Posts Tagged ‘opportunity’

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An idea. Has any concept in the history of man ever been more powerful? We often find that powerful things are also simple in complexity, and yet the word idea can be defined in very different ways.

1. any conception existing in the mind as a result of mental understanding, awareness, or activity.

6. a groundless supposition; fantasy.

8. Music. a theme, phrase, or figure.

The struggling American economy has created new life scenarios many of us would have believed unimaginable. I attended a job search focus group in my town last week, succumbing and swallowing a foolish pride I have about being able to get gigs without resorting to things “losers have to do.” Stupid me. When I talked to many of the people (50+) at the group, most of them had 10+ years experience in their field. My first thought was – it would only take a good idea that would call upon the talents of all these people to restore their ability to make income. My second thought was, what a jackass I am. Such focus groups should have been something I did while employed, expanding my network, not just for jobs and work opportunities, but the ability to share ideas with other, experienced people, who are being forced to churn their brain butter as well.

When I took the Clifton Strengthfinder 2.0 test, I discovered Ideation, or the capacity to form ideas, was one of my strengths. This sounded like a valuable thing to me. But in my efforts searching for work, in my case in information technology, I realized something scary: nobody who would recruit me to do what I do – either elicit business requirements and establish requirements processes, or develop websites or software – cares if I can ideate or not. They just want me to document the processes and make them more efficient, or use .NET and WCF and program in VB.NET or C# to get their project to completion. They don’t necessarily care if, along the way during my routine tasks, I come up with ideas that might contribute to their cause.

It’s counter thinking, isn’t it? To say, let’s focus on creating ideas vs. getting the things done we know will make us money, feels difficult. And yet, that’s where a lot of us have been forced. A client of mine called me yesterday with new ideas on iPhone apps, something he hasn’t ever mentioned to me in 2 years. I’m coming up with new ways to find gigs, both in IT and in music. Innovation, which I’ll define as effectuated ideas, becomes more apparantly required during hard times. After all, some people are being let go because their jobs aren’t necessary anymore due to the birth of an idea years ago to automate the thing they did manually. What will give them new opportunity? An idea which harnesses their skillset.

In writing and researching this idea I had to write a blog on ideas, I came across software to track ideas. What a great idea!

I’m in love with making ideas. I’m in love with talking about ideas. I get so excited at the thought of even being a small part of something new. I like talking about and thinking about ideas I’m not even a part of or which have no avenue by which I can contribute. Kids and young people, new college graduates, are valuable sources of ideas because their minds are doing nothing more than churning ideas born from new experiences. But is their capacity greater for the task? I don’t think so. I just think as we get older we are more drawn to focus on the task at hand and what brings the bacon home now.

My ideas come when the piece of paper is blank and white. My musical ideas come after my fingers hit a grand piano’s keys, or the staff has no notes hanging from it. My ideas come when a group/company I’m working for is struggling to make progress and morale is down, or I see an opportunity to excite and inspire someone. Last Saturday I performed at a temple for a cabaret night. A lawyer came and wanted to do Coldplay’s “Fix You.” I knew how the song went and my bass player friend and I collaborated. But this guy came in and just wanted to sing it. He had his guitar with him. With the grand piano,the “idea starter,” I was able to provide a background to the song, something he referred to as “a wonderful arrangement Cliff made” before we played. So this was an instance where my ability to create ideas, enhanced by the context, provided benefit and made progess. Unfortunately, I don’t have that video, but here’s one where the drummer’s 17-yr-old kid played with us.

It felt good to give that experience to a young guy who wants to study music.

An idea – any idea, this idea, the idea of ideas – is what everyone should be focused on right now. It is the one and maybe only thing that will turn this whole nasty time into a distant nightmare. We have to try things, be brave, be willing to fail. You might not like what Obama is doing in office, but you can’t say he’s not trying to effectuate ideas. I’d rather be moving in some direction than none, and this country can recover from bad ideas.

Are you sitting there now remembering a time when your life was more “creativity-based” or “idea-filled” than it is now? Was it a happier time?



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I often look through Rent-A-Coder, a website that attempts to marry coders and buyers through a bidding process, and I come away each time feeling…well…dirty. It reminds me of scenes from Miami Vice when Crockett and Tubbs used to roll through the alleys filled with prostitutes. “Hey, baby! I’ll give you a PHP/MySQL website for fifty!” Seriously, website bids for $300?!

It’s starting to remind me of the music scene in Cincinnati. For as long as I can remember, unless you’re in a stage act band, gigs come in two flavors: the $50 and under, and the $100 and over. Grant and Benjamin. It hasn’t really changed. The price of gas, food, clothes, and whatever will increase, but gigs will stay right at this level. If you’re making more than that, it’s because you’re doing a private party on a boat, or a wedding, but now that you can rent gear for those occasions, even those high money gigs are dying off. Musicians are willing to play for coffee if it means they can do their thing in front of a live audience of 5 people. When three digits are involved, they generally salivate and wearing a suit and tie becomes less of hassle. And if you let them drink free beer? Well, then. The music will certainly sound great….to at least them. Because of this, the rising cost of music education, unless you’re going to teach others how to become poor, is becoming largely unjustified.

This is exactly where IT is going if people don’t start valuing the services they provide, and tether themselves to a standard despite the hard times. First and foremost, knowlege and expertise are the essential component. Remember those tests in grade school that asked you to pick which thing you needed most for a football game? The referees, the crowd, or the football players? The quarterbacks are the analysts, the running backs and receivers are the developers, and testing is defense. But there is a different pay scale between high school and professional football, isn’t there?

Secondly, if someone hires you, then generally they’re going to make some revenue. I would contend it is the non-essential producers that should be trimming their margins, not the quarterbacks, running backs, and defense. So how much do you want to make? Take the net you want to earn and divide by 220 (working business days, minus holidays, etc.). $88,000 is $400 a day, $50 per hour. Charge it. Stick to it. Whatever the rate.

Why? Because lastly, who’s to say that companies aren’t going to take advantage of this economic downturn by attempting to control costs and enlarge profits for years to come after this supposed depression. Are they going to stop using the “because of the hard economic times” excuse when the hard economic times no longer exist? Heck no. You’ll be in a job making “hard economic times” rates for years. Do you think they’ll come to you one day and say “hey, buddy, the depression is over, here’s that $20,000 raise.” Heck no. It’ll be “file an evaluation request form and we’ll see if we can’t get you that 4%.”

Here’s the irony: companies searching frantically to control costs hire the lowest bidder, not the best qualified. They pass on hiring somebody who could actually provide long-term benefit to bring on Mr. Cheap Gig. In the music world, this results in BAD MUSIC. Guess what the result is in the IT world? To get over this, actually assess what the company is trying to do in numerical terms. Do the homework you’re supposed to do before the interview, golf-and-beer outing, or prospect lunch and get an understanding of the health of the company and your worth to them. If they can’t pay your per diem, pass. Yes, I said it. Pass. And stop earning $20 to design a company’s front-facing website. Unless that’s what you want all of us to earn some day.

And if companies don’t want to hire all of us at our deserved rate, well then they have assumed the captain’s position on the Titanic, we’re the musicians on the boat, and it has been a pleasure and honor to play with you on this night! What was the drinking policy for the band?

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I am rarely motivated to buy a product based on the commercial. I am influenced by two primary factors alone in my purchasing decisions: (a) need, (b) cost.

Now, when I go out for business or a party, certainly I wear some cologne, etc. So this solution was strictly targeted at my “off day” or “everyday” olfactory solution. Using a bit of my own Vision & Scope analysis, I came to the conclusion that I needed to purchase AXE Chocolate Body Spray. Nothing in the commercial had quite the effect on me as much as the part where the woman on the bus takes a bite out of chocolate boy’s butt. Something deep inside of me thought, “If this spray is going to help me encounter the kind of woman who might take a bite out of my ass simply because I smelled good, then hey, it’s worth a shot!” So I have to admit, I reversed-engineered my “business objectives” in making the purchase.

Business Opportunity:

  • Cliff has an opportunity to not smell, and in fact, smell good.
  • By not smelling, Cliff might be able to talk to strangers, make new friends, and perhaps even flirt.
  • Cliff may have lost opportunities in the past due to failure to smell really good.
  • Customer or Market Needs:

  • Strangers require the need to be able to go to the grocery or other establishments without encountering the smell of a man who has been on his livingroom floor in his pajamas for days staring at his computer.
  • Women currently have to deal with smelly men. We’re smelly, especially on off days, after workouts, or when we’re doing mundane tasks and believe we exist in our own private bubble while out and about. Through Cliff’s implementation of AXE Chocolate, women in the local community will experience substantial relief.
  • Objectives and Success Criteria:

  • BO-1: Stop offending strangers with body odor immediately (within 1 day of implementation).
  • BO-2: Increase the occurrences of having my ass chomped down on by a strange, but attractive woman by 1 within 4 weeks of implementation.
  • SC-1: Make small talk with 5 strangers within 2 weeks of implementation
  • SC-2: Do SC-1 both with and without showering to determine the extent of effectiveness.
  • SC-3: Ride the bus. Stand while on the bus.
  • Business Risks:

  • R-1: AXE Chocolate Body Spray might be more offensive that the smell of my body odor. Estimated likelihood: not. Estimated severity: $7 (complete loss). Mitigation: Find an attractive woman in the grocery, ask her to smell the spray, ask if she might be inclined to bite my butt. Alternate Mitigation: Try it. Stop using it upon witnessing entire rooms clearing when I enter.
  • R-2: Body spray may not overcome my halitosis via french press coffee, spinach quiche, cottage cheese, vegetable juice, and tuna. Estimated likelihood: likely. Estimated severity: $7 (complete loss). Mitigation: Brush teeth.
  • This exercise didn’t necessarily help me make a sound purchase decision. But, it’s the kind of thing my mind does constantly because I’m a business analyst nerd. It helps me remind myself of some important points in analysis, like the third bullet point of the Business Opportunity section above: identifying lost opportunity from not initiating a project. Or remembering the basics of Objectives and Critera: Objectives generally need to be measurable and time-based. Criteria represent efforts that need to be made, often external to the project implementation itself, to enable the measurements asked for in the Objectives.

    This would be the first of four sections to a Vision/Scope document. Business Requirements, written at a high, non-technical level, and with some elicitation from stakeholders, become the battle cry or mantra to reverberate from the beginning to the completion of any project.

    I have to go. My bus comes soon.

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