What percentage of the work you do each day is work where the process (the 'right answer') is known? Jobs where you replicate a process instead of inventing one…
The place where we can create the most value is when we do a job where exploration and a new solution is what's needed. Not rote, but exploration. Which means we're doing something that's not been done before, something that might not work.
This isn't something to avoid, it's the work we need to seek out.
When the speakerphone is on in the conference room, do you talk differently?
It's pretty common.
We breathe from a different spot, hold our chest differently, constrict our throats and generally try to shout our words across the ocean.
The people listening on the speaker are used to it. The people in the room with you, less so.
Human beings don't have a long cultural history with microphones. We don't instinctively understand that they actually work. So we shout instead. And shouting changes how we're believed, trusted and ultimately heard.
Learning to use a microphone is a great skill. When you speak normally, it turns out that the microphone has plenty of volts, watts and amps on hand to move your voice all the way to Latvia if you want it to. And then your words will actually be heard.
Everyone else makes bad decisions, is shortsighted, prejudiced, subject to whims, temper tantrums, outbursts and short-term thinking.
Once you see it that way, it's easier to remember…
that we're everyone too.
All those meetings you have tomorrow–they were just cancelled. The boss wants you to do something productive instead.
What would you do with the time? What would you initiate?
If it's better than those meetings were going to be, why not cancel them?
It makes no sense, of course.
The question this prompts is: Are there places you feel like you're falling behind where there's actually no race?
Elections are the only place where marketers try to get fewer people to buy what's being sold.
In many elections in the US, fewer than half the population votes. Which means, of course, that in most elections, not only doesn't the winner get a majority, the winner wasn't even chosen by a majority of the majority. We make it worse with gerrymandering and arcane vote counting.
It turns out that depressing voter turnout is a shortcut for the selfish political marketer. It's easier to get your opponent's supporters to become disgusted enough to stay home than it is to actually encourage people to proactively vote for you.
When non-electoral marketers try to learn from political examples, we get confused by all of this. The fact that it's a one-shot event, that a bare majority is the goal (most marketing doesn't have to win a majority, it merely needs to matter to enough people) and that decreasing turnout is a valid strategy all add up to make politics a special case.
Blue Bottle Coffee doesn't succeed against Starbucks by getting people to not drink coffee at all. Nor do they need to sell more than half the coffee sold. All that a non-political marketer needs to do is find enough raving fans. If politicians learned this lesson, I think we'd all be better off.
It's not an accident we're disgusted. Politicians spend billions of marketing dollars to create the belief that voting is something that's better to avoid.
They teach us that it's not a responsibility we want to take.
They make it feel like a hassle.
They don't invest in making it a chance to build community and connection.
In short, it's more like giving blood and less like going to a Super Bowl party.
Too often the incumbents are liked by a minority, respected by an even smaller group and particularly bad at the job. And if many of the registered voters turned out, each would lose in a heartbeat.
The solution is simple, fast and cheap. Show up and vote. Every time.
Once politicians realize that we're immune to their cynical tricks, they'll stop using them.
Show up and vote. It'll make a difference.
[actually, it's more than that, but the previous incarnations of this blog are lost to the fogs of time]
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I write every word. I don't understand outsourcing something this personal, a privilege this important.
The secret to writing a daily blog is to write every day. And to queue it up and blog it. There is no other secret.
The blog contains more than 2,700,000 words, delivering the equivalent of more than thirty full-length books. The blog doesn't exist to get you to buy a book… sometimes I think I write the books to get people to read the blog.
I haven't missed a day in many, many years–the discipline of sharing something daily is priceless. Sometimes there are typos. I hope that they're rare and I try to fix them.
Over time, the blog adds up. People remember a blog post a year after I wrote it. Or they begin a practice, take an action, make a connection, something that grows over time. The blog resonates with people in so many fields, it's thrilling to see how it can provoke positive action.
It's true that I'd write this blog even if no one read it, but I want to thank you for reading it, for being here day after day. It's more fun that way. There are more than a million subscribers, and, best I can tell, people read this in nearly every country in the world.
PS There are two easily found collections of some of my best posts. They are Whatcha Gonna Do With That Duck and Small Is The New Big.
And there are also two complete collections, each weighing more than 17 pounds.
One is out of print and a collector's item, the other has just 600 copies left. That's the end of the run–worth gifting…
Unboxing stories are here. To celebrate #7000, the last copies are on sale until they're all gone.
Thanks for being part of this journey.
The engineering mindset tells us that all that matters is what's under the surface, the measurable performance.
Designers know that perception is at least as valuable.
Symbolic acts are rarely cheap or wasted if they work. Because we're story-telling creatures, and symbols are clues about which story we ought to tell ourselves.
Symbolism isn't cheap. It's priceless.
Deadlines are vitamins for creativity.
If you've got too much in progress, too much of a buffer, too many items ready to go, it's easy to slip back to complacency. Without the feeling of imminent, it's easier to hide.
If you're the kind of person that needs a crisis to move forward, feel free to invent one. Take the good ideas that aren't going anywhere and delete them, give them away, hand them off to your team.
An empty outbox is a mother of invention.
[The flipside: Maybe you don't need invention. Maybe what you need is market traction, completion or more trust. Maybe you need to build an asset, firm up a foundation and create real value for your customers. It could be that one reason your outbox is so full is that you're still in the habit of inventing. It turns out that 99% of the value our teams create happens after we've invented something.] The Dip is real.
If you want to raise the standards of any group, improving the top of the heap isn't nearly as effective as focusing your effort on the base instead.
Simple example: Getting a Prius to go from 50 miles per gallon to 55 miles per gallon isn't nearly as important as getting SUVs to go from 10 miles per gallon to 15. There are two reasons for this. The first is that there are a lot more SUVs than Priuses. The second is that they use far more gallons, so a percentage increase has far more yield. (You can't average averages).
If you care about health and a culture of performance, it's tempting to push Olympic athletes to go just a tenth of a second faster. It's far more effective, though, if you can get 3,000,000 kids to each spend five more minutes a day walking instead of sitting.
Organizations pamper and challenge the few in the executive suite, imagining that one more good decision in the biz dev group could pay off. The thing is, if every one of the 10,000 customer-facing employees was more engaged and kind, it would have a far bigger impact on the company and those it serves.
I think the reason we focus on the few is that it feels more dramatic, seems more controllable and is ultimately easier. But the effective, just and important thing to do is to help the back of the line catch up.