Innovation and development

A big mouthful of words and one that can immediately scare most people off! But it does not have to be frightening. Unless of course you want to reinvent google or something. Now that could be a bit of a tall order.

It could be argued that it is easier than before thanks to technology. and remember that is the point of smartrural, to use technology to assist us humans in the countryside so we can prosper and continue to enjoy to live in the place we love.

The first step, to my mind is to do something you don’t normally do. Change the channel if you will. If you ahve a routine say of having an evening meal and then having a watch of netflicks or your computer before going to sleep, then change it. Get up go someplace different and see what other people are doing. Go to the cinema, go to a restaurant, go to a hotel and see what is going on. Who is there, are they spending money, why are they there, could they be somewhere else, could you do anything to make them have a better experience (legally of course). Write it down. Do the same at the weekend, if you normally shop in one supermarket in local town, go someplace else. See what else is going on.

If you use online shopping do something else. Look for the craziest products on the internet. Write them down, talk to others about them. If you normally jsut say hi to your neighbours change it, ask them can they take a walk with you to the local corner store? Tell tehm about this stuff, listen if they have stories back.

Sign up for things you never did before. Change the thoughts in your head. The ideas will come. Most of the best ideas are so obvious when you see them first you can be sure you will believe someone is already doing them.

Do not have huge expectations. But do set a basic target of at least earning money for the time you invest pretty quickly.

Get a side gig. Help someone who has a side gig. Volunteer.

Write down any ideas you have of pain people feel or how something can make them have an easier life.

Change your news sources, if you read the paper of record, change it to another one, ideally selling more. IF you listen to the same radio show every day, change it, find one with more listeners and listen to that. Write down how you feel about it. See if these can be turned into solutions, because others probably have the same feelings needing solutions.

Listen to podcasts about start ups, go to any start up event you can. The energy is infectious (in a good way)

Don’ be afraid to fail, just write down what you learned and start again. Write down what you see for about 3 months, then review it. See are there any gems, are there any synergies with something from this month and something from last month

Development and innovation are jsut two words. Its not jsut for someone else. It can be you. Ask! watch, listen. Innovation can be tiny small little idea or improvement on existing one. Development is about getting that out so others can also use it. The trade is they then pay you for making it happen. Its a fair trade.

Get a mentor, ask someone you like or someone you think can add to your skills. Most people love to help other people. It is one of the most satisfying feelings.

Don’t become so secretive that you think you cant talk about your idea for fear someone else will steal it. The more you talk about it the more help you will get and also you will win the court case if lots of people heard you talking about it first!

Work and income generating

There are a great many subtitles in this area.

We can start with the basic idea of the traditional job. One where you get up, go to work, go home etc.

Then we have smart working where work is not really a place. Work is an agreement to use your skills in exchange for rewards. This can be based on the road- so called nomadic workers, in a shared or community facility, a company called we work is probably the largest example of this, but many more are getting involved too. And finally working from home for either all the hours that are in the exchange or for some hours and then going to a place (office, shared facility, coffee shop, conference, etc) to continue to work or to colocate with other team members to deliver the skills exchange required.

We also have then the idea of service providers or experience providers. This should be a growth market in #smartrural. The city dwellers all want to get out of the city and go to the country for the weekend. Of course this can be either a blessing or a curse. If they crowd the mountains and block the roads with their cars then no one is happy. However it can become an opportunity, albeit part time and casual, to use the demand to provide a service.

What do we see in this area, farm shops, fruit picking, animal feeding, horse riding, bike ways, mountain walks, guided tours to sites of interest, kiddies play areas. Not to mention sales of famers products, experiences in the countryside, seasonal adventures in the oudoors. All these have never been so easy to set up and market with platforms to host the experience, advertise it and collect the money on your behalf.

As we have travelled we have done rafting, horse riding, wine and cheese tasting, cooking including Ceviche, jams, bread, speciality salsas, bike riding, waterfall climbing, zip lining, tree climbing, rock collecting, fossil reading, snorkelling, birdwatching, animal identification, flower identification, harvest of grapes, potaotes, rice etc. Plus countless others. The important thing is that we as customers booked all these on line, and paid our money in advance. This gives the operators time to organise and get the infrastructure in place for the event. Prices are set based on numbers in a group and sometimes the trips did not happen if there was not sufficient interest (money) for the service providers. The booking process includes collection of contact phone numbers to allow for last minute changes (or cancellations) and the opportunity to share and review is built in.

Our pictures are taken and posted in so many locations on the social media as these business promote their offering into the crowded marketplace.

But it is the future. Platforms exist. Lets go

Tourism in the countryside

So what do we know about this? It is complicated. What are the recent big successes? Wild Atlantic Way springs to mind as do all the Greenways being developed following the huge success of the one in Mayo.

Irish tourism is a huge product and one where there are clear gains to be made from our Green and clean country but especially our extra friendly people.

But it is not all roses, staffing in hotels, cafes, hostels etc is a task. How many people are needed, for when, what skills do they need, how long do I need them for and what do I pay them? These are all questions that are hard to answer when setting up.

Oddly enough data and software can help. Most people will book a hotel or guest house, airbnb, or campsite. This information allows the owners to see what staff they need. Some hotels and restaurants have arrangements with cooks, cleaners etc to ‘follow the customers’ . So for example a hotel in middle of Ireland may be quiet mid week but out the door on the weekend. Once the bookings arrive in the systems can generate a message to gig workers like cooks, cleaners, bar men, serving staff etc., offering them work, and usually accomodation to match the new emerging demands.

They pay a premium for this of course but it is cheaper than carrying staff for hours they are not needed. Staff get well paid and get to do other jobs or study or follow their dream outside of these hours.

Owners of stand alone business will need to form alliances with their neighbours to be able to share the information. Guys renting bikes on greenways will need to talk to hotels and guesthouses so they can be ready with teh bikes. Coffe shops and stalls along the way need to link up with the bike guy so they can know when there are potential customers coming.

A simple example is a guy on a greenway renting bikes. When he has 50 out he whistles up more help for the return process- as this probably will happen in a rush. A couple of the coffes shops have an arrangement where he tells them when he passes 30 bikes. They then know there are 30 people on the greenway and maybe they need a few more scones. It’s simple stuff but it helps give the customer and the business people better experiences.

Without getting too big brother about it, this can all be automated so that the computers do the heavy lifting and talk to each other . This is our hope, that a community based platform will work with the community to help give everyone the benefit of the tourists who come to town.

Ski resorts are increasingly using this to make sure they have enough food, cooks, instructors, and cleaners to deal with the weather driven surge in demand. The software and tools are out there, we need local leaders to help roll them out.

Uber probably invented the idea and constantly use software to identify spikes in demand. Airlines use it to price seats and to reallocate planes if there is lower, or higher demands. The technology exists. #smartrural can exploit it.

Remote working

We have read a great deal about this and a recent survey indicates that over 140k people define their work as remote. This seems very large in and Irish context. Further work will be done on this to establish the validity and types of work. A great organisation growremote is working on this with government bodies and are to be commended.

There are some worries on this front too however. Many individuals find that working remote is a bit lonely. They seem to miss the interaction with colleagues and the plain old banter of the world of work. This is helped by joining in and using coworking places. Thankfully these are spreading all over the place. It is critical that employers help support these for the well being  of their team members and also for their own sucess .

As usual the idea of remote working is turning into a blend of working at home, working in coworking centres and other facilities and attendance at the central place of work. (If one actually exists!)

The opportunities in this area are growing and changing by leaps and bounds. Increasingly it is being found that open offices, multitudes of meetings, and micromanagement are actually reducing  productivity. Present day remote workers are a bit like evangalists and are making new ground. Turst is the key to future success in this area.

Changes in management skills and also in employee skills will be needed to make sure that remote workers are managed well and feel a productive and valuable part of an organisation. That is a two way street. Thankfully there are more and more people reporting about their direct experiences and the good and bad apples in the barrell.

The future of work in the workplace seems to be moving. There will be more automation of routine works. Some evidence based decision making will change too as computers will be able to consider more variables than us poor human brains. We see this in reports of improved early diagnosis of skin cancers by machines rather than by Doctors.   So work will change at the basic end and at the high end. ( in terms of perceived value rewarded per hour)

New skills will be needed and we will all need to adapt. But that is what we are good at. So no fears, onwards!