The Last Question (the answer to entropy)

By Isaac Asimov

This is by far my favorite story of all those I have written.

After all, I undertook to tell several trillion years of human history in the space of a short story and I leave it to you as to how well I succeeded. I also undertook another task, but I won’t tell you what that was lest l spoil the story for you.

It is a curious fact that innumerable readers have asked me if I wrote this story. They seem never to remember the title of the story or (for sure) the author, except for the vague thought it might be me. But, of course, they never forget the story itself especially the ending. The idea seems to drown out everything — and I’m satisfied that it should. Read the Story.

PS. The Physics of Success shows that success is really a function of how entropy impacts a system. I love this story by Asimov because it puts “success” in the grandest and most far reaching terms possible while making it clear that entropy always wins. Choose your definition of success wisely.

Who’s On Your Team?

A Winning Model for Human Resource Management

“I would not give a fig for the simplicity this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.”
– Oliver Wendell Holmes

The CEO stood at the podium and declared once again to the staff gathered for the annual all-company meeting: “Our people are our greatest asset.” And the audience sighed inwardly because they knew it was bullshit. A worn-out cliché that becomes more hypocritical with each use. They think, “If people are indeed our greatest asset, then why have training budgets been slashed again? And if I’m truly valued here, why am I working longer than ever but for less pay? And what about Frank in accounting? He’s not an asset – that jerk is a liability!” or some variation. Rarely do companies back up their “our people are #1” rhetoric with demonstrable, consistent actions.

Perhaps there’s no better way to mask a self-evident truth like “value your people because ultimately your value comes from them” than through over-worn clichés and empty rhetoric. It’s a shame because if you’re going to build a thriving organization, you’re not going to do it through strategy, systems, branding, sales, market share and efficient use of capital – you’re going to do it by building and re-building a winning team. Everything in your organization traces itself back to the people involved. It’s the people who define the strategy, design and implement the systems, conduct the branding, engage in sales, capture market share, and deploy capital. People are indeed your most important asset.

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In order to broaden your appeal, narrow your focus

“Sacrifice” by John More in Seth Godin’s “What Matters Now

A winning business understands that to gain a customer
it must first be willing to lose a customer.

Unfortunately, we’ve been conditioned to do whatever
it takes to not lose a customer. To always say YES to
customers. To always kowtow to the whims of
customers. That’s unfortunate because winning
companies are willing to sacrifice losing customers to
win customers.

American Apparel wins customers by losing customers.
Its provocative advertising and strong stance on political
issues offends some consumers. American Apparel
sacrifices appealing to everybody to only appeal to select
somebodies who appreciate the brand’s unique
personality.

Costco wins customers by losing customers. Its
membership model shuns consumers not willing to pay
the yearly membership fee. Its broad but shallow
merchandise mix turns off consumers wanting more
choices. Costco makes deliberate sacrifices because its
customers will also make deliberate sacrifices in
exchange for lower prices.

Winning businesses have a common trait, an obvious
and divisive point of view. Losing businesses also have a
common trait, a boring personality alienating no one
and thus, sparking passion from no one.

Is your business designed to be a winning business? Is
your business willing to sacrifice losing customers to
win customers?