Finding the Right Fit

Paint Brushes

You know the expression: it fit like a glove. It's used to describe those experiences when things are just clicking.

Situations in which all stars are aligned, everyone connects, there is understanding.

This topic came up at lunch with my friend Taylor Davidson last week.

We talked about teaching courses and workshops — I'm about to keynote a program in a workshop/interactive format at Social IRL next month, and he's teaching entrepreneurs how to build financial models.

I was pleased to read his follow up on the conversation in his newsletter. Indeed, teaching is fun.

But, as he says, it's also tough. The toughest part isn't teaching the material, it's finding student / teacher fit.

When are you a good fit?

When organizations and businesses look to add to their teams, the consideration around fit takes on a cultural connotation. As in this is the way we do things around here, and if that is also your philosophy and style, you'll fit in just fine.

Except for the question seems to be backwards.

Having a fit is not about tailoring the person to the work — you'd never do that on a garment, would you? Well, there's plenty of evidence you would in the mass market. It's about tailoring the work to the person. Better yet, about the person customizing the work to their strengths.

In some cases, fitting in, not making waves, is akin to hiding. You leave money on the table every time you just fill a job. A good question to kick off your internal conversation to get motivated: Would anyone miss you if you weren't there?

Those who make things (happen) end up changing the world.

How do you find your market fit?

The recent conversation around lean startup methodologies are all about finding and refining that market fit for your product. You do that via both product adoption measurement and through feedback. The idea is to release your product early and let people test it, observe, test, and refine.

You do that to learn as quickly as possible what the market wants, uses, and would pay for, and what needs to be rethought or changed. It may turn out that what you thought was a viable business model to trade on needed adjustment.

This is harder for established businesses. Especially in established B2B organizations, products and services are added to the business over time upon customer requests without a clear calculation of the return for the company leading to complex (and often unprofitable) product taxonomies.

The business promise should be tied to the trade for the business to gain strength in return.

What about learning?

It strikes me that learning (by doing) is a huge piece of the three "fit" scenarios I presented here: student/teacher, employer/employee, and product/market.

There's an important aspect of fit to keep in mind: and that is expectation setting.

Proper expectation setting, including attitude and approach are part of the deal. As demonstrated in the lean startup methodology and the best business frameworks, philosophy and values need good and open two-way communication in order to work.


This is true online as well. When you look at content discovery and filters, the gamble is that the people and (re)sources we choose may end up being a comfortable fit — and not a much needed stretch.

Take a look at your RSS feed, look at the people you pay attention to on Twitter, on Facebook, on Google+ — do you find yourself chanting amen like a fervent devotee in a beautiful church during Sunday service when you read their stuff?

Time to change your reading and learning habits a bit, if that's the case. Plus, just by doing a fraction of what you're learning you'll get way ahead of the pack in learning — and results.


[image by Art Freak]


0 responses to “Finding the Right Fit”

  1. Powerful stuff, Valeria. Like you, I’m in the learning by doing camp. For me, this is followed by reading, then maybe video, audio, and finally instructor-led presentations.
    Hands-on (doing) is the most powerful of all types of learning. We can read, watch, and listen all we like, but until we actually do it ourselves, we never really know how it’s done.
    I struggle with this, and my personal preferences, almost daily. Someone wants a podcast. Or a video. Those slow me down and I don’t like them, so I have no interest in producing them. Still, if I seek to connect people and ideas, I need to be considerate of the method (market).
    As for surrounding myself with yes-men via RSS feeds, I’m surprised it’s taken me this long to finally get it. I need to revisit some of your previous posts on that subject. Methinks it time to cull the subscriptions and find some tension.

  2. It’s been a fascinating 5 years with this blog, Brian.
    I’ve seem the results of moving into new directions that challenge my own assumptions and often upset the “social proofing” thing so many hail as the one data point that validates everyone’s existence online.
    Keeping myself well rounded has also meant apparent lack of back scratching for many bloggers who used to read and comment here and who don’t anymore because I broadened the range of thinkers in the technology and business arena…
    So my take on reciprocity in the ‘sphere can be summarized in “authenticity my foot” 😉 People do what is convenient to them (also part of the “fit” conversation).

  3. I suspect you don’t have to worry about being honest. It is however good to ask the question from time to time. Maybe I’m too tough on myself. I like to keep sharp and challenged in my thinking.

  4. “Would anyone miss you if you weren’t there?” These words reflect what many people think although their actions say otherwise. Not speaking up because you have a different opinion is a sad way to live. Just as putting up with the same ideas because you’re comfortable with the people spewing them.

  5. it is. Most people, however, have a desire to be accepted and feel uncomfortable sticking out for fear of being the mole that gets whacked. In a culture of where sameness and sheeple behavior are the norm, it takes courage to raise questions. You can also expect a cold shoulder (even a boycott) from those who will be made uncomfortable by your question(s).

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