The innovation in your head…

… isn’t an innovation yet.

Our definition of innovation refers to something rather specific:

A change in the processes by which an organization transforms labor, capital, materials and information into products and services of greater value.

Clayton Christensen, Efosa Ojomo and Karen DillonThe Prosperity Paradox

It’s simply an idea.

It’s an innovation when you’ve done the hard work of making it, trying it in the real world, built the wrapper, and made something the right number of people will pay* to use.

*They might pay in money. They’ll definitely pay in time, attention and effort.

Choices: how much?

Some questions to help you decide whether to buy something:

  • How many cups of coffee is this worth? (If it’s less than five cups of coffee, it’s not a very big decision – you should probably go ahead. And don’t spend longer on choosing something worth the cost of a cup of coffee than you would on choosing coffee.)
  • How far would you travel to solve this problem immediately? (If the thing in front of you probably solves the problem and costs less than the journey, buy it now, and definitely don’t spend more time on deciding than you would on the journey)
  • How far extra will you have to travel to solve this problem another time, and how much will that cost?
  • How big a deal is this if it’s the wrong thing?
  • How much extra would I pay if I knew for sure it was the right thing?
  • What other things could I do with the time I’m using to decide?

Do you need more information, or do you just need to decide?

Seth Godin

Keepy uppies

Try playing keepy uppies with your projects:

  • Do something every day, however small, to move them on and keep them alive
  • Find friends for the project – people doing similar work, people interested in what you’re working on – and maintain a conversation about what you’re learning
  • Keep half of your free moments empty – moments when you’d pick up your phone, snatch five minutes reading a blog or book or watch a video – and think about your project, keeping your head in the game
  • When you learn something new, take the time to think about (or even better, articulate clearly and write down) how it might apply to your project

The ball’s in your court – keep it in the air.

Asal dapur ngebul*

My whiteboard, in our dapur (kitchen) – a few to dos and a lot of posts in gestation

Indonesian saying.

“As long as the kitchen is smoking.”

Um…

“As long as there’s smoke from the kitchen (fireplace).” ?

“As long as the hearth is burning.”

… which is a way of saying, among other things, the important thing is that the important things keep happening… or that you’ve got to do what it takes to keep things going.

Do what it takes, and do a little every day. Just a step – enough progress that you don’t stop progressing. Keep the fire lit.

Never quit smoking.**

*more correctly – but less idiomatically – spelt ‘ngepul’

**But don’t burn the place down

DCPodcast howto – recording via skype

Happy to report that we’ve just recorded a special-edition first episode of the Driverlesscroc podcast and it went off without a hitch.

Recording between Jakarta and Buenos Aires meant that we couldn’t trust the VoIP connection (in fact, Skype held up really well), so we made two separate recordings.

Setup

Stu: Skype with headphones on my Android phone, with a separate wired mic (the sub $20 Boya BY-M1 – amazon) recording to Audacity. (see incredibly important note below)

V: Used a mic-and-headphones headset for both Skype in Windows 10 and Audacity to record the input from the mic.

Lessons Learned from recording

  1. Recording the introduction is the hard part – once we got into the conversation it was easy.
  2. Keeping it concise is harder than we thought. We tried to keep the conversation tight but still ran almost double the length of a normal Cool Tools episode. Mark Fraunfelder and Kevin Kelly manage the balance between going into technical detail and keeping things moving really well, and I couldn’t have seen this until I’d tried to record something similar.*
  3. Another time I might try Cube Call Recorder to record audio from skype as a backup.
  4. It was fun and worth doing for the conversation alone (a good sign?)
  5. Done is better than perfect!

Lessons learned in post production

  1. It turned out I plugged the mic into the headphone jack and recorded the whole thing with my laptop’s built in mic. It could be worse, but the proper mic makes a big difference. The noise reduction made a huge difference improving the sound.
  2. Noise reduction takes quite a while for a longer file – several minutes.
  3. Outtakes are hilarious

*See also: Doing to see

Marc Andreesen on ideas vs execution

… there was a great Dilbert strip where the pony-haired boss says, “You know, I have a great idea for a startup. All I need is for, you know, somebody to actually, like, write the code and do all the work.” And Dilbert says, “The technical term for what you have is, ‘nothing’” … right? Right? [see it here]

… in my world, you actually see this a lot. You’ll see people say, like, “I have an idea, but it’s such a good idea, I can’t tell anybody about it, because they’ll steal my idea”. And at least in our world, like, literally it is, therefore, what you now have is nothing… There’s another great — I forget who said it, there’s another great line somebody said that — “If you have a really, really great idea, like, you can shout it to the rafters and like, still nobody’s gonna take it seriously.”

Like, the world is filled with ideas. Like, there is actually no idea shortage. And in fact, by the way, many people actually have the same ideas. And by the way, many of the ideas are actually reasonably obvious. Like, you know, the iPhone. We’re all carrying around these… Like, what a genius idea was the iPhone. Well, hey, how about a computer you can hold in your hand. Like, how about a computer that you don’t have to carry in a briefcase, you can hold in your hand. …“Star Trek,” freakin “Star Trek”! They had them on “Star Trek” in 1966. Like, yeah, I want a computer I can hold in my hand. Like, the idea alone didn’t get Steve Jobs anywhere. It was everything else that he did to make the idea a reality — and actually get it into people’s hands — that mattered.

Marc Andreessen on The Moment with Brian Koppelman

Starting is the hard part

I’ve been making a mini Lego-alike model from Wisehawk:

It’s tiny, fiddly fun. The instructions are clear, and it’s not rocket science… apart from at the beginning.

At the beginning you’re using the simplest pieces in the simplest patterns – like this:

It’s should be easy, but it’s actually pretty hard to put them together. You’re starting from scratch so there’s nothing to hang the pieces on, and they tend to scatter as you try to attach the next layer. Progress is slow because you don’t have a sense of how the bricks fit together – the pattern hasn’t emerged yet. I had to keep squinting at the instructions as I reordered the bricks, trying to remember what went where.

As the model takes shape, though, everything starts to make sense. Building gets more fun when you start to see what you’re building and you go faster as you get an intuitive sense of how the model fits together. The last bits – the bits that really make it look good – are the easiest of all.

Brick by brick

It’s the same with bringing ideas into the world: we start with pieces that sort-of go together, but we don’t really know how. The pieces scatter easily and don’t add up to much.

But as we find parts that go together, we eliminate possibilities and begin to get a sense of how the larger whole might look. We gain momentum, things start to seem obvious, and it comes together faster. The finishing touches – the parts that most people see – come together relatively easily.

Starting is the hard part.

Vision. Positioning. Execution. (4)

Execution

Being able to execute means being able to get the right things done at the right times. Good execution is a combination of:

  • Knowledge – do you know what to do and how to do it? This is a type of vision, but I include here for completeness.
  • Skill – are you able to do it? Skills need to be learned and practiced, and intuition improves with experience.
  • Will – are you committed? Do you make things happen and get stuff done? Skill doesn’t matter if you don’t take action.
  • Performance – how well do you do your part? Do you make the most of what you’ve got?
  • Bringing people with you – who else is involved? Are they ready?
  • Luck – do things go your way?

The Key

Having a strong will – strong enough that you consistently act on it – is the most important of these. Unless you’re committed and determined and actually show up, make things happen and get stuff done – nothing else matters.

Contact

Next time you read an article, listen to a podcast, watch a program that you like – why don’t you get in touch with whoever made it?

Not just the person who was in it – the ones we normally notice – but the people who made it too. Drop them an email, or even that hand written note that you always think about but never get around to.

Why did you like it? Is there something you had a (generous, non-snarky) question about, or something (of genuine potential interest to them) that you can share?

Try it – make it a light touch. It feels funny at first but gets ever-easier. They’re a person like you, and they’ll probably reply, which will probably be fun.*

*You have permission to stop after twenty unreplied-to contact attempts.**
** To different people.