Happy 4th of July

Written by Theresa Shafer. Posted in Video

Happy 4th of July from all of us at SKMurphy!

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“America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination, and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.”
Harry S. Truman

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“Civilization is a movement and not a condition, a voyage not a harbor.”
Arnold Toynbee

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“You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.”
Erma Bombeck

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“The most patriotic man, ladies and gentlemen, is sometimes the man who goes in the direction that he thinks right even when he sees half the world against him. It is the dictate of patriotism to sacrifice yourself if you think that that is the path of honor and of duty. Do not blame others if they do not agree with you. Do not die with bitterness in your heart because you did not convince the rest of the world, but die happy because you believe that you tried to serve your country by not selling your soul. Those were grim days, the days of 1776. Those gentlemen did not attach their names to the Declaration of Independence on this table expecting a holiday on the next day, and that 4th of July was not itself a holiday. They attached their signatures to that significant document knowing that if they failed it was certain that every one of them would hang for the failure. They were committing treason in the interest of the liberty of 3,000,000 people in America. All the rest of the world was against them and smiled with cynical incredulity at the audacious undertaking. Do you think that if they could see this great Nation now they would regret anything that they then did to draw the gaze of a hostile world upon them? Every idea must be started by somebody, and it is a lonely thing to start anything. Yet if it is in you, you must start it if you have a man’s blood in you and if you love the country that you profess to be working for.”

Woodrow Wilson, Presidential Address at Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1914 July 4th

Update July 5: I came across this video captured by UAV flying through the fireworks:

h/t Glenn Reynolds

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

Lisa Solomon says that an effective meeting can do one–and only one–of 3 things: build a common understanding, or generate options or make decisions. In this talk on “Designing Time: Make Meaning” she elaborates on this and challenges the person calling the meeting to work backward from the end of the meeting and define: what has happened as a result of this conversation and what use was delivered to each participant.

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 http://www.youtube.com/v/MuT6E4RgHkk but has now been made private. I have substituted the official version which differs slightly.

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.

Best Business Book of 2011: The Innovator’s DNA

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

Or download audio directly: InnovDNAPromo120202

The Innovator’s DNA overview

Webinar Sessions covering the Discovery Skills:

  1. Associating
  2. Questioning
  3. Observing
  4. Networking
  5. Experimenting

If you would like to sign up we have a short URL for you, http://dld.bz/skmurphy-bookclub.

Edited Transcript with Hyperlinks

Sean Murphy: This is Sean Murphy for the Book Club for Business Impact, talking why are covering “The Innovators DNA” by Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen and Clayton Christensen, in a five-part webinar series.

I think this is the best book from 2011 on innovation and entrepreneurship. It is based on interviews of more than 100 innovators, a decade of research and compliments other auto-biographical books that have come out. It is packed with insights. It presents five key discovery skills, how to assess them, how to develop them and how to apply them. These skills  are important to master for any team trying to innovate.

I think the following kinds of  people will benefit from taking part in this series.

  • If you are a first time entrepreneur, this book and this webinar series will give you a model for exploring a new market.
  • If you are a serial entrepreneur I think it will give you a useful perspective on your earlier efforts and may enable you to refine your approach.
  • And if you are trying to get your firm to innovate it gives you a framework of key discovery skills and also allows you to understand the contrast of traditional execution skills that are more focused on detail and planning as opposed to discovery.

Steve Hogan: This is Steve Hogan. I am joining Sean on this series. I am a recovering serial entrepreneur. I got lucky earlier in life, started a couple of companies that had successful exits.  I have been working with developmentally challenged early stage tech companies and helping them find the path to profitability and growth. But my true passion is mentoring first-time entrepreneurs so that they never, ever, need a savior.

Sean: I am the CEO of SKMurphy. I have been an entrepreneur for a while. I have a consulting firm that helps technology firms and introduce new products and services. Our focus is early customers and early revenue.

Steve, what is your take on the book?

Steve: I think it is a great book for first-time entrepreneurs.  In fact I wish I had this when I was doing my first couple of companies. The key insight I took take away was that the leader’s innovative skills impact the entire team. Strong leaders with strong discovery skills can improve the entire team’s ability to innovate.

The DNA in the title refers to the DNA of the organization, not just the leaders. These are discovery skill sets not just the traits. More importantly, it is a personal self-help and skill building directory. The authors believe that everybody has these basic skill sets and offer a simple test to help you to identify your strengths.

They give you a step by step approach to cultivate those strengths and build your tool kit. It is a truly unique way of improving your own performance derived from interviews with over a hundred other entrepreneurs.

Sean: I think it is also a very good book for innovators in larger firms. It offers a model for why established firms find innovation difficult. It explains the different skills that are required at different stages in a firm’s life cycle, in particular, the discovery skills used for innovation and execution skills useful for skill and growth.

I want to stress that these webinars will be a learning experience, not a lecture experience. We have invited other innovators to share their lessons learned applying these five key discovery skills. We will offer this in an interactive format which will help you apply these skills to your situation.

Steve: Here are the skills we are going to be talking about in the five separate webinar sessions, and our take on what they involve:

  1. Associating: connecting disparate facts, observations, and stories to enable combinations of seemingly unrelated ideas in a new and unique way.
  2. Questioning: first understanding the world as it is, then exploring why, why not, and what if.
  3. Observing: being mindful in familiar situations and appreciative in novel situations.
  4. Networking is an absolute. By this they don’t mean hanging around with your buddies, it means taking serious conversation with people of diverse backgrounds, people with backgrounds different from your own, learning from their experience and learning from their expertise.
  5. Experimenting: taking risks to gain new perspectives. This can either involve trying new experiences, or carefully analyzing products, processes, and ideas, or testing your ideas with prototypes. Experimenting is not done in a lab setting, it’s about submerging yourself in a truly different environment and appreciating a different perspective on life.

Sean: On page 27 they explain how these skills fit together.

Diagram from page 27 Innovator's DNA on Skill Relationships

There are two basic orientations an innovator brings to a new field. One is to challenge status quo and that drives questioning, observing and networking and a willingness to take risks and that drives experimenting. Tying those four skills together is associating, where you are linking at different facts to create new combinations that may either yield an innovative thought or business idea or trigger more questions and a need for more observations, more folks to talk to and more experiments to run.

Steve: These webinars are a true roundtable discussion format, not a pure lecture series. The panel is going to include first time entrepreneurs, experienced entrepreneurs and other innovators from larger companies. We will take questions from a live audience and each session is going to focus on one particular skill and the lessons learned and applying that skill.

Sean: Let me give you the line-up:

If you would like to sign up we have a short URL for you, http://dld.bz/skmurphy-bookclub.

Thanks for your time. Hope you are able to join us.

Some other references for the book:

Len Sklar: Be Clear About Payment Terms And Consequences

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 2 Open for Business Stage, 3 Early Customer Stage, Consulting Business, Rules of Thumb, skmurphy, Video

Len Sklar, author “The Check is NOT in the Mail”  has spoken several times at Bootstrapper Breakfasts.  Here is a recent talk he gave where he stresses the importance of putting payment terms and the consequences on non-payment in writing, communicating them in advance, and ensuring that they are understood.

It all seems so obvious but have you actually done this?

Too many entrepreneurs are afraid to pick up the phone and see if it’s a quality problem or a slow payment problem, letting the situation fester until they become angry and less effective or staying ignorant of real defect in their offering that need to be addressed.

Prevent Collection Problems With Clarity on Payment Terms

Key points to story:

  • Business manager asked patients to pay when services were rendered.
  • He did not ask them to make payments on bills that were in arrears but did ask them to bring the account current at the next time that services were rendered.
  • He stressed that they valued their business and anticipated that some patients would react angrily.  He did not become angry in turn.
  • He outlined the consequences and escalation path for non-payment after different periods of delinquency.
  • He made sure that they understood the terms by asking if they had questions, which if any parts were unclear, and to stress aspects of the policy that patients often ignored.
  • If you don’t discuss money before you provide your product or service then you are forced to discuss it after you have provided the product or service when your negotiating position is substantially worse.

Related Blog Posts

Actionable Insights For The Entrepreneurially Minded

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

SKMurphy’s Book Club for Business Impact provides actionable insights for the entrepreneurially minded, whether you are trying to bring change to a market or an organization. It’s a webinar / call in  with a panel that has a roundtable discussion with the audience. Everyone will have a chance to contribute their experiences and lessons learned implementing ideas from a recent business book or article.  I hope you can join us.

Adrian Perez on Great Demo Workshop

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Demos, skmurphy, Video, Workshop

Here is a brief testimonial from Adrian Perez (@adrian_perez) after he attended our Great Demo workshop in September of 2010.

Create and Deliver Surprisingly Compelling Software Demonstrations
“Do The Last Thing First” — the recipe for a Great Demo!

When: Tuesday, April 12, 2010 8 am to 5 pm
Where: Moorpark Hotel, 4241 Moorpark Ave, San Jose CA 95129

Cost: $590
Before March 28: $566

This is an interactive workshop with Peter Cohan geared especially for you who demonstrate B-to-B software to your customer and channels. Bring a copy of your demo and be prepared to present it–we’ll help you turn it into a surprisingly compelling demo!

Register Great Demo

Chalk Talk on Technology Adoption

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in 3 Early Customer Stage, Customer Development, skmurphy, Video

I did this with the DreamSimplicity folks last month. It’s a chart I have been drawing in various customer meetings for the last several years or so and they thought it would make for a good short video. The challenge was lighting the whiteboard appropriately.  I think it came out well.

I welcome any feedback or suggestions for other topics.  A transcript for the talk follows:

I want to talk to you today about some of the challenges you may be facing with technology adoption.  With getting users to try and adopt your technology.  So in this chalk talk, I want to talk about how you get customers to try out your technology and use it.

Let’s assume that this is your prospect’s status quo.  And this way is the way they want to go.  This is more profitability.  This is more productivity.  General goodness.  With your solution,  you should be able to move them to a higher level of performance, higher level of profitability.  This difference is the benefit you’re promising.

So the question you’re really trying to figure out is, based on an analysis of where they are, is this where they’d like to be?  The most likely answer, optimistically, is yes.  In fact, “How do we get there? How do I get this into production?  How long it take?  What’s involved?”

So, one transition curve might look something like this.  Where they have to invest time, people time, focus, dollars.  And that takes away from their current status quo.  But that investment transforms the way they’re working to allow them to get to this higher level of performance.

However, when they look at this chart, when they hear this story from you, they make a couple of adjustments in terms of how they calculate this.  First of all, they assume that the costs are actually going to be higher, usually a little worse than you’re talking about.  Secondly, they assume that the benefits are not going to be as high.  So when they do a cost benefit calculation, they may come in at half or a third of what you’re promising them.  Your temptation is to attack this by adding more features, by doing more for them, by essentially promising them a higher level of benefit.  Say, “Well, what if we could do this for you?”  Right?

The problem with that is that your transition now looks like this.   There’s actually more cost involved. A bigger problem with this is that the time to get back to status quo has now been lengthened.  And as long they’re below this line they’ve made themselves worse off.  They put themselves at risk.  They put their careers at risk in larger companies.  This is a proxy for the amount of risk in decision to work with you.  And so what you’ve done is, you may not have substantially affected the cost benefit ratio but, you clearly added to the risk.  If Plan A was not acceptable, this new plan is probably less acceptable.

So let’s take another approach.  Let’s look at a different way to solve this problem.

So here’s our old friend, the prospect’s status quo.  They’re still trying to go up.  Still trying to get to this benefit that you promised them.  And here was the plan that you proposed.  Instead, break it up into phases.  Now, we’ve got smaller amount of cost.  They can look at this first transition and maybe this is just what you can do for them in two hours.   Maybe you can come in, take some data that’s readily available, and demonstrate a benefit.  Now they can judge the total curve by what you are able to do in a smaller amount of time.  Maybe this is a pilot project, maybe this is more than two hours, but this is not a bad approach.

Now, all they’ve got to bet is a small amount of risk.  See if they get somewhere near where you promised them.  If that works, they’ll likely take step two and step three.   So you’ve got an easy way to get them to move up and, they are more likely to take the first step.  Once they take the first step, if what you’ve told them is true, they’re more likely to move up.  So think about breaking up transition plans into three to five phases.

So we’ve talked a little bit today about how do you look at the technology adoption problem.   This is where we spend most of our time with clients.  We help them find early customers and early revenue.

This has been Sean Murphy from SKMurphy.  Thank you very much.

Keep on Walking

Written by Sean Murphy. Posted in Founder Story, skmurphy, Video

My brother told me about “The Man Who Walked Around the World,” a 2009 long form commercial for Johnnie Walker that was part of their Keep on Walking campaign. It stars Robert Carlyle in a six minute single take.  I am not a scotch drinker but I found Carlyle’s delivery of the story of the entrepreneurial Walker family very inspiring.  In particular I liked this line:

And because there is nothing like a commercial proposition to stir the Scottish heart it quickly grew into an industry, filled with ambitious entrepreneur distillers.

Go ahead, watch the whole thing:

It really is a single take according to an interview with director Jamie Rafn: Behind Johnnie Walkers Walk

How many takes did you have to do to get the whole thing perfect?
The take that you have seen is the very last take we did at 8pm on the last day of the shoot. Take 40. The tension as we watched Robert do this take was unbelievable. It was such a good take at every stage and so the longer it went on without any fluffs the greater the pressure grew for nothing to go wrong. When he got to the end and I got to call cut there was this huge roar and applause from the crew and agency and I knew we had it.

Where was the film shot and what did the location add to the film?
It was shot near Loch Doyne in Scotland. The landscape is a huge part of it. It’s like another character. Its hauntingly beautiful up there and we were blessed with these lovely clouds that gave us this really lovely brooding look.

What was the most challenging element of the job?
By 5pm on day one we hadn’t managed to do one complete take. We therefore had nothing. We soon worked out that the reason for this was the huge bank of TV’s which we’d placed 2 meters in the wrong position. Robert was having to slow down his walking and speed up his talking in a way that was artificial and was throwing him. There was nothing we could do but rebuild the TV’s which meant wrapping and staring again the next day having achieved nothing on the first day. The following morning there were a lot of anxious faces and murmurings of “fixing it in post”. Then Robert turned up and did the very first take of the day in one. As I said – the man’s a genius.

DreamSimplicity Interviews Sean Murphy

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

I was recently interviewed by Floyd Tucker of DreamSimplicity Marketplace and the interview can be seen below and on DreamSimplicity.com. We talk about how even though each startup team is unique, they have a common set of milestones they have to achieve to move from idea to revenue. We also chat briefly about the Bootstrapper Breakfast.

Headquartered in San Francisco, DreamSimplicity has been conducting video interviews for public and private companies since 2008, producing high-quality executive interviews, customer testimonials and conference coverage videos. DreamSimplicity interviews offer SaaS and Sales 2.0 clients a platform to discuss their recent news announcements, and gather greater social buzz for their corporate story through a number of innovative web video outlets.

DreamSimplicity is an innovative producer of High Definition Web Video for emerging web-based technology organizations: they write, coach, direct and produce as needed.

  • Executive Interviews
  • Conference Events & Expo Hall Booth Coverage
  • Customer Testimonials
  • Thought Leader & Executive Videos
  • Creative Videos
  • Commercials
  • Live Web Shows

Update July 22: A transcript for this interview is now available.

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