Tag Archives: startups

Leadership Lessons From The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind

In my last blog I talked about new normal and how things have changed in post-COVID era.  The following blog para-phrases key leadership lessons I picked from the movie about William Kamkwamba The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind .

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind is a movie based on William Kamkwamba’s life in Africa and how he saved his village. After just barely being able to go to school, the dry season hits, leaving his parents poor and their farm dead. Even though he technically still isn’t supposed to be at school, William sneaks in after the morning assembly as to go by unnoticed. He did this because he was inspired by the dynamo on his teacher’s bike. Eventually, he was discovered and kicked out of the school, but since his sister was secretly dating his teacher, William essentially blackmailed him into letting him use the library. Later, he makes a model windmill, and after a lot of persuasion, he got his father to sacrifice his bike so that he could make a larger windmill. This windmill fuels a well and keeps his family farm out of the dry season all year.

Once you give this movie a watch , there are aspects of leadership and execution William exhibits which are noteworthy in these testing times of pandemic and beyond.

Iterative approach to problem solving

William’s approach of solving the problem was iterative – a quality which was essential for him to be what he is today a – Malawian inventor . When you iterate & build prototypes then you get a sense of what you are working on and how it can be scaled. From paper to reality , do not forget to iterate else one never knows what is missing in the puzzle to solve the problem. William started from a book which inspired him to make the windmill , proved that it works to his friends and then took the moon-shot for to build the real windmill. In current pandemic vaccines will come through by doing more test and trial , one needs to keep iterating through it at a fast pace and collaborate globally.

Creativity In Frugality

Current pandemic crisis has shown that one does not have luxury of options and if you are not going to be creative , then it will be struggle from sustaining your meals , work & personal life. You can quickly go out of control & whether it is a drought in Malawi which forced William to think about a solution or current pandemic , it has same forbearance of the impact it has on humans. William is known to have constructed a wind turbine from scavenged parts.  You might be used to seeing something fancy but here is the image of William’s windmill. 

330px-William_Kamkwambas_new_windmill

Lead By Example

It is always important to do lead by example . One can have a idea but it is not relevant unless you prove it and show it that is a workable idea with some more effort. In William’s case, he researched how dynamos and windmills work before he tried to get hands on with them. Had he not done that, he would have been at risk of breaking the dynamo. It is important to be confident about your plan and how you intend to get it through with others. In current pandemic situation leaders in any capacity do not have to just be bearer of information but will have to embrace it themselves more than ever.

Team Is Important

When William Kamkwamba decided that it was time to get things to work, he had to make his friends understand that without them, he would be damned. You need a team that is on the same page as you are. It doesn’t matter if it’s only one person on the team! We have to have a team and work as a team for an effective response to the pandemic. Any kind of of discord will not help cure , save and protect lives !

Need To Be On The Problem

Persistence is important part of problem solving , if you loose heart then you will not be able to solve the problem. Iterations will bring heart-breaks and failures but one cannot put them in front of solving the real issue at hand. One needs to persuade different people at different levels in order to meet with a successful outcome. If William didn’t have the skill of persuasion, his father would never have let him use his bike. And he would have never persuaded his sister to convince his teacher to give him the dynamo.  In current crisis one needs to communicate broadly and effectively. It is also important to remain on top of the problem and organize the teams to deliver towards a successful outcome.

I hope these reflections are useful to my readers who are trying to tackle various types of issues at different levels. If you have any thoughts to share , please do not hesitate to write back to me or post a comment!

Customer Data Platforms

One the key things which is going through an evolutionary cycle is the whole idea of getting to know our customer better through multiple touch points. Companies which have traditionally working in space of Campaign automation through multiple interfaces are making aggressive foray into this area by coming with cloud driven integrations to construct a 360 degree profile of the customers.

Customer data platforms (CDP) are gaining momentum faster than any other marketing technology, even though many marketers are not yet familiar with the technology, it promises to provide the key to comprehensive data-driven marketing, a very attractive marketing concept where all your customer data is combined for marketing (and other) uses.

This blog is intended to give you a brief overview of Customer Data Platforms(CDP) . The target audience are novice like me , who have not heard about this and are making effort to collect some facts to improve general knowledge around trends in area of marketing.

Without the data and the management of the data, the ‘marketing brain’ that allows for smarter campaigns simply can’t function. Bringing together the data is very important and here CDP comes into picture. The aim of the CDP is to bring together all customer data and stitch the data together into unified customer profiles, so a marketer can easily work with it.

From a business perspective the ownership of all customer touch points becomes increasingly important: Facebook & Co. often know more about a customer then the company how owns the data. To turn it around: The only chance to better personalize/customize the customer experience is the ownership of proprietary data and the ability to execute towards your business goals accordingly.

It is regular to hear that marketers have tools which can function as a hub or central place for customer data & yes there has certainly never been a shortage of technologies that claim to provide a ‘single customer view’or a ‘360 degree customer profile’ but in reality there hasn’t been one platform type out there that has the potential to bring together all the data and at the same time properly make it useful for the marketer.

Quote from David Raab, a respected martech analyst, was the first to define the CDP category in 2013, and the definition reads as follows:

“A customer data platform is a marketer-managed system that creates a persistent, unified customer database that is accessible to other systems.”

So, what is the difference with other systems?

The difference between a Customer Data Platform (CDP) and a Marketing Cloud (also called “Multi-Channel Campaign Management” by market research institute Gartner, or MCCM) is not always obvious to many marketers at first glance.

This is mainly because there are no fixed definitions for these terms and therefore the market has many providers scrambling for position, who vary from each other in terms of their focus. What follows is therefore a general definition of the two categories, to the extent that is possible.

A pictorial sum-up of what we have talked until is given below.

cdp

I will continue to collect and share more information on this topic , as I find or read more !

More Than Entrepreneurship…

Entrepreneurship is buzz across the world , & everybody wants to take a plunge. I have observed various casual conversations as well other groups where everybody wants to do something but does not full acknowledge the entrepreneurship landscape. In warfare tactics , it is important to know your terrain before making a move and I firmly believe this is one thing which everybody should do to understand his or her current ecosystem before taking decisions. Bottom line understand it is game of patience and sustainability coupled with marketability of the idea.Realise the being an Entrepreneur is not a +1 notion but somebody who may have been able to sustain & show patience longer than you.

happy

Image via Creative Commons, thephotographymuse’s Flickr photostream. (Source) http://sumo.ly/l2Wz via @jwhite

I would not talk about why you should or should not take-up entrepreneurship but will try to pen down how to celebrate and acknowledge the world of being an employee.

  • S.W.O.T ( don’t go to b-school to just learn this. Any mature individual who is tad bit career minded should keep this always handy ). Knowing your strengths , weakness. Assessing your opportunities and acknowledging threats , helps one frame set of guard-rails of operating boundary. Being self-aware is the mantra. It can lead to be entrepreneurship if the idea matches up to your strengths and you don’t play to weakness as well remain away from threats or at least ebb them.
  • Follow Passion ( don’t confuse this with entrepreneurship , because it always does not mean that you have to be an entrepreneur to activate your passion ). One should always find time to do what you like from your innermost gut call. Don’t rely on organisations and individuals to do that. This allows one to focus better on work , as one finds peace in pursuit for passion
  • Define your operating landscape ( don’t be way-led on making your organisation a battlefield ! ). As an individual you should identify what type of people you did like to work , environment that makes you happy ( flexible hours / locations ) & what kind of management style suits you ( flat or hierarchical ) & above all what role you would like to be in. Don’t force yourself into role. Always have an image projection of where you are currently ( short term ) , where you want to be in next 2 years time ( medium term ) and how would you want your future role to look like ( long term )

At the end of the day inner happiness , credibility & respect can be achieved through many ways.

Qualms Of Product-Awareness

Product is a very generic term and changes its meaning depending on the context. As various stakeholders working to deliver an experience it is important to know how interactions impact your consumer space. This is more-over important for product managers operating in different context :- marketing versus technical product ownership.

Every interaction with consumer in the physical world or online is an opportunity to inform about our products and services. With channels through which we approach consumers becoming so pervasive , it becomes difficult to keep pace with the whole idea of creating product awareness. Although we invest time in creating prototypes , making MVP to test the market and then going full blow to complete the product only to get restricted by how to create awareness for the same!

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flickr/creative commons

Product awareness has to be attributed to both external and internal stakeholders for us to impress upon the work that goes into building it. You would have often heard this phrase “Oh! I did not know this feature existed”  , reason being that we have not done enough to educate & make our stakeholders aware of the product & what it does.

Following are few pointers on how one could achieve a better product awareness index :-

  1. Information about the product:
    • Share your belief about the product and why you think it make an impact 
  2. Functionality & Quality
    • Talk about the applications that product can achieve for various customer segments
  3. Seek Consumer applications of your products
    • Consumers think of better applications of your products that allows you to create or disrupt the segment. These would generally be your evolved customer base , that understand the value you provide through the product.

Problem Solving…Lego Style

Problem solving is rooted at the heart of making anything successful. It really has nothing to do with any field but sheer ability to look at problems and providing solution through combination of people , process & technology.

Through years ( not so many but still ) , I have tried various ways to look at problem solving. Traditional way was to define scale of the problem before proposing a solution. This always led to complexity definition , which generally tends to drain lot of energy as we are trying to use assumptions and not facts to make a hypothesis. Creates lot of inter-locking and leads to consensus before we get down to problem solving.

The other way to look at problem solving is to reflect on it as a puzzle. Puzzles usually come with various blocks that need to be arranged properly in order to achieve defined outcome. The complexity of problem would entail that you have many pieces to build out the puzzle before you could achieve end result. Things could wrong if you started with an approach that way-led you into different arrangements with a perception of a solution. Ever done problems in Mathematical integration 😉 , one step goes wrong and catches you unaware only to continue in an end-less direction of multiple integral steps !

Off-late I have started to try my hand using the Lego style. There are three specific reasons to it:

  • My kid endlessly keeps doing something with his Lego parts.
    He first solves what Lego tells him and then mixes all parts with other Lego pieces to start creating his own master piece. !
  • My company which adopted micro-services coupled with already existent agile methodology
  • Self , as I don’t like same way to look at things.

The Lego approach actually provides lots of freedom in thinking process adownloadnd decouples complexity analysis from solution proposal. As compared to puzzle solving , where-in you did imagine to design specific blocks , Lego provides with free form connectors and other pieces which help cross-link blocks. These three things help you to look at problem solving with new mindset that focuses on

  • Conceptualising – Defining the problem
  • Implementing a working prototype – putting in place working solutions
  • Optimising the prototype – developing new solutions  that scale

Defining MVP through this mechanism actually gives MVP a longer shelf life as it already is trying to solve end-state as opposed to iterating to end-state. There is a big difference in what the approach offers in terms of time-to-market. Optimization takes care to scale the process to support the outcome and replace MVP. The optimised version is design to be more replicable.

So with this brief , I wills top to write and allow everybody to get down to find Lego blocks in company and design solutions and remember People , Process & Technology all offer Lego blocks!

Happy Problem Solving!

Startup Culture or something else …

We have & continue to observe numerous articles as well inspirational content on how one should have start-up culture , mindset or spirit. All in different dimension & context.

Irrespective of maturity business model & age of enterprise , it has become a fad to call oneself having a start-up mindset or calling the enterprise itself a startup. You might have seen in lot of interviews we do talk about this to prospective candidates  & as well the candidate would ask ” Are you a successful startup ”  ! Well if in first place it was successful then would it now be an enterprise that carries different set of goal & vision ? images

Bunch of like minded people come together , they put an idea into action and try to solve a problem. That is start-up. Passion drives them to solve the problem whilst they figure out other aspects that drive stability & security. For them to guarantee anything beyond themselves is very hard and in fact even for self , it is a challenged science. Over  a period of time they may be successful or may pivot to do something else.

The journey changes on being successful , problem statements change and there are other things to worry about but not the the core business model as such. They would have figured out how to make money , it is like a child growing and going through phases of life. Startups upon success grow to be enterprise and diversify in the way they operate finding niche in successful business model.

So how does then one address the question of passion in enterprise..according to me that has to do with three things ..Autonomous way of thinking creatively and executing in agile manner to discover edge in your business. 

Start-up to enterprise is a journey from survival to sustainability. Therefore it is only a stage in a journey taken up by individuals or bunch of passionate people.Subtle but important difference that can change your approach on how you tackle business problems.