Simon Sinek: Why Leaders Eat Last

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 5 Scaling Up Stage, skmurphy, Video

I remember first learning the principle “leaders eat last” from John K. Russell, an advisor on a summer Presbyterian workcamp in Westpoint Mississippi. He had been an officer in the Army and talked about how the officers had nicer silverware and napkins but it was the same food and they ate after the enlisted men. Simon Sinek uses that principle as a point of departure–leadership as a combination of higher status and service. His description of leadership reminded of Goethe’s maxim “A man is really alive only when he delights in the good-will of others.”

Here are some of my key take-aways from this talk:

Webinar Replay: Innovator’s DNA Series Overview

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 1 Idea Stage, Books, Customer Development, Video

Steve Hogan and Sean Murphy walk through a five part webinar series on “The Innovator’s DNA” by Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen,and Clayton Christensen. Sean thinks it’s the best book on innovation and entrepreneurship for 2011 and useful for any team that is trying to innovate. Each webinar will be in a roundtable format and include first time entrepreneurs and experienced innovators discussing lessons learned applying the five key discovery skills described in the book.

Entrepreneurship As A Calling

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 1 Idea Stage, skmurphy, Startups, Video

A documentary on entrepreneurship as a calling that I found very compelling was “The Call of the Entrepreneur” produced by the Acton Institute. It addresses both practical and spiritual aspects of entrepreneurship from the point of view of three very different entrepreneurs:

  • Brad Morgan, a dairy farmer in Evart, Michigan who transforms a failing farm into a successful dairy and compost company.
  • Frank Hanna, a merchant banker in New York City who explains how entrepreneurship transforms the economy into a positive sum game.
  • Jimmy Lai who grew up in Communist China and then Hong Kong, emigrating to New York to found retail and media companies.

Chris Yonge on 3D Printing: Past, Present, Future

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Events, Video

The following is a guest post by Max Murphy, a mechanical engineering student who is interested in the implications of  3D printing or positive manufacturing for  mechanical design, its synergies with animation, and potential for fostering new opportunities for entrepreneurs. Max is an intern at DreamWorks and returns to his sophomore year in college this fall. 

3D Printing: Past, Present, and Future

I attended a great talk by Chris Yonge on “3D Printing: Past, Present, and Future” on Monday August 18 at Sandbox Suites in Sunnyvale that was sponsored by the Silicon Valley Startup: Idea to IPO group. It was a fantastic presentation that communicated a practical understanding of several different types of 3D printing processes with videos that highlighted the theory of operation for each type of printer. Chris also offered a list of useful open source tools for mechanical design, animation, and 3D printing that is available at

Here is Chris’ bio from the talk (links added):

Chris Yonge is qualified as an architect and a product designer who founded StudioCruz.  He has been involved in 3D design and production for twenty years. He holds a number of published patents, the latest being for VariCruz a mechanically-linked continuously variable gear, and uses 3D printing in metal and plastics as part of the development process. Chris is a lecturer at the University of California, Santa Cruz School of Engineering.

Unfortunately a recording was not made of the talk but here are two others he has done that are quite good.

3D Printing Is Fostering Four Quiet Revolutions

Yonge outlines “four quiet revolutions” that 3D printing or positive manufacturing will likely bring about:

  1. How we make:  Machine shop equipment was traditionally subtractive: grinding, cutting, drilling based on linear or rotary motion.
  2. How we design:  Three-dimensional printing is enabling us to go from a three-dimensional model in my mind to recording it and communicating and editing it on a computer and then making it.
  3. How we communicate:  One of the oldest cave drawings known condenses three dimensions plus time (and related emotions) into a flat two dimensional drawing. Our ability to communicate was unchanged for 149 centuries until motion pictures added time, 3D computer models allowed for a third dimension, and now we can make what we visualize with 3D printing.
  4. How we finance:  Open source recipes are going unlock a tremendous amount of creativity. Kickstarter models will enable many new products and companies to be launched via crowdsourcing.

Animation & 3D Printing Add New Dimensions to Creativity

A video with synchronized slides of one his Santa Cruz Engineering lectures is available at

Chris Yonge has a YouTube Channel with more than 50 videos at

Related Blog Posts


An Entrepreneur Is A Change Agent

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 1 Idea Stage, 2 Open for Business Stage, skmurphy, Video

I like this 2009 video by Grasshopper “Entrepreneurs Can Change The World” that portrays the entrepreneur as a change agent and celebrates the freedom and economic opportunities that America has traditionally offered immigrants.

Here is the transcript from the Grasshopper site with some observations interspersed

Do you remember when you were a kid and you thought you could do anything? You still can. Because a lot of what we consider impossible is easy to overcome. Because in case you haven’t noticed, we live in a place where one individual can make a difference.

Want proof? Just look at the people who built our country: our parents, grandparents, our aunts, uncles. They were immigrants, newcomers ready to make their mark. Maybe they came with very little, or perhaps they didn’t own anything except for a single brilliant idea.

These people were thinkers, doers, innovators until they came up with the name entrepreneurs. They change the way we think about what is possible. They have a clear vision of how life can be better for all of us, even when times are tough.

The ability to look at a situation with “newcomer’s eyes” is a key element to unlocking creativity. So is time pressure and limited resources.

Right now, it’s hard to see when our view is cluttered with obstacles, but turbulence creates opportunities for success, achievement and pushes us to discover new ways of doing things.

So what opportunities will you go after and why?

If you’re an entrepreneur, you know that risk isn’t the reward. No. The rewards are driving innovation, changing people’s lives, creating jobs, fueling growth, and making a better world.

Entrepreneurs are everywhere. They run small businesses that support our economy, design tools to help you stay connected with friends, family, and colleagues around the world, and they’re finding new ways of helping to solve society’s oldest problems.

Successful innovation results when entrepreneurs manage their own shortcomings,  find a  problem they care about, and approach it from different angles with small safe-to-fail experiments.

Do you know an entrepreneur?

Entrepreneurs can be anyone, even you. So seize the opportunity to create the job you always wanted. Help heal the economy. Make a difference. Take your business to new heights.

But most importantly, remember when you were a kid, when everything was within your reach, and then say to yourself quietly, but with determination: It still is.

I have come to the conclusion that most entrepreneurial careers are involuntary, undertaken by “mavericks, iconoclasts, dropouts, and misfits” to quote Sramana Mitra. The trick is to minimize the amount of wasted effort by doing less with less in a way that builds on existing relationships, knowledge, and successes.

Related Articles

The soundtrack to the video is “Chain Reaction” by Carly Comando; she also composed  “Everyday” for Noah Kalina’s “Noah takes a photo of himself every day for 6 years.

Discovery Kanban Allows Firms to Balance Delivery and Discovery

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 5 Scaling Up Stage, Design of Experiments, Video

I believe that Patrick Steyaert’s Discovery Kanban offers a critical perspective on how large organizations can foster the proliferation of lean innovation methods beyond isolated spike efforts or innovation colonies.

I think Patrick Steyaert has come up with an approach that builds on what we have learned from customer development and Lean Startup and offers an orchestration mechanism for fostering innovation and operational excellence. I think  this will prove to be a dynamic approach to managing innovation that will be as significant as:

  • Saras Sarasvathy’s Effectual Entrepreneurship Model
  • Clayton Christensen Innovator’s Dilemma and Innovator’s DNA
  • Ron Adner’s Wide Lens

I believe it’s going to become part of the canon of accepted principles of innovation because it offers not only a way to frame the challenge of balancing discovery and delivery, but a mechanism for planning and managing them in parallel.

Discovery Kanban is a synthesis of a number of distinct threads of entrepreneurial thinking–Lean Startup, Kanban, OODA, PCDA, and Optionality–into an approach that helps firms address the challenge  of executing and refining proven business models in parallel with exploring options for novel business opportunities. The reality is that you have to manage both current execution and the exploration of future options whether you are in a startup that is gaining traction and needs to develop operational excellence (or an innovation colony that now wants to influence the existing enterprise) or and enterprise that needs to avoid the “Monkey Trap” of escalating investment in a business model that is reaching the end of life instead of parallel exploration of a number of options for new business units.

At the extremes startups are viewed as scout vehicles–suitable for exploration to find sustainable business models–and established enterprises are viewed railroads, very good at moving a lot of cargo or passengers along predetermined paths. The reality is that almost all businesses need to manage both excellence in execution while not only keeping a weather eye on new entrants fueled by emerging technologies and disruptive business models but also exploring for adjacent markets that can leverage their established competencies and new competencies required by current customers.The Lean Startup and Customer Development models have fostered a broad understanding of the need for iteration and hypothesis driven product probes. Kanban models have shown the value of making work visible to enable the shared understanding that makes cultural change possible.

Kent Beck and Don Reinertsen on Value of Storytelling

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Rules of Thumb, Video

What follows is an exchange on twitter between Kent Beck and Don Reinertsen on Dec 12-2013 about their experiences as speakers at the Lean Startup Conference 2013 that I thought was worth preserving.

Kent Beck and Don Reinertsen on Value of Storytelling

Kent Beck (@KentBeck) Dec 12: The beauty of teaching through storytelling is that the listeners’ lessons aren’t limited by the storyteller’s imagination.

Donald Reinertsen (@DReinertsen) Dec 12: And, as in the old story of a donkey carrying a load of books, the payload can sometimes be more sophisticated than the narrator.

Kent Beck (@KentBeck) Dec 12: Good thing I don’t mind being a donkey :)

Donald Reinertsen (@DReinertsen) Dec 12: I rather enjoy it. Such moments permit one to unintentionally deliver an unexpected, and unreasonable, amount of value.

I did a roundup of speakers, videos, and blog posts from the Lean Startup 2013 if you are interested in learning more about their presentations or others.

Don Reinertsen Presentations

Don Reinertsen also has a number of good presentations up at InfoQ a “Beyond Deming” video at Lean Product Development Flow.  Here is his talk from Lean Startup 2013:

Kent Beck’s talk from Lean Startup 2013:

Related Blog Posts

Video from Lean Innovation 101 Talk at SF Bay ACM Nov-20-2013

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 1 Idea Stage, 2 Open for Business Stage, 3 Early Customer Stage, 4 Finding your Niche, Events, Lean Startup, skmurphy, Video

The video from my “What is Lean–Lean Innovation 101” talk is up:

Here is the description for the talk

“Lean” provides a scientific approach for creating a product and developing new businesses. Teams can iteratively building products or services to meet the needs of early customers by adopting a combination of customer development, business-hypothesis-driven experimentation and iterative product releases. This talk covers:

  • Why more and more companies are using Lean
  • What is Lean, what it is not
  • Key concepts
  • Get Out Of Your BatCave
  • Use an initial product (MVP) as a probe to explore the market
  • Build-Measure-Learn
  • When and how to pivot
  • Rules of thumb for successful lean innovation

I want to thank Alex Sokolsky for his outstanding effort on behalf of SF Bay ACM doing the video capture and editing.

BeamWise Demo For BiOS 2014

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Clients in the News, Demos, skmurphy, Video

I have blogged about BeamWise™ in

If you are interested in getting a closer look, Kinetic River will be demonstrating it in booth 8639 at the BiOS Conference February 1-2, 2014. If you don’t want to wait that long contact Giacomo Vacca directly or take a look at a new BeamWise demo video.

Lisa Solomon: Effective Meetings Choose One of Reaching Understanding, Generating Options, or Making Decisions

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Rules of Thumb, skmurphy, Video

I have been fortunate to collaborate with Lisa Solomon on several projects. Most recently she helped me prepare for my “Get Out of Your BatCave” talk May 7, 2013 at Parisoma. She gave me the same advice that she offers in the talk below: what do you want the audience to leave with, what do you want to experience them during the talk. It led me to completely redesign the structure of the presentation to make it a more interactive conversation with the audience for the entire session.

What follows is a heavily edited transcript that focuses on the content in from minutes four through nine.

I teach graduate students and executives how to use visual and design thinking how to solve complex problems. Data and spreadsheets are not going to get us where we need to go.

We need to have meaningful conversations that are discovery oriented to get to new insights.

I spend a lot of time thinking about how to get more meaning from meetings.

Design is about usability. When you are sitting in a meeting where it’s all you can do not to pick up your phone and start texting or do “real work” under the table, the meeting has failed you. You have not been set up for success.

We need to think differently about how we design meetings. It’s not about meaning management, that’s the wrong frame. It’s really about designing meaningful conversations.

We need to work backwards from one minute after the end of a meeting and ask ourselves:

  • What has happened as a result of this conversation?
  • What use have we delivered to each participant

There are really only three kinds of meetings:

  1. Building understanding: enabled each participant share relevant information to build a common understanding for clarity.
  2. Shaping choices: explore potential options, choices that are concrete discrete possibilities that we can analyze and test.
  3. Making decisions: only possible after we have a common understanding and clear choices framed.

But too often we take the goal of the meeting to “get to next steps” so we rush through building understanding and shaping choices and try to find our way to making decisions.

Each activity–building understanding, shaping choices, and making decisions–requires a different design.

If someone wants to do all three in one meeting, “just say no.”

That will save hours of your time.

I think this model for three kinds of meetings is very useful for startups. As the team grows it’s very tempting for the founders to try save time by forcing a decision before everyone with relevant information has been heard and a reasonable range of options have been framed. Taking the time for important decisions to follow this three step approach, along with premortems and decision records, will help prevent the “Groundhog Day” effect of revisiting decisions because important information was not factored in or a key option was not considered.

Lisa Solomon is working with Chris Ertel on “Moments of Impact: Designing Strategic Conversations.”  The book, due out in 2014, will offer practical advice on how to design meetings for meaning.

Slides and Audio From “How To Bootstrap” ASLCPA Mar-27-2013

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Audio, Events, skmurphy, Video

Or download directly from “How To Bootstrap” [ASLCPA Mar-27-2013] (MP3)”

It was a great audience and a lively discussion about bootstrapping. I am grateful to Mark Sheffield, CPA, of ASL for the invitation to speak and to Pete Tormey, co-moderator of the  San Francisco Bootstrapper Breakfast, and Michal Domanski, moderator of the Warsaw Bootstrapper Breakfast,  for reviewing and suggesting improvements to the talk.

I also want to thank to Colette Gonsalves (@coletteaundrea) for her live tweets from the event:

  • The key to bootstrapping: sweat equity, relationships, know how
  • Bootstrappers focus on what they don’t know to find their problems
  • Leverage expertise to focus on a niche, rather than the big market
  • Evaluate an opportunity: what is the problem & what do you bring that can create value solving it
  • Bootstrapping finance tip: live as cheaply as possible, delay gratification
  • From day 1 as a bootstrapper you’re in sales
  • Don’t keep giving a pitch that hasn’t worked. Learn why & change it
  • Revenue is the only real proof of market
  • Ask your target market who they’re using now cause you’ll have to differentiate from them
  • Bootstrappers don’t go all in – they make small investments in solving focused needs they can win & build on them

After the event I did a Founder’s Pit Crew interview with Mark Sheffield. The ASL Emerging Business Group also has a great New Business Startup Guide available as a PDF.

Update Fri-Apr-5: Thanks to some sound editing work by Steve Wasiura I have an updated MP3 that cleans a low hum from the file. Steve has a blog post about the talk with his notes at “How to Bootstrap Your Startup” on his blog. He writes:

Now I understand your quote from the March 2013 roundup:

“Nothing clears up a case so much as stating it to another person.”
Arthur Conan Doyle

by turning my notes into a blog post, I understood the lessons better.

Communicating Complex Concepts in Video: Luxr’s 5 Whys Video

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in skmurphy, Video

Luxr has produced a clever encapsulation of the 5 Whys methodology, a technique for persistently probing the symptoms to find the root cause of a problem. Compared to several other “5 Whys” videos YouTube steered me to after I viewed this one I was struck by how practical and tactical Luxr’s explanation was. It communicated the concepts in way that even process averse startup folks could immediately engage with.

I transcribed the script below because I think there are several things to appreciate about it:

  • They take a real situation that anyone can relate to. It’s a clever encapsulation of how a startup might stumble over a problem and use 5 Whys to get to root cause.
  • They show the real way that the technique would be applied which is as a sequence of conversations as you peel the onion to determine who to talk to next.
  • They never talk down to the audience and incorporate a lot of sly humor about what’s really involved in working in a startup.
  • They enact a tiny drama to illustrate the method instead of using a talking head or slides.
  • My unofficial transcript runs about 350 words and doesn’t capture about half of what’s going on (e.g. subtitles, some stage directions, some camera angle decisions, shot by shot breakdown). The video is about 75 seconds long. This is very dense compared to common “talking head videos” used to walk through 5 Whys. But the density keeps it interesting and communicates a lot more than you first realize.

Unofficial transcript:

  1. Narrator: “Startups are works of focus, determination, and love. But all startups will eventually run into catastrophic, emotionally gut-wrenching problems.”
  2. Kate, an overworked startup entrepreneur discovers the coffee pot is empty and asks herself “Why?” five times.
  3. Narrator: “asking why should not be a rhetorical question. Ask “Why?” five times to help everyone on the team to search for a better solution together.”
  4. Kate approaches a co-worker, “Jason, why is there no coffee?” Jason replies, “Because no one refilled it.”
  5. Jason approaches Jeana and asks, “Jeana, how come nobody refilled the coffee pot?” Gina replies, “Because there are no filters.”
  6. Gina then confronts Melissa, “Why are there no filters?” Melissa answers, “Because nobody bought any.”
  7. A zoom in on the bathroom door shows a blue sticky note labeled “weekly shopping list” surrounded by yellow ones labeled: sticky notes, granola bits, tea, sharpies, beer, and “$1,000,000 in funding.”
  8. Melissa approaches Janice and asks, “Janice, why did nobody buy any more filters?” Janice speculates, “I don’t think anybody knew we were out.”
  9. Janice comes full circle to Kate, “Kate, why didn’t anybody know we were out of coffee filters.”
  10. Kate pivots to the camera and summons her inner John Moschitta to speed talk her way through this analysis: “Because there was no way to tell that we were running low before we ran out so that we could prioritize buying more.”
  11. The voice and hands of the Narrator returns: “Instead of fixing a symptom by buying a ton of coffee filters or casting blame on the heaviest coffee consumers, the “Five Whys” helped us to devise a system to solve our problems with a simple sticky note.”
  12. His hands flip through a stack of coffee filters and affix a sticky–the hand to hand weapon of choice for all UX designers–labeled “Buy More Filters” to a filter about 1/4 of the way from the bottom.
  13. In the final scene the narrator rushes into a unisex bathroom next to the coffee pot and closes the door, only to lament, “Hey, why is there no toilet paper?”

The point about saving money with a sticky over ordering a lot of filters was an approach that bootstrappers could appreciate. The ending brought a smile to my face and reminded me of  Van Vleck’s three question extension to complement root cause analysis:

  1. Is this mistake somewhere else also?
    Look for other places in the code where the same pattern applies. Vary the pattern systematically to look for similar bugs.
  2. What next bug is hidden behind this one?
    Once you figure out how to fix the bug, you need to imagine what will happen once you fix it.
  3. What should I do to prevent bugs like this?
    Ask how you can change your ways to make this kind of bug impossible by definition. By changing methods or tools, it’s often possible to completely eliminate a whole class of failures instead of shooting the bugs down one by one. The bug may be a symptom of communication problems in the programming team, or of conflicting design assumptions which need discussion.

The original version of the video was available at but has now been made private. I have substituted the official version which differs slightly.

Mark Stiving: Three Pricing Principles I Confirmed In Las Vegas

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in skmurphy, Video

Mark Stiving is a serial entrepreneur and a pricing expert. In this video he tells the story of being mistaken for a lost lamb by a shepherdess in Las Vegas after being screwed by a cab driver. He uses her business model to illustrate three important pricing principles:

  1. Know Your Value
  2. Segment Your Market
  3. Offer a Portfolio of Products

To get the full impact you should hear him tell it:

Mark is offering a “Pricing For Entrepreneurs” workshop on Mar-30 at Plug & Play in Sunnyvale. that will address a number of pricing questions that come up regularly at Bootstrapper Breakfasts:

  • How Customers Think About Price And Value
  • Value Based Pricing vs. Cost Based Pricing
  • Pricing Strategy vs. Product Strategy vs. Corporate Strategy
  • Price Segmentation vs. Market Segmentation

When:  Saturday, March 30 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.
Where:  Plug and Play – 440 N. Wolfe Road, Sunnyvale, CA 94085
Cost: $1,000 (use  “Bootstrapper” for 25% discount)

What Silicon Valley Can Learn From Grand Rapids

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Events, skmurphy, Video

In 2011 Newsweek magazine listed Grand Rapids Michigan in the top ten of “America’s Dying Cities.”

Total Population (2009): 193,710
Proportion Under 18 (2009): 24.8%
Change in Total Population (2000-2009): -2.1%
Change in Residents Under 18 (2000-2009): -2.2 percentage points

It was actually syndicated content from Mainstreet’s “America’s Dying Cities” where they noted in “Grand Rapids Responds To our Dying Cities Ranking

The rankings of our original article were based on two criteria: changes to the overall population of every U.S. city in the past decade with at least 100,000 residents, and the decline in population of residents 18 and under, both of which were based on census data.

Rob Bliss, Director & Executive Producer (Rob Bliss Events) comments on YouTube page for video

“The Grand Rapids LipDub Video was filmed May 22nd, with 5,000 people, and involved a major shutdown of downtown Grand Rapids, which was filled with marching bands, parades, weddings, motorcades, bridges on fire, and helicopter take offs. It is the largest and longest LipDub video, to date.

This video was created as an official response to the Newsweek article calling Grand Rapids a “dying city.” We disagreed strongly, and wanted to create a video that encompasses the passion and energy we all feel is growing exponentially, in this great city. We felt Don McLean’s “American Pie,” a song about death, was in the end, triumphant and filled to the brim with life and hope.”

What can Silicon Valley learn from Grand Rapids? The value of encouraging the heart.

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