Why Entrepreneurs who want to ‘Change the World’ should learn from Damien Hirst and Harry Potter


by jeremywaite

Heartfelt criticism of your idea or your art is usually right (except when it isn’t…)

Check out this letter from the publisher of a magazine you’ve never heard of to the founder of a little magazine called Readers Digest:

Personally, I don’t see how you will be able to get enough subscribers to support it. It is expensive for its size. It isn’t illustrated… I have my doubts about the undertaking as a publishing venture”.

Of course, he was right–given his assumptions. And that’s the except part.



Criticism of your idea is usually based on assumptions about the world as it is. How was the publisher to know that the world would change it’s reading habits and turn Readers Digest into a multi-million dollar empire.

Think about Damien Hirst for a second. The world’s richest living artist. He could never have made it as an artist in the world as it was. He was one of the first modern artists to sell directly to buyers (cutting out the dealers and auction houses).

He also took the unprecedented step of having a price list of his obscenely expensive creations without explaining the logic of their existence to justify their price tag – fine art, cows in formaldehyde, bottles of religious drugs, diamond encrusted skulls… He broke many barriers to clear the way for a new generation of artists who now don’t know any differently.  In the beginning though, Hirst himself was written off by the art world because he was too rock’n’roll!

  • Harry Potter was rejected by just about everyone because for it to succeed the way kids read would have to change.
  • Starbuck’s didn’t listen when they were told, “No-one will pay $4 for a cup of coffee. Not even in New York”.
  • Analysts said that the world’s biggest book retailer needed to be on every High Street. Apparently no-one told that to Amazon.

Big ideas are always resisted initially because things need to change in order for them to succeed. Leer más “Why Entrepreneurs who want to ‘Change the World’ should learn from Damien Hirst and Harry Potter”

Put Leadership Training on the Front Burner

The recession prompted corporations to cut leadership programs, and the deficiency will show up—in their bottom lines

By Lynn Taylor

When organizations worldwide took belt-tightening measures after the recession officially began in December 2007, training in general was on the chopping block—and along with it went leadership training. In a 2008 study conducted by learning service firm Expertus, 48 percent of the 84 corporate and government training professionals surveyed reported they were slashing their 2009 training budgets. That was up from 41 percent the previous year.

As the recession progressed, organizations continued cutting these programs. A 2009 article in The National Law Journal noted: “Leadership consultants said that firms are reducing leadership training, scaling back earlier training commitments.”

Now that the economy is showing signs of strength, it’s time to bring back leadership training.


Dance of the Sandpiper | Kokrebellur
Image by Jnarin via Flickr

The recession prompted corporations to cut leadership programs, and the deficiency will show up—in their bottom lines

By Lynn Taylor
When organizations worldwide took belt-tightening measures after the recession officially began in December 2007, training in general was on the chopping block—and along with it went leadership training. In a 2008 study conducted by learning service firm Expertus, 48 percent of the 84 corporate and government training professionals surveyed reported they were slashing their 2009 training budgets. That was up from 41 percent the previous year.

As the recession progressed, organizations continued cutting these programs. A 2009 article in The National Law Journal noted: “Leadership consultants said that firms are reducing leadership training, scaling back earlier training commitments.”

Now that the economy is showing signs of strength, it’s time to bring back leadership training. Leer más “Put Leadership Training on the Front Burner”

Welcome to the Era of Creative Meritocracy

Imagine a world where the best ideas have the best chance to succeed. No more favoritism that places the wrong people on creative projects. Cut out the middlemen that arbitrarily recommend cost-efficient talent over the most deserving talent. Forget the corporate nepotism that appoints leaders based on relationships over merit. Every individual, team, and industry would benefit from a world where the most talented people got the most opportunity. I call this dream “creative meritocracy,” and I believe that advances in technology, online communities, and platforms that empower career independence will make this dream a reality in the near future.

Unfortunately, we’re up against centuries of entrenched practices unfriendly to merit-based opportunity. Most industries – and society as a whole – are plagued with inefficiencies, middlemen, and tainted systems for determining quality. It’s a sad truth: The quality of your ideas and talent is less important than who you know, who represents you, and what your name is. Why? Because the “old school” systems around us make it so.

Without creative meritocracy, we suffer because our talent and hard work aren’t enough to land the job. Clients suffer because they receive inferior work. Moreover, our industries and society suffer from mediocrity.

Call it depressing or unfair, but don’t accept it. Creative meritocracy is within our reach. It is our job as creative minds and leaders to foster an era where capability is matched with opportunity.

Here are a few ways we can usher in the Era of Creative Meritocracy:

1. Proper Attribution
In the modern day of transparency and easy access to information, we should be wary of any efforts to isolate talent. Headhunters are known to find talent and then send around pieces of portfolios and resumes without any names attached. They purposely conceal the identity of talent and, as a result, are able to override meritocracy. Oftentimes, headhunters will use one person’s credentials as bait and then offer up less qualified talent that yields a higher profit margin.

Creative meritocracy relies on transparency and direct attribution. Appreciation for one’s ideas and creative work must be directly credited to the source. The accumulation of appreciation (or credit) is the currency that buys opportunity.


Imagine a world where the best ideas have the best chance to succeed. No more favoritism that places the wrong people on creative projects. Cut out the middlemen that arbitrarily recommend cost-efficient talent over the most deserving talent. Forget the corporate nepotism that appoints leaders based on relationships over merit. Every individual, team, and industry would benefit from a world where the most talented people got the most opportunity. I call this dream “creative meritocracy,” and I believe that advances in technology, online communities, and platforms that empower career independence will make this dream a reality in the near future.

Unfortunately, we’re up against centuries of entrenched practices unfriendly to merit-based opportunity. Most industries – and society as a whole – are plagued with inefficiencies, middlemen, and tainted systems for determining quality. It’s a sad truth: The quality of your ideas and talent is less important than who you know, who represents you, and what your name is. Why? Because the “old school” systems around us make it so.

Without creative meritocracy, we suffer because our talent and hard work aren’t enough to land the job. Clients suffer because they receive inferior work. Moreover, our industries and society suffer from mediocrity.

Call it depressing or unfair, but don’t accept it. Creative meritocracy is within our reach. It is our job as creative minds and leaders to foster an era where capability is matched with opportunity.

Here are a few ways we can usher in the Era of Creative Meritocracy:

1. Proper Attribution
In the modern day of transparency and easy access to information, we should be wary of any efforts to isolate talent. Headhunters are known to find talent and then send around pieces of portfolios and resumes without any names attached. They purposely conceal the identity of talent and, as a result, are able to override meritocracy. Oftentimes, headhunters will use one person’s credentials as bait and then offer up less qualified talent that yields a higher profit margin.

Creative meritocracy relies on transparency and direct attribution. Appreciation for one’s ideas and creative work must be directly credited to the source. The accumulation of appreciation (or credit) is the currency that buys opportunity. Leer más “Welcome to the Era of Creative Meritocracy”

Hard Work: What’s It Good For?

A meme has been floating around for some time now about hard work – and how it is overrated. I’ve come across a number of “How I Work” articles by prominent entrepreneurs that talk about the merits of “sometimes” heading into the office, watching lots of television, and questioning the need for a 40-hour workweek.
Many of these articles profile people who have built multi-million dollar businesses – companies that required a 24/7 work ethic during the start-up phase. No doubt, in the early days, these same folks had rigorous schedules, spent long nights overcoming major technical challenges, and developed loyal communities – user by user – through ceaseless efforts.

So why all this talk about chilling out from those who must have worked tirelessly to get where they are? Something doesn’t add up. This trendy new approach to work seems absent of the ambition and relentless drive necessary to make ideas happen.

Certainly, it’s possible that these successful entrepreneurs have started to coast a bit – and with millions of customers, it is their prerogative to do so. I’m also aware that as we get older, start families, and settle down, it’s natural to think about how to work smarter. A 24/7 schedule isn’t sustainable forever. But I still can’t help but wonder if these entrepreneurs are sharing the right message?

So why all this talk about chilling out from those who must have worked tirelessly to get where they are? Something doesn’t add up.

The push towards tremendous achievements – the determination we see in visionaries ranging from Steve Jobs to your everyday start-up founder who quits her day job to pursue a dream – is what drives bold entrepreneurial pursuits. Such journeys, I have found, require incredible amounts of sheer energy, focus, and time.

Having recently concluded four years of interviews for a book on the topic of making ideas happen, I can say one thing for sure: Hard work is the single greatest competitive advantage. Ideas don’t happen because they are great. The genius is in the execution, aka the “99% perspiration” that has become this site’s namesake.

Perspiration implies sweat, self-discipline, and (yes) occasional exhaustion. I think this is what Malcolm Gladwell teaches us in his book Outliers when he proposes that a true mastery of anything requires 10,000 hours of doing it. There are no shortcuts to lasting success.

Hard work is the single greatest competitive advantage.


A meme has been floating around for some time now about hard work – and how it is overrated. I’ve come across a number of “How I Work” articles by prominent entrepreneurs that talk about the merits of “sometimes” heading into the office, watching lots of television, and questioning the need for a 40-hour workweek.
Many of these articles profile people who have built multi-million dollar businesses – companies that required a 24/7 work ethic during the start-up phase. No doubt, in the early days, these same folks had rigorous schedules, spent long nights overcoming major technical challenges, and developed loyal communities – user by user – through ceaseless efforts.

So why all this talk about chilling out from those who must have worked tirelessly to get where they are? Something doesn’t add up. This trendy new approach to work seems absent of the ambition and relentless drive necessary to make ideas happen.
Leer más “Hard Work: What’s It Good For?”

Critical Thinking, Underpinning of an Effective Business Strategy

The-qualities-of-leonardo-da-vinci-mindmap
By now you’ve all befitted from the experience and generosity of my Twitter #kaizenblog chat co-host Elli St. George Godfrey. If you don’t follow her, make sure you add her handle to your stream @3keyscoach — you can thank me later.

With Elli, we’ve been able to tackle more conversations from differing points of view — I think about branding and behavior from a customer experience and contextual relationship building point of view, she works deeply with the entrepreneurial aspects of leadership.

Ever since we started brainstorming topics for our weekly chats both by email and phone, I’ve been able to think more crisply about iterative growth and momentum, which are critical components of strategy. The coach in Elli is a perfect counterbalance for my creative spark — as I said the other day, I can go from zero to Italian in no time.


The-qualities-of-leonardo-da-vinci-mindmap
By now you’ve all befitted from the experience and generosity of my Twitter #kaizenblog chat co-host Elli St. George Godfrey. If you don’t follow her, make sure you add her handle to your stream @3keyscoach — you can thank me later.

With Elli, we’ve been able to tackle more conversations from differing points of view — I think about branding and behavior from a customer experience and contextual relationship building point of view, she works deeply with the entrepreneurial aspects of leadership.

Ever since we started brainstorming topics for our weekly chats both by email and phone, I’ve been able to think more crisply about iterative growth and momentum, which are critical components of strategy. The coach in Elli is a perfect counterbalance for my creative spark — as I said the other day, I can go from zero to Italian in no time. Leer más “Critical Thinking, Underpinning of an Effective Business Strategy”

Rethinking the Role of a Manager

Your willingness to sit up and take notice needs to be just as strong as if a customer were to call and complain. If possible, drop what you’re doing, focus all of your attention on the idea generator, take a deep breath, and begin a series of questions that demonstrate your interest. If you cannot drop what you are doing, schedule some time — as soon as possible — for the idea originator to pitch you.

And whether the pitch is now or later, your response — in the form of exploratory questions — needs to be as genuine as possible. Consider some of the following openers:

* “That sounds interesting. Can you tell me more?”
* “What excites you the most about this idea?”
* “What is the essence of your idea – the core principle?”
* “How do you imagine your idea will benefit others?”
* “In what ways does your idea fit with our strategic vision?”
* “What information do you still need?”
* “Who are your likely collaborators?”
* “Is there anything similar to your idea on the market?


by Mitch Ditkoff

Rethinking the Role of a ManagerThe root of the word “manager” comes from the same root as the words “manipulate” and “maneuver”, meaning to “adapt or change something to suit one’s purpose”.

Although these words may carry a pejorative meaning, there is nothing inherently wrong with them. Indeed, into each life a little manipulation and maneuvering must fall.

For example, if the door to your office gets stuck, a handyman might need to manipulate it to get it working again. If there is a log jam at the elevator, you might decide to maneuver around the crowd and take the stairs. No problem there.

However, there is another kind of manipulation and maneuvering that is a problem — when managers use their position to bend subordinates to their will.

While short-term gains may result, in the end the heart is taken out of people. Leer más “Rethinking the Role of a Manager”

Are you an elite?

In the developing world, there’s often a sharp dividing line between the elites and everyone else. The elites have money and/or an advanced education. It’s not unusual to go to the poorest places on earth and find a small cadre of people who aren’t poor at all. Sometimes, this is an unearned position, one that’s inherited or acquired in ways that take advantage of others. Regardless, you can’t just announce you’re an elite and become one.

In more and more societies, though (including my country and probably yours), I’d argue that there’s a different dividing line. This is the line between people who are actively engaged in new ideas, actively seeking out change, actively engaging–and people who accept what’s given and slog along. It starts in school, of course, and then the difference accelerates as we get older. Some people make the effort to encounter new challenges or to grapple with things they disagree with. They seek out new people and new opportunities and relish the discomfort that comes from being challenged to grow (and challenging others to do the same).


In the developing world, there’s often a sharp dividing line between the elites and everyone else. The elites have money and/or an advanced education. It’s not unusual to go to the poorest places on earth and find a small cadre of people who aren’t poor at all. Sometimes, this is an unearned position, one that’s inherited or acquired in ways that take advantage of others. Regardless, you can’t just announce you’re an elite and become one. Leer más “Are you an elite?”