This October, Make a Gratitude Adjustment

CornucopiaThanksgiving It seems October is a busy month, whatever your business. Farmers are busy preparing for winter. Teachers are halfway through the term, and checking kids’ progress. Businesses are working hard to make the last quarter a profitable one. Sound familiar? All around us, an abundance of things to do. Yet we still hear plenty of complaints.

It’s our plan to do our part by taking a gratitude adjustment. We’re remembering all the great things we have going on this autumn, like ProductCampAtlantic15, or EngageHalifax. It’s about the people and companies who we work with or who have supported us in our projects and our business. We’re healthy, busy, and surrounded by gorgeous views and smart people every single day. For that, we’re truly thankful.

So if you’re feeling busy, overloaded, challenged, good for you. We hope you’ll take it all in stride with an attitude of gratitude this October. While you’re at it, consider giving something back. Your local Food Bank might be a good place to start.

Gratefully yours,

Megann and Steve

Are You Making Hay While the Sun Shines on Your Business?

From the LookoffOn the weekend we took a drive down to the Valley – our local agricultural mecca, where farms stretch as far as the eye can see. Everywhere we turned there were busy folks from the city, wanting to relax from their busy work schedules and take in the pastoral landscape, kicking back, and dreaming of the country life. Imagine it…just living by the rhythm of the seasons.

It made us smile.

The fact is, there’s precious little downtime for farmers in any season. But certainly we could all take a lesson from them on work-life balance, especially if we’re salespeople, entrepreneurs, or anyone else whose living depends on building business. And it’s this: when there’s work to be done, they work. Hard.

Oh sure, they might complain from time to time. But by and large they understand all too well that whether it’s planting, weeding, watering, or harvesting, it needs to be done, and it won’t wait. Moreover, it doesn’t always arrive in easy, manageable increments. It’s the planting that leads to the harvest. It’s weeding that keeps profitable crops from being overtaken. And there’s a reason why they make hay while the sun shines. Because they must. So the next time we’re complaining because there’s too much to be done, we’re going to give a thought to the farmer. And when it’s the opposite, we’re going to

  1. Appreciate the downtime, and
  2. Use it to do everything we can prepare for the next harvest, which will come as surely as the summer sun.

Hard at work,

Megann and Steve

Time is on Your Side

TimeNever enough time…never enough time. Does that sound familiar? There are lots of reasons you may feel like you don’t have enough time. Some of these include many different client commitments coming together at once, a new project that takes more time to learn than you had anticipated, or life events that have come “out of the blue”.

Here’s the thing: there will always be a certain level of uncertainty or lack of control if you are moving forward into uncharted territory. As much as you would like to have a clear way forward and time to accomplish it all, that may be an unrealistic expectation. So how do you resolve that?

When you think of the things you are trying to fit into your limited time budget, the first thing to firm up are your goals. Then, if we move our uncharted territory analogy forward, think of the control you are trying to gain over time as a map. When you travel between Point A and Point B on a map, you set the destination and look at the route, but there may still be detours or unanticipated changes to your route. What matters most is to make it to Point B. If you can set goals of where you want to be, time may become a bit easier to manage. First, on the map there are many sideroads you can take. Any of them have the potential to move you forward. But once you’ve made a choice that goes in the direction of your Point B, lots of those side roads become irrelevant. Similarly, if you look at your many time commitments and think about your goal, those that aren’t moving you in the direction of your goal should become irrelevant. Yes, it may be frustrating to not be able to do it all. The good news is that to accomplish a limited set of actions, most of which move you toward a goal, is more liberating, less frustrating, and will empower you to set ever-greater goals in your sights.

So even if it seems counter-intuitive when you are running like crazy, take time to set aside enough time to figure out where you want to get, and your journey will become much easier.

On the road, always,

Megann and Steve

For a Fresh Start, Start with a Clean Slate

April is a month of rebirtClean Slateh, renewal, and fresh starts (although as the snow continues to fall in Nova Scotia, it seems that including “spring” in that list may be an overstatement). The first quarter has come and gone, and now you’re either evaluating those great ideas you came up with in January, or you’ve given up hope that they will come to pass. Is it too late for a fresh start?

It’s never too late for a reboot, but for new ideas to take hold, it’s important that they not be crowded out by the same old, same old. That calls for a clean slate. Clean slate thinking allows you to ask the question, “what if we were building this new thing from the ground up, without any of the constraints we experience in our current business?” One technique we like to use is one we apply regularly in our own business. It’s an Innovation Game called Remember the Future. In our adaptation of this game, we imagine the new offering, or activity, or expansion at the height of its success. Then we look back, figuring out all the steps we took to get there, without considering the impacts or effects of what we’re doing now. That lets us really see the possibilities. Then, and only then, do we explore what we would have to change or not do, to make it happen.

This kind of thinking is only possible with an attitude of abundance. Scarcity thinking forces us to hang on to what we have, and to fear what we might have. So clear off your slate, imagine what your business or product could be, and kick that reboot you’ve been toying with into high gear.

Thinking clearly,

Megann and Steve

Drucker: Stop Doing Something Old

Melting SnowThe late great Peter Drucker said that if you wanted something new, you had to stop doing something old.

Not everyone celebrates Easter and the octave of renewal that goes with it, but many cultures do herald the arrival of spring as a time to renew, refresh, rejuvenate, and set new plans for growth. However all these new plans and ideas do have a way of piling up – and how do you choose which ones to tackle first? It’s difficult to resist the urge to try and simply layer the old on top of what we’re already doing. Or simply revert to the old way, because there doesn’t seem to be room for new right now. Old feels comfortable. Old feels familiar. We know how Old works. So how to break out of old and take Drucker’s advice, in order to embrace the new?

Not finding a place for that great new idea in your organization? Repeat after us: “Trying something new just isn’t a priority for [me/our company/our team]”. Feel good saying that? We thought not. So how do you prioritize? In our office and with our clients, we like to use metaphor-based games like Innovation Games ® to get to the root of problems like these. This isn’t a single-stage process, but here are the steps we like to use:

1. Set the goal for where you’d like to be at a specific time in the future (remember, be SMART – specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic, and time-bound).

2. Determine the activities you’ll have to do to get there.

3. If any of these are new activities, figure out where they will put a stress and strain on you, your team, or your company in terms of resources.

4. Are there any current activities that aren’t getting you to the new objective, and, if you dropped them, would free the resources you need?

5. If so, start there. (Prioritizing on a matrix of which are easiest versus costliest to stop will help).

What are you waiting for? Even here in Atlantic Canada, the thaw has begun. Get a spring in your step, drop something old, and embrace the new.

Refreshingly yours,

Megann and Steve

The Luck of the…Innovator?


Happy St. Patrick’s Day! The luck o’ the Irish is the theme of the day around Halifax, but Innovators are also frequently associated with luck.

“Oh, weren’t they lucky to come up with that idea?”

“I wish I was creative enough to figure out new ways of doing things. People who can do that are so lucky!”

“We’ve asked the customers a thousand times how we should solve their problem, but no such luck. They haven’t come up with anything.”

The truth is, innovation has more to do with exploration, openness, readiness, and preparation than it does with luck. Expecting solutions to be linear, direct, and rapid is a bit like expecting long-term relationships to be instantaneous. Instead, if we enter every customer conversation with an openness that what we learn will be useful someday, we create a positive environment for innovation, creation, and invention. If we believe that innovations, inventions, or ideas are built on thinking, working, exploring and applying our talents, then we’ll be inspired to keep trying – instead of being envious and chalking someone else’s  good fortune up to luck.

Today, whether you’re celebrating St. Patrick’s Day or not, set yourself up for the Luck of the Innovator with these ideas:

1. Every customer conversation has value – remember that you may not see the value today; it may need time to mature and percolate.

2. Processes that don’t work are like a fun puzzle for solutions-minded people – so give them some space to spread out the pieces and start solving.

3. Practice recognizing challenges as opportunities and finding ways to say “yes”. The next time you want to say “no” because something looks too difficult, see if you can figure out what would make it possible to say “yes”, instead.

Have a great day, and may the luck o’ the innovator be with you.

Megann and Steve

Go outside. Look around you! …Exploration is vital to Innovation

When we were thinking about the idea of exploring, Steve Blank came to mind (“get the heck out of the building”), but really, we think Robin Williams is so memorable when he describes what would happen if Siri was French, and was asked to find a restaurant in Paris. Innovation is all about exploration, and it’s vital to get outside and look around. Sitting at your desk, your bench, your workshop, or in your studio won’t get you where you need to go. It’s important to stop flying around on autopilot and to really pay attention. So get outside and explore.

Three ideas to try this week to get your inner innovator working:

1. Take a new route to work – new highway exits or transit stops will help you remember how to practice mindful travel.

2. Instead of looking up that great restaurant (or other important information), walk to a library, call a colleague, or visit a target customer.

3. Use a microscope – or a telescope. That is, look at something you’ve been wrestling with from a more micro, or macro, perspective.

Here’s looking at you,

Megann and Steve