My sister (let’s call her Sharky) bought me a book for Christmas.
Sharky lives in Argentina.
She bought the book from a shop in the UK.
I’m on holiday in a remote part of Indonesia.
She bought the book, told me about it, and I was reading it, in less than ten minutes.
This is the new reality – actually, not even that new anymore. Any information product (book, film, music, software, design) can go anywhere, in effectively no time.
The new possibleconsists of the things that this reality enables – not just instant access to information products, but information to go into products (3d printing designs, specifications) or for the delivery of products and services (your exact requirements or preferences, your real-time location, your purchase history, your credit rating).
What becomes possible in your field when the information is so relevant and so available, when the transaction becomes so fast, so frictionless?
AirBnB, and Uber are cannonical examples of the new possible, to which I’d add the fact that this year, Sharky bought me a Christmas present.
This post is a leap from Rule 2 of bootstrapping the non-profit: Do it Now.
This is such a key idea, and so interesting and relevant to Do it Now, that I thought I’d do something about it like, write now.
The idea is that when you’re developing a new business or organisation, there is so much that you don’t know that planning has less value – it will inevitably change when you know more.
Because of this, your focus needs to be on trying things out, working with what you do know – and your best guesses – and testing them out in the real world.
So we get the lean startup cycle:
The relationship between this and Do it Now is that the fastest way make progress – even if it’s only progress in knowing what not to do – is to go through this cycle quickly. One of the best ways of increasing your cycle speed is to take action – now!
Counter-intuitively, the more uncertain a situation it is, the more useful this approach – and cycle speed – can be:
When a project can be approached with a high degree of certainty, the best activity is to plan. As we have high confidence that the plan is likely to succeed, the best strategy is to execute what we know will work well. The focus can therefore be on executing the plan and monitoring progress.
When a project carries a high degree of uncertainty, the best activity is to learn. As any plan would make too many assumptions that would be hard to justify. The best strategy is to increase the speed at which we learn until we have discovered which plan would work the best. The focus must be on learning and discovery and checking any assumptions that we have.
If you’re doing meaningful work, you’re trying to hit a moving target, and your job isn’t made any easier by how fast the world is changing.
These resources should help you calibrate your ‘deflector gunsight’ by giving you a sense of where technology seems to be going, hopefully giving you a better task of hitting what you’re aiming for. This is one that I’ll update periodically, adding texture or new resources.
The Kevin Kelly Section
Kevin Kelly – co-founder of Wired magazine, omnivorous techno-hippy – gets his own section. He’s funny and humane, and good at identifying trends and tendencies in tech and extrapolating these into the future. One of the many helpful ideas I’ve taken from KK is the realisation that we’re actually only at the beginning of the computer revolution. It feels like something that’s already happened – ‘if only I’d made a website in 1993’ – but Kelly argues that a hundred years from now people people will look back on this time as a golden age and say, ‘I wish I’d started then.’
I don’t just mean all the ideas you’ve had that you never did anything about – you lost those too, but many of them probably weren’t that good anyway.
Doing something with an idea is often the fastest way to check if it’s important. You might do a bit of research and write down what you do, or seek out the right person for a conversation, or see if you can make something happen. If it turns out not to be important, or if it isn’t for you, that’s fine – you’ve cleared the decks for a new idea which might be a keeper. A stagnant pool of vague ideas costs you new ideas.
But the ideas you really lose, the good ones, are the ones you find down the rabbit hole once you’ve taken action on an idea and confirmed that there’s something to it. Things get more specific on contact with reality (or the customer!), and vague ideas begin to take concrete form, and new vistas of questions and actions open up.
This is what I mean by being prolific: making fast, small, low-cost decisions; taking action; trying things out. I don’t mean mindlessly, throwing proverbial mud on the wall. And of course there’s an equal and opposite principle of focusing and going deep. But you only go deep by diving in.
So if you think you’ve got good idea – why not take it for a test drive?