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23 сентября, 11:28

Constructive dissatisfaction

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It's never been easier to find ways to be disappointed in our performance. You can compare your output, your income, your success rate to a billion people around the globe... many of whom are happy to exaggerate to make you even more disappointed. It's hardly worth your trouble. The exception is the dissatisfaction that is based on a legitimate comparison, one that gives you insight on how to improve and motivates you to get better. Get clear about the change you're trying to make and, if it's useful, compare yourself to others that are on the same path as you are. If the response rate to your website is lower than your competitor's, take a look at what they're doing and learn from it. If your time in the hundred-yard dash is behind that of the person to your left, analyze the video of their run, step by step, and figure out what you're missing. You can always find someone who is cuter, happier or richer than you. (Or appears to be). That's pointless. But if you can find some fuel to help you reach your goals, not their goals, have at it.        

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22 сентября, 11:08

Your fast car

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Right there, in your driveway, is a really fast car. And here are the keys. Now, go drive it. Right there, in your hand, is a Chicago Pneumatics 0651 hammer. You can drive a nail through just about anything with it, again and again if you choose. Time to use it. And here's a keyboard, connected to the entire world. Here's a publishing platform you can use to interact with just about anyone, just about any time, for free. You wanted a level playing field, one where you have just as good a shot as anyone else? Here it is. Do the work. That's what we're all counting on. For you to do the work.         

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21 сентября, 11:54

In search of competition

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The busiest Indian restaurants in New York City are all within a block or two of each other. Books sell best in bookstores, surrounded by other books, their ostensible competitors. And it's far easier to sell a technology solution if you're not the only one pioneering the category. Competition is a signal. It means that you're offering something that's not crazy. Competition gives people reassurance. Competition makes it easier to get your point across. Competition helps us understand that people like us do things like this. If you have no competition, time to find some.        

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20 сентября, 11:08

Can you live in a shepherd's hut?

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The best way to plan a house on a vacant piece of land is to move into a tiny shepherd's hut on a corner of the property. It's not fancy, and it's not comfortable, but you can probably stay there for a week or two. And during that week, you'll understand more about the land than you ever could in an hour of walking around. You'll see how the rain falls and the sun shines and the puddles form. As you've probably guessed, you can do that with the job you're thinking about taking or the project you're thinking about launching. Show up in the market and make some sales. Take a role as an intern and answer the customer service hotline for a day. Get as close as you can to the real thing, live it, taste it, and then decide how to build your career or your organization. If the shepherd's hut feels too uncomfortable, it might not be the land you wanted in the first place.        

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19 сентября, 10:21

Selling confusion

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Over the last few decades, there's been a consistent campaign to sow confusion around evolution, vaccines and climate change. In all three areas, we all have access to far more data, far more certainty and endless amounts of proof that the original theories have held up. The data is more accurate than it's ever been. Evolution is the best way to explain and predict the origin and change of species. Vaccines are not the cause of autism and save millions of kids' (and parents') lives. And the world is, in fact, getting dangerously warmer. And yet... Poll after poll in many parts of the world show that people are equivocating or outright denying all three. Unlike the increasingly asymptotic consistency in scientific explanations, the deniers have an endless list of reasons for their confusion, many of which contradict each other. Confusion doesn't need to be right to be confusing. Worth noting that this response doesn't happen around things that are far more complicated or scientifically controversial (like gravity and dark matter). It's the combination of visceral impact and tribal cohesion that drives the desire to deny. Cigarette companies were among the original denialists (they claimed that cigarettes were unrelated to lung cancer, but that didn't work out very well for them), and much of their confusion playbook is being used on these new topics.. To what end? Confusion might help some industries or causes in the short run, but where does it lead? Working to turn facts into political issues doesn't make them any less true. If this growing cohort 'wins', what do they get? In a post-science world, where physics and testable facts are always open to the layman's opinion in the moment, how are things better? How does one develop a new antibiotic without an understanding of speciation and disease resistance?  I know what the science p.o.v. gets us if it prevails, if evolution is taught in schools, if vaccines become ever safer and widespread, if governments and corporations begin to ameliorate and prepare for worldwide weather change. What's a mystery is what the anti-science confusors get if they prevail. What happens when we don't raise the next generation of scientists, when vaccines become politically and economically untenable, when we close our eyes and simply rebuild houses on the floodplain again? Gravity doesn't care if you believe in it, neither does lung cancer. Ask a confusor that the next time he offers a short term smoke screen. If this is a race to be the most uninformed, and the most passive, what if we win?        

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18 сентября, 11:24

Beware of false averages

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Some people like really spicy food. Some people like bland food. Building a restaurant around sorta spicy food doesn't make either group happy. It's tempting to look at pop music, network TV and the latest hot fashion and come to the conclusion that the recipe for success is to focus group everyone, average it up and make something that pleases the big hump in the middle, while not offending most of the outliers. But few things are up for a majority-rule vote. Instead, the tail keeps getting longer, and choice begets more choice. As a result, people don't need to abandon their hump to head to the non-existent middle. Yes, there are true averages (like how high to mount a doorknob). But more often than not, trying to please everyone a little is a great way to please most people not at all.        

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17 сентября, 11:54

Selfish marketing doesn't last

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If it helps you, not the customer, why should she care? Sometimes there's an overlap between your selfish needs and hers, but you can save everyone a lot of time and hassle if you begin and end with a focus on being of service. In the long run, your selfishness will catch up with you. Day by day, the long run keeps getting shorter.        

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16 сентября, 11:08

Fitting in all the way

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It seems like a fine way to earn trust. Merely fit in. In every way. Don't do anything to draw attention to yourself, to be left out, to challenge the status quo. Go along with the crowd to get ahead. That doesn't build trust. It simply makes you easy to overlook. We build trust when we make promises and then keep them. And the majority recoils from the challenge of making a promise, because that requires caring and risk and the willingness to make change happen. You can't fit all the way in, but you can definitely choose to stand out.        

15 сентября, 11:25

Appropriate collusion (organizing the weaker side)

Businesses with power are prohibited from colluding with one another to set prices or other policies. For good reason. Public officials and economists realize that it’s quite tempting for an oligopoly to work to artificially create scarcity or cooperate--it creates significant short term profits and hurts those without the power to do something about it. (but that doesn’t mean that organizations don’t continually try anyway). Organizations with power now use data mining and software licenses to gain ever more one-sided relationships with those they used to serve. They trade data about your credit and your surfing habits, among a thousand other things. But what about the opposite? What about the power shift that could result from the disconnected masses working together to push organizations to make change or to limit their upsides? By banding together and coordinating information, they can prevent asymmetrical information and leverage from causing as much harm. What would happen if 10,000 Wells Fargo customers had found each other years ago? Years ago, twenty of AOL’s largest content providers got together (I think it was in a hot tub) at an event AOL was running. We exchanged information about our contracts, our advances and our royalty rates. As a result of the shared information, everyone who participated got a better deal the next time around. Coordination led to a shift in market power. Kickstarter gives a small hint of this. A creator says to disconnected people--if enough of you get together and indicate an interest, we’ll do this thing. This is also in the spirit of Fred Wilson's Union 2.0. Organization creates market power. But the internet can let us take this much further. It can create enforceable group dynamics and help people find one another. And once found, they can insist on policies and offerings that the powerful organization would never have proposed. And it turns out that this more equal engagement can help both sides in the long run. This is particularly effective in high-value business to business settings, where a company might sell a very expensive service to 20 or 30 companies. Knowledge about the best deal and coordination of desired features can make a huge difference for all concerned. That's why computer user groups were so important back in the day. What would happen if the 1,000 top high school football prospects all agreed not to play a few games unless colleges paid them for engaging in the health-endangering sport that makes these non-profits so much money they can afford to pay their coaches millions of dollars? What would happen if the fifty cities in the running for Amazon’s second HQ established a binding agreement on what they wouldn’t do with taxpayer money? By creating a mutually shared line in the sand, they’ve ensured that the flow of capital won’t bankrupt any of them. The auction will still happen, but not in a destructive way. They could make a similar deal about future sports stadiums or Olympic bids, a sucker bet in which the winner almost always loses. Creating “I will if you will” contingent agreements is significantly easier once we use the blockchain and the real-time coordinating power of the net. A conceptual example (hard to do with four weeks notice, though): The fifty cities agree that if all fifty cities agree, any tax break from a city or state to Amazon must be matched by that city or state with a 5x amount invested in their public schools. If the mutual agreement doesn’t reach the critical number, no deal happens. If it does, then every mayor and every governor has a great reason to use other less costly incentives to win the ‘auction’ without violating the mutual agreement (or invest in schools, which is okay too). The alternative is that we’ll continue to see large, powerful corporations and institutions peel away individual players (people or cities), one by one, without the famed free market there to ensure equity. You probably have more in common with your neighbors than you think. If only you could coordinate the discussion...        

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14 сентября, 11:13

Impossible, unlikely or difficult?

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Difficult tasks have a road map. With effort, we can get from here to there. It might surprise you to realize that difficult is easy once you have the resources and commitment. Paving a road is difficult, so is customer service and fixing software bugs. But impossible and unlikely are where we get hung up. On Tuesday, Apple launched a thousand dollar phone. The engineers and designers had unlimited time (ten years since the first one), unlimited resources, unlimited market power. It's possible that there hasn't been that much unlimited in one place in our entire lives. And, yet, all they could build was an animated emoji machine. A slightly better phone. A series of difficult tasks, mostly achieved. It's not that another breakthrough is impossible. It's not that we've explored all the edges of human connectivity, of alternative currencies, of education, of personal transformation or generosity. It's not that we've already performed all the leaps in safety, in technology, in identity. Or even productivity. Of course not. It's not impossible to leap again with the magic computer we all have in our pocket. What tripped up Apple, as it trips up many successful organizations or careers, is that the next leap isn't impossible... it's merely unlikely. It was unlikely that the original iPhone would have actually been transformative, but Steve took a huge leap and got lucky on the other side. It could easily have gone sideways. He tried for something that was unlikely to work, but it did. That same sort of leap, the one into the unlikely, is available to all of us, at different scales. It's unlikely that our next brave novel, our next breakthrough speech, our next scary but generous project will succeed. Unlikely but worth it. Unlikely never feels quite the same as difficult, and sometimes it appears impossible. It's neither. It's something risky, and something without a map or a guarantee. We hesitate to do it precisely because it might not work, precisely because it's more than difficult. Working on an unlikely project takes guts and hubris. It requires us to have the insight to distinguish it from the impossible, and the desire to not merely do the difficult. What percentage of your time are you spending on the unlikely?        

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13 сентября, 11:45

Building on maximized systems

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If you eat beef, you're probably using a maximized system. It's a commodity, and every part of the chain is under huge pressure to increase yield and cut corners. The animals are pushed to the brink, and so are the humans that work on them. And if you keep your money in the bank, it's likely that the same thing is happening. Every investment is chosen for maximum short term benefit, because that's the only way for the bank to beat the other banks. A race to the bottom. The challenge gets worse when a maximized system is pushed just a little further. "Maximized" means that more demands and more inputs lead to degradation, lower output and eventual system failure. {previously}        

12 сентября, 11:51

Optimized or maximized?

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I once drove home from college at 100 miles an hour. It saved two hours. My old car barely made it, and I was hardly able to speak once I peeled myself out of the car. That was maximum speed, but it wasn't optimum. Systems have an optimum level of performance. It's the output that permits the elements (including the humans) to do their best work, to persist at it, to avoid disasters, bad decisions and burnout.  One definition of maximization is: A short-term output level of high stress, where parts degrade but short-term performance is high. Capitalism sometimes seeks competitive maximization instead. Who cares if you burn out, I'll just replace the part... That's not a good way to treat people we care about, or systems that we rely on. As a valuable contributor seeking to build a career, you benefit when you develop a unique asset, because that asset gives you the leverage to choose a niche in a system that respects optimization instead.  PS today's the last best day to sign up for the year's last session of The Marketing Seminar. We start the lessons today, Tuesday. If you've been considering it and wondering if it's for you or not, I'm hoping you'll take two minutes to read a few of the more than fifty reviews that people have contributed...