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

Check your pockets for luck!

City ShopperHave you ever pulled a coat or purse you haven’t used for awhile from the closet, only to discover money inside? Even when it’s a small amount, you feel richer. Lucky, even. You can do the same thing with your business.  Whether it’s going back through your idea file (you do have one, don’t you?) or getting together with colleagues to review some back-burner projects, or even meeting with clients to review what’s changed in their agenda or strategy recently, there’s an undiscovered opportunity awaits. We have all sorts of facilitation techniques we use to make these tasks easier and more fun, like the Innovation Game® Me and My Shadow. If you’re not making interesting, useful discoveries to move your business forward, search through some of those “coat pockets” you haven’t looked in for awhile. We’re sure there’s some luck waiting in there somewhere.

Try these steps today to find it:

1. Call a client you haven’t seen recently, and set up some time to observe them while they’re using your product or service.

2. Think back to January and the projects you were going to start but haven’t, then pick one, and get going!

3. Pull out a file on an old sale or project – and see if you can figure out a better way to approach it, knowing what you learned in the process.

Happy discoveries,

Megann and Steve

Get Out of the Building!

We had a chance to see Steve Blank in conversation with a couple of hundred entrepreneurs and their ilk on Friday, at Canada’s Business Model Competition. To be precise, he was chatting by video conference on a giant screen with Drs. Mary Kilfoil and Daniel Boyd, at Halifax’s Rowe School of Business.

It was a wide-ranging chat about all things entrepreneurial, but one of the key messages was the importance of getting out of the building – to talk to customers, of course, but also to just get a fresh perspective, and to look around.

As we’ve done this, we’ve discovered that in our corner of the world, at least, entrepreneurship is the new normal. Maybe it’s because we’re attuned to it, but businesses and business ideas are springing up everywhere. Within an easy walk of our home office we have conference organizers, forestry consultants, big data analytics experts, shopkeepers, software developers, and more. So while the prevailing wind of conversation says our province is on a downward trajectory and may soon implode, we’re sensing otherwise. Times are changing, most certainly, but outside of our building, they’re changing for the better.

So as our moms used to say, “you kids, get outside!” You’ll be amazed at what you’ll discover.

Megann and Steve

Left…Right…I’m their leader. Which way did they go?

Has the time come to get rid of the Left and Right labels in politics?  Given the recent actions on the part of Nova Scotia’s NDP government…it appears maybe.

To misquote The Who; “and the Party on the left is now the Party on the right.”

It’s supposed to be right-of-centre governments which give grants and tax breaks to private business, but things work differently these days in Nova Scotia.  In recent weeks we have saved a paper mill in Cape Breton,  “stolen” engineering jobs from Calgary, outsourced government IT jobs to IBM, and are now looking at buying back forests from bankrupt Bowater.

And the Irving shipbuilding contract hasn’t even started yet!

Public opinion seems divided as to the benefits of these moves, but it does make for exciting times in the province which, at the time of Confederation, was once the richest corner of the nation.

It’s actually refreshing to see a government sticking their neck out to try and create an atmosphere of sustainable success.  Not all of these scenarios will work out to everyone’s satisfaction, but that’s business!

Here’s to Nova Scotia…land of opportunity!

My Company Wants to Control Customer Research from Global…What Now?

Increasingly often, we hear this complaint from our clients. Suddenly they are being kicked out of the loop when it comes to research projects. Global sources the projects and then fields them in local markets – sometimes without even telling or involving the affiliates. These projects can go through many layers of handling and management before a moderator and respondent(s) sit down in the same room. In a worst case scenario, this can look like a game of broken telephone, with muddied objectives and watered-down results. Yet some of our best clients seem to have learned a few tricks for still getting an optimal result. Here’s what they have shared with us:

  1. The researcher or product team at the local affiliate has built a strong relationship with their counterpart(s) at Global.
  2. They have specifically requested that if moderation is to be outsourced, one of their preferred local suppliers should be considered.
  3. Local researchers take time to get involved with the briefings themselves, so they can contribute home field tips that will make the project go more smoothly.
  4. Global requires that suppliers at the top of the research chain facilitate a dialogue between the local moderator or field service and the home town affiliate.
  5. Field Managers or Project Directors ensure that everyone can reach the right person to answer a question or deal with an issue in the fewest number of steps.

We’ve seen some tremendous results when our clients have taken these steps. First, the local researcher has a chance to shine in front of more senior head office personnel. Secondly, there is often an opportunity to adapt questionnaires and discussion guides to eliminate questions that have been answered, or add probes about specific local issues. Some of our customers have also been able to pay for a local “advance copy” of their report, rather than waiting for multi-country results to be analyzed – allowing for faster decision-making – while keeping the field costs as Global’s line item.

These approaches can allow a result that is “glocal” at its finest – perhaps one of them will work for you! We’re happy to discuss how you can make the most of your research budgets.

Always optimizing,

Megann and Steve

Is the Medium the Message?

Today would have been Marshall McLuhan’s 100th birthday. The Canadian author, academic, and expert on all things communication is perhaps best known for coining the phrase, “the medium is the message”. He saw the arrival of machine printing as having had the equivalent effect of an atomic bomb on language and discourse. He foresaw a world where we would all be interconnected. But most of all, McLuhan saw a world where our devices would define us, almost more so than what we expressed by using those devices.

Was he right? Is your team spending more time talking about how and where to express your message, than the message itself? Are they asking, “Do we have an app for that?” or “Shouldn’t the field force be using tablets instead of documents?” We’d bet these kinds of conversations are taking place in your workplace, just as they are in ours. So it bears repeating that there are some simple rules of thumb that will help make sure your message is an effective one:

  1. Does it clearly differentiate your product or
    service from the competition?
  2. Is the benefit explicitly stated, or can it be
    simply decoded by the customer?
  3. Have you taken time to understand which medium
    is most appealing to your target, to deliver it where and when they need to
    receive it?
  4. What is the action you are calling the consumer
    to take?
  5. Are you sure you’ve let them know how to answer
    that call to action?

Hats off to Marshall McLuhan. We’d like to hope if the medium changes us; it will be for the better.

Express yourself!

Megann and Steve

We’re in a Canadian State of Mind

Canadian SouvenirsAround Panoptika’s place these days, we’re thinking about Canada Day. We make a big deal of our National holiday, uncharacteristically waving the flag (okay, we do that every day), and celebrating with friends and family. We like to listen to the CBC all day. We like to eat strawberry shortcake made in the shape of said flag. The main beverage is beer, although we’ve been known to partake in some wine from Niagara, or BC, or Nova Scotia, depending on where we are, on the day. We’ve spent the day travelling across the country in a hot car because one of our parents has been transferred from one end of the dominion to another. We’ve spent it at a friend’s cottage, lazily paddling around the lake. It nearly always involves a golf course. Or a barbecue party. Or a crazy household project. Or if we’re in Quebec, moving.

 
But this doesn’t just happen at our house. Across the pond, at Brother Rob’s place in Bicester, the annual Canada Day Golf Tournament will be underway. A motley crew of Brits will be thwacking a small white ball around, competing for a carefully curated collection of Canadiana. And this made us realize something. Being Canadian isn’t just about where you are. It’s not even just about who you’re with. This great country of ours is something we celebrate and carry with us, no matter where we travel. People recognize us as Canadians because of our inner Canadian-ness. You might say it’s because wherever we go, whatever we do, we’re in a Canadian state of mind.

Happy Canada Day, one and all,

Megann and Steve