Six Jobs That will Thrive in The New World

The Growth Report #21

Hello my lovely friend!

Another week, another Growth Report. This time we’re talking about the jobs of the future, how customers really think about new products and another post on procrastination in what seems to be an emerging, ongoing series on productivity 😊

Also, I have written this short 140-words post on LinkedIn about what to do when you get tired. It’s simple, but it works!

Cheers and have a great weekend!


Today's topics:

📈 Positioning & Product Development:
Look at Alternatives, not Competitors

🚀 Market Trends:
Six Jobs That will Thrive in The New World

🧠 Personal Growth:
How to Use Procrastination to Get Stuff Done

📈 Positioning & Product Development

Look at Alternatives, not Competitors

“Who are your competitors?” is the wrong question, says Brian Balfour, ex VP Growth at HubSpot in his recent essay:

You should rarely think about competitors, because competitors (by your definition) are rarely who you are truly competing with. Most products are competing with alternatives. Alternatives are the other ways your target audience are solving the problem today.

Examples of Alternatives:

  • Slack was not competing against Hipchat or any other chat platform, but were trying to become the primary alternative to email. Their current slogan: "Break out of the inbox"

  • Pinterest was not competing against Svpply, iHeartThis, Fancy or any of the other pinning services, but were trying to become the primary alternative to cutting out pics from magazines or copy/pasting image files into documents.

  • DocuSign was not competing against HelloSign or other e-signature companies, but were trying to become the primary alternative to signing documents with ink and paper.

Brian goes on and mentions three cardinal mistakes you are likely to make if you focus on competitors:

  1. If you compare yourself to your competitor, you are likely to look, feel and sound very similar to them (and vice-versa).

  2. You Will Play Too Small of a Game - Alternatives typically have 10X to 1000X the usage of competitors. It is a much bigger ocean to fish in.

  3. You Won't Understand Real Psychology Of Your Users - Most of your audience has a habit built around the alternative with very specific actions, workflows, and motivations. You need to build against those things to break the habit with the alternative and establish it with your product.

Three Steps to Define your Alternatives

  1. Interview existing customers and find out what problems your product solves for them.

  2. Interview non-customers from your target group and Brian suggests to ask them: "When was the last time you had this problem? Walk me through step by step how you solved the problem."

  3. Thirdly go back to the drawing board and ask yourself how you can build and provide a 10x experience to the alternative way your users solve their problems today.

I did this process myself in the past and even at TestingTime (a test user recruiting company), one popular answer in step 2 was: "I am using an excel sheet, then I post Facebook, then I call them up...etc., etc.". And that's where you know you can provide a 10x experience. Of course some will also mention competitors in step 2, but if that's the majority of non-customers you interview you might be in a too competitive of a market (aka red ocean market).

Take the time and go through this exercise yourself. Its really worth it.

🚀 Market Trends

Six Jobs That will Thrive in The New World

Trends like open-source, no-code tools and new professional networks and communities are paving the way for a new breed of creators and builders.

Brianne Kimmel identified six new builder types that will be able to thrive in this new environment:

  1. The Designers who Code

  2. The Career Jumpers

  3. The Ambitious Advisors

  4. The Creative Hackers

  5. The Industry Academics

  6. The Community Builders

I'll discuss 1, 2, 3 and 6 here, if you want to read them all follow over to Brianne's full post.

The Designers who Code

There are a couple of examples here that I have named over and over here in the newsletter.

  • Notion is exclusively hiring designers who can code (and their software shows).

  • Figma is the first design tool that’s both technically and creatively well above the competition and they too have designers who code as co-founders.

  • Then there is Rahul Vohra, a former game designer turned entrepreneur who brought his skills and creative thinking to Superhuman and made it the first email client that has a game-like feeling to it.

From Brianne:

Technical designers bring aesthetics to computing and create products that draw people in and keep them engaged in a thoughtful and inherently more intuitive way.

Career Jumpers

I'll be writing about the generalists taking over the world (from the specialists) in a future newsletter. But suffice to say, in todays world if you've learned to solve problems across different roles and industries you have a leg up. If you've been around you can cross-pollinate your skills and expertise from different fields into new insights. A swath of former journalists are now venture capitalists (Kim-Mai Cutler, Alexia Bonatsos, Katherine Boyle), lawyers becoming VP of fitness at Peloton.

Or another example I love:

What Brianne has to say:

It’s easy to confuse the career jumpers next move with starting from scratch. In reality, they’re simply plotting a continuation, treating their careers as a jungle gym rather than a ladder. They blend together the expertise and skills they garner along the way to craft innovative products and businesses.

The Ambitious Advisors

This includes freelancers, agencies and advisors. Since I am in this group as well, I can attest to one thing that is really unique here. Technology and the markets move fast and because we are constantly talking to people and seeing the insides of companies, we develop a good intuition for the problems companies face and how to solve them.

Brianne hits the nail on the head:

What’s different from the ambitious advisors from career consultants at major firms is their operating experience inside tech companies and their ability to smoothly transition between full time roles + advising on evenings and weekends to full-time advising, and in some building a venture scale software company using services to bootstrap their way to product market fit.

Also, we see a large percentage of founders come from an agency background where building web projects for clients leads to a unique insight on ways to improve the software development process for others.

The Community Builders

The ones that build and own the platforms for communities and businesses to sprout from are the ones who cash in big in the current economy. Examples are: Shopify (over 1M online storefronts), Teachable (online course platform), Mighty Networks (community platform), Substack (Newsletter platform), Ghost (blogging platform) and so many more.

Community builders are natural company builders. They value thoughtful curation and quality; they eschew the attitude of growth at all costs. As founders, they’re natural evangelists who invest in user education and steadily increase revenue.

Again to read the full article head over to Brianne Kimmels article to read more examples and the other two jobs in detail.

🧠 Personal Growth

How to Use Procrastination to Get Stuff Done

". . . anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn't the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment." - Robert Benchley

I already wrote about procrastination last week, so my inner ongoing battles should slowly come apparent to you :-)

Anyhow, Procrastinators seldom do absolutely nothing, they get their email inbox to zero, clean up the house, reorganize their desktop, read articles on how to take better notes, read books, the list goes on. Why does the procrastinator do these things? Because they are a way of not doing something more important.

And that's where structured procrastination comes in. The term structured procrastination was coined (and put into writing) first by John Perry who also wrote the book The Art of Procrastination. He defines it as:

"...shaping the structure of the tasks one has to do in a way that exploits the fact that we can be motivated to do difficult, timely and important tasks, as long as these tasks are a way of not doing something important".

The steps involved are simple and you might already do those:

  1. Order your list of tasks by importance.

  2. Tasks that seem most urgent and important are on top

But now comes the important part straight from John Perry:

There are also worthwhile tasks to perform lower down on the list. Doing these tasks becomes a way of not doing the things higher up on the list. With this sort of appropriate task structure, the procrastinator becomes a useful citizen. Indeed, the procrastinator can even acquire, as I have, a reputation for getting a lot done.

If you are anything like me, you try to minimize your commmitments, assuming that if I have only a few things to do, I will quit procrastinating because now there is nothing else left than the most important task. But instead of clarity I receive paralysis.

BUT as Perry points out correctly, this goes contrary to the nature of a procrastinator and destroys his or her most potent source of motivation. Because now we only have the most important tasks on the list and the only way to avoid them is to do nothing aka nonsense.

And now obviously the most important question:

"How about the important tasks at the top of the list, that one never does?"

John answers this for us:

The trick is to pick the right sorts of projects for the top of the list. The ideal sorts of things have two characteristics, First, they seem to have clear deadlines (but really don't). Second, they seem awfully important (but really aren't). Luckily, life abounds with such tasks.

This actually happens even with this newsletter. Every week I think for myself, "well this week I should actually start doing the outline on Wednesday and then on Thursday I work on it, so that on Friday I only have to put on the finishing touches and send it out". Of course this has never happened. Instead I am sitting here at 5:20pm, writing these last words before going to a dinner with friends.

So what happend here was, I had this "urgent", "important" task with a "deadline" on my task list all week, procrastinated on it all week, but got a shit-ton done while pushing this task away. And then towards the end of the week another important client project task came on and now all of a sudden the newsletter is the task that looks more desirable then putting together that client presentation. And the latter gets pushed out until another "important" task takes its place.

The observant reader may feel at this point that structured procrastination requires a certain amount of self-deception, since one is in effect constantly perpetrating a pyramid scheme on oneself. Exactly. One needs to be able to recognize and commit oneself to tasks with inflated importance and unreal deadlines, while making oneself feel that they are important and urgent. This is not a problem, because virtually all procrastinators have excellent self-deceptive skills also.

And Perry alleviates our guilt:

...what could be more noble than using one character flaw to offset the bad effects of another?

That's it for this week.

Enjoy your weekend 🏡

See you next week,