Saturday, May 12, 2007

You will succeed when you execute Powerful Advice

We think of advice as a suggested course of action coming from other people, from our environment. However we are most often our own advisors - we talk to ourselves before we reach a decision.

People think that the Decision is important; rather, it is the advice that precedes it.

We judge advice. It comes in four flavors: Neutral, Bad, Good, and Powerful.

Let us consider advice that is executed to reach a desirable outcome.

Neutral Advice is outside our taste buds. It is yet to be evaluated even if it is in our field of view; is floating outside of our zone. It can turn into Good, Bad, or Powerful.

Bad Advice is inappropriate and causes failure. We know it too well to dwell on it further.

Good Advice is wisdom, or wise rules. Good advice can turn out to be bad advice.

Powerful Advice is appropriate advice or "right" advice. When executed, it causes a multiplier effect. Fits exactly for our situation, fits exactly for our ability to execute. Aligns favorably with future events. Fills our sails to push us to Victory. You will succeed when you execute Powerful Advice.

For example: President Roosevelt received Powerful Advice from his advisors when they told him to risk devoting precious resources to develop the atomic bomb. From the American point of view, the war was over in days - but more importantly, America and other nuclear powers became dominant and unassailable from that point onwards, even today. Hitler ignore the same advice from Von Weizs├Ącker, his scientist.

Powerful Advice is always judged to be Good in hindsight. Good Advice if inappropriate, can turn out Bad and is not always Powerful. Neutral Advice can turn into Powerful Advice.

For example: President Bush was advised to go it alone in Iraq after they swept through in 19 days. The huge oil fields would free America forever from dependency on the Arab world. It was Good Advice, but inappropriate. So became Bad Advice. My advice was (in a rubbished letter to the local Editor but with no one to listen), turn it over to the United Nations so they would enlist muslim nations as peace keepers. End of Insurgency. This was from observing India's eerily similar and failed adventure in Sri Lanka in the 1980s - which resulted in Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's assasination by a suicide bomber. It was likely appropriate advice and so may even have been powerful - if executed.

From my earlier lament: Good Advice is a storehouse of wisdom. Individual or Collective. Our minds try to make sense of the past and try to function in the present to maximise selfish survival and prosperity by generating rules. These rules are based upon our experiences, education, upbringing, beliefs etc. Good Advice is simply rules and patterns extrapolating into the future. Because the future is unpredictable, so Good Advice may not always be right.

Powerful Advice is hard to recognize and is not the domain of the clever, educated, or even successful. Ordinary people may possess it at times.

For example: Wilma was a poor, black girl with polio, growing up in segregated America in the 1950s.She could not walk without braces until age 11. Good Advice would have told her to find fulfillment in the Arts or to be content with her lot in life. However from accounts, she watched her sister run on the track, and Powerful Advice within her, told her to run, too. Wilma Rudolph won the title of the "World's Fastest Woman" and became the first American woman to win 3 gold medals in the Olympics.

So, what are your thoughts on how to recognise and sieze Powerful Advice?

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The exasperating problem with advice

the right advice when executed well

can turn around a company
can prosper you
can diagnose a disease correctly
can prevent mishaps
can save lives
can better communities and organizations and even nations

but how to tell if it's the right advice except from hindsight?

the right advice doesnt always wear a suit, nor dresses up in the right educational degrees and qualifications.
the bearer may be clumsy, tattered, unintelligent, stupid to all.
the bearer may even be a failure.
may be experienced, or not at all.
on the other hand, being clumsy, unintelligent, tattered and uneducated, may be just that - and wrong too!

carefully analysed advice proffered up by a brilliant mind may be just as stupid if it lacks a key perspective or insight.
the right advice is crowned 'good advice', only in hindsight.
Before the final bell, the rest are mere hopefuls and pretenders.

talk is cheap, advice easy to offer.
an advisor without "skin in the game" (personal investment at risk), is just opinionating to puff up his ego; blowing smoke circles from his cigar into the face of a young inexperienced sap.

with so many newspapers, magazines, cheaper publishing, the internet and blogs (including this!), everyone is a pundit. Pretenders all?

advice that is general, "get lots of users for your beta product", or truisms like, "hire the brightest" or even "implement [current management or technical fad here]" will always be easy to dish out. But specific tailored advice on how to "get lots of users" takes effort, wisdom and thinking - and may in the end - be wrong.

right advice = powerful advice.

In the meantime, we are simply confused with this over-abundance.

Can you hedge your bets with advice - take some of this and some of the other? That may dilute your executing and lead to failure.

My current explanation: our minds try to make sense of the past and try to function in the present to maximise selfish survival and prosperity by generating rules and patterns. These rules are based upon our experiences, education, upbringing, beliefs etc. Advice is simply rules extrapolating to the future. The future is unpredictable (why?). So advice may not always be right.

(Why is the future unpredictable? Is there any link with Heisenberg's Uncertainty principle - or is it simply the large number of interacting variables?).

what are your thoughts about how to recognize the right advice?

Friday, May 4, 2007

Ideas are Worthless? Wrong! Ideas can solve problems

Some Venture Capitalists (VCs) and investors are keen to promote the idea that Ideas are Worthless. (for example, see Graham or Kawasaki)

Officially, this is so that they (investors in general) do not have to sign Non Disclosure Agreements (NDA) because they see many ideas and don't want to have their hands tied.

It is true also that many of the ideas they do see are indeed worthless, and an unobvious twist to a worthless idea can make it valuable. So we dont want the originator of the worthless idea to profit from the valuable twist.

Sometimes though, I also wonder if it is because they do not want to be held liable for any leaks, unintentional or deliberate.

For instance, if they have funded a startup which is working on the same problem, or in an overlapping area, then the temptation to 'help' their own venture by divulging the secrets of the outsider, is probably overwhelming.

By definition, you can only 'steal' something if it has worth and does not belong to you.

An idea is a seed; many ideas have to be discovered and implemented along the way for it to grow up. The initial fertilisation is essential, but differentiation into organs, the "other ideas along the way" must come along.

I know how true this was for juwo. In May 2005 when I decided to implement a prototype fulltime, I fully expected the initial seed - "skip to the important parts of an audio lecture" - to be done within one month. So I told my wife, "two months!" to manage expectations, and went to work.

It took me a full 10-12 months of fulltime work (60 hour weeks at a minimum) and 3 iterations to implement juwo. Perhaps I am really slow, or as I hold true, a saying I since developed - The Invention is in the Prototyping. In other words, no one could have seen the full concept of juwo at the outset. The journey had to be undertaken.

Well, what if I had implemented only the original scope (to meet my deadline)? Answer: the concept would have been stillborn. It would have remained an embryo.

But suppose, a team is trying to solve the same problems as juwo has solved. How long would it take them now? I am reluctant to write this. All they have to do is to play with juwo and figure out the key concepts. Which is why, I was fearful to release it for another year; until I found that no one will likely bother with it until it is successful.

Another example.

We replaced our dishwasher recently. The earlier model was only 4 years old and was put in by the builder of the house. However it did not wash dishes clean. This is because there was one rotating arm and one spindle that sprayed water on dishes that were placed in two racks. So dishes in the top rack often had sediment on them because dishes in the lower rack often blocked the spray. In other words the dishwasher would wash only dishes that were already cleaned by hand, and if there were only a few dishes loaded - and even then, took 1.5 hours to do it.

So this was a real problem for any dishwasher manufacturer.
When we shopped recently, I observed that all the models we saw, had done away with the spindle, and introduced 3 rotating arms - that would sandwich the 2 racks. This enables all 4 surfaces to be covered.

A simple solution in hindsight. But apparently, many models of dishwashers were manufactured, probably billions of dollars spent until someone had a bright idea to solve the problem. And then what happened? Apparently all the manufacturers copied or stole the solution. To avoid patent lawsuits, they all likely came up with variations on the same theme.

Conclusion: An idea can make all the difference.