Wednesday, June 17, 2015

5 Videos Every Entrepreneur Must Watch

As an entrepreneur, sometimes I get stuck and am not sure what to work on or where to go next.  I hit a wall and get the entrepreneur equivalent writer's block.  One of the best ways that I have found to get the ideas flowing again is to read or to listen to an inspiring talk from one of my favorite authors.  I have listened to some of these talks several times.  But each time I hear something different that I hadn't heard before. Something that was exactly what I needed to get my brain moving again and get ideas flowing.  Here are a few of my favorite talks to hopefully inspire you.

Simon Sinek - Start With Why
This talk is one that Simon Sinek gave at TedX in Puget sound and is based on his book Start With Why, which I also recommend reading.  He explains that business are really good at telling people what they do, but have a very hard time communicating Why they do it.  And the answer can't be "to make money."  If you can nail the WHY, then you are in business.
Best Quote "People don't buy what you do.  They buy WHY you do it."

Steve Blank - Get Out of the Building

Don't design your product in a bubble, assuming that you know exactly what customers want.  You don't.  As Steve Blank puts it "Get out of the building" and talk to customers.  Do customer discovering and development and figure out what they actually want.

Jack Trout - Coke vs Pepsi - Positioning
Jack is the master of positioning and has written several great books on the topic.  Read them all.  In this interview he gives an overview of both the good and bad positions that Coke and Pepsi have taken over the years.

Malcolm Gladwell - Choice, Happiness and Spaghetti Sauce
Malcolm Gladwell is a great story teller and in this talk he tells us about a man named Howard Moskowitz, who changed the way the food industry looked at choice and options.  Howard realized that there was no one perfect option in a food group.  Different people had different tastes and therefore wanted different choices.

Best Quote - "People don't know what they want! As Howard loves to say, "The mind knows not what the tongue wants." It's a mystery! (Laughter) And a critically important step in understanding our own desires and tastes is to realize that we cannot always explain what we want, deep down."

Seth Godin - How to Get Your Ideas To Spread
We all have ideas.  Tons and tons of ideas.  A good idea isn't always enough.  The trick is getting them to spread and getting people to use them.

Best Quote 'If the cow was purple, you'd notice it for a while. I mean, if all cows were purple you'd get bored with those, too.The thing that's going to decide what gets talked about, what gets done, what gets changed, what gets purchased, what gets built, is: "Is it remarkable?" And "remarkable" is a really cool word, because we think it just means "neat," but it also means "worth making a remark about."'

What are your favorite videos that get your brain working?

Recommended Books (Amazon Links)
1. Start with Why Simon Sinek
2. The Startup Owner's Manual Steve Blank
3. Marketing Warfare Jack Trout
4. The Tipping Point Malcolm Gladwell
5. Purple Cow Seth Godin

Friday, February 27, 2015

Why the White/Gold (No, Blue/Black) Dress Went Viral

Why in less that 24 hours has this dress gone viral, nearly melting the internet in an attempt to determine if its white/gold or blue/black?

There are two reasons.  
  1. Its polarizing.
  2. Everyone has an opinion.
There is no gray area here (pun intended).  You either see a white/gold or a blue/black dress.  And you can't possibly understand how someone else could see it any different than you.  People are arguing about it on Facebook, Twitter and in the office.

If you want people to talk about something, make it polarizing.  Make it so that everyone has an opinion about it and that there will be difference of opinion.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Value of a Good Story

Can a good story make something more valuable?  Consider diamonds.

Man-made, "synthetic" diamond are produced in a lab by either high pressure and heat or a chemical process.  It takes about a week or two.

Real diamonds are produced about 100 miles below the Earth's surface over a couple billion years.

The truth is, "synthetic" diamonds aren't actually synthetic.  They are in fact real diamonds.  But they have a terrible story and sell for about 30% less than a real diamond and few people buy them.  No future bride wants to show her friends an engagement ring that was grown in a lab by a man in a white coat.  Its not romantic and not exciting.

How much would you pay for this old guitar?

At first you might think it's just a beat up piece of wood and electronics that you wouldn't waste $50 on at the local pawn shop.  But it's more than just a beat up piece of wood.  It's the guitar that Eric Clapton played from 1970 to 1985 and was on the cover of his albums "Slowhand" and "Just One Night".  He named it Blackie.

Now how much would you pay for it?  In 2004, Guitar Center purchased Blackie at auction for $959,540, making it the world's most valuable guitar at that time.

The story is important.  Like the diamonds or Blackie, people are not paying for what the item is.  They are paying for the story behind it.  With out the story, a diamond is just a piece of carbon and a guitar is just a piece of wood.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Entrepreneurial Blindness and Bad Origami

Have you ever watch the show Shark Tank?  Entrepreneurs present their ideas to a panel of successful investors.  Often the ideas appear to have at least some potential.  But occasionally, the ideas are downright awful.  Yet the entrepreneur believes in it with all his heart and "knows it will be successful one day" despite what the experts say.  How is it that the entrepreneur could believe so blindly and so strongly in an idea that everyone else thinks is terrible and will never fly? I know I've done this.

Let's turn to behavioral economist Dan Ariely for an explanation.  In the following TED talk, starting at the 11:50 mark, Dan explains about an experiment where he asked people to make origami.

After they finished, he had the creators estimate the value of the origami that they had just made.  He then had another person judge the same piece of origami and put a value on it.  None of the creators were experts at origami and had to work hard to create even a poor example of origami.  Despite the ugliness of their creations, the creators put a high value on what they made.

The other people who were simply judging the pieces of origami gave them a lower value.  The people judging them saw them for what they were, poorly made origami.  The creators, on the other hand, overlooked the fact that they were poorly made and put high value on them because they had put effort into making them.  We tend to value things that we have put a lot of effort into.  Even if they are of no value to someone else.

As entrepreneurs and creators, are we making something of value to other people?  Or are we just making poorly made origami that we think is valuable and that we think everyone else should see as valuable, just because we put so much effort into it.

The tricky part is being able to take a step back and put aside how much effort you have put in and figure out if your product has actual value.  I like to follow the advice of Steve Blank and "Get out of the office" and talk to customers.  This will quickly help you to understand the value that others see in your product.  If you cannot take this step back and figure out if you have something of real value, you may waste time and money on something that may never go anywhere.  And the more you invest, the more you'll feel like it has to work.  It has to be successful.

People don't care about how much effort you have put into a product or idea.  People buy something when its of value to them.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Nancy Duarte: The secret structure of great talks

This is a wonderful talk by Nancy Duarte on using stories to present an idea.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Topher Grace, Seth Green and Mark Hamill kidnap George Lucas.

Movie Idea. Need Help. The movie takes place at Comicon in San Diego, where George Lucas is the headline attraction/speaker. Upset by StarWars 1,2 and 3, Topher Grace, Seth Green and Mark Hamill kidnap George and attempt to force him to re-edit the 3 movies into one decent movie, destroy the originals and remove all mention of midichlorians from StarWars cannon. In his old age, Mark Hamill thinks he's Darth Sidious. Darth Hamill is the mastermind of the plot and has the entire 501st as his Royal Guard. Not wanting to miss their only chance to meet George Lucas a rag tag bunch of geeks dressed as comic book, video game and sci fi characters attempt to rescue George Lucas. It is only later revealed that the rag tag group is actually lead by Jake Lloyd who wants to save himself from ending up on the cutting room floor with Jar Jar Binks.

How you can help: 1. Do you know George Lucas, Topher Grace, Seth Green or Mark Hamill? 2. Plot Suggestions. 3. Character and Casting suggestions. 4. Would you pay to see this movie? 5. Never mind answering #4. Of course you would see this movie, because it would be AWESOME!!! 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

When I was a kid......

When I was a kid....

.... vital Nintendo knowledge, like how to beat a boss or a cool cheat code, was passed from one kid to another at school. You couldn't look it up on the internet when you got stuck. You just figured it out and it worked pretty well. Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Select Start.

.... you kept a tape in your "BOOM Box", ready to hit record when your favorite song came on the radio so that you could savor that song over and over again. Sometimes you waited for days just so you could get the entire song.

.... you had to rewind and fast forward things. Cassette tapes. VCR tapes. Fast Forward. Stop. Play. Listen. Fast Forward. Stop. Play. Listen. You went too far. Rewind. Stop. Play. Is usually how it went.

.... we would talk to the people we were sitting next to.

.... we played Words with Friends, but it was called Scrabble.

.... we had blogs, but they were called journals and no one else read them.

.... we made up games on cross country trips.

.... this was an iPod.