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

Passionate about their beliefs

This familiar phrase gave me pause when I heard it on the radio recently, used in praise of a cast member who passed away. It was a tribute to a loved colleague, but I thought to myself: “I hope they don’t say that about me.”

Intensity can be a virtue. Passionate commitment can change the world – but direction matters. “Passionate in their commitment to insert cause here.” is much better.

Better still to say something specific about what they actually worked for: “… working to help people in poor communities gain access to clean water, driven by their belief that a better life should be possible for everyone,” or similar.

Better still if they have something to say about the way you did it: “They were known for countless small kindnesses and many large ones, and for (only rarely stumbling in) their graciousness toward those they disagreed with… and for having fun along the way.”

At the end of the day, though, I’m not sure that passion is as important as commitment,* and – to misuse Eugene Peterson’s phrase – “a long obedience in the same direction.”

*Though in my experience they feed each other

Alacrity…

… is a splendid virtue.

Remember how much better everything feels when you…

… step lively / jump to it / look alive / haul away / do it now.

Remember the quickness, lightness and sureness of step, and how much you can get done.

Alacrity makes even arduous tasks seem better because with it, they’re quickly behind you.

See also: 

Eagerness. Willingness. Readiness… Treasure Island 

The donut: getting going [guest post]

New initiatives can be a challenge can’t they?

Plotting the course.

Anticipating problems.

Obsessing over details.

Wondering how we’ll deal with XYZ scenarios in 6 months’ time.

I recently read this:

When you’re at the beginning, don’t obsess about the middle, because the middle is going to look different when you get there. Just look for a strong beginning and a strong ending and get going.

Chip and Dan Heath – Switch (amazon)

They’re right of course.

We need to paint a picture of the future –  to know where we are going; to be inspired.

And we need to start well – perhaps a small pilot, with trusted people, with clear parameters.

But the middle? Just like when I bit into my donut today – you’ll find out what’s in the middle when you get there.**

**Today it was custard. Jam is my favourite.

A downhill slope (find others)

If you’re in a book group, social pressure is going to get you to read that book. The act of joining the book group is the hard part. Once you’re in the book group, the books are going to get read, because now you’re playing a game. It’s a game you’re enrolled in, it’s one you want to move forward.

The easiest way to start creating this game dynamic is to form a group. To find others, to find others and challenge those others to play the game with you. Because we all know that solitaire might be a little fun, but solitaire isn’t the kind of game we dream of when we dream of games.

We do better when we do it together.

Seth Godin – Akimbo – The Wedding Industrial Complex

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Make it happen. Find others. Say the words.

Build, measure, learn

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 Lean Cycle
From Open Classrooms: The Learn Startup (this is supposed to be an embed but it isn’t working for me!)

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.

Open Classrooms: The Learn Startup

Bootstrapping the non-profit organisation Rule 2: Do it Now

This is the second in a series applying Seth Godin’s rules of bootstrapping (see also here) to building a non-profit organisation.

Rule 2: Do it Now


Do it now. Not later, not next week, NOW. It’s better than later.

In the non-profit world:

Still do it now

Not much to add on this one. A bias to action is critical, and all things being equal, now is far better than later.

This blog is a great illustration – a month and a half ago I committed to shipping a blog post every day for 100 days. I would set the bar low if I had to, as long as I got something done. Every day.  I’m at 60 posts as I write this, and it dawned on me that it would have taken me an entire year to get this far if I’d committed do a post a week.

In Lean Startup terms, doing it now is a key way of increasing your cycle speed. They might be small steps, but you get something done, you can review it, you can do it better next time as you build-measure-learn. See the next post for more on this.

I guess a caveat for the non-profit world is that you need to tread carefully if we’re dealing with vulnerable people.

But do it now doesn’t mean ‘be a bull in a China shop’ – it just means being commited to taking action, to doing the next thing now.

If you know what you need to do next, then it’s easy – do that, or at least do the smallest next part of that that you can.

If you don’t have clarity about what to do next, the next thing to do is to find out. Do some research. Find the name of three papers. Get hold of them. Make notes on one. Email the person who wrote it to thank them. Each one is a tiny push of the boat (or flywheel, if you’re a Jim Collins fan), giving you a little bit more momentum and making it easier tomorrow.

Rule 2 says “I will not go to bed tonight until I have done X.”

Rule 2 of bootstrapping the non-profit

Do it now.

Thanks Seth.

The meat is on the street

John Wimber, founder of the Vineyard movement of churches, wasn’t renowned as a systematic religious teacher.

Apparently people would ask him “John, when are you going to teach us the deep and crucial stuff – where’s the meat?”

And he’d answer: “The meat is on the street.”

That is, “Go out into the world. You will learn the deep truths of faith by doing it.”

Books, podcasts, blogs are very useful in learning to make positive change in the world. Ideas are wonderful tools.

But we learn our most important lessons by doing – by taking action.

The meat is on the street.

Go!

On Assignment

Kevin Kelly went to Asia in the early 1970s having never held a pair of chopsticks.

He took a change of clothes and 500 rolls of film in his backpack, because he was, as he puts it, “on assignment” to photograph daily life and traditional culture wherever he went. He stayed for most of the decade.

He was 19 years old and going to visit a friend in Taiwan. He had some experience as a photographer but hadn’t really held much in the way of chopsticks, professionally speaking. But he was on assignment. From himself. Aged 19.

I am going to make a badge and wear it every day:

Driverless Crocodile: On Assignment.

KK was interviewed on Ralph Potts’ Deviate podcast.