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.

Keywords: (1) Copycat Innovation and (2) Ethical Innovator

 

Copycat Innovation and the Ethical Innovator

 

This year at South by Southwest (SXSW), I facilitated a discussion on neurodiversity hiring.  This is part of my work with Hacking Autism.  SXSW is a multi-week event, part music festival, part innovation reveal.  It’s where big names like Twitter first launched. However, I noticed at this year’s SXSW, as with CES, a shocking lack of originality.  The trend towards identical look, feel, and function is unsettling. This prompted me to ponder the copycat innovation and the ethical innovator.

 

First or So They Claim…

As I observed hundreds of nearly identical products, the degree of copycat innovation was mind-boggling.  Everyone is copying everyone else. I am bothered by the claims made on copycat innovation. Companies claim to be the originator or the first in their category even when they clearly are not.  There is a dearth of acknowledgment for those that came before.

 

Is all copycat innovation bad?  No. There’s nothing wrong with taking a product or service and improving on it.  There are many cases of borrowing an idea from another source to create an innovation.  Biomimicry is a good example of copycat innovation.  Innovators look to nature and replicate its creative solutions.  The very name biomimicry indicates the source of inspiration.

 

The problem comes when the innovator lays claims to being the first to create or innovate when that is not the case.  Being first doesn’t always mean being the best. The ethical innovator would steer clear of making such claims. Innovations and innovative ideas are process of building on what you observe and know.  Innovation is not creating in isolation. Great innovators make unique connections from inspirations.  They may look to others and improve on existing products or services.  Be an ethical innovator. Don’t get caught up on staking a claim as the “first.”

 

Credit: Is it Better to Give or Take?

Another issue is the failure to acknowledge or give credit to the true originator of an idea.  Rather than making shaky claims, the innovator who improves on someone else’s idea should give credit where it’s due.  Giving credit to others will not discredit your product or service if it’s a worthwhile innovation. Strive to be an ethical innovator, giving credit for the source of your inspiration.

 

Innovators should consider a way to acknowledge their inspiration.  Just as academics provide detailed footnotes in their papers, innovators could create a means to credit those who’ve come before.  On that note, I’d like to credit Earl Nightingale with being the inspiration for this podcast.  I’ve been on air now for fourteen years. My inspiration for the Killer Innovations show was the Nightingale-Conant audio series Insight, which I subscribed to in the 80s.

 

I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic of copycat innovation and the ethical innovator.  Drop me a note.  Share your thoughts, contributions, and experiences in acknowledging others or being acknowledged.

 

Continue this and other conversations around innovation.  Join The Innovators Community on Slack.  This is a private community of vetted innovators helping each other succeed.

 

 

Five Minutes to New Ideas

Understanding the life cycle of your industry is essential to continued success.  A big part of business is responding to life cycles of industry and its customers.  By challenging yourself and your team to think about your customer’s future, you stand a great chance of staying ahead of those inevitable changes.

 

Listen to this week’s Five Minutes to New Ideas to learn more about staying connected to your customer through the life cycle.

 

The Killer Innovations podcast is produced by The Innovators Network.

Direct download: Copycat_Innovation_and_the_Ethical_Innovator_S14_Ep12.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 2:00am PST

Being content may be a positive emotion in some senses.  Not so with innovation. If you are ready to rest on your laurels after a triumph or a stressful circumstance, get ready.  Major change could be looming around the corner. Let me explain why I believe being content can be the enemy of innovation.

 

First, consider what being content means.  Feelings of peace, calm, acceptance of where we are in life, happiness, satisfaction.  Doesn’t sound too bad. The problem comes when we embrace contentment to the point of giving up.  We don’t want to let go of being content. Therefore, we avoid conflict, stress or anything that may rock the boat and shake up the status quo.  

 

Innovation is the antithesis of stasis.  It’s about being tuned in to what’s wrong with the picture.  Not just seeing the problems but seeking ways to improve on things.  When we are fixed on being content, we develop a false sense that change is slowing down.  It’s at this time that we will miss the weak signals, subtle signs that major change is coming down the pike.  

 

A false sense of satisfaction is its own form of an innovation antibody.  This state of being content will cause you to shy away from change and avoid risk.  You will trade off the challenges of innovation, going against the grain, for that easy feeling.  Being content becomes the enemy of innovation. True innovators are not content.





Three or four times across my life I’ve slipped into this state of being content.  That is, I felt satisfied and turned on autopilot. Rather than being active, engaged and looking for new ways and new directions to move, I put blinders on and checked out.  The content feelings were short lived. I was taken off guard. Some major change in the world around me took me by surprise. The contentment quickly dissolved.

 

Don’t get caught off guard.  Here’s what you can do to keep the enemy of innovation at bay.

  1. Challenge yourself to do something uncomfortable.
  • Do something you’ve never done before.
  • Learn something new, something outside your skill set.
  • It opens your eyes to new things and energizes you.

 

  1. Change up how you do things.

 

  1. Do daily creative muscle exercises
    • Challenge yourself to come up with 5 problems that need to be solved.
    • These can be
  • personally
  • in your community
  • at your job or school
  • for a non-profit

 

There are always problems to be solved.  Find a problem. Then go innovate a way to fix it.

 

 

Five Minutes to New Ideas

Some products or services evoke strong emotional responses.  They are either loved by devoted fans or hated by others. Plenty of companies trade on the fact that mainstream culture will find their product offensive or questionable.  

 

Is there any benefit or purpose to being strategically disliked by some and adored by select devotees?  Listen to Five Minutes to New Ideas to hear why you might consider this approach.

 

 

 

  • You can also find out information about my book, Beyond the Obvious, at beyondtheobvious.com.  Get a copy through Amazon or wherever you get your books.
  • Pay it forward.  When I wanted to repay my mentor for his investment in my career, he told me to pay it forward.  Help me pay it forward. Give us a rating where you get your podcast. Help spread the word. Tell others about the show.  
  • Be part of the conversation between the shows.  I hang out at The Innovators Community on Slack.  This private community of vetted innovators helps each other succeed.

 

 

The Killer Innovations podcast is produced by The Innovators Network.

Direct download: Being_Content_is_the_Enemy_of_Innovation_S14_Ep11.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 7:22am PST

Ever wish you could travel the world discovering better ways of doing things?  The next best thing - read the book. Author Mark Stevenson is an innovation explorer.  He’s visited remote parts and populous cities worldwide. This ‘reluctant futurist’ searches for people whose innovations are making a positive impact.  In the process, he’s discovering the roadmap to a better future. His book, We Do Things Differently: The Outsiders Rebooting Our World imparts the stories of those paving the way.

 

The rapid pace of change in today’s world leaves many behind.  Advances in technology can create a wake of unintended consequences.  Mark isn’t here to paint a doomsday picture, but to illuminate the roadmap to a better future.  His book tells the story of innovators, inventors and creatives who are making major impacts on communities.

 

Technology has often led to job losses as new processes replace old ways.  It is a certain fact read out in headlines throughout history. Loss of jobs due to tech advances is a transition from an old economy to a new one.  A better future demands that education, government, and other systems swiftly adapt to these changes.  While some countries such as Estonia address this need, many do not.  The catalyst for his book is those who have successfully affected systemic changes.  They are the ones plotting the roadmap to a better future.





Mark lays out the good, the bad, and the ugly.  The next twenty years are critical in developing the roadmap to a better future.  Major changes are necessary in our systems of education, government, healthcare, and businesses.  

  • Bad news first: everything’s broken.  
  • Good news: it’s fixable.  
  • It’s going to get ugly.

Mark wants to “make the transition less messy for less people and make it a little bit shorter.”

 

A systemic approach to tech advances is essential for a better future.  Mark dislikes the moniker “futurist”. The term suggests one who sees technology as the answer to all problems.  For Mark, technology is the question. Technology development should not be done in isolation. People must evaluate factors beyond the technology itself.  Policy makers and innovators alike have to step back and look at the big picture. What are the far-reaching, future results of the technology? How will it affect society?  Developing the correct measure for success is just as important as developing the innovation.

 

In the quest for discovering systemic changes that work, Mark has found common threads:

  • They come from the bottom up – grassroots people who make a change to fix what’s broken.
  • The catalyst is a new technology or way of thinking.
  • In the service of a different social contract - decisions and choices for reasons other than money.
  • The catalyst is outside the system
  • The actors have herculean levels of perseverance and powerful motivation.

 

To find out more about Mark and his books track him on Twitter @optimistontour or via his website: markstevenson.org.

 

 

Five Minutes to New Ideas

How do you design a product the customer will prefer or crave over the competition?

You need to determine

  • how your business environments are evolving.
  • how your customers are changing.
  • what you need to modify to keep the product relevant and desirable.

Go beyond the competition.  Look at industries that are distinctly different but share similar key elements with your business.  By asking the right questions and looking at non-obvious businesses, you may find that one inspiration that can transform you and your ideas.

 

 

  • You can also find out information about my book, Beyond the Obvious, at beyondtheobvious.com.  Get a copy through Amazon or wherever you get your books.
  • Pay it forward.  When I wanted to repay my mentor for his investment in my career, he told me to pay it forward.  Help me pay it forward. Rate the show where you get your podcast. Help spread the word. Tell others about the show.  
  • Be part of the conversation between the shows.  I hang out at The Innovators Community on Slack.  This private community of vetted innovators helps each other succeed.

 

The Killer Innovations podcast is produced by The Innovators Network.

Direct download: Discovering_the_Roadmap_to_a_Better_Future_S14_Ep10.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:10am PST

When civic and business leaders have a meeting of the minds, amazing things can happen.  Cincinnati is home to several major corporations and health care organizations. The demand is high for tech innovation.  This midwestern city has created a unique approach to draw in the best talent.  Cintrifuse is the confluence of innovation in Cincinnati.

Cintrifuse exists through public private partnership.  Its purpose is threefold. It’s a startup accelerator and venture capital fund.   It’s also the go to source for large companies seeking innovative solutions to their tech problems.  CEO Wendy Lea comes to Cincinnati from Silicon Valley as an expert in digital innovation.

[shareable cite="Wendy Lea, CEO Cintrifuse"]To build a sustainable economy, you have to have supply and demand. We're unique in that we have two portfolios of supply for startups and we have an amazing set of large companies with strong appetite for technology innovation.[/shareable]

West Coast to Midwest

Arriving in the Cincinnati area, it surprised Wendy to find six major healthcare systems in the region.  In addition, there are 140 major companies including Proctor & Gamble that call this area home.  The local government sought economic growth.  The need for cutting edge tech innovation and economic growth brought all these players together.  The perspective from the various communities is distinct from what Wendy’s observed in Silicon Valley.  These communities work closely together to tackle regional issues. Their collaborative effort formed Cintrifuse.  

Startup versus BigCo

Contrary to what one might think, this is not a face off between startup and big companies.  Large companies seek to draw the entrepreneurs, ideas and talent. They are the customers to the startups product or service offering.  

Growing the Startup Community

Wendy has seen Cintrifuse’s portfolio of startups grow 40% year over year.  What started with eleven startups on the Cintrifuse books has grown to 470 startups in the region.  Some startups that come through Cintrifuse’s doors are located within the Cincinnati area. Others located elsewhere benefit from Cintrifuse venture capital funds.  The benefits are mutual. The relationships developed allow Cintrifuse to connect startups with large companies seeking tech innovation.

To learn more about Cintrifuse, check out cintrifuse.com.

Check out The Innovators Network where you can listen to podcasts with Kym McNicholas on Innovation and Killer Innovations with Phil McKinney.


Exploring rural innovation, I stopped in Paducah, Kentucky.  Drs. Lula Luu and John Crilly, founders of FIn Gourmet Foods, joined the mobile studio.  Word got around town. Monica Bilak contacted me through The Innovator’s Community.  I’m pleased to welcome Monica and Jimi Gwinn.  They share how Sprocket is inspiring student innovation in Paducah.

Sprocket is a makerspace for students and the local community to learn and create with access to technology. Three years ago, the idea emerged.  Today, Monica is the Development Director with a background in education and design. Jimi Gwinn, the Director, brings engineering, woodworking and metal artistry skills to the table.  A boiler room and coal closet transforms into an 840 square foot space to design, build, innovate.

The Creative Drivers

What brought Monica from East Africa to Paducah 17 years ago was a spirit of creativity.  For a dollar, she bought a house under the Artist Relocation program. In her words, Paducah was “a little town that had something going.”  She opened a fair trade and coffee shop and worked in downtown development. Eventually she returned to her roots in education.

Life brought new challenges for Jimi Gwinn when he was in a car accident.  One challenge was the awkward fit of his legs and wheelchair at the desks in college.  He designed his own desk. Starting with basic materials, he finished with a mahogany, teak and burled cherry desk.  He found his passion for woodworking.

Another life changing moment came with spinal fusion.  The relief from constant pain freed his mind to think in new directions.  He began designing a wheelchair controlled by body lean. A retired engineer pointed him towards University of Kentucky.  Jimi jumped into the engineering program. His experience and training made him a prime candidate for inspiring student innovation.  Monica recruited him to lead Sprocket.

The Perfect Storm

Monica was working with homeless 6th graders in an afterschool program.  She introduced technologies and programming.  Highly motivated, the kids loved learning in this non-traditional environment.  Inspiring student innovation this way was one element of a perfect storm.

Local business, Computer Services Incorporated, reached out to educators.  They valued their local employees and wanted to continue hiring locally.  The problem – how to find the local talent. The next generation of skilled employees needed to build those skills now.  The community went to work.

Monica took time off from her design degree pursuit.  She focused on students’ needs.

[shareable cite="Monica Bilak"]The district has the profound awareness that the world is changing really fast…the system of education is not aligned with how we think and need to work in this age.[/shareable]

They needed to develop highly valuable skills, build social networks and connect to local business and industry.  The idea of a makerspace struck a chord. Sprocket launched with grants from the Kentucky Workforce and Education Cabinet, fundraising, and donations from companies like Toyota.

Lessons to Share

What Monica and Jimi learned along the way…

  • Start – even if it’s small and imperfect.
  • Keep going – don’t let failure be the end game.
  • Cast the vision wide -take time to meet everybody.
  • Don’t stop building the culture of innovation.

Keep up with Sprocket or support their effort at info@sprocketpaducah.com or Jimi@sprocketpaducah.com.  You can also contact them through Paducah Innovation on Facebook.

Is there a guest you think should be on the show?  Is your community doing interesting things? Drop me note at Killer Innovations or The Innovators Studio on Facebook.

Direct download: Small_Spaces_Inspiring_Student_Innovation_S14_Ep8.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:33am PST