November 30, 2012
Issue 9 – November 30, 2012
Innovation Spaces – A New Frontier in Collaboration.............………….. Elisa O’Donnell
There’s No Innovation Without Experimentation ………………….…….…. Jeffrey Phillips
5 Principles of Peak Performance …………………….………..……..…..……… Greg Satell
We Need Engagement to Galvanize Growth .........................…..………..…. Paul Hobcraft
Are You Afraid to Innovate? .……………………..…………...………..……… Holly G Green
Innovation Balancing Act ……………………………..…….………………. Robert F Brands
It’s Not Too Late – What have you done this year? ……….……...........…. Rowan Gibson
Innovative Data – Numbers Telling a BIG Story …………….…………...…….. Rob Toledo
Innovation Challenges in Laggard Markets ………………………….…….….. Jorge Barba
Reboot Education to Accelerate the Entrepreneurial Movement ……..… Dean DeBiase
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.”
Cover Image credit: paper people blue from Bigstock
Innovation Spaces â€“ A New Frontier in Collaboration Posted on November 28, 2012 by Elisa O'Donnell
The practice of innovation is changing. Once relegated to R&D and product/service improvements, todayâ€™s innovation practices address corporate culture change with a reach extending far into the inner workings of the organization, impacting how people collaborate, business processes, and even business models. At the helm of this change is often a newly appointed Chief Innovation Officer, who, together with a small staff of innovators, often acts as a control tower for planning and executing sweeping improvements in how the business of innovation is carried out.
The emergence of the Chief Innovation Officer role is an important development in the practice of innovation, reflecting an increasing corporate desire for innovation to be enterprise wide. However, for this desire to become a reality, the Chief Innovation officer must also consider the different innovation spaces: the mind space, the physical space inside and outside the organization, and the virtual space. These spaces, taken together, represent an important key to enterprise-wide innovation, and, to achieving broad employee engagement in innovation and highimpact business results.
Knowing when and how to cycle between them is in fact the new frontier in the practice of innovation.
Why is employee engagement in these different spaces important? Innovation is first about people who come together for a purpose and share their expertise, and it is about enabling those people to also operate alone and reflect on those interactions and take action on them.
People are the connective tissue in an organization that allows different thoughts and new ideas to come together and travel across different innovation spaces, changing and reforming along the way. This connectivity of people and ideas “bumping into” each other is the Bump Rate. By understanding and enabling how the Bump Rate can be fostered across the different innovation spaces, the Chief Innovation officer can provide the right framework with which to create and capture that innovation spark. Doing this actually implies a mental shift in how the role of the Chief Innovation Officer’s is carried out, i.e. away from a control tower mentality and toward a conductor mentality – guiding and enabling the right mix of people, ideas and perspectives to create a dynamic and thriving innovation ecosystem.
Mind space — fostering an innovator’s mindset
Open, innovative minds share several characteristics:
Positivity: The innovator’s mind is a climate of can-do
Courage: A fearlessness of taking risk
Developmental thinking and stewardship: The ability to nurture and grow an idea before it’s ready for prime-time
Truly breakthrough innovation is often that which defies convention to deliver new value. It’s often the product of several different insights and ideas combined.
In order to process seemingly random or opposing thoughts and information, the human brain must be open to new connections and aware of the blocks (often ingrained paradigms or more) that will prevent those connections from occurring. Also contained in a person’s mind are beliefs about the organization, its culture, and its values. By keying into these mental models, we can derive insight into how people’s attitudes and beliefs are affecting an organization’s innovation climate.
For example, employees might say, “Our VP would never let us do that.” To change this attitude, we first will record it and create awareness of it. By understanding why and how it exists, we gain understanding into how it is affecting innovation output in total.
The way we visibly interact is in fact a manifestation of what is in our (invisible) mental fields. Simple shifts in assumptions can actually shift the mind space and alter the way people treat each other. Language is also a key indication of mindspace. Conversations with “Yes, but’s” and “No, because’s” indicate a more closed mindspace and tend to thwart cooperation and innovation. Consciously shifting to language like “Yes, and …” together with “My build on your idea is …” significantly changes the climate for innovation from competitive to cooperative.
An innovator’s mindset is also one of developmental thinking and “stewardship” – that is, nurturing and protecting ideas until they can take hold in the organization. Ideas when they are born are very fragile, so adopting the mindset of overcoming barriers and strengthening ideas before they are ready for evaluation is an essential mindset and innovator habit. The Chief Innovation Officer can play a crucial role here by displaying both the mindset of courage and fortitude to adjust organizational practices and approaches while simultaneously displaying flexibility in thinking to recast new ideas until both the idea and organization can come together.
Mind space sets climate; climate is key for innovation to thrive. Translating this mindspace explicitly in day-to-day organizational behaviors and interactions needs to become a core innovation practice. If done well, it can align people around common goals, energize them, and even attract other innovators outside of the organization to the company’s innovation cause.
The Physical Innovation Space
Physical innovation space is actually a rich and multifaceted space that includes both meeting and individual workspace. It needs to be considered far more broadly than traditional spaces such as conference rooms or work stations. It also needs to include the informal spaces inside an organization (think water cooler as a metaphor for a space where people informally gather), as well as how to extend innovation spaces outside the organization. Getting rid of the big conference table and instead having smaller more intimate “rounds, ” comfortable chairs, color, and natural light can be more inspiring than a traditional white-walled clinical conference room.
Informal internal innovation space is equally important for innovation and is less often formally considered in innovation. These types of physical spaces can include hallways, cafeterias, coffee stations, atriums, etc. Innovative organizations deliberately design these spaces to foster those seemingly random sparks (remember the bump rate) that create innovations.
One company installed coffee stations every 50 feet in its hallways even though consultants who wanted to reduce costs suggested taking them out. Another banned eating lunch at desks to encourage people to get up and â€œbump and connectâ€? with each other. And yet another installed chalkboards and couches in long hallways connecting buildings to change them from corridors where people move quickly along, to collaboration spaces for impromptu gatherings and more random bumping.
Consideration of external innovation spaces are also part of a robust set of innovation practices. These “discovery” spaces come in different flavors, but two in particular help the brain break down those blocks to innovative thinking. First is the customer space – visiting your customers where they are, rather than inviting them in for a focus group. Second is the analogous world space, in which insights are derived from other business’ or industries’ practices. You may take a group of people working on an innovation challenge to places where your customers frequent outside of your own category, to get a better understanding of their needs and interests.
The new practice of innovation needs to define deliberate strategies for leveraging these various dimensions of physical spaces. Doing so can significantly enhance an organization’s ability to foster the kind of fresh connections that can lead to big shifts in the way everyone thinks and innovates.
The Virtual Innovation Space
The virtual space is a critical space for innovation as it effectively enables scale and broad employee engagement across organizations boundaries, geographies and time zones. While physical space can foster deep engagement and is really useful in seeking alignment, decisionmaking and team-building, it can be difficult to get all the right participants together at the same time, and it can be expensive to organize.
In an online engagement, a shorter cycle of participation can encourage involvement. “Take two minutes to enter an idea or add to others’ ideas” can be more palatable than “in the next eight hours we are going to pull all the thoughts hiding in the crevices of your mind.”
When participating in an online innovation challenge, the brain has more of an opportunity to process what’s happening. It provides the flexibility for a participant to reflect on what they’ve experienced, then go back in and add valuable insights in the form of a new idea, a comment, etc. Further, in an online environment the meeting space is extended in time and breadth, while still providing leadership control over participation and agenda.
Ultimately, the virtual space accomplishes two important tasks related to enterprise innovation. By gathering insights, ideas and opportunities in an online environment, you ensure these innovation elements will scale. As mentioned earlier, breakthrough innovation is often the product of several different insights and ideas combined. The right virtual environment will help you crash these insights and ideas in new ways, revealing hidden truths about your market, or your competitors, or your organization at large (including your suppliers, employees and customers).
Second, the right online environment will enable innovation leaders to filter and select the most useful ideas, then help them track those ideas throughout the implementation process. It’s one thing to capture ideas; the real work comes in monitoring those ideas’ evolution into projects by using a stage-gate or similar process.
These virtues of physical space do not imply that it is an either/or proposition – either we use the physical space or virtual. Rather, the new practice of innovation requires the pulsing between both these spaces, supported by the right mindspace.
Spaces as the new practice of innovation
Physical space helps promote deep engagement, while the virtual space allows you to capture what you’ve learned in the physical space and turn it into something real. The mind space cuts across both aspects.
The new practice of innovation leverages the strengths of each individual space and integrates their usage into a comprehensive innovation approach that can drive engagement and momentum for innovation.
For example, an innovation initiative can start in the physical space – with a small core team, working together to first establish the right climate for collaboration, and then deeply engaging in the aspects of the challenge, framing and reframing the innovation opportunity to tease out key themes for ideation. These themes can then be explored in the virtual space – by seeking the input, knowledge and ideas of many others (hundreds or thousands) inside and outside the organization, and giving each individual time to think and reflect in their own mindspace.
Themes can also be explored in the physical discovery spaces outside an organization – leveraging customers, experts and analogous worlds. The output of these explorations and mining of ideas can then be synthesized in the physical space – formally or informally, in random conversations or formal workshops, or a combination of both – where decisions are made around most promising opportunities.
Finally, key opportunities can be pulsed back out into the virtual space to solicit more thinking, builds and buy in from wider audiences inside and outside the organization. In this way, an organization gets the thinking and support of many extended stakeholders while still keeping accountability for moving the innovation project forward, communications, and decision-making with a smaller core team.
A leading pediatric nutrition company used this approach to design a new process for innovation. A cross-functional group at the company came together in the physical space to first establish the right climate and mindset for their creative collaboration, and then to begin the ideation
together. Once they had several promising ideas around the new process design, they then leveraged an online collaboration tool to engage various stakeholders more broadly in the organization, and to help further develop and strengthen those beginning ideas. In this way, they enabled the participation of many other voices across the organization and disabled the “Not Invented Here syndrome.” The final process design was then compiled in a face to face session with the core cross functional group working with the feedback and discussing its implication for the innovation process design.
The new CIO: A conductor for innovation
To be successful at building a sustainable innovation capability, the job description of today’s CIO needs to read more like a team coach or steward who orchestrates the usage of these different spaces and shepherds people through them. This person must promote boundaryspanning bump rates across the organization. A Chief Innovation Officer who guides the flow and rhythm of innovation, who engages the workforce via different innovation spaces, will have more lasting business impact. He or she will help the whole organization realize new pinnacles of innovation success.
As with all innovation efforts, increasing your confidence and success rate in this new practice requires purposeful, deliberate experimentation. While individual mastery can be a multi-year journey, it is crucial to get started now and make progress as there’s a prize at play: the development of a thriving innovation ecosystem. In this environment the roles, structures and networks of collaborators are fluid and dynamic, forming and reforming across different innovation spaces, based on the changing context and priorities of the business.
Fundamentally, this ecosystem enables not just innovation and business success but also high levels of employee engagement and a culture of trust, loyalty and collaboration. And it is through this vibrant culture that an organization will thrive, rather than just survive or, at worst, decay.
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Elisa O’Donnell is VP, Innovation Solutions at Imaginatik. Innovation catalyst, coach, trainer, and facilitator, Elisa works with executives at the individual, team and organizational level to drive business through innovation.
There’s No Innovation Without Experimentation Posted on November 23, 2012 by Jeffrey Phillips
Many times people will ask me what I think is “wrong” with so many companies. Why can’t they innovate? they ask. Where are the innovative new products and services. Many will look back to innovators like Edison, Marconi, Alexander Graham Bell and wonder why businesses today cannot seem to innovate the way these individuals did. Was there simply a spark of genius, or is something larger at work? I think one powerful answer is provided when we examine how many of these early innovators worked.
Perhaps my favorite quote (potentially apocryphal) from Edison is the statement than he knew 1000 ways not to make a lightbulb. Edison is famous for many inventions, but what is often overlooked is how many different paths he attempted to create the significant success. Edison was an inventor, yes, but at his heart he was a synthesizer and an experimenter. He learned by combining disparate technologies and concepts, and experimenting repeatedly. The failure of any given experiment didn’t block his work, it simply opened new areas for exploration and created new learning.
Contrast that approach to the work we do today. In many corporations, outside of research and development teams experimentation is a dangerous word. Experimenting has lost its luster and is often equated with “winging it”, rather than an attempt to extend insight and knowledge. In an environment where everything must be perfect the first time, experimentation loses and sameness wins. There are several reasons why experimentation is viewed with suspicion, and why sameness seems so compelling.
Good experimenting takes time, and is DIVERGENT. Divergent in the sense that as one experiments, one attempts new things and strays from the “straight and narrow” since discovery and learning is part of good experimentation. You can either experiment to prove something false, or experiment to learn something. The mentality matters. Good experimentation means you’ll have lots of failures, but obtain a lot of learning. However, no Six Sigma certified firm tolerates “lots of failures” for long. Too often that experimenting looks like “non-valued added” work which should be eliminated.
Outside of R&D most business functions don’t have experience with experimenting and don’t understand the value proposition. It’s as if learning or attempting some new functions or offerings is verboten. Only the fully expected and fully perfected are allowed. Yes, I know we’ve trained our customers to expect only perfection. Perhaps we should demonstrate for them why experimenting with new offerings, new services and new business models is potentially to their benefit.
Sameness is next to godliness
There’s another reason experimenting seems so dangerous and outdated. It is far safer and much easier to simply copy a competitor’s product, or channel, or business model rather than experiment with new offerings. While the returns are marginal when copying, there’s no “wasted time” or wasted effort experimenting to create something new and interesting, that is more than likely to “fail”. Since marginal success is rewarded and failure is punished, it should be little surprise that experimentation, no matter how small or insignificant, is rarely attempted.
The Reverse of Edison
What we have today is the reverse of Edison. Most organizations do so much research, so much perfecting of one product or service, and so little experimentation that they too can claim not to know hundreds of ways to deliver value to their customers, but not because they experimented and failed, but because they never experimented at all. As the amount of experimentation falls, awareness and knowledge becomes narrower. As the rate of experimentation falls, the organization becomes more conservative, isolating and fearing risk. And this simply feeds a vicious circle, to the point where experimentation seems difficult, dangerous and unlikely to add value.
On the contrary. Good innovators understand that experimentation is vital to gaining new insights and new knowledge. Many small, expected innovation “failures” based on experiments are far more valuable and tolerable than one large product introduction failure, but that’s the tradeoff many make. Experimentation doesn’t just belong in the R&D suite, but is increasingly necessary across all business functions. Experimenting doesn’t increase risk and inefficiency, it lowers failure rates and increases insight and learning. One of the first best questions to ask someone who wants to create new products is: what have you tried?
image credit: millnetworking
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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.
5 Principles of Peak Performance Posted on November 25, 2012 by Greg Satell
Cinderella was an amazing performer. In one night she made it to the ball, found her prince and lived happily ever after.
Amazingly, she did so by her natural grace, charm and wit. Having no experience with princes or balls, she became the star of the show, with no prior coaching, preparation or experience. She simply believed it could be true and it was.
Alas, Cinderella, much like many stories of great accomplishment, is a fairy tale. We love hearing about the moment of triumph; the shot at the buzzer, the photo finish and the medals at the podium. The truth is boring – endless hours, repeated frustration and constant exhaustion. Here are 5 principles that determine whether it’s all worth it.
1. Talent is Overrated In his sophomore year, Michael Jordan couldn’t make his his high school varsity basketball team. Albert Einstein failed his first college entrance exam. Immanuel Kant didn’t publish anything significant until he was fifty years old. Outstanding achievers often show very little early promise.
Interestingly, the opposite is also true. There is a body of research that suggests that early giftedness is a minor factor in later achievement. One study that tracked Presidential Scholars found that few of those who were identified as exceptional in their teens went on to fame and fortune as adults (although they were more successful than average).
That doesn’t mean that talent doesn’t help, it does. Besides the ability itself, those who show promise are given more encouragement than others, which leads to a multiplier effect. They get more attention and more opportunities to hone their skills. So ability is worth having. After all, Michael Jordan wouldn’t have made the NBA if he were 5’ 6.”
Still the evidence suggests that once a threshold is passed, more ability doesn’t help very much. Richard Feynman, considered one of the great geniuses of the 20th century, had an IQ of 125, above average but by no means unusual or even exceptional.
2. Deliberate Practice So if talent doesn’t lead to greatness, what does? The answer is practice. As Anders Ericsson, a noted authority on expertise and performance, showed in his highly cited paper on deliberate practice, it takes about 10,000 hours of training to become world class in any field. Yet it isn’t just the time you put in, it’s how you spend it.
He illustrates the point with a golf example. When you start out, it is hard to hit the ball straight enough to finish a game. With some practice (he estimates 50 hours), an average person will be able to hit the ball effectively and can enjoy playing. However, after that most people don’t develop much further.
The reason is that they stop trying to improve, working on their weak areas and doing things that aren’t fun. If you want to be the best, you always need to be getting better.
3. Focus on Fundamentals When I first got to college, I got a rude awakening into the world of Division I athletics. It wasn’t that everybody was really, really good, I expected that, it’s what they spent their time on.
Our freshman class was full of high achievers. All of us had been stars in high school, won big tournaments, made all star teams and so on. So it surprised us, to say the least, that our coach started us out on fundamentals, the stuff we hadn’t really practiced since we were kids. We were all really, really bad at basic skills.
We had all thought that the basic stuff was for beginners and we had gone far past that. In reality, we soon found that the higher you go up in competition, the more time you spend drilling. Later, when I began to work out with Team Foxcatcher (a training center for Olympic hopefuls), I found that even world champions continually practice fundamental skills.
Look around and you’ll find that in any field, the very best get that way not by learning advanced skills (that comes with time), but by continuing to hone primary ones long after others have forgotten them.
4. Train to Beat the Best Among the most common misperceptions is that top performers “do what it takes to win.” That’s important, but not nearly enough. You have to train to beat the best.
One of the red flags I’ve noticed in poor performers is that they have a tendency to talk down the competition. They assume that their opponents will not work hard or think creatively or devote enough resources. They always assume that there will be some mistake they can capitalize on.
True excellence comes from beating the best at their best, not getting lucky on somebody else’s bad day. To do that, you have to constantly seek out the best competition, partners and teammates. Surround yourself with mediocrity and you might find it easier to feel good about yourself, but you’ll never achieve any true level of excellence.
5. It Takes a Lot of Love By now it should be clear that very little of this is very pleasurable. In fact, most of it really sucks. Honing your weaknesses, practicing fundamentals till they become second nature and finding the discipline to do away with all of the petty distractions that entertain your ego, these things don’t come easy. They are contrary to human nature.
To be good at anything (truly good, not just good enough for local bragging rights) you need to be pushed and learn to push yourself. It’s frustrating, exhausting and you go through long periods where it really doesn’t seem worth the effort.
You shoot for the Zeno’s paradox of perfection, always closing half the distance, but never really arriving at your destination.
So that brings us to the true secret of success. To succeed in any field of endeavor, you have to love it. Not merely want to be recognized or to get rich or to make your mother happy, but to do something for its own sake, because getting it right, or even coming close, is something that stirs the very depths of your soul.
It’s not always fun, but it is eminently rewarding.
image credit: thewaltdisneycompany.com
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Greg Satell a consultant who concentrates on media, marketing and innovation. Check out at his site, Digital Tonto and follow him on twitter @digitaltonto
We Need Engagement to Galvanize Growth Posted on November 23, 2012 by Paul Hobcraft
We need to become really worried over our potential to re-galvanize growth across many of our economies. There is this growing feeling that in Europe, perhaps even the United States, we are in for a prolonged drawn out ‘slump’ with the possibilities of a Japanesestyle lost decade.
Crash austerity programmes are compounding deeper economic problems and we need to find ways to create more demand, yet it does seem our current approaches are placing increasing constraints on solving this growth need. Of course, the public debt to GDP for many countries is alarming but if you can’t fix the problems with achieving growth, you just get further into debt. It seems as the predicted ‘inflows’ continue to fall below the forecasted ones you are forced into borrowing more to even support the existing environment. This adds further struggles to hold onto some of the essential services we require to function and we seem to continue downwards in a collapsing spiral.
We are suffering from those evil twins, a lack of fresh investments and bold innovation, which are failing, by not doing the essential job of promoting growth, of leading demand, of creating the new wealth we desperately need. The scale of our needs requires a different type of engagement, up and down our society; we need a new set of norms otherwise we will continue to witness some extremely painful adjustments across large parts of society.
Engagement means different things to different people
We do use the word ‘engagement’ just the same as ‘innovation’. They are thrown around and used in isolation, often to self-justify and defend, but until we can connect them in ways that generate a sense of real commitment, we cannot begin to create the conditions for sustainable growth.
The majority of people today are seemingly disengaging, pre-occupied with personal worries, gaining little incentive in what they see for their future. We need to turn this present trend around. On numerous surveys the level of people in ‘active engagement’ is around 20% in our business organizations for instance and the majority are ‘passengers’ or in cruise control, mostly detached from the bigger picture, so preoccupied, often with fear and apprehension or already caught in their personal economic traps, unable to see a way out.
The implications of this are profound and need radically altering.
If this growing lack of engagement continues we lose the emotional connections, that sense of belonging, feeling part of something worthwhile and believing we are going to gain something in return. This return not only comes in financial ways but in a growing sense of trust, confidence to commit, for knowledge that you seek to explore and leverage, and for knowing and understanding you are part of something bigger, you ‘feel’ commitment.
This goes well beyond requiring ‘engagement’ in actions called for, it comes from drawing individuals into a broader community for meeting their expectations, for their alignment to working towards a future that is committed to working through a new way to act and collectively grow.
It moves beyond just “involvement and interaction” it needs to have “intimacy and influencing aspects” and here lies the potential impact that new innovation can bring. It gets attention, it brings engagement and tracks back to the propensity to share, to advocate, showing you are involved, participating and seeing the new value that innovation brings that you want to be part of. Engagement moves from being a goal to being a result through innovation. Engagement needs to be enacted at a multi-level -societal, organizational, team and individual.
At society level committed engagement is missing for innovation
Presently within the European Union the Horizon 2020 initiative where innovation is a central part, is stalled. It is not being adopted, no one can agree on the budgets, what to include, what to drop and sacrifice, it seems we are locked into many conflicting battles, deeply caught up in the austerity drive sweeping Europe. The very ‘instrument’ potentially seen to support and grow our economies is facing the same determined forces as witnessed in so many economies, to reduce it, so we stifle growth potential even further. If we cut too deeply into innovation will we have the capacity to return to any normality?
In the United States, the consistent call for innovation is like an annoying beat of a drum, it needs the rest of the band to turn up and start playing. We have a present government unable to play the decisive role, caught in the inability to fully function, whatever each person’s political views, where polarization is killing the potential to ignite innovation.
Again we are facing some tough questions as the Budget Control Act enacted in the summer of 2011 will require automatic cuts in discretionary spending to occur starting in January of 2013, commonly known as the sequestration, in order to achieve $1.2 trillion in savings through 2021. What will the effects of sequestration-based cuts have on U.S. productivity, competitiveness, employment and growth?
“There is no more important subject to the future of this society than innovation. There is nothing that can solve our problems in the way strong economic growth can solve our problems”- a quote from The New York Times Washington Bureau Chief, David Leonhardt recently.
With innovation so critical to tackling problems and so elemental to economic growth, it is dismaying that innovation is not our active point of engagement. We need to relearn making things and simply less on relying on making money and reliance on just ‘service.’ We might have lost much of our innovating roots.
The business leader needs to have more innovation engagement.
If we cannot engage employees within the workplace then innovation is deficient, it lacks the vitality. There is this overwhelming relationship between engagement and innovation. Innovation requires a real interest, a passion to want to question, to explore, to discover, to investigate. If we are not receptive to the ‘weak connections’ or ‘weak signals’ that need bringing together and associating in new ways we don’t move beyond the existing, we miss new horizons.
The business leader needs to offer the right environment to draw out our insights and not allow us to default across to what we already know as the only answer we can provide. They need to offer an engaging environment for innovation to be extracted in new ways. I have written enough in this need for leadership to engage in innovation in recent weeks, not to burn up more of your time on this except to say it is incredibly important to get this innovation leadership gap resolved. It is vital we get leadership engagement and involvement within innovation, greater engagement brings greater insight and that can lead to greater innovation activity.
Engagement is often more associated with Customers and Work place involvement
Employee engagement is a key part of any strategy. How ‘we’ engage with customers and suppliers determines much in building trust, gaining commitment and building relationships. The quality of these values has moved well beyond’ what’ an organization does but ‘how’ it does it.
Cris Beswick nicely put this in an article last year: “Innovation is within the grasp of every employee. Innovation is a message every growthhungry organization has been trying to get across for some time. This means we can finally use ‘innovation’ as a form of engagement.”
He goes on and suggests innovation be used as a catalyst for changing your organization: “Where there is purpose, people can rationalize the need and the fear of the unknown is reduced”
So why is engagement within innovation so important?
Engagement can become the behavioural footprint in change, it can shift the mind of the person who it engages, and it can often place their contribution into context. Engagement becomes the catalyst for innovation but it needs to be continuous and well-constructed. It needs not just to hold people’s attention; it needs to offer the potential delivery of a better result. This then can channel the essential energy, to regain a feeling that their voice counts, is heard and valued.
People do want to belong, to share and collaborate but only where they see the value. If values can become aligned to achieve a greater sense of meaning, that it encourages and motivates. We all are far more ready to then be stretched, to want to explore, to seek out ways to collaborate and find new synergy we can associate with, and it is the art of engagement that draws us in, to seek out this new value.
We need today to generate new economic activity, to improve dramatically and create new solutions to claw ourselves out of the difficulties we are presently facing. If we don’t engage we are simply operating in the twilight zone and we don’t achieve the necessary impact needed for growth and getting ourselves of the enormous holes we have somehow dug ourselves into. This needs engagement across society, across communities and within each person to simply identify with.
High-yielding innovation needs a real engagement
Engaging in innovation offers the real potential for high-yielding innovation, this can inspire us but it needs commitments by all to get involved, to interaction in more positive ways, to influence and be intimately involved, to become simply engaged. If we don’t become engaged, we can’t hope to emerge from the times we are in.
Engaging in innovation, I’d argue, can certainly lead the way but we need alignment at all levels from policy, through implementation, creating the right conditions and execution, so we can achieve a positive impact for our societies. We need to move beyond ignoring where we are, we need to draw a line on how we got to this point or what needs to be done, and return to clear engagement, stewardship and commitment.
We need to deliver a new purpose, based on innovation as the enabler, to solve our problems and regrow our economies. We all need to engage in this. I think we need too, as the alternative disengagement across society, is not a place to go but we are seemingly heading that way unless we find ways to change and quickly. We do need to engage with innovation at all levels.
image credit: 2008.nbcolympics.com
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Paul Hobcraft runs Agility Innovation, an advisory business that stimulates sound innovation practice, researches topics that relate to innovation for the future, as well as aligning innovation to organizations core capabilities.
Are You Afraid to Innovate? Posted on November 26, 2012 by Holly G Green
Recently I worked with a very successful company that brought me in to shake things up and show them how to stoke the new product pipeline. In other words, help them innovate.
I led strategy sessions with the senior management team. I gave company-wide presentations on the importance of innovation. I coached middle managers on how to encourage new ideas and risk-taking. Yet, after months of hard work, the innovation train had not even left the station, much less reached its destination.
Management seemed to buy into the importance of innovation. And they expressed an honest desire to make the company more innovative. But in the end, they just couldn’t get over the hump and take the first step in the right direction. It reminded me of standing at the top of a 10meter diving platform, staring at the water 30 feet below. They wanted to jump off, but fear kept holding them back.
Most companies today understand the need to innovate, but many struggle to do so. Not because they lack the talent or resources or motivation, but because they’re afraid. And the more successful the company, the greater the sense of fear. What are they afraid of? Usually it’s losing everything that made them successful in the first place.
One of the real shortcomings of the human brain, at least in the business world, is the tendency to hold on to the past. To believe that what made us successful up to this point will continue to make us successful in the future. This may have been true when the world moved at a much slower pace. But in today’s hyper-paced business environment, it makes about as much sense as buying a lottery ticket to finance retirement.
At the same time, humans are more driven to avoid pain than to seek reward. This is probably a holdover from our caveman days, when the avoidance of predators and other threats was essential for survival. Regardless of where it came from, it’s scary to think about giving up what has made you successful for something that may or may not work. It’s one thing to let go of the first trapeze when you know the second one will arrive at just the right time. But in today’s environment, we have no certainty that the second trapeze will arrive, or that it will even be a trapeze.
If fear of letting go seems to be holding back your company’s attempts to innovate, try the following:
Identify your fears In business, as in real life, most of our fears are unfounded. Start by asking, “What am I most afraid of?” Follow that up with questions like: “Are my fears real or imagined? Do I have hard data to support them, or are they based on beliefs and assumptions that may no longer be true?”
Ask “what if….?” To help neutralize your fears, or at least make them more manageable, ask a series of “what if…?” questions. For example: “What if those
things I’m afraid of don’t happen? What if I’m willing to build in some safety nets to minimize the risks? What if I can move forward without risking everything?”
Expose your thinking Often people fear new ideas because they don’t see the world the same way you do. Exposing your thinking can help. When presenting a new idea or proposal, lay out all the data behind it and show how it supports your proposed solution. The idea isn’t to force people to see the world the same way you do, but to get them to understand why you see it that way. Once people understand your perspective, they become more open to expanding their own point of view and considering new ideas.
Address the threat rather than the opportunity To overcome people’s ingrained fears, it may help to frame your idea or proposal as a solution to an existing threat rather than a new business opportunity. Focus on what is known about your idea rather than what is new and unproven. In many cases, innovation comes from putting together different pieces of what already exists in new and different ways (the iPod). Explaining how some of the components of your idea have already been tested and proven in the marketplace can help to overcome resistance borne of fear.
We all have fears, many of them valid. By becoming aware of them and working through them, we can open the door to meaningful innovation and the rewards that come with it.
Call to action: Identify a fear that prevents you from innovating. Then ask “what if….?”
image credit: missamandale.com
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Holly is the CEO of THE HUMAN FACTOR, Inc. (www.TheHumanFactor.biz) and is a highly sought after and acclaimed speaker, business consultant, and author. Her unique approach to creating strategic agility, helping others go slow to go fast, will change your thinking.
Innovation Balancing Act Posted on November 25, 2012 by Robert F Brands
On June 15th of this year, Nik Wallenda became the first person ever to walk across the roaring Niagra Falls on a 2-inch wire. After battling wind swells, and thick mist, Wallenda completed his walk crossing from the United States into Canada. He was greeted by a Canadian customs agent who asked, “What is the purpose of your trip sir?” Wallenda’s response: “To inspire people around the world to follow their dreams and never give up”. There are many possible roads to innovation. Successful innovation means defining your own road. Much like Nik Wallenda’s walk across Niagra Falls, some of the best innovations come from stepping outside your own comfort zone and balancing the many different facets of innovation. The formula for success in innovation is about finding the middle ground, walking the tightrope between risk and innovation; between ideation and value creation. The Innovation Balancing Act. Successfully managing the process of innovation ensures the outcome results in a superior return on investment (ROI). Risk/Innovation It’s safe to say that companies are not naturally inclined to try new approaches without clear evidence that those approaches are likely to work. Like many innovators, you may find yourself struggling to innovate in advance of an anticipated economic recovery, while still working to keep costs down in a decidedly uncertain business arena. To increase initiative and innovation, you have to encourage and even embrace failure. You must have a willingness to invest without ROI assurance (see Innovation is Creativity X Risk Taking). Keep in mind:
Milton Hershey started three unsuccessful companies before Hershey’s Chocolate.
Michael Jordan was told he was too short to play on his high school varsity basketball team.
The Beatles were originally rejected by Decca Recording studios, who said “we don’t like their sound” and “they have no future in show business”.
At age 30, Apple’s Board of Directors decided to take the business in a different direction, and Steve Jobs was fired from the company he created. Not only did Jobs go back to his former company, but he changed the market in an astounding way. Jobs claims that his career success and his strong relationship with his family are both results of his termination from Apple.
Are you creating the next Hershey’s or Apple? Ideation/Value Creation The key to optimizing sustainable Innovation programs is value creation. While the creation of the idea is important, the creation of value for the customer is equally paramount. Adding perceived value to a new product or service will drive ROI. The value proposition is the key to successful innovation. Customer value can be created through the actual value-added of the new product, once you find that delicate balance between cost, price and return. Balance is found, in part, by seeking stakeholder input and customer feedback during development of any innovation process (see Value Creation). Remember:
A means to an end – Think of innovation as a process that uses intellectual capital to generate positive business results, new findings and as a result, even more innovation.
Key Considerations – Remember to monitor start-up costs, speed to market, scale to volume and other metrics.
Customer is king – develop an innovation with high perceived value and strong sales will follow.
IP Protection – IP and Patent protection lock in your competitive advantage and support sales results and market share.
image credit: itv.com
Robert Brands is the founder of InnovationCoach.com, and the author of “Robert’s Rules of Innovation: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival,” with Martin Kleinman – published Spring 2010 by Wiley (www.robertsrulesofinnovation.com).
It’s Not Too Late – What have you done this year? Posted on November 24, 2012 by Rowan Gibson
Tom Peters once posed this question at a seminar I attended back in the early 1990s. I remember it vividly. Sitting there at one those big round tables in the ballroom at Amsterdam’s Okura hotel, Tom’s question connected with me like a left hook from Mike Tyson. I vigorously scribbled those words on the notepad in front of me and sat there for a few moments staring at them. What had I actually done with one whole precious year of my life? And, more to the point, what exactly was I going to do with the next one?
When I left the Okura hotel that cold December day and headed home, I made a passionate resolution: I was going to start writing the book that had long been on my mind but not on my agenda. It turned out to be one of the major turning points in my life. That book, “Rethinking the Future”, became an international bestseller sold in over 20 languages and the launch pad for my public speaking career. It also gave me the great honor of working with (and getting to know) some of the smartest business thinkers of all times – luminaries like Warren Bennis, Gary Hamel, Charles Handy, John Naisbitt, Michael Porter, CK Prahalad, Peter Senge, and Alvin Toffler, among others.
As another year comes to an end, and we contemplate what lies ahead for us all in 2013, I challenge you to think about Tom’s question. Sit down and write an annual report – not for your company or department, but for your own career and personal life. Doubtless you have been very busy throughout this year so far doing all kinds of… er, ‘stuff’. But can you list your most ‘stunning’ accomplishments so far in 2012? Have you made a significant difference this year in your organization or, better yet, in your field? Have you started working on that book, or blog, or pet project, or new business you’ve been wanting get off the ground? Did you do something – anything – that could one day be legendary? What will your children or your grandchildren boast to their friends about you? Molly Sargent, OD consultant and trainer, asks a powerful question: “Have you invested as much this year in your career as in your car?”
Sometimes it takes an exercise like this to jolt us out of our complacency and get us to make those hefty adjustments to our careers and our lives that we know we should be making but somehow haven’t yet gotten around to. So, having done the self assessment looking back at 2012 so far, the next challenge is to look ahead to 2013. What are you going to do next year that could meet the test of being truly ‘Wow’? What projects, goals, values, are you going to adopt a ‘fanatic’s posture’ toward? How exactly do you plan to make a dent in the universe?
Most people start the year with some kind of New Year’s resolution. The usual suspects include “going on a diet”, “joining a fitness club” or “reducing my personal debt”. But how many of those resolutions ever get beyond January? How many even get off the starting block? I believe the reason so few resolutions ever go anywhere is that most of us are aiming too low. Instead of
resolving to lose a few pounds before Easter (how inspiring is that?), why not aim to create an innovative new diet that will become the basis for a bestseller that will turn you into the next weight-loss guru? Instead of aiming to reduce your personal debt, why not aim to start building the business that will eventually make you completely debt-free and financially independent?
The greatest piece of advice I ever followed (which came from my friend, Al Ries) was just one single word: “focus”. Make a list of all the things you will inevitably end up doing next year unless you intervene. Then make a list of what you would truly love to do, and where you would love to be. Throw the first list away and start crossing things off the second one until you get down to just one big career-changing or life-changing goal. Then resolve to focus all your energy in 2013 on that one big thing and treat all else as secondary. Pursue your goal tenaciously as if it’s the only thing worth doing for the rest of your life. View it as a grand adventure. Before I wrote one single word of Rethinking the Future, I bought myself a T-shirt and had Helen Keller’s famous mantra printed in large red letters on the front: “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” It certainly worked for me.
Or as advertising legend Leo Burnett once put it, “When you reach for the stars you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.”
If you’re gutsy enough to follow your dream next year, and to work like hell to make it happen, I salute you. May 2013 bring you and your family wealth, health and happiness.
Or even better, 2012 isn’t over, yet…
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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.
Innovative Data – Numbers Telling a BIG Story Posted on November 27, 2012 by Rob
Whether it’s David McCandless waxing eloquent on the TED stage, the NY Times ushering in the age of big data, or new startups racing to carve out a niche in the field, big data is just about everywhere these days. And while big data is being hailed as a potential driver for a better kind of innovation, there’s just a little problem: big data is BIG.
With so many analytics about formerly unmeasurable factors flooding through the gates, it can be difficult to separate the important data from the noise, and to discern how it all fits together. In order to take full of advantage of all big data has to offer, it’s important to find the right tools and approaches for turning a tangled web of raw data turn into actionable insights.
Create a dashboard-driven culture.
We like to think of data as being orderly and neat, but that’s just not so when it’s in its rawest form. For that you need good dashboard reporting software, which can harness, process, analyze and filter data into one easy to navigate dashboard. When data is condensed in this way, you’ll be better able to focus your attention on the most important metrics. You’ll also have a much easier time manipulating and acting on that data when it’s centralized in one place.
Break it down into digestible chunks.
You can’t know every family and house in Game of Thrones right off the bat, nor (much as you might want to) can you read the whole series in one sitting. A flood of data, even that which has already been funneled into a dashboard, needs to be further broken down into smaller chunks to be fully understood. Steve Jobs talked about the innovative use of imagery, as people process information visually. — Business analytics software will enable you to do just this, allowing you to filter data through a range of different measures one at a time as you perform analyses that follow different measurement criterion. This is particularly helpful in pinpointing the most helpful analytics when doing A/B testing.
Visualize raw data to tell a story and find causal relationships.
Despite our very verbal culture, we humans often understand visual language much more intuitively than we understand even in the most cogently constructed verbal arguments. Take one look at Pinterest or viral infographics and it’s easy to understand that visuals often tell an instant, easy to understand and compelling story. That’s why it’s so important to visualize your data using charts and graphs. For people who work very close to the data, this can help you better spot trends, inefficiencies and places for improvement so that you can propose ways for your company to fix small problems before they’re big, and so that you can get out ahead of the competition. Visualization tools also provide an
easy way of translating that big data into a message less data-literate people within an organization can understand. They’re sure to get through in a way no written report ever could.
Customize the experience.
Once data is understood at these more basic levels, business intelligence tools can be used to further individualize the data experience. For instance, dashboards can be customized for different teams to provide data and tools relevant solely to the job they need to do, empowering team members to better apply data to their day to day role. When synced with CRM tools, dashboard analytics software will also do a much better job of keeping and tracking much more in-depth customer profiles, allowing a company to better predict and respond to changing customer needs. Data on its own needs to be customized to be understood on the backend and to improve customer experience on the front end.
Comprehending today’s datastream may seem like a task as big as the data itself, but it’s not with the right tools at hand. Use big data to unlock deeper understanding, not overwhelm it in the flood.
image credit: Shutterstock
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Rob Toledo is Outreach Coordinator at Distilled, aka marketing coordinator with experience heavily focused online. Technologically driven, with a love for SEO, outreach, link building, content creation, conversion rate optimization, advertising, copywriting, graphic design, SEO, SEM, CRO, Google Analytics, social media, creative content…you get the picture. He blogs at stenton toledo
Innovation Challenges in Laggard Markets Posted on November 24, 2012 by Jorge Barba
A culture challenge Early this year a Groupon copycat was in my office building: Grupongo.
I don’t know if they exist anymore but they’ve since closed operations in Tijuana. I have no insight into why they closed operations, but I do have an idea since I got to talk to the Regional Sales Manager a few months before.
See, Tijuana is a conservative market. The nature of Groupon, and all its copycats, is that it stimulates randomness. It lowers the barriers to doing things you’ve never done before. This happens easily in markets where diversity exists.
I know, it may sound like I’m assuming. But believe me, after organizing two Startup Weekends and an Animation conference, I come back to the same principle: diversity breeds innovation.
Take Grupongo, who doesn’t like deals? Everyone does. But in some markets, like Tijuana, “it’s too good to be true” usually is. People were using Grupongo. But it was a small size. This meant that these people were early adopters. But not a strong enough group to influence the mainstream.
Another case. Take last month’s Tijuana Innovadora. Did it live up to its expectations? No, because they were giving tickets away to lure people to see Chris Anderson. I don’t know what happened with Steve Wozniak, but the other guests were not seen by as many people as possible. This wasn’t just a communication problem, but of culture.
To drive a city, institution or group towards innovation, you need diversity of thought and action. That only happens if you have people from diverse backgrounds bumping into one another everyday. It is the same reason why places like New York, Boston, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Hong Kong, Amsterdam and the like are breeding grounds for innovation.
Technology laggard For the most part, Mexico is a laggard in information technology adoption in both the public and the enterprise. This means technological advantage in the workforce is stagnant. It also means that ideas that come from outsiders is all but non-existent.
Go to the edge Innovation doesn’t happen without mass adoption. And you won’t get adoption of breakthrough type ideas in the mainstream. For that you need to go to the edge, where innovators and early adopters live. Not in the mainstream.
Bring in the innovators Want to create the next innovation breeding ground? Take a page out of Chile’s book and pay entrepreneurs from all over the world to come to your city to start businesses. That’s what StartupChile’s mission is. Chile’s leaders understood that to stimulate growth, progress and chance to play a role in shaping the lives of its citizens, they needed to bring in new blood. They understood that to become an innovation breeding ground they needed to turn themselves into an international business hub. That meant making room for new ideas from different parts of the world.
What did Chile do to make this happen? They lowered the barriers to entry for entrepreneurs.
The question remains, how can conservative markets turn into innovation hot spots without changing their structure?
Is reverse innovation the answer? They jury is still out on whether or not a low-cost, focused solution is for everyone. Will people in a conservative market adopt the same solution as people in emerging markets? There evidence that it may work but I think we are still in the initial stages of this strategy.
Is open innovation the answer? The rise of social networks in the workplace can help drive innovation because people can collaborate with other people from around the world. Not just internally. But, for businesses of all sizes the obstacles are transparency and a willingness to do things differently. If people are not using social networks for anything other than communicating with friends and family, we aren’t moving towards a collaborative future. And that means stagnant organizations.
The Point: Even with diverse cultures innovation isn’t a done deal. As you know, many things have to be in place for innovation to happen. But it is a better strategy to go to the edge than rely on the mainstream. The edge means trying stuff no one else is willing to try and push everyone forward.
image credit: business finance image from bigstock
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Jorge Barba is an Innovation Insurgent and is the Creative Strategist at Blu Maya, a San Diego based Digital Marketing Firm that helps organizations build their online business with strategy development for new products and services. He’s also the author of the innovation blog Game Changer. And lastly, you can follow him on Twitter @jorgebarba.
Reboot Education to Accelerate the Entrepreneurial Movement & Innovation Economy Posted on November 24, 2012 by Dean DeBiase
Over the last decade I have worked with Congress and The Administration, through various organizations like TechNet, SINET, CEC/1871, DeVry and NIU and many other groups to help improve America’s competitiveness in the highly competitive and global innovation economy. Our initiatives have ranged from H1B’s, so we can keep the foreign students, graduating from our colleges and universities, to join our hightech work force and/or start new companies here, to improving our STEM Education results so we can graduate American kids in critical tech. jobs that still go unfilled.
After decades of work across public/private partnerships, it seems our STEM efforts still have a long way to go if we are to train, educate and collaborate with our next science, technology, engineering and math graduates. We seemed to have created and ecosystem around STEM with hundreds of programs and dozens of summits discussing the issues–from training the teachers to encouraging students to pursue a STEM educational journey. That is all OK, but more focus is needed on the results–specifically what we are doing to create the next-generation of inventors and entrepreneurs after high school– in the post secondary market. This sector of our educational system really needs a reboot–more on that soon.
I think there is something missing from our high school though post secondary STEM programs. Something that would better prepare our students for the competitive global economy. I think they also need to be equipped with the skills that can bring it all together for them– entrepreneurship. So lets reboot it, and for those of you who look for the next acronym, we can call it STEEM.
STEEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Entrepreneurship and Math. With innovative entrepreneurial curriculum in the mix, we can get to work on developing the best equipped generation to help lead the next phase of growth of our innovation economy.
image credit: rebootpartners.com
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A serial CEO and innovation speaker, Dean DeBiase is the Chairman and CEO of entertainment.com, co-founder of boardroominnovation.com and Innovation Excellence, and a co-author of The Big Moo.
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