5 Reasons It’s Okay To Say “No”

  1. If you are using your talents in a way that interests you for the benefit of other people, then that’s a good thing. Charities, non-profits and religions may come to you for aid, but it’s valid to refuse if your gifts to them would detract from the good work you are already doing
  2. Giving more than you can manage can create an imbalance in your relationships with other people, which can damage or destroy those relationships when you discover that they do not reciprocate to the same extent
  3. Saying “no” marks a boundary beyond which you are not willing or able to go right now, which helps to demonstrate your independence and enhance your identity
  4. It makes sense to put your own Oxygen mask on first. Helping other people when your own affairs are not in order can cause harm to you or harm to other people who may need to step in and rescue you
  5. One of the three necessary ingredients of a have strong personal, professional or corporate strategy is “focus”. Steve Jobs once said that “[p]eople think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying no to 1,000 things.”

Breaking with Experience

Innovation involves breaking with the past to create something even more remarkable

Innovation Experience

(Source: Flickr)

THE traditional Experience Curve focuses on increasing production experience which leads to predictable cost reductions.

This kind of experience is relevant in industries that are relatively stable, competitive, and production-intensive.

Experience Curve Example

(Source: Wikipedia)

But what about high tech and creative industries where the lifecycle of a new product is only a couple of years? And what about pretty much every industry nowadays from music distribution to taxi services, which are open to disruption from fast moving well-funded digital entrepreneurs?

In many industries production experience is becoming less important than innovation experience, the track record of being able to consistently break with the past to create something even more remarkable.

To highlight the distinction between “production experience” and “innovation experience” you only need to look at Apple.

Under the leadership of Steve Jobs the company created a string of amazing products which opened up entirely new product categories: the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad. Apple’s strength does not rest on its production experience and, in fact, the company outsources much of its production to Foxconn, a Taiwanese electronics contract manufacturing company.

What about you and your business?

Are you learning how to break with the past, or focusing on creating more of the same but cheaper?

Don’t Be Seduced

By sweet sounding lies

RISK taking is important. Entrepreneurs are in the business of taking risks in the pursuit of profit and are the engine room of the capitalist market economy. Risk taking makes sense where the likely consequences of action have been well considered and are deemed acceptable.

The quote above though states that “we only regret the chances we didn’t take”.

While missed opportunities can be regrettable, this is only one side of the story. The quote ignores the possibility of regretting the things we have actually done. For example, when asked by Businessweek about achievements of which he was most proud, the late Steve Jobs did not mention the iPod, the iPhone, or the iPad. Instead he stated, “I’m as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do.”

“Take a chance and live without regrets” is the mantra of charlatans, philanderers and unscrupulous financiers everywhere. However, it is not just the unscrupulous operators who are to blame. The sales pitch appeals to the people who are looking to be convinced (Dan Kahneman would call this confirmation bias). You probably have a friend who, despite any evidence to the contrary, desperately believes that they are uniquely lucky, that true love can be found in a night club, or that fast money is possible for them.

Some people want to be seduced by sweet sounding lies, and the results can sometimes be quite regrettable.

3 Lessons from Steve Jobs

Believe that the dots will connect down the road, love what you do, and remember that you are going to die

STEVE JOBS was one of the world’s great visionaries, entrepreneurs and businessmen.

On October 5th 2011, he departed.

People knew that he was sick, but nobody expected him to leave so soon. I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news. I was busy working on an urgent assignment, and dropped everything. I immediately started writing a farewell tribute, and I held back the tears as I wrote.

Do you remember where you were when you heard the news?

Steve and I never met in person. So, why did his death evoke such a response?

Steve was famous. It is normal to feel sad when famous people die.  However, this explanation does not capture the outpouring of grief or the sense of loss that many people felt that day.

Steve was a visionary. He understood how technology was evolving, and how the new technology could be used to create super amazing products to delight his customers.

Steve was a perfectionist. Malcolm Gladwell argued in his New Yorker article that this was Steve’s real genius.  Steve saw things that kind of worked and then relentlessly tweaked them until they were perfect.

Most of all, however, Steve was passionate. And, his passion for design changed our lives for the better. If you have ever used a Mac, an iPod, iPhone, or iPad, then you have been personally touched by Steve’s personality and his passion for incredible design. It is the passion that we miss.

We can learn a lot from such a man and, in his Stanford Commencement address, he leaves us with three lessons:

  1. Believe that the dots will connect down the road: this will give you the confidence to follow your heart, even when it leads you off the well worn path, and that will make all the difference.
  2. Love what you do: set backs are inevitable. The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking.  As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.  And like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years role on. So don’t settle.
  3. Remember that you are going to die: Nobody wants to die, even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. Death is the destination that we all share, nobody has ever escaped it. Death is very likely the very best invention of life, it clears out the old to make way for the new. Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition, as they somehow already know what you truly want to become.

“Stay hungry stay foolish.”

The Transmutability of Desire

Desire can change from one object to another

YOU are most likely familiar with the marketing adage, “Sex sells”.

The concept is a fairly simple one. Sex is a topic of interest because humans have a biological and instinctive desire to reproduce. This hard-wired desire is exploited by marketers to attract people’s attention and, at the same time, market whatever they are selling.

An interesting feature of sex in advertising is that there is often no relationship between the images used (e.g. a buxom young woman) and the product being sold (e.g. an energy drink).

If there is no logical connection between the images and the product, then how does sex actually help sell the product?

There are two ways to think about the influential power of sex in advertising.

1. Gaining attention

Provocative images attract attention. This helps marketers sell products because it is difficult to sell a product that everyone ignores. That being said, just because people see an advertisement doesn’t mean that they will be convinced to buy the product.

Getting attention is only the first step.

2. Arousing desire

Using sex in advertising can help to stimulate desire in the minds of consumers. You might think of desire as a strong feeling of wanting to have something or wishing for something to happen. A man who sees a picture of a buxom young woman might desire what he sees.

For women, attraction is often based on different criteria like commitment, trust and social status. And so, an advertisement aimed at women might look like the one on the left.

The question is, if a marketer can stimulate desire for one thing (e.g. romance on horseback), how does that help the marketer create desire for something completely unrelated (e.g. Ralph Lauren perfume)?

Making a person desire one object can lead them to desire another unrelated object due to the principle of “desire transmutation”. Desire exists in the mind of consumers. Products themselves are not inherently desirable. You only have to look at Apple products from the 80’s to see that products which people believed were desirable at the time are no longer desirable. Each time Apple launches a new product, the Apple marketing machine (and previously the influence of the great Steve Jobs) swings into full gear to fan the flames of desire in the minds of its loyal customers.

Since desire is a state of mind, once a marketer creates desire in the mind of a consumer, this desire can easily be changed from one object to another, from one product to the next. This is the principle of desire transmutation. And it explains why the desire for a buxom young woman can sell energy drinks, and the desire for romance on horseback can sell expensive perfume.

We need you to lead us

You too can put a ding in the universe

THERE are three simple steps to being a visionary leader. That’s it. Just three simple steps.

To be a visionary leader, you need to:

1) Learn from everyone,
2) Follow no one, and
3) Look for patterns.

So simple and easy to remember.

Learn always, never follow, and look for patterns.

Oh, and one more thing. You’ll need to work like hell.

Go, get moving, we need you.

Steve Jobs – farewell

Trust that the dots will connect down the road, love what you do, and remember that you are going to die

TODAY October 5th 2011, we received the sad news that Steve Jobs has departed.

We are lucky to have lived during the same age as Steve Jobs, a man who has put a dent in the universe, and whose lasting impact will be remembered in the same breath as Aristotle, Leonardo da Vinci, and Sir Isaac Newton.

If you have ever used a personal computer, listened to digital music, or used a smart phone, then Steve Jobs has changed the way that you experience the world.  For most of us it would be impossible to imagine using a PC without a mouse, but this is just one of the innovations that were introduced and popularised by Steve Jobs, the visionary.

In 1976, Jobs and his high school friend Stephen Wozniak started Apple in a suburban California garage. Wozniak designed the original Apple I computer to impress his friends at the Homebrew Computer Club and Jobs was immediately inspired.  Jobs saw its potential and took responsibility for marketing this creation to the world. (source: New York Times)

Jobs understood that ideas which spread win.  Apple has always appealed to a different kind of person. A person who believes that things can change, that the world can be a better place, and that we can make a difference.  Apple’s products personify this idea, and the Apple faithful purchase Apple products not merely as a consumption decision but as an expression of their personal identity.  Steve Jobs is their poster boy.

Jobs also understood that ideas which fail to spread lose … even if they embody more advanced technology. Apple has often been criticised by the tech-purists for selling shiny products which contain ordinary technology.  The amusing iPhone4 vs HTC Evo video reflects this lament.  Why would someone buy the iPhone4 when the HTC Evo is technologically superior?  Why indeed.  The answer, which Jobs intuitively understood, is fairly simple.  When you purchase the HTC Evo you only get a phone.  However, when you purchase the iPhone4 you also get to be part of the Apple community, to express your personal identity, and to tell a story about who you are and how the world might be one day.  “Things can be different, things can be better, we can change things.”

Jobs understood how to communicate his ideas effectively.  His keynote speeches at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference were extremely popular, were covered extensively by the international press, and were so effective at influencing software developers that they came to be referred to as his “reality distortion field.”  How did he do it?  One technique Jobs used consistently in his communications was the Rule of Three – a simple, powerful and effective tool that you can adopt to improve your speeches, reports and other communications.

Jobs used his powers of persuasion to change the world for the better.  His passion for pursuing the future, and bringing Apple and the rest of the world with him, was captured in his keynote speech at the Macworld Conference and Expo in January 2007 when he concluded by quoting ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky:

There’s an old Wayne Gretzky quote that I love. “I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.” And we’ve always tried to do that at Apple. Since the very very beginning. And we always will.

Some would argue that skating passionately into an unknown future is not only risky, but foolish … and Jobs would probably have agreed.  His view of the world was shaped by the 1960s counterculture of the San Francisco Bay Area where he grew up.  And he identified one publication from that period as having a lasting impact on his life: “The Whole Earth Catalog”. Jobs recalled that it was an amazing publication which, after a few years in circulation, left a brief yet memorable farewell message on the back cover of its final issue:

“Stay hungry, stay foolish.”