Category Archives: Entrepreneurism

Becoming Homo Adaptus

It has become apparent to me that the world has reached an inflection point. It used to be that when you were in school you had to figure out what you wanted to be when you grow up and work very hard to acquire skills that would determine your success in that chosen profession. I have often told kids who were delaying this decision that they have three choices. You can pick something you love and whether it makes you a lot of money or not, at least you will love what you do. Or you can pick something that will make you a lot of money and at least you will have money to enjoy your life even if your work is not something you love. Finally you can not choose and in that case the world will eventually pick for you and virtually every single time the world picks something you hate that also pays poorly. Not choosing is always the worst decision.

This has always been good advice, but this current inflection point forces me to add to it or even replace it. The problem is that you can no longer expect to do one thing for an entire professional career. The world is changing too fast and automation will either transform your career beyond recognition or render it moot to the point where you have to start fresh with something new.

We all have to become Homo Adaptus, in that we have to be the people who constantly learn and adapt as the world changes. It used to be that the world changed every century, then every generation and more recently, every decade. But now we are staring down a world that will change nearly constantly. To just be employable in a meaningful and rewarding (in all senses of that word) fashion, you will have to be running to stay ahead of the curve. People in the tech and medical sectors are somewhat used to this, but now it is coming for us all and with a vengeance.

To me, being Homo Adaptus is to drive to always be learning, to always be figuring out what the future will be and what skills it will require. It requires that you seek knowledge and get out of the bubble of comfort. It reminds me of my days in the Military Academy and in the Army. As an Infantry officer your defense was never ready, there was always more you could do. There was no such thing as done and for Homo Adaptus this is true of preparing to compete in this fast changing world.

If you are still reading, you might be ready to thrive in this new world so my advice is to start finding and using resources that are already waiting for you. Watch TED talks ( in topic areas that pertain to your interests and spider from there. Find out who the thought leaders are in your areas of interest and seek out their books, blogs, podcasts, etc. and devour the content until you grow beyond them as sources or you choose another area of interest. Go to Khan Academy ( and learn or relearn something on a regular basis. I am impressed by the 40 or 50 year old that has recently brushed up on their algebra and there are also tons of higher level topics there for you to learn. Collect sources of wisdom, knowledge and data.

If you can muster spending an hour a day doing something you know you should do, but do not want to do and know you can get away without doing then you have the discipline it takes to be Homo Adaptus and together we will rule the world. Pay it forward by showing someone else the way to find resources for their own search for wisdom.



Disciplined Entrepreneurism

Recently I have had two of my most senior employees come to me seperately and suggest new products for the company to build. I encourage this of course, but find I have to help them understand some things about what I call Disciplined Entrepreneurism.

Ultimately when you decide to build a product for general sale you have three choices:
1. Invent something
2. Copy something
3. Enhance something

Each of these has its strengths and weaknesses. For #1 you have to really have a good idea and you have to bear the burden of educating the world they need something they never had before. In path #2 you have to make sure you can do it so much better that you can overtake the current vendors. And with #3 you build an add on to an existing product as part of its ecosystem, so that means your only customers are the people who bought the thing you are enhancing.

None of these is easy and none is a “sure thing”. I find that it is a slow road with luck and hard work playing equal roles in most cases. Misjudging the market is a common mistake, but not doing any market research ahead of time is by far the most common mistake.

Our head developer of our FSM product, Amr (he specifically asked me to mention him when I told him I planned to blog about this), throught that it might be a good idea for us to develop a Facebook Application. My response was to point out that Facebook, iPhone apps and other applications seem like a great way to get rich, but the failure rate is enormous
my research says that it costs tens of thousands of dollars to bring one to market successfully as very, very few make any money at all the average lose money if the idea is good enough then you have a better chance, but everyone thinks they have the killer idea. The costs go way up if you advertise it with some having spent as much as a million dollars. There really are no shortcuts to wealth

You should never just build an application. You should first figure out the odds of it actually making money otherwise you spend your life just writing code and never make any headway.

The key is to jump in before the market gets too saturated and to do some pragmatic thought about the potential of your product idea. Rather than look to Facebook or iPhone apps I think Windows Phone 7 applications is a much better landscape since there is still room for new players to make a mark. Just remember that you have to tamp down your wishful instincts…