Open Letter to the KaizenBiz Community

Dear KaizenBiz Community,

It is with some sadness that I write this open letter. So many of you have participated and listened to our conversations on Twitter. Since I took over the chat four years ago, it has been an honor and a privilege facilitating the online chat, finding interesting topics and introducing guests. As you may remember, the mission of the chat was/is to apply critical thinking, enhance our skills and deepen our self-understanding in a kaizen (incremental steps) sort of way as we gathered each week. However, it seems we have reached an end of a chapter.

Explored so many business topics and ideas

Over the last four years we have discussed various topics such as

There are many more topics ranging from leadership, branding, influence that are worth reading and taking the time to consider.

Our guests

We have had such interesting guests over the years that deserve our thanks for taking the time to present their ideas and engage with us as we applied critical thinking. Here are the guests who added so much to our knowledge and understanding:

It is with deep appreciation that I thank each and every one of our guests for the time they put into writing the framing post for their topic as well as being live on the Twitter chat.

Special thanks to the team

Over the last four years, there have been a few people who have helped make the chat work. First and foremost, a special thank you to CASUDI (also known as Caroline Di Diego). CASUDI has been an advocate and inspiration. There have been times when I could not be physically present for the chat and Judy Gombita and Lois Martin were able to substitute as chat hosts. Many thanks for your generosity and high level of competence! Bernd Nurnberger contributed by setting up our LinkedIn page where we can still connect. Many thanks to Cathryn Hrudicka for sharing each and every post on her blog. Her generosity and support is deeply appreciated. Many thanks to another avid supporter is Eric Bryson who helped announce the chat each week. Finally, a grateful recognition to Cathy Larkin who has been my right hand person as well as tech and Twitter chat advisor.

To a talented and brilliant community

Over the last couple of years, our community has changed due to many members becoming busier in their careers. While it is great to see so many deserving professionals becoming more successful, we miss their warmth, insight and expertise on the chat. You, the community, have been excellent participants in taking a deeper dive into all kinds of topics. Due to your intelligence and curiosity, I found myself learning about economics, holacracy and so many other topics. Besides meeting people that I am delighted to know, KaizenBiz has deepened my own skills and knowledge. It has been a joy to have people from Japan, India, Africa, Portugal, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Colombia, Mexico and the United States sharing their expertise, insight and opinions on so many topics.

That said, over the last six months, attendance on our weekly chat on Twitter has dwindled to just a handful of people. With that in mind, it seems time to put the chat on an indefinite hiatus.

Let’s stay connected

While the conversations may not be as regular as meeting each week on Twitter, it is still possible to remain connected and share ideas in our LinkedIn group. I also suggest that if you find or write an article that is the thought provoking type that we would discuss on one of our #KaizenBiz chats, that you post it on Twitter and feel free to use the chat hashtag. I hope you will reach out and let me know your thoughts about putting the chat on a hiatus due to low attendance. You can always connect with me via my website or on LinkedIn.

As of this Friday, 26 September 2014, we will not meet on Twitter.

My best wishes for your success, keep thinking and developing your skills and you!




The Skills Gap-Imagined, Real Or Something Else?

Over the  last few years, there has been a lot of discussion about a skills gap in workers. This has been particularly discussed in reference to US companies and unemployment and there seem to be opposing views. On one hand, employers across the globe are saying that they cannot find workers with the right skills. On the other hand, Peter Capelli, Paul Krugman and others state that employers (particularly in the US) are “whining” and there is no gap at all.

Dueling surveys

It makes you wonder if they are talking about the same thing when it comes to the skills gap. In a survey supported by the MIT project on Production in the Innovation Economy and the Russell Sage Foundation, it was noted that the skills needed in manufacturing were basic math, reading, writing and computer skills. The respondents reported little to no difficulty finding people to hire. A Boston Consulting Group survey from 2012 that focused on manufacturing also reported similar findings.

Maybe it is is not manufacturing skills that employers are struggling with? In the Manpower Group 2014 Talent Shortage Survey, it was noted that, globally, employers are reporting a skills gap. However, the skills are necessarily in manufacturing. This survey reports talent skill shortages in

  • skilled trades
  • engineers
  • technicians
  • sales representatives
  • accounting and finance staff
  • sales managers
  • IT staff
  • office support staff
  • drivers

That list goes beyond manufacturing. It is interesting to note that another survey of American workers conducted by Udemy listed specific skills that employees report deficits.

  • Computer/Technical skills
  • Management skills
  • Financial skills (including use of spreadsheets)
  • Administrative skills

Then there is the Fast Company article, “The Job Skills Gap You Haven’t Considered” which focuses on how much social media is part of doing business. More specifically, skills in information and communication technology are lacking.

Maybe it is not the skills but the willingness to pay for the talent

In Krugman’s opinion piece, he states that US employers are not willing to pay workers higher wages. When you look at pay levels globally, there is a great range. In some regions, wages are rising to attract talent while wages in other regions are staying steady or showing declines. There are also questions about whether employers are avoiding hiring older workers (which leaves a large number of people unemployed or underemployed) or preferring to hire immigrants because they can pay them less. It may be neither of these but a policy of austerity.

So, is there a skills gap?

It would seem so. When you look at the global picture, there seems to be a deficit in certain skills. If you base your argument strictly on the manufacturing skills, you miss the larger picture. Whether it is graphic artists having to rethink design because of 3D printers or the increased use of mobile devices. As James Bessen points out, graphic artists have had to adapt quickly from learning Flash to HTML5. For managers, there are expectations that workers have now about how they mix work and life which has an impact on how one communicates, where one works and how the work really gets done. Maybe the skills gap is not only one of knowledge but the ability to learn and adapt.

What is your observation of the skills gap? How does it vary globally? What are the most desired skills where you live and work? Share your insight and expertise on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz this Friday, 19 September 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT

 How realistic are the expectations of employers that workers will have the skills prior to applying for positions?

Who is most responsible for training workers in the desired skills-school/universities or the employer?

How would you describe the discrepancy between the opposing views on whether there is a skills gap?

With the various adaptations of technology in the workplace, how much responsibility does the worker have to maintain or enhance current skill levels?

How accurate is the perception that employers are simply not willing to pay better to attract desired talent?



Apple’s Story- Reinvention or Evolution?

Apple, Tim Cook, iPhone6, Apple WatchIn case you somehow missed it, Apple released the Apple Watch and the latest iPhone on Tuesday (September 9, 2014). One thing you can depend on with an Apple release is that people, technophiles and others, all are interested to see what features and capabilities the devices have. After all, Apple has a reputation of developing things you did not know you wanted.

This release is more than the devices

This release is Tim Cook’s release. Since taking the helm of Apple, Tim Cook has been watched and asked how he is going to fill Steve Jobs’ shoes. Jobs was was a singular person with his own talents and intelligence. However, for Cook, this may be an uphill climb, no matter how talented or intelligent he is. So, with yesterday’s release, people are watching him. The Wall Street Journal called the Apple product launch “Apple’s Tim Cook Makes Boldest Bets Yet With New iPhone, Apple Watch.” The tone of the article seems largely positive. Yet, a post on the HBR Blog Network asks if Cook is able to step away from Jobs’ influence and lead Apple his way. Another interesting perspective comes from this tweet:

Tim Cook’s Apple is less about ‘i’ and more about ‘we.’

— saschasegan (@saschasegan) September 10, 2014

Time may tell if Cook pulled it off. Jobs was larger than life and it may be how Cook creates his own perspective and, thus, his stamp on Apple that defines the direction, innovation and culture.

And, of course, the devices…

Apple always has an hard act to follow as its history is chock full of innovative products that revolutionized people’s use of computers. Functionality has never been enough for Apple. The design is a key element as well. In essence, the device must do amazing things and look good (even beautiful) while doing it. As many journalists and blogggers have pointed out, Apple was not the first to create a smartphone or a smartwatch. The question for this week’s launch is, “did Apple bring these devices to a whole new level?” The real innovation here may not be the smartphone or even the watch. It might be Apple Pay. This e-commerce capability enables users to put their wallet on their smartphones and there are a number of stores ready to accept payment.

But is this a reinvention or an evolutionary step?

For those watching Apple with the expectation that something uber-new is coming, there may disappointment. If you read the comments on some of the blogs, you would wonder how Apple has any customers at all but that is probably hyperbole. Apple is an established company with a reputation of creating cool and beautiful products. With Tim Cook as CEO leading his first big launch, there are doubters and avid fans. Apple could focus on smaller innovations rather than whole new classes of products. Apple could be setting the stage for something completely new and wonderful.

Join us on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz on Friday, September 12, 2014 at 5pm GMT/12pm ET/9am PT and add your insights and expertise about whether Apple is reinventing or evolving.

What is your initial impression of Apple’s latest launch?

 How significant is it that the watch is named “Apple Watch” rather the “iWatch”?

How does Tim Cook step out of Steve Jobs’ shadow and maintain Apple as an innovative company?

Apple has history of being innovative. How does this affect people’s perceptions of Apple’s new products?