Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Creating Something Out of Nothing

It has been a few years since I first read Kevin O’Connor’s book, The Map of Innovation, about creating something out of nothing. Kevin is not just anyone. By the time he wrote The Map of Innovation, he had already founded three successful companies and was working on the next two. I know him best as the founder of DoubleClick as the dot-com industry erupted on the world economy. DoubleClick has since been acquired, but it is still the technology behind those targeted ads on the Internet.

While it sounds elementary, O’Connor says something very profound in this book. He writes:
All businesses, no matter what business you are in, really boil down to answering three questions:
  1. Who are your customers?
  2. What are their needs?
  3. How can you solve those needs most efficiently?
Kevin’s book is about his process for answering those questions. It is about how to generate ideas and select the right ones to pursue for success and wealth. He calls his process BPT or Brainstorming Prioritization Technique. My son Stephen, the CEO of Bazaarvoice and previously the chief financial and technology officer at DoubleClick, uses a variation on BPT. I have used my own approach developed independently over the years under the umbrella of The Language of Excellence. I refer to my approach as the “Consensus Process” but the process is similar to BPT and the objectives are the same.

Here is Kevin’s BPT checklist:
  • Get the right people in the room.
  • Define the problem (question or issue) carefully.
  • Spend up to twenty minutes brainstorming, no discussion.
  • Explain and talk about the ideas until everyone is clear on what they are.
  • Combine similar ideas.
  • Number the ideas.
  • Divide the total number of ideas by three. This is the number of votes each person gets.
  • Only one vote per idea.
  • Circle the top three to six ideas.
  • Ignore everything else.
I use a simple visual model for the Consensus Process:

O’Connor’s book was published in 2003 and print copies are still available, but your best bet to get this powerful tool for creating something out of nothing is to download the $14.99 Kindle version from Amazon.

There is a caveat. When writing about strategic planning, I always emphasize that the only sound “plan” is a plan to change the “plan.” Objectives and goals are merely temporary targets based on inaccurate assumptions. So planning is a continuous process. With that in mind, you have to keep asking O’Connor’s three questions repeatedly to get it right. You have to keep refining your answers based on new knowledge, changes in the environment in which you operate, and new assumptions about the future. How well you answer the three questions will determine the degree of your success.

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I will be joining authors Stacy Allen, Chester Campbell, and Lane Stone on Friday, August 23, 2013, to discuss how available everyday technology, including the smart phone, helps and hinders the fictional modern-day sleuth. The Killer Nashville session is scheduled for 2:00 pm. In my book The Claret Murders, the 2010 flood is used to confound the central character’s usual access to technology.
Mysteries by Tom Collins include Mark Rollins’ New Career, Mark Rollins and the Rainmaker, Mark Rollins and the Puppeteer and the newest, The Claret Murders. For signed copies go to http://store.markrollinsadventures.com. Print and eBook editions are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other online bookstores. The eBook edition for the iPad is available through Apple iTunes’ iBookstore.

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