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3 Things Coca-Cola, AWS And Smartsheet Taught Me About Innovation

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In today’s market, companies that are not constantly evolving or changing go extinct very quickly. Back in 1950, the average age of a company on the S&P 500 was 60 years old; today, it’s 20. With so many companies failing, disappearing, or getting consolidated, transformation is critical for businesses seeking to survive, let alone compete and win.

To be successful in product innovation, start with the customer and work backwards to determine the products you need to design and build.Smartsheet

Some companies are really good at transformation and continuous innovation; disruption is built into their DNA. Others struggle with their legacies of success, becoming overly focused on self preservation, which leads to slow decision making and aversion to risk.

But it’s not impossible for large companies to reinvent their business; indeed, it’s essential for their survival. During the course of my career, I’ve been fortunate to work at three amazing companies — all very different — each of which has been integral in transforming their industry.

Through these experiences, I learned important lessons about innovation and business transformation that can be applied to almost any company. Here are three critical keys to success:

1. Start with the customer

To be successful in product innovation, start with the customer and work backwards to determine the products you need to design and build. Only by truly understanding your customers can you deliver products that they will love.

When I worked on Coca-Cola Freestyle, we knew we had to start with the consumer and figure out what they wanted, so we did a ton of research. We started with focus groups in five different cities, five groups per city, all different age groups and demographics. The insights we gathered in these sessions informed our quantitative research, in which we ultimately talked to more than 7,000 consumers.

By truly understanding consumer preferences, we were able to build the Coca-Cola Freestyle in a way that appealed to consumers, with striking results: Installing a Freestyle machine led to increased beverage sales for restaurants by 17- 20 percent, and increased Coca-Cola sales volume by 30-40 percent in those locations. What’s more, about 25 percent of consumers who knew about Freestyle told us that they chose which restaurant they went to based on whether it had a Freestyle machine!

To innovate at Smartsheet, we set out to understand what problems our customers are trying to solve and then build solutions that help them do that. Smartsheet is a cloud-based work-execution platform that makes it easy for anyone to get work done without having to wire together a bunch of other tools. Today, most of the companies chasing this market overestimate the technical bar that most business users can clear, which results in overly complex products that are not easy for most business users to adopt. At Smartsheet, we really focus on how we can meet the needs of the average business user.

Every time we build a new product, we start by writing a document called a “PR/FAQ” (Press Release/Frequently Asked Questions”), which outlines what we’re going to build — and why — before we actually go to code (an exercise I brought with me from Amazon.) This means we create the story that we want to tell customers on the day the product launches — before we actually build anything. Then, we iterate on the press release until we like what it says about the product and how it solves a problem for the customer. We validate it with existing customers. Only when we’re satisfied that what we have is the right product definition do we begin work on building the proposed product.

2. Small independent teams move faster

Once you determine what to build based on research and customer feedback, assign a small team to the project and empower them to make decisions and innovate. Keeping the team small and focused helps prevent scope creep and eliminates the management overhead required to coordinate work across a large group. It is important to establish mechanisms for the team to escalate when they need help, but try to limit the amount of energy the team has to expend reporting up. This will speed innovation.

To develop Coca-Cola Freestyle, I built a small dedicated team that was completely isolated from the rest of the organization. We reported to a board of advisors on a quarterly basis but were empowered to make decisions without having to ask for permission.This was pretty game-changing, as it allowed us to move fast, experiment and learn, and be singularly focused on capturing the opportunity we saw in the market.

Coke’s idea of isolating a small, scrappy team to work on product innovation is the Amazon model as well. In fact, Amazon has a name for it: a “two-pizza team.” Almost every new service that starts at Amazon starts with a two-pizza team — a team small enough to feed with two pizzas.

Small, scrappy teams can help you make better decisions by forcing you to make trade-offs based on the constraints faced by the team. They’re better able to innovate quickly and course correct as needed to keep the project on track.

3. Take a long view

Another key to supporting innovation is to take a long view of the business. Rather than expecting an immediate return on an innovative new idea, focus on how you’ll develop the product to best serve your target market.

At Amazon, they take a very long view of the business. When we launched a service at Amazon, no one was pushing us with the question: How fast can you get to profitability? Instead, the discussion was framed around:

●    What’s the market you’re going after?

●    How much of the market do you think you can serve with the MVP (Minimum Viable Product — the first, solid foray to market)?

●    Where do you think you’d go after that?

Rather than worry about getting a very quick return on investment, the idea is that if we build meaningful, compelling products, we’ll figure out how to make money over the long term.

At Smartsheet, we not only take a long view of our business, but also encourage our customers to do the same. For example, when customers come to us for a solution, we try to understand the problem they are trying to solve or the pain point they want our help to address. This deep understanding enables us to build solutions that are both opinionated and flexible. We bring best practices to the table, along with a real point of view on ways that our customers can change how they work, and how we can help their businesses innovate faster as they navigate a constantly changing market — now, and into the future.

Gene Farrell Gene Farrell Brand Contributor

Source: 3 Things Coca-Cola, AWS And Smartsheet Taught Me About Innovation

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We Tried The World’s First Folding Phone, & It Actually Works – Nick Statt

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Samsung may be just days away from taking the wraps off its very own foldable smartphone-tablet hybrid, but consumer electronics company Royole has stolen a bit of its thunder with its very own flexible display device. Called the FlexPai, the 7.8-inch hybrid device can fold 180 degrees and transform from a tablet into a phone, albeit a bulky one. At an event in San Francisco this evening, Royole brought out a working version of the FlexPai that we actually got to hold, and the folding feature works as advertised. Granted, it feels miles away in quality from a high-end modern flagship, but it is still the first real foldable device I’ve seen in person, and not just in a concept video or prototype stage…….

Read more: https://www.theverge.com/circuitbreaker/2018/11/5/18067116/royole-flexpai-flexible-display-foldable-smartphone-tablet-pricing-features-release-date

 

 

 

 

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These 5 Innovative AI Companies Are Changing The Way We Live – Rosie Brown

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It’s 2018 and the world doesn’t quite look like a scene from “The Jetsons.” However, technological innovation spurred by advancements in computing has allowed for artificial intelligence to bring significant changes to the way businesses operate, impacting our everyday lives. Here are five industries impacted by AI…….

Read more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/nvidia/2018/11/01/these-5-innovative-ai-companies-are-changing-the-way-we-live/#2dc9a60e5a7f

 

 

 

 

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Swiss Startup Aims To Help Paralyzed People Walk – Matthew Herper

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A group of scientists associated with GTX Medical, a Swiss medical device firm, published new evidence yesterday that using electricity to stimulate the spinal cord can help paralyzed people regain some walking ability. The new results, published yesterday in Nature and its sister journal Nature Neuroscience, show that using patterns of electrical stimulation allowed three men to regain the ability to walk with training. Unlike previous studies published in Nature Medicine and The New England Journal of Medicine, which used continuous electrical signals, not pulses, two of the men maintained the ability to walk even when the stimulation device was turned off……..

Read more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/matthewherper/2018/11/01/swiss-startup-aims-to-help-paralyzed-people-walk/#75cb0e4a7557

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This Thermometer Tells Your Temperature, Then Tells Firms Where to Advertise – Sapna Maheshwari

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Most of what we do — the websites we visit, the places we go, the TV shows we watch, the products we buy — has become fair game for advertisers. Now, thanks to internet-connected devices in the home like smart thermometers, ads we see may be determined by something even more personal: our health. This flu season, Clorox paid to license information from Kinsa, a tech start-up that sells internet-connected thermometers that are a far cry from the kind once made with mercury and glass……

Read more: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/23/business/media/fever-advertisements-medicine-clorox.html

 

 

 

 

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The Startup Postmates and Visa Use To Watch Their Language Just Raised $11.5 Million To Expand – Alex Konrad

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When the startup Qordoba first met with California venture capitalists to share its software idea, its founders faced an uphill battle for attention. Its chief executive was a female ex-banker. Its chief technology officer was Syrian and had taught himself English. And their business was based in Dubai. But Qordoba was operating in a market that resonated across geographies: translation. Initially focused on helping businesses manage local teams to translate their projects and copywriting to different languages…….

Read more : https://www.forbes.com/sites/alexkonrad/2018/10/11/the-startup-postmates-and-visa-use-to-keep-their-language-consistent-just-raised-115-million-to-expand/#3d45b10a768c

 

 

 

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How To Improve Your Digital Journey With The Right Partners – Derek Klobucher

Compared to a classic IT solution, [partnership] enables you to go much further along the way in a short period of time,” Carlo Schots, from The Netherlands-based IT service provider Ordina, stated in a video shown at SAP Leonardo Now last month. “Together they enable you to innovate digitally.” Ordina partnered with SAP to help Brussels-based telecom Proximus expand its fiberoptic network, shipping materials from a central warehouse to contractors and subcontractors spread across the country. Proximus used some of SAP Leonardo’s intelligent technologies to…….

Read more: https://www.forbes.com/sites/sap/2018/09/21/how-to-improve-your-digital-journey-with-the-right-partners-video/#1cd590056567

 

 

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Despite What Anti-Vaxxers Say, Vitamin K Shots Are Safe For Newborns – Lauren Strapagiel

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Babies are born with a deficiency in vitamin K, an important factor for proper blood clotting. So most newborns are given a shot of vitamin K soon after birth to prevent potentially life-threatening hemorrhages in the brain or intestines. It’s been standard practice since the early 1960s, but the rise in anti-vaccination rhetoric has also created a distrust around the vitamin K shot. And it’s all too easy to find risky or just plain false information. Search “vitamin K shot” on Google and some of the top results caution against them…..

Read more: https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/laurenstrapagiel/vitamin-k-shot-helps-protect-newborns

 

 

 

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Why You Shouldn’t Share Your Goals – Aytekin Tank

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The race to get the world’s first plane in the sky was a hard fought battle between The Wright Brothers and a lesser-known gentleman by the name of Samuel Pierpont Langley.

You will discover why you’ve never heard of the latter here shortly.

As you probably read somewhere inside that history textbook you were forced to lug around through elementary — The Wright Brothers were responsible for creating the first successful airplane. You remember how the story goes

“… it was a cold windy day on December 17th, 1903 in the Kill Devil Hills of North Carolina… Orville watched nervously as his brother Wilbur climbed inside the plane they had spent years perfecting… miraculously it flew for 59 seconds for a distance of 852 feet…”

While today “The Wright Brothers” is the first name that comes to anyone’s mind when they hear the word fly, once upon a time the pair were major underdogs.

In fact, during the race to the sky, most of America had its money on the man I mentioned earlier, Langley.

He was an extremely outspoken astronomer, physicist and aviation pioneer who was on a mission to make history. Langley’s high stature as the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution gave him both the credibility and hype he needed to get America on his side.

Not to mention, he was extremely well-backed by the War Department who contributed $50,000 to help him be the first to get a bird in the sky.

Long story short, despite all the hype, Langley’s flying machine ended up crashing and burning while The Wright Brother’s plane ended up soaring.

One party had the entire world, vast resources and plenty of moolah on his side, while the other just had a small bike shop and a passion to fly.

So, let me ask you this… can you guess why The Wright Brothers achieved their goal to take flight while Langley failed?

Early praise feels like you’ve already won.

The Wright Brothers victory over Langley came down to passion, intrinsic motivation (Langley was very status driven) and perhaps praise.

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While Langley was sharing his ambitions with the world and being heavily praised for feats he had not yet achieved, The Wright Brothers were receiving little to no attention whatsoever.

Some experts argue that early praise can leave the individual receiving the praise feeling like he or she has already won… in turn causing them to be less likely to follow through with their goals.

For example, in Peter Gollwitzer’s research article, When Intentions Go Public, he raises this very question:

Are scientists more likely to write papers if they tell colleagues about their intentions or if they keep their intentions to themselves?

Gollwitzer and his team of researchers carried out a handful of studies, here is a brief excerpt from their findings:

“Other people’s taking notice of one’s identity-relevant intentions apparently engenders a premature sense of completeness regarding the identity goal.”

In English, what Gollwitzer found was that when individuals set a goal that is closely tied to their identity and then share their intentions with others, they are less likely to achieve the goal.

For example, if your goal is to start drinking more water and you tell your friends and family that you’re going to start drinking more water, this would probably have little to no impact on whether or not you actually drink more water.

Why? Because drinking more water isn’t something you hold close to your identity.

On the other hand, if your goal is to lose 40 lbs and drop 2–3 waist sizes, it might not be the best idea to post about it all over Facebook. Your appearance is something you very much so identify with. So, if you tell people you plan to lose weight and everyone tells you how awesome you are and how great you’re going to look, you might be less likely to lose the weight.

This finding is a bit counterintuitive, considering we were told by our teachers and coaches growing up to set our goals, share our goals, hold ourselves accountable.

But, the theory certainly holds some weight (pun very much intended), and is one that has been adopted by highly successful serial entrepreneurs like Derek Sivers, founder of CD Baby.

Sivers gave a TED Talk on this very topic nearly a decade back. To prove his point, he asked the audience to imagine how they felt when they shared their goals with others:

“Imagine their congratulations and their high image of you. Doesn’t it feel good to say it out loud? Don’t you feel one step closer already? Like, it’s already becoming part of your identity?

Well, bad news. You should have kept your mouth shut. That good feeling makes you less likely to do it.”

Sivers goes on to explain that it’s this “warm feeling” that keeps us from battling on to actually achieve our goals.

When we openly share our goals, we experience a feeling of success that normally only takes place upon completion of the goal.

The result? We don’t ever actually pursue the goal.

Alternatives to sharing your goals.

I’ve recently shared 3 real-life business tactics to achieve your “big hairy goals”. But now, let’s talk about what can actually work when it comes to successfully reaching your goals.

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For two counterintuitive yet effective approaches to this, we look to a philosophy called “fear-setting” and making an effort to surround yourself with competition.

Embrace fear-setting over goal-sharing.

Entrepreneur, angel investor and writer, Tim Ferriss, gave an incredible TED Talk where he discussed how fear-setting is instrumental in achieving one’s goals.

He recommends that instead of obsessively sharing your goals, you should come to terms with all the fears that are preventing you from achieving them.

For example, let’s say your goal is to start your own business. Ferriss recommends that you write down all of your fears that are associated with starting a business.

These might include… “Losing all my money”… “Getting fired from my day job”… “Getting laughed at or judged if I fail”.

Once you write down these fears, you should then write down how you would go about preventing these fears (or mitigating the likelihood) of them actually happening.

For example, for the first fear “losing all my money”, your prevention might be… “I’m only going to invest $2,500 that way I can’t lose it all.”

Finally, after you have written down your preventions, you should then write down how you will repair what you fear from happening… if it actually ends up happening.

So, to repair losing the $2,500, you might write down, “Get a part time job as a bartender in addition to my day job until I make the $2,500 back.”

By concentrating on fear-setting over goal-sharing, it allows you to remove the fear that is keeping you from actually achieving your goals.

Surround yourself with competition.

In addition to fear-setting, it might also be a good idea to surround yourself with competition.

A healthy dose of competition can be good for your business, too. At JotForm, we love to use competition to our advantage with events like hackweeks to achieve our product release goals.

A study published two years ago in the journal Preventive Medicine Reports, sheds some light on the impact that competition has on our goals.

The study put 800 undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania through an 11-week exercise program where each person was assigned to work out alone or in a team.

In addition, the teams were designed to be either supportive or competitive.

By the end of the study, researchers found that students involved in the competitive team programs were 90% more likely to attend their scheduled exercise sessions than any other group.

Not only is this number staggering, but it also proves that competition can create a higher level of commitment among people chasing down goals.

When you surround yourself with competition, it doesn’t mean that you have to share your goals with the competition. You don’t have to tell the other folks in the spin class, cross-fit training or pick-up basketball leagues that your goal is to lose 50 lbs.

But, by simply showing up and placing yourself in a competitive environment, you will be more likely to push harder and show up more often — two factors that can help your reach your goals.


The science behind achieving goals has always been an interesting topic.

While some entrepreneurs advocate the idea that you should never have a goal, I’ve recently explained why setting big goals can make you miserable.

Whether you decide to share your goals or not, what I’ve found out across 12 years of entrepreneurship is that you should craft your own path.

What works for others won’t always work for you. And what works for you today won’t always work tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

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Africa Renewables Fund awards $1.6m for solar home lighting to 7,000 homes in Zambia —

Kazang Solar, Azuri Technologies’ official distribution partner in Zambia, has been awarded $1.6 million from the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund (AECF) under its Renewable Energy and Climate Adaptation Technologies (REACT) window. Azuri is a leading commercial provider of pay-as-you-go solar home systems to off-grid homes in Africa and has been working with Kazang in Zambia…

via Africa Renewables Fund awards $1.6m for solar home lighting to 7,000 homes in Zambia —

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