How we learn to learn has a big impact on success

New research on the Lean Startup methodology finds that a business school background (i.e. an MBA) can hinder a founder’s ability to adapt to new evidence in an early-stage lean startup context, if they don’t embrace the hypothesis-testing approach through customer discovery interviews. On the other hand, if they do embrace the approach — getting out of the building and gathering evidence from customers — they move faster than non-MBAs.

As an MBA graduate who runs startup accelerators and teaches a Lean Startup course much like the one in the research, I am very interested in what this means. …


Trying to explain my mental frameworks to others

Johnny Carson once told Steve Martin: “You will use everything you know.” In his book Born Standing Up, Steve Martin details how this came true throughout his career. One example is that he learned rope lasso tricks while working at Disneyland as a teenager, and performed them in ¡Three Amigos! about 25 years later.

That’s how I felt this past month pitching for strategy and innovation consulting work. I’m diving back into my kitbag and brushing off some of the old activities, skills and mental models I’ve learned over the past 20-something years since I started university.


Watching a comedy giant before he was great is like seeing a startup’s first pitch

Two things happened to me today: I discovered Will Ferrell’s audition for SNL (“Saturday Night Live”), and I had first meetings with four early stage startups. If you could predict Will Ferrell’s success from his early work, how might we apply lessons from this audition to early stage businesses and investor pitches?

Premise + Promise

Will’s third bit is the Get Off The Shed guy. He introduces the sketch as “This is Dutch Litchford. And we’re at an outdoor barbecue.” The premise is revealed pretty soon after that.

The premise is that he alternates between having a pleasant, boring conversation and aggressively…


Is inaction better than action if either outcome will cause harm?

A cute little robot figurine.
A cute little robot figurine.
Photo by Everyday basics on Unsplash

Way back in the 1940’s, science fiction writer Isaac Asimov started developing his Three Laws of Robotics through a series of short stories and novels. These Laws are hard-wired in the robots’ brains, and the stories explored situations in which these laws would apply in different ways, and sometimes in conflict with each other.

The First Law, the most important in the hierarchy, is:

A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

The bit about inaction is relevant. Because of the First Law robots are compelled to prevent harm…


And comparison with a pre-COVID cohort

Photo by Andrew Butler on Unsplash

We just launched 12 startups in ten weeks in a Masters elective subject at the University of Sydney Business School in Australia. As this semester was during a COVID isolation stage, how does it compare to pre-COVID performance and experience for the same class?

While I think the learning experience was better this semester, getting easy access to customers is so pivotal to the lean startup process that it hurt the startups’ progress. …


Untangling knots in the IRD number application process

Niche content alert. This post is about my journey through bureaucracy to meet the requirements to buy a house in New Zealand. It contains humour, of sorts, but unless you’re an Australian citizen or resident and you want to get a New Zealand IRD number — or you design processes within a government department or bank — you’re probably better off meditating for a few minutes and going about your day.

Once upon a time we saw a house in New Zealand that we wanted to buy. But we were Australian! What were we to do?

Can Australian citizens buy a house in New Zealand? Yes

The NZ government has…


While selling a house, moving, working two jobs, and the world collapsed

A few months ago I wrote about the Captain Mal-from-Firefly diet, which is a mindset I adopted recently to change my habits. My goal was to lose the 5kg (11lbs) I gained doing an MBA, with a goal weight of 73kg (161lbs) by my birthday earlier this month.

I did it!

I did it! I’m very proud of myself. All up I lost 7kg since New Years Day, which works out to be about 0.5kg per week. I didn’t give up nice meals out, and happily went out for burgers and spent a long weekend in Melbourne eating all the things.

Here’s how…


14 ways comics make money in the old and new worlds

I’ve seen a lot of posts from friends and strangers about how artists are impacted by the lockdown. It’s bad news: the comedy clubs have closed, some will go bankrupt, so when they open again there’s going to be a lot of competition for pay and stage time.

I used to run comedy nights so I thought I’d put that experience together with my MBA and startup knowledge to analyse how standup comics make money.

Part 1: Traditional standup comic business models

The traditional business model of standup comedy often evolves over time as the comic’s value proposition strengthens.

1. Pay-to-play

When they’re just starting out, the standup comic…


An imagined conversation with my Dad

“It’s all bullshit. I refuse to change my behaviour. I had three restaurant meals last week and the places were full.”

Photo by Quentin Dr on Unsplash

OK, interesting. In project management there’s a thing we do called a risk assessment. Can we do a thought experiment here?

Let’s say you were infected with SARS-CoV-2. You’re fine, you’re just carrying the coronavirus.

“I don’t care if I get sick.”

Yep, yep, I know. But for the sake of discussion let’s say you were capable of infecting other people. OK?

1. How severe would the consequences be if you infected someone else?

“But it’s all bullshit. I’ve been around other people and I’m not sick.”

Yeah, we’ll get to…


A long weekend spent mostly revisiting old favourites.

Mörk Chocolate Cafe, North Melbourne

Pronounced “murk”, they specialise in interesting ways to serve chocolate, including the Campfire Hot Chocolate which is served as smoke in a glass, to which you add your hot chocolate, salt, and stir it up with a marshmallow.

When we first went there they put a vanilla pod in their bottle of fizzy water, and it made the water beautifully aromatic and tasty. Unfortunately they don’t do that anymore, but it’s a great trick for home.

Pete Lead

I work with startups, teach entrepreneurship, and freelance in improv and leadership coaching.

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