Innovation and Growth: Best Days Ahead or Behind Us?

For today's TedTalk Lunch, I watched two videos sharing two sides to one story. Exploring the innovation of the past century and making predictions about the century ahead these two speeches both make compelling cases. The first talk below assumes the glasses is half empty and there is no way that the 2000s can compete with the innovation and world changing impact of the inventions of the 1900s. The second talk, the glass half full, lays out a more optimistic perspective about the road that lies ahead. It is worthwhile to watch them both and look for the truths that resonate in your own industry, for better or worse.

Officiers Eat Last

I have been a Simon Sinek fan for awhile, every since his TED Talk (which I blogged about HERE.) And today during lunch, like I do everyday that I don't have a lunch meeting, I had a Learning Lunch. I usually go to the TED Talks channel, but this time, YouTube suggested another Simon Sinek talk first. If you only have three minutes, watch the first three minutes when he discuses his purpose in life. But if you want to hear leadership explained in a way that will be immediately implementable in your life, take the 21 minutes to watch the whole thing.

Marking Your Territory

My dog Rocco likes his walks. Some are short, some are long, but anything that involves stretching his legs and taking in the smorgasbord of smells in our neighborhood, he's in. But, there is one thing that makes gives me pause just about every time: where he marks his territory. On our normal morning walk, there are some obvious targets for Rocco's territory marking; trees, planters, the side of the grocery store... etc. But, there is one wrought iron fence half way up our block that he always stops at. Not because it is "valuable" territory to mark, but because it is territory that is frequently marked by all the dogs in the neighborhood. Nothing special about it, just a place that they all think is worth a pit stop.

It got me thinking on the rest of the walk about the territory we all mark in business that we mark because we've been told it matters by everyone else but that may or may not hold real value. Number of likes on Facebook or followers on Twitter? A write up in Mashable or a panel invite for SXSW? There is no doubt that other folks are marking that territory, but is it territory that you should be?

This idea is expanded on and even more fleshed out in the book Blue Ocean Strategy"lasting success comes from creating 'blue oceans': untapped new market spaces ripe from growth... companies around the world are skipping the bloody red oceans of rivals and creating their very own blue oceans." Definitely worth checking out.

Or, as Mark Twain said, "Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect."

Andy Dreams Of... What?

Last night I watch Jiro Dreams of Sushi, a documentary featuring 85 year old Jiro Ono, arguably the world's greatest sushi chef. The movie chronicles his life, his restaurant, and the challenge that lies ahead as he and his 50 year old son work through a succession plan that will keep the legacy of his father's work preserved. The opening scene, Jiro explains his life work:

"Once you decide on your occupation... you must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. Never complain about your job. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That's the secret of success... and is the key to being regarded honorably."

He was sent out into the world at the age of nine and became an apprentice at 10. He has been making sushi for over 75 years and for 75 years he has been searching for an even better version of his work. He says in the movie that every piece of sushi he serves is better than the one before. That when he does his work, he feels victorious. Every single day, repeating the same steps to create the same excellence, and pushing just a little bit harder to make it just a little bit better. Never settling.

His persistent and consistent work to create excellence and the expectation of his staff (minimum of ten year apprenticeship before they are allowed to be in the front of the restaurant) got me thinking about Malcolm Gladwell's "10,000 Hour Rule." It would certainly seem to apply here. But that rule also always gets me thinking, what have I spent 10,000 intention hours work to become the best at?

My career has been much more dynamic than Jiro's and anyone on Gladwell's list. The skill set that I've been asked to bring to the work I do can and does change with the task at hand. My aspirations of being a renaissance man seem more realistic than an master craftsman like Jiro. And there is nothing wrong with that, but, it does beg the question, of the skills that I use today and know I will use for the rest of my life, am I obsessed with making everyday's efforts better than the day before?


New Direction

In college, I became better friends with my fellow classmates if we all disliked the professor. We bonded together to make sure we passed tests and got notes because we knew we'd receive no help from the front of the classroom. The negative environment created an engaged community. And Waze has done the same thing for driving and traffic. I am extremely excited to announce I have joined Waze as Senior Director of Business Development. Through partnerships with brands, broadcasters, and local governments, Waze is doing more than getting you from point A to point B. Active users drives 440 minutes per month with Waze as their copilot, a solid 7+ hours each month that Waze can make better. Whether showing the lowest price gas or building in a coffee break pit stop along the way, there is a lot of surprising and delighting to be done.

With over 33,000,000 drivers around the world, Waze is a free navigation and traffic app that is home to the world's largest community of drivers who work together to outsmart traffic, together. The maps on Waze are updated in real time by other drivers (voice activated commands) to let the community know about traffic jams, accidents, and police speed traps. Pulling together all of these incidents and data points, Waze automatically updates your driving directions and saves you time on your journey or daily commute. (You can join the for free community HERE)

It seems like everyone is talking about maps these days thanks to Apple rolling out their less than awesome product in September. While Google finally released their Maps product for iPhone a couple of weeks ago, there is still a lot of people looking for more than just how to get from point A to point B. Here are a couple other fun things folks are using Waze for:

So check it out, would love to hear your thoughts on what kind of brands and partnerships would make your drive time even better.

How Much Is It Worth?

When I worked in private aviation and sold time on Warren Buffet's fleet of jets, I learned a lot about the way that incredibly successful people think about their most valuable possessions. The reason that a successful businessman paid tens of thousands of dollars for a single flight with his family was not so he could tell people he was flying private, but so that he could know without question that his vacation started 15 minutes after arrived at the airport and their plane was in the sky. The question that my former clients asked themselves before stroking a rather larger check to me was not "Can I afford to fly private?" but "How much additional happiness will this create?"

If we look at a transaction, not in terms of dollars, but in units of happiness acquired, it can change the entire outlook on the thought of "How much is this worth?"  There are experiences and moments that can never be truly valued based on the number of units of happiness captured or conversely, the number of units of hardship or annoyance avoided.

In a small way, I was thinking about this over my third cup of coffee this morning. When we moved into our new apartment earlier this year, it was an arduous process. Between the coop board and the moving company and delays in new furniture shipments, it wasn't the smoothest few weeks. But in that time, I made a purchase that has proven to be the most valuable thing that I bought all year. I splurged and spent more on a coffee maker than I ever had before. I went top of the line and get all the bells and whistles. And while it felt a little bit silly walking out of the store knowing how much I just spent in dollars to buy an appliance that had another option 1/10th the price, it was my splurge and I wasn't apologizing.

A solid 10 months later, I have enjoyed a freshly ground pot of coffee waiting for me every morning when I wake up. Most mornings I don't even hear my alarm because I am already up from the smell of freshly ground Sumatra wafting through the apartment. In the quiet of the morning I can savor that first cup and focus on the day ahead. It is effortless and all about units of happiness acquired and as such, it is also the purchase that I made this year that, I don't care how much it cost but I do know how much it is worth.

Fortunate Situations

"The strongest thing to cultivate as an entrepreneur is to not need to rely on luck but to recognize fortunate situations when they're occurring." - Jack Dorsey

"The best time to innovate or start something new is in the midst of a recession or depression." (speaking about launching Square during the 2008 financial downward spiral.)

Make sure to listen to the passion with which he describes the Golden Gate Bridge at the 21:50 mark. It is something that shouldn't exist but does and does so beautifully.


Tell Better Stories

When we think about our lives as a narrative and ourselves as the protagonist, things look differently. We are starring in an epic story that is disguised as our lives. In thinking about the concept of story, there are a lot of things to consider, but a great place to start is this TEDTalk by Andrew Stanton. Stanton knows a thing or two about story as his credentials include Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Wall-E, and Monsters Inc. He covers quite a bit of ground, but it is a great 20 minutes to reframe our conversations in the context of stories we tell.