How the Project Economy Has Finally Arrived

It has always be my conviction that economic activity would be increasingly driven as a multitude of temporary projects – thus my main activity around project management. This is finally recognized in this HBR piece ‘The Project Economy Has Arrived‘.

Quietly but powerfully, projects have displaced operations as the economic engine of our times. That shift has been a long time coming.” “In Germany, for example, projects have been rising steadily as a percentage of GDP since at least 2009, and in 2019 they accounted for as much as 41% of the total. Precise data is hard to come by for other countries, but similar percentages are likely to apply in most other Western economies. The percentages are probably even higher in China and other leading Asian economies, where project-based work has long been an important source of growth.”

This transformation to a project economy will have profound organizational and cultural consequences. The problem is, many leaders still don’t appreciate the value of projects and write them off as a waste of time.

The author has been very active in the Project Management Institute and can thus slightly partial to the subject. However the reality is here and many leaders do not necessarily understand the implications of this shift in terms of work organisation and leadership. The image in this post is one of a turbulent flow, which is how I see the organization of the future: a number of projects (the vortices) that appear and disappear in the flow like projects with a limited time span.

Leaders must now account for the fact that probably a majority of value-creating endeavors is project-based. This must lead to significant shifts in organization and competencies to deal with those projects effectively.


How the Next Big Idea Doesn’t Need to Be Original or in a New Market

I love this blog post by Seth Godin ‘The next big idea‘ that reminds us that it does not need to be new not have no competition.

There are two confusions. The first is that the next big idea must be fully original. The second is that it have no competition. This is almost never the case.”

It is true that many thriving enterprises have just reinvented a small part of a business model, or have built on existing industrial practices just changing one parameter. At the end of the day it depends on the client: “The future of all of these types of organizations isn’t based on a lack of customer choice. It’s based on customer traction.”

Seth Goding reminds us that “The hard part is showing up to lead.”, leading through to get perfect execution in the market that is being addressed.

Looking for an idea to create your company? Don’t necessarily look for original or to create a new market: that’s often too hard. Just execute better than others and get customers to love what you are doing.


How Intrapreneurs and Entrepreneurs Can Both Spark Innovation

This article ‘Leaving the cult of entrepreneurship: Intrapreneurs are the true drivers of innovation‘ takes position in the debate between intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs as sources of innovation. I don’t think it is as simple: it all depends what kind of innovation we address and we should not oppose the two categories.

Intrapreneurs have the advantage of being able to mobilize considerables resources from their company to get their idea developed, once it is approved and recognized. Those means will dwarf those of the start-up entrepreneur, however one has to overcome the hurdles of internal approval and politics, and recognize the inevitable longer delays in getting things done in large organisations.

Independent entrepreneurs on their side will be more nimble, able to start on ideas without waiting for more approval than their friends and families’ dime. They can thus start on ideas that may be considered ridiculous by corporate committees. They can also often pivot more easily.

I thus think that intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs are both potential contributors to breakthrough innovation, and that frustrated intrapreneurs can also easily become entrepreneurs. They should not be opposed and both can certainly change the world.


How Glossolalia Is Related to Transe Proto-Language

Experiencing trance (see for example ‘How Trance Has Become a Scientific Experiment‘) leads to the experience of proto-language, supposedly some form of earlier language. During trance, we express ourselves in this way. I found out this is actually glossolalia, an age-old concept that has been observed in many situations since greek antiquity, and is also mentioned in Neal Stephenson’s excellent book ‘Snow Crash’ in the form of a virus infecting brains originating from the Sumerians.

Glossolalia is a practice in which people utter words or speech-like sounds, often thought by believers to be languages unknown to the speaker. One definition used by linguists is the fluid vocalizing of speech-like syllables that lack any readily comprehended meaning, in some cases as part of religious practice in which some believe it to be a divine language unknown to the speaker

The interesting part is how widespread this practice is amongst religions and spiritual practices. It can be practiced. It has great benefits in that it can be used to convey feeling without saying awful words that are then remembered by other people, thus great to use in situations where you are angry and unhappy.

The fact that glossolalia is recognized across shamanism, Christianity and many other religions and situations shows that it is a constant capability of the human mind to speak a language, which could be an early or proto-language.


How the Metaverse Term and Concept Was Created in a Novel in 1992

The metaverse term was invented by Neal Stephenson in his 1992 book ‘Snow Crash‘. I just read the book -highly recommended- and was astonished at how prescient it was, taking into account the fact it was published in 1992 and thus probably written in 1990 or 1991. At that time, the internet was quite in an infant stage.

In the book we are propelled into some dreary future where the government authority has vanished and where people live both in reality and a virtual world called the metaverse. The hero is a hacker that participated to setting it up and can manage some of the deeper programs, providing him with an advantage in the metaverse. It is worth reading the book so I won’t tell the story.

Still, the amazing part is how the description of the metaverse is actual as per our current view (as is the description of glass-fiber and remote connections to the internet, together with the usage of googles to view the virtual world). Kudos to the author because I remember that time as discovering as I went to university, the capabilities of ftp to connect to an overseas computer, the very beginning of email and no idea of internet at all.

Snow Crash‘ is indeed a highly recommended read, not only because it is an excellent thriller, but also to appreciate how authors can be prescient about future concepts and services. In this case, up to inventing the term ‘metaverse’.


How AI Can Support Creative Scientific Research

This provoking Scientific American article ‘AI Generates Hypotheses Human Scientists Have Not Thought Of‘ actually provides an excellent example of how AI can supplement human thought and together create a more productive and creative ecosystem.


Creating hypotheses has long been a purely human domain. Now, though, scientists are beginning to ask machine learning to produce original insights. They are designing neural networks (a type of machine-learning setup with a structure inspired by the human brain) that suggest new hypotheses based on patterns the networks find in data instead of relying on human assumptions. Many fields may soon turn to the muse of machine learning in an attempt to speed up the scientific process and reduce human biases.

The interesting part here is around reducing human biases, a topic which comes back several times in the article: avoiding preconceived ideas and theories and probably the burden of the institutional view on things. AI can provide an independent view and the combination can spark creative and innovative outputs.

I am convinced that we will find AI to be a great help rather than a competitor in all creative endeavors, like scientific research. And this is just the beginning!


How Creativity Requires Writing Ability

Paul Graham’s post ‘Beyond Smart‘ addresses the issue of smartness and creativity. And in one passage I noted, it states that creativity requires writing ability.

Being very smart is not the same as having new ideas. “There are a lot of genuinely smart people who don’t achieve very much.” Paul Graham mentions that one of the conditions of creativity is certainly being smart, but it requires also other characteristics such as independent-mindedness, learning to develop one’s own projects and activities…

One of the most surprising ingredients in having new ideas is writing ability. There’s a class of new ideas that are best discovered by writing essays and books. And that “by” is deliberate: you don’t think of the ideas first, and then merely write them down. There is a kind of thinking that one does by writing, and if you’re clumsy at writing, or don’t enjoy doing it, that will get in your way if you try to do this kind of thinking

I personally tend to agree with this statement – I am generally more creative when I start writing down and ordering my thoughts. And this allows actual creative work by putting them into a consistent manner. This is also one of the reasons why I am writing this blog.

Develop your writing ability to become more creative. A non-obvious but important way to enhance creativity!


How New Problems Require Clear Awareness

In this excellent post ‘New problems, old problems‘, Seth Godin distinguishes how we should approach known problems and new problems.: “a new problem doesn’t need fresh thinking, it needs clear awareness.”

Seth Godin underlines that most of the issues we face are known, or similar to issues we have already addressed. They don’t require much creativity. Except if we have to find another solution to solve a problem we could not overcome, or a problem which we have never seen. In that case, proper situation awareness is needed to ask the right questions and take the right actions. “We can begin by acknowledging we have a problem, identifying the constraints, the boundaries and the assets involved. And then we can go to work to solve it.”

Known problems can be addressed with known solutions. Resisting or new problems require creativity, and this starts with awareness.


How Resilience is About Recharging

This popular HBR article ‘Resilience Is About How You Recharge, Not How You Endure‘ takes an interesting angle on the issue of personal resilience.

According to the authors speaking about the resilience of corporate employees, “the problem comes from a misunderstanding of what it means to be resilient, and the resulting impact of overworking.” While we tend to see resilience in a militaristic manner of a tough super-hero, research apparently shows that “there is a direct correlation between lack of recovery and increased incidence of health and safety problems. And lack of recovery — whether by disrupting sleep with thoughts of work or having continuous cognitive arousal by watching our phones — is costing our companies $62 billion a year (that’s billion, not million) in lost productivity.”

Thus, “the key to resilience is trying really hard, then stopping, recovering, and then trying again. This conclusion is based on biology.” And, “When the body is out of alignment from overworking, we waste a vast amount of mental and physical resources trying to return to balance before we can move forward.”

This is definitely an area where I need to improve: finding ways to really stop and most importantly, stop thinking about work-related issues.

Resilience – playing the long term game – requires recuperation and recharging between periods of intense work, on a daily, monthly and annual frequency. Quite an important lesson!


How to Use Deepfake to Promote Local Business: an Indian Application

I love this initiative in India for Diwali (one of the most important annual celebrations). A company has provided a platform allowing local businesses to generate short films promoting their business and using the image of one of the biggest stars of the country, Shah Rukh Khan. Watch the video ‘Supporting Local Retailers This Diwali | Not Just A Cadbury Ad Campaign Video

The idea is that anyone can insert the name of the business and a deepfake is generated with this name being inserted in the video. If can then be used for promotion purpose.

This is just the start. Expect such deepfake technology to be deployed for adds that would be personalized and adapted to your immediate location. Don’t be surprised if you get called by your name by some local star when you walk in the street, suggesting you should visit some nearby store! I hope we will just be able to turn some of it off.


How the Debate About Shorter Work Time Has Reignited

This Wired article promotes the 5-hours day: ‘The perfect number of hours to work every day? Five‘. Based on some experiments, the concept of compressed working is being more widely tested, sometimes with mixed results.

Some companies that have tested the concept reported mixed results. Shorter workdays result in people being more focused on their tasks, but also some stress about getting things done. There is also a debate between 4-day week and 5-hour days concepts.

Promoter of the 5-hours day assert that “Research indicates that five hours is about the maximum that most of us can concentrate hard on something. There are periods when you can push past that, but the reality is that most of us have about that good work time in us every day.” In that sense some organizations report significant effectiveness increase of having shorter days with no breaks. However “not all jobs are suitable to be done in five-hour bursts. Research may have found that people’s creativity dwindles after five hours of concentration, but not all jobs require people doing them to be creative. “There’s an awful lot of work that doesn’t require deep focus,” Pang says. In call centres, care homes and factory lines, staff are needed simply to get the work done and, as Ford Motor Company demonstrated, there is a very good reason to ask them to do it in eight-hour shifts“.

In any case, the debate about the best working timetable remains open. For creative work it would seem that shorter but more intense worktimes is favorable, and this needs then to fit around personal schedules.


How The Unregulated Industry of Life Coaches Raises Questions

This Guardian article ‘I’m a life coach, you’re a life coach: the rise of an unregulated industry‘ explains very well the inherent contradictions of the status of life coach. It is completely unregulated and dominated by a number of well-known figures of sometimes questionable reputation (as exposed in the article). It also obviously responds to a societal need, but isn’t it dangerous to let people getting influenced by unqualified professionals?

Trainings and certifications are diverse in quality and seriousness. The number of candidates to become life coach increases dramatically with each major crisis. In my experience, many do explore this career out of a personal need first, before looking at it as a way to change others for the better. In reality, many life coaches do have a less-than-ideal personal life and happiness, although they try to project a well-balanced impression.

There are drawbacks to a too severe professional certification scheme. It creates institutions that decide what is right from wrong. It can lead to situations where innovative or radical approaches will be rejected while they can be useful. Thus it is not necessarily the best solution in all cases.

At the same time when it comes to mental health, is it reasonable to add a layer of simili-professionalism to general advice on how to feel better? Having a coach implies some seriousness in the commitments taken, but one of the most important functions of a coach is to determine when people need more professional psychological help. It is unsure that all life coach trainings include that element so clearly.

I am definitely in favor of some self-regulation of the life coach industry. The ICF (International Coach Federation) is quite a good and demanding scheme that leaves some leeway in the coaching practices. Similar certifications should be requested from your coaches.