Seriously awesome ‘pizza al taglio’ venture opened a few months back, Blocks. The proprietor, Eugenio, works the counter, he ‘chops’ your block of pizza. Pizza is slightly sour, however it’s not sourdough, reminds me more of a potato flour though I haven’t the slightest idea what flour they use. Great place for satisfying a carb craving in a quality manner. Also a plus, the staff are v pleasant and helpful. (Blocks occupies the old Pizza Rustica space, Eugenio nicely refitted it with his own kitchen, fixtures, staff and decor.)
I feel lucky. Throughout my life I’ve encountered folks from whom I’ve gleaned personally valuable insights, much of what I’ve learned is about myself, who I am. I’ve learned craft too, though it’s not nearly as valuable as IMHO knowing yourself. And my mentors have not always been formal, many weren’t aware how much they were influencing my development, so much can be learned by observing and or experiencing the behavior of others en passant.
I’m slightly obsessive about exploring, exposure to new ideas and perspectives keeps me energized. The meals, coffees and cocktails I’m fortunate to share with individuals designing, building, strategizing and investing always add to at least one of personal development or craft.
In my younger years I couldn’t extract the information as efficiently, each year improved my listening skills and at the same time made everything more fun. Learning is just plain fun. I’m guessing that kids who don’t enjoy learning have yet to learn how to listen. It becomes a game, gleaning information from every encounter, building upon stored data on a personal level.
I’m constantly adjusting course towards a better end state, because new information both helps better define my long term objectives and also informs better paths. I’m never bored. I’m always feeling like I’m in my 20s rolling into a new adventure. The future is bright. The magic bus, I become more openminded, assumptions that constrain solutions become visible, creative solutions bubble up seemingly out of nowhere.
Businesses, no matter whether manufacturers of widgets or investment funds, or anything between, benefit from learning in a similar manner. This is what big data is all about when you boil down the hype. It’s the magic bus for corporate entities, the a proxy for grey matter, for assisting the bubbling up creative solutions. It’s an intellectual UI for bridging the corporation and the individuals who operate it. As an aside, big data in the corporate world isn’t new. My personal experience with it started in the late 1970s, it was just not as automated as it is today.
An overlooked beneficial aspect of big data is one that informs the individuals on the user side of the UI, it teaches a valuable lesson about assumptions. This is a big deal. I remember Russ Ackoff pounding the table over and over re relaxing assumptions for solving tough problems, it might be one of the most valuable pieces of information I’ve encountered. Relaxing assumptions enables one, or a business, to look at parts of the map most folks ignore. Or build a map where none exists.
Map building is powerful, it enables you to move the action to your pitch, makes others play by your rules. How? It’s terrain you have specified, just like the spaces we encounter in games. A proprietary map enables you to not only disrupt trends, meaning solve a problem resulting from an old system, it can also contribute to strategies for obsoleting competitors. Apple did exactly this with the iPhone, it obsoleted Blackberry and did so with a product more expensive! Most folks compete on price, Apple crushed Blackberry by inventing a product comprising Blackberry’s main feature, email, and other goodies and a camera. Jobs built a map, from the features to the pricing to the buttons to push for building demand.
This relaxation of assumptions is relevant recently in the angel investing space. What @naval, @nivi and their team have accomplished is on par with Jobs’ iPhone —and perhaps more important. VCs could end up like Blackberry, though because they do not have the capex issues and the complexities of boards and employees they’re more nimble, many will comport themselves to the new landscape.
Cycles are interesting. Surviving and prospering has so much to do with the speed at which a business can adapt, what makes one strong in one phase of the cycle can cripple in the next. The TBTF banks are a good example, even with all of the bubbling up in the world they’re dysfunctional entities for the cycles of today. By definition, obsolete.
Same for pension funds, endowments, sovereign funds and other pools of wealth who traditionally invested in startups via VC funds. A sort of personal development is now kicking in amongst smart investment officers. Like everyone, it’s not easy for investors to change habit and policy quickly. But the transition is beginning, for well managed funds and a few angels anyway.
VC returns data heretofore has not been evenly shared, as transparency improves I believe we will see acceleration of learning amongst angel and wealth funds as well as by the startups themselves. Learning. Developing. Becoming more valuable as the result of the exchanges the tools have enabled thus far, during the infancy of the Internet. The meals, coffees and cocktails we all share via online. More and more bubbling up, better solutions for both investors of capital and those who borrow it to use in their value creation processes until they reach the point whey generate their value generates their own capital.
The ‘types’ of startup will evolve too. Of course investors will continue to invest in the old types because familiarity equals security for them, however the more evolved money managers will be looking for young enterprises building taller value upon more robust foundations.
Nearly anyone in the first phase of the Internet, the installation phase, could whip up and launch an app, create download popularity charts with the right slope and generate buzz for a party round. Such quick idea startups sometimes turned out at least okay, these pump-and-dump startups though hardly ever produced the big returns. And of course some deadpooled, but that’s the nature of that game.
In the Internet’s second phase, deployment, investors will discover some of their old assumptions, for example investing in quick idea startups is either no longer viable or just too low return. In this part of the cycle those startups are the TBTF banks, they can’t build sustainable ‘tall value’. Deal selection is now driven by the strategies entrepreneurs bring to the table, not quick ideas and shiny demos and celebrity.
The deployment phase is about development more than growth. Learning the difference was another valuable bit I gleaned early on from someone insightful. Developing big levers assembled from the tools created in the installation phase offers the best risk / reward at this juncture, here is where the 10x plus returns live.
I’ll conclude as I began, I feel lucky. Every step along the path of my personal life and professional career I’ve been the beneficiary of insights that have improved my bubbler-upper. As I continue to develop I remain open to exploring new ideas and methodologies for investing and creating value via individuals coming together for the purpose of improving quality of life for the many. We have the most amazing tools for building at our fingertips today, strategies for and applying them is all of our challenge in this phase of the cycle, our cooperation paves the road.
I have a theory. The reason most everyone today is so busy is due to a listening skills deficiency. Speaking skills are also to blame, however it’s usually the listener who allows the time to be wasted.
First, let’s define listening. Most of the time it includes a) someone speaking, b) someone hearing what’s said, and c) processing what’s said. What’s said can also be written. And is sometimes expressed in body language. it’s the processing bit I address here.
I’m not perfect at listening, though I put myself well high in the ranks. One of the reasons I can cay this confidently is I’ve discussed and refined the words you are about to read over many years with some of the best listeners I know. There’s a small cult of us who pride ourselves on not wasting time, I hope these thoughts help you better manage your diary.
Why listen in the first place, what’s the point? Listening is our first, and probably best, filter. Filter for what? Determining the amount of future attention the speaker should be allocated. Once past the filter the mode of listening is adjusted, the thoughts expressed herein speak to the initial filtering mode.
Filtering is an art, no two individuals generally do it exactly the same. Like most art, it requires practice. Practice helps each of us become better speakers, it also helps us quickly and easily identify those who are not skilled in the art.
The sure fire way to get most folks to stop listening, meaning not receive a further allocation of my time, is to not ask questions, ask poor questions or question in a thoughtless manner. Asking no question is a sign it’s not a conversation, if that’s the case an async interaction is quicker, write an email.
Poor questions indicate cluelessness. This is not immediately deadly if you’re interest is garnering a patient listener’s attention, however you’re taking a significant risk, do some homework beforehand to demonstrate you’ve pre-invested to merit listener attention. I have tolerance for clueless questions when I believe the speaker is sincere and acting in good faith, I’m generally happy to help get the conversation on track. Others have zero tolerance and go ballistic.
Demonstrating thoughtlessness is generally a great way to quickly terminate a conversation. Obvious right? But it happens all the time. Never ask questions that could feel canned or routine to the listener or otherwise indicate you yourself too lazy or stingy to contribute few brain cycles to the conversation. A good listener knows not get sucked into the thoughtless listener’s death spiral, to hit the ejector seat button, like the one in Bond’s DB5, before the speaker wastes a further second.
Conclusions are just like questions. Hearing a conclusion a speaker can back up with logic and data bids well for a good listener’s attention. Reasonableness is judged differently by each of us, if the reasonableness quotient isn’t in the same band for both parties it’s time to cut and run. Arguments related to the logic and or data are okay, but watch for thoughtlessness to rear its ugly head. The place many conclusions fall apart is when statistical significance is ignored, if your speaker is making their case based upon someone or some party doing this or getting that it’s easy to conclude the speaker may not warrant more of your time.
Practice, practice, practice. With so many interviews available online to listen to anyone can hone their skills while on the treadmill or driving. Just listen to the questions and the conclusion, tune out the filler. IRL when you’re the listener, a good cheat to accelerate the process as put the speaker in a position to ask questions or conclude something. Do both if you’re on the fence, then decide should they stay or should they go.
Most of us already practice these skills intuitively, by refining them we can all have more time magically appear in our diaries. [The profiterole in the pic appear to be speaking, yes?]