Archive for the ‘Innovation’ Category

Think Big and Change the World

Posted: July 12, 2015 by Bill Cunningham in Innovation, Planning, Startup

bill-cunningham-sc“Whatever you are thinking, think bigger” – Gaye Crispin

Entrepreneurs love to think big. Go big or go home. Life is too short to think small things. And so on.

Of course the first spark, that twinkle in your eye may be small at the start. Taking your idea to a full-blown entrepreneurial rocket ride to Mars requires big, big thinking. Look back at “really cool” ideas that have changed the way the world works.

The music business has gone through tumultuous change since Edison figured out how to record sound and play it back. From the first 78 rpm record which begat the LP Vinyl record which begat the infamous 8-track tape player which begat an even more convenient cassette player which begat the CD and DVD revolution all leading up to a totally digital downloading economy. And now this is birthing the streaming economy so that you can have 14 million songs at your fingertips.

Did Edison even have a clue of what was to come. Of course not, but he imagined great futures with his technologies.

Uber is transforming the transportation (and logistics) business in many ways. Whenever a discussion about Uber occurs, people talk about how they ambushed the taxi companies — they had no clue that competitive force was growing. Look deeper into how Uber is becoming part of our urban fabric and you will find more industries for which Uber is becoming a competitor. First of all, there is the automobile industry — many Uber riders say they leave their car home on weekends and party on down to Over-the-Rhine so they don’t have to worry about having that extra drink. So if you use your car two fewer days a week, your car will last longer — and you won’t buy as many cars in your lifetime — completely changing the car industry forecasts.

Many Uber drivers earn a decent living driving revelers back to their cars the morning after a wedding reception or big night on the town. So the number of DUI’s and police required go down. There are fewer life threatening injuries — so emergent health care population reduces. Fewer court dates, attorneys and doctors out of work and safer roads are all a result of Uber’s enabling people to be more responsible — and it is economical — so the market forces are driving this new-found responsibility! Imagine that.

As Uber expands it reach into new markets, (now funded by Google to the tune of $225M investment last year) more changes will proliferate naturally through these market forces. Buying groceries, picking up kids after school, and filling up space on tractor-trailers will benefit from Uber and Uber-like startups. The impact gets magnified and duplicated across many market segments.

One of the key elements to success in your startup is the belief that you can create big ideas. If you are not creating big ideas, then you won’t get the time of day from investors. Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway, raised the first part of a $100 million round without showing anyone a business plan. Why did those investors invest? Because Dean Kamen  was a big thinker — he had a track record to doing big things (Like inventing the mobile insulin pump when we was a sophomore in college — and that was before he dropped out.)

Swing for the fences, throw the long ball, skate to where the puck is heading and go for the gusto!

 

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Leaders That Write Make History

Posted: May 31, 2015 by Bob Gilbreath in Education, Innovation, Leadership, People

Bob-G-2015It is a beautiful Saturday afternoon in May. Instead of lounging in the hammock or attacking weeds in the yard, I am writing this column for the Enquirer. Why? In case you wondered, there is no pay for this piece. It is rewarding to share perspective and get a pat on the back, but the selfish reason I write is that it makes me a better business leader.

If you look around you may notice that many of the most successful business men and women in the world broadcast and exchange ideas by publishing their thoughts. CEOs of top companies write books and take the stage. In the startup world, blogs by executives are featured on websites, and venture capitalists frequently predict where the world is going. You might think it is just an ego thing, and I know there is a bit of that in all of us. But when you ask writers why they do it, most will admit that habitual writing hones their leadership abilities and contributes to their companies’ success.

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An Entrepreneur As Catalyst

Posted: May 24, 2015 by Jerry Malsh in Culture, Ecosystem, Innovation, Leadership, People, Startup

jerry-malsh-2015By now you’ve probably heard about the young Seattle entrepreneur who recently raised the minimum wage for all 120 employees of his firm to $70,000 per year (phased in over the next three years) while lowering his own salary to $70,000 from its previous high of nearly $1million.

Why?

  1. Because he wanted to help the people who have helped him grow his business by making a positive, significant difference in their lives. Not just the difference between falling behind and catching up, but the difference between catching up and moving ahead.
  2. Because he knows how out of whack CEO-to-worker pay ratios have become. The ratio of CEO-to-worker pay has increased 1000% since 1950, according to data from Bloomberg.

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Small Business and Innovation

Posted: May 17, 2015 by Chuck Matthews in Innovation, Startup

Dr. Chuck Matthews“There’s a way to do it better – find it.” – Thomas Edison

In recognition of National Small Business Week earlier in May, small business owners were celebrated for turning their innovative ideas and passion into successful business ventures. It is richly deserved recognition. In fact, research by the US Small Business Administration Office of Advocacy and others suggests small business owners outperform larger companies when it comes to driving innovation. Specifically, considering patent issuance as a measure of innovation, it is estimated that small businesses produce sixteen times more patents per employee than large firms. While small firms’ cumulative patents account for only eight percent of total patents granted, they contribute a fourth of the patents in the top 100.

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What Great Companies Excel At

Posted: March 29, 2015 by Tim Metzner in Innovation, Leadership, Startup

Tim-MetznerWhile companies are incredibly diverse, it occurs to me that successful ones tend to have (at least) three things in common; clear vision, great culture and exceptional execution. I believe the more consistently a company excels in these areas, the more likely it is to become a lasting company that will thrive.

Vision

Your vision must be clear, focused, meaningful and well communicated to the team. Everyone from CEO to interns understand where the company is going and how they are to help.

Culture

Employees spend more time at work than they do with their families. People need to genuinely believe the company is working on things that matter, feel challenged and appreciated and enjoy the people they work with.

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Create. Succeed. Rinse. Repeat.

Posted: March 22, 2015 by Jerry Malsh in Innovation, People

jerry-malsh-2015Before you break an arm patting yourself on the back for being an entrepreneur, consider these folks:

Elon Musk, Thomas Edison, Sir Richard Branson, Oprah Winfrey,

Wayne Huizenga, Benjamin Franklin, Jerome Lemelson and Geroge Bernard Shaw.

They’re serial entrepreneurs.

A special breed of entrepreneur for whom creating, growing and sustaining just one business wasn’t enough. While you and I created, grew and sustained a single business, serial entrepreneurs created, grew and sustained an empire of businesses. Where we stopped, they started … with an extraordinary passion to achieve unlimited success in as many ventures as possible.

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Rapid Innovation

Posted: February 21, 2015 by Bill Cunningham in Innovation, People, Startup, Technology

bill-cunningham-sc“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.”  – Steve Jobs – founder of Apple Computer

In my office I have a picture of Steve Jobs on one wall and Steve Blank facing him on the other. Mr. Jobs certainly needs no introduction, but Mr. Blank is not a household word around the Midwest as he is a veteran of 8 Silicon Valley tech companies and teaches at Stanford and Berkeley.  Steve Jobs believes customers can’t know what they want — we have to invent it for them.  Steve Blank, however, believes that you must find out what your customers need, and solve their problems. Which Steve do you follow?

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Dr. Chuck Matthews“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Albert Einstein

In the last few days, have you asked yourself, “Where did 2014 go?” Time is the most precious resource that any entrepreneur possesses. Although, time can seem to possess us instead of the other way around.

While the New Year prompts reflection about time, it also raises the specter of how we create value for our customers over time. The ongoing challenge for entrepreneurs is not only creating value at the outset of the business, but continuing to add value for customers today and into the future. The transition from one year to the next also brings into focus the nearness of the future. Tomorrow begins today.

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Ensure Your Business Nurtures Creative Thinking and New Ideas

Posted: December 14, 2014 by Bill Cunningham in Culture, Innovation

Entrepreneurs exude creativity! Right? Every small business owner loves thinking and trying new things. Correct-a-mundo? Well the answer to these questions is a resounding YES, but only for those small businesses who value and nurture new ideas. Many firms seem to have a great culture of innovation and free thinking, and yet, many firms don’. How do you convert your company from a don’ter to a doer?

Start at the top

Embrace new ideas with a passion. Conduct ideas sessions frequently. Constantly look at how to do things better. A great approach to ideation is the I-Power technique. Created by Martin Edelston, it gives the captains of commerce a compass to inspire innovation. Very simply, I-Power takes the old suggestion box off the wall and places it squarely in the center of every group activity in your firm. At every meeting, each attendee must bring an idea on one of the company’s ideas forms. The CEO reviews them personally every weekend, and every one gets paid a dollar for each idea, and two dollars for a great idea. Now that doesn’t sound like much, but for Mr. Edelston, it generated about 30,000 new ideas in one year from his 275 employees. Some were good; some were bad; some were crazy; some were glad. His $30,000 investment in ideas gave everyone the license to think. By the way, one of these ideas saved $750,000 in printing costs . Nice ROI!

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Redefining Competition in the Era of Innovation

Posted: November 23, 2014 by Bob Gilbreath in Innovation, Marketing, Startup

bob-gilbreath-ahaThis week we discovered that a competitor in our market was buying our company’s trademark with Google keywords and making an untrue claim against our product. It created a burst of shock and anger in our offices and led to some back-and-forth drama. But after handling the situation and stepping back, we realized that this was a futile effort that completely back-fired on the other company. In this new economy, the nature of competition is being redefined—and entrepreneurs must reset their views.

Clients, partners, investors and job prospects frequently ask for a list of our competitors. It is a natural way to try to size up a company, and in business we are naturally competitive. I started my career in large companies where we constantly fought for share of the same pie. I will never forget my first job in banking, when my competitor stole my largest client with a free lunch and lower interest rate. On the Tide brand at Procter & Gamble, we obsessed over every basis point of share shift.

But competition is vastly different when you are working in new and innovative markets. Instead of fighting over the same territory, innovation allows you to discover and settle completely open spaces.

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