Are you challenged with finding new ideas or maybe how to approach a project that seems a little unique? Do you feel yourself going down the same path but know you need to do things a little different this time?
Tim provides a coaching and mentoring service to help you broaden your thinking, take optimistic steps towards a future that may now seem unattainable. He acts as a sounding board but also filters to make helpful suggestions. More often than not, you already know what you need to do, you just need a gentle hand to remind you and get you moving forwards with more enthusiasm, enjoyment and excitement.
Reach out for a no obligation chat.
We’ve run quite a few projects where we found the customer is not who we thought and the problem we’re trying to solve with our solution was not the most important. These are great things to learn, early on in the project.
Subject Matter Experts and smart technology are important components of building a new service or product. However, engaging customers (user, patient, etc) early through prototyping, workshops or qualitative interviews is vital when a project contains many assumptions. These assumption, typically in higher numbers and broader for innovative projects, are the risks that can destroy a project.
All projects need a balanced combination of SME, technology and customer.
We can manage the co-design process end to end, or support you leading these important and early first steps for your project. Give us a call and we can give you an overview of how it might work for your business challenge.
New developments are always a risk. The bigger the challenge, the bigger the reward but the bigger the risk. Our approach ensures the biggest risks are mitigated early while the project spend is still low. This builds confidence in the project and allows minor pivots as new ideas are discovered.
I think of myself as small boned, especially when I stand next to a natural-born rugby player. Unfortunately this doesn’t save me from my muffin top but I know I have a weight advantage compared to most. This has nothing to do with the topic for this week except for the word Lean.
This business concept of Lean started in the late 1980’s in a Japanese Toyota factory. The principles are simple, eliminate any overburden, inconsistency and waste. In manufacturing you can probably see how this can contribute towards improvements in the system. Toyota also viewed the system as incorporating not just their factories but also their suppliers and customers.
In the early 2000’s a few insightful people applied these principles to the world of business start-ups. The basis was that a start-up is not yet a business and is full of risk. Applying the old rules could be considered overburden and [time] wasteful, until the basic business model was discovered.
For example, a traditional business would tend to write and review a business plan. When a business knows what it’s selling, who to and for how much, a business plan makes a lot of sense. In a start-up you don’t know any of this so not only will your business plan be fictional and full of assumptions it’s also a huge waste of time.
Another example of a traditional approach is to develop or build your product and service before introducing it to your customers. Can you see how, if you don’t know explicitly who your customer is and what they value then you’re wasting time and money building something you only assume you can sell? Again, in a traditional business you’re probably already talking to your existing customers and have an idea of what’s important to them.
In a start-up we definitely need to describe our intent but this can be done on one sheet of paper not dozens and dozens (like a typical business plan is).
It’s far more economical to write out your assumptions broadly across your business (customer, value, problem, solution, pricing, etc), then push away from your desk and start talking to people to confirm how right or wrong your assumptions are. In the process you will almost certainly discover you don’t understand what your customers want or in fact if they are really who you’ll be serving.
This will save you a lot of time and money and it will also allow you to refocus quickly so you can get onto the right path faster.
When should I use a Lean approach?
As I hinted at, when there are more risks (assumptions) than facts you should pull out the Lean principles. While it’s great for all highly innovative start-ups, it is appropriate when extending an existing business into a new market or new product line.
Why aren’t we all doing this?
Great question and I can only speculate that old traditions are hard to break. Like many personal habits you might have, it doesn’t seem obvious to do the opposite until you’re aware what you’re doing is causing you pain. Many people wouldn’t think their approach to their new venture is the reason for their failure. Typically they assume it is their lack of effort.
When I first learnt about this I still continued to do the traditional check-list. I created an entity, ordered business cards, set-up a website all before validating my new business model. My first reaction was, “well of course you need all this stuff, every new business needs a website don’t they?”
Well, convention is just that, a way in which something is usually done.
It took me a while but on my third or forth business idea I didn’t start with the website, I spent a day creating a lean canvas and then started talking to people. It probably took 4 or 5 weeks before I realised I had no hope and just cancelled it. I only wasted a bit of time. Nothing to unwind, no printing or accountancy fees, and best of all I had energy to jump into the next idea because I wasn’t completely spent.
I still fall into the old trap so my hope is if more people understand, appreciate and give this a try, we will all become aware of our approach and be open to change convention.
Best of luck with your own [life] adventures,
Do you remember those Far Side cartoons? I loved the ones with cows standing on their hind legs. The best one for me was the young boy putting all his weight into a school door as he tried to push it open. The sign on the door says pull and the sign at the bottom of the stairs says “Midvale school for the gifted”. Makes me smile every time.
Did you notice that the door also has a handle? To most (less gifted) people this indicates that you should grab and pull, so Gary Larson made it just a little funnier adding this, as well as the sign.
In the real world when I approach certain doors, my smile turns to a mild grimace. On many doors in professional buildings there is a handle on the pull side but also the push side. Maybe it’s just me, but do you feel just a little silly when you grab the handle and pull, maybe a few times, before realising you need to push the handle?
So many items we use in life don’t consider the ‘normal’ human using it. Many times a product is designed just so it looks great. But good design is a balance of both form (how it looks) and function (how it performs).
In business, being design led involves bringing form and function together at the beginning of the creation process, not at the end when all you can possibly do is add some figurative lipstick.
We are all technically challenged to some degree. When you are next struggling with technology keep in mind it’s predominantly because it is poorly designed. It’s not your fault!! Sure, highly specialised products are complicated to use but a lot of today’s technology is ubiquitous and should now be completely obvious to operate.
If something is well designed it should not need a manual, you should not need to go to a class to learn how to use it and it should not make you look foolish. It should be obvious! Ideally it should be intuitive. When you first pick it up it should just work.
Our challenge, along with anyone building products, is simple design may be obvious to understand but it's really hard to discover. It’s a great challenge to have though, especially when you see someone pick up your product, start using it and a small smile appears on their face as it just works.
If you’re involved in building products and if you’re not already doing so, please do some research on design-led organisations … for the sake of all the gifted people out there.
Best of luck with your own [life] adventures
I first heard this statement over 20 years ago. I was working in IT management for a technology services company in Auckland and as you do when you’re young, I asked my CEO if he would mentor me. Luckily for me he said yes. I don’t remember how many sessions we had but I’ve never forgotten this statement…
“It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it.”
Over these last 20 years I’ve worked a few times in healthcare and dabbled in education. Most recently I’ve spent time in the environmental space. All of these are hugely rewarding industries and it was a conscious effort on my part as I was looking to try and make a difference in the world.
So creating this latest start-up was a bit of a dilemma for me. Quick background, our product Shock is a website builder with the simplicity of Instagram. We’re attempting to show that the Internet doesn’t have to be a complicated space and anyone and everyone should be able to have their own identity online. Anyway, this is clearly back in the IT industry for me with none of the feel-good aspects of teaching our children or saving lives.
Is this really what I want to do?
A year in and I was reminded of my CEO's suggestion, “It’s not what you do”, at the moment working in a high-tech start-up, “it’s how you do it [that matters].”
I started to see the opportunities and the possibilities that were probably already there, to make a real difference. Here are 3 “How you do its” that I’m enjoying at the moment …
- I’m spending a lot of time writing and realised I don’t need to be inside to do this, I live close to a park and love the creativity of being close to nature.
- The simplicity of Shock makes it great for charities so we’ve decided to give charities a free website.
- Our team gives a lot to this project but we are amazingly accommodating of our lives outside of this business. It feels so motivating when everyone is operating like this.
My lesson in this is the possibility is always around us, regardless of what we’re doing, we just need to be looking in the right direction.
Best of luck with your own [life] adventures.
A doctor, journalist and software engineer walk into a bar…
The doctor immediately notices the strain on the bartender's face and the colour of his skin. She quietly and carefully makes a suggestion to the bartender to get a check-up and then orders a kombucha.
As the journalist enters he feels the vibe in the room and casually chats to a few people, noticing how many people are trying to escape their life for a while through social conversation and alcohol. He makes some notes, being careful to only initial peoples names, for an article he plans to issue tomorrow.
The software engineer knows the bartender by name, waves at a few customers and sits down with his free drink to review the sales. The software engineer owns the bar.
This is obviously not a joke (well I’m only assuming you're not laughing). It’s actually an analogy I use to remind myself of how we have well established, indoctrinated and publicly understood codes of ethics for medicine and journalism but nothing for our information technology industry.
As you know, doctors know all about patient confidentiality and ensuring their actions aim to do no harm. The journalist will always protect the privacy of their source of information.
But what do we teach our new technology entrepreneurs?
Worse still, even if we are starting to touch on this subject in schools, what do students see their potential heroes doing today with their super-large technology businesses?
I realise this sounds a bit negative, is a blanket generalisation and not all Internet businesses should be tarnished with the same brush. However, when some very public businesses are not held accountable to moral standards (especially when laws so quickly go out of date), small businesses have a huge challenge competing or even sailing in a slightly different direction.
And this is where I find myself. I’m not trying to make excuses but it is a very real challenge, caught between ideals and income.
We’re excited to be launching and marketing our new product but realistically, advertising today falls into the lap of Facebook and Google. Personally, I don’t like their data practices but do I have much choice when most other channels offer far less coverage, poorly targeted algorithms or lackluster participation?
So what’s the answer? Something we can all do and I’m doing now is take control of our own practices. My business will be putting together some simple but clear descriptions of how we’ll work with our customers, their privacy, our own transparency and where we will and will-not invest our (limited) resources.
And to be sure, there are some brave companies trying to do the right thing. I’m also an eternal optimist and believe innovation can be a salvation. We just need to look at what ChatGPT is doing to Google.
Do you work for one of these innovative companies that don’t drop their money into Facebook or Google’s lap? Please share your thoughts and perspective so we can all start to move the needle.
Best of luck with your own [life] adventures
Do you get inspired by the many great leaders describing their techniques in LinkedIn posts and further afield? I know I do. Occasionally I read or watch some advice and their answers seem so obvious, you know it must be right.
I’ve been in the business world for a while now and I’ve often wondered if I should share any of my own experiences. Being the type of person I am, I normally think I have nothing of value to share. When the Internet came along (yes, I was working before the Internet) I thought maybe this would be a way to communicate without having to stand up in front of people, but I couldn’t latch onto any specific topic. I started on an outline for a book, created the odd blog and tried newsletters for a while but they all just petered out. I now really admire and respect people who can spread a consistent message over a growing mountain of writings, articles or videos.
But I now find myself leading an endeavour to hopefully make a positive change in our world and I’m being encouraged to talk more about it.
We’re a couple of years into our development of Shock and I took stock of the previous start-ups I’ve worked in (4) and the products I’ve worked on (14) and realised I probably have plenty to share and now a good reason to do it.
So this newsletter will share my experiences as we attempt to improve the lives of small business owners, share how a reluctant and introverted start-up CEO deals with these challenges and share how we view this journey through a slightly different lens to most.
We all have something to share so I’d encourage you to do the same and in return I hope you get something from these articles.
Best of luck with your own [life] adventures.
I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “a journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step.” It’s often banded about when you have a big project or challenge and you’re not sure how to start.
It’s a great saying and it’s helped me stop contemplating, cogitating or idly sitting in my chair wondering how I’m ever going to finish such a big job. It has taught me that although I “think” I have a long way to go, taking the first step is actually quite easy, so get going.
One of the many contemplative thoughts I have that stops me from starting is, how do I approach this seemingly massive task? A step might be easy but am I on the right path? Philosophically, it actually doesn’t matter and if you know your destination then you will indeed get there if you only start. However, if you’ve already been on the journey then I’d guess you’d assume the second time will always be easier, if only because you know what you’re up against.
And that’s the point of this blog. Taking a journey with a friend who’s already been will always be easier. Another more recent saying pops into my mind, “a problem shared is a problem halved”. When you’re about to embark on a new project which seems a little daunting, share your challenge with a friend that might have done something even vaguely similar. Small tips on (just to extend the analogy a little further) what boots to wear and how often to stop for breaks, makes the journey so much more enjoyable. Sure, by taking the first step you will eventually learn this but learning it sooner and gaining motivation from a friend will make reaching your destination that much sweeter.
So find a friend to share your challenge and start pounding the pavement towards your next big destination.
Isn't it interesting how this event we 're calling COVID has affected everyone, so universally? In most cases in my life on this planet, major events have either been local to a town or country or even had ripples around the world. But this pandemic has had ripples emanating from every part of the world. It goes without saying that, life has changed. But the bigger question is, will these changes be permanent?
Social distancing, masks (& the associated debates) and lockdowns will surely evolve as each country gets a better handle on managing the spread and dealing with the consequences of sick people. I can be hopeful and imagine a time where we deal with COVID like we do with the existing flu each winter season. Yes, the flu kills a lot of people and medical facilities are stretched over the winter period but it is managed and most people see this as normal.
What will be the new normal after we are able to manage COVID19?
The world's population has been shocked into doing things differently. It surprises me that we have talked about some changes for decades and then in a matter of weeks it has been done. Moving to online education is an example of this. It has not been a clean and tidy change but we've all made some transitions now and experienced the difference. For some of us this new place is not so bad and may even be better. For example, in the UK one research company suggests that 91% of office workers would like to work from home at least part of the time (Eskenzi). In the US the number is lower, 43% of full-time employees (2), but that is all employees and a bigger overall number of people. Even in smaller countries like New Zealand, 38% of people had never previously worked from home but two-thirds found it easy to do so (3).
So we will not be going back to the pre-COVID normal. Things have changed and people have changed. This has had a financial impact today but will also have a long term business impact in the future.
Now more than any other time in recent history we need to start thinking about how our business operates in this new environment. If your business model does not change completely then the way you sell and service customers definitely will.
For the faint-hearted out there, just bear a thought for the businesses during Spanish Flu of 1918. They had none of the technology advancements we have today. Even if this pandemic happened 20 years ago we'd be hard pressed to be so nimble and have the opportunity the Internet and global communications have given us today.
So how should we operate our businesses post COVID19?
There are a number of common tactics that most businesses can apply. They assume that you're not in the tourism or travel industries, these guys will need more drastic action and support. These four tactics revolve around marketing and communication, these days that means online, but also the products and services you already provide.
1. Ensure all your marketing material is online and consumable on a mobile device
In research conducted prior to COVID, more than 50% of consumers come across products online first. This would have vastly increased during lockdowns but even after, with people's reluctance to spend time in crowds, this number will have increased. In most English speaking countries, smartphone Internet usage is 80% or above. If you don't have a website that a mobile phone can find and easily navigate you'll be losing customers immediately.
2. Start experimenting with online ads to direct customers to your website
Online ads are amazingly cheap and easy to get started. They're still a little complex so ask around for help if you're unsure. Facebook can target your customers with a simple image and message for a few dollars a day. If you are starting to offer a new service or product variation this is a great way to spread the word. Each ad will direct these new customers to your website where they can find even more information about you.
3. Experiment with add-on services
We need to think a little differently now that our customers are working and living differently. If you already have loyal customers, think of new ways that can accommodate the more immediate challenges your customers are facing. I saw a great example of this at a local retail business selling gifts. The owner was finding people either didn't want to come into her store or couldn’t get the time so she offered an online video chat and would walk around her store showing people her products and offering suggestions. She used to do this in person so there wasn't a big change but her customer loyalty went through the roof. Her measure of a good day used to be foot traffic through the door, now that door is a little wider.
4. Experiment with deliverable products
Many more people are buying online but that doesn't mean they want to stop buying local. If anything COVID has supported both of these themes. You don't have to be an Amazon to sell your products online but you do need products that are easy to ship and service. For example, a local craftsman makes children's beds but he has found a way to sell these online by designing the parts for his beds to be flat-packed. I could imagine he could also partner (or expand his own services) to offer an installation service as well. He now has a lot of enthusiastic customers from around the whole country whereas pre-COVID he was only selling in his local area.
While change can be a scary thing, take heart that it's only the transition that might be challenging. Coming out the other side is always a better thing, even if it's just realising all the lessons you've learnt in the process. I'm confident that if we enthusiastically apply ourselves, work together and make the most of what we've got, we're going to end up in a better place.
Best of luck.
Originally posted on n8.nz
I’ve been hunting around for a little more work and so hitting the job sites and LinkedIn. I think, like most people these days, our roles evolve quite quickly and what we did in university bears little resemblance to what we’re doing today. This leads you and me to ask the question, what exactly do I call myself? What is my profession? What is the name of the role I perform? How do I tell my Mum/Gran what I do?
In New Zealand, most companies are small (by international standards). The byproduct of this is most people need to generalise a little. So while you’re hired into a role you also do bits and pieces on the peripheral of this role. Personally I enjoy the diversity of this work, it keeps it interesting, but does broaden your experience and exacerbates this question.
So getting back to the question, what is the name of my role and does it represent what I do?
I don’t believe anyone can actually answer this question. I believe the question you (and I) should ask is, “What is my tagline?” or “What is my mission?”.
Just like an organisation cannot be fully defined by its name, neither can your role, professionally or otherwise. However a tagline or mission can get a lot closer to the truth. So what is your tagline or mission?
I’m not sure I totally like mine yet but to throw it out there it is, Product Designer - creating something from nothing to solve problems for people, they might not know they have.
I’m sure I’ll continue to evolve it but I like where it’s heading. I might try it out on a few of these companies I’m talking to. Let me know what you come up with.
If you have an idea, manage a product or you’re developing a solution, this is the one thing you need to constantly keep in mind, you are not the customer. Even if you are creating a solution for yourself and feel others will also enjoy it, you are still not the customer. If you’ve grown up working in an industry and managing a product that delivers value to others in the same industry, you are not the customer.
My point here is that even if you end up using the solution you have created, you are biased by the very fact that you've created it. You will know your product way better than any customer will. If you’re creating the solution to sell then I’d expect you’d also want to sell it to more than one type of person, so you need to talk to these other folks.
Reminding yourself that you’re not the customer also reminds you that you don’t have all the answers. This is extremely important when developing a product or solution. We often fall into the trap that we think we have all the answers and feel overly optimistic about how the product should end up. When we feel this confident we tend to forget to go and ask another person. Typically we feel we’re too busy to do this.
When you walk out of your office, into the street and talk to people I can almost guarantee that they’ll have a slightly different view of your product, to you.
When you get out of the office and talk to others you are recognising that you are probably holding some bias and broad assumptions. It’s these assumptions that you should validate and the more you validate the more your biases are either proven correct or (more importantly) incorrect. Each validation will increase the success of your product.
So regardless of how busy you are, start talking to people that haven’t heard about your product yet and be honest with your interpretation of their answers.
There are some great books on how to test your assumptions, the most recent one I’ve seen (and is sitting on my desk to read) is Testing Business Ideas by David Bland and Alex Osterwalder. Check it out or let me know if you want to learn more.
I find there is a lot of attention paid to this banter by the media but also ourselves. But like a political tax reduction, you only end up with a few dollars and cents back in your pocket. Our attention to this rhetoric, these numbers and these bold statements should be as long as it take to spend those dollars and cents - not very long.
So when we hear the statement, "get ready, things are going to be very different in the future, get ready for the new normal", we should listen to it once and then focus back on the people around us and carry on with our lives.
I'm not a futurist (I leave that to my friend Michelle) but I can almost guarantee that for most of us, once COVID19 has done it's dash, our routine will pretty much the same. Our values won't change (although they may strengthen) and we'll still love the same people (although maybe more deeply).
I'm saying all of this in the hope that some more introspective and possibly media hungry members around us don't get too wound up or anxious about the future. We can't predict the future, just think back to January this year to prove that point. So why assume you can predict the future now? Let's just enjoy what we have today, no matter how much or little, appreciate the people around us even it's just a person that moves out of the way when we pass them on the street.
Personally I can appreciate this introspective perspective. I was just thinking, why does my spell checker force me to capitalise COVID19. Is it trying to shout to me that things are really bad? But I can also see the way the sun in between all this rain touching a leaf outside my window and think that this plant is just carrying on regardless. Maybe I need to be a little more like that.
I’m reminded by the banging and scratching on the ceiling of my office which is also the floor for upstairs where my daughter and the dog are playing some crazy game of hide and seek.
I’m one of the people that has already got comfortable with working from home as I started over a decade ago. But I’m comfortable only when everyone else is at school or work. Strangely I still find I need to make some adjustments. So I’ve decided to move out into the garden. My daughter and I built a little shed-come-play-room a few years ago, which I have now converted into a new office. My family now know that when I’m in the shed I’m on office hours and when I make the commute across the grass into the kitchen I am now home. This also works amazingly well for me too as it gives me the triggers required to change from work mode to home mode, insuring I give my family the Dad-time they deserve.
So if you are like me and normally work from home and now find yourself surrounded by many others that do, make sure you appreciate that others are struggling way more than you with this new environment but do you realise it’s okay that things also need some adjustments for you.
Change is a good thing when we all acknowledge that we all have to part to play.
The goal of Log-Book is to create entering car mileage as simple and quick as possible but still be compliant with the tax departments’ requirements. Once you have used Log Book a few times you will be able to enter a new trip in THREE taps (and that's including the tap to save it).
Shock is a super easy smartphone app designed to automatically generate websites. Add your company details, pick a colour palette and add a few contact details and that’s it. Your website is ready to go live. Creating a website is only half the story, keeping it updated is what brings customers back and increases your search engine ranking. In Shock you only need to tap on a post to make amends, tap the + button to add a new post or add new stock images. Keeping fresh and current has never been easier. But it doesn’t stop there, Shock will automatically post any new content updates through to your Facebook page. Your website and your social media effortlessly working together. Shock sorts out your online presence in one simple app.
Around the 2010’s we were finding small businesses still struggled with antiquated PC based technology. In the age of the Internet there were businesses that still had to plug in a desktop or laptop to run the operations of their business. We ran a thought experiment around a solution based purely on tablets and phones. The logistical advantages meant there was a lot less dependent on electricity, networking complications and even a centralised database /Internet connection. We envisaged a restaurant business and found there were huge advantages in portability, flexibility and simplicity. Typically those don’t factors don’t always go together. We hypothesised that this solution could run in any location in the world, regardless of local infrastructure availability.
Our conclusion was the Internet technologies can create huge opportunities for small businesses regardless of their local infrastructure however the software must be vehemently aware of the context in which it’s operating. Unfortunately current software makes too many assumptions (always on, always connected, the database is always there, etc).
If you’re interested in creating a prototype around this idea, let us know.
Jupl provides a full platform-as-a-service to businesses and service providers focused on protecting people at risk. We were involved in early product design in the aged care segment and platform software development.
We provided co-design consultation, product management and software development to evolve a legacy product into an innovative and thought leading tool that integrated reporting across multiple physical IoT connected products which were previously seen as isolated. The onsite customer consultations in Australia, New Zealand and US lead to both simple and practical features as well as ideas that hadn't previously been envisaged.
We created the iPad app LeanAble to solve the paper chase we often find ourselves in when running lean startup experiments. Stickies go everywhere or at best end up as photos.
Creating a lean canvas looks great the first time but with all the expected changes we end up loosing control or don't do the best job of learning from past experiences (because we often loose them). So LeanAble provides a tool to visualise, capture, record, version control the Lean Canvas. You can prioritise your assumptions ready for the next experiment.
An experiment can be designed, discussed, and produce interview notes ready for the post problem identification or demonstration interviews.
Finally, the results of the experiment directly updates your assumptions so you can get that buzz when you see you're making progress and your canvas starts to get a bit of color.
Sid is a man of mystery and as such has many hidden and possibly illegal talents. He enjoys his own company which is another way of saying most people annoy him.
Tim is a product designer specialising in early research and development. He’s been doing this work since 2010 and been involved in the construction, service, healthcare, safety and emergency industries. Tim has brought multiple original products to market for clients and his own businesses. He is currently working on a mental health project and a new internet startup (Shock). Tim lives in Auckland, New Zealand.
It very well may be the age we're at and while we don't particular want to share that I think it's safe to say we have a few miles on the clock. While the engine could probably do with an upgrade we could probably still hold our own against some of these newer electronic types. Anyway, given our experience our outlook on life is nicely balanced. I'm not talking about work-life balance, that's a well worn cliché. I'm talking about mind, body and spirit. Here's a list of some of the things we think are important.
Honesty with others but especially yourself. An honest life is a free life.
Healthy body, healthy mind. An old one but now more true than ever.
Friends, family & relationships. No one is an island and ultimately all we truely have is the people around us.
Everyone is inherently good, that includes you.
Be at peace with peace.