Monthly Archives: June 2010

wanna get lucky?

So at a recent Churchill Club function in our Innovation thinking stream, we ran fascinating event Luck. As part of the panel, we brought up a chap called Jason Bresnehan from Tasmania to talk. Jason is a corporate advisor who last year decided to start writing articles about becoming luckier.

Jason had started to wonder about phrases like “I was in the right place at the right time”. Specifically he was wondering whether he could increase his chances of “being in the right place at the right time” and so began his research on the pursuit of luck.

Jason felt you get lucky when 4 elements align themselves:

  1. A random collision of life’s interactions presents an opportunity to you.
  2. You are prepared to act upon the opportunity that has presented itself.
  3. Your character is such that you are empowered and willing to act to exploit the opportunity
  4. Your systems and techniques are ready to enable you to exploit opportunities efficiently while mitigating risk

But what does this mean on a day to day basis? Here’s some of Jason’s suggestions.

  1. Taking action to interact more with life and forcing more random collisions – such as trying crazy things, change your routines, do crazy stuff and just get out there. This will increase both the quantity and quality of opportunities in your life.
  2. Act to change your brain, so you notice the opportunities in your life and change the way you think about them. Learning new skills, opens up new neural pathways. Force change into your life so you you have to cope with doing new things. Don’t accept the status quo, even if its simple routines such as where you park your car.
  3. Be prepared to exploit the opportunities that random collisions throw your way. This may include conducting research without acting on it yet, creating a financial reserve or allocating time to explore lucky outcomes.
  4. Build your character so that you willingly and fearlessly act to exploit opportunities. Try new things such as skydiving or acting to overcome your fear of failure and embarrassment.
  5. Creating systems and techniques that create efficiency and risk mitigation when you explore opportunities, such as; KISS – Keep in Simple Stupid, take a portfolio approach to risk, or locking yourself in to a break even/small win strategy rather than big win/big lose strategy.

Weirdly, I started feeling luckier just by writing this article.

Planning for Good Luck

Every win in my career has been due to hard work and great strategies. Every failure due to bad luck. About 10 years ago I won a million dollar a year support contract. It was due to the sensational sales strategy we had in place. Two years later the business folded due to bad luck (losing the two biggest customers in a six week period, one with a very large bad debt).

Does that sound strange?

Of course it does, as human beings with fragile ego’s we don’t like to admit mistakes. Consequently we blame luck for everything that goes wrong, but strategy for everything that goes right. But the truth is though that everything in that happens in our life occurs as a mixture of outcomes from effort or just plain luck.

But here’s what’s weird. In business we only actively plan for bad luck, not for good luck.

We:

  • Have a huge variety of insurances in place to cover off every conceivable outcome.
  • We create risk registers when planning new projects.
  • We take backups of our data
  • We create disaster recovery plans.

But we don’t plan for good luck because that would be considered as silly, and “a plan for idiots”.

But interestingly, in other areas people do plan for good luck.

In science, unexpected positive outcomes from research are considered normal and are expected. Experiments are designed so that they are open to unexpected outcomes, both positive and negative. The number of inventions that are a product of a unexpected outcome (see serendipity on Wikipedia) are legion.

The 16 year old boy, out on his first date keeps a condom in his wallet “just in case”.

In the military ,battle plans acknowledge good and bad luck. Orders will cover what do if things go horribly wrong -which they most likely will, plus what actions to take if you get an unexpected but positive outcome. Eg What should you do if the enemy retreats a lot further than expected?

These examples aren’t “betting the farm” on good luck, but they do show a preparedness to take advantage if things go your way.

Makes you wonder what you could achieve if you also prepared to get lucky.

Dont go to networking events, if you want to build a great network

NetworkingThe two weeks or so ago I took part in a panel session on Networking for CIOs. It was an interesting conversation although it pretty much centred around event attendance and using social networking tools like LinkedIn. At the end of the session, as I reflected on what  had come out of it, I was surprised to find that the concept of “networking events” continues to be appealing to many people.

I find networking events quite pointless and in fact a little unsavoury, and thought I should  put up some arguments to why they are a waste of time time anyone looking to build a great business network.

The Quality of the Network

A great business network isn’t necessarily a large one, but it is full of people that are shaping their own worlds.

1. People with issues that need solving in their business, have no motivation to attend networking events – instead they attend knowledge based events to help them find solutions. To them, networking could be a bonus, not the point of attending. My experience is that networking events are overwhelmingly attended by people with a “supplier” mindset, not “customer”. So you are unlikely to make interesting connections.

2. I have never met a senior executive or person of profile at a networking event, other than when they were presenting. Networking events are almost exclusively attended by very junior people. Since I have never met anybody that wanted to network down, rather than with peers or upwards, you have got to ask yourself “Will I meet the CEO there, or just junior sales staff?”

3. The most interesting and valuable opportunities I have ever come across have been with people completely outside my own area of activity. If you are an Accountant, who only ever turns up to Accounting industry networking events, exactly who do you think you are going to meet?

Your Value & Mindshare

A great business network is two sided. You value people in it as much as they value you.

4. I own two shovels that are identical, because I forgot I already owned one when I needed a shovel. So a great networking connection is one where who you are and your value gets remembered the next day. Unfortunately networking events rarely generate that type of connection as the purpose is to meet as many people as possible – so that you increase your chances of getting lucky and finding an opportunity.

5. Networking events also tend to be very industry or location specific so that your own value proposition tends to get hidden in the white noise of the event. For instance would you rather be an lawyer at a legal function, or a lawyer at an event full of multimedia people looking to expand overseas?

Attributes of the Secondary Network

A great business network connects you to other great networks.

6. Just working a room looking for opportunities is a completely soulless activity. But not only that, it also means that you may miss out out on tapping into the networks of the people you meet. Something that’s wonderful to hear is “I need to introduce you to a friend of mine”. Those words don’t get spoken at networking events, because everybody is just to focussed on pushing their own message and desperately hoping for a win.

So my argument is that if you want to build a great business network, attend events from different disciplines where knowledge transfer is the primary goal, not just networking. Not only is it more effective, but a much more palatable way to live your life.