grassy hills

Blog #244

Currently, I am training for an endurance mountain biking event, and as a result, am getting plenty of time in the saddle. This past weekend, I spent seven solitary hours on the dusty, graveled hills of Nebraska. I have found that while riding, I like to build my knowledge base by listening to lectures and books. One of the lectures I listened to during my weekend ride was on the theories and philosophies of the dramatic increase in the use of contractors versus the centralized, in-house approach.

Presented by the Harvard Business School, this lecture mainly focused on larger companies, specifically around innovation. For example, if a company felt secure and confident, they could publicly release descriptions of the internal innovation challenges they were facing and then benefit dramatically from the input of others outside the company. This often took the form of a challenge or contest where the outside group or individual who solved the problem was compensated accordingly. There were three major benefits of doing it this way. First, they were able to get a much larger group of individuals to work on solving the problem. Second, by sharing their innovation challenges, they were able to  exponentially increase their chances of solving the problem. By reaching out for input, they avoided the common internal groupthink that often occurs. Finally, the company was empowered to create a flexible workforce for innovation; in other words, they had a new pool of resources at hand.

As a result of this process, the initial test showed amazing outcomes for innovation and creative problem solving. In fact, some Fortune 500 companies are now shifting their approaches by outsourcing up to 50% of their innovation in one form or another.

One of the major reasons this is possible is due to the ease and streamlining of the communication and collaboration process. Fifty years ago, company R&D departments were in-house because they needed to be in close physical proximity for communication. That has all changed.

I kept spinning away up another windy hill and began pondering the impact this could have on businesses of all sizes. I believe we are seeing a paradigm shift in how people work – so much that I wrote a book on it titled The Aspiring Solopreneur, Your Start-Up Bible. I think the current employment environment is going to speed this up and increase opportunities for everyone.

It goes without saying that we are in some very uncertain times. The ability to quickly expand and contract our workforce is critical. I realize there are often good reasons for having our employees and core group; however, it is vital to assess where we may have to expand or contract within our organization. For example, utilizing rockstar contractors who share your values and who understand their accountabilities can become a great way to remain nimble.

Going forward, I encourage you to assess your organization. Look outside the box and ask yourself which seats could be filled by external help. Having a team of folks outside the organization ready to assist may provide a competitive advantage down the line.

As an example, I have been doing this for years and currently work with a team of eight individual contractors. They are all experts at what they do, have their own companies, and have an amazing amount of flexibility with their capacity. It has turned out to be a great setup.

So, as we negotiate uncertain times, ask yourself this question: Who can provide me with that extra buffer of capacity?

Are you a leader looking to increase your organization’s capacity? Are you interested in learning how to utilize contractors? We can help with that! Contact us today to find out more.

Keep Smiling,


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