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Small Worlds, Connecting the Dots and Dark Side of the Moon

It never ceases to amaze me how the world connects. The “dots” we create as we meet people, take on new experiences and generally make our mark on the world often join together to create startling insights and opportunities.

One of my favourite examples of this comes from Steve Jobs. If you get a chance, watch this video of him addressing students at a Stanford University Graduation ceremony about 6 years ago.

The speech is superb – emotional and motivational. Jobs manages to make you laugh, cry and – most important of all – gets the brains (young and old) to click

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and tick in thought.

One part of the speech focussed on following your heart. Just doing things – that make no sense at the time. He told the tale of dropping out of college and for some reason taking a course on calligraphy. He didn’t know why he took the course – but looking back he can clearly connect this to being obsessed with getting the fonts right on the original Apple Macintosh computer. That’s why today our Mac and Windows computers have great fonts!

Steve said: “You can’t connect the dots going forward, you can only connect them going back.” That was the only part of his magnificent oratory that grated with me. Entrepreneurs can’t say can’t – and you can’t say can’t to an entrepreneur! I think building a Personal Network is the strategic pursuit of creating the dots with a view to making those connections work.

Anyway, this week’s “small worlds” in my life.

1. I bought a book that I’d had my eye on for a while – “Just My Type” by Simon Garfield. I’m not a designer – but I do like fonts. I’d seen the book reviewed – and a skim through in the bookshop convinced me it would be a fun read. I settled down at home to read the intro – and the opening of the book was about the Steve Jobs story above. I’d had it in mind as the intro for “my book” (when I finally get around to writing it!). Ah well, another excuse to not put pen to paper yet.

2. My last blog post was about Reflexivity. I’d never heard the word – and was struggling to find a meaning for it. Lo and behold, one of my twitter pals got in touch about something else – and I mentioned the word (he’s far brighter than me – so I thought he might know a little about it). He sure did:-

As it happens “reflexivity” of two types I am expert on:

– philosophical reflexivity that is concerned with the relation of concepts to experience & how they co-effect each other {example: no point in concepts of left and right if you can’t move. And that is what we find: kids with paralysis & motor difficulties don’t form spatial concepts like left and right easily}

– sociological reflexivity, especially in the work of Pierre Bourdieu the French sociologist (now dead), who pioneered the use of it in empirical studies that avoid dead ends by understanding reflexive co-relations {example: buying behaviour for Chanel No. 5 is based on idea of exclusivity. IF too many class BC&D women buy it exclusivity is destroyed & sales plummet. Therefore Chanel in the 80’s used jazz music in adverts because this put off C&D buyers & some B’s whilst A’s loved it. This re-established the “exclusivity” of their market & sales became stable again. This pattern is necessary to all long term perfume sales. Its a great example of the co-relation of cultural/economic reflexivity.}

3. My blog has been getting some serious traffic (for me) in recent weeks. I hoped it was that people had recognised my talent – but no! It’s the the release of the film – “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” that has triggered it. I wrote a post a while ago entitle “Dark Side of the Moon” – and it has managed to reside on the first page of Google’s search engine. Who says wordpress.com is no good for SEO!

The “small world” on this one is that also residing on Google’s first page for “Dark Side of the Moon” is fellow Bath Tweeter Marcus Tullius Cicer – @georgianbath!

Hoping to join the dots with my Roman colleague at a Tweetup in Bath soon

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Dark Side of the Moon

December 28, 2010 5 comments

Sorry for the unusually long gap in blog posts. I have two excuses – firstly, I’ve become a bit of an obsessive twitter user … and secondly, I had a bad dose of “Man Flu”! During my convalescence, I did manage to catch a really good Sky Arts documentary on Pink Floyd’s creation of Dark Side of the Moon. For those who are not 70s music aficionados – here is the programme summary:-

Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” Classic Album is the creative story behind the masterpiece: “Dark Side Of The Moon”. “Dark Side Of The Moon” transformed Pink Floyd from art house favorites to global, stadium superstars. With the timeless qualities of its production and musicality, allied to the hypnotic evocation of its central themes – alienation, paranoia, madness, war and death, “Dark Side Of The Moon” would become the album that would

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dominate the 70’s and 80’s (with a record number of 741 consecutive weeks in the Billboard 200).

The reason I mention this was that I found it fascinating how a group of individuals could come together to produce something so brilliant. The programme showed that it was not just the brilliance of the 4 band members – it was the whole network of people around them. The documentary interviewed the band and explained the parts played by many others in producing this level of excellence. People like Alan Parsons (the producer), Storm Thorgerson (sleeve designer), Clare Torry (haunting female vocals), etc. Some of the cool quotes that intersperse the tracks were provided by roadies, doormen, etc – it was a real team effort.

Three things struck me – and felt very relevant to my thinking as I try to create a new start up business, VizWho:-

* You can get the core members of the team right – but to produce something special – all the team need to come together
* It’s so much easier to achieve this when you are young. Maybe it’s the lack of commitments – coupled with youthful enthusiasm. (Do I sound like an old git?!)
* Finally, once successful – is this possible to replicate? It was interesting seeing the ageing band members still playing their instruments brilliantly … but it’s unlikely they will every create another “Dark Side of the Moon”!

At the same time, through my twitter following I’ve found some terrific blog posts. One was particularly relevant to this last point – by Ben Horowitz (he’s a very serious person who cofounded, along with Marc Andreessen, the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz). The post that took my eye was how he “reluctantly funded” a new venture created by a successful entrepreneur. Ben’s take was:-

…one general rule of mine is don’t hire or fund rich people. The reason? Building a technology company is hard. It’s really frackin’ hard. Many of the tasks that you do when building one are no fun. When things go wrong as they always do, it’s no fun at all. Rich people tend to like to work on things that they enjoy, because if they don’t enjoy it, well, they are already rich. When the going gets tough, the rich get going . . . to their vacation homes and their yachts.

Luckily, Ben did decide to back this venture. I’m currently thinking that having been successful and not being young anymore is really pushing against me building a successful start up!

Maybe I need to just dip back into music history a little further … Frank Sinatra did sing “The Best is Yet to Come”…

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