How to fail at almost everything and still win big

This year, instead of setting goals, I’m going to try creating systems. I’ve been reading a great new book by Scott Adams that dives into the psychology of why New Year’s resolutions and personal development goals don’t work. The book is called ‘How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big: Kind of the Story of My Life‘ and it’s so good that instead of reviewing it, I’ve reprinted an excerpt so that you can hear directly from Scott. I’ve pieced together this except myself using a few of my favourite chapters. The excerpt is just a sample of the key ideas and you really should buy the book.

Scott Adams Dilbert
Scott Adams is the creator of Dilbert and an insightful observer of human psychology.

Scott Adams is the creator of Dilbert, one of the most popular and widely distributed comic strips of the past quarter century. He has been a full-time cartoonist since 1995, after sixteen years as a technology worker for companies like Crocker National Bank and Pacific Bell. His many bestsellers include The Dilbert Principle and Dogbert’s Top Secret Management Handbook. Enter Scott Adams

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Digital transformation

This year I had coffee with fifty strategists working in innovation, design, public relations and advertising. My work this year focused on technology startups and research for my book on B2B social media, so the coffees were a great way for me to keep my eye on agency land. All that caffeine also helped me to spot four new services that I think clients will be asking their agencies for in 2014.

Fifty Coffees with Strategists
To spot these agency trends I had coffee with fifty strategists from London, New York and New Zealand.

Clients will still want campaigns made, websites built and apps created but these services are becoming increasingly commoditised. Some agencies will focus on making things faster and cheaper but the best agencies will make money helping clients build their own capability.

I hate seeing good products that aren’t succeeding because they aren’t being noticed. I love working with people who have a great product but aren’t so great at communicating. I have done some of my best work with software developers, engineers, and scientists. These people are great at thinking (and building) but not so great at articulating their product to customers and investors. I’ve gradually become one of the go-to people in the London tech scene for how to market very complex technology products like big data, commercialisation of military technology, financial services and enterprise technology systems.

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Helping startups with equity crowdfunding

Equity crowdfunding is a new way of raising capital for startups. Kickstarter has proven a successful model for crowdfunding an idea (by pre-selling the product). Equity crowdfunding takes this further by allowing the crowd to buy shares in the company itself. The volume of alternative finance for startups, entrepreneurship and innovation is growing rapidly.

Value Proposition Canvas Hackathon
During the HackHumanity hackathon I realised that startups need help with equity crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding is a delicate balance of describing the product, the team, the business and the investment opportunity. Each of these need to be communicated in a clear, compelling and persuasive way. Often the teams with the best technical skill are not the best communicators.

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Foreword to Tickle: Digital Marketing

Dr Ross Brennan is the author of Business-to-Business Marketing which is the leading international text book on marketing for companies that sell their products and services to other companies. Dr Brennan’s textbook proved to be a key resource while I was researching my new book on social media ‘Tickle: Digital marketing for tech companies‘.

Business to business marketing
Dr Brennan is a co-author of the leading textbook on business to business marketing.

I wrote ‘Tickle: Digital marketing for tech companies’ primarily about B2B companies because they have unique challenges in managing their reputations online and reaching business customers. Dr Ross Brennan was kind enough to write a foreword to the book which has now been included in the latest edition. I’ve also reproduced it here as a guest blog post. Enter Dr Ross Brennan…

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Startup as a service

If you were the CEO of a large company, who would you turn to for help to recapture your lost mojo? How would you create, test and build new products? Big companies have been steadily getting worse at innovation, whereas startups have begun to eat the world. Small companies can move fast, take risks and attract talent.

Jon Gold at Makeshift
Startups can bring together designers (like Jon Gold, pictured) and developers in much more creative and agile ways. (Photo: Paul Clarke and Makeshift)

The brightest minds of the next generation are spending their weekends writing code at hackathons and quitting their jobs to build interesting startups. The jump is easier than ever thanks to the explosion of incubators and accelerators. It’s a brave new world, but it has left large, tired old companies looking for ways to become more agile.

A new trend is emerging where hot studios (that combine design, business and technology skills) are building startups from scratch for large companies. This new approach is reviving the patronage model from Renaissance Florence.

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Value Proposition Canvas Template

A value proposition is the place where your company’s product intersects with your customer’s desires. It’s the magic fit between what you make and why people buy it. Your value proposition is the crunch point between business strategy and brand strategy.

value proposition canvas
A value proposition canvas includes elements from behavioural psychology and design thinking.

When you’re starting a new project, or a new company, you need practical tools to help you focus on executing things faster and better. Good strategy tools exist only to help you focus on getting the right things done. The value proposition canvas is a fairly simple tool that quickly gets you to the ‘minimum viable clarity’ required to start building and testing a product or service.

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Management consultants vs. creative agencies

Management consulting firms want to move into the creative process, and creative agencies want to move into management consulting. It seems that everyone wants to swim upstream towards the boardroom and consult on innovation, customer experience and design thinking. The widely held theory is that there are good margins in this type of work (and let’s be honest, it is sexy as hell). But what no one really talks about is that the high-end strategy work is actually important because it leads onto the multi-million dollar implementation projects that secretly feed the biggest global agencies

Business Design
Management Consultants and Advertising Agencies are both fighting to move into Digital Innovation Consulting.

Over the years, I’ve worked in several of the grey areas between management consulting, advertising, and design thinking so I’ve seen some of these macro industry changes first hand. The toughest part of my career has always been finding the chink in a client’s armour that lets us get close enough to the boardroom to ask the really tough questions. It almost doesn’t matter what the starting point is for a project when your real goal is to get to the deeper issues inside a business. With all these shifting agency services, it’s hard for clients to know who to turn to these days for advice on big problems.

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Ethnography unpacked with Nick Bowmast

Nick Bowmast is a design researcher from New Zealand. He worked in London for over a decade and now splits his time between NZ and the UK. I wasn’t quite sure what a “design researcher” does, so Nick pointed me to a blog post about his tools of the trade. It’s a fun way to understand how a design researcher spends their time and the type of work that Nick does with clients.

Nick Bowmast
Nick Bowmast is a design researcher based in New Zealand and the UK.

I like understanding someone’s craft by looking at their tools. I’ve always found that reading about a professional’s equipment is a surprisingly good way to understand what they do. Most strategists are voyeurs of human behaviour. Maybe like a design researcher in a suit…

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Startup investing through a managed fund

Lance Wiggs is raising a fund to invest in high-growth tech startups. He’s ex McKinsey and has been working on the Better By Design programme for a few years so he’s a super smart guy. I’m excited about his journey but he’s made some mistakes along the way that we can all learn from. There are lessons in this story for all of us who are involved in capital raising for early-stage companies.

Lance Wiggs
Lance Wiggs is an consultant & investor who is raising a fund to invest in high-growth startups.

It’s useful to compare a few of the new ways that early-stage investing is happening around the world. Angel syndicates, follow-funds and accelerator funds are some of the most interesting ways of investing in startups today. They all put a layer between you and the startup that you’re investing in. But for lots of investors that’s a good thing.

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Marketing Channels: PR vs. Advertising vs. Design

Advertising, design and public relations all have something useful to contribute to social media. But they come from very different worlds and they each have hidden biases. Customers just experience the end result, but the way a company builds their reputation can be secretly swayed by the type of agencies that a company hires to help out with their social media. Owned, earned and paid media all add up to an overall impression of the brand.

Ad v design v PR
The business model of different agencies influences their approach to social media briefs.

I arrived in London at the height of the global financial crisis. Back then no one was hiring for Brand Strategists because it’s not a good look to do a new logo when you’ve just laid off 10,000 people. And it’s definitely not a good look to do a management workshop about the meaning of life to then choose the colour of the new logo when you’ve just laid off 10,000 people. So brand strategy (and in particular, the management consulting style brand strategy that I was most experienced in) had fallen off a cliff.

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