Professional Development with a Blue Ocean Mindset

In Career Readiness by Trent RhodesLeave a Comment

“When everything goes right, go left.” – Unknown

 “Watch what everyone does – do the opposite. The majority is always wrong.” – Earl Nightingale

There are beliefs out there that we take as complete truth just because people continue to use them like:

Opportunity only knocks once. No it doesn’t. Maybe that opportunity won’t show up again, but if I know the antidote to missed opportunity is persistence, I’ll have more. If they only knocked once, the most prolific, high achievers wouldn’t emphasize the importance of failure. They’d be terrified of it.

Multi-tasking is a valuable skill. No it isn’t. We actually cannot multi-task. Even if we’re in positions where we “wear many hats,” our brains can only focus on one thing at a time. The appearance of multitasking is our mind’s ability to switch between different focuses with speed. If we’re amazing at multitasking it really means we’re amazing at redirecting our energies on competing tasks, still getting the work done. Even as I write this sentence it feels like an oxymoron. Why would we want to set up an environment where the professionals have to spread attention so thin? An excessive multitasking environment only serves to spread the professional’s attention so wide that it reduces peak performance. It doesn’t matter if the professional is an Olympic athlete or a cashier at Target. The skill that should be emphasized in job descriptions isn’t multitasking, it’s focus.

If you can make it here you can make it anywhere. This one leans towards New York and I understand why. The state is rich with diversity in people, activities, experiences, and there’s a certain rawness to the region that can leave softer souls feeling emotionally hurt. New Yorkers tend to be more direct, more on-the-go and have strong BS thermometers. It’s a space where we have the extreme wealthy, the homeless, fun, con artists, wonderful theatrical talent and tourism from all over the world, all blended. One photographer for a fashion show this past summer explained his plight to me. He said, “The people up here are so tough. Hurt my feelings a few times. They say what’s on their mind. Just very blunt.” He was from South Carolina.

“If you can make it here you can make it anywhere” has credibility in my view, but I also think it creates an overemphasis for people to try their hardest to make it here and only here. This is where the Blue Ocean comes in.

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If you’re not familiar with this concept, Blue Ocean Strategy was developed by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne. Together they mapped out a plan of action for creating not just new products, but setting definitions for new industries. If you look at a Blue Ocean, you clearly see that it’s vast. Huge. Sometimes you can see fish. But that’s the obvious. What else do you see?

 The better question is: what don’t you see?

You don’t see anyone else there. No competitors. No people fishing around searching. No casual swimmers. It’s empty space and this is precisely where the team shows we can create something new.

Why create an empire within an existing empire when you can go to the desert and build anew?

If you go to where everyone else is hanging out, already entrenched, how likely is it that your wonderful concept is going to be noticed among the other, more established entities in your industry?

The authors can speak much more about the intricacies of their subject. This is what I extracted from them: if you can create a blue ocean in business, why not create a blue ocean in daily life? Why not create one to build your professional profile?

If 10,000 initiatives are focused on the same goal, why not create a blue ocean by starting one that goes in a different direction?

In the education industry there are so many opportunities for blue oceans.

Currently the industry leaders focus on the same areas: how to enhance academic growth to prep students for jobs. But academic growth is only one element of a student’s development. My years in the industry reveal to me several blue oceans worth exploring: character development, etiquette, professional development and mindset training. The elements of self-education within formal education. This is a mission of mine.

Fortunately we have great missions like Minerva and XQ Super School and IPEN that concentrate on creating blue oceans, but we could use more of them.

These are 2 habits I’ve indirectly applied over the years to acquire a Blue Ocean Mindset:

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Observe trends without repeating them. Pew Research is a wonderful source for learning patterns. Patterns can’t give away total prediction of the future but they can give you a sense of what might happen. They also tweak your mind into thinking about the “Why?” of situations.

For example, why do we have more dating sites and relationship counselors and apps showing up and yet our divorce rates are increasing (not even counting non-marital breakups)?

Or, why do we boast about the U.S. being the most powerful nation in the world and our mental illness, country debt, killer food, illiteracy and drug use are on the rise?

Convert problems into solutions. This is mental alchemy. Transforming situations like I described above into conversations that emphasize “What can be done about it?” instead of whining and inaction.

When I enter a new role, for example, my first move is to understand the environment. I’m already thinking about the gaps, the problems the organization may be facing and how my skill set can fill those holes. Then I fill them without anybody asking me to do anything extra. Is it rude? No. Leadership teams are looking for blue ocean creators, people who can add value without needing a play-by-play instruction manual. I just roll up the sleeves, get gritty and do it and observe my peers’ responses. Eventually, those closed gaps can no longer be open again and the person who filled them becomes the asset. Then you become a go-to professional.

You just created a Blue Ocean for yourself out of thin air. If you can do this at work, you can do this in personal life.

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