My notes from Sunny Bates’ talk on the new entrepreneurs.
I just finished reading a fascinating research paper co-authored by UCLA Associate Professor Maia Young, which begins to explore the reasons why some managers are considered charismatic and visionary, while others are not.
According to her research, the secret to being perceived as a visionary may be as simple as a magic trick: concealing the mechanics of your successes. As summarized in the Inc post detailing their results:
Researchers found that when people aren’t aware of the means by which a leader’s success is achieved, they tend to view that person as charismatic and visionary. It’s similar to the way a magician wows onlookers by obscuring the workings behind his tricks, says Maia Young, an associate professor of human resources and organizational behavior at the University of California, Los Angeles.
The research in this paper is definitely a starting point not an end point; as the researchers are careful to note, there are many interesting ways to design additional studies that will provide more detailed information about how these mechanisms actually work. In their words:
One could investigate expectations when success is achieved through known means, but when the means are not specified. To what extent do the descriptions of inexplicable success hinge on the notion that the key to success is completely unknowable, as opposed to merely being unknown currently?
But the basic association remains clear: successful leaders are judged to be more charismatic, more desirable, and more visionary if nobody sees them working hard. The implications are clear: the more you can manage your public image to show effortless success, the more people will consider you a leader with a “special talent” and an “inexplicable ability to succeed.”
Post image from Daniel on Flickr.
The personal computer revolution was arguably started by a now-famous electronics tinkering group called the Homebrew Computer Club. The transformational effects of the personal computer can hardly be overstated now, but at the time, the idea of a computer in your home — let alone your pocket — was bizarre future fiction.
There is a parallel today, in fact. A relatively new technology that exists mostly in large warehouses and in the garages of tinkerers, and which sounds like an utterly ridiculous thing to have in every home: 3D printers.
Like personal computers, 3D printers have the capacity to transform an entire portion of our economy from one based on scarcity to one of abundance.
A humble presenter, Bre showed off some of the truly remarkable things that people are already doing with 3D printers at home — like repairing unrepairable centuries old harpsichords by printing the parts that can’t be bought.
When you look at Makerbot’s Replicator 2 it’s impossible to avoid thinking of Apple’s personal computer. At a little over $2,000 it’s a pricey hobby machine, but the cost is not much greater than a good computer, today.
This transition will be faster than the last one. The pace of invention is increasing, and the Replicator is not the only 3D printer on the market, some of which are capable of printing every component needed to make…themselves.
Without trying too hard, I can think of several things around the house that I could use a 3D printer for. Replacing the knob for the oven fan, which is apparently something that can’t be bought at Home Depot or True Value anymore. But I could print it.
Modifying the iPhone cradle that came with my original iPhone to fit and work with the iPhone 5. Or Just building crazy toys for my nearly-four month old child. Why not, right?
Once the usefulness becomes obvious — and to be fair, the process of making or acquiring a 3D software model to print becomes more accessible — I think the spread of 3D printing will be unstoppable.
“By the time your customers tell you they want something, it’s too late.” – Carol Bartz, former CEO of Autodesk.
You don’t necessarily have to listen to what your customers tell you they want to run a customer-centric business. As Steve alludes to in his recent post about Mickey Drexler, there is a debate floating around about whether you should do as Steve Jobs did, and “ignore the customer,” or you should do as others, such as Drexler do, and center the entire business on the customer.
I think it’s a false dichotomy. I think that you can have a totally customer-centric business and not listen to your customers at the same time.
Customers don’t live in your world. The average customer isn’t going to think five or ten years down the road in your industry. They’re not going to be thinking about how changes in all of the related industries are going to alter the way your product is going to have to work. Your customer is thinking 6-12 months into the future. Specifically: will this thing be useful to me over the next year?
If you set your company or product direction based on that kind of short term, rather than long term guidance, then you’ll be unprepared for changes in the market when they arrive.
However, you can absolutely listen to your customer’s needs with the current product. You can incorporate changes selectively based on what you know will be relevant in the future. And importantly, you can make serving their needs the central focus of your company. But remember that they don’t necessarily know what they want in the future, just what they want now.
Ray Kurzweil is a famous author and futurist. One of his most widely reference works is a book that is now six years old, but which discusses a theory with startling ramifications. The book is called The Singularity is Near, and theory is actually fairly straightforward.
It goes like this: throughout human history, the rate of innovative progress has increased. It took centuries to go from handwriting to the printing press, but going from the landline to the cell phone was much faster, and so on into the future.
The main point is that the future is being invented much, much faster than most people expect, and the time we need take to invent it is shorter every year.
So if the pace if invention and innovation is ever increasing, do we need to be worried about a drop in long-term R&D investment? Or is it just that formerly long-term innovation is now happening in time frames we consider short-term?