Can You Change Behaviors By Following Others?

iStock_000014793457SmallI am sure many of you have come across these omnipresent cards in hotel rooms that request you to re-use your towels to save water and protect the environment. Personally, I think these “suggestions” are just about saving costs for the hotel. I just paid a couple hundred dollars for a room and now you want me to save a few dollars for you by not drying myself in a nice, clean, freshly washed towel? Doesn’t seem right…

Despite the fact that 83% of hotels have a linen re-use policy in place, apparently only about 17% of guests actually re-use their towels. It looks like I am not alone!

So how do hotels get guests to re-use their linens? For that matter, how are people convinced to change any of their behaviors? For example; getting people to save energy at home or to wear their safety belts and goggles. How are employees encouraged to fill in an important survey or comply with organizational policies?

Our knee-jerk reaction is the carrot and stick approach (or stick and carrot depending on your humanistic view). We either ‘bribe and/or push’ people to display a desired behavior or implement processes or policies that force people to work in a certain manner. Both ways can be effective, however they are costly (incentives) and often not liked as they constrain (regulation) people.

Robert Cialdini, Professor of Psychology and Marketing at the university of Arizona, has studied what influences and persuades us to do or accept something. He has identified 6 universal principles (check out the YouTube video: Secrets of the Science of Persuasion) that persuade people to change their behavior:

  1. Reciprocity
  2. Scarcity
  3. Authority
  4. Consistency
  5. Liking and
  6. Consensus

The last principle shows that people like to do what many other people have done before. This is nothing new, of course, because we do this all the time. We want to buy a phone in a price range similar to what our friends have, we agree to join in a karaoke contest if all our other colleagues are also participating, or we are willing to try a new dish on the menu if we are told it is the restaurants best selling item (even when we have no clue what it is).

So how can you use this idea to influence people’s behaviors? Cialdini himself gave an example in which a utility company not only provided its customers with information over their personal electricity usage, but on a monthly basis, gave their customers an invoice in which they could compare their electricity usage with that of their neighbors. Over a 3-year period this led to energy savings of 1.3 billion kw/h.

Now, coming back to the re-use towel example… Cialdini experimented with different messages to persuade people to re-use their towels. Nothing had a significant impact except telling people that 75% of the guests (which was a credible and true statistic) in the hotel during their stay re-used their towels. Sharing a factual, statistical piece of information on what others are doing, prompted 30% more people to re-use their towels. And the funny part is, it didn’t cost the hotel a dime.

I am going to try to use these principles in persuading employees of a large organization to change their behavior. How? I don’t know yet, but if I am able to share in a credible manner with employees what other similar employees have done, I am sure they will follow and change their behavior.

Will keep you posted!

– Paul Keijzer

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How To Avoid Procrastination

procrastination2I just completed the procrastination survey and according to the outcome I rank in the bottom 10% of the population in terms of my level of procrastination. According to the procrastination equation website, (at least) 95% of each one of us sometimes procrastinate and for 15-20% of us it is consistent and problematic. These figures have significantly gone up since the 70’s, where there were only 5% of self-proclaimed procrastinators.

Despite the low survey score (explains how anyone can cheat with personality tests) of course I also do procrastinate and sometimes finish a movie, play that game on my phone, check my emails, go for lunch with my wife; postponing all my work to the latest possible moment. The excuse that I always use is that I work better under pressure and an even better excuse I tell myself is that I am subconsciously preparing myself the whole time. So far it has worked and I have (almost) never missed a client deadline!

According to Dr. Ferrari in Psychology Today “Procrastination: 10 Things To Know”, procrastination is not a problem of time management or of planning. Procrastinators are not different in their ability to estimate time…”Telling someone who procrastinates to buy a weekly planner is like telling someone with chronic depression to just cheer up.”

So how are the people who have been studying the topic of motivation and procrastination and are self-proclaimed sufferers dealing with it? Professor John Perry, an emeritus professor of philosophy from Stanford University, has written a wonderful essay on how he deals with procrastination. He calls it Structured Procrastination and it “requires a certain amount of self-deception, because one is (in effect) constantly perpetrating a pyramid scheme on oneself,” he writes. “One needs to be able to recognize and commit oneself to tasks with inflated importance and unreal deadlines while making oneself feel that these tasks are important and urgent.”

While reading 59 Seconds: Think A Little, Change A Lot, I came across the topic of procrastination once again and found the “just a few minutes” rule to be helpful. According to psychology graduate Bluma Zeigarnik, who first experimented with this idea in the 1920’s, this rule is a highly effective way of overcoming procrastination. The idea here is to work on an activity for “just a few minutes” which leaves the procrastinator with the urge to see it through to completion. This creates an “anxious brain” which makes you want to see the job finished!

I am trying to deal with my procrastination bouts by trying to create new habits, habits in which I force myself to do things and hope that over time they become automatic. Luckily for me my guilt kicks in if I am not able to do stuff as planned (must be the Dutch work ethic that my parents have pumped into me) and this pushes me to get things done.

How do you deal with procrastination?

– Paul Keijzer

Using Office Gossip To Your Advantage

bigbookpic-1All of us do it; we gossip. There are some stunning statistics available as to how much the passing along of information contains traces of gossip. Did you know that one out of seven emails sent in office contain gossip? And that negative gossip outweighs positive gossip by a factor of three. No one really thinks of the statistics behind gossip, because for so many people adding those extra “juicy” details into a conversation comes naturally. We love to gossip, certainly when it is about other people, but what do you do when the gossip is aimed at you?

What To Do If You Are The Subject of the Gossip:
The first thing you have to do when you hear gossip about you is to know exactly what is being said. Find out where the gossip originated from and confront that individual. How do you do this? Let’s give an example: You have heard in the corridor that people are talking about the fact that they feel the boss is favoring you and giving you opportunities that others don’t get. After asking around, you have been able to identify one colleague (the one you have always been in competition with) who is behind originating this gossip.

So, how do you confront this individual? While it may be your first instinct, do not run over and start shouting at your colleague, throwing around accusations. Instead, take a couple of breaths, think about your actions and plan on how you should approach this situation. Choose the best moment (preferably when no other colleagues are around and when you know your colleague will have nothing to fear) and prepare how you will start the conversation. Instead of an aggressive “I have heard that you are spreading rumors about me and I want you to stop” try the following opening: “I know that it is your right to say whatever you want to whomever you want and I don’t want to deny you this right, but I would like you to know that it really hurts to hear that you are implying that the boss is favoring me for reasons that are not performance related. If it is your intention just to bad-mouth me, then go ahead and continue. However, if you really think that this is an issue then I would like to discuss this with you and the boss to sort this out, as this is certainly not the way I want to be seen”.

Tough, yes of course, but at least you show that they can’t simply get away with talking about you. Even if the person denies being the originator, addressing the issue will ensure that you have nipped the problem in the bud.

If you don’t know or are not sure who the source is, bring it up with your line manager or HR director (whomever you feel more comfortable with) and ask for advice.

Two Big No-No’s
There are two big no-no’s when you are sharing rumors. First, never share company sensitive information. Certainly if it is a listed company it can get you into serious (legal) trouble. And although studies show that sharing negative feelings about a third person can increase the closeness between the two people sharing it, no matter how tempted you are or how upset you are with your boss, never speak negatively about him/her to others. Almost always the negative comments will come back to him/her and put you in a position you don’t want to be in.

How To Use Gossip To Get People To Like You
Not many people would associate gossip as a tool to make other people like you. However in his book 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot, Professor Richard Wiseman shares an experiment that shows when you gossip about another person; “…listeners unconsciously associate you with the characteristics you are describing, ultimately leading to those characteristics’ being “transferred” to you. So, say positive and pleasant things about friends and colleagues and you are seen as a nice person. In contrast, constantly bitch about their failings and people will unconsciously apply the negative traits and incompetence to you”.

So say good things about your boss and colleagues, keep away from negative gossip, share accurate market information and other trends you have picked up from friends and from the web and see your likeability and your career skyrocket.

– Paul Keijzer

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Managing Office Gossip

gossip-webAs an HR Director I was once the gatekeeper for a lot of sensitive information and was always amazed at how fast, widespread and accurately gossip spreads. Studies from the 60s (although I don’t know whether this is still relevant as that sounds like a lifetime ago) show that more than 75% of the details in gossip are correct.

Why People Love To Gossip
According to Frederick Koenig, a sociologist and author of Rumor in the Marketplace: The Social Psychology of Commercial Hearsay, people listen to and pass on a rumor because it satisfies an inner need. This is why understanding the nature of the people involved is key. According to Koenig, different people have different needs that lead to their reasons behind passing along gossip.
Rumors …

  1. … can circulate because the topic is interesting or a source of diversion.
  2. … can pull together events and fill in the gaps to make sense and provide explanations for what is going on.
  3. … can validate and support a point of view.
  4. …can reconcile one’s psychological state with what one sees as actually going on. (Studies show people who have high anxiety frequently participate more in the rumor process and groups in stressful situations have more rumor activity.)
  5. … are a means of getting attention.
  6. … are ways of manipulating situations. The idea of individuals or groups deliberately starting a rumor to serve selfish ends is frequently suggested.

The Grapevine Is On 24/7
It is the informal communication highway and it works 24/7; in company buses, cafeterias, hallways, meeting rooms, bathrooms and water coolers. But don’t think it stops when the office closes down. Nowadays, more often than not the grapevine really comes to life through Facebook, Twitter, or any other social network platform. It never stops and most of the time it is much faster and more direct than the organized formal communication methods that companies rely on. (You won’t see anything scandalous written in an office memo, but what employees communicate from desk to desk would shock you.)

Benefits of Gossip
Of course gossip and the infamous grapevine that carries the gossip can have both positive and negative consequences for the organization. The negative is that the grapevine can carry all kinds of misinformation and create insecurity in individuals. There are, however, also a number of benefits. The simple fact that people are talking about the organization shows that they are interested in what is going on with the company (as a leader you should get worried if employees stop discussing the company as it shows that they are not engaged). The benefit is that gossiping allows employees to express their feelings (both positive and negative) rather than keeping it bottled up.

How to Manage the Downside of Gossip
Of course, when the going gets tough and difficult messages have to be communicated (for example: downsizing, re-locations, or organizational changes) the grapevine works at its best and the consequences are most likely the most detrimental. In these cases as a leader you have two options (1) share as much as possible as soon as possible, even if not everything is clear and decided or (2) share information once when everything is decided and clear. The advantage of the “ASAP approach’ is that you let people in on what is happening with the downside being that things can change over time and you might be increasing their insecurities (as not everything is clear). Telling people when everything is clear is of course the flip side of the same coin. Although here, the biggest negative is that you are unable to formally influence the grapevine as you have not communicated anything and have left it up to others to exaggerate or downplay (as any piece of gossip can turn). Both approaches have their time and place.

How To Manage The Grapevine
First and foremost is accepting that the grapevine is always on and can’t be stopped. You can try to ‘kill’ it in one situation, but I bet you it pops its head into another soon. The best way to manage the grapevine is to:

  1. Make sure you inform employees as quickly and fully as possible of what is going on in the company. Use social media and the formal communication channels available to you. Remember the key mantra in communicating to employees is: Communicate, then communicate more and if you think that you have communicated enough, double your efforts.
  2. Listen to the rumors and decide what are facts and what is biases. If, as a leader, you are in tune with the grapevine you get a feel of what is really happening in the company and you can use this as influence.
  3. Act fast. If rumors are wildly incorrect then make sure you come out ASAP to set the record straight by proactively communicating to all employees. Otherwise, distorted half-truths will make the rounds — so nip these destructive rumors in the bud.

Learn to love the grapevine. Don’t get jumpy if ‘secret’ information is out there. Simply accept and try to use it to your benefit.

– Paul Keijzer

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Follow Your Heart And Do What You Want

k4604027One of my favorite questions to ask participants in a team session is “What is the one thing you would do with your life if you didn’t have any other commitments?” The answers people give are very interesting as many say they want to give back. Recognizing that they are ‘privileged’ these individuals would want to use their skills, resources and time to give back to their community by helping educate children, helping poor women develop skills to build a livelihood or supporting hospitals in impoverished areas. Others have long standing dreams they were never able to fulfill. I met a Managing Director who always wanted to be a pilot, an HR Director who dreamed of being a pediatric doctor, a CEO who wanted to write a cookbook and a Finance Manager who wanted to be an anthropologist and publish his own coffee-table-photo-books that would cover his journeys.

These are all fantastic dreams and amazing insights into the souls of individuals. Of course the next tough question is always: If that is your dream, then why are you not pursuing it?

The reasons I get for not following ones dreams range from:

  • I don’t have the time
  • I am scared
  • I don’t know how to do it
  • I need to have a stable income to look after my financial commitments
  • My daughter is getting married in 5 years
  • It is too late now
  • I don’t know where to start
  • I can’t take the risk
  • It’s too difficult to do
  • What if I fail
  • I would let my parents down if I make this change and throw away the important position that I have created

All true. All these are good enough reasons not to follow your dreams…right?
So what to do? How can you follow your dreams right now without giving up everything you have worked for? I would suggest you:

1. Start By Taking Small Steps
As Dr. Gregory House, from the TV shows says; “Doing things changes things. Not doing things leaves things exactly as they were”. It is all about starting to approach things differently. So if you want to become a writer, start a blog or publish an e-book. If you want to become a musician, upload a video on YouTube and shamelessly promote it as much as you can. If you want to help educate people, associate yourself with an NGO and on Saturdays you can give back to the community by teaching underprivileged kids to read and write. If you always wanted to be a doctor, then take a first aid or CPR training class.

“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

2. Stay focused
Look at all the people that you admire in this world. What is the one thing they have in common? It’s their laser like clarity and focus on achieving their dream. Steve Jobs was not distracted by the million other things he could have sold, Mandela’s only focus was to bring down apartheid, Jake Welch’s sole aim was to make GE number 1 or 2 in every market.

It is all about knowing what you want and staying away from distractions. As they say, you know a company’s (or person’s) strategy on the basis of what they spend their time on. The same applies for achieving your dream. Spend time on one specific goal and stay away from the numerous distractions that come your way.

3. Persevere
The definition of perseverance is “to continue in a course of action, even in the face of difficulty or with little or no prospect of success.” Some steps in achieving your dream will lead to dead ends while others will get you closer to your goal. The only option you don’t have is to stop trying and give up. Don’t give up too easy…it’s your dream we are talking about!

– Paul Keijzer

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How To Make Brainstorming Much More Effective

brainstormingRecently I tried out a new approach to brainstorming. A couple of weeks ago I read an article discussing what is wrong with brainstorming, on Eric Barker’s blog; Barking Up The Wrong Tree. I adopted some of the learnings, experimented with them and found that it really worked! While no single method of approach is perfect, the results were significantly better than what I had seen before.

The way I implemented brainstorming techniques in the past was similar to the way Alex F. Osborn, known as the “father of brainstorming” invented it in 1958. Put people in a group together and collectively write as many individual ideas down as possible, whether they are crazy, funny, ridiculous, innovative or clever. Don’t criticize anything and allow people to make links and associations as they go along. When you have all the ideas on one list, bring them down to the best few and then expand on them. Sounds familiar?

More often than not, the problem with this approach is that the ideas that you get are either ‘spiked up’ versions of ideas that have gone around for ages or ideas so wild that they will never see the light of day.

So I decided to experiment and organized a brainstorming activity for a client in which they wanted to come up with new initiatives to grow their business, taking into account the new research findings that:

  • Smaller teams are more effective than larger teams (also see this article in HBR explaining that smaller, more homogenous, research groups are more effective per researcher)
  • Less is More
  • Criticizing and debating ideas will improve the quality of the idea

The brainstorming session was not only aimed at coming up with new ideas but also to translate those ideas into initial action plans. To do this we used the following 5 steps:

1. Individual Ideas
The night before the brainstorming session, every participant was briefed on the objective of the next day (to come up with innovative ideas to grow business). Each individual was requested to come up with one, two or maximum three ideas that he / she thought would grow their business. The next day each participant was given a flip chart in which they had to put down their ideas by answering three questions (1) What is the problem you are trying to solve? (2) What is your proposed solution? and (3) How will it work?

2. Share Judge and Select
Then, seated in groups of 5, each individual was asked to present his/her ideas to the other members of their group. During the presentation other members were encouraged to ask questions for clarification, make suggestions on how to improve the idea or use the idea in a different context. Next, the group was asked to rate all of the presented ideas on the criteria of uniqueness and potential value. All ideas were plotted on a matrix and the groups were asked to select their top three concepts.

3. Present and Pick
Each group then presented their top 3 ideas in a standardized format to the larger group (50 people in this case). The groups were then asked to give three votes to three ideas that according to them was the most unique and had the most value for the company. A ranking of ideas emerged and the top 10 of these ideas were taken into the next round.

4. Praise and Criticize
Having selected the 10 innovative ideas that were both unique and had significant value to the organization, it was then time to start moving into action. But, before I asked individual groups to start writing action plans, i wanted to galvanize the collective wisdom of all 50 people in the room to improve the idea. The concept that we used was “Praise and Criticize.” Each group was given a random idea and had 5 minutes to list as many reasons why this was a great idea along with why this idea was not going to work. After 5 minutes the list of praises and critiques was moved to the next group and they are asked to do the same. If you do this 4/5 times you get a pretty exhaustive list of good and bad qualities for every idea.

5. Action!
The list of praise and criticism was then given to the group that originally came up with the idea, so that they could take their colleagues comments into account when they started working on their action plan. You can imagine that the action plan that was created was significantly richer in content as already 50 people had been able to review it and make suggestions.

The end result for the team I worked with was 8 fantastic ideas that already had a meaty action plan linked to them. A project lead was appointed and a first review date was set. And the amazing thing is it only took 4 hours to go through this session. 4 hours with 50 people leading to 8 brilliant business innovation ideas. Not a bad investment in my book!

So, whenever you are planning to do your next brainstorming session, let people come up with their own ideas first. Let them share their ideas, fight over what the best ideas are and then use the collective wisdom of the group to praise and criticize those ideas to strengthen their overall action plan.

– Paul Keijzer

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How To Find A Job Using LinkedIn

LinkedInThe talent market in many parts of the world continues to be a pretty flat line. Opportunities are not created, as investment in new business is low and existing businesses are looking to do more for less. Everybody is holding on to their seat, as economic circumstances don’t allow you to make a career mistake: ‘a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’.

A couple of months ago I shared with you a number of tips on how to move your career forward whilst there is no career opportunity on the horizon (Find Me a Job Now!). Using your network is the most direct route to your next job. And, although nothing beats networking in person, we are now connected virtually through Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and hundreds of other social media networking sites

I don’t use Facebook for personal networking. No, Facebook is just not my thing. What I do use a lot is Linkedin. It has not only transformed into the #1 professional networking site, but also as a great source of knowledge on ‘life in the corporate world’. I have a considerable network on LinkedIn and am using it extensively to find people, re-connect with colleagues and brand myself as an HR leader. There are already more than enough articles written on how you can use LinkedIn to find your next job (a Google search on the topic resulted in 234 million hits!) and I would suggest that you go through a number of them to get a bunch of different ideas.

For individuals using LinkedIn as a main source in identifying people and also being a significant target for job seekers, these are my tips on how you can improve the way you use LinkedIn to network:

PROFILE: Make sure your profile is up to date and captures who you are and what you have done. Be realistic and don’t make it picture perfect, trust me… with only 2 years of experience you haven’t changed the world (yet!). Think through what your ‘Unique Selling Proposition’ is and make sure you bring this out in a convincing manner. Companies or individuals are always looking for specific knowledge, skills or talent. They scan profiles trying to find what they are looking for.

CONNECT: Connect with people that you know, don’t invite people you don’t know and don’t turn down invites from other people. When people have accepted your invite, thank them and let them know what you can do for them. The number of emails I get after a person has connected with me, asking to help them find them a job, is astounding. Ask yourself why should I do this? They don’t know me, nor do they know what I am good at, why should they stop what they are doing to help me find a job?

GIVE BACK: I have noticed that the number of times I do respond are linked to emails and request of (1) people that I have a long-standing relationship with, (2) people that respond to a particular piece I have written or (3) people that share or give without asking for favors. So instead of asking, start giving and you will see that the relationship you have with specific individuals changes dramatically.

STAY IN TOUCH: LinkedIn now has an awesome feature in which you can see how long it has been since you have been in touch with any of your contacts. Use that to stay in touch with people you have not seen, spoken, or interacted with for some time and whom you know are valuable for future support or references. No, don’t just send an email saying ‘Hi it’s been a long time hope u are well, by the way, can you give me a job”. Instead, write a note in which you share a fond memory. Thank the person for something you have learned from them or simply recall an awesome thing you did together. Personalize your message and make the other person feel special. Only after you have brought the relationship back to where it was a number of years ago can you start thinking of asking for any help or guidance.

It’s a tough talent market out there, with lots of people looking for work and not as many opportunities. Remember to do two things if you want to succeed in this market; keep finding opportunities to learn and always network! Good luck.

– Paul Keijzer

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If You Want People To Collaborate – Put Them Next To Each Other!

collaboration“Change is the only constant” is a mantra that has been engrained in almost every professional I have met. However, when you ask a leader how to help employees change, the response is often pin drop silence, but after some time, people often refer to the tested ‘carrot or stick’ approach. Reward the people that change and ignore or kick out the people that don’t. Philip Kotler, the change management guru, famously stated that only 30% of all change initiatives succeed. Few betting men would take these odds…

Almost all change initiatives require people to alter their behaviors. Taking action is the most difficult as we all know from our experience in trying to lose weight, exercise regularly, influence our teenagers to clean their rooms or even change the shopping habits of our spouse. Research into people trying to quit smoking, shows that only 17% are successful and never smoke again. And to prove that old habits die hard: even if people are confronted with a major physical crisis (e.g. a heart attack) less than one out of two are able to kick the habit.

We are creatures of habit. It gives us comfort, confidence and much needed stability to make sense of this fast changing world. Two books I recently read have helped me become better in advising companies on how to change behaviors. The most recent book “The Power of Habit” is written by New York Times business writer Charles Duhigg. He helps you understand how habits work and how you can change them, not only at an individual level but also on an organizational and societal level. So far, it is Amazon’s book of the year, so check it out.

However, my current favorite read is “Influencer: The Power To Change Anything” from Kerry Patterson. In this Patterson shares a very simple model on how you can influence behavior. Firstly. Patterson distinguishes two components that stop people from changing. They either don’t want it (motivation) or they don’t know how to (ability). Through powerful real life examples, Patterson helps you understand how you can influence behavior on a personal, social and structural level.

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My personal favorite insight is the impact of distance on collaboration and where by changing the environment in which people operate you ‘force’ them to change their behavior. Bell Labs was interested in understanding what was the best predictor for scientist to work effectively and collectively, smash ideas together and build on each others concepts. The answer? Distance. Scientist who worked next to each other where 3 times more likely to discuss technical topics that lead to collaboration versus scientists sitting only 30 feet from one another. With a distance of only 90 feet, the collaboration dropped to levels similar as if they were working several miles away.

Many clients often complain about different functions within the company that don’t work well enough together. Using Patterson’s example I always advise them to make people, who need to accomplish something together, simply sit together. Companies like P&G and Unilever have taken this concept even further by making their cross-functional teams sit at their client premises. If you want to change behavior, don’t forget to think about changing your physical environment.

– Paul Keijzer

Three Reasons Why, In Pakistan, We Want Everything Now!

The Time is Now - ClockAfter people learn that I worked in China and Vietnam before coming to Pakistan, they often ask me ‘what are some of the differences between the Chinese and Pakistani’s’. The big difference, I always say, is long-term vs short-term. In China the focus is on the long term. They set themselves a goal and no matter how long it takes, with utter dedication and conviction, they reach that goal. In the late 70’s under Deng Xiao Ping’s leadership, the Chinese set on a road to introduce ‘capitalism with Chinese characteristics’. Now 40 years later they are the second largest economy in the world and will over the next 50 years challenge the US for that crown.

On the other hand, in Pakistan it is all about the today. We will take whatever shortcut is possible in order to get an immediate benefit. This applies to all levels of society. Pakistani’s are generally more interested in maximizing their opportunities and earnings today, than waiting to get something significantly better in the future (I would love to see a comparison between Pakistan and other countries on the result of the infamous Stanford Marshmallow Test)

Why I asked myself is this the case, three reasons:

1. You Don’t Know What Tomorrow Will Bring
Uncertainty is so high that you never know what tomorrow will bring. Many people take life day by day, questioning: why try to build something that will only reap its benefits at some time in the far uncertain future? In Pakistan, a strike can be called in a matter of minutes, causing the whole city to shut down and the workday to go to waste. With such erratic conditions, sometimes living in the moment is what works best.

2. You Can’t Depend on Institutes
Our governance is still under constructions. Institutes have made modest progress in ensuring that its people can depend on a fair, transparent and a just rule of law. Apart from a few exceptions, government offices are not known for their ability to deliver quick, consistent and high quality services. You never know whether you can pick up your passport whenever they promised it, or whether the electricity that is there today will be there tomorrow.

3. You Can’t Afford To Wait
With inflation high and incomes at sustenance levels, people need to ensure that they look after their families today. With such a large population of individuals willing to work (especially in the middle and lower class), there is always someone ready to take your place. You can’t afford to wait till tomorrow to grab the opportunity you have at hand.

All these things combined make it almost utterly impossible to predict and therefor plan for the future. This can be said about many countries, but Pakistani’s will agree that our country can sometimes feel like a light switch, with tensions arising and calming down at any instant. We have adapted to this “you never know what will happen tomorrow” motto. Apart from the obvious drawbacks there are of course numerous good things about this motto. Our turnaround time is significantly faster than any other place I have ever lived and we have become much more flexible and agile as a result of it. For us it is all about Now!

– Paul Keijzer

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3 Reasons Why You Can Get Things Done Faster In Asia Than Anywhere Else

FastBizmanOne of the things I love about working in Asia is the speed at which you get things done. Of course, there are many situations in which the bureaucracies and intricacies of doing business in Asia is daunting for the first timer, but when you know your way around you can get things done in no-time and significantly faster than many other parts of the world.

Over the past few weeks I was involved in an initiative to pro-actively identify and develop Myanmar’s Talent as part of an organizations bid to obtain a telecom license and enter Myanmar (see also Myanmar Talent Gold Rush.) Within 7 days this team was ready to launch a press conference, advertising campaign, and build a social media presence and job portal from scratch. This was all in a country that has been isolated from the international business world for the last decade. I would say that is a high achievement!

Speed is Asia’s salient feature. Why, I ask myself, is it possible to get things done here in 7 days that would take 3 months in many other parts of the world? Over the past 15 years having worked everywhere from China to Riyadh and everything in between I have realized that 3 specific features drive the ability to get things done fast in Asia:

1. Hunger for Success
Asia is hungry for success. The continent wants to move and move fast. They realize its their time to take the center stage in the world and they don’t want to waste this opportunity. They are willing to make the extra efforts, sacrifice and still have that zeal to work and push themselves hard, because they want to create a better life for their children. Asians are self-reliant and know that they can’t depend on the government to bail them out (there is no social safety net other than your extended family). They have to do it themselves and will find any way to create a better future for their families, their communities and at the end their countries.

2. It’s All About People
In the developed world, work is organized around processes and systems. The advantage of this is that you can get things done no matter who you are or who you know. Everything is standardized and delivered against certain parameters. Speed, flexibility and customization however are not something that go hand-in-hand easily with a process and systems driven approach. In Asia work is organized around people. Things get done because of who you know and if you have built the right relationship with the right people, things can move faster than anywhere else in the world.

3. Driven From The Top
The last reason is that the power in Asian organizations still reside solidly at the top of the organizational pyramid. The acceptance of power and authority allows the entrepreneurial business owner to push decisions through and ensure implementation with lightening speed.

Of course all of these elements have their downside and I am sure that as the Asian economies and businesses develop the call to transform from people to process driven / regulated societies will increase. However, for the time being, if you want to get things done fast, get it done in Asia.

– Paul Keijzer

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