But take a look to the left at the Table of Contents for the book — it offers chapter summaries instead of page numbers. What a very cool way to summarize the book and help (1) new readers navigate the book and (2) returning readers find the specific chapters they’re looking for.
An example…In most books, you’d see that the fifth chapter is Becoming the Linchpin. In this book, Seth gets your attention by adding, The linchpin is an individual who can walk into chaos and create order, someone who can invent, connect, create, and make things happen. Every worthwhile institution institution has indispensable people who make differences like this. Over at Chapter 9, in addition to There Is No Map, you get Indispensable linchpins are not waiting for instructions, but instead, figuring out what to do next. If you have a job where someone tells you what to do next, you’ve just given up the chance to create value.”
The inside cover goes further with the definition of a linchpin: They “invent, lead (regardless of title), connect others, make things happen, and create order out of chaos. They figure out what to do when there’s no rule book. they delight and challenge their customers and peers. They love their work, pour their best selves into it, and turn each day into a kind of art.”
Can you imagine anything better than to be described as a linchpin by those who know or work with you? Paging through it, this looks like a terrific book, starting with the Table of Contents. It’s the next book I’ll be reading (after finishing Switch by the Heath Brothers, which will be officially released early next week).
That’s why a recent NY Times article about reinventing the MBA curriculum got my attention. As one person put it, “At business school, there was a lot of focus on ‘You’ve got a great idea; here’s how to build a business out of it.’ The d.school said, ‘Here’s how you get to that great idea.'”
The “d.school” is a reference to the growth in “design thinking,” which emphasizes a focus on human needs to decide what problems need to be addressed. There’s an engineering focus to all this (the Stanford d.school is part of the Engineering School), but that’s missing the point of today’s posting.
So here’s the point of the blog. The Stanford d.school has posted a terrific document on its site that is a fairly short primer on the various concepts that drive the development of great ideas. The D.School Bootcamp Bootleg starts with seven mindsets — including “Bias Toward Action” and “Create Clarity From Complexity” (my favorite) and “Show, Don’t Tell.” It goes on to introduce modes like “empathize,” “define,” and “test.” And then it outlines a variety of strategies (or methods) that are integral to design thinking.
Lest this sound overly academic — and some of them will lead your eyes to glaze over a bit — there are some great ideas you can use to better understand your customers or come up with that “one big thing” before you go too far down the road.
Business books seem to be getting shorter lately…and packed with more usable information. This one is less than 40 pages and well worth your time.
Read through it. Think about how you’ve used the concepts without actually knowing you were employing design thinking. Pick some things to try. Keep them if they work and try something else if they don’t.
Use this document — but think of it as a toolkit — and when the time comes perhaps you can overcome the lack of an MBA with a skill set that enables you to develop great, marketable ideas.
How about you? How have you used some of these methodologies — interviewing for empathy, powers of 10, and so on — to fine tune your ideas? What worked and what didn’t?
An acquaintance passed this story along a while back, and I thought it was appropriate for the first few days of a new year. The setting is the Washington, D.C., metro station just about three years ago, and the result was a Pulitzer Prize for the Washington Post.
The man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 60 minutes. During that time, nearly 1,100 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.
After three minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.
Four minutes later: The violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.
Six minutes: A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.
Ten minutes: A 3-year-old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.
45 minutes: The musician played continuously. Only six people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.
No notice. No applause. Barely any recognition for the violinist — Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played some of the most challenging pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million. Two days before, he had sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.
Joshua Bell’s unannounced concert in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a experiment that basically asked whether people will see beauty if it’s in an unexpected place at an unexpected time. The resulting story won the Post a Pulitzer Prize for the way it addressed these questions. It also raises a quesiton for each of us: How many opportunities do we miss each day because we’re just not paying enough attention?
In the midst of what is becoming a frustrating job search for many of us…or tense times in the office for those who have jobs, it’s good advice to take a moment and look around. Who knows? Perhaps what you see will provide the lead to your next job, client, or business idea.
Where have you found opportunities in unexpected places?
Over the past week or so, a lot of writers have bemoaned the death of Gourmet magazine. I don’t feel as bad as many of its readers. To me, it was simple.
I love magazines. There’s a basket sitting next to my computer with a bunch of magazines in it — some read, some not. There are old issues of both Gourmet and Bon Appetit (both published by the same people) in that basket, but we gave up our subscriptions to both a few years ago. As I recall, they each cost less than $10 per year. I can’t tell you why specifically, but there are only so many ways to describe cooking Thanksgiving dinner or some hopelessly complicated meal that requires 100% concentration (i.e., no kids lurking about).
And our kids started getting older…and our youngest was born with severe food allergies and neither magazine seemed to recognize that there were readers out there that faced that situation.
A simple reason for closing the magazine
I liked the simplicity of Conde Nast Chief Executive Charles Townsend’s explanation for why he shut down Gourmet and a few other publications — they were losing money.
“We will not be in that position after today — we won’t have businesses that don’t make a contribution,” Townsend said. “These businesses should be 25 percent net-margin businesses. We have had some underperformers, but not businesses that have cost us money to run except for launches and businesses like Gourmet that, with the economy, have slipped into the red.”
In other words, Conde Nast set aside its emotional ties to the magazine and did the right thing. Fans of the publication can blame lots of people — Rachael Ray was one favorite target — but the bottom line (no pun intended) was that not enough people wanted to read it, not enough people would commit to reading it, and the advertisers knew it so they looked elsewhere.
“We can no longer afford to be paternalistic.”
I was reminded of an interview I did back in 1992 when a DuPont senior executives told me about deep layoffs the company was planning. His comment has stuck with me for 17 years.
“We can no longer afford to be paternalistic,” the executive said, understanding full well that he lived in a “company town” where that would be a shocking statement. DuPont was replaced in the role as company town by MBNA America Bank for many years, until Bank of America stepped in and bought the credit-card issuer. And it wasn’t long before the layoffs started there too.
It was just business. The editor of Saveur, another food magazine, referred to Gourmet as “an American cultural icon” as if that should have been enough to save it. GM was a cultural icon too.
There is a long list of companies and publications that were important. And then they weren’t. And now they’re gone. The irrelevant replaced by the relevant…or at least by people committed to trying to be relevant and find a voice and a community.
The bottom line…Gourmet failed to stay important to the people who paid the bills and failed to become important to a new generation of readers and cooks. And now it’s gone. It’s difficult for me to say that’s sad. It’s just reality.