Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What I Learned From Starting Fast Company

It's getting close to the end of the year.
A good time to clean out old drawers filled with even older files.
Here's one I just found: Lessons From Fast Company. It was a speech I gave in Brazil at a program organized by the remarkable Oscar Motomura not long after Bill Taylor and I exited the magazine that we had jointly created.
Here's what my speech notes say:
1. You have to believe in your own idea. I genuinely believed that Fast Company was 'destined' to happen--even though it took more than 3 years to go from business plan to launch.
2. You have to be open to others' input on your idea. Just because it is your idea and it is 'destined' to happen doesn't make it perfect from the inception. Write it down. Show it to others. They will see it differently. They will have good suggestions. They will have bad suggestions. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference. That's part of the process!
3. The world does not need your idea. It's important to remember that--people are getting along just fine without your idea. So learn to see the world through their eyes--explain how your idea solves their problem!
4. Who you are and what you've done are often the best arguments for your idea. Your track record counts as much as the merits of your idea.
5. Do you have skin in the game? If you really believe in your own idea, how do you show your commitment? If you want others to commit, you've got to make your own commitment clear and visible.
6. What's your motivation? Love is more powerful than money. If you're just doing it for the money, the day will come when you look at how little progress you've made on your idea and say, 'There must be easier ways to get rich.' If you're doing it for the love of the idea, that day will never come.
7. It's all an iterative process of learning and doing. Ted Levitt used to say, 'Make a little, try a little, sell a little.' The idea is to keep your own thinking moving forward by coming up with an idea, testing it, getting feedback, refining it. Lather, rinse, repeat.
8. If you plan some things you can leave other things looser. Leave everything loose and it's harder to innovate--constraints act as boundaries within which innovation can take place.
9. Your idea is only as good as the people you attract to work on it with you. It's all about the talent on your team, the allies you develop, the supporters you woo and win.
10. Remember Gandhi: The means are the ends in the making. Be the project you want it to be. Whether the project succeeds or fails in the long run may be less important than how you've conducted yourself in the pursuit of the project.

All Rights Reserved 2009 (c) Alan Webber, Rules Of Thumb