Posts on Creative Class



January 15, 2016

The Future of Competence: Don't Be Generic

My competence seems to cycle from back and forth leading-edge to generic.

I started as a specialist, with a PhD in robotics, head-hunted by the robotics department of the UK Nuclear industry.

A few years later, I was a technology manager delivering solutions to customers in the nuclear, aerospace, pharmaceutical, and financial industries. A generalist

Then, I was CEO. Raising finance, recruiting, designing departments, objectives, process, operations. The ultimate generalist

Then, as the dot-com bombed, I stopped having a job.

I joined 100,000 other business managers who were out of work.

That was the end of a cycle

You have a Choice

The choice of a specialist skill or a generic skill is hard.

The choice, like any investment, is a compromise between risk and reward.

For both people and companies. We either choose or it is chosen for us.

Often we don't seem to have a choice. It just happens

The Lure of Generic Skills

Learning excel or outlook are good investments. They are low risk choices, most likely to pay off

Lawyer, manager, accountant, salesman, marketing are also low risk choices.

Job boards always have openings for good managers and salesman.

A manager, salesman or accountant can work anywhere.

Business is about managing people. If you can manage people, you can manage any business.

Managing Human Capital, Harvard Business School

Generalist skills provide structure, certainty and choice. Established education, clear career path, wide choice of employers and customers.

It is the sensible, reputable choice.

Why be different?

Global Markets: Commoditization of Skills

Globalization and technology have increased the supply of skills and services

Generic skills and services are the first to be replicated by competitors in different geographies.

In the world of Google, and online job search, your competition is just one click away

Being the best at a generic skill no longer guarantees a job.

You can no longer compete by simply being better

The Need to Be Different

To compete, you need a service and skills that are not replicated easily

I dont want to be the best. I want to be the only.

Marty Neumeier

Your skills need to be special, different

If you are not different, you have no identity.

You're just a commodity

To have an identity, you need a point of difference

And if you don't have one, you need to create one

Dave Trott

Differentiation: You Have to Choose

Making yourself different involves choosing. You have to choose a focus. You have to choose your difference.

Persisting with your focus involves saying "no" to jobs, requests and clients outside of that focus

Acquiring a specialism, a differentiation requires a sacrifice. Requires an investment

The greater your focus, the greater the possible reward, the more risky the investment.

Increasingly, without risk, there is no reward. It is the nature of the current market.

You will have to take some risk.

Focus is the Hardest Thing

Most of us like being generalists.

I like being versatile. Give me a problem, I will fix it.

I don't have to make choices. I just serve.

I like diverse problems. I like learning new things.

Variety, is it not the smart thing?

No

Focus is the hardest thing.

Rules of Focus: The One Thing

First choose your focus. Your domain of expertise.

The generic skills are the functional axis, horizontal rows, in an organization chart.

The specialist skills are the product or project columns, the verticals.

The specialist skills, product or client know-how, provide the competitiveness, the differential of the company.

Specialist skills are always domain specific. Highly dependent on context.

You are unique because you know the context that matters.

Pick a narrow specialist skill. How many people claim to be experts in your domain?

The harder the competition, the narrower, the more focus you need.

Conclusion: How Your Company Values You

A company is as competitive as its differentiation in the market

Companies value the people that create the difference

All companies can hire generic skill staff. Therefore, that can't provide the company's differentiation.

The staff with skills specific to the company create the differential. They focus on the company's specific domain, its context, its products.

Computer science purists love the art of coding, if the algorithm is cool, if the integration is pretty, theyre happy.

For me, its all about the end product, not how I got there.

Rasmus Lerdorf

Are you loyal to your products, or to your generic skill?

You can measure Domain Specific competence

How much do you know of the company's specific context?

Do you know the customer? the product users? the specific technology? the product? the competition?

The highest scorer in Domain Specific competence is the company founder, always

If you score high on Domain Specific competence, you make a difference

If you want to make a difference, don't be generic

References:

- College and Business Will Never Be The Same - End of Silo'd Careers, Steve Blank

- Knocking Down Walls, Marty Cagan

- The Internal Agency Model, Marty Cagan

- The Refragmentation, the demise of the corporate class, and rise of creative classes, Paul Graham

- How Google Works, Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg

- Developing Strong Product Owners, Marty Cagan

- The Role of Domain Experience, Marty Cagan

- Product vs IT Mindset, Marty Cagan

- Finding Your Edge, Alice Bentinck, Entrepreneur First

- So You Want to Manager?, Julie Zhuo, Facebook

- The Zag, Marty Neumeier

- The Brand Flip, Marty Neumeier

- The Linchpin, Seth Godin

- Theory of Efficient Markets, where return is proportionate to risk

- The no.1 Reason to Focus, Seth Godin

- No is Essential, Seth Godin

- Reductio Ad Absurdum - The One Thing, Dave Trott

- "T-Shaped People", Tim Brown, IDEO

- Understanding UX Skills, Irene Au

- Advice for Thriving in a World of Change, Joi Ito

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January 11, 2016

Product First

What Comes First? Sales, Branding or the Product

What comes first? I have had this argument regularly for the last 25 years.

With sales, marketing, technical, and services departments. In fact, with every department director I can think of.

As a junior engineer, my sales director gave me my first "commercial awareness" ticking off; "first, you sell it".

The 21st Century - Your Product is Your Branding

Not long ago, you could create a brand with advertising. Pure Brand Advertising.

Now, you can only create a brand with people, with a community. With a crowd of people that say your stuff is good.

You need buyers on ebay voting you as good. Good reviewers on Amazon. 5 star feedback, social media likes, up ticks, votes

What you think and say no longer matters.

Your brand is what the customers say it is. The crowd uses your product, and they decide

The product creates the experience,

The experience creates the reputation,

The reputation creates the brand

Dave Trott

Your product must do your advertising, your sales and your branding

I know sales and marketing directors who are confused and saddened by this new age

Think of it as an oyster,

You start with a piece of grit, and build a pearl round it,

People buy the pearl, they don't buy the grit,

But no grit, no pearl

Dave Trott

So, please. Product first.

References:

- Death of Salesman, Marty Cagan

- "How to empower the customers who will drive your success", The Brand Flip, Marty Neumeier

- "Is advertising a Con?", Creative Mischief, Dave Trott

- Product Trumps Distribution, Nic Brisbourne

- Positioning, Eric & Laura Ries

- Red Hat Community Branding, Chris Grams

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June 10, 2015

Product Style

In the Beginning, I was an Engineer

I engineered solutions to problems. I built things. By training, by aptitude, by inclination. I did the maths. I ensured bridges built did not fall in the river. Style was an alien word to me. I did not do colours. I engineered.

My First Client

I delivered a product to my first client. A tele-robotics upgrade. A robot and a fancy joystick. Great tele-presence robotics. For cutting up radioactive boxes. High end gear. Superb function and utility.

But the operators did not like it.

  1. "I have to think about it"
  2. "It is distracting"
  3. "Gets in the way"
  4. "Makes me nervous"
  5. "Too much funny business"

My first product ended in my bin. Client was annoyed. "It is about my operators and their job, not about your product".

Great engineering failed my users

Always Develop with Style

That moment, I became a stylist. A product Stylist. Styling my products for ease of use. Where the operator retains his train of thought, his flow, his focus, his concentration, his attention. My product designs must be invisible to the user, while he works.

Always style for your user, and the user's task.

Elements of Style - circa 1900

My first style lesson was - please write clearly

  • Write to and for your audience
  • Do not say more than is necessary;
    confine yourself to what the user needs, to understand what is happening
  • Omit Needless Words
    Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should have no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unncecessary sentences. Every word must tell.

To improve styling skills, practice, practice, practice

Develop a Personal Style

My favorite style is minimalism. I favour brevity. I keep things simple. I am simplicity driven. In writing, taking pictures, coding, building websites, apps or even fashion. Minimalism is a most effective style.

Nevertheless, always style with a purpose. Style for your User and his tasks

Product Style Pyramid

First rule of product style - please be useful

  1. First comes content and utility, of course,
  2. Style for readability and usability even when developing
  3. Remember the product's identity, narrative and iconography
  4. Finally, focus on the aesthetics to shape a personality, an affect, an emotion Dont open a shop unless you like to smile - Chinese Proverb

Style basics have not changed in 100 years. The human eye and the hand are a constant. Style has evolved though, check Kathy Sierra's Cognitive Seduction.


March 10, 2008

Executives Don't Make Good Entrepreneurs

A Harvard Business Review article identifies four deficiencies of corporate executives when working in startup and small business environments. The four deficiencies are in fact great qualities for Executives in a corporate environment, but become their Achilles' heel in entrepreneurial work.

High uncertainty, knowledge intensive tasks, and a rapidly changing market sector are a fact of life for startups and entrepreneurs. Training, experience and value system for a competent proffessional administrators give rise to difficulties adapting in startups in the four following ways.

The first tendency is lack of loyalty to comrades. Startups require strong leadership, and great faith from the staff. Startups have great uncertainty, no guaranteed results, little rational assurances. The entrepreneur must offer a great vision, and a sense of a life altering opportunity. The entrepreneur must give of himself and the company (equity). He must be loyal above and beyond, to expect loyalty back. The usual corporate paycheck and pension plan are not enough.

The second tendency is lack of task orientation. Executives are used to large scale service delivery and product improvement operations, where a portfolio of services must be cultivated, maintained and optimized for volume and maximum margins. The resulting inability to learn and see to the detail and finish of individual tasks makes for poor execution and finish of tasks. The cliche is their total reliance on delegating to staff in order to operate.

The third tendency is lack of conviction and single mindedness. Typically and executive will insist on guaranteed results. "But that is not guaranteed" is the cliche phrase. Without a high likelihood of results, the ultra rational executive finds it hard to commit; you need faith here. Startups create businesses where corporations dare not go; the zones of uncertainty.

Fourth and last is the inability to work in isolation. Executives excel through their negotiation, their team leading, their excellent communication and administration. In typical 10 staff startups, these same skills are secondary. The executive is unable to be productive without somebody sitting next to him.

As a former executive, used to directing business units with hundreds of staff, I can vouch that the four deficiencies are valid and representative of the corporate class. The deficiencies are due not just to lack of experience and training, but also prejudices, mis-conceptions and an unflexible value system. "you are too technical" often being the ultimate insult from one executive to the other. It has taken me a lot retraining, and some soul searching, to be a fully useful player in a startup.

For enterprising MBAs who know that it is at the founding of a business that equity is divvied up, I recommend a post by Jeremy Liew at Lightspeed Venture Partners, to give a balanced view of the skills a business founder needs. For corporate executives looking for more fulfilling work with startups, John Smithson's "The role of the non-executive director in the small businesses" is good.

It takes more than good administration to create a business. I find entrepreneurial and creativity training is still poor at most schools and universities. A tolerance for uncertainty and volatility is hard to teach; rational administration is still the core of most entrepreneurship courses.

As for John Hamm's HBS article on the limitations of entrepreneurs, it is easier to criticize the flaws of an entrepreneur, than to identify, praise and teach entrepreneurial skills.

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December 11, 2007

Hollywood Writers: More Creative Class Disruption
Category: Creative Class

wga

The trend continues; managers-administrators are being squeezed out of the value chain by the "talent", the creative class. Sports agents no longer make more money than their sportsmen, as was prevalent in the early days of football. Script writers in Hollywood are following suit with the WGA strike, pushing the film and TV entertainment value chain for a bigger percentage of earnings.

The internet is touted as the catalyst for this dis-intermediation. Mark Andreessen paints a convincing scenario of how the creative class will distribute their work directly, without the need to go through the big studios. Thanks to new video technology, the cost of productions is dropping; no need for extensive fund raising. And great material is picked up and distributed rapidly by the social filtering sites, like youtube or digg; no need for massive marketing and distribution budgets.

"Make it, blog it and they will come"


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February 11, 2007

LIFT Conference: Best Place for Great Conversations
Category: Creative Class

LIFT07

Laurent Haug, Lift conference organizer, has surpassed himself again. He has crafted a meeting where creativity and ideas flourish like nowhere else. It may be that the presenters and attendees take center stage; may be the new media art present all through the conference; maybe the place and the time for attendees and presenters to talk and mingle; or the quality of the presenters and attendees he attracts. I just know I had some great conversations.

See David Brown and Ivan Pope at the fondue dinner in the picture. David is cofounder and CTO of a top affiliate network in the UK, buy.at. Ivan Pope, founder of netnames plc and Sniperoo widget factory, veteran of a dozen years of online entrepreneurship. Between them they directly impact tens of millions internet users with what they have created. In hard currency, they have created value in excess of £100 million in todays valuation. I was much humbled. Needless to say, the conversation was excellent; war stories, insight, and laughter.

And many other presenters, attendees and conversations, all humbling in their merit. If you need help with your lateral thinking, head over to the next LIFT conference, you will get nothing but great conversations.

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November 1, 2006

How to Fight Accelerated Depreciation of Internet Assets

Like the incredible shrinking man, intangible assets like a layout design, a good logo, a strong brand, or web applications suffer from accelerated depreciation in the internet sector. All growth industries where the market evolves and changes quickly have rapidly depreciating assets.

Whereas the design of an electrical transformer station depreciates to zero in ten to twenty years. Software, specially internet software has a much shorter life span, sometimes measured in months.

Knowing how much your assets depreciate is important. A typical NASDAQ company reinvests 5 to 20 times its asset depreciation to stay competitive. If you are reinvesting less than your depreciation, you are in trouble.

Formally, accounting standards depreciate software in three years. In reality, competitive forces in the internet sector can wipe our your software, your brand, your programming, your intangible asset, in as little as three months.

kiko traffic

The Kiko example is a great a case in point. Its life cycle from conception to closure and asset sale, in a little over a year. Kiko was a web calendar application. Very popular as a complement to Google's Gmail.com. Popular until Google launched its own Calendar application already integrated with Gmail. The graph shows the downward turn in summer 2006, and the spike corresponds to its delightful sale on eBay.

Today, the Pluck RSS reader, a very popular add on for Internet Explorer is shutting down ; it has been wiped out by Microsoft's new browser, IE7, which has an RSS reader built in.

Accounting Standards

Accelerated depreciation is a self evident truth to all who work in the internet sector, but try and explain accelerated rates of depreciation to your company accountant. The other day I tried to get my accountant to introduce one year depreciation on all intangible assets in proximity to Google's interest. Needless to say GAAP accounting standards were quickly brought to bear on such outrageous ramblings. So, we now have two balance sheets; one that keeps our accountants happy, the other a reflection of life in the fast lane. Guess which one we use to set company investment budgets ?

Covering the Incredibly Shrinking Value of your Intangible Assets: Capital and Ideas

You need two things to fight accelerated depreciation, capital and ideas. A rare combination, in my opinion. Many Venture Capitals have much of the first, and little of the second. Startups have much of the second and little of the first.

In my opinion, ideas are much harder than capital. The value of capital is decreasing rapidly. When it comes to your capital expenditure, good ideas create more value than a sterile pot of money. When shoring up the depreciating value of your intellectual property look to a creative class team, rather than your MBA graduate.

The classical Venture Capital administrator, adept at forming teams and putting together good startup administration is finding life harder and harder. Know-how and innovation talent is the new king in growth industries; if you have no ideas, better give the capital back to your shareholders or limited partners. Pity there is no Master's accreditation for Creative Talent - Master in Business Creation (MBC). MBC is the new MBA.

[Via Pluck RSS Reader Shuts Down: Consumer RSS Readers a Dead Market Now]

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September 13, 2006

For Great Innovation Do Not Follow the Money
Category: Creative Class

Both Seth Godin and Guy Kawasaki, doyens of entrepreneurship, agree that great innovation is seldom achieved by pursuing revenue streams. Nor does Peter Drucker centre on money in his guide to the practice of innovation. Advice that rubs against any corporate managers grain (mine included); what business manager is comfortable without his trusty profit and loss spreadsheet ?

The hunt for a disruptive advantage on the market has no easy financial guide. Seth's view is that the pursuit of money is at the expense of your innovative drive

pioneers are almost never in it for the money. The smart ones figure out how to take a remarkable innovation and turn it into a living (or a bigger than big payout) but not the other way around. I think the reason is pretty obvious: when you try to make a profit from your innovation, you stop innovating too soon. You take the short payout because it's too hard to stick around for the later one.

Guy cites the pursuit of meaning, and not the pursuit of money, as guiding light in your innovation hunt.

My experience is that innovation hunting requires an artist's approach to the market, services and products; a total obsession of the subject matter at hand. Like great pianists or painters, the innovator must have talent & training in the art form in question. Most corporate managers have neither the time nor the patience for the learning curve involved.

Denizens of this creative innovator class have, in my experience, different culture and value systems from that found among professional managers. And, in spite initial protests, the MBAs I recruit accept that the creative staff are more prolific and bountiful in launching succesful services.

The irony is that as soon as you execute your idea, you commit to customers, you have salaries to pay, it is all about the cash flow and quality of service. Then financial spreadsheet skills, administrating, and the ability to squeeze the lemon come to the fore.

Nowadays, good corporate management and creative innovation go hand in hand. Successful company cultures, like Google's, have to accomodate the two contrasting approaches.

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August 26, 2006

Is Google Hiring Hackers or Software Engineers?
Category: Creative Class

software engineer

Classical software engineers work in organized and structured ways, for the pursuit of perfect code. Give them a specification of what you want, and they will deliver on time, to cost, and with zero defects. Their work process is down to a science. Quality, on time, within costs is their mantra.

EDS, IBM, and NASA are some of the bastions of this scientific process. They have achieved the top level of the computer science game, as measured by the CMM organization and the prestigious Software Engineering Institute.

hacker

Hackers, on the other hand, pursue the beautiful solution. As with other artistic media, a beautiful solution is impossible to explain, but you recognize it when you see it.

Larry Page's original Back Rub algorithm, which powers Google, is a beautiful solution. Job's and Wozniak's first Apple prototype computer was a beautiful solution.

Beautiful solutions are so astounding that they need not be perfect; imperfections add to their charm. The code will not be finished on time, it will cost more and will be full of errors, but you will be impressed. It will be novel, it will enlighten, and it will make an important contribution; beautiful solutions make a difference.

Hiring Beautiful Solutions or Perfect Code

Web companies, like Google, are hiring both. Software engineers to polish and maintain established services. Hackers to create services from nothing.

google
To try and stay ahead of the game, Google is hiring candidates that can innovate; hackers to artfully create new astounding services. To maintain and polish its existing software, Google is also hiring software engineers to implement process and quality.

The novelty is that Google likes the 2 in 1 solution; hacker and computer scientist in one. By Google's own admission, all their employees have to be 30% hacker and 70% scientist.

hispavista

Hispavista, my company's spanish arm, has 70 technical staff. Also a mix of hackers and software engineers. But unlike Google, they work in separate teams. Following Steve Job's famous example at Apple's skunkworks, our hacker and scientists work in separate departments.

Our development department has achieved CMM level 2, and could easily certify as ISO9001 compliant. Our head of development produces the best quality and lowest costing function points in Europe; he has among best software engineering teams in Europe.

Our innovation department produces beautiful solutions. Dating back to 1995 our Strategy Director has created web services that have amassed millions of internet subscribers; he is a hacker of some reknown whose works have been sold for tens of millions (literally).

Hackers and Scientists Under One Roof

The problem is that their process and culture are totally different. Software engineers aim for zero errors and zero delays, hackers aim to be world famous. The hard part is getting good hacking and coding at the same time.

One cant live with out the other, yet are totally different in approach. Our experience at Hispavista is that they are best roomed on opposite sides of the building, and project hand overs require a good referee.

Google, on the other hand, has opted for the borg approach, part human part machine. Googlers engineer sofware for 70% of the time, and hack 30% of the time.

Eric Schmidt has repeatedly described how hacking project's that do well online become bona-fida software engineering projects. The successful hacker is given a team of people to manage, code to review, and quality to assure. The question for the hacker is whether to continue as software engineering manager or hand over to somebody else so as to get more hacking time.

Web 2.0: The Rise of the Hacker Army

Ed Yourdon, one of the inventors of software engineering, visiting digg.com visiting Google observes that web2.0 startups will need software engineers as the service grows. Hackers will not be out of work though.

Software engineering may be outsourced, but entrepreneur and intrapreneuship has become the essence of competitive edge and is core to a business. Innovation has become the new marketing. Judging by the way Google is recruiting among the web2.0 hacking community, hackers are here to stay.

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August 24, 2006

Build It, Blog It, and They Will Come

Traditional Marketing

According to traditional marketing professionals, the "build it and they will come" attitude leads many entrepreneurs to their ruin. The full quote is:
"If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon, or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor, though he build his house in the woods, the world will make a beaten path to his door", [Ralph Emerson]

Allegedly wrong, wrong, wrong. Apparently, many entrepreneurs suffer and fail because they overlook the over-arching importance of Marketing..

Or so they say.

ken olisa

Ken Olisa, one of the more eloquent traditional technology marketeers, presents traditional marketing beautifully at his Marketing as a Science? seminar at a Cambridge Entrepreneurship center.

According to traditionalists, marketing is a core capability of a company without which your enterprise is doomed to fail. Many investment consultancy firms, like Ken Olisa's Interregnum plc, charge high fees and equity percentages for providing this marketing and fund-raising to entrepreneurs.

Innovation is the New Marketing

seth godin

The new school of thought is that traditional marketing is dead. In Seth Godin's words, All marketers are liars. The best marketing is an exceptional added-value product or service.

We live in an increasingly efficient market. Information flows more and more perfectly. Marketing, the art of promoting your product in the market, is a commodity accessible to all. Disintermediation between client and supplier is prevalent. Successful differentiation of your company is about your product and service, not about your marketing plan.

You only have to note the lengthening queues of un-employed facilitator, coordinator, administrator management consultants. Advisory help for entrepreneurs is still a good idea, perhaps through an experienced non-exec director. But, the corporate skill set has ceased to be a differentiator; communication technology has made it a commodity.

guy kawasaki

In words of another entrepreneurship guru; "it is about engineers, not MBAs". Guy Kawasaki has a novel company valuation method; add $500K per fully employed engineer, and then subtract $250K for fully employed MBA

The partners at EUCAP are increasingly focused on core technology and service capabilities. Deep sector knowledge. An un-graceful total obsession with your client base, product and service. An Otaku cult of your market. That is the core capability of succesful company.

Build it, blog it, and they will come

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July 27, 2006

First Napster and Now Kazaa
Category: Creative Class

The peer-to-peer network has also agreed to pay $100m (53m) in damages to the record industry. damages to the record industry.

The large size of the settlement indicates how much Kazaa is earning from its advertising and distribution deals. Thanks for contacting Sharman Networks Limited, the company that exploits the Kazaa network offers the following services:

  • The distribution and promotion of licensed content; deliver games, music, software and video securely through Altnet.
  • Advertising inventory is sold by ad-partners. all sorts of campaigns, subject to our code of practice, using the most powerful worldwide ad-serving technologies.

At its peak the site had more than four million simultaneous users. The Kazaa software has been downloaded 239 million times. With such a reach the advertising model of the business has obviously been very lucrative. It has taken 5 years of legal chasing for the RIAA to bring enough pressure to bear on the elusive company.

The chief executive of Sharman Networks, Nikki Hemming, said the settlement "marks the dawn of a new age of cooperation" between file-sharing services and the entertainment industry. "This settlement ensures that we will be working together with the content providers to the benefit of consumers, businesses and artists," she said.

Their profit margins will no doubt suffer as they shut down their network of hundreds of millions music downloaders, and start living on wafer thin profit margins that the music industry allows legal music download sites.

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June 22, 2006

Jack Welch: "Anyone Can Squeeze a Company"

The debate between long-term and short-term concerns never stops in a company, specially in growth industries. Google is already having "The Debate", in its "we are a technology company rant".

It takes place between the operations and the strategy teams. Between the Chief Operations officer and the Visionary founders. For a successful company, they are the two faces of the same coin. Long term can't survive without short term. The daily grind can't succeed without the long term investment. It is a bad sign when the debate stops.

Corporate managers, with the rational black-hat, excel sheet approach rarely push the creative, disruptive agenda. So it is refreshing to get Jack Welch weighing in on the creative class side: he states that "anyone can squeeze a company".

"Look, anyone can manage for the short term just keep squeezing the lemon. And anyone can manage for the long just keep dreaming. You were made leader because someone believed you could squeeze and dream at the same time. They saw in you a person with enough insight, experience, and rigor to balance the conflicting demands of short- and long-term results. Performing balancing acts every day is leadership

from Jack Welch on leadership, in his new book "Winning".

Corporate class warriors are no longer solely central to corporations. A healthy company needs creative and disruptive skills, not just an admin and management team. The mix is not easy though; corporate culture has difficulty with uncertainty, risk, irrational decisions, volatility, disruption, and continuous change. Takes strong corporate management to be continuously challenged in this way.

Watch a video Jack speaking at an MIT lecture

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May 25, 2006

Do the best entrepreneurs wear jeans?
Category: Creative Class

Funny post from David Beisel's Genuine VC

In the limited subset of entrepreneurs pitching an early-stage venture firm in the Boston area, it seems that there is an inverse relationship between how formally an entrepreneur is dressed during the pitch and how potentially exciting their endeavor. Of course, the correlation isn’t perfect, and correlation doesn’t imply causation, but it is notable, especially given the “stuffy” reputation the area has vs. the rest of the start-up regions. Perhaps it is a symptom of the expression of confidence wearing something comfortable.

Dress is a definite sign of which side of the Creative Chasm the entrepreneur comes from. A wide cultural difference exists between the corporate mainstream manager and the contrarian creative artist. When the entrepreneur wears jeans at a corporate stronghold like a VC office, either he feels confident of his worth, i.e. "I may come from the creative mob, but look what I did", or he is a creative class native with reason to be invited to a corporate office. Either way the cultural mismatch is a good sign of potential. Could be the birth of something.

I love the creative side of the divide. The early startup up period, which is all passion, exhilaration, and lateral thinking. It is the most fertile stage of a company. Unfortunately, the weight of accumulated customers, staff count, and the responsiblity of the paying monthly wages opens the way to structure process and rationality. Then you put your suit and tie on so as not to scare the shareholders, the corporate clients, and the corporate managers you have recruited.

There is definately something to jeans, the creative classes and crossing the chasm.

May 21, 2006

Government's Are Poor at Funding Growth Companies
Category: Creative Class

Paul Graham is right about governments being poor at funding innovation growth. In his How American are Startups? speech, a candid analysis of how to create an innovation center like Silicon Valley, Paul damns government's abilities to fund companies.

Government is not a good replacement for rich people / angel investors as they're slow, invest inappropriately and don't have the contacts or experience to support the right activity

I have never seen a Government backed program funding growth well. Myself and my partners spent two years in a institionally funded technology park that remained resolutely empty of companies during the 2000 boom. My company, which was funded through private and public equity investors, was the only company to contribute to the staff count in the park for almost two years.

I think VCs, business angels and self interested investors have no equal when creating long term regional growth.

[Paul's speech is transcribed by Suw Charman and Tom Coates.]

May 20, 2006

A Drop of Sanity on the DRM Stranglehold
Category: Creative Class


The opinion on the ruling is that it will reduce placeholder patents substantially. Patent plaintives will have a weaker position from which to negotiate an early settlement. The court ruled that the infringing party must only pay the amount of actual damage. This racket has cost tech companies and consumers billions in legal settlement fees. The legal contingency funds held by innovation based companies will not need to be so high in the future.

Boing Boing: Supreme Court makes it harder to be patent predator


The Supreme Court ruled earlier this week that injunctions shouldn't be rubberstamped for patent cases. They specifically singled out business-method patents that are litigated by those who have no stake in producing the product or offering the service; i.e., patent trolls.

What this means is that patent trolls will be less likely to hold their victims for ransom through injunction unless the patentholder can demonstrate that they meet a four-part test, already in use for other injunctions involving equity, which is hard for a non-producer to meet. Even if a patentholder wins at trial, the defendent could file an appeal and still have injunctions in abeyence.

In essence, a plaintiff has to show irreparable harm, that mere money or other remedies when at trial aren't enough, that there is an imbalance in hardships against the plaintiff, and that a permanent injunction wouldn't harm the public interest. (IANAL.)

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Creative Class

A new professional and economic demographic who are concerned with creation and innovation of new ideas, art, organizations and technologies. Described by Richard Florida, Joi Ito, and Dan Pink, the new demographic is sought after by companies, institutions and regional authorities that rely on a creative and innovative work force.

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