The power of art is that it creates impractical moments of joy and beauty. It’s beautiful, vital and refreshing. It reminds us that certain things will extend beyond this world. -Rob Bell
I drive a 33 year old car. It dies…a lot. Sometimes the engine conveniently dies when I’m just driving it down the street. No reason, it just dies. It happened today.
All of the sudden I have a decision to make. Do I throw it into neutral and try to start it while coasting and risk not getting it off the road? Or do I use the remaining momentum to ditch it in a parking lot or driveway?
Where am I going with this?
Well, this decision is a lot like the decision we have to make with our ideas.
Almost all ideas are intermittent and unreliable at some point in their life. Only some are worth the risk of keeping on the road while trying to revive them. Others should just be thrown off to the side. You may have to walk for a while until you find a new mode of transportation, but there is always a new idea waiting somewhere.
The tricky part is knowing which ideas are worth it and which ones aren’t.
Here are a few questions to ask yourself when considering an idea:
1. Is it a better idea than the, ‘Jump-to-Conclusions Mat?’ (Watch this clip from ‘Office Space’ if you don’t get it)
2. Can you explain the idea in a way that a sixth grader can understand?
3. Do your friends experience an “ah hah” moment when you explain it to them?
4. Would an investor pay $1,000,000 for the rights to your idea five years from now?
5. How many people have you told about your idea? Ideas in secret rarely become ideas in public.
Love me some Drucker!
There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all. -Peter Drucker
Lean is a very popular concept right now. Manufacturers are trying to figure out how to be leaner, cheaper, faster. Small is the new big.
However, I think the concept of lean can be applied to more than just manufacturing. In my world, I think of how lean applies to ideation.
When ideas are your raw materials, how do you keep the good ones and kill the bad ones? For me, lean is all about simplicity. The simpler the idea, the leaner it is and the more compelling it will be. Strip it down as far as you can, like peeling the layers from an onion, until you can’t peel anymore and you’re left with the core.
Lean ideas win in a world of mind-numbing complexity.
What do you think? How do you create lean ideas?
I love this article by Umair Haque at HarvardBusiness.org. Maybe I like it because it appeals to my desire to just create amazing stuff, whatever form it takes.
This excerpt pretty much summarizes it:
“What is awesomeness? Awesomeness happens when thick — real, meaningful — value is created by people who love what they do, added to insanely great stuff, and multiplied by communities who are delighted and inspired because they are authentically better off.”
Copy of an email Mandy sent to students competing in this year’s business plan competition:
Greetings Strategic Management Students –
Thank you for allowing me to listen to your presentations today. It is fun to see your ideas, and know how fantastic they will be in December. After doing this project as a student (twice), and helping many teams write their plans, I have some advice and some encouragement that will save you time, energy, and frustration…and will help you kick some booty.
Know that I have former students who write back because they are so thankful for the Strategic Management process. These are students who I never would have anticipated receiving letters from. Today, I was tough on you all, but the judges are much tougher. Hang in there and be encouraged. I KNOW that you all can do this, so take advantage of the opportunity.
– Ask your faculty advisor and graduate assistant to play the role of a venture capitalist. Invite them to ask the hard questions, give criticism, and also give encouragement. Please know that both of them want you to be successful, probably even more than you want it.
– The true test of a good pitch – Can someone hear it once and then, have the capability of presenting it. You want them to be excited. Most entrepreneurs have only 90 seconds.
Have fun with it – if you aren’t passionate, why should we get excited about it. Emotions are contagious. Think about professors you have who get so excited about the subject. It usually gets you more engaged. Can’t you tell those who love what they are doing? Yeah! Be that. Don’t be the monotone professor who looks like he/she would rather be at the dentist. Excitement is contagious. Apathy and boredom are contagious as well.
– Before every class, I discipline myself by answering, “What do I want my students to learn today?” I used to ask, “What am I going to teach today?” That was the wrong question. When you present, always ask yourself, “What do I want my audience to remember?” This will discipline you to present the RIGHT stuff.
– When you speak, step forward. Even distribution for Q&A. If you don’t know the answer, don’t make one up. People can tell. Can’t you tell when a professor doesn’t know? Yep, we can tell too.
– Speak to the back of the room and SLOW DOWN. Command our attention. Lenece had great energy when she started the presentation. Model that. Seth Godin always says that you must communicate to the audience that you like them for them to want to listen to you – so, spread the love.
– I CAN’T STRESS THIS ENOUGH. Eye contact – only 7% of our communication is expressed through words. Manage your body language. Just today, a JBU grad called me and said she was so thankful she learned how to present well at JBU. Critique one another. What your body language said today spoke much more than the words you chose.
QUANTIFY AND QUALIFY – Commit these two words to memory. We hope, my experience, blah blah…no back it up. “It was in our paper?” Who cares. Sell it to me. Tell me what research shows. Not just blogs, but legit research.
Again, what do you want people to remember? Too many numbers, is too much noise. 24.48%– say 24%. We have eye words and ear words, when you speak, it needs to be memorable – not 26.567. No, 26. What statistics speak volumes. Too much loses its impact.
What is the market? Who has market share? How much do people spend on THAT every year?
Talk to people – market orientation, market orientation, market orientation.
Do you have a good pitch? The true test is if in one minute, you can sell your idea in such a way that I can give your pitch to others after hearing it one time.
Don’t interrupt people asking questions. Don’t say “I know”. Don’t raise your hand. Listen, and communicate with your body language that you value the feedback. My best team ever lost the competition. A judge said, “Excuse me, you interrupted me.” Yep, they lost, in a very big way.
Pair statistics, with stories. People remember stories. People spread stories. The best marketing is word of mouth. Stories transmit quickly. Make sure they are good stories.
Clearly communicate what your product or service is from the beginning. The catchy names can be distracting – I want to know what you offer and WHY your team is the best to offer it.
When a team member is speaking, support them through your body language. Most did not appear interested in what their teammate had to say. This is distracting. I saw people rolling their eyes, looking up at the projector, down at their shoes, and even at their fingernails. Our teams always get feedback about how supportive they are to one another when presenting.
No matchy-matchy with clothes. Don’t coordinate outfits.
You need to practice. You had 2 minutes. You should have known exactly (to the second) what you needed to communicate and when. When I went to trial, my attorney told me, “For a one hour speech, practice a couple of hours. For a two minute speech, practice seven hours.” Although you did not need to practice seven hours, I could tell most teams needed to practice a lot more.
The best teams ask, “What are we not seeing? Rip it apart. Help make it better.” Only one team did this. Bryson took three hours off work. Utilize your resources when they are there for you. They may not say what you want to hear, but don’t you want us to save you from work in the wrong direction?
When someone asks a question that you did not understand, don’t look at the judge like they are stupid. Remember, if they are asking, your team probably wasn’t clear.
The market is huge. Prove it. Go to Hoovers and then talk to me.
Understand that Everyday Low Prices works for Walmart, but maybe not for you. If it is a high-end product that is customized, don’t talk to people about high volume and low prices.
At each meeting, assign a devil’s advocate. Have one teammate assume the role of Mandy Moore and rip it apart. HONESTLY, I have only had one question suprise me that a judge asked – in three years. Ask the hard questions. Ask Mike and Eva to ask the hard questions.
Last year, in Las Vegas, my students were surprised with a new competition – the elevator pitch competition. The had 90 seconds to answer the following:
Criteria your “Elevator Pitch” might address:
1. Company, Who are you?
Did you identify your name, personal role, position, or title in venture? Did you state the company’s name?
2. Need, What need is your product or service offering a solution to?
Briefly describe what it is you sell without the non technical details. Explain the problem your customer’s face and how this solves their problems.
3. Who is your market?
Briefly discuss who you are selling the product or service to. What industry is it? How large of a market do they represent?
4. What is your business model?
More simply, how do you expect to make money? Do you sell the product to wholesalers for a flat fee? Do you charge a subscription? Do you split revenues with a partner?
5. Who is behind the company?
“Bet on the jockey, not the horse” is a familiar saying among Investors. Tell them a little about you and your team’s background and achievements. If you have a strong advisory board, tell them who they are and what they have accomplished.
6. Who is your competition?
Don’t have any? Think again. Briefly discuss who they are and what they have accomplished. Successful competition is an advantage-they are proof your business model and/or concept work.
7. What is your competitive advantage?
Simply being in an industry with successful competitors is not enough. You need to effectively communicate how your company is different and why you have an advantage over the competition. A better distribution channel? Key partners? Proprietary technology?
8. Investment Strategy, What are you seeking?
What are you looking for from the investor? How much money you need and what it will let you do.
Hang in there. Do your best. And, have some fun! I am praying that our Father would encourage you, give you rest, and the ability to juggle everything.
Setting up my Entourage email signature today, I ran across this:
“If you choose to use the random signature option, make sure you only apply it to appropriate outgoing emails. An improper signature (like an unbecoming joke) sent in an email (to a boss, for example) can cause problems.”
I would love to know why anyone would ever use a random signature option in their email?
This stopped me dead in my tracks today:
“The deepest way in which we are right or wrong is in our way of being toward others. I can be right on the surface-in my behavior or positions-while being entirely mistaken beneath, in my way of being.”
Yeah, I definitely have some work to do in this area. I think all of us probably do.
In particular, the following snippet really captures where things are headed:
“Modern digital marketers have recognized that in terms of the consumer, the center is everywhere. As a result, digital content is now designed to be syndicated, reskinned and reformatted while still remaining relevant. This evolution is pushing advertisers away from building million-dollar microsites and toward smart, tactical ideas that revolve around specific needs or even communities.”
You can read the full article here:
This afternoon, Lee Scott, former CEO of Wal-Mart, spoke at the Forty Under 40 Luncheon in Rogers, Arkansas. I thought he had some great things to say about leadership. He is obviously well-qualified to speak on the subject. Here’s what he had to say:
1. Hiring people more talented than you is a great way to build a successful career.
2. Ego is the greatest enemy of leadership.
3. When people know what you want, they will often give it to you.
4. The ability to give honest constructive feedback is crucial to being a good leader.
5. Few people feel like they are on top of absolutely every detail. It’s ok. That’s why you build a team you can trust.
6. What you say isn’t nearly as important as what people hear. (Ask someone after a performance review what they will go home and tell their spouse)
7. Even if you feel strongly about something, you might be wrong.
8. Your hardest critics may be most helpful voice you hear.
9. Sharing praise is a compromise. You should just give it all away.
10. Integrity is the single most important characteristic of a good leader.
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