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"WATCH THIS!" This is a common attention-getting technique online.


Throw yourself under a bus, attract spectators. There are countless ways to reveal your embarrassments, your inner demons and your current conflicts. There are a myriad of crazy projects you can undertake, all guaranteed to attract an appreciative crowd, the same people who want to see the crazy guy jump off the bridge or the brawl break out in the parking lot. Do it well enough and enough often and you will gain attention. But you'll still be under a bus. Your competitive advantage. Are you going to succeed because you return emails a few minutes faster, tweet a bit more often and stay at work an hour longer than anyone else?

Your competitive advantage

I think that's unlikely. When you push to turn intellectual work into factory work (which means more showing up and more following instructions) you're racing to the bottom. It seems to me that you will succeed because you confronted and overcame anxiety and the lizard brain better than anyone else. Perhaps because you overcame inertia and actually got significantly better at your craft, even when it was uncomfortable because you were risking failure. When you increase your discernment, maximize your awareness of the available options and then go ahead and ship work that scares others... that's when you succeed. More time on the problem isn't the way.

A decision without tradeoffs... Pre digital. A brief visit to the emergency room last month reminded me of what an organization that's pre-digital is like.

Pre digital

Six people doing bureaucratic tasks and screening that are artifacts of a paper universe, all in the service of one doctor (and the need to get paid and not get sued). A 90-minute experience so we could see a doctor for ninety seconds. Wasteful and even dangerous. Imagine what this is like in a fully digital environment instead. Of course, they'd know everything about your medical history and payment ability from a quick ID scan at the entrance. School is pre-digital. Perhaps the most critical thing you can say of a typical institution: "That place is pre-digital. " All a way of saying that this is just the beginning, the very beginning, of the transformation of our lives. Who comes on opening night? I understand the folks who wait for a creative work to come out in paperback, to be free on TV, the ones that get the half-price tickets at TKTS near the end of the run.

Who comes on opening night?

They're cheap, at least when it comes to this particular sort of art. I understand the audience that waits to read the reviews, that wants to hear from friends and anointed critics before they spend their money. They're careful. So who comes on opening night? No discounts, no reviews, no warning... The patrons come. And the true fans come. Opening night is vitally important, of course. I guess the real question is: who would come to your opening? Getting serious about the attention economy. First, to restate the obvious: Attention from those interested and able to buy is worth more now than ever before.

Getting serious about the attention economy

Companies like Google, Amazon, Daily Candy, Netflix, Target, and on and on traffic in attention. It's their primary asset. Individuals are also valued and respected in large measure by the quality of attention and trust they earn from their publics. So, if that's so obvious, why are we so cavalier about it? If someone stood in front of your office and lit $100 bills from your petty cash kitty on fire, you'd call the cops. Every interaction comes with a cost. Walking away from "real" As in, "that's not a real football team, they don't play in Division 1" or "That stock isn't traded on a real exchange" or "Your degree isn't from a real school.

Walking away from "real"

" Real contains all sorts of normative assumptions and implicit criticisms for those that don't qualify. Real is just one way to reject the weird. My problem with the search for the badge of real is that it trades your goals and your happiness for someone else's. I was wrong. In 1993, I saw the web coming.

I was wrong

I was hired to write the cover story for a now defunct computer magazine about the internet, and dismissed the new Mosaic browser in a single paragraph. I figured the web was just like Prodigy, but slower, harder to use and without a business model. About as expensive a wrong analysis as a single entrepreneur with an email company could make in 1993. The reason it was an insanely valuable lesson: I got better at announcing that I was wrong, learning from it and doing the next thing. Politicians, of course, are terrible at this. Two elements of successful leadership: a willingness to be wrong and an eagerness to admit it. "It's completely up to you" ... and that's the problem.

"It's completely up to you"

I was picking out the mat for a framed photo and there were a thousand colors to choose from. The framer uttered the scary invocation, putting the choice back to me. So many things are now completely up to us, more than ever before. Where and how and when we work and invest and interact and instruct and learn... If you think you have no choice but to do what you do now, you've already made a serious error. It seems to me that passing the buck on this merely because it's easier than choosing is precisely the wrong strategy.

Back to the framer: I picked, because that's my job. Straight up. "Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle.

Straight up

And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can't ride you unless your back is bent. " Martin Luther King, Jr. And a few more thoughts, from one of the greatest men of my lifetime: “On some positions, Cowardice asks the question, "Is it safe? " “We must rapidly begin the shift from a "thing-oriented" society to a "person-oriented" society. “The saving of our world from pending doom will come, not through the complacent adjustment of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a nonconforming minority.”

Can I see your body of work? Who is your customer? Rule one: You can build a business on the foundation of great customer service.

Who is your customer?

Rule two: The only way to do great customer service is to treat different customers differently. The question: Who is your customer? It's not obvious. Zappos is a classic customer service company, and their customer is the person who buys the shoes. Nike, on the other hand, doesn't care very much at all about the people who buy the shoes, or even the retailers. Columbia Records has no idea who buys their music and never has. Many manufacturers have retailers as their customer. Apple had just one customer. And some companies and politicians choose the media as their customer. If you can only build one statue, who is it going to be a statue of? In search of a timid trapeze artist. Good luck with that, there aren't any. If you hesitate when leaping from rope to another, you're not going to last very long.

And this is at the heart of what makes innovation work in organizations, why industries die, and how painful it is to try to maintain the status quo while also participating in a revolution. Gather up as much speed as you can, find a path and let go. You can't get to the next rope if you're still holding on to this one. Institutions, Confidence, and the News Crisis. Dean Starkman has written a lengthy piece in the Columbia Journalism Review, assessing the writings of a group of us he calls the “Future of News” movement. That essay, Confidence Game, focusses principally on Jay Rosen and me, both of NYU’s Carter Institute, and Jeff Jarvis of CUNY, though noting some similarity of vision with Emily Bell of Columbia, Dan Gillmor of Arizona, and John Paton, publisher of the Journal-Register Company. (Unmentioned fellow travelers include, mutatis mutandis, Steve Yelvington, Chris Anderson, Amanda Michel, Steve Buttry, Jonathan Stray, and Alan Mutter.) Starkman doesn’t just criticize us (though he does that, at length.)

He also puts forward a Burkean defense of institutional tradition as a store of embedded wisdom, arguing for the continued relevance of existing news organizations, especially newspapers, in something very close to their current form. He jokingly calls his vision the “Neo-Institutional Hub-and-Spoke Model.”