Ways to distinguish yourself #149 – Practice working with minimal resources

About fifteen years ago, I was attending a speed reading workshop back in Bangalore, India. As an introduction to the course, the instructor asked us to pick up a book and turn it around and read a page. It was hard to read the book upside-down. It took us a few minutes to read one full page. Then the instructor asked us to take the same book, turn to another page and read it properly. This time, we were able to read it fast. VERY fast. In fact, faster than our normal reading speed. Of course, that was not the real trick to speed reading. The instructor wanted to prove to us a point. And he DID.

Here are a few (hypothetical) scenarios:

1. Imagine your are in-charge of a new product launch. You have been given a budget of $1000 and a few interns from business school to help out. How would you make this happen? I am sure you have no choice but to think VERY differently.

2. You bootstrapped your company and spent most of the money on building the product. The VCs tell you that they can invest in your company if you show a few initial customer wins. You don’t have money to go and get those customers. You feel like you are in a rock and hard place. What would you do? Again, you would think VERY differently.

3. You are close to winning a deal with a client if you agree to execute the project at 50% of the bid amount. You badly want the deal and you start thinking about how to make this work. Again, you would think VERY differently to come up with a solution.

You can call this “out of the box” thinking (as it involves looking at things VERY differently) or you can call this “thinking inside the box” (as it involves designing strategies and executing with minimal resources) or something else. The point is that once you practice how to work with minimal resources, you stretch your mind. Remember the famous saying by Oliver Wendell Holmes – “Once the mind has been stretched by a new idea, it will never again return to its original size.”

Working with minimal resources is like taking your mind to the gym. If you succeed here, you are way more prepared to do your job when there are adequate resources. A side-benefit of practicing your craft with minimal resources is that you will learn the discipline to not waste or abuse any resource that you have.

Something to think about:

Which one of your projects are you putting off because of lack of resources? What would you do differently if your life depended on executing that project within those limitations?