How to Become a Great Leader & Scale Your Business

CentreCEOs want to grow their businesses, but are afraid of losing control. How can they achieve scale, while ensuring their business remains directionally correct? Former Frog and Quirky President, Doreen Lorenzo, calls for setting a strong culture, understanding the needs of your people and empowering them to stretch themselves.

Key Points:
1. Scaling up requires powering down control by ceding it to others
2. Great leadership requires understanding the needs of your people
3. Use design thinking to empower people to stretch themselves

At EXOscalr we are building up a coaching clientele of people that are already leaders and want to become extraordinary leaders. Some of these leaders are focused on building up ventures that have progressed to product-market fit stage and as these companies start to scale up, they want to increase their growth velocity.

At its simplest, achieving hyper-growth through scaling up is about adding fuel and subtracting friction. There are a whole range of mechanisms we use to add fuel, such as an infusion of funding or top talent. To remove friction we focus on how companies organize, how they manage their people and ultimately how they motivate and incentivise them.

We are eager to take on board and share insights from others who have walked the path of scaling multiple organisations and have inspiring leadership stories. In this note we spend time with Doreen Lorenzo. She spent 16 years as President of Frog, which she scaled into a global design powerhouse. She then took on the same role at crowdsourced product startup Quirky, which she put through an accelerated scaling program – fondly called “Doreen bootcamp” by Quirky’s CEO, Ben Kaufman.

Scaling up requires powering down control by ceding it to others

Doreen’s view is that scaling in and of itself isn’t hard. What is hard is being prepared to cede control to other people in order to scale a business.
“This is where the big misstep comes, because if you’re going to grow a business you have to put other people in charge of things.”

She sees scaling as being a three-stepped process:
1. Build a replicable culture – you need to have a vision and mission that everybody understands, that everybody sees as your Northstar.
2. Hire fantastic people – bring on board people that understand the vision and mission.  Diversity is beneficial and the people you hire don’t have to agree with you 100%.
3. Allow people to do the things that you hired them to do –  either empower your people, or remove obstacles that prevent them from executing against your vision and mission.

When she joined Quirky it was a young company in which the vision and mission were already very established. The question she faced was how to put the right people and processes in place to deliver on that mission and vision. She asked what they were trying to accomplish, what needed to happen to get to them to the point that sets the business up for success and then she worked with the team to execute against that.

Great leadership requires understanding the needs of your people

Doreen points out that because of all the technology that we live and work with, there is no divide and we are working all the time. In such a world the most important thing you can do for your people is to understand the 24/7 nature of work and, in this context, to understand their needs.

“It doesn’t mean you need to agree with everything, but you understand their needs and you’re making decisions based on them.”

“Sometimes you’ll make decisions that they’ll agree with, and sometimes you won’t, but they will know that you understand their needs and have taken them into account when you made your decision.”

“It is just a point of data, and not all data comes from spreadsheets, some of it comes from people and you need both to be an effective business leader.”

Use design thinking to empower people to stretch themselves

As leaders it’s your job to make sure that people reach their full satisfaction and when you see them struggling you need to help them grow, ultimately becoming better people.

“Find out where people are at, what their situations are  – it’s like doing design research, you are understanding their situation, therefore you understand what problem you have to solve.”

At Frog, Doreen helped many people change their career by giving them an opportunity to stretch themselves and do things that they never thought they could possibly do.

“When you achieve great things, you feel better about yourself.”

As a leader, when you talk to people all the time you get to understand them and you can see who is stuck, who is struggling and you can make a decision to do something to help them.

“If you think they are great people and have possibilities then give them opportunities to stretch and grow. This stuff is not that complicated, you’ve just got to invest yourself to do it.”


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Shedding Light On Kickstarter, Open IP and Moore’sCloud

I’m a big fan of Kickstarter as it’s empowering entrepreneurs to come up with a whole range of interesting products that may not have seen the light of day through traditional funding mechanisms.

I’ve personally backed a Kickstarter project called Light by Moore’sCloud. The product is billed as:

Beautiful, intelligent, connected light. Open hardware, open software, endless possibilities for play and delight.

Not only are they developing a fun product, but they are pioneering the way intellectual property is distributed as well. As the team says in their latest update; they are an organization dedicated to sharing all of our intellectual property as freely and as widely as possible.

I caught up with Mark Pesce, the Sydney-based serial entrepreneur behind this project and asked him a few questions:

>What prompted you to build this?

It’s something I’ve attempted several times over the last decades, but only now have we gotten to high-performance (what used to be called ‘workstation class’) computing at an incredibly affordable price point – around $12 in components. It opens the door to entirely new design methodology. And it’s why we’re named Moore’sCloud.

> What is the biggest challenge you face in getting the product to market (not including fundraising)?

There are a lot of subtle UX issues involved in creating a device that has a lot of interiority; how do you present that depth in a way that is not confronting to people without deep technical skills?

> When can I expect my own Light – in the Xmas hamper?

We hope to have them rolling off the assembly line in May.

> Is this the first of a range of products you plan on releasing – what else do you have in mind?

Christmas lights, for one thing. And room lighting. But we see ourselves as getting a toe into the pond of the Internet of Things. We’ll learn a lot that can be applied to other possible forms and appliances.

Thanks Mark! I am certainly looking forward to playing with the product.

They’ve currently got 1,721 backers with $202k pledged towards their $700k goal. 13 days to go – sign on and make a pledge!



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Designing for Data-Driven Health and Wellness

Earlier this week John Doerr, Bing Gordon and Mark Pincus took the stage at TechCrunch Disrupt in San Francisco to talk about Internet treasures [an Internet-related company that makes us all proud to be alive now, a company that should be nourished and curated and that brings to life products that we can’t imagine life without].

In the course of the discussion Mark revealed an interesting insight into his social gaming company, Zynga. In essence they are data junkies–they’ve taken a different approach to games and are very data-driven rather than hit-based.  For example, they monitor in real-time each user’s net promoter score–a measure of value that the companies bring to their users, based on a standardized survey of the user base measuring whether each user will promote or detract from one of their games at any given moment.

You might be wondering at this stage what this has to do with health and wellness? As the conversation progressed between the two Kleiner Perkins partners and the CEO of one of their portfolio companies, a really interesting point emerged:

Health is waiting for someone to turn it into a product that’s useful.

This comment, together with the emphasis that Mark’s business places on data really got me thinking. We are so data-driven in so many areas of our lives, but when it comes to US, as Individuals, we know next to zero about our bodies, our health and wellness, how we are tracking, how what we do or don’t do impacts on how our body operates and how our minds feel–this is a major issue.

It is good to see, however, that activity is starting to emerge where the meaning [from a design point of view] within health and wellness is taking the individual more into account. Take for example the video below, in which Worrell brings together a doctor and a patient to discuss the future for health.

[Via Fastcodesign]


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Moving Beyond The Book: Searching For New Constructs

Whither the book, that glorious construct that has transported so many of us into new worlds that have both delighted and trapped us between their pages as protagonists explore and evolve.

In this age of new form factors, like the iPad, are we satisfied to merely flip pages? Definitely not, said Richard Saul Wurman at BIF-6 last week. Paper delimited pages were initial mimicked on web sites, smart phones and, so far, on pads.

However, there is such an array of endless possibility for us in this arena – sorting information by context, curating by design and shifting in and out of real time.

I look forward to continuing to explore how we transport “readers” into new and exciting places. For now though, check out this short conceptualization from our friends at Ideo:

The Future of the Book. from IDEO on Vimeo.


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