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The Heretic is a free dispatch delivering insights into what it takes to lead into & in the unknown. For entrepreneurs, corporate irritants and change makers. Raw, unfiltered and opinionated.

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Jun 28th, 2024 Share: Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn

Let Chaos Reign Supreme

Are you optimizing your systems? Keeping a tight ship and making sure the trains run on time? Have your OKRs and KPIs been closely tracked?

You might want to rethink this…

Reed Hastings, the uber-successful founder of Netflix (and disruptor of the status quo in the entertainment industry—a true heretic), once remarked:

Most companies overoptimize for efficiency… The nonintuitive thing is that it is better to be managing chaotically if it’s productive and fertile. Think of the standard model as clear, efficient, sanitary, sterile. Our model is messy, chaotic, and fertile. In the long term, fertile will beat sterile.

We live in an increasingly complex, uncertain, and ambiguous environment—one where a premium is placed on adaptability, innovation, and resilience. The old paradigms of rigid control and optimization might be holding you back more than propelling you forward.

Consider this: What if the key to thriving in our rapidly evolving world isn’t about tightening the reins, but about loosening them? What if the secret sauce isn’t in perfecting your systems, but in creating space for chaos to breed creativity?

Reed Hastings’ insight cuts to the core of a counterintuitive truth: fertile chaos often outperforms sterile order in the long run. But how do we harness this chaos without descending into anarchy?

The answer lies in embracing a new organizational paradigm—one that balances order and chaos, structure and flexibility. It’s about creating an ecosystem where ideas can collide, mutate, and evolve freely, while still maintaining a sense of purpose and direction.

Here’s what this might look like in practice:

  1. Cultivate purpose, not just processes. Ensure your team is aligned on the ‘why’ behind your mission, then give them the freedom to figure out the ‘how’.
  2. Encourage dissent and diversity of thought. The most innovative solutions often emerge from the friction between differing perspectives.
  3. Create permeable boundaries. Allow information, ideas, and talent to flow freely within and beyond your organization.
  4. Embrace failure as a learning opportunity. A ‘failed’ experiment often teaches us more than a ‘successful’ one that merely confirms what we already know.
  5. Foster self-organization. Trust your team to form and re-form around challenges and opportunities as they arise.
  6. Lead through influence, not control. Your role is to set the conditions for success, not to dictate every move.

Remember, the goal isn’t to eliminate all structure—it’s to create a framework flexible enough to adapt to change and robust enough to withstand shocks. It’s about finding that sweet spot between chaos and order where innovation thrives.

So, fellow Heretics, I challenge you: Dare to loosen those reins. Embrace a little productive chaos. Create an environment where ideas can collide, combine, and create something truly revolutionary. In this new world, it’s not the most efficient or the most optimized who will survive—it’s the most adaptable.

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Apr 10th, 2024

Living the Dream. Nightmares are dreams too.

The Lie of the Entrepreneurial Dream

Ah, the glamorous life of an entrepreneur. Private jets, lavish parties, changing the world in a hoodie. It’s the stuff dreams are made of, right?

Well, I hate to burst your bubble, but that’s a load of crap. The real entrepreneurial journey is less “champaign wishes and caviar dreams” and more “lukewarm coffee and cold sweats at 3am.” It’s a gritty, messy, nightmare-fueled rollercoaster. And you know what? That’s precisely how it should be.

The Myth of Overnight Success

We love a good overnight success story. Some wunderkind drops out of college, writes a...

read more…

Mar 20th, 2024

Build Products That Don’t Suck (Or Risk Losing Everything)

John Lilly, my former boss and then-CEO of Mozilla, once offered a piece of advice so obvious it seems absurd: build products that don’t suck. This was back when Firefox was running circles around Internet Explorer, delivering a vastly superior web browsing experience. Simple, right?

Apparently not. In the relentless pursuit of profits, countless companies have forgotten this fundamental rule. They cut corners, skimp on quality, and prioritize short-term gains over long-term customer satisfaction. It’s a recipe for disaster.

The Slippery Slope of Suckiness

Once you start compromising on product quality, you’re on a downward trajectory that’s hard to recover...

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Mar 14th, 2024

The Power of Simple Stories

In a world saturated with information and distractions, the ability to communicate a clear, compelling narrative is a superpower. As an entrepreneur or business leader, crafting the right story can make all the difference in winning over customers, investors, and the public.

This insight was pithily expressed by political consultant Arthur Schmidt in his advice to General Electric in the early 20th century: “Campaigns are won not by the candidate or company with the best character or product, but by the one with the simplest and most clearly told story.” Or as his colleague Comstock summarized it decades later: “Pick...

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Mar 6th, 2024

The Brainstorming Delusion

The beloved brainstorm. The darling child of corporate innovation. The magic bullet that will solve all our creative woes.

Or so we’ve been told.

Brainstorms are a colossal waste of time.

They’re the equivalent of trying to catch fish by throwing a bunch of hooks into the water and hoping something bites. It’s inefficient, ineffective, and frankly, a bit delusional.

So why do brainstorms fail so miserably? Let’s break it down:

Production Blocking: The Waiting Game

In most brainstorms, only one person can speak at a time. While others wait their turn, their ideas evaporate faster than a puddle in...

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Feb 26th, 2024

The Bozo Explosion Lives On

To the day a dozen years ago, Silicon Valley legend Guy Kawasaki published a blog post lamenting the all-too-common phenomenon of what he called the “bozo explosion.” A company experiences a bozo explosion when a formerly brilliant team, consisting of A-players, makes the strategic mistake of hiring their first B-player (often in the name of growth… need those warm bums in seats!) and lets those B-players hire their own people.

The problem with B-players is not that they are “less than” A-players; the issue is that B-players, usually driven by the deadly combination of fear and ego, start hiring...

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Feb 20th, 2024

On Serendipity

Serendipity – that magical, almost mystical phenomenon that seems to lurk around corners, waiting to spring upon us when we least expect it. But what if I told you that serendipity isn’t just a happy accident but a process that can be dissected into three core characteristics?

First comes the serendipity trigger, that moment of stumbling upon something unusual or unexpected. Picture yourself walking through a forest and finding a rare flower you’ve never seen before – that’s your trigger. It’s the universe’s way of saying, “Hey, look here! There’s something worth your attention.” Kindle your curiosity, and you will...

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Feb 15th, 2024

We Stand for Each Other's Success

In a world that often feels like it’s every person for themselves, a recent conversation threw me a curveball that’s been bouncing around in my head ever since: “We stand for each other’s success.” This isn’t your garden-variety corporate platitude. It’s a philosophy, a mindset shift, a radical way of redefining success not as a solitary sprint but as a collective marathon.

Let’s face it, the default mode in many professional environments is to claw your way up the ladder, sometimes at the expense of others. But what if we flipped the script? What if, instead of viewing our colleague’s...

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Jan 19th, 2024

Edison’s Paradox: It’s Not Just in Your Head

Thomas Edison, the genius inventor, threw a curveball when he somewhat famously said, “I never had an idea in my life.” Wait, what? The man behind the light bulb, phonograph, and a gazillion other things never had an original idea? Yes, that’s what he said…

Here’s what he meant: everything he invented was already floating around in the environment. He just connected the dots. Think about it. Edison, Mr. Innovation himself, basically said the whole concept of ideas popping out of thin air is hogwash. That’s like saying the secret ingredient in your grandma’s famous recipe is actually from a...

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Dec 20th, 2023

The Epidemic of Proving We Work

Let’s end this year with a bit of truth serum, shall we? I’ve seen a disturbing trend in companies lately. It’s like a virus, but no, it’s not the one you’re thinking of. This one’s called “Prove-I-Actually-Work-itis.” And, oh boy, is it contagious!

Here’s the deal: Too many folks are busy creating work to prove they’re working. It’s like watching a dog chase its tail – entertaining but ultimately fruitless. For instance, take our friend, the social media manager. They’re knee-deep in analytics, drowning in PowerPoint slides, just to show that their latest tweetstorm brought in some eyeballs. The irony?...

read more…

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