Archive for October, 2015

Put your success behind you.

leap of faith

The biggest blocker of company growth is your successful business model.  And the more significant it’s historical success, the more it blocks.

Novelty meaningful to the customer is the life force of company growth.  The easiest novelty to understand is novelty of product function.  In a no-to-yes way, the old product couldn’t do it, but the new one can.  And the amount of seconds it takes for the customer to notice (and in the case of meaningful novelty, appreciate) the novelty is in an indication of its significance.  If it takes three months of using the product, rigorous data collection and a t-test, that’s not good.  If the customer turns on the product and the novelty smashes him in the forehead like a sledgehammer, well, that’s better.

It’s difficult to create a product with meaningful novelty.  Engineers know what they know, marketers know what they market, and the salesforce knows how to sell what they sell.  And novelty cuts across their comfort.  The technology is slightly different, the marketing message diverges a bit, and the sales argument must be modified.  The novelty is driven by the product and the people respond accordingly.  And, the new product builds on the old one so there’s familiarity.

Where injecting novelty into the product is a challenge, rubbing novelty on the business model provokes a level 5 pucker.  Nothing has the stopping power of a proposed change to the business model.  Novelty in the product is to novelty in the business model as lightning is to lightning bug – they share a word, but that’s it.

Novelty in the product is novelty of sheet metal, printed circuit boards and software.  Novelty in the business model is novelty in how people do their work and novelty in personal relationships.  Novelty in the product banal, novelty in the business model is personal.

No tools or best practices can loosen the pucker generated by novelty in the business model.  The tired business model has been the backplane of success for longer than anyone can remember.  The long-in-the-tooth model has worn deep ruts of success into the organization.  Even the all-powerful Lean Startup methodology can’t save you.

The healing must start with an open discussion about the impermanence of all things, including the business model.  The most enduring radioactive element has a half-life, and so does the venerable business model, even the most successful.

Where novelty in the product is technical, novelty in the business model is emotional. And that’s what makes it so powerful.  Sprinkling the business model with novelty is scary at a deeply personal level – career jeopardy, mortgage insecurity and family volatility are primal drivers.  But if you can push through, the rewards are magical.

Your business model has shaped you into an organization that’s optimized to do what it does. You can’t create new markets and sell to new products to new customers without changing your business model.  Your business model may have been your secret sauce, but the world’s tastes have changed.  It’s time to put your success behind you.

Image credit — MandaRose

The Special People That Believe in You

FriendshipCompanies don’t need more ideas, they need ideas that are more meaningful.  Companies have plenty ideas because they measure and track the number of new ideas generated.  Enter your idea on the company’s open innovation web portal, and you’re done. Let the record show that a new idea was added to the hopper.  Increment the counter and update the metrics.  One new idea for the good guys.  It’s a good day to be alive.

For some reason leaders are comforted by a large number of new ideas in the hopper even though there’s no hope of working on them.  Maybe they think there’s value in a backlog of ideas they can fall back on if the existing work doesn’t pan out.  If that’s the case, they probably think the ideas in the hopper have good potential.  But because the ideas are not graded on their potential, that’s simply wishful thinking.

The only thing good about counting the number of new ideas is that the number of new ideas is easy to count.  The good thing about grading ideas on their level of meaningfulness is it causes the most meaningful ideas to rise to the top.  The bad thing about grading ideas is that it requires judgement. And today, judgment is in short supply.  If you use your judgement poorly your career suffers, but if you avoid using your judgement no one notices.  Here’s a rule: If you never you use your judgement, you can never use it poorly.

For a select few, any work that doesn’t require judgment doesn’t rise to the level of work worth doing.  For them, only the most meaningful work will do, and rolling the dice on their career is simply the cost of doing business.  For them, it’s judgement or bust.

If you use your judgement and choose to work on a meaningful idea, be prepared for the loneliness.  Meaningful ideas are, by definition, understood by a few and misunderstood by the rest.  It’s lonely to advance an idea that most don’t understand.  And prepare to be misjudged for your actions because your steadfast pursuit of the idea will also be misunderstood. Your vigor and aliveness will be seen as aggressiveness, anger, negativity, closemindedness, or political incorrectness.  But this misjudgment comes with the territory.  There’s no way around it.  It’s just how it goes.  It’s not personal.

But just as the trivial many will try to tear you down, there are a vital few who will praise you, support you and bolster you.  These are the special people in your organization.  You know who I’m talking about.  You have a personal relationship with them.  You know about their families. You’ve been through tough times together.  They’ve seen you struggle, stumble and tumble, and they’ve seen you get up and move forward.  They’ve seen you run into a brick wall and helped you back to your feet.  Don’t dismiss their praise and don’t feel guilty about accepting help from them. They don’t want credit for helping you, they want you to succeed.

You don’t know this, but those special people want to help you because you’ve already helped them.  Some time ago you unknowingly helped them through a tough time, or were kind to them.  Or, you invested in them or believed in them.  More than likely, though, you inspired them.

Keep moving forward.  Keep pushing.  And take comfort from the special people that believe in you.

Image credit – Ice Man

Ideas That Threaten

the clown eats itEvery idea that’s worth its salt will be rejected out of hand.  That’s just how it is.  You can get angry because you didn’t get the support you think you deserve or you can accept the fact that their negative reaction is about them.  The first way you shut down and your idea dies on the vine.  The second way you let their negativity pass right through you and continue your uphill slog until your idea is commercialized.  Either way, it’s your choice.

It’s difficult to let others’ negativity pass though you.  It may be easier to flip the situation on its head.

When confronted with an exceptional idea, people generate a negative response.  The underlying feeling is fear, but usually manifests as aggressive dismissal.  Instead of reacting with anger, maybe you can learn to see their fear-based reaction as a signifier of significance.  When you have a tooth with a cavity and you drink cold water, your tooth creates a reactionary zing of electrical energy, a tell-tale sign of the underlying decay.  The zing signifies the significance.  Just as the cold water elicits an electrical response from the cavity, the exceptional idea elicits a negative response from the person.  Don’t worry about the negative response, revel in it.

The only thing better than an idea that is so good it threatens is an idea that’s so good no one can understand.  These ideas are so deep, no novel, so twisted they conflict with conventional wisdom.  These ideas confuse everyone, especially the experts.  At first the experts aren’t threatened because they don’t yet understand.  They chuckle and take pity on you for thinking such strange thoughts.  Just as a negative reaction indicates significance, their chuckles and pity are leading indicators of significance.  Don’t let their reactions deter you, let them inspire you.  As your unconventional wisdom seeps into them and they begin to understand, their chuckles will morph into aggressive dismissal.  This tell-tale sign makes it clear you’re on to something.

If your idea doesn’t get a negative reaction, you’re not trying hard enough. Think bigger.  If your idea doesn’t threaten your most profitable product, come up with one that does.  If your idea doesn’t shake the fillings out of your business model, go away and don’t come back to you have one that does.

Companies don’t need more ideas, they need ideas that are more creative.  They don’t need more continuous improvement, they need more discontinuous improvement.  And they don’t need ideas that build on success, they need ideas that dismantle it.

If your ideas don’t threaten, don’t bother.

Image credit — Ed Schipul

Celebrating Six Years of Blog Posts

Happy Birthday AmandaToday marks six years of blog posts published every Wednesday evening.  300 weeks in a row and I haven’t skipped, forgot, or repeated.  All written without an editor, though you knew that by the typos and grammar stumbles.

It’s a challenge to write every week, but it’s worth it.  Writing demands thinking things through, which can be difficult especially if you want to write clearly, but thinking things through creates knowledge.  Deep knowledge.

Over the last year I wrote a lot about self-awareness, mindfulness and intentions.  I’m better for my meditations, and through osmosis, so are some of the people closest to me. I expect you’ll hear more on these themes over the next year.

I’ve put myself out there with my writing.  With some posts I’m afraid to hit the publish key, and those are the posts that matter.  My fear is the signal there’s something important in the post.  I hope to write more of those.

I strive to write clearly and densely and avoid buzzwords.  Innovation is the buzzword that trips me up.  But like He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named, I’ll see if I can avoid calling it by name. (And never three times in the same post.)  And my call-to-arms will be clearer, plainer, denser.

I’m not sure what next year will bring, but I hope it will be 52 more posts.

Thanks for reading.

Mike

Image credit – Bart.

 

 

 

Mike Shipulski Mike Shipulski
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