• Makheni Zonneveld

What is Future Readiness?

Updated: Jan 13, 2019

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“Dear Makheni (Translated from Dutch)

Thank you for offering this valuable service for free. Firstly, I would like to apologise for writing in Dutch. Although I can read English, I am not so good at speaking and writing this difficult language. I am an aspiring entrepreneur from Rotterdam. My question is how Future Readiness can help me to be a successful entrepreneur because although I am only 31 years old I am not good with digital skills. My strength is mechanical skills. Will you please start with what Future Readiness is? Nico (not his real name)


Dear Nico

Thanks for raising the language issue. Anyone should feel free to write in any of the 12 languages that I speak – the 9 indigenous SA languages, English, Afrikaans and Dutch. I will translate the questions and also edit English questions so language should not be a barrier.

Thank you for your questions. Today I will only deal with what you said I should start with.

What is Future Readiness?

The short answer is, ‘being ready for the unknown working, business and learning world of the future’. The long answer follows.

I see that like many, you associate Future Readiness with good digital skills. That is the first myth to get out of the way. You are more Future Ready than some people who are good with digital skills because you ask the right questions. Asking what Future Readiness is in the first, shows that you are a thinking person. As I said a few weeks ago in my response to Linda the job-seeker, (http://www.makheni.com/blog/) there are two main determinants of success in business, education and in fact in everything. 1. Thinking skills. 2. People skills. You guessed right, you are going to hear about critical thinking and people skills ad nauseum.

When answering any ‘What is…’ question I always start with what it is not. That is because no one is a tabula rasa (a blank slate). We all have our ideas on anything no matter how much we know about it. It is thus important to clarify any possible misconceptions.

What Future Readiness is not

I deal with businesses of different sizes, organizations of different sizes and individuals who are all perplexed by the uncertainty and unpredictability of the future. Many businesses and organisations are busy with technology driven solutions and management hypes.

Technology driven solutions

The fact that it is possible to do something with new technology should not be the reason for doing it. For instance, it is possible for people to work from home when they have good internet connection, the right hardware and the right software. That should not be the reason people should start working from home. It is not surprising that this idea is not propagated by organizational development experts but by the people who sell the hardware and software that makes this possible. You don’t have to believe me, check this out online.

Adopting a solution because technology makes it possible is a case of the dog wagging the tail. If you try to sell hardware and software that makes working at a distance possible to a thinking entrepreneur, he asks ‘What does working from home solve?’ ‘If working from home is the solution, what was the problem?’ ‘If working from home is the answer, what was the question?’. Your success as an entrepreneur depends on the ability to ask such questions and being solution oriented.

Hype driven solutions

A thinking entrepreneur is not just happy with the sales pitch that flexible working hours, flexible workplaces and self-directed teams are the panacea for being more productive, more effective, more efficient, better work-life balance and less stress. I have heard this mantra countless times from people who cannot explain why that is the case. Most of these solutions come with the promise of cost-cutting which has been disproved beyond any doubt.

I mention corporate sector examples because small businesses take their cue from big business. I know two women who have a communication bureau. I have never been to their office and one day one of them enthusiastically told me that they had turned their office into a mini Google office. My back felt sore as she said that. If you want to find out why my back felt sore simply google ‘google offices images’. If you know anything about ergonomics you will get a sore back and a sore neck just from seeing people working on laptops on hammocks, couches and beanbags.

The sales of bright paint and bright uncomfortable furniture have never been better and all that is done in the name of creativity. Search for 'creativity', I guarantee you will get coloured crayons and other colourful images. According to this creativity myth, Google is successful because their offices encourage creativity. No, Google is successful because they have created a successful search engine and they have a successful business model. Like Facebook, they offer entrepreneurs what they need – the ability to reach prospects. That is the formula for success – solving people’s problems and perceived problems and knowing how to reach them.

Sadly, this ergonomically irresponsible idea has reached schools, especially primary schools where you see young spines curved on colourful bean bags. Before you invest in bright paint and uncomfortable furniture, ask yourself why not even one of the people who propagate this creativity myth has ever contributed a single creative solution our world.

One of the hypes that are doing the rounds is improvisation commonly known as ‘improv’. Having studied behavioural sciences for 44 years, I always had much respect for the Social Psychology research that came out of Stanford University. Two years ago I presented a talk at a workshop at one of the universities here and attended a workshop by an entrepreneurship lecturer. I nearly fell out of my chair when I heard what he had to say about planning. I still congratulate myself on having managed to shut up throughout the whole ordeal of listening to him. In short, his message is: Planning is a thing of the past. Out with the business plan in with improvisation. His has bought into the idea that improvisation means ‘just do it! Don’t think about it, don’t plan, if you get an idea just do it!’. He said that that is taught at Stanford.

To be fair to the Stanford, I checked that out. Yes, that is the case. YouTube is awash with planned thoroughly prepared formal presentations by people who tell you not to plan. They present ‘rules of improvisation’ – yes rules. None of them prove the wisdom of not planning. It is sad that a lecturer swallowed this hook line and sinker and teaches that to students.

Why does he and the guys who are giving this presentations believe this? So-and-so said it in a book. Nico, this is a good example of what you should not do if you want to be a successful entrepreneur. Always have your thinking cap on.

A plan is essential for success at any venture and improvisation and flexibility are equally essential because the unpredictable can happen. Having a plan has nothing to do with being rigid. Flexibility is essential for your plan to work. What we should be telling entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs that the real purpose of a business plan is not to help you to get funding but to helps you to clarify your thinking and help you to answer the correct questions instead of telling them that they should not plan. ‘Just do it’ is a nice catchy slogan for Nike but it should never be mistaken for a philosophy of life. Nike would not be successful if they ran their business on just do it!

As an entrepreneur you need to know how to plan your work because you work without supervision and to come up with a good marketing plan. Digital marketing is implemented using digital tools but a digital marketing strategy can only be put together by a human brain. That is why being a digital wiz kid does not make one an entrepreneur. You can have all the digital tools in the world but if you do not use your human brain to employ those tools you will not get anywhere and you are not even an entrepreneur to start with.

Some of the questions you should ask yourself as an entrepreneur should are:

Where do I want to get to?

Why do I want to get there? (motives matter)

What value will I add when I get there?

Why am I not yet there?

What are the possible ways of getting there?

What skills do I need to get there?

What resources do I need to get there?

Whom do I need to help me get there?

Who are the possible consumers of my products / services?

How can I reach them?

What are my non-negotiable personal values? (values matter)

No matter how much the world gets digitalised, mechanised and Uberised, these questions will always be crucial. No matter how much the ‘What are the possible ways of getting there?’ and the ‘How can I reach them?’ get digitalised, the rest will always be done by the software between the ears of an entrepreneur. That was entrepreneurship of the past, that is entrepreneurship of the present and that is entrepreneurship of the future. An entrepreneurship remains a human being and serves human beings. That will not change.

If that is not Future Readiness, what is Future Readiness?

We should not get our knickers into a knot about the fact that the future is unpredictable. Contrary to popular belief, there was never a time when the world was predictable and static. Many who want us to believe that the state of flux is something new quote ‘Change is the only constant in life’ not knowing who said that first. No it was not Bill Gates or Steve Jobs recently. It goes back about 2 500 years. If that does not convince you that change is nothing new, then nothing else will.

The main difference between the past and now is that the rate of change has become more rapid than anyone could have imagined and there is no reason to believe that the rate ever will slow down. A Future Ready person accepts the fact that the world will always change rapid than but still keeps his head when all around him lose theirs.

A Future Ready entrepreneur does not see the rapid changes as a threat but as a great opportunity.

In the past only a select few could create products and sell them successfully. Now we have tools that help us to create products at the click of a mouse and sell them successfully at the click of a mouse.

In the past authors depended on publishers to give their books a nod and now you can write a book, self-publish it and sell it successfully until publishers knock on your door. I know because after writing a successful e-book in 2013, in 2014 I was contacted by a publisher I had never heard of. They asked me to wrote a book on entrepreneurship. At that time, I was busy with something else and did not have time to write the entrepreneurship book that I am writing now.

In the past speakers depended on agents to get them opportunities. Now agents knock on the doors of speakers who made it on their own. Things have changed for the better for entrepreneurs and the best news is that digital solutions have become so user friendly that the most important digital skill you need is how to click a mouse. As we go along I will go into more detail on how you can go about making the best of what’s on offer.

Future Readiness is a mind-set. I hope I have answered your question.

What next?

You said you are an aspiring entrepreneur. Take pen and paper and ask yourself why you want to become an entrepreneur in the first place then answer the questions in italics above.

Till next week

Makheni your Future Readiness Coach

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Makheni Zonneveld has extensive experience in helping organisations, teams, individuals and entrepreneurs with real transformation. She employs these communications tools: Online and face2face coaching, speaking, training, storytelling and writing.

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