So, hi, everybody, welcome to this session on commercial awareness skills. This session is brought to you by Prosper, which is a development programme for postdocs looking at careers beyond academia. My name is Sabina Strachan, I'm a collaboration expert, I'm a consultant - management research consultant - I'm a business adviser, I deliver a lot of training like this and I'm developing my own digital product with a partner, as well. So I've lots of experience around the area of commercial awareness and helping people generate more income and make more savings and grow more successful at businesses. Equally, commercial awareness is a thing that is very relevant running any kind of organisation or contributing to the success of any kind of organisation, and also if you want to go into freelance and self-employed careers, as well. So what we're going to cover today, we're going to look at the definition of what commercial awareness is. We're going to look at key areas and follow through with activities that link to that around profitability, opportunity mapping and taking considered risks. Throughout, I'll be explaining how you can gain these skills, and you may actually already have these skills, so it's about how you go about demonstrating them, as well. So that's what we'll be focusing on throughout this session. We'll have two points where you can ask me anything; I'll be inviting questions and I'll share my answers from my own experiences in the public, private and third sectors. There will be a key sheet, which I'll be sharing with you shortly, and post-session there'll be a workbook available too. Right, now I'm just going to share my social media handles in the chat area for you to see and I'll also copy these into the workbooks that you'll receive so that you can find out more about me if you'd like to. Fantastic. So to kick off with, what I would like us to do is go to a Menti link and to get you to answer a question there. So the good thing about Menti is that it captures your thoughts anonymously, and I'll then share my screen and see what you think. So I'm going to put a link into the chat area for you to be able to do that first. There it is. The question's going to pop up, which is: I want to identify and develop my commercial awareness skills so that... So that's the kind of question that we have today. Before you do that, I'll just read out a little bit of a definition about commercial awareness skills so that we're on the same page when it comes to that. So commercial awareness means having the ability to spot opportunities, understand constraints and uncertainty and manage risks. Someone who is commercially-aware stays up-to-date with things that could affect their own profitability and the profitability of other people and understands the importance of financial sustainability and applies that knowledge. So that's the kind of broad, general definition, which I'll share with you shortly, but that's what we're talking about today. So if you could go to the Menti link and type in 'you want to identify and develop my commercial awareness skills so that...' and finish that sentence. A couple of thing that you guys are responding to that question on: it's so that you'll have a better understanding of work in a non-academic environment; so that you can tailor your CV, career applications and non-academic jobs; so that you can make better decisions about your future career; so that you can be prepared a new job role that is more commercially-focused; so that I can look for collaboration with an industrial partner; so that I know what other people are talking about in this area; and I can seek new opportunities and help others develop theirs - that's good; so that I can attract funding to further grow a business I have started up - oh, that's interesting; so that I can figure out what I could offer as a freelancer and at what cost. That's all excellent. Thank you very much for sharing that. I would just say, as well, that I worked in the public sector for a total of about 14 years and, actually, commercial awareness is helpful in those settings, as well, including working at a university in professional services. So in terms of understanding what it is and how to identify it and finding out where your strengths in this and where you want to develop, it's useful in academia too. So I just wanted a little caveat there, that if you stay there or in the public sector or in the charitable sector, this is a very relevant area as it's about cost-saving, it's about efficiencies, using resources and things like that, as well. Fantastic. So thank you for sharing that. So we're going to go on to next to start looking at one key aspect of this, which is around profitability. It looks like that. In Google Drive, you can toggle between list view and grid view. So that's list view and that's grid view. I prefer grid view because I use a lot of illustrative things and it's easy for me to find things that way. The PDF that I was referring to is called 'Key Sheet - Commercial Awareness Skills'. So you can click on that and you'll get a one-pager, and at the top of that, it's the definition of commercial awareness that I read out just a minute ago. Then we're going to be referring to different aspects of this as we go along, so I'll be referring back to this document as we go along today. The profitability, we've got three different one-page worksheets, and we're also going to be using a Jamboard later on. So the worksheet that I'm going to be referring to is this one called 'Effort Versus Reward', so it looks like a balancing scale. I'll stop sharing that just now. I'm going to create a few breakout rooms for you to think about this a little bit more. I'm going to explain what to do there in a moment using the Jamboard. So that's what we're going to do next; we're going to do a little bit of thought about what profitability actually means, and then we should have a good understanding of it, and it's absolutely fundamental in relation to commercial awareness to have a good, rounded understanding of profitability. So that's where we're going to start. So when you go into the Jamboard, you're going to see slides, I suppose is the best way to describe it, or frames is the technical term. So are people being able to join this? I'm looking at my gallery view just to check, with a few nods - excellent, thank you. I can see a few thumbs. Yes, great, I can see you, fantastic, thank you. So we've got a pair of weighing scales and I've actually written the instructions of what to do in the breakout room in the green box on the left-hand side. So it's all there. So I'm going to explain it, but also it's all going to be there for you to refer to when you're in the breakout room, and it's going to be breakout rooms of twos or threes. So, fundamentally, what you're trying to do is you're going to try and get more reward for less effort, and the difference between those two things is your profit. So I know that sounds really fundamental, but sometimes we can over-deliver and we can over-prepare, and, actually, we need to make sure we always maintain that gap between what we put into it, what resources that we use versus what we get back from it, which is monetary and other things, as well. So, actually, in this example all we're going to try and do is have the opportunity to chat with someone else about what kinds of things constitute effort in a business context. So what do we mean by cost, what kinds of resources, what kinds of time do we need to expend, typically, to generate business benefits? What do we think? It's not about being right or wrong; it's about having the opportunity to think about this and to talk to someone else and to note it into this frame. Similarly, you're going to do the same thing about what kinds of thing constitute reward. So that is the fundamental purpose of just starting to talk to each other about this. The thing that, when you're having those chats, or as you're coming back out from that, is to think about how you have already gained some of that understanding about effort versus reward, how you might be able to apply these concepts in your postdoc experience right now so that you can demonstrate that going forward. That's where I want us to get to, to think about those types of things, as well. In the session, it's really let's try and put something on one half of the weighing scales and something on the other side of the weighing scales and let's understand what needs to be expended in order to get the kind of gains that make sense in the business setting. So it'd be quite useful, because you're all on Jamboards, so you can look at what the other rooms have said about this particular question by just moving along the menu bar at the top to see what room two, what room three, what room one said. So I'm quite interested to... Can I ask someone from room one if they'd be happy to share what they were thinking about in terms of how they might be able to gain some of that experience of how you focus on the profitability aspect of it once you start understanding what the difference has to be between the weighing scales. Would someone like to jump in from room one?
I don't think we particularly understood the question, but in terms of the balance, obviously, it has to be more reward than effort, right?
Absolutely. It's fundamentally that. So the reason I asked you to do that is that usually there's a lot of things on the effort half. People think, 'Oh, there's lots to do, there's a lot to be done,' and sometimes we can think about the reward as mostly covering certain kinds of costs. Sometimes, in an academic setting in particular, we're talking about, 'Okay, I need to cover venue costs for a conference aspect. I need to cover equipment costs. I need to cover material costs,' but we focus less on the amount of time we, as individuals, or our team might spend on something. That's an absolutely fundamental, key bit that's important to think about in times of how much time and energy are we expending to get back something. So that's quite an interesting way of thinking about it, and that's really important in terms of profitability. So to give you an example in a consultancy setting, which I have quite a lot of experience of, the way we would approach a research consultancy project versus an academic research project could be very different. So the amount of time available to understand a particular issue or to gather some data on how we might go about it needs to be very time-efficient to make sure that the reward, the financial reward that can come back from that can cover a cost that's affordable to the client. So we do things in quite a different way and we're very hyper-focused on profitability in that context. So there's actually quite a lot we can do in our either current settings or we can bring from other areas to demonstrate that we can have that understanding. So examples are that you might have some budget management opportunity. So even if you might not be the budget owner, you might have quite a lot of locus in a particular project or you could gain some locus on a specific mini-project within that project and have a handle on the budget associated with that and how you manage that budget, and explain how you've considered that and how you've sought to reduce certain costs or how you've been time-efficient with certain aspects of that. So that would be an example of an area that we can gain practical experience of as budget management. Also, in terms of things like funding success, so in commercial awareness, it would be... Let's imagine that you could go for four or five different opportunities that are available to apply for some funding for whatever you're doing at the moment. Being commercially-aware means that you've looked at the success rate of certain types of funding already, either from your institution or for a certain topic, and you've made choices about, 'Actually, I'll prioritise this one over that one because the chances of success of that is greater,' for example. So that's less effort versus the reward that you might get; you increase your chances of it. So that's the kind of thing that we can actually do and the kind of things that we can actually talk about when we're thinking about how do we demonstrate and talk about transferability from the experiences that you've gained so far in an academic setting. Several of you might well have experiences from other places, as well, I'm sure, and it ties up together. That's a way of thinking about it. So as opposed to going, 'I have time to apply for funding in that window, and that's when that one's deadline is, so I'll go for that,' so that's a slightly more ad hoc decision-making process as opposed to a strategic, effort versus reward, success rate type of decision-making process, which is definitely something that we would look at from a business perspective. Does that make sense, some of the examples that I'm giving here? I just want to check with people. Are either of those or those kinds of things making you think about the kinds of experiences you've had to now and how they could be transferable or things that you could do slightly differently going forward that would mean that you could demonstrate some commercial awareness skills? You can either unmute yourself or type a few thoughts into the chat, just to make sure that I'm being helpful in this. Yet, go ahead.
Hi, Sabina. Yes, I think it does make sense, what you're saying around looking at different funding calls and, yes, we tend to be a little bit, I think, in academia like, 'Oh, there's a call that's come out. Can we think of an idea and just apply for it?' but there's not really much thought about, 'Yes, what is the success rate of that? Is it actually worth the time, given the other activities that might have to go on the backburner to put that proposal together?' Yes, I think what you just said there, certainly I could see how perhaps that could be put into practice to prioritise better, or just to take a step back and think about it and think, actually, is this what we really want to do and is that going to maximise the benefits, considering all the other activities that are going on at that point in time. So, yes, that makes sense to me.
Good, excellent. I used to work in research and development and it's something I used to do. I used to go, actually, 'Look, what do we look at? What's my whole college looked at for a year and what's the success rate been?' There's lots of things like sometimes some applications look more straightforward that are maybe more general and you know you can fit in your specialism to. You know you can work it on your own; you're not dependent on someone else's time and whether they're available. They're oversubscribed, significantly oversubscribed, but, actually, people are not necessarily appreciating or understanding that, or that's not being shared with them, and they're still putting their time and effort into that, but the success rate will be very small. Actually, the other things with a bit of support and forethought will lead to greater success, and that's actually a better use of an individual's time. So there are definitely things that I think you all can maybe tweak that, actually, it would mean that you have real examples, because you don't even need to be successful in it; it's the point you've thought about it. So you don't have to have won that grant. When I went from the public sector the private sector, the fact that I'd applied for a two-million-pound grant, even though we didn't get it, still showed I have commercial awareness skills because I'd worked out that we were eligible and I managed to persuade the boss that we should go for it in this way and I got priming money for things, and various things. It's in the hands of the gods once it goes to the selection committee, and you're not going to win them all. So that's something to be mindful of. So it's not necessarily about will that actually be successful; it's have you thought about these things and have you applied them in a certain way. You can demonstrate that and people will go, 'That's fantastic. Thank you very much. Come and work with us.' Okay? Fantastic. So the reason I asked you to do the effort versus reward is just to get a sense of where you're thinking about with these kinds of things. So I'm just looking through it myself. Yes, so the reward... So someone changed it to cost versus benefit; that's a slightly different thing because the benefits are for all beneficiaries, which includes, potentially, your clients, your customers, your partners, but I'm talking specifically about in a profitability sense to you as an individual or your company. So it's slightly more narrowly-defined. It's the same weighing-up scales. I would use the same scale analogy when I was thinking about cost versus benefit. It is about recognition and reputation; that's an incredibly important part of commercial awareness. So sometimes you might go for something that you might have a slimmer chance of getting or it's more complicated to go through a process to potentially win, but you know if you can achieve that, then actually it'll be great for you to be able to get into a new market, it'll be great for maybe moving on to the next thing that's similar to it. So, actually, sometimes you expend more effort because the rewards are broader than monetary, so there's got to be at least a breakeven, monetarily speaking, in a commercial sense for those kinds of things, but actually the benefits are even greater. So those are the kinds of things that are important to be mindful of. Again, just having thought about it and gone through a thinking process on this and being able to articulate that is really you demonstrating commercial awareness skills, if you're willing to that, or you'll be able to explain and give an example of going forward. Let's see what else is in the third box. Yes, lots of things here about being able to start a new stream or being able to grow, gaining some different publicity. So it's broader than the, 'Yes, we've covered our costs and we've been able to pay our bills,' type thing. So that's brilliant. Thank you very much for doing that exercise. Good. I want to show you a little thing on... Now, I'm going to share my iPad screen with you, so it'll pop up on the main screen and be recorded, as well. I just want to show a little bit more about this; it's something else that you can do proactively. So imagine this scale... It's the same - it's effort versus reward - but actually, this time what I've done is I've put a pie chart on the left-hand side for effort and I just want to through a bit of an example with you to explain time. Time is a key one. It's really important to think about you as a resource, as a cost when it comes to commercial awareness and then follow that on through your team or to your colleagues, and that helps you keep a good eye on profitability. So I'm just going to use a quick chart to explain that. So in return for mainly financial reward, you need to cover time costs. This biggest piece of the pie chart is delivery, so you're delivering the project or product, or whatever it might be, or you can buy. Actually, there's a whole nearly half of that pie chart in other areas that needs to be covered, but it's not about the project you're delivering, it's just about running the business or contributing to the business; you don't have to be a business owner. So examples are things like... I'm just going to write over the top of this and you will get copies of this drawing afterwards, as well. So it's things like marketing, business development, research and development, training and development, so personal training and development, and there's always admin. Actually, the money that you've gained from other places has to cover the time expended on this half of the pie chart, as well. Sometimes we under-appreciate that and we might be focusing on, 'Okay, what can I give to my client,' in a public/private, whatever setting, 'That directly translates into what I'm giving them?' Actually, from a commercial perspective, you have to cover other places. This is where you're predominantly getting your revenue from to be able to do that. So that has a link back to pricing. So just an awareness, and what you can do is think about yourself and your time. So you can think about yourself as a postdoc and the delivery of the research and doing the experiments, and things, but, actually, having a pie chart that works out other aspects like this... You come into this session as training and development, and so that would need to be covered somehow because that increases your skills and efficiencies going forward, so those have benefit. You would have to market or contribute to marketing in a commercial context. You'd have to try and find new work, so that's what the business development quadrant is about. It's just quite useful to think about that in that broader way. Okay? I'm going to stop sharing that screen just now. Is that okay; does everybody understand that, as well? So that's something you can do, you can literally do that now, you can draw a rough circle on your notebook and you could try and divide it up and think about what categories you would be thinking about. Again, to be able to explain that you understand that and where the efficiencies can come and that that is part and parcel of it is really great for transferable skills, as well, and being able to demonstrate it. Good. So just have a look at what we're going to do next. Yes, so I want to continue on with the skills theme. So we're going to start looking and breaking down commercial awareness skills a little bit and you're going to see how many of these skills you already have, in fact, and it's about demonstrating them and explaining them in a certain way. So if you go to back to the key sheet. So you've got that in the Google Drive folder, so that's the reference point now. So if you go to the key sheet - I'll just share that again briefly - you're going to see there's a heading 'Which core or soft skills underpin commercial awareness?' and I've broken them down into eight headings. And for the purposes of in the workshop, we're going to look at the first four - problem-solving, flexibility, managing risk and decision-making, okay, and there's little definitions about what each one is in there. Then in the Jamboard we're going to capture where we think we're at just now with those four skills. So if you don't have the Menti link handy, I'll just repost it - it's the same one as you worked on before - and it's asking you how well-developed do you think your current skill under those four headings are. It'll generate a little bit of a chart and then I'll share the screen once you guys have all had a chance to do that. It generates a little bit of a graph here. So what you're seeing is, in the solid bar, is the average out of five, and then in the shaded area it's the range. So that means that five people picked four and two people picked five, and that's the example there. So we've got problem-solving, we've got flexibility, we've got managing risk, and this is one we're going to do an exercise on in the second half today, so that's good because none of these are static. We can choose to develop any of these ones that we want to, and outwith the workshop you have the opportunity to think about where you'd score yourself on the other four commercial awareness skills that I've listed, as well, and then decision-making. Decision-making links a little bit to what we've just been talking about, which is about how do we decide what funding pot we go to, did we work out as to what the success rate looks like, is that something that I thought about in my decision-making, so have I applied certain criteria? We can decide to do that, then do that and then we develop our decision-making capability. So there's lots we can do in these areas. Nobody ever, including myself, is a five, five, five, five across everything; that would imply they were just not a very diverse bunch, and we are. So the aim isn't to do that. The aim is to identify already where you're really strong and be able to articulate that, but if there's one or two areas where you want to spend some time increasing and developing, to know that you can. Your core skills or soft skills are not static; you can choose to develop them through taking action. Basically, that's how they get developed. Fantastic. So what I want to do now is invite you to... Is there anything that you've thought of - any questions you want to make sure that I do tackle in the second half, things that you have been thinking about, things that you thought about before you signed up for the session? I want you to put some questions in the chat area now, and I'll give you a few minutes to do that, then I'll think about them during the break, and then I'll answer your questions when we come back. So before the break, I invited some questions. Lots of interesting questions, and I'm going to respond to them one by one, or I've grouped some that I think are quite similar to one another. So one of the questions was in terms of CV - I think there were two or three questions about this - how do I demonstrate my commercial awareness skills? As postdocs, we do have opportunity to already be using our commercial awareness skills, so how do we show that they are transferable, how we gain them? So we started to talk about that; we're going to be talking a lot more about that in the second half. In terms of a CV - and I've actually hired lots of people in commercial roles, so I'm talking from a perspective as an employer, as well - it's thinks like that you're actually describing your decision-making process, you're describing your thinking process, how you've gone about something. You can do that in a CV. Your CV isn't just about having bullet points of publications or things, something like that. There's a covering letter opportunity, and things like that. It's about what you pick out and what you emphasise, which would be particularly relevant to specific roles. So being able to describe your decision-making process to get a certain outcome, you can all do that. To show that you're able to persuade or influence other people. It can be in any context, but it's really important from a business development aspect of working in a more commercial environment. So business development and persuasion and influencing isn't specifically commercial awareness, and the word 'awareness' doesn't relate to that, but it is something that people look for. So you would have examples of how you persuade someone of a different route to go down and how did you do that, how did you go about that - how did you gather your evidence, how did you approach that situation, etc? Another big one - and this is one that lots of people from a research background will be able to demonstrate fairly straightforwardly - is show that they keep up-to-date with current developments in their area and that they can use your research skills to understand where the trends area. In a commercial setting, it's about understanding, oh, actually, the government is looking at this specific area that's likely to increase the spending in this particular area that I'm involved in or could become involved in, and actually just show that you've understood that and that you're looking to the future in that way. It's kind of the 'so what' question. So you've understood something, so what have you done with that information? So commercial awareness is that second half. So it's not enough to have understood something. It's okay that I've actually changed my approach to something because I've understood something better or I have networked more in this new area because I've new understood that. These are the kinds of things that we can be doing and gaining at any point, but if we're able to describe them or discuss them in a CV or an interview, then it shows our commercial awareness. The last one I've thought of in response to that question is that you've been able to find creative ways to find new resources or ways to do things, ways forward, ways to overcome difficulties despite the constraints that you've faced. That's definitely something that I was able to show when I moved into a more commercial environment, to go, 'Well, actually, no, this job didn't come with a budget, but I got funding for this and I was able to persuade my boss that we should match-fund that and I went ahead and did that, and that one was successful.' It's moving forward in that way, so not just how you respond to a, 'Well, this is just the way it is.' It's actually, from a commercial awareness perspective, it's not accepting this is just the way it is and let's see if we can do something differently, and how you've gone about that. So those are the standout things that I would point to, that if people are trying to get into a more commercial setting were distrusting things and describing things in those ways, I think you would definitely stand out, come up the top of the pile, as it were. Does that answer the questions about where you could go with your CVs, because that was quite a common question? Was that helpful bits of advice there? I just want to check. Yes, I can see some nodding. As I say, we're going to be looking a little bit more at this as we go along. I was asked about a specific industry and what you could use to demonstrate in that. I would say it depends on the job you're going for in that industry as to how I would answer that question, but more generally... This is relevant across sectors, because commercial awareness is a skillset that is relevant across sectors; it's not specific to a sector. It's things like good management of time and resources, can you demonstrate that, because that is about time efficiency and, therefore, resource efficiency and, therefore, being able to be more profitable, and that's something that we can all look at how we're managing that now and do something differently if we need to to be able to show that we're being more efficient in this area. We've thought of ways to make savings and we've implemented those ways that we've thought about. You're able to show that you found some new opportunities, and how did you go about doing that, and how did you gain them, how did you go about that. That would be relevant across industries. To show that you're particularly well-networked or have made connections in that sector that you're interested in moving into, but, actually, that it has led to some results. So it's not enough to say, 'I've got all these connections.' It's like what did you do with that, what did that mean, what happened as a consequence, how did you approach that in a strategic way. So I would say that's more generic but, actually, the amount of commercial awareness skills you need to show will depend on the role that you're going for. So the answer's more specific with that little bit more information. Okay? I was asked about a couple more questions about project management approaches. So, yes, I've done PRINCE2 for ten years, which is a type of project management. I've used lean, I'm aware of Scrum and agile, and things. These are just all ways of doing something and they're all linked more to project management and how you make savings, and things like that. It's an approach. The important aspect of it is how you've applied it. So are you able to show that you've applied it as opposed to that I've got it already? It only matters if you've got that qualification, or something, already is if the job is looking for it, if it's an essential or a desirable thing that you have some accreditation in these areas. I would say in my own experience, and I've managed projects for over 20 years, it's pretty mixed about the processes. You could use one process or another process; it's about how well you apply it to the given situation and that those changes are sustainable, and it's how you approach that and how you find ways to go forward and how you influence people to make the changes that you might recommend through any of those processes. So I would say it depends on whether or not in your own sector, in the kind of job roles that you're interested in, that you start looking at job descriptions and looking to whether or not they're asking for specific professional qualifications as either essential or desirable. Otherwise, I would say that they, in and of themselves, don't demonstrate commercial awareness; they demonstrate that you have an understanding of how to apply a particular type of approach and not necessarily the same as whether you are doing something in a more efficient way or are finding improvement mechanisms, and things like that through that approach. Does that make sense? Fantastic. Last question was, I think, about... Oh, no, two more - I'll try and answer these quickly: how did I get my fast first entry job into a more commercial area? It's an interesting thing. I think people assume that if you're going into a new area, that you have to go down and do something in a more entry, a more base level to prove yourself. This is a bit about confidence; this is a different topic! I went in at at least the same level, if not higher, from the public sector and the private sector because I made a concerted effort in my public sector job that I did want to move on from at that moment in time to spend roughly six months to a year to think about what can I do differently in the job that I have now to enable to be more employable across more sectors. I consciously thought about this. So my job didn't come with a budget, so did I create a budget. I didn't have a team that I managed; how do I create a team? I found funding for internships, and things like that. A way to create a team, I could show that I was influencing national policy, I could show that I was influencing my CEO in the strategic decision-making processes, I could acquire a budget that I then could manage, so I had evidence of budget management. I did all this as a very, very strategic and purposeful thing in order to improve my CV in financial management and other areas and it was irrelevant, really, that I was moving from one sector type to another sector type. It was more high I approached my job and that I actually followed through and implemented things that meant that I was suitable or felt to be suitable in a new sector by a new employer. So it was a very purposeful thing. Don't feel that the only way to do it is to go down and work your way up, but, actually, think about what you can do now to make parity more possible. You're all incredibly successful folk. I've not done a postdoc, by the way; I stopped at PhD, so you're already ahead of the game than I was when it comes to academic qualification. Equally, you can approach this in a bit of a different way and you can bring other areas apart from what you've been doing in your postdoc to be able to demonstrate some of these, as well, so other experiences you've had, other voluntary things that you might have done, other jobs you might've done. So it's a whole group of things. It's not a knowledge economy the way academia is. It's a how do you approach things, what do you actually do and how do you do it, not how much do you know about something. That's an important distinction to make, because you're all able to find out stuff, you're all very good researchers, so that's a given, but how do you approach things, how do you apply things, how do you imagine new possibilities. It's just about spending time thinking about that and then capturing it and then trying to gain some more evidence of it if you feel that you actually need to gain a bit more evidence so that you can talk to those introduce-your-CV situations. Is that helpful, guys - kind of broad brush? Someone asked me about references. There's a few more references on the key sheet that's in the Google Drive folder. I like short blogs and podcasts, and stuff. I'm not one for saying you need to devour a whole book to be able to understand some of these. Also, a lot of books in this area are very corporate and very written by the prospective of, let's say, male-dominated perspective of coming from a slightly more privileged position, to be very honest about it. So I wouldn't rush to recommend a specific book because of that, but I would definitely look at what I have suggested you look at as useful bite-sized ways of starting to understand how you might gain some examples of this. Especially, I think, somebody here said they were thinking about starting their own business in that, so quite a lot of that information is useful in that context, as well. Okay? It's the way it is. As a more diverse woman, I will write my own book one day and recommend that. So that's all of the questions for the moment. So thank you for that. These are really avenues. I want to make sure that we look at opportunity mapping, because the thing about these things is about just practicing it, so knowing that here's a way of doing it, now apply it to your situation, then you can say that you've used opportunity mapping going forward on your CV. The thing about this, all of this stuff takes 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes - it not a huge amount of expenditure of your time to use certain techniques in your settings. It's very practical and less theory when it comes to this area of things. So I'm going to show you what I want us to do first on the iPad screen and then we'll go to the Jamboard. Okay, so what we're going to do is think about our core... We would call it core business when we're doing this in a business setting, but you could do this in a different way just to practice it. So you could do it in a kind of what's your core expertise. So you could practice it using that, so that's what I'm suggesting you do in a Jamboards exercise in a moment. So that would be your core market, and the profitability, we're just going to put it in the bottom corner at the moment because this is about expansion and change, okay? What I'm going to ask you to do is to try and think about sticky notes, try and think about another thing that you could do differently, or a product or a service you could offer if you think about it in that way, or a different type of project that would result in greater reward for less effort, therefore it would be less profitable. So you'd put that up there, so it's in the same market and it's more profitable. So that would be opportunity number one. You would do the same, but in an adjacent market. So think about your own sector specialism or your subject specialism; what would be an adjacent subject specialism to your own. So that would come over here. Profitability, well, we don't really have to think about that in times of effort versus reward, but let's just put another sticky note next to it here. Then you'll be thinking about a brand-new market completely. So for me, my market is higher education and cultural and creative industries, but right now I'm trying to develop a new marketplace for my training services in the offshore and renewables sector. That's a completely different sector. That would definitely be in the new box. So that would be an example of new. We can put that over here somewhere, okay? So I'm only asking you to think about things. You don't know the definite answers. It's just to imagine, so you put something on this chart. There'll be at least two of you, maybe threes for some people, in the breakout room. It's okay to double up. So because there's two of you, you might put two sticky notes for three, or whatever, and you can start talking about it. This technique as opportunity mapping is very common. There are other slightly varying models for this, but I want you to start thinking about it that way. So if you were applying this to, say, a funding round, you could think about it as, 'Okay, what do I normally do? What's my core?' or, 'What can I do differently that relates to it?' or, 'Could I develop an interdisciplinary team?' and look at this in a very different way, and, 'That's my adjacent area.' So you could apply that thinking into different settings, as well. That is a typical way of thinking about it and I just want us to practice that. You can also vary the size of these boxes or the sticky notes in the Jamboard based on how profitable you think it might be. What's the scale of the opportunity? So you can vary the size of the sticky notes when you start thinking about that, as well. I'm just going to stop sharing the screen now. You should have a look at what other people have done, as well, in other rooms if you're coming out already. Can I just check by a nod of heads/show of hands, is that one that you think you could use again in a workshop with your own things quite straightforwardly? Did you get the point of that chart? Let's just have a check. How did you find that experience? You can either jump in off the mute or you can type what you thought in the chat - it's up to you. Is that something you think you could use again?
Yes, I think it's very usable, make you the time to think about, especially what is adjacent to you or what can be totally new.
Fantastic. It's opening the mind. Having to put something in those other white areas forces you to think in that way. Then how long did I give you? I gave you ten minutes. It's a really good idea to do it with someone else, because through the discussion and the conversation, many people think better, it frees it up. Equally, many people have said the best ideas come on a walk. I would say you need to frame that you're going to think about this and that you have a way of thinking about it and then let the ideas pop in and make sure you note them down. When I started my own business, which is now nearly four-and-a-bit years ago, I spent the preceding six months working out what my business was going to be about, what could I sell. It was going to be very different to what my academic experience was, I knew that. How I was going to do it, and things like that, what my branding was going to be, lots of train journeys about this. Actually, lots of chatting to friends and connections about what the options might be, and just to make it more real and more possible, because that's to do with confidence and imposter phenomenon, which, as I said, is another topic!
Please use these types of things. You're going to get a workbook with them, and I really explained how to use them, and do it again with yourself or with a friend in a few weeks from now. That's the way to develop your skill and opportunity-mapping, because it is a skill area and it is very transferable and very applicable to your current situation. Even if you're not thinking about careers, and things, you can apply it to your project, as well. Okay? Thank you for sharing that, that's fantastic. So the last key activity and key area we're going to look at is about risk. I was just speaking to the Prosper representatives here and there was some other training you might have accessed that talked about risk a little bit, and I'm going to do that, as well, so that's really important in terms of commercial awareness. So iPad-screen-sharing time; I'll just get that to explain risk in a graphical way. Okay, so we're going to be looking at risk. Now, I said earlier it's good to understand yourself in terms of how risk-averse you might be and sometimes it's about to move that forward into being someone who's more likely to take risk, because that is important for commercial awareness. It's having a simple way to assess a risk and having a simple way to work it into intermediate steps. So that's what we're going to do next. So in terms of a risk, you might put something like 'insufficient clients take up my offer', or something like that. So that's in kind of your own freelancing, or something like that. That might be a risk type. You would then indicate how likely that might be to happen. Well, when you're just starting, that is a significant risk. So it might happen. It depends what you've put in place, but let's just, for the sake of practicing this tool, we'll go for that it's very likely, which would make it into this area. So this little chart is indicating low, medium and high through colours, like it's a little bit of a dial, shall we say. How likely is that to happen? Yes, okay, it's fairly like that may happen - maybe put it into the 'medium'. So you really need for likelihood and impact, it's out of the green zone, out of 'low'. You need to have a control or a mitigation. A control means that you're trying to reduce the likelihood of it happening at all, and the mitigation is if it happens, what do I do to reduce the impact or the severity of that risk on my business in this example. So it might be things like... Oops. Mitigation, sorry, I'm just trying to re-establish the pen here. Controls and mitigations might be around that you've done some market analysis to make sure that your offer fits well. You might have done a lot of networking to socialise your new offer. You might make sure that you develop quite a big number of leads, so let's say ten, so that if only two actually happen, that's okay. Lots of things that you could do to minimise likelihood of that happening or reduce the impact if it did. The next bit is managed impact. So what you're doing is taking an account of what your controls or mitigation are, thinking about the impact of that now that you've put that into place. So perhaps it's more into the medium category, or something, by that moment. If there's anything in the 'medium' or 'high', there might be still further actions that you might take. So it'll be things like review market that you've targeted, work with a partner - there's lots of things like that. In the context of today, you can put something really specific to the situation you're in at the moment because you have more information within which to complete that assessment. To actually just make up some things, it's going to be quite difficult, potentially, to come up with the controls and mitigations. You could do that around a project risk or a conference that you're planning or an experiment that you're working on. You can practice risk management at any scale, and from a transferable skills point of view, it's showing that you have understood what risks are and that you have done an assessment and you have managed them effectively. It's not necessarily about having done it in a business setting or a commercial setting. The thing about taking risks, you have to take risks to access opportunities or to innovate, but it's not an optional thing, it's a necessary thing and it can feel really scary. So even if you've done an assessment and you said, 'Actually, it's worth taking this risk, it's worth taking it forward,' still it might feel like quite a big thing to move forward on. So what to do is to break it down into steps of what you can do to move certain things forward. So it might be to do with the way you network, it might be to do with creating a pilot, it might be to do with method you might use to do startup, whatever it might be, but it's breaking it down into more manageable intermediate steps that enables you to actually take that risk. Does that make sense? So that's what we're trying to do, but something that you feel that you're more comfortable with in terms of being able to describe a risk. Again, we'll be in pairs or threes to do this, so you might just pick something that one person wants to workshop and work through it that way, that's absolutely fine, but the key thing is maybe to try and break down how you would actually take the risk itself, because you need to to be able to harness the opportunity or to achieve some innovation if that's the... Again, if you want to go between the different rooms that you weren't in just to see what other people are putting in, you're very welcome to do so. Don't worry if you felt, anybody in a room, one in particular, you felt you might've run out of time to break it down. You can still do that as an exercise after the session; you don't have to worry that you didn't get it all done in the time I gave you. So these are fantastic. So just to say that you can assess risk in quite a straightforward way. It doesn't take long necessarily and using those types of headings is quite useful. The key thing to then take the risk in order to harness opportunity is breaking down those things into small steps and then taking the first step. So making it manageable in that way, because we're all risk-averse to a degree in certain areas, but it's really important in terms of commercial awareness that you demonstrate that you take calculated risks, not that we've procrastinated about something for a very long time or we've gone around in circles or we've taken the risk because someone has pushed us over a cliff to do it. We want to be showing that we're thinking strategically about risk and that we can take that forward. So these are fantastic suggestions that you guys have put in the Jamboard. I'll export the whole of the Jamboard as a PDF and you'll get a copy of that, as well, to refer back to after the session, as well. So thank you for that. We're in the last, oh, 10/12 minutes of the session today and so what I want to do is do a couple of things. I want you to think about any other questions that have occurred to as a consequence of what we've done in the second half, particularly around how you demonstrate value to potential stakeholders or partners or employers, any questions like that. Anything about applying or thinking about the different skills that we've looked at and how you might develop some of those. Anything new that you've got questions about, pop them into the chat just now and I'll respond to them. Do you have anything, either off mute or in the chat, to contribute about how have you found that exercise about risk? What did you think?
Yes, actually, I was typing, but better is...
I was thinking about, obviously, related to show - actually you had these scales. For example, in my case, I've been working in two different countries. Is this showing that I'm willing to take risk because, obviously, I don't know the language when I'm over there, a totally new culture, new people to interact with?
Yes. I would say that you would want to show how you came to those choices, so what did you take into account to then make that decision and then to do it and what did you gain from that, what made you think about moving again. So it's not the actual fact of having moved; it's what the process you went through to make that decision. Are you able to articulate it? Can you put it down on a bit of paper? You can demonstrate that in a CV. If you were in an interview, having pre-prepared that answer, that would be a useful thing to be able to refer back to, as well. So that's how I would approach it. Yes, there's lots of things in our own personal lives. So, for example, I started my own business while starting a major renovation of my house and did the project management of it. If I wanted to demonstrate project management and juggling things, I could use that example and that would be totally okay, that would be totally valid to do that. Good.
Then what else have we got in here? Good comments in the chat if people want to have a look. So people talk about Simon Sinek a lot. So Simon Sinek's thing is about start with why. He's not the only person and it's not a totally new concept, shall we say. Start with why is about the so-what question. I would describe it as what are the ultimate outcomes that you are trying to achieve through a process and how you would design your project to achieve those outcomes, not 'these are the list of things that I want to do, and I did them'. So that's just about listing resources and listing outputs, but actually focusing on outcomes. If you do that, you're kind of talking to what he's talking about, but, actually, it's a bit more rounded than that and it's a very well-thought-through way of doing it. So that answers that point a little bit. Then you like the different tools, as well. So some of them are based on other people, some of them are my own. It's one of the main things that I do is produce lots of these types of visual tools. There's quite a lot of this in the design thinking world, so what I will do is I will put an extra reference. I'll update the key sheet with an extra reference of - it's called a DIY toolkit, it's called, or something like that, from Nesta, who are - it's all about design thinking. There'll be different things to do with how you understand a problem and how you work out the root causes, all these different things, and some of those are really helpful to be quick and visual and apply that kind of thinking to things. There's no suite of commercial awareness tools that exists, put it that way, if that's what the question is, but there are plenty of visual tools that help you move forward, and we use lots of different techniques in the many jobs that I've done that are tried and tested, but they don't take very long. It's part of the efficiencies that we talked about, and time management stuff. So I will share an example of that with you. Good. Okay, so the last few things I would like us to do is go to a new Menti link, so that's come into the chat area. I want you to think about the answer to this question, which is: to develop or demonstrate my commercial awareness skills, I will... So what will you do differently after today? It can be things like, 'I will look at applying the tools that Sabina shared with me. I will stop and think more strategically about how I make decisions. I will write down what my process was, decide to change countries.' It can be small things, but it's very difficult to move forward with skills development unless you take some action, and, in fact, it's impossible, so you have to take some action. So that's what this question is about. I came as someone who has a PhD in architectural history and I'm now a business adviser and a research and management consultant, so we can make those shifts if we want to make some dramatic shifts. Absolutely, there are transferable skills from having undertaken a research degree and how to undertake consultancy work in business, etc. You're all expert learners and expert researchers and a lot of working out what your opportunities are is applying your research skills to that particular question. Let's have a look at some of the examples that you've already put in. So someone's going to have another go at filling out an opportunity chart - fantastic. Someone's going to outline how I made a decision needed to complete a recent project - oh, that's a great idea. Someone will go through their CV, and you've emphasised the so-what part of my actions. Yes, so what were the consequences? What difference did it make? That's the way to think about it or frame that answer. Brilliant. 'I'm going to use the risk management tool to evaluate a potential job opportunity.' Fantastic. What the risks would be if I applied, etc. Also, you will then be able to demonstrate that you have been able to manage risk. So that's an extra benefit of you using it for this purpose, which is brilliant. 'I will look at my journey so far and try to identify how I was able to do it.' Fantastic. 'I will use the tools we've used today to my current project.' Fantastic. And, equally, because you will have done that, you can demonstrate that you've done it in the future too - future employers, and things like that, or if you want to start your own thing, you can reuse these things. So applying it, absolutely, all of these tools have been given to you in such a way that you can apply it to your current situation, so you have enough information to input into that tool to make it worth doing, but the point is you've then practiced the tool and, therefore, you've developed your skills and, therefore, you can use them in other situations and show that you can and you have. It's a lovely snowball effect. Look, as I mentioned, and I'll export some other of the things we've created in the live workshop that you can review as well. So thank you for watching.
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