Archives: April 2015

MOOC Excursions – commenting on others ideas

This is my experiences of the MOOC “The Enterprise Shed: Making Ideas Happen

So last week we were asked to comment on assignments where course participants provided a problem and then their solution to that problem. If a business could be made out of, all the better, but the main drive was for people to describe a problem and what their solution to it might be. Some of the problems submitted were around social issues, so it’s wasn’t all ‘for money’ business.

The role of the person giving feedback was;

  1. How clearly is the problem and solution articulated, no criticism of the validity of the idea, rather how well you understand what has been presented.
  2. Contributing and building upon the problem/solution. Don’t be judgemental
  3. What additional information would help someone to understand the problem/solution

There was no real word limit so I contributed what I felt comfortable with, I think the average was around 300-400 words, but there were a few that were way over that.

I did my first feedback and then found that after hitting ‘Submit review’ there was the option to do another one. So I did, and another, and another. I’ve currently done 20, and may call it a day there. Or I may not, as this is a MOOC, I don’t think that the course will ‘close’ as such, so I may be able to come back and comment further.

What did I learn?

There are people out there wanting to solve some really difficult problems; sudden homelessness in the over 60’s, better awareness of dementia and what IT can do to help and access to clean water being a few of them. Then there are people with terrific ideas for businesses but don’t know where to start, some people are pushing the envelope on technology to its limits, some people want to make a steady income, some people want to change the mindset of entire industries. In some areas I knew some background and could contribute effectively, in others I could only offer general comments – some of those being;

  • Is there a market for your idea? Set up a webpage offering the service (cleaning, personal trainer, custom knitting etc.) along with some indication of what you might charge. Then buy some adverts on Facebook which are explicitly tailored to your target audience (e.g. people in their 30’s who are into fitness, who are in your area who have recently visited websites about personal trainers). If you get a response on your site, you know there’s a market, if you don’t, modify your offering until you find there is, or try something new. Or maybe try Google adverts instead.
  • Where do I find like minded people? Join or create a group on Facebook, LinkedIn or other social networks in your area or country. Be active on those networks, offer advice and ideas freely, turn up at local get-togethers and webinars. Pretty soon, you’ll have a group of people who are interested in what you have to say. Or maybe you’ll find you’re not into that anyhow and you’ll do something else.
  • How do I get started with …? Start with friends and family – would they buy your product or use your service? Then ask those friends to ask their friends whether they would be interested (your mum is always going to buy your product, so best not to base your business plans on mum’s endorsement). Then maybe start to think about a website, do you need a custom one or will www.etsy.com do? And so on. The key was to break down the huge and daunting problem into smaller and smaller steps until it you do the next step almost by default. And then you take the next step…

Very few people were held up on wanting money before they could do anything. This was very encouraging – most people who were stuck on getting started were there because they weren’t sure of the next step (but they knew they wanted to make that next step), or because they weren’t sure that their idea had any merit to begin with. For the former, I suggested tiny steps, and in the case of the latter I tried to offer some thoughts on how they could size up the market for their idea or service beforehand.

Some of the ideas were outstanding – I’ll not give anything away, but I was able to comment on some ideas that I really hope come to fruition – I would love to buy some of those products and services!

Some problems were heartbreaking and I really hope I helped those people out somewhat.

Some people wanted to solve problems that were huge – electrifying a country for example, and for those people all I could do was to offer some advice on finding like minded people.

I have been reading “Become an Idea Machine” by Claudia Azula Altucher and following the ‘Daily Practice’ regimen that she and James Altucher talk about a lot – each day you do something; physical (yoga, walk 10,000 steps, dance), mental (write down 10 ideas, play a brain-training game, learn a language), emotional (don’t deal with people who are downers, get closer to people who are good for you) and spiritual (not necessarily religious; being grateful for what you have, forgiving people). Do I do this each and every day, nope, but I’m trying to get that little bit better. What I’ve been trying to do with providing feedback to other participants on the course is to give them 10 ideas that might contribute or build on their solution – I’ve not been entirely successful with all the responses (so if you got a response from me and it only had three ideas – I apologise!), but it has helped me a lot – my brain has been frazzled the last few days (in a good way).

The MOOC so far has been really interesting and I hope my contributions are helping people out.

I’ll post some more as things progress.

MOOC excursions – Enterprise Shed: Making Ideas Happen

I’ve started doing the Enterprise Shed: Making Ideas Happen MOOC at FutureLearn. I’m in the happy position of knowing some of the people who are involved in creating and running the course, in particular Katie Wray and Suzanne Hardy. The course started on Monday 30th March, so things are just getting up to speed – this also means there’s plenty of time for you to get involved!

The subject matter is something I’m really interested in, for several reasons;

  • in previous careers, I’ve always been looking for the innovative solution to a problem (mainly because we had to), and that always means looking at things from a new angle and coming up with ideas
  • I’ve usually met the most interesting people when I’ve been working on ideas and helping to birth some of them, and many of them have turned into firm friends – no reason why that shouldn’t work on a MOOC…
  • the entrepreneurial aspects of the course really attract me – I’ve been an intrapreneur within a large HE institution for something like 20 years, with varying degrees of success! It will be very interesting to see how others have coped in that area – it’s a very hard place to be with people in the organisation wondering why you’re doing it and ‘real’ entrepreneurs outside the organisation wondering why you’re trying to change things internally and not joining them…
  • and finally, I’m currently reading Become an Idea Machine by Claudia Azula Altucher, which is workbook-like in that each day I have to come up with 10 ideas on a topic in the book. The topic titles are very broad, some examples;
    • Ten Cities You Would Like To Visit And One Thing You Would Like To See In Each Of Them
    • Come Up With 10 New Recipes
    • 10 Lines You Heard Recently That Left You Wondering…and Why

Becoming an Idea Machine is at the core of the Choose Yourself philosophy/movement/lifestyle? that I’m working on. To be specific, it’s one of the four legs of the stool, but more on that later.

An added bonus is that I also get to connect up with some people I know from Newcastle again, which is always good!

So far I’ve been introducing myself and making comments on some initial posts – there are a lot of people on the course already and a great amount of interaction. People are currently finding their feet and talking about what they want out of the course, so you’re seeing people that want to make connections, float an idea, keeping the brain oiled, up their MOOC count, get some form of funding/support for an idea and its also clear that some people want the course to pull them out of a rut. So, a lot of different perspectives there.

It should be fun – the people involved in building the MOOC are sincere, exceptional and committed, and I know they’ve been working really hard on this, and I wish them well!

I’ll post more as things progress.