Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Portable White board: Effective discussions using the A3 method.

Mouneer mind maps A3 discussion

The A3 effective meetings
The easiest way for effective out-of-the-office discussions/meetings.
Recently I have started a new way to conduct productive meetings or discussions; I call this simple setting "The A3". Anyone who enjoys conducting discussions to solve problems, explain ideas, or explore solutions through simple sketching on a whiteboard or a flipchart, will certainly find The A3 very useful.

The source of inspiration to do that are:
  1. The back of the napkin book. http://www.amazon.com/Back-Napkin-Solving-Problems-Pictures/dp/1591841992
  2. The RSA Animate amazing videos. http://comment.rsablogs.org.uk/videos/
  3. and recently how Edward De Bono , the lateral thinking guru conducts his seminars. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_de_Bono
  4. Alistair Cockburn communication effectiveness diagram
Using pictures, graphs and drawings is very effective in getting every discussion participant on the same page; as humans we ignore the important visual aspect of conveying our thoughts and only rely on spoken or written words. The communication fidelity is at maximum when a group of people is doing their discussion on a white board or a big white paper with sharpies.

The book that I have been recommending is "The back of a napkin" that explains with beautiful simplicity why, and how to use sketching for conveying thoughts between people.

Now here’s what you can do to get started with the A3:
1. Get a dozen or more of A3 white papers and always carry them in you.
2. Get fine Sharpie (permanent ink pen) in 4 different colors; red, blue, black, green. You may have yellow and other colors as well.
3. Next time you meet with someone or a group of maximum 4 people in a café , during lunch or anywhere where there are no whiteboards or flipcharts, spread an A3 paper sheet or A3 transparent sheet (for reuse) and use it as your discussion board.

Alright, I have the A3 , the color sharpies and my friend sitting at Starbucks and ready to discuss a new business idea, to decide topics for our next community gathering, to come out with the first version of your school project presentation, or to explain a difficult physics topic , what do we do next?

The answer is : start utilizing the power or drawing and put your hands, eyes and mind’s eyes into action; draw mind maps, charts , graphs, objects, people, timelines, formulas etc... to communicate. Start practicing and maybe read more about mind mapping , simple sketching, and how our mind works. You will be amazed of how much we are missing for not using the visual factor in conveying thoughts.

Reasons to use for the A3 method:
1. It is the portal/mobile flipchart.
2. It helps having a focused meeting/discussion.
3. It gets your discussion to have a time rhythm rather than having an open ended discussion. Once the A3 is full, this signals the end of a cycle. You can then stop and review what you have reached at that point and decide if you need another cycle.
4. It is very engaging.
5. It is an archive with mental images to your discussions.

Try it and post your feedback.

See the following videos for how useful sketching is and how effective it is a a method of communication:

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

7 rules for successful entrepreneurial business

There's clearly an entrepreneurial/start-up spirit in the air in Egypt; there's also a great deal of support activities from the community and the government entities.

Here are my 7 rules towards successful entrepreneurial business; consider them my 2 cents advice on what an entrepreneur needs:
  1. You must have a dream. Visualize the dream behind what you want to accomplish; a hint: something other than making money ;). Watch this video How great leaders inspire action.
  2. Find yourself mentor(s). A mentor is a consultant guides and coaches you without asking for money :). They can provide you guidance when they feel your passion for the dream.
  3. Learn the basic skills of running a business. Things like essential accounting and how to manage money. You may want to read The One Minute Entrepreneur, a very useful quick guide for starting your own business and growing it successfully.
  4. Find the right partner(s) and the right team who share the same dream and make sure you guys complement each others. Agree on the roles each will play. And remember, an all-drummers group does not make a musical band.
  5. Learn and understand 3 things in the domain of your work: Business, Technical and People aspects.
  6. READ, READ, READ like crazy in all topics. (You may want to consider audio books and podcasts as well! Read this on the advantages of audio books "3 Reasons why everyone must start listening to audio books"
  7. Learn the difference between bootstrapping, venture capital , and angel investment funding to wisely decide how you are going to fund your start-up (more on that in the next blog post).
Think of why you want to have your own business, then consider what you want to do, then how you will do; work so darn hard and wise, then the money will come.

If you are just looking to get rich, then just ignore all that and do whatever you want to do.

Please share your advice.