Life’s Lessons

Tomorrow I am speaking at a really neat Silicon Valley Executive Network event. When Brian Reynard approached me (btw, in the spirit of full disclosure, I participate on his advisory board) about headlining the day I took up the challenge with the knowledge that Mayacama, the golf course the event will be held at, is the real draw for the day and that I would not be expected to throw up a powerpoint pitch on a product, concept, or trend.

In the spirit of speaking in whitespace, what I did is put together a real speech, in longhand no less, that highlights 6 main lessons I have learned over my years in this business, and from that an extraction of major technology trends and how I am playing them.

Without giving up all my good stuff, here’s the lessons I have learned:

  1. You can’t permanently break software so experiment with it, push it, and try new things. Basically this is just stating the obvious, software is abstract so we have a tremendous degree of freedom to try “what if…”.
  2. Group culture is an obstacle to change. Put another way, changing behavior is a far more difficult task than changing tools.
  3. User experience matters, not just user impressions. This simply echoes what I have been writing about here for years, that great apps typically begin with a user experience that accelerates adoption and greater degrees of usage.
  4. Companies won’t give up something they already have in exchange for a speculative future scenario.
  5. You can’t predict what will succeed, protect your downside with diversification of strategy and capital, and yes great teams really do produce results.
  6. Failures inform you with more powerful lessons than successes.

On the trend side I think the tech business comes down to a pretty thin basket of simple truths:

  1. Distribution trumps innovation but crappy products with great distribution still fail in the end.
  2. Consumerization of business application software cannot be avoided and it affects product strategy, go to market, pricing, and even the core value of the average software company.
  3. The abstraction of infrastructure ultimately redefines what it means to be a platform in ways that are not advantageous to the companies we think of today as platform vendors.
  4. The Net Generation demographic shift will change the face of global business and that will cause a new wave of technology investment, fueling the next 6-8 year period of growth.