The Process of Finding Breakaway Ideas

the idea hunter If your goal is to come up with something new, be it for an existing product or a new to the world innovation, you are going to need a list of ideas to work with. The question is, how does one come with an idea in the first place?

According to the the book, The Idea Hunter, if you are waiting for a time to start looking for ideas, you are too late.

 “BREAKAWAY IDEAS COME TO those who are in the habit of looking for them” – The Idea Hunter

While this sounds like a simple approach, the challenge is in the implementation. Just because you are blocking time on your calendar to “brainstorm” doesn’t mean ideas will be waiting for you to show up.

Finding new ideas begins with the discipline of intentionally looking for ideas all the time. We are often so busy running from meeting to meeting and project to project that we miss opportunities to digest information that could produce the next big idea.

To hep prepare you for becoming an idea hunter, the books covers 4 principles that will help improve your ability to find ideas  – Interested, Diverse, Exercised, and Agile. Additionally, the book continues on with some techniques on how to make sure you get the most out of the ideas you find through prioritization and implementation.

“Albert Einstein once made the disarming comment, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” – The Idea Hunter

Overall, I would say the book was a good read and left you thinking more about how to make idea hunting part of your daily routine. I also like how there was a focus on what comes next after finding that next great idea.

Remember – ideas without execution are hobbies!

Check it out!

8 Reasons to Like Likeonomics

I like Likeonomics and I think you will too. What is Likeonomics?

Likeonomics is a book by Rohit Bhargava about being likeable and everything that goes into it (Rohit also wrote the book Personality Not Included which I would highly recommend).

Likeonomics is based on the simple idea that, “People buy from people they like”. I wasn’t kidding when I said it was a simple idea.

In the book, Rohit breaks down what goes into being likable – truth, relevance, unselfishness, simplicity and timing. The idea being that if you can understand what makes a company more likable than others, you can try to apply to your situation.

Along with the framework, there a lot of great Likeonomics stories so you can see the concept in action. This makes for a fast, fun, and informative read that will leave you with plenty to think about when it comes to addressing the Likability-Gap” with your product and company.

To give you an idea of what Likeonomics is all about, here are my favorite 8 quotes from the book:

  • Marketing has played a central role in creating a culture where people are afraid to trust the media around them.
  • The American poet and activist Audre Lorde is credited with the famous saying: “There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt.”
  • In the long term, the only thing that can help the most successful organizations and people differentiate is based on their human elements, as well as what they sell or what they say.
  • The Likeability Gap describes the difference between what people do because they have to, and what they do because they want to. In a world where just having a good product or service isn’t enough, the likeability gap explains success and failure.
  • In order to be believable, the most successful people and organizations always find a way to share their truth, and then build on it.
  • …finding the right truth is hard. The truth can be buried. It can feel wrong to share.
  • It is impossible to care about everything. Things like irrelevant products and over-the-top sales people are easy to tune out. That is a choice many of us make on an hourly basis without thought.
  • The important thing to remember is just because a topic is relevant for someone doesn’t mean that you automatically have relevance to that topic.

Image Credit:  rohitbhargava

There Is No Magic Bullet In Creativity

The book Imagine addresses the monumental task of trying to figure out how creativity works.

What makes people creative in the first place? How do you maximize creativity? What do you do when you hit the wall and can’t come up with an idea?

Even though it did rely on a few cliché examples , e.g. Pixar and 3M, I enjoyed this book and the way it explored creativity from a thinking perspective. It should come as no surprise that there isn’t a magic bullet when it comes to new ideas but there are different approaches you can use that can help improve your odds of success.

The book was a fast read and left you with several ideas to try next time you are seeking to find a creative solution to a complex problem. One of the suggestions I really liked was why you shouldn’t brainstorm. The problem with the “no idea is a bad idea” approach is that without discourse and criticism the ideas don’t get filter and pushed on to the next level. Turing the spark of an idea into something that is really creative takes work and without the pressure to make it better, it usually doesn’t happen.

Here are a few more of my favorite inspirational quotes that I captured while reading through the book.


Taking Risks With The Startup of You

The Startup of You is a book on career management authored by two successful startup entrepreneurs, Reid Hoffman and Ben Casnocha.

The theme of the book is that you need to take ownership of your career, much like an entrepreneur takes ownership of his/her business, and create a plan to adopt to a changing marketplace (see The End of Business as Usual). While this is not necessarily a new thought, their framework and advice does make sense and sounds very applicable to today’s technology related careers.

Here is some of the advice I noted while reading the book:

Professional loyalty now flows “horizontally” to and from your network rather than “vertically” to your boss.

Permanent beta is essentially a lifelong commitment to continuous personal growth.

Imagine you got laid off from your job today. Who are the ten people you’d email to solicit their advice on what to do next? Reach out to them now, when you don’t need anything specifically.

Golden opportunities are not wrapped in pretty packaging with a clear label; killer job opportunities are rarely advertised on job boards.

Almost every case of serendipity and opportunity involves someone doing something.

The concept from the book that resonated with me the most was on risk taking. The Startup of You advocates that taking calculated risks with your career not only helps you reap the rewards of new opportunities but also better prepares you for future surprises. From the book,

Without frequent, contained risk taking, you are setting yourself up for a major dislocation at some point in the future. Inoculating yourself to big risks is like inoculating yourself against the flu virus. By injecting a small bit of flu into your body in the form of a vaccination, you make a big flu outbreak survivable. By introducing regular volatility into your career, you make surprise survivable. You gain the “ability to absorb shocks gracefully.”

Looking back at my career, I would point to a few startups during the days that I worked at that seemed highly risky at the time. The companies ended up being failures which is never what you hope to have happen.

However, if I would have passed on the roles, I would not have gotten to work with so many great people while trying build a business. Being asked to own something and take on new challenges gave me a firsthand experience on how to generate and execute ideas and what to do when things don’t turn out as planned.

While the risks didn’t have an immediate payoff, the return came over time as the expertise learned and networked gained helped me move on to bigger roles and other companies over the years.

Speaking of building a network, the Startup of You also introduced some interesting thoughts around the benefits of strong allies and weak ties that you need to help support your efforts.

Want to learn more about it? Read the book!


Image credit:  koalie






How Not to Resonate During your Presentation

Josh Duncan presenting at Product Camp Austin

Josh Duncan presenting at Product Camp AustinIn all my years of presenting, last Saturday was the first time that I was tempted to run out of the room as fast as I can. It really couldn’t have started any worse.

How did it get to this point? Let’s start at the beginning.

Nancy Duarte’s book Resonate has been on my reading list forever and I figured with my plans to present at ProductCamp Austin, it couldn’t be a better time to read it (also, it worked well with my 2012 book reading goals).

The book was highly recommended and I can honestly say that it lived up to the hype. Nancy’s philosophy for presenting is that it is up to the presenter to inform and inspire. To make this happen, Nancy advises that you take the audience through a journey to a destination. This means that every piece of content needs to build towards your final goal.

To accomplish this goal, you need to take time turning the information you have gathered for the presentation into a meaningful story. Here are a few of the techniques that I tried to use in my presentation:

  • One idea per slide and evocative visuals:
    • All of my slides featured one point and relied heavily on visuals to help communicate the message. For example, I used the following quote from Seth Godin to help communicate the point that having a story isn’t enough and that you need to have a message that stands apart in your market. Things that Glow by Seth Godin
  • Order the structure for impact:
    • My presentation started with tactical examples of how stories can be used to deliver the message and positioning of your product. From there I built on the idea that in order to be successful, all the stories that your company tells need to be aligned with a common framework. And then to support my theory, I ended the presentation with two powerful examples of companies that evolved their story over time helping them to maintain their differentiation and position in the market.
  • Share the main event:
    • In order to help keep the audience engaged and part of the story, I planned on including them in the discussion during the presentation. This would not only help build on the examples but make sure that my ideas were hitting home.

So, where did it go wrong?

When my presentation started, the system running the 20 foot display screen crashed. This meant that I had no audio or visual in a 300+ person conference room. As you can see in the picture above, it was kind of hard to see my 15″ laptop screen.

While I had practiced delivering the presentation several times, I had never done so without the slides. I was dependent on the visual cues for my supporting points and guiding the flow of my presentation. Additionally, I had quotes, like the following, that I had not memorized but needed for support.

Do you see what I mean about running?

Thankfully, the audience gave me some great encouragement to continue on with the talk. Overall, I was able to manage my way through but I know that it did not resonate at the level I hoped it would.

What will I do differently next time?

Overall, I loved the advice from Resonate and will use it as a mainstay going forward. I think highly visual slides are a good approach to telling your story but next time I will make sure that it is only the audience that needs to see them.

If you are going to go in blind to a presentation, you had better be able to see your story in your head if you hope to be able to communicate it to your audience.

The Art of Data-Driven Marketing

data-driven marketing by the numbersMarketing is about being creative.

Marketing is about engaging. It’s about meeting customer needs and delivering an experience.

Marketing is an art.

But, there is a science behind marketing and that is where Data-Driven Marketing comes in.

Metrics like net present value (NPV) and customer satisfaction (CSAT) are a good starting point, but don’t forget customer lifetime value, return on dollars spent, and transaction conversion rate (TCR).

Does this sound familiar or like a foreign language?

These are the type of numbers you need to have in order to answer questions such as, “When will we see a return?“, “Is this worth doing?“, and “What are your assumptions?

In total, Mark Jeffery covers 15 essential marketing metrics, that you need to know, in the book. If it has been some time since your last finance or statistics course, not to worry. The book not only goes over the formulas, but also provides case examples to see how they would work in the real world.

But what if your company doesn’t do Data-Driven Marketing? You are not alone. In his research, Jeffery found that 80% of companies don’t use these metrics to drive their marketing efforts. However, the ones that do have a greater chance of capturing more revenue and meeting their financial goals.

What’s not to like about that?

Image credit:  artnoose

Top 10 Marketing Slideshares of 2011

I am a big fan of a Slideshare and I try to sort through the latest business and marketing presentations at least once a week. When I find a great deck I either use Instapaper or Evernote to save it as a resource for future use.

2011 has been a great year for presentations so I wanted to share some of my favorites. With thousands of presentations published in the business category, I am sure I missed a lot of good ones so please add your favorites to the list.

Here are my 10 favorite marketing presentations:

Mktng like jazz

View more presentations from Peter Economides
That completes my ten favorite for 2011. For extra credit, here is my favorite personal presentation from 2011 and thanks to Brian Solis, is now my most viewed deck ever:

Finding Innovative Ideas with The Innovator’s DNA

The Innovator's DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators

Here’s an idea for you from the Innovator’s DNA that I thought was worth sharing. If you want to innovate, you need to ask questions. More importantly, you need to ask the right type of questions.

The goal is to challenge assumptions, make new connections, and see past what’s already there. This doesn’t happen by asking a random scattering of questions but through a disciplined practice.

Here’s how they sum up the approach in the book:

During interviews with disruptive innovators, we noticed not only a high frequency of questions but a pattern as well. They started with a deep-sea-like exploration of what currently is and then rocketed to the skies for an equally compelling search for what might be. Focusing on what is, they asked lots of who, what, when, where, and how questions (as world-class journalists or investigators do) to dig beneath the surface and truly “know the place for the first time” (as poet T. S. Eliot observed).

Essentially, you need to be able to see the entire box before you can see outside the box. Only by asking the right questions can you get build the full picture necessary to find a transformative solution to the challenge.

16 Reasons Why You Should Read the End of Business as Usual

16 Reasons Why You Should Read the End of Business as Usual

Everything is changing and this is having a major impact on how businesses need to operate in the era of the connected consumer.

If you are trying to figure out what’s going on and how you can best adapt, Brian Solis’s new book, The End of Business as Usual, is a great place to start.

Thanks to Brian’s early release on Twitter, I was able to purchase an advance copy and spent the weekend reading it. There is a lot of great advice in the book of how to take advantage of this changing landscape and several outstanding case studies of companies that are leading the way. The major point being that you will either learn to adapt or be left behind by those that do (to accentuate this point, make sure to check out Brian’s End of Business as Usual teaser video).

I put together a few of my favorite quotes from the book in a presentation to share. Enjoy the presentation and grab a copy of the book!


The Quarter in Review – Q1 2011

I am not sure how it happened but somehow the first quarter of the year has come and gone. I want blame it on a product launch, a trip or two, and SXSW but it could just be that 2011 is going to be a fast year.

Hopefully, you will have a moment to reflect on what has transpired over the last three months. During your review, here’s chance to revisit a few of the quarter’s outstanding product blog posts – covering everything from leading product vision to not sucking. I hope you find these reads as insightful as I did. Enjoy!

If you made this change, how would you know if it worked? If you can’t answer that, it’s not measurable enough for you to start with. (Your instincts on how to effective measure success will get better over time; I’m just saying, if you don’t grok it now, start with something simpler.)

Influence from the Bottom Up – product leaders who consistently build, communicate and collaborate with market data, current trends, competitive knowledge, customer feedback and data points developed from daily activities have a higher probability of impacting their organizations product vision.

Build trust and stronger customer relationships by ensuring that the design of your marketing artifacts and your messages are consistent. This will build customer confidence in your ability to complete projects on time, on budget and other positive thoughts about the business. If you promise me a pb&j, deliver it.

What’s important, and difficult (especially for people with technology backgrounds), is to think about it in terms of what people are trying to accomplish – not how they are trying to accomplish it. In a business process view, it is the difference between process (why) and procedure (how).

I refuse to believe that there are more bad marketers out there than there are bad programmers or sales people. But I also believe Fred’s right that the failure rate in senior Marketing positions at startups is high (I’ve certainly mopped up after a few). Why? I think companies often hire the wrong marketer for the job and marketers sometimes accept the wrong job. Both problems stem from the fact that “Marketing” means many different things.

Small and growing PM organizations typically suffer from lack of resource/bandwidth, scalability, ability to work across organizations, ability to impact change and in some cases, overall domain knowledge. All of these can be traced to a lack of understanding of the overall objectives of the PM role and the reactive nature in how the PM organization was created.

Maybe it’s the “product manager equals president” mindset that causes us to micro-manage others. And maybe it causes us to enable the dysfunction of others. But unless we can fix the people and the process, product management is often just hiding the real issues.

If you want your prospects to pay attention, start your presentation by telling them what you’re going to do for them or – even better – tell them what you know about their problems. Be audacious, so long as you can back it up: “We’re going to get you to the RIGHT cloud, faster.”

If the overarching tech marketing theme in the ’90s was all about marketing as branding, and in the ’00s, marketing as lead generation, then the ’teens are shaping up to be about marketing as education. But not about educating customers about your product, per se. No, what I mean is educating customers about the business process/function and best practices that underlay your product, i.e., that your product supports.

and from A Random Jog, here’s our most popular post of the quarter:

Even more fascinating is the strong marketing community they’ve been able to build. In the last month alone, they’ve generated over 30,000 leads (yes that’s in one month) and their marketing blog, webinars, resources etc are a great source of tips and best practices for any marketer.

and the most commented on:

The challenge of us in the marketing world is to do a better job learning the strategies and tactics and understanding when and where to use them. The challenge of those hiring startup marketers, make sure you find one that understands that marketing is not a “one-size-fits-all” problem and one that can address not only where you are now but where you want to be.


Image credit: Simon Cocks