Blog

Welcoming new member Colleen Miner

Umbrex is pleased to welcome Colleen Miner. Colleen Miner spent three years as a consultant and Instructional Designer at McKinsey, and has just started her own consulting firm to work on education innovation and future of work projects. Prior to McKinsey, she was Senior Director, Content Strategy for 2U, Inc. and the Digital Learning Project Coordinator at The Museum of Modern Art.

Colleen has particular expertise in digital learning, design thinking, and capability building programs at scale. She is currently traveling through the Midwest with her husband and training for her next marathon. Colleen is happy to collaborate on projects involving design thinking, instructional design, or online learning.

A Podcast on the Gig Economy

September 16, 2020

 

Diane Mulcahy was recently interviewed on the Ideas X People podcast where she discusses the gig economy and how to use it to your advantage.

I actually created the MBA class on the gig economy at Babson College about seven years ago, and at the time, the gig economy was not even a thing that people talked about or even were aware of. When people I used to tell people the name of the course, they would ask me if I was teaching in computer science, because they thought it was related to gigabytes. So that shows you how nascent the ideas were at the time. But as I taught the class and as the class evolved, in terms of topics, with my students, I decided to pull it all together into a book, and write the book.

‘Was that something that you were specifically interested in, or was it something that you saw there was a demand for and thought, ‘why not exploit it?’

‘I think it was both. Ever since I started working, from my first job out of college, I had a sense and a desire that I wanted to work differently, and that people in general should be able to work differently. So that was part of it. And then, part of it was, just noticing that even among my students, you know, there was a demand for these ideas and for this alternative to traditional employment.’

 

Key points discussed include:

  • What exactly the gig economy is and why it has come to be
  • Why the gig economy could actually be better than our current structure of work
  • The 3 Big takeaways from Diane’s book

 

Listen to the full podcast, The Gig Economy. A Concise Overview On What It Is & How To Thrive In It, on Ideas X People. 

 

Spot the Difference – Private Equity and Venture Capital

September 15, 2020

 

Tommy Kim provides an article that explains the differences between Private Equity (PE) and Venture Capital (VC).

Private Equity (PE) vs. Venture Capital (VC). You suddenly realize that you are being presented with two similar, yet different types of capital sources. PE and VC investment management businesses offer investors different types of return on capital using unique risk profiles in long-term illiquid assets.

Whether you are interested in this side of the business as entrepreneurs and CEOs seeking capital or as investment managers seeking to expand your investment management franchise, they are two different types of businesses. As you are shopping for capital, here are the similarities and differences between PE and VC investment management and how they add value to our private capital market landscape and the global economy.

You had been confused at one point, not realizing that PE is actually different from VC. As you have met with both PE and VC managers, you now see that the difference is becoming more clear. Both VC and PE firms work with private capital investing in companies, add value over time, and exit investments through private sale or IPOs, public offerings. The biggest differences between PE vs. VC is in investment size and level of risk taken on each investment. In addition, PE and VC are fundamentally different in the number of deals they do and the size of capital they commit to each investment. Furthermore, PE firms seek no bad deals, while VC firms expect some or many to fail and hope that few would become a unicorn, deals that would be valued over a $1 billion.

 

Key areas include:

  • Types of private equity funds
  • Private equity target and blind funds
  • Return multiples sought in PE
  • Working in PE or VC 

 

Read the full article, Private Equity vs. Venture Capital: What is a Better Fit For You?, on Linkedin.

Define the Details Before Hiring an Intern 

September 14, 2020

 

The scope of an internship or employee position can be difficult to define; fortunately, Robbie Kellman Baxter shares key tips that help clarify communication and identify requirements, ensuring expectations are understood.

The needs of a new subscription business change rapidly, especially early on.

Before organizations invest in technology infrastructure, they often serve subscribers in a more labor-intensive way. This is a good strategy for businesses to take as they work to refine product market fit and race to launch that first offering (minimum viable product) into the market.

Having an intern, or a contract (short-term) employee can be a cost-effective and flexible resource. And because of the global pandemic, there is a lot of talent available. Many talented people have been laid off and want to get into something new and growing. Students taking all their classes online have extra time available that would have gone to extracurriculars, sports and socializing. And many students are taking time off from college.

Even though the market for interns and contractors is huge and highly active, many executives seem unclear about how to optimize roles that work for both the organization and the individual workers.

I know this is a little bit of a departure from my usual newsletter content. But I hope many of you find it useful as you get creative in building out the talent for your team. And I also hope it is helpful for students and jobseekers who are open to roles that are less structured than the standard full-time employment.

 

Areas covered in this article include:

  • Intern vs Contractor
  • Payment Options
  • Negotiation and communication

 

Read the full article, How to Scope and Define an Internship, on LinkedIn.

 

What the Wish for Courage Reveals 

September 13, 2020

 

In this article, Amy Giddon reveals what her team discovered when they asked the public about courage.

What we learned when we asked 250 people about their fears.

‘Courage starts with showing up and letting ourselves be seen.’ — Brené Brown

We’re having trouble seeing each other these days. It’s always been hard to show up in our full complexity and contradictions, and now we have social media further tempting us to filter and edit our stories. We fear the judgment in the comments section and hang on every “like,” only sharing what fits our narrative. Even those close to us may remain partial mysteries, while those unlike us can seem downright confounding, and even scary at times. We fill in the blanks with assumptions and judgments of our own, maintaining our distance. So how do we get past this to see and be seen more clearly?

Become curious. Thoughtful questions are an invitation to deeper connection.

We’re building a mobile app, Daily Haloha, to challenge ourselves to share beyond our social profile. Daily Haloha asks people around the world one thought-provoking fill-in-the-blank question every day. And since people remain anonymous — and we leave out judgments and “likes” — they can be comfortable answering the questions honestly, and even vulnerably.

 

Key areas covered in this article include:

  • Physical risks
  • Emotional risks
  • Financial risks

 

Read the full article, The Surprising Connection Between Curiosity and Courage, on LinkedIn.

 

IFTTT to connect your applications

September 13, 2020

You can use IFTTT (stands for “if this, then that.”) to connect many common applications with one another.

No coding required.

E.g., I used this applet to send all my Instapaper highlights to my Evernote account.

For more advanced integration options, check out Zapier.

How to Reconnect with Influential Clients

September 12, 2020

 

David A. Fields offers timely advice on how to reconnect with decision makers after a long period of no contact. 

Every decision maker who’s regularly in conversation with your consulting firm is a high-potential source of projects and revenue. But if you’ve been out of touch with a prospect, restarting the relationship can feel awkward. The script below will help.

An “A1” in your contact list is a decision-maker who has a strong relationship with someone in your consulting firm.

Three hundred A1s can power a consulting firm as high as $50 million in annual revenue.

You could build your consulting firm into 9-figures (over $100 million) with a handful of service areas, each of which has three hundred A1 relationships.

A quick rule of thumb no matter what size your consulting firm is, even if you’re below $1 million:

Maintain at least a hundred A1 relationships to keep your practice healthy and thriving.

Groovybeans. But what if you need more A1s in your consulting firm’s network?

Remember Joyce Jamnuckles? She’s the Big Cheese at Solidoleo Corp whom you met at a conference a few years back. You struck up a great conversation over a handful of post-conference conversations, but no business materialized and you stopped following up.

Joyce is a B1—a decision maker who definitely knows you, but not well and doesn’t think of you as a go-to resource. You’ve let the relationship wither, with minimal (or no) contact for years.

Every B1 is an A1 in waiting. All you need to do is rekindle and nurture the relationship.

 

Key points covered include:

  • Staying right-side-up
  • Brevity
  • Stepping up to the plate

 

Read the full article, How To Rekindle Relationships With Your Consulting Firm’s Buyers, on David’s website. 

 

How to Deal with Risk Tolerance and Risk Aversion

September 11, 2020

 

Martin Pergler shares an article that explores risk appetite and how to address it as we move into phase two of COVID-19. 

Act I of COVID response has been about broad societal measures to stop the pandemic from overwhelming the health system, e.g. physical distancing, pausing the economy, cutting travel; all to slow exponential spread. While Act I isn’t over, it’s increasingly clear a long Act II, balancing reopening and personal freedoms with stubbornly continuing COVID risk, will follow. That’s before Act III, a full-fledged recovery (vaccine? antibody tests? herd immunity?…), can truly start.

For Act II, we need to start having clearer, more nuanced, and non-judgmental discussions about risk appetite. This is a concept from (institutional) risk management, specifying* how much of what type of risk an entity is prepared to take, and under what circumstances, including for what benefit. One of the challenges in risk management is reaching consensus on risk appetite, and reflecting that different individuals and groups in the entity may have different risk appetites. This risk appetite concept is also applicable to individual and societal risk-taking, though less often discussed explicitly. In any case, it’s going to be very important for COVID Act II, and we’re already seeing it rear its head, in ugly, unstructured, politicized fashion.

 

Key points covered include:

  • Objectively different personal risk
  • Different personal risk tolerance
  • Lack of rationality
  • Selfishness vs altruism

 

Read the full article, Getting serious on COVID risk appetite, on LinkedIn.

 

Twelve Favorite Problems

September 11, 2020

This tip is from an exercise we did last week in Tiago Forte’s Building a Second Brain course.

Write down your twelve “favorite problems” and save in your notes app or desktop or some place you’ll see regularly.

The idea being: by writing them down and reviewing periodically, your mind will be working on these problems in the background.

Here are some examples from those shared by participants in the course:

How can I spend 75% of my time doing work that inherently gives me joy?

What actions can I take as a dad to develop resilient, clever, and kind children?

How can remote health monitoring help patients manage chronic diseases?

What am I going to do once my purchase agreement/employment contract ends with the company we sold our business to?

How the Mindset Manages the Strategy

 

Caroline Taich can help you improve your strategic planning process by understanding what drives the differences in the team’s expectations. 

Much of my work involves strategic planning. Over the years I have observed that there are different kinds of strategic plans, and different views on what constitutes an excellent plan. This can lead to trouble when it comes with a mismatch of expectations within one team.

I wonder, why is there so much difference? There is probably a long list of reasons. You could argue that variability occurs because the strategy sector does not provide standards like other professions do. You could argue it’s a resource constraint issue – some have more resources to invest in planning, others have less; this affects the workplan, and thus the results.

In my view, though, one of most important drivers of difference is mindset.

Leaders with a strong appetite for change to have a “Growth mindset.” They find themselves aching for more. Some want to serve their base in a new or different way. Some want to solve for a disruption, like a new competitor or even a new CEO. All want to significantly increase their impact. These leaders value a strategic plan with components that include a deep understanding of their target market, current market trends, lessons from others in and outside of the field. They are looking to make a case for change, and new models to realize it.

 

Key points covered include:

  • The growth mindset
  • The operational mindset

 

Read the full article, How to avoid a critical mistake when setting up your strategic planning process, on the Kirtland Consulting website. 

 

Artificial Intelligence and Strategic Thinking

September 9, 2020

 

Nora Ghaoui examines the limitations of artificial intelligence as it pertains to building a business strategy.

If company strategies risk sounding the same when written by people, what happens when they get written by AI? In this post I examine an AI-generated strategy statement for what it says about the abilities of AI and creating strategies. Three years ago, I asked if large companies all had the same strategy. Perhaps their strategies all sounded the same because managers picked up the same ideas from MBAs and consultants, or because they hired the same copywriters. Last month, a new source of non-differentiating strategy appeared – strategy written by AI.

GPT-3

The AI in question is GPT-3 from OpenAI, which has been getting a lot of attention lately. Here’s a quick introduction to GPT-3: it is a language prediction model that autocompletes text from the input that you give it, like you see when you use Google search.  It’s able to complete many different kinds of text, giving it a wider range of application than other models.

Its power comes from its sheer size. It has been trained on a huge amount of text from the internet, and it has 175 billion parameters in which it stores the patterns in that text. Its response to an input is the text that is statistically most likely to come after it. So the more examples it has, the better it can match the input.

 

Key points covered include:

  • Example of strategy written by AI
  • How AI and predictive analytics work
  • Critical thinking

 

Read the full article, Can AI Write a Strategy?, on the Veridia website.

 

Think Proximity to Boost Profits and Prosper

 

As more companies seek mega mergers to dominate the marketplace, a new alliance is going to revolutionize how you access your meds. Kaihan Krippendorff uses Amazon’s recent expansion into pharmaceutical distribution to illustrate the importance of proximity in expanding and improving business offerings. 

 

If you want to predict the path of innovation in your industry, consider one unifying strategic concept: proximity. Introduced by innovation guru Rob Wolcott, proximity is the theory that the production and provision of value moves ever closer to the point of demand. Viewing your industry through this lens can reveal new opportunities, help you clarify where to focus your innovation efforts, and help you better anticipate which innovations will thrive and which will fall.

Consider TJ Parker, a second-generation pharmacist who came to realize the pharmacy industry was broken. Over the years, he observed how convoluted the experience was for patients, particularly those with multiple prescriptions, to get the drugs their health depended on.

Multiple prescriptions meant multiple trips to the drugstore. At home, they had to handle multiple bottles of drugs and keep track of how often they took each one (some once per day, some multiple times per day, others only on certain days of the week). They might sort the pills at home into pill organizers. But, still, the time and effort was onerous, resulting in low compliance and poorer health.

 

Key points covered in this article include:

  • The pharmacy industry system
  • The pillpack system
  • The value of proximity 

 

Read the full article, Pillpack, Proximity, and The Amazon Future of Pharmacies, on Kaihan’s website.