Last weekend (not really – this post was written in May 2011) I read what i now consider to be a great book “The Project 50″ by Tom Peters. This is my review and some of the most important lessons i learned (or at least was reminded of) by this book.
My advice is: Buyt it! Read it! Study it! …. and here is why …
This may not be new for you but the fact is that we live in an economy of knowledge and the projects that mater are those that have an impact in the world. The IT world and the world wide web created what I decided to call the webvolution (web revolution) is changing the world many ways (surprising and sometimes unexpected) ways.
So what is this book about and why now? Well “The Project 50″ is about projects that will have an impact and that is exactly what i’m about right now. It really is the perfect time for me to have read this great book. The “Wow Project” (“Projecto UAU!” in portuguese) is where you want to do, it is what I want to be and it is the core of the “You Brand”. Yes, wether you know and like the way it sounds or you don’t, you are a brand! And, as a brand, you want to be a good brand one that has is memorable, amazing… “WOW”! The solution is quite simple: get involved in “WOW Projects” and remember that there is no such thing as small projects, that any activity can be transformed/reframed into a “wow project”. And of course if you have the option to choose wether you will work on the project or not the choice can be easilly reduced to: “Will I be proud to include this project in my CV?”
Learn to love the “wow” and whenever you are about to do any project think about what would make you say “wow”.
Portuguese: “projecto uau = caracter = marca = identidade = personalidade = alma”
English: “wow project = character = brand = identity = personality = soul”
The book is well structured and is divided in four sections: Create, Sell, Apply and Exit
In the “Create” section where the project is modelled and defined one must answer questions such as: Is it cool? Is it worth it? Will it attract people? Will it make a difference? Will it have am impact in the world and be revolutionary? Be honest about it – don’t fool yourself!
One of the best advices in this book is that you should never accept a project as it is given to you. Instead you must “Reframe it”! Reframe/redefine/rethink it until you fall in love with it as being passionate about what you do will improve the chances of creating something that really is “wow”.
Another key topic that really is often disregarded is the beautifulness of the project and here the important keyword is “designers”. And designers from the beginnin – like… now! The looks and feel of your project is extremelly important as it gives your project it’s identity so think about it and make your project beautiful, graceful, magical, clear and easy to understand – that will definitelly help your project to be “wow”.
Another cool idea about it is the following:
Portuguese: “Recompensar fracassos excelentes e punir êxitos medíocres.”
English: “Reward excellent failures and punish mediocre successes.”
If you are in a position of power (CEO, VP, manager, etc.) your job is to motivate yout staff to inovate …. anywhere… anytime.
Learn from your history books – what did all those persons who managed to get inside your history books have in common? Hard workers, determined to make a difference, focused, in love with their projects (cause, company, etc), risk takers, rebels, apologise much more often than they ask for authorisation, extremelly good at what they did.
Put it on the web – every project should be on the web.
You want to have raving fans! You want them, you need them…. go and get them. Do not forget to consider everyone and especially the differences between men and women for the reasons that might lead a woman to become a raving fan can be quite different from those of men. The “wow” recquires diversity and best way to achieve this is to have a diverse team (color, age, education, sex, race, etc) or at least had a diverse team of advisors.
Get obcessed by the planning and get it done “now”!
What about the people? We all know the power of having a good network of contacts. There are a few basic rules such as :
- Get Connected to “cool people”
- Get allies / supporters (soon)!
- Accept that you will annoy people – its impossible to change the rules and not to annoy someone. You will have haters – that’s it!
What does it mean anyway? Well in this case to sell your project is to tell a brief, strong clear and convincing story to captivate the attention of potencial supporters. What is your story? Is it strong, clear and convincing? As everything else in life practice makes it perfect so practice your “story telling”. Who should you sell it to? The answer is simple: everyone! your family, friends, investors, partners, etc. When should you do it? Always! One great piece of advice is that you should make use of your lunch breaks. To make a long story short: don’t have lunch with the same group of persons every day. Go and have lunch with that cool person, promising partners, investment banker, etc.
Never consider your supporters/allies as given – instead keep them in action and use them. It’s not about being tricky it’s a strategic relationship! Make them feel special and treat them with respect – send them holliday cards, prepare exclusive events, exclusive meetings, lunches, etc. This also applies for your supporters, users, etc – if they support you then they are your friends and they deserve your respect and time. What about the “haters”? Well simple: ignore them, don’t loose time with them this is no crusade – don’t try to convert your enimies.
Create a “top notch” Advisory Board – the best of the best this is extremelly important and usefull. “We are considered to be as good as those publicly connected to us!” Start with a small advisory board and slowly grow to a bigger list of advisors with tens or hundreds of names. Treat them well – you MUST have time for them as you must get credibility.
Portuguese: “Dinheiro (demasiado cedo em demasiada quantidade) mata a iniciativa + a idependência.”
English: “Money (too much of it too early) kills initiative + independence.”
To this would i would also add that it might kill not only initiative and independence but also the creativity. Thinking “beta” is a state of mind that will lead to creativity – the process of fast prototyping is great and will probably lead your project to “wow”. Constant creation, testing and demos with a group of real clients will definitelly help – that is why you must create a group of beta testers as soon as possible and praise/love their feedback.
Planning is extremelly important but when it comes to apply this book also offers you many advices. You have probably heard the expression “Divide to conquer” – you too can apply this concept/strategy in your projects. Divide your project again and again until you get it down to little pieces – the amazing advantage of this is that you will easilly get that fantastic sense of achievement that will make you work harder, better, faster…. In a project where fast prototyping characterized by “Fail. Advance. Fast” is the strategy it is a basic recquirement that you have little peaces that will get together like a lego structure and create an amazing end result.
A cool approach that Mr. Tom Peters makes in this book and that i had never heard before is that “playing is a serious busines”. The example he brilliantly give is the one of a child building a sand castle – that child is totally absorbed, focused in its own project!
Lists and Calendars are something I’m a fan of: i am a list person – always have, always will. Now im more of a “mindmap” person, but it still is kind of a list on steroids. Use and abuse lists for there can never be too many lists – lists make things simpler and clearer. The power of a good list and a calendar together is immense – use it to plan your work and it will certainly be a great tool for any project. If I’m not wrong he states something like this: calendars together with lists are business plans without the useless text (and well if he doesn’t I do!).
I am kind of a perfectionist (example: i planned on spending 1 or 2 hours (max!) to write this article but I’ve probably spent 3) therefore when he states that one should be a fan of the last 2% of any project I say “Hallelujah”. This really is what will make a difference of something that is “good” from something “WOW!”. Remember that the success of any project strongly relies on its early adopters and those first impressions. Make sure that they will love it and they will give you great reviews and testimonials (blogs, talk to friends, social media, etc)! Love and praise your early adopters.
What about marketing – well the cheapest marketing is one that is (almost) free, right?! The bottom line here is that really soon in the life of your project you should create/designate a marketing team. One really cheap type of marketing is “Buzz Marketing” (BIG fan since i’ve read “Buzz Marketing” by Mark Hughes back in 2003 or 2004) – however it does recquire some investment (time or $), at least a marketing team. It is imperative that you create create a marketing team soon in your project and forget that idea of “if we build it they will come” or you will never make it bit. Buzz never creates itself out of thin air.
Meetings and changing the way they happen – “the 15 minutes meeting” is a great way of creating and upgrading your meetings. A 15 minutes meegins is clear, (obviously) short, focused ans simples and has one golden rule: never pass the 16 mintues mark! This is a great idea that can definitelly be applied in many meetings, especially those that are recurrent. Another great idea i heard somewhere is to have a “counter”, yes counter and not timer, to count how much the current meeting has already costed the company: 10 persons * $30 / hour = $300 / hour = $5/minute …. that will surelly speed up the meetings.
Some other topics:
- As a leader you must distribute enthusiasm -> cheer up your trops, every day, every week, every month!
Exiting a project at the right time for the right reasons might lead to a bigger and sustainable success. However this might be quite hard to do, see and accept because your project is like your little baby and nobody wants to leave they child right!? Still it might be recquired and you must remember that the same project will need a different type of leader depending on the fase in which that project is and you may just not be able to do it.
In this article I refer a few topics of this amazing book therefore, if you are interested in improving the quality of your work life I recommend it to you… once more “Buy it! Read it! Study it!”
Related and recommended books by Tom Peters:
- “The Brand You 50″/”A Marca Você 50″ by Tom Peters
- “Creating You & Company” by William Bridge
- “Serious Play” by Michael Schrage
Thank you for reading this article. Please feel free to leave a comment or contact me.Thank you for reading this article. Please feel free to leave a comment or contact me.