An education in truth

Sometimes your old education comes in handy.

The other day I helped flesh out 3 very different angles to an upcoming news release depending on the angle and tonality the team behind wishes to pursue, when they go live.

In doing so it (yet again) dawned on me how powerful the right wording can be; how you can use the right words to set the tone and provoke the thoughts you want to install while essentially saying the same thing at the end.

How your angle is just as valid as the next one. And how little is centrally controlled anymore when it comes to messaging.

And then I came to think about Erik Torenbergs piece on “How the Internet Ate Media” and this quote:

Everything used to be fractured and fragmented by definition. Then came the telegraph, then the telephone, and mass manufacturing, public education and more. We’re now returning to that early way of living before Peak Centralization. Structurally, we have more in common with the 1800s than we did with 1950s.

Using that to reflect a bit on my education as a journalist and the challenging times for journalists at large, I thought to myself:

What if journalism school also taught an “education in truth”?

Scrap all the stuff about finding the angle and write a story up. Focus on doing proper research, asking the right questions and – first and foremost – the ability to get to the bottom of things.

To a solid sense of truth. No angles. No agendas.

I think that would probably be one of the most valuable educations you could lecture/have in modern society as people who can navigate the chaos of (mis)communication without getting lost or crash will be in high demand.

Thoughts?

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Way to go, CluedIn!

When something amazing happens to great people, you have some sort of history with, you really should take the time to single it out for special mention and celebration.

It’s such a day today for the great people at CluedIn, a pioneering master data management platform out of Copenhagen, who just announced that they have raised a whopping 15M USD in their Series A round.

In doing that the team has come a long way from the very first time, I met them. After having been introduced to them at a Keystones event, I met with two of the founders, Tim and Martin. I wanted to meet them because I had the impression that this was going to be a ‘boom or bust’ case;

Either they would hit it out of the park. Or they would go down in flames. There was no in-between.

From the first meeting in the attic at the outskirts of Østerbro in Copenhagen, it was apparent to me that they would hit it out of the park. Not only were they great people with a very cool sense of humor that you just loved hanging out and working with They were also – and are – brilliant engineers with a crystal clear idea of what they were looking to do. And why.

Over a couple of months I helped them a tiny bit getting setup and started, and then I had to pursue other things. But Tim and co persisted in their relentless fashion being driven by their mission and spurred on by their determination. They got a bunch of great early backers, added to the team, got their first customers and the rest – as they say – is history.

Which of course isn’t at all fair to the lots, lots and lots of hard work that has gone into, where they are today.

Which is also why every huge CONGRATS that goes the way of these guys is so richly deserved.

Huge, HUGE CONGRATS, Team CluedIn!

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It’s not about the tools

Ken Norton is right.

“The wrong tool is worse than no tool at all.”

Ken Norton

Over the years I have tried a myriad of tools, models, methods and processes, and the one thing I have learned is that none of them are perfect in themselves. It is how you mix them up depending on your specific need and how you use them that matter.

That is probably also one of the reasons why I love working with Miro as a collaboration platform and especially their rich library of templates for various approaches, models, methods and processes; the tool allows me in effect to create my own on the fly depending on my specific needs at the time.

When I work with my own dish of models and methods and glance it over, you probably won’t be able to make much sense of it, and you most definitely won’t find it one-to-one in any tool or textbook. Nonetheless, it works. For me and for the project, I am working on.

It helps us move things forward. In a pragmatic, yet structured way. And the same approach could work for you too.

So do yourself a favor: Don’t let yourself be a slave of a model or a philosophy. Take an open-ended pragmatic view on things and just like a carpenter choose the right tool for the right task.

It will serve you and what you’re trying to achieve best.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Deadly theater

Time and time again I hear from and meet startups who are eager to follow the corporate partnership route to gain traction in the market for their startup.

Sometimes it works out well. Most often – I would argue – it doesn’t.

I know this from my own prior experience from the corporate side. Yes, I have been one of the ‘fools’ trying to introduce startups to the corporate world as tomorrows fix on todays problems only to find that the organization had no intention of being ‘fixed’, let alone by a startup.

I can’t count the times I have engaged with promising startups with some great products and services under their belt and spent a ton of time on building the case and getting them introduced to the company – only for everything to come off the rails once the handover needed to happen.

Undoubtedly, I have a lot of the blame myself, as I should have spent more time and energy on facilitating the internal relationships necessary to enable a great collaboration – to enable my peers and colleagues to ‘see the light’ so to say. I naively thought it was rather self-explanatory.

It wasn’t.

Anyways, there are still a lot of startups out there who seems to think that pilots projects and strategic initiatives with big corporations are the best path towards fame and fortune.

If you are one of those, I highly recommend, you get yourself a copy of “Death By Innovation Theater: 10 Corporate Innovation Lessons Learned by a Startup” by Søren Nielsen, former CEO of now closed down FinTech startup Ernit.

Apart from being very well-written and with a lot of great references, the book is a tale of why all those aspiring promises in corporate partnerships never really amount to anything for startups.

In the close to 100 pages, Søren walks you through his own largely miserable experiences banking – sorry – and counting on corporate partnerships to work only to find out that he and his team was never more than an afterthought at best and entertainment at worst.

When you read it, you might believe it. Or you might think that that won’t happen to you. Don’t delude yourself. There is every chance that it will. Take it from me as a representative of the ‘innovation fools’ in the corporate domain – we’re not that different from each other.

Should you completely forgo any opportunities to do partnerships with corporates? Absolutely not.

But as Søren Nielsen also states make damn sure, you’re absolutely sure about what you’re doing and what you and your startup are getting out of it, before you dive in and spend too much time.

After all, you don’t want to die on the stage, do you?

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It’s been oh so quiet…

Q1 of 2021 is behind us, and I have ‘celebrated’ it by being quiet around here for almost a month.

The reason is that I have been busy doing other things while trying to recuperate.

On the personal front, me and my girlfriend have decided to build a new home where our existing home is. That means tearing a house completely down, finding a new place to live while the building project lasts and – not least – settling on what the new home should be like.

Let’s just say the amount of choices, stress and anxiety is daunting. And then all at once. I honestly can’t recommend it to anybody, but it’s something you first realize when you’re deep into it. But the end result will be great. I am absolutely sure of that.

On the professional front I have been licking my wounds after a MedTech startup I worked on for the past year chose another direction that sadly didn’t include me. Despite building the case, securing early funding, getting the IP in place etc, I placed a lot of trust where it wasn’t warranted, and I got seriously burned from it.

Actually, I would rank it among the Top 3 professional disappointments of my life. Yes, it hurt that much. I guess it is one of those tough life lessons that you analyze at a distance, learn from and emerge stronger and better on the other side.

Speaking of the other side, I am in the process of getting back on track and up to speed. There is a lot of work to be done and lots of exciting projects and opportunities to work with my great colleagues and help the startups, we work with, succeed.

It’s challenging, fun and super, super meaningful – just how I like it. And who knows what might happen in the Q(‘s) that follows?

Bring it on! Upwards and onwards!

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Doing your homework

What does it mean for a business, a startup or you to ‘do your homework’?

Does it mean being out there, staying curious about the problem you’re looking to solve trying to figure out what potential avenues towards solving it might be.

Does it mean diving into existing research to be able to say and tell others that you know what is already out there, and that is what you’re building from?

I am not really sure, although I do think the latter resembles more of an exam, where – let’s face it – the only objective is to pass in more or less flying colors and then move on.

The problem with homework is much the same as with communication: The effectiveness and value of it often rests not with the creator but the receiver.

Thus, is the receiver has a misconception of what doing your homework really is, you run the risk of putting in the wrong sort of work for the job while still being able to claim that you have essentially done nothing wrong.

See the problem? Or paradox, even.

The sense of having done your homework needs to rest deeply within you. You need to have a feel for what you need to know, what you need to challenge and the questions you need to ask to get the answers you need.

When you have that, you can think of yourself as having done the homework. But not before.

Homework is an extension of determination. If you’re determined to get something done, succeed with a pitch or with a business or anything else you put your mind towards, you will make damn sure you do your homework. And it will be yours to define and own. Also the results.

Don’t let anybody else tell you otherwise.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

You need mutual respect

Over the past year I have been spending a lot of time trying to understand how to help researchers at universities bring great research into market through spinouts. And I wanted to share my experiences in a series of posts.

The first post on ownership structure is here, and this is going to be about the founder team and an important cornerstone in making a team gel:

Mutual respect for what each member brings to the table.

In my mind great founder teams have never been about sharing the same background, friendships from school, hobbies or the like. For me great founder teams have always been about getting a team together with a shared passion for solving a big problem and a skillset and experience that compliments rather than overlaps.

I have always held this belief also when I worked at corporates hiring new team members; get people in that are better at what they are going to help out with than me or anyone else already in the team and provide them with the room and mandate to maneuver.

In many respects it was about filling out the blanks based on what the business needed to succeed. It was about looking at what it would take to succeed with the mission.

The same principle should be applied to founder teams of researchers from universities. No questions about it.

Most often researchers will be brilliant at what they do. Essentially thats why they are researchers employed at universities. It also implies that there are other things they are not equally good at, and for many understanding and building a business outside the walls of university campus is one of the things they are not particular skilled at.

So they need help. Preferably they need outside help from people who knows and have tried (and perhaps even also failed) to build a business, and who in turn know next to nothing about researching. Again, very little overlap – mostly complimentary.

In most cases researchers will understand and accept this, but there is one potential problem; creating a team culture, where there is mutual respect for all necessary contributions to succeed.

It is not uncommon to meet researchers who have spent years on their research, and who naturally place a huge, indispensable value on this. Sometimes these same people can have a very hard time placing the same kind of value on a new member of the founding team, who will essentially be looking after the business side of things and ensure that the spinout actually has legs on the other side of the university wall.

This creates friction and the potential for an A and a B team inside a very small team to start with. And this is poisonous.

And not only that. It is also flat wrong:

Even though researching is hard and coming up with breakthrough innovations is super hard, making it work in the real world afterwards is perhaps even harder. Because while a great researcher might apply his knowledge and experience extensively in the lab and be really focused and use all the time needed, a lot of the outcome of the research is somewhat within the control sphere of the researcher. A lot of it basically comes down to the individual.

The same can not be said about making it work in the real world. Not only do you need skilled people with lots of experience. There are also endless moving parts outside the university walls that it can often be hard to predict and that you need to navigate in order to stay afloat, let alone succeed.

In essence it is a moving target, where everything changes in an instant, and you need to adapt to that. It is a whole different level of uncertainty and anxiety, which it takes great skill – and often also lots of luck – to navigate successfully.

Getting the business side right is a navy seal skill. Almost literally. And given that it makes absolutely no sense inside a team to run the risk of elevating someone at the expense of someone else. It creates friction, will ultimately make the person being degraded leave and the spinout tank before it can live up to any of its original promise.

The good thing about all the above is that there is a really simple fix:

Mutual respect.

The realization that in order to everybody succeed, everybody needs to feel valued and appreciated as key players in the onwards journey.

If you don’t truly feel like that in the spinout, you’re working to create, stop and fix it immediately. Or drop the spinout completely.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Let’s nail the Future of Work

Covid-19 fatigue is really settling in everywhere. Not least in the workplace where people are starting to really feel the effects of being remote working-from-home.

To many it is just not as fun and/or efficient as it was in the beginning, and the sense of belonging to a team or the employer as such is starting to erode.

It is a crucial point, I believe.

When we talk about the Future-of-Work and working from home, we almost always talk about the practical stuff; how do we facilitate virtual meetings, which platforms do we choose and how do we stay efficient, so we can tick off our to do-lists.

All very tangible stuff.

But we also need to address the intangible stuff. And treat it as a priority. Because not only are these ‘touchy feely’ elements critical to focus and performance, they are also super hard to manage through technology.

For that very reason I would like to see someone giving that part a go and come up with a new Employee Experience Platform.

But not like the new Microsoft Viva (which actually does look rather cool, if your company is big enough for it), which is focused a lot around classic productivity.

No, it should be more nímble. More soft. And address all the little intangibles that makes a team a team, a culture a culture. And most importantly; ensure that people feel a sense of belonging and stay engaged to do their best work.

It is a huge opportunity for those who can pull it off, and I honestly don’t think there are any really great offerings out there. So I would be super excited to see someone picking up the mantle and perhaps even help them along doing it.

So, hit me!

(Photo: Pixabay.com)