You could be forgiven if you forgot all about Kodak. I had. Wikipedia says that, as of this writing, the company still has a bit over 6,000 employees. The company had to sell off a lot of its assets in 2012, and managed to make it out of Chapter 11 in September of 2013.
The company started way back in 1880, when George Eastman started manufacturing dry plates. It grew into film and then added cameras and eventually became a company that sold you a camera, the film and the developing.
And then they built the first digital camera. They owned the intellectual property on the technology.
They didn't care. They were early, and thought it was going to be a bust.
Kodak was married to the “paper and chemicals” (film development) business… their most profitable division, while the R&D on digital cameras was a cost center.
They saw the digital world coming on, but were convinced that digital cameras wouldn’t have traction outside of the professional market.
They certainly had the expertise to design and build consumer digital cameras -- Kodak actually built the Apple QuickTake (see photo), generally considered the world’s first consumer digital camera.
He would later write in Bold (co-written with Steven Kotler) that Kodak didn't take into account Moore's Law — which predicts the acceleration of processing speed — or the convalescence of other technology that would not only make digital photography viable, it would all but eliminate the film processing market.
In a city of 100,000 people (not big but definitely not nothing) and an art school, I know of one place to get film developed on-site. Anyone else who offers film developing sends it off for processing.
Probably to Kodak.
"Don’t be tied to your history," Diamandis goes on to write in his blog post, outlining a series of don'ts to help avoid your business being disrupted. More importantly, though, he offers tips for disrupting your own business, the way Kodak had the rare opportunity to do.
He suggests starting with adjacencies. If you make printers, look at ink. Look at what Apple did to the accessories market a couple of years ago, changing its charging sockets.
As you might imagine, if a blog post is full of great insight, a book that merely begins with the general premise of the insightful blog post must be something really worth reading, right?
Following are some of the more important takeaways, at least from my point of view.
As a business, grow exponentially. Use clear vision and big goals to motivate, and look toward major innovation. Here are some definitions and tips.
Exponential organizations spread exponentially through networks and are disproportionately large compared to the number of employees, while linear organizations have to add employees to add customers.
To think about this in action, consider, say, Facebook or Twitter. They can add a few hundred thousand customers and need to add a few people to technology support and security. If your local grocery store added a few hundred thousand customers, they'd need to add thousands of employees to help keep the shelves stocked and get people checked out.
Crowd-sourcing as much as possible can help an organization go exponential. Tim Ferriss talks about testing the title and subtitle of The Four-Hour Workweek on Google Ads, setting up unique URLs with "Under Construction" pages and seeing which title and subtitle combination drew the most visitors.
On the product side, Quirky calls for designers to submit products and the most popular ones wind up in their shop, with enough funding for fulfillment. It crowdsources product R&D while giving designers a place their stuff will get sold without having to deal with it themselves.
"Goal-setting is one of the easiest ways to increase motivation and enhance performance," he writes, noting that having goals increases performance and productivity 11-25 percent.
While having big goals is important to driving innovation — improving something 10 percent keeps you stuck with the same tools and limitations, he writes, while going for a 10 times improvement requires you to invent something — lining goals up with values can lead to some amazing work.
In 1943, the US Army charged Lockheed Martin with building something entirely new to help defeat the Germans, whose jet fleet was increasingly becoming a major threat in World War II.
Since improving existing technology only a little was not going to be a good strategy, Lockheed sent some engineers into isolation — where they would be uninfluenced both by the other work going on in the company and by distraction — and they created something brand new in a month.
They innovated and delivered a new jet months quicker than the Army even managed to get them a contract.
That project, the Skunk Works, still exists as an innovation team.
Gartner hype cycle.
The Gartner hype cycle details the commercial success arc of new innovations. It peaks early and then crashes, but then works its way back up.
While the hype cycle research has been around for a while, we can see it clearly in recent technology, even in the internet age. Think about Friendster and MySpace. They peaked early, and while they're both still around, they didn't make it for the long haul, really.
It also puts me in mind of virtual reality. Remember the movie Hackers? Fisher Stevens' character stands on a VR platform with goggles and gloves. It's been around a long time, and is only just now — decades later — starting to get near to being in many homes.
The great Kevin Kelly thought virtual reality was coming in the 1990s. He tells Chase Jarvis he's not real sure it'll be in every household this time, but there's a reasonable chance he'll be wrong a second time.
The Six Ds of emergent technologies and exponential growth
Digitalization — Anything that can be digitized can be subject to Moore's Law
Deception — The first steps appear small, but if we think the early steps at .01, .02 and .04 all look like zero, we miss that we're getting toward one, and once we hit one, we're 20 steps from over a million
Disruption — New technology comes along deceptively slowly then blows up
Demonetization — The shadow economy in plain sight. Think Google giving away office tools (like Docs and Sheets) in exchange for data instead of dollars, or Linux being entirely free
Dematerialization — Goods disappear, so do services surrounding those goods (think about Apple getting rid of the headphone jack)
Democratization — Costs drop so low that (almost) anyone can afford them
Google's 8 innovation principles
Here are the ways that Google looks to grow:
• User focus
• Share everything
• Look for ideas everywhere
• Thing big, start small (iterate)
• Never fail to fail
• Spark with imagination, fuel with data
• Be a platform
• Have a mission that matters
Think at scale
These are the things that Larry Page (Google), Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink), Richard Branson (Virgin) and Jeff Bezos (Amazon, Washington Post) consider when growing their businesses:
• Risk-taking and risk-mitigation
• Rapid iteration and ceaseless experimentation
• Passion and purpose
• Long-term thinking
• Customer-centric thinking
• Probabalistic thinking
• Rationally optimistic thinking
• Reliance on first principles (fundamental truths)
Make stone soup
You're probably familiar with this old tale of soldiers who get a village to chip in to make a good soup from nothing.
You can throw something out there, and if it has a good foundation, others will chip in to help build your product.
A few places you can connect with Diamandis and his projects:
It's amazing how easy it is for us to stay connected these days.
We're at a point in time when many adults in the workforce don't remember a time when the phone was on the wall and when you left the house, you were gone. If you didn't turn on the answering machine, you wouldn't even know if anybody called while you weren't home.
Even if you did remember to turn on the answering machine, if it was in a not-so-obvious place, you might forget to check it until bedtime or so.
I'm going all the way to zero for a couple of weeks. Email app? Gone. Instagram app? See ya.
In order for me to reach a point of moderation, I always have to go from wherever I am to zero — whether it's a change in the way I consume carbohydrate, alcohol or television.
I'll (most likely) be back in a few weeks with everything. While I haven't missed the idle checking I used to do of Twitter and Facebook on my phone, I do miss the ability to share a podcast from within the app or to share a thought in context (I suppose I could just log in on mobile web, but I always just put it in my notes app and wait until I get to a computer, and if I remember why I wrote the note, I'll share it).
We're in a time that demands consistency. I see it when I put the blog on hiatus, which is why I haven't done it in a while. Each time I disappear for a few months, the numbers drop off very quickly and it takes a really long time to build back up.
Fortunately, the Internet has figured out scheduling and feeds and such, so it's going to feel like I never left while I'm gone.
Apologies for my slow responses if you write, but I expect I'll be coming back with some fantastic stuff for you.
In the years that most informed my early adulthood — those from my mid-teens to my mid-20s, say — I frequented the town of Northampton, Massachusetts. I had many late nights and long, deep conversations at the now-closed Fire & Water Cafe (you can now see remnants, or indeed, a new iteration, at Cafe Evolution up the road in Florence).
I visited friends at Smith College, which has an all-female undergraduate student body.
And the city is also known for the Northampton State Hospital, a mental institution that grew so big in its first century so as to be serving nearly 2,500 patients by the mid-1950s.
Northampton State Hospital was also a terrible place — you can actually see some of it in the asylum scenes in the movie "In Dreams" — that in 1978 a judge ordered the institution to reduce its patient load to 50 by 1981.
While the Brewster Decree (or Northampton Decree, as it's sometimes called) didn't fully close the hospital until 1993, you don't go from serving over 2,000 patients down to 50 without largely just discharging your patients out into the streets of the city.
A number of those wandering, previously committed souls were still out wandering the city in the 1990s and early 2000s while I was also out wandering the city. So I learned some stuff from them, too.
"You need to be a little crazy to change the world," write Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler on page 233 of Abundance, "and you can't really fake it."
I drink a lot of coffee. My wife will have a cup when she wakes up, and sometimes, on a day off, she might have a second. On my days off, I'll drink one cup when I wake up, and two or three more throughout the day. If I'm working, I'll have one when I wake up, one while I'm making dinner, and then it's a fairly steady stream of joe until midnight or 1 a.m., depending on when I'm scheduled.
It was probably more like the seventeenth century when we started mass producing coffee and slurping it like we do.
Something else I enjoy drinking is beer, which we've probably had since we figured out agriculture (leave some grain in a pot, head out for a hunt, it rains, you come back in a few days, drink the water out of the pot and get drunk).
When water wasn't safe to drink because we had sewage and dead animals running into our water supplies and no treatment plants, we were drinking beer, because the fermentation process made it safe to drink.
So, for centuries, we were drinking beer, and then we figured out coffee. We didn't go from half-drunk to sober, Diamandis and Kotler point out, we went from half-drunk to wired.
In his essay Java Man, Malcolm Gladwell gives coffee (and tobacco) a lot of credit for really getting us going as a species.
It is worth noting, as well, that in the original coffeehouses nearly everyone smoked, and nicotine also has a distinctive physiological effect. It moderates mood and extends attention, and, more important, it doubles the rate of caffeine metabolism: it allows you to drink twice as much coffee as you could otherwise. In other words, the original coffeehouse was a place where men of all types could sit all day; the tobacco they smoked made it possible to drink coffee all day; and the coffee they drank inspired them to talk all day. Out of this came the Enlightenment. (The next time we so perfectly married pharmacology and place, we got Joan Baez.)
In time, caffeine moved from the café to the home. In America, coffee triumphed because of the country’s proximity to the new Caribbean and Latin American coffee plantations, and the fact that throughout the nineteenth century duties were negligible. Beginning in the eighteen-twenties, Courtwright tells us, Brazil “unleashed a flood of slave-produced coffee. American per capita consumption, three pounds per year in 1830, rose to eight pounds by 1859.”
What this flood of caffeine did, according to Weinberg and Bealer, was to abet the process of industrialization–to help “large numbers of people to coordinate their work schedules by giving them the energy to start work at a given time and continue it as long as necessary.”
I've certainly had at least (and probably more than) my fair share of focus and productivity thanks to caffeine. Just listen to Kelvin and I slurping away during our JKWD podcasts.
OK, so let's talk about the lessons we learn from Abundance. This was supposed to be a post about the book, remember?
First, let's look at how we move from thinking in a scarcity mindset to thinking in an abundance mindset.
Abundance is wrought of technology.
If I have an orange tree and I pick all the oranges on the lowest branches, I now have a scarcity of oranges. When someone invents the ladder, I now have an abundance of oranges, since I can reach all the fruit on the higher branches.
In the mid-19th century, aluminum was more valuable than gold. The top of the Washington Monument is capped in aluminum. It cost more per ounce than the average daily wage for someone working to build it. In the ensuing decades, researchers in America and France would figure out how to isolate the metal with an electrolytic process, and now it's so easy to get aluminum we wrap our cold pizza in it.
Some 70 percent of the Earth's surface is covered with water, but 97.3 percent of that is salt water. Lots of people today die from lack of clean drinking water, but when we come up with a good desalination technology, the scarcity will go away.
The bottom of pyramid, the domino effect and reworking Maslow's hierarchy of needs
Right now, hundreds of millions or billions of people live in poverty, food scarcity, water scarcity, lack of health care, etc. These people represent the the bottomm of the pyramid — a swath of humanity large enough to boost up the rest of the world, except for the fact that they're suffering.
If we can take care of these people, they can contribute to society, solving more (world) problems.
Think, also, of a mother who spends her day toting water for cleaning and drinking and cooking. Giver her clean running water in her home, and now she can go to work, raising both the wealth of her family and her nation's GDP.
Give Bill Gates enough money to pay his bills, now he can go defeat malaria. Give a painkiller-addicted, depressed MMA fighter a new purpose, and he can go Abraham Maslow was a psychologist who, in the mid-20th century, developed a fundamental hierarchy of needs. It starts with basic human needs (food, water, air and such) at the bottom, and once you can get that taken care of, you can move on to the next level, with the top being self-actualization, or the ability to be personally fulfilled.
Diamandis and Kotler argue for reworking Maslow's pyramid into a three-tier pyramid starting in about the same place, but basically replacing the middle three tiers with a single tier that includes education, energy (as in power, be it solar, battery, etc.) and communication. At the top, you find liberty, freedom and other things that many of us take for granted, like health care.
Other Notes and Resources
The amygdala is an almond-shaped sliver in the temporal love responsible for assessing danger and then looking to neutralize it. I talked about this in the our crazy brains spisode of the podcast. It's an anxious slice of your brain, and once stimulated, it almost never shuts up. It's responsible for fight or flight, and the biggest problem it has right now is there are very few real reasons to be naturally concerned, so it makes up worst-case scenarios to find a reason to panic.
Don't get caught up in what your amygdala's telling you, or you have problems, and probably not even real ones.
Four motivations for innovation
From the weakest to the strongest, there are the reasons people innovate:
In other words, money is actually a stronger driver than many people might admit, but it's still not as strong a driver as the esteem in which you'll be held.
A few places you can connect with Diamandis and his projects:
Lewis Howes releases three podcasts a week. One of those is a quick take on Fridays he dubs "Five Minute Friday." The one above is from April 14, 2017 and is called Be True to Yourself.
It's a look at what is commonly called crab mentality — the notion that one crab in a bucket will scurry out, but if there are a lot of crabs in a bucket and one tries to crawl out, the others will grab that crab and pull it down.
I know this wasn't the point, but I did try to look up whether this is actually true, since in my experience crabs are merely delicious. All I found was this:
[C]rabs pull on stuff when they can't swim. They're trying to move. If there's nothing else around, they'll pull on the other crabs. And there's nothing else in a bucket of crabs.
Back to the crab mentality.
The analogy in human behavior is claimed to be that members of a group will attempt to negate or diminish the importance of any member who achieves success beyond the others, out of envy, spite, conspiracy, or competitive feelings, to halt their progress.
Howes notes that we don't want to feel lonely or excluded or to disappoint or upset other people.
"Don't be afraid of losing people. Be afraid of losing yourself by trying to please everyone around you." https://t.co/2V1M2iwAyp
It's worth noting here that for survival, humans as a species had to conform to our communities or we'd be ostracized and not receive the benefits of collective living, like sharing in food gathering, child-raising, etc.
While that's still true in many communities, if you're in a position to listen to podcasts or read blogs, you're most likely not stuck in such a community. It might be difficult physically or emotionally, but you can change which communities you're a part of.
If you're missing out on what's possible in your life, Howes does offer some tips for dealing with people who try to hold you down while never climbing to achieve anything in their own lives:
Have a conversation with the person hold you back. Request that person's support for your endeavors.
If you can't garner that person's support, don't get caught in the trap of being dragged down by others. Set boundaries. Know when you have to get up from the table and not be part of the conversation.
If necessary, significantly cut back on the time you spend with people who hold you back. Instead, go find people who life you up
You can love and support negative people from a distance, he says, but don't spend time around them allowing their negative attitude seep into your world.