Automate the non-wheel-re-recreation
There’s this suggestion in Thinkertoys (2006) by M. Michalko, to begin an idea journal, and to write at least five new ideas every single day. It’s been 18 days now. Some days have been more than five, so that puts me at about 90+. Totally worth it. At first, I wasn’t sure I could keep up the momentum. But now I’m having trouble not coming up with ideas.
In The Laptop Millionaire (2012) by M. Anastasi, there’s this great writing exercise on page xxi of the introduction: write 20 things you love about yourself, 20 things for which you’re grateful, 100 reasons to make more money, and 100 ways to make more money.
It’s a must-do… Okay, I haven’t done that writing exercise yet. Therefore, I’m marking my calendar for this Saturday morning at 0800.
Gary Vaynerchuk points out that, “Ideas are shit. It’s all about the execution.” And he’s right. I’ve found it much easier to come up with ideas than to do anything about any of them. In fact, in some small way, coming up with new ideas qualifies as procrastination, especially after the market research says go.
RESEARCH FIRST, THEN GENERATE IDEAS
To improve on that process, I like Chad Mureta’s approach, author of App Empire (2012). On mobile app development, if you start by looking at the top charts, reading the reviews, playing with the apps to see what brought them to the top, and ask in what ways you could improve the apps, then you’ve got an idea of what’s already winning and therefore what will win.
It’s like the difference between asking people what they want and watching what they really choose instead. On dating, should I ask women what they want and then listen? Or should I observe what they’re already choosing and be more like the men who get selected, less like those who don’t? Which is measurable? Which better leads to success? Which has more value for everyone?
I’m highlighting the difference as the point, not that words don’t matter. They matter less than action. Point is, if you ask a better question, you get a better answer. Sometimes that means playing around with the assumptions we make, switching the order of things.
META-AUTOMATION · AUTOMATE THE AUTOMATION
On not recreating the wheel, there exist plenty of tools depending on the business model.
On Amazon and e-commerce, there’s Jungle Scout. It has several products. One of which is something it calls Niche Hunter, which lets an Amazon entrepreneur set search filter criteria to find products with high demand, low competition.
Are there tools like this for other fields? Heck yeah. And if there aren’t, that’s an opportunity right there. If there are, that’s also an opportunity because it can always be improved.
WITHIN AN ORGANIZATION
One of the frustrating parts of my day job is the constant re-creation of the metaphorical wheel.
In particular, personnel turnover and the files we use.
I just recently moved into the Support Operations section of my battalion. The military isn’t new. And neither are the tasks we perform. Yet… it’s an adventure within the office alone.
Typical with every job rotation (I seem to have a new job every six to twelve months, now going on 18 years straight). I’m constantly starting from scratch.
No initial counseling.
No outline of what’s expected of me.
No idea of who all works there, what they do or how to contact them.
No picture of the overall mission or core set of tasks that we do.
Any lessons learned previously are either lost, left with the last person or filed into a pile of confusion.
Filing systems are discouragingly confusing and would require inordinate amounts of time to untangle, and in the face of immediately pressing tasks.
What’re our phone numbers? No fucking clue.
How do we connect to the printer/copier? It’s a mystery. Just like paper, toner, and whoever just printed a hundred pages.
Where do we get office supplies? Just steal it from another desk.
It’s my daily random-ass bullshit… I mean adventure.
Never a dull day.
What if our work automatically filed, meaningfully, into some intuitive and easily shared, updated repository?