Three things that you’ll need building your organisation and making a difference in the world:
1) The big picture
Do you understand the strategy? Do you understand the layout of the world? Do you understand how the game theory works, how psychology works, how interactions work? Do you understand the economy, technology, the revolution that we’re living in?
Medicine Ball Session
Do you understand from 10,000 feet what the smartest consultants and visionaries in the industry would tell you is the right answer?
Startup School, Ep1
2) Technical skills and execution
The second point of the triangle is: are you any good as executing on the strategy? … When you make a sales pitch, can you do it with authority? When you lay something out does the typesetting look any good? When you write code, does it run? These are tactics, things we can improve.
Medicine Ball Session
Are you good enough at writing, presenting, organizing, leading, hiring, raising money, and all those things to actually do the right thing?
Startup School, Ep1
3) Caring enough to get hit
Do you care enough to fail? Do you care enough about what you’re doing that you are willing to expend emotional labour to actually make change happen?
Medicine Ball Session
Do you care enough about the project to get hit? Because there’s a lot of that in what’s going on.
Startup School Ep1
Seth Godin has written a lot about education – Stop Stealing Dreams (TED talk and longer e-book) is a good place to start.
Then it’s worth checking out what he’s actually doing: the altMBA reverses the usual 90+ percent drop-out rates of most online courses, and the Akimbo workshops (including The Marketing Seminar, The Bootstrapper’s Workshop and The Freelancer’s Workshop) get rave reviews.
In this article on Medium Seth lays out some of the core principles of his approach.
Also check out the videos at the Akimbo Workshops link above – especially the one at the very bottom from Creative Mornings, where he sets out his thinking behind the model.
This is a really interesting episode of Econtalk, and worth a listen.
Highlight 1: Accurate description of poor communities
A couple of things here really resonated with my experience of living and working in low-income communities in Jakarta:
- Miller’s descriptions of the resourcefulness of people in poor communities – that many people in poor communities are hard working and resourceful and demonstrating impressive amounts of willpower and – in his word – ‘talent’ just to get by on low incomes.
- The dynamism of poor communities, particularly in terms of people moving in and out of poverty – apparently backed up by statistics. According to Miller, although 15% of the U.S. population are ‘poor’ at any given time, the majority of those will move above the poverty line, to be replaced by other (temporarily) poor people – i.e. people who lost their job a month before the census and have no income, but will soon return to work. Miller says that only about 3% of the population are ‘long-term, generationally poor.’
Highlight 2: What happens when users pay for services
This section also really reflected my experience at the charity I work for, where a switch to a ‘user pays’ model of service (rather than a purely donation-based, ‘charitable’ model) made us more responsive to the needs of our users, and drove up the quality of what we do. Here’s Miller:
Mauricio Miller: …I wouldn’t bring my own family through [my own social services]; now I had money–
Russ Roberts: Why not?
Mauricio Miller: Because they were paternalistic. My mother hated that. She said, ‘The social workers are really nice, but they take away my pride.’ And certainly the racists would take away her pride, too. You know. And sexual harassers would take away her pride. But even the people who were trying to be really nice would take her pride away. And so, that was one of the issues. The other issue is that the programs that I had were sold–and the structures were to sell to get funding. Funders don’t really understand circumstances on the ground. But, they get certain interests. And so you have to shape your program based on what they kind of want in order to get the money. And that, then you are held accountable to those kind of standards. Where, I actually had started two businesses within my own non-profit, that, when you are running a business, you have to meet the customer demand. Not the investor demand. You have to really meet the customer demand. And so, somehow or other, when I wanted to adjust my programs, they were not responsive to my customers. And so, for me, my social service programs were too structured, too paternalistic. They did not recognize or meet that market demand. And now that I was middle income and had money, I would instead, when I had to help my nephew and nieces who struggled with drugs and all kinds of things, I would go to private sector services, because they would say, ‘Do you want us to send the advisor on the weekend, or the evenings?’ Or, ‘What’s convenient for you?’ and ‘Would you like this program?’ I was given choices. Because I had money. But people who were poor didn’t have those kind of choices. And so, why would I want to take my own family, that had struggled with everything that everybody else was struggling with what was out there in some of these neighborhoods: Why would I take them into a system that was so structured and was not responsive when I had money? So, money made a difference. And I realized that: No, I wouldn’t bring my own family.Russ Roberts and Mauricio Miller – Econtalk
In the end, I wasn’t completely convinced with Miller’s model – or didn’t feel completely clear about what he was offering – but these bits were excellent – and true.
Freedom … is not the same as individual happiness, nor is it security or peace and progress. It is not the state in which the arts and sciences flourish. It is not good, clean government or the greatest welfare of the greatest number.
This is not to say that freedom is inherently incompatible with all or any of these values, though it may be and sometimes will be. But the essence of freedom lies elsewhere. It is responsible choice. Freedom is not so much a right as a duty. Real freedom is not freedom from something ; that would be license. It is freedom to choose between doing or not doing something, to act one way or another, to hold one belief or the opposite. It is never a release and always a responsibility. It is not “fun” but the heaviest burden laid on man: to decide his own individual conduct as well as the conduct of society and to be responsible for both decisions. Peter Drucker – The Freedom of Industrial Man
You won’t agree with all of the above – I’m still mulling it over – but Drucker’s emphasis on choice and responsibility is spot on.
Most aspects of our lives, both personal and public, are products of choice. This isn’t the same as them being directly under our control (many of the choices belong to others), but we still have choice in how we act: what to accept, what to maintain and what to seek to change.
Look for choices that you’ve been blind to up to now. Which parts of your life – including big, permanent looking things – could do with a review?
Maintenance of the status quo is a choice that we sometimes fail to notice. What are you maintaining as if you have no choice in the matter, when perhaps you should stop? What are you ignoring that you should choose to put more energy into maintaining?
What choices are you in denial about? What have you been choosing to accept that you could – should – choose to change? Small improvements that actually happen are better than giant overhauls that don’t.
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.
Everything changes if you can see the thing you’re doing as a gift.
Doing it as a gift transforms
- the thing you don’t want to do, or don’t want to do right now;
- the thing you don’t want to do in the way you know you should do it;
- the thing you said yes to that seemed like a good idea at the time;
- the thing that makes you nervous, that will make you feel stupid if it goes wrong;
- the work you put in early, building momentum when it isn’t urgent;
- the work you do late, putting in extra hours to get it done on time;
- the thing that you might really be doing for yourself, but that could be for them;
- the chances that what you do might bring about the change that you seek.
Suddenly you’re not
- doing your duty, but being generous to another person;
- grinding out an obligation, but choosing to do something well;
- a fool who should have known better, but someone who offered to show up;
- at the same risk of embarrassment – if you look foolish, you’ll be a likeable, generous fool;
- spending time on something because you have to, but preparing an act of kindness;
- pulling a ridiculous all-nighter, but staying up to wrap a present;
- thinking about what will make it go well for you, but focusing on what will make it useful/fun/a good gift for the gift’s recipients;
- trying to change anyone per se, but to make them richer by sharing something you’ve made.
- are free (gratis) to the recipient because they’re paid for by the giver;
- are free (libre) to be received or left;
- are best if specific (“it’s for you“) rather than generic (“who wants this?”);
- aren’t designed to create obligation, but to create new possibilities, generate multiplying gifts.
Happy Christmas 2018.