Friday, April 9, 2010

Another year gone by

A busy week in the US; a late flight back to the Netherlands.  It was a challenge keeping ahead of things throughout the trip.  The low point was grabbing a bite of dinner in a nearly empty Denny’s at midnight, finishing work on an academic paper due the next day in Rotterdam, and knowing that I needed to be up at 6 a.m. to drive to meetings.

Fortunately, the paper got done (well), the meetings were a success, and I was settled comfortably into an upgrade seat on the plane by mid-afternoon of the 7th.  A Tyler Brule moment, sipping a glass of (free) wine and looking forward to….

Birthday !

I dropped into Amsterdam early on the 8th, not feeling (anywhere near) 56.  Travel keeps you young?  Expat life?  Among the Dutch?  It may be that sleeping through the movie “The Boat That Rocked” did me good.  I might have just been insensible from the jet lag.  But it was a sunny, warm, thoroughly splendid spring day in one of my favorite cities.

It was well spent, walking along the canals, enjoying the new buds leafing out on the trees, poking into shops, enjoying a beer alongside the square.   Dam Square was not too pleasant, full of subway construction with shrouds over the City Hall  while its being cleaned.  No sign of my favorite street mimes.

Finally, dinner at the restaurant d'Vijff Vlieghen near the city center.  It was a real treat: Dutch fusion food, all fresh organic ingredients, wonderfully presented, with lovely old atmosphere.  The accompanying wine flight was also wonderful, highly recommended if you are having a special evening out.

‘back in Maastricht this week, catching up and moving forward as always.

Monday, April 5, 2010

What does your profile picture say about you?

Social StandoutA colleague and I spent the morning running through a list of people who might be able to help with a new project we were proposing.  I didn’t know everyone, but I was able to do quick searches on LinkedIn and Google as we talked, getting  background details and publication samples.  At the end of the hour, we’d settled on a short list of people that we ‘interviewed’, without ever both meeting any of them.

It is amazing how much information is available online these days; it’s also a bit unnerving to meet someone for the first time and to have them know all of my professional and personal details. I’ve learned to prep a bit as well.  It used to just be a matter of getting company details prior to business meetings, but now it also extends to social gatherings. 

I do feel like it short circuits the exploratory conversation, Where are you from, what do you do, do you eat meat? that used to turn up serendipitous and unexpected facts and connections.  I worry that we tend to make pre-judgments without meeting people.  And sometimes people are just careless about prying into sensitive topics.

Still, overall, it helps to anticipate common ground and facilitate that first connection, so a little research is worth a lot.

This means that you must actively manage your online presence, deciding when and how to project yourself, cultivating and pruning the information available about you.This goes for both static websites and social directories, and for narrative feeds like Twitter and Facebook. 

Facebook profile Amsterdam Asp recently posted a great essay about how people choose their profile picture.  He wonders whether “there is a direct correlation between a person's Facebook profile picture and his or her (either momentary or long-term) values and priorities?”

He suggests that you ask “What does my profile picture say about me?” with the following strategic questions in mind:

  1. With whom are you pictured (or not pictured)?
  2. What is your relationship to any other people who might be pictured with you?
  3. What might be significant about the spatial relationships within the picture?
  4. Where was the picture taken (i.e. what geographic location)?
  5. What else can be seen in the background of the photograph?
  6. How often is the profile picture changed?

My profile picture, above, is one of my daughter and I, taken at Christmas at Woodinville’s gateway sculpture.  The art depicts swimming salmon, in this case whimsically decorated with Christmas balls.  I like the relative poses of the two of us, the energy and comfort we share.  I change pictures every few months.

Your profile picture is the first sentence in your life’s story online.  I want my picture to be friendly and open, to be recognizable to people who haven't seen me in a while, and to incorporate elements that are meaningful to me, a place, activity, or person that you need to know about if you want to know what makes me tick.

Yes, it says a lot about me.  I suspect that these pictures are carefully chosen and say a lot about each of us.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Accidental businesses

Unintentional Entreprenuer Out of the Netherlands and back in the US for a week, working and reprovisioning.   Along the way, I caught a radio program that was describing the beneficial rise in “unintentional entrepreneurship” caused by the economic downturn.  The rise in unemployment has put lots of skilled people on the streets.  Without prospects, they start businesses.  These businesses, in turn, drive innovation, create jobs, and restore self-esteem.

If only…

As The Atlantic recently noted, 2/3 of people would like to start new businesses, but few actually do.  Of these, only  1/3 of all new startups actually create a sustained new business.  And only 19% of all new businesses employ someone other than the founder.

In short, Consultancy is not Entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship is not unintentional, reluctant, or necessity-driven.  If it is to succeed, it needs vision and dream, passion and hard work, more hours than almost any corporate job.  It needs enough confidence and passion  to drive you through the personal doubts, experimental failures, and investors that say “We have considered your proposal and determined that it is not of interest to us.”