In evidenza

Under user control…

bivio

As the robot revolution approaches, companies will increasingly rely on smart machines and robots replacing functions previously performed by humans, looking for continuous optimization for both processes and workflow.

It won’t be possible anymore to simply rely on IT and CIO and considering all this stuff their own problem: assessing to which extension is necessary to introduce robotics into processes and business has far reaching consequences that will request very soon full top management commitment and engagement.

Industry 4.0/5.0 will split the value chain the way we are used to consider it right now into two flows: robot assisted processes on one side, and activities/phase where human factor will be still paramount on the other. Hoping they will converge. A new role on the organization chart is probably about to be defined: a Chief robotic officer, with responsibilities that range from implementation of robotic systems to the handling of the human workforce and the transition of tasks.

Therefore, strategic thinking will be concentrated, beyond and in addiction to the previous and “classic” issues, towards re-engineering the organizational structure and firm’s governance in order to assign to humans the right place. This means just one thing: give to people the roles that add value into the business, give to robots the rest.

But it this task that simple? Clearly not.

The common mantra is value= customer so who makes this statement very often thinks of entrepreneurial landscape ads follows: at one side a black-box, fully-automated factory and automated warehouses so efficient to make business extremely flexible and scalable, and where in future human being won’t even be allowed to get in.

At the other side a plethora of men running and striving in the “real” world, devoted to delight customers, to capture and retain customer attention. (If any customer will be still there to wait for them, because the loss of jobs will be huge, and the supposed, positive relationship between new technology and employment is probably a medium-term effect…..”whereas in the face of increasing divisions in society, with a shrinking middle class, it is important to bear in mind that developing robotics may lead to a high concentration of wealth and influence in the hands of a minority” cfr European Parliament resolution of 16 February 2017 with recommendations to the Commission on Civil Law Rules on Robotics).

Don’t know why, but this scenario makes me think about Welles and the “Time machine” dystopic novella, where the human race has evolved into two species: the ineffectual and childlike Eloi, and the become the brutal light-fearing Morlocks, that feed on the former.

Anyway, this means that we need a strategic and holistic approach, this topic isn’t any more just about technology. Many processes need to be completely re-designed.

robot 1

  • our current methodology of study and work needs to change dramatically: if we really want people to deliver value we can’t accept them being progressively more and more tilted towards mere software usage and less and less focused into understanding topics, fundamentals, briefly the “whole picture”. Otherwise, even the interaction firm/customer will be a passive process between two clusters of glorified software/platforms/social network users (customers and firm’s people) both being absolutely unaware about how those algorithms and software (written by other machines) works; in other words, who in future will be the company’s storyteller? humans or robots?
  • Logistics need to address how humans and robots will interact/get along rethinking workflow, as well as the landscape of the workplace in routinary and emergency-conditions (not to mention the connected liabilities);

robot e uomo

  • IT and compliance should assess how robots can effectively communicate with humans (already happens) and with other robots (actually mostly they don’t);
  • Improvement actions and TQM needs to be imagined in an optic of a self-learning robots ecosystem: who decides and when “robots-suggested –improvement” may be efficiently (and without risks) introduced into processes?;
  • The compliance office will be heavily impacted by a totally new legal framework for the robots that are currently on the market or will become available over the next 10 to 15 years, not to mention the liability landscape. Liabilities could concern the quality of produced software and technology, reliability and ethical/legal issues connected to automated and algorithmic decision-making;
  • Last but not least the importance of ideating measures to help with specific measures small and medium-sized enterprises and start-ups in the robotics sector that create new market segments in this sector or make use of robots.

This is to say that it seems decision makers underestimate the consequences of introducing AI and robotics into industrial processes, missing to analyse the complete picture and all its implications.

Strategic management is a complicated decision-making processes with a lot of deep, long-term and risky implications. It is a delicate matter and a very sensitive process and what is looming on the horizon is somehow similar to the discussion on the role of robotics in the field of procedural rights. What is clear in that field is that the critical processes and the final decision/judgment can be algorithms -assisted but must remain strictly under user (the human judge) control and the use of AI must be transparent.

The same should happen in the field of a strategic decision. Of course if we don’t want to end like the Eloi.

Annunci
In evidenza

Some key additional pitching hints

picthing 1.PNG

A few general hints on pitching (whatever are you going to pitch/communicate), useful for anyone, as emerging from today’s session. Thanks for the very high quality of your presentations and for your effort.

-beforehand, tell who you are and, briefly, how did you come with the idea.;

product (or service) is king: don’t grasp on details if you don’t show it enough through the use of photos and other illustration;

mission is how to win the battle, vision is about winning the war: they cannot look like each other and/or looking like program. They should represent an inspiring and memorable ideal (try to reading it to your audience while you are testing your presentation: now move to the next slide and try to ask if they remember it. If at least 50% pf people does, you probably did a rather good job;

Canvas is not a concept-fastfood, but instead a place for gourmet, interested in tasting good ideas: therefore you shouldn’t write either too few or too much words, but just the necessary to let people understand and make the right connections …and, by the way, very good if you do it with the help of graphics;

Customer segments: try to describe in a profile what makes that segment homogeneous …if you write down a profile of each category with 80 to 120 words, is perfect. And you may soon realize that a described segment is very often made of slightly different sub-categories…;

Revenues streams: that’s definitely not a secondary subject…try always to be specific on this subject…your potential investors will be happy with it!!!;

Partners, suppliers, or (even) customers? Especially when business model is sketchy it may happen one of the following things: 1. The role of a supplier is underestimated: is not simple to replace, the quality of your stuff is literally depending on it…maybe we are talking about a partner? 2. At the very beginning, there is no way to pay for the purchased service: that supplier MUST be involved as a partner, sharing (if possible) its future success/revenues 3. Sure that what you are indicating as a partner is not instead the real customer of your service? If it controls the necessary facilities, the business relationship and maybe some distribution channel…maybe you should change your mind…;

pitching 2

-always indicate at least 3 possible competitors, and instead 3 companies belonging to your business area that you consider very different from your model and/or having a somehow “old-fashioned” model comparing to yours. That would help you to reaffirm your identity and competitive advantage, and your public understanding clearly what makes you special and different;

Take time for your conclusions: try to give at least try key takeaways to your public, possibly as memorable as your vision.

-…and by the way…is there a possibility for shortening time to market and giving a try for an MVP? I know, easier if you are planning to sell a software, less feasible if your goal is opening a restaurant…but anyway always try to assess the feasibility of this point…

In evidenza

Corporate diplomacy: yet another (and not useful) attempt to label something that in facts companies don’t need.

corporate diplomacy

The business of writing books and papers about the subject labelled as “Corporate Diplomacy” is growing. Mainly they consist in a collection of generic and sometimes chaotic indications in order to grasp the new role that brands should play facing the challenges of changes, sometimes defined as catastrophic, imposed by globalization.

The standard topic is that companies, of every order and size, cannot avoid confronting themselves with international diplomacy and that they must take a sort of diplomatic standing in the social, environmental, and even political fields. In short, corporate diplomacy is exalted as a sort of cure-all for the social and environmental issues of the world, a breath of fresh air able to revitalize the archaic and inefficient diplomacy of the national states.

The general impression that is derived from the reading of such articles/books is that one is faced with the usual crude and repetitive ritual aimed, from time to time, at repainting/refreshing the conceptual facade of the strategic management “building” of a different color without however proposing any consistent or structural change or even suggesting new ideas.  It looks like corporate diplomacy is no more that some intriguing words, highlighting their uncertain conceptual consistency.

And yet there would be a need for new ideas, certainly, especially in the case of of the imminent and unspecified “cultural apocalypses” that await us.

Instead the well-known cases sometimes highlighted as examples of good/bed application of corporate diplomacy, and that concern f.i.companies like Starbucks, Dolce and Gabbana (f.i. the China-issue) etc, narrate situations of corporates in troubles with relationship with some of their stakeholders where in all probability it would have been much better to leverage existing categories, rather than blurring the minds of managers any further.

What indeed would differentiate the so called corporate diplomacy from the already existing (and still little used/adopted by so many companies) corporate social responsibility?

In this field, yes, there would be a need of some choral international action, aimed at defining some truly pervasive standards, unitary and in some cases even mandatory, of “non-financial reporting”, thanks to which the social/environmental balance sheets of companies could be improved, clearer, comparable and communicable outside. But this requires a real and sometimes unpopular commitment, as we know, where the effort lies not in imposing the “thinking of the brand” but to deeply discuss ethical problems and environmental issues with a common global approach between companies belonging to different geopolitical and social contexts, and with non-homogeneous and sometimes conflicting values and cultural paradigms.

The same is true for the evanescent proposed difference between corporate “diplomacy” and the already existing (and effective) techniques and themes of lobbying and public affairs, that can rely on a much more consistent and scientific framework, from all points of view, both practical and theoretical.

What need is there for other concepts?

corporare diplomacy 2

The behaviour of a company in a crisis situation is, or should be, regulated by communication techniques, crisis management and business continuity management: that these techniques and processes are currently well known and / or well applied by all companies is certainly an issue, but there is no particular need for adopting new categories.

On the other hand, there is a slight taste of ethical relativism that blows through the pages dedicated to corporate diplomacy.

Assumptions like:

  • Facts are no longer relevant, the paradigm of objective reality is over”: according to this vision, the pure verifiable facts count less than nothing, the only important thing is the prompt and sometimes opportunistic interpretation that company gives, leveraging stakeholder feelings not necessarily their rationality. What about the effort, this is what would be nowadays of even greater help and socio-cultural value, that some great companies of the past did to provide education, cultural preparation and argumentative skills to the communities with which they interacted? Nowadays the problem is to provide interpretative keys and reliable “certified” information sources based on facts, to foster people’s ability to build their own ideas and point of view, not the opposite.
  • Let’s move from stakeholder engagement to issue management“. That means in facts that instead of (wisely) paying attention to their stakeholders, of any kind, companies should now just “focus on those issues aimed to cause the greatest influence and impact on the business of the company itself “. It sounds a bit like providing companies with the perfect boy scout camping recipe, such as:

 a) concentrate (temporarily) on an issue (whatever you want, as long as it sounds interesting and it suits the business and is connected to your mission;

 ​b) influence on the same theme as much people you can on the globe regardless of the consistence of facts, but only on the basis of consumer’s emotionality, experience and perception: stakeholders, according to this vision, in the end do not exist, there is only a global audience there at firm’s disposal to be passively influenced by its communication techniques

c)when you have finished/you are satisfied with the results leave the topic and move on to something else.

This is probably the perfect recipe for a disaster.

Hopefully, companies would need just the opposite, f.i. studies and ideas aimed at characterizing organizations on the basis of a long-term, sustainable and consistent value system, deeply connected with real social and environmental needs of their communities and on a solid stakeholder dialogue.

This dialogue, as the principles of social responsibility clearly indicate, should always begin and end with people, however aggregated/represented.

This means that stakeholder should always come first and not the problems, as those are always defined in close relationship with the necessities/priorities and values of the former ones.

In evidenza

Entrepreneurship is enlightenment

enlightenment

On Christmas Eve light blossoms everywhere, even in the most unexpected places.  The same should be not just all around us, but in our spirits.

Entrepreneurship too has definitely something to do with light.

Entrepreneurship can a way of taking steps to find enlightenment: reconsidering the past without judgement for instance is a step in this direction, through moulding it into a repeatable experience that you can share with everyone.

But a step to enlightenment includes for sure looking for a positive environment: every good entrepreneur craves being in the kind of positive environment that creates firstly the incubator for their own growth and then for their firm.

And last but not least, looking at entrepreneurship as a road to enlightenment means being able to do other two important things.

The first is the ability to appreciate and enjoy details; while performing such an hard task as being an entrepreneur, every little light on your path is something worthy of your consideration: always accept it as a sign of confirmation that will help to keep you on your path.

The second is to cope with difficulties: where everybody sees failure, enlightenment pushes you to see endless possibilities, where everyone sees defeat, try to see understanding.  Light will lead you to come across as seeing the “silver lining” in anything. Pollyanna’s “glad game”, in the end wasn’t silly or mindless at all: teaches all of us to become aware. Aware of the potential of our optimism. If you stay tuned with light, (sometimes) magic happens.

Best wishes to all of you!

In evidenza

Doing business through listening

orecchio

We only see what we know” said once Goethe.

In entrepreneurial terms we do often the same. But, even more important we do often “listen only to what we like”. And, if we do, the chance of remaining what we are or, even worse, to fail, is very high.

Listening is entrepreneur’s very first friend, because is a powerful way of processing ideas, intuitions, emotions. Seeing sometimes can be immediate but also misleading, whereas listening can’t. It involves time and patience.

In conducting business, you’ll be busy with almost constant change management and with lots of people pretending their expectations to be taken into consideration by your business model. Both of these processes don’t involve at first speaking/pitching, but (apparently) the contrary: developing a deep listening attitude.

There are so many obstacles between a normal and an outstanding listening skill.

Many entrepreneurs and managers see their potential stakeholder like a mere on-demand moral support and reconfirmation service: as not so careful listeners they “download” from their words and messages only what they like and assume that counts as a reconfirmations of the ideas they already have.

More difficult, challenging and useful is being ready to analyse and listen even to those facts and consideration that at a first sight clearly contradict their own theories, being also prepared to change perspective for a while in observing reality.

So if as a human being and an entrepreneur you may learn to switch perspective and use for a while somebody else’s eye, your  listening skills and techiniques  instead are probably what more deeply personal and unique there is in your own identity. Nobody can listen the way you do nor you can ever do it in somebody else’s way. Therefore is so important and can make the difference for your startup project

Skilled listening, is a way of generating and testing new business ideas: it means in facts being able to pay attention to phenomena, eliminating background noise, and get the essential feedbacks from stakeholders, summarizing the content of their word. Mirroring, but in a creative way. (Then probably the better firms are the ones that are able not to mirror but to match, compensate and sometimes even counteract stakeholder messages, but that request time and starts anyway from a good listening phase)

In the end, that’s what a business plan represents: an entrepreneur is someone that find an original way of listening and then of creatively paraphrasing customers’ messages and statements in a way that both sound inspiring and reassuring.

What is essential is invisible to the eye”…but most of the times it can be well perceived by the ears!

 

In evidenza

The next little thing

 

mattoni

Probably everybody knows that story about a guy who meets three builders on their lunch break. “What are you doing today?” he asks the first. “I’m putting brick after sodding brick on top of another,” complains the first. “What are you doing today?” he asks the second. “I’m building a wall,” replies the second. But the third builder instead replies: “I’m building a cathedral!”

Clearly, the encouragement between the lines is that you really need to get out of the so-called “Doorway Effect” and that a process as well as an action needs to be thought of at multiple levels if it has to be successful.

So that means that the first two builders were wrong?  We can answer by saying that “Rome wasn’t built in a day”: if you don’t start putting (efficiently) a brick on top of another there will be no cathedral at all.

As strange as it may sound, in the real world the same person can’t exist in two times and places, but firm can

                     .the next little thing

If you look at the big picture, suddenly the cathedral will appear in your eyes. Then probably you’ll be inclined to concentrate with the following things:

benchmarking: how the other cathedrals were built?  How do they look like?  Which is the most beautiful?

innovation: what’s next? Real innovation means projecting a new cathedral or instead thinking about a breakthrough building something completely different of even more ambitious?

If instead you are one of the first two builders, welcome in a completely different world. Welcome in the world of incremental innovation. In such a case innovation is about:

benchmarking: mostly an internal matter. Who’s the most efficient builder? Who, between the subjects performing task similar/equal to mine, is adopting an approach that can be transformed into a best practice?

improving the process: how can I put a brick on top of another quicker (and better) than ever before?  Can I think of adopting some slightly different material?  Can I reduce errors/waste?

innovation:  mostly incremental.  The most widespread kind of innovation. It means an innovation that concerns an existing product, service, process, organization or method whose performance has been significantly enhanced or upgraded.

Here is the point. In your organization you need to frame both things: both the brick and the cathedral. Looking for disruption will be an healthy and wonderful bet on a different future, but in the end every great innovation will become routine and incremental innovation is the only thing that will allow your firm to stay ahead in business. And this  matters for every firm and business environment, not just for low-wage countries or ow- and medium-technology industries or mature firms.

Yes, because incremental innovation is important, being largely the dominant form of innovation.

In facts, blue ocean is some kind of unicorn. Rounded on the side of caution 90% of innovations is like that: a small continuous process where innovation is always in the next brick, or wall. In facts, buliding a new cathedral can be challenging, being disruptive can be fashionable and sound positively ambitious too, but at the other side its a very complex process, rather than a discrete event, and generally implies a sophisticated and risky process

And so what?

There are anyway some typical warnings to be taken into account:

Is your firm sensitive to incremental innovation? This is strictly related to giving the chance to your team to exchange their experience, concentrate on product/service specification, register/formalize those small improvements

Does your firm reward incremental innovation?  This not just about providing training and know how but also being ready to timely transform a series of positive experiences and practices into best practices, and into a continual advance in change management process,

-does your firm look for innovation hidden in (apparently) daily /routine processes and practices?

matrioska

How is R&D managed inside your company? What about  its objectives and priorities?

That will be a useful exercise: from time to time, asking your team about the way they see their job. Are they taking the brick/wall or cathedral side?

 

Who,exactly, are your stakeholders?

STAKEHOLDER

We insisted on this subject so many times. Startupping for us is the art of involving someone with the development of an idea able to create value.

But exactly with who are you supposed to communicate?

With stakeholders, obviously, one may say. A stakeholder is anyone with an interest in your business.

But sometimes this area of business planning is neglected and even the word “stakeholder” is so generic and hazy.

A more common and widespread way to consider the problem is: a stakeholder is anyone we could meet along our entrepreneurial journey and that shows, proves or somehow pretends to have something to say about us and the way me manage our business. Or maybe, someone we would like (in our dreams) to have as stakeholder.

We believe that in reality stakeholder engagement is a value creating/mandatory activity to be performed on a regular basis since the very first moment in your startup development.  At least for two very good reasons:

corporate identity: you can engage with third parties only if you know who you are. Any entity willing to communicate with another one should beforehand define its identity. There is no communication if there is not a well defined “me” area and and therefore an external environment to relate with (“the others” area) So is in business too.

risk management: excluding some specific and internal risk factors, strictly connected with technical aspects related to the supplied service/product, all the rest is somehow originated by the nature of the relationship with stakeholders. Probably, the same concept of risk is deeply linked with stakeholders. If risk is defined by the likelihood of an event and the caused damage, is clear that the concept of damage is bonded (and it changes accordingly) with stakeholder’s perspective. Damage for customers (not getting what they paid for)  damage caused to investors (not getting their reward),damage caused to community (f.i   the environmental impacts). So is important to involve them in their risk management approach: the sooner, the better.

But who these stakeholders might be?

  • Investors – owners, bank, VC or investor
  • Business consultants – someone providing specific and valued knowledge
  • HR – management/owners and staff; the interest of human resources in the business’ performance is therefore obvious; addictionally, management may have extra concerns concerning risk and liability (depending on startup’s liability status, the owners might have risk to their personal wealth)
  • Customers – increasingly looking forward to know everything not just about your product/service but instead about the firm itself, and moreover about you as a founder. This means that nowadays there are increasingly more ways a customer may assume to be affected/influenced by your company’s behaviour. Take into the due account this aspect!
  • Suppliers – and moreover outsourcers, controlling specific and value-adding processes of your value chain
  • Government, authorities and certification bodies– concerned about business health, business compliance and reputation, impacts on society, local community , public health and on environment and of course in having firms able to pay taxes.
  • Media

And, once you started with this stakeholder management process, what about your goals?

They should be at least some of the following:

increase their risk tolerance towards having a relationship/investing/collaborating with your firm

increase their trust, not just in your product/service nor in the firm, but in you as a manager and/or as a founder

increase their commitment, for instance with your vision, your business model or just your value proposal

making them always willing to tell you the truth about you and your company: this topic is of course strictly related with the concept of trust and with your ability of making them feeling comfortable when communicating with your firm’s representatives.

Startups: ADOPT-ADAPT-IMPROVE

adopt adapt improve

The Round Table Motto is ‘ADOPT-ADAPT-IMPROVE’. This motto was taken from a speech delivered by the Duke of Windsor in 1927 in which he stated: “The young business and professional men of this country must get together around a table, adopt methods that have proved so sound in the past, adapt them to changing needs of the times and, whenever possible, improve them.

What these words do actually mean nowadays for startups and firms in general?  

Adopt means to take on as one’s own, like an idea, a process, an attitude, or a behaviour

Adapt means basically to modify something, to adjust it to a somehow new situation.

Improve is strictly related with the well-known ISO Standards concept of learning by doing, checking continuously the possibility for taking a quality assurance system (processes of whatever kind), a step further.

Small and medium sized firms are naturally adaptive, but sometimes they miss some opportunities in the other two areas. Or better, they miss the big picture, the reason why “’ADOPT-ADAPT-IMPROVE’ motto should be written of every firm’s office wall.

Adopting in facts is the first act: every firm is at its very beginning busy analysing the external environment, try to adopt some or all the following aspects:

  • Best practices
  • Standards
  • Technical requirements
  • Business models
  • Rituals

But what next? This is the point. The most complicated thing to do is then

Adapting all this stuff to firm’s present situation. A best practice could be inspiring, but is born for another firm, a standard need to be contextualised if you don’t want to cause damages to your own firm, a business model need a personalisation to work properly, etc. and this is hard work.  Sometimes entrepreneurs refuse to think this way because the fall in love with some previous and off-the-peg approach: damages are there to be noticed for many years to come.

Improving is then the last (continuous) step: is where the previously adapted models/practices/standards/rituals produce a real added value for the firm. Sometimes an adapted and optimized business model is exactly what makes the firm unique and successful.

Does your firm have rituals? (but not just for rituals’ sake)

rituals

 

If nowadays newborn companies have to invest not simply in being the best but in being unique, their identity is everything.

But developing a true identity is extremely difficult.

Company culture has a lot of different ingredients, it is somehow like a structure made of various materials. Clearly:

  • Values/beliefs
  • Stories/myths

are part of the game. Values are extremely important, both for outlining and guiding company’s strategy.

But, what about rituals? Are they part of the strategic scenario?

If values are often defined as “what the company stands for” rituals are instead commonly addressed as “what and how does a company celebrate”.

Is this everything?  If you look at the definition of “ritual”, every dictionary reports at least the concepts of:

  • A ceremony
  • A prescribed order for performing a ritual ceremony
  • A series of actions or type of behaviour regularly and invariably followed by someone.

That’s way it’s not just a matter of celebrating something. Team lunches, events, shared activities and different ways of sharing success and company’s achievements are certainly very important, but this is not everything about rituals.

Rituals are also ceremonies, clusters of prescriptions and, even more important, a series of actions not just described, but, somehow, actively played, which means explained by simulating a situation or an action. And that’s a powerful way of explain something, as we know that quite a few persons after a while recall what they hear, more can remember what they hear and read, but everybody remembers for a long time what he/she can directly practise. Therefore, when we are talking about rituals we are mainly talking about a particular kind of processes.

In this way rituals may play a very important role in crafting and implementing company’s strategy. They can prove to be even more effective than processes in inspiring company’s people because they include in their structure not just a series of actions but a series of prescribed actions. Therefore they directly involve the principles of leadership. Only leaders in facts can craft and spread rituals, giving sense and importance to them: exactly like it should happen when implementing a strategy.

Rituals are important because they always tell a story by giving an example, a positive behaviour that can be immediately followed by other people within the company.

So rituals can help company to grow both in identity and self-awareness in many areas:

-managing customers

-communicating with stakeholders

– involving new resources within the company

-getting people familiar with company’s values and workflow

-getting managers to know top managers/founders priorities and vision

We can therefore assume that, concerning company culture, rituals occupy a central role, connecting company’s values and beliefs with stories/myths by giving to everyone in the firm the possibility of learning about company’s identity and values not just hearing of it but instead by diving into this stuff, impersonating the founders.

10.000!!! Thanks to our supporters, readers and contributors

10mila

 

Thanks for this important achievement!!!!

In less than 6 months we reached many entrepreneurs, stutents and professionals across the world. This is definitely more than we expected in such a short time.

The Naked Pitcher book is now a reality, and many other projects are on their way to be realized.

Take a look at our online tools and to the articles published about entrepreneurship across the world

We were and we are open to every contribution and idea about approaching strategy and supporting entrepreneurship for startups across the world and especially in MENA region.

All the best and thanks again!!