Category Archives: Author Guest Posts

Diane Mulcahy on Creating Your Own Income Security

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Layoffs, downsizings, and workforce restructurings have become business as usual. Every worker is vulnerable. “Since jobs no longer offer security, we have to create it for ourselves,” declares Diane Mulcahy, an expert on short-term, variable work. In her new book, THE GIG ECONOMY: The Complete Guide to Getting Better Work, Taking More Time Off, and Financing the Life You Want (AMACOM November 2016), Mulcahy shares five ways to begin creating income security, regardless of your current employment status:

  • Build Skills. “More than degrees and titles, the new labor market is a market for the specific, demonstrable skills we can bring to potential employers and clients,” Mulcahy notes. She advocates a proactive approach to expanding your skill set. Among the many options: taking courses through platforms like EdX, building experience and a reputation by using platforms like Upwork, starting your own blog or podcast, and obtaining certifications in skills from coding to actuary.
  • Build a Pipeline of Opportunities. Building a pipeline covers more than just a job search. It means that you’re continually seeking out and marketing yourself for new jobs, projects, and gigs. It means that you’re part of what Mulcahy calls the “hustling class,” always looking for work, evaluating and updating our skills and value, and staying aware of potential future opportunities.
  • Build Multiple Sources of Income. Having multiple sources of income, whether from working a side gig or leveraging an asset, increases your sense of financial security and insulates you against the shock of a crisis, such as getting laid off. It can also be a low-risk way to launch a business idea. Instead of quitting your job to hang out a shingle that could shatter, you can start slowly by testing the market, iterating the services you offer, and building revenue and customers on the side. 
  • Keep Fixed Costs Low. It’s difficult, risky, and stressful to commit to high monthly debt payments or fixed overhead costs if you don’t know and can’t rely on the amount of income you’ll generate every month or year. That’s the reality for not only independent workers at all income levels but, since all jobs are insecure, virtually everyone. Income security comes from keeping your fixed costs manageable so the income needed to cover them is reasonably easy to earn.
  • Enter with an Exit Strategy. In today’s economy, workers need to know how to leave jobs well. Starting a job with an exit strategy forces you to consider and plan for what’s next, and ensures that you won’t be blindsided by a sudden layoff. “Layoffs are a much more attractive exit than quitting,” Mulcahy observes, “because getting laid off is the only time we get paid to leave a job.” 

Cover of The Gig Economy by Diane Mulcahy

Adapted from THE GIG ECONOMY: The Complete Guide to Getting Better Work, Taking More Time Off, and Financing the Life You Want by Diane Mulcahy (AMACOM November 2016).

DIANE MULCAHY is a Senior Fellow at the Kauffman Foundation and an Adjunct Lecturer at Babson College, where she teaches “Entrepreneurship and the Gig Economy,” a popular MBA course that Forbes.com named one of the top ten most innovative business school classes in the country. Her work in venture capital and entrepreneurship has been featured on NPR and in the Harvard Business Review, The Huffington Post, Fortune, Forbes, The New Yorker, The Economist, and other national media.

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Four Keys to Time Management: How to Feel Less Busy and Be a More Productive Gig Worker

mulcahyFreed from meetings and other corporate time sucks, independent workers are in charge of managing their own time in their own way. Beyond restructuring calendars and schedules, making the most of time is a matter of perception. “Feeling like we have more time can help us feel less busy, more relaxed, and more present,” attests Diane Mulcahy, independent worker and author of THE GIG ECONOMY: The Complete Guide to Getting Better Work, Taking More Time Off, and Financing the Life You Want (AMACOM November 2016). Backed by research and experience, she reveals how to expand time:

  • Expand time by engaging in new experiences. Neuroscience research shows that new experiences take more time for our brains to process than familiar ones, making our perception of that time seem longer. As we age, more and more of our experiences are familiar and processed quickly, which makes it seem as if time is flying by. Mulcahy’s advice to gig workers of every age: “Keep learning, meet new people, travel to places you’ve never been to, and challenge yourself to try new activities. Time will pass more slowly—and be more interesting.”
  • Expand time by becoming powerful. As researchers at the University of California, Berkeley found, high-power individuals feel like they have more time, partly due to the perception that they have more control over their time. This has positive implications for gig workers. “As we take more control of our time, and assume the less-powerful role of employee less frequently, we should begin to feel like we have more time available,” Mulcahy assures.
  • Expand time by giving time away. If you’re already feeling short on time, it seems counterintuitive to give time away. But a recent study from the Wharton School found that giving our time to help others leaves us less stressed and hurried and feeling like we have more time. The reason? People who give their time feel more “capable, confident, and useful.” This sense of accomplishment, which makes time feel expansive, arises even when we spend very short amounts of time—just 10 minutes!—helping others.                     
  • Expand time by combining physical and mental tasks. While human brains are not optimized for multitasking, there’s an exception: multitasking that uses different sensory channels. By combining physical activities with mental ones—  such as going for a walk while listening to a podcast or dusting your home office furniture while having a cellphone chat with a client—you can accomplish both efficiently and effectively.

Cover of The Gig Economy by Diane Mulcahy

Adapted from THE GIG ECONOMY: The Complete Guide to Getting Better Work, Taking More Time Off, and Financing the Life You Want by Diane Mulcahy (AMACOM November 2016).

DIANE MULCAHY is a Senior Fellow at the Kauffman Foundation and an Adjunct Lecturer at Babson College, where she teaches “Entrepreneurship and the Gig Economy,” a popular MBA course that Forbes.com named one of the top ten most innovative business school classes in the country. Her work in venture capital and entrepreneurship has been featured on NPR and in the Harvard Business Review, The Huffington Post, Fortune, Forbes, The New Yorker, The Economist, and other national media.

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How to Make Your Company More Innovative: Stephen Wunker on Jobs to Be Done

Today on the blog we’re featuring part 2 of an interview with Stephen Wunker, one of the authors of JOBS TO BE DONE: A Roadmap for Customer-Centered Innovation (AMACOM November 2016). Click here for part 1 of Stephen Wunker on the right approach to innovation.

5. What about companies that just aren’t innovative? Do you have any advice on how Jobs can play a role there?

We include a lot of the unsexy examples in the book for exactly that reason, from industries like pet food and sports clubs.  You don’t need to come up with the next Uber or iPhone, and most companies shouldn’t be trying to.  What’s great about using Jobs to be Done is that it gives you a common language to help build that culture of innovation, even where one has never existed before.  It helps get your customer insights people, your marketing team, your product development folks, and everyone else all on the same page.  Once companies start talking in Jobs terms, it’s amazing how much more in tune with customers they end up being.

6. For managers who want to start being more innovative tomorrow, what advice can you share with them?

I’ll give you three ideas.  First, get outside the office and talk to real customers.  That gets overlooked way too often.  Second, start thinking about how you might build a process to both understand and respond to customers’ jobs.  If success isn’t repeatable, you’re going to waste a lot of resources on failure.  Third, drop your industry-specific or product-specific way of looking at things.  When you start talking in terms of jobs, the whole landscape of competition changes, and so do the possibilities for innovation.

7. You’ve mentioned both jobs and circumstances as elements of success. What else is there that companies need to know about customers?

In the book we talk about a framework we call the Jobs Roadmap, which looks at eight different pieces that all come together to help us understand why customers buy what they buy.  That looks at everything from the jobs they’re trying to get done to the criteria they’ll use to evaluate a new solution to how much they value what it is you can offer.  Looking at all of those pieces is key.  Anyone can get lucky and launch a product that ends up being a success.  Having a process that allows you to repeatedly come out with breakthrough innovations is a lot more challenging.  That’s where you need a framework that allows you to consistently look at all the right elements.

 

8. One potential barrier I see is that a lot of companies already have innovation teams and set ways of innovating. Does Jobs to be Done fit with what they’re doing today?

One of the things we focus on in the book is how Jobs to be Done fits with the rest of the innovation process.  There are other key elements around strategy, ideation, and prototyping – just to name a few – that all need to be in alignment as well.  But the short answer to your question is yes.  Jobs to be Done is really a tool for reframing the questions that companies are already trying to answer and organizing the insights that they end up gathering.  Using Jobs to be Done doesn’t mean abandoning ideas like Lean Startup or Six Sigma.  They can all work together as long as you’re clear about when and where to use each one.

9. What about companies that just aren’t innovative? Do you have any advice on how Jobs can play a role there?

We include a lot of the unsexy examples in the book for exactly that reason, from industries like pet food and sports clubs.  You don’t need to come up with the next Uber or iPhone, and most companies shouldn’t be trying to.  What’s great about using Jobs to be Done is that it gives you a common language to help build that culture of innovation, even where one has never existed before.  It helps get your customer insights people, your marketing team, your product development folks, and everyone else all on the same page.  Once companies start talking in Jobs terms, it’s amazing how much more in tune with customers they end up being.

10. For managers who want to start being more innovative tomorrow, what advice can you share with them?

I’ll give you three ideas.  First, get outside the office and talk to real customers.  That gets overlooked way too often.  Second, start thinking about how you might build a process to both understand and respond to customers’ jobs.  If success isn’t repeatable, you’re going to waste a lot of resources on failure.  Third, drop your industry-specific or product-specific way of looking at things.  When you start talking in terms of jobs, the whole landscape of competition changes, and so do the possibilities for innovation.

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The Right Approach to Innovation: Stephen Wunker on Jobs to Be Done

Today on the blog we’re featuring part 1 of an interview with Stephen Wunker, one of the authors of JOBS TO BE DONE: A Roadmap for Customer-Centered Innovation (AMACOM November 2016). Innovation is one of the central buzzwords of our current era–but so many companies go about it the wrong way. Read on for Wunker’s explanation of how to do it right. Stay tuned for part 2 next week!

 

  1. Many companies focus on asking customers what they want or how satisfied they are with their past purchases. Why do these common questions represent the wrong approach to innovation?

The analogy we often make is that using past behavior and customer wish lists to innovate is like trying to drive using only the rearview mirror.  When customers talk about what they want in a product, they’re drawing on what they already know, often from looking at what your competitors are already doing.  If you want to design truly innovative products that customers will seek out – and even pay a premium for – you need to understand what tasks they’re struggling to get done in their lives.  We call those tasks their jobs to be done.

 

  1. What is the Jobs to be Done concept, and why is that a better way to innovate?

The Jobs to be Done concept basically says that customers “hire” products to get things – or “jobs” as we call them – done in their lives.  When the products that they’re currently using make it difficult to get a job done, they’ll start thinking about “firing” those products in favor of new ones.  Think about hailing a taxi before Uber.  You might have to wait out in the rain hoping a cab would stop for you; then once you got a ride, you would nervously check your wallet as you watched the meter continue to tick up on the drive.  When you look at how many pain points there were around satisfying such a basic job – confidently being able to get from point A to B – it’s no wonder that consumers were so willing to embrace a solution that could improve the experience.

 

  1. In the book, you talk about jobs being both functional and emotional. Why is that important?

When I said that Uber helps you confidently get from point A to B, you’ll notice that that includes both a functional and an emotional piece.  Getting where you need to go is important, but so is knowing that someone will actually pick you up as you race to catch a flight or that your driver won’t bring you in circles to increase your fare.  That emotional piece is what helps companies set themselves apart from the competition, and it’s often what allows you to create premium offerings that you can charge more for.

 

  1. When we talk about a lot of new companies, whether it’s Uber or Airbnb, we often say they’re disruptive. How does this idea of disruptive innovation relate to Jobs to be Done?

It’s no coincidence that disruptive innovation and Jobs to be Done were both popularized by Clayton Christensen.  He’s a professor at Harvard Business School and was actually my mentor for a number of years.  His two theories are closely related.  Disruptive innovation helps you understand when a market is overshooting what customers actually need – when it’s primed for someone to step in and excel along the dimensions that really matter.  Jobs to be Done tells you what those dimensions are.  It tells you how to design the products or services that customers really want, even if they’re struggling to articulate exactly what it is they’d want in a new offering.

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Grow Your Business Relationships: The 5 Ways to Become a Relational Leader

wallaceThe following is a guest post from Ed Wallace, covering principles from his new book, THE RELATIONSHIP ENGINE: Connecting the People who Power Your Business (AMACOM October 2016).

You know intuitively that relationships matter when it comes to business success. It’s harder to put that knowledge into action for a company, where quantifiable facts tend to reign supreme. Yet it’s the Relational Leader, a leader who prioritizes business relationships and their effects on the company, who leads modern companies to success. Read on to discover the five practices that make a Relational Leader.

  1. Always be ‘Intentional’ about Relationships

A Relational Leader is anyone who intentionally puts the other person’s goals and values at the forefront of each business relationship, creating an exceptional experience for others. This practice is known as Worthy Intent. Being intentional about business relationships is a career-long pursuit that allows the Relational Leader to launch, advance and elevate relationships across hierarchy and generations.

What can you do to become a Relational Leader? Make an intentional commitment to put the relationship at the forefront in all of your interactions.

  1. Become Great at ‘Observing Behaviors’

As ‘intentionality’ manifests, Relational Leaders become dialed into the behaviors of the important business relationships and ad hoc, drive-by relationships around them. This capability can be developed whether you are an introvert or an extrovert; a Boomer, Gen, or Millennial; a manager or a team member. It begins with paying attention by being completely in the moment with the person you are working with, then engaging them with well-thought-through questions, and finally with capturing the Relational GPS® – their Goals, Passions, and Struggles that emerge and utilize that GPS to continue to build the relationship.

  1. Respect ‘At-Will’ Relationships

Most business structures today are a complex combination of hierarchical and cross-functional approaches. Leaders no longer make requests solely of those in their chain of command; they consistently need experts from other areas, while knowing that their requests might not fit into those experts’ work descriptions. That makes the support these experts provide “at-will.” Relational Leaders respect the role and challenges of their At-Will colleagues and find ways to adapt their approach in ways that balance team and At-Will relationships, commitments and timelines.

  1. You are the ‘Value Proposition!’

A company’s value proposition is the benefit it offers to its clients or whichever other party it serves. Think of the best leaders you have observed and spent time with during your career. Now think about what made them memorable and a great leader in your eyes. You likely are recalling that their intentions were good, they stood for more than just the organization, and that they had a purpose that was bigger than themselves. In essence, they didn’t promote themselves, but the value they could bring to others. To become a Relational Leader, don’t promote yourself—promote what you can provide to achieve common goals with others.

  1. Inspire Purpose in Your People

Relational Leaders inspire a sense of purpose in those they work with. They see the larger good of the organization, the project, or the product and the importance and excitement of their own role in supporting these. People perform at their best with a clear sense of purpose when challenged with the following five questions:

  • Who do you want to be?
  • How do you want to be perceived?
  • What am I here for?
  • What is most important to me?
  • What will my contribution be?

When employees feel purposeful about their actions, they perform better and more efficiently. Relational Leaders are in a unique position to help the people around them identify their purposes and contribute more effectively based on that. With their purposes in mind, these employees can identify how they’re best suited to help those around them—and in effect, they become Relational Leaders in their own spheres!

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Ed Wallace is President and Chief Relationship Officer of Relational Capital Group. He consults with and speaks for corporations and associations across the globe with a client list that is a who’s who of Fortune 500 companies. In addition, Ed is currently on the Executive Education faculty of Drexel’s LeBow College of Business and Villanova University’s Human Resources Master’s program.