Posted on Leave a comment

SenseMaking from the Web

This post is an aggregation of recent articles that I have collected over at Flipboard on my magazine there. It captures great sense making from others, in other words, great articles from other sites I thought worth capturing and sharing. Curating good articles is a discerning process and I’ve automated the delivery of it in WordPress using a Power Automate Flow to achieve this – more on that here.

Empower and energize employees with Microsoft Viva | Microsoft 365 Blog

Posted on September 23. Work trend index pulse report When employees thrive, companies flourish. Microsoft Viva, the first integrated employee experience platform for the …

Looking at 320 pitch decks, here’s what science tells us works best

Posted on September 23. Investors are spending 24% less time looking at pitch decks in 2022, compared to 2021. On average, you have just under three minutes to convince them to take a meeting with you. In fact, for decks that fail to raise funding, investors give up in just 2 minutes and 13 seconds. That’s not a lot of …

How Neuroscientists Use Brain Breaks to Boost Creativity at Work

Posted on September 22. Back-to-back meetings, endless screen time, long hours—the human mind is poorly designed for the typical workday. Neuroscientists take a different …

In Europe and beyond, Microsoft’s Work Trend Index Pulse Report provides insights into how employees, leaders see hybrid work – Microsoft News Centre Europe

Posted on September 22. In France, the UK and Germany, as in the rest of the world, the last few years have brought profound changes in how we work. Microsoft’s latest Work …

Understanding Microsoft’s grand vision for building the next generation of apps

Posted on September 21. What Microsoft Collaborative Apps are and why they matter: An explainer. Over the past couple of years, Microsoft has introduced a grab bag of new …

Digital innovation and employee experience: making the connection

Posted on September 21. DXC and Pfizer leaders discuss the topic in an article by MIT SMR Connections

Adopting the Innovator’s Mindset

Posted on September 19. Too many innovations fail because they’re solutions looking for problems — not the result of a disciplined process.

Posted on Leave a comment

Launching a business in a recession – 3 of 4 – Pre-Launch

This is a post in a series of four detailing how you can start a business during a recession (find them all eventually under the startup innovation tag). I think it is a commonly held view that we are about to enter into or are already in a recession. For whatever reason you are thinking about starting a business at this time, I am helping a startup on a similar path and thought I would share what I am thinking about to help them (more on my mentoring here). The focus in this series is the really early stages prior to launch and the emphasis is on how to do things on the cheap ;)

You could go all out with a launch from the get-go where you prepare everything in stealth mode and then when ready, you launch fully to the market. Or you could take a more measured approach where you start in semi stealth, i.e. you don’t disclose all details of your product or service, but you do go live with some basic details online. I prefer this latter route because you can make your online presence minimal until you are ready to share more but still have that work for you. The benefits are multiple in that you can start to build awareness and get crucial feedback before the formal launch.

Landing page


SeedProd is one of the more popular website builders and is used by many startups.

It comes with many templates, including one for landing pages, this being the standard way to have a minimal presence that can still work for you. Typically, you will communicate that the full product/service is coming soon but you can start to build awareness and anticipation for what’s to come and brand.

This is by no means the only tool you can use; in fact you don’t even need to use such a tool. With WordPress for example, you could use the full site editing tools that are now available.

Research


The next stage is to gather feedback from visitors and potential customers on key elements of your intended product/service offering.

Why not add a simple poll or survey on the landing page. There are many options for this and one such option is Microsoft Forms.

Whatever you do, keep it simple, that’s why I suggest a poll, rather than a long-winded survey. And try keep visitors on the page instead of sending them somewhere else to fill out the form, e.g. embed the poll.

Bonus Tool/Service: Lead Management

A final stage to consider is adding some kind of lead generation component. At its simplest this could just be a way to get visitors to provide their contact details so you can reach them when you are ready to launch and they can be informed of this and more besides.

The easiest way to do this is to put a simple, single field form on the site to collect email address.

But the crucial thing is what you do with that lead afterwards and many tools offer ways to manage the lead from first contact. You could integrate website efforts with other lead generation efforts via social media too. Most important is that you can automate the entire lead journey through various stages, including many follow-up efforts.

Here again there are a plethora of tools available to you. I use Mailchimp and have found it to be a superb tool covering many of the elements mentioned above.

NOTE: Consider using a lead magnet, also commonly called opt-ins, freebies, or swipe files, are valuable free pieces of content that you give to people in exchange for an email address.

Posted on Leave a comment

SenseMaking from the Web

This post is an aggregation of recent articles that I have collected over at Flipboard on my magazine there. It captures great sense making from others, in other words, great articles from other sites I thought worth capturing and sharing. Curating good articles is a discerning process and I’ve automated the delivery of it in WordPress using a Power Automate Flow to achieve this – more on that here.

How “Corporate Explorers” Are Disrupting Big Companies From the Inside

Posted on August 25. A unique breed of entrepreneurs is creating innovative ventures — without launching startups or chasing VC funding.

Meeting fatigue is an IT problem. Here’s how async can help

Posted on August 22. The role that meetings (especially virtual ones) play in undermining employee engagement is well-documented. They frustrate us, bore us, and …

The remote work revolution is already reshaping America

Posted on August 22. The coronavirus pandemic set in motion a shift to remote and hybrid work that is quietly reshaping American economics and demographics. While the fine women and men at U.S. statistical agencies are still grappling with how to measure this astonishing transformation, a host of academics and other …

How Co-Working Spaces Lead to More Innovation for Tech Startups

Posted on August 21. For tech startups wondering where to locate their new companies, here’s one suggestion: Set up shop near another tech startup, preferably one that isn’t in the same business. In a working paper, researchers from Harvard University, the Georgia Institute of Technology and the Massachusetts Institute …

Identifying Unmet Needs in a Digital Age

Posted on August 18. Innovation is all about finding and filling people’s unmet needs. But even innovators and organizations renowned for their scanning capabilities often have trouble perceiving and correctly interpreting those needs. Drawing on their work as researchers, teachers, and consultants, the authors outline …

Posted on Leave a comment

Launching a business in a recession – 2 of 4 – Branding

This is a post in a series of four detailing how you can start a business during a recession (find them all eventually under the startup innovation tag). I think it is a commonly held view that we are about to enter into or are already in a recession. For whatever reason you are thinking about starting a business at this time, I am helping a startup on a similar path and thought I would share what I am thinking about to help them (more on my mentoring here). The focus in this series is the really early stages prior to launch and the emphasis is on how to do things on the cheap ;)

Branding is not highest on the priority list when starting a business, but it is when launching and if you intend to have any kind of presence, even if it is minimal as you will see in later posts, you will need to look semi-decent. In other words, you can create branding that is not final but at least it looks good enough for initial activities. For this, these services that I cover in this post will more than do, and do not have to cost the earth, if anything.

Canva


Canva is such an amazing tool for designing just about anything and you don’t have to be a designer to use it.

It comes with many templates, including for logo design which is probably where you will start with your branding efforts, this plus fonts and colours.

You can even build a brand kit from what you have designed using the templates. Much is available for free, but I pay for that little more flexibility – check pricing here.

Fiverr


Fiverr is a marketplace for design resources where you have a whole world of freelance talent at your fingertips.

From Graphics & Design, Digital Marketing, Video & Animation to much more, you can find someone to do the work for you at a price point that works.

I generally start with basic designs in Canva and then take them to a pro designer on Fiverr to tweak and get professional artwork as required.

Bonus Tool/Service

Behance is the world’s largest creative network for showcasing and discovering creative work. It has now been acquired by Adobe but it remains free and open source and you can use it for a great many things, even to find designers or freelances. But I use it for inspiration.

You can filter your search by many different options and as you can see in the screenshot below, Logo Design is one of them. Here you get a vast array of inspiring designs from some of the world’s best creatives.

A good idea is to have an idea of what your logo should look like or represent and then do a word search for the term that best represents that. You can also just use Google if you want to broaden things further.

Posted on Leave a comment

Launching a business in a recession – 1 of 4 – Business Planning

This is a post in a series of four detailing how you can start a business during a recession (find them all eventually under the startup innovation tag). I think it is a commonly held view that we are about to enter into or are already in a recession. For whatever reason you are thinking about starting a business at this time, I am helping a startup on a similar path and thought I would share what I am thinking about to help them (more on my mentoring here). The focus in this series is the really early stages prior to launch and the emphasis is on how to do things on the cheap ;)

First off just to say that the topic of this post, business planning, is not necessarily something you can do on the cheap. Nor should you. If there is any one activity that you should spend money on, it should be this one. That’s because this is probably the most important one. It sets the tone for all your other activities and is the one that sets you up for success or failure. Having said that, you can get away with some free tools which I will cover. But the real trick in this area, is the framework, method and thinking you use – not so much tools as with the other topics, as you will see.

Business Model Canvas


A simple framework for defining your business, no need for lengthy business plans no one reads and besides, brevity forces focus.

Useful to also visualize and communicate a simple story of your business model to founders, employees and investors alike.

Use the canvas to explore new business models whether you are a start-up or an existing business. Some elements/tools require payments.

Jobs to be Done


JTBD is a framework to guide your perspective and innovate through a different lens. Especially if you need to transform and disrupt (product, company, industry – select as needed), this is for you. It requires you to replace a solution lens with a problem lens. It contrasts seeing the world of innovation through the lens of what the company is doing (a product perspective). It advocates seeing the world of innovation through the lens of what the customer is trying to get done (a problem perspective).

Lean Startup


Lean startup is a methodology for developing businesses and products that aims to shorten product development cycles and rapidly discover if a proposed business model is viable; this is achieved by adopting a combination of business-hypothesis-driven experimentation, iterative product releases, and validated learning. Lean startup emphasizes customer feedback over intuition and flexibility over planning. This methodology enables recovery from failures more often than traditional ways of product development.

Bonus Tool

Microsoft’s Whiteboard is a digital application that functions like a traditional whiteboard, but is hosted virtually. Digital whiteboards can integrate with other video conferencing and screen sharing platforms to allow for collaboration even when you are not physically in the same room – crucial for remote teams. It has many templates to choose from and allows whiteboards to be saved in shareable files for easy access in the future. It is these templates that provide an easy way to guide your thinking but of course you can bring in any methodology you want to the tool. It’s free for students and educators or you get it as part of your M365 license (work or personal).

Posted on 3 Comments

Starting a business remote first – 10 priorities

I mentor startups from time to time, in my spare time. I am doing so at the moment with one. I am bringing my past experience to bear starting and working in startups and I’ve also written an eBook on a related subject. In the current case though, it’s more my current experience I am advising and focusing on based on my professional work at Microsoft (disclosure). This is around the use of the Microsoft 365 platform (mostly) to support collaboration and productivity.

First some assumptions to be clear on:

  1. Remote first. The team members are all distributed and not all in the same country. So far, so normal 🙂
  2. Side job so multiple other tools. Some of the members have other jobs and so there is a question of competing and even conflicting technologies that need to be considered.
  3. Early stage. This is a very early-stage startup with founders just starting to work together on this – hence the need to start from scratch.

Then here is my list of top 10 things I am focusing on – not that they are necessarily the most important, just what I can and need to prioritise for the team now:

1 Create a new Microsoft 365 account and license the users. Just because I work with this tech, I did not want to push it. Many of the members have familiarity with other platforms and this needs to be considered. In the end, after some discussion (and I presented the case in a DanelDoodle), we agreed on M365. I chose an M365 Business Standard option and here is a handy guide when setting up for the first time if needed.

2 Assign a domain that can be used in email and beyond. The team already had a domain, I was given access to manage the domain through GoDaddy, the domain registrar. Assigning it was a doddle.

3 Create a Team for internal collaboration. I started with a great template for project management. More about Team templates here. We are using this for all collaboration naturally, asynchronously and through Teams Meetings on regular sync calls.

4 Orientation page or description with clear outline of purpose. In the General Channel for the project management Team I set up, I created a simple wiki page in a Tab with pointers to everything they needed to know to get started and up and running. It also collates links and info on the function of each Channel and the tools available in each Channel.

5 Simple Task Planning – Planner in Teams is the perfect lightweight option to get started with. Members access it from a Tab in the Planning Channel in the Team that was set up from the template. Tasks are listed by sprint buckets.

6 Viva Learning and powering a growth mindset. Setting up a Tab in a Channel is straightforward and other than to bring in content covering Teams and the broader M365 platform, you can choose from the 125 free LinkedIn courses to driving learning in other important areas to fill any skills gaps.

7 Automation for competitive intel – Power Automate. One simple automation I have started with (based on a template) is to bring in tweets with relevant hashtags related to competitive activity. Will be looking for more and much of these kinds of templated flows plus many you can build come free with the M365 license (but beware of the limitations).

8 Marketing – start a website prototype. I had already started working on that and I documented that in this post: Content management with WordPress evolved – full site editing 1. This covers both the content management and website creation side of things as well as eCommerce.

9 Forms for surveys to get feedback on prototypes and other things. Microsoft Forms which comes with the license is a simple and useful tool.

10 Chat Bot in Teams (employees), later for website (customers) using Power Virtual Agents (PVA). I started with a simple pre-made BOT to support understanding of Teams. It’s snappily called the Teams Training Assistant App – you can watch it in action in this video here. I’m not actually sure it was built on PVA but regardless, it is useful for the Teams newbies. I will look to build a customer facing BOT later using PVA.

Posted on Leave a comment

Hackathons the MVP and lean startup

I’ve been doing a lot of work recently supporting customers with their hackathon efforts. It’s been especially focused on use of Microsoft Power Platform and Teams as core technology platforms underpinning the hackathons. I captured a best practice story about that and this is based on the many hackathons I’ve been involved in over the years.

Click to enlarge

But what I wanted to cover here was a thought rocket on where hackathons fit in to the innovation cycle using MVP’s and the Lean Startup cycle as context.

I see this as a kind of sweet spot for hackathons – cue DanelDoodle.

One key focus of a hackathon would be that it is used as a starting point for MVP’s (a key principle of Lean Startup methodology), as a main outcome of the event. That is, the winner’s ideas get taken forward for further implementation.

Thus a relatively simple yet collaboratively rich and less risky way for finding ideas to experiment with that then get taken forward through building prototypes.

Cheap and rapid experiments systematically lower innovation failure rates and risk.

These can be stage gated along the way with checks and balances so that they are constantly being evaluated for risk and future development (or not). A key measure should be through data.

The Lean Startup cycle is one of the most flexible approaches and you can easily see how what I have suggested fits in, but other innovation process flows could be considered.

Posted on Leave a comment

How to overcome the innovation predicament – the term versus the spirit

I’ve observed before how everyone wants innovation but no one wants to innovate. The essence of that observation roughly 6 months ago was that although the talk of and need for innovation (from company executives) was high, interest in the topic wasn’t (from punters).

Not much has changed since except the gap has probably grown. Can you blame people when there are so many other pressing issues and people are overwhelmed.

That doesn’t take away from the fact that it is still very much needed, nor from the fact that it is happening in abundance, despite all the disinterest in the term or even all the other overwhelming pressures.

Distractions and pressures aside, people, whether in startups or large corporations, are out there innovating and doing their thing every single day. They are just not necessarily calling it innovation.

Who cares then, what it’s being called, as long as its being done. And I don’t believe the imperative for it being done comes just from executives.

Most, whether admitting it or not, want to be innovative. It’s an innate desire to evolve, be creative or inventive. It’s built into us. It was needed for survival in the real jungle, now the jungle has evolved but survival by these means is still necessary.

For evidence that there is a bunch of innovation hustle and bustle out there, look no further than the Creator Economy. If you want deeper level insights on this, follow Creator Economy by Kaya Yurieff from The Information (a newsletter). The creator economy is just another catchy phrase for people being innovative (since creativity is at its core) and by all accounts, it’s huge.

The difference in the terms and spirit of it is that on the one hand there is a lot of talking going on (about innovation) and on the other, on being innovative (by just doing stuff).

In an age where self promotion is par for the course, its understandable that talking dominates. And there is good reason to shout about successes and spreading the word. But when it comes to innovation, it is the doers that matter and just plain being innovative. As an individual or a company, whatever you call it, this is what determines success and in many cases survival.

So how can we do more or be more innovative

  1. As an individual, experiment. Try things out and see where it leads. By this I mean a methodical approach that begins with an hypothesis and then pursues a series of trials to either prove or disprove it. The benefit of doing something yourself, whether at work or in your personal life, is that the barriers to doing so are super low and this approach should provide data. Assuming positive, you can present the data as evidence in arguing your case and getting others on board as will inevitably be the case. This is quintessentially a learning by doing exercise and any which way it goes, it’s a win.
  2. As a company, cultivate intrapreneurs. I wrote an eBook that was partly on this subject and that’s how this website started. Read that or any of the posts I created as part of researching that book under various tags: innovation hacking, startup innovation or intrapreneur. In many of those you will find, whether in startups or large companies, stories where individuals are given the freedom and courage to innovate with the success this brings. But don’t just take my word for it, PwC have a series that cover this well (even if not using the term intrapreneur – but remember, its not about terms): Workforce of the future – The World in 2030. Ditto the World Economic Forum: David vs Goliath – Understanding the corporate battle of digital disruption.
  3. In general, forgive failure. People wont try if they fear failure. They have to give themselves permission to fail. In companies you can make it safe to fail (great article from McKinsey which explains how and also recounts a story about Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s approach to this). Speaking of Microsoft (disclosure), one other thing it does is organise global hackathons, with customers even, most recently. These are essentially safe spaces and times to innovate and fail gloriously even though the ultimate goal is to come up with great ideas that can be commercialised. Some examples of the latter here: The Garage Wall of Fame – Microsoft Garage. This should apply to the whole of society really if we are ever to overcome the innovation predicament and solve some of its biggest challenges and ills in the true spirit of innovation.
Posted on Leave a comment

Startup innovation is alive and well in UK GOV

I’m a fan of startup innovation having followed the practice and written about it extensively. This culminated in an eBook/trend report a few years back: Startup Innovation. The Information has just written a post about how the UK government is embracing the practice: How Silicon Valley Is Rewiring Downing Street’s Brain (registration required).

Continue reading Startup innovation is alive and well in UK GOV
Posted on Leave a comment

Round up of latest #innerventures trends

innerventures-vennI’m tracking these updates with the #innerventuresupdate tag – you can find all of them by following the link. They all tie in with and add to the findings from my trend report which covers startup driven innovation in large corporates, corporate venturing efforts and the role of the intrapreneur. You can buy the report from iBooks or add a comment (which requires an email that no one will see) and I can provide a voucher for a FREE COPY :)

ibooks

Posted on Leave a comment

When corporate/startup innovation programs fail

A great article describing the closure of Coca-Cola’s Founders startup incubator over on TechCrunch. It details some of the challenges with this approach that I thought were worth sharing here. I especially love the quoted thought below:

You need a translator to help them understand what’s going on. That’s why a lot of platforms inside big companies fail and you have to take the time.

This could apply equally to my role as a customer success manager I thought and with the launch of new platforms and the challenges with this which I wrote about here: Launch like a boss – bringing consumer startup practice to your enterprise technology platform

#innerventuresupdate

Posted on 1 Comment

The state of startup / corporate collaboration 2016

startup-corporate-collaboration-2016

Cracking report from Imaginatik and MassChallenge. Its available to download from either site if you can find the page (registration required) but I’ve added the the-state-of-startupcorporate-collaboration-2016 (pdf). Key findings below:

1. INTERACTIONS MOVING EARLY STAGE

While most startup/corporate interactions used to begin at the negotiation table, corporations and startups increasingly recognize the benefits of earlier interactions. Corporations said that 67% now prefer working with startups at earlier stages, mainly “to explore new technologies and business models”.

2. INTERACTIONS WITH STARTUPS BECOMING “MISSION CRITICAL”

At an overwhelming 82%, corporations now view interactions with startups as “somewhat important” to “very important”, and 23% indicated that these interactions were “mission critical”. Innovation efforts, it seems, are no longer just nice-to-have programs within corporations.

3. CORPORATE INNOVATION MODELS ARE STILL IN THEIR INFANCY

While 86% of large organizations view innovation as crucial to their future, most of their current attempts to work with startups to further that objective are early stage, underfunded, and scattershot—such that 25% of corporations aren’t even sure how much they’re spending.

4. STRATEGIC FIT IS PARAMOUNT, BUT THE UNDERLYING GOALS VARY

Startups and corporations agree that “strategic fit” is by far the primary criterion for working together, but the way they interpret the term diverges significantly. Thus, a lost-in-translation problem sometimes persists, despite the best of intentions. This is exacerbated by remaining cultural issues within corporations: many are still struggling to re-organize themselves to enable productive interactions. Conversely, startups are persistent, but remain frustrated at the number of hoops to jump through.

5. MINDSET CHANGE— NO LONGER ‘US’ VS.‘THEM’

Startups are seeing corporations in a variety of roles—no longer are they cast solely as either “competitors” or “potential acquirers”. As the startup culture matures, founders are realizing that corporations have a lot of wisdom, experience, and resources to be leveraged, and that perhaps working with, rather than against them, could be the smarter way to go. Also, in a post-Uber and Airbnb world, startups realize that the power is not only with large corporations, and that leads them to be more selective with whom they choose to work. In fact working with corporations is shaping up to be a startup’s most powerful growth hack.

AND ON A RELATED NOTE…

I found this interesting website/activity on my travels. It’s an up to date database of Corporate Accelerators being run by company’s around the world.

Ties in nicely with findings from my trend report which you can buy from iBooks or add a comment and I can provide a voucher for a FREE COPY :)

ibooks

#innerventuresupdate

Posted on Leave a comment

Round up of latest #innerventures trends

Lots going on recently so this is a big update with an excellent selection of articles and activities.

You can see other updates like this by checking out posts with the #innerventuresupdate tag as well as the original posts I curated under the #research tag which I then used in the InnerVentures trend report that you can find here: Trend Reports