Monday, February 25, 2013

Cost Structure & Revenue Streams

Costs  Revenues and Benefits 
(What you give) (What you get)
Hard costsNormal benefits
     Money      Money
     Time      Insurance
     Energy "Soft" benefits
"Soft" Costs      Increased satisfaction
     Sanity...      Social contribution...

This is the final entry for Business Model You! Interestingly, the book has the least amount of content around these parts of the canvas. 

The "Soft" parts of the above definition led me down a ridiculously long rabbit hole of research into soft-skills.

As part of a side project I'm working on involving "green staffing", soft-skills have come up over and over. As the research around this topic is pretty elaborate, I'm going to make this a two-part post. This week, I'm going to define soft-skills, and next week, I'll present my thoughts on why they are particularly important, and how to bring them to the table in business.

What are Soft Skills? <- Awesome link to the most comprehensive aggregation of information I've ever seen. and Wikipedia seem to agree, soft-skills are traits and interpersonal skills that characterize an individual's relationship with other people. Sociologists use the term EQ (Emotional Intelligence Quotient) in parallel with soft-skills. 

The challenge with this definition is that "traits" and "interpersonal" skills feel ambiguous to many people; most people "get it" - they're just not sure what they're getting.

On the other hand, Hard Skills are easy to define. Here's Investopedia's definition.
 Specific, teachable abilities that can be defined and measured. By contrast, soft skills are less tangible and harder to quantify... In business, hard skills most often refer to accounting and financial modeling.
How amusing is it that the 2nd sentence in their definition names the challenge of soft-skills?

In the blogosphere, Forbes, Fastco,, etc. there's a lot of disagreement on what the critical soft skills in business are. Here's my bulleted takeaway:

  •  Problem-Solving & Critical Thinking
    • Adaptability 
    • Organizational Learning
    • Creativity
  • Communication
    • Listening
    • Presenting
    • Story-telling
  • People Management
    • Conflict Management
    • Leadership 
    • Teamwork 
  • Self-Management
    • Emotional Awareness & Control
    • Resilience
    • Confidence
    • Professionalism

I would argue that BGI empowers students by developing soft skills(as well as understanding the languages of the hard skills), and students need help presenting those soft skills as a "tangible" asset. The hard data and research is out there, I'll link to it next week as I dig through it - just as there is a "business case for sustainability", there's also a "business case for soft-skills". 

I'd love some input for my content next week around soft-skills, please post your thoughts/questions! Thanks!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Customer Relationships & Channels

  • Customer Relationships - How You Interact
  • Channels - How They Know You/How You Deliver
This week, I brought in some outside help, Jo! So many of our conversations, particularly around modifying and changing behaviors have overlapped. It's fascinating to think about how some of the concepts we're learning in an MBA program, parallel with the scientific rigor of behavior therapy. Here's our edited and paraphrased conversation.

[Jo enters - stage left]
As a speech-language pathologist, my job is to analyze behavior and break it down into steps to be changed and shaped. This week, I was reading over Aric’s shoulder while he was looking at the Business Model You “Channels” component and I saw the “marketing process,” a series of five questions laying out how to define the conduit of information and products to customers:
  1. How will potential Customers discover how you can help them?
  2. How will they decide whether to buy your services?
  3. How will they buy it?
  4. How will you deliver what Customers buy?
  5. How will you follow-up to make sure Customers are happy?

I immediately thought, “oh, I know this, it’s the ABCs!” Not the alphabet song, mind you, but the chain of events surrounding human behavior that I examine every day: the antecedent (A), behavior (B), and consequence (C) of decisions that people make. These small actions are governed in large part by surprisingly simple rules, rules that are also surprisingly simple to influence.

So, let’s break it down, analyst style. The above questions target three steps in a behavior chain: what happens before the behavior, provoking or preventing its occurrence. This is called the antecedent and includes components of the environment or conditions such as where, when, who is involved.

Then, the behavior itself: the target behavior, it is called, the behavior that you want to change or modify. The crucial aspect of identifying the behavior is creating a definition of the behavior that is observable, measurable and specific.

Finally, what happens after the behavior: the consequence, which can either reinforce or increase the frequency of the behavior or punish and decrease the frequency of the behavior in the future.

Implementing changes in channels, then, becomes a scientific process instead of a guessing game. We manipulate the antecedents – the environment and conditions – and the consequences to change the behavior. Just like the behavior has to be specific, measurable  and observable, so too do the changes. Step back, look at the variables currently influencing behavior. Decide on a small change. Make one change at a time. Observe and record data. Measure outcomes. Repeat and refine as needed. Or, as Gerald J. Langley et al. say in their book The Improvement Guide, Plan-Study-Act-Do. They set out a systematic way to approach system changes that can be universally applied.

Many business problems have already been tackled and analyzed in this way, for example:

Being able to identify the decisions and choices we make can feel overwhelming. That creative tension I mentioned before - is easier to manage, when we can recognize that it's there. I'm reminded also of the LPD discussions around "Big Assumptions" - and how we try to live with them, and not "conquer' them... See you all at intensive! 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Key Resources & Key Partners

  1. Key Resources
    1. Your Interests
    2. Your Abilities and Skills
    3. Personality and what you have.
  2. Key Partners
    1. Those who support you

There are a plethora of tools out their that help us identify our interests, strengths, abilities, and personalities. At first, I thought I might link and post about a variety of them; Meyers-Briggs Type Inventory, Enneagram, Strength Deployment Inventory, coaching sessions, surveys etc.

Amusingly, in my search for useful resources to share, I ended up watching yet another TED talk, by Martin Seligman. He introduces his research into the field of Positive Psychology. I found his talk fascinating, and ended up doing further research into his work, and was amused when his website, was oriented around "happiness."

Essentially, Positive Psychology is about using the science of Psychology to help people move forward, to build thriving and fulfilling lives, as opposed to treating deficits. It's a shift from the "disease model" to a generative model for health and well-being.

While perusing through the information around positive psychology, and looking for tools for identifying "Key Resources", I stumbled across a parallel and common theme, one I've tried to embrace for a while.

The more we understand the context of our strengths, we can understand our weaknesses as well, and knowledge of both of these, is power.

Harvard Business Review states, "In cross-training, the combination of two activities produces an improvement—an interaction effect—substantially greater than either one can produce on its own." For me, I've also applied the 80/20 rule and Pareto principle, to my own "strength training". 

In a not so surprising connection, Key Partnerships seemed to apply well within positive psychology as well. Early in the TED talk, Dr. Seligman suggests that social interaction is one of the most important indicators for health and happiness. For me, this is taken within the context, recognizing that we have many social networks. One of the first exercises around identifying Key Partnerships, is drafting a venn diagram/nested circles diagram on the people around us, and how they impact us. 

I think this exercise is particularly useful, just like doing a systems diagram. The more we understand the elements that surround a variable(ourselves), the stronger we can develop our opportunities for improving that system.

On a final note, Dr. Seligman is currently advocating for his concepts to be used in a similar fashion as Gross National Happiness. He argues that the capacity for citizens to fill fulfilled should drive governmental policy.  In an interview(likely paralleling our coursework next quarter- Means and Measures),  he says, the first step towards designing policy that aims to improve people's well being, is designing the appropriate measure, and that perhaps GDP isn't very effective.

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