Archive for: April, 2009

How to create new value in the 21st century

2 Fast 2 Furious the movie

Momma's Man trailer


Umair Haque @ Daytona Sessions vol. 2 – Constructive Capitalism from Daytona Sessions on Vimeo.

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Duel trailer

Looking to inject yourself with some fresh thinking?

If you’re interested in economics, competition and strategy (specifically why our economy sucks and how we got to where we are today), here’s a great speech by Umair Haque. download Big Nothing

Eulogy video

If you haven’t been following him at his , just watch this video and you’ll understand exactly what he’s talking about in his blog.

Umair’s talk is structured around his Laws of Constructive Capitalism which I list here.

  • Strategy is a commodity
  • Competition is obsolete
  • There is nothing more asymmetrical than an ideal
  • Tomorrow is today
  • Connections not transactions
  • People, not product
  • Creativity, not productivity
  • Outcomes, not incomes
  • Advantage is in the DNA
  • The Next Revolution is institutional

A lot of the ideas (which he goes into a lot of detail) he discusses on his blog are presented in this speech, so do yourself a favor and watch the video.

Life's Decisions film

How to be a better leader in 20 minutes

It’s not common when you come across a blog post that makes you want to take action immediately…I found one today!

Do you know what your employees values are and what motivates them?

A very important question that very often leaders have a hard time answering. Knowing what people value and what their motivations are is a lever a leader can push to bring out the best in others.

New research on how insights happen in the brain

the aha moment

A well known physicist once said that all great discoveries in science where made in one of the three B’s…bus, bed and bath. It’s well documented that we get most of our good ideas when we’re not thinking about solving problems.

This is because of the principle of incubation.

Incubation works because your subconscious mind is always processing information. You usually set your problem aside for a few hours, days, weeks or even years while you move on to other projects. This allows your subconscious to continue working on the original challenge.

Look at the grid below and note that shadowy gray spots mysteriously appear at the intersections. However, when you concentrate on any specific intersection, the spot disappears.

connect the dots illusion

Sometimes ideas, like the gray spots, mysteriously appear only when you are not concentrating on them. Modern science recognizes this phenomenon yet cannot explain it…until now.

As I was checking my email this morning I got the and found a surprising section about “the science behind the aha moment.”

According to Drs. Joydeep Bhattacharya of Goldsmiths’ College (London) and Bhavin Sheth of the University of Houston (Texas) they’ve come up with a

Previous attempts by researchers have proven to be very insightful, but:

Dr Bhattacharya and Dr Sheth have taken a third approach. They have selected some brain-teasing but practical problems in the hope that these would get closer to mimicking real insight. To qualify, a puzzle had to be simple, not too widely known and without a methodical solution. The researchers then asked 18 young adults to try to solve these problems while their brainwaves were monitored using an electroencephalograph (EEG).

A typical brain-teaser went like this. There are three light switches on the ground-floor wall of a three-storey house. Two of the switches do nothing, but one of them controls a bulb on the second floor. When you begin, the bulb is off. You can only make one visit to the second floor. How do you work out which switch is the one that controls the light?

And the results of the experiment:

This problem, or one equivalent to it, was presented on a computer screen to a volunteer when that volunteer pressed a button. The electrical activity of the volunteer’s brain (his brainwave pattern, in common parlance) was recorded by the EEG from the button’s press. Each volunteer was given 30 seconds to read the puzzle and another 60 to 90 seconds to solve it. If he had not done so in the time allotted, a hint appeared. In the case of the light-switch puzzle, the suggestion was that you turn one switch on for a while, then turn it off.

Some people worked it out; others did not. The significant point, though, was that the EEG predicted who would fall where. Those volunteers who went on to have an insight (in this case that on their one and only visit to the second floor they could use not just the light but the heat produced by a bulb as evidence of an active switch) had had different brainwave activity from those who never got it. In the right frontal cortex, a part of the brain associated with shifting mental states, there was an increase in high-frequency gamma waves (those with 47-48 cycles a second). Moreover, the difference was noticeable up to eight seconds before the volunteer realized he had found the solution. Dr Sheth thinks this may be capturing the “transformational thought” (the light-bulb moment, as it were) in action, before the brain’s “owner” is consciously aware of it.

Even though this was a quick experiment we can see that the subconscious mind is hard at work processing information and at any given moment will generate an insight before we know it.

Photo Credit: falsereality748

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If you are truly innovative, you will fail. If you don’t fail, you are playing it safe

“I often say that I’ve learned but one thing in 40 years, since I began my management career. … And that is … “try stuff” … faster than the next guy.”
Tom Peters

At it’s core innovation is a numbers game. You have to ensure that your innovation pipeline has a large number of ideas coming in at the front end in order to yield an adequate number of successes at the back end.

You have to accept that for every 100 ideas 10 will merit a small scale experiment, and of those, only 1 or 2 will turn out to be successes.

The truth is experiments fuel creativity and change. Experimenting means you are intentionally going off the map and pushing beyond the status quo.

Examples of experimental innovators abound, here are a few examples that we can learn from:

Play the odds with volume and frequency

Kevin Nalty is a YouTube celebrity and created an entry on Google Knol on . Here’s his take on how to make videos that don’t suck:

This chapter sounds arrogant, and its somewhat hypocritical. Because I make so many videos, many of them suck. If anyone should have the ?magic recipe? for a decent online video, it should be me. But I’m still learning each day, and that’s part of what makes it so fun to create videos. People often ask me why I don’t focus on creating fewer quality videos instead of posting routinely. There are two reasons for that. First, if I stop creating for more than a few days, I generally don’t feel like posting anymore. Second, I have no Earthly idea which of my video ideas will resonate and which will become popular. There are a lot of factors involved, so I play the odds with volume and frequency.

Testing beats guessing

Ebay, one of the most popular websites on the web, gets huge amounts of people coming the site everyday looking to buy and sell stuff. Knowing what all these users want is important, converting most of the users is Ebay’s most critical activity. A recent article from Harvard on (registration needed) explains how Ebay built it’s own application called the Ebay Experimentation Platform to lead testers through the process of testing pages in the website and to keep track of what’s being tested at what times on what pages.

Alien³ movie Thousands of small experiments

Consider Chris Rock, the popular comedian, who uses as part of his process:

Teeth on dvd
Back to School release

First, he picks small venues where he can do rapid, low-risk experiments with new material. In gearing up for his latest global tour, he made between 40 and 50 appearances at a small venue called the Stress Factory in New Brunswick, New Jersey, not far from where he lives. Rock told the Orange Country Register, “It’s like boxing training camp. I always pick a comedy club to work out in.”

In front of audiences of say 30 to 40 people, Rock will bring a yellow legal note pad with lots of joke ideas scribbled on it, according to fellow comedian Matt Ruby. In sets that run say 45 minutes, many of the jokes will fall flat, but according to Ruby, “There were 5-10 lines during the night that were just ridiculously good. Like lightning bolts. My sense is that he starts with these bolts and then writes around them.”

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Fail fast, fail cheap, and move on to the real winners

A recent example of a is Dell’s agreement to sell PCs in Wal-Mart stores.

Rather than sell the entire line of Dell PCs in stores, it conducted a test, offering only a select few models in many stores, providing Dell valuable information about its mass appeal.

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There’s simply no way around it, your chance of finding the next big opportunity is largely a function of how many seeds you sow and how many new things you try.

The great thing about the web is how easy it is to try something new. Experiments can be frequent and small and the best can be built into something big.

How to use Evernote to keep your mind sharp

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Blur hd

There are enough reviews of out there so I will not do one here. What I will do is share with you how I use it to manage information and gain insights. There other notebooks in my Evernote but I will only focus on the 4 I use to help me focus my brain.

What I like about Evernote is it’s simplicity.

It has everything in the right place, it’s intuitive just like sitting in the drivers seat. You know where the steering wheel, accelerator, brakes and speedometer are located.

The web clipper is by far the most used feature of Evernote and is conveniently placed on the Firefox toolbar. Just like everyone else I use it to copy full websites, text, videos and pictures. This is what happens next:

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Every new note goes to the ToRead notebook where I will then go and read and filter to the other notebooks.

If I’m reading a PDF and I find information that I want to read later on, I’ll use the clipper to select and copy it to Evernote. This takes advantage of Evernote’s text-in-picture reading capabilities later on if you’re searching your notebooks.

I’ll normally forward to-do stuff from my email to the ToDo notebook, this also helps me think about different ways I can do that activity instead of just treating it as another habit.

Back to School buy The ToUse notebook Teeth buy

The Ugly Truth move

is my tactical arsenal. These are a collection of case studies, examples, how-to’s of tactics that I can put to use right away. I can recall examples of usage and think of different combinations on how to put it to use…it helps me formulate strategies really fast.

The Brain Bank notebook is where I develop insights from. I put articles, reports, pdf’s, blog posts, etc that I need to think and reflect on. This is where patterns may emerge that may lead to something (signals) and then use them for some future think (foresight).

That’s it! This is how I use Evernote. It’s still a work in progress but I’m having a lot of fun.

While I use Evernote as a strategic analysis/innovation tool, I’m sure everyone has their own reasons for using Evernote. How do you use Evernote? I’d love to hear any tips!

The Pagemaster buy I’m glad to see some of . I’m still waiting for the Blackberry app to come out, I can’t wait!

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Employees don’t need permission to create or innovate

contribute ideas

Tell me and I’ll forget.

Show me and I may remember.

Involve me and I’ll understand.

– Confucius

Now is as good time to really start thinking about embedding innovation into the DNA of your company. A recent asks readers if taking risks is more important than stability. Fifty-four percent of the 602 respondents who answered the question said “taking risks” is more important, and the remaining 46% said “stability.”

What caught my attention even more is that readers think that by “encouraging employees to submit ideas for new products” will most likely inspire risk taking, while appointing a Chief Innovation Officer is less likely.

While I think this is a good start, I think this is a problem of perception where another title with a fancy name is indicative of another boss. You should always encourage employees to submit ideas for new products/services, but if you want to create a company wide religion of innovation you need someone to lead the charge.

How Michael Jordan influenced me

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Michael Jordan, “The Greates Ever” will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in September.

I remember watching Michael Jordan for the first time when I was 15 years old, watching the Bulls lose against the Orlando Magic in the playoffs when he had just come back from playing baseball. The hype of his comeback was in full force and I was taken by it.

Because of Michael Jordan I started studying and playing basketball. I became so obsessed that I started reading playbooks and more importantly I started to dig deep into Michael Jordan’s thinking.

I wanted to know what made him great. Why was he considered the “Greatest” to ever lace them up.

I was a 15 year old kid and had found a perfect role model to look up to.

10 ways Michael Jordan has influenced me

I found the following things to be key in his thinking and that have influenced me:

  • On earning respect and being a leader:

Nothing of value comes without being earned. That’s why great leaders are those who lead by example first. You can’t demand respect because of a title or a position and expect people to follow. That might work for a little while, but in the long run people respond to what they see.

  • On making your rise to the top easier and then being able to maintain your edge:

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“I practice so hard because that makes the game easy for me.”

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“I focus on the little things. Little things add up to big things.”

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  • On having the will to succeed:

“I can accept failure but I can’t accept not trying.”

  • On accepting that some things happen for a reason. You have to move forward:

The Last Word hd “Only be accountable for what you can control.”

  • On setting high expectations for yourself and being consistent on meeting them:

“My expectation was excellence each and every time I stepped on the court. Whether is was practice or game, I was there to win.”

  • On thriving in pressure situations:

“I’ve missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

  • On being yourself everyday:

“Michael Jordan isn’t afraid of being Michael Jordan everyday. He never takes a day off.” – Bill Russell

“If others had a negative opinion about something I said or something I did, then that was their opinion. It wasn’t going to affect me.”

“It was the idea somebody might be sitting there who had never seen Michael Jordan play.”

Thanks Michael!