A collection of quotes from LKY on a whole host of subjects
Lee’s pragmatism and unwillingness to be influenced by external pressures characterized his leadership style: “I was never a prisoner of any theory. What guided me were reason and reality. The acid test I applied to every theory or scheme was, would it work?”
Between Japan and Europe, we must make Singapore the best place to bunker and repair ships, either in drydock or on water. Once we have established ourselves as the ship repairing and shipbuilding centre, we will remain so for a very long time. For once supremacy has been established, whether it is an airport, a harbour, or a dockyard, it is very difficult for any other place to dislodge us. For others have to compete against an established centre with superior facilities, higher skills and expertise, and long-standing established customers.
Hard-headed industrialists and bankers of developed countries never take unnecessary risks. They look round the world for places where there is political stability and industrial peace before they invest. In Singapore they find such a place. Hence the massive inflow of capital, machinery, technological know-how and banking expertise.
Deep fluency in being able to see from other’s perspectives
We can build up this team spirit, this esprit de corps, where every individual gives of his best for the team, for the nation, to achieve its maximum. And the team, the nation, in turn, takes care of the individual, fairly and equitably. The art of government is the art of building up team spirit.
A society to be successful must maintain a balance between nurturing excellence and encouraging the average to improve. There must be both cooperation and competition between people in the same society. The Singapore cooperation and competition have improved standards of life for all.
Singapore has survived and prospered by making ourselves relevant to the world. In the last century, we traded in spices; this century, in tin and rubber. After independence in 1965, we moved into simple manufacturing. Now, we are in wafer fabs, pharmaceuticals and Asian currency units. As the world economy changed, so did we.
We have made home ownership the cornerstone of Singapore’s public housing policy – the vast majority of the population own, not rent, their homes. Ownership is critical because we were an immigrant community with no common history. Our peoples came from many different parts of Asia. Home ownership helped to quickly forge a sense of rootedness in Singapore. It is the foundation upon which nationhood was forged. The pride people have in their homes prevents our estates from turning into slums, which is the fate for public housing in other countries.
It is not the individual performance that counts. Of this, I’m quite certain. You can have a great leader, you know. If the herd hasn’t got it in it, you can’t make the grade. The herd must have the capacity, the stamina, sufficient social cohesiveness to survive.
One of the by-products of a migrant community is that it produces a population of triers. Whatever else they may lack, the offsprings of migrants are prepared to try anything to improve themselves. Having left tradition, their history, their past behind, they have only the future to go in quest of.
An island city-state in Southeast Asia could not be ordinary if it was to survive. We had to make extraordinary efforts to become a tightly knit, rugged and adaptable people who could do things better and cheaper than our neighbours, because they wanted to bypass us and render obsolete our role as the entrepôt and middleman for the trade of the region. We had to be different.
Our way forward is to upgrade our levels of education, skills, knowledge and technology. Life-long learning is a must for everyone in this knowledge economy with rapidly changing technology.
Even in the sixties, when the government had to grapple with grave problems of unemployment, lack of housing, health and education, I pushed for the planting of trees and shrubs. I have always believed that a blighted urban jungle of concrete destroys the human spirit. We need the greenery of nature to lift up our spirits. So in 1967, I launched the Garden City programme to green up the whole island and try to make it into a garden.
As a nation, we must have other goals. Economic growth is not the end itself. After the success of the economy, you want to translate it into high standards of living, high quality of life, with recreation, the arts, spiritual fulfilment, and intellectual fulfilment. So, we are also spending considerable sums for the arts, which will create a more gracious society.
Politics is about human beings and their lives. It is an art, not a science. It is the art of the possible. In Singapore, it means what is possible, given a hard-working people, with a realistic understanding of our narrow economic base and the need for social discipline and high performance, to keep ahead of other developing countries with low wages and more natural resources.
If democratic socialists are to make a contribution to the course of events, they must cease to think in terms of abstractions. They must give meaning to socialist ideals in pragmatic and realistic policies to produce changes for the better in the daily lives of their peoples.
If you want to be popular, do not try to be popular all the time. Popular government does not mean that you do popular things all the time. We do not want to be unpopular or to do unpopular things. But when they are necessary, they will be done.
How do you think today’s Singapore came about? Because everyone knows if I say that we are going in a certain direction and that we’re going to achieve this objective, if you set out to block me, I will take a bulldozer and clear the obstruction. I leave nobody in any doubt that is where we are going and that any obstruction will be cleared. So there were very few obstructions. So we got the highway cleared and travelled to our destination.
When you put up an idea which I know is wrong and believe profoundly to be wrong and will do us harm, I must crush it. I don’t crush you, I crush your idea. I mean, if I’m wrong then my ideas deserve to be crushed. Maybe ‘crush’ is a harsh word, but this is a harsh world. It is a contest of whose idea is right because if it is wrong, we are going to do harm to many people.
The weakness of democracy is that the assumption that all men are equal and capable of equal contribution to the common good is flawed.
Contrary to what American political commentators say, I do not believe that democracy necessarily leads to development. I believe that what a country needs to develop is discipline more than democracy. The exuberance of democracy leads to undisciplined and disorderly conditions which are inimical to development. The ultimate test of the value of a political system is whether it helps that society to establish conditions which improve the standard of living for the majority of its people plus enabling the maximum of personal freedoms compatible with the freedoms of others in society.
The very fact that we are not challenged is a pretty strong mandate.
There is no easy way to win power or stay in power. If the PAP does not renew itself regularly with fresh blood from the younger generation, stay honest and clean, upgrade the economy and improve the education and skills of our people, to have economic growth and bring a better life to people, it will soon begin to lose seats and eventually be defeated and ousted. So the PAP accepts the realities that the world is changing and we have to adapt ourselves to this different world. We are not stuck in any policy, theory or ideology.
The system that we inherited from the British was lopsided. Too much emphasis was laid on the examination and the paper qualification. We were, therefore, rearing a whole generation of softies, who are clever; who wore spectacles but who were weak from want of enough exercise, enough sunshine, and with not enough guts in them. That was all right for a British colony, because the officers came from England [and] had the necessary brawn and toughness. It was they who gave the orders and our people just executed them. That is not good enough. We have to give our own people the orders. And you have to throw up a whole generation capable of that leadership, conscious of its responsibilities, jealous of its rights, not allowing anyone to bully it and push it around, prepared to stand up and fight and die. That kind of a generation will endure till the end of time.
One of the reasons why Singapore thrived was because so many of the merchants, both British and non-British, when they gave their word, they kept to it, and the government when it gave its undertaking, invariably honoured it.
Great leaders mirror the qualities of the nations they lead.
We have continually to draw out younger leaders to fulfil the roles played by the traditional community leaders. Those with the higher social conscience must come forward to give of their time to get things done for the community. This is one of the strengths of Singaporean society, the absence of class divisions. It grew from our immigrant history. All started at or near the bottom. The successful immigrants have a tradition of helping the less successful.
Good governance includes the pursuit of national interest regardless of theories or ideologies. Good government is pragmatic government.
No army, however brave, can win when its generals are weak.
Singapore’s progress, its verve, its vitality is assured because the administrative machine works. There is no grit. You don’t have to grease somebody to crank up the machine. We must keep it that way. To ensure this, I am thinking of an amendment to the law. The innovation is: if any official is found with wealth which cannot be explained and there is uncorroborative evidence of corruption, his whole property can be sequestered.
Singaporean teachers feel unhappy at the higher salaries paid to native English teachers. Well, this cannot be avoided. We have to pay them what will bring them to Singapore – the market rate in the UK plus an extra to attract them to Singapore. I frequently meet expat bankers, executives of multinationals, indeed occasionally expat officers working for the Singapore government on contract, who are paid more than I am. I have learned not to let it disturb me.
It would be stupid for us not to recognise that language and culture is a stronger force that motivates human beings than political or ideological ideals.
I learnt as a student that a word has three meanings: what the speaker intends it to mean; what the mass of people understand it to mean; what I understand it to mean.
I paid a heavy price for not having learned Mandarin when young. To this day I meet my teacher/friend once a week to keep my Mandarin alive. Every day I spend 20 minutes listening to Mandarin lessons on tape and 15 minutes reading ZaoBao, or Chinese newspapers online. These keep up my passive vocabulary.
Every time I think of people whom I have met and known as friends in school or in college, I think of those who became too de-culturalised too quickly. I had a friend who was a Sikh. He threw his past away: he shaved his beard; he threw away his turban; he had a haircut. No harm at all. But something happened to him and in next to no time, he was doing foolish things. He lost his anchorage. You know, it gets very difficult for a ship without an anchor in a harbour when it gets stormy. I want you therefore, to have your anchorage. But slowly, we must begin to learn to have the same basic points of anchorage. It may take a hundred years.
Whatever our race or religion, it is what we produce that entitles us to what we get, not our race or religion. Developing the economy, increasing productivity, increasing returns, these make sense only when fair play and fair shares make it worth everyone’s while to put in his share of effort for group survival and group prosperity.
A US-style constitution failed [in the Philippines] long before Marcos declared martial law. It was re-adopted in 1987 by President Aquino. The system worked in America because of a super-abundance of resources and riches in a vast underpopulated continent. I do not believe that Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong or Singapore could have succeeded as they have done if they had to work under such a constitution, where gridlock on every major issue is a way of life. And you will notice that since the Vietnam War and the Great Society some 28 years ago, the US system has not functioned even for the United States.
If the US tries to thwart China’s growth, China will surely want to return the compliment when it can do so.
Japan’s best investment is in the younger generation of potential leaders of China. The more Chinese students there are in Japan, especially the children of central and provincial leaders, the better the prospects for long-term understanding and cooperation between the two countries.
Americans are not criticising Singapore because they are concerned about democracy and human rights enjoyed by three million Singaporeans. Whether Singapore succeeds as a multiracial community in Southeast Asia or fails makes little difference to the future of America. Their real interest is what Freedom House has stated, that Singapore sets the wrong example for China, showing China that it can maintain social discipline and order with high economic growth but without becoming a full-fledged American-style democracy. This is the reason why the American media always attacks Singapore.
From time to time in the history of human civilisations, more civilised, more cultivated societies, with higher standards of living, have been overrun and subjugated by barbaric and less advanced groups. So the Roman Empire fell. And so successive Chinese and Indian civilisations were conquered by virile warrior races, who were socially and culturally of a cruder order, and less sophisticated in their social organisations. We must be on our toes all the time. We must never allow this to happen to Singapore through our growing self-indulgent and soft.
Our basic approach is never to allow fears and tensions to grow and mount in intensity. Early preventive action can forestall an ugly build-up. So whether it is a communist conspiracy to create pressure points for mass action, or growing interracial or inter-religious frictions and tension, they have to be defused early.
The communists failed because it was a propaganda based on the barricade, and you get men running to the barricades only if they are really hungry, really desperate. Then, they are prepared to take up the stone, throw it into the glass window, turn the car over and burn it. When they are not desperate, when they are reasonably fed, reasonably clothed, I won’t say contented, but not altogether frustrated and dissatisfied, then argument and reason become operative factors.
Mao Zedong said: “A single spark can light a prairie fire.” LEE: A prairie fire will only start if there’s a dry spell.
Communism, like so many other things, is best met when one knows it and gets immune to it. I believe the policy of complete isolation from communist thought, tactics, thinking, policy, is a dangerous thing. One day the windows will come open and like the South Sea islanders, when they first meet the tuberculosis bacilli, we will all perish. It is better to let these things come in gradual doses, containable, enough to generate a counter toxin in our wholesome society.
The difficulty arises from America’s expressed desire to make China more democratic. China resents and resists this as an interference in its domestic matters. Outside powers cannot re-fashion China into their own image. Let us not forget that even China’s conquerors like the Mongols in the 13th and 14th centuries, and the Manchus in the 17th to 19th centuries, could not change Chinese culture. Instead China changed them and they were absorbed and assimilated. The language and culture of its conquerors could not overcome Chinese language and culture.
Fortunately, we never attempted to subsidise rice or other staple foodstuffs. Those governments which have done so face grave problems, as more and more of their revenue goes into feeding more and more mouths at subsidised prices, generating overpopulation, under-education, low economic growth, massive unemployment and resulting social unrest. And this is what has happened because elected governments in several new countries have baulked at taking unpopular decisions.
While the western MNCs have the know-how, the Asian conglomerates have the know-who as they are conveniently plugged into the social, cultural, political and business networks in the region.
Like Nehru, I had been influenced by the ideas of the British Fabian Society. But I soon realised that before distributing the pie I had first to bake it. So I departed from welfarism because it sapped a people’s self-reliance and their desire to excel and succeed. I also abandoned the model of industrialisation through import substitution. When most of the Third World was deeply suspicious of exploitation by western MNCs, Singapore invited them in. They helped us grow, brought in technology and know-how, and raised productivity levels faster than any alternative strategy could.
Every citizen already feels he has a stake, a sense of proprietorship, in the stability and progress of Singapore. Every citizen can expect to get his commensurate shares of the prosperity to which he has contributed.
For over 30 years we have aimed for an egalitarian society. If we want to have successful entrepreneurs, Singaporeans have to accept a greater income disparity between the successful and the not so successful.
Knowledge and technology once disseminated, cannot be put back into the bottle and corked up.
We cannot predict which of our younger managers, engineers and professionals will have the entrepreneurial flair. It has to be by trial and error, tossing them into the deep end of the pool.
Corporations that get their ideas from only one culture will lose out on innovations.
Japanese people have been excellent in perfecting technologies. The standard example was the way they improved on the Chinese abacus which has seven beads, two above, five below, rounded and noisy. The Japanese reduced the seven beads to five, one above, four below, with sharp edges, silent and fast. So too Japanese chopsticks. The pointed ends make it easier to manage small rounded morsels like peanuts that are difficult to handle with the Chinese chopsticks. This ability to improve on present technology is worth preserving and maintaining. But improving on what others have invented is not enough. You have to be like the Americans and invent products that others have not thought of, that will be desired and bought by billions across the world.
No nation has ever become the major power without a clear lead in technology, both civilian and military. From the Roman legions, to the naval powers of Portugal, Spain and Great Britain, to Germany in World War I and the US post-World War II, great power status was achieved by those nations that were able to harness their technological advantage for holistic development of their civilian and military capabilities.
In the earlier stages of our labour movement, the trade union often became a place of refuge for the inefficient, the slack, the lazy and the anti-social. As has happened elsewhere, these are the first to join the union to seek protection against the natural desire of any employer to be rid of bad workers. […] I am not asking our trade union leaders, in an open democratic society, to take on the role of management. But I do urge them, with the help of these new laws, to stop giving cover to those who do not pull their weight. We must avoid slipping into a situation where trade unionism is the practice of protecting the weakest and the slowest worker and, with everybody being paid the same wage, nobody will have the slightest incentive to work harder than the weakest and the slowest.
We are mindful of the dangers of high welfare and unemployment benefits, watching the consequences of this compassionate policy on the job-seeking habits of the unemployed. Visiting the major cities of the industrial countries, I am struck by this curious phenomena of high unemployment and yet a shortage of waiters, cab drivers, nurses and garbage collectors. Some jobs are not worth doing, as a result of welfare benefits. Whatever principles may be applicable in highly developed industrial countries, for a resource-poor country like Singapore, hard work, and high performance amply rewarded, is the best way to attract capital and technology into the country to generate wealth.
When people get equal handouts, whether or not they work harder or better, everybody then works less hard. The country must go down. It is when people are encouraged to excel by being able to keep a large part of the extra reward earned by their extra efforts that the society as a whole becomes wealthier and everyone thrives and prospers.
I believe that life is a process of continuous change and a constant struggle to make that change one for the better.
Even in the capitalist West where they have tried throwing money at problems, what is the end result? You go down New York, Broadway. You will see the beggars, people on the streets. Worse than in the 1950s and in the early ’60s before the Great Society programmes. Why? Why did it get worse after compassion moved a President, motivated with a great vision of a society which was wealthy and cared for, could look after everybody – the blacks, the minorities, the dispossessed, the disadvantaged. There is more unhappiness and more hardship today and more beggars, more muggers. Why is that? Have we not learnt? Where are the beggars in Singapore? Show me. I take pride in that. Has anybody died of starvation? Anybody without a home left to die in the streets and have to be collected as dead corpses? Because we came to the realistic conclusion that the human being is motivated by instincts that go deep down into the basic genes of life. And the first basic instinct is to protect yourself, and stronger than that, to protect your offspring so that there is the next generation. You kill that link, you have killed off mankind.
East Asians are highly competitive peoples training themselves to win life’s marathons.
My experience in governing Singapore, especially the difficult early years from 1959 to 1969, convinced me that we would not have surmounted our difficulties and setbacks if a large part of the population of Singapore were not imbued with Confucian values. The people had a group cohesion and a pragmatic approach to government and to the problems in society. Confucianist traditions have made Chinese Singaporeans revere scholarship and academic excellence, and also respect officials when they are chosen on the basis of their scholarship.
They accepted that the interests of society were above that of the individual. They did not believe in the unlimited individualism of the Americans…One fundamental difference between American and Oriental culture is the individual’s position in society. In American culture an individual’s interest is primary. This makes American society more aggressively competitive, with a sharper edge and higher performance. In Singapore, the interests of the society take precedence over that of the individual. Nevertheless Singapore has to be competitive in the market for jobs, goods and services. On the other hand the government helps lower income groups to meet their needs for housing, health services and education so that their children will have more of an equal chance to rise through education.
The first principle of any civilisation is orderly living and the rearing of the young.
There is one aspect of this process of change or modernisation which we must avoid at all costs – that is the break up of the three-generation family. The three-generation family is a rarity now in Western Europe and in America. Yet it is still common in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong, despite their industrialisation and modernisation. It is a question of family structure, of social framework, of filial ties and bonds, which hold family units together. Our strong family structure has been a great strength for continuity in bringing up our next generation. The family has transmitted social values, more by osmosis than by formal instruction. We must preserve this precious family structure if our society is to regenerate itself without loss of cultural vigour, compassion and wisdom. There is another compelling reason why we must preserve the three-generation family: simply, that we do not have the land to build the flats needed if we break up the three-generation family.
That we have the will, the ability and the discipline with which to acquire higher knowledge and new skills, there is little doubt. The question is whether the next generation will have the same drive to keep well out in front fighting against the complacency which greater comfort and ease bring in their train.
If I have to choose one profession in which you give the most for the least it is probably teaching – if you take it seriously. You have to have the temperament for it to coax, to stimulate, to cajole, to discipline a young mind into good habits. You must have an aptitude.
We have given every student, regardless of language, race or religion, equal opportunities for education and employment. Hundreds get scholarships every year, over 150 to go to universities abroad. All are judged and rewarded according to their performance, not their fathers’ wealth or status. Economic progress has resulted from this and made life better for all. This has checked communist subversion and recruitment, especially of good cadres.
Performance in examinations depends upon two factors: nature and nurture – nature being the natural intelligence of the child, nurture being the training and education. Or to use computer language, it depends on hardware and software, the hardware is the size or capacity of the computer, and the software is the teaching or educational programme. What weightings are allotted to hardware as against software, or nature against nurture, is a matter of deep controversy between the experts, the psychologists and doctors. The fact is, individuals are born with different capacities. What we must set out to do, therefore, is to help students achieve the maximum potential of whatever nature has endowed them with. In other words, to nurture them, to give them the software, to encourage, support and help them to achieve their fullest.
I had never thought of nature/nurture through this analogy and find it intriguing
If we want high morale, we must have high standards. If we want high standards, the law must be enforced fairly and firmly. There will be no squatters or beggars sleeping on our pavements doing their ablutions in our drains. People will be housed and cared for. Hawkers will not clog up the main streets. There will be thorough and proper cleansing every day of the year. Laws will have to be passed to help rid us of the malpractices that have crept into our workforce. Only a year before last, malingering and shirking and sabotage to create overtime and treble pay for public holidays was a way of life. Discipline and efficiency must be re-established.
It is Asian values that have enabled Singapore to contain its drug problem. To protect the community we have passed laws which entitle police, drug enforcement or immigration officers to have the urine of any person who behaves in a suspicious way tested for drugs. If the result is positive, treatment is compulsory. Such a law in the United States will be unconstitutional, because it will be an invasion of privacy of the individual.
Rest on laurels? I wish I could do that. No, you rest when you’re dead.
I always tried to be correct, not politically correct.
At the end of the day, what I cherish most are the human relationships. With the unfailing support of my wife and partner I have lived my life to the fullest. It is the friendships I made and the close family ties I nurtured that have provided me with that sense of satisfaction at a life well lived, and have made me what I am.
What I got out of it
Amazing lessons from one of our generation’s great leaders and nation builders. Do what works, be pragmatic, honor incentives and human nature, have conviction
Law of leadership – Better to be first than it is to be better. Create a category you can be first in
Law of the category – if you can’t be first in your category, create a new one you can be first in. Forget about brands, focus on the category
Law of the mind – better to be first in people’s minds than first in the marketplace. Changing people’s minds is nearly impossible – you have to blast into people’s minds rather than trying to slowly change it over time
Law of perception – marketing not a battle of products, but a battle of perception
Law of focus – the most powerful force in marketing is owning a word in a prospect’s mind. Come to dominate one word/attribute and people will give you the benefit of the doubt with others too. This word must be unique and others be willing to take the opposite stance (quality can’t be your word because nobody would take the opposite)
Law of Exclusivity – two companies cannot own the same word in a prospect’s mind. Mass marketing cannot change this.
Law of the Ladder – There is a hierarchy in the mind that prospects use in making decisions. On each rung of this ladder is a brand name. Your marketing strategy should depend on how soon you got into the mind and consequently which rung of the ladder you occupy. Ok if number 2, but have to admit to it and use it to your advantage (Avis – we’re number 2 and we work harder because of it)
Law of Duality – in every market, it eventually becomes a 2-horse race, with about equal market share. Third place is a difficult place to be (called the trouble Sprint was in as the number 3 player)
Law of the Opposite – if you’re shooting for second place, your strategy is determined by the leader, leveraging their strength into a weakness
Law of Division – over time, a market will divide into 2 or more. Beware the folly that many business leaders fall into of thinking that categories are converging. Instead, address each emerging category with a new brand name
Law of Perspective – marketing effects take place over an extended period of time. The long-term effects are often the opposite of the short-term. Discounts or sales help short-term but hurt in the long run as you are conditioning people to only buy when there’s a sale. Everyday low prices is a better strategy
Law of Line Extension – there’s an irresistible pressure to extend the equity of the brand. This is the most violated law in this book. Stay focused – when you try to be all things to all people, you inevitably wind up in trouble. Line extension usually involves taking the brand name of a successful and putting it on a new product you plan to introduce. Marketing is a battle of perception, not product. Less is more. If you want to be successful today, you have to narrow the focus in order to build a position in the prospect’s mind.
Law of Sacrifice – This law is the opposite of Law 12: You have to give up something in order to get something. There are 3 things to sacrifice: product line, target market and constant change. Generalists are generally weak, so narrow your focus. Your target market is not what you are marketing (Marlboro reds and cowboys actually targeted everyone). You also don’t need to change your position every year – keep doing what works
Law of Attributes – For every attribute, there is an opposite, effective attribute. You don’t need to copy the leader and it’s often better to search for an opposite attribute that will allow you to play off against the leader. All attributes are not created equal and you must try and own the most important ones. You cannot predict the size of a new attribute’s share, so never laugh at one.
Law of Candor – candor is disarming, When you admit a negative, the prospect will give you a positive. Every negative statement you make about yourself is instantly accepted as truth. Your negative must be widely perceived as a negative. You have to shift quickly to the positive. The purpose of candor isn’t to apologize. It is to set up a benefit that will convince your prospect.
Law of Singularity – Trying harder is not the secret of marketing success. History teaches that the only thing that works in marketing is the single, bold stroke – the unexpected. To find that singular idea of concept, marketing managers have to know what’s happening in the marketplace.
Law of Unpredictability – While you can’t predict the future, you can get a handle on trends, which is a way to take advantage of change. One way to cope with an unpredictable world is to build an enormous amount of flexibility into your organization. Good short-term planning is coming up with that angle or word that differentiates your product or company. Then you set up a coherent long-term marketing direction that builds a program to maximize that idea or angle. Not a long-term plan, but a long-term direction.
Law of Success – Success often leads to arrogance, and arrogance to failure. Objectivity is what is needed. Brilliant marketers have the ability to think like how a prospect thinks. They put themselves in the shoes of their customers
Law of Failure – Failure is to be expected and accepted. Too many companies try to fix things rather than drop things. Admit it and move on
Law of Hype – The situation is often the opposite of the way it appears in the press. When things are going well, a company doesn’t need the hype. When you need the hype, it usually means you’re in trouble. Real revolutions in the industry don’t arrive at high noon with marching bands. They arrive unannounced in the middle of the night and sneak up on you.
Law of Acceleration – Successful programs are not build on fads, they are built on trends. A fad is like a wave in the ocean, and a trend is the tide. Like the wave, the fad is very visible but it goes up and down in a hurry. Like the tide, a trend is almost invisible, but very powerful over the long-term. Paradox: if you were faced with a rapidly rising business, with all the characteristics of a fad, the best thing you could do is to dampen the fad and stretch it out.
Law of Resources – First get the idea, then get the money to exploit it. Without adequate funding, an idea won’t get off the ground and you need money to stay top of mind
What I got out of it
Quick read with a ton of takeaways – Marketing is a battle of perceptions, not products or services; Create a category that you can be first in (and own that singular word); use leader’s strengths against them; avoid line extension (different brands for different categories)
This book describes design strategies – the proper arrangement in space and time of images, words, and numbers – for presenting information about motion, process, mechanism, cause and effect. These strategies are found again and again in portrayals of explanations, quite independent of the particular substantive content or technology of display.
The first part of this book examines the logic of depicting quantitative evidence. What principles should inform our designs for showing data? Where do those principles come from? How can the integrity of quantitative descriptions be maintained in the face of complex and animated representations of data? What are the standards for evaluating visual evidence, especially for making decisions and reaching conclusions? The second part considers design strategies, often for the arrangement of images as narrative. Here the issues are more visual – and lyrical – than quantitative. The idea is to make designs that enhance the richness, complexity, resolution, dimensionality, and clarity of the content. By extending the visual capacities of paper, video, and computer screen, we are able to extend the depth of our own knowledge and experience. And so this part of the book reports on architectures of comparison and narrative: parallelism, multiples, and confections
Those who discover an explanation are often those who construct its representation
Many of our examples suggest that clarity and excellence in thinking is very much like clarity and excellence in the display of data. When principles of design replicate principles of thought, the act of arranging information becomes an act of insight
My 3 books on information design stand in the following relation:
The Visual Display of Quantitative Information is about pictures of numbers, how to depict data and enforce statistical honesty
Envisioning Information is about pictures of nouns (maps and aerial photographs, for example, consist of a great many nouns lying on the ground). Envisioning also deals with visual strategies for design: color, layering, and interaction effects
Visual Explanations is about pictures of verbs, the representation of mechanism and motion, of process and dynamics, of causes and effects, of explanation and narrative. Since such displays are often used to reach conclusions and make decisions, there is a special concern with the integrity of the content and the design
These books are meant to be self-exemplifying: the objects themselves embody the ideas written about. Enchanted by the elegant and precise beauty of the best displays of information, and also inspired by the idea of self-exemplification, I have come to write, design, and publish the 3 books myself.
Clear logic of data display and analysis includes:
Placing the data in an appropriate context for assessing cause and effect
Making quantitative comparisons. The deep, fundamental question in statistical analysis is compared to what? Therefore, investigating the experiences of the victims of cholera as Snow did is only part of the search for credible evidence; to understand fully the cause of the epidemic also requires an analysis of those who escaped the disease. With great clarity, the map presented several intriguing clues for comparisons between the living and the dead, clues strikingly visible at a brewery and work-house…
Considering alternative explanations and contrary cases. Sometimes it can be difficult for researchers – who both report and advocate their findings – to face up to threats to their conclusions, such as alternative explanations and contrary cases. Nonetheless, the credibility of a report is enhanced by a careful assessment of all relevant evidence, not just evidence overtly consistent with explanations advanced by the report. The point is to get it right, not to win the case, not to sweep under the rug all the assorted puzzles and inconsistencies that frequently occur in collections of data
Assessment of possible errors in the numbers reported in the graphics. Snow’s analysis attends to the sources and consequences of errors in gathering the data. In particular, the credibility of the cholera map grows out of supplemental details in the text – as image, word, and number combine to present the evidence and make the argument. Detailed comments on possible errors annotate both the map and the table, reassuring readers about the care and integrity of the statistical detective work that produced the data graphics
Enough exploration must be done so that the results are shown to be relatively insensitive to plausible alternative specifications and data choices. Only in that way can the statistician protect himself or herself from the temptation to favor the client and from the ensuring cross-examination. – John Tukey
Numbers become evidence by being in relation to
Chartjunk – good design brings absolute attention to data
Jonson’s Principle – these problems are more than just poor design, for a lack of visual clarity in arranging evidence is a sign of a lack of intellectual clarity in reasoning about evidence.
Visual representations of evidence should be governed by principles of reasoning about quantitative evidence. For information displays, design reasoning must correspond to scientific reasoning. Clear and precise seeing becomes as one with clear and precise thinking.
To document and explain a process, to make verbs visible, is at the heart of information design
These techniques of disinformation design [magic], when reversed, reinforce strategies of presentation used by good teachers. Your audience should know beforehand what you are going to do; then they can evaluate how your verbal and visual evidence supports your argument. And so we have some practical advice for giving a talk or paper:
Near the beginning of your presentation, tell the audience: what the problem is, why the problem is important, what the solution to the problem is.
If a clear statement of the problem cannot be formulated, then that is a sure sign that the content of the presentation is deficient. Repeated variations on the same idea will often clarify and develop an idea.
To explain complex ideas, use the method of PGP: Particular – General – Particular
Seek to maximize the rate of information transfer to your audience. Yet many presentations rely on low-resolution devices to communicate information – reading aloud from images projected up on the wall from computer screens or from the dreaded overhead projector, or talk talk talk. Instead, try a high-resolution method: No matter what, give everybody in the audience one or more pieces of paper, packed with material related to your presentation. Handouts show pictures, diagrams, data tables, research methods, references, names of people at the meeting, or the complete text of the paper outlined in your talk. Unlike evanescent projected images, permanent and portable paper has credibility. Paper serves as a testimonial record documenting your talk, letting your audience know that you take responsibility for what you say. People can file your handouts away and then come back in a month and ask, “Didn’t you say this?”
Analyze the details of your presentation; then master those details by practice, practice, practice
Show up early. Something good is bound to happen
Questions to ask about your data/presentation
Is the display revealing the truth?
Is the representation accurate?
Are the data carefully documented?
Do the methods of display avoid spurious readings of the data?
Are appropriate comparisons and contexts shown?
The smallest effective difference
Make all visual distinctions as subtle as possible, but still clear and effective. Relevant to nearly every display of data, the smallest effective difference is the Occam’s razor (“what can be done with fewer is done in vain with more”) of information design. And often the happy consequence of an economy of means is a graceful richness of information, for small differences allow more differences.
Minimal distinctions reduce visual clutter. small contrasts work to enrich the overall visual signal by increasing the number of distinctions that can be made within a single image; thus design by means of small effective differences helps to increase the resolution of our images.
Embodying inherent links and connections, parallelism synchronizes multiple channels of information, draws analogies, enforces contrasts and comparisons. Our examples have inventoried all sorts of design strategies that collate like with like: pairing, orientation, simultaneity, overlap, superimposition, flowing together on a common track, codes, pointer lines, sequence, adjacency, analogy, similar content. Parallelism provides a coherent architecture for organizing and learning from images – as well as from words and numbers, the allies of images. And by establishing a structure of rhythms and relationships, parallelism becomes the poetry of visual information.
Multiples in space and time
Multiple images reveal repetition and change, pattern and surprise – the defining elements in the idea of information. Multiples directly depict comparisons, the essence of statistical thinking. Multiples enhance the dimensionality of the flatlands of paper and computer screen, giving depth to vision by arraying panels and slices of information. Multiples create visual lists of objects and activities, nouns and verbs, helping viewers to analyze, compare, differentiate, decide – as we see below with 12 hands in 12 positions for making 12 sounds. Multiples represent and narrate sequences of motion. Multiples amplify, intensify, and reinforce the meaning of images.
Multiples help to monitor and analyze multi-variable processes – ordinary occurrences in medicine, finance, quality control, and large-scale industrial and engineering operations. By providing a quick, simultaneous look at a continuing flow of different measurements, multiples help sort out the relevant substance from a flood of numbers.
What I got out of it
Another beautiful book by Tufte with some great advice on how to present quantitative evidence.
I sought to make this book self-exemplifying – that is, the physical object itself would reflect the intellectual principles advanced in the book. Publishers seemed appalled at the prospect that an author might govern design. So I sought to self-publish…To finance the book, I took out another mortgage on my home. The bank officer said this was the second most unusual loan that she had ever made; first place belonged to a loan to a circus to buy an elephant!
This is a book about the design of statistical graphics and, as such, it is concerned both with design and with statistics. But it is also about how to communicate information through the simultaneous presentation of words, numbers, and pictures. The design of statistical graphics is a universal matter – like mathematics – and is not tied to the unique features of a particular language.
Excellence in statistical graphics consists of complex ideas communicated with clarity, precision, and efficiency. Graphical displays should:
show the data
induce the viewer to think about the substance rather than about methodology, graphic design, the technology of graphic production, or something else
avoid distorting what the data have to say
present many numbers in a small space
make large data sets coherent
encourage the eye to compare different pieces of data
reveal the data at several levels of detail, from a broad overview to the fine structure
serve a reasonably clear purpose: description, exploration, tabulation, or decoration
be closely integrated with the statistical and verbal descriptions of a data set
Excellence, nearly always of a multivariate sort, is illustrated here for fundamental graphic designs: data maps, time-series, space-time narrative purposes, providing a set of high-quality graphics that can be discussed in constructing a theory of data graphics
Graphical excellence is the well-designed presentation of interesting data – a matter of substance, of statistics, of design
Graphical excellence consists of complex ideas communicated with clarity, precision, and efficiency
Graphical excellence is that which gives to the viewer the greatest number of ideas in the shortest time with the least ink in the smallest space
Graphical integrity is more likely to result if these 6 principles are followed:
the representation of numbers, as physically measured on the surface of the graphic itself, should be directly proportional to the numerical quantities represented
clear, detailed, and thorough labeling should be used to defeat graphical distortion and ambiguity. Write out explanations of the data on the graphic itself. Label important events in the data.
show data variation, not design variation
in time-series displays of money, deflated and standardized units of monetary measurement are nearly always better than nominal units
the number of information-carrying (variable) dimensions depicted should not exceed the number of dimensions in the data
graphics must not quote data out of context
Data-Ink and Graphical Redesign
Five principles in the theory of data graphics produce substantial changes in graphical design. The principles apply to many graphics and yield a series of design options through cycles of graphical revision and editing
Above all else, show the data
Maximize the data-ink ratio
Erase redundant data-ink
Revise and edit
Theory of Data Graphics
Forgo chartjunk, including moire vibration, the grid (use gray grids), and the duck
Well-designed small multiples are:
shrunken, high-density graphics
usually based on a large data matrix
drawn almost entirely with data-ink
efficient in interpretation
often narrative in content, showing shifts in the relationship between variables as the index variable changes (thereby revealing the interaction of multiplicative effects)
Small multiples reflect much of the theory of data graphics:
for non-data-ink, less is more
for data-ink, less is a bore
Aesthetics and Technique in Data Graphics Design
Graphical elegance is often found in the simplicity of design and complexity of data
Attractive displays of statistical information:
have a properly chosen format and design
use words, numbers, and drawings together
reflect a balance, a proportion, a sense of relevant scale
display an accessible complexity of detail
often have a narrative quality, a story to tell about the data
are drawn in a professional manner, with the technical details of production done with care
avoid content-free decoration, including chartjunk
Design is choice. The theory of the visual display of quantitative information consists of principles that generate design options and that guide choices among options. The principles should not be applied rigidly or in a peevish spirit; they are not logically or mathematically certain; and it is better to violate any principle than to place graceless or inelegant marks on paper. Most principles of design should be greeted with some skepticism, for word authority can dominate our vision, and we may come to see only through the lenses of word authority rather than with our own eyes. What is to be sought in designs for the display of information is the clear portrayal of complexity. Not the complication of the simple; rather the task of the designer is to give visual access to the subtle and the difficult – that is, the revelation of the complex.
What I got out of it
Some of the deeper philosophy on what makes effective design and presentations
Evidence that bears on questions of any complexity typically involves multiple forms of discourse. Evidence is evidence, whether words, numbers, images, diagrams, still, or moving. The intellectual task remain constant regardless of the mode of evidence: to understand and to reason about the materials at hand, and to appraise their quality, relevance, and integrity. Science and art have in common intense seeing, the wide-eyed observing that generates empirical information. Beautiful Evidence is about how seeing turns into showing, how empirical observations turn into explanations and evidence. The book identifies excellent and effective methods for showing evidence, suggests new designs, and provides analytical tools for assessing the credibility of evidence presentations. Evidence presentations are seen here from both sides: how to produce them and how to consume them. As teachers know, a good way to learn something is to teach it. The partial symmetry of producers and consumers is a consequence of the theory of analytical design, which is based on the premise that the point of evidence displays is to assist the thinking of producer and consumer alike. Evidence presentations should be created in accord with the common analytical tasks at hand, which usually involve understanding causality, making multivariate comparisons, examining relevant evidence, and assessing the credibility of evidence and conclusions. Thus the principles of evidence display are derived from the universal principles of analytical thinking – and not from local customs, intellectual fashions, consumer convenience, marketing, or what the technologies of display happen to make available. The metaphor for evidence presentations is analytical thinking.
The images and diagrams in this book reward careful study. Many are excellent treasures, complex and witty, intense with meaning.
Note:This book is beautifuland worth getting just for the images and understanding what it takes to make a deeply meaningful image/diagram
My books are self-exemplifying: the objects themselves embody the ideas written about. This has come about, in part, because my work is blessedly free of clients, patronage, or employers
The principles of analytical thinking (and thus analytical design) are universal – like mathematics, the laws of Nature, the deep structure of language – and are not tied to any language, culture, style, century, gender, or technology of information display.
Explanatory, journalistic, and scientific images should nearly always be mapped, contextualized, and placed on the universal grid. Mapped pictures combine representational images with scales, diagrams, overlays, numbers, words, images. Good mappings of realistic images have been produced throughout the long history of visual displays, but not often enough. An explanatory image is an explanatory image because it is a mapped image. Sensibly mapped pictures nearly always outperform purely pictorial representations for representing, explaining, and documenting evidence.
Sparklines are datawords: data-intense, design-simple, word-sized graphics.
Multiple sources and levels of data – use whatever evidence it takes to understand what is going on. Too often diagrams instead rely solely on one type of data or stay at one level of analysis
Efficiency of design – the design should be straightforward with no unnecesary elements. Designs for analytical diagrams should be clear, efficient, undecorated, maplike. The metaphor is the map, not stupidity. Omitting boxes increases explanatory resolution
The similar treatment of text, diagrams, and images suggests to readers that images are as relevant and credible as words and diagrams. A book design that treats all modes of information alike reinforces the point.
All in one head – Megan Jaegerman did both the research and the design, breaking their common alienation. This design amplifies the content, because the designer created the content
Charles Joseph Minard’s data-map showing Napoleon’s invasion and retreat of Russia may be one of the best designed diagrams of all-time
Principle 1: Comparisons – show comparisons, contrasts, differences
Principle 5: Documentation – thoroughly describe the evidence. Provide a detailed title, indicate the authors and sponsors, document the data sources, show complete measurement scales, point out relevant issues.
Principle 6: Content counts most of all – analytical representations ultimately stand or fall depending on the quality, relevance, and integrity of their content
Making a presentation is a moral act as well as an intellectual activity
A clear sign of cherry-picking is that a report appears too good to be true, provoking consumers of the report to mutter, “It’s more complicated than that.” Avoid overreaching, slippery language, stupendous conclusions
Powerpoint is a competent slide manager but it should not impose its cognitive style on our presentations. Instead of showing a few informal talking points on a slide, why not print out an agenda for everyone?
For serious presentations, replace PP with word-processing or page-layout software. Making the transition in large organizations requires a straightforward executive order: from now on your presentation software is Microsoft Word, not PP. Get used to it
At a talk, paper handouts of technical reports effectively show text, data graphics, images. Printed materials bring information transfer rates in presentations up to that of everyday material in newspapers, reports, books, and internet news sites. An excellent paper size is 11×17 inches, folded in half to make 4 pages. That one piece of paper, can show the content-equivalent of 50 to 250 typical PP slides. Serious presentations might begin by handing out this paper and having the group read it. Following the reading period, the presenter might provide a guided analysis of the briefing paper and then encourage and perhaps lead a discussion of the material at hand.
What I got out of it
A beautiful book that helped me better understand what an effective presentation and diagram looks like and some of the core mistakes to avoid. Incorporating and integrating words, images, graphs, and anything else which helps the reader more easily understand is the key.
6 core principles are described in how to best display data visualizations
Visual displays of information encourage a diversity of individual viewer styles and rates of editing, personalizing, reasoning, and understanding. Unlike speech, visual displays are simultaneously a wideband and perceiver-controllable channel
If the numbers are boring, you’ve got the wrong numbers. Credibility vanishes in clouds of chartjunk; who would trust a chart that looks like a video game?
Worse is contempt for our audience, designing as if readers were obtuse and uncaring. Clarity and simplicity are completely opposite simple-mindedness
A most unconventional design strategy is revealed: to clarify, add detail. Clutter and confusion are failures of design, not attributes of information. What we seek is not necessarily simplicity, but an understanding of complexity revealed with an economy of means
Note: Shows some high level maps which become clearer as details such as trees, street names, and more are added
John Tukey – if we are going to make a mark, it may as well be a meaningful one. The simplest – and most meaningful mark is a digit
Visual displays rich with data are not only an appropriate and proper complement to human capabilities, but also such designs are frequently optimal. Micro/Macro designs enforce both local and global comparisons and, at the same time, avoid the disruption of context switching. All told, exactly what is needed is for reasoning about information
It is not how much information there is, but rather how effectively is it arranged. Showing complexity often demands hard, thoughtful work. Detailed micro/macro designs have substantial costs for data collection, design, custom computing, image processing, and production – expenses simlar to that of first-class cartography.
Layering and Separation
Tables without vertical rules look better; thin rules are better than thick ones
At the heart of quantitative reasoning is a single question: compared to what? Small multiple designs, multivariate and data bountiful answer directly by visually enforcing comparisons of changes, of the differences among objects, of the scope of alternatives. For a wide range of problems in data presentation, small multiples are the best design solution.
Comparisons must be enforced within the scope of the eyespan, a fundamental point occasionally forgotten in practice
Color and Information
While the eyes are extremely sensitive to color variations, anything more than 20 or 30 colors frequently produce not diminishing but negative returns. Above all, do no harm
Narratives of Space and Time
Many information displays report on the world’s workaday reality of three-space and time. Painting four-variable narrations of space-time onto flatland combines two familiar designs, the map and the time-series. Our strategy for understanding these narrative graphics is to hold constant the underlying information and then to watch how various designs and designers cope with the common data. Examined first are accounts of the motion of Jupiter’s satellites, beginning with Galileo’s notebooks. Other case studies in our space-time tour are itinerary designs (schedules and route maps) and, finally, various notational systems for describing and preserving dance movements.
What I got out of it
Some of the more technical reasons for what makes a great diagram/visual
Third, retool your plan. This is the hard part—changing the facts of your plan and what you are trying to do, to make your company more fundable. To describe the dimensions that you should consider as you contemplate retooling your plan, let me introduce the onion theory of risk. If you’re an investor, you look at the risk around an investment as if it’s an onion. Just like you peel an onion and remove each layer in turn, risk in a startup investment comes in layers that get peeled away — reduced — one by one. Your challenge as an entrepreneur trying to raise venture capital is to keep peeling layers of risk off of your particular onion until the VCs say “yes” — until the risk in your startup is reduced to the point where investing in your startup doesn’t look terrifying and merely looks risky.
But I Don’t Know Any VCs
VCs work mostly through referrals And of course it’s even better if you walk in with existing “traction” of some form — customers, beta customers, some evidence of adoption by Internet users, whatever is appropriate for your particular startup. With a working product that could be the foundation of a fundable startup, you have a much better chance of getting funded once you do get in the door. Back to my rule of thumb from the last post: when in doubt, work on the product. Failing a working product and ideally customers or users, be sure to have as fIeshed out a presentation as you possibly can— including mockups, screenshots, market analyses, customer research such as interviews with real prospects, and the like.
Don’t bother with a long detailed written business plan. Most VCs will either fund a startup based on a fleshed out Powerpoint presentation of about 20 slides, or they won’t fund it at all. Corollary: any VC who requires a long detailed written business plan is probably not the right VC to be working with.
Alternately, jump all over Y Combinator. This program, created by entrepreneur Paul Graham and his partners, funds early-stage startups in an organized program in Silicon Valley and Boston and then makes sure the good ones get in front of venture capitalists for follow-on funding. It’s a great idea and a huge opportunity for the people who participate in it.
Read VC blogs — read them all, and read them very very carefully. VCs who blog are doing entrepreneurs a huge service both in conveying highly useful information as well as frequently putting themselves out there to be contacted by entrepreneurs in various ways including email, comments, and even uploaded podcasts. Each VC is different in terms of how she wants to engage with people online, but by all means read as many VC blogs as you can and interact with as many of them as you can in appropriate ways.
So, when such a new thing comes out—like, hint hint, Facebook or Twitter— jump all over it, see which VCs are using it, and interact with them that way — sensibly, of course. More generally, it’s a good idea for entrepreneurs who are looking for funding to blog — about their startup, about interesting things going on, about their point of view.
The Only Thing That Matters
Personally, I’ll take the third position — I’ll assert that market is the most important factor in a startup’s success or failure. Why? In a great market — a market with lots of real potential customers — the market pulls product out of the startup. The market needs to be fulfilled and the market will be fulfilled, by the first viable product that comes along. The product doesn’t need to be great; it just has to basically work. And, the market doesn’t care how good the team is, as long as the team can produce that viable product.
In honor of Andy Rachleff, formerly of Benchmark Capital, who crystallized this formulation for me, let me present Rachleff’s Law of Startup Success: The #1 company-killer is lack of market. Andy puts it this way:
When a great team meets a lousy market, market wins.
When a lousy team meets a great market, market wins.
When a great team meets a great market, something special happens.
Let’s introduce Rachleff’s Corollary of Startup Success: The only thing that matters is getting to product/market fit. Product/market fit means being in a good market with a product that can satisfy that market. You can always feel when product/market fit isn’t happening. The customers aren’t quite getting value out of the product, word of mouth isn’t spreading, usage isn’t growing that fast, press reviews are kind of “blah”, the sales cycle takes too long, and lots of deals never close. And you can always feel product/market Ft when it’s happening
Carried a step further, I believe that the life of any startup can be divided into two parts: before product/market fit (call this “BPMF”) and after product/market fit (“APMF”). When you are BPMF, focus obsessively on getting to product/market fit. Do whatever is required to get to product/market fit. Including changing out people, rewriting your product, moving into a different market, telling customers no when you don’t want to, telling customers yes when you don’t want to, raising that fourth round of highly dilutive venture capital — whatever is required.
The Mob Dick Theory of Big Companies
First, don’t do startups that require deals with big companies to make them successful.
Second, never assume that a deal with a big company is closed
Third, be extremely patient
Fourth, beware bad deals
Fifth, never, ever assume a big company will do the obvious thing.
Sixth, be aware that big companies care a lot more about what other big companies are doing than what any startup is doing.
Seventh, if doing deals with big companies is going to be a key part of your strategy, be sure to hire a real pro who has done it before.
Eighth, don’t get obsessed.
How much funding is too little? too much?
The answer to that question, in my view, is based on my theory that a startup’s life can be divided into two parts — Before Product/ Market Fit, and After Product/Market Fit. Before Product/Market Fit, a startup should ideally raise at least enough money to get to Product/Market Fit. After Product/Market Fit, a startup should ideally raise at least enough money to fully exploit the opportunity in front of it, and then to get to profitability while still fully exploiting that opportunity. I will further argue that the definition of “at least enough money” in each case should include a substantial amount of extra money beyond your default plan, so that you can withstand bad surprises. In other words, insurance. This is particularly true for startups that have not yet achieved Product/ Market Fit, since you have no real idea how long that will take. Raising money is never an accomplishment in and of itself — it just raises the stakes for all the hard work you would have had to do anyway: actually building your business.
Some signs of cultural corrosion caused by raising too much money:
Hiring too many people — slows everything down and makes it much harder for you to react and change. You are almost certainly setting yourself up for layoffs in the future, even if you are successful, because you probably won’t accurately allocate the hiring among functions for what you will really need as your business grows.
Lazy management culture — it is easy for a management culture to get set where the manager’s job is simply to hire people, and then every other aspect of management suffers, with potentially disastrous long-term consequences to morale and effectiveness.
Engineering team bloat — another side effect of hiring too many people; it’s very easy for engineering teams to get too large, and it happens very fast. And then the “Mythical Man Month” effect kicks in and everything slows to a crawl, your best people get frustrated and quit, and you’re in huge trouble.
Lack of focus on product and customers — it’s a lot easier to not be completely obsessed with your product and your customers when you have a lot of money in the bank and don’t have to worry about your doors closing imminently.
Too many salespeople too soon — out selling a product that isn’t quite ready yet, hasn’t yet achieved Product/Market Fit — alienating early adopters and making it much harder to go back when the product does get right.
Product schedule slippage — what’s the urgency? We have all this cash! Creating a golden opportunity for a smaller, scrappier startup to come along and kick your rear. So what should you do if you do raise a lot of money? As my old boss Jim Barksdale used to say, the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing —be just as focused on product and customers when you raise a lot of money as you would be if you hadn’t raised a lot of money.
Easy to say, hard to do, but worth it.
Continue to run as lean as you can, bank as much of the money as possible, and save it for a rainy day — or a nuclear winter. Tell everyone inside the company, over and over and over, until they can’t stand it anymore, and then tell them some more, that raising money does not count as an accomplishment and that you haven’t actually done anything yet other than raise the stakes and increase the pressure.
Illustrate that point by staying as scrappy as possible on material items — oZce space, furniture, etc. The two areas to splurge, in my opinion, are big-screen monitors and ergonomic office chairs. Other than that, it should be Ikea all the way.
Why a startup’s initial business plan doesn’t matter that much
A startup’s initial business plan doesn’t matter that much, because it is very hard to determine up front exactly what combination of product and market will result in success. By definition you will be doing something new, in a world that is a very uncertain place. You are simply probably not going to know whether your initial idea will work as a product and a business, or not. And you will probably have to rapidly evolve your plan — possibly every aspect of it — as you go. (The military has a saying that expresses the same concept — “No battle plan ever survives contact with the enemy.” In this case, your enemy is the world at large.) It is therefore much more important for a startup to aggressively seek out a big market, and product/market Ft within that market, once the startup is up and running, than it is to try to plan out what you are going to do in great detail ahead of time. The history of successful startups is quite clear on this topic.
Hiring, managing, promoting, and firing executives
Hire an executive only when it’s clear that you need one: when an organization needs to get built; when hiring needs to accelerate; when you need more processes and structure and rigor to how you do things.
Second, hire the best person for the next nine months, not the next three years.
Third, whenever possible, promote from within.
Retaining great people
Companies that are winning — even really big, old ones — never have a retention problem. Everyone wants to stay, and when someone does leave, it’s really easy to get someone great to take her place. Companies that have a retention problem usually have a winning problem. Or rather, a “not winning” problem.
And here’s a neat trick that actually works. Go out and re-recruit the best people who already left. Some of them have since discovered that the grass isn’t actually greener at whatever mediocre startup they joined or whatever other big company they jumped to. Give them fat packages against the new mission and get them back.
Where to go and why
When picking an industry to enter, my favorite rule of thumb is this:
Pick an industry where the founders of the industry — the founders of the important companies in the industry — are still alive and actively involved. This is easy to figure out — just look at the CEO, chairman or chairwoman, and board of directors for the major companies in the industry. If the founders of the companies are currently serving as CEO, chairman or chairwoman, or board member of their companies, it’s a good industry to enter. It is probably still young and vital, and there are probably still opportunities to exploit all over the place, either at those companies or at new companies in that industry. Once you have picked an industry, get right to the center of it as fast as you possibly can. Your target is the core of change and opportunity — figure out where the action is and head there, and do not delay your progress for extraneous opportunities, no matter how lucrative they might be. Never worry about being a small fish in a big pond. Being a big fish in a small pond sucks—you will hit the ceiling on what you can achieve quickly, and nobody will care. Optimize at all times for being in the most dynamic and exciting pond you can find. That is where the great opportunities can be found. Apply this rule when selecting which company to start
In a rapidly changing Held like technology, the best place to get experience when you’re starting out is in younger, highgrowth companies.
The Pmcarca guide to personal productivity
Don’t keep a schedule!
By not keeping a schedule, I mean: refuse to commit to meetings, appointments, or activities at any set time in any future day. As a result, you can always work on whatever is most important or most interesting, at any time.
When someone emails or calls to say, “Let’s meet on Tuesday at 3″, the appropriate response is: “I’m not keeping a schedule for 2007, so I can’t commit to that, but give me a call on Tuesday at 2:45 and if I’m available, I’ll meet with you.” Or, if it’s important, say, “You know what, let’s meet right now.” Clearly this only works if you can get away with it. If you have a structured job, a structured job environment, or you’re a CEO, it will be hard to pull off.
If you have at any point in your life lived a relatively structured existence—probably due to some kind of job with regular office hours, meetings, and the like—you will know that there is nothing more liberating than looking at your calendar and seeing nothing but free time for weeks ahead to work on the most important things in whatever order you want. This also gives you the best odds of maximizing Yow, which is a whole other topic but highly related.
Keep 3 and only 3 lists: a Todo List, a Watch List, and a Later List
The more into lists you are, the more important this is. Into the Todo List goes all the stuW you “must” do — commitments, obligations, things that have to be done. A single list, possibly subcategorized by timeframe (today, this week, next week, next month).
Into the Watch List goes all the stuff going on in your life that you have to follow up on, wait for someone else to get back to you on, remind yourself of in the future, or otherwise remember. Into the Later List goes everything else—everything you might want to do or will do when you have time or wish you could do. If it doesn’t go on one of those three lists, it goes away.
3×5 Index Cards
Each night before you go to bed, prepare a 3×5 index card with a short list of 3 to 5 things that you will do the next day Use the back of the 3×5 card as your anti-todo list. Each time you do something, you get to write it down and you get that little rush of endorphins that the mouse gets every time
he presses the button in his cage and gets a food pellet. Then tear it up and throw it away
The gist of Structured Procrastination is that you should never fight the tendency to procrastinate — instead, you should use it to your advantage in order to get other things done.
As John says, “The list of tasks one has in mind will be ordered by importance. Tasks that seem most urgent and important are on top. But there are also worthwhile tasks to perform lower down on the list. Doing these tasks becomes a way of not doing the things higher up on the list. With this sort of appropriate task structure, the procrastinator becomes a useful citizen. Indeed, the procrastinator can even acquire, as I have, a reputation for getting a lot done.”
Do email exactly twice a day
When you do process email, do it like this
First, always finish each of your two daily email sessions with a completely empty inbox.
Second, when doing email, either answer or file every single message until you get to that empty inbox state of grace.
Third, emails relating to topics that are current working projects or pressing issues go into temporary subfolders of a folder called Action.
Fourth, aside from those temporary Action subfolders, only keep three standing email folders: Pending, Review, and Vault
Emails that you know you’re going to have to deal with again — such as emails in which someone is committing something to you and you want to be reminded to follow up on it if the person doesn’t deliver — go in Pending.
Emails with things you want to read in depth when you have more time, go into Review.
Everything else goes into Vault.
Don’t answer the phone
Let it go to voicemail and do them in batches
Hide in an iPod
People are less likely to bother you even if you’re not listening to anything
Sleeping and eating
start the day with a real, sit-down breakfast. This fuels you up and gives you a chance to calmly, peacefully collect your thoughts and prepare mentally and emotionally for the day ahead
Only agree to new commitments when both your head and your heart say yes
Do something you love
The Psychology of Entrepreneurial Misjudgment
The design of tactical incentives — e.g. bonuses — is a whole topic in and of itself, and is critically important as your company grows. The most significant thing to keep in mind is that how the goals are designed really matters — as Mr. Munger says, people tend to game any system you put in place, and then they tend to rationalize that gaming until they believe they really are doing the right thing. I think it was Andy Grove who said that for every goal you put in front of someone, you should also put in place a counter-goal to restrict gaming of the first goal.
My favorite way around this problem is the one identified by Clayton Christensen in The Innovator’s Dilemma: don’t go after existing customers in a category and try to get them to buy something new; instead, go find the new customers who weren’t able to afford or adopt the incarnation of the status quo.
Just do yourself a favor and read the whole thing. The article he references can be found here
Luck and the entrepreneur
Chance… something fortuitous that happens unpredictably without discernable human intention.
OK, so what are they?
In Chance I, the good luck that occurs is completely accidental. It is pure blind luck that comes with no effort on our part.
In Chance II, something else has been added — motion. Unluck runs out if you keep stirring up things so that random elements can combine, by virtue of you and their inherent affinities.
Now, as we move on to Chance III, we see blind luck, but it tiptoes in softly, dressed in camouflage. Chance presents only a faint clue, the potential opportunity exists, but it will be overlooked except by that one person uniquely equipped to observe it, visualize it conceptually, and fully grasp its significance. Chance III involves involves a special receptivity, discernment, and intuitive grasp of significance unique to one particular recipient. Louis Pasteur characterized it for all time when he said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”
[Chance IV] favors the individualized action. This is the fourth element in good luck — an active, but unintentional, subtle individualized prompting of it. Please explain! Chance IV is the kind of luck that develops during a probing action which has a distinctive personal flavor. The English Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, summed up the principle underlying Chance IV when he noted: “We make our fortunes and we call them fate.” Chance IV comes to you, unsought, because of who you are and how you behave. Chance IV is so personal, it is not easily understood by someone else the first time around… here we probe into the subterranean recesses of personal hobbies and behavioral quirks that autobiographers know about, biographers rarely. [In neurological terms], Chance III [is] concerned with personal sensory receptivity; its counterpart, Chance IV, [is] involved with personal motor behavior.
[You] have to look carefully to find Chance IV for three reasons.
The first is that when it operates directly, it unfolds in an elliptical, unorthodox manner.
The second is that it often works indirectly.
The third is that some problems it may help solve are uncommonly difficult to understand because they have gone through a process of selection. We must bear in mind that, by the time Chance IV finally occurs, the easy, more accessible problems will already have been solved earlier by conventional actions, conventional logic, or by the operations of the other forms of chance. What remains late in the game, then, is a tough core of complex, resistant problems. Such problems yield to none but an unusual approach…[Chance IV involves] a kind of discrete behavioral performance focused in a highly specific manner.
Here’s the money quote:
Whereas the lucky connections in Chance II might come to anyone with disposable energy as the happy by-product of any aimless, circular stirring of the pot, the links of Chance IV can be drawn together and fused only by one quixotic rider cantering in on his own homemade hobby horse to intercept the problem at an odd angle.
Chance I is completely impersonal; you can’t influence it.
Chance II favors those who have a persistent curiosity about many things coupled with an energetic willingness to experiment and explore.
Chance III favors those who have a sufficient background of sound knowledge plus special abilities in observing, remembering, recalling, and quickly forming significant new associations.
Chance IV favors those with distinctive, if not eccentric hobbies, personal lifestyles, and motor behaviors. This of course leads to a number of challenges for how we live our lives as entrepreneurs and creators in any field: How energetic are we? How inclined towards motion are we?
Those of you who read my first age and the entrepreneur post will recognize that this is a variation on the “optimize for the maximum number of swings of the bat” principle. In a highly uncertain world, a bias to action is key to catalyzing success, and luck, and is often to be preferred to thinking things through more thoroughly.
How curious are we? How determined are we to learn about our chosen field, other fields, and the world around us? In my post on hiring great people, I talked about the value I place on curiosity — and specifically, curiosity over intelligence. This is why. Curious people are more likely to already have in their heads the building blocks for creating a solution for any particular problem they come across, versus the more quote-unquote intelligent, but less curious, person who is trying to get by on logic and pure intellectual effort.
How fIexible and aggressive are we at synthesizing– at linking together multiple, disparate, apparently unrelated experiences on the fly? I think this is a hard skill to consciously improve, but I think it is good to start most creative exercises with the idea that the solution may come from any of our past experiences or knowledge, as opposed to out of a textbook or the mouth of an expert. (And, if you are a manager and you have someone who is particularly good at synthesis, promote her as fast as you possibly can.)
How uniquely are we developing a personal point of view — a personal approach– a personal set of “eccentric hobbies, personal lifestyles, and motor behaviors” that will uniquely prepare us to create? This, in a nutshell, is why I believe that most creative people are better off with more life experience and journeys into seemingly unrelated areas, as opposed to more formal domain-specific education — at least if they want to create. In short, I think there is a roadmap to getting luck on our side, and I think this is it.
What I got out of it
Some awesome insights. I changed how I batch mail, learned how to see luck from 4 different perspectives, and thought Simonton’s age and outstanding achievement was incredible
“If Steal Like an Artist was a book about stealing influence from other people, this book is about how to influence others by letting them steal from you.“
You don’t have to be a genius
The best way to get started on the path to sharing your work is to think about what you want to learn, and make a commitment to learning it in front of others. Find a scenius [an “ecology of talent”], pay attention to what others are sharing, and then start taking note of what they’re not sharing. Be on the lookout for voids that you can fill with your own efforts, no matter how bad they are at first. Don’t worry, for now, about how you’ll make money or a career off it. Forget about being an expert or a professional, and wear your amateurism (your heart, your love) on your sleeve. Share what you love, and the people who love the same thing will find you.
We’re always being told find your voice. When I was younger, I never really knew what this meant. I used to worry a lot about voice, wondering if I had my own. But now I realize that the only way to find your voice is to use it. It’s hardwired, built into you. Talk about the things you love. Your voice will follow
Think process, not product
Take people behind the scenes – show them your process, that life isn’t perfect. Be authentic, real, vulnerable
Share something small every day
Gets people to open up and trust you, becoming part of their every day lives
Open up your cabinet of curiosities
There’s not as big a difference between collecting and creating as you might think. A lot of the writers I know see the act of reading and the act of writing as existing on opposite ends of the spectrum: The reading feeds writing, which feeds the reading. “I’m basically a curator,” says the writer and former bookseller Jonathan Lethem. “Making books has always felt very connected to my bookselling experience, that of wanting to draw people’s attention to things that I liked, to shape things that I liked into new shapes.”
Tell good stories
Teach what you know
Teaching people doesn’t subtract value from what you do, it actually adds to it. When you teach someone how to do your work, you are, in effect, generating more interest in your work. People feel closer to your work because you’re letting them in on what you know.
Don’t turn into human spam
Sharing something small every day does not mean overloading people with your email. The spectrum is: hoarder – contributor – spammer. Aim for contributor
Learn to take a punch
Don’t be discouraged by haters – keep improving your craft and being open and vulnerable
Don’t be afraid to ask a fair price for work you’re proud of and think adds value
Keep at it and give yourself enough shots at bat to keep doing what you love
What I got out of it
A quick, fun read. Teaching what you know has been a driving force behind The Rabbit Hole since day one and the “share something small every day” seems counter to how I work but might be an experiment worth trying…
“I hope you find these ideas useful in your own life or business. I also hope you disagree with some of them. Then I hope you email me to tell me about your different point of view, because that’s my favorite part of all. (I’m a student, not a guru.)”
What’s Your Compass?
Business is not about money. It’s about making dreams come true for others and for yourself
Making a company is a great way to improve the world while improving yourself
When you make a company, you make a utopia. It’s where you design your perfect world
Never do anything just for the money
Don’t pursue business just for your own gain. Only answer the calls for help
Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently promoting what’s not working
Your business plan is moot. You don’t know what people really want until you start doing it.
Starting with no money is an advantage. You don’t need money to start helping people
You can’t please everyone, so proudly exclude people
Make yourself unnecessary to the running of your busienss
The real point of doing anything is to be happy, so do only what makes you happy
If it’s not a hit, switch
We’ve all heard about the importance of persistence. But I think had misunderstood. Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently doing what’s not working. When you present one to the world and it’s not a hit, don’t keep pushing it as is. Instead, get back to improving and inventing
No “yes.” Either “Hell yeah!” or “no.”
The advantage of no funding
Never forget that absolutely everything you do is for your customers. Make every decision – even decisions about whether to expand the business, raise money, or promote someone – according to what’s best for your customers. If you’re ever unsure what to prioritize, just ask your customers the open-ended question, “How can I best help you now?” Then focus on satisfying those requests. None of your customers will ask you to turn your attention to expanding. They want you to keep your attention focused on them. It’s counter-intuitive, but the way to grow your business is to focus entirely on your existing customers. Just thrill them, and they’ll tell everyone.
Proudly exclude people
This is just one of many options
You can’t pretend there’s only one way to do it. Your first idea is just one of many options. No business goes as planned, so make ten radically different plans. Same thing with your current path in life
How do you grade yourself?
Knowing what you’re keeping track of determines how you play the game
Care more about your customers than you do yourself.
That’s the Tao of Business: care about customers more than about yourself, and you’ll do well
Act like you don’t need the money
It’s another Tao of business: set up your business like you don’t need the money, and it’ll likely come your way
The most successful email I ever wrote
Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow. A team of 50 employees inspected your CD and polished it to make sure it was in the best possible condition before mailing. Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy. We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved “Bon Voyage!” to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day, Friday, June 6th. I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. We sure did. Your picture is on our wall as “Customer of the Year.” We’re all exhausted but can’t wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!
When you’re thinking of how to make your business bigger, it’s tempting to try to think all the big thoughts and come up with world-changing massive-action plans. But please know that it’s often the tiny details that really thrill people enough to make them tell all their friends about you
Delegate or Die: The self-employment trap
Always do whatever would make the customer happiest, as long as it’s not outrageous. Little gestures like these go a long way toward him telling his friends we’re a great company
Make it anything you want
Never forget that you can make your role anything you want it to be. Anything you hate to do, someone else loves. So find that person and let her do it.
Delegate, but don’t abidcate
What I got out of it
A great, quick book which is fun and has a lot of worthwhile lessons. While all 40 lessons are key, I’ve only included the ones that seem most relevant/differentiated. Make yourself unnecessary, build a business for the love of it
PW Atkins’ beautiful book, The Second Law, defines what the second law means and how it impacts every facet of the world and our lives
The Laws of Thermodynamics
The name thermodynamics is a blunderbuss term originally denoting the study of heat, but now extended to include the study of the transformation of energy in all its forms. It is based on a few statements that constitute succinct summaries of people’s experiences with the way that energy behaves in the course of its transformations. These summaries are The Laws of Thermodynamics. Although we shall be primarily concerned with just one of these laws, it will be useful to have at least a passing familiarity with all of them. There are four laws. The third of them, the second law, was recognized first; the first, the zeroth law, was formulated last; the first law was second; the third law might not even be a law in the same sense as the others
The zeroth Law was a kind of logical afterthought. Formulated by about 1931, it deals with the possibility of defining the temperature of things. Temperature is one of the deepest concepts of thermodynamics, and I hope this book will sharpen your insight into its elusive nature. Simply, around thermal equilibrium and
The first law is popularly stated as “energy is conserved.”
The second law recognizes that there is a fundamental dissymmetry in Nature: the rest of this book is focused on that dissymmetry. All around us are aspects of that dissymmetry: hot objects cool, but cool objects do not spontaneously become hot; a bouncing ball comes to rest, but a stationary ball does not spontaneously begin to bounce. Although the total quantity of energy must be conserved in any process, the distribution of that energy changes in an irreversible manner. The second law is concerned with the natural direction of change of the distribution of energy, something that is quite independent of its total quantity
Energy drops from the hot source to the cold sink, and is conserved; but because we have set up this flow from hot to cold, we are able to draw only some energy off as work; so not all the energy drops into the cold. The cold sink appears to be essential, for only if it is available can we set up the energy fall, and draw off some as work. In every engine, there has to be a cold sink, and that at some stage of the cycle energy must be discarded into it. That little mouse of experience is nothing other than the second law of thermodynamics. All the law seems to be saying is that heat cannot be completely converted into work in a cyclic engine: some has to be discarded into a cold sink. That is, we appear to have identified a fundamental tax: Nature accepts the equivalence of heat and work, but demands a contribution whenever heat is converted into work. Note the dissymmetry. Nature does not tax the conversion of work into heat: we may fritter away our hard-won work by friction, and do so completely. It is only heat that cannot be so converted. Heat is taxed; work is not.
No process is possible in which the sole result is the absorption of heat from a reservoir and its complete conversion into work.
Similarly, no process is possible in which the sole result is the transfer of energy from a cooler to a hotter body (flow from cold to hot is possible but not natural. Only the spontaneous shift of heat from cold to hot without there being change elsewhere is against nature..)
Natural processes are accompanied by an increase in the entropy of the universe.
The domain of the second law is corruption and decay
One of the most important contributions of 19th century thermodynamics is our comprehension that work and heat are names of methods, not names of things…Both heat and work are terms relating to the transfer of energy. To heat an object means to transfer energy in a special way (making use of a temperature difference between the hot and the heated). To cool an object is the negative of heating it: energy is transferred out of the object under the influence of a difference in temperature between the cold and the cooled. It is most important to realize, and to remember throughout the following pages, that heat is not a form of energy: it is the name of a method of transferring energy. The same is true of work. Work is what you do when you need to change the energy of an object by a means that does not involve temperature difference. Thus, lifting a weight from the floor and moving a truck to the top of a hill involves work. Like heat, work is not a form of energy: it is the name of a method for transferring energy.
Work into Quality
Suppose we have a certain amount of energy that we can draw from a hot source, and an engine to convert it into work. We know that the second law demands that we have a cold sink too; so we arrange for the engine to operate in the usual way. We can extract the appropriate quantity of work, and pay our tax to Nature by dumping a contribution of energy as heat into the cold sink. The energy we have dumped into the cold sink is then no longer available for doing work (unless we happen to have an even colder reservoir available). Therefore, in some sense, energy stored at a high temperature has a better “quality”: high-quality energy is available for doing work; low-quality energy, corrupted energy, is less available for doing work…Just as the increasing entropy of the universe is the signpost of natural change and corresponds to energy being stored at ever-lower temperatures, so we can say that the natural direction of change is the one that causes the quality of energy to decline: the natural processes of the world are manifestations of this corruption of quality
Here is our first major result of thermodynamics: we now know how to minimize the heat we throw away: we keep the cold sink as cold as possible, and the hot source as hot as possible. That is why modern power stations use superheated steam: cold sinks are hard to come by; so the most economical procedure is to use as hot a source as possible. That is, the designer aims to use the highest-quality energy…There appears to be a limit to the lowness of temperature. The conversion efficiency of heat to work cannot exceed unity, for otherwise the first law would be contravened…Absolute zero appears to be unattainable
Hottest possible source, coldest possible sink. This contrast offers the most efficient system
Some deep thread with velocity, friction, superheated sources and super cooled sinks
Quality must reflect the absence of chaos. High-quality energy must be undispersed energy, energy that is highly localized (as in a lump of coal or a nucleus of an atom); it may also be energy that is stored in the coherent motion of atoms (as in the flow of water)
When we do work on a system, we are stimulating its particles with coherent motion; when we heat a system, we are stimulating its particles with incoherent motion
Deep thread with coherence, superfluidity, work
Thermal equilibrium corresponds to the most probable state of the universe…So long as a process is occurring in which more chaos is generated than is being destroyed, then the balance of the energy may be withdrawn as coherent motion…The state of more chaos can allow greater coherence locally, so long as greater dissipation has occurred elsewhere…Order on any scale can arise from collapse into chaos: order springs locally from disorder elsewhere. Such is the spring of change.
Chaos determines not only destiny but also the rate at which that destiny is achieved
The third law of thermodynamics deals with the properties of matter at very low temperatures. It states that we cannot bring matter to a temperature of absolute zero in a finite number of steps.
Fluid flows from a hot, thermally “high” source to a cold, thermally “low” sink
Work and heat are mutually inter-convertible, and heat is not a substance like water
An engine is something that converts heat into work. Work is a process such as raising a weight. Indeed, we shall define work as any process that is equivalent to the raising of a weight. Later, as this theory develops, we shall use our increased insight to build more general definitions and find the most all-embracing definition right at the end. That is one of the delights of science: the more deeply a concept is understood, the more widely it casts its net.
Work is a way of transferring energy between a system and its surroundings; it is a transfer effected in such a way that a weight could be raised in the surroundings as a result. When work is done on a system, the change in the surroundings is equivalent to the lowering of a weight.
The godfathers of the field are Kelvin, Clausius, Carnot, and Boltzmann
What I got out of it
The last half was a bit too technical for me but there were a couple fundamental ideas which were clarified around the second law of thermodynamics. Two of the biggest, for me, are that quality of energy = capacity for work (think this is a fascinating way to think about the elusive idea of “quality”) and the idea that the larger the contrast between the hot source and the cold sink, the more efficient the system is (this is an idea which can be applied to every facet of your life…seek out contrast…, aka competitive advantage…)