Lesson Three: The Biggest Challenges Beget the Best Work

…..cont’d from Lesson One: Why Social Media Experts are Idiots and Lesson Two: Do Not Listen to Customers

Lesson Three: The Biggest Challenges Beget the Best Work. This seems to be in line with conventional wisdom. In the same vein as, “What Won’t Kill You Will Make You Stronger” this could be filed in the ‘Character Building’ box of Life. Mr. Kawasaki believes that if you provide the challenge, employees will rise up. They will rise up and bulid something quite revolutionary, perhaps. As an entrepreneur, how would you motivate your team members to perform with excellence?

I also believe that Freedom Begets Creativity which Begets the Best Work. If an individual feels totally free and uninhibited it becomes an opportunity to create magnificent work. Some people feel that Apple products are a result of creative genius. What products do you possess that are a result of creative genius?

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Lesson Two: Do Not Listen to Customers

….. cont’d from Lesson One: Why Social Media Experts are Idiots

Lesson Two: Customers cannot tell you what they need. According to Mr. Kawasaki, Apple does not use focus groups. As an entrepreneur, if you want to make a revolutionary change it is not effective to listen to customers. They will only describe their needs in terms of “better” and “cheaper.” They will not describe them in revolutionary terms. So does this mean, “As an entrepreneur, you need to tell your customers what they need”?

This is interesting. Compare the above Lesson from an Apple disciple with how Eric Ries and his book The Lean Startup posits the value of the customer. The Lean Startup movement or being “Lean” is a very popular topic in the Valley and the Start Up World which has developed somewhat of a cult following. The Lean approach of’ “build, measure, learn” quickly and efficiently  seems pretty customer-centric to me.

So what role does the customer play? Does it depend on the nature of the product/service? Would you prefer to Listen or Tell?

Everyday is Halloween in San Francisco

I took this picture on New Year’s Eve in Union Square, San Francisco:

The Sparkly Rainbow Guy was out in full force in Union Square. He seemed to be hustling for attention for a while until this lady approached him. San Francisco is full of performance artists. Whether you want to dress up or dress down, whether you want to dress in full regalia or or simply play a role, whether you are crazy or non-crazy, all are welcome in this town. You are free to express yourself.

2011 was an explosion of self-expression all over the digital landscape. Social media is about self-expression and we witnessed major political change globally through this medium and because of this medium. And I believe you will see more acts of self-expression committed by citizens of nations trying to make institutional change in 2012 and beyond.

I remember meeting a New York transplant who told me that his friends back East call San Francisco full of “crunchy” types. I look at it this way. New York has New Yorkers.  Paris has Parisians. And San Francisco has people who understand the value of self-expression to change the world.

Lesson One: Why Social Media Experts are Idiots

This post is for the entrepreneur or aspiring one. Guy Kawasaki worked for Apple and Steve Jobs twice. He learned some things. He shares Twelve Lessons with you that he learned from Steve Jobs. Here is the YouTube video of that presentation which was given after Mr. Jobs’ passing. It’s about 47 minutes long. I will summarize each lesson in twelve entries or if you want to listen to its entirety here it is:

Lesson One: Mr. Kawasaki thinks that experts are clueless. Especially the “social media experts” or the “social media gurus.” If someone tells you that they are one of these, run the other way. Experts can’t help you. They are arrogant and will just tell you to do the better sameness. They are disconnected from customers. Steve Jobs did not listen to experts. In fact, experts listened to him. As entrepreneurs, you are supposed to figure it out for yourself. Social media has allowed you to get close to people and influencers very fast. Use it correctly and learn something.

Why Mentorship is Dangerous

I’ve been thinking of this concept of mentorship. Through my young adult and professional life I have always been encouraged to seek out a mentor. And we seem to read about it a lot in career advice columns, blog posts, self-improvement literature, etc. And yes, I have had a handful of more wise, experienced individuals guide me through challenging and uncertain times, both men and women. Not sure I would call them mentors though.

Here’s the observation that I’ve made. It becomes dangerous when the mentor is treated as a hero. Then the mentorship experience becomes hero worship. This creates limitations on your self development. You fail to develop to your fullest potential because you become so focused on BEING your mentor. Do you really want to be a second-rate copy of your Mentor or a first-rate you? So here lies another meaning of “bcc”: do you want to become a Blind Carbon Copy?

Here’s a simplified analogy regarding the above. Steve Jobs died this past year in case you didn’t hear. He is probably the first person associated with that brand called Apple. There was a lot of attention focused on him after he died. Lots of people were sad. There were a lot of tributes written about him. He was worshipped and he continues to be worshipped. He has been deified.  So the question I’ve heard is “Who is the next Steve Jobs?” And it continues with “Who is the next Mark Zuckerberg?” Or “Who is the next Arianna Huffington?” Or “Who is the next Angela Merkl?” Or “Who is the next Margaret Thatcher?” (Huh? That was a curve ball, right?) Yes, I look forward to watching Meryl Streep portray the Reagan era politician in “The Iron Lady” which is coming soon to a theater near you. These questions are silly. Seeking out “The Next” whatever creates limitations and ceilings on inventing something different that can change the world in even a greater capacity. Sure, the aforementioned people have made a major impact on the world but that does not mean that they represent the absolute potential. Mentorship and learning from great leaders has value but be careful not to diminish your own ability to do amazing things. Do something different.

How the World’s Most Powerful Blogger Masters Fear

Sometimes this is what I do on Friday afternoon before an evening out. I seek to entertain and educate myself by checking out YouTube. I had a recent discussion with a date about Arianna Huffington and why she is such a Big Deal in the media and blogosphere. So I decided to find out what Search results YouTube (Google) would produce for “Arianna Huffington”, the woman who has been called the “World’s Most Powerful Blogger.” And I found this piece from 2007 uploaded by GoogleTalks where a very pregnant Sheryl Sandberg then of Google, now the COO of Facebook interviews the New Media titan.

Aside from her explanation of how she transformed from a Conservative to a Liberal what I found interesting was Ms. Huffington’s insight about the concept of fear. Women and men handle the feeling of fear differently. Nothing too earth shattering there. But what kinds of things are women fearful of? Ms. Huffington illustrates her point with the concept of the “Evil Roommate” which lives in our brain and tells us mean or undermining things. The Evil Roommate exists in the minds of both men and women. But here again lies the difference. For example, women wake up in the morning and the Evil Roommate may whisper something like this to them, “Look in the mirror, is that another wrinkle?” or “Those jeans are tighter on you because you threw them in the dryer, right?” She goes on to posit that it’s not about the absence of fear which will move us forward, but of mastering it. I think this thought approach applies to human beings in general. Both men and women have different perceptions of what may cripple them mentally and/or emotionally but  perhaps it’s a matter of first identifying the nature of the fear and why it’s given permission to exist in our minds.

Ms. Huffington is an interesting personality to listen to. Her thoughts about the perception of the “outspoken woman” and what needs to change to move women forward are not revolutionary but she speaks to the themes of human dignity and the democratization of the Voice. Human beings feel valued when they have a Voice that is acknowledged and heard. So regardless of whether you agree or disagree with her political views or maybe just don’t like her, in the big picture she reminds us about the beauty and power of the blogosphere to deliver Truth from ordinary people. The emergence of New Media has granted a voice to ordinary people who can blog about things that matter to them up to a potentially institution-changing and revolutionary way.  I do understand that a double-edged sword exists where any non-Truth can also be broadcast by an ordinary person with evil intentions to destroy the World.  But the global activism that this form of communication  has spawned just in 2011 also amplifies the new era of individual self-fulfillment and attempting to “do good” in the world. So the next time the Evil Roommate rears itself, press the mute button. That Voice does not earn the right to be heard.

You can follow Arianna Huffington @ariannahuff and her Internet Newspaper the Huffington Post @HuffingtonPost

StartUp San Francisco: A Winning Tradition Based on Six Concepts

I discovered this article on Twitter during my morning news run. It was written by Boston entrepreneur Jason Evanish about his visit to the Valley. The Valley collectively refers to Silicon Valley and San Francisco. He believes that there are six reasons why the Valley is the Center of the Universe and these beliefs resonate with my recent experiences in the space.

Here are his observations:

(1) Openness (#payitforward): There is a “How can I help?” attitude. Most recently, I experienced this kind of generosity at AngelHackSF, the SF Ruby on Rails community, WomenWhoCode (led by the fearless Sasha Laundy) and Women 2.0 events.

(2) Optimism: Anyone with a vision is encouraged. The energy of the startup community is contagious and this fosters an entrepreneurial environment. At the beginning of the journey, it’s the subjective feeling of hope that prevails over a revenue model or the analytical razzle dazzle.

(3) Culture: The Valley is competitive but also collaborative. The Valley attracts a lot of talent because of this kind of culture. Talent wars abound so companies must provide a great work culture in addition to a fun environment. Mr. Evanish remarks how he was impressed with his visit to San Francisco based Twilio.

(4) Evangelism: People are happy with work and life in the Valley. They want you to move here now. Mr. Evanish believes that there are three hubs in the Valley ecosystem: San Francisco, Palo Alto and Mountain View. My observation is that San Francisco is THE hub of the Valley ecosystem where the Peninsula (Palo Alto, Mountain View and Menlo Park) and the South Bay (Santa Clara, San Jose and Cupertino) are also important and complete the ecosystem. Facebook is moving to Menlo Park and Apple is Cupertino – they are in the ecosystem. The Valley is a regional ecosystem which offers a phenomenal lifestyle. One can live in San Francisco, work in Mountain View, enjoy the culture/nightlife of San Francisco during off hours, catch a music concert or lecture in Berkeley, take off to Tahoe for skiing, run off to Napa or Sonoma up in the Wine Country, drive down the coast to Big Sur to be on the water, etc. etc. etc. (you get the picture). Plenty of things to do. All the time.

(5) Weather: The Bay Area climate is more favorable than the East Coast. This has a tremendous impact on lifestyle. Thus far, at every tech event I have been to I have always met a transplant who said they left the East Coast because of the weather. They were tired of shoveling snow, or tired of not being able to go out, or tired of being unsatisfied with their heating system in their apartment. They just got tired.

(6) Omnipresence: Mr. Evanish thinks it’s “cool” to see a familiar tech company’s logo on a billboard. These billboards are ubiquitious in San Francisco (the “City”) and the rest of the Valley. Walk or bike in the City, or drive along 101 or 280 and it’s just not possible to not see one of these gigantic manifestations of a Brand. This concept of omnipresence is also similar to how technology is so relevant in our lives.

At the end of the day the Valley has created a Winning Tradition because of the people who inhabit it. There is a diverse group of individuals from all over the world who converge here with hopes and dreams to build something great that will impact humanity. And even if the dream is not realized, the experience of engaging within a vibrant talented community and building life long relationships contributes to the richness of the Tradition. It’s the dynamic human element that matters.

This post was based on an article from OnStartups.com and tweeted by Dharmesh Shah (@dharmesh) the founder of @HubSpot. Discover #inboundmarketing.