MARCH 2013

  • INNOVATE LIKE A STARTUP!

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Life Lessons, Marketing Brilliance

    2 Comments

    I am part of a panel on innovation in the workplace in a couple of weeks and the organizer (one of my best friends at work and personal life coach) needed some content as part of the teaser.  She sent me an email with a loaded question:

    “What are your keys to innovation?”

    I avoided the question….I didn’t have a good answer…yet

    —–

    Silicon Prairie news has done more for the midwest tech scene than any of us will ever be able to thank them for.  Their BIG KC event this week took things to a new level; locking the best and the brightest together in an airplane hangar at the downtown airport.  An amazing lineup of speakers shared their beliefs on innovation, entrepreneurship, success, failure and more to the hundreds who participated.

    It’s impossible to name a favorite speaker but there were plenty moments of passionate agreement, questioning, laughter and even tears (yes…a guy wearing a backwards hat got the best of my emotions when he talked about his toy robot ball being used by a special needs child in a wheelchair for the first time).

    —–

    My biggest take away was clarity on my thoughts around innovation.  While I may not be considered a traditional entrepreneur, I have a bit of a penchant for challenging traditional thinking, breaking stuff and finding new ways to do things.  After hearing 2 days of speeches and having 1-on-1 interactions with dozens of people, here’s how I replied to my friend Cari:

    1. Define the problem you’re trying to solve – this may sound simple (because it is), but it’s often ignored.  Every speaker on stage could easily rattle off their mission and had a clear identity behind their successful ventures.  Absence of a clear identity will result in the waste of [EXTREMELY] precious resources regardless of the size of your backing.
    2. Talk with people who have been there before – There are experts who have been in your situation and they want to help you out.  One of my idols (and master networker), Alana Muller knows just about everyone….she’s done it by scheduling meetings and sitting next to people she doesn’t know (it’s uncomfortable, but effective).
    3. Shut up and build something – I use the term “build” loosely because at the core, we are all makers.  Write it down, draw it out, collaborate, hack it together, hit the send button, pitch it, sell it.  Seriously…get off your butt, stop talking about it and just do it.  
    4. Become comfortable with the crash and burn – This is the MOST IMPORTANT step.  Be honest…what’s the WORST that could happen?  Set up environments where you can try really crazy stuff, diverge from conventional wisdom, fail purposefully and start over.

     

    Thank you to all of the speakers who flew in from far and wide to come talk with a bunch of motivated Midwesterners and thank you to Silicon Prairie news for pushing this community in the right direction.

    Go…Create!

    Keep up with the Midwest tech scene and follow Silicon Prairie News…they’ll keep you up to date on all of the latest happenings in Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and more.  There’s something happening here:

    http://www.siliconprairienews.com/

    https://twitter.com/siliconprairie 

  • CRAFTING PRODUCTS LIKE A MODERN ARTIST

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Life Lessons, Marketing Brilliance

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    About 7 months ago I was enjoying the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art here in KC.  As we marveled at the various works of art, I often found myself exclaiming at how easy modern artists have it.  One of the people I was with quoted the following mathematical equation:

    Modern Art = I could have done that + Yeah, but you didn’t

     

    I laughed (probably a little too hard for a museum) but that statement really stuck with me…I find it translates well into my world of product development/marketing.

    1)  Modern Art Amazing products

    Most product success stories have a similar impact to that of a really great piece of modern art.  It’s obvious when you lay your eyes on it but like nothing you’ve ever seen before.

    2)  I could have done that Simplicity

    Modern art is typically made from stuff that’s extremely accessible to the average person.  More often than not, it is SO simple that it can be frustrating.  Over-thinking a solution will lead to something so complex that no one wants to bother learning about your product…or worse…they won’t consider using it.

    Focus on the problem that needs to be solved, look for new ways of solving the problem with existing resources….  Step away for a little perspective from someone closer to the problem than you (i.e. a sales rep or a customer) or further away (i.e. children, your parents or a spouse).

    3)  Yeah, but you didn’t Execution

    THIS is the most important factor…  Walk through a modern art museum and contemplate what sets you apart from the artist who made money selling THIS.  S/he went out and created something.  Coming up with a simple solution to a real problem can be difficult, but it’s all wasted if you don’t execute on it.

    So the new equation for success in the product space?  Focus on solving a real problem and take a page from modern art:

    Amazing Products = Simplicity + Execution

  • IT TAKES GUTS…

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Life Lessons, Marketing Brilliance

    4 Comments

    Status quo works for people who are comfortable with their current situation

    Diverging from your comfort zone takes GUTS

    …..

    Today, I had the privilege of watching someone with “guts” in person.  I met Cole Lindbergh a few months ago after hearing his inspiring story on NPR.  Cole worked for Worlds of Fun from the age of 14 and worked his way up to the leader of the entire games department in the last 12 years.

    This previous season was his last.  I’m not sure what told him that it was time to go, but like many of us…there can be a nagging feeling when it is time to move on.  As Cole laments in his interview with “This American Life” host Ira Glass:

    “I’m 25 now, I started here when I was 14, I’m getting older, everyone else is staying the same age.  10 years from now, I don’t think I can still be a goof ball I just think that would be creepy”

    So Cole did the unthinkable…he headed away from what had become his comfort zone over the last decade, looking for greener pastures.

    He’s taken on a lot in the last couple months between a new 40 hour/week job, a new part-time summer job (working outdoors where he’s truly happy), an entrepreneurial venture that’s taking off like wild-fire and potentially the most courageous step of all….sharing his inspiring story with others in the form of public speaking, like he did today at the Sprint World Headquarters.

    Cole showed me something about leadership over a couple tacos a few months ago….today he demonstrated that being successful “takes guts.”  Be like Cole, stick your neck out there, do what you love, do something.

    In another excerpt from his interview with Ira Glass, Cole reflected on his experience from Worlds of Fun:

    “well it’s an amusement park, I’m great at working at an amusement park”

    No way man….you’re a natural leader, an amazing public speaker and someone who inspired me today by reminding me that I can do anything.  It just takes guts.

     

    Keep up with Cole…he’s going places:

    http://colelindbergh.com/ (check back soon for updates and speaking requests…he has a great story to tell!)

    @colelindbergh (for fun tweets and random wisdom)

    http://igotyouasong.com/ (for those times when you need someone to write you a song)

     

  • I LOVE HACK-A-THONS

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Life Lessons, Marketing Brilliance, Mobile Tech

    4 Comments

    As many of you know, I found a love for hack-a-thons after participating in a company sponsored event focused on mobile app development.  I learned a lot and found some useful tips in how the hack-a-thon concept can translate well into any field, not just the techie side of your business.

    Over the weekend I participated in another hack-a-thon: the Global Service Jam right here in Kansas City.  The event attracted around 15-20 young professionals from the area with a variety of skill sets, but one common goal:  “stop talking” and “start building”

    The Global Service Jam is a world-wide organization with participants in over 100 cities working toward a solution within a common theme.  This year’s theme was “Grow^” (which our group interpreted as “Grow Up”).  From there it was up to us to define a problem related to the “Grow Up” theme and begin building a solution.  My team focused in on increasing financial acumen among young children (helping them “Grow Up” financially).  We aimed to develop a service that would allow parents to include their children in real world financial decisions, not just abstract conversations about money or allowances.

    Over the next 48 hours we went to work; defining a target customer, thinking through a whole bunch of prototypes and eventually narrowing our focus to the grocery store and all of the teachable moments that live within that eco-system.  We built a prototype application that breaks shopping trips into three categories related to financial acumen, utilizing two cute monsters by the name of Eenie and Meenie to keep the child engaged:

    1)  Needs vs. Wants – Creating the grocery list adhering to a shopping budget

    2)  Cost & Value – Comparison shopping in store

    3)  Feedback & Reward – Total target to budget and savings

    We produced a VERY poorly acted video showcasing a shopping trip before and after our solution:

     

     

    Needless to say….I had a blast.  I went into this with a little apprehension, knowing that my precious weekend was basically shot.  I justified the trade-off hoping to push my skills to the limit, comfortable with the fact that I would be extremely aggressive and never worry about failure as an outcome (something most of us aren’t OK with in our day jobs).

    In addition, I made some connections that will last a lifetime with some EXTREMELY talented people from the KC area.  When you put a whole bunch of people in a room who are willing to gamble their weekend away to an opportunity like this…amazing things happen.

    What happens next is the key…  Hack-a-thons are a blast for rapid prototyping, product/service development and a little personal discovery.  You’re completely spent mentally and you walk away with something tangible to show people.  Turning that tangible thing into something commercially viable is the next bridge to cross…but that will be the subject of my next blog post :-)

    Thank you to the Global Service Jam organization, thank you to the local KC chapter,  and more than anything…thank you to the VERY talented people who decided to give up a weekend to come hack with me.  I’ll never forget it!

    Follow the Kansas City Global Service Jam organization for announcements on the Fall Jam…..I’ll be there.  If you want to DO SOMETHING, you should be too:

    FACEBOOK

    TWITTER