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October 12, 2012

Issue 2 – October 12, 2012


The Driving Force in Healthcare Innovation Today….………...………… LeAnna J. Carey


Innovation is a Requirement Not an Option …………………...…………….. Braden Kelley


The Value Proposition Canvas ………………………………………….…. Alex Osterwalder


Beyond Product Innovation ……………………………..………..…………… Rowan Gibson


Innovation is a Belief System …………………………………..………..……. Jeffrey Phillips


The Jazz of Business …………..………………….….……………………………. Peter Cook


Remote Innovation Management – Indefatigable ………………..……………. Steve Todd


The Virgin Atlantic Ice Cream Story ………………….………………...……….. Paul Sloane


Top 5 Things Employees Need to Hear from Management ……..….…….. Holly G Green


A Race to the Top …………………………………………..………………..…... Mike Shipulski

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: ok hand lamp bulb from Bigstock

The Driving Force in Healthcare Innovation Today Posted on October 8, 2012 by LeAnna J. Carey

Do you know how to read the signals of change? In my recent interview with Dr. Indu Sabaiya, she could have said that the most significant driving force in healthcare innovation today is a result of consumers becoming more interested in their own health, the explosion of sensors and devices, or even technological possibilities – but, she did not. Instead, she went to the to the core of the matter and said that the single most important driving force is that the current healthcare system is not sustainable and that, “healthcare for the most part is still a source of frustration and heavy financial burden for the average person, and that force is causing healthcare stakeholders to innovate, change and improve.” That’s a true innovator talking – opting out of the buzz.

I had the great privilege of interviewing the highly respected innovators and founders of Health2.0 this week, Matthew Holt and Dr. Sabaiya, who have taken their business from an idea to the global arena. If you are wondering if this is your time to innovate, take a few minutes to listen to their deep experience on how to listen for signals of change.

While there are some CEO’s who have been successful at reinventing and innovating, like Aetna’s Mark Bertolini, Holt admits that it is not easy to spot the signals of change. This is true especially for larger companies because once they identify a market tipping point, making the jump from a declining business model to one that is on the incline is difficult. He pointed to the importance of looking for signal events like companies coming to the market with different offerings, legislative mandates like ACO’s, companies buying products in different ways. Holt added that the most difficult element of growth is discerning if the market is moving beyond those early adopters into a real tipping point, then ask, “How is it different this time?”

Dr. Sabaiya agreed by sharing that Health2.0 is observing three different behaviors from both inside and outside of their innovation network:

1. Notable activity in buying innovation and acquisitions; she used Aetna’s recent acquisition of Healthagen, to leverage iTriage for its ACO offering as a key component for consumer engagement, as an example.

2. Interest in partnering strategies with ahead of the curve mobile app companies to accelerate growth. In fact, Health2.0 holds matchmaking forums to provide larger organizations and retailers to explore the startup ecosystem, before making a decision to build internally.

3. The use of prize money to find the best and brightest developers to build a solution that does not exist yet; the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, Kaiser Permanente and AT&T are successful users of crowdsourcing.

Both of the founders agree that the most disruptive and exploding innovations (whether devices, sensors or trackers) are those that capture some aspect of a consumers health that is computable and integrates with the healthcare system in usable ways. Matthew emphasized that healthcare innovation does not have to be “hugely futuristic,” but easier, affordable, and putting it in the right place. Innovative tools for understanding the best places to receive healthcare, “doctor search, best outcomes, price, quality, and transparency that interface with providers and consumers is a huge growth area to watch.” At this year’s conference, they will feature a panel specific to this growing interest.

For those needing to develop their innovation network, collaborate on crowdsourcing opportunities, or keep pace with the healthcare segment should use Health2.0 to capitalize on their world view and experience of innovation. The relationship that both Matthew and Dr. Sabaiya have with their community is a competitive differentiator and key to their success, but at the end of day, they are serving an unmet need in healthcare – driving innovation.

Before closing, these founders took the time to mention several companies that will be showcased at this year’s Health2.0 conference. One company that I’ll give a shout out to as well is Audax Health. Its CEO is extraordinary and I’m gonna love watching Grant Verstadig do his part in transforming healthcare.

image credit: showing tablet image from bigstock

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LeAnna Carey is the Healthcare Editor for Innovation Excellence, the principal of TheHealthMaven, LLC, and co-founder of a mobile healthcare company, AuraViva. Lea hosts a radio show and can be found on iTunes where she interviews healthcare entrepreneurs and innovators at

Innovation is a Requirement Not an Option Posted on October 9, 2012 by Braden Kelley

Interview – Moises Norena – Whirlpool Corporation

I had the opportunity to interview Moises Norena, Director of Global Innovation, Whirlpool Corporation, about open innovation participation, strategies, and barriers to innovation success.

Here is the text from the interview:

1. Do you feel that companies need an innovation strategy? If so, where does open innovation fit in?

I don’t think that having an innovation strategy is an option for companies, it is a requirement, especially in consumer segments. Innovation is the path to sustainability and growth. Innovation can be seen differently depending on which company you are looking at. There are companies like Apple that live innovation, that is what they do, Innovation is their strategy. Companies like Whirlpool, that have existed for 100 years, require an explicit innovation strategy, that translates into actions that people take, that force the change in behavior to stay relevant.

Open innovation (OI) is a way to exponentially expand your ability to generate ideas and develop them. I believe open innovation is a subset of the overall innovation strategy and tool kit. You can use OI in your discovery phase to generate ideas. You can also use OI to develop technologies or even to commercialize something you’ve created that others can use. Companies should think of open innovation as an element of their innovation strategy but not forget the internal organizational elements and management systems that are necessary to succeed in innovation.

2. Why is it important for organizations to consider participating in open innovation or why did your organization begin its open innovation effort?

It is important for organizations to consider participating in open innovation because having different perspectives creates new opportunities. Also because you leverage the resources of others, increasing your ability to deliver innovation. For example, W hirlpool has worked on refrigerators for many years. We create new organization, larger capacity, better cooling systems, etc. I am sure that food manufacturers see the refrigerator in ways we don’t. When you put those two together, new things can emerge. The real challenge with OI is to establish the mechanisms that allow this interaction in a productive way in which there’s a win-win situation AND that there are aligned goals both externally and internally.

3. What should an organization be aware of if they decide to pursue open innovation?

That this requires a shift in mentality. That is easier said than done. This involves the interaction of different people within your organization that will be threatened. You got to be able to show the win and show that there is management of the risks associated with OI. Organizations should also know that OI can provide real benefits but it should be managed in a way that complements with the internal efforts, not as a substitute.

4. What is the most important culture change for organizations to make in order to support innovation?

It depends on the organization. I see two important cultural shifts as necessary to make innovation work: The first is being able to manage both the short term and the long term within business units. This is challenging given the business priorities and to have a balanced portfolio really requires leaders to drive a change in their teams and organize in ways that allow this balance. The second thing I see, that is also very important, is the shift in mentality to do experimentation – this requires a big change because organizations have the tendency to expect the experiments to drive a business results and in fact, they should be designed to learn. That is a big change.

5. What are some of the biggest barriers to innovation that you’ve seen in organizations?

I think one of the biggest barriers is that there are conflicting business priorities in organizations. To overcome this barrier, innovation has to become an imperative and a priority AND be managed as part of the business operations. When that is done, this alleviates some of the issues that emerge from working in silos, which is in itself, another barrier that innovation commonly faces. In today’s world innovation is taught in schools and companies have their own approaches to drive innovation. I believe that organizations should adapt one approach and drive it, bringing new approaches all the time slows down the machinery.

6. What skills do you believe that managers need to acquire to succeed in an innovation-led organization?

I think it is important for managers to learn the mind sets and behaviors to drive innovative thinking and growth. This includes understanding the value of the innovation process, experimentation as learning tool, portfolio management. As my colleague Deb Mills-Scofield says, learning to ask the dumb questions. I think that it is also important to learn how to assess and select talent, and create teams that are balanced in creative and analytical skills.

7. If you were to change one thing about our educational system to better prepare students to contribute in the innovation work force of tomorrow, what would it be?

I think the answer is already there, the Montessori system fosters curiosity and creativity. It would be hard to move the whole system to a model like that, but I think there are many elements that can be leveraged as the system evolves. Sitting in a desk for eight hours does not create innovators.

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Braden Kelley is a popular innovation speaker, embeds innovation across the organization with innovation training, and builds B2B pull marketing strategies that drive increased revenue, visibility and inbound sales leads. He is currently advising an early-stage fashion startup making jewelry for your hair and is the author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons. He tweets from @innovate.

The Value Proposition Canvas Posted on October 7, 2012 by Alex Osterwalder

Achieve Product-Market Fit with Our Brand New Value Proposition Canvas

I’m a big fan of the Lean Startup movement and love the underlying principle of testing, learning, and pivoting by experimenting with the most basic product prototypes imaginable – so-called Minimal Viable Products (MVP) – during the search for product-market fit. It helps companies avoid building stuff that customers don’t want. Yet, there is no underlying conceptual tool that accompanies this process. There is no practical tool that helps business people map, think through, discuss, test, and pivot their company’s value proposition in relationship to their customers’ needs. So I came up with the Value Proposition Canvas together with Yves Pigneur and Alan Smith.

The Value Proposition Canvas is like a plug-in tool to the Business Model Canvas. It helps you design, test, and build your company’s Value Proposition to Customers in a more structured and thoughtful way, just like the Canvas assists you in the business model design process (I wrote more about how we came up with this new tool previously).

The Canvas with its niine building blocks focuses on the big picture. The Value Proposition Canvas zooms in on two of those building blocks, the Value Proposition and the Customer Segment, so you can describe them in more detail and analyze the “fit” between them. Companies need to get both right, the “fit” and the business model, if they don’t want to go out of business, as I described in an earlier post on failure. The tools work best in combination. One does not replace the other.

In this post I’ll explain the conceptual tool. In my next post I’ll outline how you can use it for testing in combination with the Customer Development process by Steve Blank and the Lean Start-up process by Eric Ries. The Value Proposition Canvas will allow you to better

describe the hypotheses underlying Value Propositions and Customers, it will prepare you for customer interviews, and it will guide you in the testing and pivoting.

The Value Proposition Canvas

As mentioned above, the Value Proposition Canvas is composed of two blocks from the Business Model Canvas, the Value Proposition and the corresponding Customer Segment you are targeting. The purpose of the tool is to help you sketch out both in more detail with a simple but powerful structure. Through this visualization you will have better strategic conversations and it will prepare you for testing both building blocks.

Achieving Fit

The goal of the Value Proposition Canvas is to assist you in designing great Value Propositions that match your Customer’s needs and jobs-tobe-done and helps them solve their problems. This is what the start-up scene calls product-market fit or problem-solution fit. The Value Proposition Canvas helps you work towards this fit in a more systematic way.

Customer Jobs

First let us look at customers more closely by sketching out a customer profile. I want you to look at three things. Start by describing what the customers you are targeting are trying to get done. It could be the tasks they are trying to perform and complete, the problems they are trying to solve, or the needs they are trying to satisfy.

Ask yourself:

What functional jobs is your customer trying get done? (e.g. perform or complete a specific task, solve a specific problem, …)

What social jobs is your customer trying to get done? (e.g. trying to look good, gain power or status, …)

What emotional jobs is your customer trying get done? (e.g. esthetics, feel good, security, …)

What basic needs is your customer trying to satisfy? (e.g. communication, sex, …)

Customer Pains

Now describe negative emotions, undesired costs and situations, and risks that your customer experiences or could experience before, during, and after getting the job done.

Ask yourself:

What does your customer find too costly? (e.g. takes a lot of time, costs too much money, requires substantial efforts, …)

What makes your customer feel bad?(e.g. frustrations, annoyances, things that give them a headache, …)

How are current solutions underperforming for your customer? (e.g. lack of features, performance, malfunctioning, …)

What are the main difficulties and challenges your customer encounters? (e.g. understanding how things work, difficulties getting things done, resistance, …)

What negative social consequences does your customer encounter or fear? (e.g. loss of face, power, trust, or status, …)

What risks does your customer fear? (e.g. financial, social, technical risks, or what could go awfully wrong, …)

What’s keeping your customer awake at night? (e.g. big issues, concerns, worries, …)

What common mistakes does your customer make? (e.g. usage mistakes, …)

What barriers are keeping your customer from adopting solutions? (e.g. upfront investment costs, learning curve, resistance to change, …)

Rank each pain according to the intensity it represents for your customer. Is it very intense or is it very light. For each pain indicate how often it occurs.

Customer Gains

Now describe the benefits your customer expects, desires or would be surprised by. This includes functional utility, social gains, positive emotions, and cost savings.

Ask yourself:

Which savings would make your customer happy? (e.g. in terms of time, money and effort, …)

What outcomes does your customer expect and what would go beyond his/her expectations? (e.g. quality level, more of something, less of something, …)

How do current solutions delight your customer? (e.g. specific features, performance, quality, …)

What would make your customer’s job or life easier? (e.g. flatter learning curve, more services, lower cost of ownership, …)

What positive social consequences does your customer desire? (e.g. makes them look good, increase in power, status, …)

What are customers looking for? (e.g. good design, guarantees, specific or more features, …)

What do customers dream about? (e.g. big achievements, big reliefs, …)

How does your customer measure success and failure? (e.g. performance, cost, …)

What would increase the likelihood of adopting a solution? (e.g. lower cost, less investments, lower risk, better quality, performance, design, …)

Rank each gain according to its relevance to your customer. Is it substantial or is it insignificant? For each gain indicate how often it occurs.

Products & Services

Now that you sketched out a profile of your Customer, let’s tackle the Value Proposition. Again, I want you to look at three things. First, list all the products and services your value proposition is built around.

Ask yourself which products and services you offer that help your customer get either a functional, social, or emotional job done, or help him/her satisfy basic needs?

Products and services may either by tangible (e.g. manufactured goods, face-to-face customer service), digital/virtual (e.g. downloads, online recommendations), intangible (e.g. copyrights, quality assurance), or financial (e.g. investment funds, financing services).

Rank all products and services according to their importance to your customer. Are they crucial or trivial to your customer?

Pain Relievers

Now lets outline how your products and services create value. First, describe how your products and services alleviate customer pains. How do they eliminate or reduce negative emotions, undesired costs and situations, and risks your customer experiences or could experience before, during, and after getting the job done?

Ask yourself if they…

… produce savings? (e.g. in terms of time, money, or efforts, …)

… make your customers feel better? (e.g. kills frustrations, annoyances, things that give them a headache, …)

… fix underperforming solutions? (e.g. new features, better performance, better quality, …)

… put an end to difficulties and challenges your customers encounter? (e.g. make things easier, helping them get done, eliminate resistance, …)

… wipe out negative social consequences your customers encounter or fear? (e.g. loss of face, power, trust, or status, …)

… eliminate risks your customers fear? (e.g. financial, social, technical risks, or what could go awfully wrong, …)

… help your customers better sleep at night? (e.g. by helping with big issues, diminishing concerns, or eliminating worries, …)

… limit or eradicate common mistakes customers make? (e.g. usage mistakes, …)

… get rid of barriers that are keeping your customer from adopting solutions? (e.g. lower or no upfront investment costs, flatter learning curve, less resistance to change, …)

Rank each pain your products and services kill according to their intensity for your customer. Is it very intense or very light? For each pain indicate how often it occurs.

Gain Creators

Finally, describe how your products and services create customer gains. How do they create benefits your customer expects, desires or would be surprised by, including functional utility, social gains, positive emotions, and cost savings?

Ask yourself if they…

…create savings that make your customer happy? (e.g. in terms of time, money and effort, …)

… produce outcomes your customer expects or that go beyond their expectations? (e.g. better quality level, more of something, less of something, …)

… copy or outperform current solutions that delight your customer? (e.g. regarding specific features, performance, quality, …)

… make your customer’s job or life easier? (e.g. flatter learning curve, usability, accessibility, more services, lower cost of ownership, …)

… create positive social consequences that your customer desires? (e.g. makes them look good, produces an increase in power, status, …)

… do something customers are looking for? (e.g. good design, guarantees, specific or more features, …)

… fulfill something customers are dreaming about? (e.g. help big achievements, produce big reliefs, …)

… produce positive outcomes matching your customers success and failure criteria? (e.g. better performance, lower cost, …)

… help make adoption easier? (e.g. lower cost, less investments, lower risk, better quality, performance, design, …)

Rank each gain your products and services create according to its relevance to your customer. Is it substantial or insignificant? For each gain indicate how often it occurs.

Competing for Customers

Most Value Propositions compete with others for the same Customer Segment. I like thinking of this as an “open slot” that will be filled by the company with the best fit. The visualization for this was an idea by Alan Smith, one of my co-founders, and the designer of Business Model Generation.

If you sketch out competing value propositions, you can easily compare them by mapping out the same variables (e.g. price, performance, risk, service quality, etc.) on a so-called strategy canvas.

The Value Proposition Canvas Poster

You can use the Value Proposition Canvas like the Business Model Canvas: plot it as a poster, then stick it up on the wall, and then use sticky notes to start sketching.

Contrary to the Canvas, the Value Proposition Canvas poster and methodology is copyrighted. However, you are free to use it and earn money with it as an entrepreneur, consultant, or executive, as long as you are not a software company (the latter need to license it from us). However, when you us it please reference and link to

Here is a downloadable draft poster version of the Value Proposition Canvas.

Testing and Pivoting

Using the Value Proposition Canvas as a thinking and design tool is only a start. To get the best out of it you need to combine it with testing and pivoting. In my next blogpost I explain how the Value Proposition Canvas perfectly integrates with the Customer Development and Lean Startup Process. I explain how it helps you substantially when you “get out of the building” as Steve Blank would say.

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Alexander Osterwalder is entrepreneur and co-author of “Business Model Generation”, the global bestseller adopted by leading companies around the world. He is the founder of Business Model Foundry GmbH, the company behind the Business Model Toolbox for iPad and Strategyzer, an online app to design and execute better business strategies

Beyond Product Innovation Posted on October 6, 2012 by Rowan Gibson

One of the problems with innovation is that, in any given industry, it can get harder and harder over time to come up with the kind of ideas that totally reinvent things in a fundamental and significant way.

Take any vector of innovation and you get to some point where you may have just exhausted the possibilities. Look at today’s automobile. It’s essentially based on the same architecture we’ve been using for a hundred years – a wheel at each corner, a steering wheel on one side, an engine at the front or back, a gearbox, and so forth. So innovation in the automobile industry has got to the point where the car is a little bit better here, a little bit better there, but it’s the kind of stuff you hardly even notice. Apart, maybe, from the new hybrid motors which have been quite a breakthrough. But, again, if you look at the car as whole, the change is quite cosmetic.

The same has happened in mobile phones. Back in the nineties, companies like Nokia were producing some very distinctive phones. At the time, they were the most stylish, the easiest to use and so on. But over time, with so many companies joining the fray, and so much being outsourced to the same suppliers, almost every mobile phone you pick up is just a variation on the same theme.

So, in any given industry, you may get to a stage where you have to think about shifting the basis of differentiation away from the physical. That’s why Lexus puts so much effort into innovating around the dealer experience. A lot of people couldn’t honestly tell a Lexus from a Mercedes, so the company has decided to made the dealer a huge part of the differentiation. Because, when everything else is the same, you have to innovate around whatever you have left.

Take Rexam, the world’s leader supplier of beverage cans. They’ve spent years looking at tin cans and trying to figure out where they can be innovative.

And, of course, there are still one or two possibilities to do interesting things (i.e. resealable cans, different formats and sizes etc.), and every company needs to avoid getting blinded by its own orthodoxies. But, essentially, the beverage can hasn’t changed its basic form for decades. So rather than it being the physical can itself, Rexam’s basis for differentiation tends to come from all the stuff around the can – the parts of their business model that give them their unique advantage, particularly in terms of their global capability and the depth of their customer relationships.

Instead of thinking about innovation merely in terms of what you provide (i.e. your products and services), you should be looking at ways to innovate across the entire business model in an effort to meet important customer needs in unconventional ways.

For example, think about customer groups that you and your competitors may have been ignoring. Think about delivering what you provide in ways that would reinvent the customer experience – i.e. by making it easier or more enjoyable. Think about how you might break the dominant pricing paradigm in your industry. Ask yourself whether there any dimensions of differentiation which you and your competitors have not yet explored.

In other words, think about how you might be able to design your whole business model from the customer backward, looking at each and every component as an opportunity for innovation and competitive advantage. When you start to unpack your business model in this way, you will invariably discover lots of ways to dramatically redesign what you do – and how you do it – in order to create new value for the customer.

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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.

Innovation is a Belief System Posted on October 6, 2012 by Jeffrey Phillips

In today’s post, I decided to tackle what is, to me, perhaps the most confusing characteristic of most organizations today – the failure to believe in innovation. Most firms believe strongly in their culture, they say they believe in their people and their abilities. Yet the biggest gap for innovation success is in what executives believe about the organization, and what the organization believes about its executives.

Executives want innovation to happen, in order to drive new revenues or create differentiated products, but are concerned about the distraction that innovation may produce. That distraction may lead the team to take their eyes off the ball and miss quarterly projections. Missing quarterly projections simply isn’t done, and cannot be repeated, so far too much emphasis is on the short term numbers. While executives want the benefits of innovation, they are concerned about the risks of emphasizing innovation. Worse, many executives don’t have faith that their teams are capable of innovation.

On the other hand, far too many people in the organization look at their executives and are certain they know what will happen if they suggest an interesting or compelling new idea. Most managers and staff are convinced that if they present a new innovation, the executive team will shoot it down, and place a black mark on the permanent record of anyone who suggested a radical new idea. Managers and staff don’t believe that their executives are open to innovative ideas, even as executives ask for innovation.

This is a belief system failure, which leads to executives thinking that their teams or staff aren’t innovative, because they never suggest interesting, valuable ideas, and the staff thinking that executives don’t believe they are capable or worse, will shoot down new ideas. While both teams recognize the need to innovate, neither has a belief system which establishes communication, trust and commitment to allow to happen what both want to happen. This is almost a prisoner’s dilemma situation, where both win only if they can keep silent.

Why does the belief system break down? Let’s examine the executives first. Executives often don’t understand how innovation works. Many executives achieved their positions by cost cutting or by financial management, not through innovation, so for many of them innovation is an

unfamiliar, uncertain activity. They know they need it but aren’t sure how it works or how their teams can be effective. They have repeatedly asked for innovation but have seen little from their teams. They don’t recognize that innovation is more than an activity – it is a capability or system that needs resources, funding and persistence. Their unfunded requests seem cynical in the eyes of the managers and staff, who know that compensation is tied to delivering the quarter. Eventually executives come to believe that innovation is a dangerous, risky exercise that requires great insight and experience, which isn’t present in the organization. Executives don’t believe their organizations can be innovative.

In the reverse, a lot of managers and staff have good ideas, but are afraid to present them because the executive team hasn’t been very open to listening to new or different ideas in the past. Increasingly, I am told by our clients how difficult it is to obtain a meeting with executives and how unlikely new ideas are to receive a warm reception. In many cases the managers have built an artificial wall, and I’ve found that with the right presentation and packaging executives are interested, but managers and staff don’t believe that their executives will be open to new ideas.

This lack of a belief system is built on four challenges or assumptions:

1. Innovation is something that requires a significant amount of insight and skill, which doesn’t exist in our company. The insights are often there, waiting for permission to be unleashed

2. Our needs and strategies are well communicated, so innovators will step forward. Executives often believe that their strategic goals and the needs for innovation are obvious, but that’s rarely the case. Company strategy is poorly or inadequately communicated and often analyzed and received differently than was intended. Combine a poorly communicated strategy with the overwhelming pressure to achieve high objectives in short time frames and you can see why most organizations revert to business as usual

3. When managers or staff suggested ideas to executives in the past they were rejected or ignored. In fact in most organizations this is still the case – there are few mechanisms to allow good ideas to surface at the level where they can be considered and most importantly funded.

4. Inaction and rejection breed a culture that accepts the difficulty of innovation and the inadequacy of the staff. A vicious cycle erupts and becomes codified – executives don’t think their teams are innovative and managers and staff think their ideas will be rejected. Neither believe that the other is open or capable of innovation.

If you want more innovation, work for better and more consistent communication of that fact. Establish communication lines and mechanisms for anyone to present good ideas. Carefully define the strategic goals and frame innovation activities in line with these goals. Set aside time to listen to your team and their ideas. Demonstrate engagement with your team, and build a belief system that demonstrates you (as an executive) believe the team can develop good ideas. Provide sponsorship to those who seek to innovate and offer encouragement, rewards and recognition to those that do. You’ll be surprised how much innovation is possible in an organization that has a strong belief in its capability to innovate, and how little innovation is possible when no one believes that innovation is possible.

image credit: young businessman 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

The Jazz of Business Posted on October 6, 2012 by Peter Cook

Introducing Penelope Tobin of Barrier Breakers. Penelope is a jazz pianist, vocalist and composer with a pedigree working with Class A musicians, such as Nico, Nick Lowe, The Eurythmics and The Slits. She has just launched her second book The Jazz of Business – Leadership in a new groove. Here’s what Lady Penelope had to say about it.

What is the Jazz of Business? We’re going through turbulent times, and we need a new kind of leadership and followership, if we’re going to navigate it successfully. We need leaders who can set up structures to hold uncertainty, who can adapt to change in real time, who co-create their vision, who learn continuously, who understand innovation. This isn’t the old style autocratic leader. If the old paradigm looked like the orchestral conductor, working to a fixed plan from a detached, elevated position of control, the new one can be seen as the leader of a jazz group, or jazz leadership. This way of leading is derived from jazz, at the heart of which is the ability to work successfully with improvisation, or things not seen ahead of time.

Where is this stuff being done well and who by?

In a recent poll of 1500 CEOs “creativity” topped the list of the most essential leadership competencies. But still there’s plenty of evidence that business leaders are responding to the turbulence by reverting to command and control, so it’s far easier to find the places where this stuff isn’t being done well. However, there are forward thinking companies, such as Zappos, IBM, and Innocent—and Google, whose New York offices I visited recently, and what a great environment and you can see why it’s the number one place graduates want to work.

Let’s see a bit of jazz in action:

I’ve said in my own work that jazz as a business model is mainly for those enterprises that want to innovate continuously and it can therefore be wasteful for companies that are operating in a more steady state way. Richard Branson also says that many business cannot do complex things, which brings me back to 4/4 and rock music of course ! What do you say to this?

Using jazz as a business model is more about how organisations can respond effectively to change, about having the best organisational structures for today’s environment. Business needs structure, but the structures must be at the service of what’s going on within the business, rather than being the master and they must be adaptable enough to respond to change. The jazz-leader establishes clearly defined boundaries, roles and responsibilities, plus the overall vision, which everyone then works within as individuals, speaking with their own voice. This fully engages everyone, as not only are they being heard and shaping the outcome, but they have to listen keenly to others in order to respond – that’s improvisation. They’re not following a pre-written score, or playing pre-rehearsed licks. It’s uncomfortable, certainly…as is the seismic change we’re going through. But it’s also exhilarating, and it’s possible when the structures are supportive.

You discuss 5 barriers in the book. What are they and why are they important?

My work at Barrier Breakers is all about soft skills development, and soft skills are innate human competencies. We all have soft skills like creativity, communication, leadership, self-motivation, and teamworking to some degree already. Unlike hard skills, which have to be learnt, or input, the soft skills have to be accessed. If we’re not using them it’s because there are barriers in the way. Sometimes the barriers are ones we’ve set up ourselves; sometimes they’re ones we encounter. So to develop soft skills you need to identify where the barriers are, and then remove them. The five Barrier Profiles are the “lenses” we use at Barrier Breakers to do this, which is the mechanism that underpins all our training and consultancy work with individuals and organisations.

Have you taken this out to companies? What happened?

Barrier Breakers been used widely within organisations, initially in the 3 rd sector, winning the national Performance Hub prize for this work in 2007, and recently we’ve been rolling it out to public and private sector organisations.

What’s your platform for this?

At the turn of the century I was a jazz composer, pianist and vocalist, living and working between London and New York, leading a sextet in each city, composing for these groups and for a 17-piece jazz orchestra, recording regularly, performing in clubs most nights – from Birdland to Ronnie Scotts – often teaching and running workshops by day, as well as touring in Europe and Japan. I’d been a professional musician since leaving school, working with a wide array of pop and rock bands as a keyboard player (from Nico to Nick Lowe, Eurythmics to The Slits), composing for commercials, and touring…but this was always fuelled by a love of jazz, so my transatlantic life was the realisation of a dream.

And your work in charity?

Barrier Breakers began life as a charity, working with disadvantaged young people and those within the criminal justice system – either at risk of offending or needing support in re-settlement. Soft skills are powerful enablers for anyone, but particularly for those who’ve been battered by life and are looking for new ways of living. We’ve had some incredible results over the years. We’ve now got the main “for-more-than-profit” arm, and the intention is that the training and consultancy will eventually fund all our charitable work, allowing us to be independent of external funding, and therefore to be sustainable.

image credit: penelope tobin

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Peter Cook is Rock’n'Roll Innovation Editor at Innovation Excellence. He leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock, and provides Keynote speaking, Organisation Development and Business Coaching. and You can follow him on twitter @Academyofrock

Remote Innovation Management – Indefatigable Posted on October 7, 2012 by Steve Todd

My series of blog posts on managing an innovation team in China caused one of my co-workers to forward an interesting article my way (thanks Carter).

Mark Murphy, Founder and CEO of Leadership IQ, published an article Monday that is highly relevant to me as I adjust and experiment in my new role as a (matrix) leader of the EMC Labs China research team.

The article posits that there are four aspects that remote managers should focus on. I’ve listed them below:

Connection: the bonds we build with employees.

Alignment: keeping employees focused and moving in the right direction.

Accountability: how we get people to accomplish what we want.

Communication: via all mediums.

This is helpful, but it doesn’t exactly give me any advice on how to alter my behavior. The rest of the article, however, describes a set of six characteristics that can enable success for a remote manager. It also challenges remote managers (e.g. myself) to consider how they stack up. The first characteristic is as follows (word for word):

Characteristic #1: Indefatigable: Managing employees that span time zones can mean 11 PM conference calls and 6 AM coaching sessions. If yours is a 9-to-5 mindset, and your energy flags after a “normal day”, learn to adapt to a more flexible schedule where you include breaks between “sprints” so your performance over long periods is more consistent.

Am I indefatigable? I had no idea what the word meant. Here is the definition:

in·de·fat·i·ga·ble incapable of being tired out; not yielding to fatigue; untiring.

My first 2-3 weeks on the job I had a lot of catching up to do. I needed to learn the projects and meet the team. One week I spent every night in meetings until 11 p.m. I was totally fatigated. I agree with the author. A high energy level is required, and I was instantly drained by the varied hours I was working. My morning meetings already included several 7 a.m. conference calls with locations in different parts of the world.

So I made some adjustments. First of all, I stopped going to the gym at 6:30 AM every morning and pushed it out until 8 a.m. This gets me into work quite a bit later, so I make sure not to schedule any other meetings until 10 a.m (if at all possible). I view an exercise routine as an essential part of maintaining energy levels.

The team in China directly asked me “when do you want to work with us”? I chose 2-3 times per week, at night. The main downside of this approach is that my conversations about cool software projects has my brain pretty juiced when I attempt to go to sleep.

I have also told them that I guarantee a quick turn-around time on email (and I’ve kept that guarantee).

I have been an early arriver for my entire career, but my new schedule won’t allow for it. Now I relax around the house in the morning, have some coffee, hang out with the wife, play with the dog, saunter over to the gym, and stroll into work around 10 a.m.

And I’m starting to think to myself: “I like this China gig“.

According to the article, the odds of increasing the innovative output of my team is directly related to my energy level. I agree, I’ve made adjustments, and my overall sense is that the China team and myself are currently operating in a sustainably indefatigable manner.

I’m interested in hearing about other ways that remote teams keep the energy levels high.

image credit:

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Steve Todd is Director at EMC Innovation Network, and a high-tech inventor and book author “Innovate With Global Influence“. An EMC Intrapreneur with over 180 patent applications and billions in product revenue, he writes about innovation on his personal blog, the Information Playground. Twitter: @SteveTodd

The Virgin Atlantic Ice Cream Story Posted on October 5, 2012 by Paul Sloane

I recently spoke at the Like Minds conference in London. One of the other speakers was Chris Moss. He was Chief Marketing Officer at Virgin Atlantic, CEO of 118118 and the creator of the Orange Brand. He told an interesting story about innovation at Virgin. In the early days of Virgin Atlantic they were seeking ways of improving the passenger experience.

The question he asked was, ‘We show movies but how can we make flying more like going to the cinema?’ One of the ideas that resulted was to serve ice creams. They asked the engineers how they could do this and were turned down flat – there were no freezers on aeroplanes. However, Moss persisted and they undertook a trial using frozen ice creams packed in dry ice. The trial was a disaster. The ice creams were rock hard and inedible. Undaunted they kept experimenting until they got the temperature right. Ice creams proved very popular and were an inexpensive but appealing differentiator.

It seems to me that there are some important lessons in this little story. Let’s break it down into innovation steps:

1. Ask a different question (how can we make flying more like the cinema?)

2. Select your best idea

3. The experts tell you all the reasons why it won’t work.

4. You find a way to try it anyway.

5. The trial fails

6. You learn from the failure and try again.

He also told about another innovative idea. They gave children little rucksacks with enough sweets to last the flight. Another disaster! Most children opened the rucksacks, scoffed all the candies immediately and then were sick.

Innovation involves trying an idea – and most really creative ideas don’t work first time.

Keep trying – like Virgin.

image credit: virginatlantic

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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.

Top 5 Things Employees Need to Hear from Management Posted on October 9, 2012 by Holly G Green

Employees want good pay. They want to have some say in how they perform their jobs. They want to be treated fairly. And they want management to be consistent in word and deed. But if you really want a motivated, committed workforce, you’d better answer the five questions that every employee wants to know.

1. Where are we going? To understand why this question is so important, try this: grab your coat and tell your kids, “Get in the car, it’s time to go.” Then don’t tell them your destination. What you’re likely to get is stubborn resistance, starting with, “Where are we going?” Now tell your children, “Get in the car, we’re going to Disneyland.” They’ll be in the car with seatbelts on before you can get out the door!

It probably doesn’t make sense to tell employees you’re taking them to Disneyland (unless you plan to use it as an incentive for achieving a major strategic goal). But people do need to know where the company is headed and what it will take to get there.

Also, tell them why the company can win, and the strengths that will enable you to prevail. Paint a compelling picture of what winning looks like for your organization, and then communicate through a variety of channels to keep the destination top of mind.

2. What will it look like when we get there? To create a compelling visual in the minds of employees, describe what different aspects of the business will look like once you reach your destination. For example:

What key operating targets will you have achieved?

What will the workplace culture (attitudes, beliefs, values, operating principles, etc.) be like?

What skills, knowledge, and abilities will exist in the company?

What organizational structures will be in place?

What tools, systems, and technologies and work processes will you use?

What products will you have in the market?

Who will your customers be?

Who will you compete against?

What will your brand stand for?

The more clarity you can provide around your destination, the more likely you are to get there.

3. What difference are we making? In addition to bringing home a paycheck, most people want to feel like they’re making a difference in the world. Don’t wait for employees to figure it out on their own; tell them on a regular basis! Let them know how the company makes a difference with customers, your community, and the world at large. Remind them of the problems you solve for customers or how you make their lives easier.

And don’t just tell, show people how they’re making a difference by sharing customer feedback. Create a video of customer interviews. Invite a customer to present at a company meeting. Present samples of written testimonials. Make it real by sharing stories and information about the individuals affected.

4. Why is it important for you to get there? Professional athletes wouldn’t play for a coach who doesn’t care about winning. People in your business feel the same way. They expect you to explain why it’s important for the organization to reach the destination. But they also want to know why it’s important to you.

From time to time, share why you believe in what the company does and why you find the destination so compelling, and what winning means to you. Let your passion shine through! Talk about what the goals mean to you personally and what excites you about achieving them. Solicit similar input from other leaders and share it via emails, the company intranet, or in quarterly staff meetings.

When people understand why you believe in the destination, it increases their buy-in and commitment.

5. Why should we help you get there? Or, what’s in it for me?

Most people want to do a good job. And they also want to know how they will benefit by helping the company reach its destination. Go beyond good pay and benefits, and focus on intangibles like opportunities for growth, career development, and a positive work environment. Let people know they have more than just a job by working for you; they have the opportunity to be a part of something special.

I always say the great leaders ask the right questions. But sometimes you have to answer them, too. Answer these questions for your employees in a meaningful way and you’ll have a dedicated, passionate workforce that can accomplish just about anything.

Call to action: Start tracking how, when, and where you answer these questions for employees, then identify areas for improvement.

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Holly is the CEO of THE HUMAN FACTOR, Inc. ( 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.

A Race To The Top Posted on October 6, 2012 by Mike Shipulski

We all want to increase sales. But to do do this, our products must offer a better value proposition – they must increase the goodness-to-cost ratio. And to do this we increase goodness and decrease cost. (No argument here – this is how everyone does it.) When new technologies mature, we design them in to increase goodness and change manufacturing and materials to reduce cost. Then, we sell. This is the proven cowpath. But there’s a problem.

The problem is everyone is thinking this way. You’re watching/developing the same technologies as your competitors; improving the same manufacturing processes; and trying the same materials. On its own, this a recipe for hyper-competition. But with the sinking economy driving more focus on fewer consumers, price is the differentiator. With this cowpath it’s a race to the bottom.

But there’s a better way where there are no competitors and millions (maybe billions) of untapped consumers clamoring for new products. Yes, it’s based on the time-tested method of improving the goodness-to-cost ratio, but there’s a twist – instead of more it’s less. The ratio is increased with less goodness and far less cost. Since no one in their right mind will take this less-with-far-less approach, there is no competition – it’s just you. And because you will provide less goodness, you must sell where others don’t – into the untapped sea of yet-to-be consumers of developing world. With less-with-far-less it’s a race to the top.

Technology is the most important element of less-with-far-less. By reducing some goodness requirements and dropping others all together, immature technologies become viable. You can incorporate fledgeling technologies sooner and commercialize products with their unreasonably large goodness-to-cost ratios. The trick – think less output and narrow-banded goodness.

Immature technologies have improved goodness-to-cost ratios (that’s why we like them), but their output is low. But when a product is designed to require less output, previously immature technologies become viable. Sure, there’s a little less goodness, but the cost structure is far less – just right for the developing world.

Immature technologies are more efficient and smaller, but their operating range is small. But when a product is designed to work within a narrow band of goodness, technologies become viable sooner. Yes, the product does less, but the cost structure is far less – a winning combination for the developing world.

Less-with-far-less makes the product fit the technology – that’s not the hard part. And less-with-far-less makes the product fit the developing world – not hard. In our all-you-can-eat world, where more is seen as the only way, we can’t comprehend how less can win the race to the top. The hard part is less.

Less-with-far-less is not limited by technology or market – it’s limited because we can’t see less as more.

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Dr. Mike Shipulski brings together the best of Design for Manufacturing and Assembly, Axiomatic Design, TRIZ, and lean to develop innovative products and technologies. His blog can be found at Shipulski On Design.

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Innovation Excellence Weekly - Issue 2  

We are proud to announce our second Innovation Excellence Weekly for Issuu. Inside you'll find ten of the best innovation-related articles f...

Innovation Excellence Weekly - Issue 2  

We are proud to announce our second Innovation Excellence Weekly for Issuu. Inside you'll find ten of the best innovation-related articles f...