Business as Problem-Solving

Pandemic Panic: The Disappearance of Toilet Paper

As the COVID-19 crisis surged in March 2020, the government of Victoria implemented a stringent lockdown. What was weird was that toilet paper disappeared from supermarket shelves overnight. As trivial as it seemed, it soon became a significant concern, with suspicions of stockpiling and shoppers being forced to go out hunting for supplies.

In sync, other essentials like masks and COVID-19 self-tests became scarce, exacerbating an already tense situation. The food supply, particularly meat products, disappeared off the shelves. The suddenness of the need highlighted the often-underappreciated role of a well-organized supply chain.

The Invisible Backbone of Commerce: Supply Chains

This chain of events underscores the role of businesses as problem solvers. Beyond profit generation, businesses fundamentally address societal needs. In this context, scarcity was an abrupt shortage of daily necessities.

The Problem-Solving Role of Businesses

This scarcity presented businesses with a twofold scenario: a challenge to adapt swiftly and an opportunity to serve the community during a crisis.

Businesses exist to solve problems, creating value for customers, employees, and shareholders. Be it a tech startup developing an app, a restaurant serving a meal, or a supermarket ensuring toilet paper supply, businesses are inherently problem solvers.

The Dual Nature of Business: Challenge and Opportunity

Every household item, from utilities to your laptop, symbolises a solution to a particular need or problem. If you're considering starting a business, it will revolve around a product or service that solves a problem, the skill to sell it, and the ability to deliver it. Two further aspects, often overlooked, are the value proposition and profitability. I will tackle these last two in future articles.

Starting a Business: What You Need to Know

While this is a simplification, it helps understand how businesses function. If you plan to be self-employed, identify problems you can solve, ascertain a market ready to pay for your solutions and ensure reliable and efficient delivery. Your success will largely hinge on these factors.

The Road to Self-Employment or Freelancing

The unfolding of events during the pandemic underscores the problem-solving role of businesses. Aspiring entrepreneurs need to identify a problem they can solve, ascertain a willing market, and ensure reliable delivery to succeed.

What you may like to specialise in, i.e. what we call positioning, and

  • Develop a powerful personal brand.
  • Create an effective marketing strategy.
  • Set up the necessary systems and processes to help you build a thriving business that aligns with your lifestyle and expertise.
  • And a whole lot more, including how ChatGPT may fit into this

Those who can think differently, generate novel ideas, and innovate in a knowledge economy have a distinct advantage. This often requires a blend of critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity.

Given that much of the knowledge economy is driven by technology and digital tools, having a solid grasp of relevant technologies in your field is crucial.

Knowledge workers apply their knowledge to solve complex problems

Being a perpetual learner means adopting a mindset where learning is an ongoing, lifelong process. It's about staying curious, open-minded, and adaptable, always ready to absorb new information, acquire new skills, and expand your understanding. In this fast-paced world, where technological advancements and global dynamics continuously reshape industries and professions, being a perpetual learner is crucial for staying relevant and competitive.

Building rare and valuable skills is crucial to avoid being a commodity in your professional life. 

A commodity is an item or service indistinguishable from others; examples include a sack of white rice, lumber at a hardware store, and a chicken breast at a discount supermarket. 

Certain professions, such as accountants, are often viewed as commodities, assuming that anyone in the profession can do the job as well as any other. 

Many companies, such as airlines, strive not to be seen as commodities, although most are. 

Commodities meet a few key criteria: undifferentiated, meaning consumers don't see any qualitative difference between competing versions. 

Commodities are typically bought based on price and convenience rather than quality or uniqueness. 

The solution is to recognise the problem and find ways to find the energy, space and time to do fulfilling work. That might mean saying no to some requests, scheduling time for uninterrupted work, or learning how to focus your attention. But whatever it looks like for you, developing the discipline of deep work is essential if you want to build the rare and valuable skills that allow you to choose your future.

Lucky if you have those rare and valuable skills that are in demand when you're in your 60s

Notes
Cedric Chin, Business Expertise: Using the Triad as a North Star
The concept of avoiding commoditisation and building unique skills is a key theme in
Adam Davidson, The Passion Economy, The New Rules for thriving in the Twenty-First Century" by
Cal Newport, So Good They Can't Ignore You

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Staying Competitive in a Knowledge Economy


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