How To Make Ideas Stick

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For those of you who have not yet read the great book “Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die”, here’s a 10 second recap of the book. It’s a great book and I highly recommend studying it. However if you are just lazy and/or don’t have time – this quick presentation will give you a gist although it does not do it justice to say I’ve summed up the entire book in 10 simple slides.

Here’s the Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/Made-Stick-Ideas-Survive-Others/dp/1400064287?&camp=212361&linkCode=wey&tag=httpfiresnake-20&creative=380737

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‘How To Influence Up’ with Marshall Goldsmith

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A video pod cast by Harvard Business.org. Paul Michaelman interviews Marshall Goldsmith, executive business coach and Harvard Business blogger Marshall Goldsmith.

Really good stuff with good takeaways. I’m too cheap to go to MBA school so I settle for watching these kinds of things. Enjoy. Marshall makes a really good analogy about having to think like a salesperson even when you are asking for stuff from higher ups. You have to convince people about what you are going to do for them, not what you want them to do for you.

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Too Many Cooks Ruin the Soup

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The saying goes, “Too many cooks ruin the soup.” It applies to me in several ways, and I try to be cognizant of it.

When I teach martial arts class, there can be several instructors on the floor at once, each taking care of a different group of students. If I am not the lead instructor, I take care to understand what they are trying to focus on for that particular class. You see, although a student may be doing several things wrong, the head instructor will usually have a strategy in teaching certain techniques. He may be having the student trying to perfect one aspect of the move at the expense of other facets. This is such that the student will not be overwhelmed and confused by too many instructions at once.

If the head instructor is having the students focus on stance, then the assistant instructors should help correct stances and refrain from critiquing the punch and other aspects. This applies mostly to beginner students who have a hard time focusing on several areas at once due to lack of body awareness.

The same can also be said about IT projects. Middle managers and “auxiliary” stakeholders need to be aware of the vision. When too many stakeholders feel like they need to chime in and get their 2 cents in, the vision of the project gets muddled. Often times, the end product is not even a pale shadow of the vision of its creator.

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“Crossing the Chasm” Book Review

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I think this book was recommended reading on a Y Combinator blog post. Described as a marketing book for engineers, I quickly jumped on this one on Amazon. This book aims to help you take your product from the startup phase across the chasm into the consumer phase. The misconception that entrepreneurs must realize is that the early adopters are a different type of consumers than the majority. Success in one market does not necessarily lead to success in the other unless different tactics are employed.

To be honest, the beginning of this book was pretty dry, and I wasn’t sure that I was going to get through the book, but it does get better. My interest in the book quickly increased when the author Geoffrey Moore gives the D-Day analogy of introducing products to the mainstream:

  • Goal is to enter and take control of the mainstream market that is dominated by an entrenched competitor
  • Assemble an invasion force of other products and companies
  • Immediate goal is to transition from early market base to strategic target market segment
  • Between us and the goal is the chasm
  • Force competitor out of target niche market
  • Then move out to take over additional market segments

That pretty much summarizes the points in his book. I really like his analogies. One that comes to mind is his statement that numeric data is like sausage – meaning that once you know how it’s made, you can’t quite every use them again. His belief is that most numeric data is built on assumptions that are built on assumptions like a house of cards built on more houses of cards.

One thing that really resonated with me was – make products easy to buy vs. easy to sell. You are trying to convince the customer of buying, not yourself of selling the product. Seems like common sense, but that’s not how most engineers think.

To Moore, it’s all about positioning your product. The key is to occupy and solidify the space inside the target customer’s head. You have to be just one thing to the customer or else he won’t remember it. By this he means that if you try to be too many things, the customer cannot remember it. Think about all the major brands like Nike, Coke, Apple. Those brands really only embody a few if only just 1 single thing in your mind.

One thing to keep in mind though is that this book is a bit dated. It talks about companies that may or may not have fared so well after the Internet bubble burst, but I think the theories are just as applicable today as they were 10 years ago.

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Speed Demon Entrepreneurs: Develop 50 Games in 1 Semester

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I found this on slashdot – an article on Gamasutra about 4 grad students who created over 50 casual games in 1 semester. I wrote about my thoughts on casual games in a previous post. As a part of the Experimental Gameplay Project at Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center, a team of 4 grad students set out to create as many games as possible under the following conditions:

  1. Each game must be made in less than seven days,
  2. Each game must be made by exactly one person,
  3. Each game must be based around a common theme i.e. “gravity”, “vegetation”, “swarms”, etc.

I think this is a great idea and exercise. Ideas are cheap, so throw them out there, as many as possible. Let a thousand flowers bloom. I’m a believer in rapid prototyping. Rapid prototyping allows you to fail. Build it quick and cheap and if it does not work, then scrap it and try something new. You’re hedging your bets. Rather than putting all your eggs in one basket, you put them in many smaller baskets. I think this mentality doesn’t have to just apply to startups but even projects. Instead of creating these ridiculous 2-4 year projects with 1000s of developers, bring down the scope and/or cut up the project into multiple smaller projects. I do believe that you get diminishing returns when stretching out projects as well. You might hit the dirt running, but the longer you run, the more steam you lose. Just like in a real race, if you can see the finish line you’ll keep on pushing. If you don’t make goals that you can see or accomplish, you’re prone to just throw your hands up and give up.

It’s funny. I was just extolling the virtues of small casual simple games that cost next to nothing to make. In the wake of this, Grand Theft Auto IV, a $100 million game with over 1000 developers just got released, and it made $500 million the first week. Just goes to show, there are many ways to skin a cat.

Tangentially, the famous Petronas Twin Towers in Malaysia wasn’t built by one company. One tower was contracted to a Japanese company and the other was contracted to a Korean company. Playing off the rivalry between the countries, the two companies tried to outdo each other at every stage of the development. Break up the project into 2 parallel pieces among two competitive groups pitting them against each other. Interesting.

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