Turning Pro



It's that time of the year. In the next few weeks, you will see a lot of posts chock full of predictions for 2012.

We still have several weeks left in the year, days and hours when we can choose to make a difference, and yet, much of the attention is wrapped into the pursuit of what's next.

Social media predictions are the everyday person version of a thick McKinsey report. It is the hope that knowing "best practices" and what others are doing will allow one to compete successfully in the market.

In that case, you'll indeed have a self fulfilling prophecy — competition.

We trade assets, not hope.

So understanding the difference and constructing our narrative based upon it is a key component of how we learn to interpret developing trends.

All-inclusive approach

When your go to market is "all-inclusive", the dishes are lukewarm and overcooked, vegetables are military green, and there is a lot of stuff you'd never want as part of the selection.

All content can be useful. Its usefulness is determined by applicability to your business. Do you have the time and resources to parse the gold nuggets from the rest?

I often hear the argument that you won't know it until you see it, which is a bit of a cop out. Serendipity is the how and the direct result of asking a specific why question.

Even when confronted with a buffet, you are called upon to choose.

Laser-focused approach

To focus is to be able to see clearly. Having a laser-focused approach means you are concentrating on the activities that are a good investment of your energy.

Take a look at the media diet of people who have a considerable creative output, and you will see their approach is very focused. A key theme, question, or point of view is the lens used to parse the inflow of content.

Focus is the query set: what turns data into information. You know first, then you see it.

Topical focus is based on an internal compass, the direct result of knowing what you're trading and being creative about how you combine your assets to increase your capacity for making better promises.

You can be laser-focused and immersed in flow.

Turning pro 

How do you know which approach is for you? Here's where turning pro will help you decide.

Because when we make predictions we end up looking either at a version of ourselves of the past or a wish for the future. See if you recognize longing for the past successful versions and hope/wish for the future in these examples:

  • "The world potential market for copying machines is 5,000, at most," said IBM to Xerox in 1959.
  • "[Apple's iPhone] is the most expensive phone in the world and it doesn't appeal to business customers because it doesn't have a keyboard which makes it not a very good e-mail machine…"
  • "With over 50 foreign cars already on sale here, the Japanese auto industry isn't likely to carve out a big slice of the U.S. market."
  • "Children just aren’t interested in witches and wizards anymore," an anonymous publishing executive told J.K. Rowling in 1996.
  • "The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a 'C', the idea must be feasible," a Yale University professor about overnight delivery.
  • "mobile apps will be the future of marketing"
  • "brands will need to be everywhere all the time"

In themselves not inherently bad sentiments. Business is not about sentiments, though. It's about doing some hard thinking about the model you use to trade promises.

Turning pro means committing to doing the work to figure out what you're trading and the promises you are making, so you can make better ones. It's the condition we put ourselves in to make our own future by doing the work right now.

It is how you get to meaning from purpose.


I saw this on Google+ yesterday and wanted to pass it along: Sir Richard Branson says Screw Business as Usual. His message included: Since all royalties go to charity Virgin Unite please forgive the plug! Hope you enjoy the book.

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0 responses to “Turning Pro”

  1. Having read your article I went to the other site and stumbled over the article as I just read his name here.
    Having read what he said about the value of inexperience I find the two articles to match though.
    To me it seems like his approach have made him a pro as you define it here.
    His lack of experience was part of what made him see things more clearly and avoid some of the mistakes that the statements you cite show aren’t uncommon.
    Hard thinking is hence not enough if it done poorly or based on the wrong premises (which can come from too much experience).
    That was more less what the comment was meant to be about. I apologize for simply putting the link in and not explaining the point.

  2. better, now I know what we’re discussing. The two are not mutually exclusive, are they? Branson continues to do some hard thinking about what he wants to do more of, which allows him to trade better promises, and what he wants to do less of or none at all. Or am I missing your point?
    Also, turning pro is intended to have no judgment of right of wrong. It is, or isn’t good trade.

  3. I really need to practice my English more 🙂
    Now I am not sure which two you mean, but how I read the other article it fits perfectly with what you wrote. Assuming I got that right of course.
    Acting from an inner compass and freed from the veil that experience can be is part of the recipe for Branson’s success if you will.
    I am sure he does some hard thinking as well, but judging from what I previously read from him he is more about doing than thinking.
    Obviously you learn from doing and thus gain experience so without thinking he would also not be where he is today.
    Perhaps the difference between being a pro or not is about how the experience was gained?
    Or is it perhaps a question about what comes first? Acting or thinking about it?
    PS: Now that I think about it I wonder if that is the reasoning behind the Virgin name. The lack of experience I mean, but that is perhaps sidetracking this too much… 🙂

  4. You’ll excuse me if I had to hastily share a story with Sir Branson on his site. As much as I would love to one day travel the world, meeting gearheads of every stripe, sharing stories with them, and highlighting the power of common ground to realize our true potential, there was just no way I could pass on a chance – however slight – to meet such an inspirational character. 🙂
    Back on-topic, I would consider myself a topical person. Seems like I’m constantly shifting from a wider angle, semi-framed by my travels in the automotive, community development, social media, knowledge management circles, to a more zoomed-in state of mind when a particular piece of information fires the right synapse. It’s an ever-changing focus – considering details, but as they relate to the larger picture.
    The more I hear in terms of promises, the more I like the idea. Forget the information and knowledge economies – bring on the meaning economy. 🙂
    Thanks for sharing, Valeria.

  5. I think its about being apPROriate.
    Branson is the archetypal “tradie”. The tradie does what is appropriate and not what is perceived as right.
    The thing is to the outside world Branson can look the noble naive. His inexperience giving him a competitive advantage. The idea that being unencumbered by experience is somehow a virtue.
    This is a mistake as it misses the point that what Branson is experienced in is trading well.
    That trading well results in novel business models/strategies is not a function of inexperience but of putting together a model/strategy that is more appropriate than the competitor. That requires deep and dexterous thinking.
    For example, to a tradie the question is always what else could this asset be and to whom is it most valuable. To the business person an asset is generally one thing and its simply an input into a strategy.
    To the tradie the issue is about potentiality. To a business person the issue is about removing all potentiality and going with the plan.
    Thats my take.

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