TT1940 – Waste Not, Want Knot

Waste not, want knot.

Autumn leaves start to turn
And she blows her chilling wind.
The rain now feels colder and wetter
Than the September kind,
Flooding the parched earth
And bringing a new spring.

It’s time for a clear-up
(Or is it clear-out?)
Out or up, no matter, stuff has to go…
To make space for new things to come.
A sort of Spring clean in Fall
(There are no words for it… yet)

The strange thing about this time of year
Is that releasing those things that you no longer use
Can be seen as leaves falling from a tree
They may still be of value to others: 
One man’s waste is another man’s water
It’s the want not, waste knot!

Do we REALLY need it?
Do we have a PLACE for it?
Will we really USE it enough to own it?
Do we LOVE it any more?
When was the LAST TIME we used it?
Won’t we bee better off if we RELEASE it?

Where there is tension, let it resolve.
Where there are liabilities, let them be settled.
Where there are past traumas, let them rewind.
Where there is resistance, go with the flow.
Where there is anger, let you have peace.
Where there is darkness, let it be light!

Want not, for there is an abundance for all.
Horde not, for others may have more need.
Release yourself from things that no longer bring you joy.
(For me it’s unread books and unplayed musical instruments)
Untie the want knot and release yourself from stress.
Come, join the revolution!

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Inventors are from Uranus. Investors are from Venus.

Sometimes you trip over a word and it takes on a shape.  It bugs you until you look at that shape and see something different.  Something unusual.

That happened to me this morning.  I received a note from a friend of mine who was talking about Elon Musk and his investor dilemma.  Whilst typing back a reply, I said: “it’s the difference between an inventor and an investor”.  And the shape of these two words hit me!  They were so similar – and yet poles apart.

So, as is my wont (an old English word meaning habit or custom that spellcheckers highlight as a mistake, but it isn’t), I set to with the idea that an inveNtor and an inveStor are two opposing forces under tension in any business.

And whilst deciding that this was, indeed, a good analogy, it struck me that so many letters are shared between these two words. In fact, seven out of eight letters are not just the same – BUT THEY ARE IN EXACTLY THE SAME POSITION IN THE WORD!  The only difference is the fifth letter – where one is an “N” and the other an “S”.  How can two such similar words have such contrasting shapes positions in business, yet share so much at the same time?

To use the old analogy “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”, it got me thinking about which planets would inveNtors and inveStors inhabit?  I looked up this idea on an astrology website and found that Venus is the bringer of love, beauty and money.  So that will do for the inveStor community (though I sometimes find it hard to see how those three words fit nicely into one sentence.

As for Mars – well that is a non-starter.  We needed another planet.  And so I typed-in “innovation” to find that Uranus represents technology, rebellion and innovation!  That will do nicely!

So, inveStors are from Venus and inveNtors are from Uranus.  There you go!

Yet that wasn’t enough.  I further studied the two words to find that the only difference were the two letters: N and S  – and suddenly it hit me!  They are also polar opposites on the dial of a compass!  I was so encouraged to find even more elegance down this particular rabbit-hole!

                                     North, South or somewhere in between?

 

Further to discovering this chance pairing, I thought again.  Whilst looking at the meanings behind the planets, I came across  Mercury, the Messenger God who is know for communication, day-to-day expression and  coordination.  A vital and often missing ingredient when inveNtors and inveStors cannot see each other’s point of view.  What other letter (in the same place as the N and S) could be a catalyst for change?  What could be the Mercury that goes between Venus and Uranus (though I know full-well that is impossible in our particular solar system – but work with me on this!)

And so I came across the letter “R”.  One of the few that makes sense and is a word.  An inveRtor.  It has a medical meaning, but I preferred the one used in electricity – which converts AC to DC current and back again.  An inveRtor is a converter of energy from invention to investment.  Perfect!

So, in summary, we need more inveRtors in business to go between the impossible stances that inveNtors and inveStors take when they stand-off in their own worlds of creativity and resolution.  A few more inveRtors that will be comfortable in the space between what is impossible and what is possible.  A few more inverRtors that will help  inveNtors like Elon Musk save the planet with his fantastic ideas to make the world’s transportation system run on electricity without making all the inveStors run a mile!

As it was such a great rabbit hole to go down (and it is Thursday and I have not written Thursday Thoughts for a while), I thought I would write-up the story.  More to follow soon!

Please do leave a comment below if you see any other strange or fantastic happenings on the road from invention to investment.

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The Best Source of Innovation

The news this week that the upwards-ever-upwards iPhone sales are finally stalling was a stark reminder that even the greatest companies struggle to keep the juices of innovation flowing year-on-year.  The Apple Watch couldn’t replace the iPhone and the iCar (if it ever arrives) is still a few years out.

Most companies that I study or consult to are in an innovation crisis.  They know they must innovate in order to remain competitive and keep growing (or simply to stand still).  Yet how often does the innovation agenda become demoted to “novel” efficiency drives and cost-cutting initiatives?

It begs the question: where is the best place to source innovation?  Many of my clients in the telecoms world look to technology suppliers.  They continue to develop new features on top of their already bloated stack of products and services that were offered last year.  The latest gizmo.  The latest bell or whistle.  Yet I already have an iPhone 6s.  Why do I want a Plus?  I upgraded from an iPhone 4s to wait for the 6.  I think I’ll hang on until I see something really new and different from Apple.

evolution of lighting, with candle, tungsten, fluorescent , LED

Innovation can come from suppliers – but you can’t really differentiate your company if that is all you rely on.  Such is the fate of many telecoms companies: they continue to develop new features on top of their already bloated stack of product features that were offered last year.  The latest gizmo.  The latest bell or whistle.  A price war starts and the cost cutting initiatives cut even deeper.  No, suppliers, are not the best answer.

What about the young folk who have just joined the organisation?  Straight out of University or School, they bring a fresh set of thinking.  They are the next generation!  Surely they hold the answer?  Give them a difficult problem and let them brainstorm their ideas to create something truly whacky.  Too risky, I say!  They will not understand the product and how it is used, yet.  They might come up with some good ideas., but   Good ideas are not the same as innovation.  The newbees are not the best source of innovation either!

So where should we go next?  To customers, of course!  Customers that use (and misuse) your existing products and services!  Customers who suffer day-to-day from trying to work the processes that you have under-designed and waste your customers time and effort.  They are loyal customers until they suddenly vanish.  And if no one contacts them to see where they have gone, then innovation dies on the vine!

Customers are an incredibly cheap this source of innovation, too.  Not just cheap, but very valuable!  By asking a few simple questions of customers every time you interact with them, you can increase your profitability, customer loyalty AND innovation in one fell swoop!

And what are those questions?  Well, you will have to read the next few Thursday Thoughts to find out my thoughts on this.  In the meantime, try and work out what you think they might be and comment below!

Oh, and thank you so much for reading this far.  I hope, at least, it has made you think a bit more about one of the most important aspects of business and human life!

 

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Jump Out!

Yesterday I flew from the UK to Germany to have the first meeting this year with a client that I last worked for ten years ago.  Getting up at 4.00am and struggling through the security gates which reminded me of a cattle ranch and then twisting and turning through the duty-free glitter path that is the only way to get to the plane at Stanstead Airport, I took a short 20-minute taxi ride to the client’s office that turned out to be more expensive than the flight itself!  It was a beautiful day and I had a good two hours before the meeting to walk down memory lane.  I needed to make sure I was energised and that my mind was clear.

The most surprising thing for me was that the  client faced pretty much exactly the same challenges that they faced when I was last there.  It was like seeing an old friend in the street that I had not seen for a while and saying “Wow!  You haven’t changed a bit!”  They were stuck in a rut.  And what is more, they acknowledged the fact.  It got me thinking: how difficult it is for all of us (and large organisations in particular) to adapt and change.

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Whilst chatting to a friend today, the exact same thought arose in a different way.  We were reflecting on what we had achieved in 2015 and what 2016 holds in store for us.  Like wine, we tend to describe the past year as a “good year” or a “difficult year” or even an “annus horribilis” – depending on what has happened.

I think I would call 2015 a year of transition.  What one word would describe this year for you?

Yet another friend said that their work has gone very well in the past year (to the detriment of everything else) and that he was way off on the objectives he had set himself which were to spend more time with his family.  Success is both personal and relative – not just from individual to individual – but also in terms of the emphasis we put on specific relationships and projects.  Everything has an opportunity cost associated with it.  Life is a balancing act.

For example, in the first six months of this year, I became very distracted by a project which meant that I took my eye off the ball for several other things in my life – both personal and business.  Setting a balanced set of aims and objectives at the start of the year is so important.  Reflecting on the objectives that I set myself at this time last year, I completely underestimated the passion that I had for this unplanned distraction.

Understanding the dependencies and trade-offs that need to be made is so important.  Yet we are emotional creatures and can often be overtaken by distractions and unpredictable events that come at us from stage left.  Planning for unexpected turns is also important.  As the great Peter Drucker said: “It’s not the plan that’s important, it’s the planning.”

Fish Out of Water

But perhaps the most difficult thing in all of this is to break old habits.  This is the case with my client in Germany – and is also so true of  myself as we move into 2016.  In order to change, you need to jump out of an existing pattern and create a new pattern – like the goldfish jumping from one bowl into another in the picture.

Some say that if you practice a new habit for 30 days, then it will stick.  I tried that by giving up alcohol for 6 weeks in mid-October.  Those friends who got a bit worried need concern themselves no more!  I started again last week.  Which just proves that the 30-day rule doesn’t work!

The creation of a new habit requires the displacement of other habits that you need to stop.  And it needs to happen so that the new pattern becomes unconscious behaviour.  Yet, when you jump to a new habit pattern, it can be quite lonely for  a while.

Unless you can create a substitute pattern that is more fulfilling and purposeful, the tendency is to jump back to what is familiar.  All the 12-step programmes understand that.  The first step is always to admit that you are powerless to the particular addiction or pattern.  In doing so, you become conscious of it and can change it.

Think about it.  Which patterns do you want to dissolve or move away from in 2016 to give yourself more time to do the things you really want to do?  What entrenched (perhaps unconscious) patterns do you want to jump out of?  Write them down and share them with a close friend or relative.  Get some support on the shift to a new pattern.  It is much easier like that!

That’s what I hope to do with my German client.  Given that they are conscious and want to change, we will start by describing the new fish tank.  All the good things about the new environment and the benefits of being there.  Then finding one or two fish that will make the first jump.  A bit like “Finding Nemo”.  The good news is that there are plenty of fish to choose from and I believe that, 10 years on, the temperature in the current tank is a bit too warm for comfort.

Please comment if you see any other analogies or have any relevant stories to tell!  In particular, let us know what patterns you want to jump out of and let us know how you are thinking of doing it!

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The Art & Science of a Successful Product Launch

Steve Jobs became the iconic figure standing in a black turtleneck sweater introducing the next wave of Apple’s innovation in the noughties.  Year-in, year-out, Apple perfected the pre-launch leaks, the launch itself and the post-launch record-breaking.  It is difficult to find another company that has done this so well and with such theatre.

jobs launch

The challenge with online businesses is that the drama is more difficult to choreograph than pulling the world’s best tech journalists into a Silicon Valley theatre.  And yet there are many principles that can be carried over into the online world that work in the same way.  It goes something like this:

Pre-launch Information > Launch “Theatre” > Post-Launch Compound Growth

I have had the fortune of studying under a person for the past year that seems to have perfected the online product launch.  So much so that many, many other successful online coaches, consultants and trainers copy his techniques.  His name is Jeff Walker and his product is called the “Product Launch Formula”.

Once a year, Jeff generously presents his methods and approach in a set of three free online courses (which will be available for the next week or so) to those who are interested in learning more about this fascinating subject.  The third video also contains a very valuable Product Launch Blueprint which you can download and use in your own business.  It is a step-by-step guide that gives you a great framework that gives your clients fantastic value even before you launch your product!

I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to online internet training – but I honestly have to say that Jeff is possibly up there with Steve Jobs when it comes to that cool, Californian way of explaining complex ideas in really simple ways that mere mortals (like me) can understand.

I thoroughly recommend that you try to watch Jeff’s three videos over the weekend so that you can go back to work on Monday to put a few of them into practice (or into your plans) to help you launch your next product, project or set of ideas.

Click on this link to access Jeff’s Product Launch Blueprint.  I’m sure you will find something of value.

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You Can’t Push String!

After the July/August holiday period, I always enjoy the first week of September.  I see it as the beginning of a new year.  Not the calendar year, nor (in my case) the academic year, but the start of the year for new projects.  People return from asynchronous communication through the holiday period to ramp-up for the more synchronised Autumn/Fall workload.  Like a car moving from third gear to fifth gear or a plane taking off on its flight to the end of the calendar year with a destination ending in a runway towards the next holiday period at the final part of December.  If the financial year starts in January or April, it is the time when new ideas are incubated for the budgeting cycles three to six months out.

With the pick-up in this workload comes the re-prioritisation of relationships.  The number of sales calls I have received in the past few days exceeds those that I had in the whole of August.  In a similar way, the number of calls that I have made to prospective clients to re-open conversations from earlier in the year has also increased.  People are open-minded to new conversations and new opportunities whilst there is a bit of time to play with new ideas.  It is also the start of one of the most busy conference seasons.

All this got me thinking….

What do the following have in common: spam (the email kind), a pushy salesperson and one of those irritating calls trying to sell you some personal accident product you don’t want?

They all involve PUSH.  It is amazing that so many folk still make a living at it when we all know that salesmen don’t SELL: people BUY.  Good sales folk understand timing and cycles and simply line up their products and services so that they are the easiest and most top-of-mind for the prospective customer to pull off the shelf when the are ready to buy.

But it is not quite as simple as that……

Tin Cans

Do you ever remember putting a hole in the bottom of two tin cans and then stringing the cans together with a long piece of string to make a crude telephone?  I often cite this as a useful metaphor for how we might think about the way we communicate with our customers (and suppliers) in business.  It isn’t about ignoring pushy sales folk and only pulling when you are ready.  It’s about something I call “@TENSION”.  Let me explain in terms of a children’s playground with the tin can telephone.

Firstly, there are those kids in the playground that don’t want to play the game at all.  Their attention (@TENSION) is somewhere else.  They are into another game with other kids.  They are not in our game.  So we will exclude them.

Then there are those who are interested in the tin can telephone game.  They pick up one can.  They need someone else on the other end of the string to play with.  So they pull someone from the playground to pick up the other end of the line.

By “feeling the pull”, understanding who is pulling, why they are pulling and how hard they are pulling, we can gain important insights into interest, motivations, demands and communications skills.

Further, by understanding these different aspects of pull, we can seek out those who will play our game and give each other interesting and rewarding experiences.  Given the right amount of “@tension”, new players will respond with delight and enthusiasm – not least because they are being listened to and communicating in ways that are proportionate to the pull that they are giving.  

However, if you pull too hard on their string, you will become an irritant and get dumped.  If you don’t pull enough, the other end of the line will lose interest because they cannot communicate and move onto another string.  I call this “subtle pull”.  You have to pull at roughly the same strength as the other end is pulling.  Appropriate response.  Sufficient @tension for the line.  

You can’t push string.  You can only pull it.  Too much pull from either party and the line breaks.  Oftentimes for good!  

So the next time you think of a customer or supplier or player in your game, just think about an invisible string that connects you to them.  How taught is it?  Is it completely slack?  How much “@tension” has it got?  How much are they pulling?  How much pull should you give “in the moment” to be effective at continuing the conversation?  Who has their ear to the can and who is talking into it?

And at this particular time of the year, how many strings will you tighten.  Will you be listening or speaking?  Can you really manage those ten strings when you could probably be more successful in just focusing on three or four?

So it’s back to school for the children and back to the subtle pull of business relationships for the rest of us!  Good luck with all of your new projects and ventures get the @tension that they deserve!

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The Nature of Reality

I have always been fascinated by debates on the differences between objectivity and subjectivity; art and science; East and West; X and Y.  The truth normally lies somewhere in between.

85 years ago two great minds met in Berlin and debated such issues in what must be one of the most interesting thought pieces in the history of the twentieth century.

einstein-vs-tagore

THE NATURE OF REALITY

Albert Einstein in Conversation with Rabindranath Tagore

Rabindranath Tagore visited Einstein’s house in Caputh, near Berlin, on July 14, 1930. The discussion between the two great men was recorded, and was subsequently published in the January, 1931 issue of Modern Review.

TAGORE: You have been busy, hunting down with mathematics, the two ancient entities, time and space, while I have been lecturing in this country on the eternal world of man, the universe of reality.

EINSTEIN: Do you believe in the divine isolated from the world?

TAGORE: Not isolated. The infinite personality of man comprehends the universe. There cannot be anything that cannot be subsumed by the human personality, and this proves that the truth of the universe is human truth.

EINSTEIN: There are two different conceptions about the nature of the universe—the world as a unity dependent on humanity, and the world as reality independent of the human factor.

TAGORE: When our universe is in harmony with man, the eternal, we know it as truth, we feel it as beauty.

EINSTEIN: This is a purely human conception of the universe.

TAGORE: The world is a human world — the scientific view of it is also that of the scientific man. Therefore, the world apart from us does not exist; it is a relative world, depending for its reality upon our consciousness. There is some standard of reason and enjoyment which gives it truth, the standard of the eternal man whose experiences are made possible through our experiences.

EINSTEIN: This is a realization of the human entity.

TAGORE: Yes, one eternal entity. We have to realize it through our emotions and activities. We realize the supreme man, who has no individual limitations, through our limitations.  Science is concerned with that which is not confined to individuals; it is the impersonal human world of truths. Religion realizes these truths and links them up with our deeper needs. Our individual consciousness of truth gains universal significance. Religion applies values to truth, and we know truth as good through our harmony with it.

EINSTEIN: Truth, then, or beauty, is not independent of man?

TAGORE: No, I do not say so.

EINSTEIN: If there were no human beings any more, the Apollo Belvedere no longer would be beautiful?

TAGORE: No!

EINSTEIN: I agree with this conception of beauty, but not with regard to truth.

TAGORE: Why not?   Truth is realized through men.

EINSTEIN: I cannot prove my conception is right, but that is my religion.

TAGORE: Beauty is in the ideal of perfect harmony, which is in the universal being; truth is the perfect comprehension of the universal mind. We individuals approach it through our own mistakes and blunders, through our accumulated experience, through our illumined consciousness. How otherwise can we know truth?

EINSTEIN: I cannot prove, but I believe in the Pythagorean argument, that the truth is independent of human beings. It is the problem of the logic of continuity.

TAGORE:  Truth, which is one with the universal being, must be essentially human; otherwise, whatever we individuals realize as true, never can be called truth. At least, the truth which is described as scientific and which only can be reached through the process of logic—in other words, by an organ of thought which is human. According to the Indian philosophy there is Brahman, the absolute truth, which cannot be conceived by the isolation of the individual mind or described by words, but can be realized only by merging the individual in its infinity. But such a truth cannot belong to science. The nature of truth which we are discussing is an appearance; that is to say, what appears to be true to the human mind, and therefore is human, and may be called maya, or illusion.

EINSTEIN: It is no illusion of the individual, but of the species.

TAGORE: The species also belongs to a unity, to humanity.  Therefore the entire human mind realizes truth; the Indian and the European mind meet in a common realization.

EINSTEIN: The word species is used in German for all human beings; as a matter of fact, even the apes and the frogs would belong to it. The problem is whether truth is independent of our consciousness.

TAGORE: What we call truth lies in the rational harmony between the subjective and objective aspects of reality, both of which belong to the superpersonal man.

EINSTEIN: We do things with our mind, even in our everyday life, for which we are not responsible. The mind acknowledges realities outside of it, independent of it. For instance, nobody may be in this house, yet that table remains where it is.

TAGORE: Yes, it remains outside the individual mind, but not the universal mind. The table is that which is perceptible by some kind of consciousness we possess.

EINSTEIN: If nobody were in the house the table would exist all the same, but this is already illegitimate from your point of view, because we cannot explain what it means, that the table is there, independently of us. Our natural point of view in regard to the existence of truth apart from humanity cannot be explained or proved, but it is a belief which nobody can lack—not even primitive beings. We attribute to truth a superhuman objectivity. It is indispensable for us—this reality which is independent of our existence and our experience and our mind—though we cannot say what it means.

TAGORE: In any case, if there be any truth absolutely unrelated to humanity, then for us it is absolutely non-existing.

EINSTEIN: Then I am more religious than you are!

TAGORE: My religion is in the reconciliation of the superpersonal man, the universal spirit, in my own individual being.

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What’s Your Favourite Colour?

I’ve always been fascinated by colour and believed that men and women see colours differently.  So I was both interested – and not surprised to see what researchers have found on the subject.  It proves that men and women not only prefer different colours, they also see more hues of colour than men.  Men, on the other hand, prefer shades.  Perhaps it goes back to our ancestors, where women were more attuned to gathering different types of fruit and men were looking for subtle shadows of beasts behind a bush.  Who knows?  Makes you think, though!

By the way, my favourite colour is blue!  But I was surprised that no men liked purple!  It was my favourite colour once as a teenager.  Before I turned to red – and eventually to blue.  I wonder if others have changed their preferences through their lives?

Oh, and just for fun, why not put down your favourite colour in the comments box below – and we’ll see if the research is borne out by those who read the blog.

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Measurement Madness

I met up recently with an old friend. She has decided to give up work in March. The hospital she has worked in for many years as a family therapist was transferred from the private sector to the public sector last year. She is giving up because the (UK) National Health Service (or NHS) that has now taken over the hospital has made the unit a “national asset” and patients are being referred to it from across the country. She can no longer practice as she used to because the patients are disconnected from the families that should support them when they leave hospital care. Costs have also gone up because of the additional remote support that need to be given to both patients and their supporting families.  In addition, she finds the extra “meetings about meetings” and paperwork completely stifling.

It reminded of a similar problem that is embedded within the UK prison system.  It has been proven that offenders are much more likely not to reoffend once they leave prison if they get family support during their term inside. Yet most prisoners are deliberately sent to another part of the country to do their time. Families (often poorer than most) cannot afford regular visits. So the likelihood of prisoners reoffending when leaving prison goes up.

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In each of these cases, I suppose the patient or the prisoner could be seen as the “customer”.  Yet these two state-run systems have been designed without the customer’s requirements (or real needs) in mind. They have been designed at the expense of other measures (such as top-down political targets, reduction in costs etc.)

The current business fads of rationalisation, outsourcing, off-shoring, cost-cutting and factory call-centres seem to have driven traditional sane local business practices and have allowed madness to prevail.

I can’t prove it, but I believe that local, common-sense sanity has to create more flexible, cost effective public services over the prevalent national (or international) managing-by-abstract-measures madness. But that is a very difficult case to prove when big egos, big technology, big politics and big finance have each, in their own way, presented measurement madness as the new religion.

Maybe measurement is, itself, the root cause of the problem. Maybe we should be suggesting a new way to educate the cohorts of ignorant managers and measurers.
Taiichi Ohno would have thought so.  One of his great quotes fits well here:

“People who can’t understand numbers are useless.

The gemba (or real place) where numbers are not visible is also bad.

However, people who only look at the numbers are the worst of all.”

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