Tag growth

Softbank.

“Those doubting his grand visions have been proved wrong in the past. In 1981 he founded SoftBank to distribute personal-computer software in Tokyo with two part-time employees. On the first day the diminutive Mr Son stood on two apple cartons and announced to those befuddled workers that in five years the firm would have $75m in sales and be number one. They thought “this guy must be crazy”, Mr Son later told the Harvard Business Review, and quit the same day. But Mr Son’s drive and ambition saw SoftBank eventually distributing 80% of PC software in Japan.”

The impact of Masayoshi Son’s $100bn tech fund will be profound.” – The Economist

Strategy: Site Expansion.

I have been thinking of making a few modifications to my current Internet infrastructure to allow the platform to grow in the years to come.  Before going into detail, I think it’s important to share my perspective on the site as a whole:

What’s Working:

  1. Good foundational online presence.
  2. Excellent initial placement in search engine rankings.
  3. Microsite concept allows for easy expansion.
  4. Hosting infrastructure is top-notch.
  5. Majority of time is spent on content generation.

What’s Not:

  1. Not every microsite has SEO functionality.
  2. Presence of older content is not reflective of current skill-level.
  3. Some duplication of content across sites.
  4. No clear long-term strategy.
  5. Some technical gaps exist.

While there will always be opportunities to explore, I would like to focus my time on a select few.  The best way to prioritize is to first revisit my objectives for my online presence:

  • Growth Enabler – I want to continue this online journey as it has strengthened my ability to focus and explore new ideas.  To be more specific, I want the content to enable the continued creation of both online and offline projects.
  • Relevance – I want visitors (employers, collaborators, friends) to have access to information, ideas and content that is most relevant and is most reflective of my capabilities at that time – and not be distracted by older information. At the same time, I would like to keep older sites active as they collectively are a part of who I am.
  • Presentation Ability – I want to go a step further in improving my communication abilities by presenting new concepts in HD.
  • Ease of Use – I want to make it easy for visitors to learn about me and my capabilities.
  • Pervasiveness – I want to maintain and broaden my standing in search engines through additional content generation and an effective SEO strategy.

Ultimately, this online presence is to support my personal and professional goals in a way that is self-fulfilling; one idea leads to another, essentially cross-pollinating between sites and into new online and offline endeavors.

Going a step further, I hope I can help others see things in a different way and encourage them to push themselves into new territories.  In a best case scenario, the site can connect me with other individuals with similar goals and interests for potential collaboration.

In short, I want the site to be an extension of myself.

Given this context, what needs to be done now?  Actually, quite a bit!  Here’s the list:

  1. Make final modifications to existing sites that will remain and formally close out sites that are no longer needed.
  2. Upgrade to the latest version of BasicMaths to allow for video embedding.
  3. Upgrade to the latest version of WordPress for existing sites.
  4. Figure out the best backup strategy for existing WordPress sites.
  5. Revisit SEO strategy for existing and new sites.
  6. Redesign Pixeldust microsite to focus exclusively on digital photography.
  7. Document current infrastructure.
  8. Design new homepage that allows for greater content flexibility.
  9. Create sitemap to illustrate microsite connectivity and potential redundancy.
  10. Launch SoundCloud presence.
  11. Figure out how to share brainstorming notes in a way that shows clear traceability to real content (designs, illustrations, posts, etc.).
  12. Formulate a long-term strategy.
  13. Develop a workflow for HD content generation and presentation.

Fortunately, a fair number of these tasks have already begun.

Advancement Pathways.

“On the other hand,” said Randa, “my uncle used to say, ‘All knowledge is one,’ and he may be right.  You may learn something from meteorology that will help you with your psychohistory.  Isn’t that possible?”  Seldon smiled weakly.  “A great many things are possible.”  And to himself he added: But not practical.

– Prelude to Foundation, Isaac Asimov

One of the concepts that I’ve explored over the past several years is something called a development, or advancement model.  The purpose of such a model is to determine where you are in terms of an “ideal” state, and what changes you may have to employ in order to reach that state.

Since several of my recent posts have focused on digital illustration, it only makes sense to show an advancement model in this area.  On the left side of this model is a “starting” state while the right side shows an ideal “end” state – in this case a digital matter painter (who would be employed doing matte paintings for movies, for example).

(As you can see, I am pretty far from this particular end-state!)

This is a good start, but it’s not particularly useful other than showing where one is within the advancement “spectrum”.  For example, it doesn’t really tell us what we need to do to get to this ideal end-state.  Here is a potential improvement:

This version highlights at least five levels of advancement one needs to achieve in order to become a professional “digital matte painter”.  But this model is also rather limited in that it assumes an ideal growth path is linear – which, in many cases, it is not.  In fact, sometimes the best advancement path is anything but linear! (although it can take longer to get that ideal state)

Here is an advancement model that is more dynamic and perhaps more reflective of “real-world” development:

As you can see, we’re still intent on building the skills and aptitude necessary to become a “digital matte painter” but the path is less structured and more dynamic – potentially allowing one to become an even more advanced (rounded) matte painter at the end of this “journey”.  Some paths, as you can see in this visual, diverge completely from the originally defined end state.

Needless to say, this model is created partially in hindsight as one may not know all of the paths that she/he can take on this development journey.  Which begs the question: if the creation of this model is partially in hindsight, what is the relevance?

The relevance of this type of advancement model is that it forces one to look at the pathway they are on to assess whether their current direction will ultimately converge towards the end state.  If not, is this a temporary deviation or a permanent one?  Has the goal changed?  Does it make sense to reverse course and try another path?

As one gains greater knowledge about the “ideal” end state, they will have a greater ability to introduce new and alternative pathways that may help broaden their experience and understanding.  Having multiple pathways is a good thing as it can provide new advancement channels to explore.  The key is not to get “lost” in this “web” and ensure that the paths one follows is done with a true sense of purpose.

Advancement models are useful constructs for helping one improve in a given area, and can also help expand one’s understanding of the experiential and educational landscape associated with the core subject.  Start with your career – what does your advancement model look like?  What does the “ideal state” look like for you?  How will you get there?

The Crystal Ball.

“Begin with the end in mind” is based on the principle that all things are created twice. There’s a mental or first creation, and a physical or second creation to all things. – Stephen Covey

One of the many things I’ve learned in project management is that “starting with the end in mind” is one of the best methods to ensuring a successful outcome.  When your team has a clear sense of what need to do from the beginning, task definition and assignment activities come naturally and the team is able to spend more time focusing on the “day-to-day” issues vs. continuously wrestling with an ever-changing scope definition.

A similar approach can work extremely well when envisioning your future.

An article in the Futurist magazine entitled “Envisioning your Future: Imagining Ideal Scenarios” suggests that:

… having a vision is to be an idealist.  This idealism should not be confused with unrealistic ideas; it should be used synonymously with having “a standard of excellence”.  A person that is by nature a visionary looks into the future as though it is filled with possibilities, not probabilities.

If I look at my future based from who I really am, and document a clear description of what that future looks like, my life starts to become what I’ve created for myself.

After much thought, I came up with the following personal vision:

“My vision for the future is comprised of positive experiences that intertwine my ‘personal’ and ‘professional’ lives into a single life structure.  Because of this, the long-held notion of “work-life” balance is lessened, and at its extreme, no longer required.  By thinking strategically, I am able to spend my energy on activities that pay dividends over both the short and long-term.  A continuous and purposeful stream of explicit and implicit challenges allows my mind to expand at an accelerated rate.  With this expansion comes possibilities, and possibilities spark further action towards an ideal state called “Ultima”.  My relationships are continuously expanding, but only at a rate where the relationships themselves are developing at a natural and lasting pace.  My ability to see the unique qualities of each person and strive towards relationships that are, at their core, genuine, helps build strong partnerships that ultimately become central figures in a life structure built around growth, energy, complexity, awareness and intensity.”

Fortunately, I think this is fairly representative of what I want my future to look like.  The next step is to take this concept and apply it to my design firm.

What does my business vision look like?  I’ll talk about that in my next post.

PsG3 Regen: “Advancement Subsystems”

By defining PLANESCAPE as a “system”, it seems natural to think of it’s underlying components as “subsystems”.

Subsystems are a way to “logically encapsulate” core themes essential for growth.  By aligning subsystems with my core value system, I think the Planescape “superstructure” can remain somewhat constant while still allowing for change / growth.

Regen introduces the following four (advancement) subsystems:

1. Mental
2. Creation
3. Bionic
4. Core

The “mental” subsystem exists to further accelerate development and expansion of the mind.  This aligns with my fifth and sixth values – “Learning” and “Challenge”.  The concept of brain plasticity is one of the main drivers behind this subsystem

The “creation” subsystem complements the mental subsystem in that it focuses exclusively on the creative (right) side of the brain.  This aligns with my eighth value “Creativity”.  While this encapsulates all of my traditional creative pursuits – industrial design, illustration, photography, etc. – it is actually much more than this.  It’s ultimately about idea generation.

The “bionic” subsystem focuses on improving the physical component (i.e. my physical self).  Bionic aligns with my third value – “Health and Wellness”.  Bionic is a new mindset and strategy that will take me into the next dimension of physical performance.

The “core” subsystem serves as the “foundation” to the other subsystems – it’s the engine that runs everything else.  Because of this, it ultimately aligns with the entire core value set.  All aspects of interpersonal relationships – building and strengthening – are at the heart of this subsystem.

The introduction of the “subsystem” will ultimately streamline planning efforts and will enable me to focus on the underlying activities.  This will, in turn, allow for more rapid growth and development in all areas.

Happiness 101.

From time to time, if I am feeling down, my family and friends will tell me to “Just be happy!”.  I have always struggled with  understanding what this really means.  This is not to say that I am not a happy person (I am), but if I am not happy, should I expend energy trying to be happy?  If I did, what exactly should I do to “be happy”?

Having just finished the book “Finding Flow” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, I think I’ve discovered the answer to this.

The answer ultimately suggests increasing your involvement and enthusiasm in your life and letting that experience and mindset ultimately guide you towards happiness.

Let me explain further.

Mihaly is best known for his research on the concept of “flow”.  Having experienced “flow” many times, I believe it is one of the most rewarding feelings that ultimately results in happiness.  But first, what is “flow”?

“The metaphor of “flow” is one that many people have used to describe the sense of effortless action they feel in moments that stand out as the best in their lives.  Athletes refer to it as “being in the zone,” religious mystics as being in “ecstasy,” artists and musicians as aesthetic rapture.”

When I come up with a new idea or am in the final stages of a drawing, there is a high likelihood of experiencing”flow”.  I know when it happens because I don’t think about anything else but what I am doing at that moment.  While it may sound strange, it’s almost as if time does not exist.  It’s an amazing feeling.

Mihaly makes an interesting point in his book in that one typically doesn’t experience happiness during “flow” (i.e. there isn’t enough “room” for any real emotion during flow experiences).  It’s only when the experience is over where one can feel truly happy – i.e. because they have experienced “flow”.

Returning to my original dilemma (“how can one be happy?”), most people assume that being happy is synonymous with a fulfilling life.  According to the author, “happiness is not the only emotion worth considering [to have a more fulfilling life].  In fact, if one wants to improve the quality of everday life, happiness may be the wrong place to start.”

The key to achieving flow – and ultimately happiness – is being able to live a life filled with involvement and enthusiasm in all areas. Those that are able to achieve this are considered to have an “autotelic” personality – formed from the Greek roots auto (self) and telos (goal).

“Autotelic persons are not necessarily happier, but they are involved in more complex activities, and they feel better about themselves as a result.  It is not enough to be happy to have an excellent life.  The point is to be happy while doing things that stretch our skills, that help us grow, and fulfill our potential.”

(I am fortunate in that I have a long track of having an autotelic personality, although admittedly I never knew that such a formal description of such a personality existed.)

Some of you may be saying “I can be happy without being involved in a complex activity!” and you are absolutely right.  The challenge, according to the author, is that:

“… this kind of happiness [happiness without “flow”] is very vulnerable and dependent on favorable external circumstances.”

He then goes on to suggest:

“The happiness that follows flow is of our own making, and it leads to increasing complexity and growth in consciousness.”

Through the “Finding Flow” text, my mission now is not to “be happy”, but experience happiness through increased involvement and enthusiasm in all areas of my life – and not just those that are self-directed (i.e. through personal projects, classes, etc.).

My personal leadership philosophy

My personal leadership philosophy focuses on empowerment and setting people up for success.

Empowerment means that a person has specific responsibility over a particular area or effort / project, and that everyone has a clear understanding of her/his role.  This latter piece plays a significant role in setting them up for success.

In contrast, leveraging people to simply “help out” with a particular task is ill-suited for true long-term growth.  I encourage people to not just “help out”, but to “take ownership” over a specific deliverable and ensure that all aspects of that deliverable are analyzed and managed accordingly.

(The key precursor to doing this is to analyze the problem at a high-level and partition accordingly.  Utilizing a “divide and conquer” strategy is key.)

Another aspect to this leadership philosophy is to leverage an individuals strengths AND interests.  For example, if an associate excels at requirements analysis but loathes the activity, it’s not going to be in either party’s interest to put that person in that particular role.  You might be empowering them, but you are not setting them up for success.

From a managerial perspective, I focus more heavily on “foundational” elements before empowering associates to take on new tasks / assignments.  One of these foundational elements focuses on valuesWhat an associate values will play a significant role in helping them choose one direction over another.

For example, if an associate values “harmonious relationships” over “advancement”, it’s likely that the associate will be happier in a group with a good team dynamic than vs. being promoted within a team  lacking such a dynamic.

Once a person’s value assessment is complete (there should be 10 core values), a formal “talent builder” and “skills assessment” should be next on the agenda.  This will help the associate refine their current tasks to align with their interests, and it can also help guide the associate towards a new role if there is existing misalignment.

It’s only after these two steps where both short-term and long-term plans can be formulated.  Once this is performed, then the leadership principles discussed earlier can be applied.