What everyone reads

Everyone used to read the morning paper because everyone did. Everyone like us, anyway. The people in our group, the informed ones. We all read the same paper.

Everyone used to read the selection of the book of the month club, because everyone did.

And everyone used to watch the same TV shows too. It was part of being not only informed, but in sync.

Today, of course, that's awfully unlikely. Only 1 or 2 percent of the population watch the typical 'hit' show on cable. Of course, it's entirely possible that everyone in your circle, the circle you wish to be respected by, is watching the same thing, but that circle keeps getting smaller, doesn't it?

And when 'everyone' isn't part of the picture any more, when the long tail is truly the only tail, plenty of people stop trying. They stop reading difficult books or watching less-than-thrilling video, and they don't push themselves to do the hard stuff, because, really, why bother?

Society without a cultural, intellectual core feels awfully different than the society that we're walking away from.

       
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What are you seeking at work?

Some people want safety and respect. They want to know what the work rules are, they want a guarantee that the effort required is both predictable and rewarded. They seek an environment where they won't feel pushed around, surprised or taken advantage of.

Other people want challenge and autonomy. They want the opportunity to grow and to delight or inspire the people around them. They seek both organizational and personal challenges, and they like to solve interesting problems.

Without a doubt, there's an overlap here, but if you find that your approach to the people around you isn't resonating, it might because you're giving your people precisely what they don't want.

       
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Two elements of an apology

Compassion and Contrition

"We're sorry that your flight was cancelled. This must have truly messed up your day, sir."

That's a statement of compassion.

"Cancelling a flight that a valued customer trusted us to fly is not the way we like to do business. We messed up, it was an error in judgment for us to underinvest in pilot allocation. Even worse, we didn't do everything we could to get you on a flight that would have helped your schedule. We'll do better next time."

That's what contrition sounds like. We were wrong and we learned from it.

The disappointing thing is that most people and organizations that take the time to apologize intentionally express neither compassion nor contrition.

If you can't do this, hardly worth bothering.

But it is worth bothering, because you're a human. And because customers who feel listened to help you improve (and come back to give you another chance.)

       
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Avoiding S-curve error

The future is bumpy. It comes in spurts, and then it pauses.

It's tempting to connect two dots and draw a line to figure out where the third dot is going to be. 

In the long run, that's a smart way to go. For example, if we look at the cost per transistor in 1970 and again today, we can make a pretty smart guess about where it's going in the future.

But we won't get there in a straight line.

Consider this graph (from this must-read article):

Graph - Dynamic Range_inline

If you connected the first two red dots (1885 and 1925), your prediction for dynamic range today would be have been way off, far too low.

If you connected the second two dots (1928 and 1933) again you'd be way off. Too high by far.

That's because science doesn't march, it leaps.

The S curve is flat, and then it's not. It's punctuated. A technical innovation changes the game, industry takes a development generation to incrementally pile on, then it happens again.

You can't multiply a one-year increase (in computers, your income, your height, the cost of a commodity) by a hundred and figure out what it's going to be in a hundred years, any more than a salesperson can multiply one day's commissions to figure out a year's pay.

Day trading is a risky business.

       
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People who like this stuff...

like this stuff.

When you work in a genre (any genre), break all the rules at your own peril. Sure, you need to break some rules, need to do something worth talking about. But please understand who the work is for.

If it's for people outside the genre, you have a lot of evangelizing to do. And if it's for those that are already in it, you can't push too far, because they like the genre. That's why they're here.

Those who have walked away probably aren't just waiting around for you to fix it. Those who have never been don't think the genre has a problem they need solved. Blue sky thinking isn't really blue sky thinking. It's a slightly different shade of the blue that's already popular.

It's a little like the futility of the "Under New Management" sign on a restaurant. People who like the place don't want to hear you're changing everything, and people who didn't like the old place aren't in such a hurry for a new place that they'll form a line out the door.

The opportunity is to create a pathway, a series of ever-increasing expectations and experiences that moves people from here to there.

       
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