December 23, 2012
Issue 12 – December 23, 2012
One Woman’s View of Tragedy: More Better Angels Needed....................... Julie Anixter
How to be an Effective Innovator? ……………..…….…………….…….…. Gijs van Wulfen
The Rise of the Sharing Economy ……………………………….....…..……… Yann Cramer
Difference between Innovation & Invention – 3rd Age of Mobile ..........…. Randy Giusto
Market Gap – Collaboration as Innovative Strategy .…………….…………… Mike Brown
Selfish Innovation ……………………………………..…………………………. Scott Bowden
Leadership and White Space ………………………………………………….….... Mike Myatt
Develop New Products Fast Using An Innovation Incubator …………...….. Paul Sloane
Problems – An Opportunity for Radical Innovation ………………..….….. Rowan Gibson
Reach Beyond Your Comfort Zone ………………………………….….…..… Jeffrey Phillips
Your hosts, Braden Kelley, Julie Anixter and Rowan Gibson, are innovation writers, speakers and strategic advisors to many of the world’s leading companies.
“Our mission is to help you achieve innovation excellence inside your own organization by making innovation resources, answers, and best practices accessible for the greater good.”
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One Woman’s View of Tragedy: More Better Angels Needed Posted on December 15, 2012 by Julie Anixter
We live ten miles from Newtown, Connecticut. I learned about the horrific event in an email from my friend Kim, mother of three gorgeous little girls who go to school in nearby Danbury, Connecticut, and whose lives, like so many, were forever changed in a single instant of tragedy. My husband, a former high school teacher who’d gone through all the lockdown trainings in our last community, where he coached baseball and was called Mr. Bob everywhere we went, wept at our dinner table last night.
We are all weeping. And we are all collectively watching another senseless tragedy unfold.
Our response is what matters now. We need more better angels.
Earlier this week I interviewed the author Whitney Johnson, whose book Dare, Dream, Do is all about recognizing that our humanity and our greatness lies in claiming our privilege to dream. And then to dare to do something about our dreams. It’s not easy. It takes courage. We either have to repeal the second amendment or do something equally powerful to stem this tide of gun violence.
I believe that one of the things that makes innovators different is that we not only see what’s missing in the world around, we are unafraid to step out and and create to fill the void.
What will we create now? Violence threatens the fabric of all our lives, public and private. The only possible response to Newtown is to act collectively for a solution.
We have to snap out of the comfortable and have the courage to act against violence and to put our arms around the vulnerable, the unstable, the messed up kids and people on the edge and realize that we are all one.
Business Model Innovation, Design Thinking, all the Ted Talks in the world, are the not the answer. They are fuel for the fire but they are not the fire.
There are role models and there are people who are working this issue that we might now need to elevate into the national dialogue with greater urgency. Two such people are Al McMichael and Teny Gross.
Al is the former Sergeant Major of the Marine Corp. He spends every minute he can in the classrooms of disadvantaged communities instilling citizenship. When his foundation works with schools, graduation rates rise and drop out rates fall. After serving for over 30 years in the Marine Corps and at NATO, he lives to serve kids and families. He is a true American hero.
Teny Gross is executive director of the institute for the study & practice of nonviolence (gang prevention, youth development, innovating back to civilization) in Providence, Rhode Island.
He has the peaceful warrior temperament and hard boiled realism to work with gangs and troubled communities and his results are nothing short of amazing.
But they’re only two men, and a true minority of people who are willing to go straight into the breach. Who will go with them? We have have a new kind of breach after yesterday and it’s bigger than the Grand Canyon and it will last for the rest of our lives.
As someone who’s lived with the aftermath of instant tragedy and the weight of shocking irreversible loss, my mothers’ suicide, for 30 years, I can honestly say that the first and most important thing we can do, as we mourn, and after we mourn, is to talk about what just happened and then to take action. I was with a good friend in D.C. this week whose father in law passed away while we were working together. We talked about the unreality of death — until it hits you.
I’ve spent my life filling the void that my mother’s suicide left, and celebrating her loss and life by finding the courage to keep going in seeking and celebrating others’ beauty. It is really the only thing that has helped me become whole and be OK.
I pray that we, especially the we that is the Innovation Excellence tribe of brilliant, courageous people, will make what happened yesterday important enough, meaningful enough, that we will honor the dead and the living everywhere by finding the courage to act against violence. There are role models for how to innovate a response to violence (McMichael, Gross, Janet Benshoof and many others) and there are plenty of reasons, at least 26, who from now on will be our better angels, not to slide back into complacency, and not to forget.
Photo Credit: Andrew Sullivan, Beloblog, Providence.com
Julie Anixter is Chief Innovation Officer at Maga Design and the executive editor and co-founder of Innovation Excellence. The co-author of three books, sheâ€™s working on a fourth on courage and innovation. She worked with Tom Peters for five years on bringing big ideas to big audiences. Now she works with the US Military, Healthcare, Manufacturing and other high test innovation cultures that make a difference.
How to be an Effective Innovator? Posted on December 14, 2012 by Gijs van Wulfen
Innovation is one big struggle. Not being able to change habits within the organization. Being creative at the wrong moment. Frustrated by budget cuts. Confronted with a lack of entrepreneurship. Putting pressure on people in operations who resist change. Taking the credits as team leader myself instead of praising the team.
Yes, I made a lot of mistakes as marketer, strategy consultant and innovation facilitator. The good news is that I learned a lot. That’s why I love to share ten lessons how you can be an effective innovator in your organization.
1. Innovate together. As a young marketer I used the word ‘I’ way too much. Being responsible for a product category, I considered myself king of a small universe. You can get wonderful ideas on your own. But in an organization you can only innovate together. You need all the other departments to develop your product, to produce it, service it, sell it and bill it. That’s why innovating in a team is more effective. The chance that a new-to-the-company innovation survives is much higher if it has a lot of fathers and mothers.
2. Choose the right moment. On continuous basis organizations develop and launch variations of present products or services. It’s less risky. Most companies step into new markets or launch disruptive initiatives when they realize that present markets and products can’t generate growth anymore. So be like a hunter. Who only shoots when he knows that one bullet is a sure kill. So for real innovation projects you better wait until the right moment of real urgency.
3. Facilitate. When the company appoints you as ‘innovator’ others have the tendency to sit back, because innovation is now your responsibility. Don’t fall into this trap. Don’t come up with new products, services or business models yourself because it will all stay YOUR initiatives. A much more effective role as central ‘innovator’ is to facilitate innovation. This means you help others in line functions with processes and resources to be more innovative themselves.
4. Discover Needs. Your innovative product or service requires a different behavior from your customer. They will change their behavior and/or internal processes (in BtB) only when your innovation solves a challenge or problem for them. That’s why it’s so important to identify customer dreams, needs and problems in the very early stages of your innovation process.
5. Use the Voice of the Customer. Once you’ve developed an innovative idea or prototype the question remains: is this a good idea or not? In your organization are a lot of persons resisting change. They will say no to anything. In my role as marketer in the food industry I learned to make use of the voice of the customer to get internal support. So test your ideas and prototypes in an early stage at customers. And use the favorable test result and enthusiast testimonials to get internal support.
6. Be innovative. Act Conservative. Your organization is less innovative than you. That’s why you have a game-changing role. Your effectiveness will be dependent on the internal support you can create among the non-innovators. That’s why it’s wise to be innovative and act conservative. Present your innovation not as something really extraordinary but as the normal next thing to do. Your chances to convince the non-innovators will increase.
7. Be naughty. Innovation doesn’t stop at the first no. That’s the moment it really starts for you. You have got to be clever to let your innovation project survive all kinds of dramatic moments like budget cuts. So be prepared to be naughty. When the innovation project is officially stopped due to a budget cut, continue for example your work under another project. Well, you know all the tricks.
8. Connect decision makers. Innovation ist Chefsache”, say the Germans. That’s why you should involve ‘the boss’ from the start. Not in a steering committee on a distance. Invite Top Managers as team members and take them with you on your innovation expedition. In this way the decision makers can get new insights themselves. And when they are part of the process they will support the end result.
9. Do it fast. On average an Innovation project takes 18 months for new services and 36 months for a new product. Be sure to speed it up. You know when there’s a takeover, a strategy change or another crises your innovation project will be at risk. So focus and deliver as fast as you can.
10. Be open. There’s always a lot of secrecy around innovation in a company. In practice with al this secrecy you alienate the rest of the organization with a lot of negative consequences. If you have a clear and structured process and inform everyone on the progress without telling big secrets you maintain support with the people you need later on to implement your innovations. So be open.
I have developed a structured innovation method for the front end of innovation, based on my own lessons learned. Feel free to download the innovation expedition map of the FORTH method.
One more thing. Even with my ten tips, innovation remains a struggle. Don’t fight it. Accept it and you will increase your effectiveness immediately.
image credit: effectivemeasure.com
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Gijs van Wulfen leads ideation processes and is the founder of the FORTH innovation method. He is the author of Creating Innovative Products & Services, published by Gower.
The Rise of the Sharing Economy Posted on December 15, 2012 by Yann Cramer
Over the last three years I have been an avid user of bike and, more recently, car sharing schemes. In the same period, the number of other sharing schemes has seen a phenomenal growth: in what is called the Sharing Economy, people can share not only vehicles or other objects such as DIY tools, but also find accommodation or a place to have dinner, learn a new skill or access services. Anyone who has an asset or a talent can offer it online and find takers. When you consider that assets such as cars or DIY tools spend most of their lives idle, the Sharing Economy enables a smarter and more sustainable mode of consumption also referred to as Collaborative Consumption.
Coupled with a an online reservation system that provides reliable data about the quality of the product or service to be shared and the trustworthiness of both parties, the Sharing Economy has a transformational potential equivalent to that of the industrial revolution in the 19th century or the avent of mass consumption in the 20th. In the 21st century, Lynda Gratton envisages three major shifts in the way people work and enjoy the fruits of their labour:
From Generalist (Jack of all trades) to Master (of a specific trade)
From Competing Isolated Individuals to Innovative Connected Crowd
From High Standards of Living to High Quality of Life.
The Sharing Economy enables those three shifts. It is because I am mastering a particular talent (eg a good driver or a good cook) that I can offer to share it (and the assets that go with it). I find takers because I am part of a Connected Crowd, which by virtue of the talent sharing becomes more innovative than each individual could ever be. And since I can now enjoy usership without the need for ownership, I increase my quality of life (eg go from A to B or enjoy a good dinner) without necessarily having to raise first my standards of living (to buy a car or go to the restaurant).
At the macro level, the consequences of this revolution in the making are difficult to fathom: what will be the impact on the manufacturing sector in particular and the growth of the economy in general? What will be the impact on public finances of something which is essentially a sharing at cost, hence cannot be taxed? How will this transform society? Will it recreate a village spirit in anonymous mega cities?
At the individual level though, it is cheap and easy to try: it only takes a few clicks and literally a few dollars or equivalent. So why not give it a go?
Welcome to the sharing economy.
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Yann Cramer is an innovation learner, practitioner, sharer, teacher. He’s lived in France, Belgium and the UK, he’s travelled six continents to create development opportunities with customers or suppliers, and run workshops on R&D and Marketing. He writes on www.innovToday.com and on twitter @innovToday.
Difference between Innovation & Invention – 3rd Age of Mobile Posted on December 16, 2012 by Randy Giusto
Do you know the difference between innovation and invention? In the mobile space, Apple and Samsung have legally clashed over it. Other brands are doing the same as they try to protect their intellectual property. A whole ecosystem has arisen around IP law and enforcement.
If you have been in mobile for over ten years, you should remember the early platform wars. The first age was dominated by brands that only held the top spot briefly — Palm, Microsoft, BlackBerry, and Nokia. Industry dynamics have also changed. Mobile has evolved from a separate strategy to digital, to one where mobile is now a front and center if any brands are to thrive.
The second age was the rise of Apple and Android, although Apple was in mobile if you look back and include the Newton. Our usage of PDAs evolved into smartphones. But it wasn’t until iPhone and Android arrived that mobile hit its next inflection point. And then came consumer tablets.
If you only recognize the present day, then you missed out on a lot of innovation that came beforehand.
Five years ago Apple entered as an innovator by enhancing the smartphone concept. A capacitive touch screen was added and deeper design elements were featured resulting in aesthetic curves. The iPhone felt different in your hand. Apple also delivered a comprehensive app locker that was no longer carrier controlled. These became the central focal points of the platform, ones worthy to go to court over.
By pushing “ease of use” Apple transcended other mobile brands and changed the landscape in the process. Though it was late to smart phones, it was on time for tablets, and now plays a significant role catapulting sales for both categories.
So you ask. “Did Apple invent or innovate?”
To INNOVATE is to take an EXISTING concept and make it better. To INVENT is to make something entirely new; something that did not exist at all, before. Both smartphones and tablets had already existed before Apple came along.
I’ve just answered your question.
Apple took a commercially successful product, made noticeable improvements, and catapulted its popularity in modern society. Smartphones were expected to overtake mobile phones eventually. Apple just sped things up. It delivered a more pleasant experience, Android countered, and the global market rapidly broadened.
Spending years looking at technology in development, in labs, on drawing boards, or in final stages, I can tell you that new products and services don’t appear out of thin air.
It takes many, many years of small but critical changes to develop at the component level. Cellular technology took decades to perfect ─ you might argue it’s still not perfect trying to make a phone call in San Francisco. I did a series of talks in Europe back in the late 1990’s when Bluetooth first arrived. It’s taken more than a decade to refine it to become ubiquitous. The same experience is there if you look back at Wi-Fi and forward towards NFC.
Many standards bodies formed around mobile over the years. Major players got on board. Multiple revisions rolled out, constant tweaks were made, each bringing new improvements to utilize new technology and ultimately optimize the customer experience. Open standards led to well functioning, well designed, mobile devices. But then something happened.
Ecosystems or platforms arose above these standards as far as importance. It is at this level where the current battle in mobile is being played out. As ecosystems took off so did the race towards securing IP. Today’s battles are more about protecting intellectual property than about true innovation that leverages open standards.
Today’s lawsuits aren’t about innovation. They are about securing market domination and maximizing profits. Can you even track who is licensing what from whom and how the lawsuits crisscross?
Those of us who work in tech recognize that Android is an open while Apple is a closed platform. Apple owns the hardware, software and much of the services stack. Its closed system is enjoying immense popularity today as far as press coverage, consumer awareness, and litigation activity.
Many still believe that open systems have a longer term advantage. Android may dominate in smartphones, but it needs more big brands with huge volume besides Samsung.
As expected, Android has fractured into many different versions and the devices in people’s hands have not all embraced the latest OS version. They become rapid dead ends. Meanwhile, Apple’s closed architecture marches to the beat of its own carefully managed upgrade and replacement cycle drum, but they only support you if you are two versions away.
Each new iPhone, from the original to the iPhone 5 is an example of innovation — taking EXISTING technology and making the experience better. Though they are testing customer resolve with Apple Maps and Lightning.
Today both data consumption and app spending on iOS eclipses that on Android. For developers, Android’s fragmentation and low paid app sales in relation to iOS is still an issue years after its debut. Three years ago developers focused on iOS first and then Android. Three years ago a senior person at Google pointed out to me that the mobile Web was the future direction for application development. Three years later, little has changed.
After losing the smartphone crown for most of the last ten years, Microsoft now looks to reestablish itself with Windows Phone. Mobile operators around the world have been begging for a strong alternative to Apple and Android for several years. But Windows Phone is not an open system.
It’s ironic that Apple has put a Windows-like lock on the smartphone and tablet markets. Windows’ OS dominance in PCs took 15 years to pull off. Apple’s dominance in mobile took five. But as Windows Phones arrive, the age of closed systems may be here for some time. But I’m keeping my eyes on Mozilla and HTML 5 after last week.
Platforms will evolve and brands will innovate, but maybe its time to invent something different. Maybe that’s the third age.
image credit: ipassetmaximizer.com
Randy works with marketing and brand management to visualize, conceptualize and strategize marketing initiatives from ideation to implementation. He blogs at NewDigitalCafe and has directed innovation, market intelligence, and strategy assignments to help brands succeed. Past SVP, Innovation Research at Ipsos; Group VP/GM, Digital, Mobile, Social Research at IDC.
Market Gap – Collaboration as Innovative Strategy Posted on December 15, 2012 by Mike Brown
Talking with an entrepreneur recently about innovative approaches to community-improvement, he discussed a market gap he perceives isn’t being adequately addressed by current community organization resources in his city. It’s not that no community organization is trying to be innovative and address the issue. To the contrary, there are many community and private organizations, large and small, whose full or partial reasons for being include addressing the same perceived market gap through significant, very public efforts underway already.
So with all those community-oriented parties already trying to pursue their own innovative strategies to address the community need, what is this entrepreneur’s plan?
You guessed it.
He’s starting a new community organization to address the gap in an innovative way.
While applauding the drive, determination, and commitment it takes to launch a completely new organization and take on the challenge of addressing this community gap which may or may not be fillable, I shake my head in amazement.
In the interest of doing something new and different (dare we say, “innovative”), he’s willing to walk right past smart people, some highlyresourced organizations, and a whole bunch of effort and connections others have labored to already make in the interests of doing his own thing. And in this case, “his own thing” looks and sounds on the surface to much like probably 10 other options, just targeted slightly differently – with a potentially less-sound business model he’s devised.
While the innovation cheerleader in me applauds and encourages an individual pursuing a dream, the strategy guy in me has to ask, “Why do you want to take on the increased risk and disproportionate effort of going it alone?”
For as much we write and talk about being innovative, would-be innovators might, in many cases, be much more successful pursuing a strategy of collaboration. For this entrepreneur, collaboration would be characterized by:
Surveying the players who think they own addressing the community market gap
Doing basic homework to understand who is strong, who is struggling, and figuring out the amount of overlap in organizations that have the talent
Developing a strategy for trying to integrate and align groups to close the community gap
True, collaboration might not be as ego-rewarding as an innovation strategy for community change. And a collaboration strategy may require compromising on a precise vision for change.
But when it comes to too many community organizations trying to do essentially the same thing, collaboration IS innovative. Collaboration can drive real results in such a situation faster than trying to be “innovative” and fighting for the same financial resources, inspired volunteers, and audience attention everyone else is trying to win over, too.
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Mike Brown is an award-winning innovator in strategy, communications, and experience marketing. He authors the BrainzoomingTM blog, and serves as the company’s chief Catalyst. He wrote the ebook “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” and is a frequent keynote presenter.
Selfish Innovation Posted on December 13, 2012 by Scott Bowden
Could we deliver better innovation results from our workshops by appealing to the inherent selfishness of our participants? This question comes to mind for the innovator reviewing the results of new research in neuroscience concerning human behavior in the activity of self-expression. The research concludes that there is a strong human drive towards selfishness, with a powerful reward mechanism, that could provide an interesting motivational approach for innovation workshop leaders.
In a recent article in The Atlantic titled “The Selfish Meme,” Frank Rose delves into the fascinating implications of neuroscience investigations into the fundamental human behavior of selfishness. In functional Magnetic Resonance Imagery (MRI) scans of 212 research subjects, Diana Tamir and Jason Mitchell from Harvard observed activity in the brain’s reward mechanism (the mesolimbic dopamine system) that was triggered more intensively when the subject spoke about his or her own opinions as opposed to speaking about the opinions of others. Tamir and Mitchell likened this act of “self-disclosure” to other, more familiar, brain rewardtriggering events, such as food, reproduction, and money.
From a survival standpoint, this attribute does not seem to make sense. As Rose notes, “[i]f all we did was prattle on about ourselves, we’d soon bore one another to extinction.” However, Rose does observe potential benefits from selfish storytelling that may confer evolutionary advantages on loquaciousness:
“[B]y telling stories effectively, we gain status, obtain social feedback, and strengthen our bonds with other people. And on the flip side, all of this nattering—or tweeting—by our fellow humans ensures that we don’t have to discover everything on our own. We have no end of people competing to tell us what’s what. Hence the real paradox of sharing: what feels good for me probably ends up benefiting us all.”
Rose continues by stating that this rewards mechanism explains human storytelling behavior ranging from the talkative neighborhood gossip to the power of new social media. People love to talk about themselves, he concludes, and social media makes this even more prevalent because it lacks the real-time feedback mechanism (rolled eyes or turning away from the speaker) that permeates face-to-face interactions.
For the practitioner of innovation, the “Selfish Meme” offers an alternative approach to innovation brainstorming sessions or workshops. Typically the facilitator will propose a theme or pose a problem and solicit feedback from the participants. A workshop participant could trigger the brain reward mechanism by offering his or her opinion on the items posed by the facilitator, but the workshop will inevitably trend towards more detailed definition of a particular concept, and if that idea was generated by one of the participants, the others may be less engaged than they would with a deep dive on their own idea. The facilitator should think about the importance of a participant expressing an opinion as opposed to just engaging in an ongoing dialog on the ideas expressed by others. The facilitator may want to pose questions in a way that ensures that he or she is looking for the opinion of the participant as opposed to just asking for factual details in a deep dive on a particular concept.
What often happens in workshops is that a team will latch on to a promising idea and spend a great deal of time on it, which engages the person or people most closely tied to that idea but this focus comes at the expense of the inattention of other, less-involved participants. The facilitator should be cognizant of this potential issue and try to make sure that he or she maintains proper engagement with all of the participants, and leveraging the “Selfish Meme” may be a great way to do this. It should be noted that not all participants will have opinions of equal value in the workshop. For instance, a marketing expert may not have much to say in a discussion of engineering concerns, but this is something the facilitator should consider beforehand when setting up the participant list for the workshop. However, it is important to have a cross-section of the company represented in a brainstorming workshop so we are not limited to narrow thinking in trying to solve a problem. Nonetheless, we do need to be aware of the “Selfish Meme” when we set up these types of sessions with diverse participants.
Another technique could be for the facilitator to start the workshop with opinion-expressing exercises that trigger the reward mechanism in the brain and acclimate the participant to the type of behavior that the innovation practitioner is seeking for his or her workshop. We want participants to feel comfortable with expressing their opinions and ideas in the workshop setting and the one great way to do that is to use the brain reward mechanism to drive behavior. This type of behavior can vary by different kinds of personalities (shy individuals may not be willing to express opinions as frequently as more outgoing individuals), but Tamir and Mitchell’s research points to the possibility that this may be a powerful motivator that we should not ignore in our innovation work.
Source: Frank Rose, “The Selfish Meme: Twitter, dopamine, and the evolutionary advantages of talking about oneself,” The Atlantic (October 2012). image credit: tog of war image from bigstock
Scott Bowden works on Innovation Programs for IBM Global Services.
Leadership and White Space Posted on December 12, 2012 by Mike Myatt
In my most recent column on Forbes I briefly discussed the value of white space as it relates to “span of control” but felt the topic deserved a deeper dive. Here’s something you might not want to hear, but you should definitely take to heart – If you’re having difficulty ordering your world, it’s nobody’s fault but yours.
I don’t care how busy you are, but I do care about what you accomplish – the former doesn’t always lead to the latter. Busy leaders are a dime a dozen, but highly productive leaders are not so common. One of the easiest things for leaders to do is to bite off more than they can chew.
Fact: bright, talented executives with a bias to action will often take on more than they should. These leaders don’t understand the value of white space. The reality is maximizing results and creating a certainty of execution is all about focus, focus and more focus. Here’s the thing – it’s difficult to focus in the middle of chaos. One of the hardest things for leaders to do is to learn to create white space. The best leaders are those who understand the most productive things often happen during intentional periods of isolation used for self-reflection, introspection, and the rigor of critical thought.
While the mind of a leader may be most comfortable being oriented toward the future, he/she can only act in the here and now. The knowledge and skills required to master any endeavor only happens when we focus on what we’re currently doing. This is the definition of presence, and it is only when we operate in the present that real creativity, growth and innovation occur. The problem with being present is many leaders confuse this with having to do everything themselves. Have you ever interacted with somone who deals with silence by jumping in and filling the conversational void? This same thing occurs with executives who attempt to fill every open slot on the calendar with activity – this is a huge mistake.
All good leaders have matured to understand they can be fully engaged and present and yet still be alone. Smart leaders don’t fill their calenders with useless activities, they strategically plan for white space allowing them to focus on highest and best use endeavors. Leading doesn’t always mean doing. In fact, most often times it means pulling back and creating white space so that others can do. This is true leadership that scales.
Is your rubber-band stretched so tight it’s about to snap? Efficiency and productivity are not found working at or even near capacity. Rather entering the productivity zone is found working at about 60% to 70% of capacity. Operating in excess of that threshold will cause increased stress, lack of attention to detail and errant decisioning. The old “what if I only had ‘x’ number of hours to work in a week, what would I focus on?” exercise is a good one. In fact, if you’re reading this text, just stop right now and benchmark your activity against your reflective thoughts – Is what you’re doing, in alignment with your true priorities, or have you been sucked down into the weeds?
It is important for executives to learn to apply focused leverage to a limited number of highest and best use activities rather than to continually shift gears between multiple initiatives. Resist the temptation to just advance a broad number of disparate initiatives, and alternatively focus your efforts on the completion of a few high impact objectives. The simple reality is that if you continue to add new responsibilities to an already full plate, all of your obligations will suffer as a result. Face current challenges head-on by keeping your head down and applying focused leverage to the task at hand. Leaders who operate without margins usually hit the wall they are most desperate to avoid.
Have you noticed how some leaders are frenzied, stressed, and always playing from behind, while others are eerily clam and always appear to be a few steps ahead? It’s been my experience that leaders who fall into the latter category make great use of their thought life, while those in the former category seem to forgo their alone time in lieu of being busy. Savvy leaders crave white space whereas unseasoned leaders feel uncomfortable with open time.
One thing that can be a difficult lesson to learn is that not all engagement is necessary or productive. Leadership and engagement go hand-inhand, but only when engagement happens by design rather than by default. Don’t get me wrong, good things can happen with spontaneous engagement, but if you’re engaging with others without intent and purpose, it likely serves as a distraction for all parties. Don’t interfere with your team just because you don’t understand how to use your time wisely. If you do, you’ll become an annoyance known for not respecting others – this is not leadership.
I have found the best leaders are harder on themselves than anyone else could ever be. In fact, so much so, that the best leaders constantly self-assess and are relentless in challenging themselves. They relish their solitude because it gives them the ability to be alone with their thoughts, to challenge their logic, to refine their theories, and to test the boundaries of their intellect. It’s during these quiet moments that leaders willing to be honest with themselves will examine their own flaws and frailties. They are forever in search of new ways of dealing with old problems.
Perhaps the most powerful thing about creating white space is that it presents opportunities for others to step-in and raise the level of their contributions. When leaders step back and resist the temptation to do everything themselves their organization is strengthened. When leaders become comfortable being without always doing collaboration flourishes and productivity is enhanced. Whether white space makes you more productive on an individual basis, or you leverage the white space create operational depth and scale, you’re better off with white spice than without it.
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Mike Myatt, is a Top CEO Coach, author of “Leadership Matters…The CEO Survival Manual“, and Managing Director of N2Growth.
Develop New Products Fast Using An Innovation Incubator Posted on December 17, 2012 by Paul Sloane
The toy company Mattel is well known for its Barbie doll brand. They need a constant stream of internal innovations to build on this success. So Ivy Ross, Senior VP of Girls Toy Design set up something she called Project Platypus.
The idea is based on the description of a platypus as an uncommon mix of different species. The 12 members of the project team are a rotating group drawn from different functions in the company. They join the project for three months and work intensely and creatively. Operating in a dramatically different environment, they use external stimuli, study children at play and have enormous freedom to generate and test ideas. The participants enjoy the experience and take their new creative skills back to their departments. The results have been startling with many new products and reduced time to market. As Ivy Ross says, “Designers are not the only people who can create toys. If you put a bunch of creative thinkers in the right environment and drop the job titles, you’ll discover amazing creativity.”
To develop winning products, Samsung, the Korean electronics company isolates artists and techies for months on end. Because daily routines can interrupt the flow of great ideas, Samsung segregates development teams in its VIP (Value Innovation Programme Centre). Product planners, designers, programmers, and engineers are asked to outline the features and design of new products such as the company’s mainstay flat-screen TV. Department heads pledge to keep them posted there until they have completed the assignment.
The facility is a sort of boiler room where people from across the company brainstorm day after day — and often through the night. Guided by one of 50 “value innovation specialists,” they study what rivals are offering, examine endless data on suppliers, components, and costs, and argue over designs and technologies. Every step of the way, team members drew what Samsung calls “value curves.” These are graphs that rank various attributes such as picture quality and design on a scale of 1 to 5, from outright bad to excellent. The graphs compare the proposed model with those of rival products and Samsung’s existing TVs.
By deliberately forcing the mixing of project teams and removing distractions Mattel and Samsung speed up the innovation process. People in the teams are encouraged to be creative and to break the rules. They focus on getting the innovation moving. And they bring co-operation, enthusiasm and diversity to bear on the problem. An incubator can
overcome the problems of corporate inertia and inter-departmental fault-lines by concentrating the resources of people, skills and time needed to make deliver new products.
Sources: Salter, C (2002), Ivy Ross is not playing around, Fast Company (Nov) pp 104 – 110 & Businessweek, July 3 2006, Camp Samsung.
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Paul Sloane writes, speaks and leads workshops on creativity, innovation and leadership. He is the author of The Innovative Leader and editor of A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing, both published by Kogan-Page.
Problems – An Opportunity for Radical Innovation Posted on December 15, 2012 by Rowan Gibson
Take a break from all the negative news about the economy. On my speaking trip to India, I was struck by the unbounded optimism in business circles. Sure, growth might be temporarily slowing, which may put the damper on investments for a short while. But, Indians have learned to take the long view. Whether the value of the Dollar, or the price of oil, or even the whole US economy goes up or down, they know the future is still gravitating irreversibly toward Asia.
India is one of the only countries I know where you come down to the hotel restaurant in the morning and most of the people in the room seem to be having laptops and PDAs for breakfast. I mean, there’s literally no room on the table for the food! It’s like “Breakfast is for bevakoofs!” (Hindi for “idiots”). The talk at these tables is all about growth percentages and expansion plans. And don’t expect much of a change at lunch or even dinner. This is a nation that has come to live and breathe business.
Mira Kamdar, in her book “Planet India”, points to a simple premise that appears to be at the heart of India’s remarkable success: “Treat every problem as an opportunity.” It was this attitude, after all, that led India in the late 1990s to step up and offer to help the U.S. with its looming Y2K computer crisis. Where else were American companies going to find enough low-cost, English-speaking software engineers to do all the drudge work of Y2K readjustment? And when the year 2000 came and went, without airplanes dropping out of the sky and nuclear power stations turning into mushroom clouds, those same American companies started wondering what else they could outsource to India on the cheap: e-commerce, IT support operations, call centers, services, even mission critical applications. Thus the Indian IT industry – and as a consequence the whole Indian economy – went into overdrive. No wonder Thomas Friedman, author of “The World is Flat”, argues that “Y2K should be a national holiday in India, a second Indian Independence Day”.
I see this same ‘problem as opportunity’ attitude when I talk to Indian companies of every stripe. When I asked one CEO recently about the impact of the weak Dollar on his business, his reply was stunningly upbeat. “Oh,” he said with a grin, “that really works in our favor. It’s going to make it much easier for us to expand in the U.S. market. Now we can buy up American companies at bargain basement prices”.
Of course, India doesn’t have to go out looking for problems to solve. It has enough of those on its own doorstep. With 40% of the world’s poor, one-third of the world’s malnourished children, 800 million people in need of education and proper employment, the world’s single largest population of people infected with HIV/AIDS (not to mention other widespread diseases), 17% of the world’s population but only 4% of the world’s freshwater, a looming energy crisis, relentless terrorism, and a dreadfully damaged environment, India faces some of
the most daunting challenges on the planet today.
“Treat every problem – including a deep social need – as an opportunity for radical innovation.”
That’s where there’s a need for innovation at an unprecedented scale. Not just innovation in the traditional business sense, but ‘social innovation’ that addresses the needs of India’s society, schools, healthcare systems, cities, and environment. Thirty years ago, the late great Peter Drucker pointed out that this, too, is an important definition of innovation. In his seminal book “Management” he writes that modern social needs “are not too different in kind from those which the nineteenth-century entrepreneur converted into growth industries – the urban newspaper and the streetcar; the steel-frame skyscraper and the school textbook; the telephone and pharmaceuticals”. India, perhaps more than any other country on earth, has recognized the need to turn its social problems into opportunities for innovation, and is rising to the challenge in a grand way.
Look anywhere in India today and we see exciting examples of social innovation combined with profitable business innovation. And behind each of these examples we usually find some wonderfully heroic entrepreneur who has battled with heart and soul to give ordinary people a better life. I think of Dr. Reddy, founder of Apollo Hospitals Group, who is using state-of-the-art technologies, breakthrough business models, and revenues from medical outsourcing and medical tourism, to put world-class healthcare within almost everyone’s reach. I think of economist Muhammad Yunus, founder of Grameen Bank, who pioneered the concept of micro-credit, and in the process became the world’s first “banker to the poor”. I think of Ratan Tata, India’s answer to Henry Ford, whose tiny $2,500 Nano automobile (the same price as a Louis Vuitton handbag!) is set to do for mass mobility in this century what Ford’s Model-T did in the last. I think of amazingly unpretentious Narayana Murthy, now retired cofounder of Infosys, who has repeatedly demonstrated his belief in ‘compassionate capitalism’ – an altogether different paradigm that focuses not just on wealth creation but on making a significant contribution to society.
Three cheers for India’s irrepressible optimism and can-do spirit in the face of almost impossible odds. What many in the country have clearly figured out is that every great challenge presents enormous opportunities, and that success at innovation is about much more than revenues and profits; it’s about doing well by doing good. There’s a lesson in this for all of us.
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Rowan Gibson is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on enterprise innovation. He is co-author of the bestseller Innovation to the Core and a much in-demand public speaker around the globe. On Twitter he is @RowanGibson
Reach Beyond Your Comfort Zone Posted on December 14, 2012 by Jeffrey Phillips
Lately I’ve met with a number of potential clients who are frustrated that their innovation efforts aren’t creating a bigger splash in the market. It can be difficult to identify the limiting factor in any new product or service. Perhaps the customer need wasn’t as strong as we anticipated, or we built features and attributes to appeal to the wrong need or client base. Perhaps the product is too early, and difficult to adopt, or too late and missed the market window. Or perhaps the concept was too narrowly conceived from the beginning.
Reach and Grasp – the Alligator Arms effect The idea of reach is one I talk about often with my clients. In many organizations we have what football commentators call “alligator arms“. You’ve seen the phenomenon: when a wide receiver runs a route over the middle of the field and a pass is thrown his way, he may make a half-hearted attempt to reach out and catch the ball, but then immediately retracts his arms to protect his body. Rather than leave his torso exposed and catch the ball, he makes a quick but futile attempt to snatch the ball and then protect his body. All too often innovators have alligator arms when it comes to their vision. They know a big, interesting concept matters, but aren’t willing to push the idea for fear of rejection. So they pursue ideas that are less than compelling, and given the time, energy and resistance to overcome to commercialize a new product, they are never happy with the results.
Reach should exceed Grasp Robert Browning wrote that “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” His concept is that people should constantly reach further than they think is practical or safe, or risk living a life that is unsatisfactory and cramped. In the same way innovators should constantly have visions of ideas that exceed their grasp. If you know exactly how you will implement a new idea or concept today, then your idea is too practical and too easily copied. If your idea doesn’t face some internal skepticism and headwinds, it is already too incremental. One of my other favorite sayings in this regard is: Don’t worry about someone stealing your idea. If it is truly new and original, you’ll have to ram it down their throats.
Houston: We have a problem Many corporate innovators suffer from alligator arms, or have limited reach, which is unfortunate, because there is an increasing gap between what is expected and needed by senior executives and the market, and what is produced by innovators and product development teams. Many times I hear CEOs explaining that their staff must not be very innovative, because all they produce is safe, incremental ideas. We recently led an innovation activity in the insurance industry where the CEO kicked off the event expounding the need for real “game changi ng” ideas. Once he left the team to its devices, they reverted to real “small ball” concepts. Mid and senior level managers have been taught to pull their punches and rely on small, incremental changes, but the expectations and markets have shifted. CEOs desperately want interesting,
differentiating ideas and products, but our reach is completely within our grasp. Many innovators and product developers are frustrated by the limited reach, but don’t believe new, interesting, disruptive ideas will be well received.
We have a solution So we have a quandary: executives are asking for the big idea, the reach beyond the grasp, while innovators and product developers are still locked into small ball and incremental innovation. Paul Hobcraft and I developed the Executive Innovation Workmat to address the root cause of this issue: executives saying they want innovation but failing to put the frameworks and programs in place to ensure its success. If your reach is limited to your comfort zone, if you are frustrated by the incremental ideas your team creates, contact us. We can create a framework that bridges the gap between expectation and capability.
image credit: the sky image from bigstock
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Jeffrey Phillips is a senior leader at OVO Innovation. OVO works with large distributed organizations to build innovation teams, processes and capabilities. Jeffrey is the author of “Make us more Innovative”, and innovateonpurpose.blogspot.com.
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