What to do with Your Time and Money

Scott Anthony offers some good advice today at HBR.

Decreasing investments in diversifying your corporate portfolio increases the risk that the pace of disruptive change in your industry (which is likely going to be more furious than what your models are telling you) has a cataclysmic effect on your business.

Errr … I think what he means to say is that it pays to keep your eyes open. The value of that great thing that you offer to others — whether it is a product or service or even if it is just an attitude — will not remain constant as things change around you.

Instead, all “value added propositions” have a shelf life. By “value added propositions”, I mean ideas translated into products and services. If this is true, then it pays to learn about that “shelf life” so that you can anticipate for how long your input to others has value and what those folks may want from you after that value has diminished. You want to give people what they will pay for now as well as anticipate what they will want tomorrow.

This sounds pretty wild, and it is.  Benedict Evens talks about this in a presentation he gave at InContext. He notes that the value of “search” (as in Google) is based on people already knowing what they are looking for. So while I am in the kitchen looking at a can of chickpeas, I might remember that I like humus but forget the recipe. So I may run over to my PC to search for humus recipes. BTW, Ecosalon offers 15 humus recipes today, if you are interested. But the key point is that I won’t do a Google search for “humus recipes” until I decide I need to look for that thing.

Benedict contrasts the value of search with a different sort of value added. Just for fun, let’s call it “lurch” (a term that he does not use).  I lurch when I bump into something great that I was not looking for. So just maybe you were happy to bump into 15 humus recipes out of the blue. I hope I gave you a lurch. Lurch value added comes from expanding the boundaries of “wants” rather than just speeding up knowledge acquisition.

So how do we manage this “expanding the boundaries” stuff? There are two dimensions to this. Dan Pink writes about how selling stuff is about helping people SEE new stuff. In our vocabulary, helping them lurch. But to help you sell better, Dan has to make the assumption that you already have something to sell. Where do ideas for creating stuff to sell come from? Are there strategies to help us SEE what to create?

One strategy is to create more fun. When we have fun, we open the doors to new experiences for ourselves and others. Like in this great scene from the 1963 film Charade (one of my favs) where Audrey Hepburn comes into rather close contact with Cary Grant

By way of contrast, things that are not fun get put in the “routine” or “boring” category.

Another strategy is to leverage core values. If I blog about “curiosity”, for example, I am signalling a core value that demands an open mind from me and my readers. I think this is what my blogging colleague at A Bloomsbury Life does very well. Do both (have fun and embrace core values) and you may have nailed it.

That second idea, identifying core values, is the genius behind Jeff Bezos’s strategic idea at Amazon. Jeff said that at Amazon they are not interested in change. They are interested instead in things that don’t change. More precisely, Bezos is interested in 3 things that don’t change. They are that people always want lower prices, more selection and faster delivery. So Amazon relentlessly focuses on how to offer that stuff. And they have created amazing change around them as they chase after these core values.

So what is the bottom line? Dan Kahneman informs us that humans are biased to avoid loss more than crave opportunity. This is not rational but it is predictable. This bias can slow us down which can be dangerous in a world where change occurs at an accelerating pace (like now). But this bias can also speed us up when we understand that what we have now will be lost if we do not connect with the flow of what others want. My rather simple idea here, bringing into play the thoughts and work of Scott Anthony, Benedict Evans, Dan Pink, Stanley Donen, and Dan Kahnelman  is that we can learn how to do this.

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