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Posts Tagged ‘technology

The solution comes from yourself

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Kelvin Doe, a young genius

Some of you probably read the story of Kelvin Doe. Kelvin is a 15 years old genius teenager from Sierra Leone, one of the poorest countries around the world. He was invited to join one of the most prestigious university institutions, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), after participating to a local contest. He was invited thanks to David Sengeh, another people from Sierra Leone and former student from MIT. In a tribune published by CNN and the newspaper “Le Monde”, Sengeh mentions the past of Kelvin Doe, and his capacity to develop technologies starting from scratch. Indeed, Kelvin built a battery with soda, metal and acid, in a village where no electricity was available. Interesting, but not enough for Kelvin who built also a generator with a tension stabilizer he found in a trash, that he will use to to feed a radio station he built with a CD player and an antenna. Impressed by his capacities, David Sengeh encourages Kelvin to participate to the “Visiting Practitioner’s Program” of the MIT, and starting for a new life. Following “Le Figaro”, the young guy is working on a project of wind turbine to produce energy for a village.

Such story put in evidence a few things we can learn from. The fact that you are living in a poor country is not necessarily a fatality. Despite the fact he is living in a poor country, Kelvin probably decided to follow his own way, his destiny. He took the decision to move to another situation, to build another life, or more simply, to build his life. Our life is a succession of decisions and actions. Kelvin fixed goals in his life and take appropriate actions to reach them.

Philippe Gabilliet, a MBA professor, mentioned in a video about opportunities that the best way to meet opportunities is to be an opportunity yourself. Your capacities, your competences make that you will be able to build projects or to contribute to collective projects. By expanding your knowledge, by sharing it with other people, you create opportunity spaces that will lead you to achieve goals, to find new challenges and opportunities. You will be an actor, an actor of the society, but first, the actor of you own life. By facing new challenges, by learning new things and acquiring new competences, you increase your possibilities. Each of us, we can meet failure during our life. This is why, not only entrepreneur, but each of us, we need always to have an alternative plan. The more we have knowledge, capacities, the more we can build alternative plan. The key word is autonomy. Our autonomy makes that we are self-confident, which contributes to our wellness. We can face our mirror because concretely, as an actor, you know what you are able to do.

As I mentioned before, our life is a range of decisions and actions, and we need to find energy to start such process. We need to find this energy in ourselves, but we can wonder if our environment contributes to bring such energy. In Kelvin story, what David Sengeh noticed, is Kelvin capacity to create technology with bit and peaces. Is the poor environment where Kelvin is living contributes to make him a genius? If we pay attention, our consumer society offers products and services, making that we don’t have to take care about anything. Such society is presented to us as a society bringing facilities and comfort. But the counterpart of such comfort is that we became unable to do things by ourselves, because this consumer society took us these opportunities out. Today, you are buying goods you can’t repair by yourself if there is any problem, or you just have to replace the parts by another. In the worth case, you need to buy a new one, eve if such good should work still many years. By the time, you had still the possibility to try to repair something by yourself, and if you succeed to do it, it was a small satisfaction. What I mean here, is that our consumer society make us dependent, put out the opportunities to solve problems by ourselves, put out our autonomy. We don’t care about things because somebody else will bring us the solution, the paying solution of course. Does it mean that we have to refuse the progress? Certainly not, but with new inventions, new technologies, we should be able to create a better world, to move to excellence. Technologies are good indicators revealing our intelligence …and our mediocrity.

By looking to this story, we think about the present situation, with the economical crisis, where people are loosing jobs and where politics try desperately to find the miraculous solution. If you look to Kelvin story, it is obvious that in many cases, the solution will come from yourself. The capacity to find solutions by yourself will make that you will gain your autonomy, you will conquer your freedom, but you will be also a responsible person, making your own choices, listening to your inner voice. Steve jobs said that success is not a question of money, but most of the time the ambition and the whish to succeed. The solution comes from yourself, if you decide to find it.

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Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

November 26, 2012 at 21:57

Companies will be social or not.

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Olivier Zara, author of a book about collective intelligence

Recently, I answered to an interesting question posted by somebody on LinkedIn. The question was related to the statement that businesses are inherently about people and relationship. Despite the fact that technologies allow people to perform higher performances and to communicate, it seems that there is no emphasis on the communication and the collaboration, and that there are divergences of ideas in a same organization. The question was “Should not we bring the social-factor in Business and realize the power of Enterprise 3.0?

To provide an answer to such question, it should be interesting to have a look to the evolution of the companies and the impact of the new technologies on the work processes in the organizations. In this analysis, we will see that we are referring to a range of concepts and that the combination of these concepts is essential to make each of them efficient.

The development of new technologies had a significant impact on the operational processes of organizations. It allowed people of the organizations to develop more ambitious projects, to perform sophisticated tasks and processes, to provide more added values in a shorter period of time. With the development and the integration of the technologies, we moved to a new kind of economy, based on knowledge. But investing into technology is not the only condition to ensure efficient processes and to obtain high results. There are several conditions, the basic principle of management who are more essential to succeed in a company or organization project.

  • People are key players of the organization. With the development of new technologies, people become the owners of sophisticated and complex processes. The development of the expertise in these processes needs a period of time. The return on investment has to be seen on a mid and long term basis. With this level of expertise, of complexity, each member of the organization becomes an essential stakeholder of the organization.

  • People have to subscribe to the values of the project and to have clearly assigned goals. A condition to reach the success of a project is that each member of the organization is looking to the same direction. By having the knowledge of the goals to be reached, they know exactly the usefulness of the tasks and processes they are performing. They can measure the added value they are bringing to the project, and it is a positive factor of motivation.

  • Skills and competences. Technology is a tool. Companies are investing considerable amounts in technologies, but as said early, it is the team members who are the owner of the processes, performed by the technology. The related knowledge to the technology is essential to get an efficient control on it and has to be part of the investment. You cannot reach an acceptable return on investment of your technology if you do not invest in training people.

 All the point I mentioned here are essential to build organization working on a collaborative way. Tools like CRM and other collaborative platforms take more importance in companies, and the development of Web 2.0 leads to the model of Enterprise 2.0. The development of Web 2.0 technologies and the social media are supposed to empower the communication and the collaboration between people. The technical performances of such tools are appreciable and offer a lot of possibilities, to increase the connectivity between people.

With the development of communication and collaboration tools, and the expertise development of people, we hear to talk about the concept of collective intelligence. Organizations and projects become more complex, and a range of competences are needed to lead these projects to success. But each member of the team needs to understand the contribution of his expertise, the interactions with the contribution of the other team member and the potential problems they can encounter and prevent. Team members have to maintain a transversal collaboration. Such collaboration is possible if people are convinced to be part of a project they understand and they subscribed to.

And what about the Enterprise 3.0 ? The definition of Enterprise 3.0 is not very clear, but we trend to a model where companies will be, as far as I understood, “dematerialized”, more virtual. People will work from different locations, from home office. All what can be outsourced will be. In such model, collaborative tools and social media platform usage will be much more important. But it will imply also that people will be and have to be more autonomous, and the key role they are playing will be more important for the organization. This model is an evolution or an upgrade of the previous one, and in some case, the previous one does not work, there is a lot of chance that the new one will not work too. A key component to make work such organization is motivation. We are coming back to the 3 fundamental questions: What, how and why. People know what they have to do, how they will do it, but the most important one is why they have to do it. In other word, what is the goal of the project. With such answer, they can measure their own contribution and added value they bring to the project, and it represents an appreciable feedback in term of career and personal development. All the conditions I mentioned here above become more and more essential as the level of expertise is increasing, as the key role of each people become more important.

There is a clear answer to the asked question. Yes, business is inherently about people and relationship. They have to be driven by the same values the project is based on, and their contributions have to be recognized by the management. The level of their competences will increase their autonomy and their possibilities to make other choices and to move to other projects if they are not satisfied. And in such circumstances, the tension between stakeholders and instability within the organization can increase. The question is to know if companies will be “social” or not, or will we move back to a more traditional model of enterprise.  Wait and see.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

December 4, 2011 at 19:34

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

Technology and organization

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A time for each thing, each thing on his time.

Few months ago, I had a phone conversation with my tax consultant who was in a bad mood. He told me the difficulties he had to do his job, without being disturbed by phone calls every five minutes, by people asking why they have not yet received an answer to the mail they sent …..five minutes ago !

As I am used to say, technology is a revealer of lack of organization or non-organization. Technology is useful to help us to perform tasks or processes, but it does not replace the basics of organization. A tool helps us to perform a task, but do not condition the way we will do it. Let’s take the example of e-mails. E-mail is a revolutionary invention giving us the possibility to transmit information to everybody worldwide in a short time period. This way to send information is much faster than if you have to send it by post. Does it mean that you have to jump to your electronic mailbox each time you receive an e-mail? Are you checking every five minutes at home if the postman put some letters in your mailbox? As manager, I am not sure that your core business is to read and dispatch mails during all the day. A time for each thing, each thing on a time.

Most of the time, technology is seen as the solutions for nearly everything. Such confusion makes that the results level is not the one expected. Technology does not mean methodology. The methodology defines how you will perform a process, the technology is the tool you will use to perform the process by applying the appropriate methodology. If for instance, you have to perform the financial closing of a company, you will process to the closing operations following a determined methodology based on the elements in your books, and you will use an accounting software to proceed to these operations. To use an accounting software does not mean that you have not to learn accounting rules anymore.

Other example: you want to organize a meeting. By organizing this meeting through conference call will probably take less time and save money, than if the attendees of the meeting have to travel to a location, but it does not mean that you have not to prepare an agenda with the different points you want to discuss during the meeting. If you do not communicate any agenda before the meeting, the attendees are unable to prepare it and the time consumed will be a pure loss.

We have to be aware that technology is only a processing unit giving us the possibility to go faster and to achieve targets with higher results and better quality. Technology provides added value if the processes are clearly defined and if methodologies are implemented.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

September 14, 2010 at 19:10