Blue Ocean Shift: Beyond Competing

I’ve just finished Blue Ocean Shift: Beyond Competing.  It has a lot of info.  So I’m breaking it into a couple of posts.  Here’s a recap of the first half of the book:

  • Red oceans are hyper-crowded and competitive, and blue is entirely new markets or models.
  • The two primary red ocean strategies are value-driven by giving exceptional service or low cost.  The blue ocean strategy focuses on unserved markets.
  • Beyond looking at unserved markets, a blue ocean approach uses “humanness” to engage employees to make the change and tools to turn a blue ocean idea into an offering.  Humanness is recognizing people’s fears and needs for a purpose. 
  • Blue ocean uses non-disruptive creation where a market isn’t destroyed or replaced but is a net new market
  • To illustrate the four pillars of a blue ocean strategy, the authors share the story of Comic Relief.  First, Comic Relief took an entirely new approach to fundraise and avoided previous typical fundraising approaches like galas.  Second, blue ocean approaches don’t try to beat competitors; instead, they have new competition through creating a new market.  In the Comic Relief example, they used “Red Nose Days,” where money was raised through small donations, not significant events.  Third, a blue ocean approach looks for a new market.  Comic Relief meant focusing on everyday people buying red noses instead of wealthy donors at galas.  Fourth, they empathized with people’s concerns and shared their role in making it all happen.

I’ll cover the key elements and tools to make a Blue Ocean shift in the next post.

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

Congratulations To Intertech STEM Scholarship Winner Alexander Chambers

One of the Intertech Foundation’s focuses is the inspiration of young people towards the building of science, engineering, and technology skills. To further that pursuit, the Foundation has selected two STEM scholarship winners for 2021, each excelling in Math and Science, just graduated from high school, and pursuing college studies in computer science. We’ve long believed in the importance of giving back to the communities where we live, work, and serve our customers. The Intertech Foundation STEM Scholarship is just one of the ways we have chosen to do this each year, offering a $2,500 scholarship, and this year was no exception. Amidst a challenging landscape, what resonated with our Grant committee was the hope and excitement the applicants have for our future. Join us in getting to know our scholarship recipient for 2021, Alexander Chambers.

Congratulations to Alexander Chambers

Alexander, a senior graduating from Valley High School in Clive, Iowa, a National Merit finalist, and the concert band lead trumpet player, will be attending Iowa State University in the fall, pursuing a degree in Software Engineering. One thing that stood out to us about Alexander was his interest in developing new ways to defend and protect people’s personal data, an area we at Intertech focus on in every aspect of every project. His appetite for community work and focus on Calculus, Computer Science, and Chemistry have set him up to achieve his goals, and as the Database Lead for the school’s computer club team, competing at the Cyber Defense Competition at Iowa State University, we have confidence that Alexander has a bright future.

Find out more about this young graduate through our scholarship winner Q&A session included below:

Q: When did you first decide you wanted to be involved in Computer Science?

That would have to be in my sophomore year of high school. That year was the first time that I took a computer science class, introduction to programming fundamentals. After that, I knew that I wanted to learn as much as I possibly could about programming and computer science.

Q: What was the first program you ever wrote?

The first program I ever wrote was a game that I created on the website, Scratch. In my game, you were a butterfly trying to dodge objects as they came toward you. I remember really struggling to make the game function, but I was very happy once I finally got the code to work.

Q: Which educational or extracurricular experiences during your k-12 years helped you decide on the field of Computer Science?

I would say that all 4 of the Computer Science related classes that I took in my high school years really helped motivate me to continue my education into college. Outside of school, it would have to be the Cyber Security club, Hyperstream, where I first became interested in Cyber Security.

Q: What school have you selected to attend?

Iowa State University. (ISU)

Q: Why did you decide on this school for your undergraduate education?

I chose to go to Iowa State University because of all the colleges in the state of Iowa, it has by far the best Engineering college, more specifically, it has a high quality Software Engineering program.

Q: What is your dream job after college?

After college, I hope to work at a progressive company that is on the cutting edge of innovation. I want to be working on the newest and toughest problems in the technology world.

Q: Tell us something about your time as database lead while involved with your computer club Hyperstream?

The club Hyperstream was probably the highlight of my sophomore year. This club was the first time I applied coding concepts outside of the classroom. While a lot of the things that I learned in class were helpful, for the most part we had to learn completely new concepts, including how to use the language Django and how to navigate in Linux.

Q: Please describe the Silvercord Volunteering Program and how it has impacted you?

My involvement in the Silvercord Volunteering Program has helped me become more invested in my community. It has helped me give back to the community who has supported and helped me throughout my high school years. It also showed me just how much hard work and effort is required to make this community as special as it is.

Q: And finally, would you be willing to share your thoughts about the value of the Intertech STEM scholarship to your academic journey?

The Intertech STEM scholarship will help me greatly on my academic journey through higher education. This scholarship will help allow me to stay focused on my studies rather than worrying about how to pay for my education.

Congratulations To Intertech STEM Scholarship Winner Yahaira Irizarry

Every year brings a host of qualified applications from talented college-bound high school students across the country who are interested in pursuing a degree in computer sciences. This year was no different. Amazed by these young individuals’ drive, inspiration, and accomplishments, picking among so many qualified applicants is always a struggle. But after a long year with COVID, and facing so many challenges and unprecedented situations, these 2021 graduating seniors have certainly all exceeded expectations. Their unwavering excitement to take the next step and pursue their goals was an inspiration to us all at Intertech, and we can’t wait to see where these qualities take them in the future! In light of this, for the second year in a row, we decided that this year, we would choose not one, but two, recipients for the 2021 Intertech Foundation STEM Scholarship. Join us in getting to know our scholarship recipient for 2021, Yahaira Irizarry.

Congratulations to Yahaira Irizarry

Yahaira, a senior graduating from Olympia High School in Orlando, Florida, holder of the Microsoft Office Specialist Certification and treasurer for the Advanced Computers and Coding Club, will be attending the University of Central Flordia in the fall pursuing a degree in Computer Science. Numerous things stood out to us about Yahaira was her strong work ethic, and passion for life. These traits were clearly showcased by the number of internships and volunteering opportunities she embraced, along with her achieved knowledge of multiple coding languages critical to her field of study. In the future, this hard-working and passionate graduate hopes to be the first generation of college graduates in her immediate family and have the opportunity to use her degree to help inspire other women into STEM careers.

Find out more about this young graduate through our scholarship winner Q&A session included below:

Q: Why did you decide you wanted to be involved in Computer Science, particularly after being so interested in culinary arts?

While culinary arts was something I was genuinely passionate about in my youth, the world of computer science, as discovered through my family purchasing a computer, was what had changed my mind about my future. Knowing that I could become a part of something so much larger than myself and having the ability to change the lives of others gave me a newfound purpose in life.

Q: What was the first program you ever wrote?

My first actual program was a text adventure game that I had created in Python for a project during a summer coding course I took prior to my high school sophomore year. I had spent a few days’ worth of time on the game, and I created several outcomes that made the experience unique to every player.

Q: Which educational or extracurricular experiences during your k-12 years helped you decide on the field of Computer Science?

While I had taken several coding classes prior to my first real Computer Science classes, the Advanced Placement Computer Science Principles class I had taken in my junior year was what had convinced me to go into the field. Similarly, my involvement as the treasurer of my high school’s Advanced Computers and Coding Club and working with my similarly-passioned peers further sparked my enthusiasm to pursue the field.

Q: What school have you selected to attend?

The University of Central Florida (UCF)

Q: Why did you decide on this school for your undergraduate education?

UCF has a great Computer Science program with favorable professors that I am very confident will help me reach my goals in the future. I am also familiar with the school through having friends and family who currently attend it.

Q: What is your dream job after college?

After college, my dream job is to become a software developer at a tech startup or small company. Joining a small, close-knit team as opposed to a large one and seeing the product of my efforts directly affecting a small-scale project rather than playing a smaller part on a larger-scale one would make me feel far more accomplished with my work.

Q: What were the highlights of being involved in the Advanced Computers and Coding Club?

Advanced Computers and Coding Club has been great in not only teaching me many practical skills pertaining to computers and coding, but also in a grander scheme what it is like to collaborate closely with others on such Computer Science-related projects. Being exposed to a team environment and working on hardware and software-related projects was not only fun but kept me inspired to keep doing so, and thus to push myself to become a better team member and developer.

Q: Please describe what you have learned in the social media internship you have been involved in for the past year?

Working with my non-profit, Women on The Rise, as a social media intern has been incredibly eye-opening into the world of social networking, both in personal and business aspects. While I have learned a lot about the practical leaps and bounds the development of social media has caused on the business world particularly, I have also learned a lot about the problems regarding today’s social media sites, such as the lack of real personal connections starting to become apparent on these platforms. Ideally, the startup I would join as a software developer would address these issues head-on, as it is a topic I’m greatly invested in.

Q: And finally, would you be willing to share your thoughts about the value of the Intertech STEM scholarship to your academic journey?

Receiving this scholarship has reminded me greatly of how nothing can or will stand in the way of my dreams, and how despite all hesitation and insecurity I may face, I am far more capable than I realize I am. I am honored to receive such an award, and it will help me immensely to pursue Computer Science and will allow me to focus on my studies much more.

Thank you, Yahaira, for applying for the Intertech STEM Scholarship. We look forward to hearing about many great things from you in the future!

Extreme Ownership, How US Navy Seals Lead and Win

In Extreme Ownership, Jacko Willink and Leif Babin, Navy SEAL task unit leaders, relate military principles and tactics to business leadership.  In the past, I shared a summary of their recent book, The Dichotomy of Leadership.  Here’s a few minute overview of their original book Extreme Ownership along with some of my thoughts:

  • At the end of the day, all leaders are responsible for success or failure.  As Jim Collins shared, good leaders look out a window when there’s a success (i.e., you give praise) and when there’s a problem, you take 100% of the fault.
  • State the why when sharing goals or missions. Willink’s superiors said he’d be responsible for taking Iraqi soldiers on every mission; his initial thought was “no.” Then he understood the why.  If Iraqis couldn’t protect their own country, the US could be a permanent presence in the area.  For more on “why,” check out Start with Why by Simon Sinek.
  • When asked to do something by your leader and unsure why it makes sense, ask questions to understand.  Without understanding, it will be hard to be 110% behind the mission or goal.
  • When thinking of who’s on the “team,” look for the big picture.  In the book, one of the authors extracted his team from a mission in Ramadi, Iraq.  He led his team on a risky mission to get out of the city during the day.  In the end, they made it, but his commanding officer asked why he didn’t enlist a nearby SEAL team to provide coverage.  He admitted he was wrong and was thinking too narrowly about who was on his team.
  • Prioritize and execute.  In the book, there was a mission where it was a shit show, and many things went wrong at the same time.  As leaders, when this happens, it’s our job to be calm, prioritize, and execute.  In the book, they share the SEAL mantra of “relax, look around, make a call.”
  • When planning, to be successful, identify and mitigate risks. A complete communicated contingency plan increases the odds of success because everyone knows what will happen if things don’t go as planned.
  • Decentralize management.  Any person can manage six to 10 people.  If you or your leaders have bigger teams, break them down to this size.  Let them make decisions.  As a leader and friend of mine said many times, lead from behind and manage from the sides (i.e., let your leaders do their jobs and if they’re doing it well, stay out of the way.  If not, guide them).
  • Whether upstream or downstream, we can’t fault someone for not knowing something we didn’t tell them or answer vital questions they didn’t ask.  When in doubt, overcommunicate. 

Perfectly Confident: How to Calibrate Decisions Wisely

To help make better decisions, I just finished Perfectly Confident: How to Calibrate Decisions Wisely.  The author notes:

  • Overconfidence makes for bad decisions.  We rarely have all the information required to make a call, so we rely on our gut.  Using intuition leads to mistakes.  Instead of using confidence for decisions, use it to get the wheels in motion on an action or outcome.  For example, if I think I’m a good writer and want to launch a book, use that confidence to write the first chapter and move on from there.
  • Underconfidence creates self-limiting beliefs.  We forget others struggle.  We misjudge the time and attention others use to accomplish a goal.  For example, if learning a new language in a class setting, I may think I’m not as good as another student even though she’s just returned from a year language immersion program in another country.  Another source of being underconfident is doing something infrequently.  Try backing a boat into a landing every ten years versus someone who does it every day.  Frequency builds skill and confidence.
  • We all have feelings of vulnerability or not being “as good as.” In Perfectly Confident, the author shares that John Steinbeck said, “I’m not a writer. I’ve been fooling myself and other people.” As a not prolific writer myself, wow.
  • So, how do we make better decisions?  Make forecasts that outline the range of outcomes with assumptions, not the exact answer.  Forecasts make better decisions.  For example, if you’re estimating a project completion date, and it should take two months. Make a better decision by asking, “What’s the probability it’s finished six weeks, two months, or three months and why?” Thinking this way makes us consider multiple possibilities and assumptions instead of a single set of beliefs for the two-month target.
  • Think “which” not “whether.” In Perfectly Confident, the author shares a study where participants chose to buy a movie or not.  Next, they asked a separate group of participants who would rather have a film or the cash to buy the film.  75% presented with the choice of “whether” to buy the film.  A little over half chose the movie when presented with which.
  • Tied to the above, not in the book, I look for “and” solutions instead of “or” solutions.  For example, if I’d like to exercise and want to spend time with my son, an option is to go for a run with my son.
  • Be aware of bias.  Curb bias by involving others in decisions.  Keep in mind a crowd is typically better at deciding than a single expert.  When asking for opinions, get insight from people who don’t hold your exact argument; otherwise, you are doubling down on your preference.
  • Be confident yet know when you don’t know.  Research shows that being sure increases credibility, but if results don’t back that confidence and credibility, others will quickly fall away.  Also, being vulnerable and saying we’re not 100% certain of our decision creates authenticity and trust—balance confidence and vulnerability.
  • As a leader, be clear on standards and open-minded to new information.  Clear performance standards reduce bias.  When we’re open to others’ insights, we make better decisions.