Another Great Idea! What Next? #70 #cong18


We have many great ideas, but often struggle with bringing those to life. There is no secret sauce or prescription of how to do it right, nevertheless there are some things I’ve done to help that seem to help the process.

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. For ideas to take off there are some useful steps to take.
  2. Check that your idea is making it better (easier, faster or cheaper) for people to do something they need or want to do.
  3. You don’t need to be an expert already. There are lots of data points easily available you can use and analyse.
  4. Create prototypes and minimum viable products to get meaningful feedback from real customers.
  5. Surround yourself with great people – ambitious problem-solvers.

About Brendan Hughes:

Brendan, originally from Meath, lives in Dublin with three children. He has worked in a number of large Irish organisations such as VHI, FBD, BoyleSports and most recently INM. He has also lived in Gibraltar where he worked with a global affiliate marketing company. In his roles he focuses on creating consumer-focused digital product and marketing propositions.

Contacting Brendan Hughes:

You can follow Brendan on Twitter, connect with him on LinkedIn or see his blog

By Brendan Hughes

I have a gazillion ideas. About how I can change the way the world works, about making things easier or better for people. Over my career working in companies, I’ve managed to bring some of my ideas to life. I wouldn’t say that there is a secret sauce or a prescription of how to do it right, nevertheless there are some things I’ve done to help that seem to help the process; to get buy-in from my peers and to ensure that we create something that does actually make sense to other people.

We know that many of the most successful start-ups fixed a problem that was felt by enough people in order to make their idea grow and be a success. Most times the ideas we can bring to life are not as momentous as an Uber or an AirBnB. While I’ve had some really big ideas, the ideas I’ve managed to actualise are generally solving much smaller problems. Regardless, nothing you do will be a success unless you are somehow providing an easier or better (easier, faster, cheaper) way for people to do something they need or want to do.

I haven’t always been a subject matter expert in the industries I’ve worked in, so to ensure that I’m actually solving real problems, I gather and analyse data from customers to validate my assumptions. In a digital world there are masses of easily accessible data sources – web analytics (which tells me where people are getting stuck), customer research (which allows me to question users), customer support conversations (which record the pain points of frustrated customers) and social media (which is a preferred place for people to go to rant). Talk to customers directly if you can. Listen to these sources with cool objectivity to identify the pain points.

Customer research can be really annoying. Very often your potential customers will tell you what you want to hear. Me: “Do you think it would be a good idea if I fixed this problem in such an such a way?” Potential Customer: “Yes, sure Brendan. That sounds like a great idea.” Very few people have ever told me my idea was shit. We like to be nice to each other, which is great, but leads to false outcomes.

So, I’ve learned to paint pictures and create prototypes to draw out meaningful feedback. The best prototypes are those customers can interact with. Find some real people, that are close matches to your main customer personas, and sit with them watching them interact with your prototype. See their reactions first hand to gauge how close you are to solving their problem in a better way. Watch where they get stuck. And watch for the emotional queues that tell you are on to something.

The problem with the research and design phase of ideation is that it will never be conclusive enough. Until you have your idea in the market in front of people in such a way that they can actually pay, subscribe, buy or “commit” – you still know very little. But creating a whole product and marketing experience can be expensive and high-risk.

What we’re talking about is focusing on creating an MVP – a minimum viable product that meets the core need you are setting out to address. It doesn’t need to fix all aspects of the problem, just the part that is important enough for people to say “Yes, I’ll pay for that”.

Sometimes even getting there is too hard. So you can create a proxy. Something else that you can use to assess the appetite of customers. You learn shed loads when you have your product in the real world. You can begin to assess the reaction of customers. You can play with pricing, packaging and marketing. Your assumptions get turned on their head. Your original idea might turn out to be a dud, but you’ll have discovered something else that makes much more sense.

In all of this, the most important thing to do is surround yourself with great people. Not just people who will agree with your vision of the future, but people who are comfortable with the journey, who are willing to take risks and who are eager to try new things.

In big companies, many people live in a state of fear. Worrying about all kinds of things that don’t help to get things done for the customer. Keep those people away from your ideas. Bring in people who are going to challenge the idea, but who are also going to positively act to make it work. 95% of people are problem-finders, 5% are problem-solvers (I made up those numbers). Hang out with the ambitious problem-solvers.

The Idea of You and Me #69 #cong18


We are social beings, who take a lot of cues and clues about who we are from our external environment. In many social situations much of what we say, feel and do is controlled by our unconscious thoughts. If we understand how we are affected by our thoughts, could we unlock different ways of thinking, feeling and acting?

4 Key Takeaways:

  1. You are not who you think you are
  2. Your own imagination is often wrong
  3. Your choice of mirrors matters
  4. Once you understand the interplay between society and personal, you can begin to understand yourself.

About Jane Leonard:

Jane Leonard runs Useful, a training company, based in Cork. She works with a diverse client base but has a particular interest in help small business harness the power of digital media.

Jane is also a part time lecturer at Cork Institute of Technology. She is currently researching the experience of International students studying Entrepreneurship in Ireland.

Contacting Jane Leonard:

You can follow Jane on Twitter, connect with her on LinkedIn or email her.

By Jane Leonard

According to American sociologist Charles Horton Cooley, how comfortable you feel in social situations is greatly influenced by how you believe other people perceive you.

Over 100 years ago, Cooley developed the concept of the Looking Glass Self to explain how your idea of who you are is not just a biological state but is the result of our interactions with others. He suggests that we do not always see ourselves as we are but as how we believe others see us. So, the people with whom we interact become mirrors that reflect an image of us that we then interpret. Not always correctly or accurately.

There are 3 parts to Cooley’s theory

  1. We imagine how others perceive us
  2. We imagine how others are judging us based on that (real or imagined) perception
  3. We interpret how that person feels about us, based on that perception.

When I introduce his theory to my students, they often struggle with the core concepts. The students are confident outgoing and had assumed they were fully responsible for the person development. Once we begin to explore the theory, they become more intrigued.

One of the most telling examples of the looking glass self is when a student raises her hand and asks a question in class.

In that moment of vulnerability, she notices the verbal feedback and nonverbal feedback from the room. If the reflection from the room is positive, she may feel her questions was a good question, that people see her as insightful to have asked that question. Such students often become more engaged in the class discussion and in the course work and ultimately do better.

Students who believe they have received a negative reflection where the lecturer or the students appear impatient or sigh deeply the student perceives their reaction and begins to view themselves as naïve or gauche for asking that question.

Cooley believes that even as adults we develop the idea of who we are through our interactions with our peers, our family and our friends. Not just our actual interactions but how we perceive their judgement of us in those interactions.

If you’re with a group of people and you make a joke, and everyone laughs, you might begin to see yourself as a bit of a comedian. You adopt the looking glass, the mirror image of yourself you believe is being reflected back to you by others. Vice versa, if you say something intelligent, and you believe that this image reflected back to you, you might begin to see yourself as intelligent.

So Cooley’s, theory is that, it is not what people think of us that is important; it is what we imagine they think of us

One by one, in isolation, different interactions won’t make you think you’re stupid or intelligent, but if these patterns get repeated again and again throughout your lifetime, you develop an image of yourself that is given to you from without, from interaction with others.

We use socially constructed meanings of success, failure, gender or hierarchy to help us decide who to interact with and how we should interact with them. We also use this subjective lens to interpret the meaning of a person’s words or actions, not always accurately. These conscious and unconscious thought can have a powerful influence on us. One remarkable or personal incident can change our self-concept forever.

Cong as a hall of mirrors

This unconference at Cong is a very particular Hall of Mirrors. We come together as  a mix of more seasoned peeps and newer, first timers at the event. Although we come here as individuals our experience of the event is shaped by the responses, we believe we receive from other.

Coming to Cong for this unconference changes people.

It is intimate and intimidating, seems not to care about formal hierarchy, welcomes people, unsettles people, nurtures people and ultimately challenges people.

I believe that the looking glass or mirror effect is more easily triggered at Cong where the ideas, thoughts, notions and debate can be free-flowing and organic. Being in such an environment can make people even more vulnerable as they share ideas or connect with other ideas in new ways.

So important to come to Cong, but not enough to come to Cong and live in the familiar bubble for two days. This is especially important for those of us who have come more than once. We need to reach out and hear new ideas. We need to understand that our reactions to other people are creating a perception which can help people to feel they belong, that they are interesting or that they can connect with us after the event.