Tag Archives: strategy

Bold Mindset: The day before something is a breakthrough, it’s a crazy idea

Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler is a roadmap on how to create extraordinary change in the world using exponential technologies, moonshot thinking and crowd-powered tools.

Both Steven and Peter’s energy and optimism is infectious. I enjoyed their ideas on 10x thinking and preparing for an exponential future.

The book is premised on the idea that exponential technologies are rapidly transforming the world, outpacing today’s linear-thinking organisations and individuals. Exponential technologies refer to any technology that is accelerating on an exponential growth curve.

“Without the right mindset, entrepreneurs have no chance of success. If you think you can or can’t – well, you’re right.”

Diamandis says thinking boldly is not just technologically difficult, it’s also incredibly psychologically difficult.  The book suggests three psychological strategies for upgrading your mindset, and going big and bold.

 1.  Recondition your mental frame to pursue difficult goals.

“Big goals help focus attention, and they make us more persistent. The result is we’re much more effective when we work, and much more willing to get up and try again when we fail.”

 2. Work in isolation.

“…isolation stimulates risk-taking, encouraging ideas weird and wild and acting as a counter-force to organizational inertia.”

Organizational inertia is the notion that once any company achieves success, its desire to develop and champion radical new technologies and directions is often tempted by the much stronger desire to not disrupt existing markets.

 3. Rapid iteration (as a strategy to mitigate risk).

“…as most experiments fail, real progress requires trying out tons of ideas, decreasing lag time between trials, and increasing knowledge gained from results.” This rapidly accelerates the learning cycle.

Reid Hoffman (founder of Linkedin) says that if you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.

Peter Diamandis: Bold & Abundant Thinking

Quotes

“The world’s grandest challenges contain the world’s biggest opportunities.”

“The road to bold is paved with failure, and this means having a strategy in place to handle risk and learn from mistakes is crucial.”

“We all learn from out mistakes, but until recently, mistakes were too costly for entrepreneurs to make with wanton abandon. This too has changed. Infinite computing demonetizes error-making, thus democratising experimentation. No longer do we have to immediately dismiss outlandish ideas for the waste of time and resources they invariably incur. Today we can try them all.”

“You’re the average of the five people you spend the most time with. The same is true for ideas.”

“Moonshots, by their definition, live in that gray area between audacious projects and pure science fiction. Instead of mere 10 percent gains, they aim for 10x (meaning ten times) improvements—that’s a 1000 percent increase in performance.”

“Massively up the amount of novelty in your life; the research shows that new environments and experiences are often the jumping-off point for new ideas (more opportunity for pattern recognition).”

Links

Peter’s website

Steven Kotler Wikipedia

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Anesh Kalan is a M.Sc. Information Technology student at the University of Cape Town.

Please feel free to comment. I appreciate your feedback and opinion.

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Zero To One: How To Build The Future

Synopsis

Zero to One by Peter Thiel is a book on startups that offers bold, contrarian ideas on how to build the future. Thiel looks at how society can make vertical progress – going from 0 to 1 – using technology to leapfrog conventional thinking.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading Zero to One. Thiel’s ideas and logic are refreshing and practical, while Masters’ writing is concise. It’s a must-read for all entrepreneurs.

The central thesis: what important truth do very few people agree with you on?

Thiel says this question has everything to do with the future because the future is going to be different, and it must be rooted in today’s world. He says good answers to this question are as close as we can come to looking into the future.

Thiel’s own answer to this question is that most people think the future of the world will be defined by globalization, but the truth is that technology matters more. In a world of scarce resources, globalization without new technology is unsustainable. Here he defines technology as “any new and better way of doing things.”

Interestingly he says we’ve been too distracted to notice that our surroundings are strangely old – a result of globalization.

This insight resonated with me because it reminded me of the importance of thinking independently and boldly. Thiel says, “the most contrarian thing of all is not to oppose the crowd but to think for yourself.”

All happy companies are different

The business version of the contrarian question is: what valuable company is nobody building?

The lesson for entrepreneurs is that if you want to create and capture lasting, vertical value, don’t build an undifferentiated commodity business. Thiel says, “competition is the ideology that pervades our society and distorts our thinking.”

Seven questions every business must answer to go from 0 to 1

1. The engineering question: Can you create breakthrough technology instead of incremental improvements?

2. The timing question: Is now the right time to start your particular business?

3. The monopoly question: Are you starting with a big share of a small market?

4. The people question: Do you have the right team?

5. The distribution (sales) question: Do you have a way to not just create but deliver your product?

6. The durability question: Will your market position be defensible 10 and 20 years into the future?

7. The secret question: Have you identified a unique opportunity that others don’t see?

Thiel on the Future of Innovation

Quotes

“Every moment in business happens only once. The next Bill Gates will not build an operating system. The next Larry Page or Sergey Brin won’t make a search engine. And the next Mark Zuckerberg won’t create a social network. If you are copying these guys, you aren’t learning from them.”

“The single most powerful pattern I have noticed is that successful people find value in unexpected places, and they do this by thinking about business from first principles instead of formulas.”

“A great business is defined by it’s ability to generate cash flows in the future.”

“Indefinite attitudes to the future explain what’s most dysfunctional in our world today. Process trumps substances: when people lack concrete plans to carry out, they use formal rules to assemble a portfolio of various options.”

“Brilliant thinking is rare, but courage is in even shorter supply than genius.”

“A startup is the largest endeavour over which you can have definite mastery. You can have agency not just over your own life, but over a small and important part of the world. It begins by rejecting the unjust tyranny of Chance. You are not a lottery ticket.”

“Once you think that you’re playing the lottery, you’ve already psychologically prepared yourself to lose.”

“No company has a culture; every company is a culture.”

“The single greatest danger for a founder is to become so certain of his own myth that he loses his mind. But an equally insidious danger for every business is to lose all sense of myth and mistake disenchantment for wisdom.”

“Everyone at your company should be different in the same way – a tribe of like-minded people fiercely devoted to the company’s mission.”

Links

Peter Thiel Wikipedia

Zero to One Book

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Anesh Kalan is a M.Sc. Information Technology student at the University of Cape Town.

Please feel free to comment. I appreciate your feedback and opinion.

 

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21 Key Lessons from South Africa’s Greatest Entrepreneurs

Synopsis

South Africa’s Greatest Entrepreneurs by Moky Makura is a collection of profiles on South Africa’s most dynamic and well-known business leaders and entrepreneurs.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would highly recommend it to aspiring South African entrepreneurs looking for motivation and insight into the history of business in our country.

Moky Makura on her inspiration for the book:

Below I have selected 21 key lessons from ten different profiles in the book.

Adrian Gore, Discovery Holdings Limited

1. Keep innovating:

“Innovation is an ethos for Discovery. We’re a big organisation today with legacy systems and processes and yet we’re innovating at a faster pace than ever before. There is a relentless focus on progress.”

2. Do whatever it takes to recruit smart people:

“I hand-picked every employee carefully. I started out by recruiting Barry Swartzberg, a colleague at Liberty – it took me three months.”

3. Focus on areas that make you unique; find partners for the rest:

“Essentially, we put together a selection of best-of-breed partners around us and focused on product development and our own intellectual property in the middle.”

Sol Kerzner, Kerzner International Holdings Ltd

4. Make a difference in your industry:

“I always believed we could redefine the hotel business in South Africa.”

“It’s simply not good enough for us to deliver new water rides. Our goal is to redefine the concept of a water park.”

5. Believe in yourself and follow your passion:

“Part of being an entrepreneur is the need to get somewhere in life; to have the belief that you can get out there and make a difference.”

“It’s important to follow your instincts. It’s important to recognise what you’re likely to enjoy doing. Let’s face it, it’s difficult to excel if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing.”

Koos Bekker, Naspers Ltd

6. We learn more from our mistakes than from our victories:

“From success one learns only how smart you are. From failure you may learn how to improve yourself.”

“I made some real shockers. The problem is that if you reverse any part of your life to remove the mistakes, you’ll also take away the lessons learnt from them. So, without those lessons, how would you know better?”

7. Trust your gut:

“Even up to the last minute, just before pen meets paper, we walk if we smell trouble.”

Herman Mashaba, Black Like Me, Leswikeng, Phatsima, Lephatsi

8. Get rid of that chip on your shoulder; the world doesn’t owe you anything:

“You alone are in charge of your destiny; you must accept responsibility for yourself.”

9. Keep your ear on the ground:

“I’m a good listener, and I file information away in my mind, never knowing when it might be useful.”

10. Be flexible:

“If you define yourself by a job description or a job title you are confining yourself. Step out of your boundaries and show your employer what you are capable of.”

Pam Golding, The Pam Golding Property Group

11. Lead with the latest technology:

“The purchase of the computer was like buying a Rolls Royce as your first car – it was that significant. It created enormous, unlimited capacity to expand.” – Peter Golding

Mark Lamberti, Massmart

12. Be driven by your dreams rather than by specific goals; enjoy the journey:

“Having a goal-driven life is potentially dangerous because you can end up focusing on milestones and fail to enjoy the scenery of the journey. I prefer to be driven by a broader vision of the legacy I would like to leave and start out each day trying to do things I’m passionate about.

13. Reputation is paramount:

“Thankfully we can protect our reputation because we carry it everywhere with us. Our behaviour can enhance it or destroy it and where it is good or bad it is determined solely by us. Our reputation is the most valuable thing we will ever own. The fact that we cannot buy it makes it priceless. Proper behaviour will ensure that our reputation survives long after we are gone. Improper behaviour will result in our losing it long before we die.”

14. Stick to your values, no matter what:

“We cannot be authentic servants or leaders if our behaviour is at odds with our values and principles; critics and followers soon see the flaws. Put simply, who we are is much more important than what we do.”

15. Remember that profit is a lagging indicator of human performance:

“If you as a leader are just working on the bottom line, you are going to miss the point because financial performance is preceded by operating performance and operating performance is preceded by human performance. If you don’t know what the human performance is in the business, you are not in a position to shape future outcomes. If people are doing the right things, financial returns will follow.”

Natie Kirsh, Kirsh Finance, Kirsh Industries, Jetro

16. Motivate others with your transparency:

“When he lets you into his world, he lets you in completely. There are no secrets, everything is open to you. This inspires great motivation and loyalty. “ former Kirsch company CEO Clive Weil

17. Be exceptional:

“I’ve been a corporate lawyer for 40 years and I’ve sat on boards, even in Europe, and I still haven’t come across someone who is as clued up and insightful a businessman as Natie. He’s one of the world’s brightest entrepreneurs.” Mervyn King, former judge

Mark Shuttleworth, Thawte, HBD Venture Capital, The Shuttleworth Foundation, Canonical

18. Ideas are nothing without execution:

“Value is created by the tenacious pursuit of an idea and the ability to build on it.”

19. Be patient:

“It took six to nine month from declaring intent to get real breakthroughs.”

Alan Knott-Craig, Vodacom

20. Embrace competition:

“I love competition because at least you can compete against somebody – it’s terrible running a race against yourself.”

Whitey Basson, Shoprite Group

21. If you want to talk the talk, you’ve [got] to walk to walk:

“I spend 60 per cent of my time at the operational level, in the stores or at the divisions.”

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“Blue Ocean Strategy” by W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne

Synopsis

Blue Ocean Strategy is premised on the idea that companies can create extraordinary value if they follow a strategic framework to develop ″blue oceans″ of uncontested market space. This, in turn, makes competition irrelevant. Blue oceans are defined by untapped market space, demand creation, and the opportunity for highly profitable growth. Authors Kim and Mauborgne base their argument on a study of 150 strategic moves spanning more than a hundred years and thirty industries.

I enjoyed the book and agree with the “blue ocean” argument around value innovation but I’d like to have seen a more in-depth analysis and examples of companies that tried this strategy but failed.

Lessons

On creating blue oceans…

The Four Actions Framework (Figure 1) is used to reconstruct buyer value elements in crafting a new value curve. To break the trade-off between differentiation and low cost and to create a new value curve, the framework poses four key questions, shown in the diagram, to challenge an industry’s strategic logic.

Figure 1: The Four Actions Framework

On reconstructing market boundaries…

The authors state that by thinking across conventional boundaries of competition, you can see how to make strategic moves that reconstruct established market boundaries and create blue oceans. Figure 2 shows the difference in thinking between head-to-head competition (red ocean strategy) and blue ocean creation.

Figure 2: Head-to-head competition vs. blue ocean creation

Quotes

“The distinctive strength of the business world [is] the capacity to create new market space that is uncontested.”

Something interesting

Guy Lalibert, the CEO of Cirque du Soleil, started out busking as an accordion player, stilt-walker, and fire-eater.

The Nickelodeon theatre of the early 1900s was aptly named because the price of admission was five cents. “Nickelodeon” was concocted from nickel, the name of the U.S. five-cent coin, and the ancient Greek word odeion, a roofed-over theater.

Links

The original 2004 Harvard Business Review Blue Ocean Strategy article

Blue Ocean Strategy Canvas

W. Chan Kim

Renée Mauborgne

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