Conformity and Innovation

Conformity and Innovation

I am not a big believer in conformity. My view of conformity is that it is a means of control. It is a manner in which to ensure that the status quo remains, that the population does not question and that everyone has the same information available to them.

Think of the educational system. From grade school through to the end of high school, we learn the same information. We are taught to do things the same way. We are told that school develops and reinforces social skills. We are told to play nice and not to stand out. Don’t be an individual, teamwork is the only way. Why is that? Because it is a means to an end. Now don’t get me wrong. I believe education builds knowledge. I believe school can teach a lot of valuable life lessons. But I also recognize that there is a certain mold that students are forced to subscribe to if they are to succeed in school.

Have you ever heard a student say, especially in grade school, I finished my work early but my teacher told me I cannot progress farther and must wait for everyone else. I have and I think it sucks. Here is a student trying to advance themselves and the existing establishment is saying “You need to wait for everyone else”, which to me is the same as saying “You’re not conforming”.

Now let’s fast forward a few school years and give a prime example of what non-conforming can do. I think a lot of people have seen the movie about Facebook. There is a particular scene which really drives the point home – it’s the scene where Zuckerberg is hauled in front of the committee at Harvard in an attempt by the school to discipline him for his actions. It’s obvious what they were attempting to do – force him to conform. To tell him- “what you did is not nice and you need to be reprimanded”. I think most people were shocked at his response – essentially telling the establishment he did them a favor. But why was anyone surprised at his response? Innovation doesn’t happen by following the status quo. Creativity is not created by listening to what you’re taught. It’s by doing things that you’re not taught.

The willingness to go outside the norm, to question what you’re told and to push the boundaries is what enabled us to create the world we have today. Not willing to conform is in essence the same as being willing to innovate. Imagine if Zuckerberg had instead just agreed. His reprimand might have left him feeling dejected and it might have been the last straw that quashed any innovation and creativity he had. And then we wouldn’t have what we have.

Conformity is innovation’s enemy. Don’t forget it.

As always, don’t be a stranjeR, be on ranjeR

The stranjeR

What is a stranjeR you might ask? It’s not someone you don’t know or have never connected with because then it would just be spelled stranger. Basically, a stanjeR is someone who has contacted you via the telephone that you wish to keep track of but that you don’t necessarily want to add to your contact manager.

This can apply to the spam calls we all receive informing us we’ve won a free cruise, the telemarketers trying to sell us newspaper subscriptions or anyone else whose call you wouldn’t answer if you knew who was on the other end.

Additionally, a stranjeR can be your car dealership that calls you for maintenance, your cell phone company that you call often to complain about service or any other entity that calls you infrequently.

With a normal contact manager, you would have to add these to your contacts to identify them when they call you, which is not ideal and not the best way to manage your true contacts.

With the stranjeR feature on ranjeR, you can effortlessly add the number and a brief description of who the caller is. This keeps your contact list intact with only your real contacts and creates a separate stranjeR list that helps you identify the caller. Additionally, the stranjeR list is shared with all other ranjeR users, which will help create a global database of spam-type callers. Think of it as a crowd-sourced caller-ID feature that will reduce the ability of spammers/ telemarketers to get in contact with you.

Sound intriguing? We think so. And it’s just one of the reasons ranjeR is set to become a true communications manager.

As always, don’t be a stranjeR, be on ranjeR

Selling your vision

How do you recognize that a newly launched product fulfills a need you aren’t even aware of? Innovation comes from identifying a need that fills a gap in current offerings and often times the general population isn’t even aware that the gap exists. I won’t bore you with examples as I’m sure all readers can come up with their own. But filling an unknown need is not as easy as it sounds.

I recently read a post talking about what the best advantage someone could have in starting a small burger stand. Most people responded that it would be the best meat, the best price, etc. But the real answer was a starving crowd – basically looking at the demand side of the curve instead of the supply side. But how do you look at the demand side when it doesn’t exist yet. How do you convince people that they need what you’re offering even though they don’t have the need yet?

The easy answer is patience. Just wait – similar to the Field of Dreams quote “If you build it, they will come”, gaining acceptance of a new product can sometimes be as simple as just waiting for the idea to catch on. The more difficult answer is selling your vision. That’s where great sales and marketing come into play. I’m not saying that using patience completely ignores sales and marketing techniques – what I’m saying is that gaining acceptance for your vision quickly comes from GREAT sales and marketing techniques.

We believe that ranjeR will become an example of a product fulfilling a need that was unknown; the need being a true personal communication management platform that is device and ecosystem independent. And we believe that we have patiently waited, while the product is finalized, for the idea to catch on. But now we are moving to the next level and are confident that we’ll be able to sell our vision. Wondering how? Stay tuned to find out.

As always, don’t be a stranjeR, be on ranjeR!

ranjeR is no longer a stranjeR!

With the imminent launch of the new communication manager, ranjeR, on the Playstore, we figured it was time to start sharing information on what ranjeR will do for you. Over the past year, we have been building a truly unique application that not only integrates features that currently exist in the marketplace, but also introduces some new ones that will simplify your life on your mobile platform (and your non-mobile one as well).

Information related to individuals and businesses continues to expand at an exponential rate but our time is still limited to 24 hours a day. How do you keep up? One way is to just put your head in the sand like the proverbial ostrich and just ignore everyone and everything. But realistically, who can really afford to do that nowadays unless they want to live on a remote island and go back to our hunter-gatherer roots?

About two years ago, we recognized this increased burden that we voluntarily place on ourselves and that keeping up was getting more difficult and time consuming. From social media to spam, we are left to constantly manage all our access points, diminishing our free time in the process. Given this burden is voluntarily accepted by all of us, our initial vision was to give clients the ability to disconnect once in a while when needed. Basically, the ability to say I’m unavailable and I mean it. Which leads us to the first unique feature of ranjeR.

ranjeR builds on the basic contact management premise with the ability to inform your contacts (by the way, the ranjeR user is called Me and Me’s contacts are called Yous, pretty simple) of how you are currently reachable through a pretty simple user interface. Essentially, red means not available and green means available and a user can specify how they are available. – i.e a home number, work email, home email, text, Facebook, etc. or any combination thereof. This means that a user can inform all their contacts that they’re temporarily available on a different phone number while travelling or that their work email no longer exists as they left their job – there are an infinite amount of uses and it’s all done through a simple, yet powerful and effective interface. And with the group functionality, a user can post their status as available for friends and unavailable for their work colleagues.

Simple math proves the benefits of ranjeR – Look at vacation time. 2 weeks a year of uninterrupted down-time to unwind, de-stress and relax. Our inability to inform people we are unavailable – essentially you can contact me but don’t expect a response – has basically cost us 336 hours a year of stress free downtime. And ranjeR will give it back!

Additionally, ranjeR automatically updates the user’s contacts with any updated information the user provides. So if a user changes their email address or their phone number or any contact point (including social media aliases), the user’s contacts will automatically be informed. You no longer need to send out a blast email or text or update to tell people. Just change it on ranjeR and everyone you are connected to will know.

Stay posted to learn more. And remember, don’t be a stranjeR, be on ranjeR!

Better late than never!

You might be wondering what I’m referring to. Well, let’s be blunt. George Orwell was only off by 29 years in the name of his famous novel titled “1984”. And slightly off in his premise.

What do I mean? It’s been quite a few years since I read the book (almost 29 years) so my memory might be a bit off. But from what I recall, Big Brother is watching you is the basic tenet of the novel. And it’s not by choice. The population didn’t voluntarily allow it. It was imposed. And the population didn’t like it. I mean, who would? Having all your actions, information, location, status, etc. being tracked. Seems very intrusive. Especially when imposed on you.

But somehow, if it’s not imposed but voluntarily offered, it becomes acceptable to the population; hence where Orwell was off in his literary prediction. All the information we seek online is tracked (think cookies, etc.). All our social interactions are tracked and saved (think tweets, facebook posts, instagram photos, etc). Our exact whereabouts are tracked (think location services). And now it’s become obvious to everyone with the Prism scandal that it’s all available to Big Brother. Voluntarily. We’ve chosen to give up our privacy. We’ve chosen to give up our freedom. And we’ve chosen to be ignorant about it.

For the younger generations that are just being exposed to this new intrusion, it just seems like status quo. They don’t know any better. But for those of us that are just a bit older, it is truly unbelievable how open and accessible our personal lives have become to the world. Some gladly allow it. Others, not so much. But we are all responsible for it.

We’ve allowed Big Brother into our lives in a way that was not imaginable 25 years ago. And we’re happy to continually share oh so much about ourselves because it makes us feel important. We believe others actually care that we just had a cup of tea or received a new high score on a game. Maybe they do. I personally don’t.

Anyway, I think you get the gist of what I’m saying. Big Brother has figured out a way to be Big Brother. Not with force and not with coercion. Honestly, do you really think any of us would agree if Big Brother said here’s a device that you can carry with you at all times that tracks where you are, what you buy, where you shop, who you see, etc.? Of course not. But if its done voluntarily through social media, so we feel important, it’s ok. And Big Brother has realized that we all just want to feel important. But the price of that importance isn’t cheap. It’s freedom and privacy. Pretty awesome, don’t you think.

Reminds me of another work of art (being liberal with the use of the term). It was a song by the great rock band The Police. And they too, were early. The song was released in 1983 but may as well have been released when the Prism scandal erupted. The name of the song you may wonder? Well, here are the opening lyrics:

“Every breath you take and every move you make
Every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you
Every single day and every word you say
Every game you play, every night you stay, I’ll be watching you”

Pretty spooky!

ranjeR on!

Pepper and Burrito

So here’s a bit of ranjeR pumping to get the word out. Not typical of my recent blogs but figured I’d try and mix it up a bit and throw in a dash of habanero instead of cayenne (peppers for those of you who don’t like your food burning on the way in and on the way out).

Now, we’ve been pushing the availability (only contact manager in the world to have it), cloud based back-up and the reverse notifications (i.e it becomes your launcher for everything you do social). But what we haven’t had fun with yet is what happens when you change your name.

There are numerous reasons that can lead us to change our names. Some are legitimate, accepted purposes while others might be a bit more illicit (although if you’re in the witness protection program, you probably wouldn’t tell anyone what your old name is). And unless you’re a superstar (e.g. the artist formerly known as something else) trying to re-invent yourself, no one will figure out that the new you (meaning new name, not botox you) is the same as the old you (meaning old name, not age). And you end up disappearing in the world. Unless of course, you reach out to everyone in your multiple contact managers (i.e social media, work, school, etc, etc. etc. and still going), you simply cease to exist.

Take an example. Your name is Spicy Habanero. But you decide that Spicy Habanero is a bit too provocative a name so you decide to call yourself Spicy Cayenne. At work, you inform your HR department that you have changed your name to Spicy Cayenne and they update all the internal contact and email directories. Now also assume Big Burrito, who is a colleague of yours at the office but also a very very gooooood friend (WINK, WINK) loses his phone with all his personal contact information, including yours (the old Spicy Habanero). Big Burrito is throwing a wild party and would very much like for you to attend, but having lost his phone and not knowing your new name is unable to invite you and instead invites Black Beans. Tis a shame because burritos and peppers go together like, well, you know (not that burritos and beans don’t go together).

Now if Big Burrito and Spicy Cayenne (fka Habanero) were connected on ranjeR, they would have known about each others issue (name change and lost phone) regardless of the name change and lost phone. You see, just because you lose your phone, change your name, get a new email address or ditch a social media site, doesn’t mean you should also lose your contacts. But that seems to be what happens unless you spend a lot of time notifying people (those dreaded notifications again, leave me alone – especially the one for software updates on my Mac that won’t go away).

And that’s our value. We eliminate work for you. We keep you connected. No matter what. Pretty clean. Pretty Simple. And awesomely hot!

ranjeR on!

Moving on is hard!

When do you know it’s time to move forward in a new direction and on a new adventure? Can you ever be sure you’re making the right decision and the new path you’re embarking on is the right one?

Having recently made the decision to undergo a career and life change, the challenge has proven as difficult as expected. No more Groundhog Day routine for me. No more sitting in a glass box high above the world listening to the buzz of trading markets all around. 20 years was enough. Now, instead of getting up at five a.m. to get ready to fulfill my Groundhog Day tasks, I get up at five and decide what to do with my time. What to do to generate income. How to live my life on my terms. And most importantly, what to do to promote my happiness.

Being in my early forties, it was a very tough decision. I could have taken the easy route and just resigned myself to the fact my current career and day to day routine was all I had to look forward to for the next twenty years. But I didn’t. I chose to set my own rules. I chose to not put up with a bureaucracy. I chose to not take part in the “Friend Of” mentality, which I’m sure you all understand. Ultimately, I chose to be successful based on my own abilities. That’s the only type of success that matters.

A lot of people told me I was crazy for making the decision I did. Why forgo a steady income to take a chance on something unknown? Why not follow the simple path, and continue along in the corporate world? Why give it all up and have to struggle to create a new career? Is your current situation really that bad? All are valid questions I was asked. And all miss the key point of the fact that it’s my life and there are no repeat performances.

I decided a while ago that in evaluating any decisions, one of the first things that must be done is to decide which option is easier and which is harder. Avoid the easy choices because there’s a reason they’re easy. Easy is limiting. Easy is boring. Easy is confining. And easy is wrong. We’re not caged animals so why act like one. Why limit yourself when the your potential is only limitless? That’s why I chose this new direction. Because it’s going to be labor intensive, exhausting and stressful. Essentially, it’s going to be awesome.

We’re all willing to take gambles on many things in life. Why not take a gamble on yourself? You won’t regret it because it’s on your terms!

ranjeR on!

National Day of Unplugging

If you haven’t heard yet, National Day of Unplugging is quickly approaching. The date is set for March 1st to 2nd, 2013 and is meant, per their website (http://www.nationaldayofunplugging.com), to allow us to have a day of rest from all the electronic hyperactivity that has become so common in our daily lives. Articles are published on an almost daily basis about this beast of burden that has recently entered our lives and continues to overwhelm us, forever leaving us wishing for some downtime once in a while.

As I’ve written many times over the past year, and as I’m sure you’re aware, our lives weren’t like this 15 years ago. Beside the odd cell phone some of us carried and the new email and web phenomena that was coming into existence, we were basically free from the electronic world of socializing and actually had to call people or make plans and meet face to face to get our daily dose of socialization. And it was our CHOICE to socialize or not. Where have those days gone…

Look at our lives now. We go on vacation and our boss contacts us via email. We try to have an early night and find ourselves checking our social media, texts, emails, etc. resulting in a not so early night. We wake up and the first thing we do is check our electronic messages. Why? Because we’re afraid we’re missing something that might be important. More simply put, because we have no way of telling people, up until now, that we’re simply unavailable.

But what if, just what if you could tell some you were unreachable regardless of the medium while letting others know which medium to reach you on? What if you could disconnect for an hour or a day or a week and know that you’d still see the important stuff from the people that mattered while being able to ignore all the rest of the incoming data feeds. I think we would all welcome that. I would hazard to guess that some of you would love to participate in the National Day of Unplugging but are concerned about missing something because you’re unable to let your friends, family and colleagues know that you’re unplugged. Well guess what, ranjeR is exactly what you’re looking for.

You see, ranjeR provides you with a mechanism to be unavailable altogether, to be available to whom you choose and through which method you’re available. Say no to your boss and your mother-in-law but say yes to your spouse and your kids. Your time is yours to spend how you choose and no one else’s. Read a book. Have a nap. Go gardening. And never worry you’re going to miss something important. Take back your freedom and eliminate the slavery to the electronic world. Be good and ranjeR on.

The flying car

I remember watching The Flintstones and The Jetsons as a child and being fascinated at the differences between the two periods depicted. I was also keen to see the world of the future unfold, especially the flying cars. We even had a flying car shown to us in the shape of a Delorean in Back To The Future, when Doc travelled to the year 2015.

With all the technology we’ve come up with though, still no flying car. Why is that? We’ve been flying for close to a century now and have made loads of progress in terms of the automobile so why haven’t we been able to abandon our roads and take to the air to eliminate traffic? In one simple statement, government regulations and social media.

When cars were first invented, there were not dozens of government bureaucracies dictating bumper height, fuel economy, five mph crash tests, etc., etc. So inventors were free to pursue their desires and create road travel. Now imagine trying to start a car company today. Unless you have a bank account in the nine to ten figure range or have some deep pockets backing you, there is no way you could do it. Try tinkering around in your garage and coming up with a new vehicle and then try to get it licensed for road use. Hardly a chance you can get it done, and even if you succeeded in getting approval for personal use, you’d then need to build almost a hundred and subject them to all types of government testing before receiving approval to sell it.

So we as a society are left gridlocked on our roads during most hours of the day instead of being able to use our skies. But we’re resilient beings and our desire to avoid traffic in some ways prompted the invention of social media. We no longer have to visit our friends and family to stay in touch with their lives. We simply communicate with them over the myriad of social media networks and never have to leave our homes. We feel connected with them, take part in their special moments and feel connected and included. But rarely see them in person.

So it seems we’ve solved our traffic problems without the flying car. Traffic will decrease as the upcoming generations reach adulthood and choose wireless, instant and digitized communication instead of live, face-to-face interaction. We all become zeroes and ones and we won’t need the flying car. Sad, eh? Especially if your kids are asking you to help them create a flying car. Be good and ranjeR on.

Making it better

The weather can be an important source of lessons. Working with my kids, we spent about five hours building an impromptu snow fort right after the winter break using store purchased brick molds intended to help us build an igloo. The igloo didn’t turn out so well but we did build an awesome snow fort that had one entrance and was about four feet tall. The kids loved it and asked repeatedly if it would last through the winter. I told them we’d have to wait and see. Well, you can guess what happened. The entire next week, the weather was above freezing and I diligently took a picture each night showing the slowly disintegrating fort.

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The kids weren’t thrilled and all I could do to pacify them was to say that we’ll make it better next time. Spending the next month without snow, the kids and I waited patiently for a snowfall that would allow us to try again. Well, that day finally happened on Thursday and we received about 33cm (13 inches) of fresh snow. After spending Saturday playing in the backyard, the kids asked if we could build a fort today.

Well, how could I say no? What started out as a small pile of snow that one of the kids was driving a little car on ended up being a mountain with two tunnels that crossed in the middle. At three of the tunnel ends, we built large rooms, two being bedrooms and one being a playroom. On the playroom, we built a slide out of snow and a doorway so that they’re not forced to crawl through a tunnel to enter. Needless to say, it’s a thousand fold improvement. And we didn’t even use the bricks, we only used shovels…. It was a fantastic way to waste five hours.

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And a great way to teach. The kids learned lots. How to build. How to improvise. And most importantly, that just because things don’t always go as planned, you need to be optimistic and believe the best is yet to come. Continually improving who we are and what we do is part of life. And karma always plays a big part. Be good and ranjeR on!