Can You Systematize Innovation?

When it comes to systematizing innovation, I always remember “Try a lot of stuff and keep what works”, a chapter in Jim Collins book Built to Last. It tells about how 3M and the others systemize their process by having a 15% rule. It encourages their employees to use 15% of their time to proactively cultivate and pursue innovative ideas that excite them.

I tried that a couple of times with Hilsoft, but we always fail. We were always bombarded with operational issues, and it is difficult to spare time to execute innovative ideas.

I came across with a podcast of Tim Ferris the other day, and I got a little excited when the guest was Eric Schmidt, the former CEO & chairman of Google.

The first idea I learned was to run your company at a consistent spin rate with the formula:

70% of your efforts in your core product
20% of your efforts in new products
10% of your efforts in new ideas

Unlike the 15% rule where it is employee driven, this is management driven. To simplify the idea, you can depict the formula above as: 70% of your team shall focus on your core products, 20% dedicated team in new products and 10% dedicated team in new ideas. It resolves the issue of cutting the momentum of the core products team as the new products & new ideas are dedicated.

At Hilsoft, in a way, this is unconsciously executed. Majority of our team focuses on our core which is ERP and HR/Payroll. A smaller percentage of our team is dedicated to new products such as Hotel Management, Real-Estate & CRM and a tiny portion on new ideas such as Snap Accounting & Snap Payroll. With this new learning, I am motivated to mindfully steer our team to more or less hit the percentages above. This move should result in more focus, clear direction, and staff satisfaction. We can always shuffle people now and then, to excite them.

The second idea that I learned, that as a leader, you may also want to systematize your meetings. I first discovered this from Jack Dorsey, founder of Twitter where he runs the company in themed days.

“The way I found that works for me is I theme my days. On Monday, at both companies, I focus on management and running the company…Tuesday is focused on product. Wednesday is focused on marketing and communications and growth. Thursday is focused on developers and partnerships. Friday is focused on the company and the culture and recruiting. Saturday I take off, I hike. Sunday is reflection, feedback, strategy, and getting ready for the week.”

Instead of squeezing your time each day in solving issues on all departments, having themed days is focus-driven hence more productive results.

I just recently implemented Mondays in operations, Tuesdays in sales and Fridays in team coaching and culture. The rest would be client meetings as we don’t have the luxury yet of me being full time in the back office. I still need to support our sales and delivery team in the field.

So to answer the question in the title, yes innovation can be systematized. It’s a matter of building & setting the right parameters (time & resource) to keep your clock ticking.

The Best Way to Tackle Difficult Customers or Difficult People in General

I think here’s the best way to tackle demanding customers or difficult people in general.

When it comes to customer service or dealing with angry customers or people, I always remember my friend’s story who, at the time, was working for a retail telco. He shared that the customer slammed the phone on the floor in front of him. That, to me, is the ultimate difficult customer to handle.

If you put things into perspective, high self-esteem is what you need if you are pursuing a service business or this line of work. That’s the primary key. Because if you have high self-esteem, then you can stay calm, you can listen to what the customer says, you don’t take things personally, you don’t argue, but instead, you will have the confidence to provide solutions and offer a compromise.

If you have high self-esteem, then you can always give sincere apologies if you made a mistake and show empathy.

But in any relationship, you should have a threshold. Unreasonable customers or people is the indication to fire your customer or stay out of the relationship eventually. Yes, firing a customer is an option especially if things are unjust. Self-esteem is also self-love. Yes, you care, but you should also care for yourself if things are unfair.

9 Tech Trend Assumptions That We Make That Is Probably Wrong

In light of my fascination with technology and innovation, I’ve been thinking about some assumptions that many of us make that may be wrong or we don’t realize what is really happening in the technology space.

This post is to encourage all of us to innovate and stimulate our thinking about the latest technology trends.

  1. The future of technology is coming. What we don’t realize is that it is here already. We have the AI, VR, AR, DLT, name it. We are already on it, and we just need to think of ways on how to apply it.
  2. Social media makes us happy. Yes if you’re using it properly. Some people are just not mindful that they only use it as a platform to let other people perceive them as happy.
  3. Internet or Cybersecurity is not a big deal. Hackers stole $172B from people in 2017.
  4. If we create an app and place an ad, it will get traction by itself. Before even creating the app, introduce first the change that you want to contribute to your chosen market. Build your MVP and minimum viable audience (MVA), a small tribe of loyal customers first and then do the ads.
  5. Your business does not need an AI strategy. If this is your assumption, then expect that you will go out of business in 10-20 years.
  6. Innovation is always just about the latest technologies. When Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone, the touch screen technology has been existing for quite a while already. He was able to disrupt the market by using an existing technology.
  7. Innovation is only for geniuses. Anybody can innovate. If you’re an employee, you can always find ways to improve your productivity by using new tools and technologies. There’s a lot of productivity tools out there such as Asana, Trello or JIRA. If you’re a developer, research and introduce coding practices like automated-tests, continuous integration and new ways to build and debug, if successful, then you can always share with your colleagues or even the management.
  8. That Blockchain and distributed ledgers (DLT) are the same things. If bitcoin or cryptocurrencies are the by-products of the blockchain, DLT is the mother concept of the blockchain. There several other implementations of DLT such as blockDAG and TDAG. Each has distinct characteristics that affect security and performance. If you choose to innovate on this space, then carefully study each option.
  9. That Blockchain is unhackable. Yes, it is, specially colluded attacks. Again, find the right balance in your implementation.

If you’re an entrepreneur and you want to build something, define your mission first more than profits. Choose your target audience. Analyze their challenges and white space. Then solve them through the latest technology that is applicable to solve the problem. You don’t need to study deeply on a particular subject if you don’t need it.

In any case, the awareness of the above can help you apply the technology rightly and may give you a proper perspective of the future.

How Integrity Helps You in Creative Decision Making

Integrity came from the Latin word Integritas or Integer in English. As you know, an integer is a whole number and cannot have decimals or fractions. In life, a person with integrity is incorruptible and 100% in terms of doing the right thing. It does not mean that the person will not make a mistake. It only says the person is doing what he or she thinks is right.

I’ve been an advocate of integrity for a long time already. I have a Chinese symbol tattoo on my back and one of the core values defined in Hilsoft’s core values.

In business or any workplace, you’ll be faced with a lot of scenarios that will challenge your integrity. There’s always a question of what is the best action for a particular problem. The first thing that we do is to reason with it and use our logic. If it couldn’t be explained through logic, then we follow our gut feel and intuition. But if integrity is within your core values, then that I think is the last filter to tell yourself if you’re making a sound decision or not.

I always hear from NBA coaches to play the game the right way. And most of the champions play the right way. What stuck to my mind is the 2004 Detroit Pistons led by coach Larry Brown and with no superstar player. They played the right way by passing the ball, selflessness and team chemistry and they were able to defeat the LA Lakers with an all-star team such as Shaq, Kobe, Karl, and Gary.

This example above gives integrity a strong argument, and that’s what I firmly believe. Would you choose positivity over negativity? Half full or half empty? I will never choose negative because positivity always wins. Cynical people may win in the short term, but in the long run, positive people or positive culture still prevails and wins.

So what are the practical ways to demonstrate integrity?

  1. Keep your commitments. Don’t say yes if you want to say no. If you say you will give feedback tomorrow, then provide feedback tomorrow.
  2. Let go of your ego. Sometimes our judgment is clouded because of ego. There came a time at Hilsoft where I had to let go of my perks and allow our finance team to controls my expenses. It’s my job to be a model for my team and let go of the ego when the finance team controls my costs. I also know that I am responsible for the survival of the company, our customers, employees, and our shareholders. They should all come first before me. It was difficult at first but I let the concept of integrity guide me.
  3. Take responsibility and accountability. If you made a mistake, admit it, and correct your errors.
  4. Don’t tolerate problems. People tend to tolerate problems when they see them. They always assume that it will take care of itself. It is not. So we have to resolve every issue that we see. It will never end but at least it doesn’t pile up.
  5. Negotiations should always be a win-win. Sometimes, people are tempted to win a deal without carefully assessing the other party’s benefit. This should apply not only to customers but also with employees and suppliers.

These are just a few examples. The takeaway here is to learn to always be in check on your decisions before making actions. Would you rather win but will bug you in your sleep forever or win with a peace of mind. An integrity-based decision to me is always a peace of mind. If you do this, then you have nothing to hide, and you won’t take criticisms seriously.

Solving Business Problems With Inversion Technique

Typically, what we do when we encounter any business problem is to point a finger, understand the cause, think of options, then decide what to do. If we fail, then we do plan B.

I came across with inversion or retrograde analysis with some articles I found online, and I wonder how can this concept apply to real-life business problems.

I’d love to share some sample scenarios based on my experience hoping this could help you as well.

Case #1 – Sales Problem: Leads generation.
Inversion Analysis: How can I prevent the company from generating leads?
Some Answers: Don’t do telemarketing and online marketing, don’t ask for referrals from friends and existing customers ( i just thought about this now), don’t analyze what the customers want, don’t do promotions.

Action plan: Ask for referrals, analyze the market, start an online marketing campaign.

Case #2 – Operational Problem: Team Performance
Inversion Analysis: How can I prevent the team from delivering on time, and with quality?
Some Answers: Keep unprofessional people, don’t strengthen recruitment screening, don’t lead the team, don’t provide training.
Action plan: Strengthen HR rules, policies and recruitment. Establish a good training program. Lead by example, coaching, and motivation.

Case #3 – Financial problem: Cash flow
Inversion Analysis: How can I make the company run short in cash?
Some Answers: Don’t force collection, don’t control expenses, don’t match revenue and expenses, invest on an asset without a careful assessment.
Action plan: Strengthen collection and maintain a “funded” budget.

Case $4 – Product development problem: Marketability
Inversion Analysis: How can I make the product not sellable and marketable?
Some Answers: Develop fancy features that customers do not need, don’t analyze customer benefits, don’t invest time to enhance the user experience.
Action plan: Realize customer benefits and invest time in enhancing the user experience.

In summary, I think the main benefit of this technique is to make us look at things and problems on a different perspective. Examples above are sort of like high-level, but you can go down to a more detailed problem to solve using inversion.

Ego is the Enemy of Creativity: How to Drop Ego to Ensure A High-Performance Team

I have this habit to wonder if there’s something wrong with me. Perhaps I’ve spent too much time alone in running the business in its first few years. As a young entrepreneur, my ego was fed with the idea of having a business of my own. The unwelcome, small voice of my subconscious whispers that I am the man and I made it but in reality, I have not.

Back then when I was managing the company in full speed and full control, I set my perks and spent things that benefit my needs and not the company. I was doing it without carefully assessing the performance of the business.

I wonder, maybe this ego was one of the major reasons why I failed several times. That ego blocked my creativity. I was too full of myself and the know-it-all. I don’t show it though but deep inside I know.

But the failures showed me the way. They shook my head so I gathered my wits. The thing is, these are impulses. You have to have a strong sense of being emotionally mindful with massive actions to stay humble and be creative.

It was 2011 when I welcomed the idea that for me to be able to grow, I need a high-performing team.

I need to let go of the big ego so I can perform and be creative.

I have to go back as a student and be willing to learn.

I then welcomed a partner to help me out in sales. A met a guy in his 60s, a little aggressive and big-headed but he makes sense. I learned a lot from him, especially in a sales negotiation.

With him, we were able to grow our revenue by 100% year-on-year. We were the A-Team in sales. But I had to allow myself to be in his wing, follow his calendar, be his driver and enable him to dictate the pace in sales. I even titled him as the Managing Director of the company. I forget entitlement.

By 2015 when I allowed the company to try one more notch of a challenge. I met a foreign angel investor that I have always been grateful for. I used the investment to grow further in sales and product. But one of the major moves that I made was to hire a CFO.

I had to let go of a big chunk of ego again by allowing an outsider to manage and control the expenses. I had to place the company’s mission above me. I let go of the perks as I was questioned with almost every business decision that I make. I knew I have to empower them and be professional.

It’s not about me anymore, it is about the company, its clients and its employees.

The growth momentum becomes inevitable that eventually, we hired a COO, department managers, and groomed team leaders. I even gave up my own office at one time to accommodate them.

Accountability as a leader becomes higher that I need to keep my own KPI and find myself responsible for transferring my knowledge to the team.

To this day, I keep myself in check of my ego on my actions and every communication that I do to our team and our clients. Because if not, then the ego narrows vision, makes us vulnerable and corrupts our behavior.

Strengthen your self-esteem and stay humble.

Integrity: A Positive Model to Solve Problems

“ca. 2004, while most of our prospective clients are in the pre-sales stage, my brother was becoming impatient about the nature of our business. The sales conversion process was really long. A typical cycle takes 3-6 months. Because of that, our team was already shaking. I got frustrated, we all are.

One of our few and critical programmers, on the other hand, was changing career. He was destined to take over their family business in Lucena. A mom and pop but famous auto-supply retail shop. During his last days in the company, he enrolled at Don Bosco for a mechanical course. Then suddenly, his dad died from a sporadic disease. That forced him to resign early. Then he left.

Dann and I have decided to dissolve the company. We agreed to talk to our uncle Manny about our departure. The night before our mtg, for some reason, I took a book from the office shelf that had been sitting there for years, it was a book given to us by Manny. The title of the book was Built to Last by Jim Collins. I started reading when I got home. I read overnight for hours. I knew my purpose. I knew I have to be resilient. I knew that more than profits, the company has to do a mission.

Next morning, we sat down at Starbucks near the office. The awkwardness was galling, making me fidget. Dann had no idea that I won’t be leaving the company. I cleared my throat and said, “I am staying.” He was disappointed to know that I changed my mind. It was the first time I felt independence from under his wing. I took that courage to stand alone and try to turn things by myself.

I went to the office right after the meeting. It was gloomy. I knew I had to take over Dann’s engagements with the prospective clients, Unionbank and its clients, Summersault Outsourcing to name a few. I knew I had to do presentations with corporate executives. Just by the thought of it was so nerve-racking.

I sat down and gaze around the office thinking about the weight on my shoulders. But deep inside, it was fulfilling. I survived.”

Integrity, as defined, is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. It presents as a positive model within morality and legality. When a person is faced by problems, integrity is a tool for solutions, increased performance and quality of life. Though commonly ignored, I firmly believe of its significant role in productivity and performance.

Here are practical ways to exercise integrity in solving problems:

  1. Determine your core values. We all see this in offices and corporations but do you know what’s this for? These core values guide organizations in decision making. When faced by circumstances where we have to choose between path A or path B, one of the criteria for the decision is, it is aligned with our core values?
  2. Keep your word. Many of us can relate to when friends or colleagues who commit to call back, reply back, promising this and that but always fail to deliver. It has become an acceptable norm for many of us. Please don’t say yes if you wanna say no because if you do, then expect that the solution to the problem you agreed upon will not happen.
  3. Keep an open mind. Listening to and respecting the opinions of others is one of the keys to problem-solving. A leader will never know everything. Don’t assume that you know everything especially when solving problems. It is essential to gather thoughts of the people around you and analyze what they have to say.
  4. Do the basics. Solving the problem by doing the unethical and illegal is a big NO.

In my story above, I came up with the decision of continuing the company because I kept my word to the stakeholders, partners, and customers. I solved the problem in sales by determining my mission, which is to help them solve their business process problems through software automation.