November 12, 2012

Validating ideas and working with other people

November 12, 2012 - Categories: business

Here are the next chunks in my personal business curriculum: validating business ideas, and working with other people in order to make things happen. I might be able to learn both at the same time. In fact, that’s probably the only way I can learn either. If I validate business ideas but take on all the work myself, then I’m limited by my time and what I can do. If I work with people without checking that the end goal is something that’s valued by others, then that would be a very short experiment indeed.

I talk a lot about the intersection of what people value, what you’re good at, and what you enjoy doing. Reviewing my archives, it boggles that the core of the diagram I drew in 2009 is still true. Going deeper into my passions leads me to things that people value more. I’m building the foundation of my 5-year experiment on things I’ve loved doing for a while, and that’s working out decently. I could spend five years validating ideas and building businesses within that intersection. It wouldn’t need as much work. People have blazed those paths before. Proven business needs in proven business models.

But the hardest part of drawing is to see familiar things in an unfamiliar way. One way to break yourself out of drawing what you think you see is to draw the negative space – to focus on the gaps. If I look at business and life and focus on—what is it? the gaps? the missed opportunities?—and not just the hammer-looking-for-nail gaps I instinctively see because of my own skills and experiences (oh, yes, there, that just needs a web app, an Emacs Lisp script), but gaps whether or not I know how to solve them myself—who knows where that can take us?

If I want radical growth instead of just incremental growth, I’ll need to be able to work with lots of other people’s Venn diagrams, orchestrating the intersections in order to make things happen, and helping people get closer to their own sweet spots.

This path is rougher and more uncertain, but I’ll learn a lot in the process. I want to get better at scenting value and scale, getting a sense of where the opportunities are. I want to figure out what things really cost in terms of time and energy. If I do that, then I can go after the things that turn out to cost (me? someone? a loosely-knit team?) much less than the value they create.

Reinforcement is good. For some things, I can reward and attune that sense by earning some of that value back (another fun experiment). For other things, I can get the value back in intangible ways. So I’ve been working on making more things happen: nifty ideas and trial balloons. The more ideas I can move through this experiment of creating value, the more I can learn from the successes and failures. It’s easier to start with something that’s already a good idea. Besides, it’ll work out wonderfully; it always does.

I’m still learning how to draw with different colours. Now I’m learning how to do that with life, too. Whom should I learn from? Who does this amazingly well?