Experience is the name everyone gives to their mistakes (Oscar Wilde)

images-31Experience is a word we hear a lot in life, especially in the business world.  You need experience to apply for a job, get funding to start a business, or get promoted.  Experience, per se, however, is not exactly what we are looking for.  What we really mean is, we want someone who will make good decisions on the job, and we think the best way to get that is to hire/promote/fund someone with “experience”.  I know what you’re thinking–“Chris, this is just semantics!  I’m not going to spend my precious time reading this post–it’s almost NFL draft weekend and I need to study up!”  Well, trust me for a minute and read on.  Besides, don’t waste your time trying to guess on the draft–even the guys who get paid to do nothing but analyze it have atrocious track records

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Static money benefits one; flowing money benefits all

images-26The idea of a Universal Basic Income, or UBI, is simply giving each citizen enough money to survive without going to a job.  This money would not be enough to be rich, but it would cover a very basic apartment, food, health care, etc.  In a way, it ties into Nick Hanauer’s TED talk about how to further stimulate the economy.  It is an idea that would both satisfy progressives, in that it would directly help the poor, but also satisfy conservatives in that it would shrink government.  So it should be easy, right?  Not so fast…

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Listen! Do you smell something?

images-7The movie Ghostbusters has more great lines than perhaps any other movie, in my opinion.  You know, lines like, “I am terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought”, which describes me at my own wedding.  But this line, “Listen!  Do you smell something?“, was not only funny but also oddly wise.  Looking at this line a little closer can help us be better communicators.

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Think sideways to move forward

images-23In an earlier post I wrote about the “stack fallacy“, which in short is the thinking that since I’m already doing the “hard” part, I can and should move up the stack to do more of the complete product, typically in order to capture more revenue. I want to talk a little about the flip side of this coin. By that, I mean the inherent under-appreciation of what we do well.  It is a strange combination of thinking that what I am doing is the hard part yet at the same time is not enough in & of itself to make a business of.  I wrote about this a bit in my post called Strengths & Weaknesses.  To break out of it, and get to the business version of “Be Yourself”, try thinking sideways…

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Enlightened Dictatorship

CreditThere is constant tension in management teams around using every team member’s opinions when making a decision.  I often run into managers who avoid this tension by making decisions without seriously considering team members’ input.  When I bring it up for discussion, I tend to hear lines like “You can’t run a business as a democracy”, or my all-time favorite, “A camel is a horse designed by a committee!”.  It seems many mangers confuse getting input before making a decision with needing consensus, and confuse teamwork with parity.  Perhaps not coincidentally, they end up getting to simply make the decision they wanted to make all along.  But things can go so much better if managers learn to leverage their teams.

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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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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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The exciting nerdiness of neuroplasticity!

you-cant-teach-an-old-dog-new-tricks-false-dogs-of-all-ages-can-learn-new-tricks-if-properly-instructed.jpg

In 1928, a brain researcher definitively stated that as a brain aged it got “stuck” or set in its ways, and we believed that for a long time. In 1980, however, a young doctor named Ian Robertson was puzzled by the improvement of people with recent strokes. It didn’t fit the accepted idea that the adult brain was done learning & changing. He discovered that this old idea was wrong.  “I can look back on giving lectures at Edinburgh University to students where I gave wrong information, based on the dogma which said that, once dead, a brain cell cannot regenerate and plasticity happens in early childhood but not later,” he says.

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Monkey see, monkey do.

Source: Pinterest

Source: Pinterest

I am reading the great book Mindful Parenting, by Dr. Kristen Race.  In it, she talks about something researchers call mirror neurons, which are defined as such:

mirror neuron is a neuron that fires both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another. Thus, the neuron “mirrors” the behavior of the other, as though the observer were itself acting.

As you can imagine, chameleons must be chock full of this things!  But what is really interesting is that these are also in humans.

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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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