Look out, it’s a trap!

images-15Every company I’ve ever worked with has believed that their product or service was the hardest part to accomplish in the ecosystem into which they were selling. All the time, you will hear hardware companies say “the rest is JUST software”, and the exact opposite can regularly be heard by software companies. And in every case, whether they were correct or not, this hubris caused one or more underestimations that ended up costing them a lot of time & money, if not failing outright.  Why do so many smart people keep falling for the same trap?

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Passive aggressive? Try aggressive passiveness instead…

Have-sales-do-that-thing...Years ago I was selling micro displays into emerging markets. A guy who worked for me thought our displays could be an “electronic eyepiece” for telescopes and contacted various telescope companies about it. They all said no, primarily because they pride themselves on great optics and so an electronic eyepiece would need to be incredibly high resolution. However, in one of the conversations, the potential customer came up with another product of theirs that could possibly use our display. My employee was very focused on telescopes, but I had another call with them to hear what they were thinking.  That call ended up making us over a million dollars.

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Mission Impossible? Not so fast…

Mission ImpossibleI once headed a team of engineers who was making a small demo of a new technology for a consumer electronics product. Given the success of Apple (and how everyone followed their lead), I knew that thin was sexy. At the end of the project kickoff meeting I challenged the team to make the demo a specific thickness which was very thin. I was immediately met with a chorus of vehement exclamations that my request was impossible. After letting everyone go a little crazy on me, I said that I understood it was a challenge but thought it was both doable & important, and laid out why on both counts (I had thought through the number I gave them so it would be defensible when it was questioned). I then ended with this: “Let’s set this thickness as the target, and as soon as any group hits a problem with maintaining this, let me know right away before any design decisions are finalized. I don’t want to force the impossible, but I want to know specifically *why* it is impossible before we stop trying. Fair enough?” Everyone agreed it was a fair approach and the kickoff meeting ended.

So what was the result?

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Nature or nurture? Either way it’s your parents’ fault.

images-5We are living in interesting times.  It seems at least once a month scientists discover a new gene that causes something, and yet at that same rate find a behavior that we previously thought was genetic is actually learned.  The more we learn about both nature & nurture, we still stay exactly on the fence about which is dominant.  For everyday usefulness, however, nature can’t hold a candle to nurture.

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Everything starts with clarity of focus

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“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”

“I don’t much care where –”

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”

This line passed me by the first time I heard it, as it does many people, because it seems so obvious.  When it really hit me, though, that this line was about more than just getting directions, I realized how wise it is.  I was struggling with where to go in my LIFE, as were many of my acquaintances, and we were frustrated with where we were, but we hadn’t decided on a clear goal. [Read more…]

Naked in the Mirror

images-2I recently read this blog post by Mark Suster and it reminded me of my own post called Strengths & Weaknesses.  Mark was relating this to startups, which is what his great blog is about.  But his point is similar to mine, in that we all tend to see our weaknesses/vulnerabilities but we see other people’s strengths/successes.  I like his catch phrase better than anything I came up with, which encapsulates it nicely–“Naked in the Mirror”.  We see ourselves naked in the mirror, but we see everyone else dressed to the nines, with everything made up & in place.

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Business Equals Customers

There may be a lot of people who disagree with this, but I’d like to propose the idea that the definition of the word “business” is “an entity that provides goods and/or services to other entities in return for profitable compensation”. Basically, it’s not a business until it has paying customers. We all call it a business before that, but I think that does a disservice to what you are trying to do. [Read more…]

Everything in life is a tool

Many people refuse to do things, or even refuse to consider doing things, that could really help them simply because their preconceived notion of it is negative.  You probably know someone who has done this, or have even done it yourself.  A really basic example would be reading a website or blog that does not agree with your political view.  If you like to talk about politics, and/or argue that your view is correct (which it seems EVERYONE likes to do these days), you owe it to yourself and your friends to be educated not only about the side you are arguing for but also the side you are arguing against.  [Read more…]

Remember businesses are made up of people!

Good business development starts with principles, and upon those builds strategies specific to the goals.  Those strategies are carried out by tactics, which are the day-to-day activities.  If it’s done well, these tactics are guided by processes.  Without solid processes in place, every day is spent re-inventing the wheel, so to speak.  Not only are the day-to-day activities much more consistent when they are based upon solid processes, but they are also easier.

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The impact of loss aversion on business

I am reading a book called Predictably Irrational and the topic of loss aversion is especially interesting.  The basic idea is that people are more afraid of loss, or perceived loss, than they are excited to gain.  This heightened awareness (loss avoidance is more important than gain achievement) leads to illogical behavior.  [Read more…]