IdeaFox – an innovation management platform for teams to co-create and implement solutions

In the process of building new digital business models I often revert to the business canvas template and generate a ton of MS Word/Excel docs and series of email threads in that process.

IdeaFox seems to deal with all that. I knew about the platform quite some years ago but got to lay my hands on it just recently (should have done earlier though). It has managed to put away most of the aforementioned overboard and gave quite an orderly look to my creative chaos.

IdeaFox is cloud based and covers all steps from collective ideation, co-creation and evaluation, to idea realization. It is simple and easy to use platform. I started a new project within minutes and is quite intuitive (whoever knows me, would sigh how rarely I actually say this).

But just in case you need a tutorial, here is one.

It can actually do more than I do with it. IdeasFox allows idea challenges, idea realization in a stage gate processes, or collection of best practices.

Typical users seems to be innovation and digitization teams (like I am), but also teams collecting ideas for operational improvements.

In sum, IdeaFox solves three needs of organizations that want to get better:

  • Get better solutions by efficiently connecting a broad group of participants
  • Improve realization of ideas and get up to 20% quicker (claim by IdeaFox)
  • Increase employee engagement and foster transparent communication

I also tend to know the two lovely people behind the platform so this is yet another argument for me to give IdeaFox a try if you need such a platform.

Meet Dörte and Aron

Looking forward to your feedback and please share your impressions.

How technology champs set goals – the power of OKRs

I find it increasingly challenging to stay aligned with the company and team goals of a modern business organization. The reason is simple, I believe we live in super fast paced times and it has become imperative for a business to make swift turns on its path to success. This is why OKR seems to be an excellent (and proven) system to align and quickly adapt to change while at the same time measuring results.

OKR is an abbreviation for Objective & Key Result. The concept comes initially from Intel Corporation and is well known for being used amongst the biggest technology companies like Google and Uber.

OKRs are meant to set strategy and goals over a specified amount of time for an organization, teams and individuals.

At the end of a set period, the OKRs provide a reference to evaluate how each piece of the organization did in executing the objectives.

If you have an hour and half I recommend to watch Rick Klau’s video on the topic. If you don’t, take a look at my notes on the topic. Credit goes to Rick but there is plenty of examples and resources on the topic.

Rick Klau about OKRs at Google

The OKR starter hints:

  • Works well if OKRs are publicly available to the entire company.
  • Do not turn them into performance evaluation.
  • Set, reviewed, and revised quarterly (and annually).
  • Initiated or at least supported by the management.
  • Try to do with ready tools. There are plenty of them e.g. Perdoo (Made in Berlin), BetterWorks, 7geese.

Objectives (the WHAT you want to achieve):

  • Cannot exceed 5 in total.
  • Must be strategic.
  • Not necessarily measurable (e.g. grow profit margins).
  • Should cascade – relate to the OKRs one level up and same time to what the individual wants to work on.
  • Mostly (60%) set by the individual.
  • Should get a score.

Key results (the HOW you know you have achieved your objective):

  • Must be measurable (e.g. launch a new feature; reduce defects by x%).
  • Should be hard to achieve so there is a substantial effort.
  • Are graded quarterly (should average 0.6 or 0.7 so it is fairly hard to get 1; 0.4 or below is bad, but a learning opportunity, not a failure)
  • Max. 4 key results per objective

Jason Carlin summed it up quite well:

The most useful thing I was ever told about writing effective OKRs is “Key Results must describe outcomes, not activities. If your KRs include words like ‘analyze’, ‘help’, ‘participate’, they’re describing activities. Instead, describe the end-user impact of these activities. ‘Publish latency measurements from ADR ad serving study by March 7th; is better than ‘assess ADR latency’.”

If you want to see further example OKRs just go to 00:07:36 and 00:36:32 of Rick’s video.

As said there is plenty being said about the topic. If you are sensitive on your spend, try to work out your OKRs using tools like the Startup OKR template. For established businesses I would recommend getting a coach and a good tool to get you started (Perdoo, BetterWorks).

The Netflix culture – a myth or a must for company growth and sustainability

This time my topic is around company culture and in particular the culture of Netflix. Also big apologies to those expecting my next post on blockchain, please have some more patience, it is almost there, and I just could not hold on to share this Netflix jewel.

My personal experience and believe is that culture does not come from senior management or below but is set by the founders and the CEO (if not the same). In that respect, Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, gave a stunning example on culture and leadership by putting it altogether in a not so short presentation (you will find it below). He published the actual presentation in August 2009 when most of us were worried about the financial meltdown and existential topics. May be this is why it took so long for people to actively talk about it (or maybe it is just my humble me noticing it just now).

Reed Hastings made it clear that instead of nice sounding values (and often fake ones), he has designed the actual ones for his company. And so that there is not too much interpretation involved, he added plenty of examples :-).

“The actual company values, as opposed to the nice-sounding values, are shown by who gets rewarded, promoted, or let go.”

Takeaway I: The nine Netflix values are as follows:

  • Judgement
  • Communication
  • Impact
  • Curiosity
  • Innovation
  • Courage
  • Passion
  • Honesty
  • Selflessness

Reed has explained pretty well what each one means so please take a look in the deck, below you will find just my own takes coupled with a bit of commentary.

Reed Hasting’s Netflix Culture 2001

For me values such as Judgement and Communication point towards resolving the plague of each business – employees NOT being empowered to make decisions and communication flowing efficiently. But there is a catch – this of course is only possible if the people in place are AAA professionals. Else said (Takeaway II):

“Great workplace is stunning colleagues”

and

“Unlike many companies, we practice: adequate performance gets generous severance package”

and

“We are a team, not a family – we are like a prosports team, not a kid’s recreational team”

Takeaway III: Reed also references to The Keeper Test manager case. This is something I have vaguely practiced but never managed to summarise it so crisp: if somebody tells you he/she will leave, are you going to fight hard to keep the person?

At Netflix internal attitude such as “cutthroat” or “sink or swim” are not tolerated. Yet, this can apply only for a AAA team that will tolerate fast learners or otherwise

“Sustained B-level performance, despite “A for effort”, generates a generous severance package, with respect”

“Sustained A-level performance, despite minimal effort, is rewarded with more responsibility and great pay.”

The focus on high performance comes on a seemingly scientific measure:

“In procedural work, the best are 2x better than the average.”

“In creative/inventive work, the best are 10x better than the average.”

Takeaway IV: The Rare responsible person – yet another ingenious concept. Reed is referencing to the rare type of attitude towards self improvement, self motivation and that can even be spurred in people that pick someone else’s trash in the office and throw it away.

Takeaway V: When company grows, it often fails to add proportionately top talent to its workforce. Sometimes I even believe managers are afraid to surround themselves with top people and see them as a threat. The solution – grow talent density faster than complexity. In other words outgrow complexity created by growth by hiring top talent at a faster rate than the growth itself (as much as you can).

Takeaway VI: Netflix is not in a safety-critical market such as running nuclear plants so it rather focuses on rapid recovery. This for me translates quite clearly to the Facebook’s Motto

Move Fast and Break Things

But at Netflix, also Fix fast. 🙂

Takeaway VII: Another interesting point is the Netflix approach to working hours and vacation: No 9am to 5pm work policy, no vacation policy. Practically no tracking, yet people are actively encouraged to take generous retreats and come back with fresh ideas. And on top

“Career “Planning” Not for Us”

Netflix has dismissed formalised planning including mentor assignments, rotations, multi year career paths.

“High performance people are generally self-improving through experience, observation, introspection, reading, and discussion.”

Takeaway VIII: Managing through context

High performance people will do better work if they understand the context. Highly Aligned, loosely coupled … approach for corporate team work.

and

Investing in context means – frequent department meetings, being open about strategies and results.

Takeaway IX: (Last one 🙂 Always pay top of the market and do not connect payment with the well being of the company as times change but you can be successful only with top talent.

payment is aligned with what the market pays and what would cost to replace such a person.

and

… side effect is that rarely there will be a higher offer if somebody wants to leave.

and

it is tolerable to talk to other companies and then talk to your supervisor about your actual market value

This is all from me for today. Hope enjoyed the read and I will follow up soon with my next article.

P.S. All citations above are courtesy of Reed Hastings.

A bit about ISTA 2016, the killer of Slack and Blockchain

ista crosslend

This November I came back on stage at the ISTA conference 2016. The 2 day event gathered quite a crowd of geeks from the software industry and in particular from Bulgaria. Hosted in the top notch Sofia Event Center and with a great view to the Vitosha Mountain, the event allowed me to dust out after such a long break. In about an hour I walked with the audience through the evolving online consumer behaviour, and how the internet and ecommerce proliferation have opened the door for a whole new myriad of financial services innovations. That eventually brought me to cryptocurrencies, p2p lending and ultimately securitisation services through CrossLend. What struck me is that the hardcore financial language didn’t scare off the audience. I was actually a bit afraid that my topic might be too softy, yet the insights of how we run our IT operations rounded the talk and instigated plenty of questions from the audience. So all in all, a great event, amazing people and in support of a noble cause.

Another thing that I cannot not resist to mention is the lack of excitement in the media about the advance of a Slack killer from Microsoft. And from Facebook. And… no more big players, for now. So the rumours were true. Microsoft released its Teams product and bets it could beat Slack in their own game. Instead of buying Slack, MS goes for its own product for a second time in recent years. And it certainly has a scalable channel to get a sizeable chunk of the collaboration market. Same time there is the not so old mishap in the recent history of the company and namely building an awesome mobile OS, appealing mobile devices and still not succeeding to beat its equally powerful competitors. What failed MS was the lack of apps. What may fail them again is … the lack of apps (Slack has 750 of them). Yet, the main differentiator seems to be video calls capability. Well, yes, you may say we cannot compare Slack with Microsoft due to their vast difference in size. But keep in mind that Facebook has also launched Workplace and has won over 1 000 business clients. This is gonna be a heated one. Agree?

And finally, a bit about Blockchain.  It is officially my new darling to explore and you will probably get fed up with me writing about it again and again. Just saying 🙂

VCs spend an average of 3 mins, 44 secs on a pitch deck. What is the perfect deck then?

dollar-1164990_640DocSend recently published their findings from a research on the pitch decks of 200 companies raising funds. The companies raised a total of $360m so I believe this research could be treated as pretty representative.

Respected companies like Sequoia have long published their dream pitch deck.  Yet, DocSend has brought a bunch on insights that should be considered.

Here are the most important take aways in brief:

  • Seed raise takes 3 months on average.
  • Seed firms provide higher rounds with fewer meets than angels.
  • More meetings does not mean more money. 20-30 meetings should be enough.
  • Average time an investor spends on your deck is close to but under 4 minutes.
  • The perfect deck should be 20 pages or less.
  • Your deck should be mobile friendly, 1 out 8 investors views it on mobile.
  • The Sequoia suggested model seems to be ubiquitous in the industry as there were almost no big deviations on the slides required and their order. Check slide 7 for more info.
  • Investors spend most time on Financials, Team and Competition slides. If your financials are not ready yet, better do not include as they will be seriously scrutinized.
  • Do not include your deal terms in the deck.