Friday, December 25, 2009


Something I read from James Scott Bell the other day said we each get about eight decades in this world. Which made me stop and count on my fingers how many decades I've gone through, and how many I may have left.

I've cleared past one full hand of fingers and just started into a new one on my other hand.

Yikes. That's a lot of fingers I've gone through. And seems there aren't many leftover. Double yikes.

It's Mystery to me what all these fingers are adding up to, where they are pointing. I used to think that was a bad thing. That was back when I was living on the other hand.

But ever since getting a new hand I'm thinking Mystery's not so bad. Especially when I'm aware that much of life is nothing but Mystery.

Think about the first decade of this new century. Geez, what a Mystery it has been.

Letterman, Tiger and Bernie? Oh my.

Iraq and WMD? Beats me.

Washington and Wall Street? No clue.

Why is it the more sophisticated and certain and omnipotent we act, the more mysterious life becomes?

What if we cut to the chase and embrace Mystery? How fun might that be? Even better, what relief might come from not having to know the weekend weather forecast or the difinity of pundits or the payback scenario or whether the next thing is really going to be The Next Big Thing?

When someone's trying to make sense of stuff and all the talk turns to nothing but answers with few questions or the debate over ROI or just loud, hot hootin' and hollerin', try asking So why the hangup with mystery?

Five fingers in and three more to go makes me wonder if all is Mystery? If so, fine with me.

So long as we're working together toward good, and no one despairs, come win, lose or draw and the mess that goes with it, isn't it easier and less of a burden to believe in Mystery where all will be well?

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Movies

You ever wanted to go to a holiday movie because everyone you know is saying they want to go to that movie. Even though you don't know exactly what you're all in for?

That's the way it is for all Next Big Things. Everyone wants in. Even if they're not sure why.

This is the moment when everyone's getting swept up. And it's a moment when great opportunity is at hand.

Here are a couple of thoughts that may come in handy at times like these.

First, is simple awareness that everyone wants in. As in the case of stuff like Facebook and Twitter these days. These are movies everyone wants to see right now.

How can you tell? The Odd Factor helps me. I start seeing swept up moments when I hear odd chatter in odd spots. Like when I heard two seniors in a Starbucks talking about connecting on Facebook. That ranked high on my Odd Factor. And helped me see everyone wants in on this movie.

Second thought is if you're aware of all the people going to the movie sweeping up at the box office, how great would it be if you're the one selling the popcorn?

Who wants to be the guy selling liver and onions at the movie everyone wants to see?


Friday, December 11, 2009

What Job Is Your Product Being Hired For?

This is the million dollar question asked by Harvard business guru, Clayton Christensen.

He's a big thinker when it comes to the art of innovation. Whether working on The Next Big Thing or simply trying to figure it out, this is a guy I love to learn from.

FRIDAY'S POST just came across a recent talk by Professor Christensen to a group of educators. Lordy, if there's a category ever in need of disruptive innovation, our schools, from kindergarten all the way through university, have to be among those most in need of serious transformation. Maybe it ought to be required viewing for every educator drawing a paycheck today.

Professor Christensen's research suggests that the job kids hire schools for is to help them feel more successful, and have time and a place to enjoy their friends. When schools fail to do the job, the Professor says kids will look to fill unmet needs by eventually dropping out or video-gaming or mallrat-packing or gang-banging.

In my state, Minnesota, only about a quarter of today's ninth graders will make it through college. That's a troubling statistic in this global high-tech knowledge economy of ours. Makes you wonder if schools get the message they aren't doing the job they're hired for very well anymore.

Oh, by the way, if you believe technology in the classroom is the answer, it's not says Professor Christensen. He says don't look for much impact from all those spiffy new computers in the classroom, unless it's accompanied by new models of teaching.

This brings to mind our friend Fred the Math Teacher and his model of doing school backward, featured in one of our November posts. Would that The Professor and The Math Teacher could meet. That'd be a great mash-up of 21st century theory, practice and what-job-is-school-being-hired-for-re-definition in one room.

Clayton Christensen's recent talk runs about 50 minutes and it covers innovation in business as well as government and education.

It is Must-Watch TV.

No matter if you are a leader in business or government or education or not-for-profit, you will find tremendous value watching this presentation. So, FRIDAY'S POST highly recommends you treat yourself to an hour with Clayton Christensen.

How great would it be if your customers someday said The Next Big Thing you invented did exactly the job they hired it for?


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Friday, December 4, 2009

Hope and Fear and The Next Big Thing

We're at a moment when we need lots of Next Big Things. Those things and the jobs they bring aren't coming from GM or BofA or AOL or BHO. No, they'll come from us, We The People.

Trouble is hope and fear are getting in the way when it comes to getting after The Next Big Thing.

Who wants to step up and step out with some high-impact innovation when you're constantly feeding Fear the Beast with "Better not hire just yet" or "I'm not good enough" or "What if I fail" or "My boss will think this is stupid" or "You guys aren't big enough to be a good credit risk."

Oh my. Not me. That's for sure.

On the other hand, Hope unchecked can carry you quickly away. Next thing I know I'm swept up by my own genius or avarice or omnipotence.

These storylines hold the stuff of bad endings, the last thing needed when crafting a better way for, say, health care in America. How sad when Hope gives way to hype and then to the tartuffe and the thousand-page fix-it plan that becomes law of the land.

Here's the deal, Hope and Fear in proper measure can fuel each of us to The Next Big Thing. Hope dwells within inspiration coming from Something bigger than ourselves. And Fear, in the right dose, spurs positive change.

But, lordy, how do you find the right balance?

Maybe all it takes is being aware of moments when Hope and Fear are at work in our lives. And consciously responding to their movements on a path toward passion, purpose, growth.

Maybe it means balancing Hope with humility. And Fear with the trusting embrace of mystery, this thing we call Life.

You got an idea and passion for the next killer social media app, or an opportunity to buy a distressed company, or underwrite a small business loan, or desiring a career change, or looking for a new job? You're probably hanging around Hope and Fear a lot these days.

I wonder if becoming aware of how they hang around us is the first big thing we should do when getting after The Next Big Thing we do?

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