I recently listened to an excellent podcast episode from NPR. It’s about how Instagram was built. The story is remarkable. The founders of Instagram – Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger – launched the app in October 2010. In April 2012 – just one and a half years later – the service was acquired by Facebook for 1 billion dollars! How could someone make a billion dollars in just a year and a half? It’s amazing. I learned some success lessons from the story, and I’d like to share them with you. Here they are:
Note: This post is written by Ben Brychta Shouldn’t creativity be left to artists and musicians? Absolutely not. Creativity has its place in the boardroom, classroom, and even on the factory floor. In fact, if you can train yourself to think creatively, both your professional and personal life will benefit. Unfortunately, as people see you working to be more creative, they may be tempted to give you advice that is less than helpful. Here is some bad advice on creativity: 1. Play It Safe and Stick to Your Talents This advice is usually given by people who believe that you are most likely to get good results if you do what you do best, and don’t stray too far from what your proven skills and talents are. In one sense they are correct. Playing it safe is less risky, and you are less likely to make mistakes. However, the only way to truly develop your creativity is to try new things, even if things don’t always go as planned. In fact, when things don’t go as planned, you may stumble into some of your best ideas.
Do you want to make your career crisis-proof? Do you want it to thrive even in difficult times? The key is to be quick to adapt to changing conditions. Change is the only constant in the market and you are crisis-proof only if you can quickly adapt to new conditions. As I wrote in my post about learning and people skills, these quick-to-adapt people are called versatilists. But how can they be crisis-proof? And how can we be one of them? We will answer these two questions here. Wikipedia has a good description of versatilists: To illustrate this using a math phrase, the versatilist has a higher area under the curve rating. Think of a person having some level of knowledge/experience in 15 knowledge areas. That person may have a very high competency (score 5) in 3 areas, a medium level of competency (score 3) in 5 areas an introductory level of competency (score 1) in 4 areas and no competency (score 0) in 3 areas. This creates an area under the curve of 34. This is different from a specialist who may score very high in 1 area and have no competency in others. This is also different from […]
In The Medici Effect (here is my review), there’s a term I’m interested in: the Intersection. It’s a place where ideas and experiences from different fields meet and form new ideas. It’s a fascinating place to be because excitement from different fields come together at one place. Even more, you can get a lot of fresh ideas that make your and other people’s lives better. Living in the Intersection has always been a dream of mine. The question, of course, is how. One good way to answer it is by learning from those who are already there. Specifically, there is a certain kind of people with Intersection experience I want to discuss here. They are the polymaths. Polymaths are people who are extraordinarily intelligent in multiple fields. They live and thrive in the Intersection. Perhaps the most famous one is Leonardo da Vinci but there are still many others. Two examples of modern polymaths are Nathan Myhrvold and Jared Diamond.
Recently the idea of personal analytics hits me more and more. What is personal analytics? It’s a way of making decisions in someone’s life based on numbers. You measure certain aspects of your life, analyze the results, and make decisions based on them. Over time I find more things pointing to this direction. All these make me wonder: is personal analytics the next big thing in self improvement? It started about two years ago when I read an excerpt of the book Super Crunchers. The book talks about how smart companies “act by numbers.” Instead of making decisions based on intuition, they make decisions based on what they measure and calculate. For instance, they use mathematical models to accurately predict how the customers will behave in certain situations and adjust their operations accordingly. This way the companies can directly make the right decisions without wasting their resources. The book even says that those companies know about your preferences better than you.
In A Simple Guide to Finding Good Ideas I wrote that to find good ideas you should produce a lot of ideas. You can get quality out of quantity. I recently realized that similar principle also applies to finding success in life. While to find good ideas you should produce a lot of ideas, to find success you should do a lot of experiments. This quote by Thomas J. Watson now makes perfect sense to me: Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. What this quote means is that you should increase your rate of experiments. Many of your experiments will fail, but some of them will work and a few will work very well. It’s just like finding good ideas: the more ideas you have the more likely you will find good ones.