While I’m a firm believer we can achieve more as entrepreneurs than we can as employees, there are some damn good lessons we can learn from corporates. One such thing that large companies tend to do is strategy planning. Annual or quarterly events, where time is taken out to sit down and plan the future. So my question is this:
When is the last time you did this for your most important startup: Your household?
Yes, the startup that is the people who live in your home. It seems ever so weird that we spend an inordinate amount of time doing strategy for the companies we work for, and yet fail to do it for ourselves and our family. My household is a 5 year old startup which is clearly the most important in my portfolio – the capstone of all the matters to me. Within it, we have two other startups, otherwise known as children. So my wife and I are investing a few days where our entire focus is what we want out of life for our family, and how we might go about achieving it.
So what might we include in such a day? Our approach to health, loving, learning, sharing, housing, career, finance and our community. We’ll ratify our guiding philosophy on how we invest the 24 hours in each day. We’ll decide how we allocate our resources to maximise happiness. We know that the major asset in life is time, and the people we love. The financial part of our strategy day – our plans for income and investing – is last on the agenda. This should serve what we want as people, and so setting numbers before we know what we need, would be back to front. The outcome will be an operations plan for a happy home.
We often go through life thinking that if we earn enough money, and do well in our career, the other life stuff will be ok. Turns out the opposite of this is true.
I remember growing up having people tell me it’s all about who you know in life and business. I always thought it was kinda weird that it could work in your favour by just knowing people who could help you, especially if you happened to be a fool. Surely domain knowledge mattered more? And here is what I found out, they both have value.
But what has even more value is when we use which ever we have more of to improve on the other. This tends to happen when we learn from those we’re lucky enough to know, or use our knowledge to help whoever we meet.
The order of events in our careers and entrepreneurial endeavours is particularly important.
Let’s take the resume. A truncated tiny nano percentage microcosm of a persons capability. And yet people put it in front of decision makers to sell themselves. The moment we do this the person reading the resume is looking for a reason not to like what they see. We are just one of possibly hundreds of the same thing, and the natural inclination of the reviewer is to ‘cut the numbers’.
On the flip side, when we meet someone in person, we are a human. They are also a human. Neither of us are words on a piece of paper or screen. We have a 100% monopoly on the on each others attention. Our humanity takes over and we are both looking for a reason to like each other. Once we’ve met, and our credentials need to be reviewed on paper, they are then looking for a reason to justify doing business with the person they already like.
It doesn’t matter whether we are looking for a job or selling our business to new clients, a human always trumps a bunch of words, pictures or videos. While we need to have both in a modern world, it’s the order they’re presented in that really matters.
As soon as we think of an amazing startup idea the first thing we often do is trawl the internet to see if someone has already built the app, the service ,the hardware device. We want to know if it has already been done. Oft times, we are deflated to find out it has been. But if we have to search, has it really been done? If no one knows about a concept in market it raises a lot of interesting questions:
Did they execute well against the idea?
Is their product good, but the distribution poor?
If the distribution is poor, does that mean the product is actually bad?
If the distribution is poor, does that mean it’s not solving a real problem?
If the distribution and product are both good, are the switching costs too high?
Did the team have the right funding?
If they had the funding is the timing too soon – is the market ready?
The truth is we’ll never be able to answer these and other questions. And so it brings us back to the very first moment of inspiration. We thought it was a great concept and maybe that is enough. We know most things change their shape in the development process anyway. Maybe we should build it regardless of what is out there. Build our version of how things could be. Remembering of course that most fortunes are made with old ideas done better. Property is the oldest business in the world and still to this day creates the most millionaires. Even Youtube, a new kinda business, arrived when there were already over 400 video sharing websites (that we know of).
It’s another reminder our world is big on ideas and small on execution.
I spend a fair amount of time in large corporations – helping them transition from the industrial era to the technology era. I’ve come to the conclusion that sometimes you can see the future of the organisation based on subtle hints in the physical environment. And hence the title of this post. Two different organisations I visited had signs on their bathroom cubicle walls which told me all I needed to know about these companies and their prospects.
“Did you bring your best self to work today? Can you show us something new and amazing we haven’t thought of?”
“Please leave the toilet the way you found it.”
Both of these signs tell me so much about the culture of the organisations in question. Whether or not an opinion is valued, whether contributions should be original, what they think about rules and following instructions. But most of all whether they regard their staff as adults or children. The second is interesting, because it also infers that if there’s a problem, you should definitely not take any responsibility to improve things.
Let’s also remember that someone had to think of these, decide it was what the company valued, print them and put them up…. this isn’t just a slight office quirk, it’s a public display of deep corporate values. The reason I decided to point this out is because if there has ever been a time in business when doing things as they were done before is a dangerous tactic, that time is now.
Tonight I’ll be doing a presentation at the amazing building above. The new Docklands Library – a library…. the original internet of knowledge transfer. It’s for the Future Crunch event, and I’ll be doing a talk I’ve never done before: The Autonomous Corporation: It’s kinda Star Trek. A short 20 minute presentation which will cover a few of these thought jams:
Language is a technology
Corporations are a form of technology
Technology removes human labour
Technology is designed to serve humans
Technology is a form of biology
Corporations need to serve humans… again
I’ll leave it at that for now. After the talk we’ll have a Q and A session and chat. But join me tonight for some thinking time on how to build better commercial ecosystem for living. Meet some interesting people, leave the TV and chores at home and explore your mind. It should be fun.
Things are changing so rapidly that we are again suffering from future shock. It’s hard to comprehend the pace of change, not just to business or pop culture, but to the way we live our lives. We’ve had for the best part of 100 years, certainly the last 50, a very stable business infrastructure and lifestyle. This makes us feel as though the changes we see are new to the human experience, when in fact they are only new to the experience of our generation. To understand it, we need to take an anthropological view of business and relearn the lessons we forgot, that other generations already learned. We need to lose our immediacy bias and review how our species has coped with radical change before.
None of this is new in the human sense, just the industrial sense. As the industrial era transitions into the technology era it’s worth worth taking a look at what happened when had epoch shifts in the past.
It won’t be your phone, laptop, television, car, your micro electricity storage grid, your thermostat or your fridge. It will be your toilet.
You may not have expected that. It will be a top of the technology chain looking after the most important thing in our lives – our health. Nothing is more important, and it just so happens that sensor technology is entering an inflection point where dramatic technology advances will change medicine and health as much as germ theory did.
All forms of technology in our connected world are under going rapid price deflation. Power is increasing and prices are dropping exponentially. The technology inside the technology is also benefiting from the same pattern of accelerating returns. This means that many vital sensors, like those found inside the 1.75 billion smart phones which have already been manufactured, have prices at the disposable level. Mere cents on the dollar. It’s this era of disposable technology that will drive the web of things era. But what it also means is that powerful high end technology is on the same path. Technology that would once have only had a place in a high end laboratory will very soon have a place in our bathrooms. It’s a pattern we’ve already seen with consumer and media based technology and widgets.
You’re toilet will become a a micro testing lab which will keep track of your health so that you don’t have to. It will include sensors of every type, measuring every kind of human feedback possible – all integrated and web enabled. It will have a DNA code of all of the members in a household, their health records and constantly be testing human waste for any anomalies which might not end well if left unchecked. It will know you are sick, or about to get sick long before the symptoms arrive. It will create a tracking timeline of changes in your health over long periods and provide the ultimate in quantified self.
It will weigh you every time you sit down, and use micro sweat to determine your daily levels of body fat and blood sugars.
It will talk to your doctor, and provide a much better assessment of what’s going on than you do when the doctor asks your those very important questions you can never remember the exact answers to.
It will have a convivial relationship with your fridge and cupboard and know what’s stored in it and what actually gets eaten. It will have a similar relationship with your kitchen and ovens.
It will make auto suggestions to your shopping list when you’re down on vitamin c, or protein or calcium, and post red flags with other items you’ve scheduled for delivery which are not in your best interest.
It will certainly track your movement via your smart devices (watch, phone and other wearables) and know what type and frequency of exercise you’re getting. It will update the shopping list to include the right foods for your level of movement and nutrition needs.
It will assess the health of your skin through the seat and track sun exposure. It will be linked to your shower which will take daily photos of your skin to check for dangerous sun spots.
In fact, it will do much more than this.
This then raises all sorts of important questions about which previously unrelated industries should be collaborating with each other. If Plumbing and medicine start to matter to each other and packaged groceries and white goods matter to each other, then you can be certain there’s an industry you haven’t thought twice about that will start to matter to you. And probably quicker than you think.
Our toilet will be the smartest device in the house, looking after the most important things in your life, your health and your family. It’s another reminder that technology is neither good or bad, but a tool we can choose use to make life better and even extend it.
The recent strategic alliance of Apple and IBM is not really a surprise. But more than that it reminds us all of a few things about the times we are living through:
- Sometimes our enemies become our friends.
- Co-opetition is a better strategy than competition.
- It’s impossible to service every segment of a market.
- It’s difficult to serve both B2B and B2C markets simultaneously.
- What we thought yesterday, might not a good thing to think today.
- But mostly, that never is a very long time indeed.
Often we start our business with a fixed view of the world, and why we think our business should exist in it. What this means is that as the world changes, the view of our place in it should change too.
As my regular readers would know, I’v recently released a book: The Great Fragmentation – why the future of business is small. Now live and available for sale.
I recently sent an email to some of my supporters and friends inviting them to a shindig to help me celebrate – just some drinks and food among like minds. Then I thought, holy wow, there are no greater supporters than the readers of my blog. You’re all part of my inner circle. Despite the fact that 80% of my readers are overseas, there must be a few out there in Melbourne town. And while some of you already have the invite I’m sure, some might not, and I thought I’d put it up here.
So my dear readers, if you happen to be in Melbourne, or live in Melbourne, then I’d love to shout you a drink and thank you this Wednesday night. A little get together from 6-8pm. It’s in the city and we are being hosted by Michelle Matthews from Deck of Secrets fame, who has probably the coolest warehouse apartment in all of Melbourne. The details of where to come are here. We only have room for around 50 people, so first in first served. It’s kinda risky putting up on open invite, but hey, risk is good. Oh, and the short notice is because, I felt kinda weird having an event where I was the focus, and my buddies (Michelle & Co) kinda just organised it for me. Nice to have friends like that.
Hope to see you Wednesday night from 6pm.