MEREDITH Strategy + Design

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This is an unfair characterization of TED talks

To quote othersQ: What’s better than watching a dotcom millionaire repeat the words “dream”, “causality” and “accomplishment” into a bubble-mic? A: 1,204 dotcom millionaires repeating the words “dream”, “causality” and “accomplishment” into bubble-mics.

This is an unfair characterization of TED talks, yet a good reference point to reflect on today's lunch conversation.

A colleague spoke of an ongoing struggle in his firm to understand why it moves as it does and to try to find the catalysts to enhanced performance. Inside the firm, held values such as "collegiality" are invoked as a resisting factor, and the retiring CEO's messages to "relax" are a significant retarding influence, as well. When interviewing young applicants, this executive said that he tells them that employment in his firm should be the last job they seek in their lives, not the first.

That is, while the firm promises clients an intentionality to move their world forward, the people responsible for delivering on that intention are embedded in a culture of behavioral modes and values restraining mutual challenge except, perhaps, on the golf course at 3:00 p.m every Thursday.

I do not think that seeking dotcom millions is the right quest for my friend. Yet I, for him, am envious of that quest. I am envious of the money, for sure, but more envious of the power and potential of an innovative and creative idea, and the extraordinary attractiveness of the passion and commitment of the leadership and team behind its promotion.

I found this delicious interchange this week on Quora about the experience of pitching at YCombinator. Paul Bucheit said –

...the first thing I seek to establish when interviewing someone is whether or not we are able to communicate. A founder who can't communicate will have trouble raising money, talking to users, selling to customers, etc. Furthermore, if we are not able to productively communicate with the founders, then the YC experience will be mutually frustrating and unproductive for both us and the founders, so we avoid those situations. Unfortunately, many people, especially those who have spent a long time inside of big companies, are stuck in BS mode and are either incapable of or unwilling to give direct answers. If I have to ask the exact same question five times, that's a bad sign for you.

Beyond communication, I also want to know why the founders believe the things that they do. Too many people simply repeat what they've been told or read somewhere. If you're really going to innovate and produce exceptional outcomes, you need to see past the noise and groupthink. So the question becomes, can you actually see the truth, or are you just repeating what you've been told?

That is, I would advise my friend to get past the "stuck in BS mode" and to move toward the model of the dotcom millionaires on TED Talks – not in envy of the reward but to find the power and potential in the personal passion and purposeful pursuit of "truth" on the way to the reward.