Solve Problems That Matter… What’s On Your Mind?

Ben Pecotich

Over the past couple of months I’ve finally been working on the process of writing a book. It’s been part of the Dynamic4 Jetpack experience blueprint since 2016 (along with the video version of our program which I’m also working on). This is the longform book format of our Jetpack program with the key aim of reaching more people globally including those who might prefer to use a guide book at a lower price point. The working title is Solve Problems That Matter: A Social Enterprise Guide to Human-Centred Design & Innovation.

The purpose of this post is threefold…

  1. Test the interest and demand for the book format of our Jetpack program
  2. Test the key questions and content I’ll cover and refine where needed
  3. Public accountability to make sure I follow through and complete the book!

I’ve setup a quick survey to capture your feedback. You’ll need to have read this blog post (or enough of it) to have the context for the survey. Thanks for helping me test my thinking.

Who’s the Book For?

I’ve coached thousands of founders, leaders, designers, and university students to design and innovate for positive impact over the years – so I’m focusing on these people and the key goals, questions, and challenges I consistently hear. The core of this is based on my experience coaching social enterprise founders and NFP leaders on our Jetpack program and innovation sprints since 2014 – and designing and delivering project-based experiential leadership, design, and innovation programs. I’ve also applied Jetpack to the many social enterprise startups I’ve co-founded.

My hypothesis is the target audience will identify with these descriptors, goals, and big questions. There aren’t universally accepted terms and meanings for a lot of this and they change over time, so in the book I’ll define some key terms and how I’ll use them. I’d love your feedback on how you label yourself, your key goals, and the big questions you have. Does the following resonate? What would you refine?

(Target reader) I am a:

  • Social enterprise founder in the early stages of exploring my idea
  • Leader or changemaker in an established social enterprise or NFP creating a product that delivers on our core purpose while generating sustainable earned income
  • Startup founder wanting to embed purpose and impact in my business model

(Reader’s goal) I want to:

  • Be guided on how to take a human-centred design approach to innovation to really understand my customers, what’s important to them, and help solve problems that matter
  • Design a sustainable business model that has purpose and impact embedded in the way we do things while also being financially successful
  • Look after my own personal wellbeing while making a positive impact
  • Have a practical guide and method to follow so I can build momentum and get the support I need

(Reader’s big questions) How do I/we:

  • Communicate our purpose, theory of change, and the social/environmental value we’ll create?
  • Identify our customers and know if they’ll buy and use our solution?
  • Design and build our solution as an end-to-end experience and test what our customers will pay for it?
  • Calculate how much money we need and when we’ll break even?
  • Build our team to make it happen?
  • Plan our approach to get into a good rhythm to build momentum and get traction?
  • Share our story to attract the support we need?
  • Stay healthy and positive on this journey without getting overwhelmed and burnt out?

Why This Book?

Writing and self-publishing a book isn’t a small investment of time and energy… so I’ve asked myself this question a lot. There are a lot of books I love and that I think have done a great job covering startups, human-centred design/design thinking, innovation, mindset and positive psych, and agile ways of working… but there are very few I’ve seen focused on these things specifically in a social enterprise context. The majority of things I’ve read focused on social enterprise tend to be more like whitepapers with academics and policy makers as the intended audience rather than practical guides for social enterprise founders, NFP leaders, and changemakers.

A key thing I spend a lot of my time focused on is helping build bridges between the commercially focused startup ecosystem and the social enterprise/impact focused ecosystem. From my experience these are generally separate bubbles – with value to give each other.

I strongly believe (and the evidence shows) that when we take a human-centred design approach to innovation and embed impact into business models, it helps create the conditions for people to be happier and increase quality of life. Good business needs to do great things for communities and our planet while making money… it’s increasingly what talent, customers, and investors expect.

My Ambition

My aim with this book is to help more social enterprise founders, NFP leaders, and changemakers globally solve problems that matter by taking a human-centred design approach to innovation. This book will help you with:

  • Focus. Time and headspace to work on the right things at the right time while staying healthy and positive on the journey and not getting overwhelmed and burnt out
  • Clarity. Guided path to design a sustainable business model that has purpose and impact embedded and is financially successful
  • Confidence. Build momentum and move forward with certainty and less risk by testing and refining your idea and impact
  • Relationships. Support on the journey and ways to connect with collaborators and investors in the social enterprise ecosystem

What’s that mean? I’ll get specific…

What Solve Problems That Matter is:

  • Focused on helping the reader work through the big questions I listed above
  • Social enterprise framed as something you do rather than something you are. I’ll outline key concepts and terms with how I’ll use them to provide clarity and a common language
  • A simple practical guide with worksheets structured around a 90 day (13 week) plan with a Sprint 0 and four execution sprints. The timeline will be adapted as needed by the reader as part of planning their Sprint 0
  • Designed to be used in more than one way… by people who like to read something all the way through before starting, those who prefer to work through each step before looking at the next, and those who want to use it as a reference book. The chapters are designed to be standalone and referenced as needed… but the sequence is important and also follows a why, what, how structure
  • Relevant for all types of solutions/products – physical, digital, services

What Solve Problems That Matter isn’t:

  • An academic deep dive into theory and frameworks – but I’ll cover theory to a practical level needed for how we’ll apply it using a learning through doing approach
  • A duplication of other frameworks and methods – but I’ll refer to other great books and resources for more information on various models, tools, and research
  • Marketing and fundraising oriented – but I’ll focus on the big questions that will ultimately help your marketing and fundraising be more effective
  • Specific to tech/digital products or a UX/UI deep dive – but I’ll cover the strategic design of the solution and recommended ways to approach designing and building the early version of your solution including the digital aspects

Why Me?

To answer this I need to nudge aside my impostor syndrome (it never really goes away). I’m a designer, innovation coach, and social enterprise/startup founder. Since 1993 I’ve been focused on taking a human-centred approach to designing and leading strategic change in Australia, NZ, the UK, and Europe – combining strategy, design, technology, consulting, and program management. I co-founded my first startup in 1994.

I founded Dynamic4 in 2001. We’re a social enterprise and certified B Corp focused on design and innovation for happier communities. I specialise in working with social enterprises, purpose-driven organisations, and financial services companies – and my work is centred around taking a human-centred design and innovation approach to helping:

  • Founders, leaders, and designers solve problems that matter in more empathic and innovative ways – and measure their success in outcomes for people, our planet, and profit/our economy
  • Organisations design their sustainable business model with embedded impact and a clear value exchange
  • Founders and leaders design and build ideas that leverage technology to deliver and scale impact – and thrive in a connected world

I’m also a Social Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Centre for Social Impact/UNSW Business School teaching masters students, co-founder of the Sydney Design Thinking meetup (7,500+ members), and a founding board member of the Social Enterprise Council of NSW & ACT (SECNA).

All the work I do is aligned with my purpose and theory of change focused on helping design and build ideas for happier communities that are more empowered, inclusive, and sustainable. I coach leaders to solve problems that matter and deliver great outcomes for people and our planet while making money. The vision is to help transform business to be about more than just making profit so we can all have a better quality of life.

I don’t pretend to know everything and have all the answers but I do my best to be a trusted partner and guide to make things easier. I’ve been through this rollercoaster of a journey myself many times and coached others through it. Through these experiences I’ve built the mindset, skillset, and know how to use the tools to help others work through and make sense of the ambiguity and complexity to find clarity. And I love it.

You Can Help!

As I mentioned, the purpose of this post is threefold… I’d love your help.

Any Demand?

I’m keen to test the interest and demand for this book. I know our coaching based programs work in a workshop and online delivery format… but I don’t have any real evidence of demand for the book format – other than encouraging words and statements like “I can’t wait to read it”.

My current thinking is to self-publish a digital only version on Amazon and possibly do a small print run depending on demand. A couple of things I’d love to know…

  • Do you buy this kind of book in a digital only format?
    If yes, what was the last one you bought?
    If no, what stops you and what do you do instead?
  • Do you want to pre-order a copy now?

Is there someone you think I should be talking with who has a lot of demand for the digital or print format of this book?

Useful Content?

I have a high level of confidence on the big questions I’m covering because they’re based on years of coaching and co-founding social enterprises – and these are themes that consistently come up. I’d love your feedback on the specific terms you use to describe things and if there’s anything you think I’ve missed.

Public Accountability

My plan is to be ready to start the self-publishing process by 31 March 2021. There you go, I even stated the year.

Gentle nudges and check ins on my progress would be appreciated.

The Survey

Here’s the quick survey to capture your feedback. It should only take about two minutes. Thanks again for helping me test my thinking.