Archive for the ‘Boston’ Category

MIT 100K & Sales Club

Week7: On Thursday (6th March) evening we had a social gathering with students from MIT’s Entrepreneurship & Innovation Program, which is a new offering within their MBA Program. It was interesting to hear about the various motivations of the students doing an entrepreneurial MBA, most of whom seemed to already have PhDs or similarly impressive postgrad qualifications.

Following this event we went to watch the semi-final of MIT’s annual 100K business plan competition. As the world leader among university entrepreneurship competitions, the Competition, which was born in 1990 as a $10K Competition, has facilitated the birth of over 85 companies with aggregate exit values of $2.5 billion captured and a market cap of over $10 billion. These companies have generated over 2,500 jobs and received $600 million dollars in Venture Capital funding.

We were particularly interested in the keynote speech by Jonathan Seelig Co-Founder of Akamai and now Managing Director of Globespan. Seelig gave quite a humorous talk based on the presentation he gave 10 years earlier as Akamai’s 10K competition entry! It was a great event with a few hundred in attendance, showing the calibre of the competition and how popular the hard working volunteer students who run the event have made it.

After this we did some more socialising, this time in MIT’s students’ union bar where I bumped into the eccentric Joost Paul Bonsen. I had a pre-conceived plan to ping Joost on a social entrepreneurship project I’ve become involved in called Practical Small Projects (see previous HBS blog) so I quickly took the opportunity to sit and buy him a few beers. Joost also introduced me to a few of the MIT 100K judges who showed a lot of interest in my eco-homes project (one of these contacts led to comms with an MIT based company also working in residential greenergy), including one lady from the US DOE.

On Friday 7th George, James, Rasmus and I had a meeting with the Presidents of MIT’s Sales club – Nathan Williams and Ishan Bhaumik. Nathan introduced us to Basho Strategies for sales and gave each of us a handbook by M. Jeffrey Hoffman who founded Basho Technologies in 2002. Nathan quickly went through Basho’s techniques for getting a response to a high profile email pitch which included a few simple guidelines:
– Go to the top and work your way down, i.e. exec’s, managers etc…
– make the subject line about them, include the word ‘You’ or ‘Your’
– call them what their world calls them – familiarity
– make the 1st line about them
– make the 2nd line a connection or common goal that connects you to them, but which also intrigues them enough to keep them reading
– in the 3rd line specify the ask/purpose/reason for the email with clarity. Not wasting their time will build trust immediately

Nathan WilliamsIshan BhaumikNathan mentioned an acronym for sales in general whilst stating that hope is not a strategy! AIDA is an acronym used in marketing that describes a common list of events that are very often undergone when a person is selling a product or service:
Attention (Awareness): attract the attention of the customer
Interest: raise customer interest by demonstrating features, advantages, and benefits
Desire: convince customers that they want and desire the product or service and that it will satisfy their needs
Action: lead customers towards taking action and/or purchasing
Nowadays some have added another letter to form AIDA(S):
Satisfaction: satisfy the customer so they become a repeat customer and give referrals to a product



Week7: On Thursday 6th March we had a seminar with David Ager who discussed IDEO (WiKi) with us and their unique approach to innovation. David holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior from Harvard University. His research focuses on the intergroup nature of post-acquisition integration in the context of high growth entrepreneurial firms. Dr Ager has several years experience in the areas of joint ventures and alliances, and has also assisted a number of companies address issues of organizational development such as leadership development, talent management, change management, team building and succession planning.

Silicon Valley-based IDEO has sparked some of the most innovative products of the past decade — the Apple mouse, the Polaroid I-Zone Pocket Camera, and the Palm V, among others. But IDEO staff don’t just sit around waiting for good ideas to pop into their heads. The company has institutionalized a process whereby ideas are coaxed to the surface through regular, structured brainstorming sessions. At Ideo, idea-generation exercises are “practically a religion,” says Tom Kelley, general manager of IDEO Product Development. David discussed IDEO’s approach to innovation under 4 distinct headings: Process, Organisation, Culture, and Leadership. In order to do this we watched the IDEO Deep Dive that was aired on ABC’s Nightline program in 2000.

Process: Fail often in order to succeed sooner. Enlightened trial and error succeeds over the lone genius. Heterogeneous team with quirky & clashing ideas. Prototyping facilitates learning about the product. Prototype multiple ideas on a small scale to demo – build on something you can see. Market research – use anthropologists & engage end users – deadly if taken for granted; also immerse yourself in the associated product environment.
Organisation: Flat structure focused on learning. No type-casting allowed -> heterogeneity essential.
Culture: Don’t listen to the “boss”. Do the contrary! Trust in team members is core.
Leadership: Team leader only facilitates – not an expert. They solely coach the process, but not involved in ideas. This allows freedom. This process is consistent. The fact that Tom Kelley leads this approach by example only serves to increase respect and trust.

A poorly planned brainstorming session could cause more harm than good, and more frustration than anything else. That’s why Silicon Valley design firm IDEO follows strict rules for sparking good ideas: morning meetings work best; 3 – 10 participants should take part. Some guidelines are more refined. Below are 7 ways to help brainstorming from ‘The Art of Innovation’ by Tom Kelley:
1. Sharpen the focus: start with a well-honed statement of the problem at hand. Edgy is better than fuzzy. The best topic statements focus outward on a specific customer need or service enhancement rather than inward on some organizational goal.
2. Write playful rules: IDEO’s primary brainstorming rules are simple: “Defer judgment” and “One conversation at a time.” The firm believes in its rules so strongly that they’re stenciled in 8-inch letters on conference-room walls. “If I’m the facilitator and somebody starts a critique or people start talking, I can enforce the rules without making it feel personal,” Kelley says. Other rules include, “Go for quantity,” “Be visual,” and “Encourage wild ideas.”
3. Number your ideas: “This rule seems counterintuitive — the opposite of creativity,” Kelley says. “But numbered lists create goals to motivate participants. You can say, ‘Let’s try to get to 100 ideas.’ Also, lists provide a reference point if you want to jump back and forth between ideas.”
4. Build and jump: most brainstorming sessions follow a power curve: They start out slowly, build to a crescendo, and then start to plateau. The best facilitators nurture the conversation in its early stages, step out of the way as the ideas start to flow, and then jump in again when energy starts to peter out. “We go for two things in a brainstorm: fluency and flexibility,” Kelley says. “Fluency is a very rapid flow of ideas, so there’s never more than a moment of silence. Flexibility is approaching the same idea from different viewpoints.”
5. Make the space remember: good facilitators should also write ideas down on an accessible surface. IDEO used to hold its brainstorms in rooms wallpapered with whiteboards or butcher paper. Lately, however, the group has started using easel-sized Post-it notes. “When the facilitator tries to pull together all the ideas after the session,” Kelley says, “she can stack up nice, tidy rectangular things instead of spreading butcher paper all the way down the hall.”
6. Stretch your mental muscles: brainstorming, like marathon running, should begin with warm-up exercises. IDEO studied various methods of prepping for a session. For a project on the toy industry, for example, IDEO divided the group into three teams: The first team did no preparation. The second listened to a lecture on the technology involved and read background books. The third team took a field trip to a toy store. Far and away, the toy-store team produced ideas in greater quantity and quality than the other two.
7. Get physical: at IDEO, brainstorming sessions are often occasions for show-and-tell. Participants bring examples of competitors’ products, objects that relate to the problem, or elegant solutions from other fields as springboards for ideas. IDEO also keeps materials on hand — blocks, foam core, tubing –to build crude models of a concept.

Six surefire ways to KILL a brainstorm. Coming up with good ideas, even in an ideal environment, is hard work. But the 6 tactics/strategies below are absolute no-no’s below and will guarantee failure:
1. Let the boss speak first: nothing kills a brainstorming session like a dominating CEO or the brownnosers who rush to agree with his every statement. IDEO recommends that bosses lock themselves out of idea-generation sessions all together. Send him out for doughnuts, and you’ll get better results.
2. Give everybody a turn: Kelley remembers packing 16 people into a room for one particular meeting. Each person had two minutes to speak. It was democratic. It was painful. It was pointless. It was a performance, not a brainstorm. “In a real brainstorm, the focus should never be on just one person,” Kelley says.
3. Ask the experts only: when it comes to generating truly innovative ideas, deep expertise in a field can actually be a drawback. “In a brainstorm, we’re looking for breadth,” Kelley says. Cross-pollination from seemingly unrelated fields can lead to authentic breakthroughs.
4. Go off-site: by conducting off-site brainstorming sessions, you only reinforce the concept that great ideas only come on the beach or at high altitudes – not in the proximity of your daily work.
5. No silly stuff: Kelley remembers one brainstorming session doomed by the boss’s opening remarks: All ideas had to result in something the firm could patent and manufacture. The silence that followed was deafening. Silly is important. Wild ideas are welcome. Brainstorming should be fun.
6. Write down everything: obsessive note taking is toxic to brainstorming. It shifts the focus to the wrong side of the brain. It makes the session feel like History 101. Doodles and sketches are fine. A short note that preserves a thought is acceptable. But detailed writing destroys momentum, dissipates energy, and distracts from the main purpose of the exercise: unfettered thinking. Each session should have an assigned scribe who records suggestions. And that person should not be the group facilitator.

We had our farewell lunch today with our Harvard hosts- Hugo Van Vuuren (Lebone startup, Kirkland startup) and Paul Bottino. Special guest was Noam Wasserman who queried our new understandings of the ‘Founders as CEOs’ issue. following our various company visits around the States.

Later in the day we visited IDEO‘s Boston office near Harvard. This was an extremely interesting trip as we got to throw all sorts of questions at the IDEO management present, including one from me comparing them to DEKA and Continuum, which seemed to leave them without a definitive answer! We also had a nice tour of their premises to see various aspects of what a famous innovative work environment such as theirs actually looks like. To be honest I expected more disorganisation and messiness from the non-stop innovation and brainstorming! It was actually quite organised and formal looking which I didn’t associate with a idea generating atmosphere. However this is their new office so perhaps the maverick knock-on effect hasn’t kicked in on the place yet. There was a very distinct difference to the work setup at DEKA and IDEO. DEKA had a huge dedicated workshop with machines manned prototyping various products/components. Whereas at IDEO there was one unused rapid prototyping machine, which seemed almost out of bounds.

Getting to Win-Win

Week7 Mar 3-7 2008: On Wednesday 5th we had an all day workshop on negotiation skills hosted by the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The workshop was given by Melissa Manwaring, Director of Curriculum Development for the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School. Melissa has taught negotiation theory and skills to thousands of clients around the world, including executives, attorneys, public servants, educators and students.

Melissa introduced us to a framework of negotiation called The Seven Elements, which consists of 7 independent, non-sequential, dynamic elements, as shown in the diagram. The framework can be used at any stage during a negotiation including as part of preparation prior to the negotiation, in analysing/diagnosing issues occurring during a negotiation, after the negotiation to evaluate aspects of it. The framework itself is the result of research carried out by Bruce Patton and his colleagues at Harvard Law School. You can read about it in chapter 18 (‘Negotiation’ by Bruce Patton) of ‘The Handbook of Dispute Resolution’. If you’re interested the best selling negotiation book in history would be worth reading also: ‘Getting to yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In’ (Google Books, Amazon, WiKi).

It’d be impossible to detail everything we learned throughout this workshop but I’ll detail some of the main lessons and take-aways which I think will prove useful to others during negotiations. My favourite part of the was learning about how people perceive concessions and compromises during negotiations, as discussed below under the 4th element – Legitimacy. Check out the small graphic which represents in a very simple way how I perceive this process (of particular interest to me is where you place the ‘pseudo bottom line’ and the difference between that and your real bottom line).

Alternatives are considered away from the table and don’t require the other party’s agreement. You need to determine your BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement) and try to discover the BATNA of others in a negotiation. Try to improve your own BATNA and worsen others (in appearance or in reality)! During negotiation compare any potential agreement to your BATNA and realise that the other party will likely do the same.

Interests define a party’s true needs/desires/concerns. Not always the same as stated positions. Positions = what parties say they want. Interests = why they want it. ID & prioritise your interests and try to ID theirs. To determine their interests (when they’re not stating them): make a proposal; if not accepted deduce their interests from their criticism of this proposal (e.g. ethics, timing, finance, value). Look for areas of potential clash and/or overlap. Distinguish interests from positions. Offer ‘yesable’ proposals that address their interests. Look for ways to trade on differing interests.

Options are the deals on the table which you might make or agree on with parties in the negotiation. Different options may exist for different issues. Before the negotiation: generate options for meeting both parties’ interests. During the negotiation: separate inventing from deciding; & package options on different issues.

Legitimacy is one of the most powerful elements. It describes external criteria, standards & norms that can support the fairness of what you/they are proposing. Can help select among many options – to support a proposal, & also to protect against an unfair proposal. Research these norms in advance, e.g. market price for a specific product.

– During a negotiation when a party is making smaller compromises/concessions => closer to bottom line (real selling price/limit)? As a seller narrow your compromises long before your real bottom line. As a buyer know your market and the standard bottom line or value for the product (e.g. house)! Compromise does not imply value. If SP is fair to start with then deal is fair despite lack of concession. Don’t measure success based on how much you/they concede- measure the deal objectively based on value. Identify the ZOPA – Zone of Possible Agreement. Amount paid has NOTHING to do with budget, only market value.

¦———Starting Selling Price———-¦
¦——————-Ideal SP——————-¦
¦——-{Smaller compromise units}——¦
¦————Pseudo Bottom Line———–¦
¦-{Diff of units enabling effective Neg}-¦
¦————–Real Bottom Line————¦
¦                                                                   ¦
¦—————–Cost Price——————¦

Relationship is the element that defines how a negotiation affects relationships between parties/their agents/their constituencies. Before a negotiation: compare current relationships with preferred relationships; diagnose cause of any existing gaps; ID steps to change the relationship. During the negotiation: consider effect of various moves/options on relationships.

Communication includes all types of verbal & non-verbal information exchanged between parties. Before the negotiation: decide what you want to listen for/ask about, disclose/say; ID possible communication barriers (diff background/language). During the negotiation: test for efficient communication – demo you understanding, and inquire about theirs. Real listening -> responsive to interests & concerns. Don’t prepare response when should be listening. Internal voice distracting as result of lack of prep and being nervous, both of which can be combated using 7 elements.

Commitment is all about the agreement. Before negotiation: confirm levels of authority (Have authority to agree/commit? Require input from BoD or business partner?); ID your preferred level of commitment. During negotiation: ensure any commitment are operational and durable (if desired); consider building incentives/penalties into commitment to ensure agreements are met, and in timely manner; determine how to confirm the agreement – writing/handshake/etc.

Having studied the seven element framework for negotiation we put our new found haggling abilities to the test. Half of the 20 person group took one side of a sales negotiation and the other half took the other side. The case study for this involved a corporate drinks company negotiating a deal with a distributor in the Middle Eastern country. This exercise was a great testbed for our understanding of the 7 element. It proved difficult to employ all the new techniques simultaneously during a heated negotiation but a lot was learnt regardless.

Melissa discussed lots of other topics during the day including Anchoring. This is the theory that the first figure on the table during a negotiation has a disproportionate affect on the final agreed figure! However this first figure must obviously be well researched & justifiable, presumably based on market value; similar to when buying a house. Determine if it’s a buyer’s/seller’s market. What alternatives exist for each party? Who’s in the dominant position?

Some difficult tactics during negotiation include:
– Ultimatums – “take it or leave it!”
– Say nothing – “make me an offer”
– Demanding advance commitment
Responses to these tactics should be purposive, not just reactive. Don’t react without careful consideration. Some possible responses include:
– Surrender/quit/play the game…
– Change the game by reframing interests (ask for reasoning), options (incentives) and criteria (justification).
– Change the game by naming & engaging: describe my experience of the dynamic; inquire about their experience/purposes; joint problem solve for new approach
– Change the game by changing the players: add/subtract/change parties


Harvard Pitching & DEKA

etuk.jpgWeek7 Mar 3-7: On Monday 3rd we had a lecture by Ntiedo Etuk who is Co-Founder, Chairman and CEO of Tabula Digita. Tabula Digita is an educational gaming company focused on delivering innovative and effective educational games to students and institutions. The games have all of the action adventure fun associated with mainstream games while simultaneously providing an efficient learning environment to better prepare students for high stakes exams. Tabula Digita’s games can be used as stand alone teaching programs or they can be used to support and enhance conventional teaching methods and materials. Tabula Digita’s experiential learning systems are embedded in a stunning first person, action adventure video game format which Ntiedo demonstrated for the group. The games were very impressive and something which would prove beneficial to educational institutions without doubt. Its just a matter of how fast Tabula Digita can convince State educational boards that this is worth paying for, and get past the usual red tape.

On Monday evening the Global Scholars were invited to partake in a pitching competition against Harvard students. Angelo, George, Helena and I put ourselves forward to compete against 4 Harvard business and tech students. The challenge was an elevator or 1 minute pitch, which is definitely harder in my opinion than a standard non-restricted pitch. Angelo, our very own rocket scientist, won the competition, and a $200 prize!

dean_ibot.jpgdeka.gifOn Tuesday 4th we headed to Manchester New Hampshire to visit DEKA. During our time here we had Dean Kamen, the genius behind DEKA’s creation, answering questions and guiding us around his research labs. DEKA Research & Development Corporation is focused on the development of radical new technologies that span a diverse set of applications. copy-of-img_5420.jpgDEKA’s technologies, and the products which incorporate these technologies, are improving lives around the world. One example of this is the iBOT, a sophisticated mobility aid for the physically challenged, designed to climb stairs and traverse uneven terrain. The iBOT uses self-balancing technology, allowing users to better operate in a world architected for those with balance. During our tour of segway_small.jpgDEKA’s robotics lab Dean demo’ed the iBOT for us and allowed each of us to test it for ourselves – it truly is an amazing piece of engineering. Another of DEKA’s more notable and public products is the prosthetic arm (video or story) they’ve developed for Iraq veteran amputees to resume a semblance of a normal life. In case DEKA isn’t ringing any bells for you yet, they have also invented the infamous Segway personal transporter.

It was a privilege to have spent the day with Dean, he had invaluable advice to share with us regards our own entrepprises going forward. “Succeed by raising the bar, not by forcing others under it” was a business approach he reiterated a few times. He had a few things to say about VCs that, to put it politely, would have no place on a family website! He talked a lot about Richard Feynman, who is one of my idols, so it was intriguing to hear his opinions on the “citizen scientist”, which Feynman referred to himself as. He highly recommended his book “Tips on Physics”.Dean shared various anecdotes with us, of which his experience of college is the funniest. He basically treated the entire faculty at uni as his personal tutors. In this way he skipped class and simply visited lecturers at their offices to chat about what interested him and what he needed to know for his various projects!! In general the attitude in DEKA appears to be very liberal, there’s no forced hierarchy which knocks ideas as they arise from the shop floor, no matter how crazy they seem initially. “We fund the success of our gizmos through the success of our formal projects”. “Everybody’s allowed to have dumb ideas!” Just a couple of insightful quotes I thought worth sharing. He talked a little about always striving to do the impossible and achieving market dominance through their ability to continually do exactly that. Also he emphasised that with every project they aim to always outperform and over-achieve on expectations.

first_robotics.jpg Following this we had some time in the evening to visit another of Dean’s projects – First Robotics. FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC) is a unique varsity sport help high-school-aged young people discover how interesting and rewarding the life of engineers and researchers can be. FRC challenges teams of young people and their mentors to solve a common problem in a six-week timeframe using a standard “kit of parts” and a common set of rules. Teams build robots from the parts and enter them in competitions designed by Dean, Dr. Woodie Flowers, and a committee of engineers and other professionals. Dean encouraged all the global scholars to get involved with the mission which FRC encapsulates – to encourage young second level students to realise the potential in engineering and research careers, through mentoring, volunteering and coaching.


Social Entrep’ship Conf @HBS

herbie_hancock.jpgWeek 6 end: Mar 1-2: To kick back after a busy week we went to Harvard’s 23rd annual ‘Cultural Rhythms’ show, which celebrates the University’s rich cultural and ethnic diversity by showcasing the talents of over 40 student organisations. The students and faculty of the Harvard Foundation nominate an outstanding American artist to be honoured at the show as Cultural Artist of the Year. This year Herbie Hancock was presented with this award. The mix of talent was impressive, from Korean drummers to Peruvian dancers! There was even some step dancing from Harvard’s Irish Culture Society!

nnegroponte.jpgOn Sunday Owen and I attended the 2008 Social Enterprise Conference at Harvard Business School. A quick look at the schedule on the website shows how diverse the talks were. They ranged from using ICT for humanitarian responses, to micro-financing, to innovative solutions for homelessness. The high point of the day for me was Nicholas Negroponte’s keynote speech. He is the founder of the MIT Media Lab which is a world leader in media innovation, but more notably he is founder of the One laptop Per Child (OLPC) social welfare organization. OLPC manufactures XO-1 which is an inexpensive laptop computer intended to be distributed to children in developing countries around the world, to provide them with access to knowledge, and opportunities to “explore, experiment and express themselves” (constructionist learning).

olpc-crank.jpgNicolas mentioned some background information on the project, including that it was first thought of in 1968! He alluded quite a bit to the influence Marvin Minsky and Seymour Papert had on the origins of the work in general. In 1999 he trialled a project in a school in Cambodia which provided a laptop to every 3-4 children. The children involved brought their laptops home not only to show to family and friends but because it provided their only source of light during the night! He recounted with embarrassment the initial prototype of XO-1 which included a wind up crank! The antennae on the laptop enable line of sight connections up to 2KM. Uruguay was the first country to place an order, which was quickly followed by Peru. Nicolas recounted walking into a Uruguayan cabinet meeting at which all the ministers were using XO-1s, which obviously appeared quite funny, given that the form-factor was designed for primary level kids!! XO-1 was designed with the aim of encouraging kids to actually open up the device and play with the hardware, which runs pretty much 100% contrary to traditional laptop manufacturers’ warranty requirements!

olpc-xo-1.jpgAn important point he made was regards the adoption/integration of upgrades and updates for XO-1’s hardware & software. Negroponte emphasised that it was more important for the price of the device to drop as new technology appears rather than incorporating this new tech and keeping prices unnecessarily high. The current price is $188, but the goal is to reach $100 in 2008. Instead wikis will be utilised to distribute free software, text books and various learning materials. Nicolas discussed some of the issues OLPC has had with Intel, which some may be aware of. It appears everyone’s’ favourite processor manufacturer doesn’t have much of a vested interest in the success of a project of this nature, no matter how altruistic its agenda appears. He mentioned some examples of how Intel intervened, hindered and collapsed negotiations with various governments of developing countries, during the initial stages of OLPC. This is obviously as a result of the use of AMD processors in the XO-1. It seems slightly childish that Intel would react so arrogantly. One result of their interventions with the government of OLPC’s first target country, is that about 60,000 children got Intel produced laptops, rather than 1,000,000 OLPC XO-1s. Check out this short article on Intel & OLPC. In my opinion, Intel have done themselves no favours whatsoever with this idiotic stance.

psp-solar.jpg I also managed to attend a couple of other talks, including one on ‘Innovative Solutions for Homelessness’ and another on the use of ICTs in providing humanitarian responses. I bumped into one of the founders of a small but very interesting project called Practical Small Projects. PSP facilitates the implementation of practical projects that require minimal financial and environmental resources, but have maximum impact and results in the developing world. Specifically they have installed numerous solar panels in Mali. Not only did they fund this, but more importantly they provided training to locals on how to service these units and also on how to build solar panels themselves! Take a look; it really is a great example of how a small but dedicated team can make a big difference with few resources.


Baltic Boston

rickhutley.jpgWeek 6: 25-29 Feb: After the eventful weekend with Peter Davies it was time to head for Boston. But before departing on Tuesday morning I organised a lunch meeting with my internship supervisor at Cisco’s IBSG group, Rick Hutley, who is Global Head of the Innovations Team. Atfer lunch Rick brought me to Cisco City in San Jose. I couldn’t believe how immense their campus is – there’s something like 60 large building along one stretch of road! I got to meet David Evans and some other members of IBSG. I also got some insight into one of the groups projects – The Connected Bus. Dave recommended a few books for me to read:
– “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking”, by Malcolm Gladwell
– “The Wisdom of Cowds“, by James Surowiecki
– “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference”, by Malcolm Gladwell

mit.jpgOn Tuesday we arrived in Boston and acclimatised quickly before a busy week commenced at Harvard and MIT. On Thursday 28th we went to MIT’s Entrepreneurship Center. Bill Aulet who presented to the global scholars in Kansas City during week 3 hosted us at MIT. Bill gave us a presentation on Business Planning which addressed every angle from writing an initial plan to various types of pitching them. Regards altruistic business approaches Bill suggested harvard.jpgthat “if you want to do good, do well first!” He also gave us a template for examining the value of a business proposition – which coincidentally was quite similar to that described to me previously by David Perry. Basically this consisted of analysing 5+ aspects of the business based on the opportunities and risks associated with each, including: Market (e.g. size), Execution (e.g. team, plan), Sustainable Competitive Advantage (value-add, gross margin %), Financials (e.g. ROI), Others/Misc (e.g. ethicaly, political). One very interesting statistic Bill quoted was that startups are increasingly likely to be successful for each member added to the team up to a total of 5, when the chance of success decreases again! regards business plans, he advised us to ask ourselves the following insightful questions before dedicating ourselves to a startup:
– Does it convince you?
– Am you happy spending the next 5-7 years working on the project?
– Does it convince your potential co-founders, family, customers?
– Can you explain it to your mother?!

ideo_logo.gif Bill introduced to IDEO, a design consultancy based in Palo Alto, California, that helps design products, services, environments, and digital experiences. In addition IDEO is reknown for its unique approach to innovation. In 2000, the firm was the subject of the “Deep Dive” episode of ABC’s Nightline; they redesigned a shopping cart in five days. Bill showed us a recording of this show and based a very interesting discussion on innovation around it. A couple of points to come from the discussion: 1) that IDEO’s appraoch is fine for design but not as a management technique; 2) heterogeneity is key in a team to facilitate innovation.

robinchase.jpggoloco.gifOn Thursday afternoon we were hosted at Harvard by the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. They gave us a brief summary of their plans for us over the coming week. Following this we had a seminar with Robin Chase from GoLoCo, Zipcar and Meadow Networks. I’ve been a huge fan of Robin’s concepts ever since I saw a video of her presenting at the infamous TED conference series. We had a fascinating conversation about her startups, her business approaches, her views on congestion charging and green tech, as well as her concepts on mesh networks which I am particularly intrigued by!!

johnakula.jpgOn Friday 29th we spent the day at Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences again. In the morning we had a talk with John Akula, a Senior Lecturer of Law at the Sloan School of Management at MIT. John framed an interactive seminar around the general issues of changing jobs, with particular focus on associated legal constraints including: 1) At-will employment; 2) Trade Secrets; 3) Duty of Loyalty; 4) Non-competition agreements. We analysed two case studies with these legal issues in mind.

rickharriman.jpgFriday afternoon was spent studying creativity with Rick Harriman from Synectics. He gave a seminar on an approach to creativity which uses random objects and trains of thought to come at problem areas from completely unique angles. This approach is something I’ve come across a few times previously during training with the Cambridge MIT Institute, and also with NICENT. The phrase I usually use to describe this method is “Reverse Invocation”. Rick highly recommended the TRIZ journal.