[Video] How Terminator inspired faster and “liquid” 3D printing

Perfect example of questioning and reframing the challenge and developing innovation from the blind spot

Joseph DeSimone is a scholar, inventor and serial entrepreneur. A longtime professor at UNC-Chapel Hill, he’s taken leave to become the CEO at Carbon3D, the Silicon Valley 3D printing company he co-founded in 2013.

DeSimone, an innovative polymer chemist, has made breakthrough contributions in fluoropolymer synthesis, colloid science, nano-biomaterials, green chemistry and most recently 3D printing. His company’s Continuous Liquid Interface Production (CLIP) suggests a breakthrough way to make 3D parts.

Read more about Carbon3D here



[Thoughts] Think like a startup… or why you need to doubt to be lean in the corporate world

I cannot count the number of times I’ve heard that phrase: “think like a startup, act like a startup”… I guess you stopped counting too.

But this imperative calls for a deeper question, why is it so hard for existing businesses to do so?And aren’t we underestimating the harshness of being a startup?

You need to start with the definition of a startup: A startup is an organization formed to search for a scalable and repeatable business model (according to Steve Blank, in “The four steps to Epiphany”)
Read it again. The startup is formed to seach
The establish organisations isn’t formed to search – it’s designed to execute.

Startup entrepreneurs undergo tremendous pain and agony through the growth process between idea and product/market fit and revenue generation.
They will have to go through  the hard questioning, doubting, hole-poking and criticism inside an accelerator to make the venture even stronger.  I haven’t met any manager or executive in established businesses willing to go through such pain… because they don’t have time to do so, and they have no incentivized to do so.

So maybe for established businesses to think and act like startups, they need to institutionalise some time to doubt, to assess wrongful assumptions, challenge their limiting beliefs, articulate their intuitions, raise questions (see leads of belief change in one of my previous posts).

Dare to doubt

As I write these posts and continuously research and read about contexts and behaviours enabling innovation and creativity, I have found doubt/skepticism and questioning at the foundation of most approaches.

It is the framework which changes with each new technology and not just the picture within the frame (Marshall McLuhan)

To harness doubt in a positive way I often suggest this framework:

  • the things you know you know: norms, rules, bright spots, best practices…

check that these facts are still valid or true against data (see my previous post here)

eg. This mobile carrier brand is destined to young adult and teenagers (Sosh by Orange)… when it actually observed great take-up with unemployed population.

  • the things you know you don’t know: these are the additional questions and assumptions you’re trying test.

Try to answer the question through further analysis with the data you already have…

eg. How sensitive are our Mom consumers to the presence of this ingredient in our recipe, given growing negative buzz around the topic.

  • the things you don’t know you know: that’s you’re intuition, your know how

Try to identify and normalise it to improve effectiveness, efficiency and transferability, Turn your hypothesis into evidence

  • finally the things you don’t know you don’t know: that’s you blind spot.

This is the area where you need to accept to doubt and put your discovery skills to practice (the why? the how? the if?)

This is also where the opportunity awaits.

It is a huge task. Startup entrepreneurs have to do it, or they will fail to find a market/product fit and scalable business model or pivot to new markets.

Established businesses have a market/product fit and business model but are alienated by them, and will fail to survive if they don’t adapt to a fast moving and uncertain environment.

Data informed vs Data Driven

In both cases – this framework has to be data informed.

I’m purposefully writing “data informed” and not data-driven as I’ve encountered many data-driven-ish companies loosing sight of the bigger picture, trapped in analysis paralysis or worshiping irrelevant KPIs in the scorecard. I have so many stories it is embarrassing.

The reason I suggest data informed framework is because good metrics change the way you behave, they are a driver of action and incentive specific behaviours to create better alignement with strategy. They make you accountable.

As Jedi Master Yoda would say: “Good metric is the path to the Force. Good Metric leads to clarity, clarity leads to accountability,  accountability leads to alignement”

If you have found an nugget, idea, insight or opportunity during this discovery process it is either in line with your current product/market fit and business model – … or not:

  • If you’re a startup, that’s the opportunity to pivot it into a new market…
  • if you’re in an establish business, good luck: you are kryptonite (unless you work a P&G) – get an executive sponsor and make sure everyone else knows you’ve got one.

Measuring what matters: Debunking a few myths

  • Brand Awareness/Top of Mind: Actually consideration is a better proxy for sales and marketshare in most industries I’ve been working with
  • Number of Fans, followers, Likes: that’s a typical vanity metric. If you can’t get them to do something useful for you, they are useless
  • Number of contacts in database: as previously, useless unless you know how many will open an email for eg. and act on what’s inside.
  • Number of visits / Market Share: is it one person who visits/buys a hundred times or a hundred people who visit/buy one time?
  • Number of downloads: Downloads alone have no value. Activations, ARPU do.

Now ask yourself this question – and feel free to contact me if you wish to discuss this further:

  • What are the metrics you are working towards?
  • How are they aligned to what your business – startup or established is trying to achieve today, tomorrow?
  • How many help you make business decisions?
  • Can you kill the ones not adding value?
  • Some industries use a single or aggregated success metrics for e.g.. NetAdds or CLV or ARPU… would it be possible for you?

[Thoughts] The good, the bad and the ugly in idea and best practice management

I have now worked long enough in and with global and complex organisations to notice the same challenge come again and again: How to identify, share and reapply ideas, innovations and practices… across countries and functions.

Having worked for a few years in companies that were great at doing it – namely Agency.com and then a management consulting firm, I was surprised to see how many other industries and organizations failed at capturing and transferring that kind of knowledge (call me naive or idealist)

“If only HP knew what HP knows, we would be three times more productive”
Lew Platt / Former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard

The biggest barriers to transfer lie in:

  • ignorance: people just don’t know the knowledge exists (and everybody keeps reinventing the wheel in their little corner of the world)
  • capacity: people know the knowledge exists, but have neither time, nor money nor details or skills to implement
  • lack of relationship: people don’t know who to go to access that knowledge, or where is the opportunity to connect

Whatever the solution put in place, adaptation will require from people in the organisation to, learn the process and the systems, but most importantly to understand the principles behind it.

What is a best practice / good idea, anyway?

Not only best is a moving target, but what is best is also situations specific. Therefore you need to define the levels of best practice.

  • Industry Best practice: This is based on both internal and external benchmarking work, including the analysis of performance data. At this point, everyone should agree that it should be a norm basically.
  • Local Best Practice: as above, but for operating company or department level
  • Good practice: technique, methodology, procedure, or process that has been implemented and has improved business results for an organization.
    This is substantiated by data collected at the location.  A limited amount of comparative data from other organizations exists. It is a candidate for application in one or more locations within an operating company or department
  • Good Idea: Unproved, not yet substantiated by data but makes a lot of sense intuitively; could have a positive impact on business performance. Requires further review/analysis


How to identify them?

Find the bright spots, i.e. focus on the areas where dramatic differences in performance point to a real underlying process/behavioral difference

Most companies do so within geographical or category specific clusters, but I’ve noticed they tend to disregard what you could call similarities, eg. clusters of countries, or industries or categories which have similar challenges.

One of my clients – in a previous life, was willing to design a central marketing strategy for a cluster of 8 countries.
Unfortunately, the marketing managers had very different challenges in each of the countries, but these could be easily distinguished between mature markets and fast-growing markets in terms of sales for the product.
We used additional criteria to manage the complexity of challenges and narrowing them to a limited number of “contexts”. The identification and replication of good ideas and best practices became more valuable and relevant for all as we avoided the “not invented here/not decided here” syndrome and provide a greater common denominator for all.


How to replicate them?

For each of the similar contexts or clusters where we identified “bright spots”:

  • determine where it fits (local best practice, good practice, good idea)
  • qualify the explicit information available
  • identify the implicit & tacit information available (the know how)

In the example I provided above, smaller groups of marketing managers and teams were gathered to identify the bright spots. Real transfer is a people-to-people process. We used technology as a catalyst, not a solution – as we combined social enterprise applications on top of the best practice/idea database as they provide:

  • User experience as the ones used in personal life : People/places/relationships/expertise/areas of interest/content sharing and rating/highlighted activities and streams…
  • Internal directories(experts/champions/multipliers)
  • Market place for expertise request and offers


Reward sharing

Most of the time new idea management and sharing is rewarded collectively through awards.

I’m not criticising awards, but it is difficult to focus people’s efforts and will for a gratification that occurs once a year and for which they might not even be invited.

In order to change and reinforce expected behaviours you need a short feedback loop.
The most critical part is to be able to reward the individual behaviour as well as the adoption.

We embedded collaboration indicators pulled from the social enterprise platform (e.g.. contribution in posts, comments, likes, projects…) into the formal performance appraisal of marketing teams and managers. One could imagine going even further and integrating learning and sharing KPIs in leadership remuneration in order to get total alignement, commitment and support.

It is also critical to be able to work with executives and leadership to embed this way or working in day to day work and methods by removing the blockers and redesigning the procedures accordingly and facilitate training & development.

Different context but good idea: One of my friends at Google shared with me this great practice – when he joined the company. He was managing a large team, but was able to identify the members who demonstrated best behaviour and skills through a program which allowed other departments to nominate people in his team for a small (let’s say couple of hundred pounds) financial reward. A perfect example of how internal norms facilitate and reinforce expected behaviour


Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard | Chip & Dan Heath | Crown Business; 1 edition (February 16, 2010)

 If only we knew what we know: Identification and transfer of Internal best Practices HBRCases| Carla O’Dell, C. Jackson Grayson Jr. | Apr 01, 1998 | Apr 01, 1998

[Video] Ricardo Semler: Why do you do the things you do, really why?

Brazilian CEO Ricardo Semler practices a radical form of corporate democracy, rethinking everything from board meetings to how workers report their vacation days (they don’t have to). It’s a vision that rewards the wisdom of workers, promotes work-life balance — and leads to some deep insight on what work, and life, is really all about. Bonus question: What if schools were like this too?

Ricardo Semler shares very interesting questions and initiatives on talent recruitment, leadership assessment, and people engagement in companies, but also very thorough questions about the roles of passion and expertise in education.