Business as (un)usual (as possible)
Great ideas are a dime a dozen. The challenge is finding a way to earn more than a dime from them. As encouragement, here are some insights for success that I’ve come across lately.
“We decided to innovate our way through this downturn, so that we would be further ahead of our competitors when things turn up.” Steve Jobs
Tim Chambers at Huffington Post points out that Steve was not speaking any time recently. That quote dates back to the 2001 recession. Among the innovations he refers to was the (then) newly-launched iTunes Music Store.
Apple was confident that their plan was the right one, and launched it when it was ready — even if trying to get people to spend money on entertainment meant bucking market trends.
“And it came to pass, when the Philistine arose, and came, and drew nigh to meet David, that David hastened, and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine.” I Samuel 17:48
Malcolm Gladwell (“Blink,” “The Tipping Point”) reminds us that, even though David and Goliath are most famous for how the story ends, David’s two crucial, earlier decisions made his success possible. The first was rejecting the armor offered to him by Saul. It was a bad fit, and besides, the bigger, stronger Goliath would always be favored in a straight-up fight.
David’s second decision: he ran straight at Goliath. In fact, read the verse again: he ran straight at the entire army! It was the last thing that they expected. Change the rhythm, change the rules.
“I keep my eyes clear, and I hit ‘em where they ain’t.” ‘Wee’ Willie Keeler
There is an entire circle of the Inferno devoted to writers, speakers and sports metaphors, but this advice for hitting baseballs by outmaneuvering the opposition really is worth applying to life. Like David’s story, his quote is most famous for its conclusion, but the first part makes it possible: clear vision.
(For your trivia notebook: Willie played for the Brooklyn Bridegrooms, renamed while he was with them to the Superbas, and later, the Trolley Dodgers. They don’t name ‘em like they used to, do they?)
“It’s safe to fail.” John Lasseter
Long before Steve Jobs came on, long before “Toy Story” came out, the story of Pixar begins with John Lasseter getting fired from Disney. No wonder that “It’s safe to fail” has become a Pixar mantra! The trick, writes Peter DeBruge in Variety, is to make those mistakes as early in the process as possible. As Lasseter observes, “When you think about science, it’s about experimentation, and 99% of the experiments fail, but you learn from the failures and you move on.”
So perhaps the trick is less when, or how, to make mistakes, than learning from them.
The upcoming "Think Big" issue of Creative Cow Magazine was especially inspiring to put together. Individual authors haven’t necessarily been guided by a single Big Vision to navigate their way through these changing times. You won’t find “Keep your chin up!” and “Try harder!” clichés. Instead, you’ll see a remarkable variety of hard choices made to risk money and more — big gambles that could very easily go the wrong way. The recurring theme in all of these stories: lots of small steps. Missteps, too. Just stay in motion.
The advice you WON’T find in this issue: “Hold on! Things will surely get better!” That’s irrelevant, because things will surely also get worse. That’s why sitting tight isn’t a solution. It’s the opposite of one.
I invite you to draw the conclusions from these examples that mean the most to you. My own conclusion: better to dictate your terms to the market than the other way ‘round.
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