You may have noticed something about the Canberra Innovation Network… We love workshops. We love the people, the post-its, the activities, the epiphanies, the post-its, the customers, the questions and the post-its.

In the midst of COVID-19 we had to practice what we preach and quickly pivot our educational content online.

For the last 3 months we have been running a Weekly Innovation Challenge, to keep Canberra’s entrepreneurial community on track and moving forward. We ran sessions via Zoom Meetings, rather than a webinar format because we wanted the conversation and connection to be there, like it would in the workshop room.

We spoke to two entrepreneurs, at two very different stages in their journey about their experience and what their takeaways were participating in the Weekly Innovation Challenges: Mitch Porteous, Managing Director at Demobia and Harold Dimpel, Founder of Rocket Remit/mHits.

So, we’ve had 8 sessions of the Weekly Innovation Challenge on a range of topics like: testing new ideas, cashflow, connecting with distracted customers, resilience, money, growth metrics, culture and developing products. Were any of these a standout for you?

Mitch: All really valuable but one standout session was Resilience with Michelle Melbourne and Duncan Amos. Their experiences were raw and honest with breakthroughs driven by determination, intelligence, and grit. I faced some setbacks days later and their advice came to mind, so the timing was brilliant.

Harold: For me, they were all really useful so it’s difficult to pick out one standout. A personal favourite topic for me was growth metrics. I just love the idea of measuring success. I love the fun you can have by experimenting on ‘what makes numbers (metrics) change’. I especially love it when the activity or experiment you do, creates a real, measurable change in a metric. This is applying a scientific approach to business.

Each week posed a challenge for the entrepreneurs to test out – did you actually do your homework?

Harold: I always did my school homework and I guess this rubbed off on the weekly challenges. In one challenge we were asked to complete the ‘Big Impact Canvas’ which asked us to imagine and plan really big success. Interestingly, I struggled with this. I have to admit that I found it difficult to imagine extreme success. I had to work really hard to visualise and overcome my own ‘extreme success possibility ceiling’. I wonder how many people recognise this unconscious self-censorship in themselves.

Mitch: I was surprised how reluctant at first I was to carry out the challenges. But realising how important it is to honour the time of mentors, began to follow through and of course my results improved.

The topics of the week were matched with a mentor/expert. What were you more interested in, the topic or the person?

Mitch: I found it interesting how different each expert’s approach was for each topic. Miles Jakeman’s style on Culture was totally different from Matt Bullock’s on Metrics, but both really engaging. The expert had the freedom to take the topic to where they felt it most valuable, so I found I got to understand each expert on a personal level.

Harold: The person. I find that I can learn much more from a person’s journey. I find I relate their story and experiences to what I have gone through. It’s also an easier way to learn.  It’s like you can “pick and choose” what is relevant for you without being lectured at about something that may not be relevant for you.

We hope that these free sessions help to motivate and encourage entrepreneurs like yourself to continue to focus and grow your business. How are you feeling right now about everything?

Harold: A crisis is nothing new to an entrepreneur. Get used to them – you will encounter many, many more in your journey to success. Use this time to (quickly) work through any total disillusionment, despair, disaster etc and develop personal resilience. This period will make and break many people. Some fickle business models that rely only on “good times” may fold. How you respond in a crisis is a mark of your character. I recommend no matter what happens, that you act ethically, don’t burn any bridges and don’t create bad Karma. There are ALWAYS opportunities – you just have to be aware and perceptive enough to be able see them.

Mitch: These sessions played a key role in keeping me on track, focused and inspired at the height of COVID19 iso. Excited about the next chapter.

What are your final thoughts around the experience?

Mitch: My background is in hospitality and brewing and just like any profession, it can be easy to have a narrow focus and professional network. I’m really grateful to have found that this hub of engaging, smart and ambitious people exists in Canberra. The vision for a creative, vibrant and strong Canberra economy is exciting and to be able to witness it is even better. To everyone who contributes to making the CBRIN network thrive, massive thank you. From small things big things grow.

Harold: For those who are new to or not very engaged with the innovation ecosystem in Canberra, I suggest you get involved somehow – even just attend the occasional event. I have been around for a while and I have seen a lot of failed attempts at fostering innovation in Canberra. There is something magical happening in the innovation space in Canberra right now and CBRIN has been the catalyst. But it is also our responsibility to back it. If we don’t work together to create our ecosystem, it won’t exist. Its only because we choose to create it that we have it.  When we do this, we all win.

As restrictions are starting to ease, the Weekly Innovation Challenge has wrapped up. But don’t fret, we still have a fantastic lineup of online events, speakers, mentors and lessons to share. Keep an eye on our events page or stay in the loop through our newsletter.

We can’t wait to be back in the workshop space with you… and the post-its.