Annual Review of 2020 – The best of times in the worst of times

Annual Review of 2020 – The best of times in the worst of times

When life gives you lemons, create new consulting offerings

In 1859, Charles Dickens penned a classic quote in “The Tale of Two Cities”: 

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” 

Roughly 150 years later, after completing our annual review of the year 2020, we use a similar phrase to sum up the last 12 months:

“It was the best of times during the worst of times”. 

It has been a weird and challenging year for all of us. But looking back, we are grateful for 2020. It taught us invaluable lessons, provided us with ample time to build a stronger foundation for the future of our company, and brought us new team members, clients, interesting projects and entirely new ways of working together. 

The stress test that was 2020 made us stronger and better prepared for whatever comes next. These are the lessons we have learned this year, and an overview of the highlights and mistakes we look back on as we close the chapter of 2020.

Lessons Learned in 2020

When life gives you lemons, create new consulting offerings 

COVID was challenging for most industries, including consulting. In March we had crisis meetings at the office, and mapped out three different pandemic scenarios. We called those scenarios “difficult”, “bad” and “terrible”. In none of those did we think that demand for innovation consulting would increase. In other words, we had to do something to hedge ourselves against the possibility that all our innovation projects would freeze indefinitely.

After having preached the virtue of antifragility (the ability to benefit from chaos rather than get hurt by it) for years, this was our chance to walk the walk. We sat down and made hypotheses about what a global pandemic might mean for our customers – what kinds of new problems could arise? Which of those problems could we help solve?

After plenty of thinking, we decided to place a bet on the following hypothesis: remote work would become the the default way to work together for the foreseeable future, and this shift would cause friction for organisations who were not used to working together without being in the office.

Long story short: we bought the domain and got to work. We launched new consulting offerings based on easing the transition from office to remote. Fast forward nine months, and we have taught hundreds of people across dozens of organisations how remote work should be done effectively.

The lesson learned is clear: when life gives you lemons, create new consulting offerings. With every crisis, there comes plenty of opportunity for those who are agile and antifragile – move fast to capitalise on them. 

Live online courses is the future of learning 

With the launch of RemoteWork’s digital workshops course, we discovered the power of live online courses. 

The problem with prerecorded online courses is fact that they are too passive and unengaging, because they lack the social element of learning.

The problem with traditional social learning experiences is that they don’t scale, becauseyou need to be in the same room at the same time to partake in the experience.

Live online courses solve all these problems. They scale almost as well as regular online courses, but you can join from your own living room instead of travelling to a given destination, and you get the best of both worlds in terms of learning alone and together with others.

We believe this model will play a key role in the future of education and learning of all kinds, ranging from university classes to corporate training. And we intend to use the model to deliver more courses in the future, about productivity, innovation and various aspects of remote work. ‍

Virtual Reality is here to stay

A few months ago, Christer argued that Virtual Reality had become good enough to actually be useful and valuable for professional work. The rest of us were skeptical – isn’t VR just a fun and buggy gimmick..?

After a radically new kind of Christmas Table, we were all convinced. VR is legitimate, and coming to an office near you soon. We predict that we will run at least one paid client project in VR in 2021, be it a workshop series, an innovation training programme or something completely different. The future is now. 

Braver’s Highlights: What went well in 2020

Welcomed new people on the team! 

We’ve upped our game with a bunch of fantastic new faces this year. 

  • Robin, Eirik and Erlend joined as freelancers for the RemoteWork project, doing great work to increase the remote readiness of clients all over Norway. Urte also came in, but later went on to other pursuits, and we thank her for the work she did with RemoteWork in the very early days. 
  • Morten made the jump from Early Stage participant to Braver freelancer, bringing his crisp writing skills to multiple Braver projects. 
  • Nora just signed on for a full time Strategic Designer position, starting 1. february 2021. (Do you like our new website? That’s Nora’s work for you!)
  • Ole-Jørgen, just confirmed last week, is on board to join one of our client projects, and to help us grow Early Stage into a national, digital entrepreneurship school (together with Fredrik, the all-purpose generalist superhero we’ve had the pleasure of working with for severals years now).

The list of Braver individuals is growing, and we can’t wait to see what all of you will accomplish in the next year!

Taught hundreds of customers how to work better together through RemoteWork 

Our new sub-brand launched at the very beginning of the pandemic, and helped turn what seemed to be a very difficult 2020 into the best year so far for Braver. Seeing the incredible customer feedback on the projects delivered by the RemoteWork team has been a continuous source of joy throughout this year!

Remote teaching in action!

Laid the groundwork for zero-emission shipping with Grieg Edge 

We helped launch Grieg Edge, the Grieg group’s brand new innovation unit, at the beginning of 2020. Our first few innovation projects didn’t pan out as we hoped, but near the end of the year we got a massive win. Grieg Edge was awarded an R&D grant of 46.700.000,- NOK to develop the world’s first zero-emission, ammonia-powered tank ship!

The vessel, MS Green Ammonia, is scheduled to be on the water in 2024, and we’re looking forwards to further contribute to the decarbonization of shipping through this exciting project. 

Creating future-focused memberships with NAF 

NAF, the Norwegian car owners association, has traditionally been (surprise surprise) all about cars. However, as customer preferences change, NAF is rethinking its societal role and its value propositions to members. We have spent the last quarter of the year working with the great people at NAF to figure out what a membership that is not centered around your car, but around more sustainable means of transportation, might look like. We’re soon ready to launch something exciting to the world - stay tuned for Q1 in 2021 to see what we’ve been up to!

Delivered transformative entrepreneurship education to students through Early Stage Digital Edition 

We believe entrepreneurship is the key to solving big and small problems in the world. That’s why we created the entrepreneurship programme Early Stage way back in 2016. This year, with the world in lockdown and plenty of new problems to solve, entrepreneurship is more important than ever – so we redesigned Early Stage from the ground up, for a completely digital experience for this year’s participants.

It worked like magic, and the digital delivery model enables us to scale to way more people than ever before. That’s why we’re doing the biggest Early Stage ever in 2021, with student participants from Harstad, Bodø and Tromsø going through the programme together, thanks to generous support from Sparebank1 Nord-Norge.

Successfully rebranded to Braver 

In August, we finally launched our new company name and brand identity, and we could not have been happier with it. We went through plenty of cool, mediocre and horrific name suggestions, but when our good friend Martin said “what about Braver?” on a Zoom call i May, we knew we had a winner. Thanks Martin!

What could have gone better this year

Overpromised and underdelivered on a day-long workshop with one of our favourite clients

This year’s biggest blunder came right before the summer holiday. One of our favourite clients over the past few years invited us in to do an innovation module for their leadership development program. We had delivered a similar module the year before with great success, so everything was in place for yet another successful day of innovation training.

But we messed it up. Our exercises weren’t engaging enough. We talked too much about ourselves. The breaks were too long. The structure of the session came across as haphazardous. It was way below anything we want to stand for, and to our client and the participants of that day’s innovation workshops, we can only apologise and hope we’ll be given a chance to make up for it next year. 

Internal leadership screw-ups that affected the team 

We messed up bigtime at the end of this year. Contracts with some of our freelancers ran out, and we didn’t address the issue in time. Then a series of small mistakes caused a chain reaction of bad decisions and subpar leadership to play out, which caused friction and completely unnecessary drama on the Braver stage. For all involved, we ask for a chance to rebuild and strengthen the damaged trust. We’ll do better next year. 

Startup cases put on hold

A long term vision of ours is to incubate and spin our startups based on our own ideas. We’ve had two such startup cases going in 2020, one at the beginning and another near the end of the year. Unfortunately we were unable to dedicate the resources – time, capital and love – that these ideas needed to get out of the starting block. They are still resting in our backlog, waiting for a brighter day, which we hope will come in 2021. 

Looking ahead

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair." 

–Charles Dickens, The Tale of Two Cities, 1859

Entering 2021, we are ready for the age of wisdom, the spring of hope, and the roaring twenties of our time. We can't wait to see what it brings to our clients, colleagues and friends. Happy new year!

(If you want to stay connected, please subscribe to our newsletter Braver Business at the very bottom of this page.)