Internships in Innovation and Strategy

Three Fall Internship Opportunities
Human Factors Design    |   Creativity and Innovation  |   Marketing Insights

align is offering three exciting paid internships this fall.  The positions are for a human factors specialist, a creativity and innovation specialist, and a marketing insights specialist.  The opportunity includes working with clients as well as developing programs to unleash the business and social impact of creativity and human-centered design. 

The positions are great for undergrads studying business, humanities or technology.  We are especially looking for creative and critical thinkers interested in innovation and social impact. I'm eager to see what I can learn from them.  I'm equally excited to be part of their growth and witness how they'll use the experience and new perspectives to advance professionally.  

See details below and email a resume to  Selections will be made by mid-August for assignments to begin around Sept. 11. 

Creativity & Innovation Specialist
This position will assist in the business services that support our client’s internal strength building for innovation and creativity.

•    Research and organize a collection of innovation and creativity resources including, business case studies, exercises and activities, best practices and policies for a culture of innovation, and assessment tools for measuring creativity and innovation practices. 
•    Help facilitate ideation session for clients
•    Assist in conducting business evaluations that measure the capacity for, and conditions affecting innovation
•    Draft summaries and assist in outreach through social media and our website blogs
•    Help organize and promote the Lancaster Plays initiatives. 

Skills needed:
•    Critical thinking, research and analysis skills, as demonstrated through projects
•    Strong communications skills, particularly listening, writing and conversation
•    Detail and/or process oriented
•    Comfort and curiosity with the creative process and problem solving
•    Familiarity with psychology, anthropology or sociology concepts is beneficial
•    Willingness to try new things and model courage to others

Human Factors Design Specialist
Apply design principles to launching new businesses and new products.  Work with entrepreneurs and established businesses on an innovation process that seeks to design amazing solutions based on a deep understanding of human behavior and user preferences. 
This position will help establish customer insights and design principles using steps in the design thinking process, and the lean startup process.   Participate in field observations, ideation and prototyping sessions to contribute to the business and product development process. 

•    Help coordinate and carry out ethnographic research (field studies of users in a natural setting) to learn about user needs and preferences. 
•    Design customer surveys to identify user preferences
•    Build a collection of resources that identify best practices in human centered design principles
•    Help facilitate ideation sessions with clients
•    Help advise on prototyping projects
•    Research customer profiles
•    Help facilitate workshops and webinars

Skills needed
•    Critical thinking, research and analysis skills, as demonstrated through projects
•    Strong communications skills, particularly listening, writing and conversation
•    Detail and process oriented
•    Knowledge of business and marketing principles is helpful
•    Knowledge of psychology, sociology or anthropology is beneficial
•    Knowledge of collaboration platforms is beneficial but not required

Marketing Insights Specialist
Use your creativity to help our customers get their compelling stories to the world!  We focus on building customer understanding as the best way to help our clients reach their customers with a powerful experience.  This position is a combination of behind-the-scenes and collaborative work with our clients. 

•    Conduct market research to identify audience trends, needs and preferences, and to uncover special events and associations to reach customers
•    Assist in the development and prioritization of marketing strategies for our clients
•    Help identify the positioning and messaging that will enable clients to standout in the market
•    Design and deploy customer surveys
•    Use process tools to conduct analysis and identify elements of a competitive strategy
•    Assist in the development of customer insights and persona development
•    Research relevant business models that apply to the client’s business and competitive strategy
•    Participate in client meeting to conduct discovery and development activities
•    Help facilitate workshops and webinars
Skills needed:
•    Critical thinking, research and analysis skills, as demonstrated through projects
•    Strong communications skills, particularly listening, writing and conversation
•    Detail and process oriented
•    Knowledge of business and marketing principles is beneficial
•    Familiarity with social media for business

Prune for Good Growth

This year I took on the responsibility for pruning our azalea bushes.  My husband has been dedicated to this since we bought the house over 15 years ago.  The offer was part of his Father’s Day gift.  Little did I realize how much I’d enjoy it and that I’d turn the task into a blog post.

I know a little about pruning, but there’s a reason this was my first time (unsupervised). I had some guideposts running through my head. Once I noticed the relevance to business growth, more metaphors started flowing.  This is an unrefined list of some of the questions and observations running through my mind while pruning the azaleas and boxwoods.   PS… no guarantees on how things will turn out. We’ll see, in the next few months.  

• This has gotten too big and out of shape!
• Where do I want to promote growth?  Cut here. Make space.
• Stand back to see the big picture.
• It’s easy to cut off the outer stems that are protruding above the surface. But you    
    might not want a smooth surface full of conformity.
• Sometimes you screw up and cut off a good one.
• When it’s a daunting job, take breaks. It’s tedious work and you need fresh eyes and
• Is this piece adding value and helping us grow in the right direction?
• Hard to choose which ones get to live and which are cut off—especially when they
    all look like they are doing equal work.  Which one is in the right position to be a
• Go back and forth from underneath at the trunk and outside from a few feet away.
• You don’t want big branches growing at the end of small twigs.
• You’ve got to cut off the suckers.
• Old systems get messy. Lots of legacy branches going this way and that.
• Sometimes you create some ugly exposed spots.
• It’s easy to see all the dead twigs when you lift up the surface branches.

Good luck on your pruning projects!  Let me know if you need some help.

What's in your Business Model?

The best businesses compete on business models, not just products.

What do Uber, Airbnb, Netflix, Amazon and Google have that allow them to dominate their market? -- Finely tuned and innovative business models.  In fact, their business models are so innovative they’ve created new categories by re-imagining the rules of how a business should operate in their industry.  Nespresso, Hilti, Dell, iTunes, Xerox and Dollar Shave Club are other examples of success born from a brilliant business model, not the product or marketing alone.

The business model is a blueprint for how all the moving parts of the business work together efficiently and in sync to produce social and economic value.  It’s the link between the business’s purpose for existing, and its strategies for operations and sales. All strategic planning should flow from the business model.

The book, Business Model Generation by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur, popularized the business model concept and gave us all their Business Model Canvas as a design template.  I’ve adapted their version to create one that I believe is more complete, yet nowhere near as dense and speculative as a business plan. You can download it from the homepage and use it to evaluate your own business model. It’s a high-level organizing framework to explore the main factors of how the business operates.

ALIGN’s Business Model Blueprint identifies 12 key components, starting with the purpose for the business.  Besides making money, there’s a reason the business came to be.  Hopefully it’s rooted in the founder’s passion, talents and understanding of a market need.  Among the other components, businesses also need clarity around the customer group(s) they aim to serve and the problem, need, or ‘job to be done’ this group experiences. Turning inward then, we seek to understand what your business is exceptionally good at, and what competencies can lead to a competitive advantage and differentiation in the market. The value proposition lives at the intersection of the customer needs and the business expertise. Finally, how your goods and services are monetized is key.  What product or service ‘bundle’ is offered that provides such a high value to the customer that the selling price greatly surpasses the cost of production?  

These are the key elements we look at in phase one of any project, whether it’s a growth initiative, innovation or strategic business development. So… what’s in your business model and what elements need updating?  Download the Business Model Blueprint, fill-in your information and target at least 2 areas where it could be stronger. Let’s talk about how ALIGN could help.


Higher Ed: An Incubator for Strategy

Starting Up the University

It may surprise some folks that my 13-year career in non-profit higher ed contributes a large part to my business and entrepreneurial knowledge. But it was a pivotal time for me, because it was nothing like a traditional career in higher education.  For one, when I arrived, the University wasn’t even accredited, let alone open for business. (That came 16 months later!) I was one of only 8 people (today there are over 100) working to launch this non-profit, STEM university in downtown Harrisburg PA— without the benefit of lots of cash to support our creation.

Try convincing parents that their child should attend a brand-new university that practically no one’s ever heard of, operating on the top floor of a high school!  We had no track record of success, no alumni, no sports, no dining hall or dorms, and a just couple classrooms. Undergraduate education is a crowded market, and so is corporate training.  Yet, with the help of a skilled and spirited team, we launched a modern-day university which has gone on to be widely recognized as an educational innovator and leader.  At the time, only two other new universities were attempting similar launches, but they weren’t bootstrapping like we were. Maybe one day I’ll write a book about it, but for now, take my word for it, it was not for the faint of heart!

The Parallels of Strategy and Curriculum Design

I did a lot of strategy work in those years at Harrisburg University. We were constantly listening to the market and responding with new initiatives, fine tuning our offerings, experimenting with marketing strategies and building strategic partnerships.  Beyond the start-up experience, there’s more about my background starting a new university that has prepared me to be a strategy advisor.

The process for curriculum development, which I facilitated in collaboration with a slew of faculty and subject matter experts, is very similar in some regards, to the process of strategy development.  In both cases, you research and design a program to facilitate a fundamental shift in attitudes, actions and results.

Like designing learning, developing business strategy is a process of deconstructing a high-level objective into its foundational building blocks.  We look at the ‘current state,’ we envision a brighter ‘future state,’ and develop a set of activities to bridge the gap.  Using human-centered techniques, we assess the needs of our intended audience and leverage our expertise and imagination to invent meaningful solutions.  In the case of learning, the solutions are exercises and information to help the student internalize a new set of skills and knowledge so they can solve problems in their life and career.  In strategy development, we create a set of activities and information for employees to use in solving problems for their customers.  In both cases, it’s important to measure progress along the way, determine if change is happening, and calibrate the activities accordingly.  

Surprisingly to some, there are many parallels between inventing new programs for learning and creating new programs for solving customers’ programs and growing businesses.  If you’re curious about more connections between strategy and curriculum design, let’s schedule time to chat! To learn more about my background, check out my LinkedIn profile and read about the history of Harrisburg University of Science and Technology.