Three Posts That You Should Read

Here are three posts that caught my eye recently that I think you should read:

  1. Ten Rules for Maker Businesses What kind of business model do you need if you are building things? Chris Anderson from Wired addresses this question with some excellent advice on issues from pricing building good relationships with your shipper.

    Check this out from Rule 6: Be As Open as You Can:

    So needless to say, we don’t patent or otherwise restrict our intellectual property. But what if someone wants to rip us off? Well, it depends on what you mean by “rip us off”.

    If someone else decides to use our files, make no significant modifications or improvements, and just manufacture them and compete with us, they’ll have do so much more cheaply than we can to get traction in the marketplace.

    If they can do so, at the same or better quality, then that’s great: the consumer wins and we can stop making that product and focus on those that add more value (we don’t want to be in the commodity manufacturing business).

    But the reality is that this is unlikely. Our products are already very cheap, and the robots we use for manufacturing are the same ones they use in China, at the same price. There is little labor arbitrage opportunity here.

    And even if the products can be made cheaper, at the same quality, there is the small matter of customer support. Our community is our competitive advantage: they provide most of the customer support, in the form of discussion forums and blog tutorials and our wiki.

    Anderson makes a great point in the last paragraph. One of the best ways to win in an area where it is difficult or impossible to use legal IP protection is to build a network of alliances that is difficult to replicate. In this case, the network is with users, but you can also do this with networks of suppliers or collaborators.

    A strong network in support of your idea creates a different value proposition.

  2. Don’t Let the Minimum Win Over the Viable David Aycan makes a great addition to the discussions around lean start-ups and customer development. This post is packed with excellent ideas – including an excellent argument for running multiple experiments at once:

    Even in the multi-week sprints to develop an MVP, a concept can develop a strong halo effect, anchoring a startup team in a single idea. Because of previous investments and sunk costs, the group may feel that the concept is better than it actually is when compared to other possible options. The prospect of pivoting down the line can encourage entrepreneurs to pursue a passion to build without evaluating their hypotheses up front. But successful ventures don’t just dive into a single direction, confident that if they’re wrong they can drastically change course. The reality is that a single concept is a collection of variables expressed as a whole. Some are core to the vision, while others are educated guesses.

    Here is how Aycan sketches this idea:

    This is a great way to think about developing new ideas. Overcommitment to your first idea can be a huge problem. If you approach development in this way, the multiple experiments at each stage allow you to identify the parts of your idea that work well, and those that aren’t so good.

    This is a great example of how to build big ideas with a series of little bets.

  3. Draft of the Prologue to Antifragile (pdf) The introduction to the next book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb is definitely worth reading. In The Black Swan he discussed why history is driven by large-scale unpredictable events. It’s fine to make this point, but what do we do about it?

    That is the question that Taleb appears to be answering in this book. How do we build systems that don’t just survive uncertainty but thrive upon it? What is the best way to build evolutionary economic, educational and social systems?

    The Black Swan was a call to action, and it looks like Antifragile will be a plan of action. I’m definitely looking forward to it.

Those are three things that got me thinking last week. I hope they do the same for you!

Also, if you haven’t done so yet, check out my free eBook version of The Complete Innovation Matrix.

Student and teacher of innovation - University of Queensland Business School - links to academic papers, twitter, and so on can be found here.