DanMaycock.com

Data, Strategy, Leadership, and Innovation

Category: Start-up Strategy

Discussions around Start-up Strategy and Best Practices (funding, organization, business plans, etc)

3 Ways to Ensure That Your Idea Takes Root

When it comes to ideas, most disappear in the first hour they’re created because bringing something into the world takes serious effort. But no new thing can exist without real determination, struggle, and the effort of multiple people to see something come to life and flourish. Yet, some of the world’s best ideas disappear as quickly as they’re thought of because people shoot themselves down before telling another person what they’re thinking.

The simple truth is that often times our ideas don’t even get past the first handful of people because negative feedback is taken as justification to not do anything with the idea. What should happen of course, is that you take that feedback as a means to improve your idea and continue to iterate til it takes root.

How to do that though, can be easier said than done. Here then, are just a handful of steps that should help:

Tip #1 – Don’t let criticism get to your head

There are many successful people today living exciting lives built on their ideas, who had to fail at getting traction several times before they succeeded at getting their ideas to take off.

  • Akio Morita’s first rice cooker sold fewer than 100 units, because it burned the rice instead of cooking it. You may not have heard of him, but you’ve probably heard of his company, Sony.
  • Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor, because the editor felt “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas”
  • During his lifetime, Vincent Van Gogh only managed to sell one painting but painted 800 anyway, during his lifetime.

The potential and ideas were there in each of these people all along the way. These ideas they had just had to either go through several iterations, or wait until everyone around them caught onto the idea themselves. In each case though, these people refused to let the ideas and concepts they had die at the hands of themselves or anyone else they encountered along the way. That’s what separated them from people with good ideas who you and I haven’t ever heard of before.

Just like getting a car out of a ditch, it takes real effort to get your idea moving initially until it takes off on its own momentum. Be careful to not be your own worst enemy, by failing to get the idea off the ground because you weren’t willing to conquer your own fears and insecurities to get the idea on paper and begin sharing it with people, while using that feedback to refine / shape the idea along the way.

Tip #2 – Don’t be afraid to alter your plan of attack

The hardest ideas to surface can sometimes be around questioning something already agreed to, or pushing back on something half way built. The truth is though, that the most difficult ideas to surface can end up leading to the biggest improvements, as those ideas can help reveal blind spots missed along the way.

I’ve worked with companies that have had to choose between incorporating the next idea, shipping the product as is, or pivoting altogether because something drastic changed since the product road map had been put in place. Though it’s never an obvious choice which direction to go, shipping something they knew would be flawed always turned out worse in the end than delaying shipment to get the product right. It’s important to consider new ideas at every stage of product development in order to ensure that the right product ships every time.

Tip #3 – Continue sharing the idea, re-calibrate with user input, and persevere

Only through doing difficult things multiple times does it become easier, and being innovative and driving new ideas certainly is a muscle we must flex multiple times to get better at it. Repeating the process of developing ideas, refining them, and getting those ideas into meaningful outcomes is certainly worth the effort, but will always take effort (either internally or externally). It will also require dedication and determination, but will produce meaningful outcomes each and every time.

You need to always be willing to bring something up and share freely so that your company can continue to reinforce a culture of innovation and collaboration.

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Explaining The New Brand for DanMaycock.com

So I changed the look / feel of my social media all around a single image – the evening skyline for Seattle, but there’s a bigger meaning behind it.

For the new brand, the focus is around four core themes

Data (Water) – Thought leadership on Analytics, Data Science, and Visualization along with the platforms and infrastructure to support that analysis.

Strategy (Lit Skyline) – First hand experience, and best practices around both corporate and start-up strategy, from company fundamentals to marketing planning and best practices on sales / branding.

Innovation (Space Needle) – Understanding of what meaningful innovation looks like, how it can help both SMBs and Corporations, along with first hand experiences taken from my book, and consulting background.

Leadership (Night time) – Stories, best practices, and advice on leading teams in corporations, to helping build and launch start-ups based on my work advising and starting companies.

The new brand then, incorporates these four themes in the photo

The Space Needle represents Innovation, as it’s a symbol built during the World’s expo in Seattle to represent America’s pursuit of an Innovative future. My book “Building The Expo” is all based on the premise of companies looking to build their own “World’s Expo” to showcase innovation to the world, but many companies end up building symbols without the results and follow through to back it up.

The Water represents Data, as data really is a vast ocean of bits collected across companies that can help companies as much as it can hurt them, based on how it’s managed and used. Just as good data analysis can grow a company’s revenues, bad data can lead to worse decisions that can have the opposite effect.

The Nighttime represents leadership, or rather the need for leadership as people often find themselves in the dark without it. Strong leaders can guide any company through even the darkest of nights with the right guidance and best practices, along with proven experiences.

The Lit skyline represents Strategy, in that it takes several bright ideas to help drive companies from failure to success. At the same time, too many ideas can be blinding without the right actions and results to go hand in hand with a good strategy.

These elements not only work together to make a beautiful image, but what they represent can help people, regardless of their role and company.

It’s for those reasons, that I chose this image to represent my new personal brand. If you’re interested in learning more about how I can help you with any of these areas, please subscribe to my newsletter, or contact me at dmaycock@gmail.com

Thank you,

Dan Maycock

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10 Steps to Turning your Idea into a Business

“Your billion dollar company starts with a million dollar product, and your million dollar product starts with a hundred dollar prototype.” – Spark.io Team (http://bit.ly/1e1xkuk)

I think there’s alot of great ideas out there in the world that never get off the drawing board because X gets in the way of Y. Whether it’s finances getting in the way of the prototype, or work commitments getting in the way of reading that book you need to research the topic you want to improve, there’s a world of things getting in the way.

I encourage you to take these 4 steps in mind, and accept that in the time it takes you to read this note, you have the time to take your idea and get it to the next step which you can then justify putting some time and effort behind. For what you’re already paying for (a computer, internet connection, chair) you have all the tools you need to create something great.

Step 1. Open up a word document and describe in 3-500 words write down the problem you think needs to get fixed, and potentially your idea to fixing it.

Step 2. Post that idea online, on a social network, and get people’s feedback on what they think of the idea.

Step 3. Accept your idea in it’s present form isn’t A) the last idea you’ll come up with and B) not the final form it needs to be in.

Step 4. Take that feedback, noodle on it, refine it, and write 500-1000 words on the idea

Step 5. Do research online to see what exists out there already to solve this problem, and how your product might be different

Step 6. Figure out what it takes to bring this product / service to market for as little money as possible. You’d be surprised how much is already out there for little to no money to help bring your product to market.

Step 7. Build a support team that’ll encourage and keep you accountable to bringing this to life. Keep in mind it’ll change 100 times, and ideas are plentiful so don’t worry if you feel like you need a new one.

Step 8. Take the first step in your research plan, fail, learn from that failure, try and try again.

Step 9. Get encouragement, get feedback, get more encouragement

Step 10. Never, never, never give up and keep trying to solve the problem without holding the solution too closely. That solution can look 100’s of different ways, but you only need one solution for the problem.

The risk you’ll face is falling too much in love with a single solution, and spend too much money trying to make it work. If it’ll solve the problem, the product / service will sell to people that need help, so it’s about awareness and feedback to keep making it better – both can be cheap, but will take time so get encouragement to keep working on the right combination of solutions and awareness.

You need money to scale, and help grow exposure, but prototypes and trials are cheap and t-shirts are a nice to have, not a need to have so don’t worry about the thickness of your business cards when you haven’t yet sold your answer to the problem.

An important note on Patents – They are great in theory, but once that idea goes public then it’s an easy step for a larger company to change the idea just slightly and avoid infringement, so make sure you can quickly get funding for the legal support you’ll need to enforce that patent, or keep it un-patented until you’re getting enough exposure and success that you know you’re on the right track with the idea as is. It can take 7+ years to get the patent filed, so focus first on getting the concept to market so you can prove the interest, get the investment, and grow the company while getting advice on when to pull the patent trigger.

A note on Advisors – it’s important to find 3-5 people that have been where you’ve been at before, can help you get to where you want to go, or help steer your idea in the right direction. Start by meeting with professors or community college teachers, that are teaching classes on the subject you’re researching. You can reach out to professionals as well, such as lawyers or financial advisors, and get some simple advise for free but consider bringing them on as advisors in exchange for a small piece of ownership if they’re on board for that. Don’t get too many advisors though, and don’t give away too much of your company or you’ll run into real problems when you have investors getting involved.

 

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The Ugly Side of Subscriptions

I was recently re-subscribed to a newspaper, which I didn’t notice until checking my credit card statement and seeing a sizable renewal fee (not the cheapest newspaper to sign up for yearly access to). The thing was that they tried to get a hold of me at an e-mail address I no longer have access to, to confirm I wanted to resubscribe. I of course didn’t get the e-mail, so they assumed that was a yes, and now I’m going back and forth saying it was something my old company paid for, for a specific reason that’s no longer relevant.

They essentially informed me that they couldn’t cancel my subscription, and I’d have to wait to next year to cancel. Having experience being trapped at a gym in a simliar set of circumstances, I contacted the credit card company and am now working through the situation with them around mitigating this auto-renewal train wreck. What it’s highlighted for me though, is that there are companies in the world that still think it’s ok to trap their customers into contracts. Though they did offer to reduce it by 10%, it was not about the price (I’d gladly pay for it if I used it) but that they took advantage of a check box I didn’t uncheck last year, and an e-mail I didn’t get, to say I gave my indirect approval to get charged for another year.

Though I’m not a customer today, there’s a chance I would be in the future or that I’d come in contact with other people using the service, and this just sours me on ever wanting to deal with them again. I know though, this newspaper isn’t something individuals subscribe to and that it’s something that companies subscribe to for their executives & financial analysts. Regardless, when is it ok to trap someone in an agreement they had unintentionally consented to? Is it ever ok to cause someone to feel trapped into an agreement, you didn’t readily create an opportunity to opt out of? Yea, they might get my fee for the year, but I’m not all that inclined to recommend them to folks in the future, and is it really worth one subscription fee for a year to get that?

It’s the ugly side of subscriptions, and I get why they make it hard to quit, but this model comes to a head at some point where consumers have other options and decide to either use free resources or go month to month with no strings attached.

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What’s New is Old

There’s a phrase that history repeats itself, dating back thousands of years to the phrase “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” and the phrase is pretty spot on when you consider events like trying to attack Russia in the winter (Alexander the Great, Napoleon, Hitler) or fighting a foreign army in their own country for control of the government, with an ocean in between you and them (American Revolutionary War, Vietnam, Afghanistan both times).

Often times in technology, it seems that people talk about the next great thing and how technology has changed mankind forever. If that were the case though, things should be getting better as the technology improves, because technology is a tool and people have more tools at their disposal. People though, take a lot longer to change, and when left up to their own devices – People can do some pretty rotten things. Much like Porn is often the great early adopter of new technologies (Phonograph, VHS, DVD, Internet, etc), criminals are often the most hard working when it comes to bending new technologies to their will, and often have the means to stay one step ahead of ruling bodies, because there’s people on both sides and people love money & power, regardless of what side they’re fighting for.

At any point in history, when we look at new technology, people used it at some point shortly after it was created to get their way – whether it’s medieval kings conquering nations with military advancements, or governments using drones to monitor & assassinate foreign terrorist leaders. However, there are times in history when real leaders stand up and stand for something which galvanized the will of man to do good – even if it was only one group, and only for a short period of time.

Even with technological superiority, evil can’t always trump that human will – because people in that time rediscover their own humanity, and help push the needle back the other way. Repression turns to rebellion, plutocracy turns into protest, and the corrupt forces that work to turn mankind towards a self-seeking purpose fall by the wayside because no one likes being forced to work for someone else. This is the great failsafe often build into technology, it’s only as good as the system is maintained, and a system can only be maintained as long as there are people willing to keep it running.

With the threat of big brother government stepping in, those that feel the world is being forcibly controlled by the rich don’t realize how frail our systems are, and how futile money is if ever people decided not to buy things from the people selling. The rich stay rich, because people don’t think it’s a big enough priority to change what they’re doing to dismantle the 1%. All the 99% would have to do is open small businesses, pay the taxes they have to pay, and only buy from locally owned & operated companies long enough for shareholder-controlled enterprises to completely panic and change the way they do business, not to mention the politicians that wouldn’t get elected because they listened to lobbyists instead of their own electorate.

I’m all for government, and I’m not for any kind of forcible conflict or change through warfare/rioting – This can be done 100% legally and peacefully – What I am for, is people taking responsibility for the situation we’ve found ourselves in. Children are overweight because they’re eating the wrong food, people are not making money because they’re doing the wrong kind of work, and America is is debt because it keeps borrowing money. The sad thing is, things aren’t bad enough yet that people are willing to make the changes necessary to reverse the course, because we’re being fed enough bread and watching enough circuses that Rome can burn around us and we’re cool with that. The thing about history repeating itself though, is that a new way of doing things will arise from the ashes of Rome, and we’ll be another chapter in the history books of great nations that fell asleep at the wheel because we were the frog slowly cooking in the pot, because those in power are awfully good at keeping the followers just alive enough to not put up a fight.

People tell me they don’t like either candidate running for office, but it turns out it’s not too late for a third candidate to run for office and get elected – there’s no winner by default in the US Presidential election, so if people really care about change then just don’t vote for either candidate , because good enough isn’t good enough – don’t settle for someone applies to presidents like it does for spouses. You’re wanting change, a country that does good, and a nation that repairs roads and fixes obesity then elect people that honestly are going to do that – Where there’s smoke there is fire, and I keep hearing from people that the scent is overwhelming this year.

You want change – Vote for a candidate you really believe will make a difference, or write in “Someone else” in your presidential ballot this year, and tell other people to do the same – You have more technology to spread the word at your fingertips than any other generation in history and can make a difference more powerful than Ghandi, Alexander the Great, or Aristotle. All you have to do is decide, like they did, to do something different and decide to bring others along with you.

Change happens the same way it always does, people decided they want a change then they get others rallied up to do the same, and change happens. If you don’t see change, be the change you want to see happen and don’t let another election go by without standing up for the life you’re telling everyone you wish you had. History only goes one way – backwards – and we have alot to draw on, regarding people that didn’t care enough to change before change was forced on them. Let’s be a milestone & not a caution for generations to come, because it’s not too late – It just takes a vote.

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Building a Strategy that Sticks

What I’ve found more often then not, is that mobile strategy is more about how companies adopt to change and adapt their existing business to something disruptive, then it is about devices or the software running on them.

If a company is seen as innovative, up front, and dynamic then the corporate culture seems more hospitable towards disruption and works to incorporate whatever does the job most effectively as quickly as possible. When a company, in the eyes of the employees, is seen as being “traditional” or slow to pick up change, adopting something like mobile devices becomes more of an issue of buy-off and stakeholder agreement than it is about the technical hurdles to bring the devices into the company.

If strategy is anything, it’s a plan to move in a new direction successfully. Whether you’re talking about merging two disparate companies, or adopting mobile devices, strategy itself is an engine for change and crafting a plan on how to tackle it. Yet, companies can often be their biggest enemies when it comes to executing on a strategy, and successfully adopting whatever goals or principles are being aimed for.

The key I’ve seen in making the strategy engagements I’ve worked with stick is focusing on user adoption and stakeholder involvement, more than it is war rooms with sticky notes and high priced memorandums distributed throughout the entire company. Until a company can effectively traverse the opinions and politics of an organization, understand the triggers towards aligning employees under a unified direction for everyone’s benefit, and clearly outline that strategy is never a silver bullet but rather a target everyone should be shooting for, then even the largest most advanced strategy engagements are doomed to fall short of their target.

A strategy built on quick hits, focused on effective collaboration, with iterative steps is much more effective than a 150-page dissertation outlining massive lists of opportunities. Not to mention, something far more useful for companies, and something we’ve seen work time and time again. By empowering teams, focusing on collaboration, with goals aimed around incentives employees care about, and more importantly helping them feel like it’s something they’ll see the benefits from, then you’re setting up a strategy that is sure to gain traction and help lead to more effective strategy initiatives.

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