Where Ideas Come From

During a 30 minute yoga class on a day where I was over scheduled  I was standing in triangle pose.

Triangle Pose

Triangle Pose

There is nothing strange about standing in triangle pose in a yoga class as it’s pretty standard fare. What was interesting is that for the first time in seven years I noticed that this pose creates three triangles. THREE WHOLE TRIANGLES. In seven years I hadn’t looked beyond the obvious one. During my days as an expat in Angola, I had the chance to work with other expats who had rolled through Nigeria before. They had strong opinions (some negative) about the state of the country, and I kept telling them that while things were bad, there was more to the country than what met the eye. All they could see was oil and I drew their attention to enterprises like IrokoTV and Paga.

These are only two examples of not looking beyond the obvious things in front of us to see the beauty and possibility beneath. All it takes is a little attention and we can see past the obvious guy holding an anteana to get a TV signal to the opportunity to design a handheld TV antenna that is powerful enough to pick up signals at any elevation; or we can see the pattern on the back of an insect as inspiration for a painting. The bottom line is that ideas can come from looking beyond the obvious.

What did you notice today that was always there but you just saw for the first time?

The Power of Revisiting

I made a mistake. You see I understood the concept of bootstrapping a business, from an intellectual standpoint that is. I understood that if you want to bootstrap you need to look at what you have and look at where it gives you strength; I understood you needed to realize that you can’t play the same game the big guys are playing, you know the captains of industry. I wrote a business plan for a class, and one of the requirements was to ensure that the business could prove viable and it could hire more than two people full time. I wrote that plan, but in my heart I knew my business couldn’t be that plan at least not yet. Gig Theory in its paper incarnation was a business that would have its own brick and mortar location by the beginning of year three. It was a business that, as written, would require millions of naira (almost 43 million) to get to the point of making an impact on entrepreneurs. But it was also a business that was playing in a league that it didn’t need to play to fulfill its mission. The organization didn’t need a building to fulfill its mission, it just needed a platform.

The platform I created initially was built with the paper incarnation of Gig Theory in mind. And by the time the platform was created, at quite an expense, I realized that keeping up with the platform would take more than I could give, and hiring people to fill the gaps that I couldn’t would put us out of business faster than we could gain traction and start making impact, revenue, or net assets. My partner had to remind me that the goal was sustainability, not size or image.

I recently read The Bootstrappers Bible, a manifesto by Seth Godin that I recommend everyone who is interested in entrepreneurship to read. One of the takeaways was to sit with one’s business plan/business model at least once every three months. I did that, and while it resulted in me putting aside the initially expensive but beautiful platform; it also helped me move to a beautiful and cheaper (on a cost basis) platform that was easier for me to manage.

Lesson:

  • When you are going from paper to real life (plan to implementation) you need to look at what you are currently capable of. Usually the plan is a representation of the final point, or what you consider to be the final point, of your business. When you start, depending on your level of resources, you might need to start a bit different or like I did just smaller.

LOF4: Is There Another Way?

Today’s learning on Friday is a question. It’s one that has been nagging me for a while, and I thought you might have the answer that has eluded me so far. Recently on my way back from work in dense Luanda traffic, it was hard not to notice the street vendors selling everything from car visors and cashews to travel adapters and medicine. I couldn’t help but wonder is there another way? Another way for these people to make a living with the education level that they have now and the resources they have access to. Is there a way for them to make a living without having to go from car to car trying to sell customers on their dusty products, underneath the driving heat, running between cars trying not to get hit?

LOF3: Co-Renting

This particular night started with a communal meal at a great Lebanese restaurant and migrated to a bar and finally to a club. The fascinating thing about the night was that two of the three places we went to were sharing the space with another kind of business – a concept called co-renting. In this situation the arrangement involved using a space for a specific purpose during the day, and totally transforming the space for use by another business by night. As we drove up to the bar, I noticed that the main gate had a sign for the Ministry of Agriculture, and as I walked in I noticed an array of arts and artifacts. The club was the same, it wasn’t just a club as there was theater seating by the dance floor. It turned out that it is a movie theater as well. This arrangement reminded me of an article in Entrepreneur Magazine called Share the Wealth that goes into a bit of detail on operating businesses with a coherent theme out of a common space.

Question: Do any of you currently or plan to employ any creative arrangements for obtaining the space to run your business out of? If so please share below and if not let’s brainstorm a few right now?

On Education and Learning

In the years that I have been an engaged Nigerian, I have noticed that we treasure education more than a lot of things in this world. From my little corner of the universe, I see that majority of us order priorities in this way:

  • Religion and family
  • Education

This is a great thing because an educated populace has a better chance at prosperity; but where does that leave learning? A lot of us go to school, graduate, start a job if we are lucky, and that’s where it ends. Education is great but learning occurs outside of the confines of a formal educational institution. It requires going out and seeking to know more about why things work the way they do, why people behave the way they do, why the world is the way it is, and so on. Education is the foundation for learning because it can teach you the focus that is required to pursue what you are curious about, but education can’t teach you all that you need to know.

There is a popular quote by Albert Einstein that I love:

The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.

 

I interpret this quote to mean that the only thing that interferes with learning something new is the fact that I believe myself to be educated enough already i.e. I know all there is to know. This is dangerous thinking because it means that I am relying on my education at the expense of all else. It also means that I’ve closed myself to anything new, which is the beginning of the end of any growth for me.

Call to action: What have you learned today?

LOF2: A Wonder Emporium and Believing in Yourself

Magorium

Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium

I’m one of those people who draws inspiration from movies. I understand that the people in the movies are actors who do an amazing job of portraying a character, and I know that their environments are fabricated. BUT I also understand that the scripts that these movies are acted from are written by real people with real personal stories of their own, and that these writers draw from their own stories and stories of their friends for inspiration. So anytime I come upon a movie with a great message, I write about it or just carry the message with me.

One such movie is Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium. It was set in a magical toy store that was owned by a man who was over 200 years old. He was around in the time of Edison, and the dialogue implied that the light bulb was his idea. He decided that it was his time to die, so he willed the store to an insecure young lady who had worked with him for as long as anyone could remember. The problem was the store didn’t like the idea and the lady didn’t believe she could run the store. Long story short the store only came back alive after the lady started believing in herself.

Moral: Believing in Yourself is a job that you and only you are uniquely endowed to do.

I am a strong believer of outsourcing whatever you can, but the job of “believing in yourself” is something I insist that you have to do on your own. We live in the world of Facebook and Twitter where one can post a snippet of what an awesome day they have had and have a ton of validating comments/retweets and a world of the web in general where you can post your work and potentially get rave reviews. It is very easy to outsource the job of believing in yourself to your viewers, readers, friends et al. In such situations you come to rely on external validation to feel like you have done a good job. This is something that I find myself doing on a regular basis especially in my professional career, ever heard of a performance review? Well I live for those.

While external validation is great, your own belief in yourself and your own abilities should come first. When you put your work out there in the world, not everyone will have something positive to say it or about your ability to do the work. If you don’t have strong base of self-belief you can fall into the trap of second guessing or changing your work to pander to the loudest critic. DON’T.

Believe in yourself, believe in your work and don’t change either you believe it is time to move on or if you get constructive criticism that can help you improve on your work.

In the spirit of learning, can you share any lessons that you have learned from fictional movie characters?

LOF1: You Don’t Need a Big Idea

This is the first installment in a series that I have chosen to call LOF, short for “Learning on Friday.” LOF is a place for random things that I learn and that I think are worth sharing. As always I think if it helps one, it has the potential to help another. This is a weekly feature, so tune in every Friday. Enjoy the first installment!

I have been reading a book by Jim C. Collins and Jerry I. Porras called Built to Last. The premise of the book is to look into what makes a select few companies stand the test of time; the subtitle for the book is “Successful Habits of Visionary Companies”. These companies are called visionary companies as they are some of the captains of industry whose products influenced our lives in one way or another. Some of these companies are:

  • Procter & Gamble: Soaps
  • Merck: Pharmaceuticals
  • Boeing: Aerospace
  • Sony: Does anyone remember the Walkman?
  • HP: Computers!

I’m still hovering around the first three chapters of the book. The primary reason for this hovering is that Chapter 2 presents a mind-boggling premise. The basic premise is that in most cases the visionary companies were not built on an idea/product or on the back of a “charismatic leader.” Visionary companies were built around an underlying purpose that was determined upon the inception of these organizations. The authors call it “clock building” versus “time telling.”  Hewlett and Packard didn’t know what HP was going to be about, they just knew that they wanted to be in business together; Sam Walton of Walmart just wanted to be in retail and not so much revolutionize retail logistics; and Masaru Ibuka of Sony had the first brainstorming session with employees “after starting the company” and like the founders of HP, he sold any product that would pay the bills in the early years.

The authors clearly point out that this is totally contradictory to conventional wisdom and what is taught in business schools. This is true as my first entrepreneurship class was built around finding and accessing the viability of ideas.

BUT

I sat with this new information for a while and it started to make sense. The part of the business that stands the test of time isn’t so much the ideas that a business is founded on, but the foundation from which the ideas are launched. When you think about it, if you started a business today to exploit the growing trend of blogging for instance and for that reason alone, what happens to your business when something comes along and renders blogging obsolete? Don’t think it can’t happen, look at what email did to the post.

What did I do with this information? Well I re-read the chapter over and over again, and I thought about the reason I want to go into business for myself in the first place. Freedom. The freedom to choose the customers that I want to serve and the product that I want to offer them; the freedom to change my offering with customer needs without having to deal with bureaucracy; the freedom to explore new ideas/new methods; the freedom to be able to work where I want to (geographically); and of course the freedom to define my work around my life and not the other way around. After reading it several times, I took some of the actionable lessons from that chapter, shared them with my partner, and brainstormed on the type of organization that we want to build.

I haven’t finished the entire book, but I felt compelled to share this new nugget of knowledge. The authors encourage would be entrepreneurs not to wait for the big idea or the stroke of genius that could be the master piece on which your company would be built. Do it the other way around: envision/build a company that you can be proud of, one that is founded with a purpose that can stand the hard times that can come with entrepreneurial endeavors. And when the big idea that will knock your socks off finally comes, you would be ready to execute from your solid foundation.

Have you read the book? If you have, please share some of your insights.

If you want to read more about the book, you can find it here.

One of the authors also has an article that is based on the book his website.

Welcome

Hello and welcome to Gig Theory:

The Mission

To empower You and I to create our dream jobs.

How the Mission is Achieved

  • By going back to business basics.
  • By sharing the stories of those who have come before us and have been successful at charting their entrepreneurial course.
  • By answering your questions.
  • By asking and answering the questions:
    • How can Gig Theory help YOU?
    • How can WE help each other?

Why?

  •  Because life is too short to wait around for someone else to decide if they have a job available for someone of your talent.
  • Because life i too short for you not to take your destiny into your own hands to do the work you are uniquely endowed to do
  • And because doing our best work involves helping you do your best work.