The Top 7 Business Themes on my 2009 Wish List

2010 Update: I made the decision to bring Say “Alaka‘i” here to Talking Story in late May of 2010 when the Honolulu Advertiser, where the blog previously appeared, was merged with the Star Bulletin (Read more at Say “Alaka‘i” is Returning to the Mothership).

Therefore, the post appearing below is a copy of the one which had originally appeared there on December 28, 2008, so we will be able to reference it in the future when the original url it had been published on is no more…

Hibiscus

The Top 7 Business Themes on my 2009 Wish List

From the Say “Alaka‘i” mailbox:

You get to visit lots of different workplaces, see different approaches, and listen to people’s ideas. What do you think will be the trends which emerge in business over the course of 2009 for Hawai‘i?

Gosh, that’s a million dollar question!

I don’t feel I am that great at predicting trends, for we human beings are so unpredictable —and in many ways I like that we are” I think our gut-level impulsiveness has a direct correlation to our creativity. However I can share what I hope will be the themes which emerge, and I am encouraged, for I think many of our business leaders are already talking about them.

These top my 2009 Wish List for Hawai‘i Business because they will simultaneously deliver two vital behaviors to us in the process of our pursuing them: Leadership courage, and management reconstruction.

Altogether, the theme I am encouraging within the coaching I currently do, is “out with the old and in with the new.” My list would be the same for the private and public sectors, profits and non-profits, and for social entrepreneurship (itself a trend I hope continues to flourish).
7 initiatives are on my list:

  1. Impatience for Change and New Ideas
  2. Financial Literacy
  3. The Entrepreneurial Mindset
  4. Aloha asset creation via a Ho‘okipa obsession
  5. The Role of the Manager reconstructed
  6. Talking Story Grows Up
  7. Training Becomes Learning Constant, NOT Budget Luxury

These are very likely to be the themes you will see I write most about in my blog posts here too. For now, I will explain each briefly.

1. Impatience for Change and New Ideas

One of the first posts I had written for Say “Alaka‘i” was, Leaders Don’t Wait for Any Cycle, and it remains one of my hot buttons: Virtually every single business model in every industry must evolve and improve, and we cannot rest on our laurels. Long before this recession hit us with economic reasons, we were talking about the demographics ones, for the generational character of our workplace has shifted dramatically. The evidence of our need for new ideas and substantial change is blatantly clear; we know the old way isn’t working. Yet our sense of urgency and commitment to the action steps needed is not as clear, and our hesitation is driving me crazy. We need to get more impatient —and more courageous.

The good news? Everyone knows this, and resistance is at an all-time low (more on this silver lining with no. 3 below). So what in the world are our business leaders waiting for?

2. Financial Literacy

The change we need to see happen in business requires our collective intelligence, and there best be NO leaders or managers who ever make “need to know basis” judgments or valuations of anyone else in their organizational culture, especially when it comes to the financial literacy of a company’s business model. Let people judge for themselves when your sharing is “too much information” for them; chances are they are far more intelligent than you give them credit for.

Further, they must be involved. Every stakeholder in every business needs to relearn everything financial, understanding how they directly impact each variable and each fixed cost (of which there are really very, very few). Money itself is not evil; on the contrary, it’s liberating. Ask anyone who doesn’t have it! Money is simply currency we need to be putting toward better use. The filter for this “better use” is value-alignment, where we do what we believe to be good and right. (as in virtuous values.)

3. The Entrepreneurial Mindset

Connected to financial literacy and our evolutionary business models, business leaders and managers need to understand there is a cool silver lining of our current economic mess: Entitlement mentalities of the past few years are at an all-time low, or are gone.

We have never been in a better time to teach each other (again, collective intelligence versus hierarchal dictation) to groom a new entrepreneurial mindset, where we ALL work for profit versus paycheck, and we ALL create the intellectual property we can continue to market successfully as we age and must self-sustain our increased lifespans. Retirement is an outdated concept; any Baby Boomer will tell you they are not expecting to retire —not ever. Even if they could afford to, they would be totally bored. What will you do when your body is too old to keep toiling, but your mind is still working better than it ever has before? The answer is in your entrepreneurial mindset. A business can have one too.

4. Aloha asset creation via a Ho‘okipa obsession

It’s high time we stop paying lip service to the Aloha Spirit and get it back again. The only way I see that can happen is for us to return to our Sense of Place as a Hawaiian island chain of diverse yet connected communities which are Lōkahi [harmonious and unified]. This is a tall order to be sure, one requiring much Ha‘aha‘a [humility and open-mindedness] from many of us, but it is a societal order of civility and mutual respect we MUST work on.

We must live true to our values before we can work with them, manage with them, and lead with them. There are several values, inherent to our ancestry that I would love to see thrive and flourish again, and the one which comes to mind most for me is Ho‘okipa, for it is more than good customer service: It is a gracious, virtuous hospitality borne of Aloha as the unconditional acceptance of all others, and Lokomaika‘i, the generosity of good heart.

From the Say “Alaka‘i” archives:
Hawai‘i’s Primary Recession-Proof Strategy is Ho‘okipa

5. The Role of the Manager reconstructed

Managers matter, yet we still don’t quite understand why they matter and how. Managers still work and operate in that vast wasteland called “middle management” where they are babysitting the mediocrity tolerated in our organizations instead of being stewards of the smart, professional, and mission-based disciplines which make them healthier. I am afraid that until the role of the manager changes, nothing else will.

A future preview:

Marketing Guru Seth Godin is enjoying some success right now with his latest book, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, and I will review it in a future blog post. In short, he seeks to elevate leadership —and I applaud his ideas in that regard, however he does so at the expense of management, and he depreciates the worth of managers nearly every single time he mentions them. I understand the comparison he is trying to make, however please don’t buy in to that notion that we don’t need managers —he is dead wrong.

6. Talking Story Grows Up

‘Talking story’ might be just as important to our Hawai‘i communities as is ‘sense of place’ and our cultural values of Aloha. We have a way of communicating with each other that is an exceptionally positive expectation, unspoken yet pervasive in our islands, and that expectation is this: Create a good relationship first, and do your business transaction second (even those ‘business of life’ transactions) and then that transaction will be good too.

When talking story grows up and really, truly comes to the workplace with us, we will enjoy another kind of evolution, one in the way we communicate with each other and create a larger verbal asset. Our ancestors had a great word for this: They called this ‘asset’ the mo‘ōlelo. Can you imagine how little we would know about our heritage today without it? What is the mo‘ōlelo we have stopped creating for Hawai‘i’s future generations?

7. Training Becomes Learning Constant, NOT Budget Luxury

Business has a very annoying habit, one we fall into way, way too often: The moment money is tight, training gets cut from the budget in our first wave of belt-tightening. No need for me to go into why that is a very bad idea; we all know it, yet we do it anyway.

I think that shifting our vocabulary might help us break this habit once and for all. Equate ‘training’ with learning from now on (in fact, replace the word totally), for you certainly wouldn’t cut continuous learning from your budget, would you? (Auwe” we’d be in really deep kim chee then!)

In 2009, please set this goal: Learning will be inculcated into our organizational culture as a non-negotiable constant and sacred essential. And by the way, more seminars don’t constitute learning either; we’ll talk about ‘Ike loa (the Hawaiian value of learning) more as time goes by.

Let’s Talk Story:

What are the trends that YOU hope will emerge?

What are the intentions YOU plan to set in motion early in 2009?

I am pretty confident that we WILL see a lot of these things, for business has no choice if it is to survive and get healthy again.

What I wish for most? That the big business we call Hawai‘i government is the first to lead the way in each of these areas. The willingness to discard their comfort zones, partisan alliances and “incumbency mindset” is THE leadership courage we need from them most.