10 Practical Guideposts on Innovation

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I wrote this for myself.  I am obsessed with it.  I can’t help but be obsessed with solving every problem or every inefficiency that I see.  I know these guideposts will help me when I need it.
 
I started this blog a few months back to help me have a platform to do my research about innovation and creativity.  Over time, gradually, I started to understand its basics and intricacies.
 
I failed a couple of times but when successful, I fell in love with the products or solutions that I develop.  I get motivated every time I hear business challenges internally and that of our clients.  I’ve also seen what innovation looks like at every stage of our business and in life.
 
1. Innovation Never Stops.  Problems and challenges never stop therefore you should never stop innovating.  Do not tolerate problems that you see, queue it in your to-dos, prioritize and work on each of them.
 
2. Be Brave to Start Again.  If the product or solution does not work, cut the losses and do not be afraid of starting again.  The company 3M has this process of keeping what works and discarding what doesn’t work.
 
3. Find Your Inspiration.  In music, you need inspiration to come up with songs.  In writing, you find inspiration from books you read on life experiences.  In business, you get inspiration from your mentors, competitors, and innovators.
 
4. Don’t Worry if You Can’t Figure Out Your Niche Yet.  When I started the company, we didn’t know yet what to build.  We built our first product (accounting software) from the people around us who happened to be accountants.  All I want at the time is to innovate.
 
5. Be Patient.  I know I said not to be afraid to start again, but you have to find that balance in re-doing and being patient.  It takes time.  If you are building a product, build your minimum viable product (MVP) and iterate.  On the first year, start, research, and learn everything.  Just Do.  On the 2nd year, try to network and make friends with people who are your possible clients or partners.  Year three, try to start making money, but not profit yet.  Year four, profit and year five, scale up.
 
6. There are no shortcuts.  This is related to number 5, but just to emphasize further, there’s no life hack, or overnight success, for innovation. It takes time.
 
7. Stick with the Purpose.  More than money and profits, the product or innovation that you do should have a purpose, a mission and vision.  It can be as simple as innovating your to-do list.  Being efficient in your to-dos will help you focus and be efficient in managing time.  So in effect, you will have the time for other important matters or time to spend time with your family.  That’s the purpose.
 
8. Start Today.   Don’t wait for tomorrow, or next week to innovate.  Be mindful of the problems in front of you, then look for solutions now.
 
9. What If I Want to Invent Something Weird?  Maybe a flying car, or underground tunnel?  Do item 5 then number 2.
 
10. What If I Keep on Failing?  Do a routine every morning to listen to positive affirmations from YouTube.  List down three things you are thankful for.  Exercise.  Then repeat from number 1. 
 
Hopefully, these  will be useful to you as it was, and will always be, to me.

Learning How to Learn

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I’ve been pondering about learning in the past days and thought of my process of learning as early as my college days.  Being creative requires a lot of time learning about things in all aspects of art, music, writing, photography, and business innovation. 

So I asked myself, what are the building blocks of learning?  I did some research and came across Dr. Barbara Oakley, a former US Army with a rank of Captain and the author of the book, “Learning How to Learn.”

Here are some excerpts:

· The brain creates synapses when you learn something new. And sleep helps you and your brain cell regenerate to speed up the learning process.

· Most of the time, we procrastinate when we try to learn about something. The main reason is because of anxiety of learning something new. My personal technique when I procrastinate is the 5-second rule of Mel Robbins. It works for me. Once you start, it will eventually lead to satisfaction.

 · Chunking – just like programming which you do the coding per function or method. Chunking is the art of grouping concepts such as chapters that form part of the entire subject.

 

· Exercise – it is a very effective way to learn better on top of sleep.  It helps your brain maintain the neurons that help stimulate learning.

 

A little over a decade ago, I started a blog, “Create Things Now.”  It was all about creating, creating music, photos, animation.  I learn something by chunking them into blog posts.  One example is a post about writing a song.  

The first time I did it, I researched on the practical formula for writing a song.  I started off with a title, then lyrics, then chord progression, and melody.  Then I researched about recording and mixing, and came across GarageBand, LogicPro, mixing and mastering.  

I eventually shutdown my blog for some personal reasons but now that I am back in blogging and business, my experience from my research led me to not hire a sound engineer when recording voiceovers for marketing videos that I produce.

 

So here’s my practical suggestion as your takeaway:

1. Choose a subject that you want to learn about and that you will use eventually. If you want to impress someone, say a friend who has a piano at home, then learn how to play the piano.

2. Just start. Buy a basic piano or a keyboard, go to YouTube and learn from tutorials. Pick out the songs you like and learn how to play them. Do it in chunks, start with the intro, have a break, then on to the verses. 

3. Schedule your learning session once a day, once a week or once a month. It doesn’t matter as long as you stick to it and make it a habit.

I am writing this because of my recent goal to come up with a presentation video about Hilsoft products, hence the photo in this blog.  I researched sample videos online, retrieved my old Fuji camera with tripod, set up my mic/GarageBand for the audio, bought a green paper for background graphics (just like in the movies) for later use in editing.  Then I chose to set up in our conference room because of good lighting by the window.

Take note, I learned in chunks—set lighting, video editing—from my blog 10 years ago. If I did it, so can you!

An Innovative Way to Manage Human Resources

When I started the business 17 years ago, I did not regard the HR function as the most important function in a business enterprise. But as we grow, I realize now that HR is one of the most important, if not the most important, functions in the company especially when you are in a service business.

A service business by default should be an employee-driven company. Year after year, I realize the importance of 201 file, employee contracts, company policies, training, comp and ben, and many more. These things are more than a handful and for an efficient HR department, you will need an innovation that will cut through the clutter and have your personnel manager and human resources focus on what’s important, getting quality applicants.

So how do we innovate in human resources department? Below are the things that I learned over the years:

1. Optimize recruitment – online paid job postings are slowly dying. Job seekers are no longer reactive in those platforms. LinkedIn and social media are the most effective platforms these days. A company might also want to do a continuous pooling to easily retrieve one CV when needed. One software we made with one recruitment outsourcing client was an in-house uploader of all sourced CVs so the recruiter can easily search any requirement when needed.

2. Succession and Promotion – An HRIS can easily track personnel action or movement. Implementing one will definitely improve HR’s monitoring of employee promotion and changes in compensation and benefits. By having an inventory of skillset in place, HR can easily re-classify existing employees to fill positions that have opened.

3. Training and Development – Personally, I prefer home-grown management. HR can implement this by establishing training programs that can be offered to qualified existing employees. If you are a growing company, it is more effective to source managers from within the ranks rather than outside. HR can start by establishing short-term and long-term goals for each employee and follow it through by performance evaluation and appraisal.

4. Employee Engagement – Establishing a formula that enhances human drive is a very interesting topic for me. Human behavior and psychology are things that I want to learn even during college. It’s actually my second choice if I didn’t pursue computer science. There are many publications online and offline that talk about strategies to secure employee engagement. The basic formula for me is empowerment, task autonomy, and ownership.

With all of these learning, automating some of the functions of HR is definitely an innovation in itself. Barring HRIS and payroll software, innovating to keep your personnel engaged in the company is a challenging task that goes beyond incentivizing them all. Be creative and immerse yourself to learn where innovation is much needed in the HR department.

Snap Accounting Series: Beta Launch

Yesterday was the day that I’ve been looking forward to in 3 years. The product is now launched but limited to the free check writer app. Any user can register and use the app to book their disbursements and generate expense reports online.

It is mobile responsive so you can easily book expenses even outside the office. You can assign the preparation of checks to someone and as a small business owner, you can approve it anytime and anywhere. All prepared and approved checks can be printed online even by batches.

Marketing plans are all set and its just a matter of execution. We plan to post teasers of the next app but in the meantime, we will be on standby for any feedback from the users to the initial release.

I can’t wait for your feedback or share with you testimonials from other users.

After years of surviving and growing as an ERP company for SMEs, I am glad to have deployed a product for startups and micro business owners.

This is an innovative tool and will definitely assist them in capturing their transactions so they know how and when to grow the business with the reports that Snap Accounting will generate.

Music Innovation Idea

I so love music.  It’s probably my 2nd career choice after the software business.  There’s so much creativity and innovation that can be done with music and I am so pumped that, with this blog as my medium, I can’t wait to get back into this thing.

I’ve been thinking of a good piece to create in getting back into music and recently, while taking a shower and listening to 90s songs in Spotify, I thought of something.

What if I remake 90s alternative rock songs that I love? Re-arrange it to sound slow chill with my daughter, the new generation, singing it.  It’s like getting my sense memories back and modernising it a bit.

My next challenge was how to convince my daughter.  Well, it’s not that really hard.  She recently asked me to renovate her bedroom and I said yes in exchange for 5 songs.

So I got all my old electric piano and music tools from the closet and tried my first attempt using Apple GarageBand.  I posted it in my first ever YouTube channel.

Glycerine By Bush (Cover)

I remember this song when I was in my dorm room in Paco, Manila in college.  I can’t wait to watch and listen to this 10, 20 years from now.  Good memories.

 

Fun & Creative Ways to Set Goals

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It was my graduation day in high school when I officially set my dreams and goals in life. I figured after fun and adventure in teenage days, it’s about time to get a little more serious.  I wrote it down in a small notebook and I can say most of them I was able to make.
Just recently when I got a hold of 4-Hour Work Week book by Tim Ferris and I liked his suggestion about the dream line.  Here is my small version of it.
  • Categorize your goals into “Having”, “Being” and “Doing”
  • Group them into timelines.  Set which goals are doable in six months buckets.
  • Establish the cost of having, being and doing the goals.
  • Define the next steps.
I’d like to share some of mine:
Six Months
  • Having – I’d like to have a robot vacuum cleaner.  It will cost me roughly P15k outright but no monthly/maintenance cost.
  • Being – I’d like to be a marathon finisher.  Monthly cost for training is not significant.
  • Doing – Create an epic art work.  Cost here is also not significant.
Twelve Months
  • Having – I’d like to have a brand new sedan (specs should be specific but i’d rather not share).  Thru financing, this would cost me around P500k initial DP and p60k/month amortization.
  • Being – I’d like to be an online influencer of innovation.
  • Doing – Visit Maldives.  Rough cost is about P200k
Next Steps
  • Train marathon daily and follow a systematic program online.
  • Achieve business sales targets to afford costs above.
  • Post an art work (music, drawing, writing) every weekend.
It is important to set habits to watch such goals and aspirations. This will also be a good template for goal setting in business.
Here are some quick examples:
Six Months
  • Having – a project manager who is expert in orchestrating resources, time and budget.
  • Being – the top of mind company in its particular industry
  • Doing – a CSR initiative benefiting group of aspiring programmers.
With the above’s creative ways to set goals plus unwavering faith and exceptional efforts, there’s no other path but success.

UI/UX Inspiration

These past months that we’ve been improving features & functions of our software products at Hilsoft, I fairly think it’s about time to also improve their look, feel and user experience.

We have several products such as ERP, Hospitality, POS, Property Management, HRIS, Payroll and each of them has different layout, theme and look. Since we are doing some minor tweaks in our brand, I opt to standardize or at least employ a unique distinction and consistent look that it’s a Hilsoft product.

So in the past weeks, I’ve been looking for inspiration and curating them for our creative team to develop and implement.

I like the layout. Buttons are not so big and not so small. The icons are the best thing I love about this UI.

This one is kinda trying a new approach of encoding on fields. It goes to the next field after each field the user encodes. Cool and unorthodox. The only concern here is you won’t be able to see a preview of all info the user entered until the last page.

Multi-colors are a trend now. I kinda like this except for the icons.

This is another approach to multi-color but I like this better than the earlier. Multi-colors are isolated at the top, then just a minimal approach after.

We have a POS product and this one is interesting. I can go with this, just a little tweak on the color scheme.