An Unfair Advantage All Startups Have Against Big Companies

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An Unfair Advantage All Startups Have Against Big Companies

It’s not innovation or company culture or a desire to win.  Those are important but successful big companies have at least some of those things too.  It’s nimbleness (aka – agility).  Startups have a “turning radius” measured in inches whereas really big companies can barely turn around in a football stadium.  Tucked away in this glaring contrast is a unfair advantage for the startups.  Let’s explore further.

Quickly Get Down a Path

The best startups get down a directionally-correct path as quickly as possible.  What does “directionally-correct” mean?  It means that in the general direction of the ideal destination.  I previously wrote a blog post titled “Why Use a GPS When a Compass Will Do?”  It described the differences in needed precision for various things associated with your business and suggested to use the right tool for the job.  To continue with the compass analogy, let’s Book cover - Lean Startupsay true North is the ideal destination.  In this case, directionally-correct might mean anything in the range of Northwest to Northeast.  That’s a 90 degree range on the compass.  The significance of this is you only need to do enough research and validated learning (in the context of the Lean Startup Methodology – order book here) to start on a course plus or minus 45 degrees of a true Northward direction.  Spending extra research time might gain you additional precision but it might not.  For example, you might get lucky and figure out the ideal destination is actually between North-Northwest and North-Northeast, which is a narrower 45 degree range on the compass.  But most importantly, you’ve delayed your start and would be ignoring your unfair advantage of being nimble and we’ll see how that comes into play next.

Adjust Course as Needed

So you’ve set off on a course generally in the Northward direction.  Now you’re going to use all of your sensory inputs (think continued validated learning) to figure out when, where and how to adjust course.  Your inherent nimbleness will allow you to communicate the needed change to others in your company and together implement the directional change.  In the real world, these changes could relate to the product (form, fit, function), the Unfair Advantagemarket (target segment refinement), the business model (pricing) or some other aspect of your overall original business plan.  What’s important is that you don’t wait around to get everything perfect before moving down a directionally-correct path.  Instead, you use your unfair advantage of nimbleness to adjust course as needed.  But realize this unfair advantage only works against big company competitors.  Your startup and early stage competitors will probably be using their nimbleness too, so you better get good at it.

A Moving Target

If there were such a thing as an ideal destination, it wouldn’t stay in the same place forever.  Markets regularly change for a variety of reasons, resulting in a moving target.  So the double benefit of quickly getting down a directionally-correct path and using your nimbleness advantage is that you will also be able to adjust course when the target moves.  And the truth is that a course adjustment due to precision refinement on the original ideal destination versus due to a moving target have precisely the same effect.  With amazing agility, the astute startup is able to remain on the optimal path.  And the more disruptive your chosen market is, the more often the ideal destination will move.  This can be ideal for a startup.

The Big Company’s Burden

Most people intuitively understand that big companies can’t move or adapt at the speed of a startup.  But the extent to which big companies struggle with levels of precision and concepts like course adjustments are way underestimated by most startups.  It is true that big companies have seemingly unlimited resources of human capital, brand recognition, global reach and war chests full of money.  But those really only come into play when the big company understands where the ideal destination is and can get all of their human resources pointed in that direction.  To do this they spend weeks or months analyzing as much data as possible.  Then they spend weeks or months arguing in internal debate.  Eventually, they set off on a course.  By that time, the astute startup is not only already well down the directionally-correct path but has probably already adjusted course multiple times and headed towards true North.

What about the dreaded moving target?  Whereas the startup uses their sensory inputs to realize the target moved and simply performs another course adjustment, the big company is so politically bought into their original analysis and decision that they continue on the original path.  They may or may not have even detected that the target moved.  But it doesn’t matter because a recommended course adjustment in a big company is often viewed as having set on the wrong course to begin with.  This results in finger pointing and the “blame game”.  And they also know that a course adjustment will require additional weeks/months of analysis, weeks/months of debate and weeks/months getting the employees pointed in the new direction.  So instead, the big company remains on the original course or just makes minor tweaks that won’t have much internal impact but also don’t really change the course by more than a few degrees (using the compass analogy).

I have worked for three Fortune 500 companies throughout my career and have seen this play out numerous times.  So even if I’m exaggerating a little to make a point, it’s not by much.

Bottom Line

Many startups struggle to identify an unfair advantage.  If you’re in a fairly disruptive and changing market with big competitors, I’ve just given you one.  Now see if you can find additional ones that relate to other aspects of your business model.

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How to Structure the Chaotic Start of Innovation

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innovation - 3

innovation – 3 (Photo credit: nyoin)

Innovation and Evaluation

Innovation and Evaluation (Photo credit: cambodia4kidsorg)

An Innovation Competence Process Coming From K...

An Innovation Competence Process Coming From Knowledge Management (Photo credit: Alex Osterwalder)

English: Model showing how the3iportal plans t...

English: Model showing how the3iportal plans to create value for its users. the3iportal plans to bring the complex process of ideation and innovation within reach of every comman man. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Strategic Innovation Process

Strategic Innovation Process (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How to Structure the Chaotic Start of Innovation

The fuzzy front end of innovation is for many a struggle to master. A study of Booz & Company shows only a quarter of all companies are effective at the start of innovation. And Stage-Gate Guru Robert Cooper shows that of every seven new product/service projects, about four enter development, 1.5 are launched, and only one succeeds.

Quotes of managers in my Linkedin network confirm their struggle:

1. “A lot of people are still unaware of the need for innovation.”

2. “We cannot change our habits within the company.”

3. “We are not creative.”

4. “The board always stops new initiatives before they enter the market.”

5. “We fear failure because our past innovations were not successful.”

6. “Our short-term mindset rules.”

7. “There is no support for innovation among my colleagues.”

8. “We struggle to get inside the head of our customers.”

9. “Our innovation process is unorganized. It’s chaos.”

10. “Ideas are stopped because of budget cuts.”

In my Linkedin post “Five Essential Innovation Questions” I discussed five dilemmas in the ideation phase. I advised you to:

  • start ideation when there is a real business need;
  • use a team approach;
  • start with a concrete innovation assignment;
  • define clear criteria what is expected of new concepts;
  • use both creativity and structure in your approach.

But HOW do you do this in practice? I’d like to help you with a structured innovation methodology, which combines both creativity and business reality. The innovation methodology is called FORTH – an acronym found in the first letter of each of the 5 steps: Full Steam Ahead, Observe & Learn, Raise Ideas, Test Ideas and Homecoming. FORTH was developed in practice and is used successfully in Europe by more than 30 organizations in both B2B and B2C markets and in non-profit sectors. The method is part of my new book:The Innovation Expedition. The deliverables of this innovation expedition are innovative concepts, which fit the ‘in the box’ reality of your organization, otherwise nothing will happen. That’s why you will bring back new business in the form of mini new business cases.


Stage 1: Full steam ahead

A good preparation increases the chance of success. First you determine the purpose and direction for the ideation phase in an innovation assignment. And you determine the criteria the innovative concepts must comply to. The second important decision is to determine how your ideal ideation team looks like. The bigger the team, the greater the diversity and the greater the chance of wild, crazy, pattern breakthrough ideas. A special mission asks for special people. That’s why top managers are also part of the innovation team. When they are part of it; they will support the end results. At the FORTH kick-off workshop an enthusiastic multidisciplinary team is ready to go.

Stage 2: Observe and learn

There are no old roads to new solutions. That’s why it is essential to get fresh insights. That is the essence of stage two. Who is the potential customer and what motivates and frustrates him or her? That’s key. In this phase you get to know the customer and his or her behaviour. All team members will visit customers themselves. Besides customers, others serve as a source of inspiration for the innovation opportunities, identified in the kick-off. Ask yourself the question “If we want to innovate in this direction, from whom can we learn?” This way you look for the best practices and valuable experiences of other persons or organizations involved with these opportunities.

Team members share their insights and lessons learned in several ‘Observe and learn’ workshops in this phase. The exploration take place in six weeks. At the end, the ideation team gained relevant new customer insights and has explored interesting innovation opportunities.

Stage 3: Raise Ideas

This step is the creative pièce de résistance of FORTH. It consists of an intensive two-day ideation workshop of innovative concepts. The ideation is inspired by the discovery stage and team members normally cannot wait to share their ideas. This leads often to 750 ideas or even more. They are converged into 40 idea directions and twelve concrete concept statements. In a second session the concepts are taken a step further and are improved. External experts are invited to strengthen the team. Use cartoonists to visualize ideas and to take care of the first designs.

Stage 4: Test Ideas

How attractive are the new product or service concepts really? That’s a legitimate question. Therefore you reflect on the concepts immediately. The strength of the new concepts is checked among potential customers. This research, on a small scale, can be done quickly and simultaneously in several countries or continents, with ‘live’ customers or online. First reactions from potential customers often offer excellent handles for improvement. Another workshop takes place in which the team brainstorms how weak spots can be fixed. Having concepts tested in this early phase creates the advantage that you can use the ‘Voice of the Customer’ to gain internal acceptance for the concepts later on in the stage-gate process. At the end of this phase it is decided which concepts are worked out as mini new business case in the last phase.

Stage 5: Homecoming

In the final stage of FORTH you bring home the deliverables of the innovation expedition. It is not a bunch of yellow post-its or mood boards. Instead the innovative concepts are worked out as mini new business cases. These are business plans per concept elaborating on essential business elements as: the attractiveness of the new concepts to the target group, the sales and profit potential, how the concept fits in the business strategy and whether realising it is considered feasible. Presenting end results in this form creates a lot of appreciation in the boardroom. A business case is something top management will recognise and understand. The activities in this last stage cover around four weeks. At the end of this fifth – and final – stage the ideation team has completed its tasks. In practice it takes you around fifteen weeks after the kick-off to return with 3-5 mini new business cases.

User feedback on this structured ideation approach shows that the strength of a structured ideation approach like the FORTH innovation method is in 7 aspects:

1. Concrete new concepts in 15 weeks after the kick-off.
2. The innovation assignment gives you focus.
3. You discover customer insights yourselves.
4. Concepts are checked at the target group.
5. Teamwork creates internal support.
6. Faster implementation period.
7. It starts a culture of innovation.

With a structured ideation approach you can jumpstart innovation. You can download twenty checklists and innovation maps on the methodology for free. I wish you a lot of success on your own innovation expeditions.

How to Implement a New Strategy Without Disrupting Your Organization

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How to Implement a New Strategy Without Disrupting Your Organization

Throughout most of modern business history, corporations have attempted to unlock value by matching their structures to their strategies. As mass production took hold in the nineteenth century, for instance, companies generated enormous economies of scale by centralizing key functions like operations, sales, and finance. A few decades later, as firms diversified offerings and moved into new regions, a rival model emerged. Corporations such as General Motors and DuPont created business units structured around products and geographic markets. The smaller business units sacrificed some economies of scale but were more flexible and adaptable to local conditions.

These two business models—centralized by function versus relatively decentralized by product and region—proved durable for a long time, largely because the evolution of business organization was fairly incremental. Indeed, the product division structure remained the dominant model for 50 years or more. But as competition intensified in the last quarter of the twentieth century, problems with both models became apparent, and companies searched for new ways to organize themselves to unlock corporate value.

Many multinationals adopted a matrix arrangement in the belief that they could retain both the economies of scale of centralized functions and the flexibility of their product-line and geographic business units. But matrix organizations were difficult to coordinate. Managers operating at a matrix intersection had to juggle the dictates of two masters, which led to conflict and delay. The business process reengineering movement of the 1990s introduced another model, in which the corporation organized around its various processes instead of its traditional functional, product, and geographic boundaries. But multiple process-focused units still had problems coordinating and aligning their activities; a silo is a silo whether it is a business process, a function, or a product group. More recently, we’ve been hearing about “virtual” and “networked” organizations operating across traditional boundaries and the “Velcro organization,” a company capable of being pulled apart and reassembled in new ways to respond to changing opportunities.

The continual search for new organizational forms is driven by basic changes in the nature of competition and the economy. First, advantage today is derived less from the management of physical and financial assets and more from how well companies align such intangible assets as knowledge workers, R&D, and IT to the demands of their customers. Second, the opportunities and challenges that globalization affords are forcing companies to revisit many assumptions about the control and management of both their physical and their intangible assets. Today’s computer company, for example, can manufacture components in China, assemble them in Mexico, ship them to Europe, and service the purchasers from call centers in India. This dispersal creates demands for new structures to align internal and outsourced units around the world.

As companies have struggled with these issues, many have gotten caught up in expensive and frustrating cycles of organizational change. ABB is a classic case: The company went through one reorganization after another following its first experiment with the matrix form in the late 1980s. As Pankaj Ghemawat of Harvard Business School describes in his November 2003 HBR article, “The Forgotten Strategy,” this restructuring churn is expensive and often creates new organizational problems as bad as the ones they solve. It takes time for employees to adapt to new structures, and a great deal of tacit knowledge—precisely the kind that’s become most valuable—gets lost in the process, as disaffected employees leave. On top of that, companies get saddled with the vestiges of previous organizational decisions, such as obsolete local and regional headquarters and legacy IT infrastructures. Given the costs and difficulties involved in finding structural ways to unlock value, it’s fair to raise the question: Is structural change the right tool for the job?

We believe the answer is usually no. The lesson we’ve drawn from our work with hundreds of organizations on strategy maps and balanced scorecards is that companies do not need to find the perfect structure for their strategy. As we will demonstrate in the following pages, a far more effective approach is to choose an organizational structure that works without major conflicts and then design a customized strategic system to align that structure with the strategy.

We will see how two very different organizations—DuPont Engineering Polymers and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police—took their existing structures as given in the belief that tinkering and realigning authority, responsibility, and decision rights would not produce the magic needed to achieve corporate-level synergies. Instead, executives in these two organizations used the tools of the balanced scorecard strategy management system to guide the decentralized units in their search for local gain even as they identified ways for them to contribute to corporatewide objectives.

What Kind of System Do You Need?

A management system can be defined as the set of processes and practices used to align and control an organization. Management systems include the procedures for planning strategy and operations, for setting capital and operating budgets, for measuring and rewarding performance, and for reporting progress and conducting meetings. It is fair to say that, historically, most companies have relied entirely on financial systems—usually centered on the budget—for these various processes and practices. But relying on the budget as the primary management system caused short-term financial considerations to overwhelm longer-term strategic goals. In the 1980s and 1990s, many companies introduced total quality management as a new management system. But while TQM enabled firms to focus more effectively on process improvements, the ability to implement strategy across organizational units remained elusive. Companies’ management systems were still tactical and operational, not strategic.

by Robert S. Kaplan and David P. Norton

Start Ups: The Complete Guide to Setting Goals

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English: Matriz de prioridades de tarefas adap...

English: Matriz de prioridades de tarefas adaptada da metodologia de Stephen Covey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Español: Peter F. Drucker, padre de la adminis...

Español: Peter F. Drucker, padre de la administración moderna. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Bank of England in Threadneedle Street, Lo...

The Bank of England in Threadneedle Street, London. Deutsch: Sitz der Bank von England in der Londoner Threadneedle Street. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Book Cover

Book Cover (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Step 1: Put it in writing. Reuters/Dylan Martinez

Welcome to the season of setting goals—a two-month period when businesses, families, and individuals explore aspirations for the year ahead.

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Stephen Covey’s perennial classic, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People offers the following wisdom on goals: Be proactive and begin with the end in mind. You’re more likely to attain your goals if you frame them in the right way and feel a strong commitment (pdf) to your objective.

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Here’s our guide to choosing the right goals—and accomplishing them:

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1.  Think big picture

Start by reading your company’s corporate strategy, suggests Annie Stevens, an executive coach and co-owner of leadership development firm ClearRock. She notes that there is “an important marriage between strategy and goal setting.” Instead of being wedded to the strategy, use it as a way to generate ideas and creative ambitions.

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Executive coach Joel Garfinkle starts by asking himself some questions: “What is most important for this year?” “Where do I want to put my energy and attention?”  He decides where to focus based on the financials of his business as well as his client’s satisfaction. He also considers, “What do I need to not be doing?”

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Garfinkle’s high-level review points out areas of focus that leads to specific goals. Some of his clients need to spend less time on email while others should get rid of unproductive people from their team.

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2.  Make goals SMART or HARD  

Most managers want goals that have a measurable impact and are tied to corporate strategy. Here are two ways to achieve that:

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SMART stands for “specific,” “measurable,” “achievable,” “relevant,” and “time-bound.” This acronym is borne out of the “management by objectives” philosophy popularized by management consultant Peter Drucker in the 1950s. In Attitude is Everything, Paul J. Meyer writes that the most effective goals (pdf) answer the six “W” questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? and Which?, referring to requirements or constraints.

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HARD is an acronym devised by Mark Murphy for his 2010 book HARD Goals, means “heartfelt,” “animated,” “required,” and “difficult.” Animated refers to being “motivated by a vision, picture or movie that plays over and over in  your mind.” Researchers have found that setting a specific, difficult goal consistently leads to higher performance than a general “Do your best.”

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Both acronyms also carry the idea that your goals are clearly defined and connected to you.

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3.   Cultivate everyone’s goals

Most companies have several rungs of goal-setting: corporate goals, executive goals, senior management or department goals—and then there’s everyone else’s goals for the year.

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Sometimes employees’ goals are an afterthought, made to simply align with corporate mandates. This is a mistake since helping workers achieve success turns them into powerful allies. What’s more, happy workers are more productive and engaged.

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“We need to treat our employees and their goals like we’d treat the CEO’s goals,” said Murphy, who is founder and CEO of Leadership IQ, a management training company. “If we could have them (executives) treat their employees’ goals with the same respect they treat their own, we’d be blowing the doors off with what we could attain.”

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This requires conversations and thoughtful consideration—more than simply checking a box.

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Managers should demonstrate interest in their employees’ careers, and coach them so they increase their influence and achieve what they want, not just what the company wants, said David Miles, president of OI Partners – The Miles LeHane Companies. This will help retain talent, as well as motivate employees to achieve more.

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4.  Don’t underestimate yourself

Most business goals have numbers attached: a 25% increase in customers, hiring 30% more women, reducing shipping time to 12 hours or increasing individual productivity by 50%. Carefully consider these numbers—aim too low and you come off looking like you can’t meet expectations, said Stevens. A better approach: “Surprise on the upside. Gain a reputation as someone who consistently delivers more than is expected” and who stretches and aims high.

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People often shy away from higher numbers. Stevens sees it in her own business: Almost every year, leadership coaches set goals for how much revenue they will bring in and every year she asks them to push for more. So they go from a goal of $600,000 to say $800,000, and they always make it, Stevens said.

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“A lot of people underestimate how much they can get done in a long period of time,” said career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine. Just make sure you create sub-goals or check-ins every month or once a quarter so that you’re able to make adjustments along the way.

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5.  Identify barriers to achievement

Some 60% of people (pdf) cannot pinpoint what’s holding them back from achieving their goals. Sometimes even a heartfelt goal will be difficult to achieve because your assumptions or behavior that stalls your progress. Two Harvard Graduate School of Education professors found that when we fail to achieve a goal, it’s often a self-defense mechanism.

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It’s important to identify who or what is likely to hold you back. Fear, disappointment, and distrust can prevent us from taking risks or making changes.And, fantasy, procrastination, and stress causes us to abandon a goal before ever getting started.

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6.  Reaffirm and reinforce goals

Publicly sharing a goal can increase your commitment to achieving it and make you more accountable. ”You have to write them down, on a website, tool, or app or a piece of paper,” said Garfinkle. Make your goals visible—post them on a bulletin board or share them with friends or a coworker to build a support system.

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This is especially important given that most people lose momentum within a month or two. ”Goal setting isn’t a one-shot deal,” said Murphy, the author ofHARD Goals. “It needs to be a continual process, testing our goals every couple of weeks.” Sometimes workers need help refocusing or re-energizing themselves. Or occasionally the landscape changes and goals need to be redrawn or replaced, Murphy said.

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Celebrate your successes and your team’s achievements in the form of praise and public recognition. Gifts and monetary rewards are good motivators too. “Acknowledge superior results” with financial incentives or intangible ones, writes author and sales coach Brian Tracy. He favors one-time bonuses for achieving specific projects. Other research shows that group rewards can be more effective than individual recognition.

How to Structure the Chaotic Start of Innovation

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How to Structure the Chaotic Start of Innovation

December 16, 2013

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The fuzzy front end of innovation is for many a struggle to master. A study of Booz & Company shows only a quarter of all companies are effective at the start of innovation. And Stage-Gate Guru Robert Cooper shows that of every seven new product/service projects, about four enter development, 1.5 are launched, and only one succeeds.

Quotes of managers in my Linkedin network confirm their struggle:

1. “A lot of people are still unaware of the need for innovation.”

2. “We cannot change our habits within the company.”

3. “We are not creative.”

4. “The board always stops new initiatives before they enter the market.”

5. “We fear failure because our past innovations were not successful.”

6. “Our short-term mindset rules.”

7. “There is no support for innovation among my colleagues.”

8. “We struggle to get inside the head of our customers.”

9. “Our innovation process is unorganized. It’s chaos.”

10. “Ideas are stopped because of budget cuts.”

In my Linkedin post “Five Essential Innovation Questions” I discussed five dilemmas in the ideation phase. I advised you to:

  • start ideation when there is a real business need;
  • use a team approach;
  • start with a concrete innovation assignment;
  • define clear criteria what is expected of new concepts;
  • use both creativity and structure in your approach.

But HOW do you do this in practice? I’d like to help you with a structured innovation methodology, which combines both creativity and business reality. The innovation methodology is called FORTH – an acronym found in the first letter of each of the 5 steps: Full Steam Ahead, Observe & Learn, Raise Ideas, Test Ideas and Homecoming. FORTH was developed in practice and is used successfully in Europe by more than 30 organizations in both B2B and B2C markets and in non-profit sectors. The method is part of my new book:The Innovation Expedition. The deliverables of this innovation expedition are innovative concepts, which fit the ‘in the box’ reality of your organization, otherwise nothing will happen. That’s why you will bring back new business in the form of mini new business cases.


Stage 1: Full steam ahead

A good preparation increases the chance of success. First you determine the purpose and direction for the ideation phase in an innovation assignment. And you determine the criteria the innovative concepts must comply to. The second important decision is to determine how your ideal ideation team looks like. The bigger the team, the greater the diversity and the greater the chance of wild, crazy, pattern breakthrough ideas. A special mission asks for special people. That’s why top managers are also part of the innovation team. When they are part of it; they will support the end results. At the FORTH kick-off workshop an enthusiastic multidisciplinary team is ready to go.

Stage 2: Observe and learn

There are no old roads to new solutions. That’s why it is essential to get fresh insights. That is the essence of stage two. Who is the potential customer and what motivates and frustrates him or her? That’s key. In this phase you get to know the customer and his or her behaviour. All team members will visit customers themselves. Besides customers, others serve as a source of inspiration for the innovation opportunities, identified in the kick-off. Ask yourself the question “If we want to innovate in this direction, from whom can we learn?” This way you look for the best practices and valuable experiences of other persons or organizations involved with these opportunities.

Team members share their insights and lessons learned in several ‘Observe and learn’ workshops in this phase. The exploration take place in six weeks. At the end, the ideation team gained relevant new customer insights and has explored interesting innovation opportunities.
Stage 3: Raise Ideas

This step is the creative pièce de résistance of FORTH. It consists of an intensive two-day ideation workshop of innovative concepts. The ideation is inspired by the discovery stage and team members normally cannot wait to share their ideas. This leads often to 750 ideas or even more. They are converged into 40 idea directions and twelve concrete concept statements. In a second session the concepts are taken a step further and are improved. External experts are invited to strengthen the team. Use cartoonists to visualize ideas and to take care of the first designs.

Stage 4: Test Ideas

How attractive are the new product or service concepts really? That’s a legitimate question. Therefore you reflect on the concepts immediately. The strength of the new concepts is checked among potential customers. This research, on a small scale, can be done quickly and simultaneously in several countries or continents, with ‘live’ customers or online. First reactions from potential customers often offer excellent handles for improvement. Another workshop takes place in which the team brainstorms how weak spots can be fixed. Having concepts tested in this early phase creates the advantage that you can use the ‘Voice of the Customer’ to gain internal acceptance for the concepts later on in the stage-gate process. At the end of this phase it is decided which concepts are worked out as mini new business case in the last phase.

Stage 5: Homecoming

In the final stage of FORTH you bring home the deliverables of the innovation expedition. It is not a bunch of yellow post-its or mood boards. Instead the innovative concepts are worked out as mini new business cases. These are business plans per concept elaborating on essential business elements as: the attractiveness of the new concepts to the target group, the sales and profit potential, how the concept fits in the business strategy and whether realising it is considered feasible. Presenting end results in this form creates a lot of appreciation in the boardroom. A business case is something top management will recognise and understand. The activities in this last stage cover around four weeks. At the end of this fifth – and final – stage the ideation team has completed its tasks. In practice it takes you around fifteen weeks after the kick-off to return with 3-5 mini new business cases.

User feedback on this structured ideation approach shows that the strength of a structured ideation approach like the FORTH innovation method is in 7 aspects:

1. Concrete new concepts in 15 weeks after the kick-off.
2. The innovation assignment gives you focus.
3. You discover customer insights yourselves.
4. Concepts are checked at the target group.
5. Teamwork creates internal support.
6. Faster implementation period.
7. It starts a culture of innovation.

With a structured ideation approach you can jumpstart innovation. You can download twenty checklists and innovation maps on the methodology for free. I wish you a lot of success on your own innovation expeditions.

 

Your Elevator Pitch Only Needs to Accomplish One Thing ( Reblogged)

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Movement caused by the use of elevators.
Movement caused by the use of elevators. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: MBA students pitch their ideas during...
English: MBA students pitch their ideas during the Elevator Competition. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Elevator Pitch Exercise
Elevator Pitch Exercise (Photo credit: espaitec)
Image representing eBay as depicted in CrunchBase
Image via CrunchBase

Your Elevator Pitch Only Needs to Accomplish One Thing

There’s a reason it’s referred to as an “elevator pitch” – it must be expressed in a couple of sentences and no more than 10 seconds.  And that might even be a little generous.  Psychologist Michael Formica reported that the average non-task-oriented attention span of a human being is about 8 seconds.  What you must realize is the only thing your elevator pitch needs to accomplish is to cause enough interest on the part of the recipient to ask you any question that lets you expand a little further.  But also be careful about abusing the permission you’ve been given to continue.  Now you have 2-5 minutes to generate enough interest for a full-blown conversation, either then or separately scheduled.

I mention this because I see a lot of startups way over thinking the elevator pitch.  Start with two sentences that answer the following questions:

  1. What do you do?
    My Capital Factory colleague, Mikey Trafton, teaches startups to simplify their answer to this question using the following format:  “We help (customers) (solve problem) so they can (benefit).”  Easy, right?  Just fill in the placeholders with your info.  Actually, it truly is pretty simple.
  2. Why should someone care?  (aka – so what?)
    The answer to this might be a little different depending on whether you’re talking to a prospective customer, business partner or investor.  But it must complement your first sentence describing what you do and it must be compelling enough to give the other person no choice but to ask a question.  Make a bold claim.

Here is a made up example:  “Shockwave Innovations helps startups navigate the chaos of fundraising so they can stop worrying about having enough money to make payroll and instead focus on running the business.  We’ve been so successful that three companies we’ve helped were voted Startup of the Year and five others had profitable exits that gave their investors a 25x average return on investment.”

Obviously, what I’m hoping for is a response like “Wow, what is your secret?” or “Very impressive, might I know any of those companies?”  It really doesn’t matter what they ask because it buys me 2-5 minutes of additional valuable time.

For those that are refining their elevator pitch for fundraising purposes, keep in mind that a great elevator pitch alone won’t get you funded because it’s just a door opener to a longer conversation.  You’ve got to be fundable to get funded.  However, I will also say that a crappy elevator pitch can severely impact your ability to get funded even if you are truly fundable.  In other words, it can be a prerequisite to having the needed follow-on conversations with an investor prospect.

What about the one-line pitch that you use like a tagline?  Check out this blog post by Chris Eleftheriadis who analyzed almost 2,000 listings on AngelList to identify the most common approaches to the one-line pitch, specifically those that reference other established companies.  LinkedIn, Pinterest and Ebay were the most commonly referenced and the Top 10 referenced companies accounted for almost half of all one-line pitches that included a company reference.  You can check out his full blog post here:http://www.visionmobile.com/blog/2013/06/the-art-of-one-line-pitching-a-study-of-angelist/.

Now it’s time to refine your elevator pitch (and possibly also your one-line pitch) and give it a test drive.  Are you getting the response you want?  If not, adjust and try again.  Keep iterating until you start getting follow-up questions that allow you to explain more.

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11 Chrome Extensions to Improve Your Social Media Experience

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Logo used from the start of the Chrome project until March 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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English: A protester holding a placard in Tahrir Square referring to Facebook and Twitter, acknowledging the role played by social media during the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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English: A collage of an image modified with 16 different Instagram filters (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Chrome Needs Color Management (Photo credit: wabisabi2015)

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11 Chrome Extensions to Improve Your Social Media Experience

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BY DANI FANKHAUSERJUN 24, 2013
If there’s one thing that ties all your digital experiences together, it’s your browser — let’s presume it’s Chrome. Maybe you use it on mobile in addition to desktop. It gets to know you, and you, it.But everyone has a few tricks up his or her sleeve.

We did a little recon and found quite a few Chrome extensions that impact and enhance the way we use social media. See, most social sites try to keep things simple — if they add too many features, it would start to confuse people, especially new users. Other sites are plain lazy and haven’t added that one feature everyone wants. But it might exist in extension form, and while you cannot impose it on others, you can apply it to your trusty Chrome browser.

Have you tried any of these Chrome extensions? Let us know what you think in the comments.

1. Instagram For Chrome

While it doesn’t support Instagram videos quite yet, the Instagram extension easily checks in on your stream without opening a new window. You have access to all the interactions — comments, likes, etc. — but of course you’ll need your phone to post a picture. Taking a quick Instagram break is a nice respite from any work day, and this extension makes it seamless.

2. Reddit Enhancement Suite

Reddit is not a pretty site — the focus is the content and minimalist functions, so the platform does without any bells and whistles. But wouldn’t you like just a few customizations? This extension can set your personal tastes, including a dark or light background, giving Reddit that Tweetdeck glow. One of my favorite functions, shown above, gives you more info about a user when you mouse over his or her username.

3. LastPass Chrome Extension

Some common recommendations for strong passwords: Use bad grammar and never apply the same password to multiple sites. If you’re constantly creating accounts for new sites — social media managers and job searchers, this means you — then LastPass can auto-generate a good password and save it for you.

The extension will fill out forms when you return to the site to log in.

4. Post To Tumblr

While Tumblr can be considered something of a blog, most users pick up content somewhere else and curate it, as they say. Whether you’re reading an article or come across an awesome GIF, the extension allows you to Tumbl it without leaving the page. If you select text on a page, the extension will post it as a quote — other options are link, photo or text.

You also have access to any of your many Tumblr blogs. You can send page content to drafts or your queue. Pro tip: The Post To Tumblr icon will show next to your other browser extensions,, but just right-click to use it.

5. Bitly Shortener for Chrome

If you’re the kind of person actively trying to grow a social following, or if you’re insecure about sharing the right things on Facebook and Twitter, use Bitly. The site started as a link shortener, but now provides analytics on those shortened links. If you get into the habit of using it when you post to social media, you can keep track of what was successful.

The extension is more intuitive than relying on various sites’ share buttons. It allows you to customize your post, but you don’t get a visual of how your post will look on Facebook, so personally, I still tend to open Facebook and post there (to make sure the right image shows). Note that this extension was made by a third-party developer, not Bitly, so the company won’t be able to help with support issues.

6. Evernote Web Clipper

Evernote is a great tool — so many people use it for so many different purposes. The Web Clipper tool allows you to use it a little like Pocket; however, instead of formatting a news article, this tool saves and organizes content. You might use it for a research project or recipe box, for example. The content of the web page you’re on will save to one of your notebooks.

7. Pocket

Pocket is essentially the DVR for content. Generally, users send articles they encounter on the web to their mobile devices, where they can read the content later. You can also use it to collect articles and refer back to them later.

I used the bookmarklet for a long time, but the extension is so much better. If I’m on a page and decide I can’t read it all now, I hit the icon in my browser to save it. But on both Reddit and Twitter, I don’t even need to open the link — I can send it automatically without leaving the stream. It makes both these sites much more efficient for finding news. The extension was built to work with Google Reader, which is shutting down, but presumably it will update to work with Digg’s reader and other new, similar apps.

8. GChat Pix

We’ve been emailing images to each other since I can remember, but for some reason Gchat hasn’t picked up the same ability — which is frustrating. With this extension, you can drag and drop an image from your desktop into the chat field and send it. It will appear as a link for your friend — as shown — but will preserve its original size. Easy.

9. Hover Zoom

Any social site before Pinterest is full of white space and text, but we really just want to look at pictures, right?

An amazing extension you won’t ever want to give up, Hover Zoom will open a larger version of thumbnail images when you mouse over them. This includes Twitter profile pictures, Google search images but most importantly, GIFs on Facebook — the site doesn’t support GIFs and you would normally have to click through to see one, but now Hover Zoom displays it for you. Genius.

10. Buffer

Buffer is a tool for queuing tweets and Facebook posts. You don’t want to dump a dozen heavy, intellectual articles on your followers first thing in the morning, do you? Many sites have a Buffer share button, but if you use the service at all, you’ll want the extension.

Use it like Bitly, with the caveat that you can either post immediately or “buffer” (you can also auto-shorten links in Buffer, if you’ve connected Buffer to Bitly). When you compose a tweet, for example, you can buffer directly from the Twitter.com homepage. When you retweet, you’ll have the option to buffer. It allows you to do all your tweeting in condensend chunks, without dominating the stream at once.

11. TOSDR

Most social sites have strict terms of service, which lay out how the site will use your information and data. Instagram came under fire last year for updating its terms in a confusing and possibly unfair way — meanwhile, most people have never read terms on any site. That’s why Terms Of Service Didn’t Read decided to make an extension.

You’ll see a letter or a grey question mark on the far right-end of the web address, which tells you more about the terms of the site you’re on. There are actually ongoing discussions for every site, as well, so the community can get involved in figuring out whether a site’s terms are “fair.” Not every site is rated yet, but hopefully it wil provide some guidance for web users.

Image composite via iStockphoto, Facebook, Twitter, Google Chrome