Ask “Why?”

Almost everything we have known or thought we knew is up for grabs.  Now is the time to question everything.  AND THEN, SO WHAT?  Start with staying socially connected.  And Why have we not learned in the past 88 years…

88 years ago, in 1929, the stock market crashed in the worst economic collapse in American history.  Everything changed.  Could that be where we are at globally now?

Well, Society is again rapidly changing, maybe the change is accelerating even faster now. Some people are waking up. We’re more aware of what we do, what we put in our bodies, and how we live, learn, work, and play.

I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn. Why? Partly because it’s interesting to see what other people are saying – informed or otherwise – also because I’m looking at sources of new customers or potential future partners and new ideas.  Why? Because it could be the thing that will help me get our company back into a broken economy with a relevant business.  Either the one I am running or a newly restructured one that finds opportunity in what’s been broken by isolation.

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I spent a lot of time inventing and reinventing things. Why? because I’m trying to imagine the company we want to be when we come out of COVID-19 isolation.  One of the things I’ve found is that the tactics and specific advice offered online are mostly useless across the board because it is all surface-level advice.  Maybe this post will be a little different.

Last week I was in a Zoom conference with over 250 people, most from tech startups like ours who were talking about “slingshotting” back into profitability once these Coronavirus isolation requirements are over.  A few guests there were talking about how they got through 9/11 and the 2008 GFC.  So this was not surface level and in an hour we covered quite a bit, including how the risks you take in a crisis are real risks with real uncertainties.

Why was I there listening? Because some of the guest speakers had credibility and relevance to what we do (that’s why!). I learned a few things that I thought were relevant; these were people who had come out of a crisis with good businesses.  And they were small companies before a crisis and bigger companies after.   They had some specific, actionable advice.

So, What did I learn?

First and foremost, talk to people, I mean, as in pick up the phone or the Zoom, Google Meets, Skype, whatever… and talk.  You have to use LinkedIn to find the right people, or get in the habit of trying to get more social, not just endless connecting.   The goal of being on LinkedIn (for your business) should be to get a phone call with someone you can talk to either about advice, your business ideas, or specific things you think you can do for them (and even sell to them or partner with them to sell to others).  For you, maybe just reconnect with people who knew you or know you.  I guess we only have Facebook for that. S**t!!

Second, the best habit to have right now is to Question Everything!! Why? Because the moment you make up your mind about something is the moment you stop growing, learning, and working towards a new future. 

Just as an aside, in Eastern Philosophy, people call the concept of questioning everything, waking up. So that just means there’s a pragmatic philosophical basis for this and just the simple reality that questioning everything forces you to look at what we are being asked to do.  We are in isolation…  

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Are the reasons for isolation real? Why? Is this isolation going to kill the economy?  Why? Is it going to save lives? Why?  What are we going to do to fix what is now a broken economy?  That’s the – what, why, how, the outcome –  ultimate questions right now and that’s why you need to be awake. And awake in the Eastern Philosophy sense.

I’m sitting here writing a blog post about the right things to be doing? Why? Because it is going to be one step in crystallizing the business I want mine to be; because that’s what the newly broken economy and the population is going to require; new ideas, new ways of working and a way to manage the social explosion of people wanting to get back together to live, learn work and play and there are opportunities in all of that. Isolation is breaking the economy and therefore it is breaking people.  We will all need to fix our businesses and ourselves at the new beginning this will bring.

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Here are some things I’ve learned in the past 48 hours:

  1. Talk to as many people as possible.
  2. The successful companies are doing one thing and one thing only (not that simple).
  3. If the businesses that come out of this intact are likely to survive.
  4. There are three buckets of things to do:
    • Innovation;
    • Improvement;
    • Scale (getting bigger and better at what you do);
  5. Shifts in product roadmaps:
    • Double down on value creation (that’s why you need to talk to people);
    • Everyone is thinking about survival  (that’s why you need to talk to people);
    • Focus on re-messaging and be nimble about how you go after customers  (that’s why you need to talk to people);
    • Change the web site to be the company you want to be at the end of this  (that’s how you need to talk to people);
    • Look at competitors and cherry-pick the best people once we come out of this  (that’s why you need to talk to people);
    • The easiest thing to do is go after the same customer type you have now  (that’s why you need to talk to people).
  6. Get onto the offensive parts of strategic and tactical plans:
    • Imagine how the world is going to be different and start catering to it now;
    • Create a stronger internal culture;
    • Crystalise product roadmaps;
    • Invent new products if necessary;
    • Hone your market view: double down on messaging, branding and;
    • Communications.
  7. Small businesses are going to depend on ingenuity and cash flow;
  8. Small businesses will have difficulty getting VC funding
  9. Pivot to bigger markets and bigger companies.
  10. Have a decade long view and maybe a 10-year plan; this may not be practical, but it will help to ignore market cycles and force your thinking into a stronger market position.
  11. Become a trusted advisor in a unique niche and be willing to give (some) stuff away.
  12. Keep active: publish videos, white-papers, blogs, and do more PR, but be clear about… why?  Up to you!
  13. Be aware that people will be accustomed to using technology like video conferencing and this will only increase the expectation of speed and efficiency for meetings and other activity.
  14. If you haven’t set up your home office tell me and we will help:; +61404634414.
  15. Meeting culture will change and it’s possible that people are NOW actually more productive in some cases than they were; unnecessary meetings will cease and they will become shorter.
  16. This will apply to other interactions and other technologies as well – personal interactions and personal dynamics will change.
  17. Students in high school and Universities are learning on their own or socially with their friends; some of them are frustrated because their peers are either slower or faster.  The fast ones are doing math because that’s how they’re wired; they still ask for help, but faster f***ing help; FAST like they think!!  
  18. The seemingly slow(er) students are talking to their peers online because they “feel dumb” and they help each other; they ask too but out of trust and with at least one parent or guardian and one friend (or more) on Facetime, Zoom, or some other medium; in their collective social intelligence, they will be faster en masse eventually; 
  19. Students who are doing it on their own need help too,  but mostly they need to know you are there. They are smarter than you and they will move on to their school work after a few questions.
  20. Students are using technology; Each side is frustrated with the other. The teachers are a whole other problem; we need two teachers for each class; one for the quick, solitary ones, and one for the more social ones; they need different mentoring.

The pragmatic basis for questioning everything is asking yourself why am In this situation or in this business, why did we start this in the first place; is it still relevant?  If it is, why?  If not what am I going to do; and, well, why? If you don’t question everything you won’t be awake enough to pick up a few broken pieces and help get our economies and our people back on track. 

That’s why!  

It could take 3-5 years or more to fully recover.  What we are going to do, we have to do faster.  We can because we have the technology that they didn’t have during the great depression.

“In other periods of depression, it has always been possible to see some things which were solid and upon which you could base hope, but as I look about, I now see nothing to give ground to hope—nothing from government.”

“Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and Determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “Press On” has solved and will always solve the problems of the human race”

– Former President Calvin Coolidge, 1932