Quote of the Day

July 31, 2007

“If Thomas Edison didn’t know what he had when he invented the phonograph while he thought he was trying to create better industrial equipment for telegraph operators…what are the odds that you — or any entrepreneur — is going to have it all figured out up front?”

-Marc Andreessen (co-founder of Netscape) in a blog entry titled:
“Why a startup’s initial business plan doesn’t matter that much”

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Build It, Try It, Fix It

July 30, 2007

Here is another “innovation tip.” This one is simple, yet incredibly powerful. In fact, I am using this concept right now with this website. But more on that later.

One of the biggest barriers to success is analysis paralysis. It is the belief that studying the marketplace infinitum will yield better results. This is just not true. We can never predict what will happen in the “real” world, no matter how much Customer Relationship Management (CRM) data we have, how many focus groups we conduct, or how many strategy consulting firms we hire.

Rather than using the “analyze, design, build, test, deploy” model, use the “build it, try it, fix it” model – build something, try it out for a while, and learn from your “experiences.” Although some may call these experiences “failures,” I think of them as valuable information about the real world.

The process is simple. Develop a small experiment where the risk associated with failure is limited or controllable (build it). Learn from the results (try it). Adjust the experiment (fix it). Continue to iterate with larger experiments, increasing the scale. Stop pursuing an idea when the experiment suggests a lack of viability or desirability

Example: A clothing manufacturer wanted to venture into retail stores. Rather than developing detailed plans based on years of analysis, they rented empty space in a local mall and set up a trial shop in a matter of weeks. The store was set up with video cameras and other equipment to help analyze the results. Although the store concept “failed,” they learned more during two months of running the experiment than they would have spending a year analyzing the marketplace. They quickly reworked the store and tested out version 2. This continued—with frequent iterations. Over time they increased the size of the experiments until the stores were rolled out on a national level.

How am I using the “build it, try it, fix it” concept with this website? Some of you may have noticed that the tag line has changed a few times over the past several months. This blog was originally titled “Goal-Free Living.” Unfortunately, I found that it limited my ability to incorporate my corporate innovation & creativity work. I also discovered that the “goal-free” name turned off many goal-obsessed organizations.

Next I tried “The Science of High Performance.” The word “science” confused some people. And “high performance” was not quite right. Besides, it was too close to Accenture’s tag line – “High Performance. Delivered.”

My latest tag line is: “Unconventional Thinking for Explosive Business Growth.” This too is an experiment. Although I like this tag line, I am not attached to it. What I like about it is that it focuses on what I enjoy most: getting people to think differently. I renamed my speeches too:

  • Unconventional Thinking about Innovation (this is my 24/7 Innovation content)
  • Unconventional Thinking about Creativity (this is my SpeedInnovating content)
  • Unconventional Thinking about Goals & Performance (this is my Goal-Free Living content)
  • Unconventional Thinking about Thinking (this is the content of my TV show)

What do you think? I welcome your comments on my “Unconventional Thinking” brand. I also am interested in examples of where you applied the “build it, try it, fix it” approach and had positive (or negative) results.

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Quote of the Day

July 28, 2007

“Success is blocked by concentrating on it and planning for it… Success is shy – it won’t come out while you’re watching.”
– Tennessee Williams

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How to Sell

July 17, 2007

I was recently interviewed for SellingCrossing about my thoughts on selling.

You can read the interview by clicking here.

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This Column Will Change Your Life

July 14, 2007

Well, at least that is the claim of journalist Oliver Burkeman.  And maybe he is right.  In today’s Guardian (a British newspaper), he wrote:

“One of the most stress-inducing books I’ve ever read is called GOALS!, by the management expert Brian Tracy. It’s not about football. It’s about achieving your GOALS! in life – and those capital letters, along with the exclamation mark, may convey some sense of this book’s strange capacity for tying my stomach into a knot, then tightening it.”

Later in the article, he says this book “reduces you – all right, me – to a gibbering, indecisive wreck, unable to define my GOALS! in the first place, and sulking resentfully about the shouty man who keeps telling me I’ve got to pursue them relentlessly or else resign myself to becoming a person of no merit whatsoever.”

What interested me most (ok, I’m slightly biased) was his final paragraph:

“Life, Brian Tracy is fond of saying, is like a buffet, not a table-service restaurant: you have to buckle down and work hard now, so that you can enjoy the fruits of your labour in the future. But this is surely exactly wrong – a recipe for storing up all your happiness for a brief few minutes on your deathbed, when you can look back smugly at your achievements. Contrast that with the insight of Stephen Shapiro, whose book Goal-Free Living makes the case that you can have some kind of direction to your life without obsessing about the specific destination. ‘Opportunity knocks often, but sometimes softly,’ he says. ‘While blindly pursuing our goals, we often miss unexpected and wonderful possibilities.’ That sounds a lot more smart to me.”

To read the entire article, click here.

If you liked the article, be sure to write him and let him know.  I did.

P.S. GOALS! is probably one of the best selling goal-setting books in history.

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Quote of the Day

July 5, 2007

“Hacking something together means deciding what to do as you’re doing it, not a subordinate executing the vision of his boss. It implies the result won’t be pretty, because it will be made quickly out of inadequate materials. It may work, but it won’t be the sort of thing the eminent would want to put their name on. Something hacked together means something that barely solves the problem, or maybe doesn’t solve the problem at all, but another you discovered en route. But that’s ok, because the main value of that initial version is not the thing itself, but what it leads to.”

- The Power of the Marginal by Paul Graham

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How to Swim Faster

July 3, 2007

At a recent workshop on creativity, I discussed “the performance paradox” – the concept that trying harder produces poorer results.

Afterwards, one executive in the audience came up to me and told me his own story.  He said…

“When I was a kid, I went to summer camp.  One of our daily activities was swimming.  We were told to swim our laps as fast as possible.  As we did, the camp counselors timed our speed.  We did this over and over, each and every day.

“As expected, our lap times improved the more we practiced.  However, about half-way through the summer, our improvements stopped.  No matter how hard we tried, we could not go any faster.

“It was at that point that the counselors told us they would no longer evaluate us on our speed.  Instead they were going to rate us based on the quality of our stroke.  We discovered afterwards that we were still being timed.  Surprisingly, by focusing on style rather than speed, we all went significantly faster.  When we stopped trying to go faster, we went faster.”

Reduced performance is often the result of focusing on a “goal” rather than being “present.”

In what areas of life can you improve YOUR performance by focusing on what is in front of you rather than worrying about the result?

Where, in the past, have you improved your performance by being present?

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