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Three Shifts in Thinking to Make Ideas Happen

513KW+5AaNLAs editor in Chief and director of 99U, Jocelyn K. Glei leads its mission to provide the missing curriculum on making ideas happen. In this post, she discusses key concepts from her latest book, Make Your Mark.

Shift 1: Defining your purpose is more important than defining your business model.

The notion that you can lay out your business model in advance, and then meticulously follow it like a yellow brick road to success, is completely outmoded. With the rapid-fire evolution of technology, no one knows what the future will look like in 5 years or even next year. As a result, more and more companies are letting their business models unfold over time.

And that’s where purpose comes in. Let’s take Google as an example. Google’s purpose is to organize the world’s information. That’s not a business model, that’s a mission. And it allows them to evolve and innovate quickly. Google started as a search engine, but who knew 10 years ago that their purpose would evolve to encompass mapping the world? Or email? Or self-driving cars? Maybe search will die as a business someday but Google could still continue to thrive because they are constantly exploring and reinventing what it means to fulfill their purpose.

In other words, purpose acts as a flexible moral compass for where your company can and should go next, while a business model acts like a straitjacket.

Shift 2: Acting like a human is more important than acting flawlessly.

The rise of e-commerce and the social web has made finding customers for your product or service easier than ever. That said, it’s also made it easier than ever for your customers to talk back. Whereas brands used to push their products and messages out in what was essentially a one-way conversation, the social web has transformed it into a two-way conversation.

What that means is that brands — as companies or solo-entrepreneurs — need to be more authentic and more improvisational. Finding your voice, participating in the conversation on an ongoing basis, and being able to respond honestly when you mess up are all essential skills.

In my interview with Neil Blumenthal, one of the co-founders and CEOs at Warby Parker, he talks about how consumers have extremely sensitive “bullshit detectors” these days. We’ve been so inundated with advertisements that we know immediately when a brand is being fake and when they’re being sincere. Honesty, humanity, and empathy are becoming competitive advantages.

Shift #3: Embracing ambiguity is more important than sticking with “what works.”

Research has shown that creatives aren’t often given the opportunity to lead because there’s an unconscious bias against them. People associate creativity with nonconformity and unconventionality. And when they think about an effective leader, they think about someone who brings order. Obviously if you believe that a leader’s role is to bring order, you wouldn’t want a creative to lead. (Of course, this has nothing to do with whether creatives actually can lead, it’s just an unconscious bias many of us have.)

What’s interesting is that these qualities that have typically biased folks against creatives as leaders — that they’re unconventional, unorthodox, and full of un-tested new ideas about the way things should be done — are actually turning into assets when we look at today’s work and business landscape and how it’s evolving.

Adaptability and agility are at a premium. You need to constantly be innovating. You need to be making new bets and taking risks every day. You need to be trying to reinvent yourself, and your business, on an ongoing basis. And these needs line up perfectly with creatives’ skillsets.

In my interview with John Maeda, formerly the president of RISD and now a design partner at KPCB, he points out that creatives are in the perfect position to lead right now. Because they’re okay with uncertainty – not knowing what the future holds – and they’re okay with failure and they like nothing more than to innovate.

This post is based on the research in Make Your Mark: The Creative’s Guide to Building a Business with Impact. It features contributions from the designers and entrepreneurs behind companies like Google X, Facebook, Warby Parker, O’Reilly Media, Fog Creek, and many more. Learn more.

Top Five Toughest Interview Questions and How to Nail Them

Congratulations—you’ve snagged the big interview! You know the position is perfect for you, you’ve done your research on the company, and you’re feeling confident. But what will you do if you’re asked a curveball question you’re not expecting? Of all the tools in your professional arsenal, your ability to shine in that brief moment in time can make or break your chances of landing the job of your dreams. Interviewing is at least 50% preparation!

Ron Fry, author of "101 Great Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions," has hired hundreds of employees and interviewed thousands of candidates. Here are five of the toughest questions you could be asked in an interview and strategies for how to answer them.ToughestInterviewQuestions

“How long have you been looking for a job?”

Unless you’ve been fired or laid off, your answer should always be that you’ve just started looking. Rightly or wrongly, many interviewers presume that the longer you’ve been out there, the less desirable you are to hire.

If you have been out of work for a while, be prepared to explain why you haven’t received or accepted any offers yet. You’re just as choosy about finding the right job as the interviewer is about hiring the right candidate and it’s good you’ve been so selective—now you have a shot at landing the position you’re currently interviewing for.

“What is the biggest failure you’ve had in your career? What steps have you taken to make sure something like that doesn’t happen again?”

Before you start spilling your guts, remember that the interviewer is not a priest and you are not in a confessional! The best approach is to admit to one weakness or failure and then talk about the steps you are taking (or have taken) to make sure that you’ll never fail in quite that way again. Choose any deficiency that might be considered a plus in a slightly different light. For example, you have a tendency to take on too much yourself. You are trying to solve this problem by delegating better.

“If you could start your career over again, what would you do differently?”

Interviewers use hypothetical questions like this to get candidates to think on their feet. Unless you’re shooting for a complete change of career, you should convince the interviewer that you wouldn’t change a thing. Position your regrets as missed opportunities that you’ve learned from. For instance: “My only regret is that I didn’t go in this direction sooner.”

“You’ve changed jobs quite frequently. How do we know you’ll stick around?”

The hiring process is expensive for companies and time-consuming for managers. In framing your reply, convince the interviewer you have staying power by painting the position or offer as your career’s “promised land.” You can confess that you had some difficulty defining your career goals, but now you’re quite sure of your direction, or let them know that you left previous positions only after you realized that moving on was the only way to increase your responsibilities and broaden your experience.

“Are you a risk-taker or do you prefer to play it safe?”

In most cases, the ideal candidate will be a little of both. Interviewers who ask this question are probing for intimations of innovation and creativity. Are you the shepherd or just one of the flock? But they also want to find out whether you might turn into a loose cannon who will ignore company policies and be all too ready to lead a fatal cavalry charge. Temper your answer to show that you’re always seeking out new strategies and ideas but are not insubordinate.

 

Author Bio:

Ron Fry has written more than 40 books, including the best-selling 101 Great Answers to the Toughest Interview Questions and 101 Smart Questions to Ask on Your Interview. He is a frequent speaker and seminar leader on a variety of job-search and hiring topics and the founder and president of Career Press. He lives in New Jersey with his family.

Exclusive Q&A with Martine Rothblatt

Martine Rothblatt, founder of Sirius XM Radio and founder and CEO of United Therapeutics who was just recently named the highest paid female CEO in America talks to us about her newest book, "Virtually Human" and the role that mindclones have in our future. Virtuallyhuman

Q1: What's been the biggest lesson you've learned in business?

Martine Rothblatt: Persistence is omnipotence.

Q2: The recent New York Magazine piece was such a great feature on both you and your family. How does it feel to be the highest paid female CEO in the US, and what advice would you give to others seeking new heights in their businesses or industries?

MR: It feels rather unreal because it is based on stock option values that require our stock to rise about $40 per share in price, not actual salary that for me is about 5% as much and would probably not qualify me to be in even to 100 female CEOs. However, my advice is to meet an unmet need in a practical, reliable fashion, and to not give up until your goal is achieved.

Q3: In your book, "Virtually Human," you mention that we need to figure out the mindclone thing right now, and that through this debate, we will learn about ourselves, our psychology, our consciousness, and our souls.  How far away do you think society is from seeing mindclones all around us, all the time?

MR: I believe it is as close to us in time, and will become as ubiquitous despite being as unbelievable that ubiquity would occur, as the birth of the Apple computer in 1982. 

Q4: From a business perspective, how do you think Mindclones will be perceived in the future?  For example, when they apply for jobs, will humans remain competitive?

MR: I believe Mindclones will be humans albeit without bodies, and thus we will remain competitive albeit as Mindclones. Similarly, we remain competitive for most jobs provided we are IT capable -- smartphone, laptop or computer capable.

Q5: What's the one thing you'd hope for the average reader to take away from your recent book, Virtually Human?

MR: It is crucial to treat everyone with dignity, meaning respecting the value they have for their life, whether their skintone is different or they have no skin at all, and whether they immigrate from another geographical space like central America our from cyberspace like Mindclones. There are tried and true methods in law and psychology to judge the consciousness of Mindclones.

Guest Blogger: Stephanie Wu, author of "The Roommates"

The RoommatesWe all know the horror stories--the passive-aggressives, the hoarders, the oversharers--but roommates can change your life for the better, too. For my new book, The Roommates: True Tales of Friendship, Rivalry, Romance, and Disturbingly Close Quarters, I wanted to find stories that embraced the great part of living with a stranger as well. Several people shocked me with their humanity and how well they dealt with extraordinary living situations--particularly these five roommates, who truly went above and beyond.

1.    The Teenage Cousin Who Came To Her Rescue:
When recent graduate Karen* moved in with her college freshman cousin, she wasn’t sure what their roommate relationship would be--was she supposed to keep him out of trouble? One day, Karen came home to her cousin and his friends, as well as their married next-door neighbor, hanging out in the living room. As she headed upstairs, she noticed the neighbor following her. “I saw his eyes darting around to the open door to my cousin’s room, and he started trying to push me in,” she recalls. Luckily, she managed to fight him off, and he ran out of the apartment. After realizing what had happened, Karen’s cousin followed the husband and beat him up, breaking his own hand in the process. When they moved in together, Karen thought she’d be a guardian of sorts--she never realized it was her teenage cousin who would come to her rescue.

2.    The Local Student Who Helped Her Navigate A Foreign Country:
Ricki studied abroad in Botswana, where she lived with local student Keletso in a dorm. The language barrier made it hard for the two to communicate, but over time, Keletso taught Ricki how to live in Botswana--showering with a bucket, the ritualistic hair braiding, and even how to survive an attack of locust-like flying ants. When Ricki’s homestay fell through later in the semester, Keletso opened up her home, and the two became family. “Living in Botswana was incredibly life-changing,” says Ricki. “I wouldn’t have been able to process what I was going through without Keletso’s quiet guidance.”

3.    The Suitemates Who Attended Therapy Together:
During college, Rose lived with five girls in an off-campus apartment, including Sandra, who they eventually found out had been diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder. After a violent episode, when one of Sandra’s personalities smashed several mugs in the sink and cut her hands in the process, the roommates, at Sandra’s suggestion, decided to go to therapy together to try to cope with and understand the disorder. Slowly, the roommates figured out Sandra’s triggers--dark movies, surprises, and even church, where abuse had occurred. “When I look back on it, it wasn’t a traumatizing experience,” says Rose. “The roommate therapy forced us to bond and support one another. I’m undoubtedly closer to them than any other group of roommates I ever had.”
 
4.    The Roommate Who Lent a Hand to First-Time Parents
When looking for a change of pace, Eva, despite warnings from friends, decided to move into a new apartment with Erin and Aaron, an engaged couple she met on Craigslist. Soon after the wedding, Erin and Aaron told Eva that they were pregnant, but she was welcome to continue living with them. They assured her they would do their best to keep the baby from disrupting her life. “I got to see the new-parent experience firsthand,” says Eva. “For the first six weeks, they were like zombies.” One Saturday morning, she found Aaron asleep with the baby next to him in her high chair, so Eva dragged the chair into her room to let Aaron take a nap. “They were so embarrassed, but I knew how sleep-deprived they were,” she says. When Eva moved out, she was sad to say goodbye to her roommates. After all, in their time living together, the baby’s crying only woke her up once or twice--and pretty much any roommate in New York will do that to you.

5.    The Friend Who Cooks, Cleans, And Runs Errands
After receiving his Ph.D., Nate wasn’t sure what to do with his life. His good friend, Ben, had just bought a large house with his fiancée, Becca, and offered one of the many extra rooms to him for free. “I was expected to chip in on cleaning, cooking, and other little things around the house,” says Nate, who turned into a full-fledged household manager: planning meals, walking the dogs, helping with home renovation, and consulting on Becca’s business. Though it wasn’t what he was expecting to be doing in his thirties, it’s an arrangement that has worked out. “I get to live with my friends and hang out with them all the time,” he says. “It’s much better than moving in with your parents--the default for this generation and time.”

*All names have been changed

How One Nation Is Conquering the World Through Pop Culture

The Birth of Korean Cool reveals how a really uncool country became cool, and how a nation that once The Birth of Korean Coolbanned miniskirts, long hair on men, and rock ‘n’ roll could come to mass produce boy bands, soap operas, and one of the world’s most important smart phones. Here, the author, Euny Hong, gives a guide to modern Korean etiquette.

1. It is never considered rude to ask someone’s age—technically, instead ask, "What year were you born?" Without knowing which party is older, no one knows how to act or speak. One central tenet of etiquette in Korea is that you have to pay attention to who you are in relation to those around you: Man or woman? Older or younger? Professional rank? Etc. etc. You base all of your actions on hierarchy. If someone new enters the room, you have to recalibrate your behavior.

2. Food and drink are to be consumed whilst sitting or not at all, and indoors unless you are sitting on a picnic blanket. Do not carry around food or drink; not even a bottled water. And definitely not coffee. That would be like walking the streets with a pint of Guinness. And for crying out loud, don't bring beverages into the subway. You don't want to be the jerk who spills liquids on someone's Samsung Galaxy smartphone while they're live-streaming their morning TV programs.

3. Corollary to above: Under no circumstances should you bring your refreshment into someone else's home or office. I don't care if you still have a 3/4 cup full of iced latte; you have to toss it before you cross the threshold. By bringing your own insolent beverage, you have denied your hosts the chance to offer a refreshment. They will per custom offer you a coffee even though you have one; you are obligated to say yes and you will end up with two coffees. If you refuse, your hosts can’t have any coffee either.

4. Do not pour your own alcohol. If you want your glass topped off, hint at this by pouring alcohol into someone else’s glass, whether this person wants it or not. That person must then offer to pour some into your glass. A second and very important rule is that when you are pouring alcohol for someone, pour with your right hand and use your left hand to hold your sleeve. This will assure your drinking buddies that you will not stab them with your free hand.

5. If you are out drinking with friends or colleagues, it's not considered sporting to go home until everyone does. Nausea is in no way a good reason to go home. If you must vomit, go off and do it in the bathroom or alleyway, then return and repeat the self-poisoning/purge process. It is totally within bounds to ask a friend to help you barf.

6. If you are a student at a public K-12 school, never raise your hand in class. No good can come of it. If you have to use the bathroom, wait till after class. If you have a question, let it go. If the teacher is horribly wrong about something and you are trying to correct him/her…you are mistaken. Also, jackets are to be zipped/buttoned up or not worn at all.

7. Your pockets are no place for your hands.

Above the Dreamless Dead

Chris Duffy, editor of the World War I graphic novel, Above the Dreamless Dead, answers some questions about the haunting and beautiful marriage of poetry set to art by some of today's top cartoonists including Garth Ennis, Pat Mills, and Stuart Immonen.

ATDDQ1: Above the Dreamless Dead is an anthology of WWI poetry from a specific movement, 'trench poetry.' Can you tell us a little about that movement?  What were those poets trying to do with their poetry?

Chris Duffy: I should clarify to start with that I am an amateur on his topic -- it can be kind of embarrassing when I'm talking to someone who does know it well. The book wasn't my idea -- I was asked if I wanted to take it on as a freelance job. At the time, some research had been done by the publisher and they thought it seemed like a good idea. Just a little reading of the poetry from WWI convinced me it was a VERY good idea. The poetry is vivid, compelling, and for some reason, unknown to most people. Nothing really brings home World War I (or any war) more than the poetry or prose of those who lived it.  Any book that brings these works to more people is valuable. In the end, I did not become an expert on the topic -- but I'll try to answer these questions and hope that anyone interested seeks out more work on the topic.

During the war and immediately after, "trench poets" referred to many English soldiers who wrote poetry about the war -- especially the ones who made a name for themselves with war poetry. These days, the term is used by many to refer to a larger variety of poets who wrote about the war. As far as I can tell, though, no matter who the term refers to, trench poetry was not a movement -- the poets came from different classes and religions; they didn't share one style or literary goal.

A few of the poets are considered to be part of the Georgian poetry movement. That movement is known for a straightforward lyrical style, often speaking of the English countryside and tending to extol hedonism. But it's safe to say that Georgian poetry is not trench poetry.

The war poets are literally just that -- people who wrote poetry about the war, no matter their point of view. Usually that point of view is a soldier's -- and often on the Western front -- but sometimes it is from the vantage point of a soldier on his way to war; from a civilian in England, from women working with the wounded in France or England.

Continue reading "Above the Dreamless Dead" »

Comics, Wrestling and Telling the Story of Andre the Giant

Box Brown, the author of the new Andre the Giant graphic novel talks about the similarities between the art of comics and professional wrestling and his admiration for the subject of his new book. AndretheGiant

Comics and wrestling seem like a natural fit to me.  When, as an adult, you tell someone you’re interested in comics you have to be prepared to defend that.  I think there can be a lot of misconceptions about what comics are and what comics can be, like that they’re only for kids or perhaps a generation of older men still living in their parents’ basements.  As a comic artist (and reader) I know this just is not the case.  Comics is a medium capable of an infinite range of expressions—an art form.  I believe that pro-wrestling is an art form too.

Surely then, if pro-wrestling is an art form, it has had no greater master than Andre the Giant.  Andre had a condition known as acromegaly, which caused him to grow too large for his own good.  When he was told he wouldn’t live past the age of forty, he decided to live the life he had to the fullest.  Andre had a leg up in the pro-wrestling business, because he was a huge man who was naturally foreboding. But he didn’t rest on that.  He knew how to work a crowd the way great comedians and MCs do.  He knew how to play both a “babyface” (good guy) and “heel” (bad guy) to perfection.  He also worked constantly for many many years to develop his craft. 

In pro-wrestling when two wrestlers are developing a match they say they are telling a story in the ring.  So, in addition to all the storylines that go into a pro-wrestling television show, the two athletes in the ring are telling a story.  It’s a sequential story that has the qualities we look for in the greatest works of literature.  The hero sets out on a quest and is tested and beaten down and eventually he rises to the occasion to defeat and overcome his detractors.  Each story is different and can be a drama, tragedy or comedy.  Each wrestler has his own unique style and way to depict his character.  Is it that different from using a brush and ink (and Photoshop) to tell this type of story on the comic page? 

I think of Andre’s story as a tragic one.  He was disabled for a large part of his life and he died at only forty six years old.  He was mostly portrayed on TV and spoken of as a kind man with gentle heart.  But Andre was only human.  He had all the flaws and personal idiosyncrasies that we all have.  He was imperfect at times.  He spent a lot of time in pain.  I think he felt disconnected to this world that he didn’t quite fit in.  Every aspect of his life had to be special fitted for him, from his clothes to his cutlery to his cars.

Towards the end of Andre’s career he was in a lot of pain. People said he probably should have retired and he could have, financially, but instead he persevered.  I think this is what I admire most about him.  I think those moments when he was in the ring creating stories were extremely important to him and really made him happy.  I hope one day when I’m nearing the end I continue to persevere and create the way Andre did. 

 

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The Time of the Finite

Philippe Squarzoni, author of Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science asks, “How can we--each of us in our own sphere--handle the fundamental contradictions between our lifestyle and the needs of the environment?” ClimateChanged

In 2006, while I was working on my previous documentary graphic novel, I began to look into the issue of global warming. I realized that, probably like most of us, I didn’t know a lot about it, and I decided to explore it more seriously.

I grasped, then, the nature of the climate crisis, the gravity of the situation, and the enormity of the changes that would have to be put in place to escape the worst consequences of climate change. And it became clear to me that it could not be just a few pages devoted to it, but an entire book itself, to which I committed six years of work.

The IPCC reports, scientific books on the subject, and interviews with experts and journalists paint a rather bleak picture of our collective future. While the first part of my book details the causes and consequences of climate change, in the second part it addresses possible alternatives and the energy scenarios that will allow us to escape this as best as possible.

It’s both this growing understanding and the questions that are posed on an individual level that Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science recounts.

How can we—each of us in our own sphere—handle the fundamental contradictions between our lifestyle and the needs of the environment?

If the magnitude of the changes that must be made far exceed the capacity of our individual actions, then true change must be made on a much broader, structural level—these must be political decisions, where, unfortunately, inaction is the order of the day.

Each of the past three decades, the surface of the earth has been successively hotter, compared to all other decades since 1850. Greenhouse gas emissions are now higher than in the most pessimistic predictions.

We stand, in a way, in the intermediate period between two moments in history. A first one where the riches of nature were considered infinite, unlimited resources, a period of perpetual growth. This was the time of promise. But we must move now into a second period, where the constraints of the climate are imposed on us—the depletion of resources, the limits of the planet. This is the time of the finite.

In Montana, “brown season” is a name for a fifth season, a period of transition between winter and spring. A period of uncertainty, from which we must now move on.

 

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Americans Interned

"Gaijin" Summary: With a white mother and a Japanese father, Koji Miyamoto quickly realizes that his home in San Francisco is no longer a welcoming one after Pearl Harbor is attacked. And once he's sent to an internment camp, he learns that being half white at the camp is just as difficult as being half Japanese on the streets of an American city during WWII. Gaijin

When I was ten years old, I read a big stack of books about children and the Holocaust. I was horrified at the thought of children like myself being locked up in those terrible camps. One day my mom told me, “You know, we have family members who were put in an American prison camp during World War Two.”  I didn’t believe her. “America would never do something like that.” I said.

She sat me down and filled me in. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, by the Japanese navy, Americans became very frightened of all Japanese people, even those who were U.S. citizens. In 1942, the government took those fears to an extreme and imprisoned more than 112,000 people of Japanese ancestry in prison camps across western America. Over half of those interned were children and two thirds were U.S. citizens.

The camps were situated in extremely harsh country—mostly high desert, which was very hot in the summer, very cold in the winter. People were made to live in uninsulated tar-paper shacks. My mom told me that my great-aunt Adeline, her daughter, Mary, and Mary’s young children were a just few of those who were forced into one of these prison camps during the war—a camp called Manzanar.

I am not of Japanese descent; my ancestors came mostly from Ireland. So, I didn’t understand: How did my Irish American relatives end up in camps for Japanese Americans?   

Continue reading "Americans Interned" »

Guest Blogger: Gwyneth Paltrow

WithinGwyneth Paltrow is an Oscar winner and author of the New York Times best-selling cookbook, My Father's Daughter. She is a mother and an actress, splitting her time between London and New York.

When my latest cookbook, It's All Good, was nearly complete, I was still searching for someone to write the foreword.  Because the book included amazing recipes based on a particular healing diet I had been prescribed by my physician, I immediately thought of Dr. Habib Sadeghi.  Not only did he understand the medicinal qualities of whole foods, but also the spiritual partnership we have with the earth that provides them to us.  I was extremely grateful when Dr. Sadeghi agreed, and even more so when I recently received the opportunity to return the favor and write the foreword to his incredible new book, Within.

What struck me immediately about Within is that it’s so universal.  Yes, it focuses on the goal of losing weight, but it does so with principles that can be applied to anything we want to achieve.  It’s really a life map instead of a diet.  In fact, it isn’t a diet at all because he never mentions food or even exercise.  The world doesn’t need another carb counting lecture.  It’s really a healing workout for the soul, and that seems only fitting since people often call him the Old Soul Doctor.  

They say that over a lifetime, everyone has at least one story or experience that will break your heart. If that’s true, then Dr. Sadeghi has enough for three lifetimes.  He’s an old soul not because of what he’s been through, but because of how he survived and thrived on the other side of those difficulties. In Within, he shares the tools he used to get through those experiences and the wisdom he earned in the process. 

That’s why I was so proud to write the foreword to Within.  Who hasn’t wanted to change their life in some significant way and felt totally lost as to how to make that happen?  Dr. Sadeghi isn’t a motivational guru.  Even better; he’s somebody who’s “been there”.  If direct experience is the only real teacher in life, then Dr. Sadeghi has a PhD in getting your life off life support.  You’ll feel his compassion on every page and he never talks down to the reader.  Instead, he approaches every subject with the same intuitive empathy that makes him so successful as a physician.

I highly recommend Within, no matter what kind of change you’re seeking in your life.  Just be prepared for a paradigm shift in the way you think and feel that only comes from fearlessly “stepping into your loving”.

--Gwyneth Paltrow