Get Started with Your Startup with #StartupSundays

Once upon a time, we all had a dream of writing a novel. In fact, many of us are fond of explaining that we have that Great Australian Novel locked away in a drawer – or more likely – a computer file, gathering dust. One day … we say, we’ll dust it off and finish the story and garner the applause of the world. But like so many great dreams, the Great Australian Novel, often never materialises. But over the last couple of years, I have noticed a distinctly different aspiration coming from friends and colleagues. They speak not so much of a Great Australian Novel, but of a Great Australian Startup. Their own business.

From the number of conversations that I have had over the last 12 months, it seems that we’ve started the awkward journey of becoming a nation of entrepreneurs.

We no longer dream of writing a modern day Kings in Grass Castles. It’s all Canva this, Atlassian that.

Starting at the start

Of course, just like writing a novel, the trick to starting a startup is to “just start”. But while we can all pull out a piece of paper and start to write, surely a startup takes something more … substantial!?

Not so. The Disruptor’s Handbook, for example, is a program that literally guides you from idea to soft launch. And a lot of it requires writing words on paper. It’s just like a novel – but one where you are the hero. The villain. And the entire supporting cast.

Startups are a community affair

While writing a novel can be a fairly solitary activity, startups thrive on community. Feedback is the lifeblood of the startup, and that means the very worst thing you can do is bury yourself in your bedroom (or garage) and hope to knock out the next greatest Facebook/Insta/App. This is where coworking is your saviour. Coworking is a way to get out of the house, connect with others and test your ideas – and your business – in the hard light of day. After all, it’s no use building a business that no one wants or needs.

With this in mind, Vibewire has just announced a new program to support startups of all shapes and size. Called #StartupSundays, it runs each Sunday in October from 9:30am to midday. It’s like a lazy breakfast with motivated people. Over the two and a half hours, there will be speed mentoring and networking, inspirational talks and a chance for peer feedback and a spot of pitching. It’s a simple but effective way to get ahead of your week.

All in a friendly atmosphere – the Vibewire Common Room in Ultimo, Sydney.

  • Where: Vibewire Common Room
  • When: 9:30am-midday, each Sunday in October 2016
  • Bookings: Register here.

New Journeys in Product Development with the Qantas Hackathon

For the last two years, Disruptor’s Handbook have been working with Qantas to create an innovation program that brings the power, agility and speed of the startups into their customer journeys. With a focus on customer experience, these weekend intensives, known as the Codeshare Hackathons, expose Qantas business challenges to the scrutiny – and creativity – of the hackers, hipsters and hustlers of the startup world.

It’s a form of open innovation that we’ve developed specifically to deliver new product opportunities rapidly and at scale. This approach takes a leaf out of the startup book (should I say the Startup Bible), Lean Startup by Eric Ries – focusing however, not on product-market fit but on market-product fit. That means that we help our corporate clients focus on the business challenges they face, coach them through a process of articulation, reverse pitching and presentation, and then open the challenges to startups, students and entrepreneurs.

Then, in a matter of days, we all collaboratively develop working prototypes – what is known as an MVP (a minimum viable product) – to the stated challenges. I call it “marketing-led innovation”.

The secret sauce of corporate hackathons

To the outside world, hackathons are like a cauldron of mystery. We throw in some ingredients, mix them up, and emerge some time later with a magic solution. Somewhere in the middle of the process, a secret sauce is added. But this is anything like Colonel Sanders’ secret recipe. You see, it’s all about process and people.

Over the last couple of years, we have been building out a process that reduces the risk of innovation. We use systems and design thinking approaches, add a dash of lean startup, good old fashioned project and event management and highly targeted coaching and mentoring. We consult with clients, manage stakeholder expectations and do so within what is a relatively controlled and safe environment.

And the results are stunning. New products. New collaborations. New businesses and startups. In many ways, it’s marketing in action. And we’ve got more planned. Get involved, you’ll be amazed at how tasty the secret sauce really is.

Enter the Constellation Supernova Awards

I’m judging the 2016 Constellation SuperNova Awards again this year. It has been a while, but I am excited to see the innovation that is emerging from enterprises around the world. Every year the Constellation SuperNova Awards recognise individuals for their leadership in digital business. and the great thing is, you don’t have to be a North American business. Anyone can enter. Nominate yourself or someone you know before August 8, 2016. It’s a great way to promote your program while also learning from others in the same field. Learn more and apply here.

About the SuperNova Awards

The SuperNova Awards honour leaders that demonstrate excellence in the application and adoption of new and emerging technologies.

In its sixth year, the Constellation SuperNova Awards will recognize individuals who demonstrate leadership in nine categories:

  • Internet of Things – A network of smart objects enables smart services. (sensors, smart ‘things’, device to purchase, artificial intelligence)
  • Data to Decisions – Using data to make informed business decisions. (big data, predictive analytics)
  • Digital Marketing Transformation – Personalized, data-driven digital marketing
  • Future of Work: Social Business – The technologies enabling teams to work together efficiently. (enterprise social networks, collaboration, digital assistants)
  • Future of Work: Human Capital Management – Enabling your organization to utilize your workforce as an asset.  (talent management, benefits, HR core)
  • Matrix Commerce – Commerce responds to changing realities from the supply chain to the storefront. (digital retail, supply chain, payments, ‘ubiquitous-channel’ retail)
  • Next Generation Customer Experience – Customers in the digital age demand seamless service throughout all lifecycle stages and across all channels.  (crm, customer experience)
  • Safety and Privacy – Strategies to secure sensitive data (blockchain, digital identity, authentication)
  • Technology Optimization & Innovation – Innovative methods to balance innovation and IT budgets. (innovation in the cloud, ENSW cost savings, cloud ERP, efficient app production).

The SuperNova Awards are seeking leaders and teams who have innovatively applied disruptive technolgies to their business models as a means of adapting to the rapidly-changing digital business environment. If you have what it takes to compete in the SuperNova Awards submit your application today: https://www.constellationr.com/events/supernova/2016

After the Spark of Innovation Comes the Grind of Transformation

For the  corporate entrepreneur or intrapreneur, innovation is seductive. It’s the nod and a wink that catches your attention out of the corner of your eye. Often, by the time that you’ve doubled back to start a conversation, it has disappeared into the corporate ether.

But that glance holds you in thrall. You know that despite the allure of bright and shiny projects, it’s the riskier, opportunities that will draw you back in.

And yet, while innovation continues to attract us, the real value accrues to the organisation that systematically absorbs that innovation and disperses it not just in new product and service offerings. This means taking the spark of innovation and allowing it to light a million fires in the minds of our employees, transforming the culture one idea, project or prototype at a time.

But almost every leadership team makes the same mistake with digital and with innovation. They focus on the technology, forgetting about the people.

This infographic illustrates this exact problem. Sure, digital is disrupting enterprises, but it’s the hard grind of transforming your people and your processes that sees dramatic revenue, cost and consumer experience benefits:

  • Executives expect that by 2020, 47% of sales will be influence by digital
  • BUT:
    • 14% believe they have the right processes
    • 21% have the right culture
    • 21% have the right people.

Which means, there are significant transformation deficits that must be overcome.

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Uncertain? You’re Not Alone at Vibewire’s #fastBREAK

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If there is one thing that we can all agree upon, it’s that we all feel UNCERTAIN.

It could be about work. Our partners. Our future.

Do you have a calling or a mission? Do you feel out of touch? Let down? Discombobulated?

Chances are, you’re not alone.

In fact, Vibewire’s upcoming fastBREAK breakfast on 27 May at 8am, is your chance to find out just how un-alone you really are. And you can do it by being with others who feel the same uncertainty.

Join me and five great, young leaders as they share their insights into uncertainty at the first fastBREAK event for the year.

It’s FIVE speakers with FIVE minutes to tell their story. You get to meet and mingle with the speakers and audiences, drink coffee and eat breakfast and still be back at work in time for your WIP meeting. Just a couple of the speakers you will see include:

BRITTANY LEE WALLER
“I like to think of myself as a storyteller, less bad dad jokes more witty, life of the party sort of raconteur. A girl can dream, right?”

Brittany Lee Waller is a freelance writer, editor and content producer. She has spent 8 years working across Gourmet Traveller, Peats Ridge Music Festival, Drinks World Asia, Rare Birds and Nine Network Australia. Brittany founded storytelling site Meet the People because she has always believed that people should be at the essence of everything we do. She likes short walks to the bar and prefers everything to come with a pop culture reference.

OSMAN FARUQI

Osman Faruqi is the co-founder of MetaPoll. He has worked closely with a number of research firms in Australia as a campaign strategist and political adviser for the Australian Greens. He also has an in-depth understanding of Australia’s media and political landscape as a result of his work as a political journalist, broadcaster and commentator. He likes politics, ice cream, Gossip Girl and nationalising things.

Get your tickets here.

Lufthansa Takes You on a Virtual Journey

One of the key marketing challenges that we face in the customer journey is moving from awareness to trial. That is, we want potential customers to “try out” our products or services.

This can be particularly challenging when your product or service has a substantial price tag attached.

Think of travel.

There are a whole series of steps that we go through when we are on a travel journey:

  • Ideas and inspiration: We seek out amazing stories, pictures and reviews of places, people and experiences so that we can plan our own adventures
  • Planning and projection: We start to actively curate our activities, destinations and journeys, connecting the dots and figuring out our itineraries and (gasp, horror) budget. In this stage we are not just planning our activities – but actively imagining what it will be like to BE there
  • Lock and load: When we’ve checked, double and triple checked, confirmed our budget and dates, now we wade neck deep into the process of locking dates to a loaded credit card. Yes, it’s commitment time and the pressure is on (so many websites, so many things that can go wrong)
  • See ya, see ya, wouldn’t want to be ya: Wave goodbye to your friends and family and take the leap into the unknown
  • Wish you were here: Well, we say this to be kind, but if the planning and projection phase was well done, you’ll be taking hundreds of selfies all around the world and using them to induce raging envy across your social graph
  • Reflection and longing: Planes aren’t the only things that land with a BUMP. So too does our travel ego. Coming back to “reality” can be a confronting experience. To cope, we return to our #RunningWithTheBulls selfies to remind ourselves just what the travel rush was all about and how we really are #travelheroes.

In amongst each of these steps, there are hardly any that an airline can directly impact. They can inspire us with their media activities, advertising and profile. And they may even help us to plan – albeit in a small way. A good airline will make locking and loading a breeze and but it’s really when you are in the plane that they can make a huge impact.

But experiencing airline travel is expensive, right? And price alone is a barrier.

This virtual travel experience from Lufthansa by 3Spin is a very interesting innovation that I expect will see plenty of others follow.

Lufthansa have touched on many aspects of the travel journey – turning a largely imaginative process into something that is more tangible. More experiential. In fact, it’s not just the destination that is inspirational, it’s the experience of the virtual reality itself. And with a clever mix of digital, analog and old fashioned customer service, they’ve created something far more than just a 360 degree virtual experience. They have created an EVENT – a point in time and space that will create memories. Stories. And hopefully for Lufthansa, bookings.

It makes me think there may be something to this VR lark after all.

The Industrial Internet, Accelerator in a Box and Retail Disruption on #DisrupTV

Each week, Vala Afshar and R “Ray” Wang host a web series DisrupTV. It’s a 30 minute deep dive into the world of digital transformation featuring the people and organizations that are leading that change.

This week’s episode featured GE’s Chief Digital Officer, Ganesh Bell, Constellation Research Principal Analyst, Guy Courtin and myself.

Setting a cracking pace, GE have become the poster child for the world of digital transformation, coining the term “industrial internet”, establishing startups in Silicon Valley and setting a vision to be a top 10 software company by 2020. In the episode, Ganesh talks about the challenges of transformation – of moving from an industrial company to a digital company and what it takes. It’s well worth watching the replay to learn more about the tangible impact of digital transformation that GE is making not just within their business but well beyond it.

Joining Ray and Vala, about 25 minutes in, I shared some insight into the world of enterprise innovation in Australia:

Guy Courtin joined around 45 minutes in and brought amazing insight into the changing world of retail. From showrooming to the internet of things, he covered a vast terrain of disruption and opportunity, suggesting that bricks and mortar stores still have plenty of advantages over their digital only counterparts, and explaining that to be truly transformative, we need to stop thinking about “e” commerce and connect the dots around the customer’s commercial experience.

While the show ran for just over an hour, it’s jam packed with insight and energy. And DisrupTV is fast becoming an authoritative, must watch series for all those who are serious about the business of disruption and transformation in business. Check out recordings of past episodes here. And watch this week’s episode replay from Blab below.

The Price of Marketing is Innovation

Marketing teams everywhere are experiencing a profound disruption. It’s a change in thinking, planning, analytics and platforms unlike anything that we have experienced previously. And while the changes happening to us as marketers are unsettling, far more troubling are the changes happening around us as marketers, business people and consumers. We are living on the pinhead of a transition that is sweeping all before us and swallowing the past as it goes.

Living in a platform age has changed the dynamics of our lives. What was personal has become professional and what was “work” has become, well, less clear. Less defined. After all, we can now “work” from home, from a coworking space or shared office. Even a cafe around the corner from your home can serve you VPN access with a steaming hot cappuccino. We are an always-on, digitally connected, wifi enabled workforce that can transform from knowledge worker to connected consumer faster than Snapchat can forget that selfie you posted to your network of faux friends and friendly foes.

And the platforms have come a long way, taking advantage of four transformative technologies – social, mobile, analytics and cloud. The SMAC model. For years, technology companies have known about the power of platforms – using SMAC to create competitive advantage and commercialising the value across networks. Startups have known this too – though often without clear and incisive strategy. They’re too busy moving quickly across the platforms to harness their potential for scale.

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But this is changing. All businesses are changing.

These days, any business can become a technology business. What was once my consulting business – Disruptor’s Handbook – has become a technology business. We are deeply technology enabled – from CRM to lead and opportunity nurturing, communications management, planning, collaboration and execution right through to business analytics and financial management. The intellectual property that we have created has been downloaded thousands of times and is being put to use in 25 different countries including the UK, China, South Africa, South Korea, Japan, India and Mongolia.

This can only happen because we have embraced the SMAC model. We have apps in the cloud, integrated using pieces of string, chewing gum and a raft of zapier zaps, API calls and pre-made plugins. It means we rely on a dozen services rather than a single suite, but it holds together and works almost flawlessly. Until it doesn’t. But it provides a scale that would otherwise be difficult to achieve without a significant technology budget.

And if we can do it, you can too.

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Swallowing the past

Just when you start to feel comfortable with your technology choices, the rubber bands and sticky-tape that you use to hold it all together, the worst possible thing happens. Well not exactly the worst, but modern marketing’s closest equivalent. A new technology is released. Or an upgrade or a patch. And this new thing is so bright and shiny, you feel like Cory Hart in a film clip straight from the heart of the 1980s. You can’t help but to download it. Sign up. Trial. Share it with friends and colleagues.

And this one new thing makes you question all that has gone before it. Imagine Facebook before it bought Instagram. Or Google before it bought Urchin. These companies are moving so fast, transforming their user experience and brand promise so quickly that we hardly remember what life was like before the change occurred. These platforms are swallowing the past moment by venture-funded moment.

But where do we start? In the marketing technology field alone, Scott Brinker estimates that we are dealing with over 2000 technology choices across almost 50 category areas. In each of those categories we face a dazzling array of choices, capabilities and technologies. So much so, that we often elect to do nothing. As marketers we are suffering from one of our own invented marketing conditions – decision paralysis. We refuse to take a step forward out of a fear of being wrong-footed.

Yes, the future is bright and it is long, yet we are living a constant present.

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Marketing technology – it’s not a footstep but a journey

Traditionally, marketers have always had their eye on the customer. But in the rush to transform their approaches, update their skills and stay ahead of the competition (all while still delivering ROI), many of us have been blinded by the technology light. The problem is that this is not a light. It’s a train and it’s heading in our direction. Marketing technology has put us on a set of rails that are almost impossible to escape from.

But there is a way.

Rather than following in the digital footprints laid out in front of us, we must consciously choose an alternative – the customer journey.

When we start with our customers and their journey it changes the game for us. Rather than generating campaigns, leads and opportunities, we are seeking to understand our customers’ needs, expectations and path to purchase. It’s less about how we sell and more about how they buy. And when we understand this, we can then select the technologies that help us deliver that experience.

How do we do this?

Clearly it requires new thinking and new skills.

Agile marketing and the new world order

In many agencies, agile marketing has been the order of the day for sometime. Building on the old “traffic management” model popularised in publishing houses, digital agencies have been adopting agile methods and approaches to deliver their marketing solutions for years. But in this world of constant change – with a need to swim upstream to where the new sources of business value lie, client side marketers are having to adapt their own ways of working. Out are the old metrics and in are the new. Same with skills. Creative. And technology. Many of our marketing platforms have already been superseded – yesterday’s cutting edge marketing cloud is already burning like acid rain.

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Our increasingly complex world is expecting increasingly complex solutions. We can’t just work in broadcast or print. It needs to be omni-channel. Mobile. We need the best of social and the power of analytics. We need predictive modelling and on-demand forecasting. There are so many new acronyms that we need a new urban dictionary just to keep up. I have been exploring these topics on the Firebrand Talent blog – seeking to match the changing landscape a framework for marketing renewal.

In fact, I am finding my work in innovation is meeting my work in marketing. They complement and reinforce each other. And in the best instances they catalyse and accelerate each other’s effectiveness.

These days the modern marketer has no choice but to create a new world order. Gone are the certainty of ratings and public statistics. Gone are the guaranteed budgets and elastic ROI figures. In are hard numbers, data analytics and real time bidding. It’s like working with an armful of tactics while building strategy on the fly. We can do it, but we do need to ask – is it best for the business and best for the customer? Is it brand-wise?

The time has come to shift not only our thinking but our practice. It’s time that we recognise that customers are not going to buy something just because we interrupted their continuously connected life with the right offer in the right place at the right time. We need accept that we need to build new products for new conditions, not just create new campaigns to spruce up a tired offering. It’s time we stopped talking about “agile” and started “being” agile. We need a marketing system for the disruption that we are all living.

But what is it going to cost? I hear you say.

It’s not a cost. Modern marketing is an investment. And innovation is the price of getting a seat at the customer’s table.

Creating New Business Patterns for Social Impact

I have always believed that a sense of purpose would drive change, no matter whether that change was behavioural, economic or cultural. And as such, my work in marketing has always been driven by an interest in psychology, behaviour and action. The reality is, is that I am curiously interested in people and what makes them tick – not in the things that they tell you when prompted, but in the millions of tiny actions that create our personalities. For example, I love the way that vegans wear leather, or doctors smoke cigarettes. I adore the inconsistencies that defeat algorithms and confound logic.

But I also love the way that these apparent inconsistencies can also create opportunities.

Over the last couple of years, businesses have started to pay closer attention to millennials – that generation born between 1982 and 2004. And while the span is open to debate, it is clear that this generation have a substantially different mindset from those that came before. I notice this in the work that I do with youth entrepreneurship organisation, Vibewire – where I am regularly confronted by behaviours, actions and expectations that, on the surface, appear completely alien. And I notice it in my work with corporations and clients, and in the research I do for various public speaking events. But as this generation begins to reach into management and executive ranks of government and business, it is something that we are all having to come to grips with.

Deloitte’s Millennial Survey is a recent example of the research which serves to reinforce what we have long suspected – that a sense of values and purpose is at the core of the millennial mindset. Thus far we have seen this play out in the consumer landscape, with a significant reduction in leading indicators of personal consumption – consider:

  • The fall in the number of driving licenses issued and the downstream impact on car sales
  • The rise in preference for public transport and the increasing pressure on inner city housing
  • The interest in entrepreneurship opportunities and skills and the downstream disinterest in professional careers and career paths.

The Deloitte report indicated that while millennials are “pro-business”, they are also particularly interested in business’ potential to “do good”:

Millennials continue to express positive views of business, and their opinions regarding businesses’ motivations and ethics showed stark improvement in this survey. However, much skepticism remains, driven by the majority-held belief that businesses have no ambition beyond profit. Almost nine in 10 (87 percent) believe that “the success of a business should be measured in terms of more than just its financial performance.”

 

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However, while there is an alignment of values between business and millennials, there is a substantial gap in the alignment of purpose. The report concludes: “Millennials would prioritize the sense of purpose around people rather than growth or profit maximization”.

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This, of course, suggests unsettling economic, cultural and social futures while the mis-match is sorted out. But as in most things, the most negative impacts will be felt by those businesses that respond too late or fail to plan strategically.

How to plan ahead for generational change

Whether your business has felt the winds of generational change or not, make no mistake, it is coming. From 2015, the Baby Boomer generations began retiring from the global workforce, taking their years of experience and expertise and substantial spending power with them. This trend will accelerate in the coming years. And as those experienced business leaders trade suits and ties for no ties and sun-filled beaches, enterprises from downtown Chicago to dusky Beijing will be restocked with ambitious, values focused millennials seeking to make their mark on the world. And this shift will force substantial change to what has been “business as usual”, with values and purpose taking centre stage.

Anecdotally, we are already seeing this play out. Financial services organisations are softening their positioning and message to the market. Utilities and resources companies are speaking of values, and professional services firms proclaim purpose and social impact. It’s out with conspicuous consumption and in with the sharing economy.

But this is just the beginning. Real change must be embedded deep in the hearts and souls of these organisations. It must be lived in the brand experience. And the “old ways” – the “business as usual” approaches must be re-made for this changing age.

Innovating for social impact

Often when we talk of innovation, we focus on something new or novel that is introduced to the public. It could be technology or an experience. It could combine the two. But we will begin to find that our efforts at innovation trip and stumble as they reach the market if we fail to take into account the changing nature of our buyer’s values and purpose. It won’t be good enough to put “lipstick on a pig” and serve it up on a bed of kale. We will need to begin the challenging task of creating shared value outcomes that don’t just serve our markets, stakeholders and management. We will need to address social impact too.

Over the last year or so, I have been working to create powerful business innovation frameworks that help entrepreneurs bring their products and services to market faster. My very first of these was an adaptation of the Lean Canvas used by startups for the purposes of social impact. I called it the Shared Value Canvas. Recently I have turned my attention to workshop and facilitation formats that use the same lean and agile methods employed by the world’s most innovative companies, tweaked to incorporate a social impact or social innovation outcome.

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In the coming days, I expect to release a comprehensive handbook that guides facilitators and teams through a Five Day Social Sprint. Designed for not-for-profits and for-purpose organisations, it’s a deep dive into the tools and techniques that rapidly move from idea to product within a week’s worth of effort. It has been inspired by the Google Ventures, five day sprint process – but revised and refocused for social impact.

And while I hope it finds favour with charities and not-for-profit organisations around the world, I also hope it inspires more traditional businesses to find tangible ways to bring purpose and values to life within their organisations, one innovation at a time.

Opportunities for Agencies: Innovation Can Be Learned

One of the most interesting and useful podcasts that I listen to is Drew McLellan’s Build a Better Agency podcast. Each week, Drew serves up fascinating and tangible tips, tricks and proven approaches to help agency owners grow their business. It’s a great combination of tactics and strategy, capability building and new ideas.

A couple of months ago, I had the opportunity to talk to Drew about the ways that agency owners can re-think their businesses and client relationships. With so many of the traditional agency offerings like design, SEO and even copywriting now commoditised and available through crowd-aggregation platforms, many agencies are being challenged to innovate or die. It seems that digital disruption is reaching into even the most creative of disciplines.

Or is it.

I have always seen the great strengths of the agency model working where a trusted relationship is able to be nurtured over a number of years. In these instances, agencies are able to take on more and more strategic work, shifting from a transactional supplier role into something more substantial. A partner. Or advisor. It is in these roles where agency owners have the greatest of opportunities – to recast the relationship again, bringing their teams’ creative problem solving talents into the value equation.

One of the ways of doing this is through the use of the tools and techniques popularised by high tech startups, like the lean canvas. This “business model on a page” approach quickly moves a client discussion to a higher level. It frames a new style of conversation that agency owners can lead.

And the great thing is, you can try it on your own agency first. In the podcast I share some tips for getting started. And remember – innovation isn’t something you are born with. It can be learned.