What should libraries do to become relevant in the digital age?
They can't survive as community-funded repositories for books that individuals don't want to own (or for reference books we can't afford to own.) More librarians are telling me (unhappily) that the number one thing they deliver to their patrons is free DVD rentals. That's not a long-term strategy, nor is it particularly an uplifting use of our tax dollars.
Here's my proposal: train people to take intellectual initiative.
Once again, the net turns things upside down. The information is free now. No need to pool tax money to buy reference books. What we need to spend the money on are leaders, sherpas and teachers who will push everyone from kids to seniors to get very aggressive in finding and using information and in connecting with and leading others.
Does your job happen to you?
If you're a willing cog in the vast machinery of work, it's entirely possible that the things that occur all day feel like they're being done to you.
The alternative is to create a job where you create forward motion, where you do things to the job, not the other way around.
Take a look at the language you use to describe what happened at work yesterday, that's your first clue. If you're not the one creating the change, perhaps it's time to start.
In case you missed it over the holidays. There were a few tickets left, but now they're gone. Sorry. See you there!
The secret to creativity is curiosity.
We often forget to teach kids to be curious. A student who has no perceived math ability, or illegible handwriting or the inability to sit still for five minutes gets immediate and escalating attention. The student with no curiosity, on the other hand, is no problem at all. Lumps are easily managed.
Same thing is true for most of the people we hire. We'd like them to follow instructions, not ask questions, not question the status quo.
Yet, without "why?" there can be no, "here's how to make it better."
Perhaps the most plaintive complaint I hear from organizations goes something like this, "We worked really hard to get very good at xyz. We're well regarded, we're talented and now, all the market cares about is price. How can we get large groups of people to value our craft and buy from us again?"
Apparently, the bulk of your market no longer wants to buy your top of the line furniture, lawn care services, accounting services, tailoring services, consulting… all they want is the cheapest. The masses don't want a better PC laptop. They just want the one with the right specs at the right price. It's not because people are selfish (though they are) or shortsighted (though they are). It's because in this market, right now, they're not listening. They've been seduced into believing that all options are the same, and they're only seeing price. In terms of educating the masses to differentiate yourself, the market is broken.
Fixing this is almost always a losing battle. Just because you're good at something doesn't mean the market cares any longer.
The Marx Brothers were great at vaudeville. Live comedy in a theatre. And then the market for vaudeville was killed by the movies. Groucho didn't complain about this or argue that people should respect the hard work he and his brothers had put in. No, they went into the movies.
Then the market for movies like the Marx Brothers were making dried up. Groucho didn't start trying to fix the market. Instead, he saw a new medium and went there. His TV work was among his best (and certainly most lucrative).
It's extremely difficult to repair the market.
It's a lot easier to find a market that will respect and pay for the work you can do. Technology companies have been running this race for years. Now, all of us must.
If Wal-Mart or some cultural shift has turned what you do into a commodity, don't argue. Find a new place before the competition does. It's not easy or fair, but it's true. You bet your life.
[Please note that nothing I wrote above applies to niche businesses. In fact, exactly the opposite does. You can make a good living selling bespoke PC laptops or doing vaudeville today, even though the mass of the market couldn't care a bit. How he got in my pajamas, I'll never know…]
They cost too much and they don't work very well.
Most people ignore them, they don't last very long and they're undependable.
Anil Dash has discovered that having ten times as many Twitter followers generates approximately zero times as much value.
The goal shouldn't be to have a lot of people to yell at, the goal probably should be to have a lot of people who choose to listen. Don't need a bullhorn for that.
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The nice guys who built it also offer an app that lets you build your own quick RSS apps and more. Save a bunch if you type my last name in as the coupon code.
If so, I'm not seeing it.
When something is scarce, it's valuable and smart people try to make more of it. So, should we be trying to make more fear?
Looking around, it appears as though the government, various media players and lots of well-meaning people have come to a conclusion that there's a shortage of fear. So they're busy making more of it. Making more when we already have a surplus…
We're inundated about ways to avoid this pitfall or that risk.
If you see something, say something. Hmmm. Has that actually worked? Or x-raying shoes? When was the last time a bad guy was foiled because he couldn't use a good camera to take a picture of a tourist attraction? Why do the authorities at Grand Central Station in New York wear desert camouflage?
Not just fear of terror (which is another word for fear). Fear of failure. Reminding people that an idea will never work, that the market is in failure, that all hope is lost–does that work very often?
Fear mongering is a lousy profession, one that ought to be regulated, if not banned. I'm more in favor of hope mongering. 2010 is the year that the world will change. In fact, every year is that year, but this is the only time we'll get to change the world this time.
One of the most common things I hear is, "I'd like to do something remarkable like that, but my xyz won't let me." Where xyz = my boss, my publisher, my partner, my licensor, my franchisor, etc.
Well, you can fail by going along with that and not doing it, or you can do it, cause a ruckus and work things out later.
In my experience, once it's clear you're willing (not just willing, but itching, moving, and yes, implementing) without them, things start to happen. People are rarely willing to step up and stop you, and often just waiting to follow someone crazy enough to actually do something.
I'm going. Come along if you like.
- Technicians who invented it, run it
- Technicians with taste, leverage it
- Artists take over from the technicians
- MBAs take over from the artists
- Bureaucrats drive the medium to banality
TV used to be driven by the guys who knew how to run cameras and transmitters. Then it got handed off to the Ernie Kovacs/Rod Serling types. Then the financial operators like ITT and Gulf + Western milked it. And finally it's just a job.
Same thing happened to oil painting and it'll happen to your favorite slice of the web as well.