Social Action: Here is an intriguing idea. If a complete stranger offered to donate money to charity if they could have dinner with you, would you accept? I love the way that Franke James tells this story. Why wouldn’t it work elsewhere?
Entrepreneurship: Paul Graham has another winner – Startups in 13 Sentences. Another look at ways to win with a new venture.
Fun: I have talked before about the TED conference. Check out what David Merrill from MIT can do with Siftables, a computerized tile, that he and his team have built.
Marketing: Over at the Startup Blog, there were some good ideas and resources about improving your results from using PR, by focusing your copy on terms that are search engine optimized.
Big Ideas: Yesterday I wrote about Matt Miller’s book, The Tyranny of Dead Ideas. One of his other assertions in the book hit me pretty hard. He talks about the Lower Upper class in America. The Lower Uppers are those at the lower end of the Upper class. Those professionals, doctors, architects, lawyers, senior corporate executives and the like have been told all their life that the world is a meritocracy – you will earn in accordance with your merit. The financial meltdown has dealt these folks a different reality. When they see hedge fund managers making billions personally while losing their client’s funds, when they see corporate executives like Bob Nardelli take home hundreds of millions of dollars from Home Depot while not moving the stock price at all, when they see Stan O’Neal rewarded with a severance package worth over a hundred million while leaving Merrill Lynch in a position where it had to be sold — these Lower Uppers, to use a line from the movie Network, are” mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.” Matt wrote a column in the Daily Beast where he talks about the positive things that might come out of this.
I am currently reading The Tyranny of Dead Ideas: Letting Go of the Old Ways of Thinking to Unleash a New Prosperity. The author, Matt Miller is a former White House aide during the Clinton administration and a contributing editor at Fortune. The premise of the book is that there are a number of dead ideas that we as citizens and elected officials deal with every day. The six that he discusses in detail are:
- Our kids will earn more than we do
- Free trade is always good, no matter who gets hurt
- Employers should be responsible for health coverage
- Taxes hurt the economy
- Schools are a local matter
- Money follows merit
In a remarkably non-partisan way, Miller describes the historical basis of these ideas and how world events have overtaken them. He then prescribes some ways to change our national discussion on each of these ideas.
Dealing with dead ideas is not only on the national agenda. Imagine yourself in a room with colleagues and a moderator. You are trying to solve a vexing business problem. The moderator urges each attendee to “think outside the box”. Even with all of the brainstorming techniques available, it is exceedingly difficult to break through our ingrained thought processes.
Essentially, humans use shortcuts in critical thinking. These shortcuts are called experience. If we have burned our fingers on a hot stove, we learn that we shouldn’t touch the stove. But what happens when the environment changes? If we use an induction cooker, since the range does not generate heat, you can safely touch the stove.
It’s the same in our businesses. Think about how often we say “Oh, we can’t do a fixed bid” or “We have to offer this product in 30 different sizes”. What old baggage is holding us up from even thinking about potential solutions?
What dead idea can you challenge today?