Understand the root cause

Sometimes you can be so blinded by a specific solution to a problem that you completely forget what the root cause of the problem was.

When people are facing challenges of some sort, they seldom jump straight to very specific solutions to the problem.

Instead they dwell at the problem for a while – short or longer depending on problem, person and context – and then they start looking for A solution.

Now, the ‘A’ here is important. Because it implies that most times there are more than one potential solution to any given problem, someone might have. And every possible solution is an opportunity for you to be relevant.

It may very well be that you don’t have the most fancy solution. That your technology is not the most unique. That your solution is not the cheapest.

But does it ultimately matter if you’re the one of the options who have understood the root problem best? Are best at showing empathy? Best at using that empathy to lead people in the direction of your particular solution, when the search for a solution kicks off?

Maybe? Maybe not?

The point here is not to be too fixated and even fall in love with a particular solution. Chances are that before you’re able to get that fabled solution out in the market something will happen that makes it less relevant, non-happening or it just gets overtaken by someone else.

Someone who just understood the root problem better.

The above is not to say that you shouldn’t be focused and bold on bringing new solutions to market that can change how big problems get solved for real people. Of course you should.

But it is to say that you should never forget to make sure you understand the root cause of the problem, and by doing that keep your options for viable solutions open and pursue them as you see fit.

Doing that will greatly increase your odds of succeeding and – most importantly – drastically reduce the risk of running into a dead end.

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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)

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)

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)

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)

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)

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)