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We are proud to announce our twenty-seventh Innovation Excellence Weekly for Slideshare. Inside you'll find ten of the best innovation-related articles from the past week on Innovation Excellence - the world's most popular innovation web site and home to 5,000+ innovation-related articles.
Issue 27 – April 5, 2013 1. Step One in Cultivating an Innovation Culture.........................………….. Matthew E May 2. 3 Keys to the Future of Digital Business …………………...…………..…….…. Greg Satell 3. Are You Radiohead, U2, or ? …………..……………...……..…..……… Tomislav Buljubasic 4. 100% of Companies Have This Problem ………………………………..……...... Mike Myatt 5. You Say Second Screen. I Say First! .……………………………....…….……… Nicolas Bry 6. Where Do You Put the Creativity? …………………....………………. Jeffrey Baumgartner 7. Here’s One Good Way to Kill Innovation ……….……................................…. Tim Kastelle 8. The Dark Side of Innovation Teams …………………….……………..…….. Salvael Ortega 9. The Power of Positive Constraints …………………………….....…….….. Stephen Shapiro 10. It’s Not Just Semantics – Managing Outcomes Vs. Outputs ……..…. Deb Mills-Scofield 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: U2 from Bigstock
Step One in Cultivating an Innovation Culture Posted on April 1, 2013 by Matthew E May When I speak to groups or meet with prospective new clients, one of the most frequently asked questions I field is: What’s my first step in creating a culture of company wide innovation? I love the question because I believe that innovation must occur at every level of the company. Now, that doesn’t mean (necessarily) that the receptionist is going to create your next breakthrough product. But it does mean that everyone must look for and find a way to do their work better than it’s ever been done before, to look for and find new and better ways to deliver value to customers, and to do that at as often as possible, even every day. For many companies, and perhaps even most, I believe there’s a pre-step: understanding that innovation is everyone’s job. Think about it: where does the greatest cumulative potential reside? On the front lines. Not in the C-suite. There are simply more people on the front lines, more working with your system every day, more interacting with and serving customers daily. So it all starts with understanding that building a portfolio of cross-company ideas is like building any other high-performing portfolio: it’s a numbers game. The challenge then is how to draw out the creative power of people in an organized, systematic way that provides a safe haven for everyone involved, declaws the fear of failure, and begins to embed a real discipline around finding and solving problems. That’s the first step. My suggestion is to shy away from big programs bent on massive disruption at first, and start with a single team—one manager and a natural work group. Let’s say that manager is you. (The strategy is the same whether you’re CEO or a first-rung supervisor, but from my experience, change spreads and happens faster at the front lines.) You now strike a deal up front. Meaning, you agree to to say “yes” to your team’s idea or solution, one they choose, if it meets the right criteria:1. The team is to work in the general territory of something you feel needs attention—something of concern or that clearly advances a current business objective. (It’s probably something that keeps you up at night).2. The idea theme must concern something within your base of responsibility, power and control—something you can sanction immediately without further approval.3. The team is to develop a no- or low-cost solution that can be piloted quickly.4. The team works on a problem they all touch and have working knowledge of.5. The project must result in a clear value enhancement: quality, cost, speed, etc.
6. The project is an experiment, and nothing gets broad execution until the learning is captured and there’s a compelling case for feeding it forward. But—(you knew this was coming!)—there are a few don’ts (many of which become irrelevant once you become a competent innovator): Don’t address an area where there is no consensus on the issue’s importance to the company or customers. Don’t head for an area lacking good visibility. Don’t work on something where results won’t show up for several months. Don’t pick an area fraught with controversy inside the company. Don’t select an area lacking strong interest. Don’t select something beyond the control of the team. Don’t target an issue already undergoing study or change. Don’t use this as an opportunity to execute an already developed solution. And here’s the big one: don’t head for anything that doesn’t play to the team’s real strength. As the manager and champion, you’re NOT part of the problem-solving team. You’re the sanctioning body. A big part of your role is answering the two questions that will be foremost on their mind: Why am I here? and Why are we doing this? So you need to provide the context, issue the challenge and convey the importance of the team. You need to talk about the importance of improving things for your customers. One of the best ways to do all of that is to talk about the gap between today and tomorrow, as you see it. Tell the team why they have been chosen. Tell them the scope and direction of where you’d like them to exert their best thinking. Tell them that you have no preconceived solutions, that the specific problem addressed or project chosen is up to them, but that you’re looking for a simple, inexpensive solution that they can easily test out quickly. Tell them that their engagement and thinking are more important than the outcome, and that the goal is to learn. Tell them they will run the test of their own solution and report the results, that you’re not looking for just a recommendation. Tell them that you look forward to hearing their idea, and how it worked or didn’t work in the real world. Show your appreciation in advance for the hard work. These are some of specifics behind how I answer the question of how to take the first step in building a culture of everyday innovation: one team at a time, one manageable idea at a time. The key is local autonomy. Matthew E. May is the author of “IN PURSUIT OF ELEGANCE: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing.” He is constantly searching for creative ideas and innovative solutions that are ‘elegant’ – a unique and elusive combination of unusual simplicity and surprising power
3 Keys to the Future of Digital BusinessPosted on April 1, 2013 by Greg Satell Winston Churchill once wrote that “The empires of the future are the empires of the mind.” I think it’s clear that’s never been more true than today. As old line industrial firms struggle to survive, web based startups less than two years old become billion dollar enterprises. While the past few decades have been characterized by offshoring to cheap labor markets, now manufacturing is coming back, albeit to factories that are largely ran by algorithms. The underlying trend is the rise of informational content in the products andservices that make up our economy and, increasingly, that information is managed by machines rather than humans. That is the essence ofdigital business and it’s changing everything we thought we knew about creating value. Here are 3 keys to understanding the new era.1. The Singularity is NearIn The Singularity Is Near , technology pioneer Ray Kurzweil argues that the Moore’s Law concept applies far beyond processing power. Inhis view, “all technologies will essentially become information technologies, including energy.” Therefore, all industries will eventually enjoy thesame exponential advancement as computer chips have.Buy a box of cereal at Wal-Mart and you’re not purchasing a mere assortment of grains packaged in cardboard, but also logistics and marketingwhich, increasingly, are managed by computers rather than humans. In some cases, even the genetic algorithms that drive those processesare largely self-organizing, with minimal human intervention.The upshot, as the graph below shows, is that technology cycles are significantly truncating:
That’s all very exciting, but it does create a problem. As I pointed out in a post about Facebook’s purchase of Instagram, when technologycycles become shorter than corporate decision cycles, we need to change our entire basis for formulating strategy. Planning is giving way tohacking and our mindset needs to change accordingly.2. The End of the Computer AgeI remember when people first started buying computers in the early 1980’s. They were primarily for fun, mostly used to horse around and playgames. Eventually, VisiCalc invented the electronic spreadsheet and computers became more useful, but we were still constrained by limits ofprocessing speed, storage and, once we got online, by bandwidth.The typical family today owns a few laptops, a bunch of smartphones and maybe a tablet or two. That’s an enormous amount of computingpower and far more than we really need. Moreover, in ten years our technology will be 100 times more powerful; in 15 years, a thousand timesmore powerful.Obviously the present course is unsustainable. We don’t really need computers anymore, but processing, storage, bandwidth and a means ofinterface (i.e. keyboard, screen, voice and gesture), none of which necessarily need to be tethered to a box anymore, but can be integratedinto native environments.That becomes important as digital business becomes predominant. The question is becoming less about how a company can “go digital” andmore one of how consumers and partners can interface with the internal architecture of our organization.
3. The Rise of the Machines and the Post-ROI WorldA decade ago, the marketing world became enamored with the concept of ROI as a practice. The idea was that technology could not only buildefficiencies, but transparency and accountability. That effort, although still underway, has largely been successful.As this article in explains, in the few milliseconds it takes content to load on our screens, dozens of companies collaborate to parse a sea ofdata in order to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time. However, much like the workerless factories and logistics notedabove, this process is driven by algorithms more than people..The ROI effort, while still important, faces diminishing returns as more and more processing power chases smaller and smaller efficiencies.The great opportunity today is to deploy technology toward processes that up till now we have assumed to require uniquely human intuition.The cartoon above points the way to the next phase. Artificial intelligence methodologies, particularly natural language processing, areadvancing quickly will soon take over more qualitative marketing functions. Companies like Networked Insights and Open Amplify havealready built impressive platforms in that regard.These new technologies will integrate with existing platforms and do much of the analysis (e.g. consumer conversations) that we have come tothink of as innately intuitive and they will do it in massive volumes at blazing speed. Emphasis will shift from creating efficiency to creatingvalue.
The Nature of the Firm and The Passion EconomyIn 1937, Ronald Coase wrote his groundbreaking paper, The Nature of the Firm, which would later be cited when he was awarded the 1991Nobel prize for economics. The basic concept can be summed up in this equation:The Firm = Transaction Costs (i.e. contracts, search costs, etc.) = Organizational CostsIn other words, the organizational economy was made up of firms that could grow by diminishing transaction costs until organizational costsbuilt up and nullified that advantage. Digital technology, however has diminished many of those transactional costs and what firms producetoday, to a large extent, are designs.So the role of firms has changed considerably. In the organizational economy, they mainly served as efficient entities to get men and materielfrom one place to another. Today, however, successful firms must direct passion toward a unified purpose.As machines automate mundane tasks, creativity is coming to the fore as a primary source of competitive advantage. The future of digitalbusiness, ironically, is all too human.image credit: The Future digital rendering bigstock.com Greg Satell is an internationally recognized authority on Digital Strategy and Innovation. He consults and speaks in the areas of digital innovation, innovation management, digital marketing and publishing, as well as offshore web and app development. His blog is Digital Tonto and you can follow him on Twitter.
Are you Radiohead, U2 or ?Posted on March 31, 2013 by Tomislav Buljubasic Do your innovation capabilities rely on single product or you are delivering continuous improvements or innovations? Well, here is an example from the music industry, I will try to make a point by using the examples of my three favorite bands: Radiohead, Suede and U2. Everyone knows about U2, they are big, well-known “stadium” band with many hits and top albums. In their first 10 years they was a clearly a rock band that won a lot of fans. Then in 1991. they released album Achtung Baby, where they transformed themselves by the influence of European electronic music. Many fans liked it, but also many doesn’t liked it and they begin to talk of U2 before andafter that album. Changes in other albums weren’t so radical, so in last 20 years, they live on incremental changes. Now, they are one of thebiggest bands in the world, with fans among all generations.Radiohead is alternative rock band and that limits they popularity only to those who listen that kind of music. They have similar change in thetone in 1997. and third album O.K.Computer, but later they done similar. They reinvent themselves in each new album. They slide to more andmore alternative waters, but also they were able to recruit new generations of fans. They succeed to make radical changes and produce bigreleases over and over.On the other hand Suede was a big band in 90s and then they slide down while experimenting with new tones and even vanished from thescene in 2003.. Now, they have a new album with slightly similar tone like in the 90s. Old fans will love it, but will they make a move amongyounger generations?So, is your business looks like one of these bands? Are you successful radical innovator (Radiohead), incremental innovator (U2) or somethingin between (Suede)?I heard once, that best ideas often comes before 30. That can be so applicable for music, as many authors struggle to create new hits after firstsuccess. But, for Radiohead or U2 that isn’t the case.So, there are 3 models here:(1) Reinvent yourself with every new project (album), gain new followers with risk of losing some old – Radiohead has devoted fans all overthe world, but also big part of population doesn’t know they exist. They are below the radar for many music fans. They even were the pioneersin selling music, when they let the download of their album for free, with note that anyone can pay an amount you want.
(2) Play on safe: incremental innovations, learn your customers (fans) on new things. U2 has army of fans from their first album until now,whole world knows Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton & Larry Mullen Jr.(3) Small – big – small – big changes, either love me or hate me. Suede was a big band in the 90s but then it was forgotten in 2000s. Still,they have devoted fans, as they were different than others. Now, they are together again and try to reinvent themselves with new album.image credit: electricguitarjam.com Tomislav Buljubasic is an Innovation Manager and writer from Croatia, focusing on creativity, innovation culture and process. Author of Unleash Your Creativity App. He can be followed on twitter @buljubasict
100% Of Companies Have This ProblemPosted on April 1, 2013 by Mike Myatt Process… just the mere use of the word can spread fear and panic in the workplace. This sad reality exists for a reason - 100% of companies unnecessarily suffer from a process problem. They suffer to varying degrees, but they are nonetheless suffering. The good news is bad process is one of the easiest things for leaders to remedy. By simply being willing to stop the madness and reclaim the asylum from the lunatics (inept leaders, lazy managers, and fee happy consultants), huge gains in morale and productivity can be quickly achieved.With the plethora of conflicting information written about process design, implementation and management, combined with the nightmareswe’ve all experienced as a result of bad process, many executives fear the pain associated with flawed process less than they value thebenefits created by good process. How sad it that?Here’s the thing – It’s not what you know, but what you don’t know about process, or perhaps what you’ve allowed process to represent thathas left you fatigued and frustrated. I’m going to crawl out on a limb and make a bold claim: by the time you’ve finished reading this piece you’llfind the topic of process no longer creates untold amounts of brain damage, but has transitioned to something you’ll find altogether invigorating– trust me on this one…One of the ways successful companies gain a competitive advantage is through creating process advantage. The problem is most companiesare buried in process disadvantage. Good process is sophisticated (not complex), efficient (simple) and effective (usable and value added).Good business processes serve as the central nervous system for your organization providing a framework for every action, decision, activity orinnovation to flow from and through. There are many who would say process stifles creativity and slows production, and while I would concurthis statement is usually the case with bad process, nothing could be further from the truth as it relates to good process. Good process servesas a catalyst for innovation, which in turn optimizes and accelerates engagement, collaboration, work-flow, and enhances the overallproductivity of business initiatives.So, here’s where the fun and excitement comes in – I want you to place your business processes under the microscope using the following 7points as filters for what processes you create, keep, refine or discard moving forward:1. The Right Mindset: If your business processes are perceived as a rigid set of mandates and rules, rather than a set of flexible guidelines –you’re in trouble. Good process should provide a fluid framework to inspire creativity not stifle it. Sound process encourages the use of good
judgment, it shouldn’t insinuate people don’t have any judgment. Believe it or not, good process should allow people to take risks not precludethem from doing so. The debate shouldn’t be one of systems vs. talent, but systems and talent.2. The 20% Rule: I’ve yet to encounter a business that couldn’t eliminate 20% of their existing business processes and be better for it. You; yesyou, are allowing the expenditure of precious time and resources on silly processes that add no value whatsoever – they should be eliminatedimmediately. Bad process is indicative of an unhealthy mindset that justifies anything currently existing as valuable. The fastest way to inject abreath of fresh air into your business is to give permission space to your workforce to tell you where bad process exists and then to dosomething about it.3. Design Matters: While good process can be inspired from anywhere, it should be designed by those closest to the work. Imposed mandatesfrom above while often well intended, are rarely as effective as organic initiatives created by team members who most frequently interact withsaid process. Don’t fall into the trap of allowing consultants to “install” a “best practice” process. Rather, allow your team to create a nextpractices solution. By choosing the latter over the former you’ll save considerable time, money and frustration.4. Simplicity Matters: If your process isn’t simple, it’s going to be very expensive, not very usable, and probably not sustainable – put simply, itwill fail. Whether evaluating new processes, or determining which ones to reengineer or discard, make simplicity a key consideration.Remember this – usability drives adoptability, and simplicity is the main determinant of usability.5. Don’t Think Product – Think Outcome: I know this will offend some, but process is not a new software program or application. Whiletoolsets can enhance process or can become a by-product of process, they do not in and of themselves constitute process. Don’t get caught inthe trap of perpetual spending or development as a solution. Recognize if you’re caught in this trap it’s a symptom of bad process not areflection of good process.6. No Band-Aids: Good process is not reactionary. A series of bubble gum and bailing wire solutions put in place in haste as a knee-jerkreaction to the latest problem is not good process design. Process by default will never provide the benefits of good process engineering bydesign. Think long-term, and if you must, bridge with a phased solution, but be planful in approach.7. No Panacea: While good process will help optimize any business, it will not make up for shortcomings in other disciplines or functionalareas. Process is not the main driver in business, but merely a critical support system built for enablement, delivery, accountability andmeasurement.Good process comes as a by-product of clarity of purpose. It is the natural extension of values, vision, mission, strategy, goals, objectives andtactics. It is in fact working down through the aforementioned hierarchy that allows process to be engineered by design to support missioncritical initiatives. Recognition of the fact that you don’t start with process design, but that process design should be used as a refiningframework to enable better execution is critical to the development of good process. Process is the part of the value chain that holds everythingtogether and brings and ordered, programmatic, yet flexible discipline to your business.
Good process results in a highly usable infrastructure being adopted across the enterprise because it is effective for staff, and provides visibilityand accountability for management, all of which increase the certainty of execution. Good process across all areas of the enterprise will resultin elimination of redundancy and inefficiency, better engagement and collaboration, shortening of cycle times, better knowledge managementand business intelligence, increased customer satisfaction, and increased margins.I encourage you to not let apathy, negative experience based upon results of bad process or flawed implementations, or the fear of theunknown keep you from benefiting from the numerous advantages created by good process engineering. I would also strongly encourage youto evaluate all of your current processes so you can discard or re-engineer (simplify) bad process and improve upon good process, striving forexcellence in process design. Now go to work and unleash some goodness of process…Thoughts? Mike Myatt, is a Top CEO Coach, author of “Leadership Matters…The CEO Survival Manual“, and Managing Director of N2Growth.
You Say Second Screen. I Say First!Posted on March 31, 2013 by Nicolas BryI stole this ticklish title from Ogilvie Entertainment futurist presentation ‘The endof TV as we know it’, a nice piece of work designed by @Dougscottogilvy and@Themattdoh.It clearly hit the nail on the head that mobile, not TV, will become the ‘firstscreen’.I was walking the alleys of TV connect last week, enjoying the thriving realm ofenhanced TV, watching the tide of second screen companion apps and socialTV sweeping across our living room. Amidst the crowd of connected TV sets,one question came to my mind: what about the role of mobile as a triggeringdevice for media? And what if this were the end of the TV grid, and the rise ofinteractive remote control apps on smart phones and tablet, guiding youanywhere anytime to profiled content?2012 Google multiscreen research notes that Smart Phones have the highest number of user interactions per day, and serve as the mostcommon ‘starting point’ for activities across multiple screens. Time has come to rethink the media experience, starting from a mobile point ofview.Experts panelHarnessing affirmative experts statements on the ‘pivotal role’ of mobile device is a no brainer: “Mobile platforms will act as a catalyst for the next generation of connected experiences” (Forrester Analyst Thomas Husson) “Smartphones and tablets are proving to be a critical bridge in connecting experiences across multiple channels. (Shubhradeep Guha, India SapientNitro Manager) “It’s used everywhere, it’s not just used to consume media, it’s used while consuming other media” (Stragey Analytics, David MacQueen) “As second screen, mobile activates other media, drives tune-in, product research, or immediate purchase” (Mobile Marketing Association, Paul Palmieri) “As a remote control or personal media scheduler, our phone acts as media consumption funnel” (Needham’s analyst Laura Martin) “Social TV drives interactive programmes where the remote control is our smart phone” (@agenceindigo) “Smart phones are the backbone of our daily media interactions” (Google Ipsos, multiscreen world)Beinng personal, interactive, carried constantly, mobile is all set to be the ‘first screen’.
Weak signalsSketching out on the horizon, one can see weak signals following the same path: multiple screens, individual viewing, through ‘ultra-portablecontrol device like smart phones, tablets, and next phablets : ‘Nearly one of two people aged between 12 and 39 owns a smart phone’ (Credoc France) ‘Streaming video over tablet and smartphone has crossed an inflection point, viewing has jumped 100% in one year’ (@DigitalTVEurope via Ooyala) ‘Deploying LTE mobile network will result in a 4X increase in connection speeds and huge growth in video streaming’ (@filloux, Mobile World Congress); ‘LTE-broadcast could turn our phones and tablets into mobile DVRs’ (@Gigacom); ‘Mobile devices overtake TV in the bedroom: among 36% people watching video in the bedroom, 46% view it on a smartphone, 41% on a tablet, and 36% on broadcast TV. Consumers want more flexibility across a variety of devices in how they view programming’ (Motorola Mobility’s Media Barometer); ’63% of tablet owners now use their device to watch live TV’ (TV Licensing’s Telescope 2013 report); ’66% of tablet owners stream video 2 to 3 times a week, in average 30 mns’; (@rovicorp); ‘mobiles and tablets accounted for over a quarter of all iPlayer requests in 2012′ (BBC); ’85% of viewing on the ‘HBO Go’ on-demand service in the US is of series rather than movies’ (HBO); ‘We’re consuming content in new ways: binge-watching episodic TV, watching video on smartphones and on tablets’ (Nielsen Zero- TV homes) In 2010, nearly 40% of the viewers were watchning TV alone (Insee France).Following successive stages of interactive TV and TV on-demand (IPTV), Smart TV, Social TV, and Second screen, we are finally entering theera of nomadic screen, the ultimate ‘liquid screen’ experience.
Designing a compelling mobile experience for media useSmart phones being at the center of our media use, I wish to turn mobile into a pivotal presence for the consumer shifting to ‘experienceroaming’ over any screen: it involves designing a consistent media interaction across the different places and moments of our day, and over themultiple screens we face.To make relevant every minute of our mobile experience, I think of: Mobile DNA: no screen is more personal, engaging, and filled with opportunities than mobile, as it brings ‘intimacy, immediacy, and contextuality’. Furthermore, mobile can enhance viewing with augmented reality and NFC technologies, and Apple has learned us that you can turn it and shake it asw ell! Mobile is an utterly powerful platform to support the user in his next move to entertainment; Instant discovery: letting the viewer find quickly something relevant to watch in his timeframe, or to bookmark in his ‘watch later’ list. Less is more: one accurate tip at the right moment is the right swing. My dream-experience is one single place to discover, search, save, schedule, watch, control, listen, share, add, and interact; Simple design: implementing straightforward interactions and clear call-to-actions, banishing technologism (check-in, …), erasing all difficulty in the experience, ‘reinforcing behaviors, not forcing them“. Stimulating feedback: rewarding micro-moments of viewer journey, engaging the viewer into progressive levels as in a game, unlocking special content, presenting his status and influence to the community, turning the discovery into a pleasure, not a learning fatigue; Permanent usefulness: making the mobile app useful even when you’re not in front of the TV, setting-up appointments along the day, reminding the viewer of show not to be missed, automatically refueling him with daily content hints; Social interaction: combining social TV with rich second screen experience, unfolding communal discovery, sparking the feeling that viewers are achieving something together; User knowledge: capturing interactions, yielding insights, collecting data to refine user knowledge and sharpen our suggestions, customizing relationship, differentiating new versus returning visitor, expert vs beginner. Personalized content discovery ensures continued user engagement and loyalty; API Openness: letting others buid value on top of our platform, and creating an innovation ecosystem;
Scaling: starting small and growing carefully, with a staged approach, preparing for mass market usage: nobody is immune to success!Sounds exciting? I agree, and I can’t wait to achieve a first MVP, test, iterate, figure it out, and make it really stunning!Credits: blog.compete.com, hitechanalogy.com, themalaysianinsider.com, themobileindian.com Nicolas is a senior VP at Orange Innovation Group. Serial innovator, he set-up creative BU with an international challenge, and a focus on new TV experiences. Forward thinker, he completed a thesis on “Rapid Innovation”, implemented successfully at Orange, and further developed at nbry.wordpress.com. He tweets @nicobry
Where Do You Put the Creativity?Posted on April 3, 2013 by Jeffrey Baumgartner One of the principle differences between anticonventional thinking (ACT) and most other forms of idea generation, such as brainstorming, creative problem solving (CPS) and scamper, is in where you should focus your creative thinking. Almost every creative thinking tool or process encourages you to be creative with ideas. It seems logical, doesn’t it? If you want creative ideas, pump your creativity into generating them. Based on what we know about how the brain generates ideas, however, it’s wrong. You should focus your creativity on how you formulate your goal (or problem). Indeed, this is what we do with ACT. To understand why, let’s take a peak into our brains. As I wrote in my article, “TheCreative Idea“, when you are trying to generate ideas to achieve a goal, your brain looks for ideas closely associated with the goal. Forinstance, if you are trying to come up with ideas for a new body lotion product, your brain will most likely search through your notions related tobody lotion. You will think about your company’s products, your competitors’ products, chemical compositions (if you are in R&D), packagingand so on. Most likely, you will come up with ideas that could lead to incremental improvement, like lotion with perfumes or for special skintypes. But unless you are naturally exceptionally creative, you are unlikely to come up with many outrageous ideas. This is probably why thetypical supermarket shelf has dozens of varieties of lotion to choose from. Yet, there is little real difference from one variety to another.Focus Creativity on Sexy GoalsACT recognises that how your formulate your goal inspires the kind of ideas you have. So, instead of using a typical, boring brainstorming kindof problem statement (“In what ways might we improve our body lotion products?”), ACT concentrates on questioning the goal (to be fair, CPSdoes this too) and the urges you to use your creativity to come up with a sexy goal — that is a goal that is interesting, provocative and desirable(CPS does not do this). The purpose of the sexy goal is to stimulate you to look in unexpected parts of your memory storage system — or brain— for ideas.For instance, after questioning your goal, you might devise sexy goals such as…1. If we were dishonest, immoral and greedy, what crazy capabilities could we claim (without any supporting evidence whatsoever) for ourregular body lotion? This gets people thinking about other treatments that the company could market using its existing infrastructure.2. Define the most sensuous body treatment in the world. This would focus thinking on application of body lotion and the feeling it leaves youwith.
3. Devise a technical device that will keep the skin soft, smooth and moisturised all day. This focuses thinking away from lotion and intoconcepts such as technology, application methods and comfort.If you try to devise ideas for any of these goals, you should find it relatively easy to be come up with some creative ones — at least in terms oflotion. This is because each of these goals gets the brain looking at different, un-lotion-like notions in order to come up with ideas about lotion.You can learn more about how to formulate sexy Goals in my paper on ACT.Of course there is no reason why you cannot combine the sexy-goal approach of ACT with other techniques to push further the level ofcreativity in your ideas. But if you start with a sexy goal, it really is much, much easier to have creative ideas.image credit: mind power image from bigstock Jeffrey Baumgartner is the author of the book, The Way of the Innovation Master; the author/editor of Report 103, a popular newsletter on creativity and innovation in business. He is currently developing and running workshops around the world on Anticonventional Thinking, a radical new approach to achieving goals through creativity — and an alternative to brainstorming.
Here’s One Good Way to Kill InnovationPosted on April 2, 2013 by Tim KastelleEncountering an Air SandwichI was teaching exec ed this week and I saw a textbook example of an airsandwich.Here’s how Nilofer Merchant describes it:“An Air Sandwich is a strategy that has clear visionand future direction on the top layer, day-to-dayaction on the bottom, and virtually nothing in themiddle—no meaty key decisions that connect the twolayers, no rich chewy filling to align the newdirection with new actions within the company.”I was working with a group of future leaders that had been identified by the management of their company. The firm is in a pretty conservativeindustry, but they are starting to try to differentiate themselves through innovation. This vision has been articulated from the top. And the youngmanagers in the class had been asked to think about how to embed innovation within the organisation.They came back with a series of pretty interesting ideas, and they presented them in our workshop, with a number of senior leaders from thefirm present. And every new idea that the young guys put forward got shredded by the senior leaders.
How Should You Respond to New Ideas?There are two ways in which you can respond to new ideas. Your first response can be “no, that won’t work, here are the problems.” Or, youcan say “that’s interesting.” And with the second one, you can find ways to build on the idea, or connect it to other ideas to create an evenbetter idea, or at least figure out some way to support the idea.The firm I’m working with is in a pretty tough industry, and I suspect that the guys giving the rough feedback would say that’s important for theyounger managers to harden up – that if they want to make it in this industry they’ll need to be tough. And that may well be true.But still, if you are trying to build your innovation capability, you can’t take ten of your bright young managers, ask them to come up withcreative ideas to help build that capability, and then just absolutely tear those ideas to shreds when they show them to you. This is particularlyimportant for this firm – because they have set themselves a tough challenge. But their overall objectives are admirable, and it’s important thatthey succeed.How Should You Respond When Your New Ideas Get Shredded?So what can you do if you’re the bottom layer of bread in an air sandwich? You can’t control how others respond to your ideas, but you canexert some control over your own actions. Here are some ideas: Learn from it. Getting our great ideas to spread is an important part of the innovation process. Overcoming resistance is a big part of that. Every criticism of your ideas contains some element of truth – even if it’s based on a misunderstanding, that shows that you need to get your point across more clearly. We have to learn from this, and improve the deliver of our new ideas. Don’t take it out on others. One big danger in a situation like this is that the young managers will learn that this how to respond to ideas in their firm, and react the same way when the people working for them come up with new ideas. This will completely kill off innovation. Instead, we have to use these experiences to build our empathy. This way, when others put new ideas in front of us, it might help us respond by supporting the idea, building on it, and connecting it to other good ideas. Change your culture. The culture of a firm is not an unchanging fact of life that simply acts upon us. We re-create it every single day through our interactions. Just because our managers act in a particular way doesn’t mean that we have to. We have the opportunity to start re-shaping a culture by changing the way we respond to things. If we accept new ideas and build on them, others will start to do so as well. Band together. It’s hard to change a firm’s culture on your own. So another good idea is to find others that are also committed to driving change, and band together. Cultures rarely change through edicts – it is one thing that is especially open to bottom-up change.This is Why Innovation is a ChallengeInnovation is hard – if it weren’t, everyone would be doing it. The environment that we create for new ideas is an important part of building aninnovation culture. One of the big problems with shooting down ideas immediately is that doing so assumes that we can know in advance whichideas will work and which won’t. But we can’t. This is why experimenting and prototyping are such critical innovation skills.The best way to figure out which ideas are good is to try them out. If they work, scale them up. Here’s how Saul Kaplan puts it:
“Learn by doing. Constantly test new ideas. Learn, share and repeat. The world is ever changing —stay ahead of the curve. Embrace the art of discovery.”“We need to try more stuff. Innovation is never about silver bullets. It’s about experimentation anddoing whatever it takes, even if it means trying 1,000 things, to deliver value.”My main piece of feedback to the teams was: “how could we prototype your ideas?” If we test an idea, gather data from the test, and learn, thatis the best way to combat a culture that shoots new ideas down on sight. It’s a lot harder to argue with data.Testing your ideas, and making evidence-based decisions are two more ways to change your culture. That’s my new idea for the day. How willyou respond – will you tell me why it won’t work, or will you build on it to make it better?image credit: growprofit & adam mckibben Tim Kastelle is a Lecturer in Innovation Management in the University of Queensland Business School. He blogs about innovation at the Innovation Leadership Network.
The Dark Side of Innovative TeamsPosted on April 4, 2013 by Salvael Ortega Over the past few weeks my colleague and I have been reflecting back on some experiences in which we’ve worked building team dynamics and unlocking “team creativity.” These teams had very diverse individuals: engineers, programmers, designers, financial analysts, and even lawyers. We’ve all heard how interdisciplinary teams are key to unlocking creativity and innovation; and they are, we believe, but not by themselves. Putting all these people in the same room may very well temper innovation if important requirements have not been met. The most recurrent issues we’ve observed working with interdisciplinary teams are: narrow- minded points of view; different “languages;” and diversity in goals, expectations, and motivations. While these observations may be inherently part of any team dynamic, we’ve noticed these become even more of a problem in teams looking to unlock their “team creativity and innovation.” We’ve come up with a list of requirements we now are starting to enforce onour clients that are looking to improve their teams. The more diverse a team is, the more these requirements are necessary:Well-rounded individuals. Customer empathy is important, but team empathy is just as important, if not even more important. You want tohave product managers with some coding experience, with marketing knowledge, and with a sense for design. He or she knows how theengineer thinks, how the marketer thinks, and how the designer thinks. Of course in the real world it is very hard to find such well-roundedemployees. That is why we created “empathy warm ups.” They work in pairs for 5 minutes mentoring each other in mentor-apprentice roles,and then switch. Our goal is to create “inter-disciplinary people,” not just interdisciplinary teams.Common language. This reminds me of the story of the six blind men and the elephant I heard once from one of my bosses. In it, the first mantouched the tail of the elephant and thought it was a rope, the second man touched a leg and was convinced that it was a tree, and so on, eachwith a different perspective of reality. None could see the big picture and work towards the same goal. Working with individuals with no commonlanguage may just feel like an elephant, people get frustrated because the team “can’t seem to get it.” As part of our workshops we spend agood amount of time building this common language in organizations. It can, and should, be different for every company, but it needs to bedefined, and that takes effort.Commitment and availability. We’ve been learning this the hard way. It is not enough with having the right people, with the right vision, andspeaking the same language if they do not even have the time to dedicate themselves to the project. This is especially a problem at largecorporations where individuals are already part of a different team, where they already have other responsibilities, and allocation of time ispredicated on bureaucracy. True lean and fast experimentation is a function of the time team members can dedicate to the specific project.Make sure everybody participating in an interdisciplinary team is truly committed to the team and accountable for a piece of the work.
Team creativity and innovation are crucial in every organization seeking to win in today’s ever-changing markets, but certain requirementsought to be in place if teams are to perform at their best. While these three suggestions may sound quite simple, we’ve find them to be verypowerful. We would love to hear what are some additional challenges you’ve faced in innovative teams, and what has been done to overcomethose issues.image credit: grassrootsmotorsports.com Salvael Ortega holds a BS in Business Management, Business Strategy, Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Brigham Young University (BYU). Salvael is the Associate Director of the BYU Innovation Research Lab, and also Co-President and Founder of the BYU Innovation Academy.
The Power of Positive ConstraintsPosted on April 1, 2013 by Stephen Shapiro In the world of innovation, there seems to be this belief that we’re supposed to let everybody be free thinkers and let them do whatever they want. But this actually destroys innovation. We need structure. We need constraints. I’ll give you a really simple example. If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll notice that about a month ago, I made a bit of a change. Now, instead of just writing whenever I feel inspired to do so or writing about whatever I want, I created structure.Mondays, there’s a Monday Morning Movie. Tuesday, there’ll always be the transcription of the movie and an occasional Tuesday Travel Tip.Wednesday is my Wednesday Work Wisdom. And Friday is my Friday Fun Fact. (Check out my article to see how the makers of Star Trekeffectively used the Power of Positive Constraints http://tinyurl.com/brye9ct)As a result, over the past month, without fail, there has been a minimum of four blog entries and, in some weeks there have been five or six.You’ll notice that when I didn’t have structure, when I didn’t have those positive constraints, there would be some weeks where I would haveonly one entry. And there would even be periods of time where I wouldn’t write at all.Constraints are actually a good thing. First of all, they give us structure, forcing us to think more clearly around something specific. But it alsosets a tone for what we need to get done. If I’m committing to completing certain things every day, and I can do those activities consistently,that’s very valuable.
And it’s not just about publicly declaring what you will get done. There’s another value that comes from having positive constraints: It reducesthe level of thinking you need to do so that it allows you to be more creative.If I gave you a blank sheet of paper and said, “Hey, come up with a great idea on how to improve your business,” you might come up with a lotof ideas. Probably, most would be pretty bad.And I suspect that you would actually struggle to generate even a few great ideas. When given no constraints, we don’t know where to begin.On the other hand, if we worked on defining a really good problem statement – identifying what is the one area of your business where there isthe greatest opportunity; identifying where you differentiate yourself from your competitors – that might actually give you even better results,more creativity, and even more value.Constraints are not bad. We seem to believe that people should ”think outside the box,” but anybody who’s been following my work knows thatmy philosophy is to find a better box (aka constraints).Being organized, having structure, and working within constraints are not bad. These are things that will actually increase and enhance yourlevel of creativity.So, look at an area in your life where you’re struggling to get things done. Maybe part of the issue is confusion and a lack of clarity. A lack ofclarity comes out of a lack of constraints.Constraints will give you clarity. Anytime that you feel stuck or confused, think about what structures you could put in place that would keep youaccountable, that would keep you on track and on target, and improve your level of creativity.When you start to think about positive constraints as a positive thing, I promise you, you will enhance your creativity massively.image credit: charlestonfishing.com Stephen Shapiro is the author of five books including “Best Practices Are Stupid” and “Personality Poker” (both published by Penguin). He is also a popular innovation speaker and business advisor.
It’s Not Just Semantics – Managing Outcomes Vs. OutputsPosted on April 2, 2013 by Deborah Mills-ScofieldWhat’s the difference between outputs andoutcomes? Some think the question is merelysemantic, or that the difference is simple: outputsare extrinsic and outcomes intrinsic. I thinkotherwise; the difference between outputs andoutcomes is more fundamental and profound.In the non-profit world, outputs are programs, training, and workshops; outcomesare knowledge transferred and behaviors changed. In the for-profit world, thedistinctions are not always so clear. Let’s define outputs as the stuff we produce, be it physical or virtual, for a specific type of customer—say,car seats for babies. And let’s define outcomes as the difference our stuff makes—keeping your child safe in the car. Borrowing an examplefrom the Innovation Network, a highway construction company’s outputs are project design and the number of highway miles built andrepaired. Outcomes are the difference made by the outputs: better traffic flow, shorter travel times, and fewer accidents.Outcomes are the benefit your customers receive from your stuff. This starts with truly understanding your customers’ needs—their challenges,issues, constraints, priorities—by walking in their shoes and in their neighborhoods, businesses, and cultures. See what’s inconvenient, takinga lot of time, money, and/or effort. Your customers are too busy to plan, shop for, and cook healthy meals. What if you made a healthy,reasonably priced, fast-cooking meal so a family could eat better? Create a solution that your customers can sustain, and you enable life-changing outcomes, big and small.Outputs are important products, services, profits, and revenues: the What. Outcomes create meanings, relationships, and differences: the Why.Outputs, such as revenue and profit, enable us to fund outcomes; but without outcomes, there is no need for outputs.My hero and friend Steve Denning makes this distinction exceedingly clear in his emphasis on the outcome of delighting our customersinstead of just making more stuff. Steve encourages us to tell stories about our customers, about who they are and what they want, so they canachieve.
Let’s take the story of Deb, who wants a new car and is very busy. She’d like to buy a car from a dealer who will make buying and, moreimportantly, servicing the car as easy as possible. She doesn’t have the time to wait at the dealer while the car is being serviced—or even timeto get to the dealer for service. Since she travels, she’d like to go on a trip and have the car serviced while she’s gone. W hat if a dealer pickedup and serviced her car, returning it all clean and detailed, without Deb having to alter one moment of her schedule?Another story, for example: A food company has a new product, all the s’more ingredients in a box, and wants to make a big splash for theupcoming spring and summer seasons—but it’s up against some formidable competitors in the market whose brands are synonymous withs’mores. What if a packaging company could help them strategize not just how to package the product for higher acceptance into the massretail markets, but also where to place it on store shelves to get the most exposure?Through stories, we are able to empathize with our customers and recognize the outcomes they need. Business in the 21st century needs morefocus on outcomes than outputs. We all can see where focusing on outputs got us: In education we’ve focused on test results (outputs) andended up with some high-scoring kids who don’t know how to apply what they’ve learned to the world at large (outcome), like how the reasonsleading to the American Revolution are similar to those that led to the Arab Spring. We have a plethora of apps for our smartphones and tablets(output), but how many do we consistently use—and how many actually improve our lives (outcome)?We may not yet have all the right tools, methods, and processes to recognize and measure outcomes, but that’s no reason not to try. Let’screate them together while we change our world.As originally published in Harvard Business Reviewimage credit: upana.ca Deb, founder of Mills-Scofield LLC, is an innovator, entrepreneur and non-traditional strategist with 20 years experience in industries ranging from the Internet to Manufacturing with multinationals to start ups. She is also a partner at Glengary LLC, a Venture Capital Firm.
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