Brain Food

How to Properly Save Your Creative Ideas

David Simon

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It’s Friday and you have 5,000 things whirring around in your head: Do laundry! Finish that email! Call Mum!

Adding to the chaos, you’re also having some pretty inspired ideas that you’d like to concentrate on. But, as you’re trying to work out how to incorporate some fantastic plot twist into that novel you’re writing, yet another peremptory thought barges in: “BUY BREAD!”

What causes this mental hurly-burly? Well, our brains have limited short-term memory, or psychic RAM, making it impossible to simultaneously concentrate on our to-do lists and our creative ideas.

So how can you save your creative ideas from death by distraction?

Write your ideas down – properly

Keep your ideas on life support by writing them down, And be sure to write them out in complete sentences.

Say you have an idea for your latest artwork. Instead of jotting down a word that, in the moment, you’re sure will jolt your memory – “watercolor?” – write out the thought: “Would the forest sketch look better using watercolor or pastel?” This establishes your idea as an entity independent of your own head, thus allowing you to better evaluate it later on.

For more on enabling creativity – and why it’s possible to be too organised, we recommend reading:

“Ready for Anything” By David Allen. 

Productivity consultant David Allen is considered one of the leading experts on organisational and personal productivity.

Don’t have time to read the whole book? Read or listen to a powerful short from this book in just 15 minutes on Blinkist:

Ready for Anything, By David Allen

6 Ways to Get Your Business Acquired

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Small business owners and those who run startups know the struggles of starting a fruitful business. It can be a long road with many ups and downs. However, if you’re passionate about what you do and you are determined to succeed, then your business may stand a fighting chance. Building a business from scratch is no easy feat; but if you’ve created something that others really love, you may be ready to look into getting your business acquired.

What is a business acquisition?

A business acquisition is defined as “the process of acquiring a company to build on strengths or weaknesses of the acquiring company. A merger is similar to an acquisition but refers more strictly to combining all of the interests of both companies into a stronger single company.”

Some huge acquisition examples include Google acquiring YouTube, Motorola, and Waze. Another big social media acquisition happened in 2012 when Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion. Businesses are always looking for opportunities to get ahead and spread their influence.

 If you’re an entrepreneur who is ready to negotiate an acquisition, check out the six tips below. It may not be an easy road to get your business acquired, but it can prove to be quite lucrative. If you’re determined, you may be able to negotiate the perfect deal.

1. Preparation is Key
Many acquisitions rarely go as planned and that is largely due to poor planning. Startup founders may find themselves too eager to get acquired– that eagerness paired with a lack of experience can lead to failure. This is where preparation comes in handy. Start to think about your investors, employees, and customers; how will an acquisition affect each of these groups? What can you do to make this potential transition go as smoothly as possible? Do your due diligence and research what similar companies have done in your position– you can learn from both their mistakes and successes.

 2. Hire Talented Staff Many large businesses look to acquire startups and small businesses for their talented staff. If you want to display the value of your company, there’s no better way than through the folks who work for you. If bright, talented people are contributing to the success of your small business, other bigger businesses will certainly take notice. Oftentimes, staff will stay with a business during and after an acquisition– the company that acquires your business will not only gain your product or services, but your talented staff as well.

3. Identify Your Weaknesses No person or business is perfect– we all have our flaws! The important point here is to make note of your weaknesses and identify where your business has room for growth. Once you understand what prospective buyers are looking for, you can work to eliminate these weaknesses. By doing this, you can focus on growing more high-value factors that are important to the highest-paying buyer. If you know where your business falls short, it will be easier for a larger business to see how they can fit into an acquisition with you. There’s no point in trying to pretend your business has strengths that it doesn’t; everything will come to light eventually, so it’s best to be honest from the start.

4. Make Sure You’re Focused Running a small business is challenging enough, let alone preparing to get your business acquired. Stay focused and keep organised– at all times! Be sure all of your documents are in order and that you know all the ins and outs of your business. Larger businesses who may want to acquire your business will have plenty of questions for you– stay focused and you’ll be fine!

5. Keep Costs Low The more efficient and concentrated your expenses are, the more credibility you will have with potential acquirers. The amount you have at the end of every year to invest in the company’s future is a key aspect that acquirers will look for. Money spent on lavish entertainment or ultra-modern office spaces is money not spent trying to get ahead of your competitors. Larger businesses will want to see that you know how to handle your expenses. By keeping costs low, acquirers will have a clear vision of your priorities, and they will have more confidence in the ultimate success of your business.

6.Have a Clear Vision It’s vital to have a clear vision of what you’d like for the future of your company– even after it gets acquired. Chances are you will remain working with the organization in some capacity after the acquisition; even if you don’t, some of your current employees will be. If your vision doesn’t match up with the business that is acquiring yours, your employees could be in for a rude awakening.

With a bit of planning and following through on the above six steps, you’ll be in a better position to have your business acquired. While the valuation of your business is an important aspect, don’t lose sight of why you started your business in the first place. You don’t want your business to lose its integrity due to an acquisition. Keep an open line of communication and expectations with potential buyers and you’ll be good to go!

7 Common Exit Strategies for your Business

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Whatever the motivation or circumstance behind an exit, it is important to have a strategy in place. Even if you have no immediate plans to exit, preparing for the future is good for business.

Choosing the best strategy means knowing the array of the available exit options and evaluating them against business priorities.

Here are 7 ways for an Entrepreneur to cash out. 

Keep it in the Family: Many entrepreneurs want to keep their business in the family long term, and that means making plans for transitioning the company to an offspring or another relative at a certain point in time. This option does give you the ability to groom successors over time—just make sure your family relationships can handle the volatility and stress of business ownership and they are actually equipped to running the business.

Sell to a partner or Investor: If you aren’t the sole proprietor, it’s possible to sell off just your stake to a business partner or other investor. This can be a relatively “business-as-usual” exit strategy, depending on the buyer.

Mergers and Acquisitions: If your business is aligned with the goals of another company, then there is the possibility of being acquired. Acquisition is one of the most common exit strategies: You find another business that wants to buy yours and sell, sell, sell. The chances of getting the price you want is higher, (well…depending on your negotiation skills and your perceived value!) If you choose the right acquirer, your value can far exceed what would be reasonable, based on your income. Our tip – build a business that will get aquired.

Let’s float it, The IPO: An IPO (Initial Public Offering) is where you put your business on the stock exchange and sell it to the public. It’s not an easy task…Business conditions need to be just right for an IPO to be successful (not to mention the dollars involved in completing an IPO). Although it has the potential to be very lucrative and bring you lots of press, it’s not for the faint hearted. An IPO (if successful) will leave you scrutinised by analysts with demanding shareholders – hardly a stress free way to exit!

Acquihire: An acqui-hire is when one company buys out the other one specifically to take the employees. It’s a popular strategy with tech startups. A good acqui-hire can bring in a lot of new talent at the same time. Plus, the employees have experience working together as a group.

Management/employee buyout:  It’s possible that people who already work for you, who know how to manage the business, may want to own it as well. This could result in a smoother transition and increase loyalty to your business’s legacy. And because they probably know you so well, they may allow for flexibility in terms of your involvement—perhaps they’ll want to keep you on as a mentor or advisor.

Liquidate:  For small businesses, liquidation is a common exit strategy. It’s one of the fastest ways to close a business and may sometimes be the only option in cases where the operation of the business is dependent solely upon one individual, where family members are not interested in or capable of taking over, and where bankruptcy is close at hand.

It’s worth noting though that any profits made from selling assets first need to be used to pay creditors.To make any money using liquidation as an exit strategy, you’re going to have to have valuable assets you can sell—like land, equipment, and so on. It’s important to remember that it doesn’t mean you ever failed as a Business owner. It’s simply the logical next step.

Bleed it dry! Well…We don’t actually mean run it into the red, rather, just pay yourself a huge salary and bonuses bigger that what is actually reflective of company performance. Essentially you are not re-investing back into the business to grow it, but living off the income generated by the business to fund your lifestyle. This method suits if you have steady cash flow and you’re in it to just have nice things. Don’t do it if you are after an investor or looking for future business growth. You may regret pulling money out now that you might need later.

6 Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) your Small Business Can Track

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Key Performance Indicator is a measurable value that demonstrates how effectively a company is achieving key business objectives. Organisations use KPIs at multiple levels to evaluate their success at reaching targets.

If you’re a solo entrepreneur, you’re probably trying to juggle about a dozen different jobs at once, from accounting to product development to marketing. It can be easy to end up with a to-do list a mile long but no real clarity around which tasks are the most important in moving your business forward.

Setting and tracking KPIs can keep you on track. If you’ve set them correctly, they reflect the most important elements of your business right now. For each of the tasks on your list, you can ask yourself how it will contribute to hitting one of your KPIs, and prioritise accordingly. You can make sure that you spend the bulk of your time on tasks that will have a direct impact on something that’s truly important to your business.

When writing or developing a KPI, you need to consider how that KPI relates to a specific business outcome or objective. KPIs need to be customized to your business situation, and should be developed to help you achieve your goals. Below are some simple steps to follow when writing a KPI:

  • Write a clear objective for your KPI
  • Share your KPI with stakeholders
  • Review the KPI on a weekly or monthly basis
  • Make sure the KPI is actionable
  • Evolve your KPI to fit the changing needs of the business
  • Check to see that the KPI is attainable
  • Update your KPI objectives as needed

Below are 7 examples of KPI’s a small business can track:

Gross profit margin (GPM%) is a profitability ratio that measures how much of every dollar of revenues is left over after paying cost of goods sold (COGS). The metric is an indication of the financial success and viability of a particular product or service.  The higher the percentage, the more the company retains on each dollar of sales to service its other costs and obligations.

Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC): Divide your total acquisition costs by the number of new customers in the time frame you’re examining. Voila! You have found your CAC. This is considered one of the most important metrics in e-commerce because it can help you evaluate the cost effectiveness of your marketing campaigns.

Customer Lifetime Value (CLV): Minimising cost isn’t the only (or the best) way to optimise your customer acquisition. CLV helps you look at the value your organisation is getting from a long-term customer relationship. Use this performance indicator to narrow down which channel helps you gain the best customers for the best price.

Customer Satisfaction & Retention (CSR): On the surface, this is simple: Make the customer happy and they will continue to be your customer. Many firms argue, however, that this is more for shareholder value than it is for the customers themselves. You can use multiple performance indicators to measure CSR, including customer satisfaction scores and percentage of customers repeating a purchase.

Net Promoter Score (NPS): Finding out your NPS is one of the best ways to indicate long-term company growth. To determine your NPS score, send out quarterly surveys to your customers to see how likely it is that they’ll recommend your organisation to someone they know. Establish a baseline with your first survey and put measures in place that will help those numbers grow quarter to quarter.

Employee Turnover Rate (ETR): To determine your ETR, take the number of employees who have departed the company and divide it by the average number of employees. If you have a high ETR, spend some time examining your workplace culture, employment packages, and work environment.

Website Conversion Rate (CVR):  To begin tracking conversion measurements, you might want to calculate the traffic-to-lead ratio. In the digital world, you’ll need to understand the origin of your website traffic — organic, social media, or referrals — to focus marketing efforts and measure leads coming from your top channels. If you find that you have high traffic but a low number of leads, you may need to revise your website content and design. Make sure that navigation is intuitive and you’re getting the right type of traffic.

There really are hundreds of different types of KPI’s your business can track…and I want to re-iterate that it’s important to chose the ones that are relevant to your business and objectives. Remember though, the data is just data, it’s the action that you make on the back of interpreting the data which counts!

The Data Secrets Small Businesses Can Use to Reach Their Goals in 2018

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With the growth of technology, there is more data available to us now than ever before. By just the click of a button, a company can learn more about their customer base including their habits, hobbies, and passions. However, many folks can become quickly overwhelmed with all the data that’s out there– how does one sort through it all? And how exactly can it help your business? Luckily, there are plenty of secrets to gaining control over the elusive “big data” that’s taking over headlines today. Read on to learn more about how small businesses are taking on big data!

So, what is “big data” anyway?

Great question! Without getting too muddled in tech jargon “big data” is, according to Forbes, a collection of data from traditional and digital sources inside and outside your company that represents a source for ongoing discovery and analysis. The important thing to keep in mind for your small business is to know how to make use of this data in a way that will help to fulfill your business goals. Understanding big data is one thing– making sense of it all is another!

How can your small business utilise this data?

While there is tons of raw and untapped data out there, it doesn’t have to be a struggle to make sense of it all. No longer are big businesses the only ones who can tap into this data stream– here’s what you can do to help your business succeed!

Make Use of Google Analytics

With an easy-to-use interface, this free tool can tremendously help you to reach your annual business goals. You can track everything from the number of visitors you get to how long they stay, where they came from, where they go, and just about any other data point you can possibly imagine! Google helps to sort this information into charts so you can compare data points daily, weekly, monthly, etc.

Look at the Sum of It All

Similar to Google Analytics, SumAll makes it easy to consolidate all of your business data. If you use multiple online platforms (think: Facebook, Twitter, etc.), SumAll will  organise the information from each into an easy-to-read snapshot. With this free platform, you can include Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Google Analytics, AdWords, and AdSense, as well as many other social media platforms.

The Long and Short of It

By implementing these platforms to mine through and organise your businesses data, you can make big changes– changes that will ultimately help you to reach your goals this year. Big data can show you trends that will help you to decide whether or not to raise or lower prices of a certain product or service, change up your online marketing or content scheme, etc. Though it may sound scary, big data doesn’t have to be something your small business hides from. Embrace all of the data that is available today– it can only help you to succeed and thrive!

 

5 Books Leaders should read these holidays

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Ready to strategise your leadership goals next year?

Whether your preference is with a quiet cup of tea, or kicking back on the beach with a cocktail – here are our 5 picks to read while you’re getting some well deserved R&R to make 2018 your best year yet.

  1. The Art of War by Sun Tzu: This book helps you set goals and build strategies.
  2. Blue Ocean Strategy, by W.Chan Kim & Renee Mauborgne: Learn how to create uncontested market space and make the competition irrelevant.
  3. Onward, by Howard Schultz: The Starbucks CEO explains how he helped restore the company during the recession.
  4. Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose, by Tony Hsieh: Learn how Zappos’ CEO builds a happy and positive workplace.
  5. Lean In: Women, Work & the Will to Lead, by Sheryl Sandberg: Read about the issues facing modern women and learn negotiation techniques.

 

 

Six things you can do to run your business over the festive season

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It’s that wonderful time of  year when you can almost touch the holidays, they are so close….but as busy business owners the worry of ‘closing’ over Christmas can be daunting for some.

It’s important to remember that the world will keep turning if your business is not open for the festive period, though it’s understandable if you want to keep things ticking over while the workplace is shut. As such, striking a balance is necessary. Read on for some ideas.

1. Be clear with your priorities

If work keeps getting in the way of your festive downtime, try to shift it forward where possible. Try to gauge how important or urgent it is; chances are, it can wait until you’re back at work full-time before it needs to be picked up.

This is an important attitude in the time leading up to the break as much as it is during – at least a couple of weeks before, decide what absolutely does need ticking off your list and what can be handled later down the line. Giving yourself time to consider these things will save a frantic rush to wrap everything up on Christmas Eve.

2. Think customer first

Whether you’re retail, service based or production, it’s likely your opening hours will change over the festive period. Think early on about how you can best communicate that to your customers (and potential customers) to let them know when you’ll be back at the office full-time.

If you’re operating on reduced hours over Christmas, you can post your temporary hours on your social media channels. Keep these pinned to the top of your stream or page so that anyone checking your channels sees them first.

Alternatively, if your business is completely closed throughout the festive period, having your out-of-office email response on will let people know when you’re back open for business.

3. But keep staff high on your list, too

If you have a team, remember that they need a break just as much as you. When it comes to annual leave, try to coordinate time-off early so everyone gets their fair break with advanced notice so they can make personal plans with family or friends.

Consider a gesture to say thanks and spread some good-will amongst your team at a time when all hands are on deck (the good news is that your Christmas party is probably tax deductible).

4. Tactically shut down some channels (temporarily)

Give yourself the chance to decompress over the Christmas and New Year period, too. While you may want to keep an eye on your social media channels and emails, you don’t want to be glued to them. Try limiting yourself to a window to check and chase things (for example, 7am-9am) and then give yourself the rest of the day free of distractions.

Alternatively, if you have a team, arrange a shift system. Perhaps you take one for the team and keep your phone on during Christmas Day, but somebody else takes Boxing Day – or you divvy up mornings and afternoons.

But the best way to switch off is to set a precedent and only respond to urgent queries or requests. For those which aren’t time-sensitive, have a couple of polite stock phrases ready for email and social media requests so you can respond with ease without giving your customers an ‘out of office’ reply. Your emails will still be in the inbox come 2nd January, and you can revert to work mode then.

5.  Automate your email marketing, invoicing, blog posts and social media

Effective email marketing is based on three principles – sending the right message, at the right time, to the right person. Thanks to an abundance of wonderful apps these factors can be automated with surprising precision.

Email automation systems can be as simple or complex as your business needs. Many small companies will simply schedule an email newsletter over the holidays. More advanced email marketers will segment their entire customer base into groups, and send different sequences of emails according to triggers, actions, geographic locations or even more specific audience data.

Likewise you invoicing, help desk, blog posts and social media can all be pre-scheduled with marketing tools that leave you to just capture leads while you are at the beach.

6. Remember it’s your holiday too

Most importantly, try to enjoy the downtime. Once you’ve sorted your customers, suppliers and team members, it’s time to turn the focus to yourself. The holidays only come around once a year, and the daily grind will start back up again soon enough. Enjoy your hard-earned time off!

Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business

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Whenever you start a new project – be it developing a new product at work or constructing a gazebo in your backyard – you’re usually most excited about it when you’re just getting started. Unfortunately, this initial enthusiasm typically fades over time.

So how can you stay motivated about your undertaking in the long run?

Make choices and remember your big hairy audacious goal

One simple tip for staying driven is to make more conscious choices every day. Researchers at Columbia University found that one of the brain’s “motivation centers” lights up when you can make choices – even mundane ones.

So try to make more decisions in your projects. For example, if you’re looking at eight hours of painting your gazebo, you could make a conscious choice to fully finish the outside first, before even starting on the inside. Trivial as they may seem, such choices help.

Another way to keep spirits high when faced with boring tasks that are not rewarding in themselves is thinking about your end goal.

Say you’re writing a book and need to read a dull report as background research. Jot down on the cover of the report “Reading this will help me write a better book” to help keep your bigger goal in mind.

Stick to your goals and become a more productive person.

We all know people who stick to a schedule, no matter what. Despite illness or injury, they make sure to meet their goals or deadlines.

Sure, most of us aren’t like this. We may have wonderful ideas but never find the time to realise them. Or if we do pursue a particular goal, we easily get sidetracked, time and again.

The good news is that you can learn how to stick with a plan, even if the world keeps throwing distractions your way. In his book , Charles Duhigg will give you helpful and easy methods to stay on track and realise your most lofty goals – smarter, faster and better.

You’ll find out

  • how to become a marathon runner even if you’ve never run a mile;
  • why two researchers read 17.9 million papers in a quest to understand creativity; and
  • why storytelling can help you reach your goals.

For more tips on how to maximize both your motivation and productivity, including how stretch goals can help you run a marathon, read more from Smarter Faster Better, by Charles Duhigg on Blinkist

The 10X Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure

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What’s the biggest goal you’re pursuing right now? Getting a raise at work? Writing a short story? Redoing the garden patio?

These are all noble endeavors, but they each have the same flaw: a lack of ambitiousness!

Your goals should be ten times higher than realistic

If you set a mediocre goal, you probably won’t feel very driven to achieve it, since you’ll know that, in your heart of hearts, you’ll still feel a bit disappointed even if success is yours. And if you don’t hit it, you’ll be crushed.

So reach for the heavens and pick a goal that seems ridiculously ambitious. This will help you stay motivated and excited as you pursue it.

For example, if your dream is to become an author, don’t aim for just writing a short story. Writing one, or even getting one published, probably won’t really make you feel like a legitimate author, which will leave you disappointed. So skip the baby steps and aim directly for the bigger goal of writing a novel!

Learn how pushing your limits and setting ambitious goals will unleash a wave of success.

Success, however you might measure it, is often elusive. Over the years, many people have tried to distil the essence of success into easy catchphrases or simple mottos, but most of these have failed.

Let’s face it, most lifestyle gurus are little more than salesmen for grandiose and dubious ideas; they know all the cliches and slogans, but they have no idea how to really lead people toward success.

The 10X Rule presents a real method to success, based on the experiences of a top sales trainer and business owner, they explain how anybody can apply one simple rule to set themselves up for the lasting successes and ambitious achievements that once seemed out of reach.

You’ll find out

  • why we should emulate children when it comes to decision making;
  • why you need to go “all-in” in life; and
  • why you shouldn’t really concern yourself with customer satisfaction.

For more on attaining bold goals, including what you can learn from the way kids tackle challenges, Read  The 10X Rule, by Grant Cardone on Blinkist

Virtual Freedom: How to Work with Virtual Staff to Buy More Time, Become More Productive, and Build Your Dream Business

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Life as a business owner in our modern world is not easy. Often, we’re expected to be jacks of all trades, doing a myriad of jobs, each of which is time-consuming.

Before you can even think about spending some time creating innovative new products and services, or even selling those products and services, you have to first grind through a schedule packed full of other stuff: there’s staff to be managed, bills to be paid, budgets to review, contracts with suppliers to go through, and the list goes on and on.

It’s no surprise that so many struggle! In fact, in this book we are recommending this month, the author’s own attempts to manage his business led him to a complete burnout; he simply didn’t have any time or energy left to succeed.

That’s when he decided to do things a bit differently: he outsourced some of his work to Virtual Assistants (VAs).

VAs are staff who do work for you, but who are not in the same location as you. They can take on a huge range of tasks, from accounting to office management, thus allowing business owners and leaders to concentrate on the work that they’re best at and that matters most. By hiring VAs, they can enjoy what is known as virtual freedom.

There are two main reasons why VAs present such a great opportunity:

First, the internet allows constant communication across thousands of miles between you and your VA. No matter how far apart you are, you can work as if you’re in the same room.

Second, there’s a huge pool of available talent. There are millions of people currently working as self-employed consultants and freelancers – all of them are potentially available for part-time, full-time or even project-based work.

So, if you’re struggling to keep afloat in a sea of tasks, virtual freedom may be your life raft. Check out more on the topic by Reading: Virtual Freedom – by Chris Ducker

Think that you are actually ready to get a Virtual Assistant? Get in touch via letschat@thinktankone.com.au 

What’s in it for me? Prepare yourself for an inevitable future…

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In the future, will you be married to a handsome android? Will we travel in flying cars?

The future is now. Computer technology and the internet are already fundamentally changing how we think and the ways we work, consume and relate to each other.

The forces and ideas that inspired these changes are not going to go away but only get stronger. In the book The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future  by Kevin Kelly, Kelly describes that much of what will happen in the next 30 years is inevitable, driven by technological trends that are already in motion. He provides an optimistic road map for the future, showing how the coming changes in our lives — from virtual reality in the home, to an on-demand economy, to artificial intelligence embedded in everything we manufacture — can be understood as the result of a few long-term, accelerating forces. Kelly describes these deep trends flowing, screening, accessing, sharing, filtering, remixing, tracking, and questioning and demonstrates how they overlap and are co-dependent on one another. These larger forces will completely revolutionise the way we buy, work, learn, and communicate with each other.

What you could learn from it:

  • We are used to industry commentators, and media especially, viewing technological developments through a negative and skeptical lens. We have to remind ourselves that often we are actually in control of our destiny and therefore have the opportunity to affect positive change and create the future we want to see and experience.
  • We have entered protopia, a ‘state of becoming, rather than a destination’. In this state we are continually seeing small, incremental improvements to our daily lives, rather than large jumps in technological progress. This is apparent in everything from regular app updates and the availability of new and improved hardware. We don’t recognise this on a daily basis, but can look back year on year and see huge improvements in the technologies we use.
  • Humans shouldn’t fear robots taking jobs; robots will perform tasks we can’t do, don’t want to do, and didn’t even know could be done, freeing us to discover new jobs for ourselves, and new tasks that expand who we are.
  • We should think of the world in terms of ‘flow’; information is becoming more fluid, following through our lives in real-time. This has been apparent in music, books and movies, and will increasingly spread to areas such as games, newspapers, and education

Read the Book on Blinkist – The app for curious minds!