The apprentice’s dilemma

The apprentice team were given restaurant space in Manhattan, New York, and a single day to get it ready: cuisine choice, chef selection, and interior design. The challenge was to win a Zagat survey competition. The project leader wasn’t paying attention, though.

Two members of the team met with Zagat representatives beforehand and reported to the project leader that their concept was a bad idea. The team stuck to their plan.

The restaurant opens; the decor’s stunning. The menu offers clever Asian fusion. The staff are neatly dressed, ready to serve, but no ones biting.

After the challenge, the team were beating themselves (and each other) up, and the project leader was fired.

An hour spent outside in the restaurant, observing the people in the neighbourhood would have revealed the market.

“We’re doing this.”

It’s possible that your product isn’t as good as the market wants it to be. But it’s also entirely possible that you failed to understand who it was for in the first place.

“This isn’t for you”

This isn’t something you’re supposed to say to your stakeholder. You’re certainly not supposed to feel good about saying this to your stakeholder.

But you should.

”This isn’t for you” shows the strength to respect the stakeholder. It shows that you’re not going to squeeze the scope, divert any attention, or insist that they shift their worldview. And it gives respect to those stakeholders you are seeking to serve, it says, “We’re doing this to solve your problem. We’re not doing this for them, we’re doing this for you.

Ying and Yang.

It’s the opportunity to both focus on helping the supporters who need you the most, and the permission to ignore those critics who shout from the sideline. This is the juxtaposition for delivering your best work.

Because it matters less what the opponents you’re ignoring think. What matters most is whether you’ve changed the stakeholders who champion you, the stakeholders who have collaborated with you, the stakeholders you’re are seeking to serve.

Even the greatest football team of all time has its haters. It’s impossible to create something with complete utility and totally satisfy everyone.

Changing the course of a river

A river changes its course naturally over time, altering its flow in a specific direction. It responds to the outside forces that shape its landscape and environment by adapting its shape as it moves towards its goal—of meeting the ocean.

You can channel a river, but it takes considerable effort. And if you build a makeshift dam with little consideration for its impact, you might end up with consequences downstream (and some muddy puddles).

When you seek to make your change—your best work, your future promise—it needs to shift the flow. It embeds when the shift is permanent. But even if it’s full of promise, it’s not going to have an impact if it doesn’t adjust the course.

This doesn’t mean you let the current overwhelm you.

It means you take a step back from the river and find a smaller stream that feeds it.

A place where you can make a difference. Start there, with energy and focus. Once that works, find another stream. Even better, mobilise your champions to influence the change.

Swim with the current

Mike Michalowicz is an author and an entrepreneur.

The URL of his website is his name.

But his name is ‘tricky’ to spell. And if you spell his name wrong, you’ll miss. No matter how near or how far, if you’re one letter out, you’ll end up somewhere else (or nowhere at all—404).

And Mike knows this.

What would you do if you had a website with a URL that was tricky to spell?

You could try and convey it carefully, clearly and slowly, each and every time, until you’re blue in the face. But people will still misspell it. Many would still end up somewhere else. It’s an ongoing battle.

So Mike swims with the current.

He gives them a secondary URL that redirects to his website, one which people can spell and, best of all, recall—

Simple, with a memorable story.

HT: Mike Michalowicz

What’s the minimum viable?

What’s the minimum amount of change that you can market? Find the least improvement that your customer is willing to accept and deliver that.

What’s the minimum amount of work that will validate your product? Figure out the underlying question that needs answering and check this.

What’s the minimum amount of stakeholders you can serve? Identify the smallest group of people that you can transform and change them.

Prioritise and iterate are the important words that guide your first increment.