Thursday, September 29, 2011

Why It Sucks to be a Necessity Entrepreneur

Welcome back to our Letters to an Imminent Entrepreneur Series. 

Dear Imminent Entrepreneur

In my last letter we have looked at our businesses, and how to position them as energy giving entities.  I discussed some thoughts on how to position your business as a life giving place of empowerment.  Remember that to be empowered yourself, you'll have to empower others. There's no way around that, in my opinion at least, 'life' cannot flow to you, if it is not flowing from you.  

Today, I want us to look at the distinction between necessity-driven and opportunity-driven entrepreneurship. I’ll highlight some reasons why it sucks to be a necessity entrepreneur, as I found out for myself. We'll then consider opportunity driven entrepreneurship in some detail. 

But first, let me explain the difference between the two. 

Simply put a necessity-driven entrepreneur starts a business out of necessity. This is someone who starts a business for the lack of other alternatives, maybe someone who has lost a job, for example, and has to start a business in order to survive.  

In contrast, an opportunity driven entrepreneur identifies a real business opportunity in the market and puts together people, resources, and money to profit from the idea. The latter is focused on a real opportunity.    

Do you see the difference? I started my first business out of necessity. I found that necessity often leads entrepreneurs to jump on the first semi-viable idea that crosses their path, even if that idea may not be the best idea to pursue. Necessity creates pressure to do something or anything to pay the bills. You probably know the story.   

Maybe I should mention that many necessity entrepreneurs succeed in building excellent companies. However, I am sure, in such cases success depended on the necessity entrepreneur making a mental shift, at some point, from survivalist to opportunity-driven entrepreneurship. Maybe someone could comment on this from their own experience. 

I am not degrading the necessity entrepreneurs; I think it is admirable to start a business, rather than to just sit at home.  However, I am concerned that such businesses do not adequately reward their owners for their troubles. I'll also venture to say that these businesses are at a greater risk of failure because of inadequate planning.      

The danger of necessity/survivalist entrepreneurship is that the entrepreneur may spend too little time on really evaluating the feasibility of the business idea. Pursuing any entrepreneurial idea will cost you. It'll cost you in time, money, energy and reputation. 

Evaluating the feasibility of entrepreneurial idea is critical for success. Wasting money hurts, but wasting time hurts even more. Let's try not to waste time on poor ideas.

We must learn to identify good and feasible opportunities. Successful entrepreneurs are successful because they are firstly able to identify and secondly able to exploit profitable ideas.    

In a 2009 study conducted by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) it was found that necessity-driven entrepreneurship doesn't meaningfully contribute to job creation in South Africa.  Thereby not helping unemployment, a big problem is SA.  Less than 3% of necessity-orientated businesses create six or more jobs.

That's one reason why we'll have to build businesses that do more than merely survive and to do that we have to switch to opportunity entrepreneurship.  

We’ll consider how to evaluate and exploit a true business opportunity in my next letter.     

Yours sincerely,


Thank you for reading. Please share your comments, experiences or advice, on this topic, in the comment field below. 

Monday, September 26, 2011

Is Your Small Business a Parasite?

Dear Imminent Entrepreneur

Something is bothering me.  Something, I often wonder about. Something, I don't have the answer too. But, I feel I have to say it. Here it goes; I sometimes feel like many of the small business owners, in our country are, how can I put it?  ... well  like parasites.  Maybe I am completely wrong about this, but hear me out. 

Parasites live to take energy and life from other creatures. School biology taught us that parasites benefit at the expense of other creatures.

A business with a parasitic mentality will drain the energy, creativity, and funds from others, without the readiness to reward and to give back in a fair measure.

The cruel irony is that when parasites withdraw too much energy, they can actually kill their hosts. Businesses that continually pay their suppliers late is just one example. So also are those that overwork their staff without paying overtime. Maybe you could think of some more examples.
I recently followed a discussion on one of the big social networks. The discussion was directed at small business owners about the employment of staff.  I remember a comment from one of the participants, a business owner, who in no small measure described how employees generally are unreliable, lazy, and only out to rob her business.

It's a common perception among some business owners, isn't it? Luckily you don't have to take my word for it, Douglas McGregor's in his famous Theory X/Theory Y studied the effects of such a management perspective in detail. Not going into too much detail, we have to recognize that the beliefs and expectations we have about people typically have ways of coming true through something called self-fulfilling prophesies.          

I know that there are some unscrupulous employees out their. People you really do not want in your business. I get that such people have done much damage to businesses.  I get that, but I've also seen on numerous occasions how business owners, especially small business owners, actually harm their own staff.     

Let me illustrate through some examples I've seen: 

1) Small businesses often fail causing staff to lose jobs vital to them.  

2) Small businesses are often understaffed, causing employees to work too long and too hard, often up to the point of burnout.   

3) Many small businesses do not invest in systems, training, and measures that allows staff to succeed.   

4) Many small businesses do not adequately define and structure work in the business, which causes a lot of stress on employees and managers, as everyone scrambles to keep tabs on everything and no one is responsible for anything.    

5) In reality, small businesses cannot provide the same career opportunities to staff as larger firms are able to. Yet small business owners typically expect "A plus" performance from staff. (They have to because staffing is critical, smaller numbers are employed, and each position, in a small company, is critical to the success of the business).   

6) Some business owners have unrealistic expectations, expressed by an attitude we may phrase as: "we want someone good with marketing, with sales skills, able to do also the books, fix the computers, solve problems, and make coffee". Unfortunately, I am yet to meet such an employee.

In recruitment we called this the search for the "superhero employee". An employee that's expected to, like superman, to "swoop in" to put out all the fires and emergencies produced by poor systems and management.   

We live in an age where the employer typically has more power than the one being employed.  Employees typically do not call other businesses for character references on a potential employer,  as is nearly always done on potential employees. Maybe this has to change.

We have to recognize that we may also become one of those bad employers in our businesses.       

I've met people who've burnt out in a small business settings. Believe me, a small business environment is often the ideal place to cultivate employee burnout (or even owner burnout).

The sad reality seems to be that it is often the best, most motivated employees, who eventually burns out. I have often heard business owners recount how they were harmed by employees, but I am hoping to show that it goes both ways.

Inherent to a new businesses, you'll often find lacking business systems and inexperienced management. Clearly not a well ordered business environment - an environment which is not always good to the people working their.         

So why I am telling you this? Why I am I speaking in such a negative tone?

I am doing this to remind you that it is a privilege to live in a country that makes small business and entrepreneurship possible. It's a privilege to be a business owner. With such a privilege comes very real responsibilities.  

It also because I want to remind you that we are ultimately  responsible for our businesses. And we are responsible to act in the best interest of our stakeholders; our investors, our employees, our families, and ourselves (last but not least).       
Remember, we're responsible to control our business's environments. Were responsible for our products, services, and for what happens in our companies.

Micheal Gerber tells us, in his highly insightful book, the Emyth Revisted, that as business owners, we have to develop a 'game' our staff (and investors) wants to play with us.

We have to develop a game that inspires employees to new heights, a game of learning, a game they would be proud to participate in. A game that properly rewards and empowers  performance. A game that energizes and motivates. A game that does not cause harm to those coming in contact with it.  

Fortunately, Imminent Entrepreneur, you can set the stage, you can write the rules of the game in your business, you control the game.  So why not develop the best, most inspiring game for your people to follow? Why not think of creative ways to empower your staff to succeed? Why not build a business that adds real value to the lives of people, instead of one seeks ways to rob their lives of life?

Don't be ignorant of Karma, the sowing and reaping thing. To get, we have to give. To succeed ourselves, we have to empower others to succeed.  To be empowered, we have to empower others.    Please don't leave the development of the 'game' up to chance.

Yours sincerely,

Your Friend in Business.  

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What to expect during your first year in a new business

Dear Imminent Entrepreneur

In my previous letter we looked at one crucial belief all entrepreneurs/business owners should have.  That is a rock solid belief that whatever they are working on, be it a project, idea or potential business, may just work. Entrepreneurs are inherently positive.

Remember the cynic in my previous letter? A cynic can tell you all the reasons why an idea won't work. To the cynic, it is easier to sit on the sideline and criticize others, not taking any risks of their own.

I've been cynical at times in my life, and believe me, being a cynic does not pay very well.

We must realize that we'll need wisdom to distinguish between people with valid criticism and the cynics in our lives. Ignore the cynics; they rarely have the entire picture.

Today, I would like to share a bit about what you may expect during your first year of running your own business. I've identified 10 things experience has taught me.  

1. Your income is not secure
Obviously, you're the boss now. You're responsible to ensure sales, revenues, and the payment of your employees (if you're employing).  The steady paycheck, you may have depended on for so long, is not  coming anymore; and worse, you are standing last in line for payment.

Your own payment depends on how much you make. In your first year, and thereafter, you'll have to master the art of managing your cash flow.  Without regular funds, your business will die.

2. You have to manage your own time
At your previous job someone may have guided you on how you had to spend your time.  You had projects, time lines, and goals to guide you.

You probably also had an overseer; someone like a boss or a manager, checking up on you. Well, now the overseer is missing, the boss is 'dead', sound good doesn't it?

But wait, now you have to provide your own guidance, direction, goals and time lines. In reality many new entrepreneurs become their own worst bosses, much worse and much more demanding, than the one they had previously in their jobs.

You must learn to manage your time well; in such a way that you'll be able stay healthy, prosperous, and without a broken family, while building your business. That's a real challenge.    

3. You have to set your own goals
Started simply; if you don't set the strategy and goals for your business, nothing's worth while is going to happen. Remember that success, almost always, follows careful planning.

4. You have to juggle many unfamiliar tasks
At your previous job, you've probably worked at a specific function in you boss' business, maybe accounting, IT, or some other function.

Now, you have to do that function, usually the technical work required by your business, in addition to an entire range of other functions.  Functions you may not necessarily be familiar with.

You'll have to devote time to all these functions. You should expect a steep learning curve, you should expect to be inundated at times, and also expect to drop some of the balls at times.  

5. You may have to live with temporary isolation
If you have moved out of an office environment, maybe to a home based setting, you should expect to feel lonely and isolated at times.  Especially, if you're planning to run a one man enterprise.  It's important to actively build a strong social network to support you in your endeavor.

6. You have to constantly evaluate your self-beliefs
It is a rare person who's able to remain positive and motivated at all times. At some times, especially during the hard times, you'll be wondering if you are doing the right thing.

Sometimes your confidence will waiver. During such times it is important to have a well developed strategy and a plan to follow. The hard times, are the times to work the plan, no matter how down and demotivated you are feeling.

7. You'll have to believe in a vision others may not yet see
Obviously, you'll be excited about your idea. If you're not passionate and hopeful about your business,  be very careful before proceeding with it.  But not everyone will be as excited about your idea as you are, and that's OK. It is your vision, and you'll have to carry and share it until the world picks up on your excitement.

8. You'll become personally involved  
It's highly likely that you'll become much more involved with your own business than you've been with your previous jobs. That's a good thing, it should give you much energy to drive the process with.

But, personal involvement may also amplify your failures. It easy, when something had not worked, to take the failure very personally. That may be highly demotivating and you'll have to develop the ability to evaluate failures objectively.
9. You'll reach your personal limitations very quickly
Remember what I said about the steep learning curve. Running a business is challenging and  you'll, very soon, reach a point where your own skills and talent are not enough. Where your time is just too limited, and you just cannot do everything your business requires, on your own.

To overcome this, you'll have to build a strong team of people to neutralize your weaknesses and constraints. You have to become a master at identifying, inspiring, and managing talent toward your vision.

10. You'll have to deal with reality of your business while remaining positive 
Sometimes your business will have very real problems. I think that a good entrepreneur is someone who is able to see those problems objectively, but without losing hope and giving up.

To quote George Clasen: "Life is a series of problems to be solved", and your business will be the source of many of those problems.

I am hoping that you'll look at these 10 points, thinking about how you are going to overcome these problems in your own business. Hopefully, one day you'll be able to impart what you've learnt to other potential entrepreneurs, teaching them how to also run a successful business.

Thanks for reading, wishing you all the best with your future business.


Your Friend in Business


If you have something to add, or some advice for potential entrepreneurs, please comment in the fields below.

Monday, September 19, 2011

What if the Cynics are Wrong about Your Business Idea?


These letters form part of our mindset for business success series. It is written from the perspective of someone who's also on the road of entrepreneurship, maybe only a few paces ahead of some, but a bit further down the road.

The idea of these letters is to prepare imminent entrepreneurs, and business owners, for the journey of entrepreneurship. It considers what is needed to succeed as an an entrepreneur. 
Dear Imminent Entrepreneur

So you've finally decided to go into business for yourself.  If you are anything like me, you've been playing with the idea for some time. Pondering on ideas for your own business, imagining   what it would be like to do your own thing.  

Then, one day, you've decided you're actually going to do it.  You're going to start your own  business.  

I congratulate you for making that decision! It takes a lot of guts to do it.  Starting and running a business is not the easiest thing to do.  It's also not the least risky option.  That's probably why so few people actually do it. To be honest, it is a challenging, scary, often lonely, but exciting road to take.   

You've probably been working for a boss these past couple of years. Like I also did before venturing into business ownership. But now that's going to change.

You're probably feeling like you are heading out on an unfamiliar path. I've also been there and freaked out at the thought of it.  Not that I am claiming to be an expert, not at all, I've perhaps only walked a bit further than some on this road.

I am hoping that I could give you some pointers to guide you on your path, some things to think about. Things I picked up along the way. Maybe I could spare you some trouble, or help you to start off better than I had done.    

I've had some successes, some failures, some good times, some bad times.  Overall it was very challenging, but exciting road. I cannot promise you that it will be an easy road, but I can tell you that you will definitely grow during the process.  You have to. The road of entrepreneurship requires that from all of us.   

It requires us to face our fears, to continuously walk outside our comfort zones. It requires us to rethink how we treat people; our clients, our employees, our business partners, our communities.

It requires us to learn many new skills, skills you wouldn't necessarily have bothered with before.

It challenges our beliefs; our beliefs about the world, our beliefs about work, our beliefs about money,  but, mostly our beliefs about ourselves. It requires us to remain positive in the hardest of situations. It requires us to keep our heads up even when everything else is seems to be going to hell.

Entrepreneurship requires faith. Faith in your idea, faith in the worth of your product or service, faith in the value of your business. But mostly, it requires us to have faith in our own abilities.  That being said, it also requires us to deal with the reality of our businesses, while dreaming about what could be.

Entrepreneurship requires persistence, persistence to keep working on our ideas, maybe even for years without much payoff. To keep working while many of your friends and acquaintances are excelling in the job market and their careers.  

Clearly, it is a demanding journey.

Allow me to share one thing that really meant a lot to me. Something about people an their opinions.  Something I learnt while watching a one of Jamie Oliver's programs. Something I also had to grow in; which is, the ability to handle negative feedback and criticism. 

I respect Jamie Oliver as a chef and entrepreneur.  In one of his recent shows he had an idea to convert an unhealthy town in Britain to a lifestyle of cooking and healthy eating.  Jamie had a big dream, a dream to use this little town as a template for changing the way the rest of Britain eats.  

In the show, Jamie recruited a number of novice cooks to 'pass on' a number of simple recipes to their friends. The idea was that friends will teach other friends how to cook and that they, in turn, would teach their friends to cook, and so forth. Jamie hoped to change the entire culture of this little town trough this 'pass it on' process.    

But Jamie had a critic on his team.  A very cynical lady, named Julie, who rarely had a good word to say about any of his ideas. During the episodes she continually criticized every idea and tactic Jamie tried.  During the final show, she again told Jamie that one of his ideas would not work.  She said that the town's people were just too busy, too poor, and not interested in  learning how to cook.  

During the series of episodes, Jamie intently listened to her issues, her complaints, her opinions, and her excuses. I could see that she often upset him and the rest of Jamie's team through her negativity.

Finally, during a pivotal moment in the final episode, he asked her: 

"Julie, what if you're wrong?" 

Jamie then said "Julie, if you're wrong, its gonna be a beautiful thing"

To me that summarizes a core element in the mindset of successful entrepreneurs. A belief that 'it', whatever 'it' is, may just work.

Jamie had his critic and you'll have your critics. People will often find fault with many of our ideas. That is a given and we'll have to manage such feedback constructively.  Typically, we'll have to listen to such opinions with an open mind (sometimes the critics may be onto something). We'll have to decide if what is being said has merit or not. But, crucially, we'll have to do this without losing faith in our dreams and ideas.  

Remember that attitude is often the only difference between those who fail and those who succeed.  Let's take a tip from Jamie's playbook. Let's ask ourselves, what if our critics are wrong? What if they cannot exactly forecast if our ideas will work or not. In the series Jamie saw what could go right, while Julie only saw what could go wrong. Don't be that way; seeing only what could go wrong .

This is still hard for me. A naturally positive mindset was never imparted to me while I was young and I have to work hard at overcoming many of the negative ideas I gathered while growing up.  It's probable that you'll have to do the same.  

As an entrepreneur, you have to continuously focus on what could go right. I am not saying to run blindly into each situation, ignoring all the problems. What I am saying is that we must stay focused on the positives, while considering the negatives. That takes lots of discipline.

Remember that if they, your cynics and critics, are wrong; your idea may just prove to be a beautiful thing.

Hope that inspires you on your journey. 


Another Imminent Entrepreneur.     

Note: some authors make a distinction between being an entrepreneur, and being a business owner, and for good reason. I also consider this distinction to be important, but we'll get to that a bit further on in this series.      

Do you also have some advice for imminent entrepreneurs, feel free to add by commenting below. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Changing global contexts – some considerations of the bigger picture and the changing world

Welcome back – as before, I am happy at the opportunity to put some thoughts down regarding our current discussion on changing global contexts.

Last time we introduced the first in six critical tasks, which were formulated in the work of Sunny Hansen. To get this current series of discussions underway, we looked at the external context, within which career planning and development takes place. The idea of acting as change agents was introduced, and the posting was concluded with the introduction of a list of 15 global challenges for humanity.

To extend our understanding of the global arena – also referred to as the external context – we need to take a brief look at how the world population is constituted. In an original work by Donella Meadows, published in 1990, she was asking what the so-called global village would look like as a community of 1000 people. To keep up with changes in world demographics, some authors have adapted the picture to represent the world of today; I have put together a table where some of the more salient pointers of the global village from the nineties is compared to the global village of today*:






· 584 Asians

· 123 Africans

· 95 Europeans

· 84 from Latin America

· 52 from North America

· 61 from Asia

· 12 from Africa

· 12 from Europe

· 9 from Latin America

· 5 from North America


· 165 speak Mandarin

· 86 speak English

· 83 speak Hindu / Urdu

· 64 Spanish

· 58 Russian

· 37 Arabic

The above only accounts for half the village population; the other half of the population speak the following languages (descending order):

· Bengali

· Portuguese

· Indonesian

· Japanese

· German

· French

· 200 other languages

· 17 speak Chinese

· 8 speak Hindu

· 7 speak Spanish

· 4 speak Arabic

· 4 speak Russian

· 3 speak Bengali

· 2 speak Malay-Indonesian

· 2 speak French

· 45 speak other languages


· 300 Christians

· 175 Muslims

· 128 Hindus

· 55 Buddhists

· 47 Animists

· 210 other religions

· 31 Christians

· 21 Muslims

· 14 Hindus

· 6 Buddhists

· 12 other religions

· 16 would not be religious or identify with a specific religion


· 1/3 would be children

· 60 would be above age 65

· 28 babies born per year

· 10 people would die per year

· 20 would be between 0 – 14

· 66 would be between 15 and 64

· 14 would be older than 65


· 200 people would receive 75% of the income

· 200 would only receive 2%


· 53 would live on less than 2 USD per day

· 50 would live in poverty

New technology

· No data available

· 34 would be cell phone users

· 17 would actively use the internet

· 1% would own a personal computer

*Current authors have decided to reduce the size of the current village to 100

This is a really thought-provoking picture; I think as agents of change, we are all required to take due note of the changing demographic of the world. At first, we may think that the pictures are quite similar; the challenge would, however, be to start realising that even the so-called smaller shifts that are taking place on a global scale, are impacting on the rest of the picture.

If we consider the current picture from the perspective of career planning and management, and remind ourselves that the process of career planning simply has to take full cognisance of the big picture, the magnitude of the task is quite apparent! In building on our understanding of this critical task of Integrative Life Planning – finding work that needs doing in changing global contexts – we soon start realising that there is no option but to accept that whatever plans are made, need to demonstrate our understanding of the ever-changing picture. No longer is it okay to think we rule the roost, to think we can plan without due consideration of the bigger picture, and to disregard the interconnectedness of humanity.

In parting I want to pose a question: is the changing global picture duly considered in terms of you career and life planning? Are you simply thinking that as an individual I will not be impacting the world with my choices and decisions? The time has come to change your approach and realise that we are all making a contribution to the changing picture.

Next time we will spend some more time talking about Critical task 1 of the Integrative Life Planning model. According to Hansen’s conceptualisation of the ILP model, it is imperative to look at a couple of macro issues and needs, which are of specific relevance to how we approach career planning and human development.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The beauty of innovation and entrepreneurship

Welcome back to our blog! As with many bloggers, I like to write about topics that interest me.  Recently, while doing the series on money, I started thinking about the challenges facing the South African SME business environment. Something I am passionate about. That led me to this series on a mindset for business success.      

Since I have never really worked in large corporates, I am mostly familiar with the SME industry in South Africa. I have some experience in the running of a small business,which makes me familiar with many of the challenges facing the management of SMME's in South Africa.  And there are many challenges facing small business owners.

My journey into the small business circles was not easy, not by a long shot, it rarely is. When doing something difficult, we often reflect on the reasons that led to us to choose the hard road. So I have, lately I wondered why I chose the road into small business in the first place.    

To me, finding employment after university was not easy. That was definitely a factor.  I completed an Honours degree in psychology; which I later found was not in very high demand among potential employers. So began my stubborn journey into small business and consulting.   

I am sure I am not alone in this situation.  I think many budding entrepreneurs and business owners, kind of, 'fall' into their own business at some point. Many of us started a business after having what Michael Gerber in The E-Myth Revisited terms an "entrepreneurial seizure", a sudden influx of entrepreneurial inspiration (excellent book by the way).  

Reading statistics on small businesses, we see that the picture is not pretty. While the stats are debatable, in essence, most small businesses are more than likely to fail. The chance of becoming the next Zuckerberg, Gates, or Branson is also very small.  So why then do small business owners take the road of the business startup?

Why start a business? Why start something that, more often than not, is a very crappy, high risk, low paying job for the first number of years. I am sure the answer will vary. Some may answer money. Yes, indeed, money is part of the motivation - many entrepreneurs are very wealthy, maybe also freedom - the ability to be set your own schedule. But during the startup stages, most owners will tell you, there often is very little money or freedom.

I  agree with Robert Kiyosaki, who tells us in one of his books that money is never enough of a motivation for success in business. So why start a business?  

I can only comment on something that inspires me.  That is the link between innovation and entrepreneurship. A critical part of the mindset of many entrepreneurs is the desire to innovate, to start something new and valuable. Steven Vanderleest, in an article, beautifully defines entrepreneurship as the 'art and science of innovation' - the innovation of new products, new businesses, and new approaches.

And we desperately need such innovation in South Africa. We need new ideas, new approaches, new businesses, and new systems. Entrepreneurs are at the beachhead of those. Maybe we don't need more funding, less taxes, and more support. Though those would be nice Mr Government!

What we need are new ideas. Ideas truly have the power to change the world. Ideas took the world from agriculture to industry, and from industry to the information age. Are there any limits on the value of ideas? I think not. A good idea could affect millions, even billions, of people.

The world needs new ideas. Like ideas on how to extract clean energy from see water.  Or ideas on how to effectively harness the energy of the sun.  We need ideas on how to solve the HIV/Aids epidemic.  There are a myriad of problems that need new ideas.  South Africa desperately needs new ideas.

Fortunately, ideas are the basic hardware entrepreneurs work with. It is from ideas new industries grow , I believe, It is ideas that will create the jobs needed to counter unemployment in South Africa.

Within this innovation mindset, problems always represent entrepreneurial opportunity. Pollution brought the opportunity for clean energy technologies. Communication problems stimulated the development of the internet and cellular phones.  Transport problems stimulated the development of cars, trains and air travel. A problem often is the seedling of opportunity, I wish we'll start seeing it that way in SA    

I am hoping that all of us looking to do entrepreneurial work will shift our attitude from a negative to a positive outlook.  I hope that we will stop seeing what is wrong, and start seeing the opportunities in our nation's problems. I am hoping that we will have faith that things can change and that we'll  keep our eyes open for the opportunities.

Thanks for reading and happy innovating! 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Finding work that needs doing in changing global contexts

The time has come – today I will start getting into what I like to think of as the ILP proper. During the last two or three months I have taken some time to introduce you to the principles and objectives of the Integrative Life Planning model; we also focused on some of the most salient reasons as to why there is a need for a new career paradigm.

If you have been following our blog, you may recall that we also introduced what Hansen refers to as the six critical tasks, which form the core of career decision making and career management. As she referred to these tasks, they have been given limited airtime; if, however, one starts taking a careful look at the challenges of the new world of work, addressing these issues is paramount to remaining part of the game in the new millennium.

As we started presenting the model, I posted a brief article where the topic of the next couple of blog posts was introduced: Finding work that needs doing in changing global contexts. According to Hansen, it is essential to first consider what she refers to as theexternal context within which career planning and management takes place. If we want to be effective change agents, we need to know how the external environment is characterised – this aspect is often overlooked when we engage in career management activities. If career management professionals want to remain relevant within the changing global arena, they should be able to offer assistance to all individuals – regardless of cultural or local boundaries – with the intention to instil sensitivity to the changing global context.

To start us on the road to delimiting the external context, Hansen reminds us of the well-known slogan introduced by the World Future Society in 1980: “Think Globally, Act Locally”. If one were to rewrite this slogan from the ILP perspective, it should read “Think and Act Globally and Locally”, since the world we are living in requires an integrative approach, rather than one where we still see local and global contexts as separate entities.

To support the above notion of integration, we simply need to look around us to see how the world of the 21st Century is different from the 20th: the introduction (and acceptance) of computers; the use of satellites for global communication; the formation of new international economic and political alliances, such as BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and very recently South Africa); the advent of social media and many other examples. Hansen aptly indicates that “what used to be national problems are now international problems”.

To better understand global challenges that form the external context within career planning and career management needs to be done, we have no choice but to assess our position in relation to the biggest challenges humanity is faced with in current times. According to theMillennium Project, there are 15 global challenges for humanity:

This is quite a list and I want to challenge everyone reading my current posting to take some time to think how these issues are impacting – directly or indirectly – the world within which you live and work; take time and consider how these issues impact the manner in which you plan your career and life. I will take a closer look at these issues in future postings, but want to leave you with a question / comment: can anyone go on believing that our lives are not interconnected on a global scale? Can anyone state that these global challenges do not impact on our future plans, our families, and our futures? I think not.

Please feel free to comment on the above – I am curious to hear your thoughts on my question.

Time to go – I need to now venture off into the changing world to see where and how I can act as an agent of change!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Becoming an agent of change

Hello again! I am so excited to be back and to spend a couple of moments talking about the last principle underpinning the process of Integrative Life Planning (ILP)! One of the core elements, which the ILP model addresses, is the pervasive issue of CHANGE – today’s posting will present some of the ILP-related thoughts on this aspect of our lives.
In previous posts, I have indicated that ILP is a model, which has been conceptualised with the intention of providing a kind of fluid framework within which individuals – and families and communities and organisations – can be assisted to make all-encompassing career and life management decisions. ILP is therefore said to be based on the belief in people’s ability and power to (make) change(s); further to this, the model also places significant emphasis on our ability to understand the changes we end up making in this process.
At this time I think it needs to be said – once again – that making a career choice, and planning how this aspect will fit in with the other parts of our lives, is never a once-off event. Yes, getting relevant personal insight is the first step, but never the end of the journey; as soon as we can get people to realise that we are all life and career sojourners – travellers – we will be able to start effecting longer-lasting change.
The ILP model has been put together in such a way as to help people manage the changes they (need to) make in their lives, and how these individual changes can in fact make a difference to everyone we are in contact with. To use the words of Sunny Hansen, we all have the power to act as change agents, regardless of how we view ourselves and our roles in our families and society at large. ILP is entrenched in the principle that a decision that is made at the individual level will impact both local and global communities.
As soon as I now type these words, I can hear the detractors saying that one person cannot change the world – taking this position may clearly be indicative of a lacking in understanding of the constantly changing world we are living in. According to Mark Penn, it takes only 1% of a given group to effect change in the larger population! In his book titled “micro-trends”, this astounding phenomenon is presented by means of numerous examples – these examples all serve to indicate how the so-called “small forces” are “the power behind tomorrow’s big changes”. Many influential and powerful world and business leaders have realised that various smaller social phenomena need to be considered in their strategizing and planning; when considering the issue of change, and how this can start on a small scale and escalate into something unheard of before, it starts making sense to not disregard the power of the individual change agent.
In terms of the ILP model, it is imperative for all to have a sound understanding of how personal choices can affect our families, local and global communities. As we keep considering the model in its entirety, we will be spending more time on the challenge we all have to work for the greater good!
If we were to look for some examples of how individual behaviour has influenced local and global communities, we need not look too far. Taking a moment, we are bound to identify at least a couple of individuals who have made a real difference to the lives of others through their (personal) choices. These so-called role models, whether they are teachers, sports coaches, pastors, or parents, have the ability to cause change to those within their circle of influence. If one starts going to a bit grander level, and you want to identify champions of change at a global level, there are numerous examples. Most may think international figures have a greater chance of causing change in their “worlds” – ALL of us have the inherent qualities that require us to influence people and cause change – for the good.
In the next post I will introduce the first critical task identified in terms of the Integrative Life Planning model: Finding work that needs doing. I am looking forward to having you back on our blog and feel that the time has now come for us to start unpacking the ILP model in terms of the six critical tasks, which have been formulated by Hansen.