A virtuoso violinist, Paganini, was known to push the limits of both technical and artistic abilities of violin performance, but he made some miraculous feats as well. One legend has it that once during a performance one string of Paganini’s violin broke (if you don’t know, violins have 4 strings). A moment later then another two snapped. Instead of stopping Paganini continued to perform brilliantly with just one string. When he stopped, the audience erupted in applause.
Paganini went on to compose a number of pieces for just one string.
And it’s undeniable: he created more beautiful music on just one string than most musicians on all four.
There are a number of experiences that can be drawn from Paganini story. Some may say it’s an example of an artistic pinnacle. And it’s true. But to me it’s an example of a high form of art created in a strict form of constraints. (1 string instead of 4), which to me is the real superpower.
What does this story to do with Amazon?
On Amazon we operate in a strict environment of constraints (Amazon TOS, Amazon ownership of customer data, Amazon changing policies, list can go on). I like to say that we we are let in to play in Amazon’s sandbox. It’s a huge and powerful (soon to be a spaceship), yet it’s still a sandbox, with defined lines of significant definitions and rules. Breaking those rules, in a best case scenario, results in stern slap the hand. Worst case – kicked out of the sandbox for life.
I have to think about these constraints daily. I have to think how do I achieve results for clients while operating in those constraints.
But an amateur musician and a linguist in me pops her Liberal Arts head up amidst spreadsheets and numbers and ROIs conversations.
In my own humble way, I want to achieve what Paganini did creating freedom of mastery (aka his beautiful music) in a context of constraints.
Shane Snow in his book ‘Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons accelerate Success’:”Here’s a fact: Creativity comes easier within constraints“.
That’s interesting. I can see correlation with my daily professional life.
If 18th century violin virtuoso is not your jam, Dr. Seuss might be:
Dr. Seuss wrote his famous ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ using only 50 different words. Allegedly after his editor said that he couldn’t write a book using fewer than 225 words of ‘The Cat in the Hat’.
And all of that leads to a really interesting question, an idea I have been obsessing with:
What if we flip the coin and look at Amazon constraints that we deal with daily not as a challenge but as an opportunity to create even better results? What if it’s an invitation to hone our craft (in my case deliver results for clients on Amazon) to the disruptive level of success, rather looking at it as trying to succeed in spite of constraints?
Now, that’s a fun shift of perspective. If I haven’t lost you here yet, this is where I will lose most of you. Here are some thought process buckets I am tackling this obsessive idea along:
Data is a commodity
Data is becoming cheap, and certain skills needed to operate in the world of Amazon are becoming cheap. Yesterday I was talking to somebody who is thinking of replacing their team of PPC analysts with software. And examples like this are abound. Every day there are tools and software options coming out saying they are that ‘secret sauce’ to unlock your Amazon success. Until they are not.
In the world of high level tactics that are prone to succumb to change of rules or limitations of API Amazon access any day, I have to explore my value creation and delivery while operating in the context of constraints and changes. Which takes me way outside of the high level tactics world.
Data is a commodity, but art of data interpretation is gold
When we look at a lot of numbers we often ask ourselves a logical question: What does it mean?
Where do I take that data, what do I do with it?
The art of data interpretation to me is a two-fold question:
1.What data points do I aggregate? What do I need to look at in order to derive gold nuggets for decisions? Opportunities? Risk reduction?
Because, again, I need to deliver results, and decisions based on data are a huge part of it.
2. What is a valuable piece of information, and what is a distraction? Pretty dashboards with charts and numbers can be just that, pretty. Where is a faulty assumption of a cause and effect, and where is a true correlation?
And both questions serve the main goal: How do I get 1+1 = 25?
Because getting 1+1=2 type of results for clients will leave me washed up on the shores of shallow Amazon consulting sooner than later (which I believe will happen to most in my niche, sorry/not sorry). That’s not in my plans.
I am fascinated with interdisciplinary approach to solving problems. Professional journey of linguistics, music, and literature -> investment banking -> Amazon consulting has something to do that. Personal journey of a girl from a small town in Siberia in Soviet Union settling in the US has something to do with that as well.
What happens when you take the disparate things, things that are not connected and connect them?
Albert Einstein defined it as combinatory play. Combinatory play is the “act of opening up one mental channel by dabbling in another”. In other words, it is taking two unrelated things and putting them together to generate new ideas. We all do combinatory play to some extent, simply because we aggregate our experiences, conversations, lessons, observations.
To me being intentionally interdisciplinary is critical for hyper value creation and getting 1+1=25.
The other day I learned about forestry supply chain, which apparently is one of the longest supply chains in the world. What can I take from a long supply chain in manufacturing and implement in our speed of delivery? Because speed of delivery and speed of digesting external changes is critical to creating results in Amazon world.
At Goldman Sachs we were hyper focused on risk assessment and risk reduction (understandably), so when I look at any part of our implementation processes I can not help but think: where are risk points, and what can I put in place to reduce or eliminate risks that are in my control?
Because it matters not to make mistakes that can be avoided.
And all of these fun thoughts, surprisingly, take me to a place of creating freedom of mastery in the world of constraints.
All the sudden daily reminders of not playing in my own sandbox become a starting point for honing my craft, for creating more value, and, ultimately, delivering innovative approaches for my clients.
And that is a fine place for anyone looking to achieve high level of mastery to operate from.