I’m starting to believe that the ultimate requirement for innovation is ignoring barriers. Not inventing rules that are not there. The second part of this thought is that we are trained over time to ‘assume the rule’ – when in actuality there is no rule.
I’ve been watching my daughter recently do little the things that I’m sure all kids do.
I play a game with my daughter where I show her how to stand on one leg. I don’t tell her what to do, I just stand on one leg…. and of course she wants to do it too because it looks like fun. And she copies me immediately. But because she has only recently learned to walk, she can’t quite manage it the way I do. So she without hesitation runs to the nearest wall, puts one hand against it to gain balance, and successfully stands on one leg. At this point she is very pleased with herself that she has managed to do it. Big smile ensues as she looks to me for approval…
And here’s the kicker… I am pleased with her too. But not in a kid like condescending way. I am seriously happy with her approach. And here’s why:
At no point was any rule given that you can’t lean against the wall. She hacked the system and got it done. I clap her and encourage her. In this instance it’s all about the objective, not the method. And the one thing I will never do is start to reduce her mind with rules that just aren’t there.
What we should do with our startup is innovate like kids do. Ignore how the bigger, more resource laden and older incumbents do things, and just hack for a result.
Taylorism defined our world for the best part of the past 100 years. Even in marketing realms. During the mass media era, we could use tested methods to go to market with predictable success – so long as we had access to the right resources.
Rapid change and fragmentation is the new normal. While we are half way through planning, someone else will arrive and do it different, cheaper, better and in a way we never quite expected. Both in terms of what they build and how they spread the word.
Our mindset when it comes to startups and business (isn’t everyone in business a startup now?) should be fluid and philosophical. It’s time to drop the template and best practice six sigma bull crap.
It is very hard for a best practice to exist when something has never been done before.
In the early years we had ‘customers’.
Then we invented demographics and started using that horrible word ‘consumers’.
We went on line and started talking about ‘users’. (Sound like drug addicts to me)
I rather prefer the word people….
But if we do really well we might even develop some fans. And fans are what we should be aiming for. This doco below on fan culture looks interesting. I’d be keen to know if anyone has seen it. I even hear Sean the Sports Geek might even be in it…
And before you watch this trailer it’s worth having think about the things, people, ideas and brands that you are a fan of and why. There are some nice clues in this thought experiment.
Secrets kills us. They eat at our souls and disrupt our emotions in a negative way. We very rarely feel good about secrets because by nature we are social creatures that rely and need each other to survive. Collaboration is what put us atop of the food chain and that means we must share. I’m certain the feeling we often get when we hold secrets is our genetic code telling us that secrets are not cool and generally don’t lead to ideal outcomes.
So it got me thinking about the nature of secrets and the different types of them.
There are many types of secrets, but these 2 are interesting:
- Secrets that hide things we have done for fear of judgement or persecution.
- Secrets that hide things which are ideas we want to benefit from at the exclusion of others.
These are 2 types of secrets we should avoid.
The first one should be avoided because we shouldn’t do anything dodgy, and we shouldn’t be ashamed of anything that is out of our control.
The second is counter intuitive. Our emotional need to share secrets is our DNA telling us it will create more for everyone. A shared idea can often be improved, a shared idea creates a team to build it, a shared idea increases access to resources, a shared idea creates a market place and a bigger pie for all. Stealing ideas is not the same as stealing chestnuts. If we exchange ideas, we both end up with more ideas than we started with.
Startup blog maths:
Sharing > Secrets
We are trained to look for and focus on everything that is new. What technologies are emerging and how are we using them? What we are not so good at doing, is observing the things which are only noticeable by their increasing absence.
Very often it’s the most important trend because it is less product oriented and more human oriented. Which means that well before we know who or what the new winner is, we will know who or what is no longer fulfilling our needs and is being made obsolete. In a rapidly changing world of near disposable technology the list of dying technologies is already long and growing. Life cycles are in decline and it’s sometimes hard to see a future for even relatively new technologies.
- The remote control (being usurped by smart phones & gesturing),
- Local hard drives (being usurped by the cloud),
- iPod (being usurped by it’s big brother the smart phone),
Then there’s the changing retail landscape. Closing down signs will be the new normal for department & clothing stores. In fact, any product that is sold at a price and is available on-line, cannot and will not be for sale in bricks and mortar retail soon. They simply do not have a cost infrastructure that will allow them to exist. Add to this our changing eating habits (instant coffee anyone?) and the impending transport revolution (when we work from home 4/5 days a week owning a car may become an historical relic) and the changes we are facing are more far reaching than we currently think.
As Marc Andreessen said, software is eating everything… and a great way to see this in action is to drive around well healed suburbs and see what is out for hard rubbish collection these days. A cacophony of previous hardware and technology darlings, not limited to Plasma TV’s, DVD players, laptops, iPods – you name it.
It’s not just about technology, it’s all about human movement, the new solutions we seek and our dissatisfaction with the solutions of today. Good entrepreneurs know what’s hot and what’s next. Great entrepreneurs notice what is evaporating before the replacement emerges for all to see.
There are many business models that are under attack. The landscape is changing and their future is dim. If we face this reality, the most important thing we can do is not pretend it is just a phase.
And if we are the disruptor, then we must continue even if the movement is slower than we expect.
I think Winston Churchill said it best with this quote:
The truth is incontrovertible. Malice may attack it, ignorance may deride it, but in the end, there it is.
Paul Graham of Y Combinator fame has to be one of the sharpest startup minds on this humble planet. His essays on the topics of business, culture and startups are nothing short of genius. I was catchup up on his work recently I found his essay on Frighteningly Ambitious Startup Ideas simply gripping.
If you haven’t happened upon his writings yet, I suggest you log out some time to do it. You’ll be so inspired you might just start to get amped up and take some serious action. They are another reminder of how lucky we are in this day and age to have free and omnipresent access to the worlds greatest thinkers who share their philosophy and ideas for free.
In my previous blog entry I spoke about ‘leveraging the wood chips’. Which is an old business maxim on how whatever we do has some kind of externality, off cut or by product which can be leveraged (very often sold) in some way to invent a new revenue stream. And while it may be obvious that many large business have such an opportunity, we also have this opportunity as individuals to realise the value of our wood chips.
Before I get into the what and how we can leverage our wood chips, let me share a couple of examples of well known brands, companies and products which are essentially ‘the wood chips’ – which incidentally comes from the obvious description of what we can do with timber off cuts from some kind of craftsmanship.
Vegemite: Australia’s largest brewers including CUB (now SAB) sell their brewers yeast (a form of woodship) to Kraft foods to make Vegemite from. All my Australian readers will now how big this brand and business is.
Paddle Pop: The Australian stick ice cream stalwart is actually what is called a ‘re-work’. The raw materials are the off cuts from other more premium ice creams in the factory.
Ruby on Rails: Is a software programming language that was developed for the building of Basecamp – a 37 Signals application. Which has now become a general programming language that was released to the public as an open source platform – as a gift.
LPG – LPG is synthesised by refining petroleum or wet natural gas. Liquid Petroleum gas can be used to run cars and heat homes. At first it was wasted, then it was captured and used.
Infact, many of the startups funds and Angel investing organsations are the wood chips of previously successful entrepreneurs.
My wood chips
In the first instance I took my Marketing skills into the web startup entrepreneurial scene when I launch rentoid.com. While I had virtually zero web and tech skills I made up for the gaps in project management, promoting my work and understanding consumer trends.
After I launch rentoid successfully as a ‘boot strapped’ business – this blog became a source of woodchips where I could further share and promote my ideas as they developed.
My Startup School, was the wood chips of rentoid and this blog – all pulled together as intense weekend where I share all my key learnings over 2 years into 2 days. Hence providing a valuable short cut to others entering the space.
Public Speaking is something that I have embarked upon more recently where I share ideas on business, the digital landscape and marketing. The real reason this is possible is due to the amount of pitching I have done in my own business endeavours. Without realising I became quite a proficient public speaker for which I am now regularly paid very well to do.
There are others, but you get the picture.
We all have some form of wood chips we can leverage and generate revenue from. Often at a higher rate in relation to the investment required to generate them – remember they are essentially an externality. We just need to stretch our imagination to see what they are, and most important let people know we have them on offer.
Happy wood chipping!
This was just so brilliant I had to re-post it here in its entirety. The 12 most powerful words in business from Ragans PR daily.
Office conference rooms, cubicles, corner offices, and common areas are crammed with business jargon that dulls imaginations and saps creativity.
Many powerful words for business have nary a thing to do, directly, with industry.
Polite push back can temper groupthink. Ask why “things have always been done that way.” Or ask why it didn’t work the last time you tried it.
People like proof. They want to see things with their own eyes. It’s human nature. In trying to reach and win customers, clients, colleagues, or management, show your ideas with examples. Draw an analogy, give an anecdote, paint a picture. Help them see what you see. Show them, and they’ll be more likely to get it and get on board.
Trying something that didn’t work, as long as it wasn’t impulsively foolish, dangerous, or illegal, can be regarded as the trial run or first draft.
Breathe, pause and collect yourself before you send an email while angry, take criticism too personally, or speak when emotion is clouding your judgment. The repair work required after you lash out is wasteful, unproductive, and inefficient.
Sure, market testing and focus groups have their place. But business success takes action and plenty of doing.
Hearing is a function. Listening is a skill. It takes practice. But it yields immeasurable dividends. Extra points if you listen, consider alternative options and critical feedback, and adjust course because of it.
The staggering pace of growth in social media shows how essential it is to learn all through life. Learning can mean formal training, of course. But learning also happens by staying nimble enough to act when opportunities appear.
Being open-minded—open to change, open to being wrong, and open to new possibilities—can lead to new products, new clients, new markets, and entirely new ways of doing business.
Civility eases differences among humans. When I was an editorial writer, my colleagues and I would gather each morning to discuss the official position the Cleveland Plain Dealer would take on the most controversial topics of the day.
Politics, religion, social issues—you name it. It worked well largely because the group was civil and respectful. And our boss was an awesome leader who made sure the discussions stayed that way.
Leading is much more powerful than managing. Think about it: You manage problems. You manage bills. Or you manage just to cope. Leading, on the other hand, is nuanced, customized, and inspired.
Fear of failing keeps people from doing all sorts of things: Piping up at a meeting with an idea, starting a business, or taking other risks. Failing is really an inevitable part of taking risks. And taking risks is an inevitable part of a strong business.
After failing, it’s important to learn what when wrong and how to do it better next time. This is the true secret of missteps. Through the lessons learned in the aftermath, greatness can emerge.