Friday, April 9, 2010

Seth Makes Some Fine Points

Seth Godin's post Rights and Responsibilities is like most of his posts: the bomb. Here's a quote:
...organizations and individuals that focus more on their responsibilities and less on their rights tend to outperform.

It's a journey versus the destination kind of thing, except that, in this case, the destination is for some poor saps the place to which they think they've already arrived.

Kind of insufferable, isn't it?

He also scores big points taking on PepsiCo and anybody else with a position to protect, a status quo to defend when he says:

Once people realize that excessive use of your product makes them sick and then die a long and painful death, it's probably time to stop lobbying and time to start doing something about it.

It's that protectionism that creeps into everything. Kevin Kelly in The Technium quoted Clay Shirky to much the same effect:

Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.

When people do this, try to continue to preserve the status quo no matter the cost to others, present or future, they take the easy way out. "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush," goes the old saying, and boy, it hits home with a vengeance here. But it's more and less than simple practicality or economics.

It's laziness.

It's sheer laziness, because they give up on imagination and innovation, abandoning them with the sobriquet of "idealism."

It's good to be certain that you can afford your idealism, but it's also good to realize that you can't afford to leave them out or behind. Idealism, innovation, and imagination. It keeps us from being the death of something on down the road.

I'll paraphrase Seth's closing sentence to illustrate my point:

If your success depends on taking the easy way out and hurting others in the process, then you have a bad definition of success.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Giving Too Much Control to One Person

"If your happiness depends on your draft pick or a single audition, that's giving way too much power to someone else."

That's the last line of this excellent post by Seth Godin. What does he recommend instead? Realize that the skills you develop in pursuit of your dream are the important thing. They are the things that will serve you well in any of several different outcomes. Things like persistence, valuing hard work, goal setting, accounting for what you've done, learned and accomplished. He also mentions "shipping on time," "bending the market to your will," and "doing important and scary work."

Sometimes pursuing your dream is the best preparation for something different than you expected. With so many things beyond our control, you just shouldn't relinquish do or die decisions to one gatekeeper. It's the internet age, anyway. Gatekeepers are passe.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Rushkoff Scores a Bulls-Eye

Corporations as Uber-Citizens

I think this is really good article. I'm consistently impressed by Douglas Rushkoff, because I really love reading, seeing, or hearing people that have an excellent grasp of their subject, and Rushkoff has this ability to explain the most complicated, institutionalized things in our society in a winning, down-to-earth way.

What does he say here?

The first two paragraphs set the scenario of human interests/rights vs. corporate interests/rights, and Rushkoff comes from the somewhat counter-cultural stance that says corporations are not simply people-collectives. Oh no, they're not. They're something else entirely. The hippie in me kind of likes this, but it's not something I'm certain I agree with entirely.

For one thing, corporations are sometimes the mecha of whatever individuals are at the top. In other words, corporations are sometimes the vast expression of whatever the CEO, the board of directors, or some management team imagines. I don't think Rushkoff expresses this aspect of things, but maybe I can see why: suppose the CEO changes his mind and wants to change policy, but now the board has become invested in these policies, and simply get rid of the CEO rather than allow his policy changes to come to fruition. Viewed from the outside, it might appear that the corporation has a mind of its own.

Anyway, read the article. It has plenty to say. I think I'll post more on it later. Ta...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Competitive Insulation

Seth Godin blogs today, in Facts always win, right?, about something he calls competitive insulation that protects your business from commodification. It's made up of relationships and whatnot, and along with these points of emphasis, you add your story.

I think he's talking about building up a sub-culture around your product or service, which relates directly to how you might go about your brand-building. This competitive insulation is something referenced in part 4 of Cory Doctorow's (so far) excellent Makers, currently being serialized on The event starts in the fifth paragraph, the one that starts "Lester came back..." In it, the group has discovered their product is now being made by a competitor who's selling it for less than the group's cost to manufacture.

"How do we compete with that?" asks one member, and the answer he receives is "We don't...Now we do the next thing."

Then he goes on to explain that they will do something "even more capital intensive," and the implication here is that they are raising the barriers to entry a bit, and by moving on and coming up with something else very cool they are enhancing their story, building their brand. Cory Doctorow is the bomb-diggity.

And so is Seth Godin. I really like this term, competitive insulation.

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Gushment Is Not Good Enough

Gushing is disgusting. In that respect it’s related to “spewing.” But the icky phenomenon to which I refer is sticky sweet.

I’m referring, of course, to “unsolicited” testimonials. You see them in non-fiction books where the writer is recalling the responses of former students exposed to her revelatory techniques.

“This changes everything!” they sometimes say, which is a fine thing to say – everyone does, from time to time, but it should not be presented as evidence of anything. It’s gushing, for pity’s sake, and for all the liquid biological connotations, it should be obvious that it’s involuntary, and not a considered response.

Advice to writers always includes things like, “Don’t tell the editor how much your sister likes your writing.” Duh. It’s a referral on 1) hand-picked dataverses, and 2) anecdotal evidence in general. We should pay attention.

We should not accept gushment as evidence.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Focus Sauce

Seeking to set measurable goals, people often forget what the term “measurable” actually means in this setting. It doesn’t mean “invent a new yard stick.”

It means that you pick a simple goal, one that can be spelled out piece by piece. One that can attract consensus because everyone knows what it will look like, a kind of communal vision or some sort of social contract, de facto style.

Successful visualization is the focus sauce for your project dish and prevents the dreaded feature creep.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Destroy Your Industry?

Seth Godin posts today about Singer and how they’ve been through a cycle, going from very prominent to not so prominent, and how this is simply a fact of life. Businesses have their season, and then the bloom is off the rose, so to speak, and the cycle completed (or moved on, at any rate).

Seth’s big point is that during Singer’s boom-time, cycles were decades long and outlasted the careers of most managers, so they could not (or did not have to) address the situation before retirement. Cycles are much faster now, even annual in some cases. He says that the best marketing strategy is to “destroy your industry before your competition does.”

What does this mean?

Does it refer to the shelf-life of markets? How is that any different from industries? (Industry = “the people or companies engaged in a particular kind of commercial enterprise”) (Market = “the customers for a particular product or service”) An industry is tied to a market – you have demographic markets, geographic markets, industrial markets – but you could re-orient yourself towards a new and different market, and re-orienting could involve getting the word out there in new and different ways (marketing), or tweaking the product (I guess you could tweak it for the same market).

If an industry is comprised of the players engaged in a particular kind of commercial enterprise, then enough tweaking would eventually change the particulars, and so the old industry is destroyed and a new one rises from its ashes. I think Seth is saying that we should tweak, innovate, iterate, hack, whatever, our industry constantly, even if it becomes something different, because everything is in constant flux, and the market won’t hold still anyway, so innovate faster than your competition and you might be fortunate enough to help steer the market, particularly if your innovations are somehow tracking the market.

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