The value of criticism

Thoughts

One of the great opportunities to learn something new and expand your horizon is to engage in conversation with someone you don’t agree with. You might still have disagreements after your conversation, but at least you have gotten the opportunity to get some perspective. And boy, do we often need that.

For that reason I always seize on the opportunity to reach out to people who have indicated that a shared experience left them somewhat lost or basically made them quit. Because I want to get a chance to at least understand where things went wrong as seen from the other side.

It is so easy to just ignore people who complain or give something you have done a bad review. And yes, it can be daunting to confront criticism, because if you are passionate about what you do, you know that it is going to sting and even hurt. But it is worth it. It adds perspective. It gives you the opportunity to reflect, which is always good. And no, it won’t kill you.

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Outrage versus passion

Thoughts

One of the things I have found while working to create our case competition on climate change, iQnite, is that there is a big difference between outrage about something and passion for doing something about it. Just because you’re outraged about something doesn’t mean that you want to take real action towards doing something about it. Far from it.

While it is easy to find people who are outraged at climate change – just think about FridaysForFuture – it is super, super hard to find people, who are actually passionate about wanting to do anything about it. And it is understandable; protesting is easy, fixing things are hard. Yet the contrast couldn’t be starker.

The way to find the right people seems to be to get personal. Find the people that they talk to on an everyday basis and have them endorse what it is that you are trying to do. That increases the odds of getting people out and getting them committed. Just random trying to get people together and turn their outrage on social media into action won’t make a dent of a difference whatsoever.

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Will they pay?

Thoughts

One of the things that always concern me about doing B2B related products and services is that the user is almost always different from the one who is actually paying the bill. What might constitute a problem for someone down in the organization can be totally overlooked at C-level, making it super hard to get the good solution in the hands of the people who actually need it.

I think there are several ways to try to deal with this. One is the obvious one: Make the solution so inexpensive that it falls well within the limits of discretionary spending that people in the organization may have. In other words: Give them the opportunity to buy it themselves.

The other one is more of a workaround but nonetheless important: Develop the pitch for the C-suite and KNOW full well that aside from having to convince your users, there is a key task in being able to make the hard sell where the money is. If that is where it’s at, it should be as important for you as building the product itself.

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From ‘No’ to ‘Yes’

Thoughts

One of the things that really excites me is to investigate problem spaces to see if there are any good solutions to the problems at hand – or if there is an abundance of opportunity to do better.

I think that Mike Shipulski has an interesting point in arguing that instead of talking about disruption, we should be talking about how we get from “No” to “Yes”; how we create solutions that are above and beyond the existing solutions when it comes to actually solving the problems or meeting the needs of the customer.

I like it because it is almost a binary choice rather than a fluffy, watered down concept; how can we make something that wasn’t possible before and let the customers be better off? I think that binary, straight forward question is the key to a lot of success in innovation.

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Share your epiphanies

Thoughts

Some people might need a guide to sourcing disruptive ideas. For the rest of us, we all – I bet – are painfully aware of where we tend to have our most bright flashes or epiphany moments.

For us it is more a question about being able to capture them than to get to them in the first place. I for one am one of those people that tend to get ideas in the shower, and it is not always that practical, when you know you need to jot something down now, before you forget the train of thought, when you’re all covered by soap, and the water is running.

Where do you get your most inspired moments? And what do you do to safe them for eternity? And when you save them, what usually happens afterwards with them? Do you act on them? Why? Why not? And how do you make the distinction? I am curious to know.

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Lead by experience

Thoughts

Yesterday, the company I chose to deliver fiber to my home made their best effort to loose me as a customer. Due to unfortunate circumstances I narrowly missed a visit by a technician, and when I called them to figure out what went wrong, the customer support was rude and hung up on me.

Companies behaving that way may have a good or even great product. But they have a shitty customer experience. And in a day and age where basically everybody can do anything, the true differentiator between winning and losing as a business with the customer is precisely what happened to me: A shitty customer experience.

Whether you are in a corporate or getting your own startup off the ground you should aim to lead by experience; be the most open, accommodating, empathetic and what have you. Because even if I as a customer come to you with a problem, I will remember you cared – and I will our relationship an extra shot.

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Design for the flipside

Thoughts

The events of recent years have shown that with great technology comes great benefit and great risk. Even the best services and tools can be used in ways that have opposite consequences of what was intended. And the risk of the latter happening gets compounded when the genie is out of the bottle; it gets super hard to stop again. In most instances it is not even possible.

For that reason we need to design products, services and tools in a different way. Where we have long made security a key component of how we think about designing systems, we should also have what I would call the flipside as a key consideration: How could this be exploited to evil ends, and what do we build into the product or service that will help prevent that.

I think that it is both a needed thing to do and a potential gamechanger for many. Trust has eroded in a lot of the platforms and companies that have struggle with ‘doing no evil’, and tomorrows winners will be those that serve an entirely good purpose and – by design – prohibits evil exploitation.

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Lipstick on a gig

Thoughts

Starting today, food-delivery company Deliveroo will no longer be delivering meals from restaurants in Germany. While in itself there is nothing spectacular about a business exiting a market, it is spectacular that the notice to the companies delivery people – riders, as they are called – was only FOUR days.

Variable low-wage pay, unclear working conditions and – as it turns out – non-existing notices of termination are some of the flip sides of what is being called the Gig Economy. And while – again – there is nothing wrong with a flexible work environment presenting new opportunities to people looking for something else than ‘a regular job’, we need to be aware of the fact that every coin always have two sides to it.

We are so accustomed to hearing all the stories about innovative new ways of doing things, sharing things etc, and how it is all the rage for the future. We need to remember that there may be some other truths behind the stories essentially driving the need for glossy narratives. And we need to have an open discussion about these things in order to avoid creating a future society with too much tension between those who have a lot and those who have very little. That tension NEVER ends in a good place.

Hat tip: @tveskov for the headline

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Stay manageable

Thoughts

Yesterday I met with an former colleague who stepped down from a C-level job to essentially become a landlord renting out spare rooms in his house and making a nice flexible living doing so. It was very inspiring – and surprising.

We took a walk, and he ‘walked’ me through his business and how he operates it. How he essentially tests every little twist and turn with his guests in order to figure out what works and what doesn’t. And how he always keeps his eye on the operational aspect of it all making sure that the operation is as automated as it can get and relies as little as possible on him actually being there to take care of things.

The operational aspect was mindblowing; always staying one step ahead thinking about everything making sure that what you do is manageable from an operations point-of-view – not making it too complex in the process. The idea is fascinating and intellectually stimulating, and I think there is a lot of value to be had there for start-ups by thinking along the same lines to make things efficient, reduce burn-rate etc. I will definitely be working more on that.

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Get value from values

Thoughts

What does it mean to have something of real economic value that customers want? Is it to have the best product within a category worth an extra charge, or is it to have a product that sits so well with the belief system of the customer that they are willing to pay a premium price for?

Luckily, it seems to be the latter. And it is great for a couple of reasons.

First of all, it vindicates those who strive for domination within a niche by building run-of-the-mill products that are just cheaper for customers to buy. Personally, I have never been a big fan of competiting on price because I don’t fance the end game; essentially free offerings. Second, I find it reassuring that despite everything else that is going on, customers are still looking to pay decent money for offerings that fits well with their personal belief system(s). This should be a welcome call-to-arms for everybody working on making customers better off.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)