Remember the 80’s? These Opportunities for Innovation Still Hold Up

DruckerMegann has been re-reading Peter Drucker’s classic, Innovation and Entrepreneurship. It’s interesting to see the predictions (hmm…in the 80’s, innovation and entrepreneurship were the future that would save the economy – sound familiar?) What Drucker stressed was that innovation and entrepreneurship were not just about new technology, but about a revolution in thinking, in doing, and in performing. In short, innovative would be demanded of every organization. Fast-forward to today, and Drucker’s work really does look like a seminal work – with many of the same messages in “new” (dare we say “innovative”) treatises on innovation and entrepreneurship theory. So it seems worthwhile to revisit Drucker’s Seven Opportunities for Innovation. (For more inspiration, check out the Drucker Institute).

We help our clients explore opportunities to find out which are right for them and their organization. Which one resonates with you?

  1. The unexpected (What happened in your business that surprised you in 2014?)
  2. The incongruity (Is there a gap in your market or your business between the “on paper” reality – and the “real” reality?)
  3. Innovation based on process need (Have you found a new way of doing things that makes you say, “Wow, why didn’t we try this sooner?”)
  4. Changes in industry structure or market structure that catch everyone unawares (How could we have been ready for that tsunami?)
  5. Demographics – (Is your traditional buyer outgrowing your product? Or is someone unusual buying it all of a sudden?)
  6. Changes in Perception – (Do you have customers who are suddenly ready to buy, who weren’t before? Or just the opposite?)
  7. New Knowledge – (Has your team had an aha moment that makes them see a whole new way to offer your service or product?)

All of these opportunities are still valid. If you need a hand exploring them in your business, we’re ready.

Looking at all the angles,

Megann and Steve

Build a Community and Grow your Confidence

Are you a product manager who’s experienced conflict, confusion, or even a lack of confidence that you’re going in the right direction? Do you have the title, but you’re not sure what a product manager does (and everyone at your company wants to badge you with a different job description)? These are not uncommon problems. As we’ve been continuing our “repatriation” to the east coast, we’ve made some discoveries in our growing network. One of these is watching how the confidence of individual players grows, as they build their community or ecosystem. It’s like they are learning their habitat, trying what works, and finding out whose ideas and input they can, and should, trust. We’ve seen tremendous momentum in the east coast startup movement, and if these startups are going to become stayups, we need to continue the community-building at the next level.

Our work has always been about helping people or organizations to get a better understanding of customers, and how those customers interact with their products. This means that product managers are often our clients, and just as frequently, our friends. Depending on the location, the product management community may be very well developed and interconnected, or it may barely exist. But our observation is that once the community begins to take shape, product managers become a lot more confident. They reach a point where:

  • They’re ready to take a stand for what their definition of product management is
  • They know where to find other product managers whose learning and solutions are relevant to their context
  • The solutions they recommend are well-grounded in evidence, from a customer-centric perspective
  • Their skills at customer discovery, user experience management, and advocacy on behalf of the client are continuously improving.

Atlantic Canada is full of bright young (and young-at-heart) product managers (whether that’s by title, or by function) who want to change the landscape for the products they’re building and the customers they serve. If you’re interested in growing your community and building your product management toolkit, join us at ProductCamp Atlantic October 25th. 

Look forward to seeing you there,

Megann and Steve

Megann and Steve Willson Medium

We Need Collaboration, AND Collision!

We’ve been working with our colleagues from The Mentor Group and Invest Atlantic on some projects, mostly aimed at growing the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Atlantic Canada. There’s been a lot of talk about collaboration, and there are certainly some great partnerships and alliances that have been developing around the region. There are cross-border conversations happening between provinces. More sharing is definitely happening. For all the talk about collaboration, though, we’ve observed occasional sensitivities, hackles being raised, even (dare we say) protectionist comments in certain communities and circles throughout the region. We really need to get past this.

The One NS Report (or colloquially, the Ivany Report) challenged us to pull up our socks, pull together, and to open the door to a brighter economic future. This is possible. Truly. But every idea, offering, and invention needs to stand up to a challenge now and then. Let’s switch our mindset from one where we live in a land of scarcity, to one where we live in a land of abundance. So what if someone else wants to do what we want to do, or build what we want to build? Where would Pepsi be without Coke to spur them on? Or McDonald’s and Burger King? Collisions or confrontations don’t need to be the order of the day. But they can be the driver of new ideas, new approaches, or an impetus for us to dig deeper and come up with something even more creative and inventive than what we were doing before. How about it, folks? Let’s get out there and stretch ourselves. Meet with strangers. Collaborate with new partners. Challenge our long-held axioms and check our assumptions.

We’re game, are you?

Megann and Steve

If you’d like to discuss this or any of our ideas in person, we’re happy to hear from you. We’ll also be attending a number of upcoming events, including Invest Atlantic and Product Camp Atlantic

Switch it Up for a Richer Product Story

This week we’ve been using metaphors and serious games to tackle a host of business problems, and we’d like to help your organization to do that, too. We’d love to hear from you.

We were back at Dalhousie University’s Norman Newman Centre’s Starting Lean Initiative yesterday, working with the participants in their special Summ’erUp program. It’s great to see these young entrepreneurs progressing – some getting ready to beta their products, others still in development – but all of them needing to find the best way to tell their stories. We’d like to give a shout out to Peanut, Bootstrap, and Applicable Labs, especially, for the work they put in on their Product Boxes.

Product Box is a great, fun tool created by our friend Luke Hohmann – originally introduced in his book, Innovation Games®, and which has evolved into a whole suite of solutions available from Conteneo®. We’ve adapted it to use in all kinds of situations, from creation of new products, to re-inventing brand stories, to simply getting customers to relax and have fun before engaging in a strategic conversation. Look at some of the great examples from our friends at Bootstrap – the pictures really do tell the story of what they have in mind for helping young Nova Scotians stay here in this beautiful province while re-inventing the economy:

Bootstrap Product Box 4Bootstrap Product Box 1

Bootstrap Product Box 6Bootstrap Product Box 5

Bootstrap Product Box 2Bootstrap Product Box 3

See how the metaphor of Product Box really tells the story? Bootstrap, we’re really proud of you and your colleagues at Summ’rUp. Keep up the great work. 

If you and your team would like to use these and other serious games to solve problems, build strategy, or work more closely with your customers, just let us know.

We’d love to play our games with you,

Megann and Steve

Say It, Write It, Live It!

We had a fantastic conversation yesterday with Paul Kent of the Greater Halifax Partnership, about growing our innovation ecosystem in Atlantic Canada. Part of that for us, is taking #myHFXpledge. (Which we did!) Despite plenty of doom and gloom stories, we’re seeing a real change in attitude in Halifax. Here’s the pledge:

I am joining a unified community of people who share a common goal of social and economic prosperity and a belief in a collaborative and innovative culture. I am open to meeting anyone in this community. I will dream, listen, experiment, and persist.

The rules of the innovation ecosystem, according to the Pledge, are as follows:

Be bold
Trust and be trusted
Challenge active pessimism
Experiment together
Be a Champion
Celebrate success

Why pledge? Because there’s value in saying out loud what you want to achieve. And power in writing it down. Success and leadership gurus from Napoleon Hill to Stephen Covey have spread this message – putting pen to paper (or keyboard to internet) makes a difference. It makes your intentions real and visible. It feels like a contract. And it strengthens our commitment. 

We think these are some pretty great rules to live by, wherever you live, and whatever you want to accomplish. So let’s get out there – say it out loud, write it down, and make it happen

Continued success,

Megann and Steve

Do your Customers Know the Whole You?

Last night we were fortunate to spend the evening with several hundred close friends, colleagues, and contacts at the Halifax Chamber of Commerce‘s Spring Dinner. Peter Mansbridge was the keynote speaker, and he told a host of interesting, amusing and intriguing stories. But two of them, at least, had a common element. In one, he was mistaken for another famous somebody – the President of Poland. In another, an individual who took Mansbridge’s seat on an aircraft was bestowed a perk because the staff thought he was the well-known news anchor and chief correspondent.

In each case, the person making the mistake did so because he or she only had part of the story. If they had known more about who Mansbridge was, as well as what he looked like, these mix-ups would likely never have happened. So what might your contacts be mixing up about you or your company, because they only have part of your story?

The moral here is to let them get to know you. Reveal the layers. Show who you really are. And take time to be sure they have connected the dots correctly. Do that, and hopefully you won’t be mistaken for the President of Poland (unless, of course, that’s who you really are).

Peeling back the layers,

Megann and Steve

Sons (and Daughters) of the Pioneers

Last week at Canada’s Business Model Competition, Megann had an exciting side conversation with Deloitte Canada’s Louise Upton, and Mike Goldsby, from Ball State University. We were discussing what seems to be a common problem in many towns and cities, all over North America – the lack of desire to move or migrate when industries or resources collapse. Why, in the face of chronic unemployment, do people stay in their towns or cities, favouring locational loyalty to what seem to be better opportunities to provide for their families?

For many, it seems their identity is bound up in the place they’re from. Whether they are coal miners or cutters, lumberjacks, fishers, or farmers, there are generations of families who are tightly connected to the work they do and the land where it’s done. Even subsequent generations, who have left the farm, the mine, the woods or the sea to sell real estate, develop software, or make their money in investment banking, seem to have a part of themselves that can’t or won’t let go of “that place”, wherever it is. Yet for the vast majority of the North American population, we’ve originally come from somewhere else. Even if we’ve been here for five, six, or more generations like Megann’s family, at some point, we were pioneers. So when did we lose the courage to be pioneers? Or did we?

We’d like to think that the pioneer spirit is still “in there”. What makes one able to leave family and relations behind, sail across an ocean to what may be an unexplored, inhospitable land, and still put down roots? It’s qualities like self-reliance, inventiveness, courage, optimism, creativity, and hope that kept our forebears going. Pride in a job well done and the ability to surmount daunting odds gave them a sense of control, expertise, or even mastery. And the narrative of “we’re farmers” or “we’re fishers” or “we’re cutters” stitched the story together.

These same attributes exist in most entrepreneurs. So then the question becomes, can we re-ignite that pioneer spirit? Instead of moving our selves and our homes, can we tap into those dormant strengths and find new ways to use them? We’re betting we can – and that a new wave of pioneers is on the rise – inventing, building, and creating an independent, innovative future.

Forging ahead into our own unknown,

Megann and Steve