R.I.P Bernard Daines. I’m so sad.

April 3, 2014

R.I.P Bernard Daines. I’m so sad. He was a courageous leader. He showed us where we needed to go. http://ow.ly/vp09Q

Five Great Posts on Mentorship From Five Great Mentors

December 15, 2013

Here are 5 great posts on the topic of being a “mentor & advisor” from some pretty good sources.

and a bonus collection of career advice posts — Career Planning With pmarca, Seth Godin, & Steve Blank (and Ben Horowitz)

Christmas Reading List For *Fifty Something* Dad’s

December 2, 2013

Here is a quick review of my 2013 Readings. The lists are in priority order.
These may be good gift ideas for *50 something dads*


Fun — Fiction

Fun — Non-Fiction

Business — Must Reads

Business — Startups & Innovation

Business — Stories and Attitude

Self Help


Health & Spirituality

HowTo — Customer Discovery Requires Humble Inquiry

October 23, 2013

humble inquiry

Ed Schein’s new book Humble inquiry is fantastic! It dives deep into the topic of Humble Inquiry that was introduced in his previous book Helping. There are lots of examples and detailed discussion of what is and what isn’t Humble Inquiry. In Chapter 3 he describes the differences between four styles of Inquiry — 1) Humble Inquiry 2) Diagnostic inquiry 3) Confrontational inquiry 4) Process-oriented inquiry. This helped me understand how my attempts at Humble Inquiry often get derailed. I can start by being curious and humble, but I often want to get something done and lose my curiosity in the other person.

I really liked the 3 chapters that tackle the “impediments”, “inhibitors”, and “resistances” to the use Humble Inquiry. Often the technique of Humble Inquiry seems obvious when one wants to develop a relationship, but it is rarely used. It is good to know why it is rarely used. In terms of “impediments” I particularly like the observation that American culture stifles the use of Humble Inquiry because we don’t value relationships. Relationships are not a high priority, they’re a nice to have. The high priority is Individual Doing and Telling. If a relationship is required to do something then we’ll develop it minimally. Otherwise we’ll blow people off.

Our own society was built on rugged individualism, and that’s the number one principle and ideal that we will not give up under any circumstance. If that requires occasional relationships and team work, then we will do it, knowing that really, it is the star that counts. » Ed Schein (Look below for full Question)

Why Is Humble Inquiry Important to Entrepreneurship?

It is my view that the most important skill in Customer Discovery is Humble Inquiry. That is developing a relationship with ones customer and their eco-system via the use of Humble Inquiry. Be curious, learn the market space, and serve it.

I find it interesting that Schein does not mention Humble Inquiry in an Entrepreneurial context. Most of his examples are based on leaders needing to be humble in order to get their underlings to speak openly to them. He says that leaders need to be sincerely curious to earn the trust of their underlings. The leaders own this problem. If the leaders are not humble then the underlings will not communicate openly.

In my view this is exactly the challenge of the entrepreneur marketing & selling his products. He believes that he is a leader and thus has the right to “Do and Tell” how great his product is. But the customer is just like an underling, he wants the entrepreneurs to take a sincere interest in him. The customer wants the entrepreneurs to really understand him, to solve his problem without asking. He doesn’t want to be sold. The entrepreneur needs to earn the customer’s trust.

This customer relationship building is much easier to execute on via the tactics of Humble Inquiry. All the Customer Discovery Interview HowTo’s from Cindy Alvarez, Steve Blank, Eric Ries, etc are written in the context of Humble Inquiry. This is why Customer Discovery is so challenging for most people. Few people are good at, or practice, developing relationships.


Edgar H. Schein outlines the Leadership Lesson on his new book: ‘Humble Inquiry’ – YouTube

Interview Notes

Impediments to Humble Inquiry – The Culture of Do & Tell
RCRC Connect – Ed Schein Speaks About His New Book – Humble Inquiry « rcrc connect

full question below.

Bill: In Chapter 4, “The Culture of DO and TELL,” you note the incongruence in American culture between espoused values and the deeper cultural assumptions that are manifested in actual practice. One example you cite is that we “value teamwork” and yet assume rugged individualism. How can we carry two dichotomous values that are often in conflict and expect to be effective?

Ed: Such seeming inconsistencies are the characteristic of cultures in all societies, everywhere. The fundamental rules by which we operate are often in conflict with each other. But we have to do both for the society to function. In every society, there is a system for getting ahead and a whole bunch of denial about how that system disadvantages a bunch of other people. How can a society based on “royalty” function, when it is obvious that there are all sorts of problems created by a few people being rich and powerful, while a whole bunch of other people are poor and powerless. So societies create myths and live with their hypocrisies.

If we confront it and say let’s redistribute everything like communists tried to do, we have already learned that biologically we cannot live in an egalitarian way. The one thing that anthropologists who have studied status systems find is that we have built into us biologically a need to get ahead. This means that there will always be a status system in every society. Our own society was built on rugged individualism, and that’s the number one principle and ideal that we will not give up under any circumstance. If that requires occasional relationships and team work, then we will do it, knowing that really, it is the star that counts. But we sometimes have to be a team, and we then rationalize and claim that we can do both.

But if you look at reward systems, and how our society functions, it is fundamentally rugged individualism all the way through. That societies have mixed motives and inconsistent assumptions operating is one of the great truths of human societies. Not just ours; all of them

Be Remarkable! ( Seth Godin’s “Purple Cow” Still Rockin’ )

May 2, 2013

Seth Godin’s “Purple Cow” Ted Talk is still “remarkable”.

I like how Seth starts with the no-brainer idea of “sliced bread”. Yup “Sliced Bread” sucked for 15 years, it was not an instant hit.

More On Purple Cow Book

He argues that the only way to cut the hyper-clutter of products and advertising today is to innovate something new, unique and remarkable – like a purple cow.

In a world of too many options and too little time, our obvious choice is to just ignore the ordinary stuff. Marketing guru Seth Godin spells out why, when it comes to getting our attention, bad or bizarre ideas are more successful than boring ones. (via Seth)

“Nothing” – What Does Marketing Do?

April 24, 2013

An awesome Product Manager will design themselves out of the picture. They aspire to be irrelevant. They trend to “Nothing”.

I’m going backwards thru my backlist of “What Does Marketing Do?”. This is #5. /enjoy.

When I started this series I wanted to the say the following things, but I kept getting off track.

  • In an ideal world there would be “nothing” for people with marketing titles to do.
    • Each department would “gather & coordinate” all the information needed to develop the product that sells itself.
  • In the “real world” Marketing peoples tasks are all about “passing & playmaking“.
    • They keep the ball/puck “in play“, put it “where it needs to go“, and most importantly they “let go“.
    • The “glory guys do the scoring”. (Exec, Sales, Engineering)
  • Steve Nash & Gretzky are the “sports analogies”.
    • This presents an extreme challenge for companies because a Nash, or Gretzky, only comes along once a decade. These types of people are very difficult to find, develop, recognize, reward, etc.
    • These guys don’t look the part of “star”. Gretzky & Nash are the scrawniest guys on the playing surface … most great Marketing people share the same traits … they have great stats (if someone actually collects them ), but they don’t look the part.
    • Marketing departments are “scrawny” and don’t have the bulk to do the glory. Marketing departments are very small relative to other departments. This is not a bad thing (just a fact )
  • This “highly skilled unselfish play”, “lack of bulk”, and “secondary glory” is hard to live every day. Thus most marketing departments bias themselves towards “sales” or “engineering”. The tasks are do-able and there will be a chance to share in some glory.

Note: In re-reading this … it appears kinda harsh. I’m not trying to be pessimistic here. I’m just trying to get at some of the fundamental challenges of working in marketing departments. I know that understanding the above “really” helped me many times.

The full series can be found in the “here

Marketing “Connects” & “Lets Go”

April 16, 2013

The letting go part is hard …

The (New) Product Team’s success is dependent on getting those two groups ( The Customer and Rest of Company) to interact so well, that you can let go, and let the product take on “a life of its own.” Your goal is to do such a great job at connecting that, in the end, you need to do “Nothing”
Connect – Part 7 – What the !@#$ Does Marketing Do?.

This is “intra-praneurship”. Much better described in The Other Side of Innovation (Execution) « by VG & Trimble



Yes. Yes, I’m having a good time reviewing my “backlist“. In some ways it is “pretty bad” and in some ways “it’s pretty good”.


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