendipity, to create opportunities to expand your skills, to meet people and share skills and ideas, to develop your network. It reminds us that success does not come always when alone, that personal success does not exist without collective success.

Last but not least, making mistakes and learning from it contributes to empower your skills but also your self-confidence.  Step by step, you will be used to face new challenges, to push your limits and to face the future with confidence. Don’t forget that mistakes can be opportunities.

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Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

April 4, 2016 at 19:05

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

Bootstrapping, a way to make stronger businesses?

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IT entrepreneur

Some entrepreneurs unfortunately lost their business or project, because they made it with some investors who wanted to have a certain short-term return on investment level. As the expected return on investment was not reached, the founders of the project were sanctioned by the investors and pushed out of the company.

I read in the Belgian economical magazine Trends-Tendance, the story of three partners who had to face such adventure. These three engineers decided to start a new project, but following a totally different business model. They build a new business in the field of digital imaging, a technology having customers in the medical and aerospace sectors. The major concern of this business was to protect the intellectual property of such technology. The patent price for such technology is expensive, and the three partners have to allocate the major part of the profit of the activity to the deposit of such patent. To reach that goal, the challenge was to make the needed profit, and in this case to do business based on a low cost model. They have no offices. Each of the partners is working at home, having only meetings when necessary. They are using free open sources software, communicating thru free voices over IP systems, like Skype. They have no company cars, and are maximizing their travel with public transport, and eventually renting a car when really necessary. One of the partners explain that to work in such a way has of course an impact on their professional and personal life. It implies to have new habits, but the conclusion is that they keep the control on their business and they are very happy.

By thinking about this experience, we note that these entrepreneurs took the option of bootstrapping. Bootstrapping means that you start your activity or business with limited funds and without partnership with investors. It implies that you will have to contract only the necessary costs to develop your business. In each case, you will consider if there is an opportunity to spare money, or to contract a service or a good for a better price. You will also consider if you can do it yourself. The chance to succeed in such process is linked to the competence level of the partners. What you can do yourself is an opportunity for cutting costs. A partnership with members having different and complementary competences will be definitively an asset. In such process, we can maybe see an opportunity to build businesses with much more added value. As your margin are thin, more attention will be paid to the return on investment of the contracted expenses, and maybe the basis of the business could be stronger. You will probably invest money in tools providing more added values to your project and more return on investment after, instead of investing in a luxurious car, which can bring maybe more appearance but which will not contribute to increase the quality level of your product or your services. With the development of technologies, we can more easily see than before, the level of people competences and services performances. This is what the customer is looking for.

But do not forget that such approach is not always a guarantee of success. Each project needs a minimum of capital in order to be implemented. The lack of capital make that some projects are never concretised. Nevertheless, this way to operate will make that people will probably do business on another way, with long term views contributing to develop a sustainable economy where imagination and creativity will be the motivation and the profit the middle to make the dreams work.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

March 21, 2011 at 22:25

Perfection or excellence.

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Some of us, we try to reach perfection in our personal as our professional life. Each day, we are trying to make efforts, improvements to reach the perfection. But is perfection reachable, or should not we first define what is perfection?

Perfection is a statement where everything is perfect, up-to-date, where there are no defaults or weaknesses. Is such statement possible? Marc Buelens, Doctor in Industrial Psychology (Ghent University in Belgium) and professor at the Vlerick management school in Belgium said in an article in the Trends Magazine, that you cannot be perfect in each domain of your life at the same time. You cannot be a perfect father if you dedicated most of your time to your professional career. Does it mean that perfection is utopia?

Perfection has not to be seen as a reachable goal on itself, but as a trend we are following to do things. But is it always possible to do things on a perfect way? If it should be, we have to make choices. By wanting to do things on a perfect way, we have to dedicate the necessary time to do them perfectly. It is obvious that we cannot do everything at the same time. We need to set up priorities, which is a constant in our life. Everyday, we need to make choices, implying to take decisions.

But this is of course the ideal and theoretical situation. Everybody knows that things never happen as we wish. If, for instance, you have a job with high level of responsibilities, you are often facing the challenge to deal with different projects, tasks, and to deal with unexpected things. You can of course use the time management techniques to face these priorities and meet the deadlines, by setting priorities, by delegating. But if the available time is limited, will it be possible to reach a quality level closed to perfection?

The question remains how to define perfection. Does the perfection exist? Probably not, but by trying to improve what we are doing, our work, the education of our children, professional and personal achievements, we are trying to reach the excellence. Excellence could be seen as a process, a process of improvement, a process increasing the quality as good as we can. The fact that we have to deal with a range of priorities, will make that everything will not be perfect, as mention Marc Buelens, but if we have a look on what does not work properly and if we take the lesson of failure and weaknesses to improve the way to do things, then we are in a process of excellence. To learn from our mistakes, our failures, is an opportunity to anticipate, to find more appropriate solutions to reach our target on a better way.

Perfection is probably only not a goal, but a trend we can reach by excellence.

 

Infos about Marc Buelens: http://www.vlerick.com/research/db/search.cfm?menu1=93

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

March 17, 2011 at 21:24

A manager, mentor and creator of inspiring environments.

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A manager, a mentor and a creator of inspiring environment

All of us we probably remember a manager we were pleased to work with, giving us the opportunity to develop talents and to achieve goals. All of us, we can note that when we finished our studies, we only acquired basic knowledge in the discipline we choose. At that stage, things only begin. In an ongoing fast moving environment, we have to learn every day by acquiring useful experience.

What is precisely experience? An efficient experience is not only a range of accumulated performed tasks, but the realisation of projects and assignment with concrete results and the knowledge acquired through the processes. A part of the acquired knowledge is the result of our own question we are putting to ourselves, but also the shared experience and knowledge by our colleagues and managers.

Recently, I put a question about the criteria of a good job. Somebody underlined the fact to work in an inspiring environment as a criteria of motivation, environment where colleagues and managers want to share knowledge with each other, which means a real team spirit, environment where each member want to be part of a collaborative process, and consider only personal success with team success. Everybody can contribute to such environment, but it is the manager responsibility to create it and to make it work. A manager is responsible of a team, with people having several competences and capabilities. The point is to create an environment where the people can demonstrate their talents, and create more added value than the sum of the individual talents. It is important to create a collaborative process, a dynamic where each team member can share knowledge with all the team members, where the seniors can share their own experience and recommendation and teach the juniors. Here I am not only underlying the combination of competences in a team, but also the level of competence and experience of each member. The importance of a balance between seniors and juniors is critical, for the reason that as senior, we do not only acquire knowledge, but we developed also methodology of work through several experiences. Methodology is a key factor in a project, in an assignment. Knowledge answers to what I have to do, but methodology answers to how have I to do it.

The manager has to play a key role in the acquisition of methodology by his team members. It is obvious if he wants to delegate processes and see these processes done on an efficient way. He can reach such results if we share his own experience with his collaborator, giving them the opportunity to work autonomously. Personally, I remember managers advising me and contributing to make me important steps in productivity improvements. They gave me small tips giving influence on my career direction, revealing talents and capabilities.

I think that a manager has to be a mentor, has to inspire and to build inspired and enthusiastic teams. Considering the fact to share knowledge and information, he clearly subscribes to a sustainable and long terms view of the organisation. He clearly understands this quote of Peter Drucker: “We now accept the fact that learning is a lifelong process of keeping abreast of change. And the most pressing task is to teach people how to learn.”

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

September 6, 2010 at 22:07

At the right place at the right time

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The mentor and the pupil

When each of us are remembering our career, our life, when we are looking back where we are coming from and where we are today, we begin to think about the things and the circumstances which made that we had such course.

I remember watching a video of a MBA school professor, talking about chance. He was explaining that the chance is something we can work on it in order to get it. When most of people are thinking that we have chance because born under a lucky star, this professor was explaining that you can bring the chance to you by applying concrete acts.

As always, the most important thing is to define your goals, your objective, and what will you do to reach then. And even if you have no precise ideas about it, but that you are a curious mind, you will probably clarify it soon. By looking to realize an objective, you will be looking for opportunities. And some opportunities could be ..a chance to realize, to reach your goal.

But how concretely could we define these opportunities? It could be a project with characteristics which could bring you new competences, or increase your expertise. Most of us, we probably remember a position or an assignment representing a significant step in our career evolution. But we probably remember also about a colleague or a manager who was a mentor, bringing us know-how and methodology. I remember one or two managers in my life, with whom I learned a lot, who made me progressing on a fast way. Without any collaboration with such people, I would not certainly get the same course than the one I did.

We could summarize the opportunities as follow; to be at the right place at the right time with the right people. But to meet such situations depends on you. You have to take care if the work we are doing will lead us somewhere, to have a long term vision, and to stay with it. As I mentioned in a previous posting, each of your jobs should prepare the next one. An entrepreneur needs to have always a project in advance. Each opportunity could lead you to another one. But opportunities will not only come to you, you have to go to then. In this way, you will convince your future partners by showing our motivation, and you will maximize your chance to gain these opportunities and to reach your goal.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

March 16, 2010 at 22:20