How Do You Develop Your Skills?

During the early days of my career, I relied on training classes as a way to learn new skills or brush up on older skills that I haven’t used in a while. The advantage of taking a training class is that it forces you to step out of work and focus on the topic for a predefined length of time. However, even with a number of exercises during the class, you don’t get enough practice time to really master a skill. You have to be ready to use what you’ve learned and apply it to a real project if you want to get biggest benefit out of that training. Additionally, as a freelancer, any time that I take off work for a training class is time that I’m not billing clients or developing my business.

Developing a work skill isn’t that different from training for a sport. If you want to perform well during the game (or client project), you need to spend time practicing in between games (or client projects). It isn’t just the new skills that need to be practiced and applied, you also have to practice those skills that you’ve already mastered if you want to maintain your expertise over longer periods of time. I’ve been working with online communities for years, and I spent a significant amount of my time doing hands-on community management and community building. However, most of my recent consulting has been primarily strategic in nature, so I spend the bulk of my time working with clients to develop online community strategies. As a result, I spend less time doing and more time advising. This doesn’t mean that I neglect my skills development. There are a few good ways to make sure that you keep those skills up to date. Read More about How Do You Develop Your Skills?

Praise-based Economy: How Much Are You a Part of It?

applauseI came across this very interesting BusinessWeek article by Stephen Baker last week, which discusses how willing we are to do free work online, without even trying to receive monetary compensation for our efforts. Instead, he argues, we’re looking for different kinds of payback.

The non-monetary rewards most people who do these kinds of things, which include answering questions on Yahoo! Answers and finding weird buys to post to, consist of things that we valued before we valued money, including praise and admiration.

For businesses and institutions hoping to use this massive emerging voluntary force to drive their own goals, the difficulty lies in determining just what it is that’s motivating people, and developing a rewards system accordingly. The difficulty is that much of the reward seems to be community-based, i.e., you contribute because you want to earn the respect of your peers, and to become an authority of sorts on whatever subject you happen to be interested in.

The article got me thinking about web working, and how much work I “give away”, as opposed to how much I receive compensation for.

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Recession-Prep: Don’t focus on cost-cutting. Focus on growth.

moran.jpg These are turbulent times: Bear Stearns, tough credit, long returns, and everyone worried. A time when everyone is once again, focused on cost. What can we cut? Where are there some savings? Are there any heads we can let go?

My experience is that cutting costs is not that hard. As a consultant, I once had a client ask me to only get paid for costs I could cut. I thought to myself, “This could be my biggest payday yet. I will cut all costs. I will get expenses down to zero.” I didn’t say that and we came to an agreeable compromise but it is a good reminder that cutting costs is not hardest part of organizational transformation – growth is harder. Growth is what makes an organization successful, it is what keeps people in their chairs and it is the hardest thing to do.

Don’t believe me? Here is a scenario that has taken place in a thousand conference rooms in the last three months. Read More about Recession-Prep: Don’t focus on cost-cutting. Focus on growth.