Friday, June 20th, 2008

Random observations – Part 2

Random observations – Part 2
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A while back I posted Random observations – Part 1. This is a follow-up. As noted earlier, these are personal ruminations on patterns I’ve uncovered through my professional practice. Some are topical, while others may feel rather disconnected. That being said, they all circle around the same things in my mind.

11. I don’t bank on home runs

When we started in business, I planned everything in exacting detail so that we wouldn’t make any mistakes. (It didn’t work.) Mistakes are inevitable; simply work through them as quickly as possible.

Make a prototype, test it, iterate. Continual small improvements are manageable and it’s easier to fix bugs than to be perfect the first time.

12. Make lots

We often fall in love with our work. It’s easy to fawn over our accomplishments, or imbue unnecessary gravity upon our decisions.

We can make up for this by taking many shots on goal. With every failure, one learns to refine their plays. Eventually, good ones will start to feel almost natural.

This takes humility and patience, but with time those who have done so seem to stand apart from those who didn’t roll-up their sleeves.

13. Planning and over-planning

You are more apt to reach your goals with a good plan. A plan doesn’t need to meet any format. Think of it as a functional piece that helps you focus that can change as you better understand a situation.

Over-planning tends to remove clarity, and leaves little room for improvisation. This is problematic, as things rarely turn out exactly as you’d expect.

14. Get to the point

In grade school we are measured by our ability conform to rules (think: 1,500 word papers). As such, we learn to focus on filling spaces. Later in this life, this results in long-winded reports that say hardly anything.

Distill your messages to their most relevant points. Those you work with will come to listen to what you say, and you’ll find yourself with more spare time.

15. The rewards of rebellion

Forget about requirements and focus on the problem at hand. Do your job wrong, but come up with the right solution. If it can be done simply, all the better.

You may get fired; or, you might find yourself on the fast track.

16. Cool is a paradox

As a child, I thought that the Fonz was cool. Now, Beck is cool and Fonzie seems kind of silly.

Trends spin around all the time. Be who you are. Should one eventually land on you, it will feel natural.

Be someone else, and you may end up like Vanilla Ice.

17. One page

Banks, VCs, and bureaucracies turn business planning into a grand, theoretical exercise. When you need their money you have little choice, other than meeting their demands.

But bigger plans don’t make for better businesses. (Sometimes they cloud the fact that one’s idea really isn’t that good.) See if you can get your business plan to one page that anyone can read. If it makes sense, you may be on to something.

18. Do less

Concentrate on doing one thing exceptionally well. Go as “narrow” as you can. At first it will be scary, and you’ll wonder if you are missing out on an opportunity.

With time, however, you’ll be ahead: Marketing will be simpler. Processes will become clearer. Decisions will be easier to make.

19. Give your clients less and more

Forget the fancy offices, corporate giveaways and phony Christmas cards. Instead, just call them and listen carefully. Help them solve their problems.

A good brand isn’t a logo on a mug; it’s a relationship that one doesn’t want to give up.

20. Be extreme

Today’s world is filled with competent and talented people. As such, being “good” is no longer enough. To differentiate an organization or oneself, one must be super-fantastic at something. (This isn’t as difficult as it may seem.)

Pick a subject and embrace it with all of your might. It hardly matters what, but you have to love it. Read everything about the topic, and earnestly seek to understand it. Make it such a part of your being that you’ll go to any length to do it impeccably. Some people call this nerdy, and others will believe you to be obsessive.

Then of course, those who do wonderful things have to play on a different level.

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