Writing skills for remote asynchronous work and how you can master them

As we’ve moved to remote work, calling and virtual meetings have exploded (see chart below). Much is being done to simulate the advantages of in person meetings to get things done which is useful. But what if that gets abused? Wasted hours in meetings (virtual or physical) has become a trope for good reason. And remote work means that even more now, we can work asynchronously to accommodate private schedules. That’s where writing comes in.

Continue reading “Writing skills for remote asynchronous work and how you can master them”

Effective Meetings and Collaboration at work and Microsoft Teams

I’m often frustrated with how meetings are misused and ineffective at work. I know I’m not alone 😬

Continue reading “Effective Meetings and Collaboration at work and Microsoft Teams”

The customer’s success is crucial to yours and begins with mindset

I’m surprised more organisations haven’t cottoned on.

Focusing on making customers successful with the use of your products or services.

Understanding that this success drives your success. Understanding the drivers of success and amplifying these.

You’d think organisations would have armies focused on this.

They talk about it enough. Think of product demo’s you have seen. Or comparison ads. How a product works for best results or beats another.

Subscription economy companies with their customer success teams get it. They understand: drive successful use > create value and great experiences > win loyal customers.

Other organisations are waking up.

This site set up to support the new eBook / trend report I’m writing has much more on the subject.

On Mindset

I recently wrote that The Future of Customer Success is not Human.

It emphasised the role of automation, AI and bots.

I did specify though that humans’ still have a role. I said it would outweigh that of technology in impact terms.

The recent debacle with Bodega shows that the human touch still counts. It drives connectedness and well being. It’s a prerequisite for business success.

Humanity operates in the mind. The heart has a strong role but thats for another post.

And for the foreseeable future, humans are still masters over machines. To what purpose we apply technology and what we create of value through it is still in our hands.

What mindset we bring to the game determines how we enact our purpose. I’m riffing on all this as part of the introductory chapter in my new eBook.

Herein lies the rub. Often we neglect to think about this even when it is in our grasp.

What most determines success is often least addressed. It’s easier to spend time twiddling knobs, tweaking features and functions.

Human affairs are messy.

Yet what we get out depends on what we put in.

What we put in, in turn, is dependent on our thinking. Our thinking determines how we act. This becomes ingrained in habits and the culture of the company.

Here is the flow:

  1. Mindset and purpose influence employee action
  2. Action creates habits and builds experience (supported by process, technology, etc.
  3. Experience drives customer satisfaction and loyalty

So a pretty important area of business to address you would think.

Where to start?

The top is a good place. Digital transformation success is often dependent on leadership. Leaders mindset’s influence organisational behaviours and cultures.

Having a growth mindset is in fashion. The CEO of Microsoft emphasises growth mindset versus fixed mindset.

It’s a great starting point when it comes to customer success too. Not least because customer success manager’s are also growth hackers.

Customer centricity is a worthwhile business goal and a state of mind. It has to involve the whole organisation and often starts with leaders. At least it’s entrenched or enforced by them.

So lots to think about but mindset is nothing without action. I thought these steps might help:

  1. Have a simple and measurable approach/method. One for creating, reviewing and iterating on purpose, behaviour, culture and outcomes. Customer experience maps are a great way to align all these things toward a common goal.

  2. Take time to infuse this into all parts of the organisation and operations. And it will take time. Great purpose is not realised overnight. Team games, ping pong tables, slides and bean bags are optional extras.

  3. Inspire and appeal to common human yearning. I love what Phil Knight from Nike has said in his new book. I have co-opted it to be a customer success manifesto below. This was not enshrined in a plaque for a wall. But you can tell it was and still is a living, breathing directive for the company.

  4. Empower, measure and transfer. Rinse and repeat. I would start small. Start with a success team focused on this area. Get them to do it right then transfer the success, mindsets, behaviours. Go big. McKinsey capture this approach well: How a digital factory can transform company culture.

csm manifesto

These steps, indeed the entire list, are very simplistic. You’ll find much written about this area. How to create or reinvent a great culture and make behaviour change stick.

I love this great case study on Aetna over at HBR: Cultural Change That Sticks.

This post was only a way to think out loud and explore the topic for my first chapter.

Thanks for reading. Did I miss anything or get anything wrong? Please let me know in a comment.

The customer success and experience iceberg

I’ve just started working on my new eBook / trend report and I got to thinking about the cover. A little back to front but it’s often a catalyst for thinking about any other major concepts I want to cover, or ways of explaining existing concepts (sense making in other words).

I have already largely defined the chapters, yet thinking about the cover got me fired up to come up with some new thinking. I also had fun thinking about the cover, it’s a great way to inspire you for the slog of writing a long piece like this.

I started out thinking about a cover through a crowdsourcing exercise which was also fun (part 1 and 2). At some stage past the first few iterations an iceberg came to mind. I think it had to do with the three major themes of the eBook / trend report: the subscription economy, customer experience and customer success. The iceberg easily covered all three with a submerged part, the visible part and the sea in which they are naturally found.

So here is the result in a quick doodle, a video and a few lightly detailed bullets below of the main elements of the iceberg. I’m just working out loud so this is far from final. I’ve already thought of improvements but I’ll include those in the final work and if you have any input I’d love to hear it. I’ll also be digging into any research around some of my hypotheses that these building blocks essentially are so if you have any please send my way.

customer success and experience iceberg

Satisfaction

The ultimate point of a great customer experience and a customer success manager’s efforts is a customer that is highly satisfied. Most measures will lead up to this. In a subscription economy company but in general too, if a customer is sufficiently satisfied they will likely stay loyal which is also the ultimate point.

Value

I main driver of satisfaction is when you get value from something. There will be a myriad ways of quantifying value but as long as a customer is deriving some material, financial or emotional reward for using a product or service, they should logically be satisfied.

Outcomes

When you unpack value you’ll likely find that that there are contributing factors that influence the eventual quantification of value. These can hopefully be defined as clearly articulated outcomes. This is not easy, especially when it comes to the softer type of outcomes like status or emotional wellbeing. Outcomes are ideally something a good customer success manager has identified and quantified (with solid metrics) upfront, and not realised unintentionally at the end of the journey. But there maybe be some element of backward engineering for some outcomes.

Method / Process / Tech

A good customer success manager will have a robust approach that can be applied as a set of key building blocks of activity which lead to the intended end points above. A repeatable and measurable process and methodology that drive intended outcomes. One thing I have added consequently and is not in the diagram, is technology. That is, a platform or combination of platforms that will facilitate the journey of delivering the intended end points.

Insight

success and impactYou have to be able to understand (through careful reporting and analysis) what is driving the intended end points. That has to be a well tracked and represented set of activities that lead to understanding. It is typically centred on user activity (of your product and/or service). The understanding will allow you to work with your approach to see what is working and what isn’t. The holy grail of customer success management is when your planned interventions (made up of the approach covered above) can be materially tracked and tied back to impacts on usage – see rough doodle for example. The way to connect these two is through insights on usage data.

Data

Raw data primarily around how your product or service is being used is what I mean here. This often will stem from a key source which is the product or service being used. But sometimes there will be other sources of data that require integration into a single funnel which is then reported on and analysed for insight. For example you may want to take raw usage data and combine it with transactional data around the customer from a CRM system and together they enrich the meaning.

Product

It’s a given I’m talking about a tangible product like a technology platform but it need not only be that. Service delivery around a product should also be considered. Even just a service in its own right. The key thing is that you have a product or service that is made up of interactions with customers and technology plays a role in either fundamentally driving the interactions or in the means of digitising them.

Find and share your gift by working out loud #wolweek 2016

This is the first day of this year`s Working Out Loud Week #wolweek and Simon Terry has recommended to reflect about PURPOSE.

First I was contemplating about the term “purpose” and what it exactly means in German. Is it more about intention, a goal, aim, only a task or it more about a higher meaningful purposeful goal with significant core values which makes the world a better place? Well, I guess this question exactly triggers the right aspect and to starts my and your own journey (‘The way is the goal’ — Confucius)  into a purposeful (work) life where I am first discovering my own gift:

  • my talents and skills: am I using them to help others?
  • my  (working) time: how should I prioritize my time?
  • my power and influence: How I could I have a larger positive impact on the life of others?

I have made the experience that joining a Working Out Loud Circle as described by John Stepper is really helpful to discover my own gifts because of this impressive feedback culture which should exist in every great circle. A circle is a protected and confidential space (video conference or on-site meetup) where a group of people meet every week for 12 weeks to reach their goals. Using public social media channels is part of the exercises but not an isolated goal without a senseful meaning behind it.

Working Out Loud is not a wild and uncoordinated broadcasting of news or random (personal) information. That is what I hear a lot as major concern: “Why should I want to read that others are currently eating a cookie?”

For me it is a learning space with very concrete purposes: helping other people and organisations to achieve more. That is the main focus. It`s all about supporting others and reaching own goals is a secondary gain.

I have modified the famous quote from Pablo Picasso: The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” — Pablo Picasso
Find your gift, share your gift

Making sense of sensemaking

I see sense making as a bit of an art but also believe there is a science to it. At least to doing it well. I also believe we will have to get better at it since it will be one of the key skills of the 21st century (check out this article on a Future Work Skills 2020 Report that believes the same). Especially when you consider the plethora of information we are going to be bombarded with online which will increasingly become our standard operating environment for work and play (if it isn’t already). This doesn’t mean that’s where we will spend all our time, just where we will turn to for information, and increasingly, for sense making. So I’ve tried to capture the science of it as I see it in this diagram below. This also combines an approach I see at least myself taking in this blog where appropriate.

sensemaking

Input

  • Data. This could mean mastering the challenge that is big data. Equally, it could simply be the ability to use some raw quantitative input into anything you are trying to make sense of.
  • Experience. The best way to make sense of the world around you is to experience it. Take a trial of a product where possible (ideally free :), interact with an organisation, use a sample.
  • Ideas. Without direct experience or data you have only an idea to work with. This can be examined and investigated for its merits. Art would fall into this category but pretty much anything can be explored in it’s raw initial state as an idea.

Sense making

  • Value. Take all your key sources of input and judge them at this stage on what value they deliver or you believe they might deliver. What do you get out of them on a tangible and intangible basis.
  • Impact. Next is impact on the audience you believe is the intended one. No matter how small or big, what impact will it make. This can be very subjective because impact is relative to context and think about this as broadly as you can before judging
  • Sustainability. In other words, does it have a future. Maybe this is not intended but if it is, how likely is it to exist 5, 10, 20 years from now?
  • Own judgement / review: peers/readers. These are really only mechanisms to help you judge.

Output

  • Theory. One possible outcome could be that you are left with only a theory, because nothing can be proven (but then can anything with absolute certainty). Theory’s are a good starting point for experimentation though and that is often all you can do.
  • Strategy. You may be a little more certain and so one bit of output could be a clear strategy if its a big enough piece of work and needs it.
  • Actions. Finally, you could either have the actions needed to implement the strategy or simply a clear set of actions to take as a result of your new found knowledge :)

#workingoutloud #archive

Intrapreneur’s Playbook: Why dissent is good for your organisation and 10 ways to foment disruption

20151027_215630000_iOSI work in an organisation and industry where a key mantra of work and of the value we offer to customers is (improved) collaboration. Central to this is effective teamwork and working like a network. I believe in this wholeheartedly with every fibre in my body since I have been working in this space for the last 10 years. However, there are times when it is counter-productive and things need to be stirred up a little.

There are times when “group think” can set in. Shared thinking can become stultifying. There is a risk of echo chambers forming. Out of the ordinary thinking so necessary for innovation can be lost. I’m not the only one to think so:

Inspired by this article on how to disrupt yourself, I borrowed liberally but modified it somewhat to focus more on an organisational level. I also added the last four points. It is essentially a set of principles intended to keep everyone on their toes, responsive to change and disruptive. This is for people who understand that the way organisations work has changed but not all minds in them have yet and the path to changing them sometimes need revolutionary tactics. This could also easily be a chapter out of an Intrapreneur’s Playbook – hence the title. So to the list:

1. An autonomous unit of contrarians who understand that new models and methods need to be created constantly.

The unit should have all the functional skills it needs to succeed, the right mindset and the wherewithal to operate independently of current business responsibilities (including finacial independence) but are still deeply entrenched in core business operations.

2. Leaders who come from the relevant “schools of experience.”

These leaders have addressed a variety of challenges, especially in the kinds of problems new business models and challenges will face.

3. A code of conduct and principles (like this set :).

Adherents should be inspired and can subscribe to them easily because they are clear and unequivocal and can be communicated and even tought consistently throughout the organisation.

4. Independent collaboration and communication channels.

These should not be required to coordinate with or defer to existing channels. A channel that allows for super efficient information flows, hyper connectedness and virality of movement. So by channel I don’t mean email – I’m talking Yammer, Slack, etc. :)

5. Performance standards that are open to the unit.

It should be able to reflect priorities different from those of the core business. You can expect the new unit to do as well as the core in terms of performance, but the formula for generating that performance must be different.

6. Unwavering commitment by the CEO.

He or she must be willing to spend an inordinate amount of time understanding and guiding the development of the new movement and must protect it from the natural desire on the part of managers in the core business to shut it down.

7. Understanding the status quo.

What the group thinks is not what is going to move you forward but its important to understand from whence you are coming so that you can better plot a chart for the destination. What will, how it will and why then becomes a robust rallying cry for the movement for change.

8. Hack the change and in turn the culture.

The insurgent’s/disrupter’s way is through Guerilla tactics – small, incisive attacks at the status quo that end up disrupting it. Piecemeal successes that collectively make up success at scale. A little more about hacking here.

9. Celebrate the successes through stories.

They must be authentic, based on experience and driven by emotion (narratives close to people’s collective purpose). They should also use facts and data based on reality that point to real successes and value. Enliven your stories with rich media, video, audio, diagrams, etc.

10. Start at the beginning.

The enemy never sleeps and you have to reinvent yourself constantly. Failure is an option and experimentation is the insurgent’s/disrupter’s Petri dish and the new planning.

#workingoutloud

How to communicate and get what you need from decision makers

I learned of a technique in a training session given to Yammer Sales and Customer Success Management (CSM) staff in 2012. The technique adopts an approach for emailing someone, typically for the first time, that you are keen to get something from – essentially you would be cold calling them. We called the technique “the Hoff mail” after the person who taught it to us – see link below.

The person being contacted is also typically senior and difficult to get hold of. They will have many people contacting them and have limited attention so the Hoff mail is first and foremost intended to be impactful and to the point. It is also often a first step in achieving an ultimate outcome, for instance, closing a sales deal but starting with agreement on a first meeting or call perhaps. Or it could be to get a commitment to do something or provide some key information like a use case need, etc.

A CSM could also use it to branch out of existing relationships if they are being single threaded or stuck in IT (so building relationships with business decision maker’s). The key principles can be applied to communications means beyond email, e.g. LinkedIn, etc. See PowerPoint slides at the end which cover this a little more specifically.

The training was provided by http://www.mjhoffman.com/

THE MAIN CONSTRUCTS:

  • Sentence 1 is a specific reference to the person or company that makes your “ask” relevant
  • Sentence 2 is the connection to your company / solution
  • Sentence 3 is the close or what you are asking for

THE COMPELLING “CLOSE”:

  • Something you want
  • Easy to Deliver
  • Open-ended questions only

ADDITIONAL TIPS:

  • Don’t include links in prospecting emails. The Idea is to get their attention, not to sell them on the first email
  • Don’t make mention of your name or company in the beginning of the email
  • Do not make reference to failed attempts at outreach
  • DO NOT use “tell me about your business” or make any reference that you don’t know about theirs
  • DO reference how our customers are gaining value from Yammer. People are far more interested in what our customers have in common vs you
  • TRY KEEP EMAILS IN THE SHAPE OF AN “F”: The first sentence is longer than the second which is longer than the third and closing sentence.
  • Subject line could be a shortened version of Sentence #1. It has to be relevant
  • Most likely be read on a iPhone

ADDITIONAL READING:


Example provided by Jeff Hoffman:

Hello …, 

I saw that ACS was named to Training Outsourcing’s annual top 20 list, and I was inspired to email you directly. I found your approach to learning and education refreshing.

We offer a revolutionary approach to sales training based on sales efficiency and pipeline management. Some of our notable clients include SAP, Deutsche Bank Alex Brown, Forrester Research, and Akamai Technologies. 

Who do you recommend that we contact at ACS to introduce our programs?

Best regards, 


Example of what has worked for me:

Dear …,

As (customer name) have invested substantially in Office 365 technologies, I have been assigned to your business as a global specialist based in London, to ensure you derive maximum value from the technologies for your users and the business. 

I have experience with (industry) across EMEA and will be in (location) 23-27 November. I typically engage with customers to support roll-out of the technologies in digital innovation initiatives.

Can you and your team be available on the morning of the 24th as well as for calls beforehand to start preparing? 

Warm regards, …

More in the deck below

What tools for the quantified self of the mind?

@ragnarheil you’ve already published an awesome write up on your use of Neurosky and have covered some other tools. You made some really good points about what they do.

I thought why not try #workingoutloud to capture a comprehensive list of considerations when evaluating tools for the benefit of others. I also think its important to understand what you are trying to achieve? So maybe we have a list with the main tools and then a some of the main outcomes you can expect or should target. Something like this below:

The tools

  • MindWave Mobile: Brainwave Starter Kit – See review linked in opening paragraph
  • Spire – Device and iOS app
  • mindBot – A chat bot available for leading messaging apps
  • Muse – A brain sensing headband with iOS and Android apps
  • Thync – A device for monitoring your brain and helping influence it
  • PIP – Stress Management Device
  • Foc.us Gadgets for Lucid Dreaming and V2 Brain Stimulator. Coming in 2016 EEG Flow
  • MyndPlay – Brainwave Sensor
  • OURA Ring – Tracks and improves sleep
  • Bosurgi VR App – Virtual Reality delivery mechanism for the Bosurgi Method™
  • Heart Math – Application that measures your heart rate with device and provides feedback in real time, visually
  •  GPS for the Soul – Uses your phone’s camera to assess your heart rate with tools to guide and improve your mental state
  • Nome – Avisual and auditive neuro-feedback device thatsupports meditation
  • Bellabeat Leaf – A device that tracks activity, sleep, menstrual cycle and meditation
  • The WellBe (Indiegogo project) – The WellBe is a bracelet and mobile app designed to support your emotional well-being. Find out what your stress triggers are and learn personalized meditation and other well-being exercises to release stress.
  • Sona – Connected bracelet for mind and body. Also has app and focus is on physical activity as well as managing stress
  • Prana – Wearable which combines breath and posture tracking to help you make the most of your sitting time
  • Embrace – A bracelet that provides activity monitoring, sleep monitoring, stress management and seizure monitoring
  • Feel – A wristband with integrated sensors that measure and track biosignals throughout the day, while a mobile application visualizes the results and provides personalized recommendations to improve emotional health
  • Jiyo – Using data from the sensors in your phone and other fitness devices, Jiyo gives you tips for brief tasks that are supposed to improve your well-being, like doing a stretch after a long flight, or meditations and other routines that might improve your sleep if you haven’t been sleeping well.
  • Zenta (Indiegogo project) – A personalized coach for both body and mind. Through sophisticated tracking of your physical and emotional wellbeing, ZENTA helps you discover how your habits and actions influence your stress and happiness over time.

The outcomes

  • Tracking emotional states alongside daily activities so you can determine what leads to stress and what calms you
  • Tracking your state of focus, for when you are meditating for instance, and alerting you when you become distracted. This could also be used for work and help you become more focused
  • Gamifying your practice so that you can track progress and set and strive for new challenges
  • A chat bot could act as a teacher, a guide to help steer you in difficult or challenging times, building a mindful awareness habit and/or self development goal tracking

If we discuss and add tools, outcomes and general ideas in comments then I can add to the main post as we go. What do you think?

Welcome and pointers

@ragnarheil welcome to this site :) Just want to let you know that you can mention users in this site in the standard way using the @ symbol and user name. You should receive a notification from this post. And this way we can work together and out loud #workingoutloud :)

As you can see you can also use hashtags which are standard WordPress tags in this live editor. Find out more about how to use this site here: https://wordpress.com/themes/p2-breathe/

And I’ll add this post to the Sense Making category under the #help tag because that is where it fits as per initial structure below. Let me know if you have any queries :)

categories and tags

Customer Success Management – Experience Hacking in the Subscription Age

Having been a customer success manager and advising startups on the practice you would probably expect me to be trumpeting its value. You’d expect it from Gainsight too, the customer success company: Information Services, the Subscription Economy, and the Value of Customer Success.

And what about the subscription economy itself – whats in that? According to a 2014 report by The Economist Intelligence Unit, 80 percent of customers are demanding new consumption models including subscribing, sharing, and leasing — anything except actually buying a product outright.

I found that in a post by the poster child for the subscription economy, the CEO of Zuora, Tien Tzuo: The Subscription Economy – A Business Transformation. Zuora offers subscription billing, commerce and finance solutions for the subscription economy.

Experience has been an Economy too at least since 1999, when the seminal book from Joseph Pine and James Gilmore was published: The Experience Economy.

I’ll leave it up to you to decide. In the meantime, I put this slide deck together for some of the Microsoft Ventures B2B startups I mentor based on my experience over the years. It’s my take (including much from others) on what it is and what makes a good program.

#workingoutloud #customer-success

Hackathons as a key intrapreneurial activity and route to innovation

In my time at Yammer first then Microsoft, I worked with customers to devise a program for running innovation hackathons. It considers more than just the 24 hour period typical for hackathons. The “pre” and “post” of hackathons is as important. Activity should start long before the 24 hour period and carry on long after.

It also incorporates a social platform like Yammer for supporting activities but you could adopt any. I’ve helped customers with global hackathons covering geographically dispersed teams. With something like Yammer you don’t all need to be together in one place at a set time for the pre and post work and ideas and innovation are given the time they need.

At Microsoft we went further than just the 24 hours. We dedicated an entire week to hacking and had a custom built platform that supported the ideation and team forming side far ahead of the week. Yammer groups were used in conjunction to the formal idea management side of things.

The full monty hackathon

I captured the approach of using something like Yammer in this diagram below for a full blown, longer term program. It also covers important elements like communication and involvement from others in the organisation. I’ve provided some additional detail following the diagram.

Innovation process flow

Based on work done with a large UK based retail customer – see also diagram for basic description.

Core concepts

  • Consolidate info into notes
  • Keep momentum by posting summaries
  • Continuous process of idea generation/team formation

Phase 1 – Ideation

  • A single main group is created and designated for idea creation
  • People post ideas in the group starting a thread
  • Topics (or hashtag in the text input field itself) can be applied to ideas to make it easy to distinguish between and track idea conversations, e.g #idea-descriptor (where descriptor relates specifically to the idea subject)
  • The organizer collects useful ideas into an Ideas Note making it easier to track all ideas in one place
  • Weekly: the organisers/community managers post a summary of the most interesting ideas or the ideas that have generated more feedback
  • End of phase: all ideas are self selected for moving onto the next phase (number of likes and comments could be an indicator of an ideas popularity)

Phase 2 – Forming

  • People that have decided to progress ideas should make clear who they are and these should be logged in a Note in the main group
  • Teams can be formed around these ideas in the Note by simply having people names linked to the idea in the Note
  • For each team, you can have:
    • Summary of the idea
    • Members
    • Link to the group (see next point)
  • People create a group for each team and idea
  • Weekly: the organisers/community managers posts a summary of the most interesting stuff happening inside groups to the main Globe’athon group
  • End of phase: Ideas could be progressed in conversations and Notes but at the end of the phase idea teams could be asked to summarise and answer some key questions around there idea using a template as a guide (see Example criteria for an idea qualification template below)

Phase 3 – Developing

  • The main group is now used again for collaboration and information sharing around the day of the event
  • The organisers/community managers make sure to spread messages out to observing parties and capture activities in the group from those happening offline
    • Pictures
    • Videos
    • Examples of collaboration
    • The winners

Example criteria for an idea qualification template

  • Have you considered all the advantages or benefits of the idea? Is there a real need for it?
  • Have you pinpointed the exact problems or difficulties your idea is expected to solve?
  • Is your idea an original, new concept, or is it a new combination or adaptation?
  • What immediate or short-range gains or results can be anticipated? Are the projected returns adequate? Are the risk factors acceptable?
  • What long-range benefits can be anticipated?
  • Have you checked the idea for faults or limitations?
  • Are there any problems the idea might create? What are the changes involved?
  • How simple or complex is going to be the idea’s execution or implementation?
  • Could you work out several variations of the idea? Could you offer alternative ideas?
  • How soon could the idea be put into operation?

I’ve tried to capture this whole approach a little more richly with this video :)

Instant hackathon – a no frills approach

This is the format you can follow to run a hackathon in a two to three hour period without any prior preparation and effort by participants. I’ve used this approach with team members on a one or two day retreat.

Format

  1. Distribute: Hand out paper and pens to each person. Set a timer for five minutes to 10 minutes. Everyone writes down as many ideas as they can. Individually. Quietly. This list won’t be shared with the group, so nobody has to worry about writing down dumb ideas.
  2. Self-edit: Set the timer for two minutes. Each person reviews his or her own list and picks one or two favorites. Individually. Quietly.
  3. Share and capture: One at a time, each person shares his or her top idea(s). No sales pitch. Just say what you wrote and move on. As you go, one person writes everybody’s ideas on the whiteboard.
  4. Vote: Set the timer for five minutes. Each person chooses a favorite from the ideas on the whiteboard. Individually. Quietly. You must commit your vote to paper.
  5. Share and capture: One at a time, each person says their vote. A short sales pitch may be permissible, but no changing your vote! Say what you wrote. Write the votes on the whiteboard. Dots work well.
  6. Decide: Who is the decider? Decider should make the final call—not the group. Decider can choose to respect the votes or not. This is less awkward than it sounds: instead of dancing around people’s opinions and feelings, you’ve made the mechanics plain. Everyone’s voice was heard. Three ideas must be chosen.
  7. Rejoice (that only took 15 minutes :)
  8. Hack: Top three ideas are worked on for 2-3 hour period including pitch
  9. Pitch: Outcomes presented and one or more are chosen for further work after the session (or not)

Guidance

  • Teams: Are groups of 3-5 people
  • Optional themes: Productivity Saving, Enhancing Customer Experience, Increasing Consumption, Better Product, Events, Blogging, Data hacks, Partners Stuff, Increasing Business Value, Use Cases
  • Scope: Business Hacks (No coding required!)
  • Bonus points for hacks that Ship!!!

Variations

  • Do steps 1 and 2 as an interactive session where people shout out their ideas and then collectively develop them.
  • Steps 1 and 2 as a walking session if you need some exercise during the day (needs a little more time). Capture and vote is then done as a plenary exercise. Hacking can in theory be done on the move as well but capturing the essence will require some work.

Further reading

I think hackathons, if done right, can be a key intrapreneurial activity and route to innovation. I’m not the only one. Below are some links to interesting articles of how others are adopting the approach:

Intrapreneurs: The New Corporate Innovation Brokers

A very quick doodle with some initial thinking that I’ll try and incorporate some elements of in the book – something around key attributes of an intrapreneur. Needs more work.

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#workingoutloud

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