Into the Unknown

It’s the first year anniversary of Felix Baumgartner freefall his way into the history books.

I just finished watching the documentary of mission.

Felix Baumgartner making his historic jump

Picture of Felix Baumgartner. Taken from: http://www.universetoday.com/97972/

Watch it here: http://stratos.rdioexclusives.com/documentary

(Not sponsored by Red Bull, Rdio, or anyone for that matter.)

Branding

Red Bull made the loudest branding move by being quiet and in the background. Take out a pen and paper: people love good content; people hate having something shoved in their face. Watch the documentary again, watch the Q&A video again, and watch the media coverage again. You’ll find that Red Bull was hardly pushed to the forefront.

Innovation

Disrupt, innovate, and revolutionize are overused words in the startup world. When you actually do something no one has done before, that’s innovation. If you looked at all the preparation and practice jumps, you’ll notice that there is a gradual progression in reaching the final jump. Another thing pointed out during the Q&A (http://stratos.rdioexclusives.com/landing) is that no one will likely break the records set by Felix. Basically, innovations are hard to come by. Luckily, innovations are overrated. Take their approach of gradually improving to reach a goal and apply it to any industry, product or service. Sometimes, to be a successful entrepreneur just means taking some existing thing and improving upon so much that you become an expert.

But then again, it doesn’t hurt to really land an innovation, doing something no one ever has.

Team culture

Through all the ups and downs of the Redbull Stratos team, what kept them together? What made the team trust in the figurehead of the project after Felix quit because of his anxieties in the suit?

Everyone on the team served a greater purpose. This was what motivated them to stay the 12 hour shifts. This greater purpose will also motivate employees through the tough, grueling days. Inspire them. Give them a grand vision.

Resources

These are great resources for any business people and, in particular, entrepreneurs.

Where Good Ideas Come From: the Natural History of Innovation

Steven Johnson

One can be conditioned to be more innovative. This made a strong case for why being a generalist in your undergraduate degree may be beneficial. Combining the lessons learned from this book with Steve Jobs’ Stanford commencement speech has helped me realize the benefit of my education in biochemistry and business management.

The Book of Five Rings

Miyamoto Musashi, translated by William Scott Wilson

This is a deeply philosophical book. I plan to reread this once in a while to hopefully derive more insight into business, marketing and life. It’s a very enjoyable read. My favourite quote is, “from one thing know ten thousand things”.

Steve Jobs’ Stanford commencement speech

http://youtu.be/UF8uR6Z6KLc

I also revisit this speech periodically. Whenever I feel I’ve lost my way or things have gone awry, this speech helps me connect the dots (and of course, sometimes you can only connect the dots looking backwards).

Inc magazine/website

Inc.com

A cornucopia of interesting articles and topics for any business person (not just startups/entrepreneurs).

Coles Note Calculus

Calculus: Early Transcendentals by James Stewart

This Coles Note reminds me of my ability to overcome challenges because I taught myself Calculus using this ~100 pager during the early years of high school. Not only does it serve as a symbol of triumph and perseverance, but it also helps refresh my memory so I can do some practice questions in the textbook by Stewart. Redoing calculus problems helps me stay fresh and sharp with my problem solving skills. It’s actually pretty fun (sometimes).

Workforce of One: Revolutionizing Talent Management Through Customization

Susan Cantrell

Frankly, human resources is one of the weakest links in any startup. This book will help any entrepreneur or manager retain talent and build an amazing team. By focusing on what motivates the individual, you’ll be able to harness their full potential.

An analogy from my marketing professor.

Tarun Dewan

An idea is like a virus.

I’m actually going to write an article about this. Stay tuned.

Be a mathematician

“I don’t know why people hire architects and then tell them what to do.” – Frank Gehry

 

One of my pet peeves is a client confusing what they want to do with what they’re trying to do. Often times, the two are different. Well, this usually isn’t the problem. The problem becomes when they stop listening to your suggestions. They stop listening to the very person they hired (as and expert).

Marketers should always be presenting solutions to clients that achieve their marketing/communications objectives. We shouldn’t be tools for our clients and just blindly do what they tell us. However, I’ve come to learn that providing solutions just isn’t enough. To be really good, stop being a marketer and become a mathematician.

Mathematicians (the really good ones) don’t just present a proof for a solution, they often craft the proof into its most elegant form.

From the wikipedia entry on mathematical beauty, a proof is elegant when it has these characteristics:

  • A proof that uses a minimum of additional assumptions or previous results.
  • A proof that is unusually succinct.
  • A proof that derives a result in a surprising way (e.g., from an apparently unrelated theorem or collection of theorems.)
  • A proof that is based on new and original insights.
  • A method of proof that can be easily generalized to solve a family of similar problems.

I’ll use two of the characteristics to illustrate how thinking more like a mathematician will make you a better marketer.

Minimal Additional Assumptions

As solution providers, we should aim to present solutions that require the least number of outside resources and, of course, at the lowest cost. I was tasked to take a documentary film about entrepreneurs across Canada. Naturally, a project of this scale would require hundreds of thousands of dollars. However, the solution I came up with involved university students being the main drivers for the event. This group of people has engaged interest in the entrepreneurial scene and are motivated to learn skills that will help them graduate with a job. Best of all, they often are willing to work for free. The way I envisioned this project coming to fruition is an small, core team of university students will liaise with me to coordinate the event.

Solutions should require the fewest resources and minimal investment.

Succinct Proofs

All the best solutions are often the simplest. A client of the firm I work for needed to know whether online traffic translated into offline traffic into the sales office. I identified that a segment of the audience isn’t willing to go into the sales office because there is no perceived value versus gathering information online. We then created a page specifically targeting this group to convince them visiting the sales office is an experience you won’t get from viewing a webpage. We put many tracked actions on the page to gage the visitors intent on visiting the sales office. Adding a simple page like that helped us better measure how effective our online advertising was. Ultimately, we were able to correlate online traffic with sales office traffic.

Keep solutions simple.

The Bernoulli’s Principle

Bernoulli's PrincipleAs fluids travel faster, their pressure decreases and vice versa.

When air, a fluid, travels over an airfoil (think airplane wing), the stream of air travelling over the wing has to travel faster than the stream going under it.
This creates a difference in pressure over the airfoil versus under it.
This, along with Newton’s second law, is what many consider to be the explanation to lift.
The difference in pressure causes lift and in turn, the difference in traveling speed of the two fluid streams causes pressure differential.
What does this have to do with entrepreneurship? Lots of things. It’s relatable to team dynamics and co-founder relations.

Team Dynamics

We often think everyone has to travel at the same pace to make progress. It doesn’t.
It’s okay for certain people/roles to move faster than others. Acknowledge and accept the fact that people move and learn at different paces. Communicate this fact with the rest of your team so they know as well avoiding needless frustrations.
New, more creative observations, and connections can be made when people come together and work, think and learn out of sync with each other.

Co-Founder Relations

The best partners I’ve had the pleasure of working with (also people whom I’ve learned the most from) are the ones that are opposite of me. The different perspective, mode of thinking and pace of taking action/learning helped me see problems and solutions in a different way. Working with someone too similar to myself would not have opened this perspective.
Yes, there were friction because of the different pace but over-communicating circumvents this. When we gain the other’s perspective we learn more and create a stronger bond.