Category Archives: Growth

Choosing Between a Startup and a Tech Giant

Source: Business Insider, Apr 2017

1. ‘Do I want to eventually found my own tech startup?’

“I meet a lot of people who say, ‘Oh eventually I want to start my own company, but I’ll join Google now,’” he says. “My advice there is to always to just go and join a startup. That’s where you’ll actually learn how to start a new company. That’s where you will see a lot of mistakes made, and a lot of successes as well.”

A smaller company might provide you with a broader experience, which you’ll need if you plan to strike out on your own.

2. ‘What drives me?’

“If you are someone who gets a lot of ideas, like you’re showering in the morning and you just have an idea, in a startup, you can have that idea live and serving users by that afternoon,” Otasevic says. “In bigger companies like Google or Facebook, you’ll probably need a month to roll that out.”

So if you’re driven by speed and constant, fast innovations, go for a smaller team. That being said, Otasevic says that your fast changes may go unappreciated by users, if your startup lacks a big reach.

“Everything you release in Google or Facebook will have millions of eyeballs on it,” he says.

In order to figure out where you should take your talents, consider where you’re more motivated by speed or impact.

3. ‘What do I want to learn?’

“People often just settle for conventional wisdom like, ‘Oh, Google has a great engineering team and therefore I will learn a lot there,’” he says. “Yeah, but what do you want to learn? Go deep.”

He says that companies like Google offer excellent learning experience in terms of large-scale systems, while startups can provide more education on building things up from scratch.

4. ‘In what environment do I work best?’

Many tech giants like Google come with great perks and strong company values.

“Google has a great culture, in terms of engineering,” he says. “Intellectual curiosity is a value. That’s been Google’s philosophy in hiring forever. You want to hire people who are extremely curious and passionate about the world’s problems.”

On the other hand, tiny startups can also provide you with a close, fun environment, if you’re on a great team.

“You really feel that people on the team are like your family,” Otasevic says. “You’re pulling in the same direction. Everything that goes good or bad, you’ll get through it together.”

Becoming a Popular Speaker

Source: Fast Company, 2017

YOU’RE PITCHING A GENERIC TOPIC

What makes you different from every other speaker out there who’s also teaching leadership lessons? Simple: It’s how you angle your talk—which in turn should determine how you position your pitch. For example, Jeff McManus is a successful leadership speaker and author who’s found a unique way to incorporate his background as the director of Landscape Services at University of Mississippi into his speaking—which he frames as techniques for transforming “weeders to leaders.”

Pitch a topic that shows off your unique background or expertise, and make sure it conveys how you have a fresh, unique perspective to share on a common topic that a lot of people want to hear about.

YOUR TITLE IS LAME OR UNCLEAR

Regardless of whether you’re pitching yourself via email or preparing a formal speaking proposal, the proposed title of your talk needs to be attention-grabbing. Sticking with our “leadership” and “motivational”  examples, you might pitch, “What You Can Learn About Leadership From Playing Video Games” or “Living Joyfully After Loss: Overcoming the Grief of Losing a Child.” Great speakers are skilled storytellers, and that all begins with your title.

YOU AREN’T DOING YOUR RESEARCH

“The easiest way to ensure your topic would fit well is to research the event website, connect with the organizers via social media, and get a feel for what the retreat is all about before submitting talk ideas,” says Ahern. In other words, it’s pretty easy—it just takes a little time and diligence.

YOU’RE USING CONFUSING TERMINOLOGY

. “The downside is, if an event organizer doesn’t understand your title or topic description, it’s more likely to be thrown out. I would rather see less fancy labels and more straightforward titles in a speaker’s application so I know what they’re about.”

But it goes beyond your own job title. If you’re in a tight niche and applying for a conference that covers a broader range of topics, you might want to stay away from industry jargon in your program description. If you’re unsure whether you’re being clear enough for an outsider to understand, try to think about how you’d explain your speech to a friend or relative who isn’t familiar with your business or industry. How can you put it in layman’s terms and still make it sound appealing to the uninitiated?

YOU WAITED TOO LONG

Not every event opens a formal application process for speakers, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pitch them proactively on your own. However, you can’t wait until a month before the event to send your pitch in. Not only will the agenda be set by that point, but even if you’re a late addition you’ll miss out on promotional opportunities.

“Speakers need to be locked in at least three months in advance—two at a bare minimum—otherwise the visibility is minimal, if at all,” says event planner Vanessa Cañas, who works with entrepreneurs to plan conferences, retreats, and nonprofit events.

So in short, pitch early, pitch often, and make sure organizers know what the heck you’re pitching to begin with.

Listening Better

Source: Fast Company, Mar 2017

LISTEN TO LEARN, NOT TO BE POLITE

“Listening is good, but the intent has to be curiosity, not generosity. True dialogue does not happen when we pretend to listen, and it certainly cannot happen if we are not listening at all.”

“Each day, ask yourself, ‘What am I going to be curious about?’” says Gregersen.

QUIET YOUR AGENDA

While you can’t control someone else’s listening habits, you can control your own, and that involves quieting down your mind.

“Turn off those agendas,” says Gregersen. “Really listen to what someone else is trying to say. We need information that is disconfirming, not confirming. If we ever finish a conversation and learned nothing surprising, we weren’t really listening.”

ASK MORE QUESTIONS

One of the simplest ways to be a better listener is to ask more questions than you give answers, says Gregersen. When you ask questions, you create a safe space for other people to give you an unvarnished truth.

“Listening with real intent means I’m going to be open to being very wrong, and I’m comfortable with that in this conversation,” says Gregersen.

PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR TALK/LISTEN RATIO

Strive for a 2:1 ratio of listening to talking, says Eblin.

REPEAT BACK WHAT YOU HEARD

A number of problems interfere with people’s ability to understand accurately what another person is trying to communicate, says Adam Goodman, director of the Center for Leadership at Northwestern University.

“Am I anticipating what the other person is about to say? Do I agree or disagree with what’s being said? Maybe I’m agreeing too quickly and, upon reflection, I’d find myself disagreeing later?” he asks. “Put simply, there’s more opportunity to misunderstand then there is to actually understand.”

implement a process called active listening. “It’s been around for a long time, and works if done right,” says Goodman. The basic concept is repeating back to the speaker what you heard. If the speaker agrees that what you heard is what he or she intended to say, you can move on. If not, the speaker needs to reword their statement until the listener really does understand.

ACTUALLY WAIT UNTIL SOMEONE IS DONE TALKING BEFORE YOU RESPOND

The most difficult component of listening effectively is waiting for a period at the end of a sentence before formulating a reply, says Leslie Shore, author of Listen to Succeed.

We all require self-focus, but leaders who make a difference are the ones who know the purpose is bigger than themselves, says Gregersen.

Peak Ages

Source: Business Insider, Mar 2017

Sydney Brenner – Casino Fund

Source: SMA, Aug 2007

I have always been interested in twists of words. I think it is something that you can make life amusing with, while also saying quite important things.

Everybody would like to be an innovator, because they believe innovation is what gives them the edge. You need a lot of conditions to be satisfied for innovation. Some are personality driven, in that they depend on individuals. If you notice, the number of major discoveries in Science has remained constant since the 17th century, even though the number of scientists keeps on increasing.

to allow innovation, you cannot have this. You need people to step out and do things that have not been done before. I mean, if you know the answer, why bother to do it at all?

the subject was “The Casino Fund”. The idea was that everybody who gives money for research takes out 1% or 0.5% and puts it into the Casino Fund – and forgets about it. Who manages the Casino Fund? You give it to successful ‘gamblers’ – people like me [laughs] who can hand it out, and people who have a nose for people and projects. And this is with the full expectation that most of the money will ‘disappear’. But when you do this, all the people in the business will say: “Oh no, we can’t have that because how do we ensure payback?” So I said: “Let’s make it 0.1%.”

But even when I tell them to put 0.1% into this “Casino Fund”, they still would not. Even if they think this might lead to the most successful breakthroughs but yet they are not prepared to do it themselves, to put their money where their mouth is!

You can say to these investors – concentrate on the other 99% of the research funds and do not bother with the 1% in the Casino Fund. But then all the academics will say: “We must have peer review.”

Now, peer review is regression to the mean, and the mean is mediocre. If you have peer review alone, it means you are always going to select the conventional, middle of the road activities – you are thus not going to gamble on big ideas and big breakthroughs.

These days when people write a research grant, it has been said that half of their proposed research has already been done, so they somewhat know the answer already when they submit for a research grant application. That is how a lot of people escape the constraints of the grant funding system. But it is very hard on the younger researchers, because they do not have a reserve of data accumulated or capital which they can invest in future results, and so they would stand less chance of being successfully funded. But some of what is going on in this research grantsmanship is absolutely ridiculous.

I think the most important people now who are funding research are the charities, like the Gates Foundation. These organisations also would like to drive innovation, but because they use all the same people in the scientific community, it is more or less going to be conventional. Basically all you have to do is to separate the nutcases from the real research.

at the moment, Singapore goes too much on written records, achievements, and examination results. The big thing about doing Science is motivation. In fact, I think, one really needs to pick the right people to do Science. I feel very strongly, and I have often said so before, that I am very suspicious of people who obtain First Class Honours degrees. They would satisfy me more if they could have gotten a Second Class if they had really tried harder [laughs]!

Because I think motivation to do research is much more important than aiming to get the top grades. Everybody just wants to get top marks these days, and publishing papers in the journals are all about journal impact factors, which is another form of achieving top marks. I think this is nonsense.

When you look for a successful scientist, you go for the truly motivated individual because Science is still a very personal thing.

I think there is now a greater lack of communication between scientists. There are now so many journals and such a large body of scientific literature that we are losing communication between the various scientific fields. People working in one part of their own fields may have no idea what is going on in another’s field. So one of the problems of modern society is actually how to turn data into usable knowledge, because all we have got is plenty of data on everything.

I gave an interview here to the Singapore press and they asked me: “Is there anything else Singapore needs for success?” I said: “Yes, I don’t think the people here are cheeky enough!” And the reporter asked me how we could teach people to be cheeky, which was ridiculous! What I meant by “cheeky” was to question – question authority and question things in a productive way. And you do not get innovation if you are just doing things according to the rules.

I think the American PhD produces, for the average person, an overall much more competent scientist, whereas the British PhD allows people much more freedom to get on with the job of scientific inquiry. 

I just think that in Britain it is a different way of doing things and asking questions. People are not so, how shall I say, organised.

Illusion of Progress

Source: ZeroHedge, Mar 2017

BIll Gates’ Advice to His 19-Year Old Self

Source: CNBC, Feb 2017
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If the 61-year-old Microsoft co-founder and billionaire Bill Gates could whisper in the ear of his 19-year-old-self, he would have a few things to say about what he’s learned.

Intelligence is multifaceted

“I would explain that smartness is not single-dimensional and not quite as important as I thought it was back then,” Gates says.
While he now realizes that IQ may be overrated, Gates has often emphasized the importance of being curious. An interest in the world can and should be fostered, he says.
“I think having parents and teachers reinforce your curiosity and explain what they are fascinated with makes a big difference,” Gates says.
He encourages people to remain committed to learning throughout their lives. “A lot of people lose their curiosity as they get older, which is a shame,” he says. “One thing that helps nowadays is that if you get confused about something it is easier than ever to find an article or video to make things clear.”