Five Lessons from a Year of Disruption

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When you are head down working on projects, developing new business and just keeping it all together, it’s easy to miss business milestones – like your first year in business.

The initial idea for Disruptor’s Handbook came from a lunchtime meeting with my former colleagues at PwC. We were talking about the concept of “disruption” and how it could be managed. Used for innovation. Simon Gibbard suggested that we write a handbook – a disruptor’s handbook. Tim Lovitt and I had topic ideas and thought we could pull together a blog. Or an ebook. Or something.

Of course, it never happened. We were busy with projects and with life.

When my PwC contract ended, I launched Disruptor’s Handbook with the view that there was something to the concept. There were plenty of lessons from the world of startups that could be applied to corporates, and vice versa. I had also worked with communities and business networks and knew there was value in collaboration. The plan was to bring these things together – to help corporates, smaller businesses with the appetite for change, and innovative NFPs:

  • Reduce the risk of innovation
  • Innovate quickly by adopting proven frameworks
  • Be supported by experienced executives, mentors and teams.

The Three Principles

So I began with three principles that applied not only to collaborators but also to clients:

  • Intention: When working with clients and with collaborators, I needed to understand their intention. Did they truly, deeply have an intention to work together? Or was it a “lipstick on a pig” project designed to give the appearance of innovation?
  • Commitment: Was there a commitment to make a difference with innovation? Would clients and collaborators commit to a problem, wrestle with politics, budgets and organisational apathy?
  • Gavin is not always right: I can be passionate and easily convinced of the power of my own ideas, but I challenged myself to be open to alternatives of all kinds.

Five Lessons from Disruption

Like any fledgling business, there’s a lot required to build, learn and grow. You need work. Case studies. Cash flow. But these are the same for any business. What follows, however, are the more hidden lessons that I have taken out of the last 12 months:

  1. Your greatest strength is speed – but only if you use it. There is plenty of competition out there. But being a small business means that you can change the way you DO business quickly. But you have to commit to doing so. If you take a week to change your website, you’re too late. If you need to delay a project you may lose it. The challenge is to actually use your nimbleness to respond to project, client or market changes faster than everyone else.
  2. You aren’t what you sell. After creating a dozen or more disruptor’s handbooks on various topics from “using the lean canvas” to “how to run a hackathon”, I realised that I needed to bring things together. Potential clients could see the value but not the offer. I needed to quickly change the way that I explained Disruptor’s Handbook to make it more tangible. Remember to sell the sizzle as well as the steak.
  3. What you have isn’t necessarily what clients want. This is a hard one. Sometimes people “want” disruption but they’re not “ready” for it (yet). Like most innovation, it’s a journey. You’ve got to both educate your clients and lead them on a journey. You’ve got to support them in selling the concepts into their own teams and management. It may be that your offerings are too early for the market. In which case, it’s time for Lesson 4.
  4. Ditch your beautiful ideas. Ideas in your disruptive business are worth nothing. What counts is traction. If a proposal is successful, analyse it for what worked. Keep refining it. But if you proposals are not succeeding, you need to move on quickly (see Lesson 1). No one will love your idea more than you, and that’s what makes it hard to let go. Be honest with yourself, ask for feedback and figure out where to go next. After all, you need to eat.
  5. Ride the horse all the way to “yes”. In our minds we are often saying yes but our words, presentations, proposals and actions indicate “no”. Keep practising saying “yes” out loud so that your clients and collaborators can hear it. Be open (as per Principle 3 above) as a project can often veer into unexpected and exciting territory. It may start out simply but can become truly disruptive and exciting. Ride that horse all the way to yes.
  6. A note of thanks. I know this is Lesson 6 … but it’s also important to be thankful. In the first year I have been fortunate to work with and learn from many people. We’ve done some great work together – from the innovative Qantas Hackathon to StudyNSW digital strategy. We’ve run workshops, spoken at conferences, mentored startups and incubated a few new businesses that are yet to launch (more to come). Every project took commitment and intention from the business and the business sponsors. And I was not always right. But I am truly thankful for the opportunity and experience.

With one year down, I’m excited to be looking further ahead. Plans are being considered. Collaborators cultivated. If you have a project you like to discuss, I’d love to hear from you. If you’d like to be a collaborator, hit me up.

“Receiving the knowledge” and other youthful fancies

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I recently met with an old colleague to catch up after many years apart. While we settled very quickly into an easy conversation – almost like the time had never passed – it also gave me cause to reflect. It made me think about my business behaviour and some of the decisions I made on the way to achieving various things. It made me think about my own expectations and approaches – the things I wanted and how I thought my future might play out.

For example, I thought that at some point that I would:

  • “Receive the knowledge” – that sense of understanding of how the world works and why
  • Work less and earn more – I know. I can hear you laughing from here
  • Work on more meaningful projects – sometimes you strike it lucky, but I look to my work with Vibewire for this
  • Know what I’m doing – the truth is, I’m constantly creating new knowledge and new ways of working. And I think you should too.

The interesting thing, is that I am not alone in these youthful delusions. It seems that the much more self-aware Ann Handley rowed that same boat. Here are five things that she thought she knew at 22 that turned out to be totally wrong. Of course, it doesn’t make her any less awesome.

Live a Rewarding Life – Pay it Forward with Annie Parker

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“We rise by lifting others”

Do you ever wonder what you want to be when you grow up? Have you asked this at age 20? 30? 40? 50? Beyond?

Do you look at your career, your choices and your reflection in the mirror and wonder how you have arrived where you have found yourself?

Too often we find that our choices are made for us and that we find ourselves swept along on the path of someone else’s life. How do we change this? Regain our sense of purpose? Annie Parker, co-founder of Telstra incubator, Muru-D shares her story of what it takes to live a rewarding life. It’s a talk given as part of the Do Lectures and she suggests there are four things you can do:

  1. Say no to something as a catalysing decision for a new awesome beginning
  2. Pay it forward by helping others

You’ll need to watch the video to learn the other two insights. It’s 16 minutes well spent on changing your life.

The Way to Wealth by Chicago Professor

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I love this advice written on the back of an index card by University of Chicago Professor, Harold Pollack. In clear, simple terms, he explains the dos and don’ts of building wealth over time. Of course, like all advice, it’s easy to hear and hard to put into action. My favourite point is “The person on the other side of the table knows more than you do about their stuff”. Applies to everything in life. Remember it.

Exchange Money Conversion to Foreign CurrencyCreative Commons License epSos .de via Compfight

Food for Thought Friday: A Manifesto for a Deeper Future

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Increasingly our public discourse is dominated by three word slogans, catch phrases and sound bites. We suffer from an attention deficit – are time poor, over worked and under valued. We’re overwhelmed by technology, choices and our inbox.

And we think that the answer it to skim closer to the surface. To read the tweets rather than the articles.

To look at the infographics rather than the data behind it.

But in a culture of superficiality, our competitive advantage … our ethical advantage … and our creative advantage lies not in the shallows but in the depths of our imagination.

I think it is time that we went deeper …

Five points on a deeper future:

We need to:

  1. THINK more about ideas and what needs to happen to make them RESONATE within our cultures
  2. ACT like ideas MATTER and can CHANGE lives
  3. HELP articulate possible FUTURES because there’s always more than ONE
  4. WORK to make the first step of that future TANGIBLE because it sets the agenda
  5. INCLUDE others because FEAR is the first response to the NEW

Inspired by this awesome presentation from Critical Mass on the Cultural Impact on Digital Design.

Put Some Play into Your Day

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For a long time I have been a fan of the concept of “play”. It brings a great deal of creativity into what can often be a very serious approach to business. In fact, I used PLAY as a metaphor for brand engagement, precisely to provide a creative nuance not only to “kids marketing” but to what we now call social media marketing.

But how can we take this further? How do we bring this sense of play and creativity into all aspects of our lives?

Leslie Bradshaw suggests going back to the beginning – to our childhood. It’s about using the lessons of our childhood to unleash our creativity and find balance in our work and life. Now, I am off to feed my inner child. Enjoy.

Travel Like a Local – AndableTV

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Travelling for business can be pretty boring. Once you fight off the jetlag and close out the meetings, many business travellers find themselves hanging out in their hotel. In the bar. In the lounge. Or in the room.

It’s almost the opposite of being social.

But what if there were ways to tap into the local community? What if you could find and meetup with others who share your interests? That’s where various forms of social media can really transform your travel experience.

This episode of the new AndableTV channel looks at things you can do to travel like a local. There are some great ideas to try out on your next trip. And there’s more to come on the AndableTV sustainable living channel. Be sure to subscribe.

Taxi Al Fed via Compfight

Lead Your Life the Right Way, the Dreams Will Come to You

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One of the amazing things about the web is that we are constantly in a state of renewal. We read, consume, engage and move on. Great ideas, applications, innovations – and even people – come into our sphere of attention and leave. Sometimes without a trace. Or sometimes with only a line or two in our memory. A feeling. A sense of pride or loss.

I remember watching Carnegie Mellon University professor, Randy Pausch deliver his “last lecture” and being gobsmacked. I felt like this piece of content – this lecture from 2007 – would become “internet history”. I felt that it would somehow be automatically consumed by people as they engaged more deeply with the web, its abundant content and the bone achingly powerful stories that many share.

But I recently mentioned Randy Pausch’s last lecture and was met with a stony silence. I explained a little – to provide some context – about the world leading computer science professor famous for his work in human computer interaction. Still nothing.

In a world with an abundance of information, we continue to struggle to prioritise what comes into our sphere of attention. And in the rush to sort, file and proceed, we often – mistakenly in my view – prioritise the new in favour of the great. So today, I’d like to momentarily reverse that and suggest you spend an hour – yes a full hour – with Randy Pausch. It may just change your life.

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wil p via Compfight

 

Passwords – One for the Money, Two for the Show

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I am always going to love an Elvis quote. We don’t see enough of it in the world of business. And we should. After all, he was “The King”.

So this quick guide to unhackable passwords from McAfee and Intel caught my attention straight away.

The guide points out that you need multiple passwords:

  • One password for banking
  • A different password for email
  • Another password for social media

Unfortunately, we all have more than three needs, right?  So one idea is to add the account information into your password:

  • Facebook: your Facebook password can become my_facebook_password
  • Twitter: your Twitter password can become my_twitter_password

Or variations on that theme.

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HT Lindy Asimus’ pinterest collection.

Forget your raison d’être. What’s your raison pour le faire?

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I am a fan of deep thinking. Really I am. And I am a fan of long copy advertising. Documentaries. And books. Those old fashioned paper products that immerse you in other worlds. I love them and collect them and will continue to do so.

Each of these sing to my soul. They ground me in a way that other things cannot. And they tap into my sense of self. My sense of purpose. My reason for being.

But while I love ideas and the way that they can inspire others, what happens when the energy of that moment wanes? What happens when the talk stops and you find yourself alone and unguarded. What then?

That’s when your reason for doing takes over.

Where the raison d’être – your reason for being – speaks of life, raison pour le faire- your reason for doing – speaks of action.

On the one hand you have thought. On the other hand, life.

We seem to have plenty of ideas, thought and inspiration. They abound in life, art and work. We attend conferences devoted to them.

But inspiration doesn’t create change. That’s hard work beyond the realm of ideas. It’s the realm of life. And you can only change life through doing.

So stop reading.

Architect of Your Future - Tattoo Design

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