Innovation and Entrepreneurship
I help technology innovators and entrepreneurs discover and implement best practices in the planning and execution of their ideas. I’ve spent 35 years trying to figure out what works and what doesn’t in developing a technology company. This site is an attempt to outline critical practices, many of which revolve around a better understanding of buyer and employee behaviour, areas often ignored by left-brained technology professionals.
I’m a serial entrepreneur and I’ve been an investor, director, or officer of over a dozen companies. Most of them in technology. I’ve also taught at the Schulich School of Business, and the University of Toronto. Like many entrepreneurs, I lack an ability to focus, like chasing shiny balls, and am easily bored, so I do all sorts of things just to keep entertained.
The Power of Research
I’m one of those eccentric people who believes in evidence based management. Or to put it another way, if you aren’t basing decisions on evidence then what are you basing them on? For this reason, I do research from time to time to figure out how entrepreneurs, innovators, and professionals can better understand customers and employees and thus build more successful businesses.
Blatant Plug for Business
Yes, this is a blatant plug for business. I have to earn money somehow! I love exposing people to different ways of thinking, new trends and ideas, and ways grow their businesses successfully. While I spend much of my time conducting research at the University of Toronto’s Impact Centre, I make time to speak, and organize workshops for innovators and entrepreneurs. This website gives you an idea of some of the research that I’m doing, the best practices I’ve discovered, and the speeches and workshops that I can provide.
Why is this stuff important?
New products that fail.
Startups that fail
Failures due to lack of market need
Venture backed startups that earn a 4X return
Exploring Consumer and Employee Behaviour
While my MBA focussed on consumer and employee behaviour, I got dragged back into the world of finance and accounting and didn’t really begin to look at behaviour again in depth until about five years age. I had always focussed on client needs but not on client behaviour because that just isn’t a heavily discussed topic in the technology world. It took the experience of being involved in a number of market and leadership failures, some being my own to get me back into the world of employee and then consumer behaviour.
In the descriptions that follow, I’ve focussed on a few of the topics I am exploring. Some of these topics such as Connecting Strategy With Action are fairly advanced and have material throughout this site. Others like Ambiguity are relatively new. I am in the middle of writing several books on these subjects and in time, they’ll pop out too to add to the discussion. Meanwhile, I hope you get something valuable in exploring these topics here.
We have long known that consumers hate ambiguity in purchase decisions. It results in reduced sales and lower consumer satisfaction. But the Internet and the long tail of product proliferation have made the problem even worse. Consumers are more confused than ever, especially in the world of technology where there is often little product differentiation.
For innovators and entrepreneurs whose success rates for product introduction and startups are abysmally low, there is a real challenge to introduce products that can get noticed and bought. Some really smart marketers have used consumers’ lack of tolerance for ambiguity as the foundation for their businesses.
Boiling The Ocean
With 90,000 new products introduced in North America every year, consumers are inundated with innovative new offerings but are often left confused at the same time. Consumers have real trouble differentiating between one product and another and marketers aren’t helping when they fail to provide a clearly differentiated offering, one that is radically different from what the competition offers in terms of quality, cost and speed. Recently, successful innovators have been Boiling the Ocean by competing simultaneously on multiple quality dimensions as well as speed and cost, all at the same time. These are the products and companies that are achieving dramatic growth through highly differentiated offerings.
Triggers and Barriers to Innovation
Making sure there is a market for your product or service is the first step in strategy execution for innovators and entrepreneurs. One of the things that I’ve gotten wrong on several occasions is thinking that there is a market for something that I have developed or gotten involved with. Frequently this has left me with a product in search of a market, and as a result I spent a lot of time analyzing these situations and looking more closely at buyer behaviour. This has led me to an examination of the forces that act on buyers; the triggers to innovation, as well as the barriers and forces of competitive differentiation.
Connecting Strategy with Action
Strategy execution is the single greatest problem and the single greatest opportunity facing businesses today.
And the root cause of that problem is leadership. But not in the way you might think. It is not about leadership behaviors, the problem is leadership and management process.
In order to execute strategy effectively, you need to connect that strategy with the daily action of all employees. In order to connect strategy to action employees need to know three key things:
- What is expected of them.
- How they are doing.
- How they can improve.