Projects vs tasks

Your job might be a series of tasks. Tasks are work where money is traded for time and effort. You put in a fixed amount of time, expending effort along the way, and you get paid. In the end, tasks are completed and its up to the boss to weave those tasks together into something useful.

The person at the front desk of a hotel is probably doing a task. So is the lineman working on a high power line. The easier a job is to get, the more likely it involves doing tasks.

The alternative is projects.

The way a project gets done is up to you. Your goal is to create an extraordinary outcome, not to perform the tasks. The work done is simply a means to an end. If you can figure out how to do less work or different work and still create project magic, thats exactly what you should do.

The challenge is in owning the project. To say, Im going to engage with this customer in a way that changes them from frustrated to loyal, as opposed to saying, Im going to move this paper from here to there.

Claim the project before you start the work.


The only way to get initiative is to take it. Its never given.

And some people hesitate to take it, perhaps because theyre worried that well somehow run out.

Were not going to run out. Its a self-renewing resource.

From an early age, most of us were taught to avoid it. Do your homework. Take out the trash. Wait to get picked. Wait to get called on. Become popular. Fit in. Maybe stand out, but just a little bit. Failure is far worse than not trying.

The alternative is to take some initiative. On behalf of those you seek to serve.

Go ahead, theres plenty to go around.

The travel agents problem

Not just travel agents, but all agents.

Information scarcity is disappearing.

Forty years ago, passengers didnt know which airline flew where and when. And forty years ago, airlines had no easy way to find out who wanted to fly somewhere. Today, of course, theres no shortage of information or ability to connect. So paying 10% of their revenue to a human who will use a terminal instead of the passenger using a computer hardly makes sense for the airline.

Movie studios used to have to wrestle with information scarcity, and so did talented creators. Actors werent sure who was making what, and studios had imperfect information about who to cast. Today, IMDB (and proprietary tools) surface enormous amounts of information for the studios. They know who is working on what, who is a pain in the neck, who can add to the effectiveness of the project. And the creators are part of networks, formal and informal, that get them information faster and more efficiently than a single human often could.

The same thing is happening to car dealers. In fact, just about any job where you used to hoard information and charge a fee is now in danger.

When your clients know more than you do, its difficult to be an old-fashioned agent who is making money based on information scarcity.

The alternative is to become a network hub who creates value through information abundance.