Arghh, it’s good enough

“They will love it, when they see it. And they will realize that this is just what they have been waiting for.”

Trying to build something for a market that’s nascent is super hard on so many levels. Yet, it is also one of those areas where time and time again, I meet founders who seem determined that their novel idea is going to take the world with storm, once they unleash it.

It is almost as if the future customers have just been waiting for this new breakthrough. Without knowing it of course.

Reality is it seldom happens that way.

Breaking into a new market let alone creating a new market and a demand in it is super, super hard. And founders who think it’s just a matter of making the technology work are doing themselves and their chances for success a big disservice.

Because what you’re up against is the most dreaded practical barrier of them all:

Good enough.

While they may not be using the optimal solution today, maybe what they have just works for their needs.

Maybe they have become so accustomed to nothing happening in this particular space, that they have stopped looking or even hoping for something better.

Maybe their habits are just so engrained in them that the very thought of doing something in a novel way is somewhat frightening.

The point is that there could be a lot of reasons but that the end result is the same – for the time being:

What I have is good enough.

Overcoming that dreaded barrier is not only a question about making technology work. It is also – and perhaps to some extend more – about packaging it right, getting the message right and getting it out there in front of future customers using the right channels at the right time.

And so much more.

The real important lesson here is that although the opportunity can seem huge, and there seems to be a big void in the market for something new, getting something new going in that void is going to take skill, experience, muscle (aka money) – and some degree of luck.

Don’t ever underestimate that job.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The “red tape” danger

The problem with too much process and red tape is that it creates excuses for not getting problems solved:

“Our processes dictates that I must do this”, “I am not measured on doing that”, “I cannot do anything about it, it’s the rules”, “We have a policy that…”.

Etcetera etcetera.

Of course there needs to be rules and processes, and sometimes they’re even defined by law.

But having said that it is also important to reiterate that just because you can push a set of rules, a boss or even the law in front of you, it doesn’t mean that you can’t show empathy for the person(s) in the other end obviously experiencing a problem.

One of the reasons why startups even stand a fighting chance against much larger and more resourceful organizations is that they don’t have all these rules, processes and KPIs in place.

They’re just trying to do what they think is necessary to enable them to solve issues and move forward. By showing empathy and some sort of efficient pragmatism whenever they encounter a challenge or – most importantly – a customer experiencing a problem and in need of a fix to it.

When companies grow and more people get onboard, the need for processes, policies and rules will grow – sometimes almost exponentially.

That may be fine in itself. But it should never be an excuse for throwing empathy and the ability to act and fix issues out the window.

If you start doing that you will enable precisely all the behaviour internally in your organization that you DON’T really want. And absolutely don’t need to succeed.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

What chess taught me

When I was a kid, I enjoyed playing chess. I was part of my school chess club, part of the first team and at one time actually won the local county (amt) championship in my age group.

Chess was fun and interesting. And taught me a couple of important lessons about life;

Looking and planning ahead a few moves is cool. But if it comes at the expense of taking your eye of the ball of what’s happening right here and right now, you’re still going to loose.

So. Keep. Your. Eyes. On. The. Ball.

On the other hand; if you’re acting too quickly in the spur of the moment and not showing enough patience to completely your next move so it ends being a wise one, you’re also going to loose.

As in all other aspects a life, it is a question about balance.

Don’t overthink, don’t stress.

Be smart.

Contemplate the situation – state of play.

Think in options and alternatives.

Make the move that seems to bring you closer towards your objective while at the same time preserving your interests.

Repeat. And repeat. Etc.

More people should really take up chess.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Fix education!

Looking at what is happening in the US, I think it’s fair to say that their education system is completely and utterly broken.

Forget about universities or colleges being about preparing you for a corporate career. The first order of business should be to have the fundamental ability and urge to teach kids and young adults about critical thinking, civic behavior and the likes.

To enable them to actually like in a democracy and not being taken on crazy rides by whatever authoritarian person offers to do so.

Failure to ensure that people can think the themselves and not be drawn to conspiracies and flat out lies will ensure failure in everything else – none mentioned, none forgotten.

Fixing education and the equal access to quality education is the biggest problem and – by association – the biggest opportunity for entrepreneurial spirits who thoroughly understand what’s truly at stake if this doesn’t get fixed.

We can only move too slow on this.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Defeat stupidity

…a stupid person causes damage to others while deriving no gain, or even possibly incurring losses. We invariably underestimate the number of stupid individuals in circulation as the probability that a certain person is stupid is independent of other characteristics or credentials (e.g., they can have a PhD or be president). We (the non-stupid) are vulnerable to the stupid and their actions as we find it difficult to imagine and understand — or to organize a rational defense against — an attack that lacks rational structure or predictable movements. Or, as Friedrich Schiller put it, against stupidity the gods themselves fight in vain.

Professor Scott Galloway, “Big Tech Is Now a Shadow Government”

Right on!

The problem with stupidity reigning supreme is that it’s so hard for us non-stupids to fathom that we’re rendered more or less defenceless to do anything about it. And then everybody suffers.

We need to figure out ways to root out self-inflicted stupidity long before it becomes a problem.

Better and cheaper access to education in important things such as critical thinking and civics might be an excellent place to start.

Question your self

Personal performance discussions is one of the most energizing things, I know.

Why?

Because when you sit down to discuss your personal performance with your manager, it’s a great opportunity to reflect upon what you have learned, look inward and figure out where you want to go from here in terms of your personal development.

For a curious person such as myself that brings a ton of energy. Because I am not only curious about the world around me, ideas, technologies, trends and solving problems that affect people. I am also deeply curious about myself.

Which is why I always take these discussions very seriously.

Having said that I have found that there has always been a part missing from these development discussions or – more precisely – personal reflections:

The difference between stating an intent and asking a question.

Let me try to explain, as I think this is super important as a differentiator for your ability to truly grow both professionally and personally:

When you state an intent, you say “I will do xyz…”. You paint a picture of a desired future state.

The problem with doing that is that it’s entirely non-committal. It hinges 100% on your discipline in terms of following through on the actions you need to take to get to that desired future state.

And we all know what tends to happen with discipline towards personal or professional growth? It’s fun for a short while, we start to loose interest, and before we know it we have more or less abandoned our desire and replaced it with more of the same.

Maybe it’s a bit taken to the extreme, but I am sure, you get my point.

Now, what would happen if instead of stating an intent, you framed it like a question for yourself instead?

Instead of saying “I will do zyx…” put the question “Will I do xyz?” to yourself instead.

I think doing this accomplishes two very important things:

First of all it forces to be brutally honest about your desire for that future state, the question refers to. Because if the answer is just “No”, you have no desire to do it, and it’s not really a personal growth goal for you.

You have been lying yourself, and you’re given an opportunity to stop and come up with something that is more true to what you really desire.

Second, by asking it as a question, you address all the potential barriers to your growth target up front. You will be saying to yourself that “Yes, I will but only if this this and this don’t get in the way”.

The beauty of that is that you can then start your growth journey by addressing the very things that are keeping you back and which you already know will be at the core of why you risk losing interest.

In other words: By getting rid of the barriers to your growth, you increase your chances or success in achieving your goal by a great magnitude.

Or at least so I think.

Which is why I will be using this approach for myself going forward.

Yes, it will put me on the spot in different situations. And some of it will be beyond my comfort zone, I am sure. But honestly; isn’t that what all kinds of personal growth and development is about?

One thing is for sure: It doesn’t happen by doing nothing.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The gig economy challenge

I have never been a big believer in and much less a huge fan of the gig economy.

My analysis has been pretty straightforward : A few get rich or richer by taking advantage of the misfortunes of many.

Maybe it’s time to be a bit more nuanced. Because the gig economy is not one thing; it is several. I count at least three variations, and then the question becomes which one of the three should we progress given that there are some flexibility elements in the gig economy that are appealing to many?

Let’s briefly look at the three versions:

In the privileged version you enable people to get the most of their experience and expertise by helping them build upon their personal brands and get it out to more people, who pay for the privilege of special access.

Think Substack and what they enable content providers to do through paid niche newsletters.

In the convenience version you agree to a marriage of convenience a la “I scratch your back, you scratch mine”, where you get something for your troubles, but it’s not the main thing for you.

Think Uber and their drivers, where many of the latter get an extra income whenever they want to top what they do elsewhere, and Uber gets a flock of mechanical turks to make their service work, until we have self-driving cars or some other form of non-human door-to-door transportation.

It works until it doesn’t anymore. And that’s ok. It’s life.

The final version is the exploitation version. This is the unfortunate fundamentally unsustainable business model in a modern society, where clever people with a certain kind of moral compass use the misfortunes of other people to build a business and enrich themselves.

Why is it unsustainable? Because it does nothing to even the playing field. On the contrary it expands the gulf between the ‘haves’ and the ‘haves not’ in terms of income and prosperity, and looking at it through a historical optic it seldom ends really well for society.

This is where we have services such as meal delivery service Wolt whose business model IMHO is centered around a beautiful UX – or if you prefer; lipstick on a pig – a sizeable fee for participating (typically low margin) restaurants on every transaction and very little ending up with the ‘partners’ (i.e. not ’employees’ with any rights whatsoever) who do the brunt of the actual work.

This last version of the gig economy is what is giving the gig economy a bad name in many quarters. It may sound nice and flexible, but in reality its implications are poisonous over time to a lot of people. And potentially to society at well.

Looking forward we IMHO need to ensure that the development of a sustainable gig economy focuses on providing opportunity and access to the privileged version of it, for those who seek a more flexible lifestyle related to work and living their lives the way they see fit without in effect nesting at the bottom of society.

We can start that by developing services and programs that help these people deliver enduring value that they can actually capture the brunt of themselves.

(Photo: Pixabay)

Getting partnerships right

Partnerships in business can be extremely rewarding. But making them actually work can also be super, super tough.

While many seem to think that the brunt of the work is in finding and negotiating with the right partner, the truth of the matter is that the real, tedious work begins afterwards.

When focus is on getting the partnership to work.

Herein lies three epic struggles.

The least – although many would consider it the biggest – is to actually be able to realize the potential of the partnership. If you have done your homework and your due diligence properly, you will know that you can make this happen, because all the ingredients and components you need to get the job done is there.

Which brings me to the two other struggles that will determine whether the above mentioned potential succeeds or not:

Internal and external stakeholders.

To start off with the internal, one thing you have to realize before you even start thinking about partnering is what your own internal stakeholders mean by ‘partnerships’ and ‘partners’. Because that may not be a given in any way.

Some will say they think of win-win relationships, where you give something and get something else in return, and it’s a healthy back and forth that will draw on each partners core strengths and ability to contribute. Those are the good ones.

But some will also disclose that what they think of when they think of a ‘partner’ is ‘someone who contributes, so I can win’.

Those are the troublesome ones.

Why?

Because they won’t necessarily commit to contribute what is needed from your own end in order to make the partnership a success. Worst case for you they will leave you hanging out to dry in front of the partner – and solely put the blame for the ensuing failure on you

So making sure all internal stakeholders have the same positive understanding of what it means to partner and commits to seeing it through is absolutely key.

That leaves the struggles with your external stakeholders.

What you will often find here are the exact same issues as with your internal stakeholders – why would it be any different on the other side of the table?

Because in addition to the already known and typical issues, you will also have the challenge of making sure the alliance is healthy and well, so to say.

This can be no small task. Because it works as in most romantic relationships; while the romantic feelings are on an all time high and everything is rosy, when you’re dating, the rosiness fades and the daily grind sets in once you have committed and tied the not.

This is when it becomes about making the partnership operational and durable. It will be stress tested time and time again, and just as rows occur in a marriage – sometimes with greater frequency – there will be tons of times where things will get rocky, people will want to leave and just abandon everything.

Here it is your job to keep the perspective and get everybody aligned again. And again. And again.

For the greater good that brought you together in the first place.

There is no substitute for it. It is essentially what makes every sort of partnership – personal as well as professional – work.

Now, why bother thinking about all of this stuff?

Because it is super essential when you talk about the idea of partnering and basing your strategy on partnerships that you’re fully and realistically aware of what it entails.

If not you’re going to end up in the statistics of partnerships that fails, and your only consolation will be that it’s the typical outcome of what otherwise started as a grand initiative.

Instead of getting to that place you should ensure that you have what it takes to get partnerships right;

Make sure your internal stakeholders are aligned and signed on to the approach and what it demands – yes, DEMANDS – from them. Make them sign a piece of paper, if you have to. Just get it done.

On the external front be honest and transparent. Always and from the very start. To stay in the marriage analogy get the divorce papers in order before you sign up. Tell them all the ways things are going to end up bad and make sure they understand it. And then ask them to commit.

Only when you have these things in place, should you progress with pursuing all the true benefits and value that can be unlocked through a great, mutually committed and enduring partnership.

And they can be B.I.G.

But only then.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The cue from Disney+

Disney+ has gotten a really strong foothold in my household, since it launched in September last year.

Where Netflix is just a plethora of content with hits and misses, the basic premise for firing up the Disney+ app is that when you do so you’re immediately immersed into a content universe, where the production value is just super high.

It rarely disappoints. The experience is key.

There is a lesson here for the rest of us;

Going forward I am not sure the winning argument will be the abundance of choice, the lazy-ness of ‘The Long Tail’.

Rather I think it will be about the immersiveness of the experience. That we feel well taken care off. That someone has our backs and goes the extra mile to make sure that we get the best of the best.

Storytelling will play a big part of this. Storytelling that can – if you look at it with strict content lenses – move into franchises that can then again be expanded and added onto almost endlessly for the foreseeable future.

Strong, open ended narratives, where we feel at ease and at home.

I think part of what will also be driving this is a need to go more slow with some things. The rapid pace of change has been killing us for a long time, but the pandemic has shown us that a great fallback option to pick ourselves up and find our feet is just going slow for a while.

Just. Going. Slow.

Immersive experiences with strong open ended narratives will help us sit back, take a break, feel at ease and give us the sense that we’re not just pawns in somebody else’s chess game but actually in control of the game ourselves.

Businesses that can operate natively in this space and cater to that need for a greater experience will prosper well.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The Catch 22 of strategy

2021 is upon us. And for many that signals the roll-out of a new strategy or annual plan.

While those often seem intuitive – sometimes even banal – getting them right is super hard.

It is vital to be able to focus on executing on the plan. Yet, it is also vital to be open to the element of surprise.

The balance between the two is super hard.

If you only focus, you will get narrow-sighted and probably not succeed.

If you’re always open for the element of surprise, you’re unlikely to be able to focus and probably not succeed.

And if you mix the two, some will focus too narrow on the former and some will be distracted by the latter.

It is just super hard to get right.

But there is no way around trying.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Happy New Year

Could 2021 be any more miserable than 2020 was?

Of course it can – things can always get worse.

But lets not go there.

Let us instead enter 2021 with a positive frame of mind and just tell ourselves that it will take something to make the new year worse or more challenging than the one, we’re (happily) leaving behind.

2021 have everything working for it to be great even if its for no other reason that it’s NOT 2020.

The only way is up; onwards and upwards from here.

Light the candle, and let’s get underway!

I will not so much remember 2020 for Covid-19 as I will remember it as the year, where the physical interactions human-to-human came to a minimum – and the realization just how important they are for our overall wellbeing.

Even though many are busy heralding the marvels of technology and its ability to help us keep the wheels in motion, let us also make sure 2020 is a reminder to us all of just how limited technology can also be (and will likely always be);

It. Is. No. Replacement. For. Real. Relationships. Between. People.

It is my wish for the new year that it will be the year, where we keep this rediscovered sacred knowledge in our hearts and use every opportunity we can to reach out, connect – and be human to one another.

Happy New Year!

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Good enough?

One of the greatest personal strengths and weaknesses is the ability to doubt yourself.

It is a strength when you use it to be ambitious about your work and not just release anything for the world or just the people around you to see, just because you can but show – also in delivery – that you truly care.

And it is a strength when you don’t ever consider yourself the smartest person in the room but actively seeks the input and opinions of great minds around you and make it a true team effort.

But it is a weakness when you’re afraid that what you put out there will, despite your best efforts and intentions, not be considered ‘good enough’ by those who see it.

And it is a weakness when you’re hesitant of making a decision for the fear of making the wrong one and look totally stupid.

In both the latter cases chances are that you will not get the reaction that you fear. That you are your own worst enemy. Which probably is the biggest weakness about the ability to doubt yourself;

Your own ability.

So try and talk yourself out of doing that. Remind yourself over and over again that the feeling is normal – ie you’re not an idiot – and it’s part of the game.

And then get on with exploring the positive aspects of doubting yourself.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

When the going gets…well…

This Christmas I gave one of my colleagues the book “How To Lead A Quest: A guidebook for Pioneering Leaders” by Jason A. Fox to one of my colleagues.

There was a reason why I wanted to gift the – hands down – best business book, I have ever read: Because everything it says is both true and so, so important to hear and know when you’re trying to do something really hard.

And that is exactly the position you’re in, when you’re trying to build a startup or just something new. You’re in a place, where you aspire to great success eventually, but where every day is more likely filled with grueling thoughts about all the different ways, what you’re currently trying to achieve will never happen.

When you’re in that situation it can be so tempting to just give in, give up and close shop. But of course thats not what you should do and not what most aspiring entrepreneurs with more than a childish fascination of being his own boss and one day become super rich do.

Why? Because feeling like shit when you’re trying to create something new and out of the ordinary is normal.

Brutally normal.

The book says so. So it must be – and is – true.

Think of that when you feel the urge to take what seems like the easy but totally shortsighted part.

PS: Again, a huge THANK YOU to the good Anders Toxboe for recommending this amazing book to me in the first place.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

2021 predictions rant

Predictions for a new year is almost always a big waste of time. And they are so many, so far-fetched and so ill-informed that they make you nauseous. However, I have nevertheless decided to jump on a limb and be a bit more gung-ho about what could be playing out in 2021.

The list below is just straight from the gut and things, I have been wondering about. I take no responsibility for it beyond that. So read on if you like but take everything with a healthy dose of salt.

Here goes:

First of all, Covid-19 will continue to haunt us for longer than we hoped or even anticipated.

Yes, the vaccines are starting to get here, and yes, there is every reason to be extremely thankful to real science for coming up with vaccines in so little time without compromising safety.

But, and this is the big but; rollout is going to be slower than we might have thought, but that’s not going to keep people from starting to behave like they are already immune. Therefore, expect new spikes (sorry!) in people catching Covid-19 and increased fatalities as well.

The fatalities will not be evenly distributed. The ones most likely to start behaving like 2019 all over again are probably the most likely to spread it and the least likely to get really sick from it. Who said it was a fair world.

While some will be busy living life to the fullest too soon, a lot of us will continue to take precautions and will be focused more on finding innovative new ways of keeping a social distance will at the same time preserving a sense of being close to loved ones, friends and colleagues.

Expect a flurry of new cool innovation in this space. The market is HOT.

Second prediction: Education will be the new podcasting. It will be all the rage in 2021 as there is still a lot of room for innovation in content formats and delivery, while at the same time the infrastructure is fully in place to accommodate more learning on the distance.

When I say that it will be the new podcasting, I mean that everybody will be offering courses. Forget your free, bad webinars; people with real subject matter expertise but perhaps not the big techie skills will start to get out there and charge for their knowledge, experience and insights.

And we will happily pay. Because were dying to get something more than just the usual empty calories.

New teachers will be helped by technology, WYSIWYG platforms of sorts and shorter formats that takes the necessity of actually knowing a lot about how to communicate effectively out of the equation. Chefs, handy people, craftspeople, historians, guides etc. will flock online.

This will also nurture the ‘Education As You Need It’ wave, where you get new insights in the right time and place, when you need it and not in the traditional way where you learn a lot in the hope or anticipation that you will eventually use it.

This latter thing will potentially be able to hurt universities and higher education, who will need to adapt.

Meanwhile, and third on the list of predictions, podcasting will go the way of legacy media.

While one cannot say it will go away, podcasting have reached maturity with all the challenges it brings. While some have found the formula for making it a nice, lucrative business, many struggle, and most platforms struggle even more.

2021 will be the year where those who essentially have nothing different or edgy to offer will rethink whether they want to continue or just call it quits, while they still can. The same will go for platforms. They will essentially be confronted with some of the same existential issues that have plagued and still is plaguing legacy media. Thus the comparison.

The fourth prediction is one I have high hopes for: Personal health will become truly innovative and start to embrace new technologies and approaches.

A group of Danish universities have already seen this and is offering a brand new master in personal health. Not so much driven by curiosity per se but more by a realization from the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic that there are true limits for the capacity of the health sector, and if we are to progress further, we need to embrace personal health.

The biggest change here is going to be with the GPs. They have traditionally been gatekeepers keeping a lot of innovative solutions at bay due to doubts about their medical evidence. Of course that matters, and it matters a lot. But GPs will have to start giving way.

This is a big opportunity for startups in the health tech and med tech space, so expect to see a flurry of new interesting companies in this space.

The fifth prediction is related to the former; that we start to value our personal health more. And act accordingly.

Covid-19 has given us both a health scare and amble time to think as well as act on that thinking. Many of us has gotten into a slower lifestyle, and with an element of stress (temporarily) removed, we actually have time to take care of ourselves. And we have just witnessed how important it is to take that responsibility seriously.

The circle is complete.

This is not to say that the path is open for every quack to come and offer God-knows-what and take advantage. Far from it. But it is to say that the opportunity is there for new and existing startups that deliver tangible value in this space.

And what these will find is that when it comes to personal health, loyalty is at an all time high; if you can deliver and do so consistently to leave your customer in a better health, they will most likely never churn.

That’s a good business to get into.

Speaking of a good business to get into, we get to prediction number six: Mental health is going to be a big, big digital business.

If anything Covid-19 has taught us all just how fragile we are, especially mentally. Even those of us who would otherwise consider ourselves mentally strong have been strained by the uncertainty of uncharted territory and social isolation. That feeling is not going to go away.

Mental health has been engulfed in taboo forever. Now that so many of us have experienced – and are experiencing – issues at the same time, its a good time for that taboo to be eliminated and for new, innovation digital solutions for mental support – not treatment – to step into the limelight.

My prediction is that those kinds of services will become just as ubiquitous as all sorts of other fitness, health and diet related digital products and people will be willing to invest in staying mentally fit.

And the issue of mental fitness brings me on to prediction number seven:

Mental surplus exemplified in internal deep trust among coworkers will become the main competitive differentiator among organizations working in a similar space with similar kinds of solutions.

Covid-19 has forced most organizations to try to find a way of functioning on the distance using work-from-home methodologies and tools, i.e. virtual meetings. And while a lot of low hanging fruits could be harvested through better monitoring and reporting, the time for productivity gains using those means have now passed.

We need something more now. Those where it has been enough to just be able to check of items on the to do list to maintain a sense of productivity will start to run into trouble and start to face challenges to generate new meaningful to do lists in an environment where you don’t have people in the room and can use good ol’ ‘command-and-conquer’ management techniques.

Meanwhile those organizations where co-workers have fostered a deep sense of internal trust will be free to figure out how to be truly innovative and break new ground while on the distance. Doing that takes trust in one another and that no-one is going to go AWOL because things may become too hard or complicated.

When these trusting organizations work this out they will be able to leapfrog their competitors who will still be struggling to compile their new checklists. And thus will have gotten a competitive advantage.

Naturally this sort of selection among organizations will transfer to both a personal and a political level, and this brings me to prediction number eight:

The public debate climate will become even more extreme.

The analysis here is really simpel: As more and more people will figure out that the way forward is through collaboration, trust and empathy, those who feed from all the opposites will need to go more extreme in order to have any change of being heard.

So expect a lot of – in former US President George W. Bush’s undying words from the Donald Trump inauguration in 2017 – “weird shit” out there.

Of course politicians will try to counter this in some sort. And prediction number nine is that the most efficient tool they will find in their tool box is the set of tools used to break up Big Tech.

The political analysis will be flawed in the sense that politicians will think that the way to combat the evil is to break up the evil empires. I think what will most likely happen instead is that the evil will move to the fringes into more closed communities where it will be harder to keep oversight on.

Quite frankly, I don’t think that will be a move forward for us all. Rather the opposite actually. I think it will risk driving us further apart and in the end cut the last lines of communication that we have left.

Say what you will about Facebook et el, but it could still be considered lines of communication. And even nation states at odds with each other always take great precaution in making sure that there are some sort of channels for communication that always remain open no matter what.

The answer may very well be to introduce some sort of ‘Facebook police’ as the Danish government is already suggesting. Of course that comes with a huge set of controversial issues related to freedom of speech, democracy etc in itself, but it just goes to show how big and complicated problem this has become.

And while all of the above will be playing out, the final prediction for 2021 will pan out. And it’s perhaps the one I am most certain about:

‘Free’ money will continue to flow endlessly towards anyone with just the resemblance of a good idea. There is no indication that the interest rates are going up anytime soon, so in search of a return, investors will be flocking to try to get anything in return for their money.

And there will be more than enough interesting opportunities to invest in, if you peruse the above predictions.

NB: The picture doesn’t show a crystal ball but a somewhat more fragile soap bobble. Treat the above with the same kind of fragility ;-).

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The Moonshot problem

Kennedy’s goal wasn’t just bold words; it was based on the engineering expertise and insight, knowledge of competition, and understanding of the team’s capabilities.

“The Forgotten Truth About The Moonshot Goal”, Brano Sandala via Product Coalition

This just makes a ton of sense; one of the reasons many ‘Moonshots’ have failed since the original one is that it’s not anchored in probability, ressources available etc but is just plain wishful thinking.

You can dream about anything. But if you’re not backing it with investment, competence and determination, it really doesn’t matter.

Making bit bets

When I read about advice for startups, I am often struck by the sheer banality of a lot of them; how easy they make it seem to become a successful entrepreneur.

Maybe it is (somewhat, see below) easy. I guess it depends on your ambition;

If it is to use a tried and tested formula to do something others have done before but just with a slight twist and present it in the “Lions Den” in the hope of celebrity investment maybe it is somewhat ‘easy’?

It is certainly quite well inside your own span of control and the effort you put in will go a long way (with some luck added for effect of course). It’s is very much about the quantity you put in – the number of hours etc.

You can do that in limited time and with very limited investment apart from your own hard work. And if it doesn’t work out, chances are you will not have bet the entire farm, and you can always try again.

But what if you instead want to make a really big bet?

What if you want to try to do something, no-one has done before?

What if you want to serve a new audience that has so far been not only underserved but downright neglected?

What if your future product is novel, still in the R&D labs and a lot can still go wrong?

What if, as a consequence of the above, your product is some distance out in the future?

And what if on top of all of the above there is no truly authoritative way you can test whether what you’re looking to do will ultimately be successful?

Making a big bet is daunting in an entirely different way.

Yes, the rewards can be huge. In more ways than one.

If you succeed.

But there are still countless ways you can fail.

It may look intriguing in a Powerpoint, but it’s an entirely different matter when the decision to follow through and make the bet has been made.

Then the real work begins. Then you’re on the hook.

But you will be on the hook for something bold and deeply worthwhile.

Not just 5 minutes of fame.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Blind purpose

Purpose is a great thing.

Until it kills you and/or your business.

I was reminded of this on LinkedIn when I read a holiday greeting from a former colleague in my feed. He works in a very troubled industry, have had a super challenging year but was none the less grateful to be working on something with great purpose.

It’s all very well. But the trend line is still pointing one way. Down.

If you are working to serve a higher purpose, your biggest obligation as an executive or any sort of employee with just a minimum of clout should be to ensure that you can keep doing what you’re doing – fulfilling your purpose.

If that takes a change in business model, fine. It that takes change(s) to the product(s), fine. If that changes working hard on developing your mental model and understanding what it is that enables you to ultimately do, what you are out to do, fine.

But, for the love of God, don’t just lean back and reflect on your purpose, while the house is on fire.

If you do, it will end up killing you.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Yay, it’s (almost) Christmas!

The Christmas holidays are upon us. and with that 2020 is (finally) coming to an end. It may thus be a good time to reflect a little on what went by in the year that passed.

Forget Covid-19 for a second (I’ll get back to that a bit later); for me this was a year about learning and reaffirmation.

When it comes to learning there are a number of approaches you can choose to take; everything from ‘trial and error’ to consciously looking to broaden your horizon. And while I have been doing some of both, I think my main take away has been to just insist that everything, I have been working on, is essentially a learning experience too – and reflect as I go along.

My personal experience is that that approach has made a huge personal difference to me. For me the difference has been between trying to make sense of things in hindsight to actually have an efficient structure for capturing learnings as we move along – an open mindset so to say with a great dedication to ensure that no matter what happened, I would get wiser from it.

Seen from that perspective I have learned a ton and become even more ‘battle-hardened’. I have learned about other people, trains of thought and processes, and I have learned a lot about how I handle them myself, so I don’t loose myself in the process. It may sound rather flimsy, but I can’t overestimate the value it has for me.

Did I accomplish all the things I set out to do? No. But did I learn a lot about why many of those things were exactly as hard and ambitious, as I predicted – and thus had a good feel for – before I moved ahead with them? Hell, yes.

And this brings me to the reaffirmation part of what 2020 taught me;

I have long had a feeling that I have a tendency to involve myself deep into complex projects that are super hard to pull off. Sometimes for reasons of breaking with the norms, adversity from my surroundings or something like that. Otherwise just for the sheer complexity of it.

I know full well that it might not always be the best thing to pursue for me as an individual – that it challenges me deeply on personal levels, where it shouldn’t. But what 2020 has given me is the insight that not only is it what usually tends to happen. I am also completely at peace with it.

I know now that when I miss out on something it’s usually not because I did a poor job or didn’t try hard enough. It is because the things, I – and people around me – try to pull off are super hard. And things that are super hard to pull off has a tendency to award you several setbacks along the way.

The magic trick is to accept that things are hard, not give up and just keep pushing, pushing and pushing until you make it work.

So that’s what I have been trying to do (and probably also why this upcoming holiday is pretty welcome at this point :-))

Other than that Covid-19 (there it was) has also played in on my sense of 2020 as the year of reaffirmation.

While others have (understandably) been hugely struck by all the limitations and changes to their preferred way of life, I have gotten reaffirmation that those things many others crave, I can still function well without.

It’s not that I hate other people. I don’t. Absolutely don’t. I just have a deep sense of confidence in my own company that I have enjoyed getting reaffirmed, because I believe it makes me stronger and more robust in terms of dealing with challenges of all sorts.

Having been through all sorts of personal crisis over the years, I have a deep sense for how I deal and cope with them, and getting that reaffirmed this year has been a source of strength and optimism in a year that could so easily have been low on both.

It has reaffirmed my core belief that no matter the challenge, there is always an opportunity that things may turn out well – as long as you don’t give up.

And with that, let’s look forward to 2021.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

6 principles for a great team

The other day I was discussing philosophies for building and maintaining a great team with a good friend of mine.

I thought I wanted to share my philosophy here because great people and developing great people are essential to any hope of success whether it being in a startup or anywhere else. So here goes:

First of all, always look to hire someone better or smarter at what they do than yourself. We should not even discuss this point, but still I see too many “I want to be the brightest one in the room”-people recruiting essentially minions, and I think it is just detrimental to their future success.

Second, sell the vision or “the why” of what you’re doing. If people don’t get turned on by that or at the very least seem above and beyond interested in it, they will most likely be the first ones at the door if something more exciting comes along. This is not to say that people should never leave – they should (see later) – but they shouldn’t because they’re disengaged from day one.

Third, give people mandate. If you have great people around you, they will be looking to have the maximum influence on their own jobs and prospects for future success. Let them run with it.

Fourth, don’t be shy to set expectations and be transparent about hardships. If the great people want the mandate, you also have an obligation to include them on the tougher decisions and get their input. And those who really aspire to great things need to show they can step up and also take on the tougher challenges. In the end it adds to their personal development.

Fifth, always focus on developing people and help them go ‘from good to great’. Recognize their contributions and how much you appreciate them but also keep a tight focus on their development points. Not because they’re lacking, but because they have the potential to be even better and be more successful.

And finally, and sixth, always let them know that you appreciate what they’re doing, the contributions they make and how much they mean to you on a personal level. First of all, you should genuinely feel that way, so it will just be an exercise in transparency. And second of all, it is perhaps the strongest glue that will keep you together as a team and set you off towards accomplishing great things together.

That’s pretty much it, as I see it. Agree? Disagree? Why? I would love to hear your thoughts on this essential topic.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Christmas stress

So, Denmark is defacto closed down again due to Covid-19.

Quelle surprise.

And just in time for the Christmas holidays?!

Or maybe not given that obviously a lot of people were caught off guard yesterday evening when scrambling to malls to get the last presents before same malls with only a few hours notice closed until early in the new year.

That will be a potential infection bomb, but I digress.

Over the last few weeks, I have had the discussion with many about how to get the Christmas presents under the tree this year.

Black Friday showed us that ecommerce was not the safe bet due to delivery issues, so I told people to head to the stores and get what they needed in good time.

Also in relation to potential new Covid-19 restrictions: Get it organized while you can.

I hate it when I am right about something like this, but what can you do?

At the end of the day nothing beats a Christmas present you actually have in your hands and can check off your list as one less stressful thing to worry about versus something that are more or less lost in the mail.

Now we’re in a Catch 22 of sorts:

Ecommerce has had – and still has, I suppose – quite huge issues with logistics, and there are very little big stores to get anything from in a physical sense.

I feel for you.

What to do? Dunno. But it’s time to get creative.

And while your busy figuring your Plan H (or whatever letter in the alphabet you have reached about now) out in order to be ready for the joyous night, ponder the fact that for all the digitalization we cherish and bet our farms on, it still comes down to physical factors;

Being able to actually get the things you want. In your hands.

It’s very old school, I know, but at the end it’s what matters. No matter the fancy tech.

Nothing is stronger than the weakest link.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The daunting 1st prototype

The last week or so I have been busy building the first simple prototype of our upcoming app – a pre-MVP – for the MedTech startup, we’re working on getting off the ground. We will be getting it out there to get early feedback just after Christmas.

It is a daunting process.

Not only is it daunting to try to find the different pieces that when stitched together could form a somewhat crude but credible first go at what we will initially be trying to bring to market to create value for patients.

No, the most daunting part is that youre airing your idea(s) and inviting feedback from real potential users. And doing so full knowing that they can throw whatever they want in the form of feedback and criticism against you.

The prospects of getting feedback from people – or worse yet; hearing nothing at all because no-one will try it out – is so excruciating it can be a real challenge to push that ‘Publish’ button and get it out there.

But there is just no way around it;

If you never launch anything – not even a very crude, embarrasing prototype – you will by definition have failed completely.

So, reversely, by just getting something out there for people to provide feedback on is infinitely better and an infinitely greater step towards any kind of potential future success.

So just do it.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Always think about strategy

When you’re busy executing on tasks, it can be super easy to forget about setting time aside to think about strategy.

But you should. For a number of reasons.

First of all you need to always make sure that what you’re working on is taking you in the right direction. There is the old saying that while a manager is the one leading the struggle through the jungle, the leader is the one making sure you are in the right jungle to begin with.

Be the leader.

Second, thinking about strategy is what keeps you curious about the market you are operating in. It keeps you focused on your customers and their needs, on the competition and on emerging trends in technology and behavior.

All of these inform what you should be doing. And most importantly: They enable you to course correct on the fly.

Third, thinking about strategy on the go is what keeps you from having to start your strategy all over from scratch again. It enables you to mold and update your strategy, as you go, based on learnings. And thus captures the value of all your hard work – even the work that didn’t end according to plan.

Finally, thinking about strategy broadens your horizon and keeps you sharp. Think about it as essential training; with enough training you go from being a simple recruit to a Navy Seal. It’s just a matter of discipline and hard work.

So don’t ever let anyone tell you, you shouldn’t think about strategy, ok?

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Put some Robucks in this

Roblox could be the first social media firm whose shareholder value isn’t designed to extract value from the least powerful stakeholder, kids. 

Scott Galloway, “Roblox and the Dispersal of Creativity”

I see what Roblox does to my kids; playful hours of nurturing pets, navigating mazes and other stuff. Without overdoing it and losing touch with reality altogether.

If there was one new public company, I would put some of my spare cash in, it would probably be Roblox.

Until Amazon spins AWS of course…

Commercialization as a science

When you’re working with researchers and/or developers, it can be super easy to completely focus on the research, the science and the product it is all (potentially) leading towards and the inherent value herein. And that nothing else matters to your future success.

But that is a flawed assumption. Cool technology doesn’t cut it on its own. It needs a complete ecosystem around it to have any chance of succeeding.

Developing such an ecosystem is super tough. There are many moving parts that changes all the time. And when you account for the human factor, change of opinions, irrational decision making etc, it becomes extremely complicated very quickly.

Navigating and succeeding in that maze outside the lab is a science in itself. And it should be dealt with, rewarded and appreciated in just the same way as we have the deepest respect for those working behind the scenes to develop the technology.

It takes two to tango. It takes tech and commercial acumen to succeed.

One cannot exceed without the other. And vice versa.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Startup-life as football fan

People who know me well also know that for the past close to 30 years, I have nurtured a deep passion for Blackburn Rovers Football Club. (Heck, this season our Danish supporters club even have a first team player sponsorship between us).

From a distance I have witnessed ups and downs (and lets face it; the last 10 years have been most on the downslope), and I have felt both the joy and the pain of being so much into something you just passionately want to end up well.

When I think of it, I think that a lot of what you experience on the emotional side as a passionate fan is similar to the emotions you go through when trying to build and be successful with a startup;

A few times the team will be firing on all cylinders, dominate the opposition and score a plethora of goals to the extend that you almost get tired of winning.

Sometimes the team will be playing really well but be unable to get the ball across the line for a goal. Super frustrating times and instead of feeling you at least got a draw and a point, you will rue the two points lost from the win that was not to be.

Sometimes your team plays well for 88 minutes, commits a really howler – or the goalkeeper forgets he can use his hands – and you will loose at the death of the game.

Sometimes you will just get run over by a superior side, and the most important job is how to put it behind you and move ahead with confidence to the next game and the next opportunity.

And sometimes you will be able to pull off the upset of the season, but superior opposition – and have absolutely no idea how you did it but still delight from your triumph.

But most of the times the team will be in there battling back and forth over 90 minutes plus added time, feeling on top in some periods of the game and hugely under pressure during others. And the scoreline most likely won’t reflect the amount of effort put into achieving whatever boring result, you end up with.

But there’s still passion, energy and tenacity to get it right and ultimately win. And you never, ever lose hope that your team will prevail in the end.

(Photo: Blackburn Rovers Football Club)

Control vs success

There is nothing as potent to pave the way to success as being in control.

There is nothing so blocking to success than to insist on being in control.

To some being in control is an all positive thing; it enables you to define the path to follow forward and ensure the necessary decisions are being made and the focus is on relentless execution towards a goal. The bigger, the better.

To others being in control comes with such a daunting sense of responsibility that you would rather not have it and potentially not do anything at all for the sheer fear of what happens if or when something goes wrong.

Some loathe not being able to be in control and will walk away from a potential opportunity just for the lack of being able to be in control. Others loathe being controlled and not being in a position to challenge the course of action, i.e. exert control, and will refrain from putting themselves into that position.

And some just hate that excess talk about control can ultimately block every path to future success.

Because at the end of the day some sort of control is needed to achieve great success.

Because if there is one thing that remains certain, it is that great success does not arise from a completely lack of control.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Insecurity is ok

Some people think that being super aggressive and speak in war-like metaphors is the way to go, when it comes to showing leadership in a start up.

I would suggest it shows more of a profound insecurity that you’re trying to hide by bluster.

Trying to hide things is borderline poisonous no matter how or why you do it.

Therefore, try showing of your insecurities. Or at least abstain from trying to hide them.

Getting something good up and running and making a success of it is super hard work with a lot of moving parts, and there are a ton of things that can go wrong and most likely will.

There’s no shame in acknowledging that.

Trying to hide that fact will ultimately just reflect bad on you. In addition to that it will make it super hard for people to help you, where you need help. And you and your company may suffer as a consequence.

And that’s not what you want, is it?

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

The new media mixtape

As a former insider turned outsider it continues to be interesting to follow the innovative developments within the media space.

Over a short period of years we have gone from monoliths over new entrants with ambitions to become digital monoliths to individual talents and a plethora of ambitious (monoliths-in-spe?) platforms aggressively hawking their capabilities towards said individual talents.

Name me just one other industry, where the atomization of the business model and its opportunities have been more distributed among those who have the talent to take it on and make something out of it?

Thought not.

The individualization of media is an interesting concept. You don’t subscribe to the omnibus model anymore. You subscribe to a variety of subjects and voices and you’re the editor-in-chief who pieces your own worldview together, independent of media channel(s) and content type(s).

It’s all a big mixtape. But it’s your mixtape.

On the flip side it of course puts into question what happens with the leading common narrative and the common agenda – something we can all relate to and discuss and – by extension – subject our opinions on, ultimately at the ballot box (if we’re so fortunate to live in a society where that is a real and unrestricted civil right for us).

Two points on that:

First of all, media monoliths have by and large done a less than stellar job at guarding that unique role and brought into serious question why it should continue to be theirs to steward.

Second, it is always infinitely better that the opportunities for talent and voices are out there – and more abundantly so than ever – than to have everything on relatively few hands. Like water all the news that remain fit to print will find a way.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)