Tag Archives: Adaptability

How to Build Innovative, Next-Generation Products Before Anyone Else Does


Put yourself entirely into the mind of a consumer (except slightly in the future):

  • How they will think.
  • How they will feel.
  • What your business will look like from their POV.
  • How your product will seem from their POV.
  • What they truly desire.
  • What would make their life easier, simpler, or more enjoyable?

Completely “become the customer” in your mind. Forget about reports, stocks, the shareholders, the technical limitations, and the cost. For a significant amount of time, try and see everything through their eyes, not through the experienced eyes of an experienced businessman.

Try not to recognize the technical limitations taught to you in engineering school. After all, the customer doesn’t care about those things. They do not exist to a customer.



“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology – not the other way around.”

– Steve Jobs

Imagine the product that would make your life easier, better, or more enjoyable in someway. Now take this imaginary device and try your best to explain it to your team. It’s at this point that you may realize certain “impossibilities” of the product you’ve imagined. You may realize at this point that the technology needed to build this product is a decade away, or is still in the experimental phase.



“You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.”

– Steve Jobs

Then, you simply build the product that you wanted, with all hands-on-deck to push along the development of any aspect of it that is not yet possible. Double the R&D funds to that department, if necessary. They key is to build the product that you imagined, and to do it faster than originally seemed possible.

You imagine first, then you make it possible.

“In the end, for something this complicated, it’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

– Steve Jobs

That is how you disruptively innovate an entire culture with a single product. By doing so, you get to the prize (the fully developed product) several years before your nearest competitor. Everything they do will be a rip-off of your invention, or a counter-move to catch up.


A Rough Start…

walt-disney-logo-20121These days, Disney pools in billions from merchandise, movies and theme parks round the world; however the filmmaker himself had a little rough beginning.

He was dismissed by an editor who stated the reason was that he lacked imagination and had no sensible ideas.


Subsequently, Walt Disney started variety of companies that didn’t last too long and all over was surrounded with bankruptcy and failure.

He eventually found a direction for success that worked…


Tender Hearts: The Gift of Emotional Sensitivity



This post was mostly stolen from a post that inspired me, with some added nuance and photographs by me. The original post touched my heart as if it had been written by me.

I post this as an original post because posting as simply a link will get ignored. I want people to see this. The original post can be found here and is part of a blog called “An Intense Life,”  geared towards the gifted and the struggles they face in life. Great content.


The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this:
A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive.
To him…
a touch is a blow,
a sound is a noise,
a misfortune is a tragedy,
a joy is an ecstasy,
a friend is a lover,
a lover is a god,
and failure is death.

Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create – – – so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.

Pearl S. Buck

This quote from Pearl S. Buck is one of my favorite descriptions of the emotional sensitivity I experience in my life  that I witness in my kids.

Albus Dumbledore

My Children Astound Me with Their Emotional Responses.
  • One son cried in his sleep for 6 months after a fish died in his classroom aquarium.
  • One son fretted for days because characters in a picture book were cruel to another character.
  • Small consequences for minor rule infractions lead to massive melt-downs and shame spirals.
  • A drawing that doesn’t show what the artist intended gets torn up, and before resuming the project, the artist rages through the house slamming doors and knocking down furniture.
  • Hugs are so intense that they knock the recipient down.
  • The vagaries of playground friendships become epic betrayals and melodramatic reunions.
  • A sunset stops us all in our paths as we gaze in silence together.
  • A pine cone becomes a beloved friend.
  • A favorite book is read and re-read and re-read; the cover falls off and we buy a new copy.
  • We laugh so hard we miss the next three jokes.
  • We cry over lyrics and are stopped short by poetry.
  • Music invades our bodies and forces us to dance.
  • We love hard, falling fast and deep, breaking inconsolably, and recover to do it again.
  • Our hearts break and rejoice with the pain and joys of others, friends and strangers alike.

We are emotional sensitivities walking this earth in physical bodies. Finely tuned receivers, we resonate with the frequencies of the world, amplifying sorrow and joy as they pass through us.

If we defend ourselves from the pain, we shut off our capacity for happiness. We must learn to accept that the price of being capable of feeling such joy is that we must also feel the deepest sorrows.

What tools do we have to manage these extreme emotions?

Strategic Thinking and Systems Thinking

Strategic Thinking is also called Systems Thinking, critical thinking, solutions thinking, future and forward thinking, long-term thinking, and high level thinking. It is not analytic thinking, which is tactical, mechanistic, reductionist, and either/or thinking, one-best-method.

  • Systems Thinking focuses on relationships, multiple outcomes, holism and boundaries, the environment, the larger system, and feedback.
  • Strategic Thinking is about clarity and simplicity, meaning and purpose, focus and direction, relationships and feedback, and desired outcomes.
They are the Same Thought Process

Despite being referred to differently, depending on the context, Systems Thinking and Strategic Thinking are fundamentally the same concept, only applied in different circumstances.  It is a heuristics-based mindset, exactly what’s needed more of in today’s business environment.

Systems Thinking Skills

Senge’s 11 Laws of Systems

In The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, Senge suggests 11 laws of systems that support that essential understanding:

  1. Today’s problems come from yesterday’s solutions. Leaders are happy to solve problems, but don’t always think about intended and unintended consequences. Too often, our solutions strike back to create new problems.
  2. The harder you push, the harder the system pushes back. Humans have a stubborn tendency to bully our way through tough situations when things are not working out as we would hope. We charge ahead without taking time to think through solutions to find better alternatives. Sometimes we solve problems; more often, especially in the current environment, we find ourselves up to our ears in more problems.
  3. Behavior grows better before it grows worse. Short-term solutions give temporary improvement at best but never eliminate fundamental issues and problems. These underlying problems will make the situation worse in the long run.
  4. The easy way out leads back in. Leaders often have a few quick fixes in their “quiver” of solutions that have brought quick and easy success in the past. Too often, the easy way out is retrofitting these fixes to any situation without regard to the unique contexts, people and timing.
  5. The cure can be worse than the disease. Often, the easy and familiar solution is not only ineffective but addictive and dangerous. It might even induce dependency.
  6. Faster is slower. At the first taste of success, it is tempting to advance at full speed without caution. Remember that the optimal rate of growth or change is far slower than the fastest growth or change that is possible.
  7. Cause and effect are not always closely related in time and space. We are good at finding causes, even if they are just symptoms unrelated to root causes.
  8. Small changes can produce big results — but the areas of highest leverage are often the least obvious. The most grand and splashy solutions — like changing company policy, vision, branding or tagline — seldom work for transforming change. Small, ordinary but consistent and repetitive changes can make a huge difference.
  9. You can have your cake and eat it too — but not all at once. Rigid “either-or” choices are not uncommon. Remember that this is not a dilemma if we change our perspective or the “rules” of the system.
  10. Dividing an elephant in half does not produce two small elephants. As a leader, failing to see the systems as a whole is at your peril. This flaw in perception and vision often leads to sub-optimal decisions, repeated tasks, lost time and energy, and maybe even losing followers.
  11. There is no blame. People and organizations like to blame, point fingers and raise suspicions about events, situations, problems, errors and mistakes. Sometimes we even believe the blame we throw around. Ourselves, the cause of events, situations, problems, errors and mistakes are all part of the system.
Understanding Systems Thinking is Essential

In fact, it is the foundation and catalyst of leading change.

W. Edwards Deming first pointed out the need to understand the system in post-World War II America. Deming stressed that learning must be emergent, designing out the system aspects that are wasteful, sub-optimizing, and unnecessarily redundant.

To improve performance, the system has to change because the system drives 95 percent of any organization’s performance. He also said that any improvement that does not involve human system change methods was doomed to failure in the short-, mid- and long-term; you cannot implement a new system in an old environment and anticipate success.

The Key to Achieving the Necessary Human Mindset Change Lies in Curiosity:
  • Ask questions.
  • Learn by doing.
  • Observe.
  • Think about what could be.
The Future

Deming’s messages fell on deaf ears in the U.S. post World War 2 boom. Thinking did not change, and thinking must change for the system to change.

Strategic Advisor

One of Two Dream Jobs – Part One

In a “War Room,” either at a huge company or entity of power, where super-complex decisions need immediate solving in high stress scenarios.

I should be sitting at that table…

or in the shadows…

sitting alone…


… only appearing at moments of extreme crisis.

The Ideal Scenario

idesofmarchmovieposter0 (1)

Ryan Gosling’s character of Stephen Meyers in The Ides of March.

I don’t believe he even has a job title, but is essentially running the entire show. He is a combination of an “ideas guy” and a person responsible for making sure those ideas get carried out. He brainstorms half-the-time and runs the operation the rest of it.

He doesn’t care about being the “number 1 guy,” he cares about the operation. He’s willing to let someone else get all the glory, despite  being the brains of the operation.

The only person who knows how important he is, is the person he’s providing that function. However, he does have power within the organization. Anything spoken from his lips to any member of staff, and it’s as if the President, himself, spoke it.

The Not-as-Ideal Scenario


Toby Jones’ character of Karl Rove in the film W.

He acted as the President’s secret “ideas guy.”


Although identified as a brilliant, ruthless, and devastating campaign strategist, his role was less involved. He didn’t really communicate with the other group members at all, except to the President, himself.

I’ve read from somewhere (this was referring to the real-life version) that “without Karl Rove, there would be no President George W. Bush.” I am simply making an analogy to the type of relationship that Rove played within the establishment.

I’ve been in both of these types of roles before (obviously not at a presidential level), and they can both work quite well.


If the person you’re providing that function for decides to screw you over, they can do so quite easily. Since it’s such a behind-the-scenes type role, it would be much more challenging to find new work.

Nobody knows what you’ve done or who you are.

Being Gifted

It’s painful.
It’s a blessing and a curse
It’s what you are.


The Pain

Understand that the psychological / existential turmoil you’re suffering through is an aspect of being gifted. Your mind causes the cognitive dissonance. It goes to battle with itself, due to complex and contradicting thoughts and emotions. It comes back stronger and more capable than before.

You don’t fit into the slots provided to you by society. The society that created these roles and expectations is falling apart… they’ve passed their expiration date.

You suffer because you see through the BS, but don’t know what you can do about it.

You’re lost out there in the world. Nobody has any way of comprehending what you’re going through or how to support you. Nobody understands how damned important you are to the future of our world.

Why me? What am I? Why am I this way?

We are a byproduct of society’s dramatic evolution, and the chaos unleashed by it.

We are adaptive, imaginative, and creative. We are built to make sense of all the chaos, and to create new paths unseen by others.

We are the cure.

It’s Not the Ideal Plan, but We’ve Been Left with no Alternatives

Societal evolution created a ton of problems, but also countless areas of opportunity. It also created certain people built with a natural specialty for embracing this.

We were sprinkled around the globe, and left with little to no support for development.

However, we are out there.

There is No “Path” for Us

We have to seek out and find one another.

We have to identify giftedness in other people when we see it, and reach out to them.

We must help them to recognize, understand, and embrace what they are.

We need to team up, collaborate, and create environments, allowing us to fully unleash our innate capabilities.

We Were Dealt a Shitty Hand

Is that going to stop us from seeking out solutions?

Are we going to let the past generation’s lack of foresight prevent us from using our own?


If you want to turn off the #gifted inside of you, not deal with this BS, and just live a normal life…

… I regret to inform you that this is not possible. And if you could, would you really want to?

Embrace What You Are

We see possibility, where others see dead-ends.

We solve problems, where others bitch and whine.

We are the future.

Cinnabon and Innovation: What Could They Possibly Have in Common?


One of the most hilarious things I’ve ever heard in my life is when Louis C.K. is talking about an incident at a Cinnabon while passing through an airport.

That this event is hilarious, comes second to the fact that it uncovers universal truths about who we really are as people and as a society.

First, enjoy the video:

The last part of this hilarious event represents innovation, technological advancement, and societal evolution.

He says, “Look, I’m eatin’ that Cinnabon either way. You’re the one that decides whether or not we end up in the paper tomorrow.”

The future is inevitable, like it or not.

The impact that technology and these new ways of seeing things has had on society, occurring primarily in the last decade or so, is not just going to up and vanish.

It’s an obvious storm building for several decades.

The only reason a company is surprised by these new shifts, to put it bluntly, is because they haven’t been paying attention.

They may check the weather channel every day, but they are only listening to today’s or this week’s forecast.

They’ll have umbrellas ready when it’s likely to be a rainy day, and they’ll know to wear shorts because of the heat wave expected to come into town.

They prepare and safeguard themselves for today and soon, but do they prepare themselves for the future?