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Where Innovation Happens

As I get closer to a go/no-go decision on a project, I've been thinking about the difference about my vision for the project and the supportive innovations to enable the core innovations The vision combines (in unequal parts) product, core innovation as I imagine it, the application of that core innovation, design, marketing,  developer ecosystem, and business development. The core innovation enables everything else, but it's the application of the innovation that makes it meaningful, useful, and in this case, fun. This week we're testing initial approaches to the implementation for our specific application, and that's where we'll develop the enabling innovations, which is basically where the rubber meets the road. The difference is that the enabling innovation happens at the source of real problems only encountered in the making of something, and in a project like this just getting the essence of it right isn't enough; it also has to be safe, the compone
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Projects vs. Startups

Yesterday I spent some time thinking about the difference between my successful starts and my projects, which I'll call R&D that never makes it to market. The start is the most fun, and it can also be the hardest part, and it's certainly the most important: figure out the market, the opportunity, develop vision, design the product, figure out the sourcing if it's a physical product, figure out best methods and user interface if it's a software product (and both if it's both hardware and software), refine the product, find early customers, test, refine, improve, iterate all of that while you also develop the brand, the marketing language, figure out the best sales approach, sales system, sales language, customer support, etc. During that time you're setting up internal systems of communication, accounting, legal, HR, etc, but mostly you wing it until you have more than a few people. And, of course, you have to figure out how to pay the bills. You can

How Cities Can Avoid Ransom: Pull the Plug

About ten years ago a shipment of flowers from Latin America to the Miami Airport was found to have a dangerous insect not native to the US; it could have had (and maybe has) disastrous impact on the US flower industry were it to survive further north. It must be an impossible job to try to keep bugs and viruses that don't belong here out of the US; imagine how many carriers of viruses just boarded a plan somewhere else. Hold that thought. This Internet Thing Is Gonna Be Big I remember trying to convince a customer back in the 90's (before ChiliSoft) that this Internet thing was gonna be big, and the dozen ways it would make them faster, stronger, better than their competition--or whatever the pitch was back then. More efficient, less money. Tastes great, less filling. It took some time, but eventually most businesses adopted the Internet in some way--for browsing, email, external services like booking travel, and ultimately apps. Businesses and governments were sold

Reinvention

It's been more than a year since the last loaf of bread left The Lancaster Food Company bakery. The half life of grief might be about six months, but the final final move-out wasn't until February of this year; the main was November 30th of last year. So I'm crossing a threshold about now, looking forward more, but still examining what went wrong, what went right. It's a lot less painful when I remember three things: we did a lot of good for some people, I did everything I could, as did my partner, and people weren't buying enough what we were selling fast enough. The regrets pop up now and again, but less frequently, and I'm learning to just welcome them in, serve them tea, then send them on their ways. One regret is foundational: we didn't ask ourselves what the best possible product line would be. I did question bread because of the reliance on plastic, but that's not the right business model question, but this is: If we're going to make fo

Immersive Entrepreneurs & What's Next for Me

I'm an immersive entrepreneur. Not all are; some want to know the basics of what they need to know to sell their products or services, and that's enough, which is a very good thing because it means a lot of business keeps moving that way. But innovation can only occur at the point of the problem, which we can perhaps envision, but most of us learn more by working on it in real time, in the room, experiencing the problems and obstacles that serve as the sand in our oyster (broad discovery can happen anywhere, as can vision). We have to touch it, toss it up and down, stare at it for hours, ask it how it's doing, what its lineage is, how its ancestors were made, what went wrong and why, how often. We need to know the smell of the room, the noise in the hallway, the motion outside the window--the environmental stuff when it's relevant. The bottom of a delivery van gets hot to the touch on a hot summer day--you might not want to pack the floor with boxes of chocolate

Momentum is Fleeting

Doors opened. Conversations happened. Approving nods all around. Emails flew about.   Lunches, then dinner some nights. People showed up and stayed. You soaked it all in, counted your cards, dreamt of what could be next.  It was a grand time. After the break, silence. Doors closed. Conversations stopped. No meetings, no nods. Emails dried up. Bag lunch, leftovers. Nobody showed up. You soaked it all in, no cards to count, wondering if this is how it all falls apart. Momentum is fleeting. Don't take it for granted. Those balls you were juggling are now hanging in the air all by themselves, stuck in the magic of the moment. The magic leaves, the balls fall down. And you pick 'em back up again and try to remember how you made it happen. When you know there's momentum, seize it. Carpe diem. Hoo-rah. Hop on the desk. Make your stand. Round everyone up and ask them to join you. Sign 'em up. Take pictures. Slap backs. Share apples. High fives all around. Keep tha

Strong Opinions, Strongly Held

I really like smart, polite people who mean well. I've heard the phrase from a number of smart polite people that they believe in the phrase, "strong views (or opinions), weakly held."  When I first heard that I nodded in agreement and considered its wisdom. It implies a willingness to cooperate, to not be blinded by your own beliefs to the detriment of progress.  And I'm sure it works in certain groups---collaborators working on improving the status quo--in certain situations. And yet it can sound like "yeah I have a strong opinion about this, but I don't really care that much about the outcome."  There's another group of people--a smaller group, I'd bet. These people have strong opinions, strongly held.  Steve Jobs didn't hold his strong opinions weakly. Nor did MLK. Nor did Sara Blakely, the now-billionaire founder of Spanx. Nor did John Lennon, or Basquiat, or Miles Davis.  Weakly held opinions lead to weak outcomes, the