The good news is those that would survive and thrive are in control of their own destiny. The challenges and opportunities that these news businesses face can be rethought, addressed, and fixed. It’s similar to what any successful business goes through.
The guidelines and the characteristics for winning are the same.
It requires the following.
Vision: The difference between vision and hallucination is others can see vision. It is critical to articulate a bright future with clarity that everyone can see.
Scrappiness: Tough challenges call for resourcefulness and pragmatism. You need to stay close to the ground, wallowing in every detail and all over any opportunity that arises.
Experimentation: You may not have all the right answers up front, but running many experiments changes the battle for the right way forward from arguments to tests. You get data, which leads to correctness and ultimately finding the right answers.
Adaptability: Ask yourself, would you rather be right or successful? That needs to be top of mind at all times because times change and we change. You want strong views weakly held.
Focus: Once you gain clarity from experiments and adaptation, then it’s time to focus on a small number of ultra-clear goals. When those are defined then it’s all-hands-on-deck.
Deferral of gratification: You need the stomach (and resources!) to reject near-term rewards for enduring success. In journalism this means refusing to participate in the race to the bottom.
An entrepreneurial mindset: This is true both for new companies and existing companies. It’s a bit of a mantra. We own the company. We make the business. We control our future. It’s on us.
- @pmarca dropping knowledge and being hella bullish on the news business. The guidelines and the characteristics for winning are, of course, fully transferrable.
"…don’t sell products and services to customers, but rather try to help people address their jobs-to-be-done" - Christensen
//It’s really user-centered design, isn’t it? Always fun to do the 360-degree sculptor’s walk-around and see how other disciplines approach design and business//
The concept can also be tough to put into practice. A six-step process provides a rigorous way of defining the jobs you can address. Once those challenges are tightly defined, it is much easier to generate bold ideas for new solutions.
1. What are the high-level jobs-to-be-done?
Rather than looking just at what people buy, examine the needs that arise during their lives. Sometimes the job is much broader than the product or service that is bought. For instance, why did I take five small children to a movie on Sunday afternoon? Because on a rainy day I needed to get them out of house for a few hours. Could movie theaters expand their addressable market by emphasizing how they can occupy kids? What if the room used for the 20th screen was adapted instead for inexpensive play like a children’s gym?
2. What are the current approaches and what pain points result?
Jobs-to-be-done can sprawl across dozens of industry categories. Clearly a company can’t address each job, but by looking broadly it can re-define its true “competition.” After it understands the full landscape, it can focus narrowly. Theaters may not want to invest in indoor playgrounds, but they need to see playgrounds as a rival every bit as real as a multiplex a few miles away. By understanding the pain points associated with competitive offerings, a business can better invest in emphasizing its distinctive strengths.
3. What benchmarks exist in the full range of competing offerings and analogies?
Companies should always compare themselves to directly comparable firms, but they should not be seduced by the simplicity of that exercise. Through examining all that the full set of rivals and analogous offerings can do, they can get excellent ideas for their own business. For instance, a movie theater could learn from Disney World about how to market merchandise to children and how to entertain people in lines.
4. What performance criteria do customers use?
Much psychological research has shown that even horribly complicated decisions are often reduced to a small handful of criteria that people can keep in mind at any one time. What are they for your industry? What adjectives describe a good solution? Asking customers these questions can open up surprising routes for improving current solutions or marketing existing offerings more effectively.
5. What prevents new solutions from being adopted?
Managers are often too enamored of their own ideas. Unfortunately, even compelling ideas can take a long time to catch on. Indoor plumbing took 4,500 years from its invention to become widely adopted. Really, is your idea better than indoor plumbing? Think in a disciplined fashion about all the obstacles hindering adoption of new solutions in your industry. Talk to customers about how they made a decision to adopt a recent innovation – not innovations in general, as that can average out important details, but rather a specific case study.
6. What value would success create for customers?
By understanding the value that lies in resolving a pain point, you can see how many degrees of freedom you have to engineer a new solution. For instance, if resolving an issue on construction sites could avoid 30 minutes of downtime twice a week, and that time is valued at $600 / hour for the crew, then you get a sense of potential price and cost of a new solution. Remember that value can be defined by money, time, convenience, peace of mind, and other metrics.
“When we look at situations we’re always looking for what’s unique. We should, however, give more thought to similarities.
'This time is different' could be the 4 most costly words ever spoken. It’s not the words that are costly so much as the conclusions they encourage us to draw. We incorrectly think that differences are more valuable than seeing similarities. After all, anyone can see what’s the same but it takes true insight to see what’s different. We’re all so busy trying to find the differences that we forget to pay attention to what’s the same….
If you catch yourself reasoning based on “this time is different” remember that you are probably speculating. While you may be right, odds are, this time is not different. You just haven’t looked for the similarities.”
- Shane Parrish
// Considering how fashion’s tension… “influencing patterns of taste”… can inform our daily thought and decision processes as designers and creative directors. 100% data-driven is an imperfect answer, unless your strategy and mission is incrementalism. Intuition, taste and life experience… earn their seats, over time, in front of the critique boards. And, yes, “boards”, not just screens, because there’s huge value in seeing the entire landscape of the design process.//
Fashion is a world of reflection and imitation, and taste is fashion’s primary currency. Anna Wintour promises her readers good taste in exchange for their paying subscriptions to Vogue; designers, in exchange for buying $4000 beaded cocktail dresses over something from Target, and so on. It’s a struggle for control and authority, and fashion critics strategise in order to prove why their opinion is worth more than yours—the consumer. A fashion critic, by virtue of working in such an exclusive world with an all-access pass to beautiful clothes and decadent parties, supposedly has good taste. You rely on their expertise to tell you what looks good. Fashion magazine editors are so confident in their taste that they will invent trends in order to compel you to spend, typically presented in a price spectrum that caters to the tasteless masses: “from luxe to less.”
The sociology of taste can be traced back to Pierre Bourdieu’s Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste, originally published in French in 1979. In his seminal work Bourdieu attempted to expose the social logic of taste, encouraging us to look beyond simple circles of rich and poor to the everyday symbols that reinforce class: education, physical appearance, appreciation for cuisine, art, music, literature, and (surprise, surprise) fashion. He developed the theory of cultural capital, an umbrella term that describes the non-financial resources we employ to exert power and command in society. You only need to watch one episode of Gossip Girl to understand what I’m talking about. Focus specifically on how Dan Humphrey, the underdog from Brooklyn, uses education as a weapon, in the same way that his sister, Jenny, uses her social alliances to steal the throne from Queen Bee, Blair Waldorf. (Yes, that’s how the characters speak on the show.)
Attempting to deconstruct hierarchies of taste in the fashion industry reminds people of the precariousness of their position. Fashion’s power figures enjoy being arbiters of style and taste, and fear that we—the unwashed masses—may wake up one day and be able to determine for ourselves what looks good. Still, I don’t necessarily think that fashion criticism is a bad thing in itself because I value the historical knowledge that writers bring into the conversation, even if I don’t agree with their overall observation. But now that I am aware of the social logic behind taste, and how closely taste is linked to cultural capital, I no longer have to wonder why these critics’ opinions differ so greatly from my own.
The next time you read a fashion review and find yourself disagreeing with the writer, just remember that their opinion is simply a projection of taste (if an “opinion” in the true sense of the word is still discernible once an article is processed through the editorial carwash).
Knowledge and experience aside, a large part of fashion journalism is about influencing patterns of taste. There’s a certain cachet in saying that you work in fashion, and those who find themselves working in a superior industry try to justify it by pretending they are also superior in spirit. We all know by now that this is a hideous lie rooted in self-preservation, and Pierre Bourdieu spent much of his life trying to unmask the pretentions of the elite.
Alt POV: Replace ‘marketing’ with ‘product design’:
“There will always, one can assume, be need for some selling. But the aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous. The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well that the product or service fits him and sells itself. Ideally, marketing should result in a customer who is ready to buy. All that should be needed then is to make the product or service available.”
- ‘Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices’ by Peter Drucker
"What is so terrifying and ultimately so interesting about fashion is that it eats all subculture and takes it into itself.
Nothing is authentic because everything can be immediately reproduced, which is why we get Celine minimalism in store at Zara way before we get it off the rack at Barneys. Punk? Sponsored by VOGUE.
Power changes and is replicated and adopted in fashion, all the time. Mimicry of subcultures evidently makes you more interesting, and therefore more powerful. When Karl Lagerfeld puts a model down the runway in a head-dress, he took the power from Native Americans and made a mask of it for fun. When Walter van Beirendonck put a white model in a head-dress — even if it said STOP RACISM in big red letters — he’s doing the same thing. Satire is a dead fish in fashion when you are considering the power play.”
"Why Walter Van Bierendonck is Just Perpetuating the Appropriation Sh*tstorm"
/ Fashion iteration. Design inspiration/appropriation. The near real-time snake eating its tail.
When I am in a foul mood, I have a surefire way to improve my outlook – I build something. A foul mood is a stubborn beast and it does not give ground easily. It is an effort to simply get past the foulness in order to start building, but once the building has begun, the foul beast loses ground.
I don’t know what cascading chemical awesomeness is going down in my brain when it detects and rewards me for the act of building, but I’m certain that the hormonal cocktail is the end result of millions of years of evolution. Part of the reason we’re at the top of the food chain is that we are chemically rewarded when we are industrious – it is evolutionarily advantageous to be productive.
And we’re slowly and deviously being trained to forget this.
A Day Full of Moments
Look around. If you’re in a group of people, count how many are lost in their digital devices as they sit there with a friend. If you’re in your office, count how many well-intentioned distractions are within arm’s reach and asking for your attention. I wonder how many of you will read this piece in one sitting – it’s only 844 words long.
The world built by the Internet is one of convenience. Buy anything without leaving your house. All knowledge is nearby and that’s a lot of knowledge, but don’t worry, everyone is pre-chewing it for you and sharing it in every way possible. They’re sharing that and other interesting moments all day and you’re beginning to believe that these shared moments are close to disposable because you are flooded with them.
You’re fucking swimming in everyone else’s moments, likes, and tweets and during these moments of consumption you are coming to believe that their brief interestingness to others makes it somehow relevant to you and worth your time.
The fact that the frequency of these interesting moments appears to be ever-growing and increasingly easy to find does not change the fact that your attention is finite. Each one you experience, each one you consume, is a moment of your life that you’ve spent forever.
These are other people’s moments.
These moments can be important. They can connect us to others; they briefly inform us as to the state of the world; they often hint at an important idea without actually explaining it by teasing us with the impression of knowledge. But they are often interesting, empty intellectual calories. They are sweet, addictive, and easy to find in our exploding digital world, and their omnipresence in my life and the lives of those around me has me starting this year asking, “Why am I spending so much time consuming other people’s moments?”
This is not a reminder to over-analyze each moment and make them count. This is a reminder not to let a digital world full of others’ moments deceive you into devaluing your own. Their moments are infinite – yours are finite and precious – and this New Year I’m wondering how much we want to create versus consume.
The Builders High
What’s the last thing you built when you got that high? You know that high I’m talking about? It’s staring at a thing that you brought into the world because you decided it needed to exist.
For me, the act of writing creates the builder’s high. Most pieces are 1000+ words. They involve three to five hours of writing, during which I’ll both hate and love the emerging piece. This is followed by another hour of editing and tweaking before I’ll publish the piece, and the high is always the same. I hit publish and I grin. That smile is my brain chemically reminding me, Hey, you just added something new to the world.
Is there a Facebook update that compares to building a thing? No, but I’d argue that 82 Facebook updates, 312 tweets, and all those delicious Instagram updates are giving you the same chemical impression that you’ve accomplished something of value. Whether it’s all the consumption or the sense of feeling busy, these micro-highs will never equal the high when you’ve actually built.
This New Year, I wish you more blank slates. May you have more blank white pages sitting in front you with your favorite pen nearby and at the ready. May you have blank screens in your code editor with your absolutely favorite color syntax highlighting. May your garage work table be empty save for a single large piece of reclaimed redwood and a saw.
Turn off those notifications, turn your phone over, turn on your favorite music, stare at your blank slate and consider what you might build. In that moment of consideration, you’re making an important decision: create or consume? The things we’re giving to the future are feeling increasingly unintentional and irrelevant. They are half-considered thoughts of others. When you choose to create, you’re bucking the trend because you’re choosing to take the time to build.
And that’s a great way to start the year.
// Replace ‘build’ with make. Or draw, Or compose. Or play.
And welcome to our world. Where we’re driven to create. All. The. Time.
It started early. Pre-crayons. But continued in many experimental constructive, and destructive forms. Both in art. And life.
It is so wonderful to hear people (beyond the expected ‘arts’), issuing the call-to-arms for experiencing the joy of creation. Let’s practice flipping around that 80/20 consumption:creation ratio. //
Many years of Gypsy Travel for New Opportunities has left a wake trail of left-behind conversations & friends.
If I Meshu’d locations, gigs, homes and events, over time, the density of data is ridiculous and even seems to be accelerating. An action painting battle between DeKooning, Pollock, Pigpen and Taz. 3D printed into, what, a tumbleweed shape? There’s a need to stop the plotter pen. Or, at least, pause, even if it means pulling the electrical mains for a minute.
Resolve to amend for #2014.
Find starters, not stars.
“It’s a trap to conflate popularity and the ability to build a new property.”
Forgo the star and invest in the starter.
The starter system is built on recruiting talent to work entrepreneurially — a showrunner, to compare it to pop culture — and building startup (or startup-ish) franchises and products around their strategy and ability to execute.
A few advantages:
Starters are wired to think about the larger opportunity, not just their personal brand.
Starters’ efforts are scalable across more people and not leveraged on a single name.
Starters are almost always less expensive to compensate, fund, or acquire.
Starters’ initiatives come with a built-in business model rather than an incidental one.
Starters are more likely to seek out data to ask the right questions.
Starters are more likely to produce multiple wins than personal brands.
There is a bigger, more dynamic pool of starters out there than bonafide stars.
"A truer biomimicry, Soar believes, would abandon simple biophilia and its crude design metaphors—bullet trains as bird beaks, sharkskins as swimsuits, or termite mounds as skyscrapers.
Instead, architects and designers would begin building things as nature builds them. That is, iteratively and algorithmically, with each form sculpted by many optimized functions, each of which acts as its own independent agent.
Soar and many others have experimented with simulating insects and insect homes using ‘agent modeling systems’ in which thousands, millions, even billions of individual programs— each a very primitive ‘virtual insect’ with its own objective—compete over limited resources within some carefully arranged digital domain. Following the ‘right’ set of rules in their virtual world, the agents can replicate the structures and morphologies actual insects create in reality.
These systems are not limited to replication, however—they can also be used for innovation. Sometimes, complex optimizations can emerge that bear little resemblance to anything produced by the minds of insects or of humans.”
//Iterate. Learn. Optimize. Repeat.
Reid [Hoffman] often says: If you’re not embarrassed by your first product release, you’ve released too late.
My secret corollary to that principle — which I quote all the time — is: No matter how long you wait, you will be embarrassed by the first version of your product.
The presupposition is: if we slow down, take longer, and get less feedback, then we will get a better outcome for customers. My question is, where is the evidence for this? Wouldn’t you wish that the companies that foist new products on you would have gotten more feedback first?
But when it’s our product, we somehow think that it will work better if we go in the cave — so to speak — and cozy up to the whiteboard for as long as it takes and only come out when it’s finished. But how often does that actually produce a delightful user experience? Yet it’s deeply intuitive that the longer we take to work out all the details, the better the product will be.
The problem is that quality is really in the eye of the beholder. For a for-profit company, quality is defined by what the customer wants. So if we are misaligned with what the customer wants, then all the extra time we take to polish all the edges and get everything right is actually wasted time because we end up pushing the product away from what the customer wants.
- Eric Ries
"What does quality mean for entrepreneurs"
…recognize what the designer’s role in product design really is.
The designer’s role is to understand the problem space, including the market, the people, and what the people are trying to do. Then they have to make decisions about the product that directly affect the people using it, that direct their attention in certain ways, that add capability, that remove capability, and very often constrains the way some people will use it.
This is a good thing. Designers should be making tough choices and avoiding one-size-fits-all approach. When you design for everyone, you design for no one.
What was the best advice Paul Graham gave you?
"Do things that don’t scale." It’s better to have 100 people love you than to have 1,000,000 people like you. Go to New York to build your company, he said. Don’t stay in Mountain View. Go to New York. That was the best advice we ever got.
"Do things that don’t scale." What does that mean?
Create the perfect experience however you need to do it, and then scale that experience. Every company that makes something is just two things. It’s creating an experience. And then it’s multiplying them.
We care about just two things: How great that one experience is and how many we make. Too many people start in technology with “how many you sell” and then they try to make it better. A lot of movements start with a small set of evangelists.
Persistence > Perfect timing
Iteration > Exact strategy
Great teams > Heroic individuals
Wedges > Complete solutions
…there’s a Hierarchy of Innovation that runs in parallel with Abraham Maslow’s famous hierarchy of needs.
Maslow argued that human needs progress through five stages, with each new stage requiring the fulfillment of lower-level, or more basic, needs. So first we need to meet our most primitive Physiological needs, and that frees us to focus on our needs for Safety, and once our needs for Safety are met, we can attend to our needs for Belongingness, and then on to our needs for personal Esteem, and finally to our needs for Self-Actualization.
If you look at Maslow’s hierarchy as an inflexible structure, with clear boundaries between its levels, it falls apart. Our needs are messy, and the boundaries between them are porous. A caveman probably pursued self-esteem and self-actualization, to some degree, just as we today spend effort seeking to fulfill our physical needs. But if you look at the hierarchy as a map of human focus, or of emphasis, then it makes sense – and indeed seems to be born out by history. In short: The more comfortable you are, the more time you spend thinking about yourself.
If progress is shaped by human needs, then general shifts in needs would also bring shifts in the nature of technological innovation. The tools we invent would move through the hierarchy of needs, from tools that help safeguard our bodies on up to tools that allow us to modify our internal states, from tools of survival to tools of the self.
The focus, or emphasis, of innovation moves up through five stages, propelled by shifts in the needs we seek to fulfill. In the beginning come Technologies of Survival (think fire), then Technologies of Social Organization (think cathedral), then Technologies of Prosperity (think steam engine), then technologies of leisure (think TV), and finally Technologies of the Self (think Facebook, or Prozac).
As with Maslow’s hierarchy, you shouldn’t look at my hierarchy as a rigid one. Innovation today continues at all five levels. But the rewards, both monetary and reputational, are greatest at the highest level (Technologies of the Self), which has the effect of shunting investment, attention, and activity in that direction. We’re already physically comfortable, so getting a little more physically comfortable doesn’t seem particularly pressing. We’ve become inward looking, and what we crave are more powerful tools for modifying our internal state or projecting that state outward. An entrepreneur has a greater prospect of fame and riches if he creates, say, a popular social-networking tool than if he creates a faster, more efficient system for mass transit. The arc of innovation, to put a dark spin on it, is toward decadence.
One of the consequences is that, as we move to the top level of the innovation hierarchy, the inventions have less visible, less transformative effects. We’re no longer changing the shape of the physical world or even of society, as it manifests itself in the physical world. We’re altering internal states, transforming the invisible self. Not surprisingly, when you step back and take a broad view, it looks like stagnation – it looks like nothing is changing very much. That’s particularly true when you compare what’s happening today with what happened a hundred years ago, when our focus on Technologies of Prosperity was peaking and our focus on Technologies of Leisure was also rapidly increasing, bringing a highly visible transformation of our physical circumstances.
/image: Kesler Tran http://bit.ly/1f23A2K
// Weighing, and balancing this, against the PR wave spotlighting the reported *decrease* of creativity scores in the U.S., while other countries emphasize and prioritize creativity development. “The Creativity Crisis” http://www.newsweek.com/creativity-crisis-74665 //