Ozan Varol Offers The Contrarian Mindset That Breeds Innovation

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By Alexa Ward
Ozan Varol shares how thinking like a rocket scientist can unlock business innovations that most people would not believe are possible.

Ozan Varol shares how thinking like a rocket scientist can unlock business innovations that most people would not believe are possible. Discover the lessons and ideas that allowed NASA to put a man on the moon and how to apply them to business development, the subtle insight that led to the creation of Netflix, and why questioning your assumptions is the secret to innovation and long term success.

 

Mo asks Ozan Varol: How can we take Ozan’s content and become better skilled at business development?

  • Ozan opened his book with the story of how John F. Kennedy pledged a literal moonshot despite the lack of technology at the time that could make it possible. Ozan wrote the book to show that it wasn’t just the technology that made putting a man on the moon possible, it was the framework of thinking that kicked everything off.
  • The big takeaway from what NASA was able to accomplish is the combination of idealism and pragmatism. Dreaming big and then working backward from that dream and figuring out what needs to happen to get there, then methodically attacking each problem along the roadmap.
  • Sometimes a challenge can galvanize your entire team to make your goal into a reality.
  • Reasoning from first principles is a powerful way of reimagining and reframing what is possible. It’s a method of breaking a problem down and questioning your assumptions, and letting go of everything except for what is essential.
  • One assumption from rocket science that didn’t change until recently was the idea that rockets couldn’t be reused. SpaceX and Blue Origin have used first principles thinking to reimagine what’s possible and it’s because someone was willing to step back and question the accepted wisdom of the time.
  • Hack through your business assumptions. You owe to yourself and your clients to create a better vision that allows you to serve them even more.
  • It’s important to ask yourself whether you own your assumptions or do your assumptions own you? Is it possible to question your assumptions and replace it with something better?

 

Mo asks Ozan Varol: How can we do a better job of getting the kind of work that we want?

  • One of the biggest problems in the business right now, especially in this time of uncertainty, is that we assume that other businesses around us know something that we don’t, so we end up copying their strategies.
  • This ends up in a race to the center, where businesses start to look more and more like each other.
  • First-principles thinking is a way of questioning assumptions that you or other people have taken for granted. One of the best tools for identifying your invisible assumptions about your business is cross-pollination. Look at other industries and see what they do because what is commonplace in one industry can be completely innovative in another.
  • A great example is the origin story of Netflix, where Reid Hastings had the idea of applying the subscription model that gyms use and applied it to video rentals.
  • Most of us can not see our outdated assumptions because we are too close to the problem. There is immense value in stepping outside of your industry for inspiration.
  • The humility that comes from saying you don’t know something is very rare, but that is the mindset that often leads to innovation. Many of the business leaders that have transformed the way we do things have done so with the beginner’s mindset after entering another industry from the one they started in.
  • Bring people into the conversation that know nothing about what you are working on. Beginners have a way of looking at a problem that more experienced people can’t even see. Experts should not work in isolation, they should benefit from the input and the “dumb” questions of amateurs.

 

Mo asks Ozan Varol: How can we deepen relationships for long term success?

  • There is a simple concept within rocket science known as “test as you fly, fly as you test”. It's about making sure your experiments are as close to the real conditions as possible. In business, we almost never experiment and instead go from idea to execution immediately.
  • Look at whatever you are offering from the perspective of the people that you are serving. It’s hard to see the human component of our product or service from a PowerPoint presentation. Keeping the client’s perspective in mind is how you increase the value of your relationship with them.
  • The client won’t know what it will be like to work with you, but if you can give them a sample (the Give to Get), you can set yourself apart from the competition and give your client value upfront. This shows them what your relationship will look like, which is something that no email, sales page, or presentation can do.
  • The best way to reframe a question is to step away from a tactic and see the overall strategy. Often the tactic becomes a trap. If you’ve become used to using the same tactic to reach people you won’t see the other options that are possible. There are other tactics available that fit into your overall strategy but you need to be able to step back and see what is possible.

 

Mo asks Ozan Varol: How can we hack our own habits to be successful over a long period of time?

  • The best way to grow your business is to do nothing. So many of us are in constant hustle mode, constantly going from one thing to the next. There is an incredible value in simply doing nothing but thinking.
  • Schedule time every day that is dedicated to unplugging and thinking. Don’t approach it with an agenda or an outcome, just write down whatever comes to your mind. 95% of your thoughts will be junk, but the remaining 5% can be invaluable.
  • Research shows that when you are daydreaming, a region of the brain called the default node network comes alive and that region is associated with creativity. When you let your mind wander you are allowing your subconscious to connect the dots that you would otherwise have missed.
  • This is why so many great ideas come to people in the shower. If you can take that and build it into your day, you’ll find that it will become the most valuable time on your schedule.
  • Do what works for you. Thinking time can take the form of going for a walk, exercising, or just sitting in your favorite armchair. As long as you are stepping away from distractions you are opening yourself to great ideas.
  • We are walking repositories of epiphanies, the problem is we are generally too distracted to receive them. Creativity comes as a subtle whisper, and if you’re not paying attention, it’s very easy to miss.
  • Avoid using your phone or laptop to take notes. For Ozan, that means a notepad and pencil.
  • Put it on your calendar and treat it like a meeting. Start it as an experiment and start small.
  • Part of the reason that people shy away from this kind of practice is there doesn’t appear to be an immediate return on the time. Approach it as a long term investment that will turn into amazing opportunities in the future. You need to find a balance between the short term demands of business and your long term vision.

 

Mo shares his insights from the habits of Ozan Varol.

  • Always having a couple moonshot ideas that you are working on is incredibly valuable as you are working on the day to day tasks of business development.
  • For something to be a moonshot, it has to be something that would completely change the game, for example, a 10x investment. What can you work on that is totally different from what you are doing right now, that if it worked, would be a 10x game changer for your business.
  • There is a large correlation between highly efficient people and problem solvers and the ability to reframe questions. The ability to reframe the question behind your actions is how you can achieve incredible results. Instead of getting stuck in a rut, stepping back and seeing the bigger strategy may be what you need to do to see better alternatives.
  • By reframing the question we get a much broader context of what we might do next.
  • Being willing to admit that you know nothing opens up your mind to learning. The beginner’s mindset is liberating and puts you in a position to learn more.
  • We have to seek outside our tiny ecosystem of our business and clients to see other ways of doing things that can unlock innovations that can change everything.

 

Mentioned in this Episode:

GrowBIGPlaybook.com

weeklycontrarian.com