Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Lean Innovation

Once I was teaching a group of executives about generating innovation through the power of setting almost impossible goals (read more here if you are interested).  One executive responded:

“So, you want me to risk bankrupting my organization by placing a big bet on a new idea?”

“Uhhh, no," I responded.

Some people think that innovation is an all or nothing deal and they catastrophize possible failure.  When you set an Almost Impossible Goal here are three SMART things you can do.  These ideas are inspired by Eric Ries’s book, The Lean Startup:

1.  Spend lots of time brainstorming over multiple sessions.  You want to generate lots of new ideas.  From my last blog and Adam Grant’s book, Originals: “In fact, when it comes to idea generation, quantity is the most predictable path to quality.”  “Many people fail to achieve originality because they generate a few ideas and then obsess about refining them to perfection.”

2.  Experiment.  Select what you think is the best idea and run very small experiments.  Create what is known as a Minimal Viable Product (or Program/Service) that you can test out in the real world.  Important – collect DATA from REAL possible users of the product/program/service.  Make the product/program/service as “minimal” as possible.  Test various options.

3.  Be agile and nimble.  Be prepared to “pivot” – to make changes, small or large, to your original idea.  If the data shows that you have an idea that does not work, try something else!

Innovative ideas do not require tens of thousands or even thousands of dollars to test in the real world and give you an idea if an idea might work.  Use the Lean Innovation approach to create even more effective ways to make a Mission Impact.

*Check out these articles from Stanford Social Innovation Review to learn more:  “Is Your Nonprofit Really Ready to Use the Lean Startup” (March 5, 2014), “The Promise of Lean Experimentation” (Summer 2015).



For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site.  You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

How to Become a True "Original"

If you are interested in spurring creativity in your team, leading change, and/or being even more entrepreneurial, then I recommend Adam Grant’s newest book, Originals (2016), to you.

Grant was inspired to research creativity and originality after he chose not to invest in the idea for a new company developed by some of his graduate students because they did not fit his profile of what successful entrepreneurs act like.  The company is Warby Parker.  You have probably heard of them – they were named Fast Company’s Most Innovative Company in 2015 and have been wildly successful.  Grant is not happy that he did not invest.  But why was his entrepreneur profile wrong? What do successful originals really look like?  That is what the book is about.

Here are some insights:

*The importance of creativity: “Ultimately, the people who choose to champion originality are the ones who propel us forward.”  “They know in their hearts that failing would yield less regret than failing to try.”

*Being a “risk taker” not so important: “I want to debunk the myth that originality requires extreme risk taking and persuade you that originals are actually far more ordinary than we realize.”

*Creative Quantity Better than Quality: “In fact, when it comes to idea generation, quantity is the most predictable path to quality.”  “Many people fail to achieve originality because they generate a few ideas and then obsess about refining them to perfection.”

*Achievement Orientation Limits Creativity: “When achievement motivation goes sky-high, it can crowd out originality: The more you value achievement, the more you come to dread failure.”

*Procrastination: It can be a good thing!  If you procrastinate “strategically” – “take a break in the middle of brainstorming” and come back to it later. This encourages divergent thinking.

These are not just Grant’s opinions.  He is a Professor at the Wharton School of Business and all of these ideas are very well researched.

This is just a taste of some of the great ideas in the book.  To learn more, you can check out Grant’s TED Talk here and even take his assessment on how “original” you are.  How original are you???

Creativity and innovation are key to making even more of a Mission Impact.  Check out Adam Grant’s ideas and become even more of an Original.



For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site.  You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Creating Your Noble Purpose Statement

Every person associated with an organization should be able to explain the Noble Purpose of the organization in an “elevator” speech that is sixty seconds long or less.

This builds off the last blog where I discussed Lisa McLeod’s recent book, Leading with Noble Purpose.

McLeod uses business examples, but this can easily be translated for nonprofits and government.  In order to create a Noble Purpose Statement, begin by asking three important questions:

1.  How do you make a difference to your customers?  For nonprofits/government, we would ask what difference/impact you make for those you serve.  Make sure to identify the “ripple impacts” you make.  For example, you may provide direct services in literacy education, but what other ripple differences does that make in the community once someone can read.  They can get a job, this reduces unemployment, helps the tax base, impacts the rest of their family, etc.

2.  How do you do it differently from your competition?

3.  On your best day, what do you love about your job?

Going through these questions helps you get in touch with the Noble Purpose of your organization – the difference you make for others.  Your mission statement can inform this conversation, but this is way more than memorizing your mission statement.

This would be a great exercise for a staff retreat or special staff meeting.  By the end, each person should have crafted their own personal version of a Noble Purpose Statement.  Each version should have the same basic theme, but people can emphasize different aspects of the purpose.

Your organization makes an important Mission Impact.  You need to be able to explain it in a clear, compelling way that inspires you and others.



For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site.  You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Leading with Noble Purpose

In Lisa McLeod’s newest book, Leading with Noble Purpose (2016), she expands the view of her earlier bestselling book, Selling with Noble Purpose (2012), to encourage leaders at all levels to guide their organization’s performance and strategy based on the Noble Purpose for which they exist.

For government and not-for-profit entities this idea seems to come naturally as – at their origins – these organizations were created with some Noble Purpose in mind.  For some in the for-profit world, this might seem to be a stretch.  Shouldn’t performance be focused on making money?  McLeod says “no.”  Some of her key points include:

*Research shows that salespeople who sell with the Noble Purpose of their company in mind – who truly want to make a difference in the lives of their customers – outsell those who are more focused on targets or quotas.

*Promoting the Noble Purpose of your firm increases employee engagement – which is correlated with customer satisfaction and profit.

*Leading with Noble Purpose can ultimately make more money for a firm.  McLeod says “As a Noble Purpose leader, you must believe that your business adds value to the world and you deserve to be paid for it.”  This is about a company delighting its customers with its Noble Purpose and making good money while doing so.

While Noble Purpose may seem more natural for government and not-for-profit organizations, they also have a lot to learn from McLeod’s recommendations.  In my experience it is very easy for leaders to focus on short term issues and activities, rather than continually reminding their team of their Noble Purpose.  I’ve seen this happen, for example, within the fundraising function where executives can get myopic about dollars raised and lose sight of mission.  While “No Money, No Mission” is a truism, it is vital that we continually remind ourselves of the Noble Purpose of the dollars being raised.

How does one create a focused Noble Purpose for an organization?  That will be the topic of the next blog.  Stay tuned.


For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site.  You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.

Leading with Noble Purpose

In Lisa McLeod’s newest book, Leading with Noble Purpose (2016), she expands the view of her earlier bestselling book, Selling with Noble Purpose (2012), to encourage leaders at all levels to guide their organization’s performance and strategy based on the Noble Purpose for which they exist.

For government and not-for-profit entities this idea seems to come naturally as – at their origins – these organizations were created with some Noble Purpose in mind.  For some in the for-profit world, this might seem to be a stretch.  Shouldn’t performance be focused on making money?  McLeod says “no.”  Some of her key points include:

*Research shows that salespeople who sell with the Noble Purpose of their company in mind – who truly want to make a difference in the lives of their customers – outsell those who are more focused on targets or quotas.

*Promoting the Noble Purpose of your firm increases employee engagement – which is correlated with customer satisfaction and profit.

*Leading with Noble Purpose can ultimately make more money for a firm.  McLeod says “As a Noble Purpose leader, you must believe that your business adds value to the world and you deserve to be paid for it.”  This is about a company delighting its customers with its Noble Purpose and making good money while doing so.

While Noble Purpose may seem more natural for government and not-for-profit organizations, they also have a lot to learn from McLeod’s recommendations.  In my experience it is very easy for leaders to focus on short term issues and activities, rather than continually reminding their team of their Noble Purpose.  I’ve seen this happen, for example, within the fundraising function where executives can get myopic about dollars raised and lose sight of mission.  While “No Money, No Mission” is a truism, it is vital that we continually remind ourselves of the Noble Purpose of the dollars being raised.

How does one create a focused Noble Purpose for an organization?  That will be the topic of the next blog.  Stay tuned.


For more ideas on how you can lead breakthroughs in your organization, follow this blog and check out my web site.  You will find free resources you can download, including a Breakthrough Strategy Workbook that you can download at no cost.  You can also check out my book, Mission Impact:  Breakthrough Strategies for Nonprofits, and buy it if you are interested.  And you can follow Sheehan Nonprofit Consulting on Facebook.