Every entry filed under "Innovating"

What’s the game changer?


Change is coming. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon. A shift in technology, a new bidder, competitor manoeuvres, a change in regulation. I don’t know what it is but I can feel it, taste it. It’s on the wind.

Will we see it in time? Will we know what to do about it, with it? What else will it change? Is it an opportunity or a threat? Always an opportunity – if we’re on it. What is it?

Skippy Strategy: What part of your market has been the same for a generation? Left behind by digital or social or with same faces running the same initiatives? Where has an incumbent become entrenched but lazy? What would happen if … ?

P.S. The picture? A Rolls Royce Merlin 61, Spitfire engine. State of the art, with two stage supercharger, in 1942. Merlin, Spitfire, Supercharger – they knew how to name things back then.

Neatly filed under Innovating on March 12, 2015

Taking new ideas out on the walls


I took a new idea out on the walls today. The first time I’ve spoken about it in public. Just one-to-one, to a friend. Nothing grand, no pressure. But it was hard. I stumbled, false started, and looked around for help … save me.

Next time will be easier.

It always gets easier.

Skippy Strategy: What have you been working on that could use another pair or ears? Who do you know who’d listen without judging? This isn’t really about feedback, it’s about exploring for confidence. The point of the meeting: pressure makes the weak points obvious, be vulnerable, pay attention when you falter.

Neatly filed under Innovating on March 7, 2015

A juicy idea?

Leap of Faith

Taking ideas out to meet the world is a lot harder than having them.

Say I have a secret recipe for fruit juice, and I want to make it into a business. Then what? My kitchen becomes my workshop, pots and pans my friends. I learn about food regulations and the chemistry of freshness. I get on first name terms with the grocer. So far, all I’ve done is spend my time and money. Not a business yet. It becomes a business when someone else agrees so much with what I’m up to that they buy my product.

For that to happen, I have to take it out on the road.

I have to load my wheelie-cool-box with juice, walk into every cafe I find and start the conversation, “Hi, …”

That leap of faith is filled with dread: rejection, laughing in my face, I’m a failure. That my secret recipe is a public flop.

The only opinions that count belong to customers. No substitute.

Skippy Strategy: What are you working on privately that only makes sense publicly? What’s the first part of it you could take out to meet the world? How would you do that? Don’t wait.

Neatly filed under Innovating on March 2, 2015

Sunday Quotes: How to create on a blank canvas


A start-up, a new product, setting a strategy: all acts of creativity and will against a blank canvas. Not in isolation, not perfect original idea. They’re art, built on relationships, medium and method, communication between all the players at the table.

Ben Shahn, in his 1957 Shape of Content lectures at Harvard University, covered ground of relationship as he talked about the process of creation in his art.

From the moment at which a painter begins to strike figures of color upon a surface he must become acutely sensitive to the feel, the textures, the light, the relationships which arise before him. At one point, he will hold the material according to an intention. At another he may yield intention – perhaps his whole concept – to emerging forms, to new implications within the painted surface. Idea itself – ideas, many ideas move back and forth across his mind at a constant traffic, dominated perhaps by larger currents and directions, by what he wants to think. Thus idea rises to the surface, grows, change as a painting grows and develops. So one must say that painting is both creative and responsive. It is an intimately communicative affair between the painter and his painting, a conversation back and forth, the painting telling the painter even as it receives its shape and form.

The creative process is the same in every sphere. Shahn’s theme applies as much to strategy and startups, to teams, to the relationship with and response to customers, as it does to painting.

Neatly filed under Innovating on March 1, 2015

The power of three things


Where are you heading with your project and how are you doing? The answer to this simple question is probably complex and I imagine you keep all the pieces of the jigsaw in your head.

And that’s OK if it’s a personal project with few moving parts. But as soon as you bring someone else into the loop they need to see the picture on the box and understand how you’re doing with fitting everything together.

How do you do that?

I’ve found that most people aren’t brilliant at laying out the puzzle. And even when something looks amazing, the facade can crumble under closer scrutiny.

The power of three things

When I’m asked into loops where I have no pre-knowledge, I try to find the corners and edges of the picture using “the power of three things.” It’s like Toyoda’s famous Five Why’s exercise except instead of drilling into the why of a thing, I’m looking for an landscape.

Every project needs different questions but all of them try to go three layers deep. Here’s the kind of thing I’m talking about:

  • When thinking about this project, what three things concern you the most?
  • What three things do you think of as its strengths?
  • What three things tell you you’re on the right track?
  • What three things would tell you for sure?
  • Being honest about where you are now, what three things would you like to have completed in the next hundred days, six months, one year? (That’s a sneaky three part question).
  • In three sentences, why did you get involved in the project?
  • In three sentences, what is your role?
  • In three sentences, what are the drivers behind this project?
  • What three things would you like to get out of the meeting?

I’ve used this exercise face-to-face, by email, as a break-out, as a web-form to be completed before a meeting. I’ve used it on myself. It can be tough, it’s always brings insight.

My experience: solo is better than group exercise; written answers are deeper than spoken; time to think means better answers than time under pressure; asking the same questions of multiple team members is better than only asking one; 20% of people don’t give written answers at all.

Why three things? It works. It gets beyond the obvious and opens up the veins of free thinking. Mostly thought, it’s about setting an expectation of effort.

Time in the room

It’s always better if everyone’s looking at the same picture. The power of three things is that it gets all of the jigsaw pieces out on the table so you can maximise time in the room for the real work of any project: building clarity and cohesion, testing assumptions, and working together on next steps.

Skippy Strategy: Anytime you bring someone into your project, or join someone else’s, work out where leverage is greatest and knowledge is weakest. Put together a set of three-things questions and then do what it takes to give or get the answers.

Neatly filed under Innovating on February 27, 2015