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Jul 30th, 2021

Power Ten

As some of you might know, I got pretty deep into rowing a little while ago. After rather obsessively running and making it all the way to ultra-distance racing, getting injured, and not being able to run for a couple of years, I found rowing the perfect replacement. In many ways it fits me better anyway — my body never was well-built for distance running, being very tall (6.5ft / 1.96m). Yet in rowing that length comes handy.

In rowing, especially competitive rowing, you will come across the term “Power Ten”, a term often used by the coxswain to motivate the crew. A Power Ten are ten hard strokes of rowing. Ten strokes, often being counted out by the coxswain, where you push beyond doubt and pain and give it your all. Often called in the last third of a race, it forces you to dig deep — but also reminds you that pain is temporary. It is only ten strokes. Often competitive rowers are rowing somewhere in the mid- to high-thirty strokes per minute, making ten strokes an effort you have to sustain for just 20 seconds. As my physiotherapist often remarked (typically when the treatment was particularly painful): You can do anything for 20 seconds.

Ever since I got introduced to the concept of Power Tens, I use them everywhere. Need to push through a particularly hard or difficult part of your work — call a Power Ten, focus, head down, and push through. Find yourself in a particularly gnarly stretch of mountaineering (my other/new love) — call a Power Ten on yourself. Need to hype yourself up — while calming your nerves for an important investor presentation. Power Tens will get you through this.

Next time you find yourself struggling — be your own coxswain and call a Power Ten.

Would love to hear from you: When are you calling your Power Ten?

Jul 26th, 2021

What You Can Learn From Story

Eventually, we all have to pitch. Be it you pitching your startup idea and business plan to a group of investors or partners. Or you are making your case for a salary raise during your annual performance review. Even in our relationships and family life, we find ourselves making (hopefully) compelling arguments why we ought to fly to Hawaii for vacation, why getting married is the best idea ever, or why a dog would make our little family complete.

Pitching is nothing but story telling, and narrative creates meaning. To tell a compelling story (“Invest into my startup.”, “Let’s get...

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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...

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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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