Kindness is a gift that gives back

Image by skeeze from Pixabay
A very short post today as it’s been a long week with simultaneous projects, deadlines, meetings and family.  The stress of all these converging commitments can have a negative impact on you, so it’s nice to get a little reminder of the important things.

We’ve been attending the Medventions program run by the Sunnybrook Research Institute.  It’s a multi-session program for those interested in creating MedTech start-ups, particularly medical devices.  As we support those people and companies, we like to go and learn along side and help focus the discussions on the importance of finding a real problem to solve and developing customer understanding.

The topic of the evening was Medtech Entrepreneurship & Clinical Needs Finding, and it featured two speakers sharing their experience, Chris O’Connor from Think Research and Kieran Murphy, a UHN physician and serial inventor.

There were great stories and insightful questions but it was the wrap-up that hit me.  When asked what was the most valuable lesson he has learned during his many years as an inventor and entrepreneur, Dr Murphy’s reply was: kindness.  No-one saw that coming in the cut-throat world of medical invention!

His experience in both giving and receiving kindness has made up for all the failures, long nights, lost capital and all the risks inherent in making change happen.

So just remember, it doesn’t take any additional effort to treat those around you with respect and kindness.  But it does pay dividends in how you and others will evaluate your legacy.

I’m Steve Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with clients to help them use customer-centricity to focus their efforts and their strategy where they can make the most difference. You can also find us on Twitter and on Facebook, and for ongoing news about topics like this one, click the button below.

Put your problems into perspective

Gum on shoe
This post has been updated since its original publication.
Everywhere we turned this week we encountered problems.  That’s not a bad thing, because if there weren’t problems the world wouldn’t need problem solvers like us.

There are, however, a couple of problems with problems; the first is that we often feel compelled to try and solve problems which aren’t ours to solve. The second is that we offer solutions before we really understand what the true nature of the problem.

Two people we respect deeply talked about problems, among other things, this week.

Steve Johnson, a highly experienced Product Management expert, started his article by wondering whether Product Managers should be called Problem Managers in an interview he did with Revulytics. I suggest you read it.

His belief, which we share, is that Product Managers need to focus on the customer problem and not the problems faced by others in the organization.  He also states that you should allow others to develop the solutions. There are many other big brains in the building who can offer solutions that you couldn’t even dream of, but they need you to define the problem to be solved and the outcome the customer is expecting.  Once you do that, step back and go find more problems that your customers need you to address.

“Problems are not stop signs, they are guidelines.” Robert Schuller

The second article that reinforced this was from Ash Maurya, one of the sparks for the Lean Startup movement.  First he reminded us that it’s been 10 years since he and Eric Ries started blogging about a better way to look at start-ups. You can read it on Medium

The point which struck me is his focus on developing the right mindset to successfully navigate the Lean Startup process.  Unless you and your team are ready to jump in with both feet, you’ll wind up with some other outcome.  One of those key articles of faith is to Love the Problem and spend quality time with your potential customers to develop a deep understanding of their problems, from their perspective.

Like Steve Johnson, Ash Maurya reminds us that it is vital for us to become Problem Managers in order to develop products and services which customers will adopt.

When you are ready to take the leap and become a Problem Manager, PANOPTIKA is here to lend a hand.

I’m Steve Willson, and I’m one of the Partners here at PANOPTIKA. We work with clients to help them use customer-centricity to focus their efforts and their strategy where they can make the most difference. You can also find us on Twitter and on Facebook, and for ongoing news about topics like this one, click the button below.

Forecasting without Data? Here’s How.

It’s Thursday afternoon, just before a long weekend, and Head Office calls…

“Hey Fred, it’s Wilma. I know Monday’s a holiday in Canada, so I thought I’d catch you early.  Barney’s got a presentation to the investors on Monday in Bedrock and needs to know how big the Canadian market is for our new Bronto-vax®. Can we get that by the end-of-day Friday?”

No problem, right?  If your product is a breakfast cereal you can just go to the Nielsen data, or if it’s a retail pharmaceutical IQVIA will sell you as much information as you need. But what if no data sources exist for your particular product?

We get asked to work on these problems quite regularly and the answer is always “Let’s think about it systematically”.

Is there a surrogate marker, for example if there’s no data on popsicle sticks, but good data on popsicle sales, you can assume that, in general, sticks and finished products are reasonably well correlated. If it’s a specialized pharmaceutical product you can find data on the incidence and prevalence of the disease, population size, percent of patients treated, length of treatment for clinical trials…you get the idea.

If you have more time you can talk to a portion your target audience and use their estimates to project for the entire market…wisdom of the crowd.

So, this is a long-winded way of saying that, with a little thought and imagination, you can build a reasonably robust model along with the data sources and references to give it some credibility. Then you can continue to revisit and evaluate the model as you go forward.

When we work on this with you then you get the added credibility of a second set of eyes and the validation that “our consultant looked at the market and built this model”. We’ve done it for others, we can do it for you.

I’m Steve Willson and I’m one of the Partners at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to help them see everything they need to make better decisions – using better data, a better approach, or a better frame of reference. You can also follow us on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedIn.  For more news you can use to help you or your team to make better decisions, click the handy button, below.


It’s not about me, it’s about us. Using empathy to create abundance.

According to psychology there are three types of Empathy; Cognitive, Emotional and Compassionate. My brother, the PhD Psychologist, could explain this better than I can, but here goes…

Cognitive is about perspective, knowing what another person is feeling or thinking.  It lacks the emotional component of the other two types and so is easier for us rational humans to understand and use. Emotional empathy goes a layer deeper and is that sense you have about feeling someone’s pain or suffering. It’s the feeling you get when you see the advertising for starving children or displaced persons, then you go on with your normal activities.

The final layer is Compassionate empathy, where we not only feel the pain, but are compelled to act upon it. Mother Teresa is a model we could use to demonstrate the extreme of compassionate empathy.
Look around you these days and what you see is a whole lot of self-interest, a zero-sum attitude, in order for me to win you must lose. Empathy is the tool you can use to escape this destructive cycle and create a space for abundance.

So, in business, which of these empathy models do we want to employ? To steal a phrase from “A League of Their Own” and mangle it: “There’s no crying in business”.

When preparing for a meeting or negotiation, employing Cognitive Empathy will allow you to explore the thoughts, constraints and motivations of the other person. Ask yourself and your team questions such as:

  • What constitutes success from the customer’s perspective?
  • Who do they need to influence to get a decision made?
  • How can you empower them in a way that creates value for them with little or no cost to you?

This is a different way of thinking, so you may need some help along the way.  At PANOPTIKA we have the experience and the frameworks to help you and your team develop these skills and create more wins.

We feel for you!

I’m Steve Willson and I’m one of the partners in PANOPTIKA. We help clients to see everything and make better decisions. ​You can also connect with us on Twitter, on Facebook, on LinkedIn and on Fridays we share news you can use with our community.