With so much information abundance, it takes a certain skill in knowing what to know. Many emerging trends and changes in our economy and social structures are vital points of knowledge. We need to know them intimately, know how to use the technology and have a detailed domain expertise or we’ll miss out in a business or social context. But many things, maybe even most things, knowing about them is enough. Simply knowing it exists, that people like and engage in it, and why they like and engage in it will get us through:
- Angry birds
- Candy Crush
- Reality TV
- Most news
- Any ‘down time’ activity…
If we’re across the motivations, the technology and the sociology, then it’s highly likely we wont get caught short by not having a personal interaction with it. Unless of course, it is related to what we actually do for a living. This is the key point, knowing which domains are worth us investing our time in to understand.
In a world of infinite expansion and choice where we can’t try or participate in everything, knowing what to ignore is an art form. If it feels disposable, then it is probably not deserving of our bandwidth.
I couldn’t think of a better time to go on an anthropological journey through living and working spaces. The story is surprising and interesting. If you’re in Melbourne tomorrow come along and have a listen – I’ll be on at 12.30pm. No power point, no data, just idea exchange and human knowledge. This is the outline of my talk to whet your appetite:
I’m really excited about this one.
The late great comedian Greg Giraldo was one of the smartest and funniest guys who ever lived. He really had an eye on society. In 2004 he had a bit in his stand up comedy routine which spoke of the Obesity Crisis:
They say were in the middle of an obesity epidemic. An epidemic like it is polio. Like we’ll be telling our grand kids about it one day ‘The Great Obesity Epidemic of 2004′. How’d you get through it grandpa? “Oh, it was horrible Johnny there was cheesecake and pork chops everywhere.”
It is not without a small amount of irony that we are now entering what I regard as a great content crisis. There is such an abundance of content available that we are literally gorging ourselves on omnipresent opinion and data. We are doing this without thinking about how this shapes our minds.
“… Oh it was horrible Johnny, there were blog posts and celebrity stories everywhere….”
Both of these consumption problems are a function of our make up. Our desire intake as much information and food as we possibly can is mostly out of our control, it is coded into our DNA. Our current human operating system which dates back around 2 million years has us programmed to eat all of the food available to us (which is why sugar and fat taste best), and to take on all of the data available to us (which is why we are mesmerised by media). These behaviours are part of the human species survival doctrine. Our ability to be omnivorous, control our food supply and acquire knowledge are what put as atop of the food chain. The problem is than our DNA is yet to update its operating system to cope with an over abundance of food, and now information. Given our operating system updates via natural selection, we are faced with an intellectual challenge – the ability to ignore the instinct for more, and instead to choose less, but less with the required nutrition.
As we enter an age where we have access to most everything, both physical and mental, longevity and success are being redefined. The art of living well is becoming less about wealth and more about the ability to choose, and choose well. And that choice will invariably need be about the nutritional value of our inputs into our person, both mental and physical.
There is nothing more common in startup land than to hear the advice of remaining focused. I used to believe this myself, but recently I’ve changed my view. I’ve changed my view because I think we focus too soon. We tend to focus when we think the idea or the space is we are playing in is hot. We should only focus once we have real in market validation. While there are many measures which validate a concept, media coverage does not amount to market validation. We have to remember the objectives of the media – especially when it comes to technology industries. What they want to do is the following:
- Report on something new
- Try and predict new trends and what’s next
- Fill up their pages for traffic (fill the void)
Just because what we might be doing is interesting and different, doesn’t mean it will get traction in market. In fact, sometimes media coverage in the early phases of a startup is an indication the idea itself might be bad. They cover the new and the shiny, which could mean we’ll have a much harder job ahead of us in changing behaviour and redefining how something is done.
I think we can take a lesson from the old fisherman we see on the shore line. They tend to cast a lot of lines in the water and employ the multi-fishing rod strategy. Not knowing which one will get a bite. They use different bate and different sized sinkers. Some lines are cast far from the shore, while others are much closer. They are looking for validation, for a bite. And once they get a bite, they’ll focus on that particular fishing rod and reel it in. Focus, post validation, not before.
When it comes to non-fishing startups we need to look for real in market validation. Real usage growth and revenue are the simplest. And once we have that, we can start to focus without folly.
Now that we all have reading devices permanently placed in our pockets we can catch up on our reading at any time. For me this presents an interesting set of considerations we should be aware of:
- Does it increase the amount of reading we do, or just change when we do our reading?
- Are there only so many words we want to read each day?
- What do we read during our ‘mobile’ reading times: Social media, news, articles, books or all of them – versus our home reading time?
- Are we in a space for which quiet consideration and reflection is even possible when we read?
It got me thinking that much of the reading we do now is more disposable than ever. A type of mind junk food for which there is often little intellectual nutrition. I’ve been as guilty as anyone wanting to know the latest business, technology and startup news. The type of stuff which is interesting to know but wont compound our knowledge.
I feel like reading has now split into two categories much like food has:
- Fast Reading – The latest stuff, a quick mind fix, but with little long term value. Disposble.
- Slow reading – Tome orientation which has a longer term perspective, directional postulations and philosophical musings. Timeless
I’m trying to focus on the latter, because if we have a foundation of thought we can easily digest the latest trends or factoids. But more importantly, add a rounded perspective which instigates a personal opinion. We go beyond regurgitation and develop thought leadership.
The key question I now ask myself is this: Will what I am reading be relevant 5 years from now? In truth it doesn’t matter where, how or with what device we consume it, but the reality is our immediate environment often shapes our consumption behaviour. We need new habit awareness during times of technology transition.
At the end of the day, it becomes a choice between knowing the latest news or tactics, or having understanding of the larger shifts and building a philosophy. I know which one I’d rather choose.
The pace of change is overwhelming. Many established companies have finally realised that this change isn’t just a little blip in the way things are done, but an entire business eco system reorganisation. It’s fair to say that the level of corporate anxiety is at an all time high, and with good reason. Only 57 companies still remain on the inaugural Fortune 500 list from 1955, while more than half of the Fortune 500 companies were not in it just 10 years ago. And while the cost of not adapting to the digital era is likely to be extinction, it seems as though every day I see yet another story of a large legacy market leader who is, to put it bluntly, Kodaking.
Kodaking is the term I now use to explain a company implementing strategies which are fundamentally flawed in the new business infrastructure. But before I go through the signs of a firm who is Kodaking, I’ll recap some of the terrible decisions made by the once revered imaging company.
Kodak’s Digital Camera from 1975:
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Kodak had over $16B in revenue in the late 1990’s – yet is bankrupt today. In fact they recently sold 1,100 of their remaining valuable digital imagery patents to a consortium of Apple, Samsung, Google and others for the sum of $527 million in a bid to restructure and salvage something. They ironically invented the digital camera in 1975, but had little incentive to facilitate its mass marketing as it disrupted their highly profitable film sale and processing business. As late as 2004 Kodak in their
wisdom stupidity attempted to sell digital cameras which plugged onto home based printers so they could continue with their old model of selling chemical film for profit. Here’s the kicker though…. What they did do, share memories, ‘Kodak moments’, has never been in stronger demand than it is today. Twice as many photos have been shared in the first half of this year as were shared in all of last year. What is facebook other than a Kodak moment 2.0? Facebook’s market capitalisation is (as of today) $122b while Kodak had a market value of only $28b at its peak. In fact there is no limit of new and large brands who took what Kodak resisted – Flickr, Instagram, Smartphones, GoPro, parts of Google, elements of Apple…. the list is long. Kodak could obviously see the future, because they invented most of it. But they were greedy. What they really failed to do was connect people, the way the people wanted to connect. They tried to dictate the methods of visual connection with people. As we know technology has no respect for the past, and our strategy must always be defined by our audience’s desires. They recognised the technology, but failed to open their mind to the revenue possibilities of it, and play the long game.
So how do we avoid Kodaking? Here are some things to look out for:
- Shelving technology which is less profitable, but highly probable to redefine a market.
- Defining the company by product portfolio instead of human needs underneath them (see the Marketing Myopia).
- Trying to find new ways to keep old revenue models alive.
- Not asking these core questions often enough: What business are we in? What business do we need to be in?
- Internal talk about the advantages of scale and infrastructure, when the opposite is true.
- Ignoring the potential of disruptive startups in adjacent industries.
- Trying to charge a fee for what can now be found elsewhere for free.
- Competing for market share in an existential pie (Kodak vs Fuji vs Agfa). The future is often in baking a new market share pie.
- Not entirely embracing technology as a mandatory company focus.
Startup blog says: Don’t be Kodaking.
As a startup entrepreneur I often get asked if I’m coder. I used to say no. My answer used to be something like: our job as an entrepreneurs is to organise the factors of production, not be them. But I’ve recently changed my answer to yes regarding the coding question. And no, I haven’t gone out and learned PHP or Ruby or the latest groovy language.
My code is the english language. I’ve become adept at mashing up the approximate 200,000 words we have at our disposal. On the odd occasion I use the core 26 letters in the code to make up some new words that suit me. At certain times I hack together new code short cuts or ‘sound bites’ which promote and inspire a large number of actions on a simple string of a few words. The newness of the code inspires people to act in different ways.
The code I use can stimulate actions and outputs both physical and virtual. As far as I can tell it is still the greatest software code we’ve ever developed. It is totally open source and varies in its use dependent on many things including the geography in which it is used. This language code I use most often, is still the most interesting platform I’ve worked with. Even the same code, said by a different person with a different tone can have a number of different outcomes. It can even change its meaning based on who wrote it when it is exactly the same line of code. It really is worth mastering.
I sometimes use other codes, including the investing code. This one is based on a 10 point decimal number system. This code is very lucrative when you understand its depth as it pertains to equities, venture capital, property and other income streams. It’s super good to overlay the investing code on top of the English code to get profitable outcomes.
While I’m not amazing at the Mandarin code (another language platform) used in large parts of Asia and even Australia – I sometimes drop in some hacks I’ve learned which the receiving platform responds very well to. try to find ways in which different codes can be used together and interchangebly on the same platform as I find this often gets a result others just cannot garner.
Code is all around us. In many forms, platforms, typologies and physical manifestations. If you’re human you’re a master at more forms of cade than you think. And if you’re an entrepreneur the real benefits arise when we work out how to let these codes interact as an entirely new language. A language which then becomes our own personal operating system. Which when done well can even turn into a powerful personal brand. Yes, we’re all coders.
There are some things which we as humans intuitively know will occur. Almost every industry has a future state which we can see occurring at some point. While the timing might be hard to predict, the inevitability is predictable.
We can take a quick look at certain industries to provide exemplars of this contention:
- In the future cars will not run on gas / petrolium.
- In the future smart phones will be usurped by wearable computing.
- Physical retailers who compete on price with omni available goods will cease to exist.
- Leisure space travel will be within reach for the masses.
- Many (half?) companies will close offices and move to remote / choice based location working structures.
- Global virtual and crypto currencies will replace fiat currency.
- 3D printers & scanners will be as common as computers in homes & work spaces.
- Sharing economies in all industries will create resource leverage & new financial liquidity.
- Self organised banking and lending systems will emerge.
- Connected everything – chips and sensors in everything from milk cartons to t-shirts.
The list is endless. These are the ‘When & Who’ startups. Those with a high level of probability, even though it may not be us, and may not be now or next year.
Yet, many startups focus on things which may occur, based on a needed shift in human behaviour which – if it does happen will be insanely profitable. The ideas that no one has thought of (white space), where the entire prize can be theirs alone. I call it the ‘IF’ startup. Sure they are possible, yet they are improbable due to their occurrence being so rare.
So we have a choice on which kind of startup to go for. The possible or the probable. The ‘if’ or the ‘when and who’. I feel like it is a better choice to go for the inevitable, rather than the possible. It’s true that some things arrive which we didn’t see coming that change lives, the reality is that most technological curve jumps are foreseeable. As a bonus it’s usually easier to inspire our supply chain, customers and investors on highly probably events of the future. And while we all make our own market entry choices, it’s nice to go in with our eyes wide open.
Podcasting is back baby – and this time it’s bigger than ever. It seems as though after an initial flurry in the early web 2.0 era that people have rediscovered podcasting. Quite possible driven by quicker 3g downloads, smart phones and bigger data limits? – who knows. Let’s face it we can’t always give our eyeballs up while we are busy, but our ears can take in some vital information while working, exercising and doing pretty much anything.
Well some local Melbourne Startup Techie Business nerds have got together to share some insights once a week based on our own little journeys. We like to call it Beers Blokes & Business. A simple format really. We get together on a monday night, one of the blokes buys an interesting beer, we crack one open, he tells us why he chose it, and then we get into the business topic of the day. But it is always full strength banter.
The suspects are usual and include:
Sean Callanan (the founding father)
babyface Josh Rowe
You can click on this link to follow the ‘blokes’ on twitter and see more about our backgrounds. Each podcast includes 3 or 4 of the blokes depending on who is available that night.
So far we have published three of our podcasts and have hit the global top 100 for business podcasts on iTunes. So, the world is voting and they are feeling the banter. The really refreshing element is that it is not a mutual love fest and we all keep each other grounded with some classic sledging.
The three podcasts topics so far are:
#BBB 1. Self Learning – which was inspired by the tweet below:
#BBB 2. Build your network -
#BBB 3. Manage that side project -
They typically go for 40 mins in 2 x 20 minute parts. Idea for the commute or while exercising or in the gym. So be sure to add it to your podcast list on itunes here >>> click here for #BBB goodness. Actually the description on iTunes is pretty funny but I can’t take credit for it.
So have a listen and be sure to let me know what you think, and if you have any topic ideas leave them in the comment.