Cómo descubrir tendencias ocultas

como descubrir tendencias

Puedes predecir el futuro observando los patrones ocultos del presente.

Cuando se trata de negocios —sobre todo los basados en innovación— todos intentan estar un paso adelante de los demás. Todas las empresas quieren ser las primeras en descubrir o inventar la siguiente gran idea. Es decir: todos quieren predecir la siguiente tendencia antes que la competencia.

Y a pesar de ello, cuando las personas intentan predecir el futuro, sus ideas son sumamente inspiradoras o pobres. Por ejemplo en los 1960’s y 1970’s, la mayoría de las personas pensaban que todos tendríamos autos voladores en dos o tres décadas más.

La industria automotriz estaba creciendo como nunca, el petróleo parecía la mayor bendición que la humanidad podía recibir y los cohetes a la luna eran el hit. Todo indicaba que nuestra tecnología se alineará para unir todos estos avances para su uso personal.

Pero predecir el futuro y sus tendencias basándonos en lo que es obvio a simple vista es un ejercicio estéril, inútil. El presente siempre está cambiando, cada vez más rápido: El viajar a la luna ya no es la obsesión de las potencias globales (pero sí de Elon Musk).

Si queremos darnos una mejor idea de lo que estaremos haciendo en el futuro, debemos de buscar patrones ocultos, poco obvios.

Lo interesante es que estos patrones no están a la vista, listos para ser descubiertos. están ocultos dentro de montañas de información, y si queremos encontrarles, necesitamos convertirnos en “Curadores de Tendencias”.

Piensa en lo que hace el curador de un museo. Primero, colecciona objetos, como obras y artefactos. Es importante crear una colección, pero por esta por si misma no hace una exposición, o mucho menos un museo. El curador tiene que proveer significado a los objetos que presentan como una colección.

Lo mismo tiene que hacer un curador de patrones y tendencias. Debemos obtener mucha información respecto a lo que la gente hace, lo que pasa con tecnología, moda o cualquier industria en la que estemos interesados.

Por ejemplo, un buen curador de tendencias puede notar que las redes sociales avanzan su tecnología y la información personal que publicamos nos inclina hacia un futuro en el cual las persona tenemos un deseo incremental por atención personal.

Para descubrir tendencias ocultas, usa el método de “El Pajar”

Encontrar tendencias ocultas — que no son obvias — es algo complicado. Es como encontrar un aguja en un pajar; de ahí el nombre de éste método.

El primer paso de este método es coleccionar. Todo se trata de coleccionar historias, información e ideas de todos los campos, mercados e industrias en tu entorno.

Después continúa agregando. Esto se hace tomando ideas individuales y pensamientos no relacionados y agrupándolos. Cuando encuentres nueva información, pregúntate “¿por qué me interesa ésto?”. Después, colecciona información basándote en tus respuestas.

Cuando terminas de agregar información puedes “elevar”. Esto significa pensar en los temas base que conectan cada uno de tus distintos grupos. Lo que queremos encontrar es cual es “la gran idea”.

Por ejemplo, supongamos que descubrimos una nueva app que ayuda a las personas a encontrar el lugar con el mejor precio para sus medicamentos. Después lees que Sears está invirtiendo en crear apps que mejorar la experiencia de compras en sus tiendas físicas. “Elevar” significa encontrar las conexiones entre estos dos elementos: “Las personas buscan mejores experiencias de compras, optimizadas para sus preferencias y necesidades”.

Una vez que tienes una idea, puedes darle un nombre. Este nombre debe de ser simple, entendible y memorable. Una buena forma de darle nombre es juntando los nombres de dos tendencias para crear uno nuevo. Por ejemplo: “Likeonomics” la combinación entre “economics” y “likeability”.

El último paso es “comprobar”. En esta etapa debes de regresar y revisar tus ideas respecto a tendencias emergentes. ¿Puedes encontrar suficientes instancias para llamarle una tendencia?

Cuando analizas tus distintas colecciones y conceptos de una tendencia, tienes que verlo desde distintos ángulos. ¿La idea principal hace sentido? ¿Tiene impacto sobre la vida de las personas o su comportamiento? ¿Seguirá teniendo efecto en el futuro?

Si la idea cumple estas características, encontraste una tendencia, si no, vuelve a empezar.

Los fundadores de las mejores empresas suelen ser raros, y eso es importante.

Hoy Aprendí

Hoy aprendí que usualmente, los mejores emprendedores y fundadores de empresas suelen ser algo inusuales; y esa personalidad única es crucial para el éxito de las empresas.

En general, cualquier Founder suele ser algo extraño, mucho mas si son de una empresa con gran crecimiento y exitosa. Ya sea que hayan sido raros desde que nacieron, lo adquirieron a través de experiencias, o están intentando emular a un modelo, su personalidad suele ser inusual.

Por ejemplo, el equipo  fundado Paypal,  son todos algo raros. No solo incluye a Elon Musk, sino que 4 integrantes del equipo, tenían el hobby de diseñar y construir bombas caseras, solo por diversión.

Este tipo de originalidad, y autenticidad es importante en un fundador porque más allá de fundar una empresa, le otorga una gran visión. Esta contribución es irreemplazable, ya que por más detallados que estén sus procesos administrativos, son los fundadores quienes le otorgan una visión que perseguir.

Pensemos en Steve Jobs de finales de los 90’s. Para ser precisos el de 1997, que recién regresaba a Apple después de una década de ausencia. Empezó a diseñar el iPod en 2001, gadget que los analistas descartaron como una moda temporal enfocada solo a los usuarios de Mac.

La visión y verdadera genialidad de Jobs radicaba en la futura familia de iPhones y iPads que crearían toda una nueva industria de dispositivos “Post-PC” y se distinguen por su diseño y funcionalidades que ahora marcan un standard para toda la industria.

Jobs, logró hacer de Apple la empresa más valiosa de todo el mundo al tener una visión clara y un plan estratégico basado en su visión, única.

Así cómo Paypal y Apple demuestran, hasta las empresas más sólidas necesitan de la originalidad de sus fundadores para logran desempeñar en un alto nivel, y generar valor que ninguna otra empresa pueda replicar.


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Voluntariado Inteligente y Voluntariado Ingenuo

dumb volunteer smart volunteer

El Voluntariado Corporativo pertenece a Recursos Humanos, no a Responsabilidad Social.

Wow! ¿contraintuitivo, no ? Cuando lo piensas, no existe ningún solo programa de Voluntariado Corporativo que haya sido diseñado para resolver un problema social. Todos enfocan su atención en atender síntomas a problemáticas sociales. Esto usando el tiempo de sus colaboradores. ¿Haz notado como siempre están enfocados en ayudar a que sus colaboradores estén más contentos y reciban esa cálida sensación de ayudar al prójimo? El beneficiado siempre es el colaborador. Es quien recibe el beneficio a quien se atiende y procura esté contento.

Por eso los programas de Voluntariado Corporativo son un servicio de Recursos Humanos, no una actividad de Responsabilidad Social.

Eso es solo en caso que tu empresa no esté adoptando una estrategia de “voluntariado inteligente”. Esto haría que tu programa tenga una razón de existir dentro de Responsabilidad Social y/o Sostenibilidad. Pero ya hablaremos más de ese tema en la Parte II del libro, cuando hablemos sobre soluciones para aumentar tu rentabilidad resolviendo problemas sociales. Por ahora hablemos de qué es “voluntariado inteligente” y qué es el “voluntariado tonto”.

El Voluntariado Inteligente y El Tonto

¿Qué es “voluntariado tonto” y porque se le llama así?

Bueno, es muy sencillo en realidad. “voluntariado tonto” (dumb volunteering en inglés) — que usa el tiempo de tus colaboradores — toma su desafortunado nombre gracias a su contraparte: el “voluntariado inteligente”. El “voluntariado inteligente” en comparación a “voluntariado tonto”, usa las habilidades y competencias de tu organización.

¿A qué nos referimos con esto? Hacer”voluntariado tonto” es como usar un lanzallamas para prender una vela: es un completo desperdicio de energía y recursos.

Si ya estás pensando en tener — o quizás ya lo tienes — un programa de voluntariado corporativo, significa que tienes un gran número de personas brillantes y competentes trabajando en tu empresa. Y como cualquier otra empresa inteligente, deseas hacer el mejor uso de tus recursos.

Digamos que tienes un gran equipo de financieros en tu equipo y una casa hogar con un sinfín de retos que resolver. Qué acercamiento es más inteligente:

  1. Enviar a tu departamento de finanzas a pintar una pared todo el sábado, ó
  2. Enviar a un financiero a sentarse una hora con el contador de la casa hogar para revisar su estrategia financiera

Nunca le pagarías lo mismo a un pintor por hora lo mismo que gana por hora tu director de finanzas, cierto? Entonces porque estas gastando lo mismo al enviar tu financiero a hacer el trabajo de un pintor (que por cierto no sabe hacer)? Ahora multiplica eso por decenas, o cientos de colaboradores en cada evento de voluntariado que haces, e imagina la cantidad de dinero y recursos que estas desperdiciando. Y no se vale decir que es en su tiempo libre. Lo están haciendo porque tú se los pides. El tiempo se esta gastando por ti.

Hace unos 8 años, una fundación internacional llegó a México. Ofrecían programas de voluntariado corporativo (aún lo hacen). Estos programas consisten en visitas a comunidad afectadas por desastres naturales. Durante estas visitas tus colaboradores construyen casas, pintan paredes, plantan arbolitos y ofrecen ayuda a las familias de la localidad. Su punto de venta es decir que tus colaboradores se sentirán bien al ayudar a las familias necesitadas al salir de su zona de confort y hacer trabajo físico. Lo primero que resalta es que en ningún momento hablan de una solución al problema. Se enfocan en tus colaboradores y en el síntoma. No esta diseñado para tener impacto social.

Al final de los 2000’s en México, uno de nuestros clientes corporativos en Humana nos llamó. Quieren nuestra ayuda para evaluar y mejorar sus programas de responsabilidad social. En ese entonces aún se pensaba en responsabilidad social como algo aislado, y aún no se consolidaba el concepto de sostenibilidad corporativa (creo que en México aún es el status-quo).

En términos de retorno de impacto (impacto social generado por euro invertido) algo no sumaba. Reunimos los indicadores e improvisamos los que hacían falta para detectar el problema en una de las áreas: voluntariado. Un programa de voluntariado justamente de esta organización de trabajo físico los fines de semana. Es decir un clásico programa de “voluntariado tonto”. Cuando tuvimos oportunidad de platicar con el responsable del programa a solas (sin su superior presente) se sintió en confianza para platicar la realidad.

A pesar de que se ofrecía a los colaboradores grandes incentivos para participar en los programas de voluntariado, pocos lo hacían. De los pocos que participaron, hicieron un pésimo trabajo de construcción. Pero sobre todo, no lo disfrutaron. Lo peor del caso sucedió cuando los colaboradores se retiraron. La organización que ofrece estos programas, tuvo que contratar albañiles profesionales para que destruyeran el trabajo de los colaboradores y lo volvieran hacer.

Dejando a un lado el hecho que es sumamente deshonesto hacerle esto a sus colaboradores. Es sobre todo un uso muy ineficiente y estúpido de sus recursos. Si, lo dije — es estúpido — nimodo, es la verdad.

Tus colaboradores no son tontos, a decir verdad son muy inteligentes! Es por eso que los contrataste. Tus colaboradores y todo tu equipo merece un buen trato, digno del alto talento y valor humano que representan para ti. Ya no compran el viejo truco de:

  1. “vamos a pintar una barda”
  2. “vamos a regalar dulces en una posada”
  3. “vamos a construir una casa de 2×2 de madera”

Eso funcionaba en épocas de los baby-boomers, donde todos lo que motivaba a las personas eran incentivos extrínsecos. Pero jamás funcionarán de nuevo, y menos para Millennials. Incluso si logras que participen, muy rápido se darán cuenta que su tiempo puede ser mucho mejor invertido, y no sentirán aprecio.

Probablemente ya saben que su programa de voluntariado corporativo es “voluntariado tonto” . Eso explicaría porque cada vez se batalla más para aumentar la participación.

Nadie obtiene valor de un programa de “voluntariado tonto”.

Los programas de Responsabilidad Social y voluntariado corporativo ya no pueden sobrevivir con trucos de marketing. Las personas, la sociedad y los colaboradores exigen que se genere valor e impacto real.

En serio chicos, tenemos que dejar de operar el departamento de Responsabilidad Social con estrategias de Marketing. Hace décadas dejó de funcionar.

Si, necesitamos una muy buena comunicación, pero hay que invitar al resto de la empresa y sus habilidades para que haya resultados reales que comunicar. Incluye a diseñadores (no solo gráficos), ingenieros, estrategas, contadores. En verdad, a todos!  Incluye la voz y opinión de todos tus colaboradores en el programa.

¿Como adopto “voluntariado inteligente” ?

Es muy fácil en realidad: se trata de conectar problemas con habilidades. Esto quiere decir que solo tienes que crear un canal de comunicación, donde sea posible hacer una liga entre habilidades de tus colaboradores y problemas de las organizaciones.

El “voluntariado inteligente” permite que tu empresa donar sus competencias clave y a tus colaboradores sus habilidades, a las causas que ellos eligen. Ésta es una de las mejores estrategias de atracción y retención de talento. Sin mencionar todos los puntos que puedes obtener si te interesan esas listas de los top 10 de las revistas y los programas de “Great Place to Work”.

Déjame adivinar… Seguro tu empresa tiene problemas para atraer y retener talento. Bueno, hice trampa. La realidad es que todos los clientes corporativos de Humana tienen ese problema. En una economía global, las personas más talentosas pueden escoger para quien y en donde trabajar. Esto representa un nuevo reto para las organizaciones que estaban acostumbradas a tener un monopolio sobre el talento regional. Y ahora, tiene una gran presión para asegurar el talento que necesitan antes de que se vayan con la competencia, o cualquier otra empresa en cualquier parte del mundo.

Te entiendo, en serio. Este es un problema que también tenemos que resolver para las empresas en nuestro Venture Builder. No hay aceleradora, incubadora, inversionistas o líder de capital humano que no menciona este problema: todos necesitamos ayuda para atraer y retener talento. No importa si eres un Fortune 500  o una startup en crecimiento. De esta nadie se salva y aumentar el sueldo, no es suficiente como antes. Bueno, solo casos excepcionales cómo Google y Facebook, porque saben como tratar a su gente.

Protip: el secreto es ayudar a tus colaboradores a desarrollar sus intereses y pasiones, a ser mejores en lo que sea que quieren ser.

Por ahora, no quiero desperdiciar tu tiempo. Si tu empresa no tiene ningún tipo de problema para atraer talento, solo deja tu correo aquí para avisarte cuando publiquemos el libro completo. De lo contrario puedes seguir leyendo abajo sobre “voluntariado inteligente”.

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Bien, sigues aquí!

Ahora, considera por un momento que todos tenemos problemas para atraer y retener talento. Esto es probablemente porque no estas ayudando a tus colaboradores a tener carreras con sentido y propósito. Una carrera profesional que los haga sentir bien y ser felices.  Es así de simple: todos queremos carreras que nos ayuden a ser mejores personas y ser felices, incluyéndote!

Verás, durante la locura de los 80’s cuando Wall Street se enloqueció por la codicia, motivadores extrínsecos como bonos, carros, reconocimiento público, etc  funcionaban a la perfección. Eso fue hace 35 años, yo literalmente apenas gateaba y aún me cambiaban los pañales.

Los boomers ya no son el centro de tu estrategia de talento y capital humano. Ahora, los millennials (gente nacida a mediados de 80’s y finales de 90’s) reclamamos tomamos ese honor. Y nos motivan otras cosas muy distintas que a los boomers o Gen X. Pero no te preocupes es sumamente sencillo.

Lo único que necesitas es ayudar a desarrollar un sentido de libertad y propósito. En su libro “Drive: la sorprendente verdad sobre lo que nos motiva” Daniel Pink lista 4 grandes motivadores intrínsecos que ayudan a cualquier persona a desarrollar una vida plena.

  1. Maestría: perfeccionar un talento o práctica.
  2. Propósito: desarrollar acciones que tienen un impacto y legado.
  3. Comunidad: crear buenas relaciones personales con otros.
  4. Libertad: permitir tener control sobre nuestras acciones.

El voluntariado inteligente las tiene todas

  1. Maestría: perfeccionamos nuestro talento profesional
  2. Propósito: usamos nuestras habilidades para tener un impacto social.
  3. Comunidad: fortalecemos nuestras relaciones con los demás
  4. Libertad: decidimos que causas deseamos apoya y como

Validando tu programa de “voluntariado inteligente” en un día

Vamos a platicar como implementar en detalle en la Parte II del libro. Si ya quieres empezar a jugar con la idea, este es un método súper fácil que puedes implementar en un solo dia para validar la idea.

Tu MVP de “voluntariado inteligente”.

Se trata de una validación usando un MVP (producto mínimo viable por sus siglas en inglés). Esto es una versión de tu programa que tiene lo mínimo necesario para comprobar que tus colaboradores les interesa “voluntariado inteligente”.  No vayas a querer quedarte con esto como programa he ! Esto es solo un experimento para obtener datos duros y comprobar el interés.

Vamos a necesitar tres cosas:

  1. Lista de colaboradores: dispuestos a participar en este proceso sabiendo que es una validación, un experimento, no el programa completo. Usualmente el  0.5% de tus colaboradores son suficientes. (o entre 50 y 250 si tu empresa es grande).
  2. Lista de Organizaciones:  un grupo de organizaciones que necesiten ayuda para resolver problemas de raíz. En este momento quieres eliminar de tu lista las que solo te piden donativos en dinero y especie. Recuerda que queremos usar competencias para resolver problemas, no aventar más recursos a los síntomas.  Un buen rango es de 10 organizaciones por cada empleado. Si no ONGs tienes a la mano, puedes encontrar +15,000 organizaciones mexicanas en ongs.org.mx. El sitio es algo feito, pero se esta mejorando.
  3. Un canal de comunicación: la base de todo programa de “voluntariado inteligente” . Puede ser tan completo como tener un sistema online dedicado (lo ideal) o tan simple como una forma en línea y una lista de correo.

En este momento para crear un canal de comunicación super rápido puedes usar formas de Typeform o Google Spreadsheets. Ambas opciones son gratuitas.

  1. Crea una forma donde tus colaboradores se registren con la siguiente información: nombre, correo, habilidades (dales una lista predefinida de ser posible), ciudad, intereses (dales una lista de categorías de causas sociales).
  2. Crea una segunda forma para las organizaciones. Esta forma debe de tener: título del reto (corto), descripción, progreso actual, entregables, requisitos, tiempo estimado de entrega, habilidades necesarias, nombre de la organización, nombre de contacto, teléfono, correo, dirección.

Validando

Envía tus formas de registro a tus colaboradores y a las organizaciones. Después solo tienes que cotejar los registros para identificar donde hay habilidades en común. Es decir que colaboradores tienen habilidades que aparecen en los retos de las organizaciones.

Ahora solo envía manualmente un correo a cada empleado presentando a la persona de la organización junto con el dossier del reto.

Si te sientes atrevido/a, puedes hacerte la vida un poquito más fácil usando Mailchimp. Un servicio de envio de correo que te permite organizar listas de personas usando campos como base de datos. Con esta función puedes enviar en un solo correo. todos los retos de cierta habilidad a todos los colaboradores que cuentan con ella.

Tambien podrias copiar y pegar todos los correos en copia de carbón oculta (bcc) en gmail o similar. Pero te perderias de las metricas y analisis que te da mailchimp, que son super importantes en esta etapa de validación. Como Mailchimp lleva registro automático de muchas métricas, te puede generar reportes para tu programa (en esta etapa) de forma automática. Por ejemplo puedes saber con muy poco esfuerzo:

  1. en que ciudad participan más.
  2. que tipo de habilidad es la más popular.
  3. quienes abren y quienes responden tu correo.
  4. quien no ha participado
  5. etc.

Todo esto te brinda datos duros para poder tomar mejores decisiones una vez que decidas implementar de verdad tu programa de “voluntariado inteligente”, sobre todo si necesitas convencer a tu jefe para obtener apoyo y recursos.

Conclusiones

El “voluntariado tonto” basado en usar el tiempo de tus colaboradores, es un desperdicio de tiempo, recursos y talento. Sin mencionar que puedes dañar tu reputación y la confianza que tus colaboradores te han depositado. Y como sabes, tampoco tienen buena participación.

En cambio, adopta un programa de “voluntariado inteligente”. Un programa que usa las competencias clave de tu empresa y el talento de tus colaboradores. Ésto nos ayuda a atraer y retener talento, así como desarrollar una carrera profesional que nos hace felices y nos brinda un propósito.

En la segunda parte del libro, en la sección de estrategias de innovación social corporativa platicaremos más sobre cómo implementar un programa de “voluntariado inteligente”. Si quieres que te avisemos cuando se lanze el libro completo, dejanos tu correo aquí: http://humana.mx/csi

Bonus:

Si por alguna razón no lo has leído, te recomiendo leer el ahora clásico artículo de Pippa Biddle: El problema con las pequeñas niñas y niños blancos (inglés).

Smart Volunteer vs Dumb Volunteer

dumb volunteer smart volunteer

Corporate Volunteering belongs to Human Resources — not Corporate Responsibility.

This is a mind-blower, right? When you think about it, there is not a single Corporate Volunteering program designed to solve a social problem. They merely focus their attention to social problem’s symptoms, they don’t try to solve anything. They are meant to engage employees, make them happier, create that warm fuzzy feeling and hopefully more productive. Therefore Volunteer belongs to Human Resources.

That is, unless you adopt a “Smart Volunteering” strategy and carry out it inside a Corporate Sustainability program. But we will talk more about that in Part II of this book. Where we go over all the things that you can do to actually solve problems to increase revenue.

Smart and Dumb Volunteering

What is “Dumb Volunteer” and why is it being called that way? Well it’s quite simple, really. Dumb Volunteer — which uses people’s time — gets its name thanks to its counterpart the “Smart Volunteering” — which uses your organization’s core skills.

What do we mean by this? Using your people’s time for volunteering is like using flamethrower to light a candle: a complete waste of energy and resources.

If you are thinking of — or perhaps already — running a corporate volunteering program, it means that you have a large number of smart people collaborating in your organization. As any smart organization would do, you want to make the most out of your resources.

Let’s say that you have a great team of financial planners and an orphanage with bucket-full of challenges. Which approach do you think is smarter?

  1. Sending a brilliant financial manager to paint a wall of an orphanage for an entire saturday morning, or
  2. Having him meet for an hour with the orphanage’s accountant ?

You wouldn’t pay a painter the same hourly rate that you pay your CFO, right ? So why are you spending the same amount of money by sending a CFO to do a painters work? Now multiply that by hundreds of collaborators and imagine the amount of value your organization would be wasting.

A few years ago an international non-profit arrived to Mexico. They (still) offer outsourced corporate volunteering programs, where they take your employees and make them build wooden houses, paint walls and sometimes even plant trees. Their selling point is that your employees would feel engaged and happy for helping people in need spending their weekend doing physical work. Notice there is no real impact in the value proposition.

Back in 2008, one of our corporate clients called us in. They wanted us to assess their strategic programs and improve them. Impact-wise, something didn’t sum up. When we inquired about the performance and indicators of this particular program — the house-building volunteering — they spilled the soup and told us what really happened.

Even when employees were given incentives to take part, few actually assisted. The few that participated made a terrible job out of building and painting. They simply are not skilled construction workers, they don’t enjoy doing it. And worse of all when the employees left the place, the non-profit that offered the program had paid real professionals come in to undo and redo the job that the employees thought they did.

Let alone that fact that this is quite dishonest for people tricking into making them think they are actually helping. It’s simply a really stupid and inefficient use of any company’s resources. Yes… I said it — it’s stupid — deal with it.

Your employees are smart. Really! That is why you hired them. You need to treat them as the valuable high skill talent they are. They don’t longer buy the “let’s go paint a wall” — “building a 2×2 wooden house” volunteer programs. That perhaps used to work for some baby-boomers. But no longer works for Millennials. If you even get them to be part of it, they will sooner or later find out how their time is being invested and they won’t like it. Perhaps they already know they have little value to add to “dumb volunteering” and your participation rates are already low.

The Orphanage and the Marketeers.

You remember the Orphanage example I was telling you about? It’s actually a true story. Back in sunny Mexico, we were invited to a planning meeting. The head of Corporate Social Responsibility gathered Humana, the leaders of an orphanage, and their corporate volunteering program manager.

We were there to come up with a solution for two challenges. The lack of

  1. Employee engagement, and
  2. Orphanage funding

All the usual ideas you might imagine were mentioned: let’s have the kids write letters for donors. Let’s make a new marketing campaign to motivate our employees… bla bla bla (same old ideas that come from old-school advertising and marketing schemes).

When it was my turn to speak, I offered a drastic solution:

— “Why don’t we get rid of the orphanage”.

By the face of the orphanage’s president you could have imagined said “Let’s bomb the children”. After their silence I continued:

“The real problem here is not the lack of engagement, although we could fix that, and it’s not the lack of funds, neither. Next year you will come back asking for more money, just like you’ve for years now.” — I added.

“The problem here is that there hundreds of children without a family, most of them are given away or abandoned by their families. And on the other side of the problem — you have parents willing to give a nurturing home for them.

So instead of spending more money and annoy employees, let’s focus our resources on improving the adoption efforts.

This improved adoption program will help parents meet with single mothers and families that can’t have their child so they can have a family — that way children will get adopted faster.

You will still work as a non-profit, slowly transform yourself into an adoption agency. Eventually, if we succeed, you can close the housing division. Children won’t have live in orphanage until they are kicked out at 18. Instead they will have a loving family, even before they are even born.”

They didn’t like it. Actually the Orphanage’s leaders even hated it.

If this idea worked, it meant they were going out of business and they would have no more jobs. And as for the volunteer program coordinator, she hated it too. Because this meant she would need to find something else for their employees to volunteer. She would be forced to actually solve a problem, instead of simply organizing weekend field trips.

I don’t blame them. I mean, imagine this. Here come this kid (I was the youngest in the room) and tells you that he wants to change our entire organization’s strategy, which you have run for the last 30 years of your entire life! Who the hell does he think he is, right?

They kept their strategy and changed nothing. They bet high on the marketing and advertising approach: sending even more emails to employees.

Sadly, the orphanage closed the following year. They simply couldn’t sustain the operation costs. The company is now trying to find new causes for their volunteering program, which of course only a fraction of employees support. The numbers diminish by every quarter. No one got any value out of having “dumb volunteering” program. And worst of all, I’ve no idea of where have the children ended up.

CSR and Volunteering can’t survive with marketing alone. People demand real value and nothing less. And you can’t trick them with gimmicks anymore.

C’mon guys, stop running Corporate Responsibility as a marketing or advertising department. Really, no one is buying into that for decades ago.

Yes, we need communication and marketing people in the team. But we also need the missing skills there! Get designers, engineers, business modellers and researchers. Corporate Volunteers don’t want field-trips. They want to make a true impact in the world.

What to do about Dumb Volunteering?

Simply stop it. Instead go for Skill Based Volunteering, the Smart Volunteering!

Smart Volunteering enables your employees donate their skills to the causes they choose, not the sweat to the causes you chose for them. This is a great talent attraction and engagement honey pot. Not to mention that it increases your rates at popular rankings like “Great Place to Work”.

Let me guess… You are probably having trouble attracting and retaining talent for your business. All of our clients have. With global economy and the best talent being able to choose any company in the world to work for, there is great pressure for securing talent before the competition gets them. We can’t seem to find enough people to meet your demand.

I know this because, I have to solve this problem for our own companies, and we also run our own Venture Builder. Not to mention every-time I speak with investors fellow venture builders, accelerators etc., they ask help to find talent. Everyone is trying to get top talent into their companies. It doesn’t matter if you are a Fortune 500 or a growing startup. We all know we need talent, and a good paycheck no longer does the trick.

If you never have trouble getting all the top quality talent you need, you can skip ahead to the next chapter of the book (sign-up to get notified of launch). I don’t want to waste your time.

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Good, you are still here. Now, please consider that you might have problems attracting talent, it might be because your are not helping your collaborators to have meaningful jobs. It’s that simple: everyone wants a meaningful job, including you!

You see, companies used to engage employees using extrinsic motivators such as bonuses, appliances or god forbid public recognitions like trophies and recognition diplomas you see in old people’s office.

What we need to do now, is aim for intrinsic motivators. They are simple things, but mostly allow us to have a sense of purpose and meaning. In his Book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink lists the following:

  1. Mastery: being allowed to reach for that wish for perfection.
  2. Meaning: allow people to develop a sense of purpose and reach it.
  3. Community: help people build strong relationships with others.
  4. Autonomy: allow people to have control over their work and actions.

Smart Volunteering has them all!

  • Mastery: We are practicing and getting better at what they do best, they job.
  • Meaning: We know they are helping solve problems, not attending symptoms.
  • Autonomy: We decide what causes and activities to invest our skills on.
  • Community: Having recurring interaction with people you help and others that enjoy their actions does help build strong relationships.

Conclusion

Time based volunteering is “Dumb Volunteering” — a waste of time and resources. Not to mention that it can even damage your reputation and trust among your employees, who are no longer engaged by such programs.

Instead adopt “Smart Volunteering” — skill based volunteering that helps people develop purpose, meaningful careers and live fulfilling lives. This is by far the second best way to engage your employees. (I’ll tell you the best way further in the book in Part II when we talk about what strategies work best).

Extra reading:

If you haven’t take a look at now a classic story on dumb volunteering: The problem with white little girls and boys, by Pippa Biddle.

Scrumming your OKRs

OKRs SCRUM

Designing a scrum wall for the big picture

This is a short story on OKRs and how we are implementing it with Agile Management at Connovo to build and launch social ventures.

1. What are OKRs

OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results. It’s a contemporary goal tracking tool that has been popularized by John Doerr at intel and now adopted by tech giants such as Google and LinkedIn.

I prefer OKRs over S.M.A.R.T. (smart, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound) or D.A.R.C.I. (Decider, Accountable, Responsible, Consulted, Informed).

Let’s face it, SMART is simply outdated by about 20 years, just stop using it, like Now!

DARCI in the other hand is quite solid and provides a more agile approach. Some amazing teams like Unreasonable Institute Mexico uses it with great results.

Yet, I find it simply over-complicated and sometimes overwhelming. When you take a look at DARCI’s dashboards it’s filled with repetitive information and I firmly oppose to the separation of roles of the Decider, Accountable, and Responsible.

Without going into details, it’s a rule of thumb that the person responsible for completing a task must be the one who assesses the complexity and defines how it should get done. Mix this three elements up and get yourself into a mess. This is especially true for small organizations and agile projects.

DARCI might be OK for board level follow-ups, and even then it’s over complicated.

I love simplicity, especially when it comes to business.

I love simplicity, that is why I chose to use OKRs for our next company. It’s quite adaptable for any level of follow up. From board-level reporting up to weekly sprints.

I highly recommend you to download better works’ introduction to OKRs. As the sub-title says, it will give you the “Best Practices for Implementing OKRs in Your Business”.

With OKRs your objective always supports your teams Key Result. It’s clear how you matter to your organizations success. 
Here is a super quick guide to define your OKRs according to Kris Duggan, Betterworks’ CEO:
  1. Each employee sets five or fewer objectives and four or fewer key results for each objective per quarter
  2. Employees and managers gain mutual agreement on set OKRs
  3. Employees evaluate goals (score them) at the end of each quarter — target set by company is typically between 60–70% success
  4. Employees and managers decide whether employees should continue incomplete KRs (which only occurs if they are still important to the business)

I would only add a clarification: make sure every employees Objective is directly aligned to his/her team’s Key Result. Notice how in this example Larry’s and Jacks Objective are the same as John’s Key result?


My favourite aspect of OKRs is that they make sure that everyone is aligned and accountable. If you see your organizational structure with OKRs you can trace and align every action from anywhere in the organization and see how it builds up and supports the bottom-line. That is a great tool to keep teams engaged and motivated.

There is no doubt that every team member’s work matters. And it will even help you see what projects, tasks are not aligned and therefore must be eliminated.


2. OKRs & Agile Management

After falling in love with OKRs we needed to find a way to combine it with our Agile Culture and practices at Connovo. The main challenge was how to adapt our project management process (venture building) to make sure that everything was aligned to our strategic goals.

The answer was simple and elegant:
Adapt the scrum wall for high level project management.

Since we started to work building social businesses we’ve been using different adaptations of the scrum wall. It’s a natural fit. While we are not a team of developers, we do design companies and need to do so in a veryAgile way.

This time adapting the SCRUM wall was really easy. We just re-assigned the columns to our Objectives and Key-results, and use one wall per project — which in our case is a wall per new company.

At first it was a bit tricky. Since you can track OKRs at any level, I wasn’t sure what level of detail should I translate into the wall. Board? Company? Key Result?

Big Picture vs Micromanagement

After three iterations tracking the company’s development as an objective felt just right. It provides the right about if “zoom” for everyone. It doesn’t end up micro-managing everyone’s tasks and it also provides a big picture per company/project.

Here is our current layout:

1. Objective

It’s this sprint’s Objective. In our case, it’s a single company the team is building. This Objective will usually take any where from three to 8 months to complete.

Quite a long time when you compare it with a development sprint which lasts only a day. But don’t worry. Just remember, this is a big-picture wall, not your weekly high-detail management tool.

2. Key Results

These are the big milestones in our unique venture building process. They are placed in vertical order (columns) and usually take anywhere from two weeks to a month to complete.

3. Tasks

This is a collection of identifying activities we know we need to complete. They are organized horizontally by Key Results. That is, each row of tasks belong to the single Key Result on the left. They can take anywhere from 1 day to 1 week to complete.

4. On Going Tasks

Like a traditional scrum wall, every time we start a task we place it here. That way we can know what are we working on and what is left for us to complete. Focus !

5. Blocked

This is a small column dedicated to tasks that are “blocked” by a third party. This are usually things like waiting for a provider, waiting for the board to make a decision.

6. Done

This is where all completed tasks are placed. This way we know how far in the road we are.

7. Notes

Sometimes we need to share extra information for everyone to use. Like, important contacts, or events. This is where all the extra information goes.

Final Notes

I like to keep SCRUM walls physical. It provides a visual reminder of our objectives, improves dialog and allows teams to be informed of the big picture with a simple glance.

If you have remote collaborators, you can always use Trello or Dapulse. I’m personally considering Dapulse to keep up the board informed of our High-level OKRs progress. That is, just the first two columns of our venture building wall.

If you don’t want to invest you can always use trello, or even a simple google spreadsheet. After all, you just need to update it once a month.

Please contact me if you have any comments, questions, need help defining your OKRs, or designing your wall. And please contact me specially if you have suggestions. I would love to see how other teams hack OKRs and Agile Management:

m. hjbarraza@humana.org.mx
t. @hjbarraza

A guide to hiring virtual assistant services

Hiring Virtual Assistants

Why and when should you use virtual assistants

People think that the reason to hire new a Virtual Assistant (VA) is to free-up time. That is so wrong! The reasoning behind this is that it will cost less to pay someone to do a task than do it yourself, because the cost of an hour of your time is greatly superior than what you would pay your VA.

I disagree with this reasoning, because it will lead you to hire the cheapest help you can find and limit the growth of your business. Rather than helping, it will become an obstacle — because you will get stuck focusing on saving money, and having a poor team. You should focus instead on building a team that will help you become more productive, more profitable and ultimately, wealthier.

I personally like to add a second element to the equation, which is far more important and neglected: How much wealth will my VA generate for me.

Unless I can do something with the time I’d will recover, that will create double the wealth than the cost of the VA, I will do it myself. Why? Because I like to also save money and my time doesn’t always is worth same.

Now, Notice that I used the word wealth, and not money. While this two are related, they are usually mistakenly interchanged. Wealth is the combination of things that make you feel fulfilled in life. And while that varies from person to person, it is always a combination of:

  • nurturing good personal relationships,
  • being healthy, taking care of your body and soul
  • have freedom to do the things you love.

Money, usually helps us build wealth, but by itself it will never provide it. It is but an enabler.

So if I have some time in my hands, I can decide, if at that moment, it can be used to have better relationships, health and enjoyment, or it can be used to generate more money.

— For example:  last year when I moved from Bilbao to Barcelona I took a train and made a 6h (or so) r journey. I was “stuck” there for the good part of a day, I had already written and read a lot and had nothing better to do while I was seated waiting for my destination. So I decided to save a few bucks, and do some tasks by myself.

But once I was settled in Barcelona, 6 hours of free my time suddenly became way more valuable than 6 hours seated on a train. I decided that I would rather have someone else take care of my email while I walked around discovering the city.

It is not about the amount of money you are paying your VA, or how much you could save, but the wealth you generate with your time. You must focus on saving time so you can later invest it wisely.

Remember: Time is the ultimate currency, not money.

Spending more time in Barcelona is one of the best uses I’ve made for VA, but I didn’t always get ir right.  Once I tried to save some bucks on a task. We had migrated about 1,200 records from a really complex database that was poorly designed, just to find out that we needed to add some extra information to each record. That information wasn’t available on any database and needed to be searched for and manually imported. I decided that I could automate it by writing a spider/crawler (that’s a small piece of software designed to run autonomously) instead of paying a VA to do it manually. While I managed to write it and fix the data, it took me about 72 hours (my whole weekend). If measured in wealth, those 72 hours, cost was way beyond the cost of what a VA would charged to do it.

So choose wisely — we humans are terrible estimating time and effort. And remember, hiring a VA only to save money is a big mistake and it will surely backfire.

Hiring your Virtual Assistants

Rates and Savings

The process of hiring VAs should be treated as carefully as hiring any other member of your team. Don’t try to be cheap.

While one of the benefits of using VAs can be reduce your overhead, it is usually a bad reason to hire them. If you are tempted to calculate how much money you will save, don’t put their hourly rate in the equation, instead think of the other costs of having non remote employees: such as working space, computers, electricity, in some cases insurance and benefits and so on. Eliminating all those costs are already enough savings. Never go cheap on hourly rates, or you will end up with cheap results.

Remember: Virtual Assistants are there to help you generate wealth, not save money.

Write down a great job description

In order to get the results you are expecting, make sure to come up with a good job description, and I mean a really good one. If you read Spanish, you can find some great tips at Startup Jobs. If you don’t here is a general idea:

1. About You/Your Company:

Write a short paragraph describing what is your mission, what are your personally trying to achieve — or if it’s the case, your company’s mission.

Describe your culture: how is it to work with you or your company, what kind of values and behaviour is expected from your team and yourself.

The “Sell”, why should anyone want to work with you instead of anyone else (make sure you put a lot of love into this last one).

2. About the Job to be done

Their mission.

This is the most important aspect of the job description. Be concise and clear about what is the purpose of their position. Focus on the expected goal rather than in just a task.

For example: when I request help with managing my email, the goal is not to achieve inbox zero. It’s helping me to keep effective communication with my peers. That means that I need to get and reply to the most important messages with the least amount of time and effort.

Activities and Expected Results:

This are the tasks and what you expect from them. Still with the email example this would include:

  • open up my email everyday at 9am of my current timezone,
  • add meeting reminders to my calendar,
  • Reject to any invitation that is not related to the city I’m currently in
  • Mark as important/to read/to reply personally any email that matches the following rules (insert here my personal set of rules)
  • Delete unimportant messages.

Required Skills

Finally, an inventory of soft and hard skills they will need to excel at their work. This includes software they need to know, language they need to be proficient with. etc.

Considerations While Hiring

Choose their location wisely:

Depending on the work you require your VAs to do, you might want to pay attention to the time zone differences. If you need urgent tasks to be done, you probably don’t want to request them to be done at 3am, and likewise, you don’t want to be disturbed at 3am by your VA in order to make a decision. This is especially important when you have tasks that require constant and quick communication.

For Connovo, we have a weekly meeting every monday at 9 am. While I was living in Paris it was already 4pm for me, 7 hours later . While it was a brief interruption, it did break a bit my afternoon routine. But now that I’m Mexico, and I sometimes have to meetings with the London team at their 9am, I have to end up having calls at 2am. That is some bad planning on my side.

This doesn’t mean that you should only hire people in your timezones, this differences can also be an advantage, for example, if you hire someone who is 12 hours behind you it can be quite productive to send a task by the end of your day, just to find it completed by the time you start your next day, literally overnight.

So before hiring, decide what kind of communication you will have with that VA and include your time-zone requirements in your job description.

While Interviewing use the same tools you will use to work

Normally, people will tell you to always use Skype or Google Hangouts to interview your VAs. I personally don’t recommend it.

I learned this from from Matt Mullenweg — the wordpress guy. Unless the task demands your VA to use skype or phones, there is no need too. Instead, you want to find out how the communication works exactly the way they will when you are working. This avoids a the common mistakes of interviewing and hiring, like being biased by how someone looks or talks, when their job has nothing to do with those factors.

I once hired an Indian team over Elance to help us out with some custom coding Everything was going well until we had to discuss a certain feature by Skype. Man.. their accent was SO bad. I couldn’t understand a word they said. They could have sworn they english was perfect, since I was the only one in the call that couldn’t understand a thing. It was so bad that I had to end the call and ask we continue the conversation using text messages. This voice communication problem however, had nothing to do with the quality of the work they delivered. Had I decided to hire them or not, based based in a Skype call, I would probably never choose them and have lost a great team of developers.

But I have to be honest with you guys… I avoid Skype / Hangouts because I hate talking. I dislike it so much I don’t even own a mobile phone.

So unless your VA needs to use skype or similar tool to do their job, don’t use it as your first or main tool to interview them. Instead use the communication tools that you will use in a day to day workflow.

Cultural Fit and Trials

First of all, make sure they get your company’s or personal culture and values. While you are interviewing someone ask all the questions you need to confirm that they “get” you, your organization and what you are trying to achieve.

Specially if they are going to be acting on your behalf, using your name or being your assistant, they will represent you before the rest of the world. You don’t want someone that doesn’t represent your values being the voice of your organization.

In order to make sure you are hiring the right person, provide them with a small task that can help you measure up their performance against the rest of the candidates, that you have good communication and that they can be a good cultural match.

You can take a look at this scorecard to give you an idea of what you should be measuring. Just remember to change each evaluation criteria to match the task in hand. For each different position, you should design a different Scorecard.

Cultural Differences

An important aspect of cultural matching is not only between your AV and your company or yourself, but also with the culture your were brought up. If you are german, you might probably strike a VA from Philippines as cold or perhaps even rude. Take in account that your VAs are people too and as with any other employee you should take consider the emotional aspect of your relationship.

If you decide to go for a international VA rather than a local one, here is a pro-tip for matching cultures: look for countries where the food is similar to that of the country you grew up with. Food and Language are one of the most loyal chroniclers of any culture. If you food looks similar or uses similar ingredients it’s highly probable that your social interactions follow similar rules.

Working

Trials

While your new VA might have experience in similar jobs or serving customers in your industry or profile,  they can’t read minds.  Be sure you provide a clear description and understanding of how and what things are expected to be done.

Work closely during the first few weeks and then give them autonomy as your relationship matures and you “get” each other. During this process, you will also want to put a maximum budget per each task, you don’t want to return the day after just to see that your VA reported 20 hours to complete a task.

Knowledge Base

Remember provide all information for any given task and have a Knowledge Base (KB) to share. In this knowledge base you should have generic information your VAs will need to excel at their job, such as personal preferences on food, music and travel, personal internet accounts like Amazon, email accounts, calendars. Medical information such as allergies, doctors contacts,  past and current medical conditions. Pre-defined budgets for discretionary spending, gifts, education, travel etc.

This will save them and specially you TONS of time avoiding the dreaded email ping-pong where your VA replies your requests with more emails until they have the information they need.

Imagine yourself traveling abroad and request your VA to make a dinner reservation, without this KB, you will start a series of emails with questions like: “what’s your budget, what kind of food do you like, if I can’t find anything for your requested hour, what should I do?”  etc. 

Along with this KB, provide a FAQ and general guidelines for the most common procedures and decisions you need to make or get requests for clarification. Don’t worry if you don’t have a solid roadmap of procedures and FAQs. Most of us start from zero, and you can build it while on the go.

Derek Sivers — CD Baby’s founder — had micro-meetings for every new question an employee came up with. “Derek, a customer wants his money back, should we return it?” Derek, a customer is making a special request, what should I do”. During this micro-meeting he gathered all employees that could have the same question and he answered only once.

Likewise Tim Ferris gave a blank check to his employees in order for them to make decisions that cost less than $50. They had full authority to make the call, that way he wasn’t bugged with repetitive questions, but more importantly, he made sure his customers received a prompt and satisfying service.

While I’m not personally running  a company this days, I’ve given VAs full access to my Amazon account, with simple instructions, use Kindle Unlimited as much as you consider it necessary to achieve your goal — even if its to buy a title for themselves. And you can buy any book that costs less than 35 dollars for me without asking.

Consider this, you will usually be the middleman between your VA and your common goal. That being making a reservation or contacting customers, or taking care of your household. Avoid being the middle man by providing them with all what they need to be independent, including communication to other VAs and the rest of your team.

 

Screen Recording

When it comes to tasks that can be considered a bit technical, I like to record myself doing the task once, and explaining each step out-loud. I’ll then just upload and send the video attached to a request. This works wonders as you need to explain it only once, even if you happen to change VA or need to add more VAs to your current team.

For example, my family has a small magazine that has been published for more than 30 years. When we started to improve the website, I personally configured and setup wordpress as the backend and the theme. This required that for every article posted, specific information was included in the backend. Instead of sending a checklist in an email template, I recorded myself posting 5 articles and then send that as a “training video” for the journalists.

If you are on Mac, you I recommend highly Screenflow I can’t remember what I used before it, but since I tried it about 3 years ago I haven’t needed any other recording software. It also works great for recording presentations, online calls and conferences. It’s only $99, and if you think it might be expensive, think again… It will pay itself with the first time you need to explain a complex task to your VA, and by the second time it will already be generating time-profit.

If you are on PC, I’ve heard great things about Camtasia.

Automate Before and After Delegating

I can’t stress this enough. Before asking something to be done, evaluate the possibility of automating it — specially if it’s not a one-timer. For example, you might consider requesting a VA to pay your bills every month using your credit card. While this is a way to save some time, your bank probably already offers a similar service.

You also want to automate your requests whenever its possible. For example, you can setup a feed using IFTTT to send an email to you VA requesting the purchase of an product whenever you tweet about it using the hashtag #tobuy.

IFTTT started as a simple service to automate internet services, and has become a really powerhouse to connect physical objects, services and people. Take a look at their channels (services it can interact with) to see in how many ways you can take advantage of it.

They are part of your team, treat them as such.

Team Building

Remember how we talked that saving money is a terrible reason to get VAs? That is because you don’t want cheap people working for you, you want to strengthen your team. Likewise, VAs while remote, also want to feel they are part of a larger team, working for a common goal. Make sure to include them, and treat them as part as such.

Pay a fair wage, a bit more than the average salary in their country goes a long way, but that’s not enough they need to feel part of your organization and be motivated, and more money usually doesn’t do the trick.

If they aren’t kept in the loop, Virtual Assistants can feel like second-class workers, or that they are not part of your team. Even if you use Va’s for a few tasks a week or a month, you want them to feel included, engaged and to become part of your company.

If you ever happen to visit the city your VA is, invite them for lunch or simply to meetup and have a cup of coffee, almost no one will ever do this and you will both benefit from having some face to face quality time.

Make sure you are sending reasonable amount of work, if you overload your workers they might accept the extra paid hours, but eventually it can fire back, by decreasing the quality of work or start making mistakes. If you have more work to be done, consider hiring extra  people rather than over-working your team.

Give creative with bonuses, usually small things plane tickets to a weekend getaway is very well received, if you need to go small surprise them with gift cards. When I can’t afford large bonuses, I give full access to use my kindle unlimited account on Amazon. To my surprise, this was one of the most appreciated “bonuses” if we consider it as such, because it provided them with the tools to learn new skills and become better at their work, for which they can later use to more money.

Upgrading Virtual Assistants to Remote Workers

It’s not only for small tasks, companies like 37signals and WP Curve rely on full time remote workers. If you have a virtual assistant that has provided a high quality service, consider hiring them full time.

The first one, as the names suggest, is assisting you, to make your life easier and free up your personal time. Whereas the latter, requires more independence, has more responsibilities.

If there is a job in your company that would normally require a part-time or full time person, maybe you want to skip the VA’s and go directly for Remote Workers.

I asked Dan Norris from WP Curve if they used any VA’s and this was his answer:

We have 4 full time admin people. All of our team work remotely so I guess you could call them VAs, we just call them the Admin and QA team

If you are an entrepreneur, it can get tricky to differentiate what do you need, since you usually do every thinkable task. A simply way to define what you need, — a VA or a RW — simply ask yourself:

“If we had all our positions covered would this task be done by my assistant or a different person within the company?”


So, I think I’ve covered as much as I can think regarding my experience hiring VAs to recover time and be more productive. If you have any question or topic that I haven’t covered please do send me a message hjbarraza@gmail.com or @hjbarraza and I’ll reply ASAP.

Bonus: Tools and Resources

Books

If you want to learn more about VAs and Remote Workers take a look at this books:

 

Where to get VA’s

Software

  • IFTTT: automated internet services.
  • Screenflow (mac) and Camtasia (pc): Record your screen and voice.
  • Gmail: the most efficient email service, remember to setup tags and aliases.
  • Google Forms: Use it to have VAs deliver reports
  • Slack: Team chat, it’s our main communication tool at Connovo and Talentia.

Use these Learning Hacks for fast skill acquisition

Learn Hacking

Since I’m interested in numerous range of topics and I get asked a lot, how do I become knowledgeable on most of them.

The last time I spoke about this in a public conversation was at Ingenuos —  Alberto Tello’s Podcast (es) — where we touched this area, and how I designed/hacked a process to be able to learn a lot in a short amount of time. Yet we didn’t had much time to speak about the details because the conversation was oriented towards Social Innovation.

Before we go into details of learning hacks there are two things that need to be clarified:

  1. Knowledgeable vs Experts:
    While you can become quite knowledgeable on any topic, you won’t become an expert in a month. That takes real effort and dedication. Yet, this will get you well above the average person.
  2. Knowledge vs Experience:
    You can become quite knowledgeable on any given topic, but you won’t become a real expert until you put that knowledge into practice. You can read and write an encyclopedia on swimming, but it will never replace a good day at the beach

That being said, let’s get into it.

 

Learning Hacks

0. Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivations

While this might seem obvious and unnecessary to list, you might be surprised how much this can affect in the long-term your ability to effectively learn anything. Make sure you want to learn something new for the good reasons.

For example, if you want to learn how to raise llamas because you met a girl on the bar that is really into llamas, you will probably won’t get very far and end up blowing it by saying something that sounds stupid.  That is just an extrinsic motivator, and those wear out pretty fast.

By contrast, if you happen to be captivated by a delicious pie you had in the weekend and find yourself watching a lot of videos on how to make pies, you have a great intrinsic motivator to start learning something new which enjoyment will last a lifetime.

 

1. Subscribe to the most popular 5 blogs/authors

The only problem with fixed knowledge such as books and online courses is that they can become obsolete in relatively short amount of time. That is why I keep tabs on sites that constantly generate new content and knowledge on the topic I’m Learn-Hacking.

I highly recommend Feedly, which has become the default rss feed manager. You can either bring your own blogs or use it’s quite handy blog suggestion feature that will help you discover new sources.

Geek Alert

Sometimes I get so much into a topic that I create my own tools to discover and manipulate sources. For example, I wanted to keep track on specific topics but feedly did not’ provide a practical interface nor sources, so I created my own aggregator that could present information I wanted to learn clean and in a single view. (and then released it for generic topics). I also started to follow several youtube channels, but I hated how I had to lose a lot of time changing channels — So I created a tool that would display all the videos that I would watch in a single page.

I did things on the web, because the information I’m looking for is there. You can choose any media to manage the information. The main idea is to make the process as efficient as possible.

For example, you want to learn to cook the best steak in town, you can create a private newsletter and invite chefs and cooks to share 1 recipe a month, so you can all share techniques without much effort.

 

2. Buy top 5 Books on Amazon / Courses

The first and quickest way to get started is acquiring knowledge that has already been prepared presented as a product. This means going to Amazon.com and buy the top 5 books on the topic. There are two ways you can choose your top 5. Bestsellers and Top Rated. If you choose the latter, remember to ignore reviews below 4, they are usually made by people who rate low everything. Just make sure you like the positive reviews.

Books:

Then either summarize or rewrite everything you learned from them. Using Highlighting feature can help a lot if you want to share notes, although I still recommend writing a few notes by hand. You will amazed how much you can retain by writing physical notes.

Courses:

Sometimes, the knowledge you are looking for is a bit technical or someone has already been packed in a better presentation. For example, I love skillshare and General Assembly. As part as my “Responsive Web Design Learning Hack” I purchased Meng To. Online book/course.

3. Talk to experts

So, now that you have actual knowledge and your own opinion on a specific topic, find some experts to share insights with. These experts can be the same people you have followed online, or someone you admire. You would be amazed how many people that seem hard to reach are quite accessible — if you approach with something smart to say.

If you have no direct way introduction to them, you can always try to send a old school snail-mail letter, even better if it’s handwritten, since they have about 80% open rate than email.

4. Do Stuff

Now things get to start interesting, you need to take what you have learned and get real. Build something, put things into practice if you haven’t, make prototypes and break stuff. Remember, all the knowledge in the world will never be a substitute for real world experience.

After reading 3 books and 2 online courses on responsive web-design I started to build new themes from scratch for fun. I skipped the talk to experts phase for this one, since I already speak with designers on a daily basis. Although I did share my designs with them to receive feedback.

5. Iterate until you are satisfied

You probably won’t get the level or results that you want on the first try. That is not only normal and ok, but it’s great. Mistakes, while you are learning are a great thing, they are more of iterations and variations of the knowledge you are acquiring. Think of them as small experiments that allow you to explore variations and let you develop your skills.

Keep practicing until you get the results you want, and when you get there, you will find that there are almost infinite amount of new exploration lines you can keep on learning for any given topic.

Choose any one of those you like, or if you are like me. You will get into a level that you become better than the average, you don’t really want to become the best of class for any amount of valid reasons. For example, if you are a manager, you don’t want to become the best developer, but knowing the skills will allow you to be a better manager, communicate better and grow your team.

What you learn and the amount of specialization you develop is up to you.

 

Bonus:

Build your Own Tools

I created my news aggregators and parsers after learning responsive web design. Although I could have used and match several existing tools to achieve similar results. It doesn’t matter if you build them from scratch or piggyback on existing solutions, always evaluate the possibility of using existing tools to make your learning process more efficient.

Outsource tedious activities 

Sometimes I need to learn stuff that requires repetitive and tedious tasks, in that case I usually rely on virtual assistants which can take care of them so I can focus on using my time on more valuable things, or even doing nothing — enjoying my time. For example, you can a virtual assistant to do the research on which books and courses are the best and buy them for you. Or have them identify the experts on any given field.

Remember Learn Hacking  is all about of being able to acquire knowledge and develop skills in the most efficient way possible. Get creative!

 

Your Implicit Brain vs your Explicit Brain

explicit brain system

When we are under pressure and don’t want to fail, our brains make us act cautiously and deliberately.

Imagine you’re at a party, holding a glass of red wine filled to the brim. To your horror, you realize that to greet the host you have to cross an extremely expensive white carpet. So what do you do? Probably, you’ll slow down and focus on each and every step. But why?

It’s important to understand that the brain is made up of two systems:

The first is called the explicit brain system. It is rather slow, and it is activated when we try to consciously control our movements, for example, when we are performing a tap dancing routine for the first time and need to memorize the steps and control each movement of our feet.

The other system is called the implicit brain system, and it is active when we perform tasks automatically, without concentrating on what we’re doing. It allows us to control our movements quickly and fluently, and it can even process multiple tasks simultaneously.

Once someone has mastered a task, that task is taken over by the implicit brain system, meaning that they are then free to focus on other tasks.

But when people are under pressure, they often revert to the explicit brain system and begin to monitor every single movement they make.

Of course, important tasks are prone to inducing pressure, especially if failure in them would cause unpleasant consequences. This is why people sometimes behave strangely when they’re doing something very important; they are afraid of failing.

For example, as you carry that wine glass across the precious carpet, you’re afraid of spilling it and angering your host, so you revert to the explicit brain system that you normally only use when learning completely new skills, and hence walk very slowly and deliberately.

Cómo diseñar tu vacante para atraer el mejor talento

Uno de los elementos clave en Connovo es lograr encontrar a las mejores personas para que formen parte del equipo de nuestras empresas. Especialmente en el rol de Co-Fundadores.

La trampa es que la persona más brillante no siempre es la persona más adecuada para la posición.

Ademas, los gerentes también cometen errores que suceden cuando:

  • No se tiene una clara idea de que es el trabajo a realizar.
  • No hay una fuente solida de talento.
  • No se cuentan con las herramientas para elegir candidatos que parecen similares.
  • Pierden  a candidatos que realmente quieren unirse a su organización

Por eso, diseñamos nuestro propio proceso de reclutamiento que llamamos cariñosamente “The Hive” que esta compuesto de tres etapas, pero por ahora compartiremos con ustedes las herramientas de nuestro proceso para que modifiquen a criterio.

“The Hive” usa como principal herramienta para evaluar candidatos un scorecard cuyas variables se diseñan para cada puesto individualmente. El proceso es el siguiente

1. Diseño de Vacante

  1. Definir tu Cultura Organizacional: Para analizar la relación entre las personas y sus posibles equipos de trabajo en la empresa.
  2. Definir Responsabilidades y Habilidades: Para evaluar que tan adecuada es una persona para las responsabilidades de su puesto.

2. Diseño del Scorecard

  1. Diseño de tu Scorecard
  2. Evaluar a cada candidato usando un Scorecard

 

1. Diseño de la Vacante

Describe tu Cultura Organizacional

Lo primero que debes hacer al diseñar la publicación de una vacante es presentar a tu empresa. Curiosamente es lo que la mayoría de las empresas olvidan.

La descripción de tu empresa debe de estar compuesta de:

  1. Misión de la empresa: El proposito de tu empresa
  2. Cultura: un párrafo que describe los valores y como se comporta tu organización
  3. Sell: uno o dos párrafos que “enamoran” a las personas para que describe los beneficios de trabajar para ti.

Misión de la Empresa

Este es el proposito de tu empresa. Pero no vayas a escribir algo como: aumentar el valor de los accionistas aportando al beneficio de la sociedad, siendo eficientes y profesionales bla bla bla.

En cambio, tienes que ser honesto y tener un diferenciador claro del porque existes.

Cultura Organizacional

Este es un concepto que por más obvio parezca,  la mayoría de las empresas  desde startups corporaciones suelen pasar por alto. Toma muy poco esfuerzo, y los beneficios de tener una cultura definida van mucho más allá del proceso de reclutamiento.

Para definir tu cultura, reúne a los líderes clave en tu organización y pide que respondan una simple pregunta:

“Que adjetivos describen a nuestra organización”

A los pocos minutos tendrás una idea de quien es tu organización. No olvides verificar que esto no solo sea una visión de los líderes, sino que las distintas ramas y jerarquías de tu empresa validen que es verdad.

En ocasiones te darás cuenta que tienes a personas o proveedores que no estan alineados con tu cultura. Este es buen momento para evaluar si la posición es tan importante como para reemplazarlos.

Una persona que no comparte la cultura de la organización afecta el “bottom line” lo cual se traduce en dinero o recursos.

Anécdota:

En cierta ocasión trabajando con Humana, teníamos un cliente cuyo proyecto nos emocionaba. Hacíamos todo lo posible para poder ganar el contrato, pero a la mitad del proceso (que la llevaba dos meses) nos dimos que nuestras culturas organizacionales era opuestas.
 
Tuvimos que detener el proceso y nuestra participación antes de que terminaramos ganando el contrato y el proyecto se convirtiera en una pesadilla para todos.

En lugar de verlo como dejar pasar la oportunidad de crear un impacto a gran escala; evitamos el que un muy buen proyecto saliera mal y dañar la reputación nuestro cliente y nuestra.

Sell

Aquí es donde presumes todos los beneficios de trabajar para tu empresa, como la gran comunidad, buen ambiente, el super nintendo en el comedor y las cheves de los viernes.

Este párrafo es usualmente el que determina si una persona seguirá leyendo el resto de tu publicación o decide aplicar a tu vacante o no.

¡Así que échale ganas y escríbelo con amor!

Describe el Empleo

Ahora toca el turno de describir lo que esperas de la persona que vas a contratar. Ésta parte de la vacante esta compuesta por:

  1. Misión del Empleo
  2. Resultado / Objetivo
  3. Habilidades Humanas
  4. Hablidádes Tecnicas

Cuando tienes problemas para atraer el talento correcto es usualmente debido a que el trabajo no se esta comunicando de manera correcta.

Ninguna persona con gran talento se vería atraída por una publicación cómo:

buscamos desarrollador movil
- angular.js
- experiencia en rails deseable

escribir a alguien@algunlugar.com

El mejor talento disponible no esta buscando trabajo, por eso tienes que atraerlo incluso cuando está contento en su posición actual.

Misión:

Es un resumen del propósito de la posición, es la razón de que este puesto exista en tu organización. Procura que sea corto, escrito en palabras comunes, sea claro y único.

Un mal ejemplo de misión es algo como:

La misión del “executive officer for good living” es maximizar el valor de la empresa, mientras minimiza los riesgos de su departamento.

Un buen ejemplo sería:

La misión del “executive officer for good living” es garantizar que todos los miembros de la organización cuenten con los recursos necesarios para tener una carrera profesional extraordinaria y vidas plenas.

Resultados / Objetivo

Describe que es lo que se espera que la persona logre al final de un periodo de tiempo.

Ej.

Generar $100 millones en ventas para el final del 2015.

Noten que establece un número específico y una fecha concreta para cuando el objetivo debe de ser alcanzado.

Es importante establecer objetivos altos, pero razonables. Esto automaticamente filtrará a candidatos que no esten a la altura del reto.

Por otro lado, noten que no es una lista de actividades que la persona realizara (hablar por telefono, visitar clientes, etc etc.). Este concepto se centra el lo que la persona tiene que lograr, no lo que tiene que hacer para lograrlo.

Habilidades:

Esta es una lista de habilidades y competencias que esperas que la persona cumpla lo mejor posible.

Debes incluir “habilidades Humanas” y “Habilidades Técnicas” por ej.

— Habilidades Humanas:
Integridad
Eficiencia
Proactividad
Auto-organizado

— Habilidades Tecnicas:
Angular.js
Ruby on Rails
UX/UI Design
Service Design

Resumen

Tu vacante hasta ahora debe de tener una estructura más o menos así

  1. La Empresa
    1. Misión
    2. Cultura
    3. El Sell
  2. El Trabajo
    1. Misión del Empleo
    2. Resultado / Objetivo
    3. Habilidades Humanas
    4. Hablidádes Tecnicas
  3. Instrucciones para aplicar

 


 

Diseña tu Scorecard

El scorecard nos permite dar un número concreto a cada uno de los criterios que hemos definido, pero también darle un peso a cada uno.

Para ciertos puestos, el que una persona tenga una buena alineación con la cultura de la empresa, puede ser más importante que una habilidad técnica (o vice versa)

Este es un screenshot de nuestro scorecard con valores genéricos. Pueden ver que usamos columna “Weight” (seleccionada) para modificar la importancia que tienen cada punto para este puesto en específico.

Si quieren una copia de este documento para modificar, envienme un mensaje por twitter a @hjbarraza

4. Las 4 Entrevistas

Usualmente tendrás entrevistas para platicar con tus candidatos y poder llenar cada uno de las variables en el scorecard. El libro “Who: The A Method for Hiring” recomienda tener 4 tipos de entrevistas:

1. Filtrado:

Es una entrevista corta de 10 a 15 min para filtrar candidatos “B” y “C”. Dónde te responden preguntas concretas como:

  • Cual es su plan de carrera
  • En que son buenos, y en que son malos
  • Como los van a calificar sus jefes anteriores cuando les hables.

Si te agradan sus respuestas, pueden pasar a la segunda entrevista.

2. Topgrading

Es la pregunta más importante de las 4, y esta basada en el best-seller Topgrading de Brads Smarts con el mismo nombre.

Es básicamente la historia cronológica de la carrera profesional empezando por el empleo más reciente. Para cada empleo haces 5 preguntas:

  1. Para que los contrataron
  2. Cuales fueron los mejores aspectos del trabajo
  3. Cuales fueron los peores aspectos del trabajo
  4. Como van calificarlos sus jefes cuando les hablen
  5. Porque dejaron el trabajo

Esta entrevista puede llegar a ser larga, de 2  a 5 horas dependiendo del candidato. El objetivo es conocer quien es la persona y sobre todo como opera.

3. Enfocada

Esta entrevista se diseña para ser realizada por algún miembro del equipo de trabajo del candidato y se enfoca en preguntas para poder valorar dos cosas

  1. Las habilidades técnicas usando el scorecard.
  2. Su capacidad para entregar el resultado esperado.

4. Referencias

Esta última entrevista es con referencias del candidato, para corroborar la información que el candidato ha proporcionado.

¿Qué hacemos distinto en Connovo y Hive?

En Connovo, tenemos la oportunidad única de elegir como co-founders a las personas más brillantes de nuestra generación (Millenial). Sabemos que un método tradicional como entrevistas,  no siempre nos dirá todo lo que hay que saber de nuestros candidatos.

Por eso modificamos este proceso para reemplazar algunas entrevistas con algo más divertido y que brinde valor a cualquier persona que forme parte de nuestra comunidad de posibles co-founders.

Reemplazamos las entrevistas por una experiencia, donde individualmente y en colaboración, los candidatos tienen que resolver distintos retos con los cuales podemos evaluar su comportamiento y desempeño.

Es increíble la cantidad y calidad de información y lo que aprendes al interactuar con los candidatos y verlos interactuar con otras personas.

Esto no significa que todos deben de hacer este tipo de ejercicios, pero si les recomiendo que tomen este proceso y lo adapten para las necesidades específicas de su organización.

Si tienes alguna pregunta o sugerencia de como realizar este proceso de selección para startups y empresas sociales hazlas con confianza en los comentarios. Toda aportación es bienvenida.

The 4 Hour Customer Insight Hack

hacking customer insights

Design a better best selling product with only 5% of the effort.

In Business Innovation School, we get taught that in order to get great customer insights, we need to talk with tons of people, sometime spending thousands of hours and cash. While this is a great way to increase your probabilities of success, it is heavy on time and resources.

Last year while re-visiting one of Tim Ferris talks on Creative Live, I realized that you can use the same process he uses to design his wildly popular bestsellers, like “The 4-Hour Chef” and apply it to any other product.

Please note, that while this is indeed and amazing hack, it works amazingly well when you want to design a new product, but it’s harder to make it work when you want to disrupt an Industry. Why? Because we are going to be exploiting existing and underused insights that people already give for products they already consume.

Exploiting existing customer insights.

Tim uses one of his most useful principles: If you study any process well enough, you can get 95% of the result with only 5% of the effort.

He wanted to write a book about learning anything and he used cooking just as a metaphor. Since cooking was at the center of the book’s theme, he needed to create one of the best cooking book out there. While the process was used to create a series of bestselling books, you can hack it to virtually any product.

Hacking Customer Insights

Instead of spending thousands of dollars and hours talking to customers, he did something wickedly smart. He hired a few virtual assistants and asked them to do the following:

  1. Visit every best selling cooking book on Amazon and go to the reviews section
  2. Filter the reviews and take note of the top 10 most useful reviews (both good and bad). But remember, they need to be amongst the most useful.
  3. Ignore the bad reviews that haven’t been mark as useful, Tim’s team found out that those people simply hate everything and leave nothing but bad reviews.
  4. Take note of what are the most common requests and suggestions. Such as what content did the customers felt was missing, what annoyed them and most importantly they loved.
  5. Once you start figuring out a pattern of things that work, and things that are missing, your are set to design a superior product.

Is it really that easy?

There are a lot of questions and critics that may arise from this pr0cess. Specially about the information’s depth and resolution, or how about all the insights and stories that we are missing. I agree, this is not the most solid customer insight gathering method. Specially if you want to design a service or a non commercial project. In which case I would advise not to use it.

Yet, when it comes to design a better commercial product, this process is the leanest and most effective insight discovery process. Why? Precisely because you are not exploring an entire universe of insights, you are getting a laser-focus on what matters while creating a commercial product: only the best-sellers.

¿ Why would you need insights on how to improve the worst selling products, when you can focus on improving what generates the most revenue, and with only 5% of the effort?

I was a bit skeptical, at first. So I had to make sure it really works as good as Tim claims. After reviewing Tim’s selling numbers, and start using the process myself, I’m now an evangelist.

A final note:

In this case, we used Amazon because it has an Amazing product review system. But if your market/product is elsewhere there is no reason why you can’t use it there. Simply go where your market share reviews about the products and follow the same process:

  1. Find the most useful reviews
  2. Look for patterns
  3. Design a better solution

You can hear a bit of the process by Tim Ferris himself in this conversation extracted from Creative Live.

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