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

To some organizations, starting an innovation effort seems easy. Just hire some consultants, host a few all-hands meetings and then decree that the organization is embracing innovation. Sustaining innovation over time is incredibly hard. Without a long term commitment, most organizations experience innovation collapse.

Are there weak signals that an organization is heading towards innovation collapse?

4 Signs Of Coming Innovation Collapse

Here are four signs that organizations should keep a look out for.

  1. Innovation Out Of Fear: For sustained innovation, an organization needs to have a bedrock reason why innovation is important.  For some, it's out of fear. Fear that share price is suffering  because of a lack of innovation. Fear that everyone else is doing it and the organization is being left behind. While fear is a catalyst for innovation, its not a sustainable motivator.
  2. Competitive Urgency: For many organizations, their idea of innovation is responding to their competitors actions. When a competitor launches a new product or service, the organization responds by catching-up. Its innovation effort is reactionary which is not a sustainable approach to innovation.
  3. Innovation Silos/Innovation Fragmentation: Some organizations will attempt to catch-up by starting a large amount of innovation projects. The innovation version of throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks. Projects will make everyone feel like they are doing something but without coordination and prioritization, the odds of success are slim.
  4. Lack of Will Power: For an organization to create a sustainable innovation program, their leadership will need to make some changes. Do they have the will power to do whatever it takes for innovation success?

During this weeks show, we discuss in more detail each of the 4 signs of pending innovation collapse.

We also share what you can do to avoid it.

[callout]Click below to listen to this weeks show on innovation collapse.[/callout]

While many are familiar with the story of how DARPA (actually it was its predecessor ARPA) invented the internet. What few are familiar with is the untold stories of of DARPA and how its innovators solved some of the most pressing problems we faced.

DARPA was created in 1958 in response to the launch of Sputnick with the mission to ensure that the United States didn't find itself behind the Soviets when it came to technology - especially in space. While its focus was on technology and innovation for the Pentagon, its work has had significant impact on civilian life.

This weeks guest, Sharon Weinberger, shares some of the untold stories abut DARPA based on her newly released book, The Imagineers of War: The Untold Story of DARPA, the Pentagon Agency That Changed the World

The Untold Stories of DARPA

DARPA is responsible for some of the most important technologies of the past six decades. Some of its projects are successes, some are failures, and some are best left to history to judge. Here is a list of DARPA’s most notable—and in some cases notorious—contributions to science, technology and warfare.

Driverless Cars: Today’s driverless automobiles being developed by Google, Uber and others are a direct result of DARPA’s robotic car races that began in 2004, with a course that ran across the Mojave Desert. The first winner of it's Grand Challenge competition was recruited by Google to start work on the company’s autonomous vehicles.

The Internet: More than any single person or agency, DARPA can lay claim to having “invented” the Internet. In the 1960s, it sponsored development of a system of networked computers called the ARPANET, the predecessor to the modern Internet. DARPA’s work on areas such as networking, packet switching and time-sharing laid the foundations for personal computing.

Drones: During the Vietnam War, the agency was responsible for developing the first armed drones. In the 1990s, the agency funded an Israeli aerospace engineer to build an unmanned aerial vehicle, which later evolved into the Predator, the armed drone most closely associated with targeted killings.

Agent Orange: In the 1960s, DARPA introduced chemical defoliation to Southeast Asia, believing that it could help eliminate jungle cover used by communist insurgents fighting the U.S.-backed government in South Vietnam. The work grew from early experiments into a widespread military spraying program that today is held responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths and sicknesses.

Border Wall Technology: In 1962, scientists working for DARPA outlined a proposal to create a barrier between North and South Vietnam. Eventually, that proposal morphed into the infamous McNamara Line, an electronic barrier that failed. Yet many of the concepts and technologies developed by DARPA, such as tethered aerostats and seismic sensors, are now used along the U.S.-Mexican border.

Stealth Aircraft: In the 1970s, DARPA sponsored development of the first “invisible aircraft,” a stealth prototype codenamed Have Blue. The stealth aircraft was designed to be invisible to radar in order to slip past Soviet air defense systems. The U.S. military’s current fleet of stealth aircraft, including the stealth helicopters used in the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, can all be traced back to DARPA.

Nuclear Test Detection: One of DARPA’s earliest projects was a network of sensors and satellites to detect foreign nuclear tests. President John F. Kennedy relied on DARPA’s results in deciding to go forward with a Limited Test Ban Treaty in 1963 that halted nuclear tests in the atmosphere, oceans and outer space.

Modern Seismography: To advance work in underground nuclear test detection, DARPA invested heavily in the discipline of seismography and built a worldwide network of seismograph stations. The sensor network, and DARPA funding, is widely credited with advancing seismography and allowing scientists to collect the data needed to confirm the theory of plate tectonics.

M-16: During the Vietnam War, DARPA bought the Armalite-15 rifle for South Vietnamese soldiers. Eventually, it became the M-16, the standard weapon used by all three U.S. military services.

Artificial Intelligence: In the 1980s, DARPA launched a billion dollar initiative to develop artificial intelligence. The agency invested in everything from computer vision—teaching machines to “see” —to thinking computers that could help military pilots fly aircraft. The program was shut down in less than a decade and branded a “failure” at the time. Yet now some of the technologies DARPA invested in, like voice recognition, are widely used in the commercial sector (iPhone’s Siri, for example, was a spinoff of a DARPA project).

Robotics: DARPA has been the leading investor in robotics in the United States for decades. Many of today’s most recognizable robots, like iRobot’s PackBot, a bomb disposal robot used in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Roomba, the vacuum cleaner robot, can be credited to DARPA.

Data Mining: In the days after 9/11, the agency was responsible for creating one of the most high profile and controversial data-mining projects, called Total Information Awareness. The project was designed to trawl through large amounts of data, from car rental records to intelligence reports, to ferret out domestic terrorists. It was accused of being an Orwellian spy program and the work was moved to the National Security Agency.

Presidential Protection: After the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the agency ran a top-secret project to protect the president. Though many of its ideas were rejected as too fanciful, like a proposal to protect the president with a mirage-producing system, DARPA was responsible for the first armored presidential limousine.

Neuroengineering: DARPA in the 1970s helped lay the foundation for Brain-Computer Interface (brain-driven computers), imagining a future where humans could control machines, like drones, with nothing more than their minds. Today, DARPA is working on neural chips designed to help those with brain injuries recover memories and prosthetics controlled directly by the brain.

Satellites: Created in 1958 as the nation’s first space agency, it was responsible for developing the first communications satellite and first spy satellite. The agency also played a brief but critical role in sponsoring the Transit satellite, which led to the Global Positioning System.

Lessons From DARPA Success

Sharon shared three lessons from the success from DARPA:

  1. Price of Success is Failure: Be willing to try, fail and then learn from it.
  2. Be Clear About What Problem to Solve
  3. Function is More Important Than Form

[callout]Listen to this weeks show to hear Sharon Weinberger share  some of the untold stories of DARPA.[/callout]

About Sharon Weinberger:

Sharon Weinberger is the executive editor for news at Foreign Policy. Her most recent book, published in March 2017, is The Imagineers of War: The Untold Story of DARPA, the Pentagon Agency That Changed the World (Knopf, 2017). She is currently a non-resident global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Nature, Discover,, Slate, Wired, the Washington Post, Foreign Policy, and the Financial Times, among other publications. She was previously a senior editor at Aviation Week and a co-founding writer and editor for Wired's national security blog, Danger Room.

[callout]Click below to listen to hear Sharon Weinberger share the untold stories of DARPA.[/callout]

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 PDT

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]