In an effort to more transparently share what we are learning each week at the Institute, I’m writing a post once a week to detail our salient takeaways.
Day 1: Framing the Unreasonable Institute
Each year, on the first day of the Institute, we open by explaining that our job is to “give the best people the best people to change the world.” To us, this means building a lasting community of entrepreneurs, mentors, and funders who work together to create impact. And building that community requires establishing shared values and common language. So we kickoff the Institute with a series of interactive activities illustrating the behaviors (our values) we want the entrepreneurs to exemplify during the Institute (including a challenge to build the tallest marshmallow structure). Here are the core values we build the Institute upon:
- Treat everyone you meet like the Messiah
- Be militantly transparent
- Lean into fear
- Experiment boldly
- Do what works
- Get shit done
- Remember to dance
(I would say more about our activities, but they all have surprise endings that I don’t want to give away for future Unreasonable Fellows).
Banks Benitez, our Chief Entrepreneur Officer, also provides a detailed overview of the structure of the Institute. In case you’d like to see what he had to say, here’s his presentation. It offers a comprehensive overview of the Institute and goes into depth around our five areas of focus: 1) mentorship, 2) strategic direction, 3) venture-specific priorities, 4) investability, and 5) community.
Day 2: Scavenger Hunt + Farmers’ Market
Day 2 involved introducing the entrepreneurs to their home for the next 5 weeks: beautiful Boulder, Colorado. The entrepreneurs ultimately wound up at the local farmers’ market, where we enjoyed a lovely picnic and spent time getting to know each other.
Day 3: How to Define Your Mission, How to Design for It, and How to Build A Behavior Change Map
Day 3 featured the first official workshop of the Unreasonable Institute, led by Kevin Starr, Executive Director of the Mulago Foundation. Kevin’s core message: you need to know your mission. And you’ve got to be able to say it in eight words. No frills. No complex adjectivery. Just:
a verb + a target population + an outcome.
Here’s a simple example:
“Get African one-acre farmers out of poverty”
“This isn’t a marketing exercise,” explained Kevin. “This mission defines the design of your organization.” In other words, it’s your company’s north star. Everything you do has further this mission.
Whether you’re getting people to adopt a new product, wash their hands, or vote, you’re asking them to change the way they behave. Tweet This Quote
And thus, you’ve got to measure the effectiveness of your activities in achieving this mission. Measurement is complicated, as Kevin explained, and thus, he suggests that you pick just one thing. Just one metric that helps you understand if you’re furthering your mission or not. For example, If your mission is to get African farmers out of poverty, measure changes in their income.
With your mission and key metric in hand, you’ve got to know what it takes to get your target population to the outcome you’re working toward. This always involves a form of behavior change. Whether you’re getting people to adopt a new product, wash their hands, or vote, you’re asking them to change the way they behave. So you have to know what behaviors you need to change and how you’re going to change those behaviors.
Working with Kevin to help drive this point home for our entrepreneurs, 2013 Unreasonable Fellow Mike Rios (whose company 17 Triggers focuses on marketing for good causes, specializing in behavior change detectives) led the entrepreneurs through an activity where they detailed their beneficiaries, drew the various ways to reach them, and detailed exactly how to get them from where they started (e.g. poverty) to the intended outcome (e.g. out of poverty).
To get the full value of the workshop, I highly recommend checking out Kevin Starr’s writeup of how to arrive at your mission, your single metric, and your behavior change map.
Day 4: How to Get Your Customers/ Beneficiaries Where You Need Them
Diving deeper into specific behaviors our entrepreneurs sought to change, Mike Rios, of 17 Triggers, helped the entrepreneurs finish their behavior change maps by having them identify their “rhinos” – the major obstacles to getting members of their target population to the end outcome.
The afternoon featured Unreasonable Mentor Chip Heath, best-selling author of Made to Stick, Switch, and Decisive. He led entrepreneurs through an interactive training on how to apply the framework he’s developed in Switch for creating behavior change.
Day 5: How to Make Your Pitch Stick
Chip Heath coached the entrepreneurs through how to make their pitches stickier by introducing them to the SUCCESs framework. A sticky message is a Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional, Story. I’ve detailed the application of this framework in this blog post.
Day 6: How to Build Lasting Relationships with Mentors + Constructing Your Lean Business Model
Banks Benitez and I led a session detailing how to engage with mentors, introducing our Build Strong Friends framework, as detailed in this blog post. In the afternoon, Erin Beierwaltes led the entrepreneurs through a training on how to build a Lean Startup Canvas. The Canvas’s purpose is to serve as a simple communication tool to help introduce mentors and funders to all aspects of the business. It consists of one-page and includes:
- Unique Value Proposition: a single, clear, compelling message that turns an unaware visitor into an interested prospect.
- Problem and Existing Alternatives: 1-3 problems your venture is working to solve and the means by which these problems are currently being solved.
- Solution: outlines the solutions to each problems.
- Unfair Advantage: something not easily copied or bought
- Key Metrics: quantitative data of how your business is doing
- Customer Segments: list of target and users
- Cost Structure: list of fixed and variable costs
- Revenue Streams: lists of revenue sources
You can download and fill out your own version of the Lean Business Model Canvas here.
Day 7: Relationships with Mentors, Part 2 + Mentor Fridays
We put in practice how to engage with mentors, and also discussed how to email effectively, as detailed in this blog post.
Entrepreneurs had the chance to put their skills building relationships with mentors to the test that afternoon at Mentor Fridays, when we hosted more than six mentors based in the Boulder area. These six mentors sat down with our entrepreneurs for detailed one-on-ones. In addition to serving as a springboard for relationships, this first Mentor Fridays served as practice for Mentor Weekend, from June 13-15, when we’ll be hosting over 30 mentors at the Unreasonable Institute to help entrepreneurs find the right mentors to recruit for their Mentor Teams (tantamount to a long-term board of advisors).
In Conclusion: You can follow along with our learnings from the Institute as we plan to share such posts each week. Stay tuned for another one next week!
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