Innovators as Integrators

We assume that innovators are never short on ideas, that their problem tends to be focus and follow-through. But I would like to challenge this common storyline. In my years of talking with innovators, I have met many who fit the garage-dwelling idea junkie. But I have met just as many who don’t come at innovation with their own ideas. They are a different type. They are the trend watchers, industry integrators, and incessant networkers. Instead of starting with their own ideas, they listen and pull the pieces together into an innovative solution that no one would have ever considered. Let’s call these innovators “Integrators.” (Or Collaborators if you use the language from Simon Hill’s Future Shaper’s article on Innovation Archetypes.) It is the Integrator that this article is focused on. For these innovators, one of the most important tools in their arsenal are the curations of content that help them to go through many ideas quickly to find the ones they want to bring into their laboratory. A curation is defined by Google as “the action or process of selecting, organizing, and looking after the items in a collection or exhibition.” Curations are finely tuned collections that allow the user to quickly synthesize what is being presented because the rules behind the “selection, organizing” are clear and understood. This means that the user has a high degree of trust in what they receive because they know the value provided by the person or persons in the curator role. For Integrators, the quality of the curations available to them will, in large part, dictate the effectiveness of their innovation efforts. So for all of you Integrators out there, I would like to highlight a unique innovation curation platform I recently discovered. It is called IdeaSpies! This unique platform is the brainchild of Lynn Wood of Sydney, Australia. Her vision is to share innovation that inspires action. What I found so fascinating about this platform is that its whole purpose is to pull ideas out of people and make them available for the global community to benefit from. Many of these ideas are already in some sort of product form. But others are simply ideas people have had and implemented at a local level (like the Chinese principle who created a dance routine to help his kids get exercise). Whatever type of idea you post or find, the role it plays is vital. Say you work in a company that is looking for innovative ways to plug into the energy sector. You might search “solar” on IdeaSpies and look through more than 10 ideas related to innovation with solar power. It could be that one of those ideas is what that Integrator needs in order to design their next break-out innovation or develop a partnership to work with those already doing it well. Curations like IdeaSpies are launching pads for many innovators who are intuitively looking for the right pieces to build their future solutions. So how do you know if you or someone you work with is an Integrator? Let me share with you a few key characteristics to be on the lookout for: 1 High Empathy: Integrators easily walk in the shoes of others. They can set aside their own perspective and look at the world through the lens of those they are spending time with or studying. 2 Media Consumption: These innovators consume huge amounts of information. They are always on the lookout for new ideas and insights from the world around them. 3 Natural Integration: As their title indicates, these innovators bring disparate things together in creative ways. They can look across multiple industries, target markets, cultures and perspectives to pull together just the right ideas for their new creation. 4 Constant Networkers: One of the ways that integrators gather their information is by incessantly networking with others. They are the ones who are actually excited to attend that conference or networking happy hour. They feed off the energy that others bring to the conversation. As you consider these characteristics, I want you to do an inventory of some of the innovators in your life. Do a few of them fit into this category or share some of these characteristics? Maybe you relate to this profile I have described. Now consider how the typical narrative of the lone innovator in their garage and how it fails to describe their approach, interests and skill sets. How can you equip this set of innovators to do their very best work? Maybe a first step would be to introduce them to IdeaSpies and encourage them to share what they find! By Jon Hirst This article was previously posted on www.thefutureshapers.com on 30 April 2019 https://thefutureshapers.com/celebrating-the-integrators/

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How AI and LMS are positively disrupting the workplace.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is dominating the workforce more than ever and at a rapid pace – the rise of AI and automation is greatly redefining our future and the future of working. A report commissioned by Google indicated only 9% of Australia’s listed companies are making sustained investments in automation, compared to 20% in the US.  While many fear AI, it should in fact be viewed as an opportunity to positively transform the workplace. Workplaces across any industry should take this opportunity to refocus on the advantages they bring such as quality learning and development, team building, human connections and skills to safeguard jobs. According to a report commissioned by Udemy, the biggest challenge for 78% of Learning and Development (L&D) Managers is keeping their employees’ skills up to speed with change. With the rise of AI and automation being implemented in the workforce, leaders need to be quick to jump on the L&D wagon to prepare their organisation and staff for the upcoming changes. Businesses will need to start building teams that are equipped to lead and push the boundaries  of automation to their advantage. To effectively implement the right tools to cater to your L&D needs, there are plenty of effective Learning Management Systems (LMS) in the market. However, the LMS is never one size fits all. To maximise the potential of the LMS, we need to move away from the one-dimensional programs and look at a  more human-centred approach, mapped against the business culture, team and leadership influences. Here are 5 reasons why AI and LMS should be implemented in the workplace: Boosts Productivity LMS with personalised learning programs delivers learning tools and outcomes that can be tracked and reported which will greatly improve the efficiency and productivity of teams.  A best-of-breed LMS allows this by using an AI style rules engine drawing on rich metadata on the staff member as a result of robust integration with the HR information systems. This approach not only helps an organisation align its objectives with its learning strategies but it also produces an effective and automated business process allowing its learning and development professionals to focus on improving the learning systems and content. Automation provided by the LMS means they can focus on developing the system and learning, not simply serving it.  Having quality LMS systems like the one’s Androgogic use from Totara will provide better training and essentially equip a team with the right skill sets and knowledge required to work effectively and efficiently, essentially boosting productivity. Rich metadata can be captured such as individual job roles, business unit, associated cost center data and leave status which are used by the LMS’s AI-style rules engine to automatically apply learning pathways appropriate and required for each staff member. 2. Measurable results and reporting When investing in LMS programs and implementing changes to internal learning and development, the question organisations often ask is about return on investment. The LMS is a cloud-based system which stores information accessible to all staff and allows you to easily collate data and measure the effectiveness of the program. This data includes completion rates, engagement, time, course results and grades which will all be congregated into reports conducted by the LMS. Not only providing quality and consistent training with a personalised approach, LMS systems are cost effective when it comes to maintaining in-house software systems. 3. Cost effective Traditional training programs like seminars and facilitations generally require high costs like travel, printed materials, cost of program instructors, venues and other on floor expenses. Implementing a high quality LMS program delivers a resourceful tool that is readily available for employees anytime, anywhere, saving time away from the desk! The Capterra LMS Industry User Research Report found the top reasons users selected LMS software systems was based on functionality (53%), followed by price (32%), support (5%), company reputation (3%), and software popularity (3%). 4. Deliver content instantly Implementing LMS programs allows you to centralise training programs under one consolidated platform. Housing all your learning materials and courses in one place makes the delivery of training more convenient, allowing employees to acquire new knowledge and skills at their own pace, instantly and in a personalised way. 5. Continuous learning In today’s era  of ongoing digital and technological advancements, employees need to be continuously upskilled, training programs need to be incessantly evolving and engaging. A Careers and Learning report commissioned by Deloitte indicated 83% of employees say job training is important to them and push for their organisations to shift to flexible, open career models that offer enriching assignments, projects, and experiences rather than a static career progression. Having the LMS system readily available allows for a more flexible workplace where employee development, learnings and growth are core. Importantly, training provided with LMS systems  increases employee satisfaction. By Alexander Roche Founder and Principal Educational Technologist for online learning infrastructure and services company Androgogic servicing Higher Education, VET, K12, corporate and government markets with over 1 million learners on Androgogic hosted systems.   

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Collaboration is the new competitive advantage

In 1985, a relatively unknown professor at Harvard Business School named Michael Porter published a book called Competitive Advantage which explained that, by optimizing every facet of the value chain, a firm could consistently outperform its competitors. The book was an immediate success and made Porter a management superstar. Yet more recently Porter’s thinking has been called into question, most notably by Rita Gunther McGrath in her book The End of Competitive Advantage, which argued that sustainable competitive advantage is no longer possible and advised firms to seek out transient advantage. In truth, neither view fully represents today’s business environment. Certainly, companies like Apple and Southwest are still able to dominate their industries, but the source of advantage has changed. We no longer compete in a resource economy, but a semantic economy where firms that can build, manage and widen connections win out. Shifting From Assertiveness To Empathy The old economy was relatively simple.  Every business had various cost centers and revenue streams that were largely separate and distinct. So Porter’s strategy of breaking down the value chain to its component parts made a lot of sense. By optimizing each business driver, you could minimize costs, maximize profits and increase margins. What’s more, this optimization process had a cumulative effect. By creating the right incentives, such as pay for performance and letting each business unit “eat what they kill,” firms could invest back into the business, increasing resources that would lead to further competitive advantages. Even a small edge, compounded over time, could be decisive. Yet today, success is not driven by the resources you control, but those you can access. Increasingly, rather than owning resources and capabilities outright, we use platforms to access ecosystems of technology, talent and information. The path to success no longer lies in clawing your way to the top of the heap, but in nudging your way to the center of the network. That’s why Geoff Colvin argues in Humans Are Underrated that the most critical 21st century skill is empathy and calls for a shift in emphasis from “knowledge workers” to “relationship workers.” In a world of exponentially increasing complexity, no one person or firm can do it all, so those that can work well with others have a distinct advantage. A Radical Shift Toward Design Another major 21st century transformation has been the shift from atoms to bits. In the old industrial economy, value was mostly created through massive capital spending on plants and equipment. This was a huge barrier to entry that reinforced and propagated competitive advantage through economies of scale. Yet today we’re seeing a radical shift toward design as a driver of value. After all, Google’s algorithms don’t cost any more to run then anybody else’s and Apple’s products don’t have significant capabilities that rival products lack.  Rather,it is their products’ design—how they interface with both users and other products and services—that makes them valuable. What’s more, with advanced manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing and robotics, the same trends are beginning to drive the economics of even wholly physical products. When production becomes automated, every product is an informational object with design at its core. This development is so important that many are calling it a new industrial revolution. Finally, as Jon Kolko points out in Harvard Business Review, the emphasis on design is just as important in how we run our organizations as it is in how we develop products. Everywhere you look, design has become a central driver of value rather than an afterthought. Breaking Down Silos And Networking The Organization We’ve come to take it for granted that we live in a connected age, yet the truth is that much remains separate and disparate.  As Gillian Tett explains in The Silo Effect, all too often we work in highly specialized areas that are unable to integrate with each other. When dealing with highly complex environments, these silos create distinct disadvantages. For example, she cites Sony’s inability to integrate its far-flung divisions as the reason that, despite its various efforts to create a digital music player, it lost out to the more holistically designed Apple iPod.  She also points out that silos contributed to the recent financial crisis, because important risks were tucked away in little noticed parts of the economy. Yet Tett also argues that silos aren’t inevitable and points to Facebook’s policy of having every new employee go through a six week “boot camp” as a way to create connections across the organization.  (We had a similar policy at my former company and had similar results.) Every enterprise today needs to think seriously about how to network their organization. Notice again the stark contrast to Porter’s vision of value chain components. In his view, by optimizing disparate parts, you make the whole stronger. Yet today, agility trumps strategyand we need to think in terms of networks rather than nodes. The New Economy Is A Social Economy Clearly, the world has become more complex. Economic development, technology and globalization have all helped blur the lines of old boundaries to such an extent that we desperately need to reexamine old rules, processes and practices.  We can no longer take anything for granted. That means we need to break free of the reductionist approaches of the past. The basic premise of Porter’s competitive advantage—that you can increase the whole by optimizing each of the the parts in isolation—has become untenable.  Rather, we need to use platforms to access ecosystems of technology, talent and information. At the same time, machine intelligence is quickly replacing human cognitive power much like machines began to replace muscle power over a century ago.  More and more, what drives value is the ability to collaborate with both humans and machines.  That is where advantage lies today. That’s why today’s economy is a social economy with collaboration at its center. In the past, we could dominate by accumulating resources and driving efficiency, but now agility and interoperability that rule the day.  We need to shift our focus from assets and capabilities to empathy, design and networked organizations. by Greg Satell Innovation Advisor, Author and Speaker DigitalTonto

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Taking advantage of free publicity

When social media started to become popular free publicity was freely available. Many online businesses spread awareness by growing followers, particularly on Facebook. More recently Facebook has been taking advantage of its market leading position by charging businesses to reach their followers. This has led to the need to find other ways of getting free publicity. Instagram become the social media platform of choice for businesses with visual products such as fashion and dining while Twitter is used to spread ideas as well as information on products and services. More recently LinkedIn has become an effective channel for sharing ideas and information. The best way to get free publicity is to get your idea or innovation featured in a post or article if you can. If it is featured you should leverage it by sharing it on your own social media to get more free publicity. Independent validation is very helpful in building interest and trust as well as awareness. I’m often surprised how few businesses take advantage of this opportunity and presume it’s due to lack of digital marketing experience. Marketing people know that a successful business starts by spreading awareness which creates interest, then sales then repeat sales if the product or service is good enough. It’s easy to sign up for Google alerts and be advised when your or your organisation’s name or innovation is mentioned in the media. Presuming the mention is positive you can share it to all your social media to take advantage of the publicity by broadening its reach. For example an IdeaSpies article in 2018 about Lauren Hanford’s FHIT fitness program idea was shared by their marketing and PR agency  Taurus Marketing and it sparked attention from a reader who is a communications strategist. She directly contacted Lauren to be part of a media campaign by the Australian College of Nursing which led to a Today Show TV media feature. Similarly, if your name or your organisation’s name is mentioned on social media, connected with favourable publicity, like it plus, where possible, comment on it and share it. This will extend the reach of the publicity. It’s also a thoughtful way to acknowledge the support you have been given. These guidelines for getting free publicity on IdeaSpies through a post or article, which you can then share, should help. Free publicity is much more valuable than paid advertising in creating awareness. Lynn Wood Chief Idea Spy E:  lynn.wood@IdeaSpies.com W: www.IdeaSpies.com

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What is IoT?

The Internet of Things (IoT) has not only impacted the way we live but also the way we work. “Internet of Things is the network of devices that are connected with each other and exchange data by interacting with each other.”  All the devices and objects used are connected to an IoT Platform which integrates the data from all the devices and analyses it to share valuable information. Robust IoT platforms can tell which information is useful and detect  relevant patterns. IoT has altered the way we interact with the things around us and has led to exponential growth in opportunities in many industries including agriculture, infrastructure, heavy industry, transportation, oil and gas, mining and healthcare. How IoT is playing the role of catalyst for various industries? IoT Platforms have helped various organizations to reduce costs by improving the efficiency of the processes, utilizing assets in a better way and increasing productivity. With the real-time monitoring of assets and an improved tracking system, better and quicker business decisions can be taken. Smart wearables and smart devices have been a major byproduct of IoT. Using real-time data  systems have become more responsive. Data plays a crucial role in IoT, hence having a large storage capacity is very important. Many threats can be avoided with the help of real-time alerts using IoT. With real-time updates of the workers at a site,  safety is improved. Smart cities using IoT have more efficient traffic, transportation and water management services. IoT is a major part of Industry 4.0, the 4th industrial revolution, which is improving all our lives by helping us make better quality decisions more cost effectively, both personal and business. To succeed with their IoT projects, CIOs and business leaders should thoroughly examine and understand how IoT works. By Sanjeev Verma Sanjeev is the CEO  of Biz4Intellia, responsible for leading Biz4Intellia’s global business strategy and operations. He has been an Internet of Things (IoT) enthusiast from the beginning of his professional career. Sanjeev loves to read and write articles related to disruptive technologies.

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4 ways to avoid burnout in small business

How many cups of coffee do you need to get through your workday? If the answer seems to keep climbing, while your energy levels only drop, you might be suffering from burnout. Burnout in leaders and small business owners is incredibly common due to the long hours and high-stakes decisions required to run your own business. Given the effect that burnout can have, it’s important to take steps to mitigate it to ensure the health of both you and your business. If you aren’t sure whether or not you’re burned out, look for these common signs: feeling a lack of purpose or drive, feeling a loss of confidence, experiencing excess cynicism, increased mistakes on a daily basis, and physical exhaustion or even sickness. Here are few key ways to reduce your small business burnout: 1. Lean on others. Whether you have a formal mentor, a partner, or a wise friend, asking people for advice can be a great way to take some of the burden off your own shoulders. And it’s been proven that business owners who have mentors are more likely to find success in their business. In addition to leaning on others, it’s important to trust your employees and colleagues with other tasks. If you have too much on your plate every week, it’s likely past time to delegate a few tasks to a capable employee. 2. Establish a work-life balance. Do your best to assign yourself acceptable working hours, and only work within them. Working weekends, responding to a critical email at midnight, and planning the next day’s events won’t give you the proper time away from your work you need. Not only will setting healthy boundaries help you avoid burnout, but time away from work can clear your mind so you work more efficiently and require fewer hours for the same tasks. 3. Remember why you started. If you’re feeling just plain demotivated, take some time to reflect on why you started. Try writing down a mission statement or set of values for your business. Thank about your motivating factors for going it alone. Was it for more freedom? Greater opportunities? To be able to give back, or support the ones you care about? Reconnect with your original motivations.  Not only that, but do your best not to get too caught up in the results, rather than enjoying the process. 4. Get Organized. The last and most obvious step if you’re still struggling with too many tasks that can’t be delegated and have to get done, is to make your processes more efficient. Organize your desk so you don’t waste anymore time searching for notes or files. Set up a time management calendar with every task for the week, and simplify communications with your team by using a project management software. You’ll be amazed how much time staying organized saves you. Brigid Ludwig Content Marketing Specialist, Seige Media www.fundera.com

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6 simple points to address in a startup

When you are starting a business you will experience many difficulties and stressful times, as well as fun. You can overcome difficulties if you address some crucial points right at the beginning of the business. Given below are points that, if you follow them properly, can help in laying a solid foundation for the startup. Understand your idea This sounds obvious as you can never start a business without an idea or a vision. You will be surprised however to know that a number of startup founders believe that they have a good idea, but they find it extremely difficult to explain it. Founders often face difficulties in explaining their ideas and vision to others or they explain it in different ways when asked by different people. This sends mixed messages to the potential investors as well as to potential customers and it can have a negative effect on your business. Keeping your basics clear like who you are, what you are doing and why is extremely important. When you understand your idea well you can state your purpose which is increasingly important for all organisations, including startups. IdeaSpies is a platform that encourages startups to post their ideas simply as “elevator pitches” so they can be well understood. This is a free service. 2. Set out the values of your startup It is important that you specify the values of your startup. You need to set a few core values which will be helpful for you, as well as for any supporters and employees, to understand the behaviours you are encouraging in your startup. These values will be important when you are thinking of expanding the team and the business, as well as how it is explained. Values help in keeping people connected with your business moving in a similar direction. 3. Understand the target market When you have a good idea, can express it well and the core values have been set, you should do research to determine your most likely customers. You should first try to understand what potential customers think about your idea and how they could use it.    You also need to conduct research to understand if similar products or services are already present in the market so you have a clear understanding of the competition. Narrow down the research to a particular group and gather important demographic information like gender, location, age, job and income range. There are many ways to do research depending on your idea. 4. Brand your startup When the vision of your business has been clearly explained and the target market has been identified, you will need to consider branding. Your brand is related to the vision for your business and the core values that you have set. You need to consider the tone and the visual language Ensure that it can be identified easily and is beautiful and eye-catching. It’s not easy to attract attention in a crowded marketplace. A good brand connects with people at an emotional level, they feel good when they buy the brand. 5. Share your idea Ensure that you are active on  social media to get as much free publicity as possible. Set up  social media accounts for your startup that connect to a website. Ensure your website is mobile friendly mobile friendly as many people prefer using smartphones instead of desktops or laptops. 6. Do your sums A financial analysis is an important part of starting a business. You need to add the expenses: overheads, the projected cost of wages, purchases and everything else your startup will need. You also need to make assumptions to estimate the income needed to cover expenses and make a profit. At least a 3 year budget for income and expenses is suggested to survive in a competitive market. Isabella Rossellini  Liberty Lending

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How to use AI in E-commerce

Do you run an e-commerce store that sells fast moving products or services? Well, if you do, then you are lucky. Research by Statistica shows that in 2018,  total e-commerce sales hit $2.8 trillion. It is expected that this figure will significantly increase in 2019, and might hit $4.88 trillion by 2021. This means that, if you do everything right and reach a wider target market, your business will grow tremendously. Similar to e-commerce,  artificial intelligence (AI) is another booming field. A survey by Statistica shows that the global revenue of products and services using AI is over $482 billion, and is expected to hit $3.61 trillion by 2024. With the above statistics, you learn one lesson – if you want to succeed in your e-commerce endeavours, you should incorporate AI. But how do you do this? Below are some innovative ways you can use AI for your e-commerce store: Provide A-class service Today, your credibility, trust, and reputation are dependent on how you serve your customers. If they have a bad experience, they are not likely to come back to your business, and they will most likely give you poor reviews in multiple review sites. However, if you give them the best customer service, they will come back for more, refer you to others and give you good reviews which will enhance your reputation. You can use AI to enhance customer service by using chatbots, which give customers 24/7 customer support even when you are not online. Chatbots are capable of saving you money by improving response times and offering quick solutions to the most pressing issues about your website. They also enhance personalisation in your business, which goes a long way to increasing sales and profit margins. Optimise searches and recommendations Most people who visit your e-commerce store will search for products using natural language, and if they are unable to find them, they will believe they are having a bad shopping experience and leave your site. You can fix this by using AI. Today, it is not wise to create a search box and leave it as it is. Instead, optimise it and include some recommendations with the help of AI. For example, when a user searches for a product the system could automatically recommend similar products and display their prices. This will ultimately increase your sales. Retarget potential clients Are there people who showed interest in your products or services, but never completed a transaction, or didn’t perform any action? You don’t have to ignore them and carry on with your business life. You can retarget them using AI. AI will automate your sales process and give you necessary information such as user behaviour which you can then use to retarget your client. It will also give you insights on the types of products you can target for a particular audience depending on their behaviour patterns. You can also use AI to; Create an efficient sales process through voice and natural language inputs Identify exceptional target prospects through predictive analysis Automate back-office processes such as product data management and manual mapping of products If you want your e-commerce store to succeed don’t treat AI as an emerging technology. Treat it as a mature technology, and use it in the innovative ways mentioned above.  Danny Kariuki  https://fitzallblades.com

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Sparking useful ideas by creating an innovative culture

Research has shown that long term organisational success depends on developing, testing and implementing new ideas- not being satisfied with the status quo.  The increasing pace of change resulting from the digital age is putting more pressure on the need for ideas that lead to new products and services as well as ideas that improve the way we work. The easiest way to get ideas to improve your business is from your employees. They understand your business and want you to succeed, so why don’t most organisations do this well? There are three key reasons: Established organisations are focused on execution. Managers want their people to focus on what needs to be done soon rather than think about the future. Many managers believe that ideas from lower level staff are not useful, hence it’s a waste of time to ask for and consider them. There isn’t a simple process to capture and rate ideas from employees. An innovative culture- what is it? The most successful organisations have leaders who understand the value of innovation and address the above issues They encourage an innovative culture by offering positive employee experiences which results in high employee engagement The best people stay and there is a constant flow of ideas that improve the business. Innovative cultures offer jobs that promote teamwork and offer opportunities to make a contribution so talented people can learn and progress. When a culture is innovative, people are honest and open, encouraged to share ideas and able to explore initiatives without fear of failure. There is recognition that failing to try anything new is often the biggest risk. People feel more empowered and rewarded when they know that they will receive credit for ideas they suggest, their ideas will be seriously considered for testing or implementation, and rewards are both transparent and timely. For anyone thinking that innovation is a fad, 2018 marked adoption of the world’s first global standard for innovation processes. We all have choices about how much thought and time we put into something. When our ideas and suggestions are not adequately considered we just seek to contribute elsewhere. Insync research has shown that 51% of people rate lack of job enrichment as the most important reason they leave their job. More and more people want to work in an innovative culture where work has meaning, brands have genuine value and new thinking leads to useful ideas being implemented. Purpose and passion are now the lifeblood of a successful organisation. Organisations with innovative cultures embracing new thinking are the most likely to succeed. Encouraging an innovative culture Leading tech companies have innovative cultures. However many more established organisations have hierarchical structures that make it difficult to adapt to change. Therefore they are vulnerable to disruption. To avoid disruption and encourage an innovative culture there must be leadership from the top with innovation as a key strategic focus. There needs to be a process for encouraging useful ideas that’s well understood. Some organisations have established innovation management positions that are tasked with promoting and supporting innovation across the organisation. Other suggestions to encourage an innovative culture are: including ideas from employees or innovation on committee agendas, an award for innovation, investing in an idea capture tool that gives people at all levels a voice in contributing ideas, and ensuring leaders are well trained so they are receptive to suggestions and ideas from their employees. Innovation should involve all people in an organisation, not just a select few. IdeaSpies Enterprise is a new idea capture tool that’s designed to turn the tide in your favour… naturally.

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How to get your startup noticed- be interesting and interested!

You’ve got a great business, but no one knows about it. Time to get yourself noticed. And sites like Ideas Spies are always on the hunt for people doing new and interesting things. So how do you go about it? ‘Be interesting and interested’ A former boss of mine had a phrase for most scenarios. Little pocket-sized mantras. ‘Be interesting and interested’ sounds obvious, but it involves being able to know what will appeal to others. You spent time honing the audience for your product – now you should spend a little time reading the media to understand which journalists already write about your sector, and what gets them excited. Would I read it? Generally the media will be looking for a human interest angle – whether that’s your founder’s story or the impact you’ve had on your customers’ lives. Stats will help to quantify success in the mind of a journalist or their readers (number of users, fundraising figures, etc). At the end of the day, ask yourself if you would read the article if it wasn’t about you. Not every announcement is going to cause bottle-popping celebrations outside of your business. Which is fine. For those stories which you ‘have’ to get out there, make them work from an SEO perspective and document it on a free listings site like: PRLog, BusinessWire, PRweb, MediaPost, there are hundreds of sites – just Google ‘free press release distribution’. Thinking about context You will need to demonstrate that you’re aware of things outside of your own world. Be interested in what is going on in your industry and trends from other sectors. It will help you when you’re trying to illustrate to the media where your business sits in the wider world. What are you doing that others aren’t? Does your business sit in a trend which a journalist can include in a wider feature? Get out there The ‘be interesting and interested’ advice applies to networking too. It’s not all take. The most famous startup communities are well-known because of the amount of time people give back. But you need to build your network. Event sites like Meetup and Eventbrite will give you access to a world of people who could help your business. Give up the occasional evening and reap the rewards. Most of these events are free and it could result in your startup’s next investment. If your startup is based on a clever idea, which it should be, you can also post your “elevator pitch” on IdeaSpies for free. ‘What matters is what matters, to the people that matter’ When speaking with the media be aware that the journalist will likely have to pitch in your idea to their editor. So think like an editor and argue why readers will be interested in your story. Tips Avoid jargon – general rule, if you can’t explain it in a sentence your mum would understand it’s too complicated. Talk about the benefits not your product – why should the reader care about your business? Get to the point – who, what, where, when, why in two paragraphs both in emails and releases. Look for journalists who write similar stories – both Fairfax and News Corp news brands have ‘Small Business’ sections looking for startups to feature. Liam Fitzpatrick , Communications Manager of  Freelancer, recently talked about getting PR for your startup as part of the StartCon Leadership series.

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The Perfect Name For Your Business Is Out There–Here’s How To Find It

Naming your business is a critical aspect to consider when you’re launching your startup. It is typically the very first thing that your future customers will find out about your new business. It should attract customers while summing up your brand’s identity. Even though naming a new business is challenging, it should not have to feel you are like stepping off the edge of a cliff while wearing a blindfold. If you can follow the three unique naming stages described in the article below, you can organize your ideas and get the most out value out of your business name.   Stage One: Mission and Vision Outline your brand Writing down a couple of existing brand names that you think are effective can help you brainstorm your own business name. When analyzing these names, write down what you like about them and if you want to achieve a similar vibe. For example, IdeaSpies is a good startup name because they focus on tracking innovations and sharing it to inspire others Create a list of six to eight of your favorite existing names, then you can begin to analyze them. Go through this catchy business name list to get started on this step. Write a few notes or bullet points about what you like and dislike about each name. Examining your top names can help give your naming process a direction. Consider your audience Make sure that when you’re naming your business you keep your target audience in mind. A great example of this is the investing app, Robinhood. Their platform is focused on making the investment process very accessible and cost-free for the typical average person, not just the rich. Their business name summarizes their brand’s values perfectly by utilizing the story of the hero bandit Robin Hood. In addition, the name appeals to their target millennial audience. The name is both youthful and unique, and it matches the millennial values of convenience and equality. Look ahead Where do you see your brand at in the next five years? What about ten years after that? If you are planning to start a company that might grow into new areas in the future, be considerate not to select a name that pigeonholes your business. Try to summarize your values and vision in a couple of short project statements like this: We need a name that shows our exciting, unique approach to selling shoes. We need a name that establishes us as a hip, youthful brand We need a name that hints at our pet friendly business practices Get started by writing down a couple of your own project statements. Stage Two: Get Creative The essentials Start with the basic principles of a good name. A strong name is easy to say, easy to spell, and easy to hear. If people have a hard time sharing your brand, they won’t share it at all, stunting your brand’s climb to success. Gather some names Brainstorm business names by writing down every possible example for each type of name on our list. This will help you get a better idea of what you’re looking for. The higher the number of names you have on your list to work with, the better scope you’ll have.   Narrow your list Now that you have gathered a wide range of ideas, start getting rid of the names that won’t work for you until you have a list of five or six of your favorite business names. This is a handy opportunity to get yourself a second opinion from your friends, family, or people in your target audience. Stage Three: Check your Boxes Get Your Domains Since a brand name often needs a website, it is important to reserve the domains you need for your business. Register a .com and any other extensions like .co, .io, and more that you think may be relevant. Your business name should have a .com you can use with it, though you do not always need an exact match. Get creative with domain add-ons. Then, you should reserve any necessary social media handles for your business before anyone else does. Assess your risk Trademark validation for your company name is another great way to help you secure your brand name. All you need to do is run a simple trademark risk test to make sure that your name isn’t already being used by business with similar products or services. If your name too closely resembles another name for a brand you might accidentally find yourself in trouble with trademark law. Be proactive when preventing trademark risk to keep yourself out of any potential messy legal issues. Conclusion Creating a solid brand name can be a tough task. A name can make or break your business. It is the crux of your brand’s identity, and it should be first connection between your business and your target audience. You might think that all the best names are taken already, or that you don’t have any good name ideas, but the perfect name for your startup is out there! Grant Polachek is the Director of Marketing at Inc 500 company Squadhelp.com, the world’s #1 naming platform, with nearly 20,000 customers from the smallest startups across the globe to the largest corporations including Nestle, Philips, Hilton, Pepsi, and AutoNation. Get inspired by exploring these winning company name ideas.  

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Innovators are now focussing on Employee Experience (EX)

There are now signs that employee experience (EX) is the next priority for organisations, following the major emphasis on customer experience (CX). This is good news for staff! While CX is the sum of all interactions a customer has with a company, EX is the sum of everything an employee experiences throughout his or her connection with an organisation. Innovative leaders and HR teams are thinking beyond staff satisfaction and employee engagement to look at the entire employee experience. Successful organisations offer better employee experiences that attract better staff and keep them engaged.  They proactively design and manage EX, not just respond to annual staff engagement surveys. A key result is better customer service- a virtuous circle. Consumerism is now part of the recruiting process. Just as customers can choose from a variety of brands based on reviews they can search on the web, employees can also use online resources to choose potential employers. Websites such as Glassdoor make it much easier for prospective employees to assess the EX at a company they’re considering. We are now in a very competitive environment where the best people are in increasing demand. According to IdeaSpies Employee Innovation research, staff are less likely to want to work in organisations where they are not valued and don’t have a voice to influence outcomes. Instead they want to work in organisations that value innovation and the role that they can play in it. A Gallup Report concluded that the percentage of adults who work full time, and are highly involved in and enthusiastic about their work, is just 15% worldwide. While this is a problem it’s also a huge opportunity- business units in the top quartile of Gallup’s global employee engagement database are 17% more productive and 21% more profitable than those in the bottom quartile. How EX can be improved EX should be considered as a strategic priority by Management and Boards. Deloitte suggests that the EX journey in organisations can be mapped, perhaps using design thinking, just has been done for CX. Ford is an example of a company focussing on innovation, including CX and EX. Some suggestions to improve EX are to take a holistic view: define purpose; recruit staff that suit the organisation culture; provide staff development that suits their needs; move people more often; offer continuous feedback; consider work/life balance with flexible work options; review workplace design; hackathons; invest in an idea capture tool that gives people at all levels a voice in contributing ideas; and ensure leaders are well trained so they are receptive to suggestions and ideas as well as to developing their staff. In sum More and more people want to work in an innovative culture where work has meaning, brands have genuine value and new thinking leads to useful ideas being implemented. Purpose and passion are now the lifeblood of a successful organisation. There is a significant opportunity to increase employee engagement through EX. Organisations with innovative cultures embracing new thinking such as EX are the most likely to succeed. Innovation should involve all people in an organisation, not just a select few. IdeaSpies Enterprise is a new, fun and effective idea capture tool that’s designed to encourage ideas from staff. It’s been successfully trialled and used by KPMG  in Sydney You can see a video that shows how it works here. Lynn Wood – Chief Idea Spy lynn.wood@IdeaSpies.com

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