Monday, February 09, 2015

Smartcuts - Breaking Conventions In the Name of Innovation

Smartcuts is an unbelievably entertaining and informative book by technology journalist Shane Snow.   It is not simply about shortcuts, but smartcuts - the ability to accomplish rapid successes and breakthrough innovation with much less that we think.   In short, it argues while incremental progress can be achieved by playing by the rules, successful innovators create transformational change by breaking conventional rules and thought.  Out of Smartcuts emerges nine themes which engages innovation.   I thought it would fun to share with you here.  I'd be interested in hearing your feedback.

1. Hacking the Ladder - We live in an age of non-traditional ladder climbing.  Not just in politics, but business and personal development and education, entertainment, and innovation.  "Paying your dues" in traditional paths are not just slow, they're no longer viable if we want to compete and innovate. This leads to true meritocracy.

2. Training with Masters - Data indicates that those who train with successful people who've "been there" tend to achieve success faster.  The winning formula, therefore, is to seek out the world's best and convince them to coach us.  But that's not enough though, as history is full of people who've been lucky enough to have amazing mentors and have stumbled anyway.  It's not surprising, considering the failure rates of workplace mentorship programs.  Training with masters mean developing personal relationships with mentors, asking their advice on other aspects of life, not just the formal challenge at hand - caring about the mentors' lives, too.  It's a relationship, not a transaction.

3. Rapid Feedback - It is about asking for feedback at a rate that encourages rejection and pushing oneself to become better instead of becoming a failure.  This type of pure, unadulterated feedback mechanism is a process that helps us adapt, modify, and refine our craft in a safe space that allows for true improvement.

4. Platforms - The platform amplifies the effort and teaches skills in the process of using it.  Effort for the sake of effort is as foolish as paying dues, as Shane Snow puts it.  Innovation pays off when it is amplified by a lever, meaning platforms teach us skills and allow us to focus on being great, rather than reinventing the wheels or repeating ourselves, so that building on top of a lot of things that exist in the world to maximize efficiency and eliminate redundancy.

5. Catching Waves - While conventional thinking leads talented and driven people to believe that if they simply work hard, luck will eventually strike, it's akin to believing if a surfer treads water in the same spot a wave will come along.  However, it doesn't; hence, some people practicing for twenty years never become experts.  A pro surfer never wins by staying in one spot, and neither can innovation.  The secret is to watch the waves and getting into the water to experiment.  In innovation, one must watch for the trends and anticipate where it will be coming and going before it comes.

6. Superconnecting - No matter that medium or method, giving is the timeless smartcut for harnessing superconnectors and creating serendipity.  All great innovators build their careers by collaborating with talented, fast-rising, and well-connected people and by making them look great.  But once they become superconnectors, they continue helping people.  That's how to tell if someone is a giver or a taker in giver's clothing, with the paradigmatic message: If you do it only to success, it probably won't work.  Pay it forward.

7. Momentum - The trick to harnessing momentum is to build up potential energy, so that unexpected opportunities can be amplified.  No one is an "overnight" success - each success story had backlogs of material that became reservoirs, ready to become torrents as soon as the dam was removed.  That's what needs to happen when that big break happens.  The difference between a success and a lucky break is substance.  

8. Simplicity - It's no secret that constraints drive creativity.  Many such great innovations this world has seen have emerged from limited means.  It's important to break down complex equations down to core principles.  It's critical to instill urgency and focus on what's core.

9. 10X Thinking - Vision is what ultimately drives success.  While people are willing to support other people's small dreams with kind words, we're willing to invest lives and money into huge dreams.  The bigger the potential, the more people are willing to back it.  Big causes attract big believers, big investors, big capital, and big talent.  To become not just bigger, but truly better.  

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