10 most important skills in business

There are 10 skills that are highly valued by the market.

Business and Students often complain that university and school does not prepare them for the future. The results of a survey from the National Association of Colleges and Employers shows what are the critical skills needed in the market:

  1. Communication
  2. Teamwork
  3. Decision making & Problem solving
  4. Ability to plan, organize, and prioritize work (Planning)
  5. Ability to obtain and process information (Information Literacy)
  6. Ability to analyze quantitative data
  7. Technical knowledge related to the job
  8. Computer software programs
  9. Create and edit written reports
  10. Ability to sell or influence others

In this series I will “MOOC based self-education degree” in “Essential Business Skills”. The goal is to brush my own skills up and create a comprehensive program available to everyone. In the next week I will start with communication.

The idea is inspired by http://dailyplanit.com 


Storytelling is one of the oldest and most powerful forms of communication. A good story well told not only increases audience attention, but is also better remembered than a list of items or facts.

Best Practices

The essential parts to a story — Every story consists of a few essential elements: an initiating incident, a protagonist, action, and an outcome. Unless your material comprises these elements, it won’t be perceived as a story.

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Just telling about an event is not always a story. Not all narratives are stories. A story contains four essential components:

1. Initiating incident. A story must have an impetus, a cause that drives someone to take action. In most stories, this is a problem — or an opportunity. Whether it’s negative (a problem) or positive (an opportunity), the more extreme this incident, the more compelling the story will be.

2. Protagonist. A story has one or more individuals (a team, organization, etc.) trying to achieve a goal caused by the initiating incident.

3. Action. The protagonist takes action to address the problem or opportunity. The story becomes more engaging if obstacles stand in the way of achieving the goal, and make it harder to obtain. The protagonist’s actions to overcome the obstacles can be the most instructive elements in stories.

4. Outcome. Once the problem or opportunity has been revealed and action taken by the protagonist, the audience will want to know what happened. Did the protagonist achieve the goal? Whether your story has a happy ending or not, the outcome must be clear.

Of course, simply having these four elements does not guarantee that a story will be memorable, instructive, or even interesting. It just means you have a genuine story. A story needs something more if it’s to stick.


Examples of effective storytelling — Exemplar video stories illustrating IBM’s core values.

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  1. Innovation that matters — for our company and the world
  2. Dedication — to every client’s success
  3. Trust and personal responsibility — in all relationships


Giving your story impact — But compelling stories need more than just the basic elements. Here you’ll learn storyteller “secrets” on how to make a story more powerful.

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Making your story memorable

We suggest you watch each of the video examples in the previous section (Examples of Effective Storytelling) before your review this section.

Each of the video examples had the four basic elements we identified earlier: initiating incident, a protagonist, action, and an outcome.

But these stories go beyond those basic requirement.
Below are story-strengthening elements that can raise a story’s impact. Incorporating any one of these elements can help — adding several can help even more. But whatever element you add, be sure it is genuine and appropriate, not artificially invented to try to increase your story’s power.

1. Something important at stake. A major risk will ratchet up audience interest in a story. In Dick Richardson’s “Mazel Tov” story, IBM attorneys discovered Dick’s omission of a required Sexual Harassment component in the manager program — his own career was in jeopardy because of his mistake. We want to learn what happened!

2Time lock. When a problem or opportunity has a definite deadline, it creates an urgency in the story, raises the tension and peaks audience interest.
3. Expectation violation. When audience expectations are dashed — for a good reason — the story soars.

4. Parsimony. Clutter is the downfall of an otherwise excellent story. A good story has just enough details to establish the situation and characters and move the story events forward. “Parsimony” is the absence of clutter. Aim for it.

5. Reveal information only when needed. One good way to ruin a story is to provide too much needed information all at once. Good storytellers “dribble out” the necessary background as the story is being told, usually just before that information is needed.

6. Obstacles. The initiating event causes the protagonist to take action. But if the goal is easily attained, the story won’t generate much interest. The story really crackles when a protagonist has to be clever or courageous or fortunate to overcome obstacles.

7. Abnormality. Stories stand out and are better remembered if there’s something unusual in them. In Todd Belt’s Katrina story the IBM technicians load their motor home with diapers and other items and head out on their mission. Afterwards they help dig out a homeowner’s possessions from four feet of flood sewage. These memorable descriptions send a striking and important message about this unusual endeavor for IBM techies.

8. Visual salience. A memorable story paints pictures in people’s heads by using visually descriptive phrases that connect with the audience. Dick Richardson begins by saying, “It was a pizza-box-in-the-hallway kind of project,” implying that it took the team an all-hours effort. In her Mentoring story Anne McNeill says the rural school teacher “literally had tears in her eyes” when expressing appreciation to IBM. Using visual description is a solid storytelling technique.

9. Formidable antagonist. In some stories the protagonist must face and overcome an adversary or “antagonist.” It could be a corporate competitor, an uncooperative colleague, or a force of nature. A formidable antagonist makes the story that much more compelling.

10. Underlying meaning. A story worthy of telling carries meaning. The more important the meaning, the more important the story. Sometimes that meaning is explicit and stated, sometimes not. But to lead and instruct, a story must have meaning, or else it simply entertains.

You’ve probably noticed that many of the requirements for good storytelling are the same as any good communications technique employed in a business setting. It must be concise, accurate, clear, impactful, and readable. In today’s world with remote management, virtual teams, and cross-border projects, communications is more important than ever.


Tools / Job aids

Story capture rubric (18KB PDF) A simple tool that will help you: establish the strength of a possible story, begin to outline the essential elements, and confirm what might be missing to build an effective story.

Storyboard template (111KB PDF) Storyboarding is a series of illustrations or images displayed in an order that shows the progression of a completed motion graphic or interactive sequence. The illustrations may be photos, film clips or rough sketches. Each illustration often has notes describing any dialogue, action and/or special effects (FX) that accompany the scene.

Video production outline.pdf (24KB PDF) Bare-bones list of steps to follow for producing video for learning

[Video Captioning Tutorial] Learn how to create a well structured, designed and impactful videocasts.


I don’t think I have any particular talent for writing or telling stories, but I can see situations where they could be effective. Are there ways to develop this skill?] Yes. Classes in creative writing are widely available, as are storytelling workshops. Toastmasters International offers an enjoyable and supportive atmosphere for improving your public speaking talents — crucial to effective storytelling. We all know people who seem to be “natural-born” storytellers. You are correct though in recognizing storytelling as a skill, and like most other skills, storytelling can be improved with knowledge and practice.

How to automate your twitter strategy

We all need to be social today. But when to find the time? Everyday we split our time up between making our clients happy and living life with our family and friends there is not much room for something else. That’s why I developed a strategy that utilises technology to automate my “social life”. This strategy is how you get and keep  over 2000 followers at lightning speed.

This is based on the twitter recomendation from my fellow IBMer Michelle (follow her @MCooke2013) with addtional hacks I found out in my last 2 Month.

Getting Started

  1. Start by looking at what others are doing.
  2. Create your account on twitter.com.

Note: Do not create an account name with IBM in it eg. @IBMMichelle. Review IBM Social Media Guidelines for other guidance.

  1. Update your profile to include #hashtags relevant to the business line you support or the industries you are engaged in so that you come up in search results when others are looking for new people to follow, eg. #IBM, #Tivoli
  2. Make sure you include: “All tweets and opinions are my own” as per IBM Social Media Guidelines.
  3. Personalize your account with a picture – people relate to people.
  4. Tweet and retweet! Try to tweet a minimum of once per day.
  5. Look for interesting articles online. Many offer Tweet buttons that make it easy.
  6. Tell everyone you’re on Twitter, don’t be shy! Put it in your online profiles and your email closing.
  7. Be topical with the news of the day. eg. Earnings report, and add your comment or spin on it.

Build your following

  1. Follow as many people as you can. Go to some of the sites that you think your customers would visit such as @ITWorldca. Then see who they are following and who is following them.
  2. Read through the profiles of people to target the audience for your messaging. Pick appropriate people and follow them.
  3. Follow back your followers or you risk them unfollowing you. If you do not follow someone back it’s like saying “I am ok blasting messages at you, but I don’t really care what you have to say in return.” You can only direct message those whom you follow.
  4. Twitter has a cap of 2000 people until you get your following up to within 10 percent of that number, then you can exceed it, so you’ll need to analyze your followers.

Automate your following

  1. Sign up with http://tweepi.com and download the Tweepi v2 select all Extension for google chrome.
  2. Now use the built following strategy and use the ‘follow followers’ feature, put in the name of an account that post similar topics like you, click start following.
  3. Now you see a list of people that mentioned this account, klick the tweepi select all extension.
  4. Repeat for every page until you reach your 2000 follower max limit or there are no more people to follow.
  5. Then redo this process.
  6. You can automate this with an autoklicker.

Analyze your followers

  1. Use tweepi.com to analyse your followers.
  2. Unfollow followers who do not reciprocate and those who are no longer following you.
  3. Follow more people on Twitter until you reach your cap of 2000 set by Twitter.
  4. Repeat often (but not daily – Twitter will put your account on hold) – Michelle recommends weekly.
  5. Remember to follow back those who have followed you or risk losing them.
  6. Do this by using the “automating your following” strategy.

Other tips and tools

  1. Schedule your Tweets with Hootsuite.com.
  2. Shorten your urls with ow.ly within Hootsuite, or bit.ly, or SNIP, or IBMurl for IBM Intranet sites.
  3. Make it easier for others to Tweet with clicktotweet.com  by providing “Click to tweet icons” and messages in event and other marketing promotion emails and powerpoints so your messages can take flight; and by promoting your Tweets in Lotus Notes by pasting a Twitter icon box into your note.
  4. Add Twitter to your email signature easily here: signature.innovate.ibm.com/auth
  5. Track your Twitter influence with free sites such as klout.com and tweet.grader.com

Startup Engineering – setting up a web development environment

In the second week they give a introduction in developing web apps in the cloud. They us a combination of Amazon Web Services (aws), Heroku and Github. Basiclly the use a virtual machine on the amazon cloud to develop, store the work on github and push it to heroku to distribute the work via the internet.

For preperation install Google Chrome and and the User Agent Switcher (to simulate mobile devices).  Then to use a terminal enviroment you should Cygwin (important to ssh into aws you have to install the ssh package) . Then you should sign up for aws, github, gravatar and heruku. I will not cover this, but you can find detailed instruction within the official course documents.

After the setup lets connect to AWS via Ciygwin:

[sourcecode language=”shell”]#Download the ssh.key (e.g. dennisseidel-cs184.pem)
#change to home directory
cd ~
#copy key into ssh directory
cp /cygdrive/c/Users/dennis/Downloads/dennisseidel-cs184.pem .ssh/
#//give file correct permissons
chgrp Users dennisseidel-cs184. && chmod 400 denniseidel-cs184.pm
#ssh into aws
ssh -i  dennisseidel-cs184.pem ubuntu@ec2-50-19-140-229.compute-1.amazonaws.com

Install heroku and on your AWS Ubuntu:

[sourcecode language=”shell”]
# Execute these commands on your EC2 instance.
# Note that -qO- is not -q0-. O is the English letter, 0 is the number zero.
# 1) Install heroku and git
$ sudo apt-get install -y git-core
$ wget -qO- https://toolbelt.heroku.com/install-ubuntu.sh | sh
$ which git
$ which heroku
# 2) Login and set up your SSH keys (
$ heroku login
$ ssh-keygen -t rsa //alternatively if you allready created a ssh-key add it directly
$ heroku keys:add
# 3) Clone a sample repo and push to heroku
$ git clone https://github.com/heroku/node-js-sample.git
$ cd node-js-sample
$ heroku create
$ git push heroku master[/sourcecode]

Startup Engineering – an introduction

At Coursera Balaji (Standford Phd, CTO/Founder that raise 65 M+) and Vijay (MIT Grad) teach practical software engineering skills. Their course is about everything they wished to known when starting their companies. This includes lots of UNIX, emacs, JS and web programming.

In the first week they give an introduction into the startup culture. You can find a short overview over the first weeks content attached.

What Is a Startup?

A new found business build to grow rapidly (NOT like a barber shop). You should search a new niche with a huge market and be the first one to take over the place here. Often new technology is involved and it is about going from 0 to 1, not 1 to N. 

A startup solves a problem for your users and you have two tasks. first solving this problem and second  making everybody knowing about and using your solution. Most important: targeting your growth rate each week (5 – 10 %), use new registrations, active users, shares, etc (whatever makes sense to make this stats). There is no speed limit when starting up, execute and learn/

Startups in the Past:

1800s -> startups for oil, steel, pharmaceutical, telegraphs
1900s -> automobile, aviation, telephone

There are many similarities between past and today. New technology involved new markets and many business were started in a non-regulated environment, because it was so new (NON-REGULATED MARKED). Many company started with a common name pattern (e.g. .com phase (amazon.com) OR name car company after founder (FORD, CHRYSLER, …). And startup costs were low -> startups in flats (eg. one who sold oil on a one barrel base from his living room), they grew rapidly, scaled very well. Many companies pop-up during such a start, only a few survive and take over the whole market.

    • ONE: low entry costs
    • TWO: few / no laws
  • MVP (minimum viable product) – lean startup – has to be cheap!
  • Startups in the present
    • technological ground: Internet starts in 1980, broad spreading around 1990 (TCP/IP WWW in 1991)
    • political ground: collapse of soviet union + National Science Founadation Acceptable Use Policy was removed (which banned commerce on the internet) -> huge, global market existed // fall of iron curtain
      • acceptable use policy -> existed because of the fear of wide-spread of drugs, porn and spam, malware AND users academia and military did not search for traffic
      • fractions: the globalizations coefficient G (the more juice states there are equals allowed transactions, higher = better)
    • first of all, technology was available, but market not ready, then, the market WAS READY
    • -> rise of the internet start up
  • key features of internet startupsscalable -> only servers
    • market size -> global
    • generality -> software eats the world, form everything out of nothing
    • low capitol barrier -> computer is cheap + open source
    • low laws / regulatory barriers -> code is law, but this might change (PRISM, SOPA, …)
    • long tail -> endless specificity
    • failure tollerance -> still virtual, not physical, probs if it gets real (global stock market, airplanes, …)
  • what is startup engineering
    • startup engineering like chessboxing
    • getting something to work well enough for people to buy!
    • academia like zero customers -> chess
    • architecture astronauts -> planning for infinite number of customers -> boxing
    • in between of both lies startup engineering / software engineering
    • most of all: systems integration (new technologies, snapping pieces together)
  • design, marketing and sales
    • in a startup, you have to do all this side tasks (can’t concentrate on programming only)
    • you have to solve real world problems (office, furniture, garbage)
    • it is all about problem solving as fast as possible -> HN meetup
    • at start you need to do a lot of things on your own, because there is no money
    • later on, you can move this tasks to other ones
    • BUT to start and hire great people, you also need brochures, pages, etc.
  • why mobile html5mobile is the future
    • responsive design
    • location independence = bigger scope
    • simplicity
    • ubiquity
    • JS as future