Where Ideas Come From: Be a visitor!….

island_cruise5_smallWhen you travelled to work this morning, assuming it’s a route you’ve taken regularly, what did you notice? Did you see the people? Did you notice the beautiful Georgian architecture or wonder about the inhabitants of the 1970s concrete office tower? Chances are your route is so familiar that you really don’t notice anymore. Our brains are so overloaded with information that, for efficiency, we automatically ignore what is routine.
Our everyday environment can be a bountiful source of ideas but to see them we need to change our perspective and start acting like a visitor. A study in 2009 showed that students who lived abroad were significantly more likely to to solve a difficult creativity problem than those who had never left their birth country. Those who travel widely develop their observation skills.
Imagine you are taking your route for the first time… what would change? Is there an alternative route that would be more interesting? Observe others…what causes them frustration? Often we become used to things that initially caused us irritation. A fund of ideas can arise when we come across something that doesn’t quite work but instead of saying ‘it should be fixed’ say ‘how would I fix this?’. Take it further and figure out what resources you need or who you could get involved to improve things…..is the ticket machine in the wrong place at the station ? It’s possible that a 5 minute email to the right person could fix the problem eliminating years of stress. Or you might end up working with a local university to develop a brand new turnstile system. Or it may come to nothing….but with all these options you are now an active participant in your environment! So how about setting yourself an ideas quota? Your goal is ten in one day. To quote Tom and David Kelley of Ideo in the book ‘Creative Confidence’ …”part of what makes venture so business savvy -and ultimately so successful- is that they see a lot more ideas than ordinary people”
After all the best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas!

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Have you seen your creativity?

You put it down somewhere, maybe when you were I 7 or maybe after that creative teenage burst but you haven’t seen it about for sometime. Is it gone forever? Has it just faded due to neglect? Chances are it has been kept like a guilty secret in the back of the mind. Most of us, grown ups, have either been told or come to our own realisation that creativity is for kids and not for the serious professional, unless you the arty type, the hippy types who were born with oodles of talent. But what if we challenge that belief?

When you were 5 and someone put a bunch of simple art supplies, markers, coloured paper, felt etc, On a table in front of you, what would you do? Dive in? Of course you would. You wouldn’t stop and consider thst it was a waste of time, or worry about other peoples assesment of your output.

But step forward to the present – what would your reaction be now? Chances are you’ll suddenly have an important call to make. Why? Generally playing makes us uncomfortable because we have lost the habit. In a work situation this discomfort can be excrutiating at first. I think that at some point a lot of us have become convinced that if we cannot play music or paint to a professional standard then it is not worth pursuing. But what if we enjoy it? Even if you can draw stick men you can convey a story. Had an unusual encounter this week? Or even a boring one? Take 2 minutes to draw it with a stick man and bubbles?

So many people find the idea of creativity uncomfortable and find it hard to see how it is relevant in their daily lives but did you know that in a recent IBM worldwidse survey, creativity was considered to be the top management competency, yet only 25% of us will admit to being creative. Becoming connected with our creativity is the prime way that we can differenciate ourselves and our businesses. Got Tqm, so can everyone else, Lean Six Sigma blackbelt, they can get it too, MBA, same. Ideas – there isn’t a course to get them, but you can learn to develop your creative confidence and the confidence of those around you so that you can become a creative powerhouse!

More soon..Grainne

Dress / Think for the occasion

We attended an dual event for a programme on helping regional SME’s in Ireland to innovate, develop and grow their business


The initial meeting was with the other tutors / consultants of the course and the organisers. As such, with a initial business meeting we dressed for the occasion, formal business – Suit & Tie.

The second meeting was with the participants on course. Most of us sat at the front of the the lecture hall, looking up at our prospective clients.This was the first information evening for the programme, most were here to gain a better understanding of the programme, work involved, outcomes and supports given by all involved. The presentations, happily I did not have to present, were all about the consultants own histories, past experiences, clients assisted, money (grants/ finance) raised by clients.

Most of the audience were dressed casual, jeans, jumpers, either straight from work, from home and perhaps unemployed. Looking at their appearance, it dawned on me, that we should dress for our audience, not a suit or tie in sight was looking down at me. My thoughts began to think, what if I was in their shoes, as I have been in the past. Looking down at a bunch of suits, what inspiration does that give to me. Yes I listened to their presentation, their clients, but would that inspire me ?

When we meet our clients we need to do some research into them.

  • Dress appropriately from the perspective of the person you are trying to impress
  • Know a lot, but don’t flaunt it.
  • Find a common business link or friend to warm up the connection.

We did not dress to match our client expectations, we bamboozled them with our stories, our language was that of consulting, not in the terms that they may be accustomed or  communicate in. Those moments of first impressions has more impact that any document you can prepare. We all know about that initial 7 second rule, by which new clients judge you, but when is professionalism or formal dress sense not appropriate to your clients.


Fail Better, Fail Quicker, Fail incrementally

Fail Better, Fail Quicker, Fail Incrementally.

That is the theme of a recent event I attended, Flounders in the Science Gallery in Trinity College, Dublin Ireland on 9th April 2014. This was part of the Science Gallery Fail Better exhibition, which acknowledges the attempts and efforts of inventors, designers, business people and ordinary ‘joe soaps’ in their attempts to deliver their dream.

Flounders was an event organised by a number of Irish entrepreneurs as an alternative to the success of those who attend the F.ounders events, acknowledging that life is never straight forward.


Exhibitions included Dysons 2000’th attempt to perfect the new vacuum cleaner, dc54, Formula 1 analysis of the destruction under race conditions of a back axle & suspension assembly on a Formula 1 racing car during a race, failure of the authorities in Ukraine around Chernobyl to enforce the safe zone around the reactor, and the old ladies that live and survive in the shadow, with their own nuclear moonshine that they distil.

Science Gallery #failbetter event

The event #FailBetter from the Flounders was a celebration of failure, that we fail, pick up the pieces, learn from our mistakes and try again, hence the hashtag #FailBetter

The event as we Irish do well, storytelling. The night was on each individual story’s in their journey to build something that they had passion about. We all have our stories of achievements, but who has the ability to discuss those that did fail, either quietly or spectacularly as in some instants

It was a quazi panel discussion format, 3 judges on the night, Constantin Gurdgiev@GTCost   Jamie Heaslip @jamieheaslip & Ciara O’Brien @ciaraobrien with Paul Hayes as the compare for the evening.

flounders 2

We were treated to 8 different perspectives of failure, re-invention and carrying on with life, work and happiness including

  • Tech: Blowing 140K in a few months and company folding 3 days before getting married.
  • VC: Investing in a start up in form of programming work vs share capital, only to find this creeping into 6 digit figure, many multiples the actual value of the company, and then getting requested by Revenue, tax authorities for VAT on invoices reclaimed by the 2nd company, #twisting in the knife
  • Property: Discovering the joys of property bubbles, having 80% of nightlife clubs in a city only to discover the recession at your doorstep, and an establishment bought for €9M now 5% of that market value, oh the joys of property speculations
  • Journalism: Writing or failure to write an sizable article for a leading media outlet, informing your boss of failure to deliver on a deadline close to the deadline and then the ability of said person to deliver more expletives in a few seconds than thought possible, let alone the financial cost of not delivering this article.
  • Media: Having a well know personality on the show only to discover they weren’t interested in delivering any set pieces of their show, and audience figures plummeting.
  • Science Gallery #failbetter

    Science Gallery #failbetter

and my favourite, a Tech Entrepreneur;

  • Realisation that close to Christmas time that the company was insoluble and likelihood to fail. Acceptance that they could always get a job if it did; this wasn’t the end of the world.
  • Secondly, later in their entrepreneurial journey; the discovery having signed a multi-million deal for the purchase of the company, that the credit cards were maxed out and the inability to pay for the celebratory meal with friends.

This kind of sums up the life of an entrepreneur, living on the edge, using one card to pay the minimum payment on the other but forging on with their passion and determination for success.

I found it an enjoyable night with no sadness in evidence, it was the celebration of failure, failure is not an end point, just stepping stone to the next incarnation of your dreams. I have previously written about children’s ignorance to failure, how many times do they when babies fall over when attempting to walk. We have our hearts in our mouths, terror of the damage a fall will inflict, but does a fall stop them, the shock makes them cry, occasionally somebody is unfortunately hurt, but by far they carry on, pick themselves up and try again until they succeed. Similar to riding a bicycle. With or without stabilizers, we will fall, topple over, go astray and perhaps crash, but we get back up and with some practice gain the ability to cycle.

Failure is only momentary, it does not stop our journey, and we should celebrate the lesson learned, understand why it occurred and move ahead. Life is for living, work for enjoyment and failure only a knock that we bounce back from.

World Design Capital 2014

The City of Cape Town intends to use the World Design Capital (WDC) for 2014, WDC opportunity to take a critical look at how well we employ design and design thinking in their city operations.

“What has emerged is that design thinking has been and is used very effectively in many projects and processes. During 2014, the administration will be showcasing about 70 projects that will demonstrate effective design thinking. But what we have discovered is that there are many more ways in which design thinking can be used to improve service delivery.”    Grant Pascoe, Mayoral committee member for tourism, events and marketing.

It puts the end user right at the centre of all thinking. It is highly collaborative, which means that they consult broadly – users, experts, other interested parties – to inform their thinking. It follows a specific creative process that reflects the first two points and a process of developing and testing prototypes and improving them.


Innovation, keep your mind open to opportunities

There are many different places to go and ‘look’ for innovation but often we need to think through a little more of what is driving the changes before we ‘run off’ into finding solutions that are simply immediate to grow our organisations. Sometimes they are, of course in ‘plain sight’, but when you alter your thinking lens you might see innovation opportunities in different ways.

We might miss sizable opportunities in not exploring all the different drivers that are around to drive innovation and provide us opportunities. So why not take the time to ‘reflect’ a little bit more on all the different potential drivers of innovation available to you?

[ Take Time to Reflect ]



Understanding what can drive innovation opens up significant possibilities.

The central meaning of innovation relates to a quest for renewal. For this renewal to take place it is necessary for people to change the way they make decisions, to see things, they must choose to do things differently, make choices outside of their norm. Schumpeter stated that innovation changes the values onto which the system is based. So when people change their value (system) they ‘drive’ the old (economic) system to make room for the new one. When that happens innovation has occurred.

Understanding the options within the drivers of innovation is important. Knowing the options of what can drive innovation can help you choose multiple paths to explore and then grow from.

Crazy Idea

What do you think about this business idea:

You sell disassembled furniture in small pieces, which the customers have to transport home and then have to assemble them by themselves. Does this sound like a great idea?

If you think that this is not a good idea ask Ingvar how he got rich! If you don’t know who Ingvar is check here.”

Business Model and Business Plan

What is the difference between Business Modelling and Business Planning?

Is there really a difference or is just another name?


The ‘business model’ is the vehicle you are going to use to run the race. The business plan is how you will win the race. Changing the business plan has absolutely no effect on the business model.  I look at the business model as the “what” the business is about or what it will do for customers. The business plan is a more detailed definition of “how” the business will execute the model. It is much easier and cheaper to iterate what the business is about using the canvas before ever putting the wheels in motion to build everything in the plan needed to bring the model to life. Business planning includes such activities as researching the market place, establishing customer expectations, setting goals and establishing desired strategies. Depending on the business plan, the business model may have to be updated.

Lessons Learned from “No Plan Survives First Contact With Customers” by Steve Blank are the following:

  • A startup is an organisation formed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.
  • There are no facts inside your building, so get outside and get some.
  • Draw and test the Business Model first, the Business Plan then follows.
  • Few if any investors read your business plan to see if they’re interested in your business
  • They’re a lot more interested in what you learned

Lessons Learned from “Business Plan” by Steve Blank are the following:

  • Business plans are the leading cause of startup death
  • No Business Plan survives first contact with a customer
  • Rapidly changing markets require continuous business model iteration/customer development
  • Business plans are the leading cause of startup death
  • Your ability to raise money has no correlation with customer adoption

These Lessons confirm that “Business Plan” follows “Business Model”.  The relationship between Business Model and Business Plan is very clear…

You need a Business Model to validate and test your hypotheses about Business-Idea for Revenues, Costs & Profits, using the 9-basic building blocks…


you need a Business Plan to development and present your Business-Idea to Stakeholders & Financial Institutions (banks) to raise funds and invest in the business

What are the uses for a Business Plan?

1. Raising capital

2. Financing

3. Attracting Executive Talent

4. Alliances

5. Departmental uses

6. Keeping current

7. Staying on track

8. Long-term Planning

9. Improve communication


What are the uses for a Business Model?
1. Defining Indicators
2. Improving Decision Making
3. Improving Strategic Planning
4. Helping in the Design of Information Systems
5. Increasing Innovation
6. Improving Process Design

The business model is the heart of the business plan. The how, the strategy, to win the race. Before the business model you need to know where the end of the race is (goal) and how is the external environment to better adapt-design you car.

I work with SMEs wanting an internal BP to improve and grow their business. I use the business model canvas to get a plan of the business, and to identify areas for improvement and growth