Scaling Good

TL;DR: How to improve the state of humanity in three steps.


If I follow my entrepreneurial spirit, I capture myself pondering about a slow pace of change. Technology is booming worldwide, you may say. Although if you dig deep, it’s clear that the biggest challenges humanity faces are not solved yet: just look up UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

While innovation is rapidly happening in the corporate sector, with large for-profit organisations creating innovation labs, acquiring new technology companies and sponsoring startup accelerators, it seems that the progress is still slow in the not-for-profit and non-governmental sectors which often are born to improve the state of humanity.

What can be done to solve global problems quicker?

The infrastructure from the top down is needed. Until the change comes I suggest to start here and now. Start with the people. Start with yourself. Just like a lean startup method or design thinking provided the tools for for-profit companies, large and small, to innovate and create solutions, rapidly, the same effect can be replicated in the not-for-profit sector.

Workshops, hackathons, intrapreneurship programmes, professionals starting ‘projects for good’ can all be part of the toolkit. I suggest one more step to take.

Start with your mindset

Being involved in the startup and innovation ecosystem since 2012, I can definitely say I have experienced ‘change’. The biggest change was inside my mind, though. How else would it be possible to move between disciplines and industries in a few years time; make insights and summarise what you learned when there’s no time? Change truly starts from within.

Step 1: Share problems

Many problems can be solved through a conversation. Although we’re not used to sharing the struggle. No matter if you’re a small team or a large organisation, someone or no one, chances are, you keep problems to yourself.

Perhaps it’s a branding problem? If we view ‘problem’ as an opportunity, perhaps we’d open up more, share more, discover and innovate more? Let’s give it a try, shall we?

Step 2: Think about solutions

When you spot the problem, think what can be done to solve it. Write your ideas down. Even the silly ones.

Step 3: Ask for feedback

Just like when learning a skill, feedback is crucial if we want to improve and move onto the next level. Same is with life’s situations. When we get feedback on things we spend time thinking about, that’s when we improve and grow.

Often, we don’t ask for feedback. Frankly, we often don’t know how to ask for (any) things anymore. If you view sharing your idea as feedback request, would that help? Asking for feedback is also a good way to meaningfully connect with people.

To sum up, if we take problems we face and look for solutions, that’s a starter. Lastly, when we ask for feedback, the rest is an opportunity to be revealed.

If you take these micro steps, who knows, together we may solve humanity’s challenges quicker. But about that, I’ll write in the next post.

Math Can Teach You Something

When I sat down to write, all the questions, thoughts and ideas seemed to be gone.

“What’s on your mind?” The sneaky Facebook question popped to my mind. What’s on my mind? What a brilliant question. I like questions. Something to think about. And I like thinking. Writing is a way of thinking. When I start to write I don’t know where it will bring me. We’ll find out in a few minutes.

I ask a lot of questions. I’m glad I got my curiosity and creativity back. Sometimes I wonder, what shall I do with all these questions and ideas? I’d like to make use of them. I often think that startups create lots of applications, although, do they solve real problems that people have? Maybe what, we, startup people, need is the better methods for problem solving? How do we know what people need?

Last month I met JC (I like using abbreviations instead of real names in my writings). We spoke about innovation and technology. And systematic problem solving. One of the problems we discussed was synthesis. When we go through a pile of ideas, how do you find an idea which is good enough?

I decided to look for answers in math. A smiley professor from an introductory video got me: “Thinking is hard, people want magic. Thinking creates magic.”. I spent quite a few hours going through the module 1. It was frustrating. An inner fight against my mind when trying to solve a quiz.

I learned a few things:

  1. Struggle leads to new ideas. You develop new concepts.
  2. Rule 1: Try something and see if it works.
  3. Draw a picture. Situation “Now “and Situation “Future”. Have concrete situations. Be specific and systematic. Take steps you can take. What do you need to know at each step?
  4. Cannot find a solution? Start from scratch.
  5. Try something what is not a smart idea and see consequences.
  6. Drawing helps to find a solution. List all the good and bad solutions and explain why they are good or bad.
  7. Be methodical. Explore all the possibilities. Keep track of all your learnings.
  8. Have a positive attitude. Learning (problem solving) is not a torture. “We don’t want pain.”
  9. Go and try things.

These might seem obvious but when you go through an actual struggle of trying to solve a puzzle, they mean so much more. What we hear in startups is “fail fast”. Solving a puzzle and having a math wizard showing how to do it simpler speaks to me so much more than “fail fast”. Well we never ask a question: “What’s the process of failure?”, right? It’s an important question to ask, I think. Maybe more people would try following their passions, setting up companies, failing and trying again.

And that’s how we innovate, right?

I’ll see how my math course goes in the next few weeks and what’s an impact on my thinking habits.

Stay tuned!

Ruta

P.S. “Being methodical embraces failure, and then failure leads to innovation.”

Innovation starts when people have a conversation

“What universities could do better to be more innovative?” a new friend asked me yesterday.

“Rethink professional development for educators,” I said. “Bring diverse people together into one room for an open conversation.”

Innovation requires new ideas blending together. Good ideas appear when diverse people connect, talk and share. Simple.

Ways to connect people online

A few years back I co-founded an online community for teachers as part of the Connected Educators movement, which brings together educators from all around the world to learn new methods of teaching by simply chatting and sharing online.

If a community effect helped thousands of teachers overcome their fear of technology and brought innovative ideas into classrooms all around North America, the same principles of a community-led learning can help any organisation breed innovation.

If you struggle to innovate, create a community platform where diverse people can connect and share.

Ways to connect people in a real world

Last weekend we applied the same method and brought diverse people together for 54 hours of brainstorming and making. The first ever education technology hackathon in Ireland (Startup Weekend Education) aimed to solve problems in education by connecting educators, entrepreneurs and technologists.

Amazing things happen when diverse people meet in one room. As organisers, we were impressed by the quality and diversity of ideas. ‘Education’ became a synonym for lifelong learning, questioning how we want to learn today and tomorrow.

7 learning technology startups were formed during 54 hours out of 15 ideas pitched on Friday:

7 ideas came out from 54 hours brainstorming to solve problems for human resources managers at organisations, parents homeschooling their kids, girls learning to code, parents connecting with teachers and kids learning by doing with arduino.

Join Community for Lifelong Learners

They say education is hard to change. Education as any other institution needs more interaction between people with diverse skills.

I can’t wait to see what the seven new edtech startups will bring to the education ecosystem in the next few months; to make it easier to bring innovative ideas into education we launched a new community – Learning Technology Ireland. We’re growing fast, so join us.

How are you innovating in your organisation? I’d love to hear.