TEI Talks - 7 - Innovation
11:12AM Oct 31, 2020
Welcome to this tea I talk on innovation. Reading today is from Smaug chapter to be of use. first two verses. Most of my fantasies are of making someone else come. Most of my fantasies are have to be abuse, to be abused to be of some hard, simple, undeniable use. Oh, like a spindle, oh, like a candle. Oh, like a horseshoe, or Oh, like a corkscrew. That's a song from Bill Callahan, who used to perform under the name smog. This was a tough lecture to put together. I feel that innovation is this incredibly important thing. I think it's for some of us the most important thing we could be doing. But it's not easy. And with equal fervor, I believe that really ordinary people like me, can and do innovate, like you, hopefully. I was, I've been looking forward to this lecture all week. Like I said, it's been hard to put together, it's a bit of a challenge to put together I was nervous earlier today still am nervous. So I was looking at pictures of baby sloths a few minutes before I went live, to try to calm myself down. Again, I I'm excited about this lecture, but it's kind of a challenging topic. I think innovation is important. I think ordinary people can do it, but I have to stop short of like insisting on it, because it is emotionally challenging. It's scary. It's not really clear exactly how we do it. And when I say we are talking about people like us, self employed, really, really small businesses solo maybe a few staff, expertise driven businesses. That's the context I'm speaking into. And, you know, I think we should be innovating. I think it can transform our businesses, but I'm not sure that we can just one day decide to like, do innovation. So I don't think I can make you do innovation. I don't think I can make someone into a Tom Waits fan, even trying to explain it to someone who doesn't get it, I think is a fool's errand, or a little bit difficult at least. There are a lot of things about the expertise incubator, I can make a pretty reasonable case for the value of doing but innovation. I don't know it's, it's just kind of comes from the heart today, a little bit. It feels like something that is harder to articulate and define in a really objective way. So I don't want to insist that you like do innovation, I think that would set you up for failure. But the expertise incubator framework, there's something about it that makes it likely that you will find yourself in a place where you can quote unquote, do innovation. It's not guaranteed. But I think it increases the likelihood that you get there, to this place where you're innovating. It's a little mysterious, though, to me how you get there, so I can't insist on it. Because Well, we can't just snap our fingers and make it happen. And also, I'm not 100% sure how it does happen. I have some ideas, though, that I'll present today that I think will help. On the other hand with this lecture, I don't want it to be one of these things where I'm like step one, be curious about innovation. Step two, innovate profit. So I don't want to give you that either. I do have some ideas. And what we're going to do today is I want to show you what it looks like when you get into the early stages of innovation. And what that struggle looks and feels like. I want to give you a bit of context about what innovation is in general. I want to give you a sort of permission that I think doesn't exactly come naturally. I want to provide some general suggestions about where you might linger. loiter, to increase the likelihood of innovation.
If you've ever Just been at the, you know, the sort of general store or Target or Walmart, whatever, and picked up an orchid and brought it home and thought I'm gonna grow this orchid, you know how in victoriously, you know how actually difficult they are to grow, they are notoriously difficult to grow. Part of it's the environment, they just thrive in a certain environment. And so by creating that environment, you can increase the odds that the orchid will thrive. I think innovation is the same way part of it is creating a context, in your business in your life where it can happen. So that's what we're going to talk about. And, and as we do, we're, we're exploring a question that is about innovation on the surface. But I think underneath that, the question for us, as people who are publishing daily or considering it, I hope, you're always asking this question, what's going to create subscriber value. And anytime we move into this possibility of doing something innovative, we actually worry that it's going to undermine subscriber value somehow. So it raises this question, in what we're sending our email list. how innovative should that content be? And the tension is, if you're publishing daily, you I won't say inevitably, but you nearly inevitably reach a point after enough time of publishing daily, where what you want to write about is innovative in nature. And when you get to that point, this tension, you start to feel it really strongly in the tension is like, should I be doing this? Is this going to undermine subscriber value somehow? earlier in this series of talks, I talked about the expertise cinema. That is the process of when you start publishing daily, you naturally and as you should, I believe, you write about stuff that's easy to write about stuff that's comfortable stuff that's familiar to you stuff that you just kind of have down cold. And that's as it should be. I call that the expertise enema, because what you're doing is flushing out of your system, all the stuff that is easy to talk about. And again, you should do that. If you publish five days a week, after three sets of four weeks, so basically three months, you could cycle through 60 ideas or topics, or six explanations of the same of 10 ideas, six explanations each, or 60 explanations of one idea. Now, it's not that you would do only one of these three things. But what I want to do is illustrate the range of what could happen the sort of potential throughput of you publishing daily. And if you extend that to a year, instead of three months, you could touch on 240 ideas, 24 explanations of 10 ideas, or 240 explanations of one idea. That's a lot. That's a lot of throughput. If you published an average of 500 words, every time you published and you published five times a week, in a year, you would have published 130,000 words. An average business book is maybe 60,000 words, that's like two business books. Now I'm not saying the quality or the format of what you publish will be exactly like a business book. But it is kind of amazing how much throughput you achieve in terms of publishing volume when you commit to publishing daily. And what that means is that you'll eventually get through all the stuff that's easy and convenient to talk about. And you'll find yourself on a frontier where you can start talking about things that are not as easy or convenient, and they may be innovative. For you and or for your audience. You can get to these unexplored or under explored frontiers. Now one vector for innovation would be quiet work. Another vector for innovation would be your email list.
And then the second ti challenge which is research is often another vector for innovation. So we have this question when we get to this point, which for, you know, some of you is going to be in the future. I think, when we get to this point, we have this question. Should we put innovative stuff in front of our email list? And that is also a question about when we create subscriber value, it's partially a question about whether it will create subscriber value. And it's the other part is the question about when we create subscriber value. I mean, I talk about something that isn't relevant to the folks on your email list now. Why focus on this future timeframe? Or, to kind of elaborate on that question? What if you could create 10 units of subscriber value now sort of 10 hypothetical units of source subscriber value? Or 100 units of subscriber value two years from now? Is there one of those that you should choose? Or should you distribute among them with a sort of portfolio approach? This is for sure a far a false dichotomy. But the question that it raises is one that creates anxiety for folks who embrace this expertise incubator framework. The question about will this create subscriber value? When will it create subscriber value? We don't know. And then that question kind of haunts us. So really, all of this is a question about what will help us be of use to? Well, that's the question to the folks that are on our email list now, to the folks who may join later to the clients that we are trying to help. That's really the question what will help us be of use and this innovation thing fits into it. And that's what I want to explore today. I want to share something that comes from Jim Thornton, Jim's in the expertise incubator. He is embracing this framework, and I'm going to share a seven minute long video, which is from an expertise incubator meeting. It's shared with permission, I asked him like, he got sick of me asking, Are you sure it's still okay for me to share this. He in this video is just sort of spontaneously updating the group on this thing he's been working on. And the thing is innovative in nature. And I want to share this with you because it is it's like a as close as we can get to a firsthand sort of portrayal of what the what the struggle is like. Here we go.
I've got some, like, I don't know if it's exciting, but it's definitely like, fun for me to share. So like I have over the weekend, I figured out how to do term frequency inverse document frequency, which is like a natural language, like a very simple natural language processing thing, like a way to do keyword extraction. So basically, you look at a corpus of documents. And people use the same words over and over again, right. So like, the more frequently a word is used, the less important or significant it is to any one of those documents, but it might be like a good for figuring out the overall themes. So um, the term frequency, inverse document frequency means this term appears more in this specific document and it doesn't the rest of the corpus, and therefore it might be important, right? And so it's cool. I was like, able to grab pull that in and I was able to pull in that like on the other one that uses sort of like a PageRank algorithm to extract important words in documents. But I was able to like get them both loaded into Neo for j sort of in time to do some of Brad's work this way, is just kind of like the manual way that I was going to be doing it. What did I just do?
Wow. So it's sort of like looks for outline like six meaningful outliers in the doc Yeah. And it's okay.
It is so good. Like, I don't want to, you know, it, that stuff's really hard. And it could be just that Brad has like very clear writing. And he very clearly writes about the things that he writes about and whatever. But like, it's just so spot on, for me, or for the spot check that I picked that it's like, so like, this is sort of interesting. So this is an example of a query where I've, so I've, I've, you know, machine learning pulled out the keywords for the term frequency inverse document frequency, as well as for that other one, the Jensen one for the sort of like the text rank, like the word rank, and I've put them into their own nodes. And then I've attached those nodes to those URLs, right. And now I can say, like, find me some find me all the pages that have the word productivity, or productive or whatever in it, and then return all the the keyword extracted terms associated with that page. So I can start to see like, okay, like, when he's talking about productivity, what else is he talking about? On other pages, and then I'm now writing something to grab the I know, it's gonna take a long time, but I'm reading something that will grab the context,
Like, I can process the text on the return and say, like, Just show me the first four words before in the first four words after, like, these terms, or whatever. So like, this is, this is like a way to get some of that related content, but it's pretty cool. Like, I'm
gonna just like,
Yes. So this is one, this keyword term interviewing, pet was pulled out of two documents. And then you can see like that there's a keyword score, sort of a relevancy score. So I can kind of filter by like, only highly relevant terms. And then I can do like, so if I just check for my, my two words, I can also look at, like, very, very quickly that I can kind of see like, Okay, this is about economic recovery and stuff like that, you know, what I mean? And so, so I can look at my, like, my two terms, and my one terms, and I can start looking at how things are potentially related. And then I can just like return, like, sort of, like you saw, I can just like return on? A No, no, you call it like, like this personality, one's a good example. So like, personality has like four pages linked to it. And then I can start filtering by, I was supposed to write it down. And of course, I haven't written them down yet. But so I can start filtering by like high opportunity terms. So this is like, contains selling or sales, or whatever. And then like, here's the term. So these are like the related terms for sales, because like, that's going to be a top level category. And then I'll be able to look at related terms, or like other terms that are commonly appear on pages that are related to sales to sort of look at, like what the potential breakdowns would be for like, high opportunity, like high Google Search Console impressions with low clicks, or whatever. So I'll be able to kind of sort things in, like, clearly, you should keep all these pages. And then here are pages that are underperforming, that could be improved. And then here are pages that are underperforming, because like they should be cut, or whatever. So those are sort of the three buckets that I'm thinking through with it. But yeah, it's it's a lot of fun to play with it.
You like you're getting that power and traction now out of it. That's awesome.
Yeah, like, it's, it's cool, because I now that I've like, I have it in here. I'm like, I don't know what to do with it. Yeah, I don't have a process, you know? Yeah. Well, it's like, now I have the tool. So I'm like, Oh, I should, like, what do I What am I actually trying to? I'm actually trying to do, you know, like, what am I trying to figure out here? Um, so, yeah, I'm still just playing with it. Um, and hopefully I'll have I just need like a rough tag, like a rough draft of taxonomy structure for Brad and like the decision making criteria to make sure that he's sort of okay with like, the rules. By which things are going to get sorted deleted without him even seeing them? You know, which will be simple things like, you know, it's five years old. And you made it for SEO reasons. And it's obsolete now, like some of it, stuff like that. And then some of it's like,
yeah, easy to cut. Um, so, yeah,
that's what I've been working on. I love that clip. It's been a while since I've seen it. But the content of it is something that most of us won't understand nearly all of who we might kind of get a sense of what's going on there. And the content is interesting, but the context is what's so relevant here. You can, I mean, hopefully, as you took that in, you sort of saw this rising excitement interest. And then towards the end, you kind of see Jim, that energy level sort of as he starts talking about how his even integrate this thing, this innovation into his business or into his client work, you get a kind of a sense of, you know, a change in the tone, or the level of confidence or something like that. And I share this not to, you know, make an example out of gym or anything like that, I share it, because this is what we all go through. When it comes to innovation in a business like ours at the scale we operate. When Apple does something innovative, I have no idea what that's like, but I do know what it's like when someone like us does something innovative, or pushes in that direction. And it feels and the shape of the process is a lot like what you just saw, Jim is facing uncertainty. And innovation can both resolve uncertainty and create new uncertainty, part of the new uncertainty that it creates is what we feel about getting it out there in the world into the market. You hear Jim wondering in? I mean, maybe you can hear it there. I've heard it in other places, in the in other ti meetings. Is this stuff going to matter at all? Jim is he you know, taught himself how to use Neo for j, which is a craft database technology that focuses on the relationships between objects information, more so than just storing them in like a something that looks like a glorified spreadsheet. He taught himself that technology as a way to augment what he's doing in his client work. And he is rightly wondering whether it's going to matter at all, like I don't know, I'm not saying he's right to wonder, because it's not going to matter. That's not what I'm saying at all. What I'm saying is, he's right to wonder, because nobody knows if it's gonna matter and how it will. When will it matter? To whom will it matter, is another uncertainty that he faces? How will he integrate it with his business? Will this become some infrastructure that is behind a service offering, but the clients never see or care about the infrastructure? Or will it become this really visible part of what he does? where he's a sort of an inventor of a way of doing things and visibility of the way of doing things is really important to the marketing? Or is this just something that Jim is going to deeply explore. But then it later just kind of gets absorbed into his general cognitive infrastructure of understanding the domain where he's building expertise. And he uses it, it informs his strategy or something like that, but he never really uses it in a specific way just kind of generally augments what he's doing. That's another possible outcome. So what's it going to be for this? None of us know. And that's part of what is so challenging about innovation. involves this uncertainty for us. might be good to have a better understanding of what innovation is. I think Everett Rogers, he's dead now. But he published multiple editions of this book, diffusion of innovations. He was That's ultimately a professor at University of New Mexico and Albuquerque, I think. And his research in that book, I think, is actually quite useful as a sort of general framework for understanding what innovation is and how it works. And his research is,
I mean, I think that it's fair to say he looks at innovation as a social phenomenon. And I think that's the right context to look at it in. So, you know, the research that's in this book ranges from how some farmers in the 1940s adopted a new weed spray, or maybe it was a hybrid corn seed, I'm not quite sure. But how did they embrace and adopt this new innovation in their little farming community in Iowa, all the way to stuff like safer sex practices adopted by gay men in San Francisco. So he's not looking or wasn't looking at innovation just in a particular context like technology, but looking at it pretty broadly.
His definition is pretty simple. an innovation is an idea practice rajic, that is perceived as new. So it could be 100 years old. And it comes I learned about it is perceived as new, I'm going to think of it as an innovation, I'm going to respond to it as an innovation because of its perceived newness to me. That's what an innovation is. He has a really interesting definition of technology, which is technology is the thing that reduces the uncertainty about the relationship between cause and effect. And I find that a, I mean, really interesting, sort of stimulating, but also incomplete definition of technology. Anyway, we're talking bigger than technology. Here, we're talking about innovation. Another important characteristic of innovation that he highlights is that not everyone adopts and innovation simultaneously, innovation is diffused through social systems, which we can think of as networks. Over time that they take, they take time to move throughout the network and become adopted by as many as are going to adopt it. There are some important attributes. The primary attributes, are these, these accelerate or slow the adoption of an innovation? Does it offer perceived relative advantage? Or not? How much? It's all about the perception of the adopter, the potential adopter? Do they see an advantage in adopting or integrating this innovation? If they do, the bigger the advantage, the more rapidly it's likely to diffuse through the social system? Is it compatible with the values experiences and needs, we can think of that as the worldview of those who might adopt it? So we might think of an in in compatibility, like the use of contraceptives within a value system, like Catholic and most Muslim cultures, maybe mid century last century, those would be value systems at a time when they would be particularly resistant to this innovation, this thing that was new to them. And it's because of this values in compatibility, and that would slow down the adoption. how complex is it? excessive complexity, as you might imagine, is a retard and it slows down the adoption of an innovation. Is it something you can try out? Can you try it out in a low way in a low stakes way? Or does it require a huge investment, where the uncertainty and the potential for harm are both high? And therefore it's risky to try it out? innovations that are easy to try on, accelerate the adoption of those innovations. free email when Yahoo was doing their thing that created all these ideas about viral loops, or was it hotmail? I think it was Hotmail. You know, a free email account was new. Not It was not well understood. It was an innovation at one point. And so all those services made it easy to try it out. or tried to make it easy to try it out. Can are the results easily visible. If it's observable in that way, it accelerates adoption. And then there's this idea of reinvention, which is pretty interesting. That's another way accelerant if the innovation can be modified or customized, as it's adopted, that tends to accelerate adoption. I remember having a conversation with a chat conversation with Jonathan Stark once about this story, I'd come across an African farmer who was using Instagram to sell a goat. And he, the way he did that was he made a photograph of the goat in the frame was a piece of paper with his phone number and the price on it. And that was probably not the primary use case of Instagram, when it came out this idea that, you know, folks in remote or rural places would use it to conduct commerce was probably not the the primary use case. So this African farmer reinvented the innovation as a part of his adoption of it. And the funny part to me was, you know, here in America, we would think, oh, you have to set up a Shopify store and have a custom domain and all this stuff, we would tend to over engineer the solution. This just came up yesterday, this is
a two time ex Prime Minister of I'm going to blank out on it. Anyway, this is part of a very controversial tweet thread. And I'm not highlighting it because of the controversial stuff. But highlighting it because of the first thing that he said are the first two sentences here, so perfectly connected with this idea of reinvention. He says, The trouble with new ideas is that late comers tend to add new interpretations. And ever Rogers would say you bet they do. And that accelerates the spread of those ideas. From the perspective of like, a velocity of diffusion of innovation, that's a good thing. Or it's at least an accelerant. And I'm not sure that this guy was all that happy about how these late comers have added new interpretations to old ideas. or new ideas. Anyway, he's talking about innovation in an entirely different context, it seems. But we can see the relationship because we understand this idea of reinvention.
So these are the primary attributes of what makes an innovation spread more quickly. Does it offer perceived relative advantage? Is it compatible with the host value system that it spreads into? Does it avoid excessive complexity as a triable? Is it observable? And can it be reinvented as part of the diffusion field other things I'll share about Everett Rogers research with you.
Mass Media is typically how social systems become aware of an innovation that would include the internet Of course, these days, but relationships are really what persuade someone to adopt. It may not be an act of persuasion of someone trying to convince someone else to adopt it, but it is a process of persuasion. And the more similar you are to the person who is persuading you again, it may not be an act of persuasion, then the more likely you are to adopt just had another power flicker here, but I think all my battery backups have kept us going. So mass media tends to be the vehicle that creates awareness relationships, tend to be the vehicle that leads persuasion which leads to further adoption.
Thanks for that link. Frank. I think everyone should read this book. It is an academic book. It's thick, it's dense, and to me at least, it's fascinating. So when it when we talk about relationships being the vehicle for persuasion, we have to realize that when two people are more similar when they share group membership, and you know, cultural group membership and other forms of similarity. It enhances their ability to be persuasive because they can communicate more effectively. But there's this tension, because an innovation is never going to go anywhere. When it doesn't have people who are different. Without that difference, it can't spread. Because if everyone's the same if we're we all have the exact same diet of experiences and connection to media, and we share the same language and the same worldview, if all that were somehow identical, then there'll be nothing to talk about. Because, you know, I mean, that's an exaggeration, there'll be something to talk about. But the tension that leads to information flow wouldn't exist because of that sameness. But the communication will be really effective, because we'd all kind of understand each other because we share so much in common. On the other hand, if there's no difference between people, if there aren't weird people doing weird things. Without that, there's no new information, but with that, how we have information to share, but the communications less effective. So it's this sort of trade off, that seems inevitable that exists, and is highlighted in Everett Rogers research. The process for deciding to adopt an innovation looks are pretty familiar, I think, to anyone who's seen any kind of sales process. There's knowledge, which we might call awareness, there's persuasion, which in a sales or buying process might be broken down into multiple steps, you know, research, etc, etc. There's the decision, there's implementation, and then there's confirmation, Did it work? Did it do what was expected? That's a pretty standard process that we see in a lot of places. But it also shows up here. When we ask how quickly people adopt, there are five identifiable groups. innovators adopt first, followed by the early adopters, there's more of them, followed by the early majority, they're still more of them. The late majority is about equal in size. And the laggards are about equal in size to the innovators and early adopters put together. And that's because this, you know, this division into five is based on looking at standard deviations away from the center of a normal distribution. I'll show you a picture of that, in a moment that explains that a lot better. Some snapshots from the book, this first is mapping the adoption rate, and it looks like an S curve.
These are those five groups that looks like a normal distribution, aka a bell curve. And it is. So the innovators, there's about 2.5% of them are innovators, 13.5%, early adopters, and then the early majority, so everything to the left of that can get sort of lumped into the larger group of early adopters. Early Adopters have some social characteristics that distinguish them from late adopters, which is everybody else, the late majority and the laggards. Early Adopters tend to be more sort of cosmopolitan. They tend to travel more, they tend to be exposed to more mass media, the primary discovery mechanism for innovations. There's some others that Everett Rogers goes into one characteristic I find really interesting that I'll return to in a moment about innovators in particular. Well, here we go. Here's that moment. This map is just endlessly fascinating to me. I hope you can see enough detail to get what's going on. I'll walk you through it verbally. This is from some research in 1958 or published in 1958. Ongoing before that. How did these farmers in Iowa adopt a new weed spray? That's the question particularly well, there's two sub questions when and who they hear about it from Okay, so you know, where or from whom did you obtain information that convinced you to adopt the two, four D weed spray. And this is a map of how that innovation diffused throughout this network starts with the agricultural scientist who's kind of middle, right? They tried to make him nerdy looking like he's wearing a lab coat, and then you've got the innovator who's the first one to adopt. He's in that 2.5% group. And then you've got this number two, guy. And if you see nothing else, notice the number of lines that connect to him. Compared to the number of lines that connect to the innovator, the guy in red, I've circled in red, the innovator and then the guy in orange, we would think of as whatever it Roger is called an opinion leader. And it's pretty visually apparent what the difference is between the innovator and the opinion leader, the opinion leader has a lot more connections within this social system. There's this particular point, and the diffusion of innovations where Everett Rogers is describing the sort of social characteristics, the personality characteristics of these different adopter categories. And he is talking about innovators. And he compares them to this idea from this sociologist George simmel, who wrote about the stranger. I'll read a little bit from a Wikipedia article here. Symbol differentiates a stranger both from the outsider. The outsider has no specific relation to a group and the wanderer who comes today leaves tomorrow, the stranger symbol says, comes today and stays tomorrow. He's a member of the group in which he lives and yet remained outside or distant from the native members. So the stranger is in the group but not of the group Exactly. And is more exposed to new ideas. But the stranger has, well, the innovator to get back to Everett Rogers terminology, the innovator has this interesting relationship where they are a necessary pathway for the introduction of this innovation to the system, but they have a sort of symbiotic dependence on the opinion leader without the opinion leader wouldn't go very far, because the innovator is usually less trusted and respected by the group. they're seen as a bit weird. By the group. The opinion leader is more trusted and respected. And so that ramp
of adoption takes off. When the opinion leader gets involved. Without the opinion leaders involvement, we don't have that sort of accelerating upward ramp in the adoption S curve. I think this is a really relevant idea. I don't know how to translate it into practical do this, this this kind of recipe advice. But the idea that if you are some kind of innovator naturally or by choice, the idea that you need an opinion leader to create a sort of distribution network for your innovation, to me is a critical idea.
That's Everett Rogers research highly recommended. I didn't zoom out to overview at all because there's too much there to really show. A couple reminders before we keep going here. When you do something, when you have an email@example.com, or convertkit.com, or some similar company, and people start opting into your email list, it's easy to forget what you are doing and be not seduced or tricked, but to assume you're doing something different. And if you're embracing this expertise incubator framework, what you're not doing is email marketing, where the focus is on current economic value, and focusing on problems that might be urgent to your prospects now. That's what you're not doing. But that is what email marketing is. Let's focus on urgent problems so that we can quickly make a sale. Or let's focus on evergreen how to information, put it into an email course, and thereby demonstrate expertise or interest. Those are email marketing. And that's fine. I'm not trying to dismiss them. But what I'm saying what we're doing in the expertise incubator is a little bit different. It's not really email marketing, we're publishing to an email list. And that might cause us to forget what we're actually doing and think that we are doing email marketing, we're not. So let's go back to our core question, will innovation produce subscriber value? This question kind of haunts us, I'll share my point of view. Just do it. That's what the slide should have been. Just do it people. If you get to the point where you can publish content that is innovative in some way, I think you should do it. Even if that comes at the expense of creating subscriber value. I think the opportunity is so significant that it it's okay to, to publish to an email list. Which you're going to feel like you're wasting people's time. That's what it's going to feel like that clip I shared with Jim, you'll have that feeling of like, I don't know if anybody cares about this. I think you should do in any way you're publishing to an email list. That creates productive pressure, people can read it any anybody could read it. So that's the pressure, you're doing this in public email lists have short feedback loops, you send something today, you could get feedback today. He is not necessarily that you will, but you could. All the useless signals about open rate and so forth are helpfully corralled in one place on your email. software's dashboard. And that helps you ignore them, which is what you should do, I think. And there's something about medium email, as a medium that's really well suited to work that looks like prototypes, or proofs of concept. Long web articles, books, talks with a big audience, not quite so friendly to exploratory, innovative work. I'm convinced that innovation by people like us has a really high return on investment, but it is not immediate. So you should start doing it as soon as possible. So I think you should do it. I've tried to see if by just giving into the impulse to explore stuff. If it's going to damage my list, and I've been unable to damage my list. I don't have a huge list. That's not how I'm measuring success. I can't seem to get a list that smaller than about 1800 people. People unsubscribe all the time. And the list is not growing. But it seems like there's about 1800 people who just will not unsubscribe, it's not the same 1800 all the time. It is. Again, it's like it's kind of a flowing group. But there seem to be a substantial number of people who are interested in the parts of what I'm doing that are well, let me try to rephrase that that wasn't well phrased. There's a substantial number of people who no matter how much time I spend exploring stuff that is potentially innovative, and potentially not useful to them right now. They stay subscribed, I just
I don't know, I just can't seem to ruin my email list by giving into that impulse to subs to explore. And so I think that you should feel free to do that. And I hope you do. But you're not going to believe me until you try it. So this innovative stuff happens after what I call the expertise enema, where you've talked about all the things that are easy to talk about all the things that you're sure of all the things that you know a lot about. That's when you get to the point when you can start to do stuff that might be innovative. So a couple notes on that. You might remember this graph from the last talk. This is about the idea that you are on your email list. This is a hypothetical email list with 150 people. Not everybody's at the same stage of life. readiness to buy. And so when you have a call to action that says, hey, buy something that's not for everybody on the list, that's just for the folks who are ready to buy. I think it's the same with innovative content. Your email list probably looks a fair bit like whatever Rogers depicts, with this distribution of people's readiness, or, you know, their, their readiness to adopt a new innovation. Your list probably looks a lot like that. It's a reasonable assumption. So if you are writing stuff that is meant for people who are really innovative, you got to wonder, Well, what about the rest of the people? Like, is it okay to write to 16% of your list rather than the other? 80%? Shouldn't you be writing to 100% of your list? Shouldn't you be thinking about all of their needs? And I'll tell you, that's not possible. But that's the feeling we have when we think about time. And this brings up a really interesting, difficult question. The question is, who do I want to be on this map? Do I want to be that innovator? That, as George symbol says, that stranger that some semi outsider who is in but not of the social system or don't want to be that person in orange, the opinion leader? I can't answer that question for you. It will involve trade offs. And that is because it is a strategy decision about your business's role in a market which is also a social system, I think. I don't know what you'll choose, but it is a choice.
I have advice, not really advice, ideas about how you might pursue innovation, and I call it purposeful loitering. I love that word boy during I looked up the etymology of it. And it goes further back, but the immediate etymological ancestors, I think, are Middle English and middle Dutch. And the word is connected to the word lout, which is one of my other favorite words. My favorite usage of that word was in the screenplay for the movie True Grit. The heroine Maddie, refers to her captors, at Pepper's criminal gang as a congress of welts is just so delicious, just to say that loitering has something to do with law helps, it's not a favorable term. I mean it in a favorable way, though, and I hope I can explain a little bit what I mean by that. So what I advocate when you publish daily, is that you explore your interests. And I compare this to wandering around some pasture. You're a cow, you're wandering around this pasture, you create cow paths, those cow paths, some of them are more substantial, more well worn than others, because the overlap between your interests and what you think might be valuable to your clients returns you over and over again to the certain topics, ideas, questions, whatever. As calpads eventually become get turned into roads, and those roads are your points of view, your expertise, etc. So, as you have passed through the expertise enema phase of this daily publishing challenge, you'll get to the point where you start to become aware of for your clients, what is risky or uncertain for them. You'll start to notice where they make decisions that are based on gut feel, guesses following the crowd, or whatever the senior person thinks they should do. In other words, you'll see that your clients make decisions under conditions of uncertainty. And you will start to develop a hunger to do something about that. Part of what you can do about that is research and part of what you can do about that is writing about the uncertainty. exploring it through writing. This is the opposite of everything you were taught in school and other jobs. So it's not easy, it doesn't come naturally, it is the opposite of what you were trained to do. What you're trained to do, by and large is to avoid uncertainty. Or to choose the safe, the lowest risk thing. in conditions of uncertainty. Those are not bad heuristics. But you can do better part of the way you can do better is by developing a nose for that uncertainty, and using your daily publishing to write about it. Now, what does that look like? Exactly? I don't know. But what you don't do is go silent in the face of that uncertainty. Tom Miller has been through the expertise incubator framework and written a book, a consulting lead generation guidebook, this came out of the research that he did. The research that he did was prompted by an uncertainty at some level about and I'm not, inside Tom's head, so I can't say was this like a personal uncertainty that he had? Or was this what he was observing in his clients, but an uncertainty about the question of how do you do lead generation most effectively. That led him to writing a lot about it, and ultimately discarding a lot of his prior beliefs about it. Some of that came about through the research, some of it came about through the writing. But it's an opportunity to innovate. And it happened. Because he loitered, he hung around the question for long enough to come up with an answer that was better than what was there before the question was what works for lead generation?
And Tom had a business and a brand based on the idea that email marketing was the answer. And he threw that away, because he got a deeper understanding of what was really going on with this question. So loitering around areas of risk and uncertainty is very productive. We're not trained to do it. I think we should do it anyway. It doesn't guarantee innovation, it increases the likelihood that it happens. The industry that you serve, whether it's horizontally defined, like, you know, cloud services or something like that, or vertically defined manufacturing, whatever. The industry has uncertainty about stuff. That's another productive place to loiter. Gilliam is in expertise incubator, again, does is he helps companies develop a strategic narrative. He helps them make use of storytelling to drive alignment internally. And the assumption is, that that's a good thing. who assumes that the industry, his peers, his clients, they're all working on an assumption that this is a self evidently good thing, this strategic storytelling thing? Maybe it is. You're starting to do some research to find out, does this strategic storytelling thing accelerate the velocity of bringing a new innovation to market? That's the research question he's pursuing. No one else in the industry can really answer that question. Because no one else has tried. The assumption was good enough for now. But there's uncertainty. Does It Really Work? Is it defensible? Can you prove it? games going to find out? He's going to earn at least partially find out? It's a big question. But he's going to make progress and that progress will be meaningful innovation, because it reduces uncertainty.
You might be personally uncertain about something. It's uncomfortable. If a client ever challenges you. So you're telling me that this thing that you want to sell me he's going to do this? How do I know that that's a good idea. And maybe you don't have an answer to that, that's not a bad thing you should not suppress the discomfort that that creates, what you should do instead is say, let's explore that. Let's loiter around that question, let's let the discomfort be there. And let's work on an answer. Part of the way you can do that is research. And part of the way you can do that is writing a lot about it. Their stuff you want to know more about, that's a great place to loiter. I've named at least two in this lecture. Earlier, I was showing you the bell curve and saying that's a hypothetical buying distribution. The reason it was hypothetical is I don't know, I would love to do some research. When I free up some bandwidth about that question. Let's look at a few email lists. And let's try to find out where the members of that email list are in terms of their readiness to buy. Because all I've got right now is educated guesses and reasonable assumptions. I hope they're reasonable. But I don't know for sure. Likewise, does every email list, I will jump back a few slides to show you this does every email list look like this. I'm subscribed to one called exponential view. This guy is he was our publishes it or as he says convenes the list. And I wonder about his list, I find it really interesting. But I wonder if it's mostly the early adopters who are on that list. And so the distribution for that list of innovativeness might look real different than, you know, folks who are on I don't know, James clears email list or something like that. So I'd like to have more than just educated guesses about what an email list looks like. That's a personal uncertainty. For me, that would be a great place for me to leader. structuring what has been unstructured knowledge is the other place, I recommend you hang out and loiter. The knowledge itself might not be what the innovation is about, but how its structured. This is what's known as a wardley map. And not sure you're going to be able to see it in great detail. This is a tool Simon wardley has put out in the world to try to help folks think more strategically about business. And the thing I want to point out here is not a detailed exploration of this map or wardley mapping in general. But just to point out that the thing that he asserts, which I believe is true, is that over time, almost everything wants to become a commodity. The Evolution the natural evolution is well I guess you could say either death or commoditization. So when something becomes a commodity, that's a good thing, because it unlocks the ability to create higher order forms of value. But under underlying that is the assertion that everything, as I like to say, or have started to like to say all good things become commodities. And so you might, as you look around your industry See that? Wow, some people are just kind of doing stuff based on all this tacit knowledge that they have cultivated over a career or a lifetime. What if that was formalized into a system that other people could use? And so they don't have to have all that tacit knowledge, they can just implement the system and get good results. What if things that are disorganized, were more organized and therefore easier to use. That is essentially the process of commoditization. And that can create tremendous value. If you're on the right end of commoditization, meaning you're the one doing it not having it done to you.
So participating in commoditization can be a way of innovating. And the innovations not the knowledge itself, it's how it's structured. loiter there, when you can localizing means taking something from outside a system and bringing it in. The word is I associate most with software when software is localized, maybe it was written for. I mean, I think the history has been It was written for the English speaking US market, and it's going to be, you know, sold elsewhere. So it needs to be localized for that other locale. So the interface might need to be tweaked, the language needs to be changed, etc. I think more and more, we're going to see the reverse. Anyway, localization, importing from other domains, that's the place to hang out, to loiter and say, What can my industry benefit from, that I can import from elsewhere? speculative pattern recognition, just sort of saying, Hmm, what is it that connects these things? Maybe nothing. Or maybe it's something that by writing and thinking a lot about it, I could start to make some connections. Think about, Jonathan Stark is such a great example of using daily emailing in a powerful way. And I think a lot of his innovation is in how he explains a topic. So you see him being very disciplined and is focused on a topic, which I think we would say is pricing and all the stuff you need to know to get better at pricing and price more profitably. The innovation I see him doing is coming up with these clever, interesting, this multitude of clever and interesting ways to explain some of the more arcane aspects of pricing and value. Another place, you can loiter. And it doesn't feel like innovation, because you're not doing something that feels like it's totally unheard of, and novel and new. But the innovation of explaining it helps you build authority, that can be a really good thing. Jonathan is kind of woodpeckers away, pecking away at this big topic, pricing and value in this big mission of ridding the world of hourly billing. But it's all in support of this really singular, tightly defined goal that he's pursuing with a lot of discipline. Having a nose for what passes for knowledge and expertise, but it's really dogma, or flat out bullshit, I think is an opportunity for innovation. Remember that we're all operating within the social system of a market or, you know, some sort of ecosystem. And those social systems develop over time, dogma, beliefs about how things are. Sometimes those beliefs are just, you know, tradition, things handed down. Somebody something worked for this person, and they talked about it and everybody assumes it's going to work for them having a nose for that kind of stuff by asking why is that can lead to innovation?
Jim, again, he wrote this, this this a few days ago, he wrote this email to his list about challenging the idea that your email list is the most valuable business asset you have. The email was Jim's email, challenging the value of an email list was saying, you know, your website has a lot of value, too. And I think I'm sort of summarizing what he was saying. I think he's saying I think a lot of you are making a mistake, by assuming that your email list is more valuable than your website. And here's some ways that I think your website can be more valuable, and your email list. So you know, Jim sent this email out, I tweeted about it. And you know, there was some discussion on Twitter, some of which, to me had the sense of Oh, wow, Jim has stepped in a pile of dogma. You know, a lot of folks, a lot of business owners like me, buy into the idea that your email list is the most valuable asset your business has? And maybe, I don't know, maybe not. Maybe it depends on the business. Maybe it is because we've been under investing in our websites. I don't know. I'm open to other ideas. Jim poked at the hornet's nest of dogma. And you know what happens? I don't think he was harmed at all by the results, thankfully, but it's really interesting to see what happens and I think it's fits under the category of innovation because it's it exposes members of a social system to novelty to something that is new. And by embracing this new idea, they can create change and that change can have benefit. Another place to loiter, which this is connected to what, what Jim did, that I think is ultimately going to be a service to people, but had the initial kind of backlash of poking at the hornet's nest of dogma. You can, you can exploit tensions and point of view. And I should probably have another talk about this thing. This is what I call the point of view space map. This is a way of thinking about it when you look at the world. You see things in a certain way. Well, why is that? I think that least for consultants like us, it might be because your goal is to change things or transform things in a really big way. Or it might be that you see things a certain way. Because your goal is actually to optimize to make little tweaks to make existing things better. And as you're arguing for whatever your goal is, you might be arguing from personal experience. Or you might be arguing from outside your own personal experience with data that you have collected. And the data could be a varying qualities. Well, all of that. And there's some more characteristics of this map. And I'm not going to get into right now, all of that may influence how you see things. And that therefore may influence what you see.
Jim, I think you could say, in arguing that website might be a more valuable asset than the email list may have been coming from personal experience. Well, folks who are coming from data might see things differently. Or they might be held back from seeing things a certain way. Because they insist on having data. Or they may be unable to believe in something they want to believe in, because there's not data. And I really want to not argue that any of these perspectives is correct. But there's an opportunity for innovation when a when you when you have a system that's kind of stable, and someone comes in as a semi outsider, and shakes things up with a different perspective they might be that might be their main innovation is simply their different perspective. So that's really what I'm trying to say here is that if you have a different perspective, from the market, from your clients from those you're trying to serve, maybe leaning into that different perspective could be a way that you innovate and create value. And resisting so hard the temptation to go into this whole other lecture and point of view, but Now's not the time for that. So we're sort of meandering around these cow paths. We've done the expertise enema, we've said everything that's easy to say about our expertise. Now we're on this frontier. Where's your interest take you if it takes you into one of these sort of dark alleys. loiter there for a while it could lead someplace good. quick recap. What's risky or uncertain for your clients? What is individually uncertain for you? What's uncertain for the industry? Those areas of uncertainty. It feels so uncomfortable to hang out there. Because we think our job is to have the answers. As optimizers as implementers of other people's ideas. Yeah, maybe that is our job to have the answers. As people who might aspire to lead the industry or nudge the industry or support the industry in moving forward. Thinking of our job as having the ideas might be a disservice. And camping out and loitering in these areas of uncertainty might be the best thing we can do. structuring the unstructured is another place to hang out and avoid or localizing something from the outside can be innovative. speculative pattern recognition just taking guesses Yeah, Sometimes it is good to have to write questions. Having a nose for dogma, exploiting tensions between how you see things and how the majority of the market sees things. Those are the places I think you can loiter, maybe not all of them at once. But just try to override your instinct to avoid those. Because we all feel it, we all have this instinct of like, that's uncertain, and therefore that's unsafe. And the best I can do, to try to help you cultivate innovation is to say, recognize that instinct, override it. And loiter in the dark, uncertain places. I think innovation poses this opportunity to move up my sort of working work in progress. There's Maslow's hierarchy of needs, which you know, talks about the move from kind of basic sustenance needs to self actualization, Self Realization, I think is at the top. I've adapted that visualization here to think about how do you move in when you're doing say, There I go doing marketing. At the term I hate because you can't really do marketing any more than you can do. Marriage takes a relationship. But as you are building visibility, earning trust, the move might look like this, you start with specialization, because that is necessary lever to help you earn visibility. You focus on expertise because it helps you earn the trust that helps you create the impact you seek.
All together those lead to authority and sometimes to market leadership. And I think innovation is a critical part of that. I think if any of those top two layers of this diagram are even in the least bit appealing to you. You should consider taking the risk that is involved in innovation. Within ti that means writing about stuff that is marked by uncertainty. And I hope you give that a chance in your publishing in your writing. Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of these ideas.