Leadership Retreats and Off-sites: Cultivate the Soil

From Paula Wilder:

Gardening is such a great metaphor for organizational life.  I have started the Spring search for trees to replace the ones I removed last Fall.  After years of gardening mishaps, however, I have learned that the most important part of planting is not finding the plant, but preparation – selecting the right location and the right soil.  The old wisdom is true: "Better to have a $5 hole for a $1 plant than a $1 hole for a $5 plant.”

A leadership retreat tip from Paula Wilder The same kind of thinking applies to effective retreats, off-sites and meetings.  What needs to happen to ensure the work takes root and thrives?   For plants, it’s carefully considering the right growing conditions.  Once the plant is in the ground, it is about on-going care.  It’s pretty much the same with people I think:  What are the productive growing conditions the group will need to sustain the work?

Here are five questions that usually generate great conversations when planning an off-site or retreat:

  • How can participants be engaged in co-designing the retreat? 
  • What valid information is needed to enrich the conversation?   
  • How can clear, collective commitment be generated? 
  • How can group effectiveness best be enhanced? 
  • What new leadership behaviors are required for the future? 

When I think about what happens after the retreat, I picture the newly planted trees securely tied to wooden stakes to keep them from being up-rooted or over-turned.    For groups, the question worth asking is, "What kinds of structures and supports are needed so that the high spirits and great plans generated at the retreat withstand the gusty forces of the status quo?"

If you have ideas about how to make sure retreat action plans get traction, we would love to hear about them.  Please email us at info@wilderweber.com.  We will post your ideas on What's New.

"Leadership Retreats and Off-sites: Cultivate the Soil" is the second in a series of three leadership retreat tips from Paula Wilder.

Leadership Retreats and Off-sites: Retreat in Order to Advance - Retreat Tip #1
Leadership Retreats and Off-sites: Cultivate the Soil - Retreat Tip #2
Leadership Retreats and Off-sites: Investing In Your Organization’s Landscape – Retreat Tip #3

Paula Wilder is an organizational effectiveness expert and senior partner at WilderWeber Leadership Group.  WilderWeber Group is a VT KnowledgeWorks member company in Blacksburg, Virginia, and a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0. You're invited to read more from Paula Wilder on Handshake 2.0.

1 of 20 Women Who Developed Mobile Apps

Thank you, Jenna Drew, for including our experience with mobile apps in Mobile App Development: 20 Women Who Developed Mobile Apps Share Their Experiences, International Association of Women Entrepreneurs Online (IAWEO), March 1, 2011.  Here's an excerpt with our story:

Anne Giles Clelland"A company needs to reach people – a.k.a. customers – to whom it can sell products and services in order to survive and thrive. According to Juniper Research, mobile device downloads are expected to reach 25 billion in 2015. A website potentially reaches only 2 billion people on the Internet, a Facebook page a paltry 500 million, and a Twitter account a mere 100 million. 25 billion downloads? Of course a company needs a mobile app.”

“For us, our corporate mobile app needed to be 1) of value to the user, 2) mission-based. Our site’s mission is to extend the “it’s who you know” handshake of what begins business deals in person to the “it’s still who you know” Handshake 2.0 of what can begin deals online. We had the proverbial light bulb moment when we realized that our mobile app – used, of course, on a hand-held device – needed to feature the people on Handshake 2.0 to make them available for business-beginning handshakes!”

“Even in 2009, Forrester priced minimal corporate mobile apps at $20K, so we created our app in-house. This was my first experience with the software development process and I found it heart-poundingly exciting and mind-bogglingly complex. Our development efforts succeeded and multiple versions of our Handshake(TM) App are now part of those billions of mobile app downloads.”

“Business results for us? We extended our brand, added mobile app development as a new line of business since it fit our company’s strengths and vision, and added a new revenue stream. And learning any new technology increases the likelihood we can innovate again and again,” said Anne Giles Clelland, M.A., M.S., the President of Handshake Media, Incorporated and founder of Handshake 2.0.

Handshake Media's latest Handshake(TM) mobile app is Foto Puzzler.  Here are all the mobile applications from Handshake Media.

Network of Women Mobile Application Developers

Handshake Media, Incorporated has a vision for the creation and growth of a network of women mobile application developers.

Problem

A shortage of mobile application developers in the New River Valley of Virginia predicts that the current and future market opportunity in the mobile software industry may bypass the region.

Solution

The New River Valley is home to enterprising women interested in learning new skills and to women entrepreneurs interested in creating new companies. It is home to two major universities, Virginia Tech and Radford University.  Faculty members and graduate students from all over the world at both universities often have bright, highly-educated spouses who are under-employed or non-employed due to choosing to care for children at home and/or having English language difficulties.  Many would welcome part-time employment which they could perform at home on their own schedules that would equip them for post-child-rearing careers. 

Software development is difficult.  It requires intelligence, perseverance, and concentration.  It requires the acquisition of complex knowledge and skills that can be learned synergistically in groups.  Group members willing to share, teach, tutor and coach each other can produce rapid, efficient, collective and individual learning.

Goal

Create, equip and train an initial group of women, who reside locally, in mobile application development and request that these group members teach mobile application development to others. Thus begins a local hub and network of mobile application developers with local ties and potential global connections available to local companies in need of mobile application developers.

How

Train members of the network to write JavaScript code and to use a to-be-announced software company’s cross-platform Application Programming Interface (API) development tool on their own computers running Windows 7 to create and build mobile applications for the Android.  Development for the Apple iOS (iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, etc.) would be a future step and requires the use of Apple computers.

(Here is a list of mobile application development tools. The one we will use is on this list. Clicking on “View Results” at the bottom of the poll will show the tools voted most popular.)

Requirements for initial group membership

Each of the initial group members would be required to:

  • be eager to learn and eager to produce results from that learning.
  • be self-motivated, self-disciplined, and generous with sharing knowledge, information, and skills.
  • have her own computer and Internet access.
  • be a skilled computer user. Programming experience would be useful, but is not required. The network must operate as an entry into mobile software development for women who are complete beginners.
  • agree to be photographed and filmed for the public to view to publicize and document the program.

Each of the initial program members would commit to:

  • learning how to write code for, and to create, mobile applications, initially using JavaScript and the cross-platform development tool, both independently and interdependently with other network members and with women who may voluntarily join the group.
  • meeting at least monthly in self-identified and self-created groups, ideally in each others’ homes, to eliminate the need for childcare arrangements or costs, or to reduce restaurant and room rental costs.
  • giving herself 6 months to learn this new, difficult skill.
  • creating reliable, tested and approved, ready-to-upload source code for 1 marketable mobile application within 1 year of joining the network.
  • teaching 2 other women, 1 of whom would be willling to commit to becoming an active member of the network.
  • working on the honor system, i.e. making an integrity-based commitment to using the program’s resources for their intended purposes and outcomes, including personal and professional growth for each individual, and achievement of the goals of the program.

Thank you Coldwell Banker, Townside REALTORS, First Bank & Trust Company and Hutchison Law Group in joining me at Handshake Media in sponsoring the inaugural meeting of the Network of Women Mobile Application Developers in Blacksburg, Virginia on March 7, 2011.

The first group of 12 to receive training on March 16 will be treated to a complimentary meal thanks to the support and sponsorship of VT KnowledgeWorks.

Thanks to Ryan Hagan, Shierod Russell and Wesley Ferrell – who are volunteering their time to help – we will have on-site technical support during the training.

Here’s more information about the Network of Women Mobile Application Developers.  Posts are listed in  chronological order and where they appeared, some with descriptive notes.

Also of possible interest are the categories Women and Mobile Apps on Handshake 2.0 and Mobile Applications from Handshake Media.

For more information, please email me, Anne Giles Clelland, anne@handshake20.com.

What Do Women Want from Mobile Apps?

We've been working on answering that question - "What do women want from mobile apps?" – on Handshake 2.0.  We were delighted to have our work cited by iAlja in Android for girls: a new frontier.  Here's an excerpt from her comprehensive post that includes links to a post by Maureen Carruthers and research on women and mobile apps by Anne Piedmont of Piedmont Research Associates. iAlja's "A girl's app manifesto" is a beautiful synthesis of what we, too, have found that women want from mobile apps. 

What do women want from mobile apps?

The big question for all app developers is, of course, what do women want from mobile apps? How can we make apps that women will want to download?

I found a really good answer to this on the Handshake 2.0 blog, where Maureen Carruthers writes about what she's looking for in mobile apps (emphasis mine):

"The final quality of my favorite apps is how they make me feel – about myself. … these apps help me feel loved, well-read and prepared. … Most importantly, they are intuitive, so they never make me feel stupid. No matter how potentially amazing an app may be, if I can’t easily figure it out, it will gather virtual dust."

Another survey among female mobile app users came to the conclusion that (emphasis mine):

Women want to be connected. They want to be informed. They want apps that help them through the day, whether it is comparison shopping, turn-by-turn directions, or a way to be more organized.”

So, we don't want clutter, we don't need extra bling – we want apps that are easy to use and that makes our lives better or easier! Women are probably more likely than men to see their phones as tools that shouldn't require a manual, but should provide clear value in everyday life.

Of course, this doesn't apply to just women – many users outside the geeky, tech crowd feel the same! And here's my advice for app developers: focus on everyday usability and experience, not on fancy algorithms and tech talk.

Instagram, for instance, is a good example of a great mobile app service that isn't anything special from the technological point of view, but it does provide great experience and community. And that's what counts for most users, not necessarily just women. (Excellent blog post on a related note: Quora is from Mars, Instagram is from Venus)

A girl's app manifesto

Finally, here are 7 key points I wish every app developer, male or female, would keep in mind when planning, designing or programming mobile apps.

  1. Think about me.
  2. I don’t like wasting time.
  3. Make my life better or fun.
  4. Don’t make me feel stupid.
  5. Don’t make me change for you.
  6. I’m looking for experiences, not features.
  7. Yes, I like pretty, but I’m not a princess.

via ialja.blogspot.com

Here's our category on Women and Mobile Apps on Handshake 2.0

Thanks again, iAlja. We'll definitely have your key points in mind as we launch a network of women mobile application developers.

Tech Showcase: TORC’s Autonomous Vehicle and the Blind Driver Challenge

We asked TORC Technologies to share with Handshake 2.0’s audience more about the story we learned first from Montgomery County, VA Economic Development and TORC’s Media Center. David Cutter kindly replied:

In early 2010 Dr. Dennis Hong, Director of Robotics and Mechanisms Lab (RoMeLa) at Virginia Tech, was tasked with upgrading his “phase 1” prototype dune-buggy and nonvisual interfaces for the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) Blind Driver Challenge, and putting blind drivers in a real, road-ready vehicle. Because of the way the nonvisual interfaces (DriveGrip and SpeedStrip) work, the equivalent of an autonomous vehicle was required.
 
To accomplish this in such an aggressive timeframe, and remain focused on improving the novel devices used to communicate with the blind driver, Dr. Hong made the decision to leverage TORC’s off-the-shelf mobile robotics platform – the ByWire XGV. This “modified Ford Escape” was then topped off with TORC’s PowerHub modules which are used to distribute power to all of the added sensors, computers, and the nonvisual devices added to the system. A custom version of TORC’s AutonoNav (autonomous navigation system) was used to process the environment and make driving decisions.
 
In a typical autonomous vehicle, these decisions would be fed back into the vehicle’s control systems to carry out the actual driving behaviors. Here is what makes this project so unique: Instead of driving the blind person around autonomously, the whole point of the Challenge was to let the blind person make active decisions and have full control over driving the vehicle. This is why communicating through the nonvisual interfaces was so critical for the project’s success.
 
This is a perfect example of why using TORC products makes sense – it allows the researchers to proceed full steam ahead on their technological innovations and not “reinvent the wheel” by building custom, one-off robotic systems which can eat up a majority of a project’s time and engineering resources. TORC is extremely proud to have its products and engineering support used in such a visionary project led by the Dr. Hong, NFB and Virginia Tech.



TORC Technologies was featured on the Today Show.

Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Roanoke, and Salem, Virginia real estate and homes This edition of the Tech Showcase on Handshake 2.0 is sponsored by Coldwell Banker Townside, REALTORS (R), is a full service real estate agency specializing in Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Roanoke, and Salem, Virginia real estate and homes.  You’re invited to download the Coldwell Banker Townside App, check out the CBT blog, Keepin’ It Real Estate, visit Coldwell Banker Townside, REALTORS (R) on Facebook, and see more of Coldwell Banker Townside on Handshake 2.0

Coldwell Banker Townside REALTORS is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated, parent company of Handshake 2.0.

Does Your Business Need QR Codes? An Internet Quiz

This is a QR code. Do you want to scan it?

QR codes are popping up all over.  As is often the case with new technology tools, popping up with them are numerous articles about what they are, how to create them, and examples of how they are being used.  With all that press, it’s easy to worry your business is falling behind and you must drop everything else RIGHT NOW to avoid missing the marketing innovation of the century.

Of course, it could turn out that QR codes aren’t all they are cracked up to be – or they just aren’t a good fit for you and your right people.  Many new tech breakthroughs get early adopters salivating about the possibilities, only to prove ultimately pointless for most business owners.

But which is it?  Rather than doing all the research and then finding out the new tech isn’t a good fit, how about just answering a few questions to figure out if researching QR codes is worth your time?

QR Code Compatibility Quiz

Will QR Codes help you grow your business?  Answer the 4 questions below to find out.  Give yourself one point for each “yes” answer.  Then add up your score and interpret it below.

1.  Do your customers use smart phones?
The only way to “translate” a QR code is to scan it with the camera on a smart phone.  If your customers don’t have smart phones, these codes are worthless.

2.  Do you have simple forms you want customers to fill out?
If you want customers to sign up for your mailing list or complete an online survey, making it easy to do in the moment is key.  Using a QR code link to the survey rather than to a traditional URL means customers can scan the code and complete the form before they leave your store, which means you don’t have to count on them remembering to do it when they get home.

3.  Does your business have a mobile app?
If your company has it’s own mobile app, advertising it with a QR code can dramatically increase downloads because scanning the code takes customers right to the install page – eliminating all of the potentially confusing (and distracting) steps it takes to navigate to it through the app store.

4.  Do your customers respond well to “secret” offers?
If so, QR codes open new opportunities to extend your offers.  Just send customers a short tutorial about how to use QR codes via e-mail newsletter, or other semi-private communication channel, tell them about the new “QR club” and how to play.  Then, display the actual code (without comment) in your store or on your website.

(Note:  If you use a QR code, make sure it points to a mobile-optimized web page that rewards visitors for clicking.  A page offering discounts or free gifts will definitely work, as will limited edition products, insider information, scavenger hunt clues, or even just a funny joke or story.  What won’t work is pointing the code to your website’s homepage or a standard advertisement – not only will you not sell anything, you’ll train your customers to avoid scanning future codes.)

Scoring:
0 points:  QR codes probably aren’t for you.  Ignore at will!

1 point:   QR codes are iffy for your business, but you may want to read at least one article linked in this post before crossing them off your list.

2-3 points: QR codes have a lot of potential for your business.  Consider incorporating one into your next marketing campaign and measuring the results.

4 points: QR codes go with your business like peanut butter goes with jelly.  Once you start using the codes you may wonder how you ever lived without them.

The best part of Internet quizzes is comparing scores.  If you’d like to share, report your score in the comments and let us know if (or how) you will incorporate QR codes into your marketing.

When Maureen isn't excercising her Cosmo-style quiz writing skills she can be found answering nonprofit marketing questions at Low Hanging Fruit.

Ten Business Lessons from Twenty Years in Business

After establishing and running my business now for almost twenty years, I have struggled, observed and made many discoveries. Here are the most important lessons I have learned:

1. Do what you love. Have passion for your vision, no matter how big or small.

Donna Dilley in 1994 2. Have the heart of a servant. If you do not enjoy serving others, there is no reason to own your own business.

3. Be thankful each morning for the opportunity to labor doing something you love. It is a great privilege that many never experience.

4. Surround yourself with a circle of people you trust. Solicit opinions, feedback and bounce ideas around with the individuals in your circle.

5. Be flexible and know that those who aren't will get bent out of shape. In other words, be willing to adapt; adjust procedures, offerings and marketing approaches to correspond with the always changing times.

6. Take care of your physical health. Starting and running a business is a bit like having a baby - all-consuming. Neglecting to carve out a niche for your personal well-being will lead to added stress and burn-out.

7. Avoid negative people that do not value your contributions and who diminish your confidence in your abilities. Running a business is not meant for the faint-hearted and you need all the courage and confidence that you can muster to stick with it.

8. Trust your intuition. When in doubt, don't!

9. Put everything in writing.

10. Be willing to admit your errors and apologize when you are wrong.

Donna Dilley has been a business etiquette consultant based In Roanoke, Virginia since 1994.  You're invited to read more from Donna Dilley on Handshake 2.0.

Who’s in FRONT? Margaret Galecki

Margaret Galecki Margaret Galecki, General Manager of the Blacksburg, Virginia office of Coldwell Banker Townside, REALTORS, was featured in "The Real Estate App" by Rachel Garrity in the March, 2011 issue of Valley Business FRONT.

Photo credit: Rachel Garrity

Valley Business FRONT is the monthly magazine for in-depth business news in the Roanoke Valley and the New River Valley of Virginia. You're invited to read moreFRONT and to follow Valley Business FRONT on Twitter, @vbFRONT.

Coldwell Banker Townside, REALTORS is a sponsor of the first meeting of the Network of Women Mobile Application Developers in Blacksburg, Virginia.

You can read posts by Margaret Galecki on Handshake 2.0.

The Coldwell Banker Townside App is a Your Handshake(R) App, a Handshake(R) brand mobile application from Handshake Media, Incorporated.

Download the Coldwell Banker Townside App for the iPhone in the iTunes App Store

Download the Coldwell Banker Townside App for the Android in the Android Market

Coldwell Banker Townside, REALTORS (R) is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0.

Network of Women Mobile App Developers to Launch

While I may not currently be in the midst of developing an app, I know that when the times comes, having a network will be critical to my education and execution of a "killer app."
- Gail Billingsley, Executive Director, YMCA at Virginia Tech

I love Gail's reason for attending the first meeting of the Network of Women Mobile Application Developers!

We have almost 25 who have responded to our invitation to attend the meeting on Monday, March 7, 2011 in Blacksburg, Virginia.

Interest and support have been so strong!

Thanks to the support and sponsorship of Coldwell Banker, Townside REALTORS, First Bank & Trust CompanyHutchison Law Group, and Handshake Media, attendees will be treated to a complimentary reception on March 7.

The first group of 12 to receive training on March 16 will be treated to a complimentary meal thanks to the support and sponsorship of VT KnowledgeWorks.

And thanks to Ryan Hagan, Shierod Russell and Wesley Ferrell – who are volunteering their time to help - we will have on-site technical support during the training.

And I got this in an email from a software expert yesterday:  "What can I do to help?"

Overwhelming.

We welcome more to our first meeting.

Women in the Blacksburg, Virginia area interested in joining other women to learn about mobile application development are invited to the first meeting of the Network of Women Mobile Application Developers. The meeting will be on Monday, March 7, 2011 beginning at 5:30 PM in Blacksburg, Virginia.  Please email me, Anne Giles Clelland, anne@handshake20.com, for an invitation. 

***

Here's the "history" of the Network of Women Mobile Application Developers.  Posts are listed in  chronological order and where they appeared, some with descriptive notes.

Coldwell Banker, Townside REALTORS(R) and First Bank & Trust Company are clients of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0.

Mobile App from Coldwell Banker Townside Realtors in FRONT

In Valley Business FRONT, that is.  Margaret Galecki, General Manager of the Blacksburg, Virginia office of Coldwell Banker Townside REALTORS, is featured in "The Real Estate App" by Rachel Garrity in the March, 2011 issue of Valley Business FRONT.  You can "turn" to page 30 and read the story online.

Coldwell Banker Townside App is featured in Valley Business FRONT

The Coldwell Banker Townside App is a Your Handshake(TM) App, a Handshake(TM) brand mobile application from Handshake Media, Incorporated. 

Download the Coldwell Banker Townside App for the iPhone in the iTunes App Store
Download the Coldwell Banker Townside App for the Android in the Android Market

Coldwell Banker Townside, REALTORS (R), is a full service real estate agency specializing in Blacksburg, Christiansburg, Roanoke, and Salem, Virginia real estate and homes.  You're invited to check out the CBTownside blog, Keepin' It Real Estate, visit Coldwell Banker Townside, REALTORS (R) on Facebook, follow Coldwell Banker Townside on Twitter, and learn more about Coldwell Banker Townside on Handshake 2.0

You're invited to read posts by Margaret Galecki on Handshake 2.0.

Coldwell Banker Townside, REALTORS (R) is a client of Handshake Media, Incorporated, the parent company of Handshake 2.0.

The Coldwell Banker Townside App is a Your Handshake(TM) App from the line of Handshake(TM) mobile applications developed by Handshake Media, Incorporated