What I Learned from the Viking Startup Bus: Europe 2012

What I Learned from the Viking Startup Bus: Europe 2012

While I learned a million things over the last 10 days, I think these are the most important ones. They were things I *knew* before, but I didn’t really understand the meaning in such a profound way:

1 – Communications skills extend way beyond listening and verbal acuity. The Dutchies I spent most of my time with were fine English speakers- really quite capable. As well, they were the sort of folks who listened to you- really listened to you when you were speaking. And waited until you were done speaking to start formulating their own thoughts, rather than already having them and just waiting for their turn.

But, more than that- because idioms, metaphors and slang don’t always translate, they were intensely focused on non-verbal cues as well for you meaning. And when I ever-so-slightly furrowed my brow, or smirked a little, they would ask a deeper question for the meaning of the words I’d just said… or more importantly… asking about the thoughts and feelings that I wasn’t expressing. I don’t believe anyone has ever accused me of holding back thoughts before. Sometimes the people I interact with are so overwhelmed with the volume of words and the quirky stories I tell, that they can’t tell I’m distracting the conversation from my real thoughts. Being challenged to be direct was essential in this case.

Non-verbal communication is the key to understanding, and creating deeper relationships.

2 – Lack of time, resources, control and connectivity breaks your work down to the essentials. When you have very little time, you discuss only the things that really matter. I’ve seen this before in crisis management and crisis communications, but I didn’t realize it could apply to situations where no one’s life was in danger. On the bus, no one argues about colors, fonts, words, functionality… unless they are contrary to the common goal. As long as this color, this font, these words, and this function don’t contradict the primary mission, then they are great. Move on, don’t worry about it. The teams that had arguments about such things were really arguing about the goal of their product – they just didn’t realize it.

Without the “proper” resources to “do it right” – suddenly “good enough for now” becomes “good enough.” Sure, I would have loved to have spent hours and hundreds of dollars on the right stock photography… hired an illustrator to draw a unique Bee for our product. But, guess what? A stock graphic, in the hands of a skilled graphic designer, is perfectly good to get the point across (and maybe even last forever).

Skilled is the key word there. Someone who didn’t know how to use the limited resources is not going to do something that’s good, no matter how many dollars and hours to throw at him or her.

When you accept the lack of control you have over many things in life, you are happier. In this case, it was where we were working, when we were working, having internet access or not, what we would eat, and when we would eat it… when we would arrive… etc.

Without concern for the logistics of life, you can really focus on producing good work.

3 – Trust is essential. If you can’t trust your colleagues to do what they say they can do, you are sunk. More importantly, you have to trust them to know themselves – to know their strengths. To know what they shouldn’t do under any circumstances, and know what they *can* do, if they just take a risk. I know that the four other members of my company will never fail me, because they will never fail themselves. They know how to set expectations, *and* how to deliver. And I am very grateful that I learned from them how I can be like that.

Always work with people you trust. And trust the people you work with.

Mostly importantly, I learned how to start a company and build a team — as a teammate, not as a leader. I learned how to be an active participant and not be in charge. And I know everyone in my life will benefit from it. Thank you Startup Bus. Thank you Qbeeco. And thank you Europe. Thanks to all of you — my mentors, teachers, guides and friends. You’re the best!

150 150 Stafford Wood
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