Quote of the Day

December 26, 2006

Instead of working back from a goal, work forward from promising situations. This is what most successful people actually do anyway.

In the graduation-speech approach, you decide where you want to be in twenty years, and then ask: what should I do now to get there? I propose instead that you don’t commit to anything in the future, but just look at the options available now, and choose those that will give you the most promising range of options afterward.

Don’t worry if a project doesn’t seem to be on the path to some goal you’re supposed to have. Paths can bend a lot more than you think. So let the path grow out the project. The most important thing is to be excited about it, because it’s by doing that you learn.

From: What You’ll Wish You’d Known by Paul Graham

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Theme-Based New Year’s Resolutions

December 22, 2006

The winter solstice is upon us here in the Northern Hemisphere (the summer solstice in the Southern Hemisphere). And this is the perfect time to start reflecting back on 2006 and thinking about 2007. Last year I posted an article on the six tips for setting theme-based resolutions. If you haven’t read it, you can read it here.

If you are looking for some inspiration and ideas of what your theme might be, click here to read over 40 contributions from readers. Feel free to add your own!

Happy Holidays.

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Buyer Beware

December 13, 2006

A couple of weeks ago, I bought a GPS device on BestBuy.com. The item was on sale: $200 off the regular price. Instead of having the item shipped to my house, I chose to pick it up at the local Best Buy store. I love this option because it gives me (almost) instant gratification. Once I got the unit home, I discovered that the device was defective. I hurried back to the store to exchange the GPS for a working model. Unfortunately, I was too late; they sold the last unit an hour earlier and did not expect any in for a couple of weeks. They told me to hold on to the item so that I could exchange it when they were back in stock, ensuring the discounted price.

Today I went back to the Best Buy store to exchange the item. I assumed this would be a simple transaction: I bring them a box with a defective unit, and they hand me a box with a working one. Nothing is ever that easy.

Because I bought the GPS on BestBuy.com with in-store pick-up, they could not do a simple swap (or at least they could not figure out how to do it). Instead, they needed to refund my original purchase made via the web, and then process an in store purchase. Unfortunately, the price had gone up $50 and they could not figure out how to sell me the item at the price I paid.

What did I do? I had them refund my money and I bought the item – for $20 less – at a competitor.

It didn’t bother me that they couldn’t solve the problem. What I found disconcerting was that the manager seemed relieved when I told her I wanted my money back. It was clearly too much effort for her to figure out a solution – a solution that would have resulted in a sale and a happy customer. Instead, she lost the sale, has a defective unit she needs to process, and created a (slightly) disgruntled customer.

Back in 1997 I co-wrote an article for the Economist about the Virtualization of Financial Services. One of the biggest challenges we discussed was “channel integration” – the seamless integration of the web, branches, and ATM (cash) machines. I am shocked that 10 years later, great companies are still struggling with this issue.

My guess is that Best Buy invested heavily in their supporting technology. But I wonder if as much attention was given to the process and people/culture issues – two vitally important, yet often neglected areas. In this case, the company needs to design itself around the way customer does business (buying online and exchanging in stores), rather than around the company’s existing silos. Design from the outside in. In today’s information age, we have come to rely heavily on technology. As a result, we often neglect human element: our employees. Do this, and you are certain to lose your most important people: your customers.

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Quote from Paul Graham

December 6, 2006

“Treating a startup idea as a question changes what you’re looking for. If an idea is a blueprint, it has to be right. But if it’s a question, it can be wrong, so long as it’s wrong in a way that leads to more ideas.”

Click here to read the rest of the article:

From: Ideas for Startups by Paul Graham

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Michael Gelb Quote

December 5, 2006

Michael Gelb, an endorser of Goal-Free Living, has a wonderful perspective on organizational effectiveness.

In many of the organizations I work with, people tell me that they’re afraid to be playful for fear of being dismissed as not serious. They point out that a tense and miserable demeanor gives others the impression that hard work is being done. Instead work smart. Over-seriousness is a warning sign for mediocrity and bureaucratic thinking people who are seriously committed to mastering high performance are secure enough to lighten up – create an environment where it is safe to be serious about the importance of play.

From A Creative Genius by Michael Gelb

If you want to view a hilarious TV commercial that illustrates his point, click here.

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Quote on Uncertainty

December 4, 2006

“In American culture, we are expected to be decisive about the direction of our careers and it is generally unacceptable to be unsure about what we want to do with our lives. The importance we place on being “decided” in our society can make those who are uncertain about their future career feel as if something is wrong with them. However, an undecided person who is actively exploring and learning about career opportunities may very well find themselves following an unexpected, but fulfilling, career.”

From: Career Choices: The Importance of Chance by Kathie Sindt

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Quotes of the Day

December 2, 2006

“If you can’t solve a problem, it’s because you’re playing by the rules.” – Paul Arden

“High creativity is responding to situations without critical thought…If you want creative workers, give them enough time to play.” – John Cleese (the comedian best known for Monty Python)

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