I just started an MIT Entrepreneur Bootcamp! It’s been great so far and I like being in the distributed collaborative environment. It’s funny, really, I have been involved with several startups, was in an incubator for a while (more about that later, perhaps), and even helped establish an Innovation Challenge project for the Army Virtual Lab. However, I never took the time to formalize my training as an entrepreneur. Ironic that I coach on the subject, so a little credentialing is probably not a bad idea, eh?
It also comes at a time when the low-tech startup that I am helping my wife with, Alchemy Coffee, is just BOOMING! We just opened shop #2 (yea!!) and shops #3 & #4 are on the drawing board progressing quickly. No, I have no intention of quitting my job as a Solutions Architect to run coffee shops (I get that question all the time), but it’s flattering for folks to think we can take on SixBucks! The real issue is that while I take on the complex issue of Agile Model Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) and Avionics Open Architectures (such as FACE), I can still get some of my startup energy out and clear my head working with new starts like Alchemy (amongst some others that I help friends with). What on earth would I want to do a bootcamp for?! Rigor, discipline, getting outside of my own head, working with a team of strangers, and formal learning for some processes I have learned by doing are all factors. One thing that really stood out was the emphasis on spending more time in Team Formation and Ideation in advance of getting to the Market Research and Business Plan development. That may seem obvious, but too many teams jump right to building the plan and neglect the bigger problem space analysis. In the end, Team Dynamics is at least as important, if not more so, than the specific idea.
There are all kinds of good collaboration tools, you can easily get to tool overload. One of the reasons I decided to use Trello is because it is kind of a blank slate. I am using an entirely different suite of tools inside of my work for the US Army Aviation enterprise for developing an Open Architecture Strategy, but they are team collaboration tools nonetheless. Whiteboards are best, but if you cannot all be in the same place at the same time, you still need a way to organize all of your thinking with the whole team. There are a ton of project management, wiki, software development, and team collaboration tools. But just having a virtual sticky-note board is critical to the early stages of Ideation. I would share the details of the individual boards, but that really should be driven by the problem at hand or the Team Dynamics – that comes first, THEN figure out what questions, phases, categories, whatever. Like Jim Collins stated in Good to Great, first figure out who should be on the bus, then what seats they should be in!
Oh, and in case you are wonder what the idea is that our team is working on… more later! Two years ago when I was going through Princeton Theological Seminary I mentioned transferring some of my journal notes to blog posts, but of course never got around to it. This time I will try to be more disciplined about sharing – especially since it is closer to the point of my Management Consulting work with JHNA and Exocubic! Distributed teams are not just startup teams. I am working on an Architecture team that spans the globe, working with Architects not only in the US but also joint services teams and our global partners. Startups are not just new companies, but new teams within huge enterprises. Building a good structure for distributed team collaboration is critical. Good luck in all your startup / restart / growth / entrepreneurship / intrepreneurship ventures. Cheers!