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How to manage your personal whitespace

February 2, 2013 Leave a comment

In the HBR article “Managing the Whitespace” Mark C. Maletz and Nitin Nohria defined the whitespace as

the large but mostly unoccupied territory in every company where rules are vague, authority is fuzzy, budgets are nonexistent, and strategy is unclear — and where, as a consequence, entrepreneurial activity that helps reinvent and renew an organization takes place.

And the blackspace

encompasses all the business opportunities that a company has formally targeted and organized itself to capture.

Taking this whitespace, blackspace, metaphor to our personal life I can think about those short hours sometimes only minutes when we are not focused on our well defined daily tasks and chores. This is the place where we are not our job, dad or mom. It is the place where we take some risk, open new possibilities for growth, and create new social networks. For some of us it is blogging, for others it is developing a second career, maybe experimenting with the stock market, or trying to write a novel. I see friends taking sports coaching training, building a web site, developing expertise in energy efficient home constructions (and blogging about it too).
Similar reasons drives people to operate in the whitespace as in corporates: great uncertainly, can’t take on such projects at work, and when their main career seems going well and there is no justification for making drastic changes.

Although navigating in the whitespace requires a new compass, the rewards from successful voyages can be great

So how to manage your whitespace project?
The authors suggest setting several conditions for successful completion of whitespace projects in the corporate world, most are relevant to individuals as well:

  • Establish Legitimacy – we usually get support for our blackspace activities automatically, but when it comes to whitespace project things could be trickier. Legitimacy can be established in multiple ways, the first is by drawing lines connecting skills used in blackspace activities to the ones needed for the whitespace project. The second way is to demonstrate what you are willing to sacrifice in order to meet your new whitespace goals, e.g. sleep, not going out, cutting your spending, and etc. Once legitimacy established, support could come in the forms of getting the free time or motivating at or close to your point of burnout. Since we are talking here about other family members the key elements here are trust and visibility
  • Mobilizing Resources – beg, borrow, and steal(time) to get what you need! Taking little time every day adds up, asking for little help from many people becomes a lot – like fund raising – use your social network on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+
  • Show Quick Results to build momentum – find the least path of resistance, create prototype, go for the low hanging fruits first. Once you have an accomplishment at your disposal, it is easier to ask for more resources and harder to kill the initiative. It also help to prevent burnout (happens when little or no progress is made despite a lot of effort)
  • Have Fun – it does not have to be done for the sake of earning more money or developing a second career. Whitespace projects can be very fulfilling, enhance your social life, and contribute to your personal growth.

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In some cases a whitespace project can lead you onto a whole new path and it worth considering moving it to the blackspace.

Two ways to focus your 2013

January 2, 2013 Leave a comment

If you are looking to learn from the best how to focus your effort in 2013, just google “three words for 2013“.

My three words for 2013 are: connect, story, and service.
Connect: I would like to learn ways to connect better with my family, co-workers, classmate, friends, and prospects.
Story: This goes both ways, to listen openly to other’s stories as well as to invest in developing my storytelling skills. Both can help to support the goals wrapped in the first word(connect).
Service: To be of a service delivering value to the people I connect with.

For me the “soft skills” are the hardest!

On the physical side consider cleansing your body from all the processed food consumed in 2012 – I plan to try this method.

Categories: Method, Personal

My top three books for 2013

December 31, 2012 Leave a comment

Happy new year!

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Categories: Personal, Product

Guess what is missing from the MBA program? Sales!

December 27, 2012 Leave a comment

imageI’m now two and half years into the part-time MBA program with Boston University with a little less than one year to go. One thing that surprises me the most is the lack of Sales Management class in the core program. I was educated about managerial accounting, finance, operation management, organizational behavior, marketing, economics and corporate strategy, but not a word about sales. When I got to the time to select my electives I knew that something was missing, so I found only one class called Entrepreneurial Sales Strategy (that I later heard was offered only every other year) and signed up for it. Only one class in the whole program that talks about sales. When I checked with my friends who went to other universities for their MBAs I was even more surprised to hear that this is the common case. Sales is not part of the MBA program!

The irony is that Sales (as I was reminded by my Sales Management professor during our very first class) is the only activity that contribute to the positive side of the income statementSmile.

I’ve learned a ton about running a business so far, but this class was the most transformative one in the MBA program for me. It does make sense to allocate this class later in the program after understanding key frameworks like DuPont analysis, Five Forces analysis, the time value of money, pricing, marketing positioning, among others, yet sales management can help to tie all these things together in a coherent manner with a very clear goal in mind.

Here are some of the key subjects from the Entrepreneurial Sales Strategy class:

  • Business Models and Value Propositions
  • Building a sales organization – hiring, compensation, organization, and management
  • Direct, Indirect and Channel Sales Strategies
  • Importance and development of strategic partners and alliances
  • Understanding the Selling Process and Sales Cycles
  • Implementing Pipeline Management Principles and Forecasting Techniques
  • Repeatable Sales Models – what they are and why they are important
  • Keys to successful selling including Solution (consultative) selling vs. product selling
  • Sales Management, Positioning a sales force as a barrier to entry –  differentiation and competitive advantage
  • Major Account Selling, Team Selling, Global Sales Strategies

During the course we participated in two team sales activities:

  1. Sales Challenge – the objective of this activity was to engage in a complete sales process including building the value proposition and sales funnel, leads generation, leads qualification, cold calling, navigating the target organization, and closing. We had to convince a VP of Sales from a company with over 100MM annual revenue to participate in a panel with more VP of Sales from other industries at the university in one of the class evening.
  2. Sales Audit – each team was assigned a company(a real one), to execute a complete sales strategy and management auditing consulting project, and to come up with recommendations. We got the chance to meet with the CEO and VP of sales in the assigned company, to hear about the strategy and sales activities, and to gain  access to real business data.
    The Sales Audit project was one of the highlight of my MBA program so far, I learned during this activity more than I could ever learn from case studies discussions in class. This company is a young SaaS company (Software as a Service), selling mainly through partners (MSP/VAR) and growing their booking more than 45% in 2012.  We mapped their entire sales process, identified areas for improvements, and came up with two major recommendation plus other areas for further research. After delivering the presentation in class we also travel back to the company to report our findings.

The key outcomes from this projects were:

We made a difference – the company is actually revamping it sales process following some of the input from our recommendations.

We build great relationships with the CEO and VP of Sales

One of our team mate who graduated after this class was hired by this company

We earned a real consulting experience and learned how sales works in the real business world

We got an ASmile

I know I did good choosing Boston University for my MBA program!!

In summary, the motivation for writing this post came as a result of a comment I heard during our second visit to the company that we audited, it came from both the CEO and the VP of Sales saying that this material was never taught in their MBA program(one of those was done at Stanford). I believe that Sales Strategy and Management are a core managerial skills, even if you end up working as a general manager, business or financial analyst, in operation, it is important to understand your value proposition to the organization and how your activities contribute to the sales activities. For the ones going for an MBA program with the aim working in Sales, Marketing, Strategy, or to start their own business, learning about sales is a must!!

Guest post: Why you should play Tap Zoo an app for iPod touch,iPhone, and iPad

August 6, 2011 2 comments

Guest post: This is a guest post by my son Johnathan, he loves computer games.

imageYou should play Tap Zoo the game for iPhone, iPad, iPod because it is a lot of fun. You have rankings, you buy animals, you can breed animals, you can visit neighbors zoo, you can cross breed and you can cure sick animals. You try to get three things: coins, stars, and experience.

You are able to get coins and experience from revenue. You need animals to get revenue. Let’s say that you have two monkeys and each monkey gives you 25 coins and 2 experience points every 5 minutes, so you end up with 50 coins and 4 experience every 5 minutes. The way to get to the next level is by getting amount of experience. for example, the way to get from  level 7 to 8 is by getting from 10,000 to 13,000 experience points.

It also has ranking. The way to see your rank is to tap the bottom right square and then find “Other”, tap it, then you’ll see the word rank, tap on it and you can see your ranking. If you want to know ho to make your rank better, the way to do it is by looking at the bottom left and read what to do.

Note from Dad: I looked at this game and am very impressed by its level of complexity and sophistication. It enables the player to make many different decisions for improving the zoo quality, visitor experience,  and business. Kudos to the team at Pocket Gems, Inc.

I will wear my heart upon my sleeve

February 28, 2010 Leave a comment

I like this song even more now after I learned the meaning of “My heart is tattooed on my sleeve”

Display your feelings openly, for all to see.

Lyrics here.

Enjoy

Categories: Personal

Congratulation to Pursway (formerly Datanetis) and Elery Pfeffer

February 9, 2010 Leave a comment

image A little more than a year ago I wrote here about Datanetis, a cool company and technology that helps its customers to identify influencers within their customers database.

Datanetis just got funded with a $6 million Series A investment from Battery Ventures, and changed its name to Pursway. It also seems like there are new large customers on board.

Elery is a good friend and I’m very happy for him and his team.

Here is the press release.

Congratulation!

How to: watch Avatar and enjoy it

December 26, 2009 Leave a comment

Last week I went to see Avatar. I noticed that there are different reactions to this movie, so I decided to help the few people that did not like it to reconsider. I also like to help the minority that did not see it yet but could miss enjoying it due to having the wrong expectations or focus.

The basics:

  • Go for the 3D option or consider 3D IMAX theatre. I saw it in 3D and it was just great. It felt more live and in a movie that the major focus is on treating your visual senses 3D is the frosting on the cake. I did not get any headache or noseache from the glasses, even after 2 hours and 40 minutes.
  • Popcorn and large soda
  • A couple of good like minded friends (action, sci fi, geeky taste)

Setting the right expectations

The Story

The Avatar story is compelling. It is loaded with all the familiar elements including love/jealousy , good/bad, power/mind, corporate and greed vs. nature and science, brutality vs. diplomacy, character transformation and maturity, the chosen one, nature harmony, you name it.  The way I saw it is that the story was just an excuse to move the camera from one vivid scenery to another.

The setup

The movie is beautiful, the people are beautiful, the Na’vi people are elegant and charming, the Pandora planet is one exotic experience that is challenging our color spectrum absorption skills to the max. The fluorescent colors of the land, water, flora and fauna along with the wild landscape that defies gravity stayed with me long after the movie was done. Even few days after,I wanted more. Addictive?

Sigourney

I longed for Ripley from the Aliens series. Sigourney Weaver was there but her leadership, the “I’ve seen it all”, condescending, some time depressed, but most of all “the women of steel and wisdom” act was not there. The cigarette smoking did not cut it for me. I don’t blame her for this. The story did not allow it. The story was not centered around Dr. Grace Augustine (her part) this time. It does not take away from this movie though, I’m just setting the right expectations for the people that noticed her name on the cast list before going to the movie.  In a way it was the second Aliens when Ripley’s true leadership manifested, so who knows, maybe it will still happen in the sequel (resurrection is not out of Hollywood realm of possibilities).

Summary

Avatar is a beautiful creation and I don’t care about his creator’s ego, language or history. In my mind it does take the movie industry to a new level.  So, when you go and see it make sure that you focus on the right elements of this media this time. Go!

Wishing you a focused 2010

December 26, 2009 1 comment

imageMy wish for you for the coming year is the same one I wish myself.

I wish us many focused hours, days, weeks, and months.

Why focused?

For me, at work, there is nothing that feels better than leaving the office after having a focused day or week. I enjoy having this sense of accomplishment seeing the tasks lists dwindling down or after solving a tough problem that was risking the current project schedule or customer success. The opposite, having an unfocused day, takes away so much energy thinking about what that is still left hanging.

Why now?

As soon as we login to the laptop or any other smart device we are at beginning of a constant struggle. An endless cross roads expends from that point on. Even while waiting, watching the task bar expends from left to right while the OS loads application after application to memory, already new communication channels opens up and start streaming bytes charged with high potential energy for driving your next few minutes, or hours away from the original purpose that motivated you to turn the device on in the first place. Outlook, IM, Twitter desktop client, Firefox with open Gmail, Google Wave, Facebook and WordPress tabs to name a few. There is a race for your attention and every program pushes itself in front of the other.

It is so easy to notice, and so hard to resist not to react to, the recent Facebook notification, new Google wave, email from SlideShare or YouTube channel with a bunch of links, follow the current Trending Topic, @reply or IM @friend, reply immediately to that email you were just CCed on with a question that you so know the answer to, but others can handled that as well (and maybe this is their job).

Multi-tasking, enabled by the operating system, along with social media, enabled by the digital multi-media, can create this constant notion of not being on the right thread at any time. And that’s not even includes doing your work. Sometimes participating in the real-time search race feels more like “what am I’m missing now?” instead of “what is happening right now?”. The truth is that “now” happens all the time.

We sometimes have this tendency to follow the Shortest job next scheduling algorithm at work. Although this algorithm is great at “minimizing the average amount of time each task has to wait until its execution is complete” it could also lead to tasks starvation (i.e. never getting to address it). It could also lead to developing the habit of replacing short with easy or fun.

Focused does not mean a single goal

When I say that I’m wishing all of you to have a focused year I don’t mean to focus necessarily on one goal only . It could be ideal to be laser focused on a single goal but it could almost be too ambitious of an objective or even an out of balance way of living, it could kill your health and relationships. You may choose to focus on multiple goals this year, and it is a big miss not to participate in the social media party, the key is to be focused at the current task at hand. So, when you work on that paper, problem, long email, and etc, it is OK to be fully present with your eyes, ears, mind and mouse cursor on the current thread. It is OK to tune out for a bit.

Some ideas for keeping your focus on a single task at the time

  • Go to Services in Windows and set any application’s with disruption potential “Start-up Type” option to disable.
  • Define priority policy attribute and categorize emails by it – immediate response, can wait, to do, follow-up. Keep it simple so it will not take a lot of your time implementing it. There are lots of email handling tips out there just Google “email management tips” and you’ll find a ton of info – just don’t spend too much time reading about it:)
  • Break large tasks to manageable goals – this helps with both motivation and focus.
  • Treat yourself to some social media action after the task is completed.
  • More suggestions here via Delicious

Before leaving this blog post

And before leaving, I would like to share with you this very insightful phrase that I heard somewhere and it stuck deeply in my mind:

“What you focus on expands”

Happy Holidays and have a great focused year.

Picture credit emmaphotos

Do you think that you can live without Google?

March 25, 2009 1 comment

InfrastructureHere is my latest guest post on AltSearchEngines blog.

Google’s search engine is the 21st century infrastructure.

A quick summary:

  • Search is a very large task
  • Search is costly
  • Search has become essential to the modern economy
  • Google is effective but it is a monopoly

It is similar to infrastructure on a large scale like roads, train tracks, ports, and utilities – all things that are essential to the smooth running of our economy.

Today it is so mission critical that we need to watch it closely or maybe even break it up.

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