News or Noise

IF you are like most hard working professionals, then you probably make a habit of reading the news each day.

The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Sydney Morning Herald.

The Wall Street Journal, the FT or The Economist.

There are many titles to choose from.

You scan the headlines for an interesting story and then dive in, happy to have something to read on the way to work, glad to be able to discuss the latest sporting headlines with colleagues – with whom you may have nothing else in common.

The reality though is that most of the time the news is not news, it’s noise. Information for information’s sake, something to read, something to talk about. Another story to consume our attention.

Why do so many of us choose to spend our time in this way?

It’s possible that the alternative is just too uncomfortable – silence and time to think.

Time to read a book that changes our world view. Time to write an article that challenges someone’s thinking. Time to create something remarkable that solves a problem or delights an audience.

We each have a choice about how we spend our time.

Are you filling your time with noise, or making an effort to create a story all of your own?

Ready or Not

The Consulting Industry is Ripe for Disruption

Ripe for Disruption

(Source: Flickr)

ACCORDING to the Harvard Business Review, the consulting industry is one of the most resistant to change. Even though consultants are brought in by corporations to innovate and shake things up, the consulting industry itself has been slow to innovate.

At its core, the consulting industry has remained the same for more than 100 years. Meanwhile, new tools and technologies have become increasingly sophisticated and available.

This begs the question, “why hasn’t the consulting industry been reinvented?”

CONSULTED, a company run by CEO Sebastian Sager, have not only asked this question but are also taking action, and may be on the cusp of profoundly changing everything.

Using a non-traditional business model, CONSULTED is on a mission to give companies access to expert consulting without the long-term commitment or initial expenses.

Traditional Consulting

Traditional consulting is perfect for enterprise businesses that have massive budgets, constantly “creeping” needs, and a particular business structure which is difficult to change. But even so, engaging a traditional consulting firm often only makes sense if the consultants are used to the fullest.

The issue with traditional consulting is that it doesn’t work in all cases. Very rarely do businesses – big or small – use the full consulting retainer. As a result, money that gets paid to consultancies could have been invested in other areas of the business.

The startup world is rapidly changing the way that businesses operate. For example, it is now easy to find credible, highly regarded contractors to fix your house through online tools like Angie’s List.

Why aren’t the same resources available for helping businesses get advice?

Many founders and mid-level managers don’t need a long-term consulting contract – they’re just looking for some quick, credible advice to guide them through a problem situation or challenge.

Credibility is key, but you shouldn’t have to pay an arm and a leg for it. Consulting should also be flexible so that people can get the advice they need by scheduling a quick phone call or discussion via Skype. You shouldn’t need to “know a guy” or have a contract in place to get the help you need.

A New Era of Consulting

It’s finally time for a fresh new approach to consulting – something that is designed to truly help businesses.

Enterprise-level clients are starting to look at changing the way they engage consultants. Professional service companies in the past charged high fees for standard service packages, making them unsuitable for companies that needed a more discrete piece of advice.

Many newer consulting firms are addressing this pain-point by offering smaller and more flexible consulting “blocks” and flexible collaboration packages so that companies can get on-demand consultancy on topics ranging from audits to Lean Six Sigma to strategic planning. This is a step in the right direction, but a whole new consulting model appears to be on its way.

Companies like CONSULTED are developing solutions which allow clients to forget about meetings, memos and all the other unnecessary hassles that come with engaging a major consulting firm. They also allow users to browse a range of experts from around the world, review consultant credentials and save money by paying for only the time they use.

Is this a disruptive innovation? How is this new consulting model likely to affect your business? Share your thoughts in the Consulting Forum.

Free Is Never Free

Your time has value

Economists are fond of telling us that “there’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

Whether it’s fish and chips for lunch, or something else, what they mean by this is that it’s not possible to get something for nothing.

But hold on, you might be thinking, surely this isn’t true. Just think about Facebook. It’s free isn’t it?

Not exactly.

While Facebook may be free in financial terms, you also need to think about your opportunity cost. That is, what other things could you be doing with your time?

If you spend an hour, then that’s 60 minutes gone.

Since each of us has 24 hours in a day, we each have a choice about how to spend our time.

Are you spending time this week to enhance your reputation, your network, your skills and your knowledge? Or are you just camping out, getting by and working for the weekend?

You can always earn more money, but you can’t get more time.

Simple, Appealing and Delicious

Fish and chips at the Golden Union Fish Bar

Simple Appealing and Delicious

WHEN it comes to project delivery it is said that the customer always wants it “fast, good and cheap”, but they can only have two.

A project can be delivered quickly and cheaply, but the quality will suffer. It can be shipped cheaply and to perfection, but it will take a long time. Or it can be supplied quickly and with quality, but this won’t come cheap.

The “fast, good and cheap” paradigm can be a helpful way to think about project delivery, but the problem is that it encourages blinkered thinking by leading management to focus on inputs (time, costs and scope) rather than considering what the customer might actually want.

Your author recently visited the Golden Union Fish Bar near Oxford Circus in London with Microsoft Test Engineer Brad Reaves, and discovered something remarkable.

The Golden Union Fish Bar serves fish and chips.

Fish and chips.

Simple, appealing and delicious.

The remarkable thing about the Golden Union Fish Bar is that fish and chips is pretty much all it serves.

The simplicity of the restaurant layout and the limited range of menu options is delightful because it makes the dining experience hassle free. No stressful decision about where to sit because every table is picture perfect and pretty much identical. No annoying battle to select a dish from an encyclopedic range of menu options because when you go to the Golden Union Fish Bar you order fish and chips.

The food is priced at a premium and you have to wait a short while for the food to be served, but the growing anticipation only makes the final arrival of an appealing dish even more delicious.

Before racing around to deliver your project as quickly and cheaply as possible, it may be worth stopping to think about your customers, and what they might want from you.

The Paradox of Our Age

“The paradox of our time in history is that
we have taller buildings but shorter tempers;
wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints.
We spend more, but have less;
we buy more, but enjoy less.
We have bigger houses and smaller families,
more conveniences, but less time;
we have more degrees, but less sense;
more knowledge, but less judgement;
more experts, yet more problems,
more medicine, but less wellness.
We drink too much, smoke too much,
spend too recklessly, laugh too little,
drive too fast, get too angry,
stay up too late, get up too tired,
read too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values.
We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.
We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life,
we’ve added years to life not life to years.

We’ve been all the way to the moon and back, but have
trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor.
We conquered outer space but not inner space.
We’ve done larger things, but not better things.
We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul.
We’ve conquered the atom, but not our prejudice.
We write more, but learn less.
We plan more, but accomplish less.
We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait.

We build more computers to hold more information to
produce more copies than ever, but we communicate
less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion;
big men and small character;
steep profits and shallow relationships.

These are the days of two incomes but more divorce,
fancier houses but broken homes.

These are days of quick trips, disposable diapers,
throw-away morality, one-night stands,
overweight bodies, and pills that do everything
from cheer to quiet, to kill.

It is a time when there is much in the show window and
nothing in the stockroom. A time when technology
can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose
either to share this insight, or to just hit delete.

Remember, spend some time with your loved ones,
because they are not going to be around forever.

Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up
to you in awe, because that little person soon
will grow up and leave your side.

Remember, to give a warm hug to the one next to you,
because that is the only treasure you can give with
your heart and it doesn’t cost a cent.

Remember, to say “I Love you” to your partner and
your loved ones, but most of all mean it.
A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes
from deep inside of you.

Give time to Love, give time to speak, give time to
share the precious thoughts in your mind.”

~ Anon.

Consulting Firms in New Zealand

A country famous for its sheep and for being used as the backdrop for the Lord of the Rings movies, New Zealand also has some quality consultants.

We have prepared a guidebook which provides an overview of the most prominent management consulting firms in New Zealand.

You can download it for free here, no member sign up required.

As with the other guidebooks we have shared this guidebook is distributed under a creative commons licence.

“Moonlight drowns out all but the brightest stars.” ~ J.R.R. Tolkien