Communitech photo: Samantha ClarkNo BS meetings: Tech Leadership Q&A with Ron Neumann of VistaShift Samantha Clark June 4, 2014 Communitech, Featured Photo: Veteran entrepreneur Ron Neumann says a change in perspective can make all the difference when a business is trying to solve a problem. For Ron Neumann, it’s all about changing perspective. During his Tech Leadership Conference breakout session called No BS Meetings, the founder and CEO of VistaShift told business leaders that they might be doing meetings incorrectly—but there is a solution. “The ‘old, exhausted’ go-to solution businesses opt for is to brainstorm, which more often than not brings up the same dead-end ideas and inhibits thoughtful insight,” Neumann said at the May 29 event. The VistaShift Methodology creates opportunities for team members to look at complex problems in a new light, with a fresh set of eyes. Neumann, an entrepreneur with more than 10 successful start-ups to his credit, is now sharing what he has learned in meetings to produce thoughtful, action-driven, attainable plans. His theory is that “it’s not the box you’re stuck in, it’s the groove,” and emphasized ways to re-train your brain to free your thoughts of biases, beliefs, background, fears, desires and agendas. We chatted with Neumann about his experience as an entrepreneur, the importance of changing perspective, and the times he was inspired to see things differently in his personal and professional life. Q – What is your experience with startups? A – I graduated with my systems design engineering degree in ’83 and since then I’ve been involved with starting a number of different companies, many of which were in the Waterloo area. So I’ve been involved with lots of start-ups in this area, and I’ve taken a number of them to exit. About four years ago, I decided to give back to the community. I live in Hamilton so I chose to spend some time helping to get that community up and running. We created what we called the Innovation Factory, which was, for the simplest explanation, the equivalent of an early version of Communitech. I made a three-year commitment to get that established, but in the back of my mind, even during my time at SlipStream and other companies I’ve been involved in since, including Dejero, I had a vision of getting this company off the ground and making something happen with VistaShift—to share with and help people benefit from what we’re doing. Q – What inspired you to start VistaShift? A – Coming out of SlipStream, we looked at what had been very successful there, if there was something I could leverage, and that’s what we were able to do. Understanding perspective about other things worked out very well for us. Q – You mentioned that once trained in changing perspective, people often use that mind frame professionally and personally. When have you found yourself changing perspective in your personal life? A – Having a change in perspective happens many times in our lives. I jumped from immediacy mode—from what am I doing for my startup, selling a house, buying a house, relationships. And it popped me into what I call a legacy view of, ‘Oh my gosh, what I’m doing here matters to the generations that come after me.’ So it did flip my view, flip my perspective and let me look at things in an entirely different way that I wasn’t ready for in some ways, to see how that actually happened. My wife passed away, and that was another period of time where you get a different opening of a door, a different perspective to see things. And finding out you’re going to be a grandfather, another example of how things just completely change and you see what you’re doing. So those are transformative moments, and really I’m trying to figure out how people can get the power of that transformation on a more regular basis. Q – What’s your advice for companies looking to find that transformative power? A – For the longest time we’ve talked about how to understand the customer, but that seems like a shallow mantra. You really need to understand how to become the customer. And it’s not just to ask them, because very often when you ask customers, they don’t know. You can actually find out more about your customers from observing or interacting with them. You figure out what’s in their grooves, what’s causing them to behave the way they behave, and then turn things on their ear. It’s an interesting area. First, get a real customer. Understand that customer. This is very important for start-ups. Designing to a hypothetical customer just doesn’t work. You really need real people who have real grooves; otherwise, you will always design the perfect customer who has no objections, no issues and no problems in your mind, and that’s not reality. You need to get into something that’s going to give you the reality check of what people are really saying. And listen carefully to what they say and what they don’t say, because that’s just as important. Q – How should startups be thinking about identifying and changing perspective? A – Vu déjà is not seeing something for the second time like déjà vu is; it’s seeing everything with a fresh perspective, with new eyes. I think that’s a great way to talk about it.