Tag Archives: Social Sciences

I Want To Innovate

I toss and turn at night.  Just ask my wife, she’ll tell you all about it.  She’ll show you the evidence in the form of sheets, covers and comforter not even gathered on my side of the bed, but passed over my spinning body to a pile on the floor next to me.  We’ve taken to giving her a healthy lead when we go to bed by starting with the covers touching the floor on her side.  I out run her every night.

We’re almost to the point of attaching another set of covers to the ones we have and going “double wide.”  We already know it won’t work.  My churning will make short work of it. I’m a worrier.  I don’t have happy dreams (luckily, I don’t have bad dreams either,) I have anxious dreams.  I’m just damn restless about the constant in my life: What more can I do?

We all do that to an extent, and I’m sure anyone reading this can relate to their life, their business, their relationships.  I live in a business world where someone always needs a job.  You can have a day where one client really breaks through, getting a gig that is life altering. One that enters them into a new realm of money, prestige, creativity.  But, on the same day, you still have a client who just needs a job, any job, to make that month’s mortgage.

As objective as you can make yourself, as hard as you become to the realities of representing freelancers,  it still tortures you. Perhaps there are agents out there where it dosen’t affect them.  But, those people can’t possibly be in possession of a soul. Really, it’s my own damn fault.  Me and my partners in crime are trying to take a dusty old industry and turn it on it’s ear.  We’re using technology, social media, automation, marketing and carefully crafting a corporate culture that has yet to exist in our industry as a strategy and business model.

We keep noticing competitors copying things we’re doing and we are still a step ahead.  All that is great, but there’s still a client out there that needs a job, and so my nightly comforter conveyor belt continues unabated. I read and read, study and study, implement and implement and WPA gets better and better. Not by virtue of me, but by virtue of us.  Everyone is bringing new things to the party everyday.  But still, there’s a client out there that needs a job.

So, where is the next innovation?  The next breakthrough?  What will bring us to the holy grail of 100% roster employment? Am I chasing something that will just never exist?  I refuse to believe that.  In some parallel universe somewhere, amidst the infinity of worlds with intelligent life, there is world where ‘The Artist’ did not win Best Picture and an agency called WPA has 100% freelance employment.

So, we try everyday to get a little bit better.  We get ahead, we have setbacks, but we keep going.  We try to hone our attention to detail, our communication and our commitment to each other and our clients. Don’t get me wrong.  Things are going great.  Things are just where they are supposed to be financially and culturally. Growth is right on track per the business plan. We just took a much bigger office space in Beverly Hills to accomodate our growing staff.  But, oy, I just keep spinning at night. Someone, somewhere needs attention!  The job is never done!

So, we recommit to innovate and build a company that not just sustains us, but one that honors our clients, our buyers and the filmmaking community at large. I want not just an innovation, I want THE BIG innovation.  The agency innovation to top them all.  But, what I’m learning is that exists as much as me sleeping in one position does.  What does exist however, are a number of small innovations that can be strung together to be bigger than the sum of their parts.  The key here is having the courage to explore and act on all the little things instead of waiting to think of the one big thing!

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain

So, I’ll keep tossing and turning.  My wife will keep grasping at covers as they disappear and I’ll keep putting together the small things to keep moving forward.

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Driven To Distraction

Yup, that's distracting

What was I saying? Yes that’s it, no wait, I’ve got it:  I’m distracted.  It’s not that I’m not motivated, I’m plenty motivated, it’s just that there’s plenty on TV, there’s Facebook and the hours that can be spent “Liking” pictures of our relatives pets and lets not forget we need to wring our hands a bit about Fox News’ slow ooze towards undermining Democracy.  Wait, what was I saying agin?  Oh yeah, distraction.

I have lots of ideas, some of them really good and it’s easy to think that any one of them are the solution to all my problems, financial, creative, interpersonal.  These ideas can be along the lines of those dreams we all have where during our sleep we have an earth shattering epiphany, only to wake up and realize that what we were dreaming about, while in the dream made perfect sense, in reality wasn’t even coherent, and you then realize in the dream you weren’t even wearing pants.

Ah well, here it is, the end of summer again.  The end of summer seems to bring more “I’ll knuckle down and start putting my better ideas into action”  than that champagne induced semi correction we call New Years Eve.  But, how is this year going to be different?

For me, I just read the best business book I have ever come across (and I’ve read quite a few) “Good to Great” by Jim Collins.  I highly recommend this book, especially for those artists and entrepreneurs with no formal business education. Simply put, it is an examination of the differences between merely good enterprises and great ones.

Now there are six main concepts in the book, but I only want to talk about one of them here.  All of the “great” companies had in common what Collins refers to “A Hedgehog Concept”  That is one idea that you pursue that has three attributes:

1.  Something, a product or service you are passionate about

2. You feel you have the potential to be the best in the world at the skill of.

3. Something that has a CLEAR economic engine to sustain you.

Why go all business book on us Steve?  What does this have to do with distraction?  We have a tendency to bounce from idea to idea that we think will be a silver bullet of growth, progress and quick reward.  The reality is you have to work on your hedgehog concept over a long period of time.  You have to commit to your concept and keep going especially when it gets rough, especially when there are obstacles, for in those obstacles lie the opportunity for the greatest growth.

Very successful companies have these concepts and stick to them.  Walgreens runs drugstores, they don’t get distracted by a momentary interest in making engine parts for the space shuttle.  Mainly because they aren’t passionate about it, can’t be the best at it, and funding it would destroy the economic engine they’ve established.

That sounds sort of abstract and duh, I know.  But don’t we as entrepreneurs do the same thing all the time?  I constantly have new opportunities put in front of me.  I am getting much better at staying in my “Hedgehog Concept.”  I love doing what I do, I try everyday to get better towards my goal of being best in the world at it, and the economics, while always striving to improve them, are clear and can sustain me.

What’s getting in the way of your “Hedgehog Concept?”  Are you unclear on what you’re passionate about?  passions change for sure, but there are differences between passions and being passionate about something.  Being passionate about something mens you have committed yourself lock, stock and barrel to the idea of immersing yourself as far as you can, the idea being a person, business or craft.  The “Hedgehog Concept” just keeps you focused on the process of making that successful.

Biggest de-railer is fear.  What if I fail? What if it turns out not to be my passion? What if it’s too much work?  What will my parents think because what I really want to do is  drive an ice cream truck? Unfortunately, if you stay in that head you will never get started, so get over it.  Look at the horizon, it’s not going to walk towards you, so you might as well walk towards it.  If you have faith in what your potential can be and can just start moving, you will be surprised how much ground you can cover.

Now, the elephant in the room is that thing we were told when we were kids, (this is America, you can be anything you want when you grow up, it’s the land of opportunity,) that conotes ease and entitlement  and personally, part of me is still waiting to grow up, so from time to time that’s what distracts me.  Have I picked the thing for my life that I’m most passionate about?  How the hell am I supposed to know?  I have many passions.  However, I committed to agenting and being a positive force in the livelyhood’s of others a long time ago, and I have found that my relationship with my craft has deepened.  At the time I picked it, did I recognize it as my dream job? NO!  I needed a damn job at the time, so I jumped in and I found after a while I really enjoyed it.  That caused me to want to get better, and that process made me passionate about it.  It’s not always passion first that gets you started. Sometimes it’s good old fashion necessity and discipline.

But, I still get distracted from my goals.  I wonder sometimes if this blog is another one of my distractions.  After much introspection, I’ve realized that giving business advice and helping people to have the best career the can IS my Hedgehog Concept, and this is a simple tool to support it further.

I encourage you to sit down and write out your concept, clearly and using those simple steps.  I’ll warn you upfront, you have to think about it a lot and one or another of the steps won’t have clear answers at first (some of the companies studied took many years to realize their concept), but once you realize what you want to do and decide to do JUST THAT THING without distraction, you will be surprised how many options and possibilities suddenly present themselves.

Enjoy, I’m gonna watch sports, maybe go to a movie… just kidding… I think.