Your fast car

Right there, in your driveway, is a really fast car. And here are the keys. Now, go drive it. Right there, in your hand, is a Chicago Pneumatics 0651 hammer. You can drive a nail through just about anything with it, again and again if you choose. Time to use it. And here's a keyboard, connected to the entire world. Here's a publishing platform you can use to interact with just about anyone, just … [Read more...]

Can you live in a shepherd’s hut?

The best way to plan a house on a vacant piece of land is to move into a tiny shepherd's hut on a corner of the property. It's not fancy, and it's not comfortable, but you can probably stay there for a week or two. And during that week, you'll understand more about the land than you ever could in an hour of walking around. You'll see how the rain falls and the sun shines and the puddles … [Read more...]

Beware of false averages

Some people like really spicy food. Some people like bland food. Building a restaurant around sorta spicy food doesn't make either group happy. It's tempting to look at pop music, network TV and the latest hot fashion and come to the conclusion that the recipe for success is to focus group everyone, average it up and make something that pleases the big hump in the middle, while not offending most … [Read more...]

Fitting in all the way

It seems like a fine way to earn trust. Merely fit in. In every way. Don't do anything to draw attention to yourself, to be left out, to challenge the status quo. Go along with the crowd to get ahead. That doesn't build trust. It simply makes you easy to overlook. We build trust when we make promises and then keep them. And the majority recoils from the challenge of making a promise, because … [Read more...]

The musclebound baby

That's pretty unlikely. When we see someone with well developed abs, we don't say, "oh sure, he was born that way." Instead, we realize that a lot of effort went into it. The same thing ought to be true for people who understand science, or make good decisions, or are capable of emotional labor. You don't get to let yourself off the hook by pointing out that it doesn't come easy to you. That's … [Read more...]

First aid matters

Without a doubt, it's long-term, consistent and persistent effort that makes real change happen. Systemic change is a process, not an event. But as we watch Irma bear down on millions in Florida, it's worth remembering that first aid brings urgent help to people in need. I've just made a donation to the Red Cross... It scales, it's powerful and it's needed right now. I'm thinking of the families … [Read more...]

Everybody is a marketer

But most of us don't like to admit it. That's because selfish marketers are pretty scummy. They steal our attention, they lie to us, they use shame and guilt and the short-term zinger to get us to buy something we don't want and don't need. That's not you, of course. You're trying to bring your idea to the world, grow your freelance practice or do a great job for the company you work for. You're … [Read more...]

Irresistible is rarely easy or rational

There's often a line out the door. It's not surprising. The ice cream is really good, the portions are enormous, and a waffle cone costs less than three Canadian dollars. And it's served with a smile, almost a grin. It's irresistible. Of course, once you finish the cone, you'll stroll around, hang out by the water and maybe start to make plans about where to spend a week on next year's … [Read more...]

One step at a time

If you want to teach, to change minds or to cause action, a consistent curriculum is always better than a single event. Drip by drip, with enrollment.         … [Read more...]

Resilience and the high end

The high end is brittle, unstable and thus, expensive. The car that wins a race, the wine that costs $300, the stereo that sounds like the real thing... The restaurant that serves perfect fruit, the artisan who uses rare tools and years of training... If there was a reliable, easy, repeatable way to produce these outputs, we'd all do it and the high end would be normal. What makes something … [Read more...]

"I got it!"

The secret of the fly ball is that you don't shout, "you've got it." It's not up to us to assign who will catch it. If you can catch it, you call it.  The thing about responsibility is that it's most effectively taken, not given.         … [Read more...]

The toxic antidote to goodwill

Anyone who has done the math will tell you that word of mouth is the most efficient way to gain trust, spread the word and grow. And yet... It only takes a moment to destroy. Only a few sentences, a heartless broken promise, a lack of empathy, and it's gone. Not only that, but the lost connection can easily lead to lawsuits. Doctor, the surgery seems to have gone wrong! It's not my fault. I … [Read more...]

Did you publish?

They (whoever 'they' is) made it easy for you to raise your hand. They made it easy for you to put your words online, your song in the cloud, your building designs, business plans and videos out in the world. They made it easy for you to be generous, to connect, and to lead. Did you? Maybe today's the day.         … [Read more...]

Rejection (and the four paths)

If you seek to make change or do something important, your work will be rejected along the way. This is not in dispute. What will you do after that? Determine that what actually happened was that you were rejected, not your proposal, and that you have no right, no standing and no hope. Decide to back off, keep your head low and do what you're told from now on. Realize that what might have … [Read more...]

Valuing hygiene factors

A hygiene factor is something you miss when it's gone, but barely notice when it's there. Clean sheets at a hotel, for example. The base salary at a job. Your title. Every time you add one of these factors to consumer or employee expectation, you've signed up for a lifetime of providing that benefit. You've made it more difficult for the competition to keep up. And you've raised the standards … [Read more...]

The problem with direct experience

"I'll know it when I see it," or perhaps, "I'll see it when I know it..." We're hardwired to believe and understand the things we can actually experience. That's why no one argues about Newton's laws, but most people panic or shrug when confronted with dark matter, Heisenberg or quarks. We're often good at accepting what's in front of us, but bad at things that are very far away or very very … [Read more...]

"I have fear"

There's a common mistranslation that causes us trouble. We say, "I am afraid," as if the fear is us, forever. We don't say, "I am a fever" or "I am a sore foot." No, in those cases, we acknowledge that it's a temporary condition, something we have, at least for now, but won't have forever. "Right now, I have fear about launching this project," is quite different from, "I'm … [Read more...]

Sloppy science

We can measure it. For decades, every single year, scientists have visited the Galapagos and measured the beaks of a particular species of finch. And year after year, with each generation, the beaks change, exactly as we'd expect from the weather patterns of the year before. Evolutionary biology works, and rigorous data collection backs it up. For hundreds of years, though, science has … [Read more...]

Questions for the underinformed

For the jingoistic sign carrier, the impatient shareholder, the late-night goofball and the nascent entrepreneur in search of cash... We've heard your rants, your threats, your plans. We understand that you are in a hurry for a simple, dramatic, obvious solution to whatever problem you face.  "And then what happens?" "Has this ever worked before?" "How is this different (or the same) from … [Read more...]

An audience of one

More than ever, people, lots of people, hordes of anonymous people, can watch what you do. They can see your photos, like your posts, friend your digital avatar. An essentially infinite collection of strangers are in the audience, scoring you, ranking you, deciding whether or not you're succeeding. If you let them. The alternative is to focus on the audience you care about, interacting with … [Read more...]

Appearing to care

We know that your customers will put up with imperfect, but one thing that they'd like in return is for you to care. Marketers keep making big promises, and organizations struggle to keep those promises. Sooner or later, it leads to a situation where the broken promise arrives on the customer's lap. In that moment, what the customer wants most is someone to care. Almost as good: an organization … [Read more...]

On beating yourself up

Almost everyone does it. I'm not sure why. After the fact (or even during it) all the blame, second-guessing and paralysis. We say things to ourselves that we'd never permit anyone else to say. Why? It leaves us bruised and battered, unlikely to do our best work while you're recovering. It hurts our knuckles. It distracts us from the work at hand. Perhaps there's a more humane and … [Read more...]

The taxi or the cruise ship?

The successful cab owner knows this: Every ride is custom People choose a cab precisely because they can ride alone, on their own terms Empty trips are part of the job, and it's okay, because the next ride will pay for it. On the other hand, the person who chooses to run a cruise line knows: Every cruise is designed by me, and people sign up precisely because I chose well People choose a … [Read more...]

The Peter Possibility

Dr. Laurence Peter understood the promise and peril of bureaucracy better than most. Fifty years ago, he wrote, "managers rise to the level of their incompetence." The Peter Principle states that if you do a good job, you get promoted, until you reach a job where you're incompetent, and there you stay... meaning that sooner or later, the entire organization is filled with incompetent people stuck … [Read more...]