Posts Tagged iteration

3 Tips on Making Better Companies and Better Products from Google X Co-Founder

Tom Chi Image FactoryXRecently, I went with friends to attend an intimate event hosted by Tom Chi, the co-founder of Google X (the not so secret Google lab that brought you Google Glass, the self-driving car, and Project Loon) and now FactoryX.

What is FactoryX you ask?

For all the innovation in the valley, one thing we’ve never taken a deep look at is the nature of companies themselves. For half a millennium, we’ve strengthened corporations at the expense of individual empowerment and benefit to society. But ultimately, corporations are nothing more than ways of organizing work, and the only point in organizing work is to empower individuals and benefit society. FactoryX is a bold experiment to revise the nature of companies themselves and re-invent entrepreneurship from the ground up.” – from the FactoryX website

His talk was fascinating, exploring alternative frameworks for talent/recruitment, legal, product development, and marketing/distribution. But here are 3 simple take aways from Tom Chi’s talk that you can more readily apply to your own work.

Skip the guess-a-thon and just do it

We all have been there. Stuck in long meetings, discussing and guessing theories before putting anything into practice. But Tom strongly believes that it is more efficient to think by doing.

After all, when we first learned how to ride a bike, we didn’t do it by reading books on the physics of biking. We learned by actually getting on a bike, and through trial and error, we succeeded.

On this principle, Factory X takes rapid prototyping very seriously. Here is a typical schedule below. Take note that there are only 2 mandatory meetings in purple- one on Monday to decide what they are making and one on Friday for reflection and gratitude. The rest of the time is focused on the actual doing.

Weekly Operating Snapshot - FactoryX

What’s even crazier is that every week, FactoryX design/develop/test a completely new product. At the end of 10 weeks, they start a new company, selecting the most viable product from the 10 products they have developed within that time frame. It could take large companies 10 months to realize a product is a complete dud. But at FactoryX’s crazy fast rate, it would only take them 10 minutes.

When have you started with theories before putting into practice? When have you started with practice then moved on to theory?

Manage your attachment

During quick brainstorms, Tom found that 2-3 minutes is ideal. Because after the first wave of ideas are spurted out and people start to run out of steam, instead of coming up with new ideas, people start attaching themselves to their favorite ideas, which they then start championing during group discussions. This will stifle creativity, as people’s bias will prevent them from being open and objective to other ideas and opinions.

Tom warns us that attachment can be hindrance to innovation.

Companies also fail when they are too attached to a way of thinking or doing. They fail when they don’t have the foresight to acknowledge market changes and pivot to stay relevant.

Blockbuster became one of the biggest failures in movie rental business, as they shrugged off online videos as a fad, remained attached to their brand, and didn’t do anything to change their offering until it was too late.

Attachment management is crucial to the success of products, companies, and the progression of an industry.

When have you held on too strongly to an idea or way of doing things?

Know your Life Mission

It’s important to spend some time thinking about and identifying your life mission. What consumes your mind? What do you want from this life?

To stay active and engaged at work, it is helpful to seek out companies that promote and push forward your own life mission. Of course it is not realistic for a company to support 100% of all your life missions (like those relating to personal relationships, etc), but if it accounts for 30-40% of it, Tom says you’re doing good.

One of the audience members asked Tom, “What’s your life mission?”

He explained that the challenge that preoccupies his mind is making human existence a net positive to nature. Since most of our interaction with nature is facilitated through companies, he thought it was critical to explore new company structures and new ways to organize work so that the individual, society, and nature ultimately benefit- thus the existence of FactoryX.

I look forward to the successes of FactoryX in building the foundation for the modern company of the 21st century.

Tom Chi Company

Tom Chi Future of Work

Introducing Idea Accelerator

Idea accelerator GIF - repeat

To sign up for a demo of the Idea Accelerator, click below:

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We know that exploring and testing ideas and concepts globally can be time consuming and expensive.

That’s why, we created Idea Accelerator, an online platform that allows us to explore and iterate concepts, packaging designs and communications with consumers globally and in real time – so you can accelerate idea development and your innovation pipeline.

This proprietary approach enables us to recruit, quality and interact with respondents in multiple markets concurrently. Using Idea Accelerator we can moderate a detailed discussion with respondents in real time, exploring likes, dislikes and ways to improve and refine an idea or concept. Study participants can interact with visual, written or video ideas or concepts in detail via desktop, tablet or mobile and response data is tagged and captured for analysis and aggregation for each individual idea or concept.

About the Idea Accelerator:

  • Accelerates the innovation process (a multiple market concept study can be done in hours vs. weeks and months with traditional approaches)
  • Identifies specific elements that are working and not working in a idea and concept and why
  • Enables “in the moment” crafting of ideas and concepts with consumers
  • Allows for immediate idea and concept testing and retesting — can get ideas or concepts in front of consumers within the hour
  • Improves success rate in quantitative concept testing
  • Inexpensively enables exploring and testing ideas and concepts in early development
  • Removes the “test, pass, fail and replace” model currently often used to craft concepts
  • Reduces cost of failure


At antedote we use proprietary technology and multidiscipline thinking and enjoy partnering with our clients to move their products and services forward, taking ideas from concept through development and launch.

A sweet scoop on innovation

Innovative ice cream - Smitten

As a child, I wasn’t allowed to eat ice cream until I was six because I had a history of asthma, and ice cream was on the no-no food list. I am convinced this had a direct impact on my now slightly obsessive relationship with ice cream. When I moved to SF last year, I was overjoyed to find that it was not only me, but the whole city who embraced gourmet ice cream with open arms.

One of the most buzzed about ice cream spots in town is Smitten. I remember the first time I was there, I stood outside the outdoor shed-like store in Hayes Valley, with the incredibly long queue of eager customers looking on with delight as the ice cream counter emitted whimsical puffs of nitrogen vapor as their orders were prepared fresh before their eyes.

Innovative Smitten Ice Cream Store in Hayes

I later learned the inspiring story behind Smitten’s success, one that warms my own heart.  Before Robyn Sue Fisher founded Smitten, she was known as the “ice cream girl” during her time at Stanford Business School.  After graduation, she applied to two jobs: IDEO and the FBI. When IDEO rejected her, she had the choice of either working for the FBI, or making her ice cream dream a reality. Smitten now serves 17,000 happy customers a month.

You would think that ice cream is a relatively simple business to start and run, but Robyn was determined to perfect ice cream through experimenting, iterating, and piloting her ideas quickly.

As she describes her journey, she identified two consumer needs that weren’t being addressed by ice cream makers on the market:

1) Natural and fresh ice cream. The distribution chain ice cream makes it very difficult to keep the products fresh.

2) A true ‘creaminess’ that prior to Smitten, was not on the market yet.

Robyn got “nerdy” about the science of ice cream, and dedicated herself to creating the perfectly smooth consistency of her dream ice cream. This “nerdiness” led to a series of experiments with liquid nitrogen to minimize the size of ice crystals in the ice cream. Starting with a liquid nitrogen machine in her backyard, she then spent the next 2 years in a basement with an engineer partner to keep iterating and perfecting the technology, and then testing the flavors by selling ice cream on streets across San Francisco for 9 months.

When the queues for Smitten ice cream seemed to go on and on, she opened her first store in Hayes Valley out of a repurposed warehouse container, which has now become a much beloved ice cream icon in the city.

So what does Robyn’s Smitten story teach us about innovation?

1. Try quickly, fail quickly, learn, and try again
Many companies get stuck at the innovation process because of fear – fear that the idea is not perfect to launch before you give it a chance to live on. When you try to perfect an idea before you put it in front of consumers, you will have invested too much, too soon, for it to fail. The key to successful innovation is to create small-scale experiments which minimize risk and can be piloted quickly, get real time feedback, then improve and try again, as what Robyn did when she sold batches on the streets of San Francisco. This iterative process actually accelerates innovation success as you build on live feedback and push the idea through.

2. Know your consumers, and deliver beyond their current needs
One of the keys to Smitten’s success was the insistence on breaking from current products in the market. Instead of creating another product that’s incrementally new, Robyn insisted on a whole new approach to ice cream – pushing the science, and offering consumers a completely fresh experience to see their ice cream being created before their own eyes, using only the highest quality ingredients.

3. Lean on passion to push through when the going gets tough
Innovation is a long and difficult journey. For Robyn, it wasn’t until year four before she had any sort of business success, and if it wasn’t for her personal passion for ice cream, Smitten might not be what it is today. For innovation to succeed, there needs to be passion behind the project to push and champion it through when you are met with naysayers and stage gate hurdles. Going after the ideas your team has personal passion for can make the difference between a good idea on a piece of paper, and a real innovation that gets launched.

Smitten’s story is truly inspiring for the innovator in all of us. We look forward to interacting with adventurous innovations sooner, and companies approaching innovation with a truly experimental and iterative mindset.

To learn about antedote’s new platform, Idea Accelerator, that allows you to explore and iterate concepts, packaging designs and communications with consumers globally and in real time, please click below:

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Image credit: Wired’s The Blue Bottle of Ice Cream
Image credit: flickr user drbrett (cc)
Image credit: flickr user rotron (cc)