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Creativity and leadership

They’re related.

Management isn’t. Management uses power and authority to get people to do tasks you know can be done. Management is needed, but management is insufficient.

Leadership is voluntary. It’s voluntary to lead and it’s voluntary to follow. If you’re insisting, then you’re managing…

And creativity is the magical human act of doing something that might not work. If you know it’s going to work–then it’s management.

Akimbo (a now-independent B corp that is pioneering cohort-based learning) has proven that creativity and leadership can be learned. They’re learned by doing, not by lectures.

Consider the legendary altMBA, now in its sixth year. The First Priority Application Deadline is tomorrow, September 7th for altMBA’s January 2022 session. Learn to lead by doing the work.

And I’m excited that the fifth session of the Creative’s Workshop, which inspired my book The Practice, begins September 28th. You can sign up and find details at this site. It’s a place to find the others, to share your work and most of all, to learn to see your creative practice in a powerful new way.

Many people return to work with and learn from their peers again and again. Check out what they’re building at Akimbo…

Simple connection tools

The Rolodex and the Filofax disappeared a while ago, but we’re still not all using the tools that make it easier to coordinate people and time.

I use Calendly to book various kinds of 1 on 1 discussions. I set it up to have access to certain windows in my calendar. Then, I just send the link (for example, to the 15-minute zoom call) and the other person can pick any time that works for them. Done. No back and forth.

I use Streamyard to have conversations with one or two people that can be recorded or broadcast live on social media. This is a great substitute for a live Zoom meeting where you’re asking your entire team to watch a conversation as it happens. By sending them a recording instead, they can watch it at their convenience and even speed it up or watch it again.

I have found that Doodle saves a ton of time when you’re trying to organize five or ten people to a coordinated live meeting or call. Instead of the endless circle of guesses, there’s a simple grid and people vote for what’s workable. It’s still not seamless, but it works.

Shared workspaces like Google Drive and Lucid are a dramatic improvement over sending docs and back and forth. There’s really no comparison.

And Zapier is next-level when it comes to moving information, regularly, from one digital silo to another. It takes a few minutes to set up, but then saves a huge amount of time, allowing you to get back to what you’re really here to do.

Also Figma, which is generally used for laying out websites but is a powerful tool for graphic collaboration.

Don’t forget Discourse, when you and a group are ready to get serious about developing ideas and discussion in scalable ways.

Cooperation, connection and the power of being in sync is getting more important every day. We do better together.

Write something

Then improve it.

Then write something else.

Repeat this process until you have a post.

Then post it.

Then repeat this process.

There’s no such thing as writer’s block. There’s simply a fear of bad writing. Do enough bad writing and some good writing is bound to show up.

And along the way, you will clarify your thinking and strengthen your point of view.

But it begins by simply writing something.

Instead

A simple substitute might change a habit.

Instead of a snack, brush your teeth.

Instead of a nap, go for a walk.

Instead of a nasty tweet or cutting remark, write it down in a private notebook.

Instead of the elevator, take the stairs.

Instead of doomscrolling, send someone a nice note.

Instead of an angry email, make a phone call.

Instead of a purchase seeking joy, consider a donation…

Negative marginal cost

Marginal cost is how much extra you’ll need to spend to serve one more customer.

The marginal cost of a hot dog is pretty low–if you don’t have to account for rent and labor and insurance and the rest, one more hot dog might only cost 15 cents to serve.

On the other hand, the marginal cost of a custom pair of shoes is pretty high, because the labor and materials are expensive.

The internet is transformative because so many things have a zero marginal cost. It doesn’t cost anything for WordPress to add one more user. And it doesn’t cost me anything to have one more person read this blog.

But…

When we factor in the magic of the network effect (things that work better when more people are using them) it turns out that the marginal cost isn’t zero. It’s actually negative. That means that it’s expensive for an online service to have fewer users.

Moving from expensive to cheap to free to “it’s a bonus to add one more person” changes our economy and our culture forever.

Urgent cultural change

Culture doesn’t change (much). Elements of human culture have been around for 100,000 years, and it persists. In fact, its persistence is a key attribute of why it works.

People like us do things like this.

In the last ten years, the culture has changed dramatically. We’re buffeted by shifts that are faster and more widespread than anyone can recall.

The combination of media, illness, technology and climate have made each week different from the one that came before.

Even early adopters and news junkies are becoming fatigued in the face of so much, so often.

And this persistent shifting in the foundations of our culture is sharpening the rhetoric and resolve of folks who would rather things stay as they imagined they were.

Our conversations and arguments about how we react to changes in the culture do little to change the forces that are shaping our future, though. Change persists whether we asked for it or not. Wishing and insisting won’t get us back to a world that’s static.

Our response to change is often all we have control over. And the way we respond is how we create the next cycle of culture and possibility.

We get what the business model wants

The model for TV in the 1960s was three major networks supported by mass advertising. And so the shows that were produced were banal, reassuring and fairly inexpensive to produce. The goal was simply to keep someone from watching the other two channels.

The business model in the Netflix age, with multiple streaming channels racing to gain market share among affluent consumers with a surfeit of choice, is fundamentally different. And as a result, so is the content being produced.

It’s not that the TV people wanted to watch suddenly changed–it’s that the economic model for delivering it did.

The business model for news has changed, and so the news has. Not what’s happening in the world, but the way the internet reports it.

The business model for all the lifestyle (health, gossip, etc.) filler we see has changed as well. And so it goes…

And for many people, the biggest change is this: the business model of social networks has replaced the simple act of being in community.

Great ideas always sound like they’re far too soon

Good ideas feel early.

And late ideas are acclaimed by most of the reviewers with opinions that don’t actually matter.

Part of our challenge is that the lousy ideas get a very similar pre-launch response as the great ones.

If you wait until the market is telling you exactly what it wants, you’re almost certainly too late.

On the other hand, if you can find the resources to stick it out through the trough of skepticism, you’ll be around to discover if your idea was any good or not. The best shortcut is the long way forward.

How’d they do it without you?

Somewhere, perhaps nearby, it went well.

A family gathering happened and all the details were right.

A project launched on Kickstarter and it succeeded.

A person was hired and they were a good choice.

The terms and conditions were updated, and no mistakes were made…

It’s easy to use our indispensability as fuel. Fuel to speak up and contribute. That’s important. But it’s also possible for that same instinct to backfire, and for us to believe that if we don’t do it, it won’t get done right.

That’s unlikely.

Is TikTok powerful?

To be powerful, a medium needs two things:

  • The ability to reach people who take action
  • The ability for someone in charge to change what those people see and hear and do

The telephone reaches a lot of people, but AT&T has very little power because they have no influence over who makes phone calls.

Lots of people have Sony TVs, but it’s Netflix that has the cultural power because they decide which shows are promoted on the start screen.

People in the music business are flummoxed by the number of new acts that are showing up out of nowhere and becoming hits on TikTok. They’re talking about how powerful this company is.

But it’s not. It’s simply reporting on what people are doing, not actively causing it.

The folks with the power are the anonymous engineers, tweaking algorithms without clear awareness of what the impact might be.

Google and Amazon used to invite authors to come speak, at the author’s expense. The implied promise was that they’re so powerful, access to their people was priceless. But the algorithm writers weren’t in the room. You ended up spending time with people who pretended they had influence, but were more like weatherpeople, not weather makers.

Reporting the weather is different from creating the weather.

There are still cultural weather makers, but they might not be the people we think they are.