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2020 Insight: Innovating at a Distance

2020 Insight: Innovating at a Distance

Stanford professor Tina Seelig reflects on her key entrepreneurial takeaway from 2020. She observes that, especially in times of change and uncertainty, entrepreneurs can be empowered by the necessity to innovate. When it comes to COVID-19, the challenges of the pandemic also presented an opportunity to refine remote work. Excerpt:
"Went to shits. I closed some browser tabs now see if this goes more perfect. So far so good. I can still see your face. You were talking about how it's, uh, so, uh, tough. How everyone's expecting you to figure out the vision once you, you get started and the, the purpose and that. It's just so much stuff on the shoulders. Hmm. Right. Yeah, And it, it's also, you, you meet these companies that have too big of a vision. You know, the, the ones that have most clear, uh, there's a water, uh, company that's just selling water, uh, in, in Germany and in Europe, uh, that is very much about, you know, you buy a bottle and then you. Uh, the, the, the save water somewhere else with some projects. And then it turns out, well if you, the more you look into these companies, they're not really doing that good business as well. And it's very disappointing. It's like in, uh, Hans, if you figure out, you know, the person that you were really, really a fan of, uh, was doping for the entire time. And then you're like, I don't wanna see two phones anymore. Okay. Hmm. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, if we're, if we're gonna talk, um, cutting through innovation bullshit, I guess we're gonna talk a lot about, uh, oh, it's all a balance and, you know, there's the, the golden middle way, the pathway that you should follow it. A little bit of this, a little bit of fat. Uh, what, what what's your, uh, tough cut methodology of saying, first off, focus on this and don't focus on the other things. Yeah. Yeah. Hm. Yeah. So don't, don't start with, uh, a purpose and then add on your product later is what you would say in general. Yeah. You're, you're against, uh, you're against the flow right now. You're the, you're the little fish swimming against the flow. But there might be an awakening about purpose. I kind of like purpose. It, uh, it, trying to understand it more and, and, uh, keeping people motivated working for something. It's just, it's good having it in the background, but, uh, it is annoying how much people focus on it, for sure. Where it's like, we're running a business here, , let's, let's. Yeah. Sustain and and scale. Yeah. Hmm. Yeah. Yeah. I, in a way it's very, it's more human. I think some of these very, very purpose driven. ventures are, they seem artificial because the human thing is to focus on the problem. Uh, I also recently saw a little flyer in a fi Rav bag that told the story really, really well, really succinctly and said, Look, there was this person, uh, and uh, suddenly Sweden wanted, uh, new school bags cuz they figured out, uh, the bags they have right now, they. They hurt the spine. So we got the half new backs and this person was like, Well, I know how to make backs for hiking and I'm gonna make the perfect school back. So he had a problem, he made a solution and then he went with that. And then, yeah, there's a nice picture of him and there's a story about the, the fox that is the logo and there's a story about nature, but it started with a person wanting to solve a problem. It didn't start with wanting to, you know, be a fox in. Yeah. Hmm. Yeah. Yeah, for sure. Yeah. But it, it was a, Would you say that the problem in this case, and I, I guess we don't know, but uh, would the problem be, uh, things should be lasting longer clothes and, and things like that? Is that the problem they were solving? Yeah. Yeah. Well, I mean, one thing is the, the marketing strategy and the other thing is what you do with with money, right? So, and, and, and part of it is branding, but, uh, like, we don't like Amazon, partly because we don't like how Jeff Bezo spends his money. He doesn't, you know, use it for any good. He just has fun with the money and, uh, and so it doesn't really, it's, it is not that connected to the product or the problem or the vision. It's just the person who gets the money, the entity. If it's a company of. In this case, it's a person who who uses to, to spend it on, on nature. Um, that is, it doesn't really have anything to do with the company. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. It's a, it's a gradient, but like if, if Nike decides to do the Patagonia strategy, they can't change where the money ends up, and I think that is a core difference. , uh, but it's not really part of the vision of the, the company. Well, maybe if you decide to never go public and things like that, uh, um. Yeah. But I think it was a nice start. Now, uh, we, we are, uh, imperfect, uh, innovation podcast. So we don't have a guest today. Uh, we have a little intro here where we had this little discussion. Our guest of today is, uh, uh, p. Uh, who is? Yep. He's with us here right now. Uh, he . Yeah, of course, of course. I'll practice all the names of the people we'll invite. Um, and, uh, John, we actually have you on, uh, kind of talking a little bit about the same topic you've been working inside of corporates and outside of corporates in the startup. Uh, with getting things done, innovating fast, uh, and, and cutting through the bullshit. Um, you're a very practical person. You wanna see things done. Uh, sometimes you may even take shortcuts. Uh, where did this start for you, this journey in, in practical innovation, That is very, That is very, very practical. Couldn't have been more practical. Yeah, basically not come, don't come up with, you know, a concept or ideas or a vision. Uh, like get it, get it done. Make something. Hmm. Yeah. Yeah. Right, right. Yeah. Yeah. At, at, uh, that reminds me so much of, uh, something we, we've started doing here, uh, at Idea Note, which is in demos where, where we show the software and, you know, they're asking some questions. We're making a point out of it now to really stop the conversation. Make them feel really uncomfortable and say, Listen, we are really, really interested in try before you buy. We know you work in a big company that wants to get into a six months procurement process of the best idea management platform. We understand, But please try, try with 10 people. See if you like it, get, you know, do test it out. Do something practical because I. Uh, that's the risk of the PowerPoint path, uh, of doing something. Uh, really, really, really thinking it through. Uh, but, you know, never taking the first step. Yeah. Yeah. exactly as far as long as they get there. And then if you, if, if they don't actually need the software, that's fine with us as well because, uh, you know, why go through six months of procurement then, you know, send an invoice and they, they, you know, might not end using it because they don't have the corporate culture to support it. Um, then everyone has put a lot of effort into this. Yeah. Yeah. For only there was an agency for that. Uh oh. Hey. Hey. Oh, was it adventurous? That agency. . Yeah, yeah, yeah. I was, I wasn't, I wasn't sure if that was a, a, a URL that is allowed. It, it doesn't look like a, a, a link if I paste it into Slack, but it is, uh, a URL directly. Right. ventures.agency. Yep. Nice. But we just talked about a little bit like culture, uh, which is also such a soft, uh, word and I, I feel like that is often. Something that when you wanna get something done, you need the, the backing of the entire company be behind you to get something done. There's a lot of fear when it comes to innovation. How do you tackle fear? Mm-hmm. Yeah, so you, you're saying, you're saying the best, uh, basically the best thing there is for, uh, for working against fear. Very visible, imperfect innovation so that you can see around you. Hmm. I Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Hm. Yeah. Yeah. Is, is there, uh, just, uh, because I'm thinking the, the zero listeners of our podcasts are really, uh, interested in, in, in practical, uh, stories here, right? Uh, is there something, something where you can talk about, uh, you know, start middle and end of, uh, where, where we were working against fear, uh, together your team. And you, you made some change happen or you made something practical happen much faster than, than you thought, um, or the others thought could be possible. Hmm. Hmm. Seth. Yeah. Yeah, those, those challenges. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. Hmm. And are, would you say that the solution, cuz you also work with, um, , uh, corporate startups and, uh, incubators and, and, and things like that. Uh, would you say the solution is more in general to be found by making it a separate part of the organization? A lot of companies have their innovation departments and kind of really give that part of power, whereas the solution more to, to not do that but double down on values, double down on making it really permeate all the, the ranks of an organiz. Mm-hmm. . Okay. Is there, is there a story in, in your career where you, you've seen that work, you know, for the first time or surprisingly, um, where then everyone was like, Oh, this, this actually works. Practical innovation at the bottom level where people are empowered. Um, Let's use that as as an example for sure. Yeah. Mm-hmm. Yeah, that was that. That's very practical, like very down to. Hmm. Yeah. And if, And if everyone in the organization is allowed to think like that, then we have a living, breathing organization beast. Yeah, so I, I, I like, like how we started talking about here today, um, about purpose and, and what is real and what is artificial, and starting with a problem. And, um, in a way, not . And we, we, we talked about wanting to use real language. So I, I'm not gonna censor myself here, not to dis innovation departments, cuz they have, you know, they have their reasons. But right now it, it, it just sounds a little bit like the best thing that can possibly happen is that a real problem isn't found or a s. A direction isn't found by an innovation department that is mapping out the future, but instead by someone within the organization that says, Hey, what if we go in this direction? And then it's, it's more embedded. It has more drive, and it, it should just be allowed to grow organically with all the support, possibly an innovation, uh, department. Uh, supported to find that, to identify that. But, uh, , yeah. We have that. I, I come from a little bit of the world of improv comedy and there's always things that, that mirror that. Uh, it's not really, you know, it's creativity, it's innovation in the moment. It's also very, very imperfect . And there you can just notice if you start from something that is not real and try to build on that, that it just, it crumbles, right? But if you, if you have something that, that is, that is more real, then, then you can build on that. Hmm. Hm. Yeah. Focusing on the problem. And, and in a way it's, it is, uh, like a patient that isn't sick, that is prescribing themselves some medicine. In a way where it is a business. It was started as a business. It is a very big business now at this point, possibly, but there's people there that know how to do business, how to grow something, how to make something. We, we don't need the medicine necessarily to tell, you know, this. This is exactly what it is. It is something, a money making machine. Uh, so if we have something in there that wants to make more money in this way or that, I've, in a way, I'm sure the organization is gonna be able to figure it out. let's, let's round enough with Inver. Let's actually, we can make that a thing the, in the Inva quote of the day to, to round off the podcast. Let's hear it. Okay. That's story then. Hmm. Here's the problem. Yeah. It doesn't have to be perfect. Well with these, uh, uplifting, uh, words. I think that was the first, uh, addition. Uh, I thank the guest from Bugga. Uh, uh, uh ha. You were the host in the beginning, but then we didn't have a guest, so then I also think my fellow host bge. Yeah. I, I, I, I just did that today. You were both Yes, I am. I am sure it's still gonna be imperfect. Okay. I, I'll hit the stop record button and then we'll see, uh, what we're left with in terms of, of files. Yeah, I, I also, also thinking like, uh, imperfect innovation is a good title. Innovation with a smile. I also like, cuz I like how much we smile. That's Yeah. I'll . That's good. Yeah, yeah, yeah. You're you're absolutely right. You know, we, we shouldn't say that. Yeah. We, we, yeah, we are, we are imperfect. And, and that's, uh, that's a better title. Uh, I'll stop and then I'll see if I, it needs cutting. And then I'll send you something Cool. imperfect. Good to talk to you. Have a good one. Bye bye...."

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