It is no secret that I have found falling in love with Slack very challenging. Perhaps it is my Microsoft-past with Outlook and (yes) Clippy (and yes, there is a full documentary on YouTube about that one) that haunts me, but I have found the channel setup and the various direct messages threads challenging.
Not any more. I am now firmly in the Slack boat. Why? Because it is just so much easier, when you are working with different teams on different projects to keep up to date and keep the momentum, than it is through email.
It literally only takes a couple of seconds to ask a question on Slack and move on. It boosts the productivity and moves things along even if you have a limited number of hands. Just set up a workspace for each team and integrate them all in the Slack-app, and you’re good. Now, the next challenge is for it not to become too easy and just overwhelm the various workspaces and channels with pointless chit chat.
When you are doing customer interviews, it can be super hard to both ask the right questions, make appropriate notes and be present in the moment to actually hear and understand what people are truly saying.
I have created a small workaround for this. I have started to use Typeform as my notepad for customer interviews. I will build my questionaire beforehand making sure not to ask questions that put words in the mouth of people, and I will quite extensively use scaled answers.
When I am in the interview, I bring my iPad, and I will use the Typeform questionaire as a guide. The options I have chosen will allow me to pin down most answers and get a sense of their importance, and the few fields for extra comments will be easy to fill out either during the interview or immediately afterwards. In that way I get to ask the right questions, capture the answers AND stay present in the conversation. What is not to like?
The other day I met with a startup in need of some advice. They have been working on their offering for a couple of years, and they felt stuck in terms of getting it to market and choosing the right approach.
They showed me their product, and it prompted a conversation about who they have developed the product for, and what they actually, factually know about the customers, they are trying to get to buy into their offering. It was a classic example of solution looking for a problem.
We took a step back and talked about the value proposition based around the Value Proposition Canvas. And when it came to the problem solving real pains for real customers, it was painfully obvious that the biggest issue for them was that there is a disconnect between the customer pain points and how the product looks and welcomes you.
They left with new insights and ideas into how to progress from here. Sometimes it just pays to rewind the clock and look at whether there is a connection for real between needs, pains and gains and the actual product.
Recently I met with a good colleague for a coffee to share experiences. One of the things, we discussed, was how to do a handover from a project, you started, to someone else who is going to turn it into a business. It’s an important milestone for what we do at inQvation Studio, and thus getting it right is super critical to us.
I always imagined that the right approach would be to go out and recruit a great team, get the people on board with the project and then basically step back. But after our chat, my mind changed.
Because it is not about stepping back. It is about being pushed out by the new members on the team. Because when they do that they show that they are in charge and you are no longer needed. In summary, the people you are looking for to join the team are those passionate, eager and ambitious enough that they will challenge you – and ultimately drive you towards the door. Because then they will have made it their own. And that is what is needed for success.
It is so easy being designated as the one who just says “No!” to everything and whose largest contribution to the team is to foster a negative energy in every room you enter. But have you ever thought about how these people may actually be trying to do something completely different and of immense value?
If you think they are assuming that your project will fail, maybe they are just trying to see the warning signs ahead of time to let you know where to look again, make changes – and ultimately succeed? Maybe they are just as invested in your common success as you are?
There is actually a term for it in project terms: Doing a pre-mortem; assuming that the project has just died and then work your way backwards from there in order to find the risks, you should see and address before it is to late. Given how many projects fail, maybe it is an exercise worth remembering?
The other day I invited a good acquintance to come and visit us at inQvation and to provide feedback on an idea, we’re toying with. The latter part made sense given that this person has about 30 years of experience within the industry, where our idea potentially offers a new angle on things.
I asked him to talk straight from the gut and tell me what he thought. And his first words resonated deeply: “Ideally speaking this idea is great. Unfortunately, the world – and this industry is not ideal”. And then he went on to provide amazing feedback on potential blind spots and pitfalls based on his wealth of experience, we hadn’t considered at all, and which proves to be critical hypothesis, we need to spend time trying to find a workaround for. Otherwise our idea will tank.
When we said goodbye he apologized for being so candid. But I insisted he shouldn’t and that this was the best feedback we could get at this point in time. Because it showed us some of the potential blind spots we would have essentially zero chance of figuring out on our own. And that is a god sent. Because the blind spots – left unattended – are the ones that could end up killing your idea and/or business.
The other day I spent a good chunk of the day browsing the web reading up on reviews on how current solutions address a particular problem we are looking at giving a new spin on at inQvation Studio. It was most illuminating.
Of course there is always the risk of you being biased by the idea(s) already in your head, when you do something like that. But no matter what getting insigths into what is already out there and why it’s (not) working is absolutely essential for early and very simple validation.
So, the next time you think about an idea and whether it has the potential to make a dent, start by going online and read up on those that went before you. Chances are that customers reviews, anecdotes and so forth will provide you with a much better starting point that anything you can dream up in that creative mind of yours all in your own. It’s real out there.
One of the things that continues to amaze me is the power of actually seeking out potential customers for solving a problem and chat to them about their experiences so far in both experiencing the problem and trying to find solutions for it.
It is easy to get an idea all by yourself. But the idea – or better yet; the theme in which your idea resides – gets so much extra power by actually meeting and listening to the real experts: Those experiencing the problem.
The exercise itself is really simple: Figure out who you need to meet, set up some meetings or chats for coffee etc, show up, ask a few questions and LISTEN. I guarantee you will leave much smarter. And you will be able to channel all that insight directly into whatever it is that you’re doing, if you choose to. And yes; you should.
The most common problems with strategy is that (a) it can be extremely poorly based on actual insight and data about market and customers and (b) it tends to become antique the moment, you have dotted the last i and crossed the last t in the grand plan.
When I recently tought a group of students at Aarhus Erhvervsakademi and Dansk Markedsføring about digital strategy and business development one of my main messages was that strategy today is not a plan. It is a set of hypothesis about market, customers and bets, we can make that we set ourselves goals towards trying to achieve. And remain flexible towards revisiting when needed. Not in terms of overall vision and goals but on the road towards that goal.
Strategy today is a fluent thing and with all the unknowns out there and the constant changing landscape, you need to be prepared to have your core hypothesis invalidated at any point in time. You need to be able to adapt, and you need to do so by defining new hypothesis that you can design your evolving strategy and market approach around. Everything else is – at best – wishful thinking.
Great teams succeed together. A team full of individual stars lacking coordination and communication between the various positions fail no matter how good and expensive they individually are.
If those things are true in sports, does it come as a surprise that it goes for corporate innovation as well? A great football manager knows that in order to be successful with the team you recruit for players who fit the team and style of play centered around a shared philosophy for how the team should play – and win.
Greg Satell does a good job of noting the reasons why most corporate innovation teams fail. I think in many cases it can be boilt down to team – or the lack thereoff. Instead of building new teams, you should be focusing on augmenting the strengths you already have that have made your company successful so far. Succeeding in innovation is and always will be a team effort.