Validation Boards: A Tool to Validate Your Start up Ideas

Entrepreneurs at times start with their business ideas then develop wild assumptions to support the product. It’s rather an incorrect approach in developing a product. Instead, we’d have to start with a set of basic assumptions in mind, iteratively validate those assumptions by developing prototypes and testing it to a limited audience, and eventually come up with the perfected product idea; not the other way around.

Earlier this month I’m told by a friend of a basic tool or framework to guide us in doing such idea validation. The tool’s called Validation Board, created by Lean Startup Machine. The board is based on Eric Ries’s Lean Startup methodology. According to LSM, the board was developed by studying the processes of over 500 startups. Quoted from the website, “The Validation Board is a great tool to help entrepreneurs stay focused on taking action while implementing the Lean Startup process.”

The board is originally developed for startups practicing lean startup methodology, a method for developing businesses and products first proposed in 2011 by Eric Ries, in which startups adopt a combination of business-hypothesis-driven experimentation, iterative product releases, and what he calls “validated learning” to shorten product development cycles. I personally haven’t explored the whole concept of the lean startup. But understanding validation board and the reason behind it would definitely get you the glimpse on how the lean startup methodology works and how should the startup ideation process be done.

Watch the below video for a quick preview of the tool:

As the the author pointed out, it’s not a ticket to an idea’s success. The true essence of the tool is to guide us to think that idea must come from a validated assumptions in mind.

Source: Lean Startup Machine’s Validation Board


5th PPM Regional Business Case Competition

Earlier this month, I & my team have made it to the final at PPM RBCC. PPM RBCC (Regional Business Case Competition), as the name implies, is a regional business case competition with participants coming from South East Asia nations and China. The competition is an annual event held by PPM School of Business targeting MBAs and other management studies postgraduates. This year’s case was “BCA’s Employer Branding: The Challenge Ahead”, which attracted participants from 73 teams (54 local teams and 19 teams from other countries; 26 participating universities.)


The competition started with all the 73 teams participating submitting a paper containing the problem analysis, supporting data, proposed solutions and the reasoning, as well as the detailed plan to execute those solutions. The papers than be judged by a panel to shortlist 12 finalists to participate in final competition. Our team made it to get shortlisted and participate in the final presentation and debate session.

The case discusses the challenge BCA is facing, that is fierce competition in acquiring top talents. BCA have to compete for top talents with many other companies from more attractive industries such as FMCG and oil & gas; not to mention the emerging start-up euphoria in recent years. The succession and regeneration of BCA’s workforce become more urge with the fact that BCA’s current workforce is aging. As of 2013, nearly 50% of BCA employees are aged 45 years old or more, compared to only 17% of Bank Mandiri. The finalists are asked how the current BCA’s employer branding strategy could be managed to improve this condition.

BBCA & BMRI Workforce Profile

BBCA & BMRI Workforce Profile

All finalists presented innovative ideas with very structured and detailed plans. Increasing compensation & benefits is not much discussed, because basically BCA has already done a great job on that. Most of the finalists discussed how to improve the way BCA communicate its values, culture, and benefits it offers to the public; and what employer branding strategy is best to deliver those messages. Other ideas includes providing more challenges the millennials are looking for and improving learning culture within BCA itself.

In the end of the day, the judges announced a team from Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB) as the first winner; with the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th winners are teams from University of Phillipines Baguio, Fudan University – China, and PPM School of Management respectively.

All in all, though our team not winning any prize, it’s such a great honor to be able to meet and compete with all the awesome finalists. Our team’s gratitude goes to Binus Business School faculties and staff for such an enormous support given.


Book Review: Liem Sioe Liong’s Salim Group: The Business Pillar of Suharto’s Indonesia

Authors: Borsuk, Richard; Chng, Nancy
Publisher: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (June 09, 2014)
Paperback: 400 Pages

The book is a biography of Liem Sioe Liong, the master mind behind Salim’s group, one of the largest business conglomerate in Indonesia. The book was well-written in a journalistic and documentary style. It tells how the combination of Liem’s connection with Suharto, serendipity and personal charm propelled him to become one of the wealthiest tycoon in Southeast Asia. The book features exclusive input from Liem, who died in 2012, and his youngest son, Anthony Salim. It traces the founder’s life and the group’s symbiosis with Suharto, his generals and family.

Liem’s footsteps in Indonesia could be dated back to 1938, where the poor boy from a Chinese village arrived in Java to look for opportunities. The book tells the story of how Liem built the Salim Group, a conglomerate that in its heyday controlled Indonesia’s largest non-state bank, the country’s dominant cement producer and flour mill, as well as the world’s biggest maker of instant noodles.

The book also explained how Anthony Salim was able to turn-around the company’s severe condition in the 1998 Asian economic crisis. After the tumultuous 1997-98 Asian financial crisis sparked Suharto’s fall and a backlash against the strongman’s cronies, Anthony staved off the crushing of the debt-laden group.

The history of early post-independence Indonesia was well-written in the book. The book tells how the partnership between Liem and Suharto played such an important role and had molded Indonesia’s history & economy. After Suharto gained power in Indonesia in the mid-1960s, he stayed as the country’s president for more than three decades, helped by the powerful military, hefty foreign aid and support from a coterie of cronies, one of which was Liem. The fact that it was published outside Indonesia also give another perspective on what’s going on in the country in New Order era.

One interesting subject to be learnt from the book was how the business networks worked during the early stage Indonesia, and how the business culture they bring has developed in Indonesia over the past decades. The book also focuses on the role played by Chinese businessmen and the “guanxi” business culture they stand for.

The book is recommended for business executives, students and anyone with an interest in Southeast Asia’s largest economy who want to understand better the country’s modern history.

Definitely worth reading.

FEUI Master Journey in Management Case Competition

On April 17th, I and two fellow MM students successfully ranked fifth in the 7th Master Journey in Management (MJM), a nation-wide case study competition held by Management Research Center (MRC.), a unit of Economics Faculty at UI (University of Indonesia.) Basically there are three competitions in the event, namely BJM and MJM, case study competition for bachelor and master program students respectively; and the DJM, dissertation competition for the doctorate program students.

Particularly for the MJM, over one hundred teams from various postgraduate programs in Indonesia registered for the event, but only 18 teams made it to the final. The eighteen teams then were divided into two groups, with nine teams discussing PGN (Perusahaan Gas Negara) case study, and the other nine teams discussing the case involving RNI (Rajawali Nusantara Indonesia).

Luckily, our team was among the 18 teams to get into the final round and was given the PGN case. In the final round, we presented our paper to a panel of seven judges comprising practitioners, academicians and representatives from PGN. The final was held in the auditorium of FE UI, in Depok.

Presenting the prioritization & planning of area expansion

Presenting the prioritization & planning of area expansion

Our team explained what PGN should have done in managing ‘Gas Kota’ or the City Gas program. We’ve analyzed and assessed the feasibility of the City Gas program, and developed a comprehensive strategy to grow and sustain both the supply-side and demand-side of the city gas program. We also elaborated a marketing campaign strategy with main tagline of “Murah, Mudah, Aman” (Affordable, Easy to use, Safe.) The Q&A session was also challenging yet interesting.

All finalists of MJM 2014, PGN Case

All finalists of MJM 2014, PGN Case

In addition, our juniors from Binus International’s bachelor program also won third place in the BJM, discussing the case study of central bank’s role in Indonesia.

Last but not least, this achievement couldn’t be happen without the full support of Binus Business School faculties & staff (special thanks to Mrs. Pantry Heryaty for the coaching.)


Was Your Brain Really Built for TV, Porn, or the Internet?

Supernormal Stimuli

I stumbled upon an interesting post on Quora by Gregory Ciotti, titled “Was Your Brain Really Built for TV, Porn, or the Internet?” I personally think the article is interesting because it challenge our understanding on why we enjoy doing certain things so much, such as watching TVs, eating junk foods, or simply browsing the internet for hours. It gives a new perspective on how those obvious things could be so addictive for some and what are the “stimuli” those things gave to us we cannot resist to do those things.

The article started with an awesome comic illustration from Stuart McMillen, explaining the so-called super-normal stimuli, a term coined by a Nobel Prize winning ethologist, Niko Tinbergen. The concept explains that one could build an artificial object which was a stronger stimulus or releaser for an instinct than the object for which the instinct originally evolved. Simply put, both humans and animals could be stimulated to do (and repeat) a certain thing by exploiting the stimulus causing that action. Read the full Quora post for more detailed elaboration on the concept, as I’d like to discuss more about the internet & social media addiction explained in the article.

Internet & Social Media Overuse

The internet, it allows unfettered control to engage in virtually anything effortlessly we enjoyed and depended on it so much. It may cause a decrease in our ability on conceptual and critical thinking. Ciotti also pointed out that some have argued “the internet can become ‘chronic distraction’ that slowly eats away at your patience and ability to think and work on things for extended periods of time.”

In the case of social media, people use social media to see what the others are doing and connect with others. It gives the feel that they are always being engaged and connected with their friends, which is a basic human instinct to gather in community. Nonetheless, many people fail to recognize that social media is only a complement of the real face-to-face interaction and instead depend solely on it.  If we relate the phenomenon in the context of Indonesia, specifically Jakarta, we could see people looking at their smartphones while walking, driving, etc., simply ignoring their surroundings. The article also pointed out that when people see the highlight and polished reel of others, they may feel worse about their own life. But yet people demand for more as they do not want to miss a thing in their friends’ life.

Avoiding Overuse

Though seems to be very obvious, internet & social media addiction actually could bring negative effects. The article is not telling that the two are bad, the overuse of those two are bad. As Ciotti described, fortunately, human has the ability to have awareness of this, and could therefore have the will to control this “instinct”. We are given the ability to recognize that the things we do are caused by a certain stimuli and to measure what is enough and what is over.

We should also recognize that Internet is not the only source of information. There are other sources of information that could introduce a new perspective of what were served on the internet. Instead of accepting any information served on the internet as is, we should sometimes challenge and ask why things work on the way they are now. We should also spend times having group discussions, do storytelling, write articles/blogs, etc. as it allows us to utilize our critical & conceptual thinking.

In terms of social media, the first thing to realize is that social media is only a complementary tool of the real interaction. Real life interactions are more humane and fundamental in building relationship and acquaintanceship. Timeline in social media also tells only a part of others’ life, not the whole picture. Get out of the building, meet some friends, meet new people, travel; as it may be the most valuable experience and investment you’ll ever made.

All in all, I’d like to quote a mentioned in Ciotti’s article which I think summed up the whole article and the message he wants to deliver.

A wise man rules his passions, a fool obeys them.

—Publius Syrus