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Nora Ghaoui shares the top three ways she built her business as a solo consultant during the difficult year of 2020.  

Building a consulting pipeline is tough in any year. In 2020, the uncertainty caused by the pandemic made companies cautious, so it was harder to get projects agreed and started.  I tried out different actions to build my project pipeline, and some worked better than others. Here are the top 3 things that made a difference to building my business as a solo consultant.  They might not be what you expect!

Spend your time wisely

Time gets away from you when your established routine is broken.  Without strong deadlines or direct feedback, it’s easy for actions to be postponed, half-done or forgotten in the jumble of dealing with lockdowns and working from home. 

So the most important success factor is: Be very intentional about how you spend your time.  What you spend time on, and what you get done, makes the difference between building your business or seeing it languish.  It sounds obvious, but it can be hard to do in practice.

As an “army of one”, all the work has to be done by you, although you can outsource parts of it.  This work includes refining your positioning, creating and publishing your marketing, building and nurturing your network, prospecting for leads, pitching for projects, negotiating with clients, working on projects, doing administrative overhead, keeping your expertise up to date, and, last but not least, having fun and enjoying what you do.

 

Key points include:

  • Questions to help you prioritize
  • Reviewing progress to stay on track
  • Expanding and maintaining connections

 

Read the full article, Keep building your consulting pipeline (in a tough year), on Veridia.nl.

 

 

Nora Ghaoui shares an article that identifies how to read the signals that predict what people will do next. 

Have you ever been in a situation where something happened, say, a relationship ended, and you thought, “I should have seen it coming”? Would you have wanted to see it earlier so you could do something about it? You can. You can see things coming by paying attention to the clues in people’s behaviour that tell you what they will do next.

Signals in behaviour

I call these clues “weak signals”. They are the things that people say or do that may seem insignificant the first time that you experience them. But they’re not insignificant. They keep coming back, and they get stronger each time, until you reach a situation that requires a reaction.

I once worked with someone who missed an important project review meeting due to illness. Then he missed another due to an urgent medical procedure. Over time, he missed several more meetings. No one thought anything of it besides concern for his health.

But it turned out that he hadn’t been ill at all. He’d created excuses to avoid meetings that would show that he lacked the credentials that he claimed to have. Pretending to be ill was the weak signal for pretending to be qualified. Once he was found out, he was dismissed.

Why do weak signals exist? A person’s behaviour reflects their attitudes, personality, or capabilities – which change slowly, if at all. When we’re with other people we look at their behaviour to determine if they’re friendly, reliable, caring, and so on. We observe their body language, listen to what they say, or watch how they treat other people. We put together an image of who we think a person is, and we refine our image over time as we spend more time with them.

 

Key points in this article include:

  • Observing the signals
  • Using the signals
  • Creating change

 

Read the full article, Weak Signals. How to Predict what People Will Do Next, on Veridia.com.

 

 

Nora Ghaoui examines the limitations of artificial intelligence as it pertains to building a business strategy.

If company strategies risk sounding the same when written by people, what happens when they get written by AI? In this post I examine an AI-generated strategy statement for what it says about the abilities of AI and creating strategies. Three years ago, I asked if large companies all had the same strategy. Perhaps their strategies all sounded the same because managers picked up the same ideas from MBAs and consultants, or because they hired the same copywriters. Last month, a new source of non-differentiating strategy appeared – strategy written by AI.

GPT-3

The AI in question is GPT-3 from OpenAI, which has been getting a lot of attention lately. Here’s a quick introduction to GPT-3: it is a language prediction model that autocompletes text from the input that you give it, like you see when you use Google search.  It’s able to complete many different kinds of text, giving it a wider range of application than other models.

Its power comes from its sheer size. It has been trained on a huge amount of text from the internet, and it has 175 billion parameters in which it stores the patterns in that text. Its response to an input is the text that is statistically most likely to come after it. So the more examples it has, the better it can match the input.

 

Key points covered include:

  • Example of strategy written by AI
  • How AI and predictive analytics work
  • Critical thinking

 

Read the full article, Can AI Write a Strategy?, on the Veridia website.

 

 

From her company blog, Nora Ghaoui shares a two-part series that examines the strategy statements of large companies and explains why strategy writing often results in generic statements.

By the time a large company has finished its strategic planning cycle, it ends up with strategy statements that could apply to any company. The same phrases show up every time.  Why is that?  Do great minds think alike, are people running out of ideas, or are market trends forcing them in the same direction?  Before we get into the causes, let’s look at the strategies.

A.G. Lafley and Roger L. Martin, in their book Playing to Win, emphasise that strategy is a set of five choices: the company’s winning aspiration, where it will play, how it will win, its capabilities, and its management systems.  Their expectation is that a successful company has a unique right to win.

Similarly, Michael Porter’s famous article “What is Strategy?” states: “Competitive strategy is about being different.  It means deliberately choosing a different set of activities to deliver a unique mix of value.”

Can we see these principles at work in company strategies today?  What do the company strategy statements say?  For now, let’s take these as correct representations of the company’s actual strategies.

 

The subject of strategy statements include:

  • Objectives
  • Where to play and how to win
  • Capabilities and systems

 

Read the full article, Do large companies have the same strategy?, on the Veridia website.