Showing posts from May, 2012

Looking back before you look forward

Once in a while, you get some really, really great advice - so great that it is the most obvious thing in the world once you hear it. Its the kind of advice that definitely bears repeating; so here goes.

I was chatting about the strategy of a certain product with a senior product lead over lunch. I started talking about what it should be doing going forward, when the person I was talking to asked me pause.

"Given where they are, and what they knew then, what do you think should've happened six months ago instead?"

I paused for thought.

"If it is hard to answer that question", he continued, "even when you are 100% omniscient about how things will play out, its less likely you can figure out the right path going forward."

The past isn't a predictor of the future, but it does inform it and at the very least
“Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.” George Santayana As obvious as it is, this kind of thinking doesn't happen…

Of IPOs, pricing, and such...

The Economist has a great cover story this week on the fading sheen of public companies. The stat below stood out to me.

The number of public companies has fallen dramatically over the past decade—by 38% in America since 1997 and 48% in Britain. The number of initial public offerings (IPOs) in America has declined from an average of 311 a year in 1980-2000 to 99 a year in 2001-11.
Particularly as I discussed the mechanics and laws of the IPOs last night with my wife (in the context of the supposed Morgan Stanley mangling of the Facebook IPO), the incredible inefficiency of the entire IPO and stock pricing process became so clear to me - it made me appreciate the Google IPO auction even more.

Help whenever you can, and be sure to expect nothing in return

Its been two months since my Dad passed away today, and I find myself remembering things he'd mentioned to me in passing a lot these days.

This one, in particular, came to my mind today.

Help others, especially if they ask you for help, whenever you can. Its easy and you'll feel good that you did.However, almost as importantly, never, ever expect anything in return - even thanks, certainly not praise or a returned favor. You'll very likely be disappointed and less likely to help the next time around. Its good advice, and over the years has definitely made my life better - especially the second part. :-)
So, if someone asks you for help, do it and enjoy the feeling it gives you. Just as importantly, discipline yourself to expect absolutely nothing in return.

Why Design/Experience innovation is the new awesome!

I had this discussion with a couple of people in the last two weeks, which is a good sign that this may be something to blog about. :-)

The discussions I had were around the ever-growing importance of design and designers in Silicon Valley (in particular, of consumer Internet start-ups) - articles such as this and news like this are great examples of that.

I think this importance for design in the context of consumer Internet startups is because technical innovation is no longer enough to build winning products. In bullet point form,

Remember when you went 'Wow!' because something just worked even if it was harder to use than necessary? When that video you uploaded to YouTube just played back; or that photograph you took was online and your friends could see it; or when you got all that free storage space to use. You expect that now and turns out there's always more that one way to do these things now and more than a few services that let you do the same thing. So how will …

"Ask women about your idea"

Many, many years ago as part of a team a Stanford BASES competition (which we won, but the amounts were much, much lower then. :-)), I heard Guy Kawasaki speak. He was then covering a lot of ideas from his book, The Art of the Start.

The one I remembered today was "Ask women about your idea". His reasoning was that most men always thought in competitive terms, i.e. "I want to crush the competition", "We have to win" etc.

Now I'm not a fan of stereotyping. I think its simplistic, lazy and leads to errors, but as a movie character once said, "I'm like my grandmother, I stereotype. It's faster." :-)

Many men think in aggressive terms and a lot of women don't - which means they're often better (on average) at evaluating ideas. Guy's advice was that asking women about your idea (if you were a man) was a good way to make sure you weren't doing something for purely competitive reasons.

This is a long-winded way of saying - if …


A great principle at Google is 70:20:10. In the words of one of the founders (link here):

"About 70% try to work on the core efforts of the company," explains Brin, "about 20% goes to adjacent areas and expansion, and for the 10%, anything goes.  Its an important way that the company stays innovative and continues to grow and do interesting things.

Now what's true for organizations, need not apply to individuals.  There are rewards for complete focus and excellence at what you do.

However, there's an argument to be made that, similarly to stay innovative and grow, a lens of 70/20/10 may yield optimal results for an individual as well.

What's your 70/20/10? :-)

"Change the world" - a great option to have yourself, and also one to give others

Perspective is important and sometimes we forget how lucky we are.

Today a combination of chance and too many emails meant I saw 7 online profiles where some variation of 'change the world' was how people described their goals.

Its an admirable aim - I confess to using it myself once in a while.

In fact, I've been part of dozens and dozens of conversations where friends and colleagues wondered if they were actually changing the world, or when they would, or at the very least how they would make a dent in the universe.

How would we all leave our mark or at least find our bliss - after all if we weren't, were we failing at life or doing it all wrong? How else would we be happy? Wasn't the point of it all to do something incredible, and find fame and fortune?

Then today morning on the radio on the drive to work, I heard about the story of a 60-year old retiree who had lost her house. She was doing an unpaid internship, working 50 hours a week, to learn a new trade so…