Killer Innovations
The award winning Killer Innovations™ Podcast and nationally syndicated talk radio show (on +30 radio stations) is hosted by Phil McKinney, an award winning innovator of technologies and products used by hundreds of millions of consumers and businesses worldwide. The podcast is Phil's way to "pay-it-forward" by sharing his experience and expertise in innovation so that individuals and organizations can achieve success in the innovation/creative economy. About the Host: Phil retired as the CTO at Hewlett-Packard where he led the product/R&D for the $40B PC, Mobile, Display/TV and Workstation business. He is currently the President and CEO for CableLabs, the non-profit R&D and innovation lab for the global cable industry. Phil shares his rule-breaking approach to innovation and creativity in his book "Beyond The Obvious" and via the podcast. He has been credited with forming and leading multiple teams that FastCompany and BusinessWeek list as one of the “50 Most Innovative”. His recognition includes Vanity Fair naming him the “The Innovation Guru”, MSNBC and Fox Business calling him "The Gadget Guy" and the San Jose Mercury News dubbing him the "chief seer". For more information on Phil visit his blog at philmckinney.com.

To invent and deliver innovation at scale, infrastructure can quickly become the roadblock that will turn a great idea in to nightmare. For those of us who have been on Twitter for any amount of time, how can we forget the "fail whale" whenever it went down.

While many may consider infrastructure the "boring" part of launching a new product or service, its not something innovators can overlook.

So do you have to reinvent or can you learn from the hard earned lessons of others?

Innovation At Scale

Fortunately there are a number of open source projects that shares the lessons learned from companies who deliver their innovations at scale such as Twitter, Google, Facebook. Microsoft and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

This weeks guest, Florian Leibert, brings his experience of being part of the team that solved the "fail whale" problem at Twitter. Florian is the co-founder and CEO of Mesosphere - the company that brings infrastructure that allows its customers to create and launch their innovations at scale.

To date, Mesosphere has secured nearly $126 million from 14 Investors, including A Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Khosla Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and Microsoft. The company counts more than 100 enterprise customers, including Autodesk, ESRI, Verizon, Netflix, and Deutsche Telekom. This summer, the company was added to the Forbes Cloud 100 and selected as a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum.

[callout]Listen below to this weeks show to hear what is required to deliver your next innovation at scale.[/callout]

About Florian Leibert

Florian Leibert is the CEO and co-founder of Mesosphere, the company behind DC/OS – the premier platform for building and running data-rich, containerized applications.  Prior to founding Mesosphere, Florian was technical lead at Airbnb, where he built the company’s data infrastructure and co-authored a popular open source tool called Chronos. Before that, he was technical lead at Twitter. At Twitter he built the company’s distributed search service and introduced Apache Mesos to improve the scalability and reliability of Twitter’s platform. This helped to eliminate the then infamous “fail whale.” Leibert has been a researcher and software engineer developing distributed systems for more than a decade.

[callout]Listen to this weeks show to hear Florian Leibert's experience of delivering innovation at scale.[/callout]

Direct download: Innovation_At_Scale_The_Role_Of_Infrastructure_S13_Ep41.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:01am PST

Building an innovation ecosystem of support across your organization is critical to achieving success. Without it and you will struggle taking and idea and making it real.

This week, we take a look at another listner question on how to get support across the organization.

[shareable cite="Fotune 50 Innovator" text="What kind of incentive program should we put in place for new innovative products and services?"]A problem in large organizations with innovative ideas is getting the sales team engaged to proactively sell your idea to customers. It's relatively easy to setup a market trial but getting 5 account teams to sell this to help prove out the market trial is a challenge: the sales teams are just too busy meeting their targets with current products. What kind of incentive program should we put in place for new innovative products and services? What other ideas? Be good if you could take a service as an example - rather than the usual product focus. Innovation can happen in services too![/shareable]

Innovation Ecosystem

By building an ecosystem of groups and departments that you need support from to make your innovation successful, you greatly enhance your chances for success. This innovation ecosystem can consists of:

  • Operations (finance, IT, legal, etc)
  • Manufacturing/supply chain
  • Product development/services delivery
  • Sales and Marketing

Dealing With A Lack Of Innovation Support

Why is so hard to get them to support innovation? Many believe that with executive, or even CEO support, the rest of the organization will fall in. Top down "declarations" that innovation is important is NOT enough.

As an innovation leader, you need to create an environment that invites and encourages others to be a part of the work you are doing.

5 Steps Building A Strong Innovation Ecosystem

  1. Build innovation interface points across the organization. Treat them like they are part of your team. Their role is to be your evangelist inside the silo's when you need their support. Do NOT wait until you need them. Have the relationships well in place before the first crisis appears.
  2. Identify the "catching team" early. Who will own the innovation after launch? Get them engaged early. Don't ask for a lot of resources. Ask for a named individuals who will own it.
  3. Ramp up the resources. As an innovation gets traction, ramp up the resources from the teams as needed.
  4. Ramp down your involvement. At the same time as other resources are ramping up to support the innovation, you and your team need to ramp down. Minimize your role in leading the innovation effort. Instead, move the ecosystem to take on leadership roles.
  5. Let the catching organization get the credit. The easiest way to win over the innovation ecosystem inside your organization is to not focus/worry on who gets credit.

Incentive's To Encourage Support For Innovation

What incentives should/could be in place? Here are two examples:

  • # of innovations that resulted in new product/services.
  • % of revenue from new products/services launched in the last x years.

These are just a start. There is a lot more to consider when it comes to incentives. If there is interest in this topic, we will cover it in a future show.

[callout]Listen below to this weeks show to learn how to build a strong innovation ecosystem within your organization.[/callout]


I'm not sure how many people would up and quit google and sell their house to fund an innovation. On top of that, the idea was in an area that many say had no room for new innovation. A very typical innovation antibody response to this persons idea.

Unexpected Innovation

Many innovations that go on to become market leaders are the result of the innovators own personal frustrations. For Renee, that frustration came from wanting a better way to search and find audio content that allowed her to stay up with everything going on.

While many believe that world does NOT need yet another podcast application, Renee believed that allowing for audio keyword search was one such innovation that others would find helpful.

I was one of those people. While I've tried just about every podcast app going back almost 14 years, CastBox did create something unique.

Innovation Through Sacrifice

What are you willing to do to take your idea and create the product or service you envisioned? Some will use some of their savings or maybe even borrow from a few credits cards. Few will go the levels Renee has done. In her case, she quit the ultimate job with Google and sold her house to fund what became CastBox.

That is true sacrifice to fulfill a vision.

About Renee Wang:

Renee Wang started her technical career working for Google. Her passion for listening to spoken audio led her to asking the questions, "why can't I search for keywords in audio?." This simple question led her down the path of finding a solution to this obvious question. 

Renee quit her job and sold her house to launch CastBox. What is it? It's a global audio platform pioneering in-audio search and delivering contextual recommendations to listeners of podcasts, on-demand radio and audiobooks.

 

[callout]Listen to this weeks show below to hear how Renee Wang, founder and CEO of Castbox, went from idea to innovation in audio.[/callout]

Direct download: Would_You_Quit_Google_and_Sell_Your_House_for_an_Idea_S13_Ep39.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:29am PST

When it comes to tackling some of the hardest medical innovations, patience becomes a fundamental requirement. Because of the regulatory challenges of getting government approval, its not uncommon to wait for years before an innovation is approved for use. That assumes you can solve all of the technical and medical issues before even starting to secure government approval.

In the case of Dean Irwin, the innovation he envisioned needed innovation in components before the product could be created. How long would you be willing to wait? In Dean's case, that wait was for 15 years.

Patience

Waiting 15 years to bring an innovation to market is the ultimate example of patience. Why did it take so long? To achieve the design objectives, the product needed innovation in a number of areas including smaller and cheaper lasers, improved delivery approaches and confidence in the vision of using lasers to address a medical need that no one else considered.

So how do you fund innovations that take so long?

Dean's company took the basic elements and went after a market that was less demanding and that could generate enough margin to fund the long term vision. The result was a bootstrap approach to ensure control of the vision and funding to drive the innovations needed.

What's the status of the innovation Dean has waited so patiently for?

[callout]Listen below to this weeks show to hear how Dean Irwin's patience is saving lives.[/callout]

About Dean Irwin

Dean Irwin is founder and CEO of Ra Medical Systems. Since founding Ra Medical Systems, he has spearheaded the successful design, development, and commercialization of the Pharos excimer laser for dermatology as well as the investigational DABRA excimer laser and DABRA catheter for peripheral artery disease (PAD).

Over his career, he has published numerous engineering and scientific papers including consulting to the Plasma Research Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Institute of Plasma Physics at Nagoya University in Japan. Dean has been issued eight patents in the field of ultraviolet light and phototherapy, four patents for advanced display technologies, and has numerous patents pending for methods, devices, and catheters for cardiovascular applications.

Show Links:

[callout]Listen below to this weeks show to hear how Dean Irwin's patience is saving lives.[/callout]

Direct download: Patience_Waiting_15_Years_To_Bring_An_Innovation_To_Market_S13_Ep38.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:11am PST

We've all heard the mantra to never give up. We say it to our kids in the hopes that they stick with something that has impact. In the case of Dean Irwin, this mantra as child set him on a path that few could imagine.

Dean left school at 13 to become an entrepreneur. His first effort was studying and repairing radios and TV back when they relied on vacuum tubes. This foundation let to him becoming and engineering consultant at MIT working on nuclear fusion.

How do you go from a kid of 13 fixing TV's to working on nuclear fusion at one of the most prestigious universities? Through passion, curiosity and willingness to use his understanding of the basics and applying them to new technologies. It turns out that understanding the basic of vacuum tubes is directly attributable to understanding and building the elements needed for nuclear fusion.

Never Give Up

Dean credits his upbringing that encouraged his interests to learn, understand and apply his ideas in unique ways. To never give up on his dreams and interests. Even if that means going in directions that sometimes don't seem logical.

I'm not sure as a father and a grandfather I could get comfortable with one of my kids or grand-kids leaving school at such a young age to go live their dream. Does that sound too conservative or too logical? Maybe. As I've preached many times, we all need to get comfortable being uncomfortable. And when we see youth who are on a path to transform society, we sometimes have to be willing to let go.

Dean Irwin is one of those rare bread of entrepreneurs and innovators that can see what others can't and create life impacting innovations.

[callout]Listen below to this weeks show to hear Dean Irwin's story and how he is changing our lives.[/callout]

About Dean Irwin

Dean Irwin is founder and CEO of Ra Medical Systems. Since founding Ra Medical Systems, he has spearheaded the successful design, development, and commercialization of the Pharos excimer laser for dermatology as well as the investigational DABRA excimer laser and DABRA catheter for peripheral artery disease (PAD).

Over his career, he has published numerous engineering and scientific papers including consulting to the Plasma Research Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Institute of Plasma Physics at Nagoya University in Japan. Dean has been issued eight patents in the field of ultraviolet light and phototherapy, four patents for advanced display technologies, and has numerous patents pending for methods, devices, and catheters for cardiovascular applications.

Show Links:

[callout]Listen below to this weeks show to hear Dean Irwin's story and how he is changing our lives.[/callout]

Direct download: Never_Give_Up_Leaving_School_At_13_To_Study_Nuclear_Fusion_S13_Ep37.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 10:59am PST

Over my career, twice I found myself part of what I would consider high performance teams. These are teams that achieved far beyond expectations. Once you've been a part of a high performance team, you will do everything in your power to find another team just like it.

What I struggled with was unlocking why some teams are high performing while others were so bad I did everything in my power to get off of them.

This begs the question: Is there a formula or set of rules to creating and maintaining high performance teams?

Yes - per the authors Linda Adams and Audrey Epstein, of The Loyalist Team: How Trust, Candor and Authenticity Create Great Organizations.

In their book, they establish the framework that there are four types of teams.

  • Saboteur: Team members are working actively to sabotage the project and team members.
  • Benign Saboteur: Depending on the the situation and personal goals, team members will throw others under the bus with no commitment to the success of the team and its projects.
  • Situation Loyalist: Team members support the team and its members depending on the situation and personal objectives.
  • Loyalist: Team members are fully committed and have each others back.

Compared to saboteur teams, loyalist teams are 2000x more likely to be viewed as highly effective by their stakeholders.

Mindset of High Performance Teams

In their book, the authors layout what they believe are the tell tail signs of the loyalists team mind set:

  • We win or lose together
  • We have each other's backs
  • We are committed to the team goals
  • We hold each other accountable

What type of team are you on?

Which team are you a part of? Take a free survey offered at Trispective.com

[callout]Listen below to this weeks show to hear how you can create high performance teams.[/callout]

About The Guests:

Audrey Epstein's 20-year corporate HR career has focused on her passion: driving executive, team and organizational excellence. Prior to her consulting experience, Audrey managed learning and development functions within large companies and non-profits. Her experience includes building state-of-the-art leadership programs for executives, high potential groups, and special populations such as executive women.

Linda Adams brings over 40 years of experience as a Human Resources professional in several large international corporations and as an Executive Coach to the senior leadership of several top North American businesses. Linda focuses her work on creating dynamic and sustainable change in the way executives interact and create results for their teams and their organizations. She works with senior executive leaders to articulate vision, build alignment, establish accountability and drive to attain results for their organizations.

Links:

[callout]Listen below to this weeks show to hear how you can create high performance teams.[/callout]

Direct download: Can_You_Create_High_Performance_Teams_S13_Ep36.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:14am PST

Have we become addicted to innovation? I love the next new thing as much as anyone as evidenced by all of the stuff I've accumulated. As an innovators, the challenge is how to get the innovation timing right to satisfy the market and stay ahead of the competition.

The pull on companies to create the next great product or service is hard to avoid. Consumers are asking and your competition is on your heals.  Its the innovation version of "keeping up with the Jones".

But innovation is not a one and done type activity. Once you start, the customer is always looking for what's next. The pace of innovation drives your activity and its not slowing down. In fact, its accelerating.

The Goldilocks Problem

As an innovators, can you or should you speed up your innovation refresh rate? This is a Goldilocks problem. You go too slow and your competitions will blow right past you. Go too fast and your customers cannot absorb what you are creating. You risk creating innovation exhaustion.

You need to get the innovation timing "just right".

Behind The Scenes Look At How I Do It

You are probably asking yourself, if this is so hard, what hope do you have in getting it right? Don't expect perfection.  There is NO magic formula that when performed generates innovation planning success.

Innovation is messy and unpredictable.  So how do you set the right flow?

Four Step Process To Set Your Innovation Timing

  1. Set your funnel "output" rate. For example,  At HP, the rate of innovation from the Innovation Program Offices was 2 per year for HP. In my current role as a CEO with ~200 people, we have an innovation rate slightly higher than what we had at HP.
  2. Define your stages in the funnel. I use a four stage funnel/gates to ensure oversight of ideas in different stages of development.
  3. Calculate out how many total ideas to achieve your "output" rate. For example, at HP we set our metrics as:
    • Market Validation = 20 ideas
    • Customer/Product Validation = 10 ideas
    • Limited Launch/Trial = 5 ideas
    • Global Launch = 2 ideas
  4. Pace yourself. Its easy to get enthusiastic on the ideas you have in the funnel. To achieve long term, sustainable innovation, you need to prioritize your funnel and be discipline on 2 per year.

The above may sound simple but trust me, its a lot harder than it looks. Leaders within your organization will derail the funnel at ever turn. Be prepared to defend and protect the funnel.

Hard Learned Lessons

Some lessons I've learned when leading and managing innovation organizations:

  • Do not over extend your rate by pushing more innovations than the rate you've set. For 2 ideas per year, we required 35 ideas in the funnel (see metrics below). If you were to go to 3 ideas per year, you would need roughly 52 ideas in the funnel. Think about that carefully.
  • Be aware of what your customers (or internal catching organization) can absorb. If you exceed their innovation adoption rate, you will burn them out with innovation exhaustion.

Listener Question: Starting A New Business

This week, we took time answer a listener question:

[shareable cite="Roberta " text="Should I start my business as an affiliate or as a distributor ?"]I am stuck trying to decide between starting a new business (non tech actually, small regional chocolate creators) that is either affiliate which is limited start up fees and also limited % or distributor which requires a WHOLE lot more capital as well as commercial kitchen for storage, receipt of products and distribution, etc.[/shareable]

Answer: Yes. Listen to this weeks show to hear my advice to Roberta on starting a new business.

[callout]Listen below to this weeks show to get a behind the scenes look at getting the innovation timing right.[/callout]


During some recent travels, I started noticing the comments and suggestions that "being part of Silicon Valley must be exciting". As I paid more attention, it came across as almost hero worship of Silicon Valley and the companies its has launched. It's like people believe that innovation outside Silicon Valley is a rare if not impossible occurrence.

I have to admit that when I first showed up in Silicon Valley in 1984, I was in awe. I felt that I had arrived and proven myself. It took me better than 4 years to open my eyes and see that it wasn't that unique or special. There are some advantages to being there but human creativity and innovations they create are not limited to small piece of land. There is innovation outside of Silicon Valley.

Venture Capital

One unique characteristic to the valley is the access to billions of risk capital that people are willing to invest in new innovations. But risk capital is available in other places also. For example the State of Ohio Venture Fund which is helping new innovative companies stay in the state rather then feeling they need to go to the valley to be successful.

Unexpected Innovations

Innovation can come from anywhere such as the result Hurricane Katrina, a taxi drive in NYC working on new medical innovations and the solution to predictors killing livestock in Africa. While many of these innovations start out as solutions to immediate hyper local issues, they can and do turn into products and services that we all benefit from.

Remember that innovation does not equal technology. There are an unlimited number of ways to apply innovation to what you do.

How To Help

The challenge is how to help innovators who are outside of Silicon Valley to be successful while also impacting their local economy. Here are some ways we can all help:

  1. By highlighting what others are doing (e.g. social media) to give them some exposure.
  2. By shows what others are doing, reinforcing that anyone can innovate.
  3. By showing how to innovate (e.g. joining The Innovators Community), give others the skills to take their idea and turn it into a business.

[callout]Listen below to this weeks show on Innovation Outside of Silicon Valley.[/callout]

Direct download: Innovation_Outside_Silicon_Valley_S13_Ep34.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 3:34am PST

When it comes to looking and selecting the right ideas to get behind, we all suffer from biases and blind spots. When you look at the success rate for venture capitalists, the only expect to have one hit out 10. So, why do we repeatedly find ourselves backing the wrong ideas and what can we do about it?

While some if not many companies will fail, there are a corresponding set of great ideas that will never see the light of day. Why is that? Because those entrepreneurs can't get the support to turn their idea in to that next killer innovation.

Stop Backing The Wrong Ideas

This weeks guest, Ross Baird, shares what he calls the "innovation blind spot". This blind spot is based on three areas:

  1. "One size fits all" - the attempt by entrepreneurs to take an idea, opportunity or problem and apply basic/simple rules to solve or address it. This creates blind-spots that we are not even aware of.
  2. "It's not what you know; its who you know" - this is manifest through biases of who we work with, who we invest in, who do we trust. What has historically been the result is that people work with, invest in and trust people like themselves.
  3. "Two pocket thinking" - when we can integrate what we do and why we do it, we will get better results.

During the show, Ross shares how to counteract these innovation blind spots and why we need to stop backing the wrong ideas if we are to impact the important issues facing our society.

About Ross Baird:

Ross Baird is the founder of Village Capital, a firm that finds and invests in entrepreneurs solving the most important problems in society.Since founding Village Capital in 2009, Ross has supported hundreds of entrepreneurs in over 50 countries. Ross has spent his entire career on the founding team of start-up enterprises or investing in startups.

He also serves on the faculty of the University of Virginia, where he teaches entrepreneurship and impact investing.

[callout]Listen below to this weeks show on how to address your innovation blind spot so that you can back the best ideas.[/callout]

Direct download: Why_Do_We_Back_The_Wrong_Ideas_S13_Ep33.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 7:37am PST

In a recent discussion with some colleagues, we get to discussing the current state of the US and global economy. Why has the economic recovery been so slow which has caused the middle class income to stagnate? In my opinion, its because the companies and jobs we are creating are not delivering high value products or services. What we need is innovation driven entrepreneurship.

The State Of The Current Economy

Entrepreneurship and the start-ups they create are the engine that drives economic growth and jobs. In 2016, 99.7% of all firms in the US were small businesses (private sector companies with less than 500 employees).  These same small businesses create 33.6% of known export value and employ 48% of private sector employees. In addition, 60% of all new jobs are created by small businesses.

That's a lot of impact on the economy. So what is going on? When you dig underneath the numbers, the reveal some shocking issues.

While 60% of all jobs today are created by small businesses, back in 2001 that number was 69.8%. At the same time, the average median income has been effectively flat since 1998 when you account for inflation.

So we are see a slowing of start-ups creating new jobs and the jobs they are creating has caused the median household income to stagnate.

Innovation Driven Entrepreneurship

We need more than just more start-ups who create low paying jobs. We need businesses that brings innovations to market that deliver such high value that customers are willing to pay a margin premium.

This is what I'm calling innovation driven entrepreneurship or some may call it innovation driven start-ups.

These start-ups don't have to follow in the model of Silicon Valley and be focused on technology. Innovations can cover a wide range of areas. I recently came across a very innovative idea for a new approach to a bicycle that I think could open that market to new customers who are not ridding today.

Another example is innovating education and how we prepare students with STEM skills that will prepare them to compete in the emerging creative economy. Check out what Zaniac is doing.

What I'm not talking about is an entrepreneur copying some existing business or franchising a business for their local community. These are all good and play a role in the economy. But these small businesses are  typically not going to drive a disruptive product or service that will return a margin premium.

How Do You Start An Innovation Driven Start-up?

We've covered on this show a number of ways to think about discovering ideas and then executing to turn those ideas into a killer innovation. When it comes to innovation driven entrepreneurship, think about in two parts:

Innovation: Find a problem, ideate a solution (product, service, business model, etc), test it with others then adjust and repeat the process.

Entrepreneurship: Find and focus on a customer who needs your innovation, serve that customer, find another customer and then repeat until you achieve scale.

While this sounds simple, it is incredibly hard. You will face disappointment and setbacks while also experiencing the thrill when a customer says they love your innovation and actually pays for it.

How Can I Help You With Your Start-Up?

I want to help you take your idea and create a business that turns your idea into an innovation. Given the sheer number of people, I can't do this 1:1. So I've joined a community that hangs out in a private Slack area full of innovators and entrepreneurs. There is where you can find the expertise you need while also sharing you expertise with others.

Check out The Innovators Community to learn how you can be part of the community.

[callout]Listen below to this weeks show on how innovation driven entrepreneurship can drive the economy.[/callout]

Direct download: Innovation_Driven_Entrepreneurship_S13_Ep32.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 11:26pm PST