Lessons For Business From Startup Weekend

I punched the air with an intense feeling of satisfaction and pride. Standing at the back of the room at Startup Weekend Tauranga #tgasw18. I had the privilege of mentoring teams as they turned ideas into business plans. One of the teams had just pitched to the judges and nailed it!

They had their ups and downs over the 54-hour event but it had all come together in a glorious 5-minute pitch. The atmosphere was electric. The emotion palpable (sleep deprivation a strong contributor).

The weekend was a success due to one major factor. As a collective, we effectively created the conditions needed to develop innovative ideas. It got me thinking. We did this over a weekend with a group who hardly knew each other. How could we transfer the same conditions to our day-to-day workplaces and see the same results?

Executing innovative ideas is not something I can reduce to a short article. But here are some observations from my experience at Startup Weekend 2018 that may provide a starting point:

Connecting with your team

Teams worked on ideas which had a purpose and impact that resonated with them. Why they were doing it and the difference they hoped to make. The business application may have changed but these factors kept them on track. It unified the team.

Many of the teams spent time getting to know each other. This intentional action paid dividends. They were generally open to new ideas. And when they had to change tack or deal with difficulty, the team had built enough trust to get through.

Does your team need to clarify their purpose and the impact they desire?

Do you need to spend time getting to know colleagues’ interests inside and outside of work?

Focus on learning

Some arrived at the weekend with ideas they were passionate about. The challenge came when the team they formed decided it needed to pivot (change tack). The ones with a learning attitude, aka growth mindset, navigated this most successfully.

Participants focused on learning about the product and the process. They conducted research to validate and adapt their business idea. They also learned about how they worked best as a group in a short space of time.

Some would not carry on with the idea after the weekend. Yet, they learned as much as they could about the innovation process to help them in the future.

Where do you and your team need to adopt a learning attitude to trying new things? And letting go of old ways?

What do you need to do to learn more about what you’re delivering and how you’re going about it?

Deliberately carve out time

Startup Weekend was 54 hours dedicated to turning ideas into businesses. A clear goal and focused time. People took time out of their routines to take part. They left the day-to-day distractions of life behind and committed to the task.

Sometimes when we are so busy it feels like we don’t have the time. But if these moments create true value for our businesses then we must carve out the time.

What strategic or innovative work do you need to carve out space for?

When and where will you do this? Getting offsite is strongly recommended.

Tools and facilitators

Teams had mentors and facilitators. They asked questions to guide the thinking. They created structure for the weekend and ensured a fun atmosphere. The Lean Canvas and Kanban Boards helped to clarify the business model and progress of work.

Who could facilitate the way your team works together?

What tools could you implement to clarify the big picture and track progress?

We left the weekend with new connections and valuable lessons. Inspired to continue with the ideas or transfer our knowledge to our existing endeavors. Personally, it validated my passion for helping teams move forward and work together well through complex challenges. I’d encourage you to get involved in the next Startup Weekend near you.

But in the meantime, go ahead. Go execute that innovative idea you’ve been wanting to. Connect with your team. Learn by doing. Create the space and use the tools. Punch the air as you pull it off!

Doug Maarschalk is a trainer, facilitator and coach who uses the principles of intrinsic motivation as the foundation for his work. He has worked with New Zealand businesses in the horticulture, legal, accounting, financial services, real estate and healthcare sectors.
Read more about the Services Doug provides and the Clients he has worked with.