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Saturday, July 12, 2014

Without The Rope

From The Dark Knight Rises:

Prisoner: You do not fear death. You think this makes you strong. It makes you weak.
Bruce Wayne: Why?
Prisoner: How can you move faster than possible, fight longer than possible without the most powerful impulse of the spirit: the fear of death.
Bruce Wayne: I do fear death. I fear dying in here, while my city burns, and there's no one there to save it.
Prisoner: Then make the climb.
Bruce Wayne: How?
Prisoner: As the child did. Without the rope. Then fear will find you again.

It is not the same. Climbing out of a well, a pit, with a rope tied to you to ensure you don't hit the ground if you fall, and without a rope attached. It is not the same.

It is not the same. Building a product and shipping it when you know you are not accountable for bringing in the revenues to show a return on the investment made in building the product, and building a product when you know very well that it is your responsibility to earn back what you spend. In one case, there is a rope and in the other, there isn't.

If you want to ship your product, your art, you need to shed the rope. Only then will you successfully make the climb.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Lost in the data

I returned, and saw under the Sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
Ecclesiastes 9:11 

The math of evaluating costs against benefits doesn't always give us the right answer. If it did, the race would always be won by the swift, the battle would always be won by the strong, the wise would always find bread to eat, men with skill and understanding would always end up in wealth and favourable conditions. 

Base your decisions on data, surely. But don't base them solely on data. Data only talks about what has happened in the past. Your decisions will affect the future. The future where time and chance have a significant part to play.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Following in the Footsteps

Jeffrey Gedmin, President & CEO of the Legatum Institute in London, writing about Joseph J Ellis's Revolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence, picks out leadership lessons from the book, and says:
We don't read history because it repeats itself. We study history because it reveals and inspires.
I never liked History much in school because the emphasis on remembering events and dates and places and a bunch of other nonsense. It was always like a memory test.

But I do love stories. Be it mythology, history, fiction, real-life accounts, anything. I especially love the ones that provide a way into the head of the protagonist.

As Jeffrey Gedmin puts it, it reveals and inspires.

The most important job of schools, universities, parents, teachers is to help build a sense of perspective among kids, students. Unfortunately, there is very little emphasis on this. Why, many of the people whose job it is to do so, do not themselves have a good sense of perspective on the way things ought to be done.

We shouldn't be trying to follow in the literal footsteps because we live in a fast changing world where nothing really repeats itself.

We ought to follow in the footsteps (in spirit) because it reveals and it inspires. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

David & Goliath

Since Jill Lepore's article criticizing the idea of disruptive innovation, popularised by Clay Christensen, was published in The New Yorker on 23rd June, there have been a flurry of articles by a lot of popular thinkers and the not-so-popular ones (like me). While have some have taken her argument further and praised her for it, a good number have shot back and provided counter-arguments.

With her article, she has managed to rouse a good debate around the idea, which has gotten several others to think. Speaking of getting people thinking, Malcolm Gladwell's David & Goliath is doing a good job of it as well.

I find that the two ideas, one of disruptive innovation and the other of underdogs, misfits and the art of battling giants, are quite similar in nature.

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book, provides several real-life examples where underdogs have gone on to battle (and defeat) giants and makes a case for understanding the 'advantages of disadvantages' and the 'disadvantages of advantages'.

When you go through each of those stories, you will notice that the way the underdog manages to defeat the giant is always by re-defining the rules of the game. Goliath, a giant of a warrior, was felled by David, a small shepherd boy, simply because David refused to engage in close-range combat (which would have seen him slain).

When the giant has spent so much time and effort in becoming a giant, he, like Goliath, is taken by surprise when a David comes along and changes the rules of the game.

This, in essence, is what the idea of disruptive innovation says as well. The new entrant to the market redefines the rules (like moving to digital photography instead of film) and a seeming giant is unable to react quick enough because he has invested a lot of time and money in perfecting the way things are done currently which has made him a giant.

But the point that Jill Lepore is trying to make, and the one that Malcolm Gladwell makes as well, is that the idea of disruptive innovation is not to be embraced by everyone at all times.

Monday, June 30, 2014

The problem with scale

Picking a stock to invest in...
Winning an election...
Penning a bestseller...
Getting your song to the Billboard top 100...
Making a blockbuster movie...
Becoming the most popular person in office...
Making a product that gains high market share...

...involves predicting what the majority of the people would do or like, and then doing what the prediction says.

It is easy to observe a lot of people, understand the choices they make and act in accordance. Easy doesn't mean everyone can do it. It just means that the process is understood well enough to list down the steps needed to achieve it and then follow them.

It is easy to try and please the majority.

That is why it is so hard to stay on top of any popular list. A lot of people try and do please the majority and get on top. But the half-life of popularity is low.

The half-life of allegiance high.

When you build products that make a difference, when you take your time to do things that show you care, you cater to a tribe that will soon become loyal to you.

The problem with this is, as Seth Godin says, taking your time doesn't scale. But that is only a problem if you want to scale. You can choose to cater to your tribe, to make a difference.