Key point: Each of us must determine the benefit and desire to reinvent ourselves through a process of creative destruction. We benefit and thrive from being relentless at finding ways of providing more value and evolving as personal contributors at work. This does not mean we can’t be content. However I believe we must be content by having a mind set of continuous individual growth and improvement. I personally believe our purpose in life is to evolve and make a positive contribution. This involves creatively destructing and reconstructing what we do and who we are becoming. Where are you on this challenge? Do you embrace the idea or does it scare you?
MIT economist Daron Acemoglu and Harvard political scientist James Robinson have a fascinating new book out entitled Why Nations Fail. In it they highlight the value of creative destruction in thriving nations. One element that has historically allowed America, Canada and other nations to excel is an environment where new models of providing better value are encouraged. That concept made me think about creative destruction at an individual and personal level. If I get lazy or pedestrian about my personal growth and value, then I should not be surprised when I’m replaced. Frankly, I’m amazed when I hear people talk about permitting technology to pass them by, (“Twitter is stupid,” “Who cares about Social Media?”). I’m also struck by comments like “why read any new business books? There is nothing new anyway.” To me these views are signals inviting replacement and likely not in a self-driven, creative or even desirable way. And if that’s what you want, ok… As long as you accept the consequences.
What are you doing to creatively destruct and reconstruct yourself in your career (life)? Are you proactive or just hoping everything turns out well? Are you hoping somebody or group will protect you or are you challenged and excited about continuous creative reconstruction?
How will you be able to provide more value to your organization? Family? Self? At the end of 2012 from where you are today?
Are you invigorated by or scared of change? Recognize when you are consciously stepping off the value track at work, versus unceremoniously being replaced by a better way. To me that is the definition of retirement, whether you are 25 or 65 years of age.
Key point: I have written a number of blogs regarding the disabling impact of fear, perhaps best captured by the acronym; False Expectations Appearing Real. However, I have not given enough attention to the positive counterbalance of applying constructive paranoia. Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen describe three key dimensions of productive paranoia in their recently published, best selling book Great by Choice. The research in this book applies to companies, but I believe the same lessons learned apply to us individually. Each of us benefit from having a framework to be constructively paranoid. What is your strategy for positive paranoia?
Leading Above the Death Line
Collins and team’s research pointed out that the most sustainable, successful companies know that they cannot reliably and consistently predict future events. They prepare obsessively – ahead of time, all the time – for what they cannot possibly predict. They assume that a series of bad events can wallop them in quick succession, unexpectedly and at any time. I think the same research implications apply to us in our personal careers. It’s the decisions and disciplines and shock absorbers we have in place, that matters most in determining whether we move ahead or falter when a storm hits…And one (or more) surely will. The authors contend that we need to be prudent in how we approach and manage risk, paying special attention to three categories of risk:
Death Line risk (which can kill or severely damage the enterprise).
Asymmetric risk (in which the downside dwarfs the upside).
Uncontrollable risk (which cannot be controlled or managed).
They also suggest the following 3-pronged approach to prepare for a wallop:
Build cash reserves and buffers to prepare for unexpected events and bad luck before they happen.
Bound risk – Death Line risk, asymmetric risk, and uncontrollable risk – and manage time-based risk.
Zoom out, then zoom in, remaining hyper-vigilant to sense changing conditions and respond effectively.
I really like the “zoom out, zoom in” analogy. Great companies and individuals, by choice, focus on their objectives and sense changes in their environment. They push for perfect execution and adjust to changing conditions. When they sense danger, they immediately zoom out to consider how quickly a threat is approaching and whether it calls for a change in plans. Then they zoom in, refocusing their energies into executing objectives.
Asses your readiness for an unexpected “storm” in your work life
What are your reserves? (Not just cash reserves but skill reserves). What are the risks? How will you bound them?
Think about how you would “zoom out” and then “zoom in” when hit by that personal tornado.
Have your antennae up ALL the TIME! Build skill equity into yourself every day to make yourself more valuable. Work your network NOW. Waiting until you need help is too late. Have some cash AND skill reserves. (DO NOT FORGET to get long term disability insurance).