How to start an inno project and build commitment your team?

You have a vision, you gathered a team and you even have a budget. And now, how do you get your team started? List your team’s expectations, build a common understanding, and let your team take on responsibility. You also have to come to terms with the fact that the project involves uncertainties.

We have the ambition to create a tool that provides micro-learning to train cognitive biaises. Today we have a prototype. Last spring, we had only a vision to lead us. As told in a previous post, one of my colleague detected a need in an industry and an opportunity for us to create a new tool. He gathered a small team and invited us for a kickoff meeting. We were all motivated. How could we proceed?

During the kickoff, we jolted ideas around, and used sticky notes to draw the project. It was important that we all had a common understanding of the tool we wanted to create. This kickoff meeting was also the moment when we created a team spirit and built personal commitment.

Ownership, responsibility and role

As motivated as I was to play my part, I needed to understand how I could contribute to the project and how much time it would involve. We started by writing down the outputs we expected from the meeting. The expectations were various.

Our expectations for the kickoff meeting

Kevin expected us to take ownership. The initial idea came to him and he wrote a paper about it. He expected us to work as a team and take ownership. This is what he means by ‘Co-sign Whitepaper’.

To me ownership meant responsibility. The moment I commit to a project means that I stop saying ‘Kevin’s idea’ or ‘Kevin decided’ or ‘Kevin meant’. I start saying ‘we think’, ‘we decided’. It also means that I committed myself to play my part, make time to work on the project.

I needed to understand, the role that I would play, in other words how, with my competences I would contribute to the project. This is expressed as ‘Where do I position myself?’ From the beginning we are a multidisciplinary team. We have learnt to contribute with our respective skills. Understanding my role leads to better planning. If I understand my tasks and how I relate to the other team members, I can organise my agenda and be available when I am needed.

During this meeting we also decided how we would communicate about the project to our stakeholders’, which at this point, were internal. We finally defined the next steps and decided the content of the next workshop.

Map the idea – understanding with drawing

We were sitting down, listening to Kevin. Sitting around a table is so limiting! Ideas cannot express themselves, they keep eluding and the energy slowly runs low. We couldn’t see what Kevin was explaining. After a moment of deep concentration, I tend to relax a bit, which means that I am not being this concentrated. At some point, we were all running low on energy. Thus we started drawing.

White walls are a blessing. Someone starts drawing and you can add up your idea, then everyone can see and add his/hers.
It started with a sketch, and step by step it became like a map. A map of the idea, where we could navigate, see the stakeholders, start apprehending who we needed to talk to, what we needed to understand, what remains unclear, what is our role, our strengths and weaknesses.

Let your team take ownership by drawing together the idea.

It very much looks like this: drawing, talking and gesturing. When you stand, the flow of ideas wraps you up and before you realize it, you are ‘in it’, you take ownership and you belong. You stand and draw together. It has nothing to do with sitting and looking at someone talking, you are part of it.

Drawing of our project

Our drawing got more complex while our understanding of the situation got clearer.

Be kind to your blue side and deal with uncertainties

Have you ever heard of the DISC assessment? That test attributes colors to people after a test. I never took it myself, but I often heard some friends refer jokingly to it. When they refer to the ‘blue colleague’, they talk about his preciseness, attention to detail and his capacity to be systematic. As I started this project, I realised that part of me, that I will call my ‘blue side’ backed off, because it was unconvinced. My blue part tends to refrain the overly enthusiastic and risky part (I don’t know the color of this side yet ;-)

In other words, during this meeting, my blue side realized that there is a huge part of unknown in this project. When you start an innovation project, you have to be aware of the fact that some uncertainty and risk will always be present. During my studies and work life, I have been trained to try to avoid mistakes and evaluate risk. I usually try to have a fairly good idea of the success I expect  from my actions before I perform them. Starting an innovation process is the contrary of this. It is jumping in the unknown and imagining something that does not exist… yet. You need to be open-minded and accept the risk and unknown.

To conclude: we mapped the project and I accepted the probability to fail

It was time for me to accept that mistakes are part of the game and to come to terms with the probability of failing. An innovation process is made of ups and downs, test, success, mistakes and iteration. The risk is part of the game.

During this first meeting, we mapped the project and the stakeholders It gave us the necessary common grounds to start working together. To draw the project allowed us to clearly see the expertise we needed. We planned the next steps and organized the first workshop where we would invite other experts. The project had officially started.

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Gaining confidence through a clear vision

Following our vision – no matter the issues – is what brings us confidence to continue to move forward. In travel as in projects.

As you might have read in my first blogpost on the topic, preparing our departure in sabbatical was already quite a challenge with multiple highs and lows. Yet the adventure was just about to start.

A sweet start

Our first stop – backpacking Sri Lanka for about a month – felt quite similar to a good, well-earned holiday. Nice weather, very friendly Sri Lankans and absolutely tasty (and spicy) food combined with fabulous landscapes and beaches made it very comfortable to kickstart our trip. In fact, it felt very similar to the early phases of a new innovative project, as we enter into the 5S of the design process, brainstorm through new ideas and define the product strategy.

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The Only Question To Answer At The Daily

How awesome is your Daily Scrum? Does it fall flat or does it launch the day, generating energy?

The Daily Scrum is to me the most important meeting of the day. The impact of this super short gathering is immense. How many times did we discover that we weren’t on the right path, that two people were actually working on the same task, that oh, yeah, it’s actually quite cool to talk to each other!

I could write pages and pages of key moments that happened during the “Daily” that saved us from actual (or future) difficult situations.

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The exciting day I started an innovation process for a learning tool

We currently address the need for a modular framework for bite size learning, and we are now investing to create the next level micro-learning system. Innovation ‘for real’ is nothing like you might expect. It does not happen like an apple falling off a tree: good ideas do not fall from nowhere. You have to be open to challenges, to be motivated to work with the team and in a ‘safe’ place, an environnement where trying is allowed.

How to be open to innovation?

You have to be open to new challenges, which is difficult even close to impossible if you are stressed out or under tight deadlines for example. During my first year at Liip (2016), I undertook many projects that had started before I had arrived. As a result, I had little time for planning or strategies, I undertook what was already started. During this first year, everything was new, I was in the turmoil of an event, or in a middle of a project, my whole energy was focused on current tasks.
Before Christmas 2016, my knowledge of the enterprise and the field had exponentially expanded. It allowed me to grasp the necessary bigger picture of my enterprise’s needs and challenges. Simultaneously, many projects came to an end, as a result, I was not under tight deadlines. In other words, I was open to new challenges and ideas. I had cognitive capacity to take on new challenges. When Kevin, a colleague I barely knew, approached me, I welcomed his project with an open mind.

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Learnings from my sabbatical: the need to let go

A year in sabbatical taught me many things, about life, family and culture, and also about work. We went through different steps, just like during an innovation project. For me, remaining a beaming Liiper goes hand in hand with a beaming private and family life. This resulted in following our family dream, leaving everything else behind. For a while.

When I joined Liip in 2010, as one of the first “Romand”, I had the task to expand Liip’s activities to west (french speaking) Switzerland, with the great challenge of opening a new office and creating a new team there. New horizons, new persons, an avidity for advancing towards the unknown… the perfect challenge for the entrepreneur-type-of-me :)

After a challenge, follows another

Fast forward a few years later – mid 2015 – the Lausanne office counts 20 Liipers and runs well – mostly without my help anymore. This is surely due to our efforts to bring the company into self-management, added to the fantastic team of Lausanne Liipers that joined me in our everlasting commitment to build the best products for our clients.

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Is corporate communication in self-organized companies still needed?

When we decided to move forward into self-organization, I often heard, that corporate communication and marketing no longer will be needed. Self-organized companies would work much more transparent and open, are purpose driven and therefore, fulfill real market needs. Cool! I love being transparent and never have been one of these marketers building castles in the air. But will my daily work really be obsolete? I decided to find it out.

Different approaches of self-organization

As a parallel to working at Liip, I was doing my master’s degree, I used the question in the title to write my thesis[1] about. But where to start? I decided to go for Laloux’ Reinventing Organizations as this was the book mostly talked about at Liip.

With further investigation, I found other approaches like Heyse & Erpenbeck of Malik. Keeping things short, here’s an overview of these 4 approaches:

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Career day with refugees

Today I represented Liip at the “Career Day” of powercoders.org, a Swiss association to teach refugees to code and to ultimately place them in Swiss IT companies.
Around twenty companies got five minutes to pitch for interns. Afterwards each company got a table, to provide a space for a short interview session for a potential three months internship with the powercoders.org students. The discussions at the table were stimulating and I was particularly pleased about the fact, that the first three people at our table were women. When I had decided to participate at this event to represent Liip on short notice, a colleague of mine said the refugees would all be men anyway. I was well pleased to see her proven wrong.

At Liip we get a fair amount of internship requests, often by people at the beginning of their work career. It was refreshing to discuss with experienced people at this events, people that are entrepreneurs, worked in education, worked at several companies, that have the ambition to make a mark with meaningful employment…, this was a common denominator among everyone that came to talk to me. I was equally impressed by the organisation and the commitment of the organisers, in particular Christian Hirsig. The passion he put into hosting this event and the project is infectious.

We are looking forward to working with one or more of the people we met at this extraordinary event.

www.powercoders.org

Web developer is a dream job? One week to discover

We welcomed Baptiste, 14 years, in our Lausanne Office. One week of “trial internship” to understand what it is to be a dev. What could I teach him in such a short time? Read this post to discover what I organised for him and how it went.

Dev step by step

Baptiste was visiting us to discover the different facets of our job, in view to better know what he wants to do later. This week was a professional orientation internship. Taking this issue very seriously, I have given much thoughts on how to prepare a broad, dense and accessible program.

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Self-Organization – Nothing But Talk?

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It’s incredible how the topic of self-organization emerged over the past few years. In 2016 we reached an amount of attention we had never seen before. We were invited so many times to talk at conferences, in schools, for communities and many big corporations on all levels up to the top management. And the media covered the topic widely. Some in the industry even thought this was a marketing campaign above all. But far from it.

Time to reflect how we got here, why we gained this attention and where we are heading to.

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Five Steps to define your perfect Digital Learning Environment

Sometime ago, I ran into a quote about learning that sticks into my mind. There are a lot of quotes hunting the social media networks, but this one just didn’t want to go away. It was the starting point of a reflection on how to create a great learning experience for today’s learners. I end up with five simple but essential steps that I will share with you in a series of posts. We will start today with a short overview of these steps.  

Digital Learning Environment in 5 steps

 

This quote from Albert Einstein resonates to me like the perfect antithesis to most of the Learning Management Systems that I’ve seen up to now. In terms of technology and functionalities they are perfect, but there is no experience, no emotion when you use them. They deliver the exact opposite of what learners expect: they deliver just information.

Learning is an Experience

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