Untangling Time & Energy

Somewhere along the way you’ve probably been asked a question along the lines of ‘where are you spending your time & energy right now?’

You may have asked it yourself.

Time and energy are often paired together.

The answer to this question may contain a few elements, or it may contain one.

If we take a moment to think this question through, there are almost definitely multiple answers.

Time and energy may be connected, but knowing where the differences are is important.

And even if on face value the answer is the same, splitting these apart allows something else to appear that we may not expect.

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3 elements of a successful entertainment venture

Last week I got a call from the founder of a new podcasting company.

As he explained the concept, I noticed there were 3 things he kept coming back to. They felt familiar.

I thought back to a meeting I took several years before with the CFO of a sizeable entertainment company in the UK.

At the time I was exploring options in the ‘buy’ side of the business (I’d spent the previous few years on the sell side as an agent).

As we discussed various nuances and fine points of building live event properties and marketing to millennials, the CFO took a pause and said;

‘You know what; there are only really 3 elements that matter. Talent, production and marketing. We can cut them up any way we like, but that’s what it all comes down to.’

This is reflected a number of times by CAA co-founder Michael Ovitz in his memoir ‘Who is Michael Ovitz?’ – from his formative work at CAA, to the ill-fated spells at AMG and Disney, and onto his roles with technology companies in Silicon Valley.

Whether it’s movies, festivals, podcasts, TV, eSports, conferences, or just about any creative endeavour that’s being put out into the world, you need that blend of Talent, Production, and Marketing.

And the real magic? Finding the alchemy between them.

From Code School to Podcast School

Think back a decade or so.

How many kids did you see coding computers or hardware devices for fun?

Maybe you happened to be around a passionate engineering community, or instilled this curiosity in your own children at a young age, but chances are it was a pretty rare sight.

There were IT classes at school of course, but a lot of the focus was on learning how to use Microsoft Office, or perhaps writing some Perl or PHP script.

For the majority of young people, this was mandatory stuff to be done in their early teens. Something to tick off on the list of subjects to be studied and the grade to be acquired. Miles away from Final Fantasy and Football Manager.

And the barriers to owning your own computer were still pretty high.

Now it’s different.

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The rise of Edutainment

Education as business development (and beyond), teachers becoming more than just the new DJs, and the foundations of a big shift that’s here to stay.

 

At the start of 2018 I drafted an article entitled ‘Education is the new business development’.

It sat in my draft posts folder for way too long (this post explains why).

Here’s a taster of what I put together:

 

Media publishers can no longer rely on display ads, and a brand are less interested in just the media buy.

As a B2B sales software startup you can spend months trying to explain the benefits of your offering succinctly, let alone closing a deal.

If you’re tasked with heading up innovative ideas in a large company, a significant part of your workload is putting together information for internal teams to understand just what you’re up to and why they should care.

It’s tiring.

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Company Name* (required)

We see this all the time.

On event registrations, job applications, and the contact forms where we’re encouraged to get in touch.

Fill out your company name, it’s mandatory.

But what if you’re a company of one? A freelancer? Someone who’s part of many rosters?

You can put your own name, or ’n/a’, or ‘many’, but inside you know this will screen you out, lessen your importance. It sows a seed in the recipient’s mind that this person isn’t right, they don’t fit, they’re ignoring the way we do things here.

Or what if you have a company but it’s just a trading name, a way for you to do business? It’s not relevant.

Just like many other parts of the old system, this little field on the form doesn’t really make sense any more. Sure, it can be useful, but should it be required?

It boxes us in, forces us to conform. We have to follow the rules.

On LinkedIn, the ‘Projects’ section of someone’s profile is all the way down at the bottom of the page.

For many of us this is the most important section of all: the work we’ve done, the things we’ve made, the projects we’ve put out into the world.

It’s far more important than listing the bullet points of a job description we got hired to do, with a company name against it.

The old system and its various components are still the standard most of the world works to.

If you don’t fit this system then things can be very frustrating.

The good news is that this is changing.

The changes are sometimes hard to see, but they’re happening, one component at a time.

Sometimes the components just need refining or polishing. Other times they need completely rethinking. And occasionally they’re completely defunct, grinding against what works, not making it better.

Which components are now defunct for you?

What’s not *required any more?

Shipping, Unshipping and the Creative Handbrake

It’s now happened more times than I care to remember.

That feeling.

The shame. Frustration. Even self-loathing.

The impotence of not shipping it.

Not publishing, saving as draft, ignoring, deleting.

Holding it back, adding something else, flip-flopping.

The voice of the inner critic who’s seen all those other majestic experts effortless put their fluid, pithy or sophisticated work into the world.

The creative handbrake.

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Mind the Gap: A primer on Biases and Mental Models (slide deck)

Here’s an annotated and somewhat abbreviated version of a talk I did back in May for Hyper Island’s Learning Lab in New York City, focused on biases, decision making and mental models.

It wasn’t my initial intention to do this as a talk; I’d just collected a few snippets around the topic for my own learning purposes and had begun adding a few metaphors and examples to help build my understanding.

The area of biases and mental models is something I’ve long understood, but only to a very rudimentary level. Up until recently I’d never thought properly about what a confirmation bias actually is (or what it means), how Occam’s Razor can be used to help make a decision, or why we overly focus on the victors in business, sports, arts and life.

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Intensity or Technique? You choose

boxing

In New York City there are a host of fitness studios offering innovative takes on a workout session.

One of these is a Box & Flow class. Ostensibly it’s for people who like boxing and yoga.

You get plenty of exercise from aerobic exercises, hitting the boxing bag, and yoga flow on the mat.

It’s varied, fast paced, energetic. And you sweat. You sweat a lot.

Of course, there’s a trade off. At that pace there isn’t time to check if your stance is correct, whether your power is coming from your hips as well as your fists, or the warrior two pose is  properly aligned.

So if you like boxing and yoga, the boxing & yoga class may not actually be what you’re looking for.

If you have more than a passing interest in one or both of these activities, you probably have a desire to also improve your technique, your craft, your knowledge.

It’s near-impossible to have it all at the same time, so you have to make a choice: focus on speed and intensity to get one kind of result, or on the technique and craft to get another. That means knowing what kind of trade-off you’re willing to make and the result you want to get.

We have to make these kinds of choices in other areas of our lives too, particularly in our work.

And if we don’t know which kind of result we want, we may end up with no benefit from increased intensity or technique.

The surprising thing is that a lot of the time we make these choices without really knowing why we’re making them.

So what’s it to be? Boxing, yoga, or a bit of both?

3 circles for managing control, influence, concern, and anxiety

A concept I came across earlier this Summer is that of 3 circles.

I first used it in a business growth and change management class I was teaching, but it’s come up several times recently with friends and clients who are feeling overwhelmed with projects to tackle, situations to manage, or decisions to make.

Circles of Control, Influence, Concern

The inner circle is the Circle of Control. In here is all the stuff we can have the power to directly ourselves. We can choose to send an email to someone, take a day off, or publish the blog post.

Second is the Circle of Influence.

And finally is the Circle of Concern. Here orbits everything else that we have an interest in, but we can do nothing about

Often our minds will wander out from our circle of control, into the circle of influence, and likely all the way out into that huge expanse that is the circle of concern.

Here we can do nothing to make our goals and desires happen, and our mind fills with nerves, worry, and existential dread.

When this happens we can just bring ourselves back to our circle of control.

Usually we’ll find there are a few things back here we’ve ignored, swept under the carpet or haven’t noticed before.

A nice side effect of owning our circle of control is items in the circle of influence suddenly draw closer towards and that enormous circle of concern becomes…well, less concerning.

What can you bring into your circle of control?

5 lessons from Manchester City coach Pep Guardiola

The latest in Amazon Prime’s ‘All or Nothing’ sports documentary series goes behind the scenes at the highly successful and somewhat polarizing English Premier League football team Manchester City.

Led by the former Barcelona and Bayern Munich coach Pep Guardiola, City swept all before them in the league last season, and the series goes behind the scenes of that 9 month journey.

There’s plenty to criticize; the lack of compelling story arc can leave a viewer cold, and frustratingly there’s not that much in the way of specific tactics and strategies used by Guardiola to motivate his side and outwit competitors, but there are a good few interesting insights to glean – for fans, coaches and business people alike.

Here are a few of them.

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