September 25, 2014
Your Experiences are Worthless
We all have things happen in our lives which affect our outlook. We have interactions with family, with friends, with clients, with employees. All of these experiences make up our past. They make up what we know and understand about life. But without a few important things those experiences are worthless. We have an opportunity. We have the power to improve our lives and our businesses. And we have the option to make our experiences count for something or to be worthless.
Here’s the important things to keep in mind to make sure your experiences impact your life and your work in the right way. These are the ways you make your experience not worthless.
1. Learn from the past
If you never stop to reflect on past experiences, if you never analyze how a particular situation unfolded and the outcome was reached then your experience is worthless. You must do more than just collect experiences in life. You have to learn from them. You have to grow from them. Learning from past experiences means stopping and looking at what was done right and what was done wrong. Force yourself to work through the activities and how they impacted the outcome. Without the ability to learn from our past experiences they serve no purpose.
2. Change the present
Once you’ve learned from the past experiences you must use what you learn to change or improve your present. I don’t mean that every experience should result in you doing something different on a daily basis. I’m not suggesting you change your daily ritual or that you walk away from every experience with a mile-long list of changes you need to make in your present situations. In fact, sometimes, the best thing you can learn from a past experience is the change to make no change. Meaning instead of changing you stop and stay constant. (Ironically that is a change from previous behavior) If you don’t take those lessons you’ve learned. If you don’t capitalize on the experiences you have and use them to change the present then they are worthless.
I’m reminded of the quote by Albert Einstein.
3. Shape the future
So now you see where I’m going. We looked at how experiences are worthless if we don’t learn from them. Next we saw how those same experiences are without much value if we don’t use them and the lessons we learned to change our present situation. Lastly, we see that if we don’t use those experiences to shape our future they are worthless. Those experiences, those life lessons you’ve learned and have used to change your current situation must be used as a guide to help shape your future goals and aspirations. If you know how something happens because you have experience with that particular situation then you can not only understand the outcome but you can shape it. You must do something with your experiences and your past. You must use your experiences to shape your future, if you don’t then they hold no value.
Three ways to make sure your experiences are not worthless. It’s not necessarily hard. But like so many things in life it takes thought, it takes patience and it takes perseverance. We must make our experiences valuable. They are one of the most valuable assets we have and possibly the one thing of true worth we have that no one else ever has had. Our daily lives and existence, our minute by minute experiences are unique to us and we have the opportunity to decide what we do with them. Don’t make one of your greatest resources worthless. Use your experiences to learn, change, and shape what you do.
September 9, 2014
Should Apple Change Their Presentation Style
The date is the 9th of September 2014. It’s a Tuesday. We’re about to experience in a few short hours the annual Apple event. As we get ready to once again revel in the anticipation, the excitement, and the thrill which has accompanied each of these occasions I think it’s a good time to discuss why or when you might change a good thing. When should you change a good thing?
Apple’s Presentation: A Good Thing?
The good thing I refer to of course is the standard presentation style that Apple uses to deliver its product announcements. I assume most of you (if not all) have seen an Apple product announcement at one time or another. In case you haven’t here’s a few samples.
Yep, there’s some definite similarities. In fact you might see a very distinct pattern and wonder if that level of repetition is a good thing or if it’s time for a change. Regardless of your belief of Apple’s particular product announcements, here are 4 quick tips to consider when thinking of change.
1. Repetition can be overdone
As you can see from the above videos there is an opportunity for competitors and other market leaders to capitalize on the repetition by mocking the similarities between videos. Here are a couple of the most humorous.
Yes, repetition can be overdone and can be dangerous (if you’re not the size of Apple) and even when you are the world’s most valuable business. Be careful that your repetition doesn’t leave you vulnerable to your competition.
2. Innovation requires change
Innovation usually takes the form of new products, new ideas, or something revolutionary to an existing market. These innovations come in the form of a change to an existing status quo. The best way to help innovation is to encourage change. When you don’t encourage change you stifle the possibilities for innovation.
Yes, I realize we watch those Apple videos and each is announcing an “innovative” and “revolutionary” product. But innovation covers more than just the product. Innovation must also occur in the marketing message and in the sales strategies. When you innovate be sure you innovate everywhere.
3. Stagnation means death
Stagnation is the third thing to consider when trying to determine if change is necessary or need. If you’re not moving, you’re drowning. It’s a popular expression and one which frequently means if you’re not changing and improving then you’re business is destined to fail. While there is absolutely something to be said for consistency and for remaining stable this does not mean you cannot continue to improve your product. You should always be looking for ways to improve and grow because as my last point suggests…
4. Nothing is perfect
That’s right. Nothing is perfect. There is always room for improvement and change. Everything created, no matter how wonderful, how innovative, or how revolutionary the product might be. You must always be looking for what will make your product, your idea, or your business better. Don’t lose sight of your vision or the reasons you are in business. If you have not achieved those goals then your vision compels you to continue improving your product. This improvement requires changes. Don’t become lazy or accept mediocrity in your business.
Change can be difficult, there’s on doubt about that fact. There is an element of fear involved in change. Don’t be afraid of change. Also equally important is be sure you know when and why to change. Consider that repetition can be overdone, innovation requires change, stagnation means death, and nothing is perfect. I hope those 4 quick points are helpful as you consider Apple’s grand announcements today. Enjoy the presentation, appreciate the experience, and learn from the best (whether it be a good or a bad example).
August 14, 2014
Knowing When To Pivot
The idea of pivoting in a business is one of those things not thought of when things are running smooth and business is growing. Often its not until things start “slipping” do you start to hear the rumblings of a “pivot” in the works. What is a pivot? Why should a business pivot? And when should a business pivot? Let’s see if we can answer those three questions.
What is a pivot?
The first question I want to look at is the background, definition, and meaning of a pivot in business. The first thought which comes to my mind is the analogy of a basketball player. If you’re familiar with the sport at all then you’re aware that once you’ve picked up the ball (after dribbling) you are no longer allowed to move both your feet. You’re only allowed to move one or the other. This action is called a pivot. You can pick up one foot but the other must remain firmly planted where it was originally placed.
Business pivots I like to imagine are quite similar. A pivot is when a business identifies its core business is not completely meeting its needs (for a variety of reasons which we’ll see in the answers to our next questions). What a business may choose to do then is to pivot the focus of its business slightly to something different. Similar to the basketball pivot I like to imagine the business keeps one “foot” firmly planted in the culture, goal, and objectives upon which it was founded. Now that we have a basic understanding of a pivot let’s look at the reasons why a business might pivot.
Why should a business pivot?
Business pivots are difficult decisions to make. Sometimes they may be gut-wrenchingly hard. But they can be a necessary part of a business’s evolutionary process. Sometimes it’s the only way for a business to survive. Knowing what a pivot it we need to understand the reasons why you’d want to perform a pivot. Here’s a couple to get us started.
Pivot because market shift
Sometimes in the course of business the market will shift away from what you’ve been doing. This is a common reason especially in the technology industry. The current trends change so quickly it becomes very difficult to keep up with trends and if you’re not vigilant your market can shift away from you seemingly overnight.
Pivot to refocus on core purpose
Another useful time for performing a pivot is when you realize you are not accomplishing your goals or your core purpose. Stop and think about why you got into business. Are those reasons what still motivate you to get up and go each day? Does your team believe what you do is accomplishing your goal? If not then it might be time to consider a pivot.
When should a business pivot?
You may notice that the last sentence of the previous paragraph brought up our next point. It might be time to consider a pivot. If we know what a pivot is and why a business might consider a pivot the last question we’re going to ask today is when should that be done? This is certainly the most difficult question. Along with a pivot comes change.
Many people (customers, community, team members) are averse to the idea of change. Change causes us to stretch ourselves and possibly lose the comfort zone we’ve settled in to. (Ironically this might be the very reason why a pivot is necessary).
Pivot on time
Too many times a pivot comes too late. Business has already lost the market (see the reasons above) or the community, team members have lost the core value and begun leaving the company. A pivot is difficult to time because some of us don’t like change and secondly it’s just plain hard to do. But constantly analyzing and studying the market and the reasons why you do what you do will help you spot early on when a pivot is necessary.
Pivot when necessary
No, that’s not an easy-out type of answer. The truth is you should perform a pivot when it’s necessary. Timing is key and the only way to know when a pivot becomes necessary is if you stay alert and attentive. Don’t get lazy. Don’t be over-active either. The best thing you can do is to be consistent and be constantly pro-actively growing. When you notice shifts that would require a change-pivot. Don’t pivot just because you are bored with the current business environment.
The easy answer is to pivot when your business has faded, but I would suggest this is too late. Be proactive but don’t be over-active. Don’t change for the sake of change but at the same time don’t avoid change because it’s hard. Pivoting when done right can take a business to the next level and keep you successful for many years to come. Know when to pivot.
May 1, 2014
The Fight to be Flexible
I’m sitting at the airport. This quite a common place to find me. As an open source advocate I travel a lot. Most of the time my flights are on time and my connections are easy. This is not one of those times.
I found out my initial flight leg from RDU to IAD (Washington Dulles) was delayed and then 20 minutes later delayed again; and again. Eventually it was delayed 3 more times. And as expected with that many delays, I missed the connection from IAD to GRU (Sao Paulo, Brazil). Majorly frustrating. As I make the arrangements to rebook the flight for the following day it strikes me how applicable this situation is to life, and also to open source.
We all have plans for our lives. We have an agenda, things we want to see accomplished and goals we want to achieve. In an open source community we set our sights on accomplishing lofty things. Many of them having some form of “change the world” buried in them. We put down a mission and a vision statement we want to accomplish and then we start to organize ourselves to accomplish those goals.
Open Source Opportunities
Open source projects have several obstacles to overcome in this scenario though. Chiefly, we rely on the time, interests and energies of volunteers to accomplish these lofty goals and ultimately accomplish our mission and fulfill our vision. If our volunteers fail to have the time or interest then the project also fails. This is where the power of flexibility becomes so critically important.
It is foolish to believe a mission statement or a vision cannot change. It’s also foolish to believe every deadline will be met perfectly. When an open source community relies on volunteers and contributors one of the greatest battles is the battle to remain flexible, to be willing to make changes to deadlines, to goals, and even to a project’s mission.
Why must a community be flexible?
As I’ve already mentioned when a community relies on the goodwill and generous donations of time and talent from contributors there must be an inherent amount of understanding and ability to change as a result. Secondly, and possibly even more importantly, The world changes. Software changes, companies and organizations change. An open source community grows over time and as it grows it evolves. It establishes a culture and becomes more refined (dare I say focused) as it grows. At least this should be the case because the community listens to its members. Not only does it listen to its members to help it establish culture but it also listens to the world. A strong community pays attention to the changes happening around it and is flexible in adopting change (when it’s for the good of the community).
Are communities quick to be flexible?
No, and that’s why I say it’s a fight to be flexible. Sometimes individuals in the community are change-averse. They prefer the status quo over the ‘unknowns’ involved in changing. A well-rounded community is made up of a variety of individuals. These differences should be celebrated and embraced. These differences should also be kept in mind. Just as there are those ‘strong and steady’ types there are also the ‘non-comformist’ type, this is the person who loves change, any change, and even wants change just because it’s change. There’s dangers in both these types as well as the many other types (trust me, there are many many personalities which make up a good open source community). The point is to be flexible. Be talking and communicating with each other within your community. When communication happens (and listening happens) then the true power of open source communities can be found. Because I believe this is where open source stands head and shoulders over others.
Open Source Wins
Open source projects should stop looking at flexibility as something that must be fought but rather one of it’s greatest strengths. The ability to change direction based on the community is a powerful one. Most large corporations are unable to implement the types of flexibility and take advantage of a changing culture in the same way an open source community can. The passion found in volunteers cannot be bought, cannot be forced in a closed source corporation. It’s inherent in the genetic makeup of open source. Take advantage of the benefit of being open source. Take advantage of the flexibility and use it to be an incredible community.
Remember, we’re all in this together.