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The NWEN First Look Forum: early-bird advice

Update: the final deadline is August 23.
Rebecca Lovell’s The Art of the One-Page App has some very helpful advice
Don’t delay! Apply today!

  • If you’ve launched an innovative business with growth potential….
  • And you’re looking for expert coaching and some exposure to the investment community….
  • And you have not yet presented your plan to an angel group membership or VC partnership…

…then NWEN’s First Look Forum could be the perfect opportunity for you!

Indeed!  Dog food, e-forks and other ideas in TechFlash, Software Vs. Medical Startups: Online Travel Is the Winner in XConomy , Why We’re Shouting “Thank You” from the Rooftops, and For the Love of the Craft on Qworky’s blog tell the story of April’s finals, where Mikal’s awesome 5-minute presentation got Qworky to the top five.  We also participated last fall, when we made it to the round of 20 and got some great feedback, calibration, and connections.  It’s a great event, and was really worth the time and energy we invested.

The next FLF is fast approaching, and the application deadline is August 18 has been extended to August 23.  Submitting by the early-bird deadline of August 2 gives an extra round of feedback and a bonus shmoozing opportunity at the “Early-bird reception”. If you’re potentially seeking for angel funding in the next six months or so,  it’s worth investing the time to put together a one-page executive summary.  The application form and the full schedule are on NWEN’s site.

Event chair Rochelle Whelan and NWEN executive director Rebecca Lovell asked me to be part of the volunteer organizing committee to represent the entrepeneurs’ perspective.  My pleasure!  And when I think back on my perspective back when Sally, Mikal, and I were first thinking about applying application, the word that springs to mind is “uncertain”: did it make sense for us to participate?   If we went for it, how to maximize the value we get from participating and our chances of doing well?  Presumably others are in the same boat.

So I’d like to pass on some excellent advice we got from our advisors and a learning from our own experience.  And if other past participants have suggestions, please drop them in the comments.

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Guest-blogging mania! New posts on Twitter activism and innovation

I’ve got a couple of new guest-blog posts up elsewhere:

  • Skittles and infowar: #pman, disinformation, and trolls on The Seminal continues the “Lessons from Skittles for poets and activists” series, focusing on the Moldovan protests.  This week’s lesson: Expect interference — and have a plan to deal with it.  I posted an earlier draft here; there’s also some background information in the comments of Twitter *is* a strategy.
  • A collaborative journey … on The Ideators’ Journey kicks off a new series exploring product and business opportunities for web-based collaboration tools. Along the way, if all goes well, we’ll design and perhaps even prototype a free tool, and recruit some early users. If that sounds interesting, please join us!  There’s an earlier draft of this and the second post in the series here.

Thanks to Jason Rosenbaum of The Seminal and Eve Enslow and Michael Foster of The Ideators’ Journey for the opportunities!

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Change the way you ask for help (DRAFT)

DRAFT!  Work in progress, feedback welcome! See the first comment for some specific questions

Revised version to appear on The Ideators’ Journey, kicking off a series on collaboration and innovation, perhaps as two posts.

Eve’s Ask for help makes a great introduction to a series that Mikal Lewis and I will be kicking off on collaboration.  Eve, Michael, Mikal, and many of the other people you’ll see participating in this series met on the Ad Astra (Analysis and Development of Awesome STRAtegies) project I led at Microsoft.

During this series, we’ll apply approaches from Change the Way you see Innovation to a real-world problem: designing a free web-based collaboration tool, while simultaneously exploring business opportunities in this space.  In this post, I’ll lay out an initial scenario, and Mikal will take it from there.  First though a little background for people joining our journey in progress.

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social computing

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I picked up this short paperback (by Keith Yamahsita and Sandra Spataro) because I was intrigued with its design; it turned out to be very interesting in general. Unstuck is billed as “a tool for yourself, your team, and your world”, and while most of the examples come from the corporate space, it’s just as valuable for non-profit or political groups.

All leaders, teams, and individuals who aspire to be great, get stuck. That said, not all individuals who get stuck are wiling to admit that they’re stuck…. When you’re truly reaching out to the world, trying new things, and living up to your potential — that’s when you’re most likely to get stuck, because you’re deeply challenging the status quo. Those of us who stay stuck, do so because we’re paralyzed by fear. We’ve learned that getting unstuck requires staring our fear in the face, and relentlessly leaning into it. Staring fear in the face, the challenge then is to find one sliver of opportunity to defeat that fear — and often, that breakthrough is our opening to getting unstuck. From there, it’s about systems thinking, systems thinking, systems thinking.

Indeed. The three sections of the book deal with admitting you’re stuck (or recognizing the symptoms), diagnosing why you’re stuck (getting at the root causes: being overwhelmed, exhausted, directionless, hopeless, battle-torn, worthless, and alone), and doing something about it.

The last section is the longest with 40+ brief ideas for getting unstuck. The practicality and concreteness of these ideas is why I agree with the authors that the book really is a tool: “build a living lab”, “build a haven for radical thinking”, “start with the control points of the systme”, “write a headline from the future”, “make your brand a manifestation of your company’s purpose”, “be careful about which mode you are in”, “give the movement a name”, and “take over the tv station” are just a few examples. There’s also a lot of attention to network-centric thinking and diversity, including specifically calling out how younger employees are often marginalized. I’ve employed most of these techniques at various times (for example, I described a proposal for working on culture by focusing on internal communications as “putting the dissidents in charge of the communication ministry”) and they work well; along with Bob Sutton’s Weird Ideas that Work, this is the best collection I’ve seen.

The navigation through the third part of the book is interesting. Going through the section linearly presents techniques in an order that seems fairly random to me; charts in the identify the paths that correspond to each of the “serious seven” root causes; and most of the pages have one to three links to other pages. For example, on the page for “hold a summit”, there are links called “take to the airwaves” (pointing to “take over the tv station), “what will be the name of the event?” (pointing to “give the movement a name”), and “what will the headlines say?” (pointing to “write a headline from the future”). Particularly since the text of the links is different from the title of the target, it feels like a very wiki-esque organization to me; the excellent graphic design makes it feel very natural, and quite usable, in dead tree form as well.

Strongly recomended.


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