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The naked corn paradox

Sometimes, the thing that's done to market something makes it worse.

And so, the corn at the local supermarket is already husked, because it looks better, sells better but tastes worse.

And stereo speakers are designed with extra bass, so they'll demo better, sell better but sound worse.

The market isn't always 'right', if right means that it knows how to get what it wants in the long run. Too often, we are confused, or misled, or part of a herd headed in the wrong direction.

It's almost impossible to bring the mass market to its senses, to insist that you know better. What you can do, though, is find discerning and alert individuals who will take the time to understand. And then, if you're good and patient and lucky, they'll tell the others.

Which is why, over the last thirty years, farmers markets and other entities have slowly grown in influence. Because happy customers tell stories about remarkable products and services.

When you see the corn paradox, label it and act accordingly. Tell stories for the few, help them to spread.

PS Shawn Coyne's book about editing your stories is just out. A keeper.

I didn’t see it because I wasn’t looking

My friend Alan came over to dinner the other night. Unbeknownst to me, he had a few plastic scorpions in his pocket (a reminder of a recent adventure).

I saw a plastic scorpion on the bowl of nuts, but I didn't see it, I just moved it aside and went ahead preparing dinner. A few minutes later, I saw a second plastic scorpion on the counter, but again, I didn't actually see it, didn't pause or consider it, I just moved on. It took until the third plastic scorpion before I said, "huh."

This is one reason we feel the need to yell 'surprise' at a surprise party. Because we all have blinders on.

The people who are the very best at noticing what's happening notice it because they're looking.

"You can see a lot just by looking."

Good design (and serial numbers)

Bosch puts the serial number for its dishwashers on the side of the door, not the top. Which means that 50% of the time, if the device is mounted in a corner, it's impossible to see the serial number.

Most companies use 0 and o and O in their serial numbers, as well as 1 and I. If they used nothing but letters, words in fact, there'd be no confusion. Make a list of 1000 short words, use each word twice and you have a million numbers. FISHY-LASSO, for example. Easy to remember, hard to screw up.

And there might be a reason to use really small type, but it's hard for me to understand why.

Of course, serial numbers are merely a symptom. I'm not particularly ranting about them. Design is about function. Everything we do has a job, and if it's designed properly, the job will get done well.

When we think about what might go wrong, we're more likely to design something that goes right. 

[PS just found out about 3 words]

Product adoption: different problems for different folks

The product adoption cycle is one of the most essential things to understand when you seek to launch a product or service, or make any sort of cultural change. Different people sign up for new ideas at different rates.

DiffusionOfInnovation

Some farmers, for example, are eager to try a new type of seed or irrigation device. Some farmers will wait years, or a generation, to try the same thing. Some people start the video going viral, some are the very last to see it.

What distinguishes these people? It's worth noting that someone who might be an innovator at work might choose to be a laggard at home.

It turns out that the key is in the way they present themselves with problems. "I have a problem: I don't have the new cell phone," is a concern of the Innovator. On the other hand, the Early Majority says, "I have a problem, all my friends have a new cell phone and I don't."

Note that few say, "The device I have doesn't have the right features." That's because features don't create problems that we can solve by embracing a new idea or technology. Our stories do. A missing feature might provide some of the narrative of our internal story, but most of all, the story is built around the behavior of those around us.

If you want a population to adopt your innovation, you have to create a problem that is solved by adoption. And that problem is almost always related to, "what about the others?"

To overcome an irrational fear…

replace it with a habit.

If you're afraid to write, write a little, every day. Start with an anonymous blog, start with a sentence. Every day, drip, drip, drip, a habit.

If you're afraid to speak up, speak up a little, every day. Not to the board of directors, but to someone. A little bit, every day.

Habits are more powerful than fears. 

Free Prize Inside

Opportunity cost

Doing nothing is expensive.

Opportunity cost is the value of the lost opportunity, the benefit of the thing you could have done instead of what you're doing now.

How much does it cost to go to Stanford Business School? Well, there's the out of pocket costs, things like tuition and housing, but there's also the cost of the job you gave up to go.

Opportunity cost is at its most expensive when we miss opportunities. It's not merely the cost of making a choice, it's the real penalty of standing by as something important is happening without us.

The opportunity cost of not looking for a new job, of not building a new plant, of not listening to a new idea—these are significant, and we overlook them all the time.

It's almost impossible to live a good life if you're measuring the opportunity cost of everything you do. FOMO (fear of missing out) is a crippling syndrome, because you're always looking over someone's shoulder to see if someone (or something) better is across the room.

But even though FOMO is a joy killer, ignoring the cost of missing out is still a problem.

Terroir

You can taste it.

Heinz ketchup has no terroir. It always tastes like everywhere and nowhere and the same. A Dijon mustard from a small producer in France, though, you can taste where it came from. Foodies seek out this distinction in handcrafted chocolate or wine or just about anything where the land and environment are thought to matter.

But we can extend the idea to you, to your work, to the thing you're building.

Visit the City Bakery in New York. Every square inch contains the DNA of the whole place. The planking of the floor. The sound as you sit on the balcony. The parade of people coming in and out. The staff. It's not like anyplace else. It's not like everyplace else. It's like the City Bakery.

Consistent doesn't mean, "like everybody else." Consistent in this case means, "like yourself." If we took just one drop of your work and your reputation and the trail you leave behind, could we reconstruct the rest of it?

The pressure on each of us to fit in, to industrialize, to be more like Heinz–it's huge. But to do so is to lose the essence of what we make.

Reckless abandon (is neither)

It's not reckless, because when we leap, when we dive in, when we begin, only begin, we bring our true nature to the project, we make it personal and urgent.

And it's not abandon, not in the sense that we've abandoned our senses or our responsibility. In fact, abandoning the fear of fear that is holding us back is the single best way not to abandon the work, the pure execution of the work.

Later, there's time to backpedal and water down. But right now, reckless please.

Thanks

In just two days, my new course for freelancers is the fastest-growing one of its kind in Udemy's history. I'm thrilled to see that so many of my readers are eager to dig in and make a difference.

The course has already transformed the work of thousands of people.

The half-price discount expires soon, and this will be my last post about it. I hope it resonates with you, and thanks again for leaping.

People are real, but the crowd disappoints

Every crowd, sooner or later, will let you down.

The crowd contains a shoplifter, or a heckler, or an anonymous boor who leaves a snarky comment.

The crowd loses interest, the crowd denigrates the work, the crowd isn't serious.

Worst of all, sometimes the crowd turns into a mob, out of control and bloodthirsty.

But people, people are real.

People will look you in the eye.

People will keep their promises. People can grow, can change, can be generous.

When in doubt, ignore the crowd (and forgive them). When possible, look for people instead.

Scale is overrated, again and again.

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