Wednesday, 21 March 2012

“What do I do? I just do ME!” Baratunde Thurston on mashing-up digital, storytelling and comedy

As our work lives go plural, with our work and passions blending together, we can’t be defined by a job title anymore. Whether we work for ourselves or for an organisation, many of us have carved out roles that reflect our broader talents, adding new strings to our bow and new side projects as we spot opportunities or choose to scratch a new itch.  This is a subject I explore in my new book ‘Mash-up!: How to Use Your Multiple Skills to Give You the Edge, Earn More Money and be Happier’.

Carving out a mashed-up life is not only about reflecting multi-dimensional talents and desires. It’s also about staying agile, embracing uncertainty and adapting to a rapidly changing - and chaotic - world of work and business. This agile tribe is what Fast Company magazine has billed ‘Generation Flux’: Generation Flux thrive on speed, change, experimentation, curiosity and intuition. It’s the story of my own business life where I mash-up different roles and projects, reinventing myself, adding new strings to my bow to create a more fulfilling, enterprising and authentic career. Fast Company profiled Baratunde Thurston, Director of Digital at the US satirical publication The Onion, a Harvard philosophy major turned consultant turned standup comedian and author of a new book How to Be Black. I first saw Baratunde at SXSW in 2009; this week I finally met up with him in London - in this video clip below he tells me how he’s succeeded in carving out a role that embraces digital, storytelling and comedy. How does Baratunde answer the much asked ‘What do you do?’ question? “I just do ME...!”

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Why Sometimes It’s Okay to Not Know Where You’ re Going

Having left the venue of Saturday’s TEDxObserver conference, my wife and I climbed on a pair of Boris bikes and set off through the streets of Clerkenwell. “Where are we headed?” my wife asked me. “I have no idea, let’s take some side streets and see where we end up.”

It’s important to explore your curiosity and go on a journey without a destination in mind. That’s why we attended TEDx: to consume multiple voices, stories and ideas. Who knew what the next twenty minutes would bring, what action it might spark?

The 2012 TEDxObserver conference featured a neuroscientist, a community worker, food activist, musicians, a surgeon, a dancing psychologist and an anthropologist. My highlights included Pauline Pearce whose YouTube-captured rant amidst the 2011 riots became an inspiration. Having last seen the South African musician Hugh Masekela at an Anti Apartheid rally in Clapham Common in the ‘80s, it was great to hear him speak again. Then there was Miguel Torres, head of the Spanish winery who’d decided to take action on global warming after watching ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. A great example of the power of entrepreneurs in taking action to make real change. And finally Plan B, the musician and film director who spoke passionately about social injustice and the need to help urban kids discover their passion to get them re-engaged.

So what was the ‘ROI’ on all that?  It’s enough that I broadened my horizons.  It opened my eyes to themes outside my usual world. It moved me,  it got me thinking, it satisfied my curiosity.

Curiosity is an underestimated business tool. In a world of uncertainty where we’re faced with more challenging problems than ever before, you ‘aint going to find the answer in the usual places. You’ll find inspiration  in new places; you’ll need to learn from other industries and analogous businesses. You’ll need curiosity to challenge assumptions.

So on the face of it, Saturday was a great day. But somewhere deeper in our minds the value is being absorbed, mulled over, stored away to inspire us in the future in ways we can’t immediately know.

Whether it’s a bike ride with no destination, a conference with no identifiable return, listening to some new music or hanging out with a bunch of people you’d never usually mix with - try going somewhere you wouldn’t usually go; who knows in what ways it will inspire you.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The rapid mindset

I always liked to get things done fast. Whether it was assembling an air-fix model or building a den in my childhood bedroom, I just got on and did it quick.

And I’ve applied that thinking to my business life.

By being fast I don’t mean delivering insubstantial work or being sloppy because you’re not paying attention; and I don’t mean taking action without thinking first. I mean delivering better results by making a project happen faster. I get frustrated when good ideas get slowed down by procrastination or unnecessary delay. What is a good idea now may cease to be a good idea if it’s delivered in two weeks time. Of course the value is not in the idea, it’s in the execution - and that’s where speed can make all the difference. Because not doing it quick enough may mean you miss the boat.

In a world where serendipity and chance tend to be more valuable for business success than a strategic plan, you’ll need a rapid mindset.  In the last six months I’ve identified business opportunities for contacts and clients by blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moments on Twitter: because I was bored on a train or was 5 minutes early to that meeting I happened to spot something. I didn’t just look and think ‘I will deal with this later’. I dived in, took action … in a flash. Alerted a client, hit ‘reply’, made a call, whatever.

Remember there is no shortage of people spotting opportunities but less who have the right attitude to react fast.  That rapidity has become my signature business style; it’s not unusual for me to spot an opportunity on a Tuesday evening and deliver it Thursday morning. It’s another reason why we wrote our book ‘Zoom! The Faster Way To Make Your Business Idea Happen’ in three months (well we could have hardly written a book about speed, slowly).

So speed is now my differentiator.  Why should you care? Because if you want to grab that opportunity, win that client, secure that job, land your dream gig, get your product out first, launch that blog, tick off your to-do list or generally beat the competition, you might need a rapid mindset too.