Monday, December 21, 2015

2. Extending the Network: Avoid the Echo Chamber

Everyone tells you in business school, or when you’restarting a new business, that your network matters.
 "It would be a mistake to assume that the business you manage today will look the
same tomorrow.”

One of the habits I’ve tried to cultivate as I get closer to my 10-year anniversary with my current firm is to identify new conferences on topics less familiar to me and a few degrees removed from my area of expertise.
By attending these, I continue to develop new contacts and create the opportunity for new mental connections. New ideas emerge when you step out of your comfort
zone and expose yourself to new people and new ways of thinking about the world.
It may be as simple as signing up for a Meetup you wouldn’t ordinarily attend. From meditation meetings to Big Data gatherings, you could discover a new side hustle or passion

3. Stakeholder Engagement:
Facilitating Innovation

Managing a small business can sometimes be overwhelming; it often feels like a very insular
experience. Somewhere along the way you may hit a wall and find yourself unable to generate new ideas or concepts. When that happens, it can be incredibly useful to facilitate an idea-generating workshop with a variety of stakeholders.

At our firm, we run a ventures program to solicit concepts for game-changing technologies for cities
and communities. The ventures program is intended to harvest ideas which have commercial potential within design and engineering. The most promising ideas are given funding to explore market and intellectual property potential, and to develop business plans.

One of the important steps in the ventures process is engaging multiple technical experts to explore the potential in a concept. Let’s say the concept was for a new gravity base for a wind turbine. We might invite an ecologist to comment on the environmental impact, a materials expert to weigh in on the ideal type of concrete and an economist to provide insight on the business potential of the concept. From that discussion, we’re able to decide whether to put the idea forward for future investment. Similarly, no matter what industry your business involved in, it’s likely that there
are experts within your inner circle or your extended network that could help you test out new product/ service concepts or business ideas.

The quality of the vetting process is a direct result of the quality of the participants invited into the room. As a business owner, don’t be afraid to reach out to the people inside of your business or within your wider network to gather the best ideas when you are tackling important business challenges. By involving your networks, you will inspire their commitment to
the initiative and they will likely be interested to receive updates and progress reports.
While it’s impossible to predict what will happen in the future, there are tactical ways to help improve your odds.

By adopting these three techniques (and with some luck!) you can be in a better position to anticipate
and act on future market opportunities—but only if you make an effort to see them.
by Francesca Birks