Construction Deconstruction

Day 169 Week 25 Q2 Monday, June 19, 2023

We all like building new things. There is almost always a new learning curve involved and creativity involved or, at a minimum, problem solving but what is less obvious is that before the new construction can commence, there will also very likely be some deconstruction required. And also, there is some pre-construction required by scooping and planning before commencing execution. Not everyone operates this way. When the settlers head out toward as yet unsettled land, assuming it is empty and ready to build upon, or researchers enter into a new field that does not yet exist, they all assume clear sailing and no obstacles.

Well, just as inventor entrepreneurs frequently, when asked about who their completion is, respond with there is none we are first.  Ah, but they are always wrong about that, and that is why wise investors always require some sort of competitive analysis ranging from informal to quite formal depending upon the required or offered investment.

But what most idealists and forward thinkers do not necessarily assume is a deconstruction task which often turns out to be much more than a task and really a deconstruction project. This project can turn out to be as large as the construction process or even larger. In fact, this is why sometimes complete demolition is on the critical path. It may be easier and cheaper to know down an old house and build a new one on the now cleared site. 

There is hardly ever a cleared and ready site. They do not exist in nature, business, science, or anywhere except maybe in deep space. Just as invaders usually find someone else living there first, that is why they are called invaders, right? Most projects require a metaphorical clearing of the land from what was there before, be it people or stuff like forests and swamps. 

Whether you call it deconstruction or simply site preparation, this can be harder than starting from scratch. Say a business wants to hire you to write a program or develop an app. What was operating before, and what do you do with it? Even if you know how to do the new thing, what do yo have to first do about the old thing? What was in its place? 

Say the situation has escalated from repairing to replacing. Yes, it would have been easier to maintain it so that it did not need repairs, but in most situations, systems and properties need to be repaired and eventually replaced, and that is when the deconstruction part has to occur.

Sometimes people just blow up what was there prior. They level the site, leave the relationship, delete the database or move to a new town where no one knows them so they can reinvent themselves. More often than not, they do none of those things and choose to stay where they are and solve the problems; this is where serious deconstruction comes in. And it, too, just like the construction project, retries its own plan. A deconstruction plan. So get started because, units you address the deconstruction, you can not commence construction or, more likely, reconstruction.

Hey, maybe this is why starting is easier than finishing. But you do want to or need to finish, right?

Innovation Management Rocks

Day 132 Week 19 Q2 Saturday, May 13, 2023

Managing your own innovation differs from managing others’ innovation, with a continuum bridging the two. Where one currently lies on the continuum depends greatly upon context; first, who are the people involved, as they will differ greatly. Second, what deadlines external to these people exist, such as a promised deliverable? Third, what is the brand and reputation of the entity within which this activity is occurring? Of course, there are many more, but the keyword here is it depends. There are many dependencies in the innovation process. 

Then there is the question, Can innovation be managed at all? I would say about as much as a cowboy can manage the steer he riding in a rodeo, but the innovator can stay on for longer than a few seconds. Innovation management is more like innovation championing than traditional management. There is certainly a role to play, but it is not a typical management role. It is part cheerleader, provocateur, resource gatherer, confidant, and more.

Innovation is complex. It can be time, people and market dependent. It is also relativistic in that what is common in one land or industry may be revolutionary in another. This complex combination is fascinating and frustrating at the same time. Some people will be delighted, and some will be horrified. This is not a job for the weak-willed, as you are forcing and cajoling into being a new reality that did not exist prior.

It is a hard job, and it really helps if you have been an innovator in the past. And defending the integrity of the innovation is part of it. There will be many obstacles. Some will be technical, but most will be human. The technical obstacles can be understood and dealt with more easily than the human emotionally seemingly unreasonable situational responses. Do not try to negotiate with nature and physics, you have to accept their reality, for they do not care what your opinion is, only what factual replicable insights you can bring to the table. 

Being a cheerleader and midwife simultaneously is called to bring new insights into the world and get them adopted. It is a bit like being a parent, for you have to prop up new insights until they can stand on their own supporters by evidence of usefulness and viability.

Nothing is more glorious in the world than manifesting insights as adopted value-adding expressions. This is the sometimes steaming caldron from whence tomorrow emerges. It can sometimes be too hot to handle initially but gradually cool into something sweet and soothingly useful.  

I am doing my job if these descriptions seem too fanciful for a down-to-earth buttoned-up manager. Innovation is a bit mysterious. Where it comes from and how it comes about is often an aesthetic engineering process combining technical robustness and emotional relevancy. 

It has to work well, and people need to care about it working, or it will not get traction even to begin scaling up to mass adoption.

Innovation Management Rocks

Dedicated Hardware

Day 128 Week 19 Q2 Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Our computers have become Swiss Army knives with a thousand blades. They can do more things than we can imagine. Still, a dedicated screwdriver is better than the screwdriver blade in your Swiss Army knife. Many of us use our computers for our professional lives, our personal lives and our creative lives, which may or may not have the same requirements. The difference between a desktop and a laptop is primarily screen size, and this matters a great deal for content creators, especially if they are not only creating text.

Yes, I know some people are trying to move the other way and manage their entire lives on tablets and others on just phones. Sure, you can also slice bread and open a bottle of wine with your Swiss Army knife, but this mostly makes sense when you are young, mobile or in a pinch when you do not have the right tools available. There is something to be said for the camera and recorder that is always in your pocket. 

Unless you have been really good at selling or trading in your prior electronics, many of us have older computers, phones and tablets lying around. Creative outliers are even more likely to accumulate multiple tool kits, sometimes for special purposes. And much, if not most, of our tech, has become so much lower cost as to become an expense, not a capital investment needing to be amortized.  We also do not like the downtime between getting rid of one device and bringing up the new one. If you are a professional content developer, you rarely can not stop working for the two or more days it takes to install your apps on a new computer.

There is a great opportunity in this. Computers that are not that old are still very useful and more than up to many of the tasks you were already using them for in the past. Two very concrete arguments for dedicated hardware involve seen size and ports. If you are a graphic designer, you need a large screen; if you are a musician, you need ports to plug in instruments, speakers and microphones. And both need a lot more storage space than writers whose entire lifetime of writing can be smaller than a single music video.  It also takes a lot of time to plug things in. What if you took an older computer and not only left it plugged into all of your music gear but left the primary apps running and dedicated the entire storage available to content?

The overhead associated with the creative process can be radically shrunk to the point where stream-of-consciousness capture can be commenced in under a minute. You can have multiple dedicated workstations using your older tech if you have the space, and it can be absolutely free.

The overhead associated with composing music has just shrunk from hours to minutes to seconds, radically improving the quantity and quality of my output.

Here’s to dedicated hardware. 

Creative Outlier Manager

Day 127 Week 19 Q2 Monday, May 8, 2023

Yes, you can be both and many people are. But to do it well is not easy. Since you are curious, you can now explore a new subject, but it is more active than a topic, as it is your new life and it impacts other people. The others you are managing may not be anything like you at all. And you are likely to have to divert some of your creative energy to them and their needs, so find out who they are. If you were promoted from within that group, you might think you already know who they are. But the context has changed, meaning both parties’ perceptions may change. We try to hold onto the relationships in their prior form, but it doesn’t always work. This is why it’s sometimes better to be promoted outside the group.

Like it or not, there is often something of a gap between management and the people who work for them. It can be helpful to think of working with instead of for, and this does tend to occur in innovation cultures. On the other hand, authoritarian cultures may not be the best place for creative outliers, either as managers or as those being managed. A great predictor of unhappiness in a person is working for an insecure person. 

If you’re respectful and secure, you can be a successful creative outlier manager in both senses. You are not only managing creative outliers but also are a creative outlier yourself. This can work marvelously, and I have experienced this both on the receiving end and on the giving end. It works especially well when a rising tide is lifting everyone because the company is doing well. After all, abundance is more pleasant than scarcity, and historically that is one of the secret sauces of Silicon Valley’s success unless and until greed gets in the way and rears its ugly head. Nonlinear market caps can create delusional behavior.

Presumably, as a creative outlier, you are more of a maker than a consumer, which means you actually get pleasure from doing the work of making. It helps to realize the act of managing is on the critical path of making and that a co-creative mindset tends to connect people instead of dividing them. You have to give others some skin in the game. Making things all about you is a recipe for failure, no matter how smart or capable you are. 

You do want other smart, capable people as stakeholders, right? Then treat them as smart and capable. It takes a lot of mental bandwidth to hold in your mind the mental models of the others in your group, but this does have to be done because not everyone can express themselves clearly. If you really know who they are, you have a much better chance of understanding what they are saying and what they mean.  

Being a creative outlier manager can be one of the most rewarding or exacerbating things you ever do. It is a choice you can and have to make. 

Self Management 

Day 126 Week 19 Q2 Sunday, May 7, 2023

Creative outliers may not like to be managed or not like to manage, but there is one unavoidable management task. We must manage ourselves, or someone else will fill that vacuum. And to be self-managed, there is an act that precedes this, and that is to be self-organizing. Exploring the universe may be more fun than getting down to business and focusing. Still, today’s cornucopia of options makes it even more imperative than ever before to be both self-organizing and self-managing. We live within an explosion of options where we can ask a question at any time of any day and get not just one but many answers. With infinite listening, viewing and reading material, one could spend an entire life only consuming information and experiences. 

Unfortunately, consuming does not create as much meaning as creating and making; having time to explore and make is a significant management task. This requires some introspection to prioritize so it is possible to get your arms around a task or project to scope it before planning, designing and executing it. There also needs to be time allowed to review it because that is where most of the learning occurs from the new vantage point of having it in your rearview mirror instead of in front of you.

This is where routine can help, as the habituation of behaviors automates them to a degree where not all behavior has to be managed. It is good that I do not have to remember to breathe or have my heartbeat. To determine which behaviors are worth automating, it helps if we are clear about our identity. As many of us have more than a few things we are good at or interested in, there is no time to pursue all directions at once, we do have to commit to at least a finite number of identities at a time.

We can do many things but unfortunately, not all simultaneously. I remember reaching this crossroads at around the age of thirty when I realized there was not enough time to have a full-time job as an engineer, be a husband, perform as a musician, be a semiprofessional photographer and be a competitive athlete. And I recall thinking some of these things would work a lot better when I was sixty or seventy and having to cut the sports and photography. It was not easy, but now forty years later, it was a good call. Taking casual snapshots and going to the gym to stay in shape still occur, but not at the level of effort of being as committed as when younger.

Creative outliers can have a more difficult time than others managing and being managed because they are curious and not afraid to try new things. The management dilemma does not only apply in relationships with other people but even more internally or, for the same reason, opportunity costs. Doing A instead of B is not without both penalty and reward. Choose wisely.

Me Sized Company

Day 125 Week 18 Q2 Saturday, May 6, 2023

When a person has been an independent contributor and a manager, they sometimes conclude that they can start a company. Sometimes this works, and sometimes it doesn’t, but there are important lessons learned about leading and about following, neither of which may be appealing for various reasons.

Another option has existed for a long time—a sole proprietor who works for themselves. Doctors, dentists, lawyers, farmers and shopkeepers have done this for hundreds of years. In fact, at one point in time, most people all worked for themselves and did not have much help in the form of staff except sometimes from their families.

The democratization of technology combined with the flattening of the world has made it possible for many people to start new enterprises and work for themselves. The barriers to entry have come way down since the Industrial Revolution. Now it is a real possibility for people to once again have Me Sized Companies where they are in charge of no one but themselves but can still be leveraged through contracted labor, manufacturing, sales and marketing. There may be no payroll, but there can still be suppliers of parts and skills to pay. If you can create computer programs, It is now possible to do your own promotion and markings, taxes, product development and literally everything else. 

This has been called a Me-Sized-Company, and it can focus the mind wonderfully, making it an especially good fit for creative outliers. When you have to do everything yourself, you are much more careful about feature creep and about entering new markets. In other words, you have to “stick to the knitting” by focusing on your highest-value work. Yes, you grow more slowly, but you do not have to raise capital, court and then supervise a lot of personnel, write reviews or meet payroll, all activities which directly subtract from the actual doing or making of a product or the actual delivery of value. 

It may not be for everyone, but if you are not too crazy about taking orders or leading others, it can be a viable option. There are many types of business where this is not possible, but there are also many types where it is not only possible but preferable. You might want to investigate the possibilities and ramifications of a Me Sized Company. 

I suppose this can be considered to be a part of the gig economy. Still, to my mind, it is something different as most of the gig economy is about offering services, and this is more about offering products. There is a huge difference in terms of scheduling dependency.

A Me Sized Company may provide you the freedom and responsibility of being an entrepreneur without meeting payroll. Not a bad place to be!

Simple Structure

Day 99 Week 15 Q2 Monday, April 10, 2023

Creative Outliers can tend toward complexity. We have many ideas and like to show them off. This can be gratuitous at best and at times, simply confusing. When you have others working with you in a co-creative situation, you must bring them with you and not just place all of the responsibility upon them to keep up.

I know of new management situations where an exceptional independent contributor was promoted to a management position only to crash and burn because they outperformed those around them by so much that the team became demoralized, and the new manager stopped managing altogether.

Sometimes a simpler structure is more accessible to all involved, including you. Try to resist doing things just because you can, as they may not be needed and may be counterproductive.  Being the smartest one in the room is not a leadership posture. It is not useful to anyone at all. When your idea density eclipses everyone around you, you momentarily might feel great, but the project is not supposed to be all about you. Hopefully, you have learned this earlier in your career.

When the idea density exceeds not only your end-user but your team as well, you have crossed over into territory that you really want to keep away from, so retreat as quickly as possible, making all necessary apologies.  Eventually, you will get to the point where these apologies are no longer necessary because you learned how to stop before you get that far.

Simple structures are not just for others. They also benefit you directly in your own creative process, even when no one else is considered.  More is not always better. In fact, it usually is not. Simplifying a structure also speeds you up. Creative outliers may not like rules, but there needs to be some in general. The smallest number of rules protects the most degrees of freedom. The simplest structures also permit the greatest speed. 

When a creative person comes up with the smallest number of rules and the simplest structure that still gets the job done, they function optimally with no time wasted on extra rule-following and structure maintenance. It takes time to discover you need some rules and structure, and then it takes more time to discover that too many rules and too much structure slow you down too much.

The great thing about simple structures is you can transcend them when you need to without the muss and fuss that accompanies simplification and decomplexifying gnarly situations. You want your structure to support you, not imprison you. This also has the added benefit of simplifying collaboration, which should yield more leverage due to more stakeholders.   

The group mind is more powerful than the single mind, and if, in your case, it is not, either you are spending time with the wrong other minds or your mind is out of whack. When in doubt, simplify. It not only permits you to bring others with you more easily, but it even permits you to bring yourself along more easily as well.

Be a COPPER

Day 35 Week 5 Q1  Saturday, February 4, 2023

Calibrate Organize Practice Publish Engage Review is perhaps a crazy way to start the day, but let me explain. In general, as a long-haired counter-culture hippie growing up in New York City, I tried to stay away from not only the police but all authority figures. It was the sixties, and we revolutionary artist types thought the world was a mess. Mean boys had to wear ties to school, and girls could not wear pants. It was a different time. 

But now, as a volunteer fireman, which technically means I report to homeland security, emergency responders no longer seem like the enemy. I mean, I am one of them.  And it is more difficult to take issue with authority because I have been one of them for a long time.

As a creative outlier, I decided I needed to police myself and become a COPPER. I do not want to police anyone else nor to be policed by anyone else, but a certain amount of self-management seemed to be in order, and with a too-full brain, I need to use acronyms to remember things.

Time to explain: Calibrate seems pretty self-evident. If I do not begin the day with some preparatory morning practice, the day does not go as smoothly.  It is like a pilot or a surgeon with their checklists. They do not fly or cut until they have checked off a few critical items. Different kinds of people need to do different things to get themselves ready in the morning, and I am referring to this as calibration because every day brings new circumstances. They do need to be adapted to and responded to. Therefore calibration is easy and self-explanatory.

Organize is similar but, for me, more concrete than calibration. The act of getting calibrated is a kind of going from unconscious to conscious and then conscious to rational. Because it is hard to get organized before I am rational. Again not much explanation is needed. But the PPER in COPPER needs a little more explanation. 

PP represents, for me, Practice and Publish.  As a performer and presenter, I find myself having to get up in front of people to deliver either a concert or a talk, sometimes even combined. In order to get my material out into the world, it has to be published, which in today’s world generally means being on the Web in WWW land. If you are creating any kind of content, it has to be published, meaning made available for others to interact with. Now I know that not all creative outliers are in the content business, or at least you may not think you are. Still, everyone must communicate at least some to let the world know what they offer. In general, you publish through social media advertising, writing papers or something. So publishing may not seem like anything everyone has to be concerned about, but from my perspective, most creative outliers have something to say and share, and that is publishing. 

In order to become proficient at publishing, performing or presenting, you need first to practice a lot. And here is where the prior P in the PP comes in. It stands for Practice. What you have to practice depends on what you want to publish. It varies tremendously, but it is still a necessary step.   

We have not yet arrived at being a COPPER, and the final ER is the least intuitive pair of the group of activities but is equally essential, which earned them a place in the acronym.

The E stands for Engage, and the R for Review. What do these mean? Well, if you ever want to get paid for anything you do, you will have to engage someone and deliver some value. But I think before you can engage others, you must first engage yourself; otherwise, you will be perceived as “phoning it in,” meaning everyone can tell you do not care about what you are doing. I mean, what is the point of practicing or publishing if you can not first engage yourself? I find I tend not to do too much, which does not emotionally engage me. There is a great deal competing for our time; if something is not emotionally relevant, we are simply not very likely to do it.

And this brings us to the final R, which stands for Review. What happens if you are calibrated, organized, practiced, published, and engaged? That was a lot of activity and a lot of processing, and a lot of preparation.  This is where REVIEW comes in. What does it all mean and did it work, and what has to change, remember, you and everyone else are a work in progress. How is it going? Most growth and learning come from the review, not figuring out how to do something. 

This is why I came up with a way to remember what I had to do daily: to police myself, I had to be a COPPER.

New Frames of Mind

Day 2 Week 1 Q1  Monday, January 2, 2023

I am not too into New Year’s Resolutions, as they rarely seem to work. I am, however, into using changes of years, months, weeks, days, holidays or anything new as an excuse for New Frames of Mind.  Today, somehow, I awoke feeling like there were many projects and activities I had been preparing for, and somehow now found myself prepared.  Hey, I guess I had been preparing and did not notice it was time to stop preparing and start doing them. Perhaps it was caused by uncharacteristically staying up until 2:30 AM on New Year’s Eve, which totally knocked off the usual early morning practice set of activities from occurring yesterday in the customary time. As I was determined not to begin a new year by ignoring the practice I had finally habited during the prior year, I felt the need to complete this practice before going to bed and made it by 11:57 PM last night. 

This rippled through to not being up at 5 AM, thereby permitting being done preparing for the day by 7 or 8. Since I did not get up until 7, I declared myself all ready for the day and just started knocking the things out that I would normally do but with evidently a New Frame of Mind. This was a little surprising as I have been doing the usual journaling, guitar and piano playing meditations, emails, texts and more every day to prepare for the day.

It somehow became reasonable to hold these musical activities to a higher standard and not only noodle around but to capture, record and review. I had been meaning to get ready for a new season of recording to compose and score, to perfect to perform, and then to record and release a new album, whatever that may mean, in 2023, for several months.

Somehow in an unpremeditated and therefore not planned for, set of actions, I awoke and found myself with this new frame of mind that just rolled into doing the things I was supposedly preparing to do later in the day or month or year. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I just noticed that the old adage about keep showing up and something will happen actually worked and caught me by surprise. Somehow, my frame of mind had changed from coping and preparing to actively performing the things I was preparing for.

The moral of the story is “you know what to do and are doing it” as my friend the philosopher Bay Manning says, and if you keep showing up, then some of the time you will be in the right place and at the right time to be who you always wanted to be.

This presupposes there actually is a right and safe place to repeatedly show up and it can take some effort to discover or construct such a place, for this is primarily a frame of mind. Dare I say it, a New Frame of Mind.

Getting on the Same Page

Day 364 Week 53 Q4  Friday, December 30, 2022

Web Home Page Power! Home pages force a more abstract, less literal narrative which can yield direction and branding about your new idea. Until an idea is dynamically visually represented, it is unlikely you will get stakeholders. You might think getting not the same page only refers to different people with different points of view, but it applies equally to a single person with more than one point of view. We all carry around in our heads more than a single narrative about what we are doing, and which one will call upon in any given situation may depend upon who we speak to and their priorities and proclivities. 

It is a worthwhile exercise to try to express yourself consistently, as it is doubtful that you afford multiple marketing campaigns and multiple salespeople. There is a need for an official line on what it is you are up to, who you are doing it for, and why they should care. That is if you would like to have customers. It has been said no story, no stakeholders. And if your story is so complex that only you can tell it, you are sacrificing the all-important word-of-mouth reputation is built upon.

It is tough and perhaps even pointless to attempt to delegate any to others the telling of your story. And even though not everyone can make their own website, everyone can take a sheet of paper and sketch what they would like the home page to look like. Not artfully, just functionally. For example, what is the name of your enterprise or project? That is always a good place to start. And what do you do, in English please or whatever language your execrated audience can read. And what has to be on your web page thing into account is that pretty much all modern sites are responsive, meaning their format changes to accommodate different size screens. 

The screen real estate question is critical in that if you are assuming a desktop size screen and most people look at the site on the phone, there can ever make it to the important stuff. Be a rude awakening when you switch from one to another.   There is also the issue of portrait vs. landscape orientation and font size, and all of these are simply logistical, and we have not even gotten to the look and feel and color and the actual message.

You may say I can put together a site in five minutes and use templates with stock photos, which will look professional. You could if you were well prepared about what you wanted to say and how you wanted to say it, and what the priorities were, so when the format folded all of the sidebars underneath the main screen content, you were not leading with your least important information for people will leave before they even find out what you are up to.

Think it through. It is a more robust exercise than you can imagine.