S1W3: Random Updates

For the most part this week I’ve totally fallen off the bandwagon for a few things that I’ve tried to keep myself accountable to, namely gymming, writing and coding…

I’ve gone to the gym once only this week, I think my total hours on coding were 1 solitary hour in Python and I didn’t get to writing at all (until now!). I guess being accountable is a good thing in this instance because it means I can track my progress and see when I’m falling off the bandwagon so I can try and re-program my weeks to fit everything else in. This is quite appropriate considering our pivot as a group in our Garage Project to develop and adapt the goal achievement app concept my Homeless Project team created in the intensive week.

I’ve also fallen behind in my university reading and I haven’t taken the time to really look at what assessments are due…all I know is that they’re coming soon. I’m pretty relaxed about all this though…mostly because I’m really comfortable with the subject matter so I don’t need to learn a huge amount I’m really just augmenting my own knowledge. Personally I don’t care much for the assessment in this course, with everything entrepreneurship it’s all experiential so the ‘academic’ requirement to report on things is largely meaningless to me. As one of the members of the cohort said: “You can’t get an H1 in entrepreneurship”.

The reason for my lack of progress on all these things are mostly a function of laziness on my part but also because of group work from university absorbing a lot of my time and just socialising in general. I’ve been spending a lot of time til late at night at University drinking with members of the Ormond community. Which has been awesome and at times needed as it’s been a bit of a stressful week at various times with our Garage Project as we’ve worked through different group dynamics.

On the coding side one of the things I’ve been doing as a substitute is catching up with one of my mentor/mates who is a former Head of Technical Learning and Development at LinkedIn who is looking to change directions in his career and move into individual coaching and just turning down the dial on ‘growth’ that people expect from people in that industry.

The interesting thing about that conversation (which is not new to me) was the concept of ‘getting closer to your authentic self’ and the pressure of being in the tech field is this obsession with growth in large part for growths sake to try and get scale. But some people don’t want that, they just want to create beautiful small businesses and this guy is finding his feet in articulating that in an authentic way for him.

Garage Project

Some of the developments in our Garage Project this week has been really interesting. At times our team and relationships within it have been strained as we’ve discarded different ideas for projects based on ‘regulation’ and then ‘cost’ which left us without an idea to pursue which left some members of the group particularly agitated as some of the assessment in other subjects are dependent on this project.

Luckily for us this week we had a meeting with two of our mentors in the course who spent a good hour with us educating us on the process of team dynamics. And I learnt a lot!!

One particular mentor is an experienced negotiator, mentor and business person with a background in change management which in layman’s terms basically means he made a career of coming into businesses and sacking a whole load of people and re-engineering businesses to be more profitable and efficient. Now that’s a cruel summary but that brutality of the clinical unemotional mindset was very much on show in this conversation which he led with our group.

The conversation went across two broad sections which went something along the lines of:

High performing teams are open and honest about Individual Expectations and work them out

  • Mentor: ‘have you had the conversation about your individual expectations and what you each can contribute and want from this subject?’
  • Group: ‘kind of, in code…not really’
  • M: ‘Ok well you need to do that, and we’re going to do that right now’
  • G: ‘………….*shit*………..’

Then in open discourse everyone was given the opportunity to talk about their own expectations of what they wanted free of interruption.

The facilitation part of the conversation was really valuable because I think without a facilitator or mediator members of our group would have railroaded the conversation through sheer force of personality and others would have felt like they weren’t being heard.

The upshot of this was that each of our members wanted:

  • to get an H1 in the subject
  • wanted to learn and have fun x2
  • wanted to build really good and productive relationships (me)

It wasn’t quite clear if we were able as a group come to a shared understanding how we were going balance these differing priorities throughout the semester because the mentor had to leave as we were getting to the meaty parts of the discussion but maybe that’s for another time.

Ideas and Ownership

  • Mentor: ‘here we have an idea (he picks up a rock). No one owns this idea — it’s just an idea and no one should have an emotional attachment to this — this is no-one’s baby. The reason is because every idea we generate has to ‘earn it’s keep’ to survive and if it doesn’t I’ll be first person to kill this idea in front of you’.’
  • Mentory: ‘Now guys, you’re doing the right thing, you’re making progress even if it feels like you’re not. We will not let you fall, we will not let you fail in this subject or other subjects, you are all here for a reason and you’re part of our family and we’re here to support you’.

It was interesting in this case because it members of the team had some very strong opinions on the ‘ownership’ of the whole project and using their influence to create ultimatums to the group to kill/not kill the group’s direction based on their personal opinion of ‘whether they believed in it’.

This led to another discussion with a different mentor which was a progress-check on the group. One of the things we were struggling with was how to get everyone on board with the one idea to pursue for the Garage Project. As a group we struggled with how to judge one idea in relation to one another. Cutting a long story short we used the idea of clustering which is a design thinking tool to storm some ‘criteria’ to judge each idea based on what we wanted to get out of the project which boiled down to:

  • our individual ability to access the target market
  • is there a large enough market
  • our ability to execute and launch an MVP of the project in 10 weeks
  • low emotional impact on the target market*
  • and our ability to have fun pursuing this idea

This was an incredibly valuable exercise for our group and one idea came out a clear winner for us which we’ve now pivoted to and will be working on in multiple markets over the next week.

Politics…ugh

I’ve never been on a student council before and I have to admit I wasn’t really interested in joining the graduate student body at Ormond the MCR until it was suggested to me that I run for the role. I still don’t really know what I’d contribute at this stage.

I’m on the alumni council for the FBE faculty at uni so I have ‘some’ experience of these types of roles but unfortunately a lot of people get involved in these things are more like ‘trophies’ to me rather than trying to make any particularly meaningful changes. In some ways I feel like a bit a fraud in the same way with this and I think some people I’m ‘competing’ against on this would be better in the roles than I would be.

What’s been interesting is seeing some of the subtle machinations behind the scenes that may or may not have meant that certain make up of the leadership is stacked a certain way that entrenches existing power structures. But that’s for another day…elections are Wednesday. I’m voting for the two girls on the ticket who I think will do a great job and will add great value to the community.