Product is a trailing indicator of demand.
Marketing is a leading indicator of demand.
In between is art.
Product is a trailing indicator of demand.
Marketing is a leading indicator of demand.
In between is art.
My preferred definition of ‘project’ is from David Allen (of GTD fame):
Projects = Your outcomes that require more than one action step.
We don’t often think in how small these action steps are, but as of late I’ve been more aware of it. For example, my younger son needed a dojo patch sewn on his new gi.
It’s a small, out of the ordinary, project so there’s inherently some inertia to overcome to begin with, and I was having a tough time to find an uninterrupted hour, so I decided to take it one step at a time. Just complete one step. Then walk away. Provided the entire project is complete by Saturday morning – all is good.
So, here’s all the steps I took over 3 days for this one project:
A seven step project and finished two days ahead of deadline because it was chunked into the smallest, most discreet next action.
Each of these actions took about as along watching a TikTok (or three), which would have been just as easy to do – but far, far less beneficial. TikTok (and so much of our online activity) is fitting in between larger commitments. Same idea, rather than burning off your cognitive surplus like an oil driller with excess natural gas, break your more beneficial, overwhelming projects into TikTok-sized next actions that you can cleanly walkaway from and prepare you for the next step when you return.
Years ago, I wrote about scheduling in 30, 60, or 90 minutes, TikTok-ifying is thinking even smaller, it’s for when even committing to 30 continuous minutes seems overwhelming,
I’ve always enjoyed the environment message within ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs’ it’s like a kid-friendly version of Harrison Ford is the Ocean.
Nature can reclaim the earth. The world will continue on without us.
It’s happened before:
7 Questions to Determine if You’re onto Something Big
After decades of working with entrepreneurs, product executives, and creating a few of my own products (a few modestly successful and many absolute duds), I’ve developed a short checklist for whether an idea is worth the significant time and effort to develop into a product. Far too often these questions are left unanswered and the founding team plows forward continuing to build (hell, I’ve done that myself) but the questions don’t go away just because you’ve build around them. They get more problematic. The earlier they’re answered, the easier the next steps are.
0. Why do we care if its a Good Idea?
State it in a one-sentence MadLib, e.g.
“It’s for [hyper-specific customer segment] frustrated by [an acute, persistent problem]. “
As the adage states, “if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it.”
If we’re going to have any measure of success, we need to identify an it that’s broke. It can be very difficult for anyone – even those directly experiencing the problem to fully, clearly, and accurately, articulate the broke it – they can more easily articulate their frustrations, demonstrate when these frustrations occur, and describe the outcome they’re struggling to achieve. It’s that frustration we want to articulate in a single sentence.
Consider this an initial hypothesis. Personally, in early stages of idea development, I like to have 3 of these sentences – each with a distinct potential customer. This helps to ensure you’re casting a wide-enough net an thinking creatively about all the ways your idea can help people
2. Why will the number of people with this frustration exponentially grow over the next 3 years?
There are a number of trends flowing right now – some mega, others not. Knowing which emerging trends amplify the idea will suggest how big and how fast the customer base will grow.
Exponential growth over the next 3-5 years is needed to support a growing and maturing company. If the frustrated customer base isn’t predicted to grow in scale, the idea can’t support a company. Then, we should act like the frustration has already been solved, and move on to what comes next.
3. Are we (the founding team) currently experts in this frustration?
Signs of our expertise include;
4. What’s our unique insight that everyone else has missed?
Here we’re looking for the characteristic that sets us and our solution apart from the other available solutions.
5. Can we demonstrate the idea right now?
I don’t care how rudimentary the demonstration is, I want to see the frustration solved leveraging our unique insight. This demonstration means the idea is real, tangible, and usable – verses simply theoretical.
6. What does this look like at >$10K/transaction?
All businesses have a price floor below which it’s not worth the time and effort to pay the invoice. In my experience, that floor is $10,000/transaction. Founding teams either don’t think about price early or price far too low ($<10). Imagining how the idea could support a >$10K price tag is helpful when trying to imaging all the different customers the idea could help at scale.
7. Where’s the opportunity for network effects & zero marginal costs?
Two of the biggest costs a young company has are; the costs to get the next customer (customer acquisition costs) and the cost of producing the next item (marginal costs). Finding ways to leverage network effects – where the value of the product increases as more customers use it – is one way to structurally counter those headwinds and position the product for zero marginal costs. This also compliments the earlier question about exponential growth in the customer base.
Grab the Keynote of this blog post
Yes, I frequently move stuff between the lists. Often kicking a given item from month to month to month. No worries, it’s the ‘I would be thrilled if…’ list not the ‘I must list’.
Here’s how it’s currently structured:
The world doesn’t actually care if you do the things on your calendar.
It’ll keep spinning either way.
In fact, in many ways it would prefer that you just didn’t.
For, every time you do – the world changes a little bit. ‘Doing’ starts an chain reaction of cause and effect unsettling the natural course of things – entropy.
There are consequences to inaction. If you don’t pay your rent or mortgage for long enough – eventually you’ll lose the roof over your head. Stop improving the relationship with your spouse and eventually you won’t have one. Stop filling up the gas tank in your car – and eventually you’re stuck.
These are hyperbolic examples, yet their lesson can be applied to both smaller more banal tasks as well as your most meaningful projects.
If you don’t work on them – there’s very little immediate downside. Long-term? That’s a completely different question. But, short term – likely nothing.
Right now, admit to yourself that there will be commitments you made, commitments that are clearly identified, well estimated, perfectly aligned with your energy that you simply don’t do.
Instead, you end up running errands, talking with co-workers, taking an extra-long shower, cleaning your office, resolving some completely unexpected emergency, or attempting to capturing some unexpected opportunity. Or you’re simply binge-watching ‘Nailed It’ on Netflix.
So, what do we do now that we we’ve admitted we’re not doing the thing we committed to?
First stop and take a breath.
Next consider why you didn’t.
What about the activity wasn’t compelling to you enough to simply start at the designated time? Most likely, it was an activity you weren’t fully committed to, that you didn’t fully see the outcome of the activity fulfilling one of your most meaningful goals.
In short, it’s a commitment you made for someone else – not for yourself. And because it wasn’t for you – anything, absolutely anything was more fulfilling and more significant than this thing you scheduled.
So, why did it end up on your calendar in the first place? At what point in the history of the commitment could you have made a different answer – said ‘No’ instead of ‘Yes’, delegated it, resolved it in the moment – to prevent it from ever being scheduled in the first place?
Think of that moment, visualize it like it’s happening again. Feel yourself agreeing to the commitment. As you do, ask, “What negative outcome am I trying to avoid by saying ‘Yes’?” followed by “What part of my identity is afraid of this activity?” (For it’s your identity that kept you from starting in this moment).
Once you have these answers, you’ll know which of the following actions to take:
1. Delete the activity off your calendar and completely forget about it. That’s right, you’re obviously not excited about this activity enough to start – so, say ‘No’ to it now and forever. Just delete it, write in what you did instead – and continue on with your day. If it likely will return, take a moment and determine who you’ll delegate it to. This is ‘When as a trigger’ that Patrick and I talk about in ‘The Power of When’ – When this task returns – I’ll delegate it to John.
Rescheduling the commitment is the worst of three options.
The easiest option is to simply admit the commitment wasn’t actually significant in the first place and delete it from your calendar.
“Rescheduling kicks off a chain reaction of comparing all the upcoming commitments by their significance, energy, and time to find the next best date & time for a commitment that obviously wasn’t the most significant thing when it came around the first time.”
Which means the rescheduled thing is never the most important thing. Why would it be? To add to the problem, the commitment has already been canceled, forgotten, or ignored once, so the chances of it being canceled, forgotten, or ignored a second time are more than double. Then there’s the issue of ensuring everyone has the new meeting details.
Don’t reschedule without adjusting the nature of the appointment to be aligned with the level significance for everyone involved.
This can be done two ways:
Both of these methods of changing the effort’s nature transform it into a new substantially different thing. So it’s not a reschedule – it’s a more accurately-sized commitment that can be better judged against the rest of your scheduled commitments in terms of significance, energy, and time.
Of course, this assumes the change in nature still passes the significance threshold for you and your collaborators. It could be that you’re secretly relieved the effort isn’t important. In which case – delete it happily and ignore the reschedule request and determine how you’re going to maximize this newly found time.
All of this leads us back to where we started: Don’t Reschedule; Cancel or Commit
I say this as I’m trying to extract 100ish people from being considered redundant.
I’m grateful for all those – medical professionals, emergency workers, school administrators, governors, etc – working continuously to contain the COVID-I9 global pandemic we’re currently in.
With so many activities, events, and businesses shuttered indefinitely, in the back of my mind, I’ve been wondering, “What does the world look like after containment?”
Which takes me to one of my favorite tools for thinking through effects and consequences, McLuhan’s Tetrad. While McLuhan developed the Tetrad tool to think through how media changes us, I’ve found it works for anything phenomenon impacting society at large. Like the Myers-Briggs, it’s more effective when statements are articulated in their most positive manner.
The Tetrad asks four questions;
What does it enhance?
What does it make obsolete?
What does it retrieve that had been obsolesced earlier?
What does it flip into when pushed to extremes?
What does COVID-19 enhance?
– Depression and anxiety disorders related to lack of face-to-face social contact.
– Brand-name universities offering online high school curriculum
– Corporations’ level of comfort with the majority of their labor force being remote
– Companies no longer providing computers to their employees
– Depression in commercial real estate – esp office buildings.
– Tribalism and mistrust of others
– Tightening of pre-existing social networks
– Delivery services
– Corporate adoption of robotics and automation to ensure higher sanitation standards & reduce variable labor force availability.
– Climate change advocacy (sudden drop in global pollution levels creating higher air and water quality)
– Solo hobbies & sports – esp inside sports (e.g. knitting, playing music, homebrewing, yoga, cooking, yo-yo-ing, karate)
– Membership- or subscription-based business models
– Home exercise equipment sales (e.g. Peloton)
– Self-stable and freezer-friendly food sales (maybe the US now gets shelf-stable milk)
– JustWalkOut by Amazon
– Demand for box seats at stadiums and theaters
– Single-payer health care in the US
– popularity of eSports
– Disney divesting ESPN
What does COVID-19 make obsolete?
– Casual physical contact with strangers
– Business models based on confining strangers for a period of time (stadiums, theaters, cruise ships, airplanes, public transportation, professional sports)
– Business models based on individual, retail sales
– Social pressure to attend events that you’d rather not attend.
– work from home is no longer a differentiating HR benefit, it’s an expected part of the employment contract.
– The decline of church-going (esp Catholic) in the US, and by extension the Boy Scouts.
– General seating at stadiums and theatres.
– checkout clerks
– Co-working spaces
What does COVID-19 retrieve that had been obsolesced earlier?
– “The milkman”, local businesses making regular deliveries in a localized area.
– a need to ‘stock-up’ when something is available, for it may not be tomorrow (pantries, root cellars, and chest freezers)
– Victory Gardens
– Speakeasys (for dining and social experiences and gyms [1, 2], not just drinking) like this.
– Drive-in Movie Theaters
– Party lines (always on video multi-party video conferences)
– “Back to the Land” movement
– Offices (as opposed to cubicles or open-plan spaces)
– investing in front yards over backyards
What does cultural phenomena does COVID-19 flip when pushed to extremes?
– Continuous monitoring of individuals’ health in all locations accessible to the general public (e.g. fever monitoring in convenience stores)
– Isolationism at micro and macro levels
– Every neighborhood is “The Village”
– Redundancy in supply chains, leading to greater expense and under utilized capacity.
I can’t snowshoe.
It stays too warm.
Cougars in the county.
I’d like to see one.