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Jul 22nd, 2021

Do You Really Want A Pet Tiger?

My friend Maurice Conti, former Head of Moonshots at Telefonica Alpha, the European equivalent to Google X, told me this story a little while ago. It is a good (and hilarious) reminder that when we want something — say for example that startup lifestyle or the big innovation and disruption initiative — we are better be clear about what we are getting into.

The Pet Tiger.

Owning a pet tiger sounds like an exciting idea. You might have been inspired by the Hollywood hit comedy “The Hangover”. Up to 600 pounds (ca. 272 kilogram) and 11 feet (3.35 m) long, Panthera Tigris is a majestic species in the animal kingdom. It surely would make for an amazing friends & family attraction. You could truly be the coolest kid (or dad) on the block.

But pet tigers need acres and acres of land. They eat up to 90 pounds (ca. 41 kg) of meat at one time. You will have a hard time finding a vet who is willing to look after your pet tiger. And every once in a while they eat your visitors.

All in all, they are an enormous amount of work and an even bigger headache. What sounds like a good idea turns out to be a much bigger headache than you thought.

Startups and Innovation Labs are often like a pet tiger. They sound cool, sexy, awesome — something you like to show off to your friends and colleagues. But once you get into it, you realize that they are a bucketload of work, require constant attention, are hard to maintain, and every once in a while they attack and eat their keepers.

If you want a pet tiger — truly understand what it means to actually own one.

P.S. Listen to Maurice telling this story (and a whole bunch of other insights into innovation and disruption) on our Disrupt Disruption Podcast interview.

Jul 19th, 2021

How We Form Abstract Beliefs

You heard me lament our willingness to trust a little too easily what we read/hear/see from so-called “experts” before. We talked about our skewed tendency to put people on a pedestal. The other day, I read a succinct summarization of how this all works and why it happens:

Remember the order in which we form abstract beliefs: (1) We hear something; (2) We believe it; (3) Only sometimes, later, if we have the time or the inclination, we think about it and vet it, determining whether or not it is true.

This is an important insight into...

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Jul 15th, 2021

First Principles And The Power of Analogs

For the last couple of months we have been deep in the rabbit hole of better understanding the first principles of disruptive innovation and the practices which lead to, as well as, allow you to tame disruption in the context of a company.

So far, we published sixteen of our interviews with leading practitioner and thinkers on our Disrupt Disruption podcast, with another five episodes already recorded and many more scheduled. And as you might imagine — as diverse as our guests are, there are common themes and insights emerging.

One, from an interview we are going to publish...

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Jul 12th, 2021

Don’t Let It Happen

Allow me to quote Jeff Bezos from his last annual letter to shareholders:

We all know that distinctiveness – originality – is valuable. We are all taught to “be yourself.” What I’m really asking you to do is to embrace and be realistic about how much energy it takes to maintain that distinctiveness. The world wants you to be typical – in a thousand ways, it pulls at you. Don’t let it happen.

You have to pay a price for your distinctiveness, and it’s worth it. The fairy tale version of “be yourself” is that all the...

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Jul 8th, 2021

Can Or Do You?

Every so often I find myself in a conversation where someone goes on and on about what could be done. How one could build a better Uber, AirBnB, or whatever startup hotness is du jour at the moment. How moronic the people are who built and run these companies. How easy it would be to disrupt them — by simply doing the obvious.

It’s either this or someone telling me that they had the idea for Uber years before Travis even learned to type. Or how they saw the iPhone obviously becoming the predominant mobile phone platform (in terms of...

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Jul 5th, 2021

Lean Into The Future

Much has been said and written about the future. If you have heard me and my friend and colleague Jeffrey Rogers speak recently, you heard us talk about the future as a paradox:

On one hand, the future is unwritten. You can’t truly know what tomorrow will look like — which is a wonderful opportunity and a deep obligation at the same time. We get to write our future every single day. And we have to write our future — if we don’t, we will end up living in a world where someone else writes our future for us.

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Jul 1st, 2021

Productivity vs/and Creativity

We don’t talk much about COVID-19 here. Which, of course, doesn’t mean it’s not affecting pretty much everything most/all of us do. On our end, the one thing we hear consistently from our clients these days is this: With the whole remote work situation, productivity has shot way up. It looks like people do get a bunch more work done from home than if they were in an office — and that even though working from home, for many, isn’t a walk in the park (and for quite a few outright impossible). And while productivity is up, creativity is down…...

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Jun 28th, 2021

Measure — And Measure The Right Things

Kevin Starr, a dear friend of ours and the CEO of the Mulago Foundation, where he finds and funds high-performance organizations that tackle the basic needs of the very poor, drilled this lesson into my head nearly a decade ago when we first met:

Know your mission. Measure the right thing. Measure it well.

It is the key to unlocking your ability to truly figure out what you are doing, and knowing if you are actually doing what you intend to do. And as obvious as this sounds — it is far from being applied by many.


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Jun 24th, 2021

The Winchester House

There is a peculiar house in San Jose, California — right in the heart of Silicon Valley. Called affectionately the “Winchester Mystery House”, today it is a popular tourist attraction. Built and inhabited by the widow of William Wirt Winchester and heiress to the Winchester Repeating Arms fortune, it is a sprawling property which defining characteristic is its quirky (to say the least) style: It is full of rooms and extensions which lead to nowhere, doors which don’t open to any room, stairs without a destination. It is said that construction of the house never stopped.

When I...

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Jun 21st, 2021

Five Magic Hours

A recent article in WIRED UK caught my eyes — it discussed the workplace experiments going on around the world where companies limit the number of hours their employees work. The results of the accompanying studies are consistent: Despite fewer hours worked, productivity goes up. The author goes on to explore the deeper cut of the pros and cons (as cutting hours doesn’t come without a price).

The world described in the piece stands in stark contrast to the “work all hours”–reality many of us live through. Much has been said about this, and I — for one —...

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