Exercise Your Brain

You know that feeling you get after you haven’t worked out for awhile and your whole body is aching because it’s all like – “hey this is above and beyond our normal routine of getting up, going to work, sitting down, going home, watching something and going to bed” – routine.

And maybe that is something you are doing some other activities during the day too – but you know the day I’m talking about – where you wakeup and go for the run in the morning and feel it the rest of the day kind of day.

Yeah – now remember what that feels like – you feel like the boss, you feel like you could do anything.

Not go do that with your Brain – go do something new, push it to the point where it can’t think any more and you really need a rest.  Figure out how to build a deck, how to fix the hole on your driveway, how to get the unit tests working, how to make your garage a little cleaner.

Now do it the next day and the next day and the next day.

Exercise your Brain till it hurts.

The Detractor

The Detractor isn’t a bad person to have on your team, they aren’t malicious per se, but they are 100% – a Distraction – where their main goal is to detract you from your goal.

The Detractor has their own goals in mind, they are working towards something else that is separate from what the rest of the team is focussed on.  Towards the end of each meeting, when everyone has said their piece and is clear on the next step for the project they come back with – “one last thing” – that doesn’t align with the path of the team.

It detracts.

It takes away.

It confuses.

Where the team was on a path, they are now on a collision course – “we thought we were doing this but now have this other thing to worry about” – it’s not clear, it’s not known and it’s detracting the team.  Worse, it’s taking valuable time away as they think, ponder and possibly prototype down this path.

Don’t get me wrong, new ideas, suggestions against the grain are great – but they should come during the discussion, not at the end, not when everyone’s moving forward, at that point it becomes a distraction and it takes away from what people are supposed to be working on.

How do you nullify the Detractor?  Get them involved during meeting, don’t let them hang back, bring them into every discussion, if they are not willing to volunteer up their suggestions this will fall to you and you will need to do this.

If done right, over time, the Detractor will hopefully become a memory as this person starts to offer up their opinions, suggestions and solutions continually during meetings.

LinkedIn Connection Requests

I receive a few unsolicited connection requests a month from people I have never met.

Maybe they have read something I wrote (that’s cool).

Maybe they want to partner or work with me (that’s cool too).

Maybe they want to sell me something (sure why not, that’s what it’s there for).

Maybe I’m a small part of them trying to grow their network with like minded people (all sounds great).

When I receive these requests where the profile is incomplete, no photo, no experience, no effort in trying to create something – I’ll always reject them flat-out.  The goal of LinkedIn is to connect with people and build on something.  Some people don’t want to be on LinkedIn and have an accidental profile on there, that’s okay, you don’t have to use it, ignore it and leave it.

But if you take it back to when you meet someone for the first time, you personalize the interaction (comment on my shoes), shake hands, wave, something, the ratio for success is that much higher.  Sending the default connection request from LinkedIn, with an incomplete profile is akin to introducing yourself on the other side of the door where you’ve put your business card through the mail slot hoping for something magical to happen.

It won’t.

Oranges and Innovation

It’s not about how you grow a great orange.  In business schools, we really teach people how to squeeze oranges – how to manage for greater efficiency and economies of scale – not how to grow new and better oranges, which requires a different kind of thinking.  Business schools may offer a few selective courses in innovation, but they foster a mind-set that promotes way more obsession with how to make money than how to create a truly great, innovative product, and that obsession will suck the life out of the organizational pursuit of innovation.

From the book – Creating InnovatorsTony Wagner

I haven’t finished reading this book yet, typically I dog ear sections as I go through them that have some ideas and insights I want to revisit later and remember more of.  But this line from the book spelled out everything that goes wrong with creating and/or starting something new.  Where the focus shifts from innovating towards economy.

Do you need money to start something?  Yes, although what you use it for can vary.

Do you need money to innovate? No.

And that’s the distinction – innovation doesn’t have cost

Read that quote again – Does it say manufacturing?  Does it say cost to build goods?  Does it say loaded labour cost?

Replace Oranges with Innovation – instead of trying to squeeze the most out of your people – focus on growing them into great innovators and bringing on great innovators to your team.

Build the team, not the product.

Own your Niche

Speciality or Everything – it’s always the same battle.

Will being a generalist at everything be what propels my career or will focussing on my niche give me the expertise I need to be “that guy” that everyone comes to for answers.

When you are a generalist, you need to get used to being spread thin, there is no ifs and/or buts about.  You know a bit about everything, people from all over the place will start coming to you for a variety of things – sales questions, product management ideas, design problems, code reviews, platform integration, etc, etc.

When you are the niche, they come to you for what you specialize in – what you are good at – how do use this SDK, how to build services, how to make that pitch.  On the surface that is what it is, but what they are really asking you for is – “Teach me”, “Help me out”, “Give me a spark” – not the technical.

Your niche isn’t about what you know, what you’ve learned or done – it’s about what you can do, what you can offer, what you do bring to the table and where you are going to go.  Specializing in one thing isn’t a bad thing, look at doctors, police officers, lawyers, they are all specialized, they all own their niche, they are all experts in what they do.  I would never expect to go to a doctor and have my will notarized at the same time.

When starting something new, being the generalist is a sure way to lose focus on where you are going and what your end goal is – and it is so easy to have happen in software.  It’s very easy to start generalizing with little compromises here, there and everywhere until you look at what you have built years later to realize it’s not where you wanted to be.

That’s the worse feeling – that’s the feeling of having realized that what you wanted to accomplish is further away then it is today.

Want to be one of those girls that’s “that girl”, that own’s her niche?  Own it.