Stop Running From Change and Embrace It

Why do people run from change, even when that change is for the better?

We always seem to fall back on the familiar, even if it causes pain. We stick with what we have, whether it works or not – even in some cases it’s worse for us. Most people fear change – they fear the future – they fear doing something different. read more

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Help! I’m Just a Puny Human

Have We Created Too Much To Handle?

Pity the poor human – we start off with an amazing memory, a sponge-like ability to observe and learn, with sharp senses of vision, hearing, touch, taste, and smell, then over time, they develop into a height, then slowly taper off as we age.

Pity especially the memory – back 10-20-50-100 years ago, in any of those time frames, our big human brain was able to absorb and process the trickle of information from all sources – newspapers, books, journals allowed you to absorb information at your own speed – some read faster than others. We then invented electronic communications, like the radio and TV, where we had to absorb information at the speed at which it was delivered, but only at the time that it was delivered.

The first kind of mass market interactive devices were video games, which, while providing some control over the results, gave us humans some control over the process of the interaction. Eventually, VCRs and Tivo-like devices allowed us to control when we would watch the TV that was broadcast to us. As time progressed, we both got more control over what we could absorb and when, and exponentially more content to absorb.

Since the commercialization of the internet, we’ve seen blogs, podcasts and YouTube (among others) increase the amount of “stuff out there” by orders of a magnitude never before seen. Now we can even control the speed at which we absorb things – my audiobook player can play things as slow as ¾ speed and as fast as  3x speed (too fast for me!) With all of this, is it any wonder that we’re distracted?

Take everything else in life and work – the multitude of things we now need to remember to do. Living life itself has become incredibly complex – the number of adult children living at home, afraid of becoming adults, with full adult responsibility is at an all-time high. Is part of this because life has become overwhelming?

For those who are out there, we can barely keep up with the disruption of life – there are not many areas in one’s life which haven’t suffered some disruption – the recession of 2008 have disrupted the flow of work, turning career employees into gig economy hustlers, taking whatever work that they can, whenever they can. We no longer have fixed incomes – just try getting a mortgage when all you can provide a lender is a sheaf of 1099s from several different companies.

Many young adults are unable to afford to buy homes, or in some extremely expensive centers, unable to even afford to live in their own apartments, barely able to cover the costs of sharing a space with roommates. In some places, a single income will no longer allow you to live on your own. Tracking and managing your income, your time, your professional and private lives, are left to wanting tools like Google Calendar, Outlook or paper notebooks.

We are awash in to do lists, calendars, schedules, emails, social media posts, instant messages, apps, all clamoring for our attention. Has this ever happened to you – your pop up notifications are so numerous that your phone rarely doesn’t vibrate? This flood of inputs is just overwhelming, and since most of us in desperate fear of FOMO, we attempt to absorb everything, but there is no possible way that we can.

We regularly take our most effective time of day and waste it in doing bullshit work, and then try to do our best work when we are tired and flooded with pointless trivia from clickbait (See 5 Ways To Have Sex With Your Apple iPhone)

Underneath, we are all the same curious kids that we were when we were born – we WANT to know everything, all the time, but the stream of constant information in all forms, competing for our attention, attempting to entice us and outrage us so we can consume more, has simply become too much for all of us to process. There is just too much that we need to know, do, and be, and we poor humans have yet to evolve to the point where we can do this.

We need help.

But what kind of help? We can, if we wish to, simply decide to switch things off, cut ourselves off from the world, mentally go back to the world before the internet. There are trends towards minimalism, meditation, disconnecting ourselves from the world. Even partially disconnecting from the world is not an answer, as any connection is so compelling, that you get sucked back into it. But is it possible to disconnect yourself completely from the world, for the world has now become our interface with others over the internet?

If you ask me, there is only one solution – we need robust, intelligent, virtual assistants to help us.

As we go through life, we experience it. And as we experience it, we make decisions to take on things that we need to do, actions that we need to take. As the world floods over us, we filter and capture an infinitesimally small portion of it, then decide to act on it. It’s simply too much.

However, if we had a virtual automated assistant to help us filter the world, help us to capture what is important to us and for us to do, and even do some of the little stuff for us, would that not help?

In the democratization of the internet, in giving the ability for any human on the planet to connect with every human on the planet (an awesome thing) we’ve also created an overwhelming amount of content. We need systems to help us puny humans to sort and manage this content, tell us what is important to us, and help us to manage our world.

The world has become far too complex to be managed by ourselves alone – we need to design and build assistants who can help. We are at the very beginning of this – and its, therefore, the perfect time to focus on this – and if you ask me this is the most important problem we need to solve today – to create a useful, human helping bot which can help us to be better humans. There is no other way.

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Hacking Innovation

Do we make innovation more complicated than it has to be?

Anyone can bring innovation to their organization and it doesn’t take much time or investment to do it.

If you want more innovation in your company, try these 5 things:

 

1. Hire for creativity.

Take a look around your conference table. Everyone may (or may not) look different but to they think differently?

The World Economic Forum’s 4th Industrial Revolution by Klaus Schwab predicts that creativity will be the third most important job skill by the year 2020. read more

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Are We Seeing The End Of Employees?

What does the employee of the future look like?

There’s been a recent article in The Wall Street Journal which I tweeted out to my followers the other day about the future of employees.

I thought was an interesting article because I’ve said since 2002 that the nature of employment is changing from the old industrial complex of working for these medium to large corporations as employees, providing us with a basket of benefits, such as health insurance, stock options, etc.

Basically, the typical “old school” 9-5, Monday-Friday employee (although we all know that we work much more than 9-5 for these companies).

There’s still this perception that a full-time job with a large company or medium sized large company or any set company for that matter is better than being an entrepreneur or contractor.

The nature of work is shifting. We’re no longer going to be doing this monolithic work for one company, work 9-5, M-F and take weekends off. Getting a full-time job with a company like Google or Facebook is not going to “set you for life” like it used to be able to.

In my experience, regular employees are asked to do increasingly more work. The productivity gains from technology are being used to squeeze jobs which used to be done by multiple people into one role. These individuals in these roles must expand their skill sets to complete the new work.

The article revealed that fully half of the employees who work at Google (or Alphabet, more precisely) are contractors. Officially termed either temps, vendors, or contractors, they do a lot of the work involved in keeping the operations humming along smoothly. In earlier years, these people would have been hired. Nowadays, it’s much more effective and efficient for them to hire them as contractors. The trend is to hire more, not less of these. More of these large businesses are becoming collections of contractors, with a small core group of employees, ever shrinking.

Why? Many factors: it’s tough, and expensive, to hire employees. It’s difficult to fire underperforming ones. The nature of work is becoming more transient – why staff up a huge team of employees if you aren’t sure that this project will last? Having contractors hired through agencies protects the employer from all sorts of unhappiness – legal issues, insurance issues, liabilities etc. There is a huge burden on businesses over a certain size. There’s so much more work that needs to be done to support a full-time employee, so there will be less and less of those.

So, what does this mean? It means that increasingly we will either choose or be forced into, the role of a contractor. Being a contractor requires a completely different skill set than an employee. There are many things a contractor needs to take care of on their own, which would typically be something that the employer takes care of. Contractors and employees are different beasts.

People will need to become solopreneurs of their careers, self-managing where they go and what they do. In fact, it’s very likely that they will have more than one job at a time, spending 25% time in one role, 20% in another, and 50% in a third or more. Some companies are even offering half and quarter time jobs right now to meet this trend.

I predicted that soon the person who has five part-time jobs will be held as the desirable norm, as opposed to the person who has the full-time job with company X. Where the person with the single job at Company X must work with the same people all the time on the same projects, and not have the variety of work and is not able to grow new skill sets, the person with five jobs will have a much richer work and life balance.

Employees will transform to networked distributed solopreneurs working for any size company. In that article, we are finally seeing some real evidence that not only this is happening, but that it’s accelerating, and it’s happening at some large companies.

With luck, many of those out there who are looking for full-time work will understand that the freedom and the flexibility and the beauty of being able to set your own hours, set your own times is a good thing.

If you think about it, this is a sea change in something that started happening around the time of the industrial revolution. Prior to that, work was craft based – and most workers were craftsmen. They were the original solopreneurs, working multiple jobs and projects, managing their own time and work. In some ways, they were more human.

We then became drones in a corporate machine. How many times, in your work life, as an employee, described yourself as a “cog-in-the-machine”. Luckily for us humans, the future of being an employee will likely revert to that pre-industrial revolution time when we could enjoy our life and our craft without feeling like a machine within a machine.

This hearkens back to my post on automation. If your job disappears due to automation, then you probably shouldn’t have been doing that job anyway. There are many better, more human jobs out there for you. Or at least we should be attempting to create those jobs by encouraging a movement back to the craftsmanship of old.

In the end, the end of employees may help us to envision a new age of work, where humans perform actions that humans can do best, managing their own work-life balance among many employers, leaving the “cog” work to the robots. It might just make work more human again.

It might just make work more human again.

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Being Happy With What You Have Is Bulls**t

Whatever Happened To Ambition?

I’m going to start this post off with two completely opposing views – both of which I’m pretty familiar with. Let’s start with Star Trek.

On the episode, This Side Of Paradise, the crew encounter a planet where Earth colonists have been for a few years. These alien spores keep everyone healthy and happy. Everyone is in a blissful state all of the time, and your injuries are automatically healed. It’s an awesome place, some people call it paradise. Even Spock gets all emotional. As a result, no one feels like they have to do anything – they just loll around day after day, doing pretty much nothing. Of course, a lot of the crew gets sucked in, and it’s up to Kirk to save the day. After he’s been able to get back his crew, Bones makes a comment about this being the second time humanity has been kicked out of paradise. To which Kirk responds:

This time we walked out on our own. Maybe we weren’t meant for paradise. Maybe we were meant to fight our way through. Struggle, claw our way up, scratch for every inch of the way. Maybe we can’t stroll to the music of the lute. We must march to the sound of drums read more

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Just Forget Innovation: Think Disruption Instead

 

It’s Official, Folks: The Time For Disruption Is Here

You know how they say that the moment that you publish a book, it’s outdated? Well, for innovation, that’s doubly true. While my book, Innovation Mastery, The Definitive Guide to Running the Ultimate Innovation Program has only been out for a few months, I realized that we had moved beyond innovation into a completely new space.

Disruption.

Yes, you are seeing that term thrown around a lot these days, and not without cause. We are truly seeing forces, mostly technological, create new businesses, products, services and whole sectors, which never existed before, solving real issues with institutions who have been around forever, stockpiled with legions of ShouldWes, blocking our path to an awesomely useful future, created by a wonderful army of DoIts.

Last weekend, I attended the Summerfest jazz festival here in San Jose. Knowing that traffic and parking would be nuts, we decided to use Lyft to get down to the stages, about a $8 drive away. As I had an interesting conversation with the driver, I realized that this business could never have existed, had we not had a number of systems in place in order to let those businesses be created. Without ubiquitous, always-on, internet access, Google Maps, smartphones & apps, none of which existed prior to 2008, this business, in this form, could not exist. All of those foundational services needed to be in place before this business could have even been envisioned. Additionally, the thought of using tech to access underutilized resources, personally I feel strikes a chord in humanity – bringing us back to almost tribal times, when one of our member possessed a tool we needed in order to complete a task, we borrowed it. It speaks to something I think most humans have in common, a desire to help (and of course, to make money from it).

But I digress. I’ve talked before about why I feel the sharing economy is so powerful. But that’s just one disruption. Everywhere we look, in every space, from education, to banking, to retail, to hospitality, to entertainment, and yes even to government.

This is nothing new. Back in the days before cable TV, enterprising cable TV proto-barons took the signal from their antennas and ran it to their neighbors and charged them for it, starting the first cable TV companies. There were no laws to stop them back then – no one had ever done it before, and by the time the TV stations whose signal was being stolen figured it out, it was too late and they were an essential part of the economy. That was Permissionless Innovation: you had an idea, you built it and launched it and attempted to get so much traction so quickly that you where unstoppable. Uber used this tactic, and they were able to successfully turn back efforts from the taxi unions and the cities to push back against their businesses.

As I said up top: Innovation is passe. The time for disruption is here. No one cares about a tiny little incremental innovation which makes your product or service slightly better. What we care about are huge, game changing ideas which blow up the status quo, make haters (you know how they say that “where there is smoke, there is fire”: if you see outrage and hatred against a product, service or company, that may lead you to some of the most interesting, innovative and disruptive ideas out there), and bust up old, non-customer-friendly institutions.

Disruption can be a prime mover in ANY space. Literally. Each and every industry, no matter what it is, can be disrupted, by using the latest technologies. And every space will be disrupted, the only question is when and by whom. To answer the when question, look at the following criteria:

  1. Many unhappy customers. Providing a better experience of the same or better service, will bring those customers to you
  2. How easy is it to build what you are trying to do? If its an app plus a software infrastructure, then that is easier than needing to manufacture something
  3. Can you leverage the crowd – basically becoming a go-between which matches supply to demand? That’s gold.

I can’t single out specific industries to target, since its my belief that every industry is targetable, and really maybe the only other factor which may help you make your decision is what you are interested in or passionate about and what you are good at. As I’ve said before, the combination of

skill, passion and demand read more

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Introverts Great Entrepreneurs? Not Alone.

Can Introverts Be Great Entrepreneurs?

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about how introverts can be great entrepreneurs. How they can be more focused and determined without needing that rush of interconnectivity with people (after all, that is what extroverts are, right?) they thrive on being with, talking to and let’s face it, drinking with other people. They love other people. Where introverts are the opposite, they are drained by other people, or they at least don’t thrive around other people. I assume that Jean-Paul Sartre was pretty introverted when he wrote No Exit – I guess most writers – and maybe even bloggers – myself included – are introverts, hiding behind our pens, paper, and computers.)

Of course, this is true. Introverts have a ton of very useful characteristics which are phenomenal in building a business. Introverts tend to be the ones toiling in the backrooms actually making things happen – writing code or developing business plans. The introvert is the Scotty of the business, always pulling things out at the last minute, getting things done just in time.

The problem is, you can’t have a hugely successful business with just a Scotty at the helm.  You may be able to come up with an idea, code the idea, but when it comes to getting the word out – to socialize your idea, to get investors or customers for your idea, you need the extrovert. Scotty can get the ship moving, but he needs help to steer.

Most of the businesses mentioned when they talk about successful introverted entrepreneurs fail to mention that they all had partners who were extroverts, who helps to promote and socialize the business. Or, if they didn’t have an extroverted partner, they had to push themselves into being an extrovert in order to promote their business.

While it’s great to say that introverts can be successful, the reality is that unless they can partner with an extrovert, or become one, even to a small degree, they likely won’t be successful.

The sad truth for introverts: while a business needs extroverts to live and survive, its doesn’t really need introverts. And in some cases, once the company becomes successful, the introvert partner is no longer required.

On the flip side, while it may be painful for you – you can – as an introvert – change. You can take on the role of the extrovert, you can learn to be an extrovert, or at least find one to partner with who is trustworthy.

IMHO, as an introvert, you can’t build a business alone. Scotty needs a Kirk to be out there, in front. Unlike on the Enterprise, both Scotty and Kirk should be making the decisions.

 

Imagine a typical entrepreneur.A quiet, reserved introvert is probably not what first came to mind. Aren’t entrepreneurs supposed to be gregarious and commanding—verbally adept and able to inspire employees, clients and investors with the sheer force of their personality? No wonder the advice for introverts who want to be entrepreneurs has long been some form of: “Be more extroverted.” read more

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Life As Minimum Viable Product

Minimum Viable Products Are Great

If you’ve been exposed or are in the startup world you’ve probably heard the term minimum viable product – which basically means the barest minimum of a product, without all of the bells & whistles and extra features.

A minimum viable product has just those core features that allow the product to be deployed, and no more. The product is typically deployed to a subset of possible customers, such as early adopters that are thought to be more forgiving, more likely to give feedback, and able to grasp a product vision from an early prototype or marketing information. It is a strategy targeted at avoiding building products that customers do not want, that seeks to maximize the information learned about the customer per dollar spent. “The minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.” The definition’s use of the words maximum and minimum means it is decidedly not formulaic. It requires judgment to figure out, for any given context, what MVP makes sense.

It encapsulates the absolute core idea of a product, and nothing more. Typically, an MVP is developed quickly, and then released to the marketplace (the world) and then feedback is received on the MVP, and depending on what the feedback is, you then modify the MVP in order to more closely map to what the market wants, and then keep iterating until you get it right.

It’s a great way to run a startup – you start with an idea – put the minimum amount of effort in – at usually low cost and high speed, then you can quickly test if the idea will work out or not, based on what people say about it – then iterate.

I thought to myself – that not just a great way to build a startup – it’s also applicable to other aspects of life as well. In the same way that Agile Is Eating the World, isn’t the concept of an MVP perfect for any and all things that you would like to take on in life?

Here is the thing – never before have we been able to taste things – to not need to make the full plunge on things – as easily as we can today. If you want to do things, to experience things, you can just MVP them:

  • Since work is so malleable, if you want to try and live somewhere else, just do it. In the future of work, you can work from anywhere, at any time, for anyone. If you want to try living in San Francisco, or Hawaii, or Thailand, or Singapore, or Greece, just go. See what it’s like. Try it out – if it doesn’t work, try something else.
  • Don’t buy a car – try using Uber or Lyft or any other service that’s out there. Rent cars if you need to – try it for a while – see if it works, if not try something else.
  • Don’t buy a house – it ties you down – what if you don’t like it. Taste it, try it, if not move on.
  • Don’t go to college – in this super-fast changing world, do you really want to study the same thing for 4+ years? By the time you’re halfway through, the world will be completely different.
  • In this world, Yoda’s “Do or Do Not, There Is No Try” no longer applies. In fact, Disney should go back and revise it to “Life Is Only Try”
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    Be DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself) In All Things?

    Don’t Repeat Yourself

    There is a well-known principle in software development known as DRY, or Don’t Repeat Yourself. Here is the Wikipedia definition:

    In software engineering, don’t repeat yourself (DRY) is a principle of software development, aimed at reducing repetition of information of all kinds, especially useful in multi-tier architectures.

    I love being DRY when I code – unfortunately when I’m really going fast, sometimes I cheat and don’t follow the DRY principle. But it’s a very good principle to follow.

    It’s basically a programming version of “don’t reinvent the wheel”. We coders are really good at leveraging: when we build stuff, in a lot of cases it’s really a bunch of stuff others have developed before us, all thrown together in a new way, with a bunch of new code thrown in to fill out the gaps. (Come to think about it, it’s a bit like patent and product development) Some coders out there don’t follow this model, but of the ones I know, myself included, if we find out that there already is some library out there which does what we want, we are overjoyed.

    Might just mean that we are lazy, but lazy in a good way. Why rewrite something that works great? If it doesn’t, then likely we will rewrite it anyway, then hand it back to the community. We humans, love to help.

    For example, let’s say that you have an idea for an app, could be anything. Let’s say it’s a dating app. So if we break down the requirements for a dating app, you will see:

    • We need to track users of the app
    • We need to track profiles of the users
    • We need to match them up in some way

    So you need users as the core dataset of the app. How do you create these users? Well, you could create a user database and make people sign up and log in. You’ll need to decide if you want to use a handle or an email address for login, have them confirm their email address in order to stop bots from creating fake users, have a “forgot password” mechanism. It’s a lot of work.

    Or you could be DRY and say “Hmm. Where would most of my users already be?” Do most of them already have Twitter or Facebook accounts? Facebook? Perfect. Then be DRY and just leverage Facebook login. Use Facebook to log into your application. Done. They all you have to worry about is the rest of the app, like figuring out how to connect soulmates. Now that’s the tough part.

    But the DRY principle can extend beyond software development. Think about where in your life you can leverage something you already have, or a combination of things, in order to create something new? Like applying Agile to all aspects of your life (try, iterate, and try again) how can you take things that you already have, and leverage them in new ways in order to reach your goals:

  • Are there people in your network who would benefit being connected to each other?
  • Are there things that you have in your possession that you can use to start a business?
  • Is there knowledge already in your head that you can use in order to make money?
  • read more

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