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Riding The Storm Of Scepticism And Apathy For Innovators, Entrepreneurs And Pioneers – Part III

Written by: David Paul Jacobs, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 
Executive Contributor David Paul Jacobs

Challenging the storm to brighten your rainbow! In my previous articles, Riding The Storm of Scepticism and Apathy for Innovators, Entrepreneurs and Pioneers and Riding The Storm Of Scepticism And Apathy For Innovators, Entrepreneurs And Pioneers - Part II, I covered ways to address some of the inevitable challenges those who seek to make progress will encounter. Here, I’m going to take this further by focusing on challenging the inevitable scepticism with effective redress, thinking and resilience – to brighten your rainbow at the end of the storm. And, we hope, also brighten everybody else’s rainbow!

photo of the sea with dark clouds and rainbow

This that follows is based on what I now know and could/would have said, or at least thought, when my proposal for progress (in the field of IT business value maximisation) was challenged by the various ripostes made to me that included such nuggets of wisdom as “Oh no, you don’t want to do that”, “You want to sell people things they want”, “You want to make things easy for people”, etc. “Really?!” I now say to myself. “Do you know what I am trying to achieve, my objectives, my skills, my context, etc.? I think not. But thanks for your views, I’m not sure I’ll treasure them.” These ripostes/pushbacks are invariably based on past/present perceptions rather than present/future… people find it hard to look and see forward for some reason. I’ll say more about the moving target of almost everything further below.


Who Is Really Trying To Help? Are They Helping Or Hindering?

Some of these comments were made to me by people who were genuinely trying to help and I force myself to remember this. Other such comments however were made by people who were not trying help, although they would probably not admit it to themselves. Some of them were trying to throw me off the scent, because they didn’t understand what I was offering or thought my proposed new way of maximising value from IT would mean they would have to learn a whole new paradigm that had not been taught in their schooling or career. And, of course, if my proposal proved to be valid, I would be ‘in control’ rather than them. The only thing I want to be in control of is encouraging and helping industry to get MUCH more business and organisational value, success and ROI out of IT than has been the norm over the last few decades.


The Ever-Moving Target


People are fearful as I pointed out in my previous articles; despite the much better truth we all speak in life and the workplace these days some are still scared (or at least highly apprehensive) of change, are (damagingly) risk averse and just don’t ‘get’ that change is changing every day, exponentially! It’s almost all a moving target, your life, your career, the whole lot – get used to this people and do yourselves (and everybody else) a favour! Those who try to hold back progress are just shooting themselves and everybody else in the foot. That’s one reason why my Business Value Maximisation Framework BVMF® has a model called The Step Diagram that shows how to navigate continual change and progress in technological capability in an optimal way. But we’ll come back to some central BVMF® models one day soon when I hope to help readers of these articles with some valuable joined up thinking to the benefit of us all. Interestingly, many of the models and techniques I developed from my 30-year R&D programme into more effective high value-yielding IT are proving to be useful in other areas of life and work and so I am extending them (new models and techniques) out into my coaching and mentoring portfolio. For example, almost any decision one makes can be facilitated by developing a simple equation. You need to work out what your variables (ingredients) are, how they relate (the equation’s operators) and what your overall equation (decision) is trying to achieve. It’s all downhill from there and you will be able to make a more effective decision. I am trialling and developing this approach as we speak. I have been able to do this because my 30-year R&D programme into IT business value yielded the Business Value Equation which helps me assess clients’ Information Systems Business Value (ISBV) and hence to significantly help raise it. So, something useful developed in a specific environment may well be useful in other areas of life and work.


Challenges And Redresses


So, let’s look at what I could have said, or even thought, to lessen the retrograde effect on my quest for much more effective business IT in reply to the ripostes I’ve listed above.


The Marketing Conundrum


When you get the demoralising pushback to your eager proposal (we will not be cowed, readers!), you could ask: “Is it because my proposed service/product is essentially good but won’t (easily) market or because it’s essentially not a progressive/decent quality offering?” and then “Why won’t it market?”! The person knocking your idea back will probably look at you slightly blankly and come back with “Oh no, you don’t want to do that”! “Yes, you just said that but what’s your reasoning?” you think or even say. They haven’t really got a sound basis for their so-called feedback and are reacting emotionally or irrationally or both.


Some proposed new products or services are extremely sound but for various quirky reasons will be hard to market. Betamax video recorders were known to be better than VHS ones, but VHS won out due to marketing power. And marketing power as we all know is backed by emotion, human feelings and perceptions rather than fact, truth and reality (which are three things I really like). DEC (Digital Equipment Corporation) computers lost out to IBM in the 1980s in sales volume terms due to people latching on to the myth that ‘Nobody ever got sacked for buying IBM’. Well, they should have done! Why? Because one needed a team of several system programmers (maybe even 8 or 10) to support IBM computer systems in those days whereas DEC computers (PDP and VAX machines) were infinitely cleaner/more usable as the operating system (VAX/VMS) had been written from scratch rather than being incremented and patched up as with IBM machines. But there’s the power of marketing, advertising and getting people to buy on perception and the carrot of a dream as opposed to being faced with fact, truth and reality. And no commodity or service has an inherent pound/dollar note value – the price is what people will pay, supply and demand being the governor.


Which Business Models Are You Making Your Judgement Against?


You can also ask your so-called adviser, “Against what business model are you judging my proposal exactly?” Business models cover a wide spectrum from completely non-profit making/charity-related/hobby-purposed/altruistic to highly capitalist profit-making ones… Which model are they judging your proposed new product/service against bearing in mind such models progress across time, they are not static. So, the model you start with will most likely not be the model you end up with although we never end up because, as I stated above, everything is a continually moving target until we depart this life (and even then, do we know what happens?!) So, ask your feedbacker to describe the business models they are basing their so-called judgment against – they will probably struggle. If they don’t struggle and start making sense, you are in a good place.


I wish I had had this article back in the 1990s and early 2000s when various so-called industry experts I consulted about my Business Value Maximisation Framework BVMF® knocked it and me into touch pretty resoundingly. BVMF® which is recently really starting to take off now by the way. Many inventions have taken several decades to get going, and it seems BVMF® is one of those. Pity it took me 25+ years to get BVMF® off the ground (when it was so badly needed in my view) but I only look forwards not back. Onwards we go!


Obviously, there’s a time for a new product or service to be ‘hot’. Two very nice and intelligent people I met at a conference in spring 2022 in London said to me that I was ‘too early with BVMF® in the 1990s’. What a nice thing for them to say, and true. Thank you to those kind people, very much. You made my 25+ years of doubt and pain worth it. And yours will be worth it readers, just stay with it if you believe in what you are doing.


Other Angles


You could also think or say in riposte (go on, be bold) “Are you taking into account what the senior US patent official said in 1899 – that everything that could have been invented has been?”. You could also ask “Are you taking into account what Thomas Watson said about there only being a world market for 5 computers?” or maybe “are you accounting for the fact that when telephones were invented a fair few people asked why on earth anyone would want one of those?” People thought the earth was flat. They thought cigarettes were good for you. Come on! Oh yes, and Ken Olsen (or it may have been Olson, people aren’t sure), head of Digital Computer Equipment (DEC) said in 1977 “Nobody would want a computer in their home” and his company’s computers were really good quality as I indicated above. Just a few years later as we entered the 1980s Messrs Gates, Jobs, Wozniak and co showed us exactly why we might want a computer in our home, certainly our office.


Now, a few decades later, each of nearly half the world’s population, 4 billion people, have a hugely powerful little computer in their pocket – wow, what a rate of progress. Will the knockers please wake up, realise how quickly things change and advise those eager to progress with some properly considered words and not just say what comes off the top of their heads, ‘cause everybody else thinks it and says it.


More Vigilant Thinking


About 20 years ago, a so-called marketing man responded to my proposed Business Value Maximisation Framework BVMF® with “You want to sell people things they want…” Oh dear oh deary me. Well, yes, ultimately buying is a human decision so a human being needs to want to buy your product or service but it’s not that simple. New offerings are by definition new! So people may take a while to cotton on. Also, if we didn’t keep pushing ahead we would never progress, technologically or societally. We need people like you readers, innovators, pioneers and inventors. The journey may be hard and demoralising because too many people on this planet still think we are in a stand-still world. Or maybe they know where we are but won’t admit it to themselves because it doesn’t serve them, to keep the status quo in their intended to be self-preserving but actually counter-productive manner. Counter-productive for everybody.


The comment this marketing man made to me is what I now call first port of call thinking (FPOCT™). He said the first thing that came into his head because everybody else says it. Mm, yes, all the other myopic non-thinking people. So, please do challenge so called conventional thinking and wisdom, and you will make progress. Maybe say to yourself “Is this so-called nugget of wisdom really true, when is it true, when is it not true, etc.?” Go through what I call second and third port of call thinking to N port of call thinking (NPOCT™) challenging what’s been stated and you will be ahead of all the people that get up every day and think the world is the same as yesterday and they can’t be bothered to question it, themselves or anybody else.


More recently I had a man say, when feeding back to me on an idea I had put to him to produce a new and progressive piece of combined contemporary arts and factual entertainment “You want to make things easy for people…”. No, I don’t. I cannot reduce the pain, effort and loss/wastage in life and career but what I CAN do is double or treble the productivity, i.e., we all will get far more from the same. This was more First Port Of Call Thinking (FPOCT™) on his part.


Frank Whittle


Frank Whittle had a devil of a time getting his jet engine off the ground (pun intended). Really, it was not easy for him. He eventually did get it into production, thank goodness. Why do people who take all the risk and put in the sweat, the skill and the persistence get all the aggro?! It’s the way of the world. Many humans are driven more by emotion and self-aggrandisement rather than truth, fact, reality and generosity. Sad, but hey, let’s not let that get us down.

Encouragement Of The Progress Curve


I know there are many people (some young but not necessarily so by any means) who have/harbour hugely progressive ideas to move us forward in technology, societal norms, life, work, international collaboration, climate, safety, food production, etc – so let’s encourage and support them for goodness’ sake, not hold them back. Where such ideas need refining then let’s help them refine them!


I am convinced we could have had lots of inventions years decades sooner if the inventors had not been ridiculed and/or had been supported morally and financially. When will people wake up and realise this? I believe we might have had powered flights, computers, phones, etc sooner if the early inventors had been supported rather than ridiculed. A new idea will look a bit strange, won’t it, for a while. This is NOT rocket science but basic logic with maybe a little bit of history and philosophy into the mix.


The Six-Factor Cadence


I have also experienced some not very nice (rude and irrational) directives from ‘managers’ in some of my workplaces which led me to think; it’s not that these people don’t know what they are doing, I don’t think they know why they’re doing it! If one doesn’t have a close relationship with the why, the quality of the what becomes irrelevant/non-meaningful; it can’t be assessed without a precursor yardstick. You can’t judge how well your What is working if you have no stable Why to drive it. I pretty well always thought why should preface what. It just makes logical sense. Simon Sinek, author on leadership, published an excellent book called Start With Why. In fact I think it was, fittingly, his first book. Absolutely, Simon! A nice man who hired me in 1997 as an analyst in a manufacturing ERP (enterprise resource planning) project latterly said that he liked the way I always had ‘why’ at the front of my ‘what’. Now that gentleman was one of the good ones and if he is reading this, thanks for your insight and commendation mister, I appreciated it very much. And we all benefited from your good vision.


So, to conclude this article, here's a cadence I have used a lot in my role as a business/IT analyst and this cadence is also now starting to permeate out to other areas I live and work in with a very positive effect on what I do and achieve.


Postscript


After relating my proposal for a better more effective business IT world in the 1990s, and getting such reactions as described above, I was so demoralised/perplexed/let down I didn’t ask for their reasoning (which I would do now). How could they possibly have assumed what my objectives/visions/goals/ambitions were for my venture?! MY venture not theirs. Beware of this kind of First Port of Call Thinking (FPOCT™). People say the first thing that comes to them, what other people tend to say, and they consider it to be relatable wisdom, It isn’t. They should be asking themselves, is it true? Why is it true? When is true? What else is true? Could there be another approach? Under what circumstances is it true. I recommend (from experience) 2nd and 3rd port of call thinking aspiring to N port of call thinking. You often end up in a much better place than the majority who find it too much effort to challenge ‘conventional wisdom’. You know, the wisdom that said the earth was flat, cigarettes are good for, etc. That sort of stuff. Nobody would want a computer in their home (Ken Olsen 1977, CEO of a successful computer company – the same company I mentioned earlier in this article that made truly excellent minicomputers!).


People make unevidenced assumptions and presumptions all day every day and I find it sad. And depressing. Well, I would do if I let it get to me, but I don’t, too much progress to be making people.


If you like this analysis of mine on ‘better thinking’, have a look at Professor Edward De Bono’s writings from the 1980s and ‘90s. He pioneered more effective thinking and left us a great legacy.


I’ll end with a line from Peter Green’s powerful song ‘Oh Well’, released by Fleetwood Mac in its early days (more recently played by Haim at Glastonbury with massive force):


“Don't ask me what I think of you I might not give the answer that you want me to”


RIP Peter, we will try to make progress in a way that pays credit to your skill and ingenuity.


Follow me on LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!

David Paul Jacobs Brainz Magazine
 

David Paul Jacobs, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

David Jacobs is a life/career coach/mentor and thought leading business analyst/project leader. As director of MaxVal Consultancy Ltd in the UK, he is author of Business Value Maximisation Framework BVMF® which arose from his 30-year research and development programme into IT business value/success maximisation designed to raise return on investment (ROI) to levels substantially above the norm. On the back of this and a number of other successful entrepreneurial projects David is authoring, coaching and mentoring in life skills, career progression and effective business management. David has a polymathic 'cv' which includes a parallel background in contemporary performing arts. David's mission is to save others time in learning key lessons he has learnt, and, to entertain!

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