Can You Recognize Things That Have Value?


Wednesday, 9.14pm

Sheffield, U.K.

Creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value. It is a process; it’s not random. – Ken Robinson

It’s always a challenge to figure out how you should spend your time – where you’re going to add the most value. And while you’re doing that you need to remember that value is of greatest importance to the person who gets it from you, not to you yourself.

Imagine you have a business. Should you be laser focused on the things that make you money today? Or should you be patient, building and investing for the long term? Short-term rewards can seem the most attractive because they bring in resources now. But how do you know you aren’t throwing away something that could be much more valuable, if only you gave it some time?

I was talking to a friend today about this and how hard it is to decide whether to do a little or a lot. We’re advised to focus, to make it really clear exactly what we do and how we help. But we also try and serve everyone, try and do more than we can. And if you speak with people who know what they’re talking about they’ll be blunt about it. “Figure out where you add value,” they’ll probably say, “And do only that.”

But a focus on just one thing is not good either. I often read about entrepreneurs who have a good idea, raise money to plough ahead with that and then wind up a few years later, finding that there is no market for that thing they’re creating. But you don’t know whether they’ve given up too quickly.

The unhelpful answer, I suspect, is that you have to do both. You have to have a portfolio of investments, some that are mature and produce now and others that are nascent and that need to be tended until it’s clearer whether they have value or not. It’s like being a gardener, and making sure all the plants that you want to keep are fed and watered and the weeds are pulled out.

I think what’s important, however, is making it very clear what you do in each element of your portfolio. You may have a technology portfolio and carry out work in certain areas. Each of those packages of work needs to be clear – a minimum viable package in itself – that does not overlap with other elements but is able to communicate and cooperate with them.

This is not easy to do and there is a question of “how” that should be done. There are answers, of course, but this is not the place to talk about them. The point is that there are many ways to make things worse, but only a few that make things better.

And one very big idea is that the less you do the less you can do wrong.


Karthik Suresh

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