Go Big Or Go Home : Risk Taking Makes The Difference

What is the post about: The mindset to have with regards to risk taking and innovation

Why it is important: Innovating implies risk. To make progress you need to take some risk

Who is it best suited for: Entrepreneurs, Intrapreneurs

Guest author:

Chris Kalaboukis is the co-founder of helloFUTURE, a foresight, innovation, and patent development consultancy in the Silicon Valley. A visionary disruptive innovator and prolific inventor, he is named on 60+ patents in the internet, social networking, and fintech space. An experienced technologist and coder, he has architected, developed, and launched a multitude of apps, both web, and mobile. A serial entrepreneur, he has helmed several startups from inception to launch. Recently, he has been specializing in the development of innovative new products and services via innovation, patent and foresight programs for financial services, technology, media, and retail/e-commerce companies, from startups to enterprises. He has authored several books on innovation and the future and blogs and podcasts at thinkfuture.com.

One of the big differences between those who succeed and those who haven’t succeeded yet is the ability to take a risk. To leap into the unknown, and deal with the results. It’s often cited as one of the reasons why investors will not back entrepreneurs over the age of 35 – their potential for risk taking is lessened (personally I think that it more like they expect the entrepreneur to not have a life outside of the business and pour their entire lives into it – something that if you ask me, stifles innovation and serendipity which leads to new thinking) because of their age – that they have less stomach for it.

This is BS, if you ask me.

There is no specific age where your risk taking muscles just suddenly cease to function. The propensity for risk taking can be something that you are born with and runs throughout your life, something that you start off with and lose, or something you can build. It’s like a muscle we all have – sometimes its strong, sometimes it’s weak, and you need to work at it to make it stronger. But it’s not something you lose, unless you want to lose it.

I’m not saying that you can’t succeed without risk taking, but you have a much better chance of it if you do. The good thing about your risk taking muscle is that you don’t need to take huge risks in order to work it. You can start small – pushing slowly out of your comfort zone, then push to bigger and bigger risks, until you get you where you want to be.

There are a number of techniques that you can use in order to build up your risk taking muscle – one of the quickest ways to do it is to get yourself a coach or guide to push you there. As I said in an earlier post, you can bring someone in to push you out of your comfort zone, build up your risk taking muscle, then eventually, you will be able to tackle it on your own. Unlike physical training, where even if you do months and months or boot camp, you may fall back into your old habits, the mental coaching is more likely to stick.

Another method which seems to work for many is the “act like” model – where you put on a show – you act like you are already able to take the risk, and your outward self-pushes you enough in order to go ahead and take that risk.

Risk taking is at the core of success, it’s at the core of disruptive innovation, and it’s at the core of new breakthrough thinking. If you are not taking risks, then you have to ask yourself, am I really doing something innovative?

This post originally appeared on thinkfuture.com

The Rise Of Homo Nexus: Are We Now The Borg Collective?

Recently, I have been binge watching Star Trek: Voyager (such a geek, right – love those 90s hairstyles). One of the key premises of Star Trek (all versions save for the new JJ Abrams dreck) is that  individuals can always triumph over a “collective”.  The Borg was evil because it was a collective. When you were assimilated by the Borg (resistance is futile) you were robbed of your individuality, which meant being robbed of your humanity, since your humanity was inextricably tied to your individuality. The message: Individuality is good, the collective is bad.

I’ve been making some interesting connections and observations over the last little while about the future of humanity and what we’re becoming or what we have become. While I’ve said before that we are already cyborgs, only recently have I realized that we have become closer to the Borg depicted in Star Trek than I thought.

As a libertarian futurist (yes, you knew that, didn’t you?), I believe in the individual. Every adult is an individual, and should be allowed to make their own decisions for themselves.

I mean if you think about it, those are the precepts upon which America (and modern democracy) was founded.  All humans are created equal. All humans are individuals. They can make decisions for themselves. These individuals are adult enough and smart enough and they know enough to know what they’re doing. This is why we have drinking ages, driving ages, ages to join the military, and ages to marry.  We figure by the time that somebody gets to that age they should be an independent, intelligent individual who can make those decisions for themselves. (Well meaning governments notwithstanding.)  Right?

The individual is good. The collective is bad. From Wikipedia:

Also referred to as the “hive mind” or “collective consciousness”, the Borg Collective is a civilization with a group mind. Each Borg individual, or drone, is linked to the collective by a sophisticated subspace network that ensures each member is given constant supervision and guidance. The collective is broadcast over a subspace domain similar to that used by the transporter. Being part of the collective offers significant biomedical advantages to the individual drones. The mental energy of the group consciousness can help an injured or damaged drone heal or regenerate damaged body parts or technology. The collective consciousness not only gives them the ability to “share the same thoughts”, but also to adapt with great speed to defensive tactics used against them

I think that that message has been recently turned on its head: the individual is bad and the collective is good.  I think that part the reason for that is our ability to be instantaneously connected to anyone, anywhere, all the time, Borg Collective-like. High speed, always on, mobile internet hyperconnectivity has made this happen. Why make your own decisions on anything when all of your friends opinions are a simple swipe or tap away? You can always blame your “collective” if you make a bad choice, and its super easy to let others make the call for you.

It feels to me that we may be moving away from a period of time where it was important to be an individual and that individuals made decisions for themselves, by themselves or at least within a small unit, like a couple or a family. That’s what we used to prize. That’s what we used to think was good. That’s what we used to think was the ultimate good: people making decisions for themselves. But I’m sensing that has changed.

Here’s an example. When we used to go shopping, you’d go alone or you bring maybe one or two trusted friends, or your significant other.  You’d try on a number of different things.  And you’d look at what you’re wearing, and you’d think to yourself  “I look pretty good in this” or maybe your significant other agrees but that was that, it was you and maybe one or two others. But now it’s a collective effort.  It’s a group effort.  You send pictures of your proposed outfit to a hundred of your Facebook friends and have them decide what you should wear.

The collective is becoming more important than the individual. Think about that for second.  If that is true, then everything changes. It affects the app you are building. It affects the startup that you’re about to launch into the world.  It affects the kind of business you’re doing: if individuals farm out all of their decisions to the collective, how does that change things? Instead of asking a user for their preferences, maybe you need to go direct to their social network instead. Assume that they will farm out the decision, and ask the collective instead. After all, isn’t it the same as asking what the most popular dish is at a restaurant, or the most popular cocktail at a bar?

Maybe this hyperconnectivity has evolved us into creatures who don’t just consult others, then make our own decisions, but a new kind of human, a new kind of humanity, disconnected from individuality, or Homo Nexus. Homo Nexus lets the collective make the decision for them.

We’ve all become mini hive minds. And we’re OK with that. We never used to be OK with that. We don’t make decisions individually anymore.  If that’s the case, leveraging the crowd is no longer an option, its mandatory. If you don’t leverage the crowd, your customers are out in the wilderness.  They won’t know what to do.

So, I’m posing these questions to you:

  • Have we moved from an individualistic culture to a collectivist culture?
  • Have we gone from making decisions for ourselves to somewhere where collective (social network) reigns supreme?
  • Have we disconnected individuality from our humanity, and in so doing, in some way are beginning to evolve into Homo Nexus?

And if so, how does that bode for your business, our political systems, our culture and the world?


This post was originally published on thinkfuture.com

How To Apply Silicon Valley Thinking

Silicon Valley Is A State of Mind, Not A Place

I’ve been through a lot of economic ups and downs in the Bay Area and it’s always been very interesting to me the way things work around here; it’s a very unique place. The weather is great, never too hot never too cold. The amount of people who are here who are just amazing blows my mind. There are a lot of places that aspire to be like it: Silicon Alley, Silicon Prairie or Silicon Beach or Startup Paradise (I think that’s the Hawaiian one – which is probably more accurate since very few of these startups have anything to do with Silicon)

There’s something about this place that makes it very different from other places. I think may be something about the sheer, unending optimism, the entrepreneurial spirit which seems to be everywhere, and the huge, disruptive thinking, perfectly willing to blow up and rebuild things in a way which empowers humanity, helps make us better, freer and more human.

Everywhere you go, everywhere you turn, everyone you know is involved in something new and exciting and amazing and the sky’s the limit. Even in the deep dark depths of every recession that I’ve ever been through here there’s always the overheard conversation in Starbucks about how someone I left their job to start this new startup. You hear things like “I don’t know where it’s going to go. I don’t know where it’s going to lead.  I don’t know if I’m going to starve.  But by God I’m going to do this thing.”

This may be the single greatest concentration of real and aspirational entrepreneurs in the world, where they feel that they have the freedom to think big, to think disruptive, not just think out of the box but blow up the whole damn box. It’s exciting. There’s the positive side, and the negative side is that if are here and you are not involved in one of the super successful startups (which is of course more likely because most startups in general fail – although you wouldn’t think that according to the press around here) you go “Damn I missed that one and I missed this one” and if you keep on missing it and the funnily enough what you read in the media is all the successes you very rarely hear about the failures.  So people think “Silicon Valley is great.  There’s all these startups and they’re making all this money and they’re changing the world.”

Actually, I think it’s not really about the money. There are many much easier ways to make money than to become a technologist or a software developer and join a startup which then rockets to the stars. While developers do make good money here, it’s doubtful that they make HUGE money – that’s saved for the founder in the spotlight. If you are really in it for the money, then just get into the “business of money” – go to Wall Street, do your time, become a trader, go work for a bank. In fact, if you just want to make tons of money, just go work in the “money business”, aka finance.

In fact, let’s forget about the money. A lot of times it’s not even about the money. It’s about changing the world. It’s about doing something massively transformational.  It’s about doing something incredibly amazing. It’s about impacting the world. It’s about making a huge dent in the universe. And you don’t need to be here to think like that.

Companies are outside of the Bay Area come here and ask “what is it that’s so special? Why do people come here? Why are there so many amazing things coming out of this place?”

Silicon Valley thinks big and thinks disruptive, and thinks – how can we empower people to help them overcome obstacles placed there by big institutions that are forcing us to do things their way? We think that with the use of the right people, processes, tools and technologies you can blow apart and remake whole industries for the better. We look at those institutions which are causing pain in people’s lives, and we are blowing them up and remaking them as “customer first” businesses.

Look at the music industry, the publishing industry and now the educational business is getting totally blown apart and rebuilt with online learning. The taxi business is getting totally blown apart by Uber, the hotel business is getting totally blown apart by AirBnB, all these ideas came from Silicon Valley thinking – maybe your industry is next.

How do you apply this kind of thinking to your company?

  • Stop thinking about revenues and costs and start thinking about how you are going to change the world for the better
  • Start thinking about how to empower your customers even if it’s sacrificing those systems and institutions that have made you so profitable
  • Start truly thinking: customer first. In an ideal world, how would your customers use your products? Don’t think about what can’t be done because the systems in place can’t do them – think about what you could do it there were no constraints, then work back from there.

What is your massively transformational purpose? What are you going to do to make the world a better place for your customers and prospects? Are you just doing this to make a buck, or are you doing this to actually improve their lives?

Let’s make the world a different, better place, together.

This post originally appeared on thinkfuture.com