Silicon Valley State of Mind, a blog by John Weathington, "The Science of Success"
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Silicon Valley State of Mind

Tips, thoughts, and advice based on the consulting work of John Weathington, "The Science of Success."

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Posted by on in Leadership

Are you getting enough iron in your leadership diet? In deference to the recently departed, and former UK Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, I’d like to address leading with an iron fist. Thatcher personified this idea so well, she leaves behind a legacy of being the “Iron Lady.” Forget about individual body parts, to many her whole being was iron! She’s known and remembered for her convictions—something that I see critically absent in today’s leadership.

I blame the sociologists who study leadership for this phenomenon. The recent trend in leadership is servant leadership where leaders are advised to become a servant to their followers. It’s especially rampant out here in Silicon Valley, where nothing gets decided until everyone—including the janitor—is okay with the decision. This is nonsense. Not only does it take way too much time, but it’s simply not effective.

If you need to make a decision, you don’t need a committee or a Kumbayah session with your group. Just get some good information. Information can help you stay your ground when your convictions are being challenged. Many times analysis contradicts conventional wisdom, allowing you to draw insightful but controversial assumptions. If your hunch is validated by data analysis, many naysayers will just refute your analysis—it’s not for them, it’s for you. You must believe in your decisions—and that takes more than analysis—but it’s comforting to know that the data is on your side.

If you’re under fire for your beliefs—don’t fold, just get some good information. You don’t need to become the Iron Lady; a fist or two will work in a crunch.

—Rest in peace Prime Minister Thatcher and thank you for showing us how to fight for what we believe.

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Posted by on in General Comments

I just slammed the door in someone’s face. The same door that’s a few inches from the sign pictured here.

I’m not normally that rude to people, but in this case enough is enough. About three times a week, a different person comes to the door asking if I want solar panels on my house. The first time they came, I politely listened to what they had to say, agreed it’s an interesting thought, and said I’d investigate it on my own time. The second time they came, I cut them off before they got started, and told them somebody just came by two days ago. The third time they came by, I cut them off and said, “tell whoever is sending you people here, to stop.” The story I was told is that they’re all coming from different companies, and every person I encounter has no relationship to the next. It’s like a beacon went off somewhere, signaling all solar companies that I would like someone to visit my house and talk to me about installing solar—I don’t.

Well, this message isn’t being received. I’ve been dealing with this for weeks now. Tonight, this is how the exchange went. Shortly after I sat down to eat dinner:

(Knock, Knock)

Me: What?

Irritant: Hi, I’m Mr. Jackass from Jackass Solar?

Me: No soliciting, man.


You have to be perceptive of your customers’ needs. There is a sign right outside my door that says, “No Soliciting.” This means—no soliciting! I don’t do this to be mean or rude, but I’m doing both me and the door-to-door salespeople a favor. I can assure you, I’m not going to buy something from someone that comes to my door—I just won’t do it. If I decide to get solar, I’ll do the research myself on the Internet, then I’ll talk to some people I know that have had solar installed, and I’ll get a referral. This is why I have the sign outside; I’m saving us both the time.

How often do you keep badgering your customers with what you feel they need? Kodak was very late in the adoption of digital photography because they were too focused on what they thought was right. After breathing their own exhaust for too long, they finally filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. Their future is very questionable at this point.

Value is in eye of the beholder. Your passion about an idea doesn’t mean anything until you’ve convinced your clients to be passionate about it. Maybe solar is a good thing for me, and I’m sure whoever just left my door is passionate about the benefits of solar, but if you think I’m just going to open my door and sign a contract with you to install solar panels on my house—you just don’t know me very well.

And that’s the whole point of this story.

Tagged in: customers ideas value
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Posted by on in Innovation

I was shopping for groceries the other day, and decided to get my wife some nice roses (‘cause that’s the kinda guy I am). At the time I had a basket in my hands because I was running in to get just a few things. After the second bag of charcoal, I realized two things: 1) I was going to need a basket and; 2) my roses were going get crushed if I wasn’t careful.

So, I found a cart, loaded in the basket and the second bag of charcoal, and strategically laid the flowers over the fish in the front basket where children usually sit. At checkout, the clerk—who had obviously been working there a long time—said, “You might want to put those flowers in the cup holder on the side so they don’t get crushed. In all this time working here, a trainee just showed me that the other day!”

Novel ideas in business and in life come from interacting with new people. They could be new employees, consultants, or even reconnecting with old friends. Don’t fall into the trap of doing the same thing day after day. Not only is it boring, but after breathing your own exhaust for a while, you’ll pass out.

Great innovators are curious, humble, and persistent. Curiosity doesn’t need to be an obsession with perfection, but you should always have your antennae up for better ways to do things. Humility holds your ego in check and prevents you from being arrogant—a condition where you don’t have anything left to learn. Persistence requires not only patience but tenacity. Trust your instincts—if you come across a good idea, pursue it, and stick with it until it’s done.

But great ideas come from new experiences; often with new people. Invite new people with different ideas into your life and listen to what they have to say. You might just pick up on a novel idea.

Tagged in: ideas people
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