The Wabi Sabi Edge

The Ise Grand Shrine – a Shinto Shrine – in Ise, Mie prefecture in Japan has been preserved exactly like it was around 2,000 years ago. Despite such a rich legacy, the UNESCO has refused to list the shrine in its list of historic places.

Why?

Shinto Shrine

(Shinto priests walking beside the Ise Grand Shrine, Japan. Source)

This is because the shrine is not built of a ‘permanent structure’. The ISe Grand Shrine is built of wood and hence it  gradually loses its structural integrity over years. So the Shinto priests have a solution;  every 20 years they tear down the structure and rebuild another – in an adjacent plot –  in exactly the same specifications as the original using the wood from the same forest that the original structure was built from. Result: the shrine  is  forever new,  ancient and original! The present structure, dating from 1993, is the 61st iteration to date and is scheduled for rebuilding in 2013!

A centuries old Shinto belief of death and renewal of nature and the transience  of all things called Wabi- Sabi underscores the philosophical and artistic significance of this shrine. To quote the wiki  page ….

Wabi Sabi nurtures all that is authentic by acknowledging three simple realities: nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.

Burning Man

Further to the west, in northern Nevada US is the Black Rock Desert –  an open swathe of desert land where a week long annual cultural festival called Burning Man is held every August/September. This iconic event is described as an annual experiment in community, art, radical self-expression, and radical self-reliance – a week long celebration of extreme creativity, art, spirituality and innovation. Often compared to TED for its potential to provoke, inspire, connect, indulge or just ‘let be’, Burning Man regularly attracts stalwarts like the Google founders, Eric Schmidt, Chip Conley among many many others. But what makes Burning Man stand out as an exceptional event is the fact that it is transient by nature. The whole venue, the structures and the shelters for the event are practically built from scratch and again torn to dust without leaving a trace at the end of the week!

See below the time lapse video of 2011 Burning Man to appreciate the ‘dust to dust’ cycle typical of the Burning Man.

As Business Strategy

Transience as a method, an approach or a strategy is not just  an expressionist arts style or some exotic charm of a shrine.  It also has far reaching implications on contemporary business strategy. The June 2013 edition of Harvard Business Review features an interesting article by Rita Gunther McGrath on what she calls as Transient Advantage. She argues that  in a world where competitive advantage often evaporates in less than a year, companies can’t afford to spend months at a time crafting a single long-term strategy. She introduces what she calls as The Wave of Transient Advantage and explains its ‘curve’ (below). Companies possessing this edge constantly start new strategic initiatives, build, exploit, re configure and if need be even actively disengage from an initiative as a means to reprioritise, reinvent and renew their approach to growth.

Transient Advantage

(Wave of Transient Advantage, Source)

She posits that the thinking in this field “has reached an inflection point” leading to an acknowledgment from a multitude of strategy practitioners that “Sustainable competitive advantage is now the exception, not the rule. Transient advantage is the new normal.”

The latest post in the Gaping Void newsletter by Hugh Mac­Leod pays an artistic tribute to this concept through this delightful piece of ‘office art’.

permanent_state

(You must subscribe to his newsletter, sure to make your day!)

Essentially from which ever perspective you look at it – artistic, personal, emotional, professional or even strategic, the ability to accept transience as the new normal, the ability to let go of the status quo to rethink, re-invent and renew our  approach forms the bedrock of the new competitive edge – The Wabi Sabi Edge.

The Job Hunt – Part 3/3

Check out my previous two posts for the part 1 and 2 of this series.

For many job openings, getting the foot into the door – getting recruited – tends to be the most tricky part. Obviously different companies have different ways of going about this. 3 latest trends that I see playing out in the job hunt marketplace:

  • Recruitment by Resonance.
  • Recruitment by Challenge.
  • Recruitment by Algorithm.

This post shall be on the third trend.

Recruitment By Algorithm

In a recent interview with the renowned business psychologist, Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, he shares an interesting insight on the evolution of the internet. From a ‘consumer/user’ perspective, he says, there are three significant stages in the internet era. Loosely put they can be called as:

  1. Knowledge Era: This was around 1998 when Google became mainstream. We searched for something on Google and the first hit magically turned out to be the answer to what we were looking for – this was a breakthrough from past search engines and a breakthrough in machine learning systems.
  2. Social Era: This was around 2004 with the introduction of Facebook, when the focus shifted from retrieving information to ‘retrieving people’. Whereas Google connected consumers to information, Facebook (and other such Social media portals) connect consumers to each other and make ‘products’ out of consumers.
  3. Social Knowledge Era: The third era, which has only just about begun, combines the two previous ones: it is the era where people can instantly capture and aggregate all the information on a given topic. And vice versa –  all information about people out there can be aggregated and captured. 
Welcome to the era where ego surfing – self googling — is now more important than updating your CV.
As a consequence of spending so much time online, we now leave traces of our personality everywhere. This social media foot print that we leave each single day (think of all the info that we leave on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest, Path, Renren, Orkut,  Amazon, Gmail, Tripadvisor, or any multitude of other sites each passing day and you get the idea) manifests itself as a folio of Digital Reputation that we build over time.
Given this, and as aptly noted in the HBR blogpost, we are stepping into a time when employers are likely to find their future leaders in cyberspace owing to 3 reasons:
  1. The web makes recruiting easier for employers and would-be employees
  2. The web makes recruiting less biased and less clubby
  3. Web analytics (speak of Big Data) can help recruiters become more efficient

Result: we will soon witness the proliferation of machine learning systems that automatically match candidates to specific jobs and organizations – not just based on our preferences/qualifications and experience (like the current day job portals) but on the basis of our digital footprint that is much bigger and more complicated that we can ever imagine.

For starters, how many times did you google your new boss or colleague? And that begets the question, how many times did you ‘investigate’ yourself and how many times did you reverse engineer your Digital Reputation…..in the recent past?

The Job Hunt – Part 1/3

For many job openings, getting the foot into the door – getting recruited – tends to be the most tricky part. Obviously different companies have different ways of going about this. 3 latest trends that I see playing out in the job hunt marketplace:

  1. Recruitment by Resonance
  2. Recruitment by Challenge
  3. Recruitment by Algorithm
This post shall be on the first trend.

Search for Resonance – The Trend & its Contra Trend

”..If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. ..” has been one of the most revered quotes by Steve Jobs.In many ways this articulates a burgeoning stimulus that has in fact become a mainstream business model of some job sites.

Take ReWork – which asks you to find work that is meaningful to you.

Don’t settle until you find work that you love or until you get an opportunity to work on the issues you’re most passionate about – seems to be the mantra of this site. See their story here:

Or take Escape The Citywhich encourages you to quit your corporate job and do something different, something that you have perhaps always dreamt of doing.

Life is too short to do work that doesn’t matter to you… Change jobs, Build businesses. Go on adventures. Do something different – constitutes the Escape Manifesto. See their story here:

The fact that an increasing number of people have begun to search (often passively and sometimes unsuccessfully) for jobs that truly resonate with them, seems to be the insight behind these ventures.

While searching for that perfect day job where your passion meets purpose meets your paycheck is a defining feature of many a job search today, a contrarian view point seems to be gaining a critical tipping point in recent weeks. In many ways this school of thought almost says – Don’t follow your passion (!)

Cal Newport in his latest book “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” makes a case on why Passion is not something you follow, it’s something that will follow you as you put in the hard work to become valuable to the world – irrespective of what you embark upon. Read another great post that Cal wrote on this topic in HBR here. (And yes, I have earmarked this book on my reading list now).

Irrespective of which side you take, one thing is for certain – the search for resonance has come to underscore the significance that it has for job seekers and recruiters alike in getting the foot into the door first. Like never before.

Do read the above mentioned posts by Cal Newport and let me know which side you take. And if you read his book, tell me what you think of it.