Richard Feynman on Science, Beauty & Doubt.

Richard Feynman's approach to the collection of knowledge is one of the most inspiring things I've ever encountered (thanks Nick Howes). If you haven't read "The Pleasure of Finding Things Out" then do it now. Take nothing as gospel. Be curious. Don't respect authority. Don't fear uncertainty. Embrace it. The people who are sure of their answers are the ones who scare me the most. Doubt is often seen as a weakness in business but it's in no way a bad thing. Doubt combined with optimism brings out the explorer in all of us. Exploring & experimenting is how we learn. 


3 Things from Seth Godin

1. Digital technology, especially computers and cell phones, can dramatically increase productivity.

2. More and more users of digital technology are small firms or individuals.

3. The vast majority of users of digital technology are totally lame in getting the most out of the investment of their time and money.

Amen. 

6 Ways to Guarantee a Terrible Meeting

We spend so much time talking to businesses about improving their digital output but so much of it comes down to smarter working practises based on better collaboration. This post on getting more out of meetings fits that really well. 

1. Don’t do any prep work – at all

Come unprepared, with no set agenda, and you’ll guarantee that nobody knows what you need to discuss.

2. Don’t stress about punctuality

Turning up late and having no end point in sight is a great way to ensure a long, badly organised meeting.

3. Invite as many people as possible

Fill the meeting with as many people as possible to guarantee too many opinions and lots of wasted time.

4. Attend every meeting you can

Going to every meeting you’re invited to, even if you can’t contribute anything useful, will make sure those meetings are a waste of time.

5. Host your meeting in a terrible venue

Holding your meeting in a noisy, overcrowded coffee shop will guarantee a terrible meeting, where nobody can hear what’s being said.

6. Don’t take notes

Don’t write anything down – just assume people will remember what was said, and what they have to do next, and your meeting will be pointless. 

'One Strategy, One P & L'

Great piece from John Moran on how a business should measure success. Too many agencies we work with have seperate P & Ls for every department. All the benefits of size and scale are lost as departments (TV, PR, mobile, social etc.) attempt to grow their profits at the cost of a) the work b) the agency and c) the client. 
 
"For a coherent strategy to work, then, the organization executing it must be measured as a whole, rather than as parts. In other words, if a company is to have a single strategy, it must be driven by a single P&L.
This may sound like an extreme position. Yet some of the world’s most successful companies operate this way. Apple famously has only one P&L, for which its CFO, Peter Oppenheimer, has direct responsibility. And while each of its major hardware product lines is priced to make a significant profit, it bundles in all its key software upgrades, products, services, and platforms for free. […]

It’s Apple’s single-company mindset that lets it give away industry-leading software and cannibalize its own products, which in turn has led to its unprecedented success.


For a coherent strategy to work, then, the organization executing it must be measured as a whole, rather than as parts. In other words, if a company is to have a single strategy, it must be driven by a single P&L.This may sound like an extreme position. Yet some of the world’s most successful companies operate this way. Apple famously has only one P&L, for which its CFO, Peter Oppenheimer, has direct responsibility. And while each of its major hardware product lines is priced to make a significant profit, it bundles in all its key software upgrades, products, services, and platforms for free. […]It’s Apple’s single-company mindset that lets it give away industry-leading software and cannibalize its own products, which in turn has led to its unprecedented success."

Smart stuff and a great spot from John Gruber. 

Boiling Frogs

So the myth goes, when a frog is placed in boiling water, it will jump out, but if it is placed in cold water that's slowly heated, it will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death. In many ways it is a perfect metaphor for how businesses (music, books, newspapers, TV etc) deal with potential disruption.

Clay Shirky says it best

The people in the music industry weren't stupid… they just couldn't imagine that the old way of doing things might fail. Yet things did fail… the industry's insistence that digital distribution be as expensive and inconvenient as a trip to the record store suddenly struck millions of people as a completely terrible idea.

Once you see this pattern – with the incumbents the last to know – you see it everywhere.

First, the people running the old system don't notice the change. 

When they do, they assume it's minor. 

Then that it's a fad. 

And by the time they understand that the world has actually changed, they've squandered most of the time they had to adapt.

Disruption is often hard to spot. Your competitor comes in, works for ridiculously small profits, you laugh at them and their measly profits, and then you realise your business has croaked… 

David Shrigley. Those who get it.

A friend sent me this and I just love it (way more than his slightly underwhelming exhibition at the Hayward Gallery). Chimes well for most things but particularly people working in and around digital marketing. 

The Great Dictator - some speech.


"I don't want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone if possible. We all want to help one another, human beings are like that. We all want to live by each other's happiness, not by each other's misery. Greed has poisoned men's souls, has barricaded the world with hate. We have developed speed but we have shut ourselves in:

Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want.
 Our knowledge has made us cynical, our cleverness hard and unkind.
 We think too much and feel too little.

More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost.

The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men, cries out for universal brotherhood for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world, millions of despairing men, women and little children.
 
Soldiers: don't give yourselves to these unnatural men, machine men, with machine minds and machine hearts. You are not machines. You are not cattle. You are men. You have the love of humanity in your hearts. You don't hate, only the unloved hate. 
You the people have the power, the power to create machines, the power to create happiness. You the people have the power to make life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure. Let us fight to free the world, to do away with national barriers, do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men's happiness."
Hear hear!

The Internet - There's no ‘them’. It’s just an awful lot of ‘us’.

Because the Internet is so new we still don’t really understand what it is. We mistake it for a type of publishing or broadcasting, because that’s what we’re used to. So people complain that there’s a lot of rubbish online, or that it’s dominated by Americans, or that you can’t necessarily trust what you read on the web.

Imagine trying to apply any of those criticisms to what you hear on the telephone. Of course you can’t ‘trust’ what people tell you on the web anymore than you can ‘trust’ what people tell you on megaphones, postcards or in restaurants. Working out the social politics of who you can trust and why is, quite literally, what a very large part of our brain has evolved to do. For some batty reason we turn off this natural scepticism when we see things in any medium which require a lot of work or resources to work in, or in which we can’t easily answer back – like newspapers, television or granite. Hence ‘carved in stone.’

What should concern us is not that we can’t take what we read on the internet on trust – of course you can’t, it’s just people talking – but that we ever got into the dangerous habit of believing what we read in the newspapers or saw on the TV – a mistake that no one who has met an actual journalist would ever make. One of the most important things you learn from the internet is that there is no ‘them’ out there. It’s just an awful lot of ‘us’.

From the brilliant Douglas Adams. 

Steve Jobs, innovation, art and leadership

Here's a great interview with Steve Jobs from Computer World in 1995 (I've edited it down to the best bits just over 7 minutes, you can see the rest here). In it he covers:

How small companies will always challenge big (the main idea behind The Innovators Dilemma).  

How difficult starting a business is (success or failure being mostly down to perseverance).  

How San Francisco became such a hotbed of invention (his answer: music, hippies, LSD and exceptional colleges).


I've been reading Jobs' biography which is long but pretty good. What really struck me was his complete respect for artists. He  understood the hard work behind great art and creativity ("Genius: one percent inspiration and 99 percent persperation" as Edison and Michaelangelo are both meant to have said).

He often talked about Apple existing at the intersection of art and technology. As Andy Hertzfeld (who was on the original Mac team but is now at Google) says 'Jobs thought of himself as an artist, and he encouraged the design team to think of ourselves that way too. The goal was never to beat the competition, or to make lots of money. It was to do the greatest thing possible, or even a little greater.' 

He was a terrible manager, awful to work for in traditional ways (rare praise, inability to delegate, used lies and manipulation excessively) but he knew all of this. The reason he was such 'an asshole' (his words) was because he honestly believed he was facilitating people to create the best work of their lives (they almost universally agree with this).

"He would shout at a meeting, 'You asshole, you never do anything right," Debi Coleman recalled. "It was like an hourly occurrence. Yet I consider myself the absolute luckiest person in the world to have worked with him."  

 

The tech industry, some unedited (and brilliant) thoughts from Gizmodo

Apple
You totally care more about design and user experience than any other major tech company in the world, and, by and large, make the best products for real humans... But I promise that you can be 20 percent less of a dick and still make great, beautifully designed products. Also, there's this thing called the internet; I hear you discovered it recently, and I'm really happy to hear that. I hope it's true. Oh, and iTunes really sucks balls. You should fix that.

Google
You're incredibly adept at collecting and sorting massive chunks of the world's information. I'd probably die before going back to life before your mostly excellent internet services—namely Search and Gmail and Maps. They make my life better, for the most part. But why can't you fucking design a phone or tablet or anything social that's actually easy for real people to use? If I had to choose between giving my mom an Android phone or a fucking pair of tin cans with a string behind them, she'd be stuck carrying very large purses for the next 5 years. Let some living, breathing people design your products. Just once! It might blow you away. Like Google+!

Microsoft
The most mindblowing thing in technology right now is your inability to make products that people love (with very few exceptions). Brilliant, creative people work for you, and they have seriously incredible ideas. You have more money than Jesus Christ's rich uncle. I have these crazy high expectations, these hopes that you'll blow me away and you totally let me down. Just try making something other than an Xbox that I can fall madly in love with, and that more than 5 other people will buy because you didn't wait until 3 years after the rest of the market to launch it? Please?

Amazon
The only thing I haven't purchased from Amazon Prime is a house. And blow. But using your video or music or apps service is like hunting through a bag of dicks for the movie I want to watch. Hire like a designer, or six.

Nerds
You know more about technology than anybody else, and anybody who knows less than you is a total dipshit. I love you for that. But normal people deserve wonderful technology too. And half the shit you call computing—running custom ROMs, reinstalling OSes, fucking with network settings—is like a chef sharpening his knives over and over and calling that cooking. Real computing is the actual stuff you do—cutting videos, editing photos, writing. Or at least it should be. Not the shit people do to make all of that work.

A lot of other companies
I really fucking hate the way you cede so much ground to Apple. You just let them do the shit they do. Why couldn't you launch a decent tablet before the iPad? Why are your tablets still shittier than the iPad, for the most part? Why do your laptops still, by and large, look and feel crappier than MacBook Pros? (Exception: ThinkPads.) Why are most of your phones the same fucking way? Does Apple have some secret monopoly on making well designed, well constructed, easy-to-use gadgets? I want to love your products. I really really really do. Just make amazing shit. That's the only rule. Make. Amazing. Shit.

Original here.