The four EWOR principles

The Four EWOR Principles

Some basic principles, attitudes or philosophical mindsets, however you would like to call them, have a high correlation with success. We have noticed that observing the entrepreneurs in the Kairos Society and in Cambridge and the by observing the individual ventures of the EWOR advisors and co-initiators. Moreover, we’ve found theoretical backing for all of them, many of which have guided us in discovering our principles in the practical world.

1.      Learning is not static

I’ve explained the superficialities of this idea above already. A curriculum assumes that only after having learned A, I can learn B, and then I can learn C, then D, then E, and so forth. It treats ‘A’ as being something that is fully and perfectly observable. But in reality, the world is much more complex. Things are interdependent with each other and often to understand A fully, we need to have understood C, D and E. However, in order to understand C and D, we need to understand a bit of A, so all we can do is jump around A, B, C, D and E, understanding only a little bit each time, until we have understood the whole system. In school or university, did it sometimes happen that you read back to one of the basic topics and suddenly, after having learned all the later lectures, you truly understood the basic topic? This is how learning really works, and treating it as such will amplify our learning experience. (Murray, 2012)

To give a practical example, consider the art of identifying a customer need. It’s fairly simple, you just need to find out what a customer really wants. But quickly, you discover that people do not often say what they truly feel and mean. That is, people’s words and actions do not perfectly overlap. So, understanding a bit of cognitive and social psychology doesn’t hurt. Yet, you’ll also discover that enticing an honest answer from the customer is much more difficult than merely understanding the theoretical concepts of its root. One needs to understand practical interview techniques, but most importantly one needs to be able to apply them. Without any doubt, this needs practice. After every bit of practice, revisiting the theoretical concepts on cognitive and social sciences or the techniques used, will be of use. For the first time maybe, you might even fully grasp the theoretical concepts, which seemed meaningless before as they weren’t tied to any practical deed. Once completed, a university course is rarely revisited. EWOR will invite you to revisit, reconsider and shift to help you achieve true mastery.

Resources

Murray J. (2012) Cybernetic Principles of Learning. In: Seel N.M. (eds) Encyclopedia of the Sciences of Learning. Springer, Boston, MA

2.      Maximum Feedback and Reflection

The key to learning science is reflection, especially in a wicked world. While reflection after solving mathematical exercises is certainly helpful, it is much more important in a less structured and theoretical world. As you can see in the graph below, learning happens in four steps. Most university education focuses solely on the first one: absorbing information. If you were to go to a good university, you will likely be asked to transform your knowledge, that is connect to knowledge you have already and structure it in theoretical ways. In the best case, you even apply it by means of experimentation, for instance by producing code, working with real-world customers or building a product. However, the most important step comes afterwards: Once you’ve experimented or applied, how good has your work actually been? How well was it perceived and what can be optimised? Why can certain things be optimised in the first place? This brings us back to the absorbing information part, which will usually, as stated above when we looked at dynamic learning, be of completely new meaning to you.

It is much more useful to learn less content, but to apply and receive feedback from yourself and your peers than absorbing as much information as possible. Once we’ve started learning, we often get hyped on all the new knowledge and end up learning for the sake of learning. However, learning is only a means to an end, it prepares us for a real-world challenge and experimentation and reflection should follow as quickly as possible.

Only when reflecting will you notice that there is something you can do better. We thus invite you to reflect every week, not just on your work, but also on your attitudes and mindsets. We call this meta-reflection as you do not only reflect on what you build, but also on the builder, that is yourself, to render the builder more efficient. After you have completed EWOR, you will not only have acquired a new toolset, you will also be a different person

3.      Do Things the Hard Way

University education is geared towards learning for the short-term. Bulk-memorisation for exams is encouraged and may help you get a good grade, but it certainly doesn’t prepare you for the real world. There is plenty of research demonstrating the dangers of this.

One study tested whether monkeys performed better in a test when they got hints on a memorisation puzzle. Two groups had to memorise certain pictures and choose the right one of a selection of two. The first group of monkeys got hints on the picture when needed until all tasks were completed. The latter group did not get any hints at all and drastically outperformed the former group during the test day. (Epstein, 2019)

Another study on learning Spanish divided learners again in two groups: The first group learned vocabulary and was tested the same day. The second group was tested a month later. After eight years, both groups were tested on their retention and the latter group, which was tested a month later, retained 250% more vocabulary. (Epstein, 2019)

We see this pattern over and over again. The science of doing things the hard way is neurological, that is our brain is lazy and the moment we give it a chance to cheat, it will certainly do so. A study on Tetris players noticed a sudden decline in cortical thickness and the amount of glucose used once players got better in the game. Their skill didn’t decline, but the brain clearly showed less activity. In short, the brain became more efficient. While this can be certainly useful for a game like Tetris, it is not in a wicked world. As the world grows more complex every day, we need to keep learning and retain more. We do so, by doing things the hard way. We employ this principle throughout the EWOR education experience, but ask you to have this principle in mind every time you face a difficult decision: Will you do things the hard or the easy way? Imagine you’ve just learned a new interview technique and came up with a good questionnaire: Will you use the same questionnaire over and over again, or will you experiment with its content to test its boundaries? Imagine you’ve learned how to build a website: Will you quickly hack your codes together or will you reflect deeply on the underlying principles and rules of the codes so as to take longer this time, but gain quicker in the long term?

This is a mindset question: You will face those decisions throughout your entire life and shifting towards doing things the hard way may transform your life. Take the coding example from above. There will be surprises every day. You could quickly delete your old solution, take a quick code snippet from the internet and slightly adjust the code or you could dig deep enough to really understand why the error occurred and fix it yourself. If you truly understood what the error was, the moment a similar error occurs you will be able to instantly fix it. This is not of immediate use but will make you more productive in the long-term. As those errors do not occur very often, let’s assume this attitude makes you 1% more efficient. By being 1% more efficient every day, which is very well reasonable in coding and other disciplines you learn at EWOR, you will be 37X more efficient after one year. This is what distinguishes an EWOR learner from that of an ordinary university.

Resources

Epstein, D. J. (2019). Range: Why generalists triumph in a specialized world.

4.      Learning is Fun

It is a myth that learning is unpleasant and demands a lot of willpower. While most kids in primary school still see learning as a game, the opposite becomes true with increasing structure, testing and standardisation in general. Learning is never something isolated, even though it seems very much detached from reality once we’ve entered university. Learning is a means to an end, it’s something that helps us solve the complexities of life in a better, quicker way. Once we’ve forgotten that this is the case, maybe because we had to learn thousands of slides for a university course which will likely never prove useful to us, learning indeed is unenjoyable.

However, several studies show that once there is a clear quest, a clear mission, something you’re striving for, learning becomes much more endurable, even fun. At EWOR, your quest is building your venture and you’ll only learn to optimise the success of your venture. Therefore, you won’t have to learn any unnecessary content and you won’t have to learn anything that cannot be applied. In fact, you apply first and only if you cannot find a solution or only if your solution is upon reflection not ideal, you’ll be consuming additional content. Along that mission, you will earn points for good performance, which you can trade for real-life benefits, such as 1-1 sessions with billion-dollar CEOs, unicorn founders and venture capitalists. You can also get free tickets to expensive entrepreneurship events, sometimes worth more than € 2000,-. 

Afterword

You may consider yourself inducted the EWOR way. Once you work yourself through our content and exercises, make sure to revisit this section to (re)discover its importance.

Introduction

“You cannot manage other people, unless you manage yourself first” – Peter Drucker. Imagine a leader who comes late to every meeting, lacks motivation during meetings and calls entirely, and misses entire weeks of work because of their mental health situation. No person follows such a leader for long. Leading by example is crucial. And it requires leaders to manage themselves first before they can manage others. 

This course will be your toolkit for leading yourself through the steps of founding and growing a venture. As a leader, you will have to manage three core concepts before you manage others: your health, your energy and your time. After you have completed this course, you will have understood many philosophical and scientific concepts about these three areas and, more importantly, you will be able to apply them to your everyday life. Mastering those components yourself will also enable you to help your team be more healthy, focussed and effective.

Further literature – Knowing Yourself

All of the below focus more on knowing yourself, your strengths, weaknesses, and values. The following chapters in this course will focus entirely on health, energy, and time.

  • This video is a great, short summary of Peter Drucker’s book on managing yourself

Health

Managing your health is crucial to your success. In the last 6 years, I (Daniel) have never been sick. This boosted my productivity and fuelled my ability to deliver consistent results. As inconsistency is one of the biggest stymies to your company’s success, getting this part right is a big deal, even though you won’t find related courses at any university or in any prestigious educational program. You will be exposed to much stress as an entrepreneur and you should have your tactics for dealing with high amounts of stress right before they become necessary.

Vicarious Learning

Admission

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Onboarding

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Partner Company Allocation

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EWOR Networking

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Launch Spinoff

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Application

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On top Services

There are endless services that you can integrate into your existing prototypes or nocode products. Here are some examples:

You can embed them into your prototype and make them talk to each other to build complex flows without writing any code. Some of the most common ones, such as Google Analytics or Stripe, can often be directly integrated via a link in your tool. In some rare cases, you might have to include an iFrame. You’ll find more infos about this in our lesson on integrating videos via HTML and CSS.

In the best scenario your tool already has an “integrations” section. For instance, Bubble has a big list of integrations here. Glide is different as the tool stores all data in Google Sheets. Therefore, you can use anything that connects with Google Sheets (e.g. Zapier).

From Prototypes to No-Code Products

Once you are ready to head towards an MVP, it feels natural to start writing code and develop a real product. This will require time and effort – and a decent amount of money if you’re not a coder yourself. And even if you are a coder, the time invested may not be worth the effort compared to using a no-code functional product builder – at least for V1 of your product. 

There are limitations. If there are special features you need to implement that might go beyond the currently available features of no-code apps, spare yourself the effort. Examples include: machine learning algorithms, video calling, and device-to-device communication. Still, our experience shows that most MVPs can be built as no-code apps. What you will need to figure out is whether your machine learning algorithm or video calling functionality is the essence of your product. If the machine learning part improves the experience to some extent but doesn’t embody your core functionality, skip it for V1 and build a no-code prototype instead. In the startup world: Speed and learning trump initial perfection. 

High-Res Prototyping Tools (Design)

While low-res prototyping is great for expressing ideas and testing them, high-res prototypes give you more in-depth feedback of how your product appeals to users. For example, users might respond positively to your functionality when you walk them through your paper prototypes. But once they see your full product, they might be scared off by the particular design you’re using. I (Daniel), have once built a weight loss app targeted at women – and the design really, really put women off. As your product matures, you will have more assumptions evolving around your design, the attributes of your brand, and the general style of your product. You want to validate your assumptions about all of these first with a high-res prototyping design instead of building a fully-fledged product, which, as in my case, disturbs its users solely by using the wrong colours.

Check out this video going from a paper prototype to a Figma design. If you ignore the bad jokes, the video is a great and informative resource.

Before we jump into the specifics, we have prepared an overview of the primary tools developers and designers use these days to build high res prototypes, i.e. prototypes with nice design and more realistic functionality. The descriptions will offer guidance for deciding which tool to use:

  1. Figma became the industry standard for professional interface design. It offers many templates and plugins. It is great for design tasks, but it struggles with interactivity and complex functionality. However, Figma has made huge improvements lately and we can assume it will continue to improve in this area.
  1. Proto.io is one of the best tools when it comes to building iOS or Android apps. The tool is very convenient and quick for designing apps. Once you have prepared a paper prototype or a sketch of your app, proto.io is a good tool to make your app visual and look realistic. It offers some fancy tools for generating interactivity and additional functionality. Once you build bigger apps, however, their interface can get a little bit messy. It might be hard for you to still see the big picture of all integrated functionalities.
  1. Framer is the most powerful tool in my (Björn’s) opinion. The caveat is, though, that it can also be too powerful for your needs. Go for it if your prototyping needs are very specific and complex – especially when you want to build a highly interactive app or if you need to include custom code. It is not as widely used as Figma and therefore it lacks resources and educational material. But, luckily, Framer allows you to import Figma designs. I understand Framer as a second tool that can play with Figma: First, I design the app in Figma and only when the prototyping tools in Figma are not enough for what I need, I import my designs into Framer.