You can observe a lot by just watching

I’ve had an epiphany.

My Wednesday Thursday last week was spent traversing Sydney in a hire car, conducting in-depth key customer interviews for one of our B2B clients.

Over the Harbour Bridge, and back under the Sydney Harbour. North, south, east and far west. And with this forced time to think and ponder.

My enlightenment came from listening intently to two old blokes, Charlie and Warren (92 and 85 respectively). Wisdom often comes from those old enough to understand the rhythm of life.

“You can observe a lot by just watching.”

Warren was quoting Yogi Berra (not Yogi Bear) as an explanation as to why he and Charlie were so good at picking winning businesses. Over the decades they had observed the importance of looking beyond short-term fads, trends and thinking, and being committed to seeking leaders they can trust to drive solid medium to long term business growth. Warren should know, as the third richest person in the world, and CEO and Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway (view full 7 hour AGM with Warren and Charlie).

This fits with my article late last year  …

“Grit is an individual’s unrelenting passion for a particular long-term goal or end state, coupled with a powerful motivation to achieve their respective objective.”  From This Too Shall Pass

The line “you can observe  a lot by watching” is as relevant to investing as any profession. For me, from 22 years researching human behaviour, there are many consistent observations.

For example, humans are first and foremost driven by 1) the love of their family (and closest friends); and 2) a hunger for new and/or improved experiences. Facebook, Uber, AirBnB and VinoMofo are all businesses growing from these fundamental trues. Innovators with medium to long term growth strategies.

Another consistency is the desire to trust government and businesses they deal with. “Are they delivering on promises?” “Is the product good value?” Too often from our research, even the best intentioned get this wrong. Hence the growth of review and comparison sites.

Innovation is typically about getting the basics right. Rather than being obsessed with UX and user-centred design, without truely understanding the user, or being customer focused without talking to real customers, it is about placing unbiased human insight as a necessity.

“Rather than seeking a silver bullet, market research should be used to find a widely held unresolved problem or unmet need or want, that is universally true, beyond minuscule niches. Whittling down the category to the fundamental wrong, that needs to be made right.” From Finding Unicorns …

Never before in history has there been more potential for businesses to reinvent and unlock the next ‘big idea.’ To me this is about not getting lost wasting money on stupid ideas that we all know have little likelihood of success. Be vigilant and diligent in seeking the small, and seemingly too simple ideas, solving inherent problems or just making the complex easier. Beyond short-term fads, trends and thinking.

“You can observe a lot by just watching.”

Originally posted: Jun 6, 2016

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