Posts Tagged ‘innovation’

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Building Blocks of Business: Getting Started

January 19, 2011

When starting an entrepreneurial venture, there are four key pillars that must exist, in order for you to create and sustain your business.

Concept: Why are you in business? What product or service do you offer, and how is it unique, desirable and/or better than what’s currently in the marketplace? What results or outcomes does your business offer, and how can you demonstrate the value of your solution?

Communication: Leveraging the value of your solution means that you have to tell the marketplace about your product or service. What is your message, from a marketing perspective (product, price, promotion and place/distribution)?

Clients: Who are your target customers? How will you communicate with them, and how will you engage those customers to buy (distribution methods)?

Cash Flow: While “cash is king”, you must first have a compelling offer, priced correctly, and presented to the right audience. What investments will you make to acquire customers? How much do you expect to spend, to attain your first customer? Are your prices both competitive, and profitable? What is your path to break even, and how will you tend to your “burn rate”, before that first customer puts their money down? Then, what will you do to maintain and expand your results, creating relationships with other customers?

Starting a business is a complex endeavor, and each business has its own unique challenges. Creating a communication plan, based on an innovative concept, is the key to creating successful relationships – and positive cash flow.

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Got Education?

October 12, 2010

Teams from IdeaWeek descended on multiple locations within the city of Dallas asked people in the street for their best ideas.  What’s on everyone’s mind these days in Dallas? Click play to find out more…

 


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Ideas Wanted: What’s Yours?

October 11, 2010

The average adult has as many as 50,000 thoughts per day – these are unique ideas, that range from “what do I want for dinner?” to “what’s my carbon footprint?”  (FYI: Studies show that your footprint increases, if you eat fried food and cupcakes for dinner).  With 1.3 million people in Dallas, the entire city is generating over 65 Billion thoughts per day, on average.  What if we could harness that cloud of concepts, decisions, and imagination, for business innovation, or social change?

That’s the big idea behind Idea Week, a series of sponsored events leading up to TEDx SMU.  (websites to follow at the end of the post…).  On Monday, October 11, a series of six locations will conduct sessions in “Speed Ideating” – a structured brainstorming, featuring “man-in-the -street” interviews, videos, and more.  (Should that read, “person-in-the-street”? Hopefully you follow my meaning..)

 

SMU logo

TEDx Happens Here

 

Speed Ideating is a method for generating new ideas on a product, issue or situation.  Think of it as structured brainstorming, with each idea building on the last.  It’s all guided by a moderator, whose job is to get you thinking, talking, and ideating.  The five topics to be addressed on Monday are:

1. Mainstreaming eco-transportation

2. Improving public education in North Texas

3. Changing the automobile

4. Preventing bullying in schools

5. Reducing waste

Do you have a few ideas?  Come on out and share your thoughts, with the team at Idea Week.  Can’t make it out? Send your thoughts to ideaweek@gmail.com.  If you can, come out and meet some of the local business celebrities onsite, at the various sites.  Here are the locations for the sessions, starting at noon today:

 

Jeremy Gregg

 

1.  Meet Jeremy Gregg – Executive Director of Executives in Action

  • Preston Center – NW Hwy and Preston Road, near Sprinkles and Taco Diner

2.  Fair Park DART Station, Perry and Exposition (Entrance to Texas State Fair)

3. Meet Gabriella Draney, Founder of Tech Wildcatters, in Deep Ellum (2615 Commerce Street)

4.  Downtown Dallas, corner of Ross and St. Paul

5.  Thanksgiving Square – Back Beat Cafe, 300 N. Akard

 

Lori Darley

 

6.  Meet Lori Darley, top executive coach

Bishop Arts – in front of Hattie’s, in the Bishop Arts center in Oak Cliff

Why not come on out, and share some thoughts – or, send an email to the address below with your ideas.  It only takes a moment to offer something that could make a difference.  And, look at it this way: even if you share 3 new ideas, you still have 49,997 left for the rest of the day.

One person – one idea- can make a difference.  What’s yours?

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Resources:

  • Twitter: @IdeaWeek
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What CEOs Really Want

September 14, 2010

Click the image to see more on this report

Recently, IBM surveyed over 1500 CEOs, to find out their most pressing challenges.  The complexity of the worldwide markets, combined with an increased rate of change, were the top remarks.  In attempting to deal with the challenges of the current economy, business leaders cited one quality above all others that can help employees to make a difference.

Surprisingly, the most-desired quality or characteristic was not technical competence.  It wasn’t loyalty, or communication skills, or financial acumen.  The number-one most important characteristic for business leaders?  Creativity.

Surprising, when you consider the traditional definitions of creativity.  For “creatives”, that word is used as both a description, and an excuse (Ever heard this one? “We can’t/won’t/don’t do that, we’re ‘creative'”).  Under careful consideration, “being creative” is not always a positive and encouraging description.  Where do you find “creative” accountants, for example?  Answer: Jail.

For financial professionals, project managers, executives and other task- or numbers-oriented individuals, the call for creativity seems quite contrary to the training and experiences that form the very foundation of the business world.  “Creative” is a department, or a compartment, reserved for individuals with unique talents that are not particularly commonplace in shipping, accounts payable, or operations.  So, “creativity” is rare, shapeless, often negative, potentially dangerous and certainly counter-intuitive.  Has IBM generated a survey that appeals for an artsy-craftsy approach to business?  Or is there a deeper meaning that this author has carefully chosen to ignore, in an attempt to roll out a few one-liners? (Ah, you caught me….)  This survey actually says that it is time for creativity to turn this economy around.

Creativity, in the context of business, means the power of creation.  Creativity is the way that we harness our imagination to disrupt the status quo, and find new solutions to the same old problems. The global leaders in the IBM survey seek creative solutions to experiment and innovate.  The leaders in the survey identify creativity as the antidote for the status quo, and central to the necessary disruption that is required for our collective marketplace to get unstuck.

CEOs are looking for ways to shake up their portfolios, their business models, and their old ways of addressing challenges in the marketplace.

Business leaders expect complexity to increase, and the need for disruption to follow (perhaps even lead) the advancement.  Creativity is needed, above all else, in order to innovate and lead through this current financial climate.  Why?  Because business must create a new future.  That future must build on the present, but in new and meaningful ways – ways that can only be described as “creative”, because they haven’t been created yet!

Creativity means many things, but at its core, the process of creation begins with an idea.  Based on current information, “what if?” opens the door to imagination – and new solutions can only come from within the realm of new ideas.  As the economy continues to churn and struggle, the leaders of tomorrow are the ones who are open to new concepts, new perspectives and new solutions.  Seeing things as they are is an important skill (awareness), but seeing things as they could be – and then making them that way – well, that takes some creativity.  Don’t you agree?

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Brainstorming for Results

September 7, 2010

Have you ever had a really good guided tour of the weeds, often called a “brainstorming session”?

As the ideas churn forward, each one less practical than the last, participants are rewarded and encouraged to dream large and often improbable solutions to real-world problems. How can these sessions be managed into an effective process, one that allows for the necessary freedom of thought but also the guidance that delivers real and tangible results?

Brainstorming About Acorns? Consult an Expert

Separating real accomplishment from group therapy requires a facilitator who is willing to set up clear communication on what is expected. (I will assume that “Six Thinking Hats” and other resources are already in play for the group leader). Often what is missing is a clear objective for the session, and necessary details about the business challenge at hand.

In a brainstorming session, CONTEXT trumps CONTENT.

In other words, participants need to know a clear objective and framework for what is about to be discussed. We CAN think of lots of things, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that we should. The best ideas will be the ones that fit the context most appropriately. It is a delicate balance to create an environment of trust and openness within a framework of objectives and results. However, that is part of the clear communication that is required before anyone goes deep into the potential abyss of “brainstorming”.

Setting the ground rules is key for an effective session, and all participants (operative word: “ALL”) need to understand that they will be expected to offer ideas. Effective brainstorming takes courage, and that requires en_couragement from the facilitator. Oftentimes, the starting point is a version of “there are no bad ideas”…(ooh, I’ve had a few. There was the football bat, and the unicorn feeder…still convinced that all ideas are good ideas?) The key thing to remember is: Don’t get married to your ideas, but put them out there just the same. A good facilitator creates that environment and gets everyone to play in the sandbox.

Click Image to See on Amazon.com

If every idea is good, then none of them are. That’s why Edward de Bono’s book is so effective, because it breaks brainstorming into steps and facilitates cream rising to the top. For me, the first step is a clear and established context for ideas – only then can those ideas be shaped into results.

Judgments and comparisons must come after the brainstorming session, to separate the wheat from the chaff. The stack ranking of ideas and collation of valuable material must be handled with respect – but handled nonetheless. Brainstorming takes courage, a true willingness to bring your best ideas, and an ego-less attachment to the outcomes.

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“I Only Want the Toughest Customers…”

August 30, 2010

Asking for the toughest customers is like trying to pet a shark, or date a nun – you instantly know that it won’t end up well, so why ask for it? I was out to dinner last night with my friend, BigTime. Surprisingly, he let me know that he only wants the toughest customers. Say what–?

My friend is one of the best salespeople I know – he deals with an ultra-elite clientele in the Big Apple. This guy specializes in the demands of high-net-worth individuals with a skill that is both rare, and easygoing.

His customer logic goes like this: I want only the most difficult customers because, if they even think of shopping me with competitors, I will win every time. The toughest customers will chew up my competition, and disqualify them right out of the gate, because that’s the kind of service and solutions that my company can provide. He’s looking for the clients who are so tough and so demanding that other service providers get scared by their demands, and struggle to prove they can meet them. It’s not a problem for BigTime, and that’s the way he knows a qualified lead.

Also Big Time: Lincoln Center

Interesting perspective. We bounced the idea around some more, and I came away with some additional thoughts.

  1. If you are faced with a tough customer, thank them for helping you to be better. The best antidote for attitude is gratitude (apologies for the terrible rhyme, please judge my ideas – not my poems).
  2. If you are taking a beating over something you did, or your company did, or you are about to do, I have two words of advice: don’t duck.
  3. Here are six more: Face it, take it, fix it. It’s that simple.

Face up to the challenge of the difficult customer, and you will learn what it is that you need to know. For BigTime, he always looks forward to the toughest possible client as the greatest opportunity. He knows that he can offer what others cannot, that’s why he’s BigTime. A demanding client, in his business, means that the competition is out of the mix. The best way to defeat your competition is unequaled customer service. Disqualify your competition by being the one who doesn’t duck the tough stuff. When you resolve the really scary issues, you learn, you grow, and you create customers for life. The only way to know if you have what it takes, is to get started. If you’d like one suggestion on what you could do today, make up your mind to astonish the most difficult customer you know (and yes, the people you work with are internal customers). What can you do to make a difference, and show that when it comes to customer service, you are BigTime?

Difficult times show us what we are made of; difficult customers force us to be better and help our companies to demonstrate competitive advantage.

[ The names in this post have been changed to protect the guilty 😉 ]

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Are You Ready for Your Close-Up

August 16, 2010

For most companies, and customers, video has become the most authentic method of telling a story. It’s authentic because people tend to trust what they see in a video, the visual cues and clues are more comprehensive than in a written story. After all, you can see expressions, body language and more via video.

Yet for executives with little or no experience in front of the camera, an interview or presentation can be a daunting task. Not everyone is suited to being in a video, but here are some tips that can help when it’s time for “Action!”

In the Studio with Your Online Video

Picture Yourself Here

  1. The camera is your friend. When you look at the camera, what do you see? An evil lens, peering at you like some hyper-critical judge, ready to expose all your flaws and add 10 pounds to your waistline? Don’t let your preconceptions get in the way of what you are saying.  As mom always used to tell us kids:  if you don’t like your preconceptions, time to get some new ones.  The camera can’t hurt you, but you can hurt yourself if you grimace when that little red light comes on.What if you were to think of the camera as an old friend – a friend who accepts you just the way you are?  If you look at the camera the same way you view the dentist’s drill, chances are the people watching will feel uncomfortable, too.  Turn the camera into someone who has known you for a very long time, who accepts you as you are, and laughs at [most] of your jokes.  The magic of working on camera is forgetting all the studio lights, microphones, and behind-the-scenes distractions, and concentrating on telling your story.  If this idea of the “camera as an old friend” sounds phony, contrived or imaginary…you’re right!  But, if you would rather flinch and scowl, go for it! Imagination is for little kids, anyway.
  2. Enjoy telling your story. What you have to say has to be engaging, so make sure you’re engaged.  If you say, “I’m passionate about…” in a monotone, you can bet that your audience will be snoring before they find out about your true “passion”.   Similarly, there’s no need to go all-out Ballmer to make your point.  But be authentic and engaged in the words you are saying.  If you’re into it, the audience will be too!
  3. Photo of Harrison Ford

    This is not you.

    What if I still don’t like what I see – How can I get better? First of all, congratulations for being brave enough to watch yourself before others do. YouTube is littered with videos of executives and would-be DeNiro’s who have created a new level of personal embarrassment, completely unbeknownst to their ego. So, while there’s no magic formula to turn someone into Harrison Ford,there is a way to present your authentic self on camera, and it has to do with being relaxed and comfortable with your own style. For many, knowing the material is key – feeling comfortable with the presentation is the focus. But, often the best speakers are the ones who are comfortable with themselves. There’s only one Harrison Ford, but there’s also only one “you” – and no one is better qualified to tell your story than you are.  The real trick is to make sure that you give yourself every opportunity to create the best possible online image you can.

The most authentic medium on the internet is video – that’s why YouTube and other sites are growing exponentially.  But, growth is not the same as quality.  Make sure your content is easy to find – and easy to watch – if you want to create an effective online brand.