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?

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Learn from Poor Charlie

Every once in a while I look to recommend a great book, if you’re looking to expand your horizon a bit.

This is such a time. But the book isn’t new. Far from it. I have had it for more than 10 years, but I have only gotten around to reading it now.

The book in question is “Poor Charlie’s Almanack”, a whopping coffee table book about legendary investor Warren Buffets sidekick and second-in-command, Charlie Munger, at Berkshire Hathaway.

In the book he spills the beans on his wisdom. And let me say it straight away: Much of it is common sense. But still you have got to give the man credit that when you live and act by a core belief system of common sense, you can do rather well for yourself.

Furthermore there is an incredible wit about Charlie, who turned 97 as we moved into 2021. While Warren Buffett has always been the one in the spotlight, Charlies wry comments and crystal clear ways of calling them like he sees them is amazing.

For that reason I highly recommend you look up Berkshire Hathaway AGM’s on YouTube and feast yourself in the two investors asking questions from their audience of shareholders. It’s priceless.

But Charlie Munger is also the story about something else that I personally hold very dear; the (wo)man behind the (wo)man.

While aspirational leaders and entrepreneurs have always fascinated me, I have tended to be more fascinated by their enablers; those who actually get the wheels into motion, do the nitty gritty stuff, aka work the engine room so the captain can be on the bridge setting the course.

I have a great personal liking for those. Most probably because it fits my own comfort zone best; being the one a step being doing the heavy lifting, making things gel and gently apply my contribution to things.

One thing is for sure: Charlie Munger has been exceptionally great at doing precisely that. And few people are more deserving of a coffee table-sized book than him.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

94 minutes of doom

The other day I got around to watching the much talked about documentary “The Social Dilemma” on Netflix.

And let me just say it straight up: Despite the dystopia and concern about our technological ‘progress’ it exudes, I highly recommend that you take the time to not only watch it but also to really absorb and comtemplate the message – and take appropriate action.

I think most of who have been in tech for a long period of time have and have had our misgivings about social media, and what it’s doing to society. “The Social Dilemma” paints a grim picture, but there aren’t any really big surprises, if you have just followed along a bit.

In two instances it gets downright creepy in IMHO:

First of all, there is the mentioning of what this does to kids. I am personally terrified of the day my now 8 year old daughter gets her hands on a mobile device and starts being on social media.

It’s a personal ‘Dooms Day device’ in the hands of kids, and we need to be very thoughtful that we have only a couple of years – tops – to teach her how to have such a device without being hurt by it. It’s a gruelling task. Downright frightening, in fact.

Second, I am fascinated by all the brilliant people who participate in the documentary and how they contributed to where we are today. It’s one thing to feel remorseful and wishing you could have done something differently. It’s entirely different when you try to explain how your intentions were completely different – this was just something ‘that happened’.

Pardon me, but…bull…shit.

Every single one of these people have the brains and the skills to think more than one step ahead in terms of what they’re doing, building and letting loose. They had all the opportunities to stop and think.

They chose not to. Why? Because honestly they couldn’t care less back then. It was simply not how they were wired; to think deeply about the consequences of their work.

The problem is typical: We’re so fixated on building stuff that we don’t think about anything else.

And this is where – potentially – we end up. And in this particular case have ended up.

Of course you could argue that it is a bit over the top to come after these people who are now expressing regret. But honestly: Since it’s the same people who are supposed to spearhead the drive to fix things, would you bet your money that they are going to succeed?

I wouldn’t.

With that there is only one good option left:

Get your head out of your screens. And teach your kids what real life is really like. And that it’s always better than anything an algorithm can throw at you.

(Photo: Screenshot)

Trello and OKR

When trying to build a startup ground up, there are a ton of different tasks that need to get done. And keeping track of it all is essential.

But how do you do that efficiently?

For me I have resorted to using a combination of Trello and OKR.

We use OKR’s to define our objectives. We essentially view those as desired outcomes where it’s up to the people involved to do whatever is necessary or efficient to achieve said outcome.

It turns our that Trello is pretty good at keeping track of those objectives. And in a very simple way:

What we do is essentially to take our objective, create a new board and then name that board with the text of the objective.

By doing that we have a consolidated view of objectives, and we can dig into the individual objective, define key results and work on those in a kanban way, while we comment, assign tasks across team members and much more.

The key here is that if we want to get an update on where we’re currently at with the work towards a specific objective, we can just dig into that specific board.

Of course it still takes discipline to work within the confines of Trello and make sure that it gets used, and we’re still rehearsing on making sure that happens.

But so far our experiences are good. And I highly recommend it as an efficient method for keeping track of your progress against your OKRs.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Mindmapping rules

I have become a big fan of mindmapping. And specially the application SimpleMind Pro for Mac.

When you have a lot of ideas, keeping a hold of them can be super tricky. This is exactly where mindmapping comes in handy; with the right application if allows you to structure your thoughts at more or less the same pace as your train of thoughts.

I now use mindmapping for several specific purposes;

I use it during meetings for notes and for structuring comments and ideas that arise from our discussions. And also for mapping out follow-up items, to do’s and the likes to make sure that I never leave a meeting without an idea about what to do next.

I use it for preparation of meetings and workshops and for something as basic as structuring an agenda, so I don’t need to fire up Powerpoint and do it as I start building a presentation out slide by slide. I find that it gets a lot more concise when I do it this way.

I use it for structuring arguments ahead of difficult conversations or meetings, where I can think about every possible argument and how to counter them in order to achieve alignment and progress on what we need to achieve.

And of course I use it for regular brainstorming and structuring thoughts and processes needed for work.

Come to think of it, I have a hard time understanding why I haven’t been using it before. It is just so efficient and perhaps one of the best productivity hacks, I have ever come across.

You should try it too.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Check out ‘Pivot’

It is not that often that I recommend stuff. And in fact I have never recommended a podcast before. But lo and behold, there is a first time for everything.

Today, my very first podcast recommendation goes to the brilliant ‘Pivot’ podcast from Vox Media Network starring Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway. You should really check it out if you are into everything in the intersection between business and tech. It is twice a week now, and it is pure gold.

Especially professor Galloway – who also has his own blog – calls them like he sees them. He is razor sharp in his analysis, and good fun to listen to as well. If for nothing else, hearing him read the sponsorship messages is worth the entire experience in itself. Go, go, GO and check it out.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

A ‘bible’ on your quest

If you are working on creating anything new, anything outside the norm, you know that it can be a daunting task. You know that it can feel impossible at times, and you know that you can get to the point where you really doubt what you’re doing, and how to proceed with confidence.

Thankfully, there is a great book to support you in your quest. And yes, it is in fact called “How to Lead a Quest”, and it is written by Dr. Jason Fox. I highly recommend it. It is both a super guide, a great inspiration and – at times – a great comfort.

Not only will you get to see that the ups and downs you and your project(s) go through are totally normal and actually a part of the plan and of doing it right. And there are lots and lots of tips and tricks for how to operate, how to set yourself goals, achieve meaningful progress and adapt to core habits of making sure, you stay on the path.

(Photo: Private)