How To Make The Shift From Student To Participant In An Intellectual Ecosystem


Thursday, 6.53pm

Sheffield, U.K.

What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others. – Pericles

It takes time to be able to see the same thing through different eyes.

What comes to mind when you think about learning and developing – yourself, your career, your relationships?

Probably a bunch of books, mainly self-help ones – that genre which packages inspiration and motivation and serves it with a helping of guilt.

Books have been my friends, my companions for a long time – the places where I have discovered ideas and approaches and strategies and tried many of them out.

You have to try things out.

And over time I’ve learned that lists of things you want stay in the pages where you’ve written them.

Writing daily affirmations ends with you using up stacks of paper and wondering whether you should throw out the pads or keep them.

Maybe it helps, maybe it doesn’t.

But maybe the greatest value in starting with that kind of material is that it gets you started.

If you’re stuck somewhere taking a step in any direction probably won’t make things worse.

One area where many of us are stuck – I certainly was, perhaps still am – is the quagmire of culture.

I was watching a documentary on Leonardo Da Vinci which talked about how an idea formed and escaped from East to West in the fourteenth century.

Knowledge, before that period, was all about theology – it was god centric, deity centric,

If you said anything that disagreed with doctrine, it usually turned out pretty badly for you.

The idea that escaped was humanism, a way of thinking that put humans at the centre – and opened up new fields of study about what it was to be human.

Now, more than five centuries later, we’re still confused about the difference between ideas trapped in books and ideas that live in the human experience.

Let me explain.

I come from a culture that venerates knowledge – where books are worshipped.

Which perhaps accounts for why I’ve always turned to books when I need to find out something.

But that kind of thinking has a trap – it pushes you towards thinking that the stuff that’s written down is knowledge.

It takes some time to realise that’s knowledge for a particular time and place – not knowledge for the ages.

And I learned that lesson the expensive way.

If you are a fan of investing you may have come across the work of Benjamin Graham, who developed an approach to value investing in a time of social and economic crisis.

Some of his fame comes from having had Warren Buffett as a student.

Buy bargains, he said.

Around seventy years later, I tried doing what he said.

With real money.

And I lost a lot of it.

That was an expensive lesson – but a worthwhile one because it helped me change my approach when it came to investing money I couldn’t afford to lose.

A more modern approach to knowledge sees it as rivers of dialogue – a continually constructed reality held in the minds of a community.

That community holds useful knowledge, some of which is established lore, some of which comes along and upturns certain principles – which are then removed from the group consensus over time.

It’s that image of a party, where lots of people are talking and the conversations are the knowledge.

In that image modern social media stops being a distraction and turns into the manifestation of a community.

If knowledge is held in a community and that community shares its thinking on social media – then what is held in social media is the knowledge you want.

Not the stuff locked in books or papers or institutions.

So what, you ask yourself – what’s the point of all this?

For me, the point is quite important – it marks a major shift in the way I think I should view knowledge.

I should put down my books.

And I should engage more with the communities that talk about the things I’m interested in.

If you want to do that it’s not going to happen quickly.

Communities form over time, they accept newcomers in a more or less friendly way depending on how you act.

If you come in as a know-it-all then you’ll probably be ignored.

There’s a right way and a wrong way to join a group in a playground.

And that way doesn’t change when you leave primary school.

Hang around the edges, make a few contributions, positive ones, and wait to be invited in.

Because, in sharp contradistinction to what your parents told you all your life – what you really should do is stop studying and go to the party.


Karthik Suresh

What Must You Do When You Decide That It’s Time To Do Your Own Thing?


Wednesday, 9.09pm

Sheffield, U.K.

The idea of copyright did not exist in ancient times, when authors frequently copied other authors at length in works of non-fiction. This practice was useful, and is the only way many authors’ works have survived even in part. – Richard Stallman

We all learn by copying – we start by looking at what other people do and trying to do it ourselves.

We start jobs that way, progress in careers, make choices about what to study and which relationships to be in.

Learning from others is a fundamental part of what it means to be human.

For example I find that teaching children using the content put out by schools is quite hard.

Perhaps it’s the environment, the social urge to conform, that means children will do things in a classroom of their peers that they won’t do with their parents.

It’s easier to say no if they don’t want to do it.

Which means that if you want to get them to do something, a good way is to start with something they do want to do.

Throw away the English worksheets, for example, and start by reading Harry Potter aloud and stop and talk about interesting things you see about the way J.K Rowling uses language.

As you grow up a few things happen.

The first is that, at some point, you finish school, and the expectation to keep studying starts to ease.

Perhaps you go to university, or start a job – but eventually the book learning stops and the job learning starts.

And then forty years go by and that stops as well.

There’s something wrong with this picture – something deeply wrong about what’s happened over the last few hundred years.

And a bit part of it, I’m starting to suspect, has to do with ownership.

Somewhere along the way someone in power decided that it was in the interests of people with power to keep that power.

And, of course, knowledge is power.

So the codification of knowledge started to have walls put around it – because knowing stuff made the difference between having power and not having power.

And this leads to a situation now where you are almost certain to infringe copyright if you do work that does not start with a blank sheet of paper.

If you look at anything else first then that could count as infringement, because what you are making is derived from that original work.

And that leads to some interesting points for creators.

At some point you will decide that you need to grow up.

You’ve spent years learning from the world, from keeping your eyes open and looking out to see whatever is out there.

You’ve sucked in that knowledge, greedily absorbing it and learning from it and adapting it and shaping it and, in the process, finding out more about who you really are.

Now, you have to close the windows, shut the door and face the empty page on your own.

That’s a scary thought, isn’t it?

No more research, no more reading, no more checking what’s out there first?

And yet, it may be as long as we do a few things.

The first thing is to be careful about what we let into our world – we want ideas but not the expressions of those ideas.

Ideas can’t be copyrighted, but once they’re put down in some way then you start to hit those protection issues.

A simple way of doing this is not going on the Internet with a javascript enabled browser – vast tracts of the web will now be closed to you.

Clearly, the safest course of action is to let nothing in.

Or, in any case, old stuff.

Read the classics, read histories, read the stuff from a long time ago.

That’s out of copyright now and so you’re ok.

And then if you’re still looking for knowledge, read the stuff that’s released under a copyleft licence, something that encourages you to share and borrow and use.

It’s worked brilliantly for software, and maybe it will work for knowledge as well.

I guess something like Wikimedia commons is a starting point.

I think the sad thing about this kind of thinking is that knowledge should set you free – but instead it’s used to chain and bind people.

And the only way to get away from that is to refuse to play that game.

But few people have the courage to do that.

Stallman, for example, set out to develop a “clean room” version of Unix, locking himself away and writing the components he needed and it’s because of that work that we have a free software ecosystem and the alternatives we use now.

The editor I’m writing this in is emacs – Stallman’s emacs.

I’m going to try and experiment for a few weeks.

I’m going to see if I can write these posts without research, without references – only creating original work starting with a blank sheet of paper.

I don’t know if that’s even possible.

Shall we find out?


Karthik Suresh

p.s. I’ve now set up a dedicated Twitter account at @HndcrftdInsight for this project and to collect ideas that might help with future posts.

The Three Kinds Of Habits You Need To Develop


Tuesday, 10.12pm

Sheffield, U.K.

When one begins to live by habit and by quotation, one has begun to stop living. – James Baldwin

If you really want to learn what people think you should go and read the reviews people leave on Amazon.

Says Jay Abraham – the marketing guru – so I thought I would do just that.

You’ve probably heard about James Clear and his book Atomic habits – and I wondered what people thought of that kind of material.

You see, the problem is that most of the business books we’ve heard of are written by people who don’t always know the theory that underpins their ideas.

Many books are repackaged common sense and what mother would say.

It’s nice, uplifting material that makes you feel good and motivates you to do something – anything.

But is it going to work for you in your circumstances?

At the other end you have academic papers that are detailed studies of a very specific situation – so specific that you learn that something works – but only under those conditions.

How is that going to work for you if your conditions are different.

So, between these extremes, common sense and old wise sayings, and new, cutting edge research – you have to find a set of ideas that you’re happy to cling to.

Now the approach you need to take to find your way in this treacherous swamp of ideas is to get better at critical thinking – at looking at ideas and figuring out what to take and try and adapt so that you make it yours.

For example, the first comment that came up for me on Clear’s book was by Timothy Corwen who talks about how Clear doesn’t make it quite clear what kind of habits he’s talking about.

And this is something that’s easy to confuse – are all habits equal?

Corwen points out that they’re not – and there are at least three that you need to get your head around.

The first are habits that you do in order to make life easier for yourself.

The fictional writer Hank Moody, in the TV series Californication only has black t-shirts and blue jeans.

That makes choosing your outfit easy.

Or you only drink tea – coffee or any other kind of beverage is a no-go area.

These kinds of habits are about doing the same thing to reduce the number of decisions you need to make, saving your energy for the big stuff.

The second kind of habit is about removing friction for the things you want to do because they’re good for you.

Exercise, for example.

If you lay your clothes out the previous night or join a routine at the same time every day, like the nation is doing with PE in the morning in lockdown, you’re making it easy to perform that task.

These first two types of habits make it easy to do easy things and easy to do hard things.

When you’ve got those two nailed you can now focus on making it easy to do the important things.

Like climbing your mountain.

Your mountain might be your career, writing a book, doing your art, creating your music.

It’s your body of work, your life’s purpose, the asset you build, the legacy you leave.

And too many of us spend our lives so busy choosing the next outfit and watching TV on the sofa that we never have the time to look out and see which way our mountain might be.

So, when you look at your routines today – the habits you’re trying to develop – keep this model in mind.

They’ve got to help you address those three problematic areas in your life – the easy problems, the hard problems and the important problems.

And if you get this right you might be on your way to becoming healthy, wealthy and wise.


Karthik Suresh

Three Different Ways You Can Position Yourself And Your Philosophy


Friday, 7.37pm

Sheffield, U.K.

Wealth can only be accumulated by the earnings of industry and the savings of frugality. – John Tyler

I’ve been spending a lot of time on YouTube recently as I try and understand how to use different approaches to make sense of the work that I’ve been doing on this blog.

Over the last three years I’ve been exploring ideas – reaching into various places and finding models and approaches to dissect and put back together.

All the writing here is a first draft, a way of putting down what I’m learning as I’m learning it.

An exercise in collection – much like going out and finding interesting things in nature and bringing them back home, much to the distress of everyone around who suddenly finds a weird looking bug walking across the dining table.

But after you have the first draft down – the raw notes – you have to go back and work and re-work them, shaping them into something more useful.

For example, of the nearly 800 posts on here 208 have something to say about marketing.

Which ones are useful?

Well, to do that I have to go back and look at the models again, see which ones are more or less useful.

And one way of doing that is to approach it as an exercise in teaching – if I had to run a course teaching some of this content, how would I go about doing that?

Well, the first thing I would do is put some unnecessarily stringent constraints around how I do things.

For example, I’m not a fan of non-free software anywhere in my personal work processes.

And the same goes for the cloud and closed hardware and all that kind of jazz.

And that’s because of the philosophy that I have about this kind of thing – my views on knowledge and sharing.

But before I get to that what else is out there?

Well, if I take YouTube as an example, there are two main types of things you see out there.

They both start with Ultra.

First, there are the people who believe that what makes them stand out is putting out the highest quality content you can find – ultra high quality stuff.

And that’s really useful as you learn about the kinds of things that are possible if you really put your mind to the task.

Then you have the stuff that’s ultra-cheap – perhaps a webinar or a recording of a lecture as it happens in real-time that’s uploaded.

Now you can get a lot of value from both approaches – after all, you can watch lectures in MIT and other amazing universities in this format.

You find this same distinction in other markets – Ebay is a good example of where you can find cheap stuff and then you have the Apple store, where you pay a premium for what is perceived to be the highest quality product out there.

My preference is what you might call an ultra-frugal approach.

Frugal in terms of resources but, equally importantly, frugal in terms of time.

So, for me, that means learning how to use tools that make my life easy – not tools that have the best quality or brand, but ones that do what’s important in an effective way.

And that’s a personal thing – what matters to me is probably going to be different from what matters to you.

For example. I like a workflow that is based entirely around the command line.

So, I’m learning how to use ffmpeg and recording video directly to the computer rather than having an intermediate device like a phone or camcorder in the way.

Just because it’s faster if you can grab the video directly – which you can do with some cameras, just not the ones I have, unfortunately.

The purpose of all this is to make it easy – easy to carry on learning – learning how to create a second draft and how to package information in a way that’s more useful to readers and viewers.

And myself.

The thing is we need the people who want quality – they drive the creation of new markets.

We need the people who can make things cheap – they make it possible for all of us to have things.

But then, for some of us, all that choice out there is not a good thing.

We don’t want the best things out there, and we don’t want lots of tat.

We want to have peace of mind.

And that often comes with being frugal.


Karthik Suresh

Can Relationship Counselling Techniques Help Us Create Better Business Relationships?


Saturday, 9.19pm

Sheffield, U.K.

If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships – the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace. – Franklin D. Roosevelt

You know that old saying about how you will spend more time with your colleagues at the office than you will with your partner?

Well, that’s probably not going to be that true any more.

But, you will spend more time working with lots of people, especially if we transition to a world where more people do more remote work.

So you will need more of your staff to be able to understand how other people tick – something which few of us are taught at any point in our lifetimes.

For example, do you know why that person in that department always disagrees with what you say – how they persist in never seeing the insights you’re bringing to the discussion?

You hate them, right?

In a previous post I’ve talked about how, when you’re trying to persuade, you only appeal to those who agree with you and those on the fence.

But it’s harder to do that when you have to work with colleagues, clients and suppliers.

You haven’t got a choice – you can’t ignore them.

Well, I suppose you can.

There is a school of advice that says fire the people who you don’t get on with and focus on the ones that are left.

Maybe that works, but maybe also it’s the easy way out – like getting a divorce when you find it hard to get on with your other half.

If you keep bailing out when the going gets tough – then what guarantee do you have that things will improve with the next partner – the next colleague, client or supplier?

Maybe the problem is you.

How do you tell?

Well, in relationship counselling, you have models of thinking and doing – cognitive behavioural approaches.

One that I came across a number of years ago is Baucom et. al’s five types of cognition, that correspond to the points in the image above.

This material talks about five types of thinking, of cognition, that may help relationships go well or badly.

If you can see this kind of thinking then you might be able to do something about it.

Let’s work through this with an example – say you have a young colleague and you’d like to develop her as a professional, but you’re struggling to get her to see what she needs to do.

Before you get her to do something new you need to understand how she thinks now.

And that starts with the assumptions she has – the basic beliefs about the situation you are in.

Maybe she believes that what’s important is getting her task list done, being polite and working from nine to five as set out in her contract.

The basic beliefs join together to form standards – a mindset – a way of thinking that informs her approach to the world of work.

Perhaps it’s got to do with ideas like she should be paid the same as a man, that work shouldn’t be taken home, and that you should be able to have time off to spend with her family.

That mindset is based on selective perception – a subset of data that underpins her mindset and justifies her thinking.

Maybe that has to do with the long struggle for female equality, with stories of glass ceilings and the anger of those unable to fulfil their potential.

You’ll see beliefs and mindsets and justification combine in creating the attributions she makes – the reasons why she believes others act the way they do now and in the present behaviour that results.

And they also combine to create expectancies – what she thinks people will do in the future.

This whole model is about the way someone thinks – and the way you think.

Conflict can happen in any one of these spaces – in any kind of relationship.

It’s very hard for us to really understand that other people may think differently – because these five types of thinking are invisible to us, we only see the actions that are carried out as a result.

But we don’t see how basic beliefs cause that action, or how expectations about how someone else will act drive us to do something now.

And we’ll never get that understanding unless we stop and start to talk and, more importantly, to listen.

In business being able to understand how other people think should be classed as a superpower.

Some people can do it by being able to empathise – by seeing the world through another’s eyes and feeling what they’re feeling.

Some of us have to observe and ask – and try and tease out an understanding of how people think.

And you can do this for good and bad.

I’m watching a lot of videos at the moment that score quite highly on my scam scale – questionable content and hard sells.

But it’s hard to tell the difference, on the surface, between a scam and a sincere desire to help.

After all, to be taken in by a con needs you to give someone your confidence.

Perhaps this model will help you check whether you have a handle on how the person talking to you is thinking.

And if you don’t, perhaps you should wait till you do before you go into business with them.


Karthik Suresh

How To Use Bloom’s Taxonomy As A Learning Framework In Your Company


Friday, 9.33pm

Sheffield, U.K.

You live and learn. At any rate, you live. – Douglas Adams, Mostly Harmless

Over the last few weeks I’ve discovered that teachers think in a different way to the rest of us.

I never found school that useful – nor university.

I learned the most from doing work – from struggling with a problem and working at it till I found a way to solve it.

The one thing I had learned early on was that what mattered was patience – patience to look at a problem for as long as it took.

Just look at it.

And eventually it will blink – and give way.

Clearly after a while you can’t do that with every problem – you have to get better at telling the important problems from the ones that don’t matter.

Now, what teachers are taught that we don’t know are theories of learning – models of how to help students learn material.

Now, what do you see when someone “learns” something – what does that mean?

It’s important to be clear about that – because you’ll get what you train for.

For example, if you want to train your administrative staff in a particular task – what exactly do you want them to be able to do?

On the other hand if you want to take a promising senior consultant on as a partner, what do you want her to be able to do?

What does a lecturer aiming to become a tenured professor need to be able to do?

The things you want to see are probably somewhere on the continuum proposed by Benjamin Bloom which is a core part of many approaches to learning.

This approach is called Blooms Taxonomy and is often shown as a pyramid of skills.

I’ve shown an adapted model that’s based on the 2001 edition.

The first thing you want people to be able to do is remember – do tasks in a certain way.

Remember, for example, to answer the phone with a standard greeting every time.

The next thing you want them to do is understand – get a handle on the things they need to do and why they need to do it.

So, you explain that they need telephone skills and writing skills and analytical skills.

The next thing you want them to do is apply those skills – get better at having conversations, drafting emails and longer documents and using spreadsheet models.

This is where the vast majority of instruction tends to stop in the vocational space.

This is what you need to get the job done – remember, understand and apply.

But, if you want to climb the management ladder or if you are in a career that requires you to do more than just what’s in the job description, you have to keep going around the taxonomy.

The next thing is being able to analyse – to tease out from the mess that is real life a way to look at it – perhaps a different way.

This is the kind of thing when someone takes a task that they have been given – say update a model in Excel – and says this is stupid and I have a better way to do it.

And they go off and automate the job and now something that used to take a week gets done in 30 seconds.

There’s a lot of that kind of stuff out there in the real world.

But then what happens is people learn different approaches and start to believe in them – like the people who believe in Agile versus the people who believe in Waterfall as software development methodologies.

Belief is the thing that stops you – but the thing that lets you keep going is learning how to evaluate.

The ability to evaluate is the ability to think critically about something – to compare and contrast different approaches.

For example, in the picture above you can see that the learner was taught that squares were the way to do things.

Then, they discovered triangles.

Now triangles are the way – the square is the way of the old and the triangle is the sharp new thing.

Think about squares as currency markets and triangles as cryptocurrency and you’ll see the difference.

If you understand these different approaches then you will be in a position to reconcile them, to innovate on them.

To, in other words, create.

If you look back at the image you’ll see that you learned about a box and applied that to build a house.

It was useful at the time but now, in the create phase, you’ve come up with a better model to represents that house by combining what you learned with what you came up with in the analyse phase.

And now you’re back at the beginning, trying to teach that new model to other people.

And the first thing you will want them to do is remember.

The beauty of this model is that once you know what you want your learners to be able to do once they complete your course – you can pitch it at the right level.

At a level where you will get an outcome that makes them more effective in your business.

Which is good for them – and you.


Karthik Suresh

Should You Be Open About How You Do Things In Your Business?


Thursday, 7.20pm

Sheffield, U.K.

Forget about being an expert or a professional, and wear your amateurism (your heart, your love) on your sleeve. Share what you love, and the people who love the same things will find you. – Austin Kleon, Show Your Work

I’m often asked questions about how I do things on this blog – the tools I use to create material.

The first response of most people, I suppose, is going to be one of concern.

If you tell others how you do things won’t that mean they can do what you do now as well?

Surely by being open about what you do and how you do it, you’ll be giving away your knowledge for free?

I don’t know where that thought comes from – perhaps it’s inbuilt from prehistoric times when if you held a little food back you were more likely to survive.

Or perhaps it comes from when we invented the idea of ownership – and property – first physical property and then the products of the mind.

But there are a few things that we should keep in mind.

The first is that ideas are things you can share without losing anything.

If you tell someone else what you know – you both go away richer.

You get a deeper understanding of what you know and they learn something they didn’t know.

When you cling to the idea that the things you have are the things that matter then you confuse the ability to hold a tool and do a manual task with the skills of a craftsperson.

If you’re working at the level of a tool operator – you can be easily replaced.

But what is it about a craft skill that is hard to replace in the same way – what’s the thing that makes it valuable?

A 1951 paper by W.M Macqueen called “What is craft skill?” may help.

Some elements of craft skill are about manual skills – about how you do things.

For example, do you understand your materials and if they are suitable for the job you’re doing?

Just as a woodworker knows what kind of wood to use for a chair and what kind of wood to use for a pipe.

Assuming they are different – I don’t know, after all.

Do you know what techniques work?

If you’re a consultant, for example, do you understand how to do joint work, remote work or group work?

And can you do it well – have you spent the time working on your ability to carry out those tasks.

These three skills are still pretty manual, they’re about time spent on learning your trade.

Macqueen then says craftspeople have a better understanding of non-skill elements.

They know why one approach works while another tends to fail – how to make things happen.

They also look beyond their field – and know how related approaches work.

Doctrinal wars appear to be a standard feature of situations where this is forgotten.

For example, you have people who believe that agile is the only way to go, or you might have lean startup approaches, or various systems approaches.

It’s the mistake we make when we think rituals matter more than the outcome.

And then people dedicated to the craft look beyond themselves – they get involved in the community and industry – as a contributing member rather than someone looking to do the most for themselves.

But after all that, what makes the difference between one person and another?

Warren Buffett, as is often the case, has a quote that sums it up.

Somebody once said that in looking for people to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. And if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you. You think about it; it’s true. If you hire somebody without [integrity], you really want them to be dumb and lazy.

The thing that makes the difference is character.

Macqueen has a few more points, but what it comes down to is be a person who can be trusted, who can get things done and someone who can respond intelligently to changing circumstances.

And that’s what makes the difference between you and a tool.


Karthik Suresh

p.s. As a result of this thinking here’s a list of the tools I use.

What Does An Expert Know About A Field That You Don’t?


Wednesday, 8.56pm

Sheffield, U.K

No one becomes an expert in a new career overnight, even if you are coming from another career where you were established and experienced. – Jack Canfield

Do you ever feel that anyone could do what you do – that you’re just marking time until someone comes along and tells you to move on because they’re going to do what you do better than you ever could?

At the same time you’ve probably developed more skill and expertise than you realise.

Quite often, when you look at what’s on the surface all you see is what’s in front of your eyes.

You see people spending time on tasks, looking relaxed or worried, displaying craft skills of one kind or another.

But is there all there is to getting things done – having a task list and improving your skills.

What’s missing from the picture.

What’s missing, it turns out, is everything under the surface – because the thing you don’t see is depth and complexity.

I came across this term on a website by Ian Byrd that’s about teaching gifted and talented students.

Hopefully some of the ideas will work for the rest of us as well.

But first, there’s clearly something you need to know about the idea – it’s got protections around it.

It seems that it’s important to mention that Dr. Sandra Kaplan and Bette Gould created and own the rights to Depth and Complexity – to the prompts, icons and framework and you can find their material here.

So, don’t take any of this commentary to be a view on the actual framework itself.

Instead, it’s a study of Byrd’s content on Kaplan and Gould’s framework, and how these ideas might be useful to us, perhaps in an adapted form in the learning we are doing.

The actual framework has 11 components while Byrd’s commentary is that some of these can be squished together – something that I’ve loosely followed in the image above.

So, what is it that experts in a field get that we don’t?

Let’s take YouTube as an example – if you look at stats it suggests that most people don’t make any money with their content.

But then others do, and the difference appears to be that some run their channels like a business while others put out content and hope for the best.

That’s a big idea right there – run your channel like a business.

And there are a host of essential details that fall out from that big idea – the fact that you should have a theme, a certain standard of production, a schedule and so on.

All the people who do well probably have these elements bottomed out.

And they can talk to you about precisely what they do – they’ve created a shared language about ads and revenues and intros and outros and all the things that go into putting a video together.

If you look closely you’ll see patterns in the way they do things – the way they use lighting, staging – the way they script their material.

And there are rules they follow – no profanity, perhaps to make sure they don’t offend anyone, or perhaps rules on comments.

Clearly some go the other way – and that comes down to the ethics they apply.

Do they believe it’s ok to be a foul talking person who tells the truth.

They can probably see the business from different perspectives – having gone through the pain of starting, the years of producing material while they figured out what they were doing to now, where they have a money making machine that still needs to be fed.

Now, if you’re trying to do what they do, then you are going to have to get better at asking the questions that have been left unsaid and unanswered.

Can you do something, how do you do this other thing – do you have to try it and discover what to do for yourself?

Then there is the issue of reaching across disciplines – not being stuck in ideas of a time and place.

I guess when you get stuck in doing the things you read from a single book – well, people write new books and the ways change and you’re then irrelevant.

So, don’t be that.

Then there is the fact that everything changes – that as Pratchett said, “future pours into the past via the pinch of now”.

When you look at the ideas that Kaplan and Gould came up with you can also see that there’s a lot of stuff there – a lot of stuff that you know that others don’t.

Even if they don’t see it yet.

There are still two challenges, though.

The first is for you to believe in yourself.

And the other is to get others to believe in you.

But that’s a question of marketing.


Karthik Suresh

How To Do Keyword Research For A Service Business


Tuesday, 10.15pm

Sheffield, U.K.

Key idea: To write successful ads, imagine what your customer is searching for – Google Learn documentation

I’ve been thinking recently about the stages in the sales process and how it’s important that lead generation and value creation are recognised as two separate parts of a purchase funnel.

The normal picture of a purchase funnel has customers going from awareness through to purchase, and there are modifications and adjustments to break up the steps or create more of a loop.

Lots of tinkering, in other words.

Most funnels assume that customers are in some kind of comparison mode all the time – it’s just a question of when they buy.

This is probably true with products, like bicycles, and straightforward services, like a haircut.

After that, it gets more complicated.

A really good service business has the ability to create value through its interaction with a prospect – value that might not have existed before the conversation.

Quite often people don’t know what they want until you’re able to show them.

I’m going to leave that for another post – what I’m interested here is what happens before you come to the value creation part – the bit about lead generation.

The biggest problem service providers have is seeing things from their customer’s point of view.

If you’ve been in a field for a while and then started off as a consultant, you’re immersed in the detail of what you do.

It’s very hard to take a step back and see things the way a customer does – it’s almost a physical hurdle in your mind.

I see this with relatively early stage practitioners as well, this insistence that what they know is what the world also knows – a kind of cognitive blindness to the world around them.

So, how do you overcome this hurdle in your brain?

I don’t know – but I thought I’d try and see if developing a graphic organiser might help.

The image above is a first attempt – a simple one that tries to look at things first through your eyes, and then through the customers – to try and see if you can move your point of view.

I ran an example through it – a fictional business coach.

From her point of view, she coaches leaders to become the best leaders they can be.

What does the prospective customer think?

I guessed maybe she wants to be really good at her job.

How does the coach start her story – the thing she tells when she’s asked to talk about how she works.

Well, she probably talks about how she’ll have a session with you and talk about where you are right now – a sort of diagnostic.

How does the prospect start their story?

Perhaps they wonder how they can become a better leader – or even – are they any good right now?

If someone was motivated enough to find out, what would they search for.

Having written down the four statements, the words “leadership aptitude test” came to mind.

And do people search for that?

It turns out they do.


Now, I know this may seem very basic – but often breaking things down to this kind of level makes the difference between thinking clearly – and failing to see what’s going on at all.

You could go the other way and bury yourself in keyword research – the technology is out there and I’ve spent hours getting bored stiff doing all that.

Maybe this low-tech way has a few advantages.

If you gently walk yourself across to the customer’s side – if you can coax your brain to make this journey – you might discover that you’ve got something unique that few others have realised that people are asking.

And, of course, if you have a friendly prospect you can ask them to help you fill out the graphic and see if you can work out some keywords together.

I don’t know if this is useful – we’ll see if there is a chance to test it in real life.

But here’s the thing.

What harm can it do to look more closely at the way you think?



Karthik Suresh

How Do You Work Out The Best Way To Use Your Unique Talent?


Monday, 9.42pm

Sheffield, U.K.

No one respects a talent that is concealed. – Desiderius Erasmus

I was browsing through a list of books and picked up The 80/20 Individual: How to Build on the 20% of What You Do Best by Richard Koch.

The whole 80/20 thing seems done to death – you will probably be aware of the Pareto principle and that 80% of the output from almost every activity comes from 20% of the input.

A few things matter more than most.

On the whole, the elements of how Koch applies the rule seem predictable.

Do more of the stuff you’re good at would seem to be the main message.

But I suppose, like any superficially simple message, there are things to consider.

Let’s say you’re starting something now – a new business, a new service, a new product – how might you apply this principle?

Let’s take starting a YouTube channel as an example – something that I have no experience in.

One way to do it might be to create a beautifully scripted, filmed and edited piece of content – something that you are really proud of.

Something like that can easily take 4-8 hours of work for a 10-15 minute segment – the kind of ratio that’s normal in good quality video production.

It’s probably not the filming or the script writing that takes the time – it’s the editing.

On the other hand, what would it look like if it were easy?

Well, you’d probably have the biggest impact if you cut the editing time down as much as possible.

How would you do that?

Probably by doing things in such a way that you didn’t have to do all that editing.

The “not doing” element is something we miss in the application of this principle.

Let’s assume that 20% of the stuff is what you actually have to do.

That’s the scripting and filming – maybe you can make that tighter – but it’s the knowledge you have that creates the value in the script and it’s the filming that collects the raw content for your product.

Now, of the remaining 80%, does it follow that 20% is value adding and the rest not?

Is it the case that 80% of that remaining 80% is not worth doing?

Should your next step, after deciding what you are going to do, to be to figure out the nearly 2/3rds of work that you have to actively choose not to do?

This is really quite hard – because you will probably feel like you’re not doing your best.

Now, I’m no expert at video – but I do know that the prospect of spending hours of work to create a product is not an option – I don’t have hours to spare.

So I need a way to get what I want to do done using the skills I do have – skills at programming and automation.

But if there’s stuff that I can’t do which still has to be done – then I need to outsource that bit.

If I’ve broken my tasks down in the right way – that bit should only be 20% of the 80% – 16% where I have to persuade someone else to do the work for me.

What’s interesting is that the outsourcing and the doing aren’t the things that make the difference.

Together, they account for only 36% of what’s going on.

What makes the biggest impact on your result is what you don’t do.

The not-todo list rather than the todo list.

So maybe here’s the thing.

If you want to be the best version of you – the thing you have to figure out is absolutely, definitely, what you are not going to do any more.


Karthik Suresh

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