Focus: A Pivotal Ability for 21st Century Business Success

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We’re all suffering from mental overload. There are many distractions everyday. Basically, it’s frequent interruptions from tones chiming all around us. This often leads to “rampant ‘screen sucking’, texting under the table during meetings, and frequent feelings of frustrations at trying to get everything done well and on time.” Edward M. Hallowell 

Reshma Sadhu shared: A university of California Study of Digital Distractions at Work reported it takes about 25 minutes to get back to a task after a distraction.

“The 20 seconds you expect to take to check Facebook or Instagram turned into 25 minutes of unproductive time. Distractions at work are everywhere. No matter where we turn there will always be something that will put a great big pause on whatever you were doing. Whether it’s emails, texts, online notifications, etc, technology can weight down productivity and cause great distractions at work.”

Anyway, it’s hard to focus on anything. Our performance in all areas are affected and we don’t have a sense of peace and well-being. As Hallowell states, “We created the laborsaving devices that catalyzed the unplanned explosion within which we live today.” But as serious business builders, we can learn to manage and control these modern devices in ways that will be beneficial, not detrimental to out progress. We can pivot our trajectory from uncertainty and chaos to great achievements.

Can you imagine great innovators and creators of the past being constantly interrupted as we are? I can’t. You can be sure they had quiet times to deeply concentrate and study concerning the things they were working on.

Jeffrey Hayzlett in ”Why Focus Is The Number One Element of Business Success” stated “As a business leader trying to think big and act bigger, if you don’t relentlessly focus that ownership on what drives your business, create a culture that reflects who you are, and stay grounded as you make things happen, you’ll never see the true rewards of thinking big and acting bigger.” In other words, important business matters must be top of mind and given adequate attention. This is easier if your business purpose/mission is meaningful to you and you’re committed to it’s success. If you aren’t, you may be in the wrong profession or business.

Hallowell agrees “…engagement develops naturally when you work in your ‘sweet spot,’ the overlap of three spheres: what you love to do, what you are very good at doing, and what advances the mission of the group or what someone will pay you to do.”

So how do we gain more focus in our lives?

Many authorities have offered suggestions and in an article submitted some time ago. I listed fourteen things you could do. They were as follows:

  • Make your business purpose meaningful to you.
  • Design a personal system for achieving your goals. This will give you the “structure” mentioned above.
  • Create an objectives list.
  • Set certain times of day to check social media.
  • Train your brain to focus.
  • Consciously ignore interruptions.
  • Strengthen your support.
  • Do something toward your purpose/mission everyday.
  • Choose one task and complete it fully.

These are easy to include in your daily activities and can help you make the important contribution to the future your Vision is driving you toward.

Related: “14 Ways to Keep the Focus that Grows Your Business”

A couple of things others have suggested is first, to organize your workspace. An uncluttered space helps maintain the structure you need. Also getting up earlier in the mornings works for some people. Of course, it depends on your preferred working time. Some people are morning people and others are evening people. You know your type. However, trying something new might give you just the motivation and increased focus you need, so think about it.

I’m sure you want to spend your time wisely because time slips away. Your life is also slipping away. You can’t lose time bringing your marvelous Future Vision to life. You must do it now while you have such useful resources available to you. You want to have the ability to enjoy the benefits of your manifested Vision, so consider the benefits of Focus and include it in your daily activities. 

Be encouraged. Help is on the way. Benevolent innovators are considering how better technology could protect us from distractions. See this cutting edge Ted Talk, “How Better Tech Could Protect Us From Distraction” by Tristan Harris. An exciting future is on the way! Play your part and stick to it! 

See also: “20 Small Business Directives for Success: Do or Die” and The GeniusCore Business building Podcast

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Future Vision: Abundance

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However, we have a serious problem. Our perspective of what the world could be is flawed. The authors point to the effect of the headlines in the news that influence how we see the world. There’s so much negative news surrounding us that it shuts down our ability to take in positive information. The view the authors take in the book involves global issues but they carefully point to this: “ In today’s hyper-linked world, solving problems anywhere, solves problems everywhere.”

We are living in an extraordinary time. The wealth of knowledge created by man is available to almost everybody. Shortly it will be available to all humans on the planet. What does this mean to the advancement of the human condition in general? Well, if we don’t take control of our future, it could mean total extinction or catastrophe. However, I’m happy to find many well known researchers and authorities who agree that the future will be bright and prosperous for the human race. Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler wrote a book entitled ”Abundance” in 2012. It takes a wonderfully positive view of what our world can become. 

Diamandis and Kotler remind us that the possibility of abundance and positive growth seems impossible to the majority of us, but if we take a look at what is actually happening in the world, we’ll see something different. In fact, they tell us “a quick look at history shows that progress continues through the good times and the bad.” These are a few examples they offer :

  1. Today, even the poorest Americans have access to a telephone, television, and a flush toilet. These are luxuries even the wealthiest didn’t have in the last century.
  2. Infant mortality has decreased by 90 percent.
  3. Maternal mortality has decreased by 99 percent.
  4. Human lifespan has increased by 100 percent.
  5. Quality of life has improved more in the past century than ever before.
  6. “Right now a Masai warrior with a cell phone has better mobile phone capabilities than the president of the United States did twenty years ago. And if he’s on a smart phone with access to Goggle, then he has better access to information than the president did just fifteen years ago.”

In “How Not to be Ignorant About the world”, Hans and Ola Rosilng reveal three additional areas of progress:

  1. The number of deaths from natural disasters decreased to less than half in the last century.
  2. The number of women over 30 who attended school has increased globally.
  3. In the last 20 years the number of people in extreme poverty has decreased by half.

Researchers reveal that ignorance about what’s really happening is caused by personal bias, outdated facts being taught in school, news bias and intuition( the illusion of confidence). We can handle this by erring on the side of positivity concerning the progress of the human race then searching for the truth about world affairs. We really are improving and technological advances coupled with individuals desiring prosperity and having access to resources for advancement will speed things up.

Diamandis et. al. founded Singularity University a Silicon Valley think tank that offers educational programs and a business incubator. “Each year, the graduate students are challenged to develop a company, product, or organization that will positively affect the lives of a billion people within ten years.” This is a bold and ambitious goal but they report the achievement of that goal is getting closer. The”sky is the limit” for them and “the sky is the limit” for us. 

The idea of abundance frees us to be creative and innovative without limitations. So, join the positive forces shaping our planet and build an exciting 21st century enterprise. Enjoy the unprecedented benefits of our technological revolution. Consider these keys to business success.

Five Keys to Entrepreneurial success in the 21st century:

1.Know the many resources available for entrepreneurs. This is the perfect time to be alive and willing to contribute to the welfare of humanity. You can study in any field and find loopholes and inadequacies that you can fill. Most industries can be improved in one way or another. Just striving toward excellence in an industry will bring you phenomenal success! You can conduct tests to see if your idea will fly. If it doesn’t seem workable, all you have lost is a little time. You can try something else. Nick Hastreiter offered a list of 400 free resources for entrepreneurs. I have also found 200 top level universities offering free online courses. Check them out! 

2. Build a business as a force for good“In this realm of philanthropy and service, one’s actions speak louder than words, and from those actions, better opportunities inevitably flow back to the individual and their business” says Pike Peters, founder of Virtual Tire Kicker. Your business purpose comes from a desire to contribute something. Craig and Snook shared an interesting finding in an article “ From Impact to purpose”explaining: “Business experts make the case that purpose is a key to exceptional performance, while psychologists describe it as the pathway to greater well-being. So a strong Purpose has business and psychological advantages. Doctors have even found that people with purpose in their lives are less prone to disease. Purpose is increasingly being put forth as the key to navigating the complex, volatile, ambiguous world we face today, where strategy is ever changing and few decisions are obviously right or wrong.” Purpose keeps you grounded and moving in the right direction. This is an expanding and timeless phenomenon among entrepreneurs of today.

Related: “The Superiority of a Purpose Driven Business”

3. Understand the forces at work in the Innovation Economy as described by James Canton. According to Canton in his book, “The Extreme Future: The Top Trends that will Reshape the World”,“The mantra of the Innovation Economy is ‘free minds, free markets, free enterprise’. This offers the greatest prosperity-creating opportunity in the history of civilization”.”The coming Innovation Economy will herald an age of rapid, dramatic change, one in which ideas that create value, offer solutions, and fulfill needs will thrive, sweeping in to recesses of memory the comparatively primitive ideas, products, services and processes that came before. Innovation will be the prime source of productivity, prosperity, competition, and potentially even peace. Innovation will be recognized as an empowering force that will drive individual prosperity and global competition.”

4. Embrace the importance of Management Skills. “Two decades ago and one computer revolution later, American business has undergone more extreme changes in every aspect in every industry than could have ever been predicted. Many center on technology, collaboration and information, but the solution is not technology. It is not collaboration. It is not information. It is producing results… Management is the specific function, the specific instrument to make institutions capable of producing results. People management and leadership will be the core drivers of tomorrow’s entrepreneurs.” Terence Chatmon, CEO of FCCI

In other words, management is the organization and coordination of the activities of a business in order to achieve defined objectives. You will apply change management skills as you find the need for making the various types of changes to your established strategy and systems. People skills, such as communication and conflict management skills fall under the umbrella of scientific or skill based management. Management skills have been the focus of years of management research. Today we have time-tested and universal management skills available to managers because of this rigorous research. Of course, there will always be improvements in the discipline but basic business management skills will stay relatively the same. The best managers will continuously learn and improve their management skills.

Related: “20 Directives for Small Business Success: Do or Die”

5. As founders, prepare to lead for the long term.Steve Blank offered an interesting directive for 21st century businesses: “To stay in business in the 21st century, startups must do three things their 20th century counterparts didn’t:

  • A company is no longer built on a single innovation. It needs to be continuously innovating–and who best to do that? The founders.
  • To continually innovate, companies need to operate at startup speed and cycle time much longer their 20th century counterparts did. This requires retaining a startup culture for years–and who best to do that? The founders.
  • Continuous innovation requires the imagination and courage to challenge the initial hypotheses of your current business model (channel, cost, customers, products, supply chain, etc.) [from knowledge of the facts and the elimination of information bias]. This might mean competing with and if necessary killing your own products. (Think of the relentless cycle of iPod then iPhone innovation.) Professional CEOs [from outside] who excel at growing existing businesses find this extremely hard. Who best to do that[challenge and change]? The founders.”

The future will be very exciting if we contribute new Purpose-driven enterprises to the economy. The possibilities are endless! We are moving toward abundance! All it takes is a passion for something, persistence and dedication. The resources are at your fingertips.

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A Profound Success Factor for the Smart Machine Age and the Innovation Economy

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The Smart Machine Age is the evolution of technology into industries like logistics, construction, distribution, sales, retail, services and even into some highly trained professional jobs. “If what you do is highly repetitive, reasonably predictable, involves limited choices or involves linear processes, you are at risk. In 2013 Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael A. Osborne of the University of Oxford published the most definitive research to date attempting to predict the magnitude of jobs lost to technology over the next 10-20 years. They predicted that 47% of the U.S. workforce had a high probability of being displaced by technology and another 19% had a medium probability of displacement.”(Ed Hess)

Have you wondered how you will navigate your business building efforts through the rapidly changing environment we’re living in? You probably have a feeling that the old ways of trial and error will take up too much time and you may miss Smart Machine Age capabilities or be wiped out by them. Well, that’s more than likely the way it will be if you’re not prepared with a Future Vision and the strategy to get you through rapid changes and innovations.

 However, we shouldn’t go too far with this because we’ll see increasing demands for many occupations. This will include doctors, nurses, health technicians, home health aides, personal care aids, nursing assistants and other service occupations. These jobs will be aided by technology but will still be driven by human activity.

The Innovation Economy is an economy driven by knowledge, technology, entrepreneurship, and innovation. “The major changes in the U.S. economy of the last 15 years have occurred not because the economy accumulated more capital to invest in even bigger steel mills or car factories; rather they have occurred because of innovation.” Dan Robles

James Canton, author of the Extreme Future sums the situation up for us: ”The coming Innovation Economy will herald an age of rapid, dramatic change, one in which ideas that create value, offer solutions, and fulfill needs will thrive, sweeping into recesses of memory the comparatively primitive ideas, products, services, and processes that came before. Innovation will be the prime source of productivity, prosperity, competition, and potentially even peace. Innovation will be recognized as an empowering force that will drive individual prosperity and global competition.”

In “Mr. Spock won’t survive the Smart Machine Age…will you?” Cu-Management reminds us that Mr. Spock was critically concerned with being logical. Remember? He thought humans were inferior because of our emotions. “However, in the coming Smart Machine Age, our emotional intelligence will be the very factor that makes us unique and employable.”

Emotional Intelligence is simply the ability to recognize and control your own emotions as well as the ability to recognize and acknowledge emotions in others. In other words, you understand the strength and importance of emotions in general. Daniel Goldman is the authority in this area.“When we use our emotions to serve and collaborate with each other, there are no limits to our thinking, creativity and performance.” Hess

So, if you want to be highly successful in the Smart Machine Age and beyond, what should you do?

Commit to being a Creative and Innovative Collaborator.

Let’s first summarize some hindrances to effective Collaboration.

-We are not naturally critical and analytical thinkers. We normally just try to confirm what we already know. New ideas or ways of thinking are difficult for most of us to process.

-We are naturally competitive. Our society promotes competitiveness. We work to push our own ideas or opinions forward without regard given to other opinions. Often, we don’t clearly hear other opinions. 

-Our primary aim is to show self confidence, to protect our egos.

Now, our Profound Factor for Success in the Machine Age and the Innovation Economy for the promotion of successful creativity and innovation:

                                        Humility

Humility is the basic factor that will develop high efficiencies in the skills required for creative and innovative collaboration. This is a critical factor because with Humility we will avoid trying to confirm what we already know and avoid defending ourselves when our thinking is challenged. We are also poor listeners because we are usually focused on confirming that our idea or belief is correct or better than the other person’s. Likewise, many of us view collaboration as a competition to see who is right, not a process to determine what is right. One could call us very “me-oriented” in our thinking, listening and collaborating. This should not be surprising in a society that is very individualistic, or as some say, narcissistic. We celebrate “winners” and “people in power.” We judge ourselves by our “place” in the hierarchy; and we have been encouraged to exude self-confidence, self-promote and to “fake it till you make it.” We are very good at telling and advocating and not very good at listening and asking questions.” Ed Hess

Advantages of Humility.

Humility helps you realize, no matter how many degrees in a discipline you might have, you really only know about .001 percent of what can be known about that subject. We have experts, of course, but there are “megatons” of knowledge waiting to be discovered.

Humility requires you to nurture emotional intelligence. That is, you become more and more aware of your own emotions and the emotions of others. You understand how they effect creativity and innovation.

Humility helps you realize that you can learn something from everybody, no matter what their status in life might be. Everyone has a unique perspective that might be just the view you need for your innovation.

Humility is freeing because it makes not knowing everything about a subject easier to acknowledge. It also helps you to be honest, direct, curious, courageous, open-minded and truth seeking.

Humility frees you to use what I call, observational speaking. That is, a style of communicating where you are completely aware of your receiver(s). In other words, you’re observing the behaviors and mannerisms of the receiver(s) as you share thoughts or information then adjusting your message on the spot as needed. Active listening is used to clearly understand what the other is saying. You will “put yourself in the other person’s shoes.” Asking questions helps with this. Humility helps you listen to learn!

Humility helps with business Values such as Teamwork, Transparency, Collaboration, Accountability and Integrity.

The advantages of Humility as a business Value or character trait are immense and helpful in our fast changing and unpredictable environment. Contemporary and highly successful businesses are benefiting from Humility as a Value. Some of these businesses have been highlighted by Hess:

“Bridgewater Associates, LPGoogle, Intuit, Pixar and W.L. Gore & Associates are examples of companies that embrace the new way. They emphasize humility through cultures that devalue ego and hierarchy.” The leaders of these organizations are role models of the behaviors they want to see in their workforce.

Cultivating Humility is a work in progress for most of us. Being humble in a competitive society isn’t easy. We all are insecure and afraid to some degree. One thing we can do is to try not to respond automatically when someone is speaking. Take time to ask questions. We have the extraordinary opportunity to create work environments that are emotionally supportive and accepting of all participants. Humility is essential for creative and innovative collaborators. With this environment created by us intentionally , our businesses will excel in the Machine Age, the Innovative Economy and beyond.

I’m reminded of a quote from the greatest and most popular book in the world. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Matthew 5:5

See also: “20 Small business Direct ives for Success: Do or Die” and The GeniusCore Business Building Podcast 

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