Great Leaders

DoubleX Presents Where No Man Has Gone Before: Women in Space: Meet the Panelists


On Tuesday, March 29th, Cunningham Collective, GSVlabs and First Republic Bank will host a panel discussion that brings together six female leaders in the space industry: "Where No Man Has Gone Before: Women in Space," at GSVlabs in Redwood City, CA from 6:00 to 8:30pm. You can learn more about the panel and RSVP here:

With so much exciting activity going on in the space industry – from technological advancements like reusable rockets and commercial opportunities to travel to space – to a surge in public interest (and tech investment!), space exploration is once again at the forefront of our minds and imaginations.  
And with all of these new developments, more women than ever are playing crucial roles in the advancement of the space industry. In fact, the latest class of NASA astronauts is half women! At this event, we’ll hear from some successful women – including a former astronaut and leaders from Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, Planet Blue and NASA Ames Research Center who have helped to break new ground in the industry. Below are the stories behind each of the talented women who will be sharing their perspectives with us on Tuesday: 

Dr. Ioana Cozmuta, PhD


Dr. Ioana Cozmuta is the Industry Innovation and Microgravity Lead at the Space Portal, NASA Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley. Through her skill set she provides fair broker vetting of a wide portfolio of technologies. She informs, connects and advocates in support of the commercial success of space technologies to help build a robust economy in Earth’s orbits and create meaningful partnerships for success of NASA missions. Some say that Ioana is one of the most knowledgeable experts on microgravity research and applications in the world today. Ioana grew up in Communist Romania, an upbringing that has led her to be an intrinsically curious person; she always wondered what was happening on the other side of the curtain. This curiosity ultimately led her to leave Romania, earn a PhD in Physics at Groningen University, the Netherlands and eventually move to the United States to study Computational Chemistry at California Institute of Technology turning from an experimentalist into a “computationalist”. Through her work at Stanford Genome Technology Center she joined NASA Ames Research Center for Nanotechnology entering, without realizing, the aerospace industry. She was the first to bring computational chemistry methods in the field of Reentry Systems (first chair of the prestigious Gordon Research Conferences on Atmospheric Reentry Physics), developed and implemented fundamental models for gas-surface interactions and material response providing technical leadership to missions such as Stardust and Mars Science Laboratory. Ioana is a featured TedEx "Future Spoiler” speaker (Our Kind Future Through the Eyes of Space), has over 70 publications and numerous talks in the US and abroad. She enjoys mentoring students, writing poetry and raising her two daughters, Amelia (11 yr) and Alexandra (8 yr). 

FUN FACT: Dr. Cozmuta’s describes her path to a career in space as serendipitous. She realized she wanted to be in the aerospace industry after taking her first plane flight. She thought that the flight attendant’s job was too difficult and became a physicist instead.



Ali Guarneros Luna

Ali Guarneros Luna is an Aerospace and Systems Engineer at NASA Ames Research Center. Ali’s fascination with space began early on. As a young girl growing up in Mexico City, Ali read about the space shuttle missions in her mother’s encyclopedias and knew she wanted to study Aerospace Engineering. At the age of 14, Ali and her family immigrated to California. After graduating from high school still mastering the English language, she attended San Jose City College where she obtained an A.S. degree and then transferred to San Jose State University (SJSU), Department of Engineering. Throughout this time, Ali worked two jobs to support her family (including her four children and two younger brothers and one sister) and her tuition. Ali graduated from SJSU with a B.S. and M.S. in Aerospace Engineering, and began her career as an intern with NASA with the Center's Chief of Technology. Now, six years after joining NASA as an intern, Ali is one of the few engineers to be considered an expert on the International Space Station (ISS) and is working to develop hardware for a mission to Mars. Ali admires Jodie Foster’s character in Contact for her fearlessness breaking through gender barriers and considers the women in her family and her professors to be her role models.  

FUN FACT: In addition to her full-time role at NASA Ames Research Center, Ali retains a part-time position at Pottery Barn Kids because she enjoys the balance of perspectives it brings to her life.



Dottie Metcalf-Lindenberger

Dottie Metcalf-Lindenberger is a retired space shuttle astronaut for NASA. After earning a Bachelor’s degree in Geology from Whitman College, Dottie received her teaching certification from Central Washington University and went on to teach for five years at Hudson’s Bay High School in Vancouver, WA. Her dreams of going to space began in 1990 at Space Camp and were activated one afternoon in the classroom when one of her students asked how astronauts use the bathroom in space. While researching the answer, Dottie discovered there was a program at NASA for teachers who want to become astronauts. She was selected by NASA as a mission specialist in May 2004 and underwent astronaut training while pregnant, finishing the program as a new mother. After completing this initial training, Dottie qualified for technical assignments within the Astronaut Office and future flight assignment. After several years of training, she was assigned to the STS-131 crew, an International Space Station (ISS) resupply mission, and flew as Mission Specialist 2 (also known as the flight engineer). She also served as a robotic arm operator, the Intra-vehicular crew member (the inside coordinator of the spacewalks), and a transfer crew member (helping move six tons of hardware and equipment). The mission lasted fifteen days. After her space flight, Dottie commanded the NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operation (NEEMO) in the Aquarius Reef Habitat off the Florida coast. The underwater mission sought to develop techniques for working at an asteroid, while working under a 100-second time delay. Today, Dottie is pursuing her Master’s degree in Geology from the University of Washington and lives in the Seattle area with her family.  

FUN FACT: Dottie has logged more than 362 hours in space and in April 2010, Dottie made history for being part of a crew with the most female astronauts ever to fly into space at the same time.



Erika Reinhardt

Erika Reinhardt is the Director of Product Engineering at Planet Labs, where she leads the data pipeline and platform teams. Erika is a self-described “engineering and data nerd.” The daughter of an astrophysicist and an architect, she grew up moving between college towns and having scientists over for dinner. While she enjoyed learning physics and other sciences, she felt she could have a more immediate impact in the engineering world. She found that projects that combined software and hardware — from medical devices to robots — were particularly engaging, and that satellites and space-related systems fit right in. Erika joined Planet Labs in 2012 and was one of the first 15 employees at the company. Today the company is made up of more than 330 people and of these, Erika oversees a team of 40. Prior to taking on her role as Director of Product Engineering, Erika worked on the mission control, manufacturing tools, data processing, and platform teams at Planet. Erika earned her undergraduate degree from MIT in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and Mechanical Engineering.

FUN FACT: Erika's husband is the one in the family who studied aerospace in school, and is a huge space geek, but is not currently working in the space industry. 



Tamaira Ross


Growing up, Tamaira Ross loved playing with Legos; she was always building things. She never paid attention to the picture on the package and everything she developed inevitably became a spaceship. Today, she designs and configures real-life spaceships. She is a configuration design engineer at Blue Origin, a commercial launch company dedicated to opening human access to space. Prior to joining Blue Origin, she was a Technical Fellow in Boeing Defense, Space & Security where she led the preliminary vehicle design and rapid development of several aircraft and spacecraft programs. Tamaira holds a B.S. and a M.S. in Aeronautical Engineering from Purdue University. She also attended the University of Washington where she obtained a M.S. in Mechanical Engineering and a Technology Management MBA. She has ten patents, two of which have been built and tested as working prototypes. Tamaira has taught classes on multi-disciplinary design, wireless power transmission, and engineering design methodology. She is also an affiliate instructor in the Industrial & Systems Engineering department at the University of Washington where she teaches graduate classes in technical leadership. She is the recipient of the Purdue University Outstanding Aerospace Engineer award, the Purdue Alumnus 2010 "40 under 40" award, and the Society of Women Engineers 2010 Emerging Leader in Product Research, Design & Engineering award.

FUN FACT: Tamaira says one of the things she loves about working with people in the space industry is that they are really aspirational. She and her colleagues are able to look at the big picture, which is good because putting people in space is not a small undertaking. 


Loretta Whitesides


Loretta Whitesides is a Founder Astronaut and Consultant at Virgin Galactic. As a child, Loretta always dreamed of being Princess Leia when she grew up. Today, she has more than five hours of weightless time in a 727 aircraft as a Flight Director for Zero-G Corporation and she and her husband George T. Whitesides are slated to be among the first to take a sub-orbital spaceflight on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo. Loretta was trained as an astrobiologist at Stanford and Caltech and she has journeyed to the Canadian Arctic to study plant life in extreme environments and to the hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the ocean with “Titanic” director James Cameron to film a 3D IMAX documentary, “Aliens of the Deep.” Loretta loves connecting people, translating between scientists, engineers and non-technical people, and reminding people that the impossible is just something that hasn't happened yet. She has two children (aged 3 and 5) and continues her work in the space community training the next generation of leaders, blogging and speaking about space, and working on her book on the impact of human space exploration on societal evolution.

FUN FACT: Loretta decided to pursue a career in space because she wanted to make the Earth better. Her dream is to make a model city in space that the whole world could look to it to see what was possible for humanity.




DoubleX is a new initiative led by Cunningham Collective to eliminate gender as an issue in the technology industry and just make it a fact. Innovation requires diverse perspectives and the female perspective adds value to product development.

Cunningham Collective held the first Double X panel on November 2, 2015.

Cunningham Collective's First DoubleX: Women of Influence Panel

On November 2, 2015 Cunningham Collective hosted its first DoubleX: Women of Influence panel discussion: “Limitless Leadership: The Powerful Women Who Worked with Steve Jobs.”  The event brought together 300 Bay Area leaders at SAP Labs in Palo Alto to hear the insights of five influential women who worked alongside Steve in the early years at Apple, NeXT and Pixar.   

Executives who helped make Apple's first major computer gather in Palo Alto, California, to talk about their experiences.   Photo by  James Martin/CNET

Executives who helped make Apple's first major computer gather in Palo Alto, California, to talk about their experiences. Photo by James Martin/CNET

The new Steve Jobs movie by Aaron Sorkin and Danny Boyle featured only a handful of the people behind the genius that was Steve Jobs. There were many others, and in fact quite a few women, who helped to bring Steve’s vision to the world. A great example of this is the lead influencer in the movie, Joanna Hoffman, as played by Kate Winslet. The panel explored what it was like to work with Steve, what made him great, and how the tech world can make strides to encourage future women leaders.

Moderated by Katie Hafner, a journalist who covered Apple and NeXT in the 1980s and 1990s, for BusinessWeek, Newsweek and The New York Times, the panel included:

  • Joanna Hoffman, a marketing leader and one of the original members of both the Apple Macintosh team and the NeXT team.
  • Susan Barnes, an alumna of Apple Inc, she was Controller of the Macintosh Division at Apple and later cofounded NeXT.
  • Barbara Koalkin Barza, the former product marketing manager for the Macintosh computer and later director of marketing at Pixar.
  • Debi Coleman, the second woman to join the original Macintosh team and the finance and operations chief at Macintosh and Apple for over a decade.
  • Andy Cunningham, founder of the marketing innovation consultancy Cunningham Collective and former publicist for Steve Jobs at Apple, NeXT and Pixar.

Some of the best quotes of the night included:

Working with Steve:

  • “So often Steve was so enthusiastic and so brilliant and visionary, and not necessarily reasonable. I found myself being the party pooper.”- Joanna Hoffman

  • “He was so focused on his agenda. He didn’t let anything get in the way.” - Andy Cunningham

Steve on Diversity

  • “We traveled with Steve, we spent a lot of hours with him, we never felt he treated women differently. When you are in a startup, there is so much work to be done, you are quickly looking at a meritocracy.”- Susan Barnes


  • “It’s very important [to have conflict]. You have to always foster an environment where people can stand up against the orthodoxy, otherwise you will never create anything new.” – Joanna Hoffman

Women in Technology

  • “I was working at Intuitive Surgical and walked by someone who had a big poster of Wondergirl, I said that makes women uncomfortable, take it out. If you’re not part of the solution you’re part of the problem.”- Susan Barnes

If Steve Jobs Were Here Today

  • “I can’t pretend to think about what he would think or be doing. Part of being a visionary is that you are unpredictable. This is a man that was one in a billion and touched the lives of billions.”- Joanna Hoffman

Changing the World

  • “We have the power to change more things than user interfaces and grid computing.”- Debi Coleman


Watch videos from the event:

Guy Kawasaki interviews Andy Cunningham

Guy Kawasaki interviews Joanna Hoffman

Panel Discussion: Leadership, Diversity, Steve Jobs

Quick Snapshot of the Event


Check out some of the press coverage and tweets from the event:

Macworld: What Joanna Hoffman told Kate Winslet while shooting the 'Steve Jobs' movie

Apple Insider: Steve Jobs promoted opportunities for women at Apple, NeXT

IEEE: Steve Jobs’ Real-World Leading Ladies Gather

PR Week: Cunningham organizes Steve Jobs panel

Re/Code: Women From Apple’s Early Days Recall Working With Steve Jobs

Silicon Beat: Female colleagues competed over standing up to Steve Jobs

CNET: Steve Jobs' legacy includes the women he inspired

Menlo College: Menlo College Trustee Andy Cunningham Portrayed in "Steve Jobs" Film

CNBC: Andy Talking About Apple's Success & Her Upcoming Panel of The Women Leaders Who Worked with Steve Jobs

Andy On CNBC Talking About Apple's Success & Her Upcoming Panel of The Women Leaders Who Worked with Steve Jobs

Andy Cunningham on CNBC's Squawk Alley

Andy Cunningham on CNBC's Squawk Alley

Our founder Andy Cunningham appeared on CNBC's Squawk Alley to talk about Apple's earnings homerun, the allure of their products, and supporting women leaders in technology. To watch her interview click on the image above or follow this link:


Andy in the News: USA Today, CNBC, Bloomberg, & Mashable

In case you missed it check out our founder Andy Cunningham in this past news this week talking about her experiences working with Steve Jobs and her thoughts on the upcoming film.

Andy's review of the film in Mashable

Andy on CNBC talking about the film and what the script gets right

Andy in USA Today separating truth from fiction on the film

Andy gives her take of the film on Bloomberg West (Andy appears at 13:45 of the video)

Andy also visited with Cult of Mac to talk about her character and the film

Sarah Snook, left, who is playing Andy Cunningham, right, in "Steve Jobs."

Sarah Snook, left, who is playing Andy Cunningham, right, in "Steve Jobs."

Andy on Bloomberg West: Working with Steve Jobs and Which Current CEO's Remind Her of Steve

Andy on Bloomberg West: Working with Steve Jobs and Which Current CEO's Remind Her of Steve

Yesterday, Emily Chang from Bloomberg West interviewed Andy about her work with Steve Jobs. Of all the CEO’s that Andy has worked with, there are three in particular that left a deep impression, “I’ve worked with hundreds of CEOs in my lifetime but only two that I’ve worked with that I think embody some of the traits that he had. I think one is John Chambers from Cisco, and I think the other is Reid Hastings from Netflix. And there’s a third CEO, Brian Chesky, whom I’ve never worked with, from Airbnb, whom I have great admiration and respect for. They all do those three things well; they inspire their workforce, they stretch people beyond their limits, and they are really bold and really brave. They don’t care what other people think about them.

Positioning the Underdog: T-Mobile as a Concept Company

With the recent success of T-Mobile, it's hard to believe it wasn't that long ago that T-Mobile was left for dead - a deteriorating asset waiting for someone like AT&T, Dish or Softbank/Sprint to pick up. It was losing customers thanks to no iPhone at the time, and its network infrastructure was late to the LTE game. Today, T-Mobile is the number three wireless carrier in the US, having just surpassed Sprint in the number of subscribers. It's worth taking a look at what they did from a strategy and positioning point of view.

Why strategy and positioning? A company's position is tightly coupled with a company's strategy and operations. Without that tie, a position lacks credibility from the inability of a company to deliver on its promise. Comcast has announced that it wants to be a "customer-focused" company, but given its organizational structure and internal incentives to reduce churn, Comcast has thus far been incapable of delivering on that message. Customer focus is not in Comcast’s DNA.

When we help reposition companies, we use a Company DNA framework to assess its ability to deliver on its differentiation. In our collective experience, we have found that technology companies can be categorized in one of three ways — Product, Customer and Concept — and each can be differentiated in one of two ways.

  • For a Product company, it's about features or value.
  • For a Customer company, experience or segmentation.
  • For a Concept, it's category creation or cult of personality.

All companies have aspects of these three categories, but only one can be a dominant personality. As a former client noted, DNA is the "first impression you give when you meet for the first time" (thanks Arkady).

T-Mobile decided that the only way it could win was by becoming a Concept company. In March 2013, T-Mobile launched its Uncarrier effort to position itself against the Big Two wireless carriers (Verizon and AT&T). The face of this effort is CEO John Legere, who has adopted a straight-talking customer hero persona that T-Mobile die-hards have embraced.

What's interesting is that T-Mobile executives made that conclusion earlier, but they didn't have the leadership with the right DNA to match until Legere took the job as CEO.

It was equally important to make radical changes to its products and services to credibly deliver on a Concept differentiation - no contract plans, unique phone payment plans, etc. These are changes that Verizon and AT&T had no choice but tofollow.

In many industries, but especially in tech, success is often times measured in marketshare. You could argue that if T-Mobile were really that successful, it should be #1 in marketshare, right? Actually, no. Concept companies are out there to change the world, and success is measured in how many believers you've acquired and what kind of outsized impact you've made to the world.

Has T-Mobile’s repositioning been a success? Absolutely.

Experiment Traps: 5 signs that your business experiment isn’t actually an experiment at all

Part of SeriesC’s Statistically Speaking series Over the past 40 years, the Harvard Business Review (HBR) has studied how companies conduct business experimentation and they often find that companies fail to learn from their tests because they never adopt the true discipline of experimentation.

Using J.C. Penney’s costly and disastrous 2012 overhaul as a key example, HBR pointed out that ­– had CEO Ron Johnson established a proper set of experiments to test his ideas to do away with coupons, double down on upscale brands, and use technology to eliminate cash registers – he might have discovered how customers would revolt and push store sales down by 44% that year.

Too often these days we hear business leaders in CEO and CMO roles declare that they need to “test their hypothesis” or “run an experiment” in hopes of discovering whether a new business model or product will succeed. The trouble is, they don’t actually form solid hypotheses or conduct experiments correctly. The right way to experiment involves five scientifically sound steps: form a specific hypothesis, identify the precise independent and dependent variables, conduct controlled tests in which you can manipulate the independent variable, and then do careful observation and analysis of the effects, leading you to actionable insights. If you follow the steps, they’ll always present you with a valuable answer. So, where do many seemingly smart companies go wrong when it comes to business experimentation?

HBR posits that businesses can fall down at various stages when running a business experiment. Here, we’ve taken HBR’s Checklist for Running a Business Experiment and included what we’re calling Experiment Traps that you should recognize and avoid throughout the process:

  1. Purpose – HBR asks: Does the experiment have a clear purpose?
    1. The Hypothesis Hypocrisy Trap – did you and your management team agree that a test was the best path forward? Why? Is your hypothesis specific and straightforward (A good hypothesis clearly identifies what you think will happen based on your "educated guess" ­– what you already know and what you have already learned from your research)? If not, you’ve already fallen into the biggest experiment trap: Hypothesis Hypocrisy
  2. Buy-in – HBR asks: Have stakeholders made a commitment to abide by the results?
    1. The Cherry-Picking Trap – are you entering into this experiment equally prepared to be delighted or disappointed in the results? Will you avoid the temptation to cherry pick results that support your preformed ideas? Avoid this trap by sitting down and agreeing how your company will proceed once the results come in. If you see the experiment as part of a larger learning agenda that supports the company’s overall strategy, then you’re off on the right foot.
  3. Feasibility – HBR asks: Is the experiment doable?
    1. The Unsound Trap – HBR says “experiments must have testable predictions” but complex business variables and interactions or ‘causal density’ can “make it extremely difficult to determine cause-and-effect relationships.” Avoid this trap by knowing your numbers. Start by figuring out if you have a sample size large enough to average out all the variables you’re not interested in. Without the right sample size, your experiment won’t be statistically valid. Engage SeriesC’s analytics team to help you determine the right sample size for your experiment.
  4. Reliability – HBR asks: How can we ensure reliable results?
    1. The Corner Cutting Trap – when conducting your experiment you’ll be faced with challenges of time and cost and other real-world factors that can affect the reliability of your test. Resist the pull to cut corners by adopting proven methods from the medical field, like randomization, control groups and blind testing, saving you time in the design of your experiment and producing more reliable results. Or tap into big data to augment your experiment so you can better filter out statistical noise and minimize uncertainty.
  5. Value – HBR asks: Have we gotten the most value out of the experiment?
    1. The Wrong Impression Trap – don’t go to the trouble of conducting an experiment without considering and studying not only the correlations – the relationship between one variable and another – but also the causality. Causality helps us to understand the connectedness of certain causes and effects that usually aren’t as immediately obvious. Make sure to spend just as much time analyzing the data from your experiment as you did setting it up and executing it.

The bottom line: why go with gut and intuition and past experiences that aren’t apples-to-apples when you could be informed by relevant and tested knowledge? Steer clear of these experiment traps in your process and you’ll avoid inefficiency, unnecessary costs, and useless results. Embrace the proper process and you’ll learn something valuable, increasing your chances of success. Statistically speaking.

Avoid these experiment traps

Top Ten Best Practices for Managing Your Board

One of the most challenging things an entrepreneur must do is communicate effectively with his or her board. After spending countless hours with lots of entrepreneurs helping them prepare for board meetings and working with lots of boards to get what they need from their entrepreneurs, I’ve come up with a list of ten practices that make for good relations with this critical group of experts as you build your product and get it ready to go to market. How many of these do you regularly practice today? Choose the ones where you're deficient, and dig in. You'll get more out of your board relationships, and so will they.

  1. Understand how the board operates. Who is the alpha dog? How do the members communicate with each other? Know who your sponsor is. Respect the structure and fit in.
  2. Organize your thoughts ahead of time. Edit ruthlessly. Be concise. Use pictures, diagrams, infographics to convey messages.
  3. Never surprise your board. Reach out ahead of board meetings and run ideas past people. Use your sponsor to share good news and bad news ahead of board meetings and ALWAYS have a solution in mind if what you are sharing is a problem.
  4. Assign each board member a “role” in your mind to provide advice, counsel, context, whatever, and use them for that. Build a relationship with each one on a specific platform.
  5. Speak Metrics. Your preferred way of communicating may be words or pictures or even voice. But board members, especially venture capitalists,speak metrics. Learn the language and convey your points in it.
  6. Know more about your business than they do. Drop a “golden nugget” or two that they don’t know about your market, your competitors, your industry. Assume that they think you know everything about your business. Add something new each time you meet.
  7. Forecast accurately. A forecast is not a hope. And hope is not a strategy. Use a framework. Be conservative. Meet your forecasts. And if you will not meet them, let the board know ahead of time—why and what you are going to do about it. Start with your sponsor.
  8. Be confident. You are the CEO. There are people’s expectations and money resting on your decisions. Take the responsibility seriously and project accordingly.
  9. Set expectations. Be the voice of reason as it relates to goals and objectives that are first reviewed by and agreed upon by the board—before the clock starts ticking. Then remember to continue to set expectations in every conversation and especially every meeting. What is happening next and how does it fit in the plan and move the company forward?
  10. Provide follow-up that is also well organized, thoughtful and concise. Show your board that you took note of their questions and took the time to get the answers. Send them additional nuggets of good news between board meetings that show progress from the last meeting.

Growth-Stage Start-ups: Aligning Your IT and Marketing Needs Now

In August 2013, Accenture published a detailed report titled "The CMO-CIO Disconnect," about the importance of marketers and information leaders collaborating, and the un-stellar level to which they're doing that in enterprises today.  Enterprise marketing leaders and CIOs at the U.S.' largest 2,000 companies probably gobbled up the report. I would bet, though, that very few CEOs of growth-stage tech start-ups have paid any attention to it. It's not marketed to them, not considered relevant. They probably don't even have CMOs or CIOs yet.  Listen up, entrepreneurs. You should pay attention to the report. Its wisdom is absolutely relevant to you.

Here's why: A CEO of a growing tech start-up has all of the upside to gain from aligning IT and marketing interests early in the company's evolution -- combined with none of the legacy baggage that makes the alignment difficult to achieve. Start-ups enjoy a nimble agility that enterprises don't have. Only 1 in 10 enterprise marketing and IT executives interviewed by Accenture say the level of collaboration is where it needs to be. You want to disrupt a larger competitor as you vault your company through its growth phase? Knock this alignment out of the park from today forward.

Let me summarize the three strategic imperatives from the report that strike me as most relevant to CEOs of start-ups, especially if there's no CMO or CIO in your company yet.

1. "Identify your CMO as your Chief Experience Officer. "

Okay, so you don't have a CMO yet. That's fine.... as long as the CEO -- or someone -- is passionately stewarding the quality of your customers' and partners' experience in using and interacting with your company and its products.  Who is looking out for things like:

    • how easy it is to find what you have, understand it, try it, and buy it?
    • how easy it is to use it, from the day of purchase until it's time to replace it with something else?
    • how easy it is to support and sell it, and to collaborate with you, for your channel partners?
    • how easy it is to transact and collaborate with you, for your supply chain partners?
    • how these external stakeholders' point of view is represented in your brand, your communications, your strategic decisions?

If no one in your company owns this critical function today, get it assigned, preferably to someone who brings a passionate point of view to it. (The responsibility can get passed down to a marketing leader later in your evolution.) Then, move on to the second bullet point below.

2. "Agree on key business levers for marketing and IT alignment."

In other words, decide what drivers will govern who prevails if marketing and IT have conflicting needs.  This may seem far ahead of where you are if you're a growth-stage start-up, but you're designing now the architecture that is going to become your "legacy" later -- with all its benefits and limitations. Anticipate that IT and marketing conflict will tend to converge most at two intersections:

1) Where marketing's need for transparency of customer and company data will intersect with IT's need for information security.

2) Where marketing's need for third-party, best-at-what-it-does software intersects with IT's need to control system standards and protect the sanctity of its infrastructure.

Here are some questions your CEO and leadership team can ask yourselves today, to ensure what you're building will meet your needs as you scale and reap new and loyal customers and partners:

    • What kind of customer data, and how much, will our company eventually need to exploit to gain new customers and keep existing customers? To deliver on that great experience we're designing for them?
    • What kind of company data will our company eventually need to make transparent in order to support the ideal experience we are creating for  our customers, channel partners, and supply chain partners?
    • What third-party software demands are we going to have in marketing this business -- keeping in mind things like mobile marketing and mobile service delivery, mobile payments, targeted marketing campaigns, customer relationship management, information management, etc? How will emerging trends like NFC and biometrics impact these needs?
    • Given the countries in which our target market exists, what kinds of data security and consumer privacy legislation are we subject to? How is the legislation evolving in these countries?
    • Where do we fall on the spectrum of conservative to aggressive when it comes to data privacy and infrastructure standards? Are we certain we can scale, market, and interact with customers and partners effectively and profitably given our answer?

3. "Change the skill mix to ensure that both organizations are more marketing- and tech-savvy."

This one's easy to adapt to growth-stage tech startups. Just change the sentence to read: "Hire people who are both marketing- and tech-savvy."  Be smart. Build the team right from the ground up.

When it's time to bring on a CIO or similar functional leader, ask candidates for their point of view on how their job intersects with marketing needs. Ask them for their point of view on how digital marketing is most effectively enabled, and what it might look like within your organization.

When it's time to bring on a marketing leader, ask candidates what they need from their IT partners in the organization.  Ask them for their point of view on how the balance should be struck between data access and information security.


You can download and read the full Accenture report here, if you want to know what other recommendations .... and the data that shows how your enterprise (future) competitors are performing against them.

Large Companies: Are You Losing Your Innovation Mojo?


Leaders in enterprises, is "disruption" keeping you up at night? If so this post is for you.  Sometimes it feels as though the only companies getting attention these days are startups.  That today's established companies are dinosaurs and, except for a handful of large companies who are consistently succeeding – the rest are increasingly at risk.   If you fear that you are drifting toward the latter category, this blog is for you.   It might require a change in how you look at your people and how you get things, especially product development, done.   I am here to offer encouragement.

Let's start with three fundamental truths: 

  1. First, I hope we can all agree that the primary role of a company is value creation.  Yes, companies need to create products and services.  Yes, they need to engage and 'delight' customers -- even build communities of interest sometimes.   But these are all business model decisions in the context of some value creation system.   He or she who creates and monetizes the most value wins.
  2. Second, barriers to creating value have never been lower.   If your company's value is either created or enhanced "digitally" ( its becoming increasingly difficult to find one that isn't these days), your world has been changing around you. You have to move - fast.
  3. Third, the path to end-users has never been more direct.  Almost everyone has a smartphone.  Almost everyone is a part of LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram - pick one or two.   And they all get the news and information they want from Google.  There is no longer good reason to allow others between you and those for whom you are creating value.

What does all this mean?  Well, for one, small companies -- startups, more specifically -- have some important inherent advantages over big ones. They have not institutionalized business processes made obsolete by today's "401(k) world," as Thomas Friedman calls it.  In his recent NYT opinion piece, Friedman says that, "more people can start stuff, collaborate on stuff, learn stuff, make stuff (and destroy stuff) with more other people than ever before."   As Friedman points out, this has all happened in the last ten years or so, and many of us are not well suited to succeed in these new operating conditions.

Startups don't have to "unlearn" or "work around" the old ways of doing things.  They can pivot quickly on feedback gleaned from real prospects in real purchase situations in real-time.

So, what's a large company to do?

It all begins by remembering that the only reason for your existence is to create value.  In this context, your role as an organization is to efficiently do two things:

1. identify and qualify new value-creation opportunities, and

2. rapidly deploy the business models to monetize them.

How to identify new value creation opportunities

With respect to the first imperative, large companies do have an advantage: a highly attuned sensory network of employees and partners, all focused on today's business, channels, customers and everything we do to create value for them.

Think of them as thousands of iron filings through which a big magnet has been pulled. No other company has a collection quite like yours.  And it got you where you are today.  You just have to employ it more efficiently in the context of identifying and qualifying business opportunities.

This is where 'innovation crowd-sourcing' or 'social problem-solving' comes into play.   Treat these communities as an idea-generating asset - one which can be systematically harvested for new value-creation ideas.  They are smarter and more attuned than you think.  In other words, the time when all the good ideas come from the strategy team at HQ is well behind us.

How to rapidly develop new business models

On the second imperative, big companies need to harness the principles of Lean Startups:

  • Trade in 3-year business plans for Lean Canvases.
  • Cultivate a culture of Testing Hypotheses.
  • Quickly deploy Minimum Viable Product prototypes.
  • Employ the Build=>Measure=>Learn cycle.
  • Encourage fast failure and know how and when to Pivot.

In short, start treating your employees like entrepreneurs.  Give them the tools, training and environment to behave like a part of your value-creation system.  (We can help.)  Remember, the world hasn't changed in favor of more nimble start-ups.  What has changed are the conditions for success. There is nothing keeping you from being a part of that change, right?