Procrastination

So many people have written about procrastination. So many people have delayed and postponed writing about procrastination, so why oh why would I bother. Isn’t it better to play one more round of Clash Royale, maybe clean the cupboards, fold linen or whatever.

Professionally procrastination comes into play when you lose inspiration. An inspired mind and body will just keep on going, unless exhausted or otherwise stalled. A hobby, no matter how trivial or silly, is by definition inspirational, so how come the work can become something else?

Occasionally it does, and when that happens you can try to grit yourself through that, push harder, “get things done” – or you can ask “if it seems I don’t want to do this, I’d rather clean the toilet – is this job worth doing”.

I have no answers to that question, only the question. If you are stuck, can’t motivate yourself, and procrastinate over a thing – Was it worth doing in the first place?

Innovation and change

What is an innovation? And what is a change in business? Is it a change if prices go up and then down (discount sale)? Under what circumstances would the customers see price changes as something new, as an innovation? How small a change can be to count as novel?

The answers depend on the specifics of the market situation and customer perception. On the other hand, if nothing changes, the market most likely will not observe novelty or innovation.

We’ll rely on definition bin dissertation by Robert van der Have, “Seeking Speed: Managing the Search for Knowledge Innovate Faster”

These [innovation] activities span from the creation and development
of new knowledge into an invention, and the process of its subsequent further
commercial development, including application toward specific objectives,
culminating in its practical utilization and economic/commercial exploitation.

Ideas are not innovations. Rather “an innovation is a new product, service or process that is commercially exploited.” This leaves open the question of incremental innovation, i.e. new product variants or service improvements. For the sake of this discussion innovation and change are considered the same. Thus, an innovation is a completely or partially new product or service that is commercially exploited. This leaves out failed innovations, i.e. ideas that may have been implemented inside a company but were either discarded before commercial launch or ended up as market failures. These need to be taken into account in discussing innovation.

Our interest is in concrete innovation practices, how to effectively develop and deploy new and improved products. At times a sequence of such changes is so profound that the product is actually a completely new innovation. New radical changes are somewhat outside our scope as that is closer to science and research, and as such subject to different mechanisms.

Blue bubbles represent products and services as seen by the customers. Small blue dots represent relevant features of the products. Highlight is used to illustrate how features and products are connected. Please note that there are mutual synergies between products. Naive illustration is a pizza, fork and knife where fork and knife are separate products, both essential and more useful together than one at a time. The author realizes that utensils are often sold together as a unit and begs for forgiveness on this silly illustration.

Orange bubbles, dots and areas represent companies’ view. Orange bubbles represent products, SKUs in concrete terms, and the small dots their components, features, inventions, manufacturing, delivery, service and other aspects that make the product complete. Competitive differentiation lies in these aspects and how they are packaged together as an offering.

Details matter, implementation counts, only products that have been delivered matter. To get from ideas to products to revenue and profit ideas need to be turned into innovations and delivered to customers. That is the interest and we’ll return to that in the next part. As soon as we are done procrastinating.

Innovation and Black Friday

Black Friday innovation is usually seen mainly from retail, channel and shopper experience perspective. That it is,  similar to singles day and other similar established seasonal shopping sprees.

There is an underlying innovation cycle, too. The products are current, latest and greatest, new models and the roll-out is recent so that customer perception of new features is still fresh when the big sales comes up. This creates the perfect setup for innovators – market expectation about  new product releases, discount signal “buy now ” and general market visibility. Sure, marketing is tough as everyone is trying to get their message across, but in general the audience is tuned in.

This makes the seasonal and expected events like Black Friday innovation drivers. Consumers expect great offers on great products. Would there be riots about last year’s models? No way – it is about desirable products that are better, and there is innovation driver. You’ll want your product to be the one people are rushing to get. 

love paper bags with sale text
Photo by Sora Shimazaki on Pexels.com

Innovators, that is product development, have been busy way before the  visibility of the year’s biggest shopping days. Products need to be competitive, which means that attractive product features have been identified, checked, specified, designed etc all the way to marketing messages and delivery capacity.

Is there a guaranteed recipe for making a hit product for the season? Safe to say no, unless you are Apple who keeps on doing that every year.  Certain practices may help, though.

Innovation is about change, and change especially from the customers’ perspective. Organizationally change can be easy or hard, and one could argue that cultures that make experiments easy and fast to implement are better prepared to identify  and implement beneficial changes to their products.

Besides operational and innovation culture, strategy plays a role. Without a clear and chared vision about who your company serves, how and by which product and service categories better than others innovative culture will become lost in great ideas for adjacent markets. That may serve a purpose for the society, may open up startup opportunities, but how about your sales and profitability?

Culture and strategy need to be backed up by actual ability. That for innovation means smart, capable, motivated people. Your business strategy is implemented and executed by people who are comfortable with, enjoy and are attracted to and share the mission, strategy and culture at your business.

I started looking at Singles day and Black Friday as I was trying to figure out if they are “just” annual sales, publicity gimmicks or if there is something for an innovator to observe. I think there is, as true and innovative marketing and product research has happened before the event, and the big sales events are the culmination of great innovations done, be that consumer electronics, fashion, food, or anything else.

We are interested in your view on the topic. Please don’t hesitate to drop a note to info@ainolabs.com

AI is a good tool

Opinion piece in NYT confirms once again Ainolabs bias about the immense usefulness of ML and fundamental futility of human equivalent AI.

“… there is no such thing as disembodied understanding. Your neural, chemical and bodily responses are in continual conversation with one another, so both understanding and experiencing are mental and physical simultaneously. “

It is quite possible that a silicon based entity reaches consciousness. It just won’t be human. 

This is related to trying out GPT-3 for Ainolabs’ Mentor Bot. Very useful for specific purposes, hit rate for meaningful conversation is another thing alltogether.

You Are Not Who You Think You Are

Saying “No” is hard

You are busy. So am I, so is your colleague, and everyone else. Busy is almost a virtue. Too much to do, too much on your plate, deadlines rushing in, write an offer here, respond to that, report the latest by morning – all that surely means you are creating value and your contribution is in great demand.

All that is true. You are a busy centerpiece of your community, and only if you had more time, more hours in a day you could achieve so much nore.

When you are busy, and other people ask for help, what do you say?

“Sorry, I’m busy”. Of course, there is a lot to be done. What do you think the requestor hears? Educated guess: “My request isn ‘t important.”

Busy is a matter of not only limited time and long backlogs, but also and especially about priorities and time and task management. Whenever you ask for help and get back “busy” as an answer, wouldn’t it be great to hear about priorities?

It could be something as simple as queue number, overall cognitive load of your colleague, indication of e.g major project deadline etc.

People like to help, and to say yes, and really want to avoid saying “no”to others. That is how it is very easy to become “busy” in the first place.

Consider a different scenario.

Your colleague speaks her mind to Ainolabs Mentor, explains all her tasks, including the ones you don’t and should not know about.

You try to reach her, and are redirected also to Ainolabs Mentor (she is *busy*, remember).

You ask for her help, the Mentor logs your request, and informs you that she is very busy, this may take a while and would you like to discuss your request ‘s priority with her manager.

That way she does not need to say “No” or explain everything you, you both can discuss the topic first in a socially neutral context (Ainolabs Mentor is a machine, not a person) and you can ask for help to resolve the priority issue.

Priorities, time and task management are true causes of busy, and if you hear busy in your work environment, please remember these factors.

Often simple re-orientation and bit of interpersonal honesty is enough.

That can be hard and mentally draining – you’ll be saying “No “, a negative while you could choose to say “busy”, a positive spin to “sorry, I can’t help you”.

You could also try Professional Mentor. You can be honest and curt with the machine, and Ainolabs Mentor can share the relevant information with your colleagues – on a need to know basis.

Sign up today at https://ainolabs.com/shop/

Lists make us happy

What do I do about topics I find interesting and relevant to my job, hobboes, interests and what not?

I put them on a list, either as an item in Slack, a handwritten note on the little booklet I have on my desk, a draft post on our CMS or somewhere else.

It feels good to do so, I have taken care of it, it won’t get lost, and eventually I will check the topic and determine if it was a good idea or perhaps best to quietly discard it.

Writing things up on a to-do list makes me calmer, happier, not everlasting bliss, but no angst, anxiety or fear about things I might forget.

This will be followed hy discomfort later on if I let the lists grow too long. Nagging feeling of topics I should do something about is unpleasant and occasionally stressful. Yeccch, all those and Monday morning, give me a break!

What helps me is a little inner voice that asks which items need attention now (bills to pay, taxes, jobs to assign to my crew etc), maybe later (that blog post, interesting research, new handcrafting technique), and those that may have sounded good at the time but are not worth the mental burden and nagging feeling of overtly long to-do lists.

I’ve heard that most humans make lists and that lists make us feel better. Turns out that listing things and processing the list, that feeling of accomplishment improves wellbeing.

We humans, we the people are happier when there is a sense on being in control, and we are also more productive.

Ainolabs is developing Professional Mentor service to be the little inner voice to help you (and us) with these two simple yet powerful aspects:

1) make a todo list and 2) check and prioritize it regularly.

Simple as that, brief discussion with the Pro Mentor, almost like rubberducking but better.