It’s really irritating when you realise you’ve been trying to compete in the wrong field. I do a lot of things in my professional life and have three distinct income streams as a result. Each of them is what I call a long-route idea; the revenue never turns up anything like as fast as I would like it to, but it is more sustainable and considered to be more weighty by my chosen audience as a result.
If you know me, the most obvious example is Happy Sandpit, and it is here that I had an epiphany in recent weeks.
For better or for worse, Happy Sandpit is my vehicle for deep research into organisational culture, employee engagement and leadership, and over the three years since it became a full-throttle thing, I believe I have added credible new data, stories and hypothetical test points to that body of information. In 2016, that will accelerate rapidly as we broaden our geographical reach.
One of the best ways of marketing the work is to speak at conferences where there is a broad audience, and in reaching out to those, I have found myself in the middle of the professional speaking world, competing for space on stage with people who clearly have very different goals to my own.
I have no specific criticism of those goals because each to their own and I have to accept they each have a business model. But there is a difference which I have only recently been able to define.
Where I, and certainly many others like me, seek credibility through academic and high-level business channels, many of my competitors consider speaking to be a reality TV show on ‘E’. They make themselves the focus, not their ideas. It’s not about coming up with anything new as it is about a steady stream of selfies. It’s about personality and showbiz razzmatazz rather than thought leadership. It’s about misusing hashtags.
It irritates me that I have taken so long to see it because a fair chunk of my energy this year has gone into trying to find space for the Happy Sandpit research at conferences where showmanship is the greater order of the day. But still, I have to ask: how did business life become the ‘E’ channel?