Perspective From Higher Ground: Business and Problem Solving

I remember as a kid always talking to ankles and knees when an adult approached to greet me.  And then there was that awkward look up to try to see his or her face.  As an adult I'm sensitive to that moment, so I bend down to get at eye level with a youngster. 

Recently I visited the Gettysburg Battlefields and I felt a little bit of that looking at the ankles feeling as I looked at the base of large trees that surround portions of the grounds. 

As we got to Cemetery Hill, we found ourselves atop the tree line, overlooking the battlefield, and what happened there became very clear.

As I reflected on the moment later, it got me thinking about how some of us conduct business today.  You know ... a few years ago the "big thing" movement  in business was to think outside the box.  The battle cry was if you want to advance in your career, don't do what you've always done.  That will just get you what it's always gotten you.  You must think outside the boxif you want to move your business forward.  So, business men and women began to look increasingly to technology for creativity in leadership and for new ideas in communication and in management.  And now as we move to higher ground and we review where thinking outside the box has led us, we find that what's happening outside the box isn't all good, and in some significant areas.

For example, communication has grown exponentially digitally.  Voice mail, email, text messaging, video conferencing, while great tools, have left younger entrants into the business world lacking in face-to-face communication skills.  Leadership sometimes delivers bad news digitally, coldly, mercilessly to save difficult face-to-face moments.  Teamwork is conducted in less than a civil manner often initiated by carelessly crafted e-mails.  Here are some other thoughts about outside-the-box thinking. 

A website called Lateral Action states,"The research evidence suggests that thinking outside the box fails to produce the expected creative solution. And far from being a hindrance, past experience and training can actually be the key to creative problem-solving."

So, before you think outside the box to create new solutions to age-old problems in business, take a look from a higher perspective.   Like experience maybe?  Training is a good idea, too.  It just so happens that Outfluence is conducting a 3-part series this Fall in Westminster, Maryland that will address this question:  What did we leave behind when we began thinking outside the box?  Visit Outfluence.com in a few weeks when we will begin publishing information about the series.  It begins in September.

This event occurred in the Fall of 2016.


Will Robots Need the Soft Skills, Too?

I read an article this morning about robotics.  It is estimated that 30% of the workforce in Europe will be replaced in the next 20 years.  The United States will face the charge of the robotics brigade, too.  A number of restaurants are already considering the move to robotic servers.  Even lawyers are not immune to robotics entering their world.  This article will tell you more.  You can also find it here,  http://bit.ly/1YZ3zUa.

If and when this move to robotics occurs in what I call the regular workplace, in other words the middle class, opportunities for humans may become limited, and those opportunities that are available will demand ever-increasing amounts of skills.  No longer will humans be able to climb the ladder from entry level positions to higher-paying positions over a number of years.  In the future humans will need to advance their skills and look sideways for advancement.  This will require excellent communication skills and inspired performance every day. 

I listened to the McDonald's robot accepting a service order from a customer.  The robot was polite and helpful, and even had a smile on its face.  The robot's designers seem to have built into the robot soft skills very often found lacking in their human counterparts.  I must say I was pretty impressed by what I was seeing from this early version.  What could possibly be next?

My grandchildren, your grandchildren, and possibly some of your children will be facing robotic competitors in their workplace.  Some humans are already sharing the workplace with robots.  The jobs the robots take will likely be gone from human attainment forever.  So where does that leave us?  It leaves us with a highly technical, very competitive workforce.  Skills such as effective communication of all kinds - oral, silent, written, body language - and inspired performance that gains an advantage for its practitioner - as well as the Outfluence form of teamwork called The Silent Storm will be sought after by employers.  The unprepared, uncaring, disinterested employees of today will not, are not now, being tolerated.  The move is afoot to change.  

Many park benches, seaside lounges and oceanfront arcades will be filled with unemployed citizens who ignored the call to action this article is calling for.  It's time to train yourself and your young family members communication and performance skills that will be needed to compete in the years ahead.  Outfluence is offering community-based small group training to help you prepare for the changes that are arriving as you read this article.  Contact us attraining@outfluence.com for additional information.

Support the Future Workforce

Businesspersons I speak to lament the unpreparedness of the workforce.  When asked what improvements they would like to see in new entrants to the workforce, the near unanimous reply is help them with the soft skills, communication in particular.  Now, soft skills and communication happen to be in the Outfluence wheelhouse, so we know how to fix that.

Business leaders generally prefer not to spend their money teaching these skills to the workforce.  They believe that these fundamental skills should be taught either at home or in school.  To bring about soft skills and communication improvement we need to reach high school students.  One method for enticing students to want to learn these skills, and an incentive for attracting the attention of busy school administrators who must approve programs such as the Outfluence program You Are Here . . . Next, You Are Hired,  is to ask business leaders to award a number of internships and other benefits to students who successfully complete the program.

This is a clear win/win/win/win - Students win because they gain valuable knowledge and experience.  The schools win because they are meeting their mission.  Parents win because not only do their children advance their personal development but parents will have the option of also participating in the program. Reinforcement at home of the skills learned in school is a valuable learning tool.  Finally, businesses win because they receive an improved workforce and they gain early access to their future workforce.

(Outfluence, LLC is a teaching and training organization headquartered near Washington, D.C. )



What Not To Do

A videographer arrived at a legal proceeding dressed in tennis shoes, blue jeans, open-collared shirt, and no sport coat. All of the other professionals were attired appropriately in business suits and related professional apparel. During a recess in the proceeding, the videographer engaged one of the parties in a conversation in which he expressed the fact that he only did legal video to keep busy, that his real passion was in making television pilots. He said, in language that matched the subject matter in vulgarity, that he was currently working on a pilot following the tasteless and crude Girls Gone Wild format. By his insensitivity to the environment in which he was working, the videographer silently branded himself as unprofessional, vulgar, and possibly untrustworthy.

The bottom line? Maintain professionalism, no matter what. Be aware of how you come across, to anyone, because everyone is watching.

(This is a story from Outfluence, The Better Way to Influence, which is the basis for our high school program You Are Here . . . now what?".)