In the face of dramatic market shifts and uncertainty, growing entrepreneurial leaders within Bigcos is becoming critical for companies to tap into new sources of growth. Corporate leaders are starting to combine approaches like Design Thinking and Jobs to be Done, with Lean Startup and Design Sprints to efficiently pursue disruptive opportunities, but can’t fully maximize those approaches without teams of entrepreneurial leaders equipped to deploy these approaches at scale.

Entrepreneurial leaders need to sprout up throughout an entire organization in order for a Bigco to fully operationalize Lean Growth capability and begin full adoption. Through our Lean Growth Bootcamps, we work with teams and help their leaders begin to flex that entrepreneurial muscle, which involves them overcoming challenges and hurdles in new, quicker ways.

Here are five examples of how a team we partnered with started to overcome challenges and begin to flex their entrepreneurial muscle during their Lean Growth Bootcamp.

Define Before Ideating
You can be the best archer in the world, but if you don’t know the target, you aren’t going to make the shot. Assessing the landscape of their trend spaces and really exploring all of the possibilities is something this Bigco team had never done before. Their first inclination was to apply what they already knew in order to come up with ideas versus nailing the Job they were solving first. We taught them how to building context in their emerging spaces, and to drive the understanding to customer pain-points and Jobs to be Done.

Think Expansively Beyond Industry Walls
When exploring possibilities, leaders tend to view emerging trend spaces through the lens of the predominate core business. In order to come up with disruptive ideas, they had to suspend judgment on what business they were actually in, and think about emerging ways their business could add value in categories among consumers they had not previously considered.
By looking at trends and analogs from outside their industry, they were able to collect a significant amount of external inspiration to pull from in order to create disruptive new solutions.

Tap into Underutilized Resources
When you’re looking through a new lens and new opportunity, you actually see ways you can monetize and leverage assets literally right under your nose.
When coming up with ideas, many teams go in with the assumption that their idea will require them to create something completely new. But through the process of exploring, and by framing up consumer Jobs to be Done and early ideas, this team realized that they had internal capabilities that could be leveraged to build out their idea in a proprietary way. Nobody had ever before connected the dots on those internal capabilities.

Quickly Carry On and Apply Feedback
During frequent leadership check-ins, some ideas were received with positive feedback, but some received more critical pushback. Bigco leaders are used to pitching ideas and getting approval because historically they’d do all of this work to prepare and align, and by the time they’d get to the presentation everyone is already aligned and things move forward. But this was one of the first times this team got this significant feedback; they needed to be agile enough to quickly change the course and overcome the feedback and apply it to move forward. Rather than stop the process, the team kept going. They pivoted, built upon a different idea, and tried again.

Trust the Validated Learning, Not Internal Opinions
A team had an idea that the leadership team really loved from the get-go; so they put together an explainer video and tested with consumers, and the idea tested significantly worse with consumers than they thought it would.  The initial reaction could’ve been, “I don’t trust what the consumers are saying; they just don’t understand it.” But instead, it was a really good pulse check for them. They said, “We made all of these assumptions about this idea and that consumers would just readily adopt it and that is not the case; so we either need to pivot or do some work to make this idea better so that consumers will adopt it.”

It’s not enough to simply train leaders on emerging methods and tools and to then expect different results. To truly operationalize an entrepreneurial mindset and new way of working, you must teach leaders emerging competencies, tools, skills, and a process that prioritizes a roll-up-your-sleeves application of the concepts at every step. When you do that, you create opportunities for struggle, and that’s where the real transformation begins.

Read this case story or watch this case story video to learn more about how companies grow entrepreneurial leaders through Lean Growth Bootcamps.

Are you an Insights leader trying to pivot to leaner, more reliable approaches? You’re not alone. We often hear confessions along these lines from Insights leaders:

We learned the hard way that asking people for their opinion about the product we developed didn’t translate to purchase like we had hoped. After conducting many focus groups, we thought the product we developed would have traction. But we were asking if people liked it and thought they would buy it, instead of mocking up the product and putting it out into real-world contexts and seeing what happened. When the product got to market, nobody bought it – and we were shocked – because the opinions in the focus groups had been so favorable.

We hate hearing stories where opinion-based research led teams to feel false confidence in a product, service or business model idea, only for the idea to end up costing the company hundreds of thousands of dollars because it didn’t have true product-market-fit. This sort of misleading research is avoidable by pivoting the research setup and testing Leap of Faith Assumptions, the startup-minded scientific-method-meets-market-research way of behaviorally vetting product, service, or disruptive new business model prototypes.

Tools that fit into our Lean Innovation, Leap of Faith Assumption testing toolbox must fit three criteria:

  1. Cost-Effective – Because teams will field many subsequent tests, they can’t blow their whole budget on the first test right out of the gate. Each round must be less than $5,000.
  2. Transactional Where Possible – Test should focus on demonstrating behavior vs. asking for consumers’ opinions. As Ash Maurya says in Running Lean, “Don’t ask customers what they want. Measure what they do.”
  3. Quick – In most cases, teams need results within 48 hours, so a typical 2-week recruiting window isn’t possible. This is often solved for using direct-to-panel solutions, or by putting content on the web and using an ad mechanism to draw an audience to it immediately.

These three criteria ensure the misleading opinion-asking research setup described earlier doesn’t happen again, and pivots to quicker, leaner testing overall (instead of an all-your-eggs-in-one-basket approach). With these three parameters in mind, The Garage Group typically leverages one of these three prototype testing vehicles when testing Leap of Faith Assumptions:

Quick Quantitative Test

We typically constrain this to roughly 150 participants give 10-15 min of overnight quantitative feedback on prototypes. Prototype formats that work well for quick quantitative testing are explainer videos depicting a process/service, illustrated mock-up visuals, text descriptions and more.

Output: Number data and minimal explanation of the ‘why’ behind customers’ decisions.

Benefit: “Behind the gate” testing where other brands aren’t going to publicly see your idea and steal it. It’s important to set up the test as transactionally as possible, though – steer clear of asking for opinions.

Example: Three different scenarios were tested using explainer videos. Participants were asked if they would be willing to do a certain behavior in response to each explainer video. This data helped fuel an Innovation Board pitch that got the team a “Persevere” decision and more funding for future testing and development.

Quick Qualitative Test

Roughly 15 participants give 15-20 min of overnight qualitative feedback on prototypes. Examples of prototype formats that work well for quick qualitative testing are explainer videos depicting a process/service, illustrated mock-up visuals, text descriptions and more.

Output: In contrast to the quick quantitative test above, this test provides a deeper explanation of what’s working and what’s not working and how to improve on the prototype.

Benefit: Just like the quick quantitative test above, this test is “behind the gate,” where other brands aren’t going to publicly see your idea and steal it. It’s important to set up the test as transactionally as possible, though – steer clear of asking for opinions.

Example: Participants were pointed to a website and ran through a scenario, where the team could track where the participants navigated. After going to the website, participants answered several questions about what they gravitated towards and why.

In-the-Wild Ad Testing

Ads directing customers to a website or email sign-up page are strategically placed online over 48hrs and garner click-through and sign-up data to indicate interest in prototypes and variants. Examples of prototype formats that work well for in-the-wild ad testing are websites or prototype visuals that depict the product/service/business model as it will be in-market, as if it actually were in-market today.

Output: Transactional data on what features, benefits, and variants drove the most amount of interest from people interacting with the ads.

Benefit: Participants aren’t in a “research” mindset, and are going about their daily lives when they see the ad. It’s a more real-world view of how people would react in-market when the product/service/business model actually becomes available. Depending on the test, contacts garnered through the ad can be tapped into for further lean testing.

Example: Teams launched a series of Facebook/Instagram ads featuring different product variants to see which ad got the most interaction. They used this data to make a decision on which variant to move forward on building out.

These three vehicles are our most commonly used (but we have lots of others up our sleeve, depending on the challenge at hand). After tests are fielded, the results directly fuel a Pivot, Persevere, Perish conversation with the leadership team or innovation board, then teams with Pivot or Persevere decisions move forward building out their idea further, then putting it into another round of testing using one or more of the three vehicles above. The teams we work with go through many rounds (not just one singular round) of this testing to build-test-learn their way to successful product/service/business model launch.

If you’re in an Insights leadership role and are wondering how to put these tests into action, drop us a line. We’d love to talk. Contact jason@thegaragegroup.com.

Our team is our secret sauce, so we knew when we were looking for an Associate Talent Director that we needed someone special. They needed to have the recruiting chops, personality, and hustle in order to keep adding awesome people to our growing team. And since Barbara Burke walked through TGG’s doors she’s been just that, and more. She is a Cincinnati native (with a 10-year detour to Southern California), lover of all HGTV home decor shows, and proud owner of her rescue dog, Stella.

Join us as we welcome Barbara to our team!

So, you jumped into The Garage Group. What made you decide to join us?

I recently made the shift from my full-time corporate recruiting job to focus on building my Career Mobility and Job Search Strategy practice. Having made a shift to being an entrepreneur myself,  The Garage Group’s mission resonated with me and I was impressed by the passion, smarts, and personalities of everyone I met. I am really excited to be part of an organization that is innovative to the core! And I’m lucky to be able to do this interesting work and also focus on growing my business at the same time.

What is something people might not know about you?

As an English Literature major, I wasn’t sure what field to go into after graduation and my first job was as a Flight Attendant! I guess my education prepared to me to be very articulate and grammatically correct when announcing the pre-flight safety briefings!

What does an “entrepreneurial approach to research and innovation” mean to you?

Being creative, being comfortable working in uncharted territory and being confident enough to try something that’s not been done before.

What’s inspiring you right now?

I’ve set some very specific health and fitness goals for this year and I’m actually really inspired by being supported by others on this same quest. I love getting ideas and encouragement from others who have been successful at hitting their goals and others that are just starting out like me. I also love that when I come into the office at The Garage Group, healthy lifestyles seem to be a common thing with this team. It keeps me on track! I’ve not been derailed yet! Fingers crossed! I have yet to see a platter of snacks slathered in cheese.  Fortunately, there are plenty of healthy snacks here!

What is your spirit animal?

Well, I had to Google what the meanings are of different animals. I’m not sure how reliable my research was because I would have thought Shark had a negative connotation! 🙂 However, one of the definitions I found resonated with me so I’m going with it!

The definition read “When Shark circles in as your Spirit Animal, it’s time to shut out fear and go for what you want.” Check.

“Shark as a Totem Animal belongs to those who always survive and keep moving ahead.”  Check.

“Call on Shark as your Power Animal when you need to meet life full-steam ahead”. Kind of Check. I’m working on this one every day.

Tell me two truths and a lie about yourself.

I’ve been to the American Idol finale in Hollywood

I’ve gone dog sledding in Alaska with a champion Iditarod musher

I’ve been an extra in 3 movies

Leaders at a B2B Financial Services Company had a strong desire to explore new areas of strategic growth that would push the company beyond its current core business and predominant M&A growth strategy.

Given market uncertainty, their leaders recognized the need for a hypothesis-driven approach to discover new sources of growth. They also wanted to build an entrepreneurial culture not only to sustain these efforts, but also to inject entrepreneurial leadership into the core business. While the company had strong leaders delivering with excellence on the core, many of these leaders lacked exposure to the process, skills & tools, and entrepreneurial mindset to tackle emerging challenges.

So, they partnered with The Garage Group to build the capability for strategic exploration of disruptive, high growth white spaces, advance six key growth initiatives, and start the journey of an entrepreneurial transformation of their culture.

APPROACH

With the strong support of Senior Leadership, a cohort of 12 leaders jumped into an intense, five-phase, 12-week Lean Growth Bootcamp. They immersed themselves in a world class process: hustling like entrepreneurs; defining disruptive opportunities; exploring new possibilities; and leveraging an efficient, hypothesis-driven approach for building, testing and learning around major growth opportunities.

Each of the five phases of the bootcamp included training on foundational knowledge backed by immediate, initiative-level application, then practice, and coaching to drive understanding and to produce real business results. The Garage Group team led, taught, and coached along the way.

Over the course of the Lean Growth Bootcamp, leaders tackled strategically important business challenges in two-person teams and learned entrepreneurial competencies like operating with a growth mindset, maximizing available assets, and connecting their personal “whys” to the mission of the company.

At a macro-level, they worked through The Garage Group’s Lean Growth Playbook, driving context and understanding for the entrepreneurial value creation process, showing the interconnection between approaches like Design Thinking and Lean Startup.

They gave definition to specific opportunities by applying new skills and tools from Design Thinking and Jobs to be Done to build stakeholder empathy and uncover pain points and leveraging secondary research to augment understanding of each opportunity.

They explored multiple possible inputs to design solutions for each white space – leveraging trends and analogs around the Jobs they were solving for, considering multiple strategic directions, thinking expansively about assumptions using a “what must be true” mindset, and quickly building context and business model canvases to move each direction forward.

Finally, they identified the riskiest assumptions behind their ideas, and built out MVP prototype(s) to test ideas transactionally. Validated learning enabled them to determine whether to double down, continue exploring, re-vector or shelve ideas.

Closing the Bootcamp with a bang, inspired by war stories from battle-tested entrepreneurs and equipped with pitch and storytelling training, they pitched their ideas to a team of Senior Leaders, who were “blown away” by the progress the teams made in 12 short weeks, as well as the quality of the thinking behind the ideas.

IMPACT

Through this engagement, The Garage Group and the B2B Financial Services Company created a repeatable approach for innovation and growth (process + tools & competencies + entrepreneurial mindset), produced six disruptive opportunities for the business, and forever impacted the leaders who were part of this initial Bootcamp, enabling them to take these transformative approaches back to their core organization for significant impact.

Leaders from the initial Lean Growth Bootcamp reported having significantly more confidence in application of the techniques and mindsets. They reported feeling more confident bringing customers to the forefront of the conversation and more able to regard external forces affecting their industry; they have a strong desire to repeat the process in order continue their growth in entrepreneurial leadership.

Since the infancy of The Garage Group, our team has been focused on adding value beyond our day-to-day efforts transforming corporate leaders by enabling entrepreneurship in the communities we do business in.

Our vision is to continue to invest in the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders within our community and we’ve done so through the generosity of our time, our mentorship, and once a year, through financial investment. For the second year in a row, we are donating 10 percent of our profits to Ocean Accelerator and Unpolished.

We’ve received the benefit of generosity, and we recognize that we wouldn’t be the company we are without the generosity of others. We believe that generosity will grow our business, and connecting that cause to our mission as a company makes that impact much more exponential.