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Entrepreneurs: Innovation in Slovakia

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

We all know that Silicon Valley people are open-minded, multi-cultural, multi-gendered, full of authenticity and not a shred of arrogance.

Just as we all know that pigs can fly.

Whereas entrepreneurs in Slovakia don’t think much of flying pigs, they saw no reason why cars couldn’t fly.

Video credit: Business Insider

The Mind of a Creator

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

I find it forever fascinating to try and decipher the minds behind the creativity that stretches the boundaries and adds unique beauty to normal, real-world stuff. Here are two wonderful examples.

It takes a rare mindset to see a utilitarian object, with its own shape and use, and turn it into completely different object with a totally different form and use. The beauty is found in the operational innovation, since each of the final forms looks totally normal.

Or the artist’s mind that takes something that’s been around for centuries and keeps it’s utilitarian properties, while changing it in ways so far beyond the normal decorative and stylistic features that it is almost unimaginable — except to that one mind.

Wouldn’t you love to share a meal (or a bottle of wine) and just talk? No agenda, no purpose, except to bask in the creativity that flows from a truly original mind?

I certainly would.

Video credits: Sofa and Cabinet

Ducks in a Row: The Reward of Personal Deep Time

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016


I read a wonderful essay by artist Rachel Sussman and two paragraphs especially resonated.

After all, meaning is not made of lone facts, lone people, or lone disciplines, nor is it found in the valuing of the objective over the subjective. Rather, meaning comes by way of knitting together a bigger picture, filled with color and texture, and meant to be felt and understood. We most fully understand what we can internalize—that which becomes part of us. The importance of specializing can’t be discarded, but working only within one discipline and strictly adhering to its rules is likely only to generate one kind of work, one kind of result. (…)

Deep time is like deep water: We are constantly brought back to the surface, pulled by the wants and needs of the moment. But like exercising any sort of muscle, the more we access deep time, the more easily accessible it becomes, and the more likely we are to engage in long-term thinking. The more we embrace long-term thinking, the more ethical our decision-making becomes.

Her concept of deep time connected in my mind to HBS’ Jim Heskett’s discussion of deep thinking years ago — especially the comments. (Both are well worth reading.)

Do you notice the connection?

Both embrace silence sans distractions.

What happens when you shut off and shut out the noise of the modern world?

First comes fear; fear of the unknown that is yourself.

The fear fades as self-knowledge grows.

As it fades you see a spark; a spark that grows until it is a steady fire fueled by your own creativity.

A fire that warms you and from which you draw inspiration and ideas.

And, over the course of your life’s short version of deep time, wisdom.

Flickr image credit: Judit Klein

Entrepreneurs: Pay Attention — Or Not

Thursday, November 5th, 2015


Have you ever considered that the comments and musings of so-called influencers and thought leaders carry more weight than they should.

Insider anecdotes from tech often show just how wrong those at the top can be.

Steve Jobs didn’t believe anyone would buy big phones.

Or the mindset of Jim Clark, as revealed by Michael Lewis, author of The New New Thing, a book about the tech industry in the late ’90s.

“At the end of The New New Thing, Jim Clark, who has made a fortune out of the internet bubble, says he’s getting out because he’s scared. Why’s he scared? Kleiner Perkins, the VC firm, has given $25 million to this startup called Google, which he thinks is outrageous. Why would anyone give $25 million to Google? A search engine is just a commodity, everybody knows that, it’s a silly name.”

There are always experts who will tell you why whatever won’t work.

I’m not recommending that you just ignore or dismiss them.

What I am saying is that you need to take everything with a grain of skepticism and not buy it because of who says it.

Flickr image credit: MSLGROUP Global

If the Shoe Fits: Innovation vs. Marketing

Friday, September 18th, 2015

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mThere is a myth out there that large companies aren’t creative and don’t innovate.

Not only is it a myth, it’s pure BS.

Watch this video for a look at pure innovation as done by Samsung.

So why the persistent myth?

There’s a great answer in the comments.

In two years Apple will come out with the same thing for their semis, call it iPass, and be lauded as innovators. –CommanderCorner

It used to be that if you built a better mousetrap the world would beat a path to your door, but these days the mousetrap matters less than the mystique of the builder and the skill of the marketers.

Image credit: HikingArtist Video credit: Leo Burnett

Entrepreneurs: Teachers as Entrepreneurs

Thursday, September 17th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikesansone/4577861695/People usually go into teaching because they had a great teacher who inspired them; they care about kids or believe that it’s a way to make a difference.

No one in their right mind will argue that teachers are underpaid.

Sadly, the politics, internal and external, the system, often working without even minimal resources or adequate textbooks combined with the grind of producing daily lesson plans that engage their students year after year takes a toll on their idealism and enthusiasm.

Teachers differ in their skills, strengths and creativity — as do people in every field.

What if creative, high-performing teachers had a way to share successful lesson plans with other teachers and make money at the same time?

Further, what if the cost was personally affordable, so that teachers didn’t have to find funds or get approval?

That’s the idea behind TeachersPayTeachers, a virtual marketplace where educators can buy and sell lesson plans just like an app store and similarly priced.

What kind of tunes do you think Iago, the villain in William Shakespeare’s “Othello,” would listen to if he had an iPhone?

That is the kind of question that Laura Randazzo, an exuberant English teacher, often dreams up to challenge her students at Amador Valley High School in Pleasanton, Calif. (…) “For a buck, a teacher has a really good tool that she can use with any work of literature,” Ms. Randazzo said in a phone interview last week. “Kids love it because it’s fun. But it’s also rigorous because they have to support their characterizations with evidence.”

The site’s been around since 2006 and is highly successful.

To date, Teacher Synergy, the company behind the site, has paid about $175 million to its teacher-authors, says Adam Freed, the company’s chief executive. The site takes a 15 percent commission on most sales.

Read the article; then share it with every teacher, or their relatives, you know; tweet it and share it as widely as possible.

Whether they sell or buy they’ll win.

And if your effort saves just one teacher from burnout or makes their life a bit easier then, you’ll deserve a pat on the back — whether you know it or not.

Flickr image credit: Mike Sansone

Ad Blockers are Bad Business

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

https://www.flickr.com/photos/streamishmc/5974012920The other day I was thinking about downloading an ad blocker, because the auto-video ads make me crazy.

But even before I read about the Washington Post blocking people with ad blockers from reading their articles I decided not to.


Because I know that, as the saying goes, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

“Many people already receive our journalism for free online, with digital advertising paying only a portion of the cost. Without income via subscriptions or advertising, we are unable to deliver the journalism that people coming to our site expect from us.”

No one expects to get a free car or for even Amazon to give away books, but when it comes to content on the Internet they cry, “That’s different!

Copyrights are suddenly meaningless and any effort to generate revenue to pay for the creative talent, technology and other expenses required pollutes the experience.

Even sites that are built on user-generated content have expenses.

You deserve to be paid for your work and your company deserves to generate revenue to pay you — and so do they.

Think about that before you block ads or complain about pay walls.

Flickr image credit: Jason Tester


If the Shoe Fits: the Power of Working Alone

Friday, June 5th, 2015

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mMore and more research is showing that real creativity is a more solo function than a team effort.

Susan Cain spells this out in a thoughtful LinkedIn post that is well worth your time, especially if you are a young founder raised on social media, with a penchant for crowdsourcing and Yelp.

Consider the words of Steve Wozniak in his memoir iWoz.

Most inventors and engineers I’ve met are like me—they’re shy and they live in their heads. They’re almost like artists. In fact, the very best of them are artists. And artists work best alone where they can control an invention’s design without a lot of other people designing it for marketing or some other committee. I don’t believe anything really revolutionary has been invented by committee. If you’re that rare engineer who’s an inventor and also an artist, I’m going to give you some advice that might be hard to take. That advice is: Work alone. You’re going to be best able to design revolutionary products and features if you’re working on your own. Not on a committee. Not on a team.

Then read, digest and tweak Cain’s ideas to fit your situation, then put the concepts to work in your company.

Image credit: HikingArtist

A Different Kind of Diversity

Monday, May 18th, 2015


I’ve had a lot of inquiries lately from managers who believe their teams have lost their edge.

Productivity is fine and they innovate, but in a predictable, prosaic way.

All were facing the same problem, but none could see that the source was themselves.

It is the same problem many bosses face, including Dan, whom I wrote about seven years ago.

So rather than spend my time and their money identifying the likely cause I sent each one this link and told them to call if they needed additional help.

So far I haven’t heard from any of them.

Flickr image credit: Denise Krebs

If the Shoe Fits: Physical Advantage

Friday, April 17th, 2015

A Friday series exploring Startups and the people who make them go. Read all If the Shoe Fits posts here

5726760809_bf0bf0f558_mDo you use technology to solve problems? Enhance creativity and drive innovation? Develop your team and build your people?

Years ago I wrote Fools, Tools, and Management Cool about how technology doesn’t take the place of good management.

I’ve written about the advantages of silence and the importance of unwiring and how to be Luftmenschen (people who deal in the non-tangible: ideas, thoughts, dreams).

When it comes to technology, you may want to rethink the approach.

A growing body of neuroscience research has begun to reveal the exact ways in which information age technologies cut against the natural grain of the human mind. Our understanding of all kinds of information is shaped by our physical interaction with that information. Move from paper to screen, and your brain loses valuable “topographical” markers for memory and insight.

Although screens have their strengths in presenting information — they are, for example, good at encouraging browsing — they are lousy at helping us absorb, process, and retain information from a focused source. And good old handwriting, though far slower for most of us than typing, better deepens conceptual understanding versus taking notes on a computer — even when the computer user works without any internet or social media distractions.

In short, when you want to improve how well you remember, understand, and make sense of crucial information about your organization, sometimes it’s best to put down the tablet and pick up a pencil.

The work described was done by the Drucker Institute and is easy to try with your people.

The great news if you want to try unplugging is that the basic techniques are simple and free. Here’s an Un/Workshop-style exercise you can try on your own time, with your own team, in just a half-hour: Including yourself, get six or more of your colleagues together. Divide yourselves into two or more small groups. Give each group one piece of paper with a single question printed on it: Who is our customer?

Depending how young your team is you may incur some minor costs — like the need to shop for paper and pencils and possibly explain how to use them.

Image credit: HikingArtist

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