Trapped in a Bottle Factory. Send Help.
Seems risky, variation under domestication, and a head of stupid ideas
Maybe not the best email subject but an excellent line for the bottom of a bottle. Full credit to the team at Innocent for a wonderful piece of PR. It’s remarkable how much a personality stands out in a world of Blands. We could all learn a thing or two.
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One decision, in Unplugged’s short life time, has done more for our marketing efforts than all the others combined: The decision to lock peoples phones in a box. It helped us standout.
I’d love to tell you it was obvious from the start- a flash of genius. Not the case. We very nearly didn’t go for it. It felt too risky. We can’t actually lock peoples phones away can we? No one else seems to be doing it… If it wasn’t for a timely chat with Matt Stafford I doubt we would have had the courage.
In hindsight, all my best decisions have been taking the risky option. (I won’t start on the worst decisions. That's for another day.) A silent retreat might not sound risky but it was in my mind. What will people think? I thought to myself. I can’t actually spend 10 days at a buddhist temple can I? Yet looking back it was life changing.
The lesson is to take the risky, uncomfortable option. Yet that’s easier said than done. Why so? Mr Charles Darwin has the answer.
Variation Under Domestication
Chapter one of Darwin’s Origin of Species: variation under domestication. (lucky for me- I’ve only read one chapter.) The basic idea:
Domestication spawns far more variation in species than life in the wild. The variations that bloom in domestication would not survive in the wild.
In the wild evolution has narrowed in on an optimal formula for each species and there’s little room to stray.
Startup land is the wild. It starts off as fun and games but soon it’s a fight for survival. Survival of the fittest. The risky choice suddenly seems life threatening.
We made the decision to lock the phones away nearly a year ago. I’m not sure we’ve done anything particularly risky since. Life got in the way. From hiring, to marketing, to office perks, we all start out determined to do things differently. But then reality hits. Investor meetings. Hours trawling through spreadsheets. It’s not long before changing the colour of the website is as risky as it gets.
Head of Stupid Ideas
So we have a conflict. On one hand, risky choices lead to the big wins. On the other, the fight for survival stifles the appetites to make them.
Part of writing this post is a reflection on my own waning creativity. I’ve spent the last week on back to back calls with investors, and I don’t have many wacky ideas to show for it! Perhaps we need a Head of Stupid Ideas: a person whose sole responsibility is the cultivation and execution of stupid ideas. That way we have a person worth of mental capacity working on the long shots. Imagine the possibilities.
Will we actually hire a Head of Stupid Ideas? Unlikely. Even as I write this I can feel the excuses coming- What will xyz think? It’s the silent retreat all over again. This is itself a stupid idea. It could turn out to be, well… stupid, OR it could just be the next step towards finding our authentic voice. If only we had a Head of Stupid Ideas to make it happen.
My unfulfilled stupid ideas include everything from filming a Dachshund doing a digital detox, to opening a cabin in Mozambique- where my twin sister resides. These initially kept me up at night with excitement, yet in the cold light of day they seem childish and irresponsible. What a shame.
From this day forward I will carve out more time for stupid ideas. I hope the reader will do the same. We only get one go at life. Why not have some fun?
My Week in Books📚
A Book About Innocent by Dan Germain
The best of the British brands along with Brewdog. Both are overflowing with personality. Innocent’s gems include knitting wooly hats for their bottles and covering their vans in grass. Simple but brilliant. What stupid ideas.
Rest by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang
Rest, the chosen book, is wonderful case for working less. It covers everything from the power of naps to taking a sabbatical. A reminder to drink my own medicine. I spend a remarkable amount of time online for someone running a digital detox startup.
I’ll be updating the books I’ve read this year here. Any recommendations? Let me know!
A Final Thought 💡
“Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive.”
– Elbert Hubbard