More insights on making ideas happen from the 2013 edition of the 99U Conference, presented by GE.
Ramit Sethi believes that there is much more to success than just being good at your craft. Being the best at
something does not necessarily mean you'll get the best business results. The author of I Will Teach You To Be
Rich shared insights into the psychology of self-worth and working with clients:
- “If we are not speaking in our client's language, we’ve already lost the game.”
Sethi sets out to know his clients and students better than they know themselves. “No one wants to be
financially literate, they want to be rich. No one wants to be fit. They want a six pack. That is how we talk and
think.” Sethi reminded us that it's essential that we master the language our clients use.
- “Understand the emotional part of money to talk about it successfully.” There is
usually a sense of fear that comes with conversations about money. But we should understand that this is as true for
our clients as it is for us as creatives. When you're thinking about how to convince a client of the value of your
work, put yourself in their shoes and explore their fears—then squash them.
- Become a trusted adviser. Your clients are your number one priority, and you are fighting for
them. Sethi reminds us to ask ourselves, do you have their best interest at heart? If we want clients to revere our
work, we must become their most trusted adviser. Someone who can understand their deepest fears and anticipate their
Leah Busque quit her job at IBM and founded TaskRabbit out of a real world problem: she needed to buy dog food, but
didn’t have the time. “It’s such a simple problem, why isn’t there a simple solution?”
Busque thought. In many ways, “TaskRabbit isn’t an original idea,” she admits, but she made it
happen, and that’s the real difference. Busque shared were five lessons learned from building TaskRabbit:
- Tell everyone you meet about your idea. Even though you will want to keep your idea a secret so
no one will steal it, the risk outweighs the reward. “If I have an idea, and you have an idea, we have two
ideas,” says Busque. By sharing ideas you open the concept up to valuable input and criticism.
- Find mentors who are as excited about your idea as you are. Because you’re sharing
your idea with people, networking will happen organically as people learn more about you and your idea. Surround
yourself with people that understand what you’re doing and genuinely want to help you build it.
- Have BHAGS (Big, Hairy, Ambitious Goals) and take baby steps. This is what keeps you going.
- Ship it. Instead of waiting until it’s perfect, find the smallest possible way to test your
idea, and get it out there so that your customers can tell you what’s working and what isn’t.
- Love what you do. Never think “How will I shut this down when it doesn’t work?
How will this fail?”
- Photo: MACKME.com
At Continuum, Craig LaRosa helps to design and develop products, services, and business models. In his 99u
master class, he taught us some strategic ways "service design" can improve customer experience:
- “When designing services, always be in beta.” Building prototypes and failing is
the first step towards success, so always be willing to change and alter your process.
- Look for the gaps. A successful customer experience is a seamless and holistic one. Avoid
outsourcing parts of your service to others. Instead, LaRosa encourages us to think of your business as an
- Learn from others. Exploring other experiences outside of your industry can help you gain
insight. Be mindful when you are purchasing a service from another company in your personal life. You'd
be surprised how successful experiences are similar across all businesses.
Jane ni Dhulchaointigh
Jane ni Dhulchaointigh grew up on a farm in Ireland where fixing things was a fact of life. Upon moving to London to
study product design, she realized she hated making new things and wanted to make fixing things cool again. It all
sounded really easy, but as she soon learned, "Good design makes everything look easy. Making stuff happen is really
- “You don’t need to be an expert, you can learn it instead.” In most cases, you
don’t have to know everything about every step, but you do need to know enough to get you started in the right
direction. Other people will help fill in the blanks.
- Start small and make it good. When a project is small, it allows you to make mistakes and learn
from them. You can experiment and bounce back from failures quicker
- "Work with people who help you be more awesome!" Not only are customers going to show you
the amazing things they do with your product, but people who want to help you will be everywhere. Work with them.
Jeff Sheng is best known for his incredible photography series, “Fearless,” a project that showcases out LGBT athletes from
American high schools and colleges; and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a photo narrative that highlighted the
struggles of LGBT military service members while keeping their identities anonymous. Sheng showcased his work and
revealed the social mission behind all of his projects. His main takeaway:
- No matter what our craft is, we have a social responsibility. Creative projects shouldn't be just
about fame or recognition or money, but rather effecting real social change. We have an incredible opportunity to
make a difference and we should use it.
Ben Shaffer has a passion for experimentation that is put to good use in his role as Studio Director for Nike’s
Innovation Kitchen—a place where the company incubates new products. He shared a number of tips for
driving innovation, including:
- Low-risk play zones are necessary. Intentionally incubating for failure allows us to do
ridiculous stuff. It’s better to dream up something that doesn’t work, rather than focusing on the
limitations and not dreaming at all.
- It’s all about the customer. Nike’s innovation team looks at different methods for
making, but listening to the athlete (or customer) from beginning to end is always the most important.
More 2013 99U Conference Recaps:
Part One: Brené Brown, Cal Newport, Gretchen Rubin &
Part Two: A.J. Jacobs, Joe Gebbia, Charlie Todd & More
Three: Ramit Sethi, Leah Busque, Jeff Sheng, & More
Part Four: Hosain Rahman, Josh Reich, Heather Payne, & More
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