When You’re In The Weeds, Start Weeding!

Dandelion“You reap what you sow.” Are you familiar with that adage? It makes sense, right? Plan in advance. Prepare what you want to achieve. Sow the seeds. And eventually, harvest what you planted. All those self-improvement books must be right. (Right?)

We asked our @Panoptika followers about what they had planted, that they’re harvesting now, and one of our friends at Spring Loaded Technology said they were harvesting weeds. They were being tongue-in-cheek – they’ve really got their act together. Of course, it got us thinking anyway. The weed metaphor was so useful, we had to work on it right away. And when Rick Nason got involved in the conversation, we knew we were onto something.

So what about the things that are growing profusely, that you didn’t sow? How do you deal with behaviours, beliefs, habits, or patterns that have established themselves in your team or organization, that weren’t planted on purpose? That’s where weeding comes in. Just as you can prioritize what’s important to do, you can prioritize what is important not to do. Your weed may be someone else’s beautiful flower, so you need to be intentional as you tidy up your garden. When deciding what to do next, what to get rid of, what to elevate, and how to move forward, we like to use metaphor-based approaches. They’re simple to understand and everyone can understand their common language. Some of our favourites come from our friend and mentor Luke Hohmann, creator of Innovation Games.

What if the weeds seem overwhelming?

  1. Involve the whole team. They need to be involved in figuring out what to reap, what to simply get rid of, and whether some of the crops need to be rotated next time. They’re experts about what’s really going on.
  2. Get help! An outside neutral party like a facilitator comes in handy for keeping the crew on track, managing the weeds that are deep-rooted, and observing patterns that might not be obvious when you live with them every day. (Kind of like having a great gardener come by and help you get things in shape in your own back yard).
  3. While you’re at it, move some things around. Once you clear some of the weeds, it becomes easier to see what needs to be done.

So if what you’re reaping doesn’t seem to be what you sowed, try removing the weeds, and prepare for a more bountiful harvest.

Need help with your business garden? We’re happy to dig in.

Megann and Steve


Superbowl Market Research Findings

Last night’s Superbowl was a real cliff-hanger, even for the one of us who picks teams by the “red-beats-blue” method. (That was a dilemma yesterday, by the way…no names mentioned). But the outcome of the game carries with it a great reminder for our research clients.

In today’s hurry-up world, fast seems to be becoming increasingly important. Nearly every project begins with the question, “how fast can we get these answers?” or some variant of that. Then, having made our best recommendation, we’re invariably asked, “couldn’t you give me a topline sooner?”  You know, as in, “as soon as you have gathered some subset of the responses”?  We’re business-owners as well as consultants. So we understand the importance of being on top of what customers are thinking, as precisely as possible, and in the most timely fashion. But imagine what would have happened if we had based our predictions for the outcome, our business decisions, and our action plan for the Superbowl on who was leading at halftime…Sometimes, in the words of Yogi Berra, “it ain’t over til it’s over”.

Looking at the whole picture,

Megann and Steve

How Much Change is Enough?

Imagine you’ve been reaching out to your customers, and they’ve been telling you that something has to change. But it’s a dilemma. You don’t want to change too much, or your loyal purchasers may stop purchasing. You don’t want to change so much that your teammates or employees don’t feel like they’re getting what they signed on for. You want evolution, not revolution, right?

Embattled tech company RIM has been facing just this sort of a decision. The company announced today that its co-CEOs were stepping down, to be replaced by insider Thorsten Heins. But so far the market hasn’t responded kindly. The problem may be that the change is simply too small. While RIM’s fall from grace has been dramatic, in fact, nothing short of meteoric, this change appears, to many, to be miniscule. Herein lays the key to knowing how much change is enough. The degree of change needs to be relative in scope to the level of impact that’s required. So if the problem your customers have been encountering is significant, then the change will likely come with a commensurate level of discomfort. If you want revolutionary change, be prepared for a revolution.

Abandon Hope!

We know! That seems to run counter to the holiday spirit. But it sums up some thoughts we had when we were doing our morning reading. It started with an item in the Globe and Mail on leader and feminist, Mary Eady. On the same day, Jean Brittingham’s response to criticism of her blog on why women should do startups showed up.

Brittingham has a new book, The SmartGirls Way. There’s also a SmartGirls Way website. But it was the last paragraph of her blog post that got us thinking. It said, “Women’s entrepreneurship isn’t a gender issue as much as it is a social and economic issue. If we women do our part, we can and should expect the same opportunities as our male counterparts to realize our dreams.”

The key for us two-fold: the “do our part” part, and the “can and should expect” part. Mostly, it’s about expectations. One obstacle we often observe our women colleagues in the entrepreneurial world experiencing is the confusion of “expectation” with “hope”. Expectation is insisting, demanding, or claiming that which we’ve earned by doing the work. Hope is just that – dreaming, wishing, or desiring – without necessarily either doing the work, or stepping up and asking for what we have rightfully earned.

So today, if you’re one of the many strong women we’ve worked with, we’d like to ask you to cast a critical eye on whether you have done your best, and if you have, please, step up and speak out for what you’re worth. Abandon hope, and focus on expectation.

Heads held high,

Megann & Steve

“Yeah, we tried innovating once, and it didn’t work”.

“We’ve had change initiatives before. They didn’t change the

“Let me show you the reports from some of our past innovation days.”

Does any of this sound familiar? So many companies we’ve worked with feel like they’re fighting an uphill battle when they want to do something new and different. This sort of negative self-talk stalls the desire for innovation, and it is frequently driven by past failed efforts.

A colleague of ours used to describe it as the Seagull Syndrome: “Consultants are like seagulls. They swoop in, eat your lunch, crap all over you, and then fly away.” In some cases, that’s not far off the mark. Part of the problem is that there are many consultants out there whose work is to come in, stir up some feelings and ideas, and then to compile a report. That model is broken. It defines the report and recommendations as the end of the project. However what successful companies have demonstrated is that personal engagement and commitment is critical to developing a new product, process, service, or system. For innovation to really start to work, to take hold, and to flourish, here are some things that are vital to the process:

  1. A senior team champion. Without support from the C-suite, it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to drive a revolutionary change.
  2. Critical mass and talk time. This doesn’t mean a few marketers coming together in a room and producing some fuzzy statements about commitment to the future. It means getting a critical mass of the people who will really do the work, in the room, and securing their commitment to make an action plan.
  3. A willingness to do the work. Consultants can’t change organizations. Only individuals, working together to a common purpose, can do this. Expecting that a few hours or days with a facilitator will solve the problem without anyone from the company getting their hands dirty is a clear signal that the corporation is not ready to grow and change.
  4. SMART next steps. At the end of the process, the beginning of the implementation should be clearly mapped out. Each individual
    should come away with a Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Time-bound road map of what his or her commitments will be, by when, and with whom.
  5. Authority where there is responsibility. This links back to the senior team champion. Once the roadmap is clearly laid out and the projects are developed, the champion’s role is to ensure that those who have been given responsibility are also afforded the authority to carry out their mission.

All of these things are possible, and more. If you’re looking for ways to march boldly forward into the future, we’d love to hear from you.

Moving forward,

Megann and Steve

What If You Drove Potential Customers to a Market Where they Couldn’t Get Your Product?

Many advertising and sales techniques are designed to drive the end-user to ask for a product. Whether it’s targeting cooking aficionados and showing them the latest kitchen invention, or showing individuals with an active, athletic lifestyle what’s new in clothes or equipment, or even if it’s direct-to-consumer advertising about a pharmaceutical product, one factor frequently creates a problem. If, when the person goes to the distribution source to try and access the product, be it an avocado cuber, ultra-wicking running togs, or the newest treatment for blog prep avoidance syndrome, the distributor isn’t sufficiently familiar with the product, what seemed like a promising sales opportunity may come to a grinding halt.

The person selling or controlling distribution of the product has to know enough, and be familiar enough, to give it a personal endorsement. Otherwise, if Suzy, or Joe, or Jeff gets to the point of asking the cuisine-ista, or the running consultant, or their family doctor, and that advisor, seller, or prescriber is still unsure about his or her own opinion, the trail may well go cold. And there may not be another opportunity.

So while going directly to the end user is often a great strategy to move your product off the shelves, before you do that, ask yourself:

  1. Have I primed the distributor?
  2. Are they ready to receive questions about my product?
  3. Do they have sufficient familiarity to make a confident response?
  4. Is the product readily available at their location?

Anytime you’re relying on someone else to close the sale of your brand, you need to make sure that person has sufficient tools to do so.  If you’ve taken that step, then (and only then) are you ready to lead a customer to their door.

Keeping an eye out for bumps in the road,

Megann and Steve

Don’t Pity Rory McIlroy

The Masters golf tournament marks the un-official start of spring around Panoptika’s table. It normally coincides with warming temperatures, green and colourful things springing forth from the earth, and people starting to emerge from their winter habitats.

This year’s Masters was a tremendously exciting event, with as many as 10 golfers in the mix until the last few holes.  Congratulations to Charl Schwartzel for a terrific back nine, calmly closing the deal with four consecutive birdies to win by two strokes.

One person who was not in the running on the back nine was Rory McIlroy, the 21 year-old from Northern Ireland.  He looked tentative the entire last round, managing to hold himself in check until the 10th hole when he, seemingly, forgot how to play golf.  He persevered, carding an 80 to finish well back.

What can you learn from Rory McIlroy?

First, no matter how good you are, you can fail.  Many of us have spent years developing the skills we bring to the table.  We keep on top of important trends, tools and methods.  We seek to understand our client’s issues, so we can apply these skills in helping them succeed.  But sometimes we miss something important, and someone else wins the day.

Don’t let failure stop you from competing.  Rory didn’t just walk off the course.  He and his caddy tried to right the ship and steer it towards the goal.  When you mis-hit, think about why you were not successful.  Was it an anomaly, is it part of a trend you didn’t notice, are therenew players in the game?

Be gracious in defeat and take the time to reflect.  We’re sure the last thing Rory wanted to do was talk with the media after the match, but he took the time to point out how he take some time to look back on what happened, find the positives and learn from the experience, so next time he could be more successful.

So, failure in inevitable…how you react to failure is optional.  Choose the approach Rory took, be positive, reflect, and get back in on the course and try again.


Steve and Megann