Commuting home on the tube… Listening to an old Zane Lowe podcast about the Beastie Boys (downloaded automagically overnight). Reminds me of my very first cassette – Licensed to Ill. I check Spotify and download the whole album using the train station wifi.
Now on the train I play the album. The opening riff from the first track reminds me of Led Zep’s “When the levee breaks”. Never noticed that before. (Too young back then?) Search for the original on Spotify to compare. Ah yes, LZ not on Spotify… What’s this?
Google search confirms the BB track has a direct sample. We all know that everything is a remix anyway, don’t we?
I write a note to get my ideas straight and retrace my tech/app/connection & curiosity steps. How did I stumble upon London Philharmonic? Blog worthy? Maybe not. But a good test of the WordPress mobile app.
What’s the point? Tech as an enabler for serendipity? Or how commuting ‘dead time’ is now up for grabs? Does it matter? Something eloquent about hyper-connectivity. Wait, about to head through Shiplake – goodbye data…
Wandering along the river at the weekend we saw a small boy take a spill on his bike.
It was enough of a fall to draw a sharp intake of breath from both my wife and me but no real damage was done.
The boy instinctively dusted off his hands and winced at the bits of gravel embedded in the palms of his hands.
His Dad, walking behind us shouted, “That’s alright. Just dust yourself off. It won’t hurt as much if you ride on the grass.”
My mum insisted my brother and I learn how to fall when we were little, “Tuck your elbow in and land on your hip and shoulder”. Good advice for adventurous boys.
Over the years, I’ve introduced a handful of people to rock climbing; encouraging them as they take their first nervous steps up from the safety of the ground into the unknown.
The pattern of a first climb is pretty common: grip tightly to the holds, head up using mostly arm not leg strength, get to the top, clutch onto the largest object at the top, look down nervously, eventually release death-grip on the wall to be lowered down, grip the rope tightly on descent, kiss the floor with relief/sense of achievement, stare with wonder at forearms which appear to be pumped and burning, realise that you arms are now too tired to climb again for a long time.
Until you reach the top of the climb and release your weight onto the rope, you haven’t tested the system. You have no real trust in it. No experience of how it feels to sit in the harness, deliberately or otherwise, until you are in an exposed position.
So why not learn to fall when the stakes aren’t as high?
That’s how I teach. On terra firma I tie the person into their harness, show them the basics of my belay device, take up the slack in the rope, then I just fall down into my harness next to them. “I trust the system”, I’m saying. “You can too.”
I’ve laboured the analogy; forgive me.
My point is that being comfortable and familiar with falling allows us to ride and climb better. We’ve reduced the cost of failure.
This doesn’t just apply to the great outdoors. Learning to fall in our personal and work lives gives us the confidence to push our experimentation & creativity further.
I got excited today. The supermarket had restocked my new favourite beer. I know; simple pleasures.
So what’s the story? Isn’t it just water, hops, malt and yeast? Yes and no..
The lads at Brewdog in Scotland understand Seth Godin’s purple cow; finding a way to stand out, to be the purple cow in a field of monochrome Holsteins.
Brewdog stand out through both product and marketing.
Their Punk IPA has an almost ridiculous amount of hops in it. It slaps you in the face when you try it. Masses of bitterness and a grapefruity finish. Delicious. Not unlike Thornbridge Jaipur.
Then comes the marketing. Check out the bottle label.
The website is littered with swearing and jabs at, “the corporate beer whores crazy for power and world domination.”
It’s a bit much for some but that’s the point. “We don’t care if you don’t like it” is a refreshing stance in an industry dominated by high-volume, appeal-to-the-masses brands.
When your product becomes a commodity, you have nothing left to compete on except price. As Seth says, the problem with the race to the bottom is that you might win.
So Brewdog have chosen to say “no thank you” to a large part of their potential market. Or have they? Maybe it was never their market anyway. These guys aren’t institutional shareholders of BigBrewingCo plc trying to squeeze an extra 0.5% profit. They are Martin and James, two guys in their twenties who are really into craft beer.
In focusing on others who love craft beer and mocking the rest they strengthen the identity and loyalty of their fans. Sound familiar?
I convinced the wife to stop into their Glasgow bar one evening last September as we were passing. If Willy Wonka did beer! Silly names, innovative mixtures, and spot-on execution: from the oak-aged 18.2% Tokyo stout to the 1.1% Nanny State.
The barman had exceptional product knowledge, talked us through loads of free samples, and was a genuine enthusiast. And we weren’t beaten up for being English.
If at any time you find yourself in any situation where you are neither learning nor contributing – use your two feet and move to some place more to your liking.
The idea comes from the “Open Space” approach to meetings pioneered by Harrison Owen in the 80s. Informed by the thinking on self-organising systems and teams, Open Space meetings have no formal agendas and principles such as “Whoever comes is the right people” and “Whatever happens is the only thing that could have“.
Fascinating stuff. Many of the ideas are used in unconferences today. Do check it out in Owen’s own words (Warning: no white space or pictures here).
The law is stated explicitly to meeting attendees at the beginning of a session. How does it work?
The law simply acknowledges what people are going to do anyhow. If there is any substantive contribution derived from either principles or law, it is merely to eliminate all the guilt. After all, people are going to exercise the law of two feet, mentally if not physically, but now they do not have to feel badly about it.
How grown up and insightful.
The law places the responsibility for maximising learning and contribution with us, the individual. Funny how we seem to need permission to do this. Social conditioning perhaps?
…such a place might be another group, or even outside into the sunshine. No matter what, don’t sit there feeling miserable. The law, as stated, may sound like rank hedonism, but even hedonism has its place, reminding us that unhappy people are unlikely to be productive people.
So the next time you find yourself not learning or contributing in a meeting (or elsewhere) think about the law of two feet.
First Blockbuster and Kodak. Now Comet, Jessops, and HMV in quick succession. Who next?
Businesses are having a hard time adjusting to the new rules of the digital era and today’s economy is unforgiving.
Part of me is nostalgic for these businesses; the job loss stats are frightening and I’m old enough to remember the failed “Use it or lose it” campaign of our village post office in the 80s. The other part of me knows that these businesses were designed for an era that no longer exists. They’ve served their time. Under better economic conditions they might struggle on but deep down we know they are better off in business heaven.
So the privilege to turn a profit on the distribution of music, film, cameras, and consumer electricals is redistributed to a first wave of businesses designed for the emerging digital age. Spotify, Amazon, iTunes, Lovefilm, Netflix etc haven’t had to convert themselves from analogue; they weren’t anchored to legacy business models, infrastructure and thinking. They had a blank piece of paper, the courage to try something new, and a healthy dose of luck.
To blame the likes of Amazon and Apple for the demise of HMV and Co is to deceive ourselves. We consumers killed these companies through our purchasing choices. By showrooming to handle a camera at Jessops and pick the brain of the sales agent before going home to think about it buy it on Amazon. We’ve all done it. By giving 30% of our money for iTunes songs and apps directly to Apple instead of shopping in HMV. By buying Amazon gift vouchers. There’s no judgement here; that’s just how it is.
The New Year brought some financial housekeeping to the Tatman household. Our bank statements reveal the extent and spread of our digital reliance through subscriptions and online shopping receipts. Specialist sports retailer Wiggle won last month’s battle but Amazon will no doubt reign supreme again this month.
Such specialists have some hope for survival in the digital era. Wiggle can sell me a commodity item like a mass-market bike pedal far cheaper than my local cycle shop. But if I want expert tailored advice on fitting and usage then local specialist wins every time (AthleteService in Henley). Wiggle can’t watch me pedal and give me adjustment guidance via Skype. This service hasn’t been digitised. Yet.
So the music and video incumbents have been displaced as the medium becomes purely digital. What products and services will be next? For other industries the patterns and warnings are there to learn from.
One predictable thing about change is its unpredictability. It’s early days for the digital era so I expect plenty more digital redistribution along the way as business models are tested and today’s winners are disrupted. This cycle of creative disruption, of births and deaths in business is nothing new; it’s survival of the fittest out there and always has been.
In the shower one morning I was thinking about how the shower is an amazing place for thinking. A bit meta, I know but bear with me… I wondered if the supposed creativity-enhancing impact of caffeine could be combined with this shower effect. So the next day I drank my espresso in the shower.
I’d love to report a creative binge of DaVinci-esque proportions. But no. I shaved a few seconds from my morning routine. My wife asked what the espresso cup was doing in the shower. And the world kept turning as before.
But it did give me plenty to consider. Why do we seem to have more ideas in the shower? A physiological impact from warm water stimulating the brain? Something Freudian about comfort and a return to the womb? The all-encompassing sound of falling water? Or a relaxing place away from distractions? Does it even matter HOW it works?
I like Seth Godin’s attitude to this:
When people buy a $90 bottle of wine, we have real clear data on this, they think it tastes better than a $10 bottle of wine even though we could switch the wines. So when I go to the person at the table I don’t say, “Would you like the expensive bottle of wine because the placebo effect will cause you to enjoy it more?” I have to put on the wine show in order for the placebo effect to work.
…So you can’t just walk up to people and tell them the digital truth and expect the placebo effect to work. It won’t. That’s the magic of the placebo effect. The challenge here, and the way I have dealt with it anyway, is to say the difference between manipulation and marketing is: manipulation is I get you to buy something that you regret later, and marketing is I get you to buy something you’re glad you bought.
What proportion of your working life do you spend working on documents? Reports, specs, plans, presentations, etc. The routine paraphernalia of knowledge workers. Paperwork.
It’s a trap. Isn’t it?
We become caught up in the trivialities of layout preferences, wrestling with MS Word settings, and distracted by inane presentation animations. And then there’s the dreaded group approval/sign-off process:
Can you change the font here please? I don’t like the grammar, a diagram, this detail, etc, etc…
We try to manage documents but they end up managing us.
Think about something you’ve always wanted to add to you life and try it for the next 30 days. ~ Matt Cutts (TED video)
I really recommend the video. It’s only 3 minutes long and pretty inspiring and persuasive.
TL-DR: the usual “thought -> action -> habit -> character -> destiny” progression logic. 30 days is apparently long enough to form new habits; be they exercise, diet, a photo a day, write a novel, avoid Facebook, TV, etc.
Inspired, I thought I’d give it a go. I picked doodling. A bunch of people like Sunni Brown have been championing the learning, creativity, problem-solving and innovation benefits of doodling recently.
So I began drawing. Very simple things and shapes. The sort of thing you can scribble on a whiteboard as a visual aid. Not Turner prize material. Using a free app on the iPad with one-click publishing to a free basic Tumblr site: Dreadful daily doodles
So far so good
I finished the 30 days and am carrying on with my new habit as I’ve learnt loads: cats can easily look like rats, dogs are really hard, our brains override what our eyes see with preconceived ideas of what something looks like, outline and shape can imply movement much better than detail, less is more.