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For the upgrade

The phone in your pocket cost $600, but that was two years ago, so now, it seems to be free and fully paid for.

The upgrade has a slightly better camera and a slightly faster processor.

Here’s the question: “If you could have chosen between the phone you have now and the phone you want now two years ago, would you have paid $700 more for the newer one?”

Most people would not.

So why do we upgrade? Software, phones, cars, houses…

It’s because we’re not making that simple choice. Instead, we’re embracing the wisdom of the choice we made years ago at the same time we’re focusing on the glaring defects that status and affiliation relentlessly point out.

They’re not trying to sell you a phone any longer. Or a house. They’re spending all their time selling you an upgrade.

Steady state and the trigger for change

If, every time there’s a dish in the sink, you load and run the dishwasher and scrub the entire kitchen, you’re never going to get anything else done.

On the other hand, if you wait until the sink is overflowing and the kitchen is filthy before you work on it, you’re going to spend a lot of time living with a dirty kitchen.

Somewhere in between the two extremes is a productive steady state.

The same goes for your relationship with a customer, your staffing decisions and just about everything else we do all day. Setting the triggers for action is best done in advance, and maintained regularly. Waiting for a crisis is expensive and risky.

Front of house/back of house

What do the dishwashers eat for lunch?

What’s the user experience of accounts payable for that big tech company?

How does the head of sales treat the receptionist?

If it’s good enough for your customers, it should be good enough for your team, your vendors and your friends. And vice versa.

The key is this: In many organizations, customers have a choice and customers have a voice. Treating everyone as if they have that sort of power makes it far more likely you’re earning trust and respect, not cutting corners.

“What’s on tonight?”

This common question no longer means anything.

Every TV show is on. All the time.

Our record collection streams every record ever recorded.

And our readers can find and display just about any book we can name.

We haven’t thought about the impacts of this abundance nearly as much as it deserves. Live matters less, scarcity is not really a factor, and ubiquity of access can easily lead to boredom, lack of status and a search for real-time connection.

Success used to be based on gatekeepers and access to access. What are the new rules?

For the good of the community

One way to serve the community is to see it as a market and solve one of its problems.

When people choose to buy something, it’s ostensibly because the thing you sell is worth more to them than it costs. And so value is created.

And when you make a profit selling something and pay taxes, those taxes go to create services for the community.

Those are two reasons culture has evolved to enable capitalism.

When this system gets out of whack, two things happen–first, some businesses use their market power to extract more value than they create. And second, they use their lobbying power to pay no taxes.

The market hasn’t failed, but the system used to address market and community needs sometimes does.

The way it’s done

Some people say, “we’re not changing it, because this is the way it’s done.”

And some people say, “the way it’s done isn’t good enough, let’s make it better.”

In a given situation, you might encounter one or the other type of response. In fact, each of us might adopt one posture or the other.

It’s not “who”, it’s “what do they believe.”

It’s worth thinking about the beliefs of the person you’re talking to before you try to suggest making things better. And it will help you understand the feedback someone else is giving you about your work as well.

Novelty vs action

Nerds, geeks, early adopters: they do things because they’re fresh and new and might not work. They’re novel.

Most people, though, hesitate in the face of novelty. Because novelty is risky. Shoes with goldfish in the heels. The latest techno-ska-punk track. The new kind of phone…

The reason we haven’t taken systemic action is that it’s scary, not because it isn’t novel enough.

If you want more people to take more action, make it safe, don’t make it interesting.

[PS In a month, it’s Halloween. Please don’t buy cheap chocolate.]

Extensions and souvenirs

When a brand is successful, there’s often a desire to extend it.

Disneyland was an extension of Disney movies. It reflected some of the magic of the movies, but created something new and valuable as well. Disneyland had some of the Disney essence and then built something additive and new.

Apple did the same thing with the iPhone in extending the brand of the Mac.

On the other hand, the new Leica watch is simply a souvenir. It’s not a better watch. It’s not more of a Leica than any of a dozen other overpriced watches could be seen to be. It’s simply there to remind you that you liked the original. It’s a souvenir of a feeling, not the creator.

Nothing wrong with a souvenir. I’m sure Leica will make a profit from their watch with little damage to the promise that the brand itself makes. But make too many souvenirs and you become a hollow shell, wasting the chance to make the change you seek.

The crappy t-shirt you bought at your favorite musician’s concert is a souvenir, but they shouldn’t count on that as their legacy or the engine of their growth.

All day, individual creators have to make choices about what they’re going to do next. Sometimes we can create an extension. And sometimes, we decide to make a souvenir instead.

Logistics vs (and) innovation

When innovation arrives, the logistics people have to scramble to keep up, because innovation always makes it hard to do things the way we used to.

Over time, an innovative company thrives if it can get its logistics in order. Ship the right stuff to the right people on time and on budget.

Once this happens, it often means that the logistics people gain in power and influence. After all, they pulled off a miracle.

Then, when the next innovation shows up, the logistics voices in the room are likely to have more say in what happens next. That’s why upstarts who feel like they have nothing to lose are so much more likely to innovate–they don’t realize how hard it is going to be.

Innovation doesn’t work without logistics.

Retribution, revenge, and especially, remorse

When an organization has caused harm (through error or intent), it’s tempting to be sure they learned a lesson. We want folks to take responsibility, to admit culpability and to be sure they won’t do it again.

But if you need those things to happen to make things better for all of us, we’re going to have to wait a long time.

Perhaps it makes sense to embrace, “now that I know what I know now, I can make a new decision based on new information and do this instead.”

Taking responsibility for yesterday is great. Taking action for tomorrow is even better.

We often become what we do, as opposed to simply doing what we say we would when under duress.