Creating a new, innovative business model or even a new service or a better product or a more efficient business process can be very challenging. We can lose ourselves in the treadmill of the corporate world or the distractions of the entrepreneurial world. This is due to existing working cultures as well as to the nature of these projects. And this nature is best described with “complex and long-running”.
Since November 2017 – that’s a whopping 19 months now – we’re working on a business comic for kids called “Biz4Kids” to change the way we teach our kids entrepreneurial and creative thinking on a global scale. And even as we’re not finished yet, we are very close to the finishing line now. I thought this might be an excellent time to see how you can benefit from what we learned over the 19 months.
In this first part of the series, I will write about “Mastering your craft.” Why is it so important to learn on the job and getting better every day? And how can you make sure to make progress even when all odds are against you?
The second part of the series will cover “Know your customer.” Why should you consider your user or customer in the first place? And how could you do this while you feel you have nothing to show?
And finally, the third part will bring it all together in “Go for the long run.” Why should you care about your peers on the project? And how can you tell convincing stories not only for your customers but for your team as well?
Creating a comic book is fun – at least that’s what most people think.
Working in the field of business model, innovation is fun – at least that’s what most people think.
And both activities have something in common: They’re darn hard work if you want to do it right. I’m not talking about innovation theatre here. I’m talking about real innovation work.
Let’s try this again. Creating a comic book is fun, and it’s a lot of hard work.
When you think about the characteristics of a comic book, you could say it has to have a great story with characters people can identify themselves with. A comic book has to be illustrated superbly, leading the reader’s eye from one panel to another. And the story has to have surprising elements to avoid boredom and keep us reading along with the pages. There is not much text in a comic book due to the restrictions of the speech bubbles. That doesn’t make it easier either as you need to condense your messages in a way they still transfer to the reader with less word count.
That’s already a whole lot of things to keep in mind when you want to create a great comic book. But we didn’t stop there. We wanted our Biz4Kids comic book to educate kids around the world. They should learn how to think and act like an entrepreneur. They should understand and feel how it is to have a business and what elements are shaping it. And in the end, it should encourage parents together with their kids to speak about the new way of working that rising all over the world.
You could say that this is a rather complex project. Just like any other business project if you see it that way.
The unique thing I want to emphasize here is the effort you should put into mastering your craft. What does that mean? Let me take the comic book as an example.
We had to become professional storytellers to create an excellent comic book that will not only be an excellent read for kids and suck them into the story, but that will teach them something, too. Even though the parents should be able and willing to read the story with their kids and discuss their learning insights.
Early in the process, we learned the hard way that we had no clue how to design such a story. We needed to work hard and review our steps continuously to get better in the craft of storytelling for comic books. And the learning parts shouldn’t be annoying as well. They should be integrated. Therefore Alex Osterwalder and I had to design the learning nuggets in a way they would fit into the story and still deliver the insights they should.
In all these months of work, we learned that we need a strong focus on mastering our crafts to make the best comic book we can. And the same goes for your business project.
You not only need to be the best in finding the right ideas and solutions, but you need to master the art of storytelling as well. If you spent weeks and months on a project, you really don’t want to lose it because your presentation is boring or not convincing. You want to share your outcomes in the best possible way. And therefore you need to master your craft not only as a suitable solution seeker but as an excellent outcomes presenter as well.
If you have an idea, a starting point for your project you know you want to deliver the best outcome as possible. May it be a presentation, a product, a service or just a portfolio of possible solutions to present. You start working on the project and it feels good. You are making progress towards the solution. But at a certain point your capabilities, your level of mastery will reach a peak. You may not even sense it directly. But if you are satisfied too easily you just continue finishing the work. It will result in a more or less “ok” outcome. Something you managed to do before. Nothing game changing.
But if you recognize your peak and dig deep into your craft to learn how to overcome the peak of your performance and to become better at what you do, your abilities will rise. And while you’re working on your project it will become better and better. Of course you’ll hit some more peaks, but in the end, you will have your game-changing outcome. The best you could deliver. And for the next project you will have a totally new portfolio of techniques and abilities to pull from.
If you ask me the one thing that people got wrong when it comes to pitches, presentations, and alike, it’s the phenomenon of “cognitive murder.” That’s the act of showing all or most of the information on one slide, template or poster all at once while speaking just about one detail of all this information.
You need to find ways to deliver your content piece by piece. That’s the most critical thing for your presentation skills. Consider the following techniques.
1. Use animations like “Wipe” in PowerPoint to progressively show one argument at a time.
2. Use paper to cover parts of your poster before revealing it.
3. Use sticky notes that you put up a piece by piece while telling the story.
These small techniques alone will help you improve your presentation tremendously. And if you can make your points visual in one way or the other, that will help as well for sure! I just recently enjoyed a keynote speech by Laurent Haug, who used a great mix of emojis, photos, and video-snippets to engage the audience. He did not draw anything, and it was not necessary. Just saying – you don’t need to draw to make something visible and tangible for your audience. You just need to find visuals that connect your words with the meaning in a consistent way.
Like in our comic book, you want to make sure that you become your best self and really master your craft to get the most out of your efforts.
But of course, that’s not enough. There are a lot of great craftsmen (even in business) out there. You need to do more to succeed. And as I learned in our Biz4Kids project, that will be
a) knowing your customers and
b) go for the long run.
The topics for the next to parts of this series.
What skills would you need to develop further to really master the craft of your business? Can you present like a pro? Can you communicate the outcomes of your efforts clearly? What else could you learn to become a better version of yourself?
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