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.

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

Investing in the Future of Young People

Through Vibewire I have been working with young people for over seven years. It’s a not for profit association whose aim is to be a launchpad for young change makers. In the time that I have been involved, I have been astounded by the way that, given an opportunity and some nurturing, young people can truly accelerate their professional and personal trajectory. We have run hundreds of events – some large scale and some barely more than a meeting. We have provided project experience and internships for hundreds of people who have gone on bigger and better things. And we have seen dozens of social impact and tech startups incubate, grow and scale.

But it is largely a thankless task. Just as soon as we launch one cohort of young people into the world, another comes along. The challenges remain the same:

  • Lack of opportunity for meaningful work
  • Soft skills require substantial work and support
  • Challenging and entrepreneurial roles are few and far between.

And in many ways, Vibewire’s programs of spaces (coworking for young people), skilling (workshops), startups (mentoring and support) and showcasing (amplifying the work of young people through events and online promotion) have been designed to consistently deliver these outcomes. But it’s difficult to maintain. Hard to attract sponsorship and support. After all, Vibewire has always been youth-led and youth-run, and as such, our teams are constantly learning the ropes. Learning what it takes to build corporate relationships. Learning what it takes to deliver on project promises. Learning the business of creativity and business.

I am often asked what keeps me involved.

My involvement in Vibewire is beautifully summed up in this great speech by Eric Thomas. It’s a gift of love. An investment in the next generation. And a mark of respect for the futures of the young people who come through Vibewire’s doors.

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.”

 

deloitte-millennial1

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”.

deloitte-millennial2

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.

5-day-sprint-spread

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.

Marketing Skills of the Future, Now

I have dozens of conversations with marketers every week. And in almost every conversation, the topic turns to skills. Skills shortages. Employee capabilities. And technology. The rapidly changing marketing technology landscape shifts each quarter with new features, functions, platforms and data coming into play. Meanwhile, universities are pumping out graduates whose capabilities are already out of date.

It is becoming clear that we need marketing skills for the future. But we need them now.

I recently discussed these skill gaps with MediaScope’s Denise Shrivell, AOL’s Yasmin Sanders and RadiumOne’s Adam Furness. Each week Denise presents a 30 minute live video chat on the topics impacting Australia’s media and advertising industry, and this episode focusing on skill shortages was a cracker. On a positive note, we are seeing forward momentum. But are we seeing the gap closing? Watch a replay of the episode below.

Addressing skill gaps by improving your innovation fitness

Over the last 12 months I have been working with a range of clients on their digital and marketing strategies. As part of this work, we map out not just the strategic landscape, but the skills needed to deliver. Sometimes this means:

  • In-house teams need training
  • Finding the right agency to fill the gap
  • Every now and then, creating something entirely new – which is when the project gets really exciting.

One of the programs we have developed to help organisations to continue to move forward in this environment is called Innovation Fitness. The Innovation Fitness program, with its bootcamp, ongoing mentoring and support and target skills audit process is not just about closing the gap, but about delivering changes in the ways that you work.

After all, the future is not determined by technology but by our reactions to it. The questions we all need to ask ourselves is “How clear is our future skills strategy? And are we even on the right path?”.

Improve Your Innovation Fitness: Make Yourself Redundant

“Waves are not measured in feet and inches, they are measured in increments of fear.”
Buzzy Trent

When we talk about technology – and when we talk about change – we often talk about “waves”. Like surfers talk. Except it’s nowhere near as interesting or compelling. Except when we add a tinge of fear to it.

When I first started working in publishing, I realised that I was already redundant. Or was on the way to being redundant. I led the way in implementing online coding in a world full of typesetters, and I started using desktop publishing when it seemed like blasphemy. The change was coming and I was doing all I could to ride the wave was there before me.

Later, at IBM, I learned about process re-engineering. And “restructuring”. And “outsourcing”. Everywhere I looked, I could see disruption, dislocation and relocation. There were people losing their jobs, careers being swept out from under them. It was a time of tremendous uncertainty.

The thing is, it is no different now than it was then. In many ways, we now live our lives in a constant state of disruption. Gone is the fabled “job for life”. Gone is the bond between employer and employee. And gone is the social contract that saw us all working towards a shared future where a “fair go” was on the table for anyone who stepped up. In its place is uncertainty, change and anxiety.

But disruption is not just about fear. It is also about opportunity.

One of the better lessons from my time at IBM was the need to treat a company like a living organism. Every year or two, there would be a restructure. While this was used as a way to reduce costs or shift them to another country, it was also amazingly invigorating. It challenged us to forge new networks in new parts of the business. It forced new and often unexpected ways of working. And it did so when all we wanted was to stay in our comfort zones.

Now, “restructuring” is not always the most pleasant of experiences. And it is emotionally bruising to find yourself out of work suddenly.

Disrupt yourself first

If you take your job seriously – and almost everyone I have ever met does – then the challenge is to make yourself redundant. The opportunity is to disruption yourself, your career and your industry before it happens from the outside in.

This is partly what we are doing with the Disruptor’s Handbook. Despite the name, it is not a “book”. It is a strategy and innovation firm. Our mission is to bring the innovation practices and methods used by startups to the enterprise. And yes, we have handbooks. We make them freely available on our website so that you can apply these practices to your own business. We also have thought leadership eBooks designed to help you make the case for innovation in your business. We also have a series of techniques and approaches that have not been published but are used in our client work. These are shared with clients so that they learn to do what we do – so they know what we know and grow in confidence and capability. We are effectively disrupting ourselves as we grow.

Challenging yourself

I believe that you must challenge yourself and your industry. Can you do better? Can you reinvent your business?

In challenging yourself this way, it keeps you thinking about the long game. It keeps you focused on the health of your skills and networks, your capabilities and your ability to deliver. And it keeps you focused on your customers and their needs, serving them as they shift and change.

And in a time of uncertainty, making yourself redundant puts you in the driver’s seat of your career. You can choose the timing of your next step and its direction. You can prepare yourself for the changes that are coming. It’s Darwinian. Survival of the fittest.

And this … “innovation fitness” means that you are giving yourself the best next chance possible. Don’t just see the next wave coming, ride it, baby. Ride it.

60 Seconds to a Startup Future

Got a problem worth solving? A solution to that challenge? A market and a team to tackle it?

Then it’s time to step into the spotlight at the Muru-D 60 second pitch competition.

What is involved?

Muru-D and Seven West Media are providing you with the opportunity to pitch your startup to Annie Parker, Clive Dickens and Alan Stuart with the winner receiving a fast track ticket to the interview stage of the muru-D accelerator program.

You can RSVP here.

Get a head start

If you want to give yourself an unfair advantage – set aside some time to get clarity around your business, messaging and pitch. Seriously. One of the greatest mistakes many startups and founders make is to rely on the sizzle of the product, believing it will sell itself. Focus not on the Product-Market fit, but on the Market-Product fit. To help you, download the Disruptor’s Handbooks:

This is just a start – remember you only have 60 seconds. You’ve got to work really hard to make your pitch simple enough to wow the judges in 60 seconds. Rock it hard.

IT’s Big Secret – Platforming: Bringing IT and Marketing Together

The big IT companies have a secret. And it’s a secret that can radically transform your business. For the last decade or so, technology has been converging – with different technology stacks coming into alignment, sharing interfaces, connecting data and improving the process of software development and deployment. As a result, we have seen huge improvements in the capability of software to impact business. Just think about:

  • The rise and role of data in business decision making
  • The importance and focus on dashboards and data visualisation
  • The growth of mobile and location based information
  • The abundance of “internet of things” devices and sensors
  • The near ubiquitous adoption of smartphones.

Behind the scenes, technology companies have been “platforming” – turning their business processes and models into digital systems. They do this across four key business dimensions:

  • Social: The Social dimension has the potential to deliver powerful, personal yet scalable CONNECTION. It offers a single conversational channel, builds trust and offers a way to accelerate a resolution or conversion process
  • Mobile: The Mobile dimension delivers LOCATION. With a connected device in your pocket (close to your beating heart), a mobile phone is the convergence point where the digital and the “real” worlds collide
  • Analytics: The power of big data is not in crunching everything known about a customer. The real value is in delivering AWARENESS to a network. This effectively means creating USER context from the social, mobile and business data signals available
  • Cloud: And the cloud provides the mechanism for SERVICE. To remain relevant to customers, brands must re-acquaint themselves with the value of service. And Cloud provides the mechanism to do so.

But the challenge for marketers is that these dimensions are largely unconnected to marketing. They rightly belong to the company’s technology teams. Right?

Combining marketing and IT capabilities

The greatest opportunity for business is to combine the expertise of marketing and IT. Marketers usually view their customers through the lens of media – combining paid, owned and earned media to reach and engage them. We have shifted, however, beyond this broadcast approach – and this is increasingly being enabled by the SMAC platforms.

To more effectively bridge the marketing and IT fields, we need new ways of thinking, collaborating and conceptualising what it is that we do. We need a shared language, shared measurements and cross-line-of-business visibility into key performance indicators, pressures, deadlines and processes. And this means digital transformation.

Is it possible? It has to be. For only through this kind of alignment will we be able to deeply impact our customer’s brand experience.

I spoke in more detail on this subject recently. See my slides and the presentation here.

 

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Google Goes Back to the Garage with Alphabet

When a company the size of Google makes a massive change in their structure and the way that they do business, it’s big news. Today, Google announced the formation of Alphabet, a holding company that will stable the portfolio of companies formerly known as “Google” – giving the organisation potentially a new lease on life and a new direction – or series of directions.

Constellation Research’s R ‘Ray’ Wang provides a laser sharp analysis of what the announcement means in the following video.

Given that so many organisations grow to a size which prohibits innovation, this restructuring offers an amazing live case study of an attempt to avoid the “Kodak moment”. The new, low carb version of Google – which generates the vast majority of revenues – will look vastly different and more tightly focused on digital and internet properties:

  • Search
  • Advertising
  • Maps
  • Apps
  • YouTube
  • Android

This structure effectively hives off the “business as usual”, high velocity, transactional revenue streams into a separate unit which will continue to be called “Google”. The new CEO, Sundar Pichai will be able to keep that digital focus while continuing the optimisation and incremental improvements that keep Google at the centre of our online lives.

The high potential, future-oriented remaining businesses will become separate businesses under Alphabet. Taking a portfolio investment approach to innovation, Alphabet’s stable features near and far term innovation ventures that are:

  • Inside us: Life sciences – biotech research through new company, Calico
  • Around us: Consumer home technology – internet of things hardware for the smart home through Nest
  • Connecting us: High speed internet service through Fiber
  • Moving us: X-lab – the incubator charged with developing self-driving cars and drone technology

And Google Ventures will continue its investments in early and growth stage ventures.

While the business implications for this restructure are significant – the most interesting impact is likely to be felt at the level of culture. Creating a culture of innovation – and maintaining it over the long term is extremely difficult. This is a bold move that brings Google back into the garage from where it came from. It sets a new model for tech sector innovation and has the potential to re-invigorate Google’s innovation agenda.

Who will be the fast follower – or copycat – to Google’s lead? Time will tell.

The secret lesson for corporates from the world of startups

When ANZ chief economist, Warren Hogan recently explained Australian business’ aversion to risk, it made a lot of sense. Not only are corporates concerned about project success, they are also geared and structured towards large projects which makes it more difficult to innovate in a more “agile” manner. This gives rise to several other challenges. Without flexibility, Australian corporations are subject to:

  • Unnecessary competitive disruption – smaller businesses can easily capture mindshare, momentum and a raft of unhappy customers simply because companies don’t have the agility to address emergent threats.
  • Higher levels of customer dissatisfaction – if customer experience projects are subject to this same lack of responsiveness, then customer satisfaction is more likely to quickly result in customer churn and lower NPS.
  • Market irrelevance – today’s customer is hungry for differentiated experience. Slow response to market challenges simply means that your market moves elsewhere. And they do so “at the speed of digital”.

But all is not lost. There are four key lessons that corporates can learn from the world of startups. And they can all be easily implemented, trialled and scaled with a minimal investment. I explain more here.