Dan Warne - Innovation Heroes

Dan Warne: Deliveroo’s MD On Driving Fresh Innovations

Dan Warne is the UK and Ireland’s Managing Director of Deliveroo, the innovative restaurant delivery service. Deliveroo has been delivering hot meals to the homes of people all over the world since 2013 and reportedly hit revenues of over £130 million last year.

In the second instalment of our Innovation Heroes series, we talk to Dan and find out how early work experiences gave him the skills and drive required to lead the growth of a hugely successful business like Deliveroo.

Early Career

During his early 20s, Dan took a job in media sales at a local radio station, in the hope that the role would open doors to a journalistic career.

“Back then, I really wanted to be a journalist. So I took a job doing media sales for a radio company, thinking it could be a good route into broadcasting. But I soon found out I had no chance at all of making the transition.”

Having realised that the route to journalism wouldn’t be straightforward, Dan began to look for other opportunities within the business.

“The radio company ran a Dragon’s Den-style competition, for which I pitched an idea for a music production and sharing platform. I was really fortunate in that they loved the idea, and I was able to begin working directly with the CEO and renowned music producer Greg Walsh on the project.”

The opportunity to work on developing an idea from the beginning provided Dan with many of the skills that he uses in practice today.

“Working on the project taught me everything I know. It taught me how to put models together and gave me strategy-consulting training that I wouldn’t have had anywhere else.”

After a year of working on the music sharing platform, the radio station was bought out by Global Radio, who decided to pull the plug on the project. It was a blow to Dan, but the time he spent working on an idea from inception, had ignited his entrepreneurial spirit.

A Temporary Setback

“Having the plug pulled was rather unfortunate, but it certainly gave me a taste for doing my own thing. I enjoyed having ownership of a project and being able to drive it from the ground up.”

Dan then went on to work for the mobile network, Orange. Here, he broadened his experience working in a big corporate framework, while developing strategic partnerships for mobile web. Although the experience gave him a great business education, Dan became frustrated by a lack of innovation throughout the organisation.

“It was a good educational experience, but I didn’t particularly like the business. It was slow-moving and not particularly innovative, despite what the branding may have suggested.”

Learning to Scale Big Business

Though the strategic partnerships he worked on at Orange, Dan was introduced to internet media company, Travelzoo. It is here that he learned how to quickly scale a new business into global markets. 

“I ended up moving to Travelzoo, to help them set up a new entertainment division. At the time they only made travel deals, but they really wanted to move into the entertainment space. So I suggested they launch a premium e-commerce platform, similar to Groupon.”

Dan moved to the United States to run the e-commerce launches throughout major cities. Here, the business quickly scaled from a stock market value of 250 million to 1.6 billion. This rapid growth meant that Dan had to keep to a steep personal learning curve.

“Going from being a reasonably junior person at Orange, to suddenly managing a really large team, meant that the onboarding process was quite hard. But it was an incredible experience.”

Craving Ownership

During his five years at Travelzoo, where Dan helped the company to grow a new business, bigger than their original core operations, he learned some valuable lessons.

“I learned a lot during my time at Travelzoo. Including some of the do’s and don’ts of how to scale a business. As well as, the importance of remaining true to principles that made the business a success in the first place.”

Dan left Travelzoo when he felt the business began to move away from their core values and found himself craving ownership of the projects he worked so hard to realise.

“I found I was unwilling to put as much as I had into a company, literally building a business bigger than their core business for them, with no equity or ownership. So I felt that, for me, the next move had to be to a business where I could genuinely feel like a shareholder”.

Dan remembers feeling as though the stars aligned when he met Deliveroo founder Will Shu:

“Deliveroo was operating in the premium end of the market and it was fast-moving, and it was moving in all the areas I had experienced in. Will Shu, had a great confidence and vision for the company. And importantly, he had the capacity to raise money, which is fundamental to a successful tech startup.”

Keeping Innovation Alive

Within three years of Dan joining Deliveroo, the company had scaled to over 100 markets in UK towns and cities, as well as 11 other international markets. This growth has seen inevitable changes to the business, but Dan remarks how innovation and autonomy are still at the core of what they do.

“The company has been successful for lots of different reasons, but fundamentally, I believe our success has been down to giving autonomy and ownership to individuals.”

“My vision for scaling the business outside London was to employ hungry, well-educated graduates with 1-2 years’ work experience and give them a basic playbook to drive and run their region themselves – I don’t micromanage.”

As the company grows, it has been necessary to make some adjustments to its culture. But retaining the dynamism and passion that comes from an autonomous organisation is still hugely important to Dan.

“When you have 12 people, it’s easy to keep the spirit and mentality of the business clear. But when you have 1,500, or more, it becomes a little more challenging. You have to be a little more structured to make sure that the objectives of each individual team are aligned. That said, we are still a very innovative company, we’ve driven a lot of exciting ideas over the last year or so.”

Deliveroo encourages innovation by maintaining a comparatively flat hierarchy throughout the business and by having a friendly and approachable management team:

“As a senior management team, we’re very approachable. We’re always out on the floor and out with the team for drinks in the evening. It’s very much a place where, if people do have ideas they can feel comfortable bringing them right people to help them develop.”

On Taking Risks

Dan has been at the helm of businesses that have experienced huge growth in a short amount of time and although he recognises the importance of data, in his experience, a lot of good decision making comes down to gut instinct.

“Although it’s very fashionable to say data is king and to ensure that you are using the right level of data for decision-making, I also think it’s important to trust your gut and intuition to an extent. Particularly at the beginning, where there probably isn’t a huge amount of data to work with.”

When walking through his own decision-making processes, Dan likes to surround himself with people who will “challenge” him as well as those with a slightly different experience who can look at things with a different point of view. But the focus of his decision-making processes are always on the positive outcomes of a scenario:

“You obviously measure the downsides, but it’s got to be the upsides that lead decision-making and galvanises the organisation. It gets people excited, gets them inspired and gets people behind you”.

Dan Warne & Donata Lees with Deliveroo’s award for Tech Company of The Year, 2016.

The Future of Deliveroo

Deliveroo is on a mission to be the best delivery company in the world. For Dan, his mission is very simple, and that is to support Deliveroo through this period of growth and to help the company realise its goals:

“If my legacy could be that, over the next 4-5 years, I helped Deliveroo to become the best delivery company in the world,  I’d be immensely proud and satisfied.”

You can follow Deliveroo on Twitter or visit their website.

To view the last instalment of our Innovation Heroes and find out how Trunki founder, Rob Law, turned a second-year university project into a multimillion pound business, click here.

Stay tuned for Innovation Heroes part 5, where we talk to Bleep Bleeps founder Tom Evans.

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Do you think you fit the bill and would like to feature in our Innovation Heroes series? Or know somebody who does? Get in touch by filling in the form below, we’d love to hear from you!

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Innovation Heroes- Rob Law

Rob Law: Trunki Founder on going from Dragon’s Den Failure to Retail Success

Rob Law is the founder and CEO of Trunki, the brand behind the much-loved children’s ride-on suitcase and one of Dragon Den’s most notable “failures”. Rob invented the colourful travel accessory when he was just 21 years old, and consumers have now spent over $300m on Trunki products.

In the third instalment of our Innovation Heroes series, we talk to Rob and find out how he took second-year university design project and turned it into a multi-million-pound business.

The Beginning

From early childhood, Rob was always interested in using his hands to make stuff and undiagnosed dyslexia meant that he found himself drifting to the creative side at school. He never yearned to be an entrepreneur and was instead more interested in product design, having been sold on the discipline during a work placement for a product design agency.

Rob’s love of design led him to take a degree in product design at Northumbria University, where, as part of a national competition, he was given a second-year assignment to design a piece of plastic luggage.

Rob remembers, “in the late 90s, injection moulded suitcases were all the rage, but there was nothing designed specifically for children.” While looking for inspiration, he found himself drifting around the children’s section of a department store, when he noticed a design flaw with children’s toys, “the rotational moulding of the ride on toys was wasting a lot of space.”

This led him to think about using convection moulding in production, which would allow him to craft it as more of a suitcase and make it ergonomic for children to sit on and ride. Rob remembers this day as the point where he had his “Eureka!” moment when the concept for Trunki was born.

Overcoming Early Setbacks

Rob’s design for a ride-on children’s suitcase went on to win the competition in 1998, but when he approached manufacturers to licence the product, Rob met his first setback:

“Luggage manufacturers told me I’d invented a toy and toy manufacturers told me I’d invented luggage. No one wanted to take it on.”

Rob put his idea for Trunki on the back burner for a while, went travelling and took a job in Taiwan as a product design consultant. It wasn’t until 2000, when he was struggling to find design work, that Rob started to working on Trunki again.

Rob’s tenacity and passion for product design gave him the determination to further refine his product whilst backpacking around Australia: “Both me and my partner back then knew what we wanted to do. I wanted to work as a product designer and she wanted to work in social development. I got paid reasonably well when I was in Taiwan, so I bought my first Macbook laptop and taught myself Rhino on Virtual PC. It was a slow and painful process, but I had lots of time in the back of this camper van. So it was really then that the shape of the Trunki as we now know it started developing.”

Things started to fall into place when Rob met with a toy manufacturer in London, who quickly signed a global licensing deal for his design in 2003. However, in three years, the product only got sold to one customer in Saudi Arabia — and never made it to the US or European market. The issue was that the manufacturer misunderstood the brand concept of Trunki “selling it as a cheap ride-on toy, whereas it really needed to be positioned as a lifestyle brand”.

Later, and arguably the brand’s most well-known setback, came when Rob’s idea for Trunki was rejected from The Dragon’s Den. In a now infamous scene, the strap on his product broke during a demonstration and Peter Jones told him his invention was “worthless”.

However, as luck would have it, rejection from The Dragon’s Den provided great publicity for the brand: “Back then I needed money, I needed mentoring and I needed some exposure. So I got on Dragon’s Den. I thought, as soon as this airs, it’s going to be a car crash, but the public saw through it. It accelerated us to a nationally recognised product almost overnight. Looking back now, I wouldn’t change a thing.”

The Importance of Branding and Hard Work

Innovation Heroes- Rob Law

When Rob came to launch his own business in 2006, he was able to put the skills he’d learned from working closely with brand managers, into creating an engaging and recognisable brand. He also had to quickly learn how to run a business, with little background knowledge:

“Creating the brand, the proposition, all the visual assets, the photography, that was all almost second nature. And also back then, 11 years ago, baby products were still pastels and kids products were still primary colours. Trunki’s two lead products, and still our bestsellers, Terrance and Trixie, were actually quite bright and vibrant for the industry.”

“The photography was quite fresh and new back then. It was very attention-grabbing. But then, learning about business, when I had virtually zero background, was a steep learning curve.”

Having never set out to become an entrepreneur and refusing to become a workaholic, like his father, Rob surprised himself by becoming ever more engrossed in his work: “Growing up my father ran a retail interior design business designing all the Laura Ashley shops, amongst others, and he was a workaholic. I swore to myself growing up that I was going to enjoy myself and not become a workaholic. I managed to last a few years. Until 2006, when I started up my own business and became a workaholic myself.”

Keeping Innovation Alive

With a strong background in product design, Rob is keen to keep innovation and idea generation alive in his business. As part of ongoing innovation, Trunki develops products in-house, as well as inviting inventors of children’s travel products to share their ideas:

“We develop products in-house and we get contacted by an awful lot of inventors, thanks to our Dragon’s Den fame. So there’s a screening process for the external ideas. If it’s not a children’s travel product we’re not even interested. Sadly, despite the amount of contact we’ve had, we haven’t seen a commercially viable product yet. Which is a shame because I’ll quite happily embrace someone else’s idea, but we haven’t seen the opportunity there.”

“We use a fairly standard design process that includes looking at market opportunities, searching the market, doing workshops on what the USPs could be, talking to consumers, understanding their frustrations, and putting it all together. After 11 years of business, we’ve got a great holistic approach.”

Rob makes sure that new innovations meet strict criteria: “a great product has to have a USP that appeals to a customer, and we have two: the parent and the child. It’s got to look good on the shelf, has to hit a certain price-point, meet safety & compliance criteria, and logistically, it has to work”.

The Rewards of Success

Trunki is now a globally recognisable brand. With millions of units sold, you’d be hard-pressed to walk through an international airport without seeing even just one child pulling a brightly coloured case behind them.

Rob says this is one of the best things about Trunki’s success: “The greatest reward for me, from a product point of view, is looking at Instagram and seeing happy children using our products. We’ve sold over three million suitcases now and they’re probably being used, on average, at least 10 times on holidays in their lifespan. That’s an awful lot of family holidays we’ve helped create happy memories for.”

“From a professional point of view, one of the greatest rewards I’ve seen is the people we’ve employed who have gone on to leave the company, to start their own businesses. Some are cottage businesses, some of them are a little bit bigger. It’s great to see so many people decide, ‘actually I’m going to have a go at this myself’.”

You can follow Rob on Twitter or visit his website.

To view the last instalment of our Innovation Heroes and find out how Shezad Nawab turned triumphed through adversity to become an award-winning entrepreneur, click here.

Stay tuned for Innovation Heroes part 4, where we talk to Deliveroo Managing Director, Daniel Warne.

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Do you think you fit the bill and would like to feature in our Innovation Heroes series? Or know somebody who does? Get in touch by filling in the form below, we’d love to hear from you!

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Innovation Heroes: Shezad Nawab

Shezad Nawab: Profoundly Deaf… And MBE Award-Winning Entrepreneur

 

Innovation Heroes: Triumph Through Adversity

Shezad Nawab is an award-winning entrepreneur  who has been actively involved in supporting a number of new business and start-ups over the last 15 years, as well working with SME’s to help them to grow their businesses. He is also profoundly deaf.

In the second instalment of our Innovation Heroes series, we talk to Shezad and find out how he allayed his parents’ worries and overcame his disability to become a successful entrepreneur running several businesses.

Born and raised in Birmingham, Shezad has always used British sign language, and has subsequently faced a lot of communication barriers in his life. Something that worried his father when he was younger. Asking him the million-dollar question: “How do you become rich?”, prompted his father to express concerns for Shezad’s future, about being deaf and how he would get on in life. But even then, the 10-year old Shezad had an unshakeable confidence, and told his dad not to worry, that he would succeed.

He went on to work with his parents in their businesses, running branches of the Post Office and a property development company they owned, where Shezad was able to gain valuable skills and experience.

Overcoming Early Disappointment

Shezad’s childhood dream was to become an airline pilot, but being profoundly deaf, this was simply not possible. It was an early lesson in accepting his limitations and having to give up on certain dreams. He says:

“I was always keen to run my own business and become an entrepreneur, and this was something I focused on. Even as a child I was curious to see how people set up their own businesses and how they problem solved.”

On The Importance Of Branding

Shezad learned an important lesson on the necessity of getting your branding right, very early on.

“When I graduated I set up Deaf Business Services Ltd – it was a good business and a good model, but there was a real key issue, which was branding. Despite my passion, and efforts to network and secure clients, I was getting the same feedback –  having the word ‘Deaf’ in the company was giving people to the perception that I was not-for-profit or a charity. So after that I rebranded to Business Consulting Management and kept it really light — and that made all the difference.
One of Shezad’s key businesses offers consulting services to fledgling businesses, a company he says was inspired simply by common sense.

“I’m very pro-active, and I knew I had skills and knowledge that I could pass on to other businesses and people like me. So, I talked to them about their audience and about who they’re trying to market to.”

As well as helping to solve the usual issues that start-ups face, like lack of management structure and missing gaps, there are also specific issues that people with disabilities face.

“For instance, using everyday banking services – for deaf people even getting access to these services can be quite stressful and there are many more barriers than ‘hearing’ entrepreneurs would face. People in the deaf community have to work twice as hard.”

Shezad Nawab

The American Dream

Shezad now works with about 40 clients who are in the early stages of setting up their business, and a lot of his work is focused on increasing their confidence. He is keen for more deaf people to own their own businesses, explaining that there aren’t many deaf business owners in the UK, and that we really lag behind countries like the US in this area.
“There are huge amounts of deaf business owners, financiers, accountants, restauranteurs and coffee shops owners in the US, whereas in the UK, it’s a different picture. My real aim is to show that self-employment and running your own business is a viable option in the deaf community.”

Finances, Philanthropy & Risk-Taking

Whilst obviously fiercely ambitious, it’s clear that being able to help others is a strong motivating factor, besides financial gains. But it’s a balance, as Shezad explains:
“If someone is just at the ideas-stage, we would just give them light-touch advice and mentoring. However,  if they have a healthy turnover and they are a business looking for development, growth and an exit strategy then, obviously, I would charge them fees and commission. But it’s always a judgment call.”

“I feel entrepreneurs have to face risks, but it’s all about being prepared. Entrepreneurs must protect themselves, so it’s about having non-disclosure and confidentiality agreements, having a very strong team around you that you trust, having iron-clad policies, and always, ALWAYS getting everything put in writing. It’s about minimising risk as much as possible to stop problems further down the line.”

Running A Tight Ship


Clearly being idle is not high on Shezad’s agenda and the fruits of his labour have certainly paid off – besides the reward of running several successful businesses, he was recently awarded an MBE for services to business and diversity, something he cites as his proudest achievement to date. He explains how he manages his time across his multiple endeavours:

“I have to have quite a strict schedule. I get up between 6 and 7 and make sure I always do the school run. To stay organised, I use a lot of emails as well as texts and Whatsapp and am very strict on keeping separate email folders for different companies I work with. But it is manic! Depending on what stage each business is at and level of urgency, I divide my attention accordingly. I find it helps to just stay positive and keep pushing forward.”

The latest business venture by Shezad is a company called Sfhere, an organisation with a turnover of £2m+ that specialises in expanding UK based SME businesses into foreign markets whilst strategically positioning them for an optimal exit.

Unfortunately, having launched in 2016, Shezad’s business is feeling the effects of Brexit.”We had a huge amount of interest when we first launched and then unfortunately quite quickly after, the Brexit vote happened. It’s had a real impact on our business. The market has gone incredibly risk-adverse, so currently we are looking at how to re-launch that in the light of Brexit. We have a few clients signed on, but it’s slower than anticipated. However, the interest is now looking up so we are staying confident and positive – I believe it’s a great business.”

Leaving A Legacy

Family is clearly very important to Shezad. Whilst his wife is also deaf, his daughter, aged nine, is hearing, and it seems she may not quite have figured out what to do yet… “She is very keen on science, but at the moment she springs between science and wanting to be a pop singer! She has also got incredible sign language skills, so she may want to be a sign language interpreter. I know children have so many interests and change their mind about what they want from day to day. But I hope in the future she will pick something and really stick to it and apply herself  – and I hope that’s what I have taught her.”

Spreading The Word

Whilst Shezad is currently focused on Sfhere and attracting more clients, he’s also doing quite a bit of public speaking on businesses and their international spaces recently. “I’m starting to get a lot of interest from Blue Chip companies to talk about how they can improve visibility of the deaf access for staff and customers. This is something I’m very keen on pursuing further, by doing speeches and maybe more public speaking in the future ahead.”

A real inspiration. We wish him the best of luck!

You can follow Shezad on Twitter or visit his website.

To view the first instalment of our Innovation Heroes and find out how Aidan Fitzpatrick turned an identified problem into a multi-million dollar business within 18 months, click here.

Stay tuned for Innovation Heroes part 3, where we talk to Trunki founder Rob Law.

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Do you think you fit the bill and would like to feature in our Innovation Heroes series? Or know somebody who does? Get in touch by filling in the form below, we’d love to hear from you!

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Innovation Heroes: Aidan Fitzpatrick

Aidan Fitzpatrick: The Million-Dollar Business Borne Out Of Frustration

 

Heroes Are Made…

Aidan Fitzpatrick is a UK Top 100 entrepreneur. He is the CEO and co-founder of Reincubate, a data access platform, and prior to that, he was CTO of Wiggle.com, which was sold in 2011 for £180m.

In the first of our Innovation Heroes series, we find out how Aidan turned an identified problem into a multi-million dollar business within 18 months. How did he make his idea happen? Read on – it’s a great story.

The Beginning

It all started in Aidan’s school days, “I was an avid reader at a young age but I befriended the school geek when I was 13 and he would write code on the computers at the school library. I was bitten by the coding bug. From then on, all I wanted to do was write code.”

Aidan found he had a real flair for web development, and loved the process of creating. So much so, the young developer founded a web design business. “When I was 15 or 16, I set up a web design company with my best friend and we built very ugly looking websites for people.

I recall building a website for a Paintball
company. I spent a weekend doing it and the company paid me £2,000 for a weekend’s work. At the age of 15, it was more money than I had ever seen or than I knew what to do with!”

But as is often the case, money is simply a by-product of a great idea and a founder’s passion for the product or service he is delivering. Aidan recalls that he got far more pleasure from spending weekends coding than the money.

Problem-solving… and a little bit of serendipity

Like a lot of successful businesses, Reincubate’s first product, the iPhone Backup Extractor, was born out of identifying a problem and a little bit of serendipity.”

Aidan recalls the story, “I was one of the early iPhone adopters, when the update of iOS 2 came out I lost all of my iPhone data, as the phone reset itself. There were some contacts from the phone that I really needed, so I decided to spend the weekend writing a script to get the data back. It worked and I retrieved my data. Then the exact same thing happened again a few months later when I upgraded to iOS 2.1.

I ended up putting the script online as a free download and started receiving 20 to 30 emails a night from people in the same boat. I spent about three weeks fielding questions until I realised I was already working 12-hour days without the extra work of fielding all these emails from people!

I had to stop people sending me emails, so I thought the best way to do this would be to start asking for $20 through PayPal, for a pre-built copy of the software with their name on it. Within the first few years we’d been wired $1 million.

With the success of the business has come a new-found realisation of the importance of data to people. “We’ve had emails from people retrieving lost voicemails from deceased loved ones, and 1st birthday pictures that would have been lost forever. When you help someone like that, it’s so rewarding.”

Reincubate

Staying Ahead Of The Game

The (continued) success of Reincubate is mostly down to the fact that the product solves a very clear issue. “We are entirely driven by people coming to us through inbound and natural search. We were the first mover in the space, so we got to define the name of the product and the sector we are in, which has really helped.”

Whilst it’s obvious that Reincubate had a lot of success in a short space of time, the real trick is keeping it going. We asked Aidan how he stays ahead of the game and drives innovation.

“Word-of-mouth has accounted for a lot of our success. At different times we have either been the only ones who can do what we do, or been 9-12 months ahead of everyone else. Our success has really been about focused innovation – we validate our innovations or new ideas through direct-user testing and interviews: “Some of the marketing or product guys will just go out to the street and talk to people. Often they talk to people who have no idea about the space Reincubate are in. You get a real value from someone who has never used the product before, quite literally the ‘man on the street’.”

The Importance Of (Not) Being Idle…

As is often the case with successful business people, Aidan is not really one to take it easy. He has a strict daily schedule and is always looking to achieve more by setting goals. “I use a use a calendar religiously and stick to it. And I guess I’m a compulsive goal setter! I have goals for the next 10 years, for the next year as well as quarterly goals.”

Aidan sticks to his goals through a group called Entrepreneurs Organization, which is a non-profit learning group for entrepreneurs.“I have an accountability buddy, who’s just another entrepreneur, another guy building his own business his way. Every month we talk and he asks me about what I’ve achieved.

This guy has absolutely no leverage over me, other than my incredible embarrassment if I haven’t done what I said I was going to do. For me it is a very powerful motivator.”

No Education Like Adversity

The lowest point in his career came whilst recovering from cancer surgery. “I was put on these painkillers, and they just took away my ability to think. I remember this really black 3-month period where things were not going well and I was not equipped to deal with it or to fix the problem.”

Overcoming his low point wasn’t easy. But, as Winston Churchill said, “You should never waste a good crisis.” Aidan found dealing with adversity gave him a great sense of focus. “There is an Alan Kay quote, and I’ll mangle it, but he says ‘the future is uncertain unless you make it’. Often these glib lines don’t work for me, but that one really resonated. And I just thought “Ok, things suck and the only way it won’t suck is if I make them not suck” – and I found that very motivating and just got on with it.”

Talking about his daily routine, Aidan says he struggles to be ‘on’ rather than ‘in’ the business, something that will resonate with a lot of entrepreneurs. “As an entrepreneur, you should be thinking about how to drive the company forward. So I have to take time to think about ways to not get distracted in the day-to-day working. Sometimes I will take a morning at home to read a bit and reflect, and I find that incredibly effective.”

Interestingly, he’s discovered that sales actually increase when he is away from it, but there is a distinct limit. “If I’m out of the business for up to two weeks, sales go up. But once I go past two weeks, sales go down.”

A Legacy Of Value

Integrity plays a huge part in the legacy that Aidan wants to build with Reincubate. He suspects that in years to come there will be five or so big tech companies who will increasingly create value from people’s data and build walled gardens and more sophisticated ways to exploit that data, leading to greater inequality.

“Part of what we are trying to do is to make it easier for individuals and companies to build value and harness the value and power of their own data in a transparent and secure way.

I would like to be part of that movement and be part of decreasing inequality and opening up opportunities people have. I think I would like my legacy to be, living to my values and being known for someone who lived to their values.”

Passion For Fashion

Lastly, we ask Aidan what people what be most surprised to find out about him when they first meet.

He says that, given the ‘dry’ nature of tech, it probably comes as a surprise that he has such a strong creative streak. He loves to write and illustrate (he is a published author) and is involved in a number of non-profit organisations.

And what’s the ultimate dream? “I am absolutely on a journey with Reincubate – we’ve got a lot of building to do and I’m going to be here a long time. But I would love at some point to build a fashion business.”

We suspect it, like all his other ventures, would be a roaring success.

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Do you think you fit the bill and would like to feature in our Innovation Heroes series? Or know somebody who does? Get in touch by filling in the form below, we’d love to hear from you!

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Innovation Against The Odds: Brad Pitt and the Black Swans

Moneyball film

Moneyball, the film starring Brad Pitt, is a great lesson in innovation against the odds. Pitt plays the part of Billy Beane, the General Manager of the Oakland Athletics Baseball team.

The Oakland Athletics were a sub-par (at best) baseball team. They were the detritus of the baseball league. So, what did they have going for them?

Constraints

The Oakland Athletics did not have the luxury of a huge war chest, like the other clubs. Their players even had to pay for their own soft drinks from a vending machine in the changing rooms. They also did not have any prestige. Consequently, attracting any top playing talent was a tough ask.

In business, constraints and a lack of resource, are more of a gift than a hindrance. Having a disadvantage is what drives people to achieve. It is the start.

Large businesses forget how to think like a start up. Why? They lack the constraints and so don’t push forward. See Kodak / Blockbuster / Sony / Motorola / Microsoft. They failed and are failing because they don’t have constraints.

Blockbuster

Large companies are great at incremental innovation, not so great at disruptive innovation. Where do you go when you reach the top of the mountain? Many organisations don’t leap, they stay at the summit and freeze.

A company with a great idea and constraints, is for a large organisation, what a mouse is to an elephant: Terrifying.

Thinking Differently

At the start of the film, Beane and his scouts are sat around the table trying to work out who to draft into their team.….

His scouts would say things like, “We should buy this player because he has a good swing”, “He can run like lightening”, “His wife is a six out of 10 at best, forget him, he has no confidence”, “He has a good batting average”. For over 150 years, most scouts in baseball had picked and dismissed players on their gut and basic analysis. In frustration, Billy shouts, “We have to think differently!”.

Billy recognised if they kept thinking the same way, as they had done, the team would not move forward.

This is the second most important lesson. Not thinking like everybody else.

5 + 5 has one correct answer. Which two numbers add up to 10? That has an infinite amount of answers.

Everybody in baseball was trying to win the championship by adding 5 + 5. Doing things the same way they always had. This was their weakness.

Billy hires an economics graduate from Harvard to start looking at players through statistical analysis, sabermetrics, to be precise. This allowed him to build a team around mathematics, and not gut-feeling.

Because Billy was thinking differently to all other managers, all the players they were buying were massively undervalued and underrated by other teams. They were the Black Swans of the baseball league.

Belief

Billy’s statistical genius was Paul DePosta. Paul had been in baseball for just two years when Billy hired him as Assistant Manager. Billy, and DePosta had faith in their new statistical system.

Even when people from the wider management team were trying to stop the sea change in player selection, even when the team had lost 14 of their opening games, both Billy and Deposta remained resolute and backed themselves.

The third most important thing is belief.

“Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t, you are usually right”.

Henry Ford said that. You have GOT to believe.

When Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile barrier, something which people thought impossible previously, he changed people’s belief systems.

Roger Bannister

Suddenly, people saw that the four-minute barrier could be broken. A year after Bannister, many more athletes broke the four-minute mile barrier. Their physiology had not changed, only their belief that the four- minute mile barrier could be smashed.

Billy and his team of nobodies, Black Swans, had all three of the above in abundance.

So, what can you achieve with nothing? Anything.

I Am 7: Three Steps To Thinking Like A Child

Kids Creative Thinkers

I read a great deal about ideas and how they are formed. I am currently reading How to Get Ideas by Jack Foster. If you have a challenge in your business and need some ideas, here are three really simple steps to thinking like a child – and generating some gems.

Step 1: Have Fun

In the book, one of the first things Jack writes is about children being the best at generating ideas, then over time we become worse at it.

Neil Postman agrees;

“Children enter school as question marks and leave as full stops”.

Children are the best creative thinkers – everyone from Einstein to Edison thought that. Charles Baudelaire described genius as ‘childhood recovered at will’.

Robert Oppenheimer the renowned American physicist said;

“There are children playing in the streets who could solve some of my top problems, because they have modes of sensory perception that I lost long ago.”

Children live for fun. Fun is the key to thinking like a child and generating great ideas. The reason the creative floors of so many ad/creative/digital agencies are littered with toys, foosball tables, video game consoles and pool tables is to encourage the creatives to behave like kids and have fun.

So, next time you have a challenge and want to some fresh ideas from your team, take the ideas session outside or to your innovation agency, or to a restaurant. Anywhere but the workplace. Make it fun.

2. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask Why

As we grow into adults, we are manacled by decades of knowledge, too many boundaries, rules assumptions and preconceptions. Children have none of this baggage and never stop asking why.

Why

  • …  is the production line set up like that?
  • …  is the product packaged the way it is?
  • …  does the product look like that?
  • … do people at the front of the queue get served first?
  • … can’t your fridge or bin order groceries for you?
  • … do cars have fuel caps on only one side of the car?

Asking why is a great way to generate ideas. Children do it all the time.

3. Know That There Are Multiple Answers

During our academic and professional lives we answer thousands of multiple-choice, true or false questions. And so an assumption is made that all problems are like that, with just one solution. When the perfect solution can’t be found many people just give up or stop thinking of ideas.

But most problems are not like problems in school. Most problems have multiple solutions. Just look at the problem from another perspective or break down the problem into smaller parts.

As soon as your team realise they are not searching for one perfect solution, and know there are many solutions they will think more freely, associating old bits of knowledge with new bits of insight to generate new ideas.

So next time you have a problem ask yourself how you would solve this if you were seven years old.

Made It This Far?

Looking for some fresh ideas in your business? We work with organisations looking to develop new ideas. Sometimes quite successfully in fact. Get in contact with us by emailing me at nik@beaf.com or by calling 01242 715 483.

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Icarus Has Fallen: No Pain, No Gain

Icarus: No pain, no gain

In a previous post I wrote about pain. That without it, there is no progress. In other words: “no pain, no gain”.

I am currently reading Seth Godin’s book ‘The Icarus Deception’. Buy it. In the book, Seth writes that there is no pain-free way to achieve your goals, be that speaking on a commercial level, or a personal one:

Ideas are not enough without commitment. They are not enough because strategy is empty without change, empty without passion, and empty without people willing to confront the void.

We all know the story of Icarus. Icarus’ father was a brilliant engineer. He had been banished to prison for sabotaging the work of King Minos.

His father hatched a plan to escape prison and fashioned two sets of wings, so he and Icarus could fly beyond the prison walls to freedom.

Icarus was told by his father not to fly too close to the sun as the wax binding his wings together would melt. He disobeyed his father and we all know what happened next: The wax melted, and Icarus tumbled to the sea and died.

The intended lessons of this myth: don’t try to reach your loftiest goals too quickly, because you might burn out ; and (2) always listen to your parents, especially in situations involving wax wings and celestial bodies.

The –in our eyes — vital part of the myth that has been glossed over is that Icarus’ father also told him not to fly too low, as the sea would ruin his lift and he would also fall to the sea.

We are all willing to sit quietly in meetings, to not offer up an opinion, to not stand out. That is normal. Society has taught us about the dangers of standing up. So we stay low to the ground, sit at the back of the room in complete safety.

We are so obsessed with the risk of flying high that we have traded everything in to avoid it, settling for low expectations and small dreams and a guarantee of less than we are capable of, all because we are afraid of falling – S.Godin.

If history teaches us anything, it is that the future belongs to those who are willing to leap in order to fly. So commit to the frightening work of flying blind, of taking a stand and of turning an idea into something new. Don’t and nothing will happen at all.

We are really lucky to work with organisations who are all looking to grow through innovation and committing to ideas. Some ideas may fail, but none of the clients we work for are standing still or flying low. They are willing to push forward into unchartered territory, and if they do fall then we learn from it. Eventually they will fly though, and keep on flying.

Made it this far? Why not contact us?

We work with organisations looking to develop new ideas which can help them grow – whether it’s exploring a new market or a completely new brand, product or service. Get in contact with us by emailing me at nik@beaf.com or by calling 01242 715 483.