Lindsay’s In Business: The Big Professor

by Lindsay Uittenbogaard

OK –  so now just two business concepts await examination under the microscope. Having started with seven concepts a few weeks back, one by one they had fallen down. Each time I had been grateful: who wants to spend months and thousands in pursuit of a business idea only to discover a fatal flaw later on.  Letting each idea go was tough – especially if it was a hot favourite.

This week, the hot favourite definitely wasn’t idea 1: a one-stop home repair and improvement service.  Interesting but not INNOVATIVE. It was idea 2: a solution to address that repeated Middle Manager engagement issue. Now there’s a market.

To me, Middle Manager engagement is about them being able to connect with their staff – not from a competence perspective, but from a content perspective. All my experience showed me that poor alignment – where people aren’t able to understand each other in order to move forwards – happens inside organisations ALL THE TIME.

I envisaged a short intervention called “The Credible Leader”: an interview, a workshop and a coaching session so that Managers could look at things from a different angle. Details to be developed but yes, this could work.  But I’d need endorsement.

A friend recommended a leadership book and the contents were particularly relevant. I looked up the author on LinkedIn. A University Professor – one more click and I had his number…. within a day I had him on the phone. I explained what I was considering. Here are the 7 things that he very confidently and politely articulated I should consider:

  1. You’re on the right lines – authentic leadership in context is where it’s all going but a lot of this is being done.  Mass customisation of learning is in full swing and the big consultancies out there are positioning themselves as being best placed to deliver
  2. Differentiation is the key but the consultancies are already going for the mid-level manager so that’s not a USP
  3. It’s difficult to justify the costs of running a one day intervention. Business schools don’t deliver mid-level manager programs less than 3 – 5 days in duration
  4. McKinsey already have a tool on this. It’s available for free – just look it up (subsequently I couldn’t find this – just a Health Diagnostic, which is different)
  5. In terms of clarifying the brief, ‘Derailed Executives’ is a tool to enable better conversations on context – try looking that up too
  6. It’s difficult to find good learning delivery providers – there is a lot of low quality out there
  7. There’s already a ton of research out there – particularly the culture piece is already done.

He advised me not to go ahead and wondered if I’d ever thought about being a facilitator. I thanked him, politely, but inside, I was crushed. I felt so ignorant. How silly I am thinking I could run with this?

The next day, spoke to a pretty shrewd friend of mine who is also an executive coach.  “That’s his world,” she said. “He’s spent his whole professional life in that zone and he probably believes he’s better telling you what he really thinks than provide you with some fake encouragement.”

I reluctantly agreed. “I suppose so. It was good of him to give me his time and be honest.”

“But it doesn’t mean he’s right about the market being sewn up. Of course an entrepreneur can launch a business intervention. There are pro’s and con’s to that route – it won’t be easy – but think about it. You’ll be more agile and you’ll have more freedom to shape it exactly as you like; but there’s not a big roll-out machine behind you.  You’ll need partners….”

After the call I reflected on all of the contacts I had on LinkedIn. Most of them were very relevant to this concept. I could get partners… A day later and the workshops were scrapped but the core concept was in recovery.

Then, I reached out to an old friend I had met while working at Shell, hoping I could pick her brains.  A Cambridge Engineering graduate with a huge interest in how people work and lots of consultancy experience: let’s call her Miss X. It turned out that the challenge to develop the concept had hooked her and she had some time to put to the project. YES!!

I dreamed of a whole team – like Oceans 11, each bringing their own amazing talent and expertise to the table. I appreciated the feedback from the Big Professor – it was a valuable call.  But I think times have changed and markets can be penetrated in new ways.

I set out to work out the feasibility of the idea and then Miss X and I put a timetable of research together. Oceans 2 (or whatever), let’s get going!

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6 thoughts on “Lindsay’s In Business: The Big Professor

  1. Pingback: Lindsay’s In Business, Part 6. Shaping, Goodwill And The Network | Help you to succeed in life and work

  2. Pingback: Lindsay’s In Business, Part 7. The big stone in Scotland | Help you to succeed in life and work

  3. Pingback: Lindsay’s In Business, Part 8. Unjumbling | Help you to succeed in life and work

  4. Pingback: Lindsay’s In Business, Part 9. Awaiting responses | Help you to succeed in life and work

  5. Pingback: Lindsay’s In Business | Help you to succeed in life and work

  6. Pingback: Lindsay’s In Business: part 11: It’s alive! | Help you to succeed in life and work

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