Stop Talking Start Making

This morning, I stumbled onto a prototype that literally stopped me. It was so stunningly simple, yet so effective; I wanted to share it here.


This stop sign is at the corner of Ramona and Homer Ave. in Palo Alto. What’s different about it is that a reflective red rectangle was attached to what is normally an invisible, drab gray pole.What I love about this approach is someone likely took an analogous invention, the bicycle reflector, and used it in a new way. It should be easy to measure whether this results in behavior change – fewer tickets, fewer collisions (car vs. car/bike/pedestrian), etc.

I don’t know who is behind this experiment – it seems to be the only one of its kind at the moment, but I applaud the ability to take an idea from the whiteboard, bring it into the world, and (hopefully) measure what happens.

Entrepreneurship is a Team Sport

Last Thursday, I spoke on a Babson Connect panel on “Entrepreneurs of All Kinds.” Also on the panel were Nathan Bricklin, Head of Social Strategy at Wells Fargo, Julie Lewis, President, CEO & Founder of Digital Mountain, Chris Pollino, who leads Executive Talent Development at Genentech, and Susan Resnicoff, Director of Cat Food Marketing at Del Monte Foods. The panel was moderated by Shaun Steingold, Business Development Manager at Hewlett-Packard.

One of Shaun’s most interesting questions was:

“What’s the best advice someone ever gave you?”

The first answer that came to mind for me was “marry someone who makes you laugh”

After the laughter died down, this lead to a great series of audience questions about partnering and entrepreneurship, including the following two questions:

“What strategies work for getting a spouse on board?”

It starts with empathy for your partner’s fears. Often, an entrepreneurial venture is no more risky than working for an organization, and in all likelihood, less risky. Use your partner’s fears to think through risk mitigation strategies.

In my own relationship, we took turns to spread our risks. My husband took a year to build a new product, while I had a full time role in an organization. Once he gained traction in his own business, I began mine. Now we’re both entrepreneurs, and provide each other with strategic and emotional support, which works tremendously well.

“Should I partner with friends?”

I’ve started working on entrepreneurial ventures with people I’ve known and people who were assembled to cover specific functions (Dev, QA, design, Product Management), who later became friends. I think it’s most important to have diversity of talents and perspectives.

One tool I’ve used to do a quick personality diversity check is “Personality Poker.” Whether you use this, MBTI, DiSC, Strengthsfinder, or good, old-fashioned personal assessments and conversation. Your objective should be complementary talents and personalities and shared values.

What’s most important is that you cultivate a culture of feedback, and don’t let issues fester.

Wishing for Higher Performing Teams? Try This…


Habits for High-performing Teams

Get teams in the habit of expressing appreciation
and feedback to accelerate team performance.

I regularly coach teams of Executives, Product Managers, Designers and students. During a recent Exec Ed program, I was struck by the transformational impact of feedback on team performance.

2 1/2 days into a 3-day program, working teams stepped away from the session content to focus on process using a simple but very effective feedback tool we use in the called “I like, I wish.”

Starting with myself, I shared what I thought went well and sharing a wish for something I might have done differently during the session, modeling the I like(d), I wish approach. I then did the same for the team as a whole, then each individual. After modeling the level of honesty, vulnerability and level of detail, I gave the team time to reflect on their own performance and that of their teammates, then give each other feedback, one person at a time.

As we debriefed the activity, we discussed how infrequently colleagues take the risk of sharing appreciation or constructive feedback in corporate life, and how much faster teams would gel if this became a conversational habit from the very beginning.

Try this:

I like… / I wish (perhaps followed by a suggestion on how or what to do differently)

For: yourself, as leader, your team, each individual (with gentle but direct eye contact)

Doing this early in the team formation stage and repeating it often makes a difference in the team’s ability to successfully navigate ambiguity and conflict.


Let me know if you see a difference on your team’s performance!

There’s No Such Thing as Polite Innovation

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” – Peter Drucker

I’ve noticed organizations are are taking a more intional approach to curating culture. In their quest for continuous re-invention, many seek to cultivate the “right” DNA.

So what’s the relationship between culture and innovation?
Is it possible to cultivate a culture of innovation, or does making “innovativeness” the norm actually stifle new ways of thinking?

Cultures that value respectful conflict and authentic conversation across hierarchical levels use this diversity of perspective as fodder for new thinking and insights. This is an advantage many start-ups have over larger organizations.

When the predominant culture values politeness over authenticity, it may preserve the velocity and volume of flow in a direction, but the organization may also lose the impetus to reflect on whether direction is worthwhile in the first place.