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Data, Strategy, Leadership, and Innovation

Tag: ideas

How to Sell People on Really Big Ideas

I was recently talking to someone about his plans to launch a new concept focused on data analytics in the B2B space. He walked me through his models, his research, and all the great ideas he had on where he wanted to go.

I felt like he wasn’t going to be successful, though, because through most of the meeting, he talked to me in a monotone his head down. He didn’t have the kind of jump-out-of-your-seat enthusiasm or passion behind his idea that made me say “Wow, this really is something different.” And sadly, when it comes to breaking people out of their patterns, passion matters more than ability.

Investors may say it’s all about the numbers, and that’s true. It’s table stakes. However, if an investor doesn’t think you can sell the product, or yourself, then getting the cash is going to be a long shot.

If you’ve ever sold something or been sold to, you understand what I mean. The person that comes in with enthusiasm, whether it’s a TED talk or a sales pitch, will often surpass people with more knowledge and abilities. If you’re telling me something is amazing, I want to feel like you’re amazed by it yourself. If you’re telling me something is revolutionary, I expect you’ll show that in your body language.

A failure to connect with your audience is often a question of your emotional state, of how you interact or don’t interact, and how much enthusiasm you’re able to communicate to get other people excited as well.

Here are some tips then, on how to surface passion when it comes to launching something new and innovative–no matter how much of an introvert you might be.

1. Develop questions, not lecture notes.

When it comes to a conversation on a concept no one in the room has heard of before, don’t go in with a 50-slide PowerPoint deck. Instead, focus on preparing good questions ahead of time about the audience’s pain points and other things that matter to them. If you have a strong context for your audience, you’ll be able to adapt the pitch around them.

2. Don’t talk about the product or solution, talk about the problem you’re solving.

Anyone, from an investor to an executive to the person selling flowers on the corner, would give you a dollar if the person knew he or she would get two dollars back. Since there’s no such thing as a sure bet, it takes trust and confidence to get people to part with time or money. The only way you make that connection is by helping them see how they make two dollars by spending less, or by your helping them generate more. Assume your audience knows more about their business than you do, and focus on solving the pain points that are in their way to save money or generate revenue. If your product does neither of those things, you’re probably pitching the wrong people.

3. Numbers matter, but save it for the ask.

If you’re pitching investors, numbers are king. If you’re selling an executive on the benefits of your platform, you’re going to have to quantify that in some way. Passion does matter most, but it’s a nonstarter if you don’t have numbers to back up what you’re saying.

4. Practice, practice, practice.

Passion often comes through when we are feeling our most confident. To get there, practice how the pitch going to go. Get your questions down and your talking points committed to memory. Recite whatever good-luck quotes, prayers, or mantras to feel relaxed enough to pivot in the moment.

If you do these things, you’ll not only connect with your audience more effectively but also feel better coming out of the meeting, nine times out of 10, a great feeling in and of itself.

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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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The Next Step In Driving Meaningful Innovation

In Sunday’s article “The First Step in Driving Meaningful Innovation“, I discussed the key steps in getting started and that was to focus on outcomes vs the idea and built a team to help vet your ideas.

Once that’s done, what’s the next step in keeping the momentum moving forward?

Well, if you read to the bottom of Sunday’s article, you may have noticed I said I’d be posting the article the next day. That didn’t happen of course, and it doesn’t matter the reason why, but was a fail on my part. This is important, because the next step in meaningful innovation is becoming comfortable with failure.

There’s many ways to do this, typically it’s going out and trying something multiple times, and building on the previous step, could mean taking your concept and beginning to circulate it to a broader audience. Perhaps though, it’s simply a mental exercise accepting that you may fail in what you’re trying to do, and that’s ok, or doing something particularly risky knowing fully well that risk goes hand in hand with failure.

The concept “failing forward” though is important, because it means you didn’t succeed but you’re better off because of the attempt. Whether it’s learning something new about a business situation you didn’t know about, getting first hand experience on the corporate politics of your company, or understanding what not to say in front of a particular executive. The important thing to remember is that a job is something that can be replaced and bosses are people that will come and go in your life, but the experiences you gain from attempting big things sticks with you for life.

Too many people are afraid to fail in a company, because they attach their job to safety and that causes fear – the most powerful motivator in the world – to protect you from going outside of the bounds you feel most comfortable in. This is a problem though, because it’s not the walls that protect your job like a castle but rather keep you penned into your job like a prison. The funny thing is that prisons and castles can be the same building, just depends on the purpose.

The same is true for risk, though too many people use it use risk avoidance as a prison to keep themselves locked into a certain mindset vs embracing risk and protecting themselves from a life of boredom or complacency. The phrase “a rolling stone gathers no moss” couldn’t be more appropriate, given today’s dynamic society, and statistics around how fast jobs and skills are being swapped in and out. The one skill that’ll never go out of style though? Embracing change, and learning to adapt. It’s not a book you read, it’s a muscle you flex and grow.

If you’re pushing meaningful innovation inside your company, you won’t be successful most of the time with most of the people. It’s an uphill battle, where you’ll get people fighting you at many levels of an organization. A corporation has an immune system that rejects a heart transplant, even though it’s the best thing for the company because risk means volatile stock prices and uncertain 3-5 year performance forecasts. However, it’s also the slow boiling heat that cooks the frog, if you take a look at big companies going bust over the past several years. Furthermore, how many start-ups are now bigger than Fortune 1000 companies from 10-15 years back?

Yes, change is inevitable and is a wave that rises those that surf on boards made of meaningful innovation but also washes out those stuck on the beach punching the clock each day hoping they can hide from that very same wave. The most valuable lesson I learned during my time at the Boeing Company, is that lay-offs are largely out of your control and happen when you least expect it, so the most dangerous thing you can do is not stay nimble and flexible to embrace something new if you have to.

Though that may be a broader narrative for life, it’s most important when you throw yourself into an intentionally risky space, like pitching new ideas in a company and stirring up “the way we do things around here”. That takes some mental fortitude, and preparation to get yourself in the mindset of running your own start-up, and having now to go sell and close people in your company on your idea.

Innovation isn’t something you can do once either, it takes 100’s of attempts over time to get good at hearing no, and thinking then about new ways to get to yes. But it’s worth it, you most likely won’t be putting your life at risk (depending on what you’re presenting), and you’ll gain an experience and learn a lesson that you will take forward into your next experience. The most important thing though, is you’ll flex that risk muscle, and get stronger in the face of larger amounts of uncertainty and ambiguous work situations.

I could give you exercises in doing this, but I think you already know 2-3 potentially risky moves you could make that get you out of your comfort zone. Don’t do anything wild and crazy to start if you don’t want to, sky diving probably isn’t a good place to start if you’re scared of heights, but start by jumping off the high dive at your local YMCA pool and work your way up to jumping out of planes. The key here is walking up to that edge, and not being afraid to look over the edge – not becoming the world’s greatest base jumper and taking on risk for risk’s sake – adrenaline junkies are in their own camp with their own set of motivations.

In a corporate environment, it means taking the concept you’ve gotten vetted and focused around outcomes, and getting prepared to start telling people outside of the folks you know and accepting not everyone is going to like it (this is most in line with calculated risks than fool hardy risks throwing something at a wall and hoping it sticks). Then take that idea, refine it, and be prepared for the next step in meaningful innovation – building the prototype.

Stay tuned then, for the next article in the meaningful innovation series, “Effective Ways to Prototype Your Innovative Idea“.

Follow me here on LinkedIn to stay in the loop or via my blog at DanMaycock.com, and share with people you think would care to learn more about what meaningful Innovation could look like – follow me on twitter @DanMaycock to see articles posted on whats possible or drop me a line at dan@transform.digital if you have any questions or doubts around this topic of Innovation that does something measurable and impacting for your company.

Dan Maycock is the author of “Building The Expo”, which shares best practices on leveraging #Innovation in meaningful ways and saving the concept from it’s overused but underutilized past. The book has first hand stories, and best practices from Dan’s years of experience working with Fortune 1000 companies dealing with emerging technology adoption in an increasingly dynamic business environment. You can purchase the book at Amazon.com or learn more about Dan at http://www.transform.digital

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The First Step in Driving Meaningful Innovation

In yesterday’s post “What Lies Between Ideas and Outcomes“, I shared that meaningful innovation was possible and can help shape companies in every aspect but required an intentional approach driven by outcomes and focused on helping shape concepts in ways that drive real impact for the business

The first step then, in heading down this path, is actually two fold

The first part is to stop focusing on the idea itself first off and instead focus on what measurable outcomes you’re going to drive / achieve (ROI, revenue growth, efficiency, etc). Too many innovative ideas out there focus on the technology or process or solution (ex: mobile apps, 3d printing), and not enough on the outcomes that will make the executive leadership shine, along with helping the bottom line of the company itself (ex: greater customer engagement, reduction in prototyping costs).

Once you have a clearly defined outcome, and have thought through what kinds of tangible impacts your concept could produce, then you’re in a much better position to begin discussing it with those outside of your immediate support team. The further you go with your concept as well, the harder it’ll be to get people on board to support you unless it comes with a clear tie in as to how they can be a part of it and/or benefit from it.

Test it with a co-worker or leader you trust inside your organization that has approval authority, and see if it passes the sniff test. Anyone that’s used to working with third party vendors, approving contracts, or negotiating statements of work will have the right level of objectivity to think through push back and whether the outcome focused business case holds water or not.

Once that’s done, then it’s time to take that concept and outcome and build your vetting team

The second part is to incorporate those that would be most against your concept into the process early on. Too often when I talk to groups inside corporations about an innovative new idea they’re working to launch, they talk about wanting to get a strong foundation of support around them before taking the idea outside of their team and launching it companywide. When I ask why they’d take that approach, I’m told of all the groups most likely to shut them down (legal, hr, corporate governance, procurement, etc) because of regulations, budgets, risk, etc.

The problem with that though, is that no one really wants to say no – well some might – but these functions inside of a business are here to help the company, not hinder it. However, when the legal team is brought into a product launch (ex: consumer facing mobile app) or internal initiative (ex: IP accelerator / hackathon) too late in the game, with everything defined, it sends up red flags and questions that could delay or cancel the project after all the time and effort has been placed to get it ready to launch.

Bringing the folks into the room early enough on, that would historically strike something risky and new down, means they’re not only included in the process but can highlight risks that would ultimately get the project shut down further down the line anyways. At the same time, having groups like security or legal giving the green light on new ideas does not hurt your chances for getting executive buy-in as it can greatly reduce the risk as the concept goes through the various hoops for approval.

Vetting isn’t a bad thing, and there are tons of good ideas out there, but getting the right foundation of support doesn’t mean filling a room full of supporters or yes men, or asking people that report to you if your baby is ugly or not (as there will always be some level of bias there) but rather it’s about the hard balls out early and really working through the concept before a lot of time and effort is spent moving the idea forward.

People that traditionally get shut out till the end, will feel included and a member of the team and at the same time you’ll get the benefit and knowledge of seeing the potential land mines before the solution is too far down the path.

Concepts and ideas have a certain level of pride and ownership around them, but you need people that’ll help you see past your bias and tell you the things that people will think down the road but not say.

A good well thought out approach, with a strong outcome, and diverse inputs early on is a far stronger foundation and one less likely to get pushed aside due to the idea being too far out there or not grounded in business realities.

Hope you’ll stay tuned for tomorrow’s post: The Next Step in Driving Meaningful Innovation

Follow me here on LinkedIn to stay in the loop or via my blog at DanMaycock.com, and share with people you think would care to learn more about what meaningful Innovation could look like – follow me on twitter @DanMaycock to see articles posted on whats possible or drop me a line at dan@transform.digital if you have any questions or doubts around this topic of Innovation that does something measurable and impacting for your company.

Dan Maycock is the author of “Building The Expo”, which shares best practices on leveraging #Innovation in meaningful ways and saving the concept from it’s overused but underutilized past. The book has first hand stories, and best practices from Dan’s years of experience working with Fortune 1000 companies dealing with emerging technology adoption in an increasingly dynamic business environment. You can purchase the book at Amazon.com or learn more about Dan at http://www.transform.digital

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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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