Mandatory Nerd Reading – The Other Side of Innovation (Execution)

March 11, 2013

“Ideas are the easy part … delivering on an idea is the hard part. It’s a long hard journey – from imagination to impact” is the theme of the “HowTo Innovate Book” The Other Side of Innovation: Solving the Execution Challenge « Vijay Govindarajan, Chris Trimble To the books authors, VG & Trimble, Thank You for that. I’ve always found that delivering on an innovation is extremely challenging. Reading through this book was like poring salt in old wounds. It reminded me of all the screw-ups I’ve made and introduced me to many more. My first reaction has been to recommend this book to anyone I come in contact to. It is that good.

I really like how they position an Innovation Team within an existing business. It’s a partnership. They dig into the issues of the “relationship” between Innovation Teams and Corporate Staff. They talk about hiring outside employees. Why and Why not. They dig into Power Balance and Status Issues. They cover most of the “conventional” wisdom and either confirm or debunk it. Fantastic.

The second section of the book is “HowTo Run an Innovation Experiment”. I really like the implications of that title. It is enough to ruffle a few feathers. That is “Innovations are Experiments … they are not guaranteed, we’re doing this test because … we don’t know how to do it”. They introduce very good concepts and provide a few tools.

How Does It Fit With Steve Blank’s Leanlaunch Pad and Customer Development?

I’m a Steve Blank fan-boy and didn’t need another book on innovation, but I did find it on his blogs’ short-list of books to read. I was curious since he hasn’t added many books to the shortlist in a long time.

My first pass is that VG & Trimble are very synergistic with Steve Blank’s Customer Development and Leanlaunch Pad. They are Yin & Yang. The complementary nature is in the style of delivery and where they come from. VG & Trimble choose a more time honoured business school justification of “Innovation as an Experiment” via collecting a ton of data and synthesizing it. They provide a very good “wrapper” for understanding “Innovation as an Experiment”. This is in contrast to Steve Blank’s “Gonzo/Manifesto” style that “practitioners” prefer. That said everyone has to read both, especially your “evil twin”, if you’re a practitioner then you have to read VG & Trimble no matter how much you don’t want to, and vice-versa. In a nutshell, VG & Trimble’s data seems to validate the LLP “Innovation as Experiment” approach. They are friend.

The high-level stuff. VG & Trimble provide a high-level framework for innovation within an existing business – Intrapreneurship. They provide a solid justification for spending time on “The Team” and “The Experiment”. VG & Trimble are much more focussed on Intrapreneurs and that means that they have some amazing points on “relationships” between the Core Business and the Innovation Team. A lot of these relationship issues are similar to those between Investors and Startups, but many are very different. If you’re an Intrapreneur you really need to read the “The Team” section. It will make a difference.

The main differences are about depth & details in “The Experiment” section. Here I would say that VG & Trimble do a great job laying out the problem to be solved. They provide useful tools and processes. If you’re doing this for real right now, then you need that mental support right now. And if your “Experiment” requires you to get customers for your product then you’d better dig into The Leanlaunch Pad (LLP) process via the Startup Owner’s Manual for more detail provided by a “practitioner”.

Slideware & Chapter 1

More Reviews

These are both very detailed reviews.

Thank You! (e@UBC & Lean LaunchPad Volunteers )

March 8, 2013

I’d to thank all the people who made e@UBC’s LLP workshop so much fun. I think we’ve given momentum to something very important.

The Donors-of-Time

  • A big Thank You to all the donors-of-time that made this a reality.
  • It’s >90% of us!

The Instructors

  • Paul Cubbon and I seemed to click during our “first date”. Paul brought great pace, intensity, focus. and structure to the class. I really liked his addition of the Pulsepress back-channel and the results of him “advising” me to use “less time” in my presentations. He also bought me a bottle of wine! Thank You Paul.

The Mentors

  • Doug Johnson, David Fox, Dylan Gunn, Andre Marziali, Mario Palumbo, Chuck Hamilton, and Steve Morgan
  • A big Thank You. Your efforts were very visible.

The e@UBC student “staff”

  • Peggy, Hans, Tagg, and … I’m sure I missed someone else who did the setup and tear down. Thank You

The Teams

  • Wow! You all put in a lot of “sweat”. Thanks for the great effort. It made the workshop.
  • 3D Bio Printer, Achievement Builder, Axon, Dragonfly, Foosler, Lululemon, Urban Farming, Zenith Wind, and ZipThru.
  • I also want to acknowledge that the teams that didn’t make it all the way played an important role in this workshop. They also learned what they needed to learn.
  • ps. tip to Dragonfly for the personal “Thank You” card on the last day. It made my day.

The Guys Who Paid For It – e@UBC
Thank You!

The e@UBC Team

  • Anuj Singhal, Deven Dave, and the new guy Andy Talbot
  • Thank You for providing the support to make this happen.
  • Thanks for paying for this “great sandbox” that is LLP.

Parting Notes

  • … I’m getting used to the reality that I’m “Mr. Tough Love” ;-)
  • It’s a pleasure to have such a great platform, e@UBC, to donate my time to. It’s so great spending time with people who want to work! Thanks (again)

Real Market vs Expectations Market — Your Investor Pitch

February 25, 2013

This is a modified version of a post from the current Leanlaunch Pad session.

One of the most challenging aspects of business today is that the financial world mostly lives in an “Expectations Market” (investing/gambling) and your success as a startup requires that you immerse yourself in a “Real Market” (servicing customers).

As you progress you will eventually need to develop an investor presentation. You will find that these people speak a completely different language than you. It’s mainly because they are “betting on you”. They are not interested in your work. They may say that you have a winner, and that is in context of …

They are interested in knowing that you are interested in your work and are doing it. They are betting on the likelihood of your ability to solve the problem you are working on.

Practicing Your Story in “Gambler Speak” is Important

So you need to practice talking about your work in these terms. The terms of an investor ( or much easier to understand .. that of a gambler). This is what the UBC Tech Ventures class has done very well. Mike Lyons is a master of mapping the “reality story” to the “expectations market”. His style is the opposite of LLP. That is start with what the “expectations” market wants to hear and do the work required to meet that. We are solving “real peoples” problems and couching that need in the words of the “expectations” market. They both end up in the same place. Each is valid. Each has been going on for a long time.

Some Reading – Roger Martin, Dean of UofT B School

Roger Martin, Dean of UofT’s Business School, has written a great book on this subject called, “Fixing the Game”. I highly recommend that you read the first chapter. It summarizes the world you will soon be dealing with. It’s good to know why people respond differently. You can meet them in kind. Show them why you are a low risk. Why can you do it better than the others. That’s what they want to know. They want low risk returns.

Fixing the Game: First Chapter here:

What A Beautiful Rant! Willful Blindness – A full frontal assault on the image of our daily lives

February 21, 2013

What a beautiful rant! Willful Blindness: Why We Ignore the Obvious at Our Peril by Margaret Heffernan is so much fun. The book moves with the pace of a Sci Fi Thriller like Kill Decision. She just rips our day-to-day existence to shreds! Page after page. But like a Sci-Fi Thriller I was turning pages fast. I’ve read about a lot of psychology and neurology mentioned in this book so I’m a bit more willing to believe her.

I keep thinking that there is a connection between “Willful Blindness” and the use of the word “Illusion” in spiritual writings. For example, I’ve read many dharma books where monks mention that “our lives are illusion” and I usually have no clue what they mean. This book is full of “concrete examples of the illusion that is our lives”. Maybe this is what they mean. Super cool and Super not cool. (tip to Doug Duncan for recommending this book and planting this seed )

Here is the “promo description”. It’s a full frontal assault on our daily life. I’ve also got a few links of books and readings on this thread below.

Margaret Heffernan argues that the biggest threats and dangers we face are the ones we don’t see–not because they’re secret or invisible, but because we’re willfully blind. A distinguished businesswoman and writer, she examines the phenomenon and traces its imprint in our private and working lives, and within governments and organizations, and asks: What makes us prefer ignorance? What are we so afraid of? Why do some people see more than others? And how can we change?

Covering everything from our choice of mates to the SEC, Bernard Madoff’s investors, the embers of BP’s refinery, the military in Afghanistan, and the dog-eat-dog world of subprime mortgage lenders, this provocative book demonstrates how failing to see–or admit to ourselves or our colleagues–the issues and problems in plain sight can ruin private lives and bring down corporations. Heffernan explains how willful blindness develops before exploring ways that institutions and individuals can combat it. In the tradition of Malcolm Gladwell and Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Margaret Heffernan’s Willful Blindness is a tour de force on human behavior that will open your eyes.

More on this thread

Riffing on Consumerization of Technology (@pmarca tech crunch interview )

February 6, 2013

Marc Andreessen On The Future Of Enterprise | TechCrunch is a “beautiful riff” on the Consumerization of Enterprise Software. If you’re in the technology business you’ve known this for a long time. The consumer problems are often “more technically challenging” than the Enterprise/Telco problems. Thus the consumer solutions are often very good at a fraction of the selling price. They are hard to ignore. For example, in networking hardware, audio and video usage in the home makes bandwidth much more important for consumers than enterprises. The enterprise desktop is easy to serve. While the home desktop and media center is hard. A Linksys EA6500 Router is a marvel. This is overkill for a small office and perfect for media centered home. The “new” thing for me is the extent to which this is now true and the myriad of solutions available. Wow!

More Banter

I love listening to Marc Andreesen’s manifesto style. Love ’em or hate ’em. There is a lot to be learned by this technology “State of the Union” post.

It reminds me of my past riffs on the Consumerization of Telecom Semiconductors. CommSemi Nightmares — 802.3 L3+ chips are just “a backplane device” « Iain’s Chips & Tech. I had a good time re-reading the post. It’s not for broad consumption. It’s an acronym deluge. It was for an audience of 5. Once a chip-nerd always a chip-nerd. C’est la vie. At least my intended audience read it.

Synthesizing Your Work ( HowTo: Customer Development & Leanlaunch Pad )

February 6, 2013

* updated Jan 7, 2014 – add “Insight & Inspiration Map” as super-set of Market Adoption Forces Map
* updated Nov 18, 2013 – add Competitive Analysis – Petal Diagram » Steve Blank
* updated Mar 25, 2013 - includes Business Model Canvas as Scorecard examples – Jersey Square video and MammOptics.ppt


I’ve been having many meetings with people early on in their Customer Development Process. A common issue is that the Startup Owners Manual by Steve Blank is very large and figuring out where to start is overwhelming. The second issue is the unsaid, “You don’t really mean I have to develop my own diagrams and models?”. The answer is, “Yes your progress is directly correlated to how well your version of these diagrams and models is!”. Here is a post from the current LLP workshop that I’m running. It may help you prioritize. Enjoy.

Synthesizing Your Work

Here are some thoughts on synthesizing your work/data, gathering insights from your data, and develop new questions/tests to perform.

First it would be good to go back to Chapter 4 and revisit your hypotheses. In doing that you’ll see that there are a lot of diagrams and models that will help you synthesize your work. The practice of evolving these diagrams from “rough sketches” to “working models” is an important part of your work. Telling your story with these supporting diagrams will become a powerful tool for you. The gaps in the diagrams are most useful because these gaps highlight what you need to do next. Continue to focus on the “fit” between “Value Proposition” and “Customer Segments”.

The second point is that we have been focussing on the marketing aspect and you should take a peek at the Selling Concepts. This brings Channels, Customer Relationships, and Revenues more into view.

The third is to read the “Market Type” subsection pages 112–122. There is a big difference in the actions you will need to take in entering Existing, New, and Re-Segmented markets. The key is that no one is entering “existing” market head on – you are either a creating a new segment or a new market. Please look at Market Type- Cost of Entry, Table 4.2, page 115 for an answer to why this is the case.

Fourth. Some of you need to read Intellectual Property ( SOM page 171–174).


Go Back to Chapter 4 – Refine and Go Deeper

Customer Discovery Phase One: State Your Business Model Hypotheses

  • Review Chapter 4 with a focus on Value Proposition and Customer Segments.
    • See if you can take your Canvas to another level.
  • Then take a look at Channels, Customer Relationships, and Revenue. The online How to Build a Startup course covers this material with a depth that complements the textbook.

Diagrams, Visualization, Models

The Startup Owners Manual is full of techniques to diagram your work. There are Customer Workflow, Purchasing Decision Flows, Sales Roadmaps, Get-Keep-Grow Funnels, Market Maps, Organization Influence Maps, and more. Here are some that you should take begin getting familiar with and start working on.

Diagram Figure Page Number
- Business Model Canvas Examples
( As Scorecard w/ Iterations )
* MammOptics 9 Canvas Iterations
* Jersey Square Canvas Video
- Customer Workflow (organizational/influence map) 4.4 Page 92
- Customer Archetypes to Drive Strategy 4.5 Page 94
- Day-in-the-Life To Drive Strategy 4.6 Page 95
- Petal Diagram
(Competitive Analysis & Market Segmentation)
Petal Diagram
- Market Type Tradeoffs Table 4.1 Page 114
- Market Map Fig 4.1 Page 119
- “Insight & Inspiration” Map
(super-set of Market Adoption Forces)
- Market Adoption Forces
( Key Players )
MammOptics (Adoption)
- Purchasing Decision Tree MammOptics (Purchasing Tree)
- Customer Workflow
(Before & After)
MammOptics(Customer Workflow)
- Get, Keep, Grow Funnel Figure 4.11 page 126
- Marketing Collateral Plan Figure 9.2 page 301
- Plan of Record Sketch
(whole product timeline)
(includes Marketing Collateral) PoR Sketch.ppt
- Service Journey
(Day in Life of Product )
* Internet H/W
* Medical V0.1
- Organization & Influence Maps “Deeper” Page 345–349
- Test Selling Page 375
- Refine Influence map page 389–395
- Sales Access Strategy Map 10.10 page 389–395
- Sales Roadmap figure 10.11 page 394

Comment on “What is the End Game?”

For me ( physical products and channels) the End Game of “customer development” is to develop a Sales Funnel with supporting Marketing activities, and materials, for your product. This translates into four maps/models: 1) Plan of Record Sketch ( the whole product timeline), 2) Get-Keep-Grow Funnel model, 3) Sales Access Strategy Map, and 4) the Sales Roadmap. If you can “discover” these and make them “operational” then everything else will fall into place. You will have what is called, “Traction” for your product/service. From this point you can “really” develop a solid “bottom-up” Sales Forecast which will provide you with a ton of leverage with investors. To make those models work you’ll need to do a lot detail work first ( iteratively ).

For more colour on the priorities of Sales vs. Marketing vs. Engineering read on. The Sharp End of the Stick « Steve Blank

Let’s Get Some Sleep! Internal Time is Science You Need to Know About

January 21, 2013

What the !@#$ is Social Jet-Lag? What the !@#$ is a chronobioligist? I’m a sucker for such cool terms. My technical mind was “drooling”. I really wanted to get to the meat of this book. I really wanted to know about sleep. I’ve had lots of trouble with it. Others dear to me have had trouble with it. I was very curious. Why do some people sleep late? Others early? Some long? Some short? What’s really natural? What’s not?

The brainpickings blog post Internal Time: The Science of Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag, and Why You’re So Tired « Brain Pickings is very thorough and captures the detail in this book. It is worth a read. The concepts are very provocative. But sometimes blog posts are too dense for me. Sometimes I’ve got to read the book to really get it. This is one of those books. There is so much good stuff in this book and the author Till Roenneberg tries very hard to make it “popular science”. He’s done a pretty good job at presenting his work for lay people. I think the problem is that this book contradicts so much conventional wisdom. It’s like everything I knew about my bodies’ clock was wrong.

This book goes way beyond what I thought I wanted to know. It is amazing stuff. You can try to dig in via the brain pickings blog. But I’m guessing that the graphs will look cool and whet your appetite to really get the message of the book.

The big message is that my “Internal Time Clock” is extremely important, it is part of me (like an arm), it may differ a lot from others, and it changes significantly as I age. My “Internal Time Clock” may not match the “External Time Clock” that I am trying to live by. I may be many hours out of synch. This lack of synchronization may be from the hours required by my job or even something as simple as “Daylight Savings Time”. That is not good, it’s called – Social Jet Lag. My “Internal Time Clock” manages the timing of my bio-chemistry, or manages my “chronobiology”. Fascinating. Important.

Here’s the Amazon link. Internal Time: Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag, and Why You’re So Tired « Till Roenneberg: Books

Parting Wish

( It would be cool if Jonah Lehrer took a stab at this material for a lay audience.)

Master & Commander – Aubrey-Maturin Series is a Must Read for Sci-Fi Fans

January 20, 2013

“The problem with the Aubrey-Maturin Series is that there are ONLY 20 books. You’ll never want it to end. It’s just not enough.” That was the fanatical introduction I was given when I first started the Aubrey–Maturin series (Wikipedia) series. I’m now on book 18 The Yellow Admiral – Wikipedia and it’s too true, this is a magical book series.

Historical Science Fiction may be a good classfication of these novels. The Aubrey-Maturin series is very similar to reading Neal Stephenson’s Historical Science Fiction books – Cryptonomicon (Wikipedia), Quicksilver (Wikipedia), The Confusion (Wikipedia), and The System of the World (Wikipedia). If you read those then you’ll really like this. They’re all fantastic entertainment.


Patrick O’Brian

Neal Stephenson

Big Questions – If A Cow Didn’t Fart For A Whole Year And Then Did One Big Fart, Would It Fly Into Space?

January 6, 2013

Big Questions From Little People and Simple Answers From Great Minds was the most popular book over our family’s Christmas Vacation.

The folks at brain pickings have a great review of this book and cover many adult focused topics. For example, they cover Alain de Botton’s exploration of dreams, Richard Dawkins on evolution and cousin marriages, David Eagleman on why we can’t tickle ourselves ( I liked this one a lot ), and more adult-ish topics likes stars and love.

This is a book of kids questions and I was wondering, “Where are the goofy questions?” I was glad to find a goofy gem on page 241 “If A Cow Didn’t Fart For A Whole Year And Then Did One Big Fart, Would It Fly Into Space?” The answer by Mary Roach is fantastic. She talks to Ed DePeters of UC Davis to calculate how much methane it produces. Then she talks to rocket scientist Ray Arons to determine how high it would fly. I’m not giving away the answer.


What About Time in a Startup, or Entrepreneurial, Community? We Get Old and Want Stability

December 19, 2012


What about time? One point that surrounds Brad Feld’s Startup communities is the element of time. He says that an entrepreneurial leader needs to commit to a “rolling” 20 years.

Over that period of time it is pretty easy to switch from the “crazy networked entrepreneur” to the “staid hierarchical status quo” ( He calls this the patriarch problem). I think it’s a little deeper than one guy. We are all searching for stability.

On a personal level the Rands In Repose: Stables and Volatiles post speaks to an entrepreneurs journey from “volatile” to “stable”. Most people I passed this along to said, “Great Stuff. It doesn’t talk about the needed renewal. The story where the stable goes back to his/her roots. Where is that article?”

On a higher level Roger Martin’s Knowledge Funnel illustrates this journey. His book The Design of Business does a great job of describing communication between what he calls “validity” and “reliability”.

On another plane psychologist Jon Haidt’s new book Book Review: The Righteous Mind – speaks to the moral values espoused by those who believe more in individuality vs those who believe in institutions. Interesting stuff. This book is a great read. Absolutely mind warping. Buy it for yourself for Christmas. Or go the library and put yourself on the wait list.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 185 other followers