When people ask me what I do, I tend to freeze. I dislike labels. If I have to be labelled I prefer to be known as a Polymath. Something like that. And yet that doesn’t help When you are looking for your next piece of work. The market is skewed towards hiring specialists.
The world of HR and recruitment love labels. It somehow makes the hiring process less risky For them when they can you put you into a box. Specialisms, industry knowledge, groupthink. It’s a disease which is rife and one where Renaissance (wo)man stands no chance!
How can generalists become more useful? Some give back by working as a volunteer. Charitable work is very is rewarding But does not pay the bills. Others enter academia to become Priests to the religion that is education.
Others become authors or artists. Yet in business Creativity clashes with corporate straight jackets. Squashed between policies and boring routines We need a revolution! A revolution In the way that cognitive diversity is Recognised, commissioned and rewarded.
Ahah! I hear you say! It’s up to the generalist To market their skills and get themselves a job! However, generalists don’t like being tied-down To particular job descriptions. They don’t like Being put into a box. They are too inquisitive, Onto the next idea before the last has closed.
What if there was a pool of generalists Who could be engaged for an hour, day or week? They know lots of things about many things And can challenge like the Court Jester. Crazy ideas might lead to a great product or service. Who would commission them? Would you? And why?
When faced with a challenge, some folks lark about Thinking it’s funny. I used to do that sometimes. But as I get older, I find that those that behave like this Are oft lacking some training, skill or knowledge. Perhaps even covering up some learning difficulty … Because they have not applied themselves to MASTERY.
I was reminded by this last week by my flute teacher His name is James and he has a first-class degree in Music. He’s versatile enough to play in both a symphony orchestra As well as in a jazz or blues band. Read music and improv – After years of what he calls “shedding” it (which means Long, tedious practice in the garden shed!)
James has helped me to re-learn the Art of Mastery. I’m not sure if you ever took music lessons at school My first piano teacher was very solemn and stunk of perfume She didn’t like my casual attitude to learning. I hardly ever practised one week to the next And she became more and more frustrated by me!
She taught me FACE and “Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit” (As well as others I can’t remember for the Bass Clef). These have been useful with the flute because All the notes you play is in the Treble Clef. Since then, I have not read music. I’ve just “larked around” But if you want to play with others, you need to read music.
What does it take to become a Master in a given field? Malcolm Gladwell said in his book Outliers that It requires 10,000 hours of practice. That’s catchy and easy to remember but completely false! It’s not the number of hours that are important. It’s about the quality of time spent practising & rehearsing.
James tells me there are two types of students. Those who want to learn to read and play in an orchestra And those who just want to play by ear. I used to be the latter, but am now re-learning the fun Of reading music for the first time. It’s a slog, but getting easier as each week goes by.
James wasn’t born when I started to learn to play the piano But I still remember my first teacher’s perfume. Yuk! James is many years younger and wiser than me, He has taught me how to learn (again) And he has three words he uses to describe the Art: DISCIPLINE, FOCUS and PRECISION.
Dedicated to James Penny – my awesome flute teacher who gives me lessons over Zoom every week (or so). Let him know I sent you!
This week’s “Thursday Thoughts” is one in a series on Product Launches – a subject that I find fascinating and so important to growing a successful business.
So, what is the single most important ingredient of a great product launch? We need to look no further than the film (or movie) industry – and to a quote Shawn Amos:
“Every major summer blockbuster that is released is essentially a product line being launched across multiple verticals. However, the centerpiece of the product launch is a big, beautiful story whose job is to entertain.”
I believe that the single most important ingredient for any successful launch is to frame a “big, beautiful story whose job is to entertain”. Think about it. A story that describes a personal journey. Your personal journey with all the ups-and-downs and trials and triumphs that go to make us all human.
And so, in the closing two days of Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula (a once-in-a-year opportunity to see the master in action), Jeff has offered two personal but quite different stories that show how changing the way you think about a product by re-framing it around a product launch can literally transform people’s lives.
The first story is from Barry who overcame a life-changing accident to go on and organise and teach those who make a living from entertaining.
The second is from Shelly – a very different story of a mother trying to juggle the three forces of family, paying work and passion.
Watch the videos and work out what you can learn from each of them. See how the personal stories create a different way of thinking. By building your business around a series of launches (and great stories), rather than flogging a me-too product, you can create a new sense of drive and momentum. Think hard about how you can apply the learnings to (re-)launch your own products and services and create a new sense of purpose and heartbeat to your marketing campaigns.
Of all the research I have done into this area, Jeff’s strategies and teachings are second-to-none. And it can be applied to book launches too!
If you think that there is value in digging deeper into the Product Launch Formula, then I thoroughly recommend that you sign up for Jeff’s programme – which will only be available for the next day or two. Otherwise, you will have to wait another year for the offer to come around again!
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.
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.
It is August and the holidays are here! For many, July and August are the months for rest and recuperation and spending time with family on holiday. For those that live in the northern parts of the Northern hemisphere, it is a time for getting some sun on our skins before the longer winter months kick in again.
For many, it is also a time of reflection. For although the calendar year starts in January, September is the start of the academic year and August is the gap before the start of the new year. I have found that many businesses are tuned to the academic calendar – either directly (like a University or School) or indirectly (because many of their employees have children who set a cycle in the family geared around their academic needs).
So it got me thinking. Most of my great ideas have come from a time when I am not thinking about day-to-day stuff. Those magic, “Eureka!” moments when a problem you have been working on suddenly becomes solvable.
By not being hampered by the grind of meetings, actions and to-do lists, we can solve old problems and creating new ideas. Finding a gap in the year’s day-to-day grind to think big, think outside the box or just not think at all and let nature take its course often relaxes you in ways you can’t achieve at other times of the year.
There is an old saying that God gave us two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as long as we speak. And so it is with the summer break. There is a gap in proceedings where we can listen. Not just listen to those who we work with. But listen to ourselves. Our inner mind. Our inner bodies. Our inner spirit. We can refresh each other with the rest and easy living that we often over-ride in the rest of the year.
So, back the Art of Business Conversation. For my own part, I have been working on a new way to look at businesses through the conversations we have. The Art of Business Conversation, if you like. As simple as ABC. Except it isn’t, is it? It is quite complicated.
There are several different types of business conversation (which I aim to explore more in future posts). The most intense are often wrapped up in emotional outbursts or things unsaid.
The key is to find space within the conversation to reflect. On an annual cycle, this time of the year gives us time to reflect on the longer-term relationships we all have with the businesses and people we work with. Either as employees; business owners; customers; suppliers; that funny, over-used word “partners”; or simply the friends and relations that weave in and out of those conversations.
And that is where the idea of Zen comes in. Zen is the space between. Zen is the effortless flow. Zen is the silent, observant onlooker onto our busy world of nothingness. Zen is the state to get into before returning to the ABC of business, academia and all those things where we sequence stuff and continue our practice of the art of business conversation.
So, enjoy the break. Listen to the silence. Observe the subtle messages coming from the conversation with yourself. Say nothing and say everything. Come back refreshed and energised to take on the new challenges that you discover in the hidden moments of this August recess.
Last Thursday, I had a meeting with a business colleague. We had only met once before – but somehow the energy felt really good between us. Conversation flowed. Ideas bubbled to the surface. Creative spirit abounded.
During the conversation, it became apparent that I had talked in our previous meeting about intuition. I had forgotten this – but it is something I have recently become very interested in. In summary, it’s the idea that the world is far too “mental” and that many have lost touch with their intuitive guidance system – based around the heart. I’m also a strong believer in the idea that everything is connected.
And so it was, just by chance (as happens when browsing the internet) I came across this video below:
I don’t know too much about the organisation behind the video – but just love the overall theme, messages and visuals. It somehow helps us to remember things we have forgotten or lost – so we can get back into the life-force and remember who we are.
I got into a discussion with a friend yesterday about religion. You know the sort. It became a discussion about basic beliefs and ideas about what had happened in the past with facts that neither of us could prove. I capitulated, not wanting to tread on ground that was sacred to them, yet still holding true to my own beliefs. In past times, I might have argued the point. But I was tired and did not see the point.
It got me thinking about this religion and holiness and that sort of stuff and reminded me of a phrase my father used to say to me: “All great religions die with their founder”. He was a spiritual man with his own religion. He is now dead. So I suppose, in his own way, he was right.
In so many things in life we seek out the differences. And religions are often a major culprit. If you believe in one version of history and someone else another, then you are different. You have different religious beliefs and are not of the same system, creeds, language etc. etc. And even within a religion, there are sub-sectors, different interpretations and different organisations supporting them. Yet what is common between religions is far more powerful than what makes them separate.
And so it is also true in the business world. We have finely-tuned sensors to work out if another company is a competitor or a potential “partner”. What are the “differentiators” that make you special? We have defined a set of rituals for ignoring or attacking other businesses. Just as in human relationships, these reactions can be commanded on a whim. Defined by tiny variations in perceived behaviour or circumstance. Individual differences are to be highlighted. Sameness is boring.
Yet there is a counter-force which is found much more commonly in nature. This is the unifying force which finds similarities and which seeks out common ground in any given situation. It requires a different way of thinking and a different way of feeling about a situation. More inclusive. More holistic. More local.
I am not an economist. Nor will I argue the pros and cons of globalisation in this short piece. Yet it seems to me that with all the rational arguments for globalisation and free-trade markets we have lost the ability to balance the world with this holistic energy – because responsibility has been taken away from what makes sense at a local level. We could blame Adam Smith and his ideas on how to increase the quantity of pins produced in pin manufacturing – so aptly celebrated on the British £20 note:
It is as if the new religion of global banking and global economics has become the new church which must be obeyed. Making money at the expense of making things whole, rounded, sensible and appropriate at a local level. With differences, of course, but much less important in this context. Much less expensive, for sure, because it does not carry the burden of national or international overheads.
And so it was that I was browsing a book, “The Nature of Order”by Christopher Alexander, one of the greatest architectural thinkers of our time. He describes wholeness as a series fifteen ideas or factors which are represented in the diagram below:
The Elements of Wholeness by Christopher Alexander
So, I wondered, with these fifteen design ideas, what would a new bank look like? What would a new economic system look like? Globalisation ideas don’t fit very well with concepts such as “Boundaries”, “Local Symmetries” and “Inner Calm”. Then again, that shouldn’t be too surprising!
If you are a wordsmith, you will notice there is a lot more in common between the words HOLINESS and WHOLENESS. The only difference is that makes the first unique is the letter “I” and the second that has the letters “WE”. Not that I am pushing one over the other, but it makes you think, anyway!
The very famous Chinese professor from the very famous Chinese university sat in front of a group of new students. In front of him was a large green jar. The kind of jar some people keep plants in.
The professor looked at the students but said nothing. Then he leaned down to his right hand side. By his foot was a pile of fist‐sized rocks. He took a rock and very carefully dropped it through the hole at the top of the neck of the jar. Then another and another and another. Until no more rocks could be dropped through the hole at the top of the neck of the jar.
He turned to the group and said: “Tell me, is the jar now full?”
The group murmured assent: the jar was now full.
The professor said nothing and turned to his left side. By his foot was a pile of pebbles. He took a handful of pebbles and carefully poured them through the hole at the top of the neck of the jar. Handful by handful, around the rocks, until no more pebbles could be poured through the hole at the top of the neck of the jar.
He turned to the group and said: “Tell me, is the jar now full?”
The group mumbled that it certainly appeared as if the jar could possibly now be full, maybe.
The professor said nothing and turned again to his right side. By his foot was a pile of coarse, dry sand. He took a handful of sand and carefully poured it through the hole at the top of the neck of the jar. Around the rocks, around the pebbles, handful by handful, until no more sand could be poured through the hole at the top of the neck of the jar.
He turned to the group and said: “Tell me, if the jar now full?”
There was silence.
The professor said nothing and turned again to his left side. By his foot was a jug of water. He took the jug and carefully poured the water through the hole at the top of the neck of the jar. Around the rocks, the pebbles and the sand. Until no more water could be poured through the hole at the top of the neck of the jar.
He turned to the group: “Tell, me is the jar now full?”
There was silence, even more profound than before. The kind of silence where those present check to see if their nails are clean or their shoes polished. Or both.
The professor turned again to his right side. On a small blue square of paper he had a small pile of fine dry salt. He took a fingerful of saly and carefully dissolved it in the water at the top of the neck of the jar. Fingerful by fingerful in the water, around the sand, around the pebbles, around the rocks, until no more salt could be dissolved in the water at the top of the neck of the jar.
Once again the professor turned to the group and said: “Tell me, is the jar now full?” One very courageous student stood up and said: “No professor, it is not yet full.” The professor said: “Ah, but it IS now full.”
The professor then invited all the people who were there to consider the meaning of his story. What did it mean? How did they interpret it? Why had the professor told it? And after some minutes the professor listened to their reflections.
There were as many interpretations as there were people in the room.
When the professor had heard from each of the students, he congratulated them saying it was hardly surprising there were so many individual interpretations. After all, everybody there was a unique individual who had lived through unique experiences unlike those of anybody else. Their interpretations simply reflected their own experiences and the unique perspective through which they viewed the world.
And in that sense no interpretation was any better – or any worse – than any other. And, he wondered, were the group curious to know his own interpretation? Which of course, he stated, was no better or worse than theirs. It was simply his interpretation.
Oh yes, they were curious.
“Well,” he said, “my interpretation is simply this. Whatever you do in life, whatever the context, just make sure you get your rocks in first.”
Would be great if you share your interpretations of the story!
Story from “The Magic of Metaphor” by Nick Owen – primary source – Julian Russell