The Greenhouse

ENT 601 Week 4 blog

The process of innovation has many stages. Many will say that the first steps consist of recognizing a need for change and brainstorming on new ways to make those changes happen. Followed by continuous observation and prototyping. Prototyping is essential to testing out ideas after brainstorming. It allows the group to visualize the idea more concretely before constructing the invention. This is the stage where changes can be made that include more physical and rational reasoning. There are many ways a prototype can be executed. More commonly is through drawings, computer software, or physical 3-d form. 

The key to these first couple of stages are the people involved in the process and the environment that houses such ideas. As discussed last week, teamwork is essential to the brainstorming process. However, in order to maximize the innovation efforts, the environment has to be right. Thomas Kelley, in The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America’s Leading Design Firm,calls this the “Greenhouse” effect (Kelley, page 129). He states that a greenhouse for innovation is “a place where the elements are just right to foster the growth of good ideas. Where there’s heat, light, moisture, and plenty of nurturing. The greenhouse we’re talking about, of course, is the workplace, the way spaces take shape in offices and teams work together” (Kelley, page 129). He gives many examples of how different companies can foster a working area that gives way to great innovation, but there are a few aspects that is most common in any industry. 

One aspect of creating a work area that is conducive to producing innovative ideas is considering the layout of the workspace. Keeping in mind, that teamwork is essential to the innovation process, having a space that will allow teams to gather is important. Some examples of team friendly workspaces are layouts that have a central location that makes it easy for team members to congregate. Also, position offices and cubicles in a matter that will allow team members to easily join one another while maintaining personal space in situations where focus and concentration is needed. Lastly, remember that diversity is needed as many different perspectives are necessary, allowing different departments to easily access one another is just as important. 

Finally, providing work spaces that fosters creativity and functionality can help with the prototyping stage of innovation. Kelley suggests that the workspace should be simple, movable, and buildable (Kelley, 2016). He gives examples of where he used blocks, that were used for sitting and partitions, as pieces in a prototype for elevators for the company Otis (Kelley page 135). Using things that are easily accessible is common in the prototyping stage. Furnishing the workspace with things that can be used multi-functionally can drastically help in the innovation process. 

All in all, many steps are needed to facilitate a great practical idea. In order to generate the best ideas, the environment has to be one that is effective for team building, creativity and functionality. Kelley states that “being innovative and successful is more than hiring the right people and buying the best technology. You’ve got to create a culture where space matters (Kelley, page 153).

Reference:

Kelley, Thomas and Littman, Johnathon (2016). The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America’s Leading Design Firm. Published by Doubleday Broadway Publishing

Team Work Makes the Dream Work

ENT 601 Week 3 blog

The saying “team work makes the dream work” has been bellowed amongst many leaders and group organizers for years. It’s a way to simplify the importance of a team effort for a given goal. Often we say this phrase unaware of how to properly form a productive team. In chapters four and five of The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America’s Leading Design Firm, Tom Kelley explains how to create a productive team for the sake of producing the best innovative outcomes. 

One of the main points Kelley expounds on with a functional-innovative team, is the art of brainstorming. He suggests that having the right participants, in the right environment, and the optimal length of time, brainstorming can be a tool that brings out the best, quality, ideas. Allowing a team to openly brainstorm, without judgment or intimidation, can prove to have more benefits than rigid, inflexible settings. Alex Osborn, in Applied Imagination: Principles and Procedures of Creative Thinking, suggests four ways to get the most out of a team in brainstorming sessions: “don’t criticize, quantity is wanted, combine and improve suggested ideas, and say all ideas that come to mind, no matter how wild” (Sutton and Hargadon, 1996). 

Secondly, team morale allows for a team to produce the best innovative outcomes. Kelley states that “when people feel special, they’ll perform beyond your wildest dream” (Kelley, pg. 101). This can be said throughout any aspect of life. Feeling appreciated, needed, and acknowledged can boost morale, thus increasing productivity. Often in high morale environments, teammates tend to compete for excellence. This environment can produce a work culture of ambitious teammates. 

Lastly, allowing individuals to be who they are, and contributing what they are best at to the group, helps form great innovative teams. Being that many type of people offer many different things, ideas, and roles to a workgroup, differences should be sought. Kelley names a number of types of individuals that offer value to an innovative team: 

* The Visionary 

* The Troubleshooter 

* The Iconoclast 

* The Pulse Taker 

* The Craftsman 

* The Technologist 

* The Entrepreneur 

* The Cross-Dresser 

All of these “characters” perform a role in the team and should be accepted for the value that they offer (Kelley, pg. 104). 

Overall, creativity and innovation should be looked at as a team effort within a company. Ideas can be developed and brought to life with the help of others. Encouraging productive brainstorming sessions, increasing morale, and accepting a range of different individuals can tremendously construct teams that produce great innovative ideas. 

References: 

Kelley, Thomas and Littman, Johnathon (2016). The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America’s Leading Design Firm. Published by Doubleday Broadway Publishing 

Sutton, Robert I. and Hargadon, Andrew (Dec. 1996). Brainstorming Groups in Context: Effectiveness in a Product Design Firm. Retrievied by https://www.jstor.org/stable/2393872?seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents 

Osborn, Alex F. (1957). Applied Imagination: Principles and Procedures of Creative Thinking. Published by Charles Scribner’s Sons

Innovation: Finding the Change You Need

ENT 601

Too often, we get stuck in living mundane lives, where we do things out of routine. Sometimes, not thinking of the act itself, but the result we are so use to obtaining. This type of human behavior is known as procedural memory. According to Mochizuki-Kawai, “our daily life is supported by a number of procedural memories such as those for riding bicycle, typing, reading words, etc.” (Mochizuki 2008). Continuous routine actions can allow us to overlook the processes we do throughout our everyday lives. This can hinder our ability to see issues with processes that we might have recognized when performing the act for the first time. In The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from Ideo, America’s Leading Design Firm, Kelley states that “so many products and services have flaws that we start to assume that’s just the way things are”, that is until a newer-better product is introduced into the marketplace (Kelley pg. 59). There are a few recommendations to be able to spot innovation opportunities amongst the routine. 

The most obvious recommendation would be to break the habit of routines. Take the time to do something new and make new experiences. Examples could be to take up local art classes down the street, take a different route home from work, or to travel for vacation on holidays. Kelley believes that “at those times, you are more open to ask the childlike “why?” and “why not?” questions that lead to innovation” (Kelley pg. 38).

Another recommendation would be to be more observant in your everyday dealings. Pay more attention during your morning routine. What parts are tedious or an inconvenience? Observe how you interact with the office environment at work. What can be improved? 

Lastly, not only observing your actions, but observing other people, as well, can inspire innovative ideas. Kelley explains that “good companies and good consultants are astute observers, of people, teams, organizations, technologies- and trends. They see quirks and patterns” (Kelley pg. 41). I must admit, I enjoy “people-watching” in my past time. While watching others, I often analyze the “why” and “how” people act the way they act. This attention to detail can be valuable when looking for innovative ideas. 

Although keeping to routines can be beneficial mentally, physically, and emotionally, a break from the norm will allow inventors and entrepreneurs to seek out new ways of development. Sometimes we may think creativity only is possessed by a few. However, Kelley challenges that mindset to step out of the daily routine and be observant of ourselves and our surroundings. He believes ideas will come naturally. Let’s try it…

References:

Mochizuki-Kawai, Hiroko, (2008, July) Neural Basis of Procedural Memory. Retrieved from https://europepmc.org/abstract/med/18646622

Kelley, Tom and Jonathan Littman  (2016). The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from Ideo, America’s Leading Design Firm. New York: Currency/Doubleday

The World of Innovation

It’s a new year and a great time to make our mark in this world. Currently, I’m reading a book for my Entrepreneur Innovation class: The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from Ideo, America’s Leading Design Firm by Tom Kelly and Johnathon Littman. I’m so excited to share my commentary, thoughts, and ideas from reading this book. Stay tuned…

Growing Pains: Various Stages to Maturity

Week 7 Blog

Now that the excitement has dwindled down, and the beginning steps of the startup has been accomplished, some real decisions must be made. These decisions can determine if the startup flourishes into a mature company, or not. In earlier blogs, I discussed the importance of knowing the motivations of the founders: control or wealth. As well as, knowing what the founders bring to the table: social, human, and/or financial capital. Understanding these aspects of the founders will be essential to moving into the next phase of the business.

The startup is running. You’re finally at the point to where you are considering outside financial capital. It’s much easier to ask friends and family to invest. But will they bring you the expertise and connections within the industry? Will the amount of money they can collectively invest be enough to withstand the trials of the business? Are you confident that you will return their investments with gains? More than likely, no, will be the answer to all of these questions.

What about an angel investor? They’ll bring in a little more capital than friends and family. They have a little bit more experience in investments than love ones. You won’t risk tarnishing a relationship, because you don’t know them. Even though angel investors are a better option than investments from friends and family, venture capitalists may be the best option to choose from depending on what round of investments the company is in.

Venture Capitalists offer enough funds to sustain the company between rounds. They will make sure their investments are protected. They make it their business to advise and connect the founders with essential people and resources. They even stick around longer than angel investors. But at what cost?… control! VC’s will more than likely have seats and voting rights on the Board of Directors. The more rounds they invest in, the more equity they have in the company. Sometimes having more equity than the founders. And, they have the right to replace the founder-CEO with a non-founder-CEO.

Knowing all of this, it’s important to know the motivations of the founders and what capitals they will need from investors. If the founders need experienced advisors with industry connections, a VC will be the best option. If the motivation of the founder is strictly control, it will be harder to build the value of the company with a VC. At this point, the founders have to make a choice: Is giving up some control worth gaining wealth.

Also, knowing when to exit the company is vital. Once the company has grown to a point and needs new leadership, it’s important to know when to step down and relinquish control. Unless, you’ll be forced out by the VC’s and other directors. It’s best to have an exit strategy in play before opening the business up to investors. This will allow you, the founder, to have more leverage and get the most benefit out of the exit.

Lastly, planning to partner with other companies can drastically grow the startup. Glenn Solomon explains this as “Find(ing) Your Flywheel”. He warns that “Although you need to be careful – no company is in business to help your business flourish – mutually beneficial partnerships can help propel growth for periods of time” (Glenn Solomon, 2013). Therefore, acknowledging the need and choosing partners carefully, is crucial for the growth of a business.

Investments, exit strategies, and potential market partners are all aspects of a mature or maturing business. All of these aspects will determine if the business evolves or not. That is why it’s important to plan for these things during the planning stages of the startup in order to increase success. And, it all begins with knowing the founder’s motivations, strengths, and weaknesses.

References:

Transitioning from a Startup to Growth-Stage Company”, by Glenn Solomon, February 11, 2013. http://fortune.com/2013/02/11/transitioning-from-a-startup-to-growth-stage-company/

“The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup” (Kauffman Foundation Series on Innovation and Entrepreneurship), 1stEdition by Noam Wasserman, March 31, 2013. Princeton University Press

 

All Star Team: Keeping Top Performers

ENT 600- Week 6 blog

In my last blog, “Timing: Hiring Dilemmas”, I wrote about recognizing who, and, when to hire the appropriate team members that will most benefit the company in its different stages. Not only is it imperative to hire the right person at the right time, it’s important to hire the best team member, A-Players, for those positions. But, most importantly, keeping, these A-Players. Eric Herrenkohl, in How to Hire A-Players: Finding the Top People for Your Team- Even If You Don’t Have a Recruiting Department, states three things to offer to keep A-Players working for you: challenges, responsibilities, and money.

Bigger Challenges. One way to keep an A-Player motivated to stay on with a company is to offer them bigger challenges. “One of (the) most valuable skills you can hone as a small business manager is the ability to engage and challenge the people you employ” (Gregory, 2018)”. It’s important to implement job rotation, set goals, promote creativity, and increase engagement (Chris Joseph).

More Responsibility. Another way to keep an A-Player motivated is to offer them more responsibility. This can come in ways of introducing new tasks or career advancements to pique their interests. Once an A-Player has shown to be capable, promotion is necessary. Staying engaged, by frequent meetings, and asking these A-Players their suggestions and where they would like to be in the company, can show them that they are valued team members.

More money. Lastly, compensating these A-Players for their job well done, can also help keep them interested in the company. “Ultimately, companies create a virtuous cycle, paying higher wages and benefits, which in turn increases loyalty and productivity, increasing revenue and making up for higher compensation costs (Helper and Noonan)“. Increase compensation can take the form of salary, equity, and/or bonuses.

It’s vital to invest time and money into A-Players. In return, they will add great value to the startup, tremendously. This can be done by recruiting a valuable Human Resource expert, contracting a consultant, or delving down and coming up with a system of your own. As Herrenkohl states, “Leaders who create great companies never do it alone” (Herrenkohl, 2010, pg. 171).

References:

 

Timing: Hiring Dilemmas

ENT 600- Week 6 Blog

 

As a founder of a startup, when putting together an effective team, the task may seem daunting. Much consideration is given, and just when you thought you have all the right pieces in place, you noticed that your job is not complete. Most founders think that the initial team will work throughout the beginning of the startup, the transition, and once the of company is mature. In most cases, employee turnover is essential and pertinent due to the different stages of the startup. Noam Wasserman, in “The Founder’s Dilemmas, Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup”,elaborates on the importance of knowing who to hire, and when.

Noam Wasserman gives examples of companies who learned from their hiring mistakes early on in their startup. It might be tempting to hire someone who would add value to a particular area in the business. Specifically speaking, experts in the matter. This person has a specialty that could offer the company great experience. However, when starting a startup, nothing is concrete. The startup is very volatile and changes often occur. A team member that is good in many areas, will add more value than an expert in one area (Wasserman, 2012. Pg. 225). This will allow flexibility and the most benefit from team members to move to different positions and help in multiple areas of the startup.

Now that you have managed to come up with a system and a concrete product for your startup, flexibility isn’t the main advantage anymore (Wasserman, 2012, pg.227). Defined roles begin to become more beneficial. In this case, defined roles should be filled by specialists or experts of the position. Prior team members who were a “jack of all trades, expert of none” will show to not offer the aptitude the company needs in this stage.

Lastly, as different rounds of investments occur, additional key positions are needed. Such positions include, Vice Presidents and Chief Financial Officers (Wasserman, 2012, pg. 219). These positions can sometimes be filled by existing team members. However, if the expertise does not exist amongst the current team, new hires must be considered. Also, investors tend to replace C-level and executive positions with people they can trust to work on their behalf.

It’s important to acknowledge that hiring team members comes in different stages. Who was great during the beginning stages of the startup, might not be so valuable during the growth and maturation stages of the company. The question then arises: will you know it’s time to hire different employees? Could you handle replacing such hires, especially once relationships have developed? One suggestion Wasserman points out, particularly with salespersons, is commission-based compensation. Essentially, performance will determine their pay, and poor performance will result in poor compensation. Thus, weaning the poor performers out.

 

Reference:

“The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup” (Kauffman Foundation Series on Innovation and Entrepreneurship), 1stEdition by Noam Wasserman, March 31, 2013. Princeton University Press

The Invisible Gems

ENT 600- The Invisible Gems: Recognizing and Appreciating People Who May Offer (The Not Necessarily Obvious) “Skills You Can Teach and Skills You Can’t”

When looking for exceptional talent to hire on for a company, one might need a little creativity and openness to scout these potential team members. Although, there are certain skills that a company will train their employees through on-the-job training, there are other skills that people automatically possess and cannot be taught. These skills can be shown through a person’s work ethics, characteristics, and previous or current careers. Eric Herrenkohl, in How to Hire A-Players: Finding the Top People for Your Team- Even If You Don’t Have a Recruiting Department, recognizes a few, sometimes overlooked, group of people that will offer great skills to a company.

One group of people Herrenkohl points out who make great employees are teachers. He states that teachers have great interpersonal, communication, and training skills (Herrenkohl, 2010.  Page 96). Positions that can be favorable for teachers could consist of corporate training and administrative positions (careerbuilder.com). Herrenkohl also recognizes that teachers have flexibility during the summer months to take on additional jobs, and may have a few hours a week to commit during the rest of the year. Therefore, teachers would be great at filling in flexible positions.

Another group that is recognized by Herrenkohl are baristas and waiters. He acknowledges that companies, such as Starbucks, go through extensive care in hiring employees (Herrenkohl, 2010. Page 97). This is because they will essentially effect the initial impression of the company to its consumers. I mean, who wouldn’t want an attentive, polite, and goal oriented person from Chick-fila working for them? Also, waiters have to have great personal skills as well as show the ability to sell a product or service.

Lastly, students can eventually turn out to be great A-Players for a company. Students usually take on internship positions while in school. Herrenkohl states that setting up a well-organized internship program and relationship with universities, can help gain access to exceptional team members (Herrenkohl, 2010. Page 100). Not only does an intern value the experience over pay, they are research oriented, flexible, refer other A-Players, and can eventually become permanent employees of the company.

Teachers, baristas, waiters, and students have a few things in common: flexibility, come from underpaid or non-paid jobs, and possess skills that can be beneficial to many businesses. When searching for exceptional team members, Herrenkohl proves that by being open-minded and always on the lookout, for that invisible gem, can be the key factor in finding A-Players.

  

References:

  • How to Hire A-Players: Finding the Top People for Your Team- Even If You Don’t Have a Recruiting Department, 1st Edition, by Eric Herrenkohl, April 12, 2010.
  • 7 Jobs for People with a Teaching Background,com, October 29, 2017

The Quarterback- Roll Dilemmas

ENT 600 Role Dilemmas

It is imperative to define roles during the initial stages of a startup. Even though it may seem easier to overlap roles in the initial stages of a startup, it can later lead to more conflict as the company grows. Noam Wasserman discusses the topic of overlapping roles versus division of labor in chapter five of “The Founder’s Dilemmas, Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup”.  Wasserman groups the two conflicting founder teams as egalitarian, decisions based on the consensus of the team, and hierarchy, one person making the final decisions. He discusses some reasons why startups may fall into the trap of relying on consensus founding teams, instead of a hierarchical team.

Founding teams may find it easier to take on an egalitarian approach when making decisions in the beginning state of a startup. This is believed as a way to avoid conflict. Unknowingly, these founders set themselves up for great conflict later as the startup grows and decision making becomes more complex. At times, founders may not agree on all aspects of the startup, but a decision will have to be made. The process will be a lot easier if one person has the final say so.

Founding teams may also fall into an egalitarian trap because they ignore growth expectations. Meaning, they either choose to overlook or are unaware that as the startup grows, so does the complexity of the company hierarchy. A Board of Directors will eventually be needed for a growing company. The number of seats held on a BOD is limited, and a choice, of which founders will hold a seat and have voting rights, will eventually need to be made. It’s easier if this hierarchy is chosen in the beginning stages of the startup, before the founders get stuck in their leading roles.

Lastly, Wasserman speaks of having compatible wealth and control motivations. He concludes that two founders both wanting control will inevitably disagree on who ultimately has the final say. Whereas, two founders both motivated by wealth, or one founder wanting wealth while the other yearns for control, has a better probability of forming a cohesive-decision making team. Therefore, ignoring incompatible motivations when choosing a co-founder, can lead to a fragmented leading team, leading to problems down the line.

To conclude, overlapping roles seem to be beneficial to founding members of a startup. Such traps include avoiding initial conflict, ignoring growth expectations, and not taking into account motivational incompatibilities. Although tempting, it is important that startups are aware of the pitfalls of overlapping roles. These pitfalls often arise when the decisive decisions need to be made immediately and when seats on the board of directors become limited. One solution Wasserman highlights is to involve the co-founder’s opinions and votes, initially. If a decision can’t be reached on that alone, leaving the final say to the CEO. Tim Connors likens this approach as the “Quarterback” of decision-making (Wasserman, 2012. Pages 147).

References:

“The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup” (Kauffman Foundation Series on Innovation and Entrepreneurship), 1stEdition by Noam Wasserman, March 31, 2013. Princeton University Press

The Role of Founders in Building Teams

ENT 600 Week 4 blog:

Dr. Robert Lahm writes a very inspirational article called “Starting Your Business: Avoiding the “Me Incorporated” Syndrome”. He has a “go big, or go home” approach to owning a business. He encourages his readers to not limit their ideas of their business, but expand their visions. He gives an example of not only having one sandwich shop, but to have a chain of them. However, in order to do this, the entrepreneur must relinquish control and hire appropriate staffing, as he or she will not be able to do everything alone. Eric Herrenkohl in How to Hire A-Players: Finding the Top People for Your Team- Even If You Don’t Have a Recruiting Department, further writes about the benefits of founders hiring “A-Players”.

One of the benefits of hiring A-players is that it relieves owners of some duties, allowing them to focus on other tasks that can help grow the business. And, it allots more time for the owner to spend on their personal life. When an A-player is hired, the owner trusts that they will get the job done correctly and add value to that position. Therefore, causing less stress and worry from the owner to get the job done.

Another value that an A-player adds to the company, is that they attract other A-players. Either the A-player knows and associates with other A-players and can refer them to the entrepreneur’s business, or helps create an environment that entices other A-players.  Potential valuable employee’s often look at who they will be working with or for, before they decide to take on the position. “Merely hiring one A-Player begins to create an environment where other A-players want to work” (Herrenkohl, 2010. pg. 26).

Lastly, Herrenkohl explains that valuable employees add more worth to a business. A potential buyer would want to be confident that the business can survive and prosper without the owner’s control. This would be easier if A-players ran the day-to-day operations, with great success. This, in return, makes the business more marketable when the owner decides to sell the business.

Hiring the appropriate people can help run, grow, and sell an entrepreneur’s business. The value of an A-player consists of, but not limited to relieving the owner of day to day operating duties to focus on other tasks, attracts other valuable players, and makes the business more marketable. Therefore, much time and consideration should be given to attract and hire valuable employees to add value to and expand an entrepreneur’s business.

 

References:

  • How to Hire A-Players: Finding the Top People for Your Team- Even If You Don’t Have a Recruiting Department, 1st Edition, by Eric Herrenkohl, April 12, 2010.
  •  Starting Your Business: Avoiding the “Me Incorporated” Syndrome, by Dr. Robert J. Lahm, October 18, 2005.