Fly High, Entrepreneur, With 3 Key Skills

There are great minds aplenty when it comes to individual business disciplines (marketing, finance, quality, social media, etc). Rare is the individual whose thought leadership spans effortlessly from one to another. Seth Godin, however, is one of those truly bright minds who “gets it” on many fronts. His Twitter posts are very interesting to read and his books are well respected. Godin’s most recent, The Icarus Deception (Portfolio, 2013), is described below by Amazon.com:

The old rules: Play it safe. Stay in your comfort zone. Find an institution, a job, a set of rules to stick to. Keep your head down. Don’t fly too close to the sun.
 
The new truth: It’s better to be sorry than safe. You need to fly higher than ever.
 
In his bravest and most challenging book yet, Seth Godin shows how we can thrive in an econ­omy that rewards art, not compliance. He explains why true innovators focus on trust, remarkabil­ity, leadership, and stories that spread. And he makes a passionate argument for why you should be treating your work as art.
 
Art is not a gene or a specific talent. It’s an atti­tude, available to anyone who has a vision that others don’t, and the guts to do something about it. Steve Jobs was an artist. So were Henry Ford and Martin Luther King Jr.
 
To work like an artist means investing in the things that scale: creativity, emotional labor, and grit. The path of the artist isn’t for the faint of heart—but Godin shows why it’s your only chance to stand up, stand out, and make a difference.
 
The time to seize new ground and work without a map is now. So what are you going to do?

Fall_of_Icarus_Blondel_decoration_Louvre_INV2624In a blog post last week for Entrepreneur.com,  blogger Bryan Elliott cites three essential skills Godin mentions in the new book as being critical for every great entrepreneur:

1. Quiet your lizard brain.
We all have what Godin refers to as a lizard brain. He says, “The lizard is a physical part of your brain, the pre-historic lump called the amygdala near the brain stem that is responsible for fear and rage and reproductive drive.”  

Godin has written a lot about this in previous books including Linchpin and Poke the Box and cites author Steven Pressfield for further explanation — “As Pressfield describes it, the lizard brain is the resistance. The resistance is the voice in the back of our head telling us to back off, be careful, go slow, compromise. The resistance is writer’s block and putting jitters and every project that ever shipped late because people couldn’t stay on the same page long enough to get something out the door. The resistance grows in strength as we get closer to shipping, as we get closer to an insight, as we get closer to the truth of what we really want. That’s because the lizard hates change and achievement and risk,” Godin says in The Icarus Deception.

2. Think like an artist.
In The Icarus Deception, Godin challenges us to think beyond the norm and become artists. “It’s not art if the world (or at least a tiny portion of it) isn’t transformed in some way. And it’s not art if it’s not generous. And most of all, it’s not art if there’s no risk. The risk isn’t the risk of financial ruin (though that might be part of it). No, the risk is the risk of rejection. Of puzzlement. Of stasis. Art requires the artist to care, and to care enough to do something when he knows it might not work.”

3. Connect the disconnected. 

Godin writes about “The Connected Economy” and explains that the era where we needed to care about catering to the masses is gone. It’s about connecting people who are disconnected — then connection becomes a function of art. The opportunity in the Connection Economy is about finding the problem (where are people disconnected).

Can you make the transition to reduce resistance, seek to transform, and connecting others to solutions? If so, you have assets that will serve you well as an entrepreneur!

 

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anti-Innovation Sentiment and Intrapreneurship Collide

In order to stay current in a subject area that is constantly changing, one must be well read and, beyond that, follow the bets though leaders around. Last week, I had the opportunity to discuss intrapreneurship in person with one of my favorite innovation bloggers, Jeffrey Phillips. Tonight, I read a blog post by one of my other favorites, Gijs van Wulfen.

Gijs tackles the subject of anti-innovators in his recent post.  His writing echoes some of what Jeffrey and I discussed last week. As we  looked at different models for commercializing business ideas last week, we camped out for a while on what stultifies innovation. While many leaders acknowledge that innovation is a top priority, they would also be quick to add that implementation of innovative practices can be a challenge. The consequences, according to Phillips, include: 

 Poor execution of innovation goals
 Failure to achieve strategic goals
 Limited organizational design to sustain innovation
 The growth of disbelief or cynicism when innovation isn’t pursued.

Stubborn personvan Wulfen describes personnel as a main hindrance. He writes of employees who “are stuck in their habits.. ignorant the world is changing fast and (thinking) they have nothing to fear.” He goes on to describe the anti-innovator as a (negative) contributor to team culture:

There are often quite a few anti-innovators. Everybody knows this extravert guy or woman who is anti-everything. They have “the biggest mouth” at the lunch table in the company restaurant. Their influence on the company’s culture is often quite substantial. Don’t underestimate their impact. The herd goes as fast as the slowest animals. If the anti-innovators lean back nothing moves. So how do you get them up and running. That’s the question.

You can try to convince them. Unfortunately that often fails because they are experts in coming up with idea killers like: “We are too small for that… There is no budget… We need to do more research… We don’t have time… It’s too risky… That’s for the future. Everything is OK now.”

You can try to do it without them. But that won’t work either. You need an awful lot of colleagues and bosses to share your vision before a big change can truly take place. You need R&D engineers, production managers, IT staff, financial controllers, marketers, service people and salesmen to develop the product, produce it, get it on the market and service it. You can’t do it without them: you can’t innovate alone.

The way to get anti-innovators up and running is to respect them, to understand them, to connect with them and to let them experience change is necessary. They will only change their attitude if they get new insights themselves. So, you have to give them a chance to discover what’s happening out there. Invite them to join your innovation team and take them out on an expedition to discover how markets, customers, competitors and technology are changing.

If they, as the slowest animals of the herd, find out there’s a group of hungry lions following the herd they stop leaning backwards. They start running too as necessity is the mother of invention. They will spread the urgency to innovate among their colleagues. And that’s good news because If the slowest animals start running, your organization’s innovation power really gets up to speed.

Think about the anti-innovators in your organization. What motivates them? Do they travel in herds? How can innovators infiltrate their ranks yet respect them and build bridges for collaboration? As a mentor in an upcoming venture challenge competition, I will be working with teams that must have creatives and analysts. Often, including an anti-innovator on your launch team can bring helpful perspective. Stew on it!

 

Nurture Networking Relationships and You Will Prosper

As a former business development executive, I miss my expense account. Seriously–it has always been a ton of fun to mingle with people and get paid to do it. Now running my own consulting firm, volunteering some time at a non-profit, and helping several other founders get their businesses off the ground, I have less time and budget to do one of the things I love: networking. Jeff Hoffman, a member of the founding teams at Priceline.com and uBid.com, and now launching ColorJar, gets this. In a blog post for Inc.com today, Jeff shares with other entrepreneurs what he has learned about the value of networking, as well as some tips to the uninitiated.Networking

Launching and growing a business is hard.  You need to find those relationships (that will help), and then cultivate and nourish them, to keep them alive and healthy.  When you are trying to go from point A to point D in business…people act as bridges from point B to point C, saving you valuable time and money.

… tips:

1. Identify people who could help you and your company. 

Make a list of potential relationships you’d like to forge, either by individual’s names, or by companies and positions.  You can’t pursue your targets until you know who and what they are…write down next to each name precisely what you think the person can do to help your business.

2. Contact these people on a regular basis, and stay in touch with them. 

The most important part of this regular communication is to make sure you are acutely aware of their needs, not just yours.  Ask them what they are trying to accomplish and how you can help.  And then do it when you can.

3. Find ways to give back to them. 

Make a list of the interests of the people on your go-to list…Let each individual know you remember and care about those interests.  Interesting article? Send it to the appropriate contact.  Meet a smart person in that field? Make an introduction.  (Cool, relevant) event? Invite (them) to attend.  Provide a value to your contacts, if you expect to receive it in return.

4. Acknowledge them in your social media. 

Discuss their work, congratulate their accomplishments, and keep them in your discussions.  Show them that you are not only aware of the importance of their work, but that you follow it and celebrate it.  

5. Schedule a time in your calendar to think about and research each contact. 

Once you make this relationship list, it needs maintenance and updating.  Set a periodic time to review the list, update it, and think again about how these people can help you and how you can help them.  Your needs have changed and so have theirs.

6. Make them feel 10 feet tall from time to time. 

Send out handwritten notes.  Or fruit baskets.  Make sure the people in your network know that you appreciate them and recognize their importance in your life.  A little gratitude goes a long way.

Great advice from someone who has obviously helped many other people along the way. Now that I am in the role of advising others, I frequently encourage them to “pay it forward,” helping someone else with their needs before asking for hep with your own. Go out of your way to make introductions for all kinds of solutions–that kind of capital is priceless! 

I also like Jeff’s suggestions on how to keep the conversation alive–good stuff! Remembering to do the personal touches mentioned above is not just good etiquette–it’s great business practice! Smart networking follows these best practices.

 

 

Get Emails Read – Follow 7 Guidelines

Most businesses rely on emails for the majority of their communications. Yet, most of us are certain that some of our emails are ignored by the recipient. If you are trying to get your emails read, consider the below guidelines offered by Jonathan Borge of ToutApp. (Borge was contacted by Tom Searcy for a recent article for Inc.com on the subject.)

1. Subject lines: Remember that only 20 percent to 40 percent of your emails will actually get opened, though most of your subject lines will be seen. To boost your open rates, think of short, catchy, and informative subject lines. You should try to dangle compelling information (“The future of sales emails”), and you can even try adding some mystery (“Strange question”). We also recommend personalized subject lines, if possible (“Hunter Sullivan suggested I contact you”).]

2. Your tone: Portray yourself as someone that other people can connect to. You’ll want to show your recipients that you care about hearing back from them… so you can’t simply sound like you’re just sending another mass email. Never use “Dear sir or Madam,” and stay away from overly formal language.

3. Email content: Make your emails short, simple, and easy to quickly digest. Your leads are busy people with jobs, too, so you need to maintain their interest. Do your research and find out what resonates for your prospects. Try to get an introduction to them or, if that’s not possible, figure out in more detail what they or their company do. Tell them why you’re emailing them, specifically. Talk about how you can solve a problem for them.

Email

4. Your sign-off: End your emails with a definitive, clear call to action. Make it dead simple for your recipients to say yes—whether it’s to a meeting, phone call, or product demo. Don’t ask them for permission. If you want a phone call, then say “Call me right now at X for more details.”

5. Your timing: Reach out to your leads when they’re not too busy. Make sure you avoid heavy traffic times like Monday mornings. Based on our tracking data, we recommend the middle of the week, mid-day, as the best time to send emails.

6. Your image: First impressions are important both in person and online. The tone and formatting of your email is all your recipients have to judge you by. Make sure you are being professional, clear, and easy to understand. Stay away from over-formatted emails that look gimmicky, but don’t hesitate to call out important information in bold or bullet points.

7. Your homework: Send yourself a sales email. Put yourself in your leads’ shoes. If you were them, would you open this email? Would you spend more than two seconds reading it? If so, what would you do next?

Searcy notes that the list sounds almost too basic. Yet, when he went back and examined the last 10 recent emails he had sent to prospects and clients, he found that he only employed four of these guidelines on average per email. Why don’t you take the same challenge? Hopefully, you can learn from it –as he and I have!

 

 

Creative – or Not? Characteristics to Consider

Innovation and intrapreneurship rely on creativity. How do you know whether you or others in your organization are creative? We’re not talking only about artists when the term “creative” is used. By examining behavior and thoughts, it is possible to get a feel for what a broad audience my agree constitutes creative talent. Jeffrey Baumgartnerauthor of the book, The Way of the Innovation Master, believes that two behavio(u)rs are predictive of creativity:

Behaviour One: Make More Use of Their Mental Raw Material

It seems that when highly creative people are trying to solve a problem or achieve a goal, particularly when the goal is related to their area of creative strength, they use much more of their brains than do ordinary people or, indeed, even themselves when not focused on a creative task. If the average person is asked to draw a picture of a cat, she will most likely think about the physical appearance of a cat and replicate it as best she can with pen and paper. The creative artist, on the other hand, will think in much more depth. She’ll think not only about the cat, but the placement of the cat; what the cat is doing; the lighting; the kind of lines to use and much more. She may decide to humanize the cat and give it emotions. Perhaps she’ll decide to draw a sexy cat with a human body wearing an evening gown. Maybe she’ll simply draw a blur representing a cat in motion.

By using much more of her brain to achieve her goal, the highly creative person in effect provides herself with more raw material from which to construct ideas than the average person. The average person thinks only about drawings of cats and the basic characteristics of cats. This limits the level of creativity she can achieve. The highly creative person thinks about much more — all the while retaining some connection to cats. It is not surprising that, with so much raw material, she is able to be more creative in the realization of her ideas.

They Think Before They Act
It takes time to run through all that raw material in the brain. This is why creative people tend to think before they act. The play with the issue in their minds for a time, looking at a range of possibilities before choosing a direction. I see this when I work with creative people. When you give an average person a creative challenge, she tends immediately to try and come up with ideas. But because her mind is too focused on the issues of the challenge, her ideas are limited in scope as well. 

Incidentally, the highly creative person does not focus on her left brain or right brain for a simple reason: it’s a myth (Christian Jarrett (June 2012) “Why the Left-Brain Right-Brain Myth Will Probably Never Die”; Psychology Today.) Creative people use a lot of their brains, not one hemisphere or the other!

Curiosity Is Creative Play
Rather than simply collect information, their brains play with it. One person might see a horse standing in a field and think it is a magnificent looking animal. Another, more curiously creative person, might wonder what the horse thinks about all day in the field. She might wonder how the horse can cope for long hours of inactivity without a book to read. 

Spontaneous Ideas
For instance, it is by asking what use could be made of not very sticky glue that some people discovered Post-Its. Pablo Picasso wondered how he could depict three dimensional reality, as viewed from different perspectives, on a two dimensional canvas and came up with cubism.

Creative mind
Behaviour Two: Less Intellectual Regulation

The dorsolateral prefrontal region of the brain is responsible for, among other things, intellectual regulation (Simon Ross (2008) “Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex”; Psychlopedia). It includes the brain’s censorship bureau; the bit of the brain that prevents us from saying or doing inappropriate things. It seems that in highly creative people, this part of the brain becomes much less active than normal during the period of creation. It is not that highly creative people are not afraid of ridicule or criticism (indeed, many artists are highly sensitive). Rather, it never occurs to them that others might ridicule their ideas.

Creative People Are Not as Rebellious as You Think
Instead, they follow their own rules or systems for evaluating ideas and deciding whether to move forward with those ideas. These rule systems are often logical, at least to the creative thinker. An artist, for example, will not make a name for herself by studiously copying current trends. Rather, she will become famous by being unique. 

Creative People Are Logical
That logic may be based in part on emotions and feelings — especially in some artists. If anything, by not feeling compelled to fit the demands of popular culture, the creative artist needs to be even more logical than the average person who assumes that if everyone wears and buys a particular style jacket, then it is safe to buy and wear such a jacket.

Creative People Tend to Be Less Honest
Research by Francesca Gino and Dan Ariely (Francesca Gino, Dan Ariely (2011) “The Dark Side of Creativity: Original Thinkers Can be More Dishonest”; Harvard Business School Working Paper) confirms that, in general, highly creative people are less honest than averagely creative people. The reason for this seems to be that creative people can use their creativity to justify their actions in ways that less creative people cannot do.