Free coffee, next exit
That’s the most effective billboard one can imagine, particularly if it’s typeset properly and if the coffee is good.
Most billboards aren’t nearly as useful, because the wrong service is promoted, or, more likely, because someone saw all that space and worked hard to fill it up.
The same thing is true of most websites. You know so well the why’s and how’s of what you built and how terrific it is, and the thought of using just a few words when a bunch will do is frightening indeed.
No, your solution doesn’t have to be simple or obvious. But the story about what it accomplishes does.
The goal of a marketing interaction isn’t to close the sale, any more than the goal of a first date is to get married. No, the opportunity is to move forward, to earn attention and trust and curiosity and conversation.
Simple, clear and actionable.
Dice Seth Godin
It’s possible to find flow — or effortless concentration on and enjoyment of a task — by tackling a challenge that’s meaningful and manageable. Having a job you love with a reasonable workload makes achieving flow a lot easier. Whether at home or at the office, there are lots of useful tips that help people stay focused at work and make the most of the day.
1. Pinpoint the problem. What causes you to lose focus? Is it fatigue, hunger, or a Twitter addiction? Figuring out the issue is the first step towards trying to fix it.
2. Plan ahead. Envision what the workday will look like before it happens. Write down what things need to get done or what you want to accomplish. (Even in the shower!) Setting goals can help people stay on track.
3. Get enough sleep. How much we sleep at night has a lot to do with how well we’ll concentratethe next day. Aim for at least eight hours of quality snooze time to avoid taking cubicle-catnaps on the hour.
4. Eat a good breakfast. Eggs Benedict may do more than jumpstart metabolism. Studies have found that eating breakfast can improve attention and concentration, too. For starters, try a tastyberry parfait!
5. Work offline. One survey found nearly 60 percent of disruptions at work come from email, social networks, and cell phones. So for tasks that don’t involve the Internet, try using old-fashioned paper and pen — perfect for brainstorming! Put your phone on silent and only check email occasionally (try once every hour). Limit time on social media too. You can “like” your friend’s cute picture of his dog later…
6. Do smaller tasks. Some psychologists suggest our brain works way too hard to process incredible amounts of information. So working on one large project can be overwhelming — like trying to plan a whole event at work in one afternoon. Split up projects, like ordering food and booking plane tickets and hotels, so they’re easier to accomplish.
7. Stay accountable. Let co-workers know what you hope to accomplish in a specific time frame. Knowing you’ll have extra eyes on your work may help you stay on task.
8. Sweat it out. Sometimes a little exercise can go a long way. Studies show working out canimprove concentration and attention span, so a quick trip to the gym can make time spent back at the office much more productive.
10. Time box. Work on one project for a specific amount of time, rather than working until something is finished. (Write emails until 2 pm, instead of stopping at inbox zero). This way weknow we can work hard until a certain time, and then be able to take a break.
11. Clean up. Anything from post-its to pretzels and family photos can become a distraction. Clear off the workspace and only have out what’s needed (laptop, notebook, water-bottle — check!) to help stay in the zone.
12. Try an app. Discard any distractions with a little help from technology. Certain apps can block websites (so long, Pinterest) or black out computer screen backgrounds so only one program is in view at a time. There are web tools that can calculate how much time is spent on websites, too. (Now that could be scary…)
13. Reward yourself. A little motivation can go a long way. Say, “After I finish this page, I’ll go buy a cookie!” (Try these vegan delicacies.) Watch that to-do list vanish in no time.
14. Take little breaks. Getting to the office early, working through lunch, and staying late doesn’t necessarily mean getting more stuff done. Short bursts of hard work followed by quick breaks can be more beneficial than never taking a breather, since the brain may just burn out.
15. Wear headphones. At Greatist we practice the “headphone rule”: No one’s allowed to talk to someone who’s wearing ear gear. It’s a great way to show you’re working on something important and don’t have time to chat. (Sometimes I don’t even have music playing – my secret!)
16. Try caffeine. Coffee or tea may help people feel more alert and able to concentrate in the cubicle. If iced coffee isn’t your cup of… coffee, try chewing gum, which may help increase alertness too!
18. Value your work. If you love what you do, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to focus on the work involved, not to mention be happier while you’re doing it.
In many settings, happiness and success are measured in terms of whether or not expectations were met (or exceeded).
From the stock market to tech to what’s under the Christmas tree, we let expectations determine whether or not something good has happened. Not whether it was useful or kind or productive or delightful, but whether it beat our fantasies.
There are two things you can do with this truth:
1. Spend a lot more effort managing expectations, and
2. Focus on the wonderful instead of the exceeded.
Brands and stocks and careers that are here for the long haul do both.
If you get the opportunity to hear Clayton Christensen hold court, seize it. Christensen is a Harvard Business School professor and renowned author and innovation expert, perhaps best known for his book “The Innovator’s Dilemma,” which had a profound influence on many thinkers and business leaders, including Steve Jobs. Speaking at BoxWorks in San Francisco today, Christensen was characteristically soft-spoken, self-deprecating and good-humored, even prompting Ron Miller to describe him as “the Steven Wright of business research” and the anti-Aaron Levie.
His talk ranged across the board, touching on theories of disruptive innovation, effective management, product development and customer interaction. Some of the highlights and most memorable pieces of wisdom centered around the fundamental but often confusing relationship businesses have with their customers. Naturally, when building a growth product, businesses commit tons of time, energy and resources to getting to know their customers better and building something that solves their problem.
But Christensen said that many businesses and startups often make a mistake here, one that may, at first glance, appear counterintuitive. “Understanding the customer is the wrong thing to do — it’s confusing,” he said, before citing Peter Drucker’s assertion that customers rarely buy what companies think they are selling.
Instead, what’s really important is understanding the job that customers are trying to accomplish, and only once an entrepreneur truly understands the need that a product or service fulfills for the buyer can they optimize their business or product. He used IKEA as an example of a company that has been around for 30-odd years and by now probably should have been disrupted. Yet no one has managed to copy them and improve on the model. That’s because, Christensen says, of its true understanding of the job that their customers want to do: “I want to furnish this place today.” Once they understood that, simple as it may be, they optimized their entire store flow, their shopping experience around that.
Most early-stage products overshoot eventual customer needs that emerge over time, he said, so entrepreneurs and developers should instead design for the mainstream rather than the ideal consumer or use cases. Only by touching the customer and interacting with them and studying their problems will design and product development be optimized. “Products that aren’t the best, but are affordable and usable, disrupt markets,” Christensen told the BoxWorks audience.
What’s more, every job that needs to be done (the reason for creating your product in the first place) has a social function that needs to be understood to provide the right experience. By nature, he said, products are easy to copy, but it’s much harder to copy the experience and social dimensions around the job.
One of the biggest problems with the cloud computing era is that the cloud provides such capacity that it can tempt people into developing apps and tools that no one actually needs. Instead, developers need to build for the jobs people are trying to accomplish. The real disruptive power of the cloud, he says, is that it makes it exceedingly easy for SMBs to accomplish their business tasks more affordably and efficiently. This is also the reason that he and many others anticipate modularity taking over the cloud and the industry.
The problem is that the current focus across tech on efficiency is succeeding in destroying jobs for many and creating capital for few: “Disruptive innovations create jobs, whereas efficiency innovations destroy them.” Metrics like IRR and RONA, in the end, funnel profits away from disruptive innovation and distract management from investing in what’s important.
Christensen also said that he fears for the future of Harvard Business School and others like it, as this year the number of people that applied to two-year business schools dropped 22 percent. The reason is that HBS and others are churning out graduates that can command high salaries, which is why they end up getting hired by private equity firms, hedge funds, etc. — those who can afford to pay it.
Operating companies don’t go to HBS to recruit, he said. Instead they’ve developed their own corporate universities to train future managers and executives, immersing them in everyday operations rather than classroom philosophizing. As a result, they are disrupting business schools because academia is focused on teaching theory, not how to get work done.
There are no doubt better ways to encourage disruption and innovation, and the trend seems to be one that’s moving away from Silicon Valley, as startups and accelerators are popping up across the U.S.
What do you think? Is disruptive innovation creating jobs, while efficiency innovations destroy them?
“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar. “