Leap - How to thrive in a world where everything can be copied - Howard Yu

As Experience accumulates, people’s understanding improves. Industry know-how, which once resided solely in the mind of a few masters, is then increasingly documented for posterity. Business academics, who have the unfortunate tendency to over-complicate things, call this process, knowledge codification, during which unspoken know-how is made explicit. But it really just means writing down what you know so that you can share it with colleagues. A consequence of this development is that lesser skilled workers begin to replace the pioneering experts. Any workers can follow standard procedures, rulebooks, and guidelines. After all, when everything that an expert knows been handed down as a rule book, there is little need for additional meddling. In other words, when expert knowledge is codified, ore people can master the fundamentals. Human intuition becomes less important as rule-based decision making is replacing it. And perhaps more ominously, codified knowledge can be easily disseminated through borrowing, copying, imitation, or stealing. As history has proved, what begins as an act of human creativity by a world-class expert usually ends in machine automation.

Every time the company further automated its production, an act of innovation was involved. But creative talent shifts from building a higher-quality product through craftsmanship to devising a better manufacturing process based on automation to reduce costs and improve production yields.

The pioneers didn’t just master the old, but also forged ahead into the new. By leaping from one scientific discipline to another, they left latecomers scrambling to catch up. Still, advances in science and technology always rely on old knowledge. The new discipline of microbiology did not negate the importance of traditional organic chemistry, new discoveries were attained because the scientists already possessed certain prior knowledge. Bacteriologists would not have uncovered antiseptics had there not been a wealth of chemical compounds to pour onto the different bacteria in experiments. The discovery of human chromosomes would not have been possible had there not been appropriate dyes to stain the cells nuclei for improved visibility under a microscope. The new discipline of microbiology and the old one of organic chemistry informed each other in lockstep as progress was steadily made.

When industry knowledge matures, copycats will catch up. Because latecomers often inherit a lower cost structure without the legacy assets, they exert competitive pressures on industry pioneers.

Successful executives often exhibit a bias for action. But it’s even more important to separate the noise from the signal that actually pinpoints the glacial movement around us. Listening carefully to the right signals requires patience and discipline. Sizing a window of opportunity, which means not necessarily being the first mover but the first to get it right, takes courage and determination. To leap successfully is to master these two seemingly contradictory abilities. The discipline to wait and the determination to drive, in balanced combination, often pay handsomely. Cultivating this paradoxical ability at the individual and organizational levels is a major theme of the rest of the book.

Turns out willpower can be depleted like any other resource. Once it is exhausted, we can no longer focus on difficult tasks. We lose our patience and succumb to all kinds of temptation.

If people feel like it’s a choice or something they enjoy because it helps someone else, it’s much less taxing. If they fee like they have no autonomy, if they’re just following orders, their willpower muscle gets tired much faster. - Muraven
You don’t need to be an expert on everything. All you need to do is to focus on the specific plans that you are responsible for. If you get stuck, look at your computer for help. This is how we scale. - Liu

Two basic elements of design thinking are taught: Empathy - Understanding the human emotions, goals, and needs that a design must address and rapid prototyping, developing quick and cheap solutions and updating them rapidly in response to users actions and suggestions.

When big organizations scale well, they focus on moving a thousand people forward a foot at a time, rather than moving one person forward by a thousand feet. - Claudia

“lean startup methodology” organization that maximize the opportunity to learn, gather market insights, and minimize resources spent to achieve market commercialization of a new technology. The biggest danger for innovators is to become fixated on building a perfect machine in the dark when the market has already moved on, leaving entrepreneurs stuck with a product that no one wants. Often better is to build a viable product with the smallest set of features (MVP), this allows managers to complete, as quickly as possible, the build-measure-learn cycle.

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