Killer Innovations with Phil McKinney
An award-winning podcast and nationally syndicated radio show that looks at the innovations that are changing our lives and how their innovators used creativity and design to take their raw idea and create game-changing products or services. Phil McKinney, retired CTO of HP and the creator, and host of Killer Innovations 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".

On April 4, 2008, Phil McKinney, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Hewlett Packard, delivered the morning keynote speech at the fifth annual Business Alliance Bootcamp for growing companies and entrepreneurs in Washington DC.

Creativity Economy

What I am going to do today is give you my perspective on some of the economic challenges and also encourage you in thinking differently when working to create value.  Knowledge is becoming a commodity.  If you have a job that can be taught at a University, your skill is at risk and your job is at risk.  The impact of this is everywhere.  Think about the transitions from an agricultural to a manufacturing economy to a knowledge economy.  My argument is that the creative economy is here.  What’s the new thing?  The new thing is this creative economy.  In the early 1980’s the market value for companies listed on the stock exchanges was concentrated on book value with most company’s stock value at 95% book value.  Twenty years later 23% is the average book value.  So, in 20 years a major fundamental shift occurred on how companies get valued.  I would argue that one of the key pieces on the increases of that intangible value is the role of creativity and innovation.  It is the value of ideas.  It is no longer what you can do with your hands or with a machine, it is the ability to continually generate new ideas, new products, and new services.  A lot of companies are unable to do this and as a result, do not survive.  Economic stability going forward is the ability to have ideas being continuously generated from the organization.  Innovation is important, but a lot of companies make the mistake of putting all of the pressure for innovation on their Chief Innovation Officer.  Go out and do a survey.  Eighty six percent of CEO’s admit that innovation is key to their business but less than ten percent have any formal process to innovate within their organization.

Bringing Back Creativity

My strong belief is that creativity is not a gift.  It is not bestowed on people, it is a skill that anybody can learn, practice, and become proficient at.  It ignores age, demographics, education levels, and geography.  It is the ability to put your own thought processes in place, to come up with the next idea, product, or service.  A lot of people are self-pessimistic and are convinced that they do not have it and they are not creative. The fact is that we are creative creatures; we were created to create.  Think about kids and how creative they are with a simple object like a toilet paper roll. The problem is through the process of our education systems and through jobs, we literally beat that creativity out of our people.  How do we bring back that amount of creativity that we see in kids and bring it back to our day to day lives?  We need that ability to take our filters off and see things from an unbiased and different perspective.  I had a conversation with a co-worker many years ago about “old think and new think.”  Old think is when you are coming up with an idea and then you put a filter on it and decide to go safe and go with the old way of doing things.  New think is all about breaking perspectives and getting rid of perspectives that confine and restrict us from coming up with new ideas.  The best ideas will sound stupid.  If you are not coming up with stupid ideas, then try harder!

FIRE and POE

“FIRE” is a very simple method you can apply to come up with ideas.

  • “F” in the acronym “FIRE” stands for focus.
    • How do you bring focus to where you are going to innovate?
    • Pick an area of focus.
  • “I” stands for ideation.
    • How do you generate ideas?
    • Ask better questions.
  • “R” stands for ranking.
    • What is the best idea?
    • I rank through five questions:
      • Will this idea fundamentally change the customer’s experience or expectation?
      • Will this change the competitive landscape?
      • Does this fundamentally change the economics of the industry?
      • Do you have a contribution to make?
      • Will this generate sufficient margin?
    • “E” stands for execution.

So, what does “POE” stand for?  “POE” is two fundamental skills that you should do each and every day in perspective to “FIRE.”

  • “P” stands for perspective.
    • You must be able to change your perspective.
    • Look for the non-obvious.
  • “O” stands for observation skills.
    • Watch how customers buy your products and your competitor’s products.
    • Get out there and see how your customer’s use your products.

Innovation Gap

Idea’s without execution are hobbies.  People’s individual career success is going to be in their own individual ability to participate in the creative economy.  What are you contributing to those intangible values that your company is creating and is going to get a return back from those investors?  Companies are suffering today on a huge innovation gap.  Small businesses are the most prolific patent producers in the entire segment in the U.S.  Small businesses are fourteen times higher than any other segment on the marketplace.  Patents that are highly referenced by other patents or materials are highly valued patents.  If you look at the top one percent of the cited patents today in the U.S. it is two times more likely that it is a small business patent.  That says that the most important innovations that are being created are coming from small businesses.  Companies and economies are going to be dependent on creating an environment where people can bring their creativity skills to create value for the business, create jobs, create economic stability, and put all the economies back on the growth curves.  Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to join us today.  If you have questions or comments on this week’s show, I’d love to hear from you.  You can also carry on the conversation with other innovators at The Innovators Community.

Direct download: Innovation_Bootcamp.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Laws of Innovation

Why do some organizations have better innovation than others?  Over the years I have collected what I call the “7 Immutable Laws of Innovation.”  No single organization could be successful in all of these laws but there are always opportunities to improve.  Let’s get started with the laws of Innovation.

  1. Law of Leadership.
    1. Leadership sets the tone of the organization. This includes the:
      1. Board of Directors and CEO
      2. Direct Reports (other C-levels, Vice President’s, Directors)
    2. Leadership must be at the front walking the walk and talking the talk.
  2. Law of Culture.
    1. “Culture eats strategy for lunch.”
    2. Create a culture of innovation to support a strategy of innovation.
    3. Culture has to:
      1. Involve people.
      2. Value ideas.
    4. All the resources need to be aligned.
    5. Communication needs to be clear.
  3. Law of Resources.
    1. This requires a committed level of resources to include people, money, time and equipment.
    2. Must effectively allocate and protect your resources.
  4. Law of Patience.
    1. Patience is critical for innovation.
    2. Management needs to have patience. Some innovation projects can take longer than twenty years to be completed.
  5. Law of Process.
    1. You can apply somebody else’s process, but you need to adapt the process to your organization.
    2. Needs to cover the full innovation chain.
      1. How you capture ideas.
      2. How you generate better ideas.
      3. How you identify the best ideas.
      4. How you execute those ideas.
    3. Never let your innovation process become stagnant.
  1. Law of the BHAG. (Bold, Hairy, Audacious, Goal).
    1. Unique characteristics of BHAG.
      1. Very clear and concise of what the target is.
      2. Needs to be a stretch.
    2. Let the process of innovation within your organization define the how.
  2. Law of Execution.
    1. Execution is the task of going through and putting a product out there for customers.
    2. Ideas without execution are a hobby.
    3. Think about segmenting the execution into phases.
      1. You will be able to kill projects that are not going to be successful.
      2. Allows you to reduce your risks.
      3. The objective is to actually execute, not review.

Not all organizations will be in a position to be successful in all of these laws.  Think about each of these laws and rank your organization.  Be honest with yourself on the areas you need to improve upon.  You can see our Organization’s Innovation Readiness survey based on the 7 Laws to assess and benchmark.

Five Questions to Ask an Innovation Consultant 

Have you noticed that the market is being flooded with a new type of consultant?  These people have branded themselves innovation consultants.  My advice to organizations is to treat consultants with a little bit of caution; they should be one of many inputs in the innovation process.  Do not discount the inside experts you already have within your organization.  There are five questions you should ask every innovation consultant.

  1. What innovations have you come up with and delivered to the market?
    1. Emphasis on them, not past clients.
    2. Weeds out the people who teach versus the people who do.
  2. What approach did you use?
    1. How did you deliver that to the marketplace?
    2. Why did you use that approach?
    3. What are the benefits versus using other approaches?
    4. How many firms are using the approach you came up with?
    5. When was the last time you innovated the approach?
  3. What were the lessons learned?
    1. What would you do differently?
  4. What innovations are you working on now?
  5. How do you personally stay innovative?

I have framed these questions specifically for people looking to hire innovation consultants, but some of you are innovation consultants looking to get hired. How would you answer these questions for yourself? And how can you improve your answers?  Consultants are needed and critical, but you need to make sure you are getting real expertise in this field.  

The MacGyver Method Creative Challenge

Based on the popularity of the last podcast’s creativity challenge, I have decided to present another one in this week’s show.  This creative challenge is called the MacGyver or the Apollo 13.  With this method:

  1. You are given a problem or objective.
  2. You open your purse, briefcase, or desk drawer.
  3. Use only the items you have.
  4. Create as many ideas within twenty minutes.

For this exercise, you get to work and realize you forgot to get a gift for a co-workers upcoming wedding.  You are given the tasks of creating or buying a gift with only the items within your reach.  For each idea:

  1. The idea must have a practical use.
  2. The idea must be made from two or more items you have on your desk.

I hope today’s show inspired you to look more in depth into the 7 Immutable Laws of Innovation and to see how it is applied in your organization and can be optimized.  Remember an innovation coach can be very impactful and help exceed outcomes, but you do need to be careful in choosing one.  Look for real experience and proof points, not just theory.  If you have questions or comments on this week’s show, I’d love to hear from you.  You can also carry on the conversation with other innovators at The Innovators Community.

Direct download: 7_Laws_of_Innovation_and_Benefitting_from_Coaching_Insights.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Co-Innovation

What is Co-Innovation?  Co-Innovation is two parties with unique expertise that come together in a 50/50 funding of resources.  The key component being they have complimentary interests. Think of it as a Venn diagram.  The goal of Co-Innovation is to find where the Venn diagrams overlap.  Co-Innovation means:

  • Two parties with patented expertise.
  • A complete 50/50 venture.
    • Define what it is/why it exists.
    • Find the common area of interests.
    • Agree on what the target is.
    • How do you go about doing it.
  • Neither of you can do it alone.
    • You and your partner cannot do it alone.
    • This creates mutual dependency.
    • Requires both entities to participate in.
  • You are going to launch a real product.
    • The product had to be launched within 24 months.
    • The product had to have high impact to both organizations.

If you set up a Co-Innovation program successfully, they will have benefits to your organization such as:

  • Reducing risk.
  • Speeding up delivery of innovation.
  • Leveraging your R&D budget.

Lessons Learned

Over the years of creating these programs there are a couple lessons I have learned.

How do you manage these programs once they are under way?

  • Use your senior executive sponsorship to set the pacing.
  • Set gates and milestones.
    • You must have clear targets.
  • Share and show what you are working on.
    • Get real feedback from customers using your products.

How do you get a Co-Innovation program going?

  • You have to find the areas of mutual interests.
    • This takes time and many conversations with leaders of other organizations.
  • Set up a one-day workshop where teams from both sides talk about their areas of interests.
    • Start working together as teams and propose a target.

When Co-Innovation programs go wrong, the case is usually that people want to call it a Co-Innovation program when it really is not.

  • A lot of companies confuse Co-Innovation with contract R&D.
  • Another is that a lot of people are really focused on research with no real plan. Innovation is all about execution.
  • It turns into a PR or a marketing effort.

If you follow these basic rules, Co-Innovation programs can really ignite your organization and take you into market opportunities you would never be able to achieve on your own.

Strategic Storytelling

Why is it so hard for people to pitch their ideas?  To tell their ideas in a way that people swarm towards it and want to be a part of it.  The skill of the pitch is so hard to find.  What I have found is that the skill of pitch usually falls into two categories:

  • The person making the pitch believes they can win you with facts
    • They know what they are talking about.
    • They attempt to belittle anyone who challenges them, with facts.
  • Overwhelming with content
    • They overwhelm you with an abundance of slides and content.

So, what is it that makes people struggle with coming up with a well thought-out and structured pitch?  Many people forget about the fact that decisions are personal.  You cannot ignore the personal and emotional side of decision making.  In doing the pitch, you have to create an emotional side to your story to hook the listeners in and make them understand your pitch.  The way I do this is called “Strategic Storytelling.”  Storytelling is a critical part of the pitch.  Storytelling around a strategic pitch involves three things:

  • Define the problem in the form of a story.
  • Define the solution as part of a story.
    • Tell the story in such a way that they can see themselves using that solution.
  • Place the people in that story.
    • Tell the story in such a way that they can place themselves in that story.

The Structure of Strategic Storytelling

The way to structure the strategic storytelling is the structure of a three-act play.  A three-act play is typically what you see in TV shows and movies.

  • Act One is the set up.
    • It is about setting up location, defining characters, and laying the foundation.
    • Giving people background.
    • Warming people up to the concept of a story-telling process.
  • Act Two is the confrontation.
    • The obstacle, the problem, the challenge people are facing.
    • Describe the size, the scope, and the impact of the problem.
    • This act is used to pull out the emotions of people.
  • Act Three is the resolution.
    • Describe how the solution is going to solve or minimize the problems.
    • It tells what the role of the solution is on a long-term basis.

Think about the acts in the context of a movie.  Use this structure in your presentation; don’t just use slides, talk and engage.  There are a few basic rules I have learned about strategic storytelling:

  • Keep it short.
    • Typically, twenty minutes is a good time length for the story.
    • If it takes longer, than you do not know your subject matter well enough.
  • Tailor it to the people in the meeting.
    • Do not go in there with a generic story.
    • You can find out a lot about the people through social medias.
  • Put emotion and passion into it.
    • Do not make it sound like you are reading a script in a monotone voice.
    • Practice it so it sounds natural.
  • Understand the use of pausing and the tone of your voice to create tension and excitement.
    • Understand the role of your voice.
  • Read the body language of the people in the meeting.
    • If people are not really listening, change it up and catch their attention.
  • When you end your strategic story, end it with emphasis.
    • End it on a pause.
    • You want it to fully sink into people’s minds.

At the end of your pitch there are a few things you can do to improve your strategic storytelling.

  • Follow up with the people in the room at the end and ask how you can improve your pitch.
    • Ask if you were clear and fully conveyed your message.
    • Record it and listen back.
    • Go on YouTube and find great storytellers.

I hope today’s show inspired you to look into co-innovating and engaging in strategic storytelling.  Don’t get bogged down by distractions that take you off course from creating the next Killer Innovation, telling a compelling story and achieving your goals.  If you have questions or comments on this week’s show, I’d love to hear from you.  Or carryon the conversation about these steps to building innovation strength at The Innovators Community.

 

Direct download: Better_Ways_to_Co-Innovation_and_Strategic_Storytelling.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

The success of the Apollo 11 mission, the first moon landing, inspires our innovative passions and pursuits.  With the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the moon, I’ve been looking back at all of those that impacted and supported an incredible journey.  In this episode of Killer Innovations, I had the pleasure of interviewing the inventor of the early display technology that ultimately resulted in the creation of the moon monitor.  It was the moon monitor that allowed NASA and the rest of the world to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon.  An IEEE Fellow for Logic Analysis technology, he also was President of ACM, the world’s largest Computer Science society, and is an ACM Fellow. He holds HPs only Medal of Defiance, awarded by David Packard for “extraordinary contempt and defiance beyond the normal call of engineering duty”. Other awards include Engineer of the Year, Smithsonian Wizard of Computing, Top 50 inventions of the 20th century, CNN top 25 inventions of the past 25 years, Entrepreneuring Honor Roll.

Past in HP

Long before the Apollo 11 success, Chuck House was a physics major at CalTech when he had an interview with HP.  He went on to work at HP for 28 years. It was there that he was challenged by the CEOs and directors to be on top of innovation.  House says that every year at HP there was an oral exam to review each project. They would ask questions such as:

  • What contribution does it make?
  • Why is it ahead?
  • What is the next step after this?
  • What is the science underneath it?

The notion at the company was that you had to be part of a team and the team must understand the science behind what you are working on.  House discusses a number of insightful practices in a book  he co-authored about his time at HP.

Impactful Successes & Awards

House’s second project at HP, which ultimately led to the moon monitor for NASA, was to figure out how to stabilize a scope screen. The project appeared to have been a waste of time.  It even failed the technical evaluation. House was told to cancel the project and remove it from the lab.  Instead of abandoning the project, House and his team decided to put the product in production.  Within ten months it was finished. Who would have known about this project’s pivotal role in the Apollo 11 mission? The project turned out to be a huge success with sales to many leading companies and NASA.  Sixteen years later, in April of 1982, House was awarded a going away gift…the Award of Defiance.  House speaks more of this in his HP memoir.  House also received the Innovative Applications in Analytics Award (IAAA).  Other awards include Engineer of the Year, Smithsonian Wizard of Computing, Top 50 inventions of the 20th century, CNN top 25 inventions of the past 25 years, Entrepreneuring Honor Roll. 

Words of Advice

Lastly, I asked House: What advice would you give people who really have a passion to be inventors, to be innovators, to really change the world? What advice would you give them? What should they do to get ready? House believes in a lot of experimentation.  What you learn are not formulas, it is a way of thinking.  And the way of thinking is a logical, ordered, structure of cause and effect or of relationships that work. And that ordered, structured way of thinking is crucial to being able to work through to a solution. The curiosity and the enthusiasm and the drive is essential to the creativity side. But unless you can take that creativity and harness it so that you can make traction and get something in a resultant way, you are going to be slowed down.  You cannot be afraid to try new things and make mistakes.  

Giving in to corporate antibodies and giving up at the first signs of failure could seriously limit the out of this world opportunities.  Had Chuck giving up when he was told to shelf his project, we may never have seen the Apollo 11 moon landing.

If you have questions or comments on this week’s show, I’d love to hear from you.  Do you have failures that lead to success you’d like to share with us?  Spark the conversation at The Innovators Community.


What is the strength of innovation in your organization?  In this week’s Killer Innovations, we explore avenues to building innovation strength.  Innovation from Mergers and Acquisitions can be a fast track to innovation.  What are the pros and cons to this innovation path? We also look at the five biggest risks to innovation.  Your company’s innovation depends on avoiding the pitfalls. Is building innovation strength through acquiring innovation right for your company?  Avoiding the risks to innovation stretches across a broader spectrum.  Any company should be aware of the five biggest risks to innovation.

Mergers and Acquisitions: Acquiring Innovation

A growing means of building innovation strength is through acquiring innovation.  Innovation from Mergers and Acquisitions has its benefits and its drawbacks.  

To start, there are two types:

  1. Acquiring a company outright
  2. Purchasing the Intellectual Properties – This could be a product line, patents, a team, or a group of individuals with core expertise.

Let’s discuss the first type, acquiring the company.  Innovation from Mergers and Acquisitions has its pros and its cons.

Pros

    • You can get into a market fast – you don’t have to wait for R&D.
    • There are reduced risks.

Cons

    • Reduced risks = lower returns.
    • This approach can make an organization lazy.
    • This approach can be expensive.

The most common reason for Innovation from Mergers and Acquisitions are:

  1. Your company missed a trend and now you have to acquire company to get into the space.
  2. You saw the trend, but didn’t realize its impact.
  3. You saw the trend, but wanted to avoid the risk of investing in it.

Innovation from Mergers and Acquisitions can work if it is:

  • Proactive
  • Part of an innovation strategy

The second type of Innovation from Mergers and Acquisitions is purchasing Intellectual Properties (IP).  Why has it become so important? In a word: litigation. Patent lawsuits offer lucrative opportunity. Exclusivity to a company’s investment can reap financial gain.  This creates issues for those seeking to build innovation strength in this way. It can be especially difficult for the small business. To buy a patent can be expensive.  Options are out there for acquiring innovation to build innovation strength. Companies can join a patent pool. Another option is for companies to join forces and make a group purchase of a patent.

Patent Selling

Whether you are part of a large or small organization, think of this approach.  If you are a seller of patents, write it in your agreement. Prevent the buyer from using your patents in proactive litigation.  Allow the patents to only be used in defense. Why do people acquire patents?

  1. To exert a form of control.
  2. To create a defense.

Allowing your patents to be used only in defense, make them unattractive to patent trolls.  Patent trolls’ sole purpose is to buy patents and sue. We need to come up with a radical approach to addressing the patent lawsuit challenges that are taking place in organization.  

Another aspect of this are PCLs (Patent Cross Licenses).  Most large companies pre-negotiate a patent cross license.  This takes the whole risk of litigation off the table.  

The Five Biggest Risks to Innovation

It does not matter what or who you are as an organization.  It’s a common theme I have seen across organizations, irrespective of their size.  I’ve compiled what I’ve observed into “The Five Biggest Risks to Innovation.” Those risks are as follows:

  1. Corporate antibodies and the tolerance of leadership for antibodies.
    • Antibodies can prevent uncontrolled risks, but are mostly roadblocks to innovation.
    • Leaders know who they are, but still tolerate them.
    • True leaders should correct or remove antibodies from an organization.
    • If leaders never correct antibodies, it counters being an innovative organization.
  2. Lack of patience
    • Innovation is not the quick fix.
    • Have robust innovation pipeline – keep it active and full.
    • Companies realize they need ideas, but ignore it for so long that they want a quick fix.
  3. The Ambiguous Process
    • If someone in the company has an idea, what is the process for submitting the idea
    • Without a clear process, people get frustrated, then disengaged.
    • Goal should be 100% of the ecosystem engaged in your innovation agenda.

       

      How do you do this?
      • Be clear about what the process is.
      • It should inform how employees can get engaged and track the process.
      • Employees should feel their contributing to the process.
      • Contributors should know how decisions are made and what projects get funded.
  4. Unprotected Resources
    • Commit your resources.
    • Protect your resources.
  5. Poorly defined “BHAG” (bold, hairy, audacious, goal)
    • Setting the bar high for the team.
    • Provide a clear goal.

Within your organization you could see anywhere from one to all five of these risks to innovation.  As an innovation leader, you need to define the problem and find a solution. Don’t try to solve all five problems at once.  I recommend defining the “BHAG” and the ambiguous process first because those you can directly control.  

I hope today’s discussion gives you the insight on ways to build innovation strength.  Through acquiring innovation, you can get an innovative edge over the competition. But be wary of this approach as a way to play catch up.  Then, for any organization with a drive towards innovation, watch out for the Five Biggest Risks to Innovation. If you have questions or comments on this week’s show, I’d love to hear from you.  Or carryon the conversation about these steps to building innovation strength at The Innovators Community.


Innovation is all about translating ideas into real products, real services and real solutions.   Ideas without execution are a hobby.  Is your organization in the business of innovation?   This week’s show boils it down to a simple equation.  Ideas + Innovation Culture = Innovation Success.  The process starts with ideas and the management of them.  But ideas won’t develop and thrive without the right culture.  Core Attributes are about setting the basis for Innovation Culture.  When you set up a good system of gathering ideas and lay a foundation for innovation culture, innovation success ensues.

Creating Order from the Brainstorm of Ideas

The process starts with ideas coming from many sources.  Then comes the question of how to manage your ideas.  How do you log, track and rank them?  Where are your ideas today in the innovation lifecycle?  What about from all the brainstorming sessions over the last few years… and could you easily put your hand on the list of those ideas?  Ideas have value over time.

The Idea Management System, Step By Step

If you believe ideas are the currency of the economy, you need to manage ideas as a valued asset for innovation success.  Treat ideas as a valuable asset.

What’s needed in an idea management system?

  1. Idea capture and tracking
    1. Easy way to put ideas in system, track over time, evaluate them and link to other ideas that could grow into something significant.
    2. Done by people on innovation team but also open to other people in the organization who can submit an idea easily – have one place to look for all assets
  2. Idea evaluation – some form of an idea evaluation tool that allows for management to assess and look at ideas more closely
    1. Does everyone in the organization look at it and vote
    2. Use a ranking process like F-Focus, I-Ideation, R-Ranking, E-Execution
    3. Crowd source feedback
  3. System must allow for Ad Hoc Team Collaboration
    1. As people submit an idea, people can search the system to see if someone has a similar idea across the organization – can team up, combine efforts and areas of expertise
    2. Social hub of innovation within an organization
    3. Get better ideas – cross organizational efforts – collaborations that generate exciting ideas
  4. Supports whatever your organization’s process is for innovation
    1. Tool needs to match today’s and even tomorrow’s process
    2. Track ideas through the gating process your organization uses
    3. Follows phases of innovation used
      Lot of tools out there that force you to follow their process – be careful – you need a tool that follows your process.
  5. Needs to support pausing ideas
    1. Difference between a good idea and really great idea is not about the idea.  It’s about the timing.
    2. Market, customer, organization, government regulation are not ready – lots of reasons.
    3. Key is you always need ability to pause the idea – capture it so that can pause and pull out an idea later when timing is right
  6. Ability to issue challenges
    1. Don’t run idea management system like an electronic suggestion box – ideas will become incremental
    2. For breakthrough ideas, issue challenges: carefully worded questions, problems, areas of interest put out to the general population with some form of incentive for spending time thinking about ideas/approaches that will answer or solve that in form of ideas
    3. Well constructed challenges (problem statement) generate wealth of good ideas
    4. Gets org thinking – signaling where the org is going, what the direction of org is

My Experience With These Tools

  1. Without a system or tool, you are lost
    1. You have to treat them as a valuable asset
  2. Don’t restrict access to the tool
    1. Open it up to 100 percent of your organization
    2. You have to trust your employees
  3. Promote your tool
    1. Get people to engage on the tool providing their feedback
    2. This becomes the mechanism by which ideas are trained and tracked
    3. Promote constantly and consistently
  4. Close the loop with the idea submitters
    1. If someone submits an idea they need to hear back
    2. Give them feedback
  5. Think about applying some form of gamification
    1. Make it fun
    2. Give them a point or scoring system

Core Attributes

Last June, I took over a new role as CEO where I set out a hundred day plan looking at the organization and figuring out what made it tick.  I spent a significant amount of time doing one on one interviews with all the key stakeholders.  I asked them four questions:

  1. What should we preserve?
  2. What should we stop doing?
  3. What is it that you most hope I do?
  4. What do you hope I do not do?

Ninety-five percent of employees were afraid that the new CEO would not change anything.  They understood that in order for the company to flourish, some things needed to be changed.  I realized that I had to build the core attributes from scratch. So, how do you do that?  The key is to help everyone understand why core attributes are so important.  What is it the team wants the organization to become?  Core attributes articulate what you stand for.  The ones we came up with are:

  1. We need to be passionate
  2. We think big and bold
  3. We are fast and agile
  4. We are a team
  5. We unlock individual potential
  6. We lead by example
  7. We are resourceful

Once you have captured this, you are ready to start the process.  Having the list is the beginning of the process. The senior executives must own this; this must always be controlled by the senior executives. We need to manage the process to get everyone on board with the innovation culture.  It is communicating the process and communicating the core attributes.  Instead of telling people these are the core attributes, we published them and invited people to come in as part of group sessions.  We collected a list of core attributes employees liked and helped brainstorm recommendations to the executive team about how we could live it.  We have included core attributes into our performance management.  At the end of the year, employees are getting assessed on those core attributes.  The impact on the organization was beyond anything I expected.  It is not static and it is a never ending process, but it develops an effective framework for an innovation culture that drives success.

Direct download: Ideas__Innovation_Culture__Innovation_Leadership.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

When it comes to the process of generating ideas, the default answer is to host a brainstorming session.  Are there other ways to generate new ideas that are not dependent on traditional brainstorming?  Today on Killer Innovations, I am going to share with you five that I use.

Mind Mapping and Wishing 

Mind mapping is a fairly common term nowadays; there are many types of software proving templates for mind mapping.  Traditionally they are used to organize your data, but it is also a great way to generate new ideas.

  • Develop your problem statement.
  • Write down the problem statement in the center of your idea (whiteboards work great).
  • Expand on this problem statement by surrounding it with terms that better describe what you need.
  • Now add a second layer to each of your needs describing how you might be able to solve for these individual challenges.
  • Keep adding to your mind map using the steps above until you have sufficiently broken down your problem into manageable parts.

It is a fantastic ideation technique that encourages creative answers.  Another great way to generate new ideas is wishing.  Wishing encourages your team to let imaginations run wild.  Assuming you have a well-researched and understood problem statement, ask each participant to dream up the most unattainable solutions they can think of related to the problem statement.  Create a list of a few dozen wishes and go through the wishes by considering and discussing the ideas in detail.  Ask yourself:

  • What makes them so impossible?
  • How can that idea be scaled down?
  • Which features of that wish could we integrate into this other approach?

You might be surprised to discover applicable, real-world solutions among the team’s wildest wishes.

Six Thinking Hats

Six Thinking Hats by Dr. Edward de Bono unleashed a new approach to generating ideas by breaking down the ideas into six areas of thought.  It helps participants put themselves into the shoes of another.  The six hats are:

  • Logic- the facts.
  • Optimism- the value and the benefits.
  • Devil’s Advocate- the difficulties and dangers.
  • Emotion- Feelings and intuitions.
  • Creativity- Possibilities and new ideas.
  • Management- Making sure the rules of the hats are observed.

So, how do you use the tool? Have each member put on one of these different “hats” for the discussion. Make sure everyone has their say and for extended sessions, rotate the hats to others so everyone gets the opportunity to see the problem and ideas from a variety of different perspective.

Brain-writing and Forced Combinations

One challenge for generating ideas is to get everything that is rattling around in your head out.  In this exercise, each participant takes a piece of paper and writes down a few rough ideas for solving the problem statement.  Each piece of paper is then passed on to someone else, who reads it silently and adds their own ideas to the page.  This process is repeated until everyone has had a chance to add to each piece of paper.  Once each participant has retrieved their original piece of paper, they read and organize the ideas.  Then each participant shares the notes and ideas on their piece of paper.  The big advantage of brain-writing is that it makes sure everybody has an opportunity to share their ideas and it also reinforces the idea of “building on the ideas of others.”  The last way to generate ideas I wanted to share is one I have used with my own product teams.  The premise is to look at non-logical combinations to create entirely new ideas.  This exercise involves bringing together ides that serve very different needs or interest to form a new concept.  How does this work?

  • Bring a bag of random items to your ideation
  • Draw up two lists side-by-side of the items in the bag.
  • Ask a team member to pick two or more items and explore different ways they can be combined.
  • On the list, draw a line for each combination shared with a brief description of the ideas that resulted.
  • Put the items back in the bag.
  • Next person selects two or more items and repeats the process.

This technique can produce some silly results, but it is ultimately a helpful way of getting your team out of a creative rut.

 

Five Minutes to New Ideas 

Everybody wants and needs change, but on the other hand we enjoy doing what we do well.  We tend to limit ourselves to the things we know we do well. When it comes to innovation, this plays out in spades when a new innovation team reaches success. They become repetitive in their process, believing the steps are what lead to success. This week on Five Minutes to New Ideas we will talk about how the only way to change creativity and generate new ideas in our lives is to do it deliberately.  We all can do things to get ourselves out of our old ruts and avoid the habit trap.

Direct download: Five_Ways_to_Generate_New_Ideas.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

This week on Killer Innovations, I will discuss how to use both individual ideation and team ideation to generate disruptive ideas that will create high impact innovations.  

Individual Ideation

When kicking off individual ideation, you need to ensure that the mechanics are in place.  

  • Make sure everyone has a stack of yellow sticky notes and sharpies.
  • They will be asked to write one idea per sticky note.
  • Set the expectation of time and minimum of ideas.
  • No editing.
  • No talking.
  • Write legibly and big.

At the end of time, see how many have hit their idea quota.  Then let them take a break before the next set of exercises.  Now that everyone has their individual ideas in front of them, each person should take turns and go up to a flip chart and place each of their sticky notes on the flipchart and read what they wrote.  Once everyone has shared their ideas, the group should step back and look at the flip chart. In some sessions, I will circle the group and have the team come up with a name for the group of ideas that are the same or nearly the same.  I recorded a video of a grouping exercise I facilitated for a workshop for the US Department of Education. You can find it on my Youtube channel. Next, we want to see if there are any wow ideas.  Hand out to each person on the team four sticky notes. Each person should have their own color so they can know who/what they voted for.  Rules for this exercise:

  • No talking.
  • Place all four of your dots on a specific idea, not a group.  It is okay to place more than one dot per idea. Do not overthink it and do not move other people’s dots.
  • Time the activity (no longer than ten minutes).

You now have everyone’s ideas on the flip chart, grouping of everyone’s ideas into similar overlapping ideas and marked ideas.  

Group Ideation

Innovation is a team sport and that applies to ideation.  The benefit of a group is when we build on each other’s ideas.  So, the next exercise emphasizes looking at the individual ideas and asking how to make them better.  Ground rules for group ideation:

  • One at a time (choose someone else’s idea, not your own).
  • Ideate (think out loud).
  • Let ideas trigger ideas.
  • Build on, develop and expand each other’s ideas.
  • No evaluation.

So, the exercise is:

  • Build on each other’s ideas.
  • Select one idea you are excited about.
  • Add new ideas.
  • Group ideas together.
  • Time the exercise for twenty-five minutes.

The next step is to now rank the groups you have come up with.  It is important that you rank before you dismiss the team. You can learn more about ranking at Killer Innovations or in the chapter of my book.  So, why does this process work?

  • This is not just a group exercise.
  • You get the benefit of individual ideation which is great on generating raw ideas.
  • You get the benefit of group ideation.

These exercises are trusted and used by thousands of organizations and governments around the world.  I would love to hear the results if you try this inside your team or organization. I you need help in setting up a test to see if this will work in your organization, go here.  Put in your contact information and someone will reach out and help you think through how to test it in your organization.  

 

Five Minutes to New Ideas

I find it interesting that we usually get from other people what we expect from them.  The longer I live the more I realize the impact attitude has on me. When it comes to success attitude is more important than the past, your education, more than money, more than circumstance, and more than what other people think.  This week on Five Minutes to New Ideas we will discuss the importance of the attitude of an innovation leader. An innovation leader needs to set their expectations high.  Sow hat will your expectations be?

Direct download: Individual_Ideation_Versus_Team_Ideation.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Today’s show is going to be a look behind the scenes around the time when I took over as CTO at HP.  This time is so important because it is the time that I came up with the concept “The Innovation Program Office.”  In today’s show we will talk about the pros and cons of the “IPO”, what are some of the things you need to think about regarding the “IPO”, and will it work for you?  The concept of “IPO” still applies today, and hopefully by the end of the show you will have your own insight of how it can apply to what you are trying to do in the organizations you serve.

History

A lot of traditional teams set up to “do innovation” by creating an innovation team.  This makes the innovation team a target because people not on the team no longer saw innovation as part of their job.  What a lot of organizations experienced was that it was hard to scale. Scaling is the key factor because scaling limits impact.  Even with major significant support, no organization can grow a dedicated team large enough.  Innovation is not a team of people where you have an innovation program office, innovation is around a capability that an organization can and should have that is part of that core of how you do things.  New teams need to show innovation value right away with a near zero team members. Most likely you will have zero funding yet, you need to show an early win. How do new teams do this? By getting others to support them.

  • Let them get credit for the early wins.
  • Be viewed as a resource to help.
  • Let the group benefit (new product, revenue, marketplace credit, etc.).

If you are in the innovation game and it is all about you getting the credit, the odds of you being successful in this game are near zero if not zero.  

Role of the Innovation Program Office

The role takes on many forms but the role of the “IPO” is establishing the innovation framework, securing the funding, project selection and tracking, and training and supporting the teams as they innovate.  The first thing the “IPO” needs to establish is the framework that the broader organization will align around. You need to adapt the framework to the language of the organization.  Getting others to adapt it is a “change management” process. At HP the gradual roll-out to get the framework established takes over two years for 20,000 employees. Once you have the framework in place, you need to look at the metrics.  Understand how executive decisions are made and adapt metrics to it. Test your “alpha metrics” against yourself and against your peers.

  • Does it reveal something?
  • If you have the info int eh past, would you have made different decisions?

Your objective is to find metrics that are:

  • Predictive of future challenges and opportunities.
  • Give you enough foresight to change directions and have an impact.
  • Satisfies the “fear” response from execs.
  • Prove to management that innovation can be managed.

Key with funding in the “IPO” is to move it from underneath the normal budget process and control.  Once you have the metrics it is much easier to secure the funding. Start small, prove yourself, and grow the funding.  Look forwards to what you will do not what you have done in the past. Remember that you are competing for money that could be used in other ways.  Next is project selection and tracking:

  • Define the criteria for project selection.
  • We used ranking questions.
  • Create their own.
  • Re-evaluate the selections to improve how you identify the projects that will have the biggest impact.

Once you have everything in place: the framework, metrics, funding, project selection and tracking, you then need to role it out and scale it across the organization.

Impact and Pitch

In “IPO” it is about transforming the approach.  It is not about being the innovators but instead being the enablers of innovation.  

  • Keep the “IPO” small.
  • Avoid being viewed/perceived as competition to others in the organization.  
  • Not about the doing but the enabling.

For HP, “IPO” was never bigger than thirty-five people.

  • We provided funding that was outside the budgets.
  • Teams did not need to compete for money against items already generating money.
  • Off the radar from their management team.
  • Spread the money freely; show that you are willing to fund things that you may not see as being successful.
  • Do not appear biased to your own or your team’s ideas.

How do you convince leadership to create an “IPO”?  Identify the challenges the organization will face without an innovation capability.

  • Speed of change.
  • Changing customers.
  • Market expectations.
  • Competitors who are changing.
  • Draft and get alignment around the problem statement that the organization can rally around.

What do they want?

  • Understand everyone has a boss.
  • Everyone wants to look good to their boss.
  • How can you help them look good to their boss?
  • How can you model true partnership?
  • They want to be the hero.

What do you want?

  • To show what you can do.
  • Show success and impact.
  • Transform an organization.
  • You should not want to be the hero. You want to be the guide.

How do you structure it so everyone gets what they want?

  • Focus on the agreed problem statement.
  • Do not forget what they and you want.
  • Each decision you make ask yourself:
      • Does this help solve the problem statement?
      • Does this help them achieve what I want?
      • Does this help me achieve what I want?

The “IPO” is an important resource, whether you create it as a separate team or use support from outside resources.  

Five Minutes to New Ideas

There’s an old saying that goes like this, “Speaking with passion but without the facts is like making a beautiful dive into an empty pool.”  To convince or persuade others to believe in your idea, you have to base your idea on incontestable facts that can be readily grasped and understood.  When it comes to innovation, you not only need to get people to support your idea, but also to fund it. On this week of Five Minutes to New Ideas we will be discussing the importance of facts.  What part of the story are you telling about your ideas based on absolute truth?

Direct download: What_is_an_Innovation_Program_Office.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

So, you are about to pull together a team of eight to twelve people into a brainstorming session; do not make the mistake that 90% of us make…no area of focus.  Most teams will be given the challenge of to “quickly come up with a product idea.” The results can be predicted; poor to none when it comes to creating any form of disruptive ideas.  This week on Killer Innovations, we will talk about four steps to better brainstorm problem statements.

Brainstorming

When you pull together a team for brainstorming, creating focus is critical.  When I say “creating focus” I mean that you need to tell the brainstorm team:

  • Who has the problem?
  • What exactly is the problem?
  • Why is it important to solve?

In full or multi-day brainstorms, I have the teams develop their own problem statement.  I set aside between four to eight hours to create a proper problem statement. Do no scrimp on this; spend the time!  A well-defined focus via a well thought out problem statement will generate more and radically better ideas when you are ideating. The core elements have to address one of the following:

  • Solve a problem.
  • Remove a barrier.
  • Improve an experience.

And while you try to answer all of this remember:

  • Need to be concise.
  • Does not state or imply a solution.
  • Specific enough to be solvable in the given time frame and with available resources or competencies.

Sounds hard doesn’t it?  Thus, why I spend four to eight hours crafting, testing and validating a problem statement before I bring the team together.  

Good and Bad Problem Statements

I have a few different templates I use for creating problem statements:

  • The (what/problem) affects (who/customer) the result of which (why/importance).
  • (Who/customer) is affected by (what/problem), the result of which (why/importance).

So, what are the steps that would allow you to create a well-defined problem statement?  The first step is to brainstorm the problem!  Ask for people to list problems, challenges, friction in the system, barriers and unmet needs.  The second step is to have each individual answer the “who, what, and why” we talked about earlier in the show.  Step three is to then take the answers and start to draft problem statements using the templates. Then repeat the “who, what, and why”, drafting multiple versions of the problem statements.  Step four is to test it with the “who”, the target segment.

Testing Your Problem Statement

Once you have a version of the problem statement that you think works, you need to test it with others.  Never use yourself as a proxy; you are too close to it. You test it by writing it out, editing it, simplifying it, and making it tight and concise.  Then find and talk to the people who you believe have the problem. Then ask them a set of questions to validate the problem and problem statement:

  • Is this (team’s hypothesis) a problem for you?  Why or why not?
  • What problem would be solved for you if the problem was fixed?
  • How frequently does the problem cause a problem for you?
  • What value would you gain if this problem was solved?

Now that you have a problem statement, I would recommend sharing it with the team for the brainstorm as “homework.”  Have the think about the problem statement and ask them to answer the validation questions from the perspective of the individuals who would receive the benefit from the brainstorm.  If you would like your team to learn how to run radically better brainstorms by writing better problem statements then I would suggest you host a one-day Disruptive Ideation Workshop.

 

Five Minutes to New Ideas


The tech and tools we have now available for podcasts are far superior to what we had back when I first started recording my podcasts in 2005.  This got me thinking about how wonderful innovation is and how easy it is to overlook it. Fifty years ago, we lived in a way that would be considered a burden today.  While it is great to be nostalgic about the past, I cannot imagine going without the innovations we have today. This week on Five Minutes to New Ideas we will talk about how change from innovation is inevitable.  If you continue as you have in the past, where will you be five years from now?

Direct download: Four_Steps_to_Better_Brainstorm_Problem_Statements.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

It goes without saying that not all ideas are good ideas that lead to market winning innovations.  Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that while failures will happen, we can learn from those that have gone before us in bringing innovations to market.  This week on the show, we are going to look at the five worst innovation failures and see what could have been done differently.  

 

Five Worst Innovation Failures No. 1: The Apple Newton

In 1993, Apple launched the Newton.  While I tracked this product at launch, it was not one that I found interesting enough to purchase.  It was not a success because it tried to do too much. What could have been done differently?

 

  • Get the hardware right.
  • Determine the most important features users are looking for.
  • Establish a model of “continuous innovation” of adding features.
  • Only release features when ready and at the quality customers expect.

 

Palm learned from one of the five worst innovation failures.  In 1997, Palm introduced the Palm Pilot, using the lessons learned from the Newton.  Palm focused on the minimal viable product.  Rather than doing twenty things poorly, the Palm Pilot did its core functionality extremely well.  The Palm Pilot dominated the PDA market for years.

 

Five Worst Innovation Failures No. 2: Microsoft Zune

In 2006, Microsoft introduced their portable music player, Zune.  It was Microsoft’s answer to the Apple iPod. Even with a ton of marketing effort the product never took off.  There was nothing unique about it that would cause someone to switch from using an iPod to take up a Zune. The product was finally killed off in 2011.  What could have been done differently?

 

  • To win you need to commit.  Taking half a step by introducing a re-branded product is not a winning strategy.
  • To win against an entrenched leader you need to out-innovate them.

 

Five Worst Innovation Failures No. 3: HD-DVD

In 2006, Toshiba, with support from Microsoft, launched HD-DVD which was supposed to become the Hi-Def successor to the DVD.  Standalone HD-DVDs players were sold and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 had a HD-DVD option. Most will not recall the HD-DVDs versus Blu-Ray wars.  It was a direct repeat of the VHS and Betamax wars. What should have been done differently?

 

  • HP should not have switched its position based on incentives.  It injected confusion into the market and impacted its technical credibility with its partners.
  • Ecosystem partnerships are critical for most, if not all, major global innovations today.

 

Five Worst Innovation Failures No. 4: Samsung Note 7

In 2016, Samsung came out with the Samsung Note 7.  This failed because it had a problem where it occasionally caught fire and exploded.  Out of prudence, the phones were banned on flights and Samsung had to recall the entire line.  What could have been done differently?

 

  • Don’t let the schedule dictate launch.
  • Get the quality right.
  • Customers will always reward quality with loyalty.
  • Balance risk of new innovations.
  • Learn from others.

 

Five Worst Innovation Failures No. 5: TwitterPeek

In 2008, Peek introduced Twitter Peek, a hardware device which allowed users to send and receive tweets using Twitter.  It was the first Twitter-only mobile device. Peek took the minimal viable product to an extreme. TwitterPeek met broad skepticism in the press.  CNN listed it as one of the top ten biggest technology failures of 2009, while Gizmodo went as far as to name TwitterPeek as one of the fifty worst gadgets of the decade.  In 2012, Peek dropped all of its hardware devices and shifted to making software for OEM’s.  What could have been done differently?

 

  • Be careful of going to extremes.
  • Test/validate.
  • Don’t outsource everything to the big design houses.

 

We can learn a lot from the innovation failures of others.  Failure is part and parcel of the innovation game. Don’t shy away from looking deep into failures to see what can be learned.  



Five Minutes to New Ideas

An institution’s impact should be measured over time.  The ability to produce a great product or service is linked to the inherent drive for quality from the team who builds it.  This week on Five Minutes to New Ideas we will talk about the importance of quality.  There is nothing more important than to instill in ourselves, our children, and grandchildren a love for quality.  Quality puts the value into everything. You should never stop asking yourself how can I improve on the quality of what I do?

Direct download: Five_Worst_Innovation_Failures.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Many people believe when it comes to innovation, you’ve either got it or you don’t.  But innovation is a skill that can be learned, practiced and perfected. One area of innovation is ideation.  Generating quality ideas is key to keeping the innovation funnel full.  How do you get started in innovation if your team doesn’t have confidence in their innovation abilities?  One way is to have a disruptive ideation workshop. On today’s show, I talk about how to create a disruptive ideation workshop.  

Boot Camp Condensed

I teach my Innovation Boot Camp course two or three times a year. This is an intense four-day session that goes twelve hours a day. The objective is building the innovation confidence of the students. One common request from students is for a one-day version for their teams.  So, I reworked the content and created a one-day version called the Disruptive Ideation Workshop.  The workshop teaches a disruptive approach to generate more and better ideas using the FIRE method.  The objectives: learn the skill, apply it, and have a pipeline of ideas for the organization.  Two weeks ago, we tested the workshop. The class consisted of 25 senior leaders from a single organization (with zero background in innovation).  The results exceeded everyone’s expectations. One of the leaders in the class summed it up: “learning disruptive ideation that generated disruptive ideas.”  So, we named the workshop the “Disruptive Ideation Workshop.”

 

The Disruptive Ideation Workshop in Brief

What does disruptive ideation mean?  Disruptive means causing or tending to cause disruption; innovative or groundbreaking; unconventional, unorthodox, off-center, unusual, unfamiliar, unprecedented; pioneering, trailblazing, revolutionary, radical, advanced, newfangled, state-of-the-art.

The Disruptive Ideation workshop is built around two major objectives:

 

  1. Teach a disruptive approach to ideation.  

This will radically increase the number and quality of the ideas that a person and team can generate.

 

  1. Through the process of learning, apply it to a real-world problem facing the organization.

At the end, students have a ranked set of disruptive ideas their organization can take forward.

 

To achieve these objectives, we teach background and skills and how to apply the skills.  

 

This course has two major sections: Section 1) Foundation and Section 2) Skills and Application/Practice.  Here’s what we cover in each.

 

Section 1: Foundation

 

  1. Myths and mysteries of innovation
  2. Innovation skills (self-doubt/negative talk, imagination, seeing with fresh eyes, etc.)
  3. Innovation Anti-bodies (ego, no risk, no change, etc.)
    • Focus
    • Ideation
    • Ranking
    • Execution
  4. Innovation framework (FIRE)

 

The focus was on Focus, Ideation, and Ranking of the FIRE method.  Special emphasis was placed on Ideation.  

 

Skills Learned

Section 2 of the Disruptive Ideation Workshop was a walk-through of the elements in FIRE.  Exercises allowed students to apply those elements to a real problem statement.

Skill number one was FOCUS.  FOCUS is about defining the problem. Having a clear “problem statement” is critical.  Without a well-defined problem statement, everyone jumps to generate ideas to solve something that is not clearly understood.  In boot camp, the team spends half a day crafting their problem statement.

Skill number two is IDEATION.  Walk through the use and power of the question to generate more and better ideas.  Team ideation is built upon the ideas generated individually.

Skill number three is RANKING.  Grouping ideas is the starting point.  Then take the large number of ideas generated and find the top two to three percent of the ideas.  

The last skill taught is EXECUTION.  Take the raw idea from RANKING and put more thought behind it.  

We also taught “Adapt and Adopt.”  Take the experiences in Section 2 and adapt the skills making adoption easier for their organization.  

 

Lessons from the Disruptive Ideation Workshop

What are the lessons learned in conducting the Disruptive Ideation Workshop?

  1. One-day is a unit of time that people can more easily step away from the day job.
  2. The problem statement is critical.  Spend time to get it right!
  3. Limit the workshop to a reasonable number of students (20 max).
  4. Establish clear next steps.
  5. Plug students into a community.  Keep the learning and excitement alive after the course ends.

If you are interested in finding out more about the workshop, send an email to us.



Five Minutes to New Ideas

Are creativity and innovation only for the young?  Silicon Valley has clearly bought into this premise.  The truth of the matter is creativity and Innovation know no limit based on age.  You can pick up creativity at any age. Do you or your organization hold a bias as to who can or cannot be creative?  Listen to this week’s Five Minutes to New Ideas for more on how age really doesn’t matter in the innovation game.

Direct download: How_to_Create_A_Disruptive_Ideation_Workshop.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Making hard decisions can bring the most seasoned leaders to their knees, no matter how calm they look on the outside.  The fear of a better option (FOBO) can paralyze decision-making. It is also the enemy of innovation.  In this show I talk about 4 ways to deal with FOBO.

 

FOBO versus FOMO

What is it that causes that hesitation at decision time?  Patrick McGinnis calls it FOBO: the Fear of a Better Option.  Patrick describes it as being “paralyzed at the prospect of actually committing to something, out of fear that we might be choosing something that was not the absolute perfect option.”  The result is that you get stuck in an analysis paralysis and never make the decision. The sister term to FOBO is FOMO, the Fear of Missing Out. If you miss out, you will not have that one magic piece of data that will give you perfect information.  So, our fear of missing out feeds our fear of a better option. The result is saying “yes” to everything. I used to say “yes” to every request to speak or teach no matter the impact on myself or my family. When you combine FOBO with FOMO you can find yourself afraid of doing anything. That is FODA, the paralysis that turns into a fear of doing anything.  What I had to learn was to say “no.” Breakthrough came when a newspaper article was written about me which forced me to go public with a secret that fed my imposter syndrome.  

 

The way that I deal with FOMO is I create criteria for myself that help me prioritize the requests for my time and attention.  

 

FOBO in Innovation

When it comes to innovation, deciding to move forward on an idea, to commit to resources such as people and money, is ripe of FOBO.  I have seen a leader hesitate to give a team the green light on a project because they are not yet convinced that it is the best/perfect idea.  The truth is that no idea is a perfect idea. In this case, FOBO could be masking a more general fear of failure. But not deciding means zero chance of an innovative idea. The main object is to innovate and to do that, you need to try your ideas.  You have to come to terms with the fact that most of your ideas are going to fail.  FOBO, the fear of a better option, is the enemy of innovation. It is the tool antibodies will use to brush off your ideas.  

 

FODA (the Fear of Doing Anything)

When you combine FOBO and FOMO you can find yourself in a paralyzed position not wanting to commit to anything.  This is FODA, the Fear of Doing Anything. You need to learn to be decisive. Here are 4 ways to deal with FOBO and not get caught in the trap of FODA:

 

  • The Ask and Watch method.  Patrick McGinnis says to whittle your decision to two options.  Assign each item to either the left or right side of your watch. Look down and see where the second hand is at the moment.  Taking the final decision when you have two good options out of your control releases you from doubt.

 

  • Criteria method.  Create a clear criterion that works for you.  Mine are the Five F’s: Faith, Family, Friends, Fitness, and Finances.  Score requests on your time against your list of criteria.

 

  • The Innovation = Ranking method.  When it comes to innovation use your funnel and ranking process to create a list of “next best ideas.”  These are the ideas based on their ranking score from the FIRE framework.  With the ranked lists of your ideas, force a decision that says something like each quarter we will fund the idea with the highest score.  

 

  • The Trust but Verify method.  Apply the old Ronald Reagan maxim “Trust your decision but verify.”  If the decision is not delivering the result you expected, then adjust.  

 

These 4 ways to deal with FOBO will help you be aware of your own FODA and change.  We will never have perfect information and, therefore, will never make the perfect decision.  So, make your decision and move on. For any questions or comments send me an email.  



Five Minutes to New Ideas

Tony Robbins once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”  You can apply this quote to networks, communities, family, and friends you socialize with. To change that quote a bit, you are the average of the five social networks where you spend the most time.  This week’s Five Minutes to New Ideas considers how our social networking reflects who we are.

Direct download: 4_Ways_to_Deal_with_FOBO.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Ethical lapses in some tech companies have grabbed headlines in recent years.  Tech is changing daily, touching every aspect of our lives. It’s time to define the ethical boundaries of technology.  Without focus on ethics in technology, there will be huge unintended consequences.    On today’s show, Joe Toscano, joins me.  Joe is founder of BEACON and author of Automating Humanity.  He is also a former award-winning experience designer for Google.  Joe’s background in Silicon Valley and Big Tech has led him to explore tech in terms of ethics.  

Leaving the Valley

After several years in the Silicon Valley “bubble,” Joe decided to step away.  Disconnect between life in the Valley and the world outside became his opportunity.  Joe Toscano formed a nonprofit called BEACON. BEACON stands for “Better Ethics and Consumer Outcomes Network.” It is a social innovation organization.  BEACON strives to connect the public to what is going on in the tech industry.  BEACON provides insights to policymakers in defining ethical boundaries of technology.   This tech insight equips them to address ethical concerns in a balanced way. BEACON works with technologists to create products that meet consumer demand and create positive social impact. Some tech leaders are content to leave it to regulators to define ethical boundaries of technology.  Through BEACON, Joe takes a holistic approach. Shaping ethical boundaries of technology has many factors to consider. The effect on the consumer, small business, local and global community as well as Big Tech must be in view.

Lighting the Way

Regulators cannot keep up with the pace of innovation today.  Joe believes there are certain things regulators must address. But, some things need to remain informal and driven solely by business.  This is where the nonprofit side of BEACON comes in. It is about education, research, and creating public safety tools. The goal is to educate consumers and regulators to ask the right questions.  BEACON partners with the University of Nebraska and Digital Futures Initiative.  These partnerships center on ethics in technology.

BEACON has branched out this year forming a for profit side.  In the for profit sector, BEACON is creating products that will help small businesses comply with regulations.  The first product launching will generate required legal agreements. This will minimize legal expenses for small businesses.

Ethics in Technology

Businesses that want to set ethical boundaries of technology must change the mindset.  BEACON advises that they must move their business away from the quarterly statistics and into the longer term.  

What is one of the biggest problems today? The attention economy drives tech.  This presents issues in terms of ethics. There is not a defined production value.  There’s room for innovation in defining what the production value is. The area of data is wide open for innovation.  At the core, innovations like these require thought on the long term ethical implications. BEACON’s work in the space of ethical boundaries in technology is timely and essential.

If you’d like to track what Joe is doing, visit https://www.beacontrustnetwork.com/ .   For the latest, sign up for his newsletter.  Pick up a copy of Joe’s recent book, Automating Humanity, available through Amazon.

 

Five Minutes to New Ideas

Time is one of those resources that we never have enough of.  We are given 1,440 minutes each day and once it is gone, it is gone.  When it comes to translating ideas into innovation, it comes down to opportunity costs.  This week on Five Minutes to New Ideas I discuss opportunity costs.  How can you help your team save time on things of low value to work on things of higher value?  How will you prioritize your 1,440 minutes today?

Direct download: How_Should_We_Define_The_Ethical_Boundaries_of_Technology.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

The latest innovation of today can quickly be replaced with the next best thing tomorrow.  Whether you’re a newcomer to innovation or the seasoned innovator, there’s something every innovator should know.  How to forecast and survive cycles of innovation.  This week Ray Zinn, longest serving CEO of a publicly traded company in Silicon Valley, shares his insights.  Ray’s astute ability to forecast what was coming enabled his company to survive the cycles of innovation.

Sage Advice: Don’t Work for Someone Else

In 1974, Ray’s boss conveyed a bit of advice.  Don’t work for someone else. This advice set Ray on the entrepreneurial path.  He started his own company. With $300,000 of self-funding, he started doing test services.  It was challenging to start a company that was profitable from day one. Ray and his business partner managed it.  By 1985, their company, Micrel Inc., hired a group of engineers and started designing their own products. Eventually, Samsung selected Micrel technology for their first cell phones.  With blue chip clients, numerous inventions and patents in wireless radio and other areas, Micrel went public in 1994. Micrel was profitable every year through 2001. Despite the fact that Ray had to rebuild the whole company, it remained profitable.  

Forecasting Innovation Cycles

How do you lead companies through the high rate of innovation change?  Ray was able to accomplish this successfully. Ray learned the cycles of innovation so he could forecast them.  You have to know the cycles so you can predict them for your company.  How do you do this? Your customers are your best lead.  The key to surviving these cycles is understanding them.  Cycles last at the most five years.  You must anticipate what is going to be the next winning product.

Getting Your Board Right

What were the insights Ray wished he had early on?  Be careful about your Board. He elaborated on his biggest mistake -  not being more selective on his Board of Director participation.  Having a viable, helpful and contributable Board is critical.  You want members who roll up their sleeves and add value where it’s needed.  You don’t need board members who will pick you apart and create tension. Ray believes that Boards need to focus less attention on what investors or shareholders want.  They need to put emphasis on what is best for the company and adds sustainable value. Boards should not be too independent. Independency leads to disconnect and a lack of understanding a company’s intricacies and operation.


The Zinn Starter

With his wealth of experience in the heart of the startup capital of the world, Ray wanted to give back.  He created the Zinn Starter, a seed investment firm akin to Shark Tank for universities. Almost every university in this country has an entrepreneur program.  The Zinn Starter consists of students taking their business ideas before a Board. If the Board approves the concept, the student has the opportunity to start a company while still a student.  Zinn Starter is limited to fully enrolled university students. It is part of the entrepreneur program for six universities. The program has been running for two years with over five thousand students participating.

Ray has also written a book called Tough Things First.  Used by many universities as a textbook, it covers his time with his company in Silicon Valley.  You can track Ray at http://toughthingsfirst.com/.  Visit his website to hear weekly podcasts and tips for entrepreneurs.



Five Minutes to New Ideas

Your idea was rejected.  You were told to give up.  If you want to succeed at innovation, you have to put yourself and your ideas out there.  This means you will get rejected. The alternative is that your idea will never become a reality.  Throughout the cycles of criticism, trust that the steps you are taking will lead to achieving your vision.  What are you willing to innovate even in the face of criticism and rejection? Listen to this week’s Five Minutes to New Ideas for insight on pushing through rejection to reach your innovation vision.

Direct download: How_to_Forecast_and_Survive_Cycles_of_Innovation.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Leadership support for innovation is critical to an organization. Any leader knows how to spell innovation.  But few senior leaders understand what is involved or how hard it is unless they have come from an “innovation background.”  What are some essentials of innovation leadership? In today’s show we discuss the role of the CEO and the Board of Directors.  We also consider the benefits of an effective Innovation Advisory Board.

Role of the CEO

What is the role of a CEO running an organization?  

  • To set the vision.
  • To establish the leadership team.
  • To define the objectives for the organization.
  • To hold self and others accountable to achieve the vision and objectives.

The CEO crafts a structure and a budget which the Board approves or disapproves.  Where does the innovation aspect fit in? Innovation should be part of how an organization achieves its vision.  It should be funded and resourced to enable the vision and objectives. The CEO should promote innovation and its role in the organization.  The CEO should hold the leadership team accountable for innovation.

Common reasons that a CEO does not provide the innovation leadership needed:

  • Funds only where there is a clear line of sight of the results.
  • Uncomfortable with the unknown or associated risks.
  • A weak relationship with the Board.
  • On shaky ground with the Board because of past mistakes or failures to deliver.
  • Doesn’t believe in the value and impact of innovation.
  • Doesn’t know how and won’t ask for help.

What should the innovation leader do when the CEO is not fully engaged in the innovation efforts?   First, start small. Find the hidden project that someone has been doing in stealth and get behind it.  Next, lay out a clear plan and metrics that can be shared with leaders and the Board of Directors.  Lastly, gradually gain their support. After concerted effort, if there is no support, this organization may never give innovation a role.

Board of Directors

While the CEO may be the focus when it comes to innovation, the Board plays a critical role.  The Board is the “boss” of the CEO. The Board has control of the budget - a key resource for innovation.  A Board’s commitment to innovation is shown by the time spent talking about it in Board meetings. Another indicator is willingness to make it a priority in the budget process.  The committed Board understands and is comfortable with the fact that risk is associated with innovation.  The Board, with the CEO and innovation leadership team, sets realistic, high quality innovation metrics.  A Board conveys support by “protecting” the CEO when it comes to stakeholders.  

A big risk for many organizations: most Boards do not have members from an innovation background.  You need people on your Board who have lived it.

How does a Board get guidance on encouraging and supporting innovation?

  • Find outside consultants that can train the Board.
  • Have innovation leaders meet with Board members one on one to educate them.
  • Find organizations that have innovation at their core.
  • Create an innovation board of advisors.

Establishing an Effective Innovation Advisory Board

How can you get the CEO and Board to embrace innovations when it is not part of the DNA?  Recruit an Innovation Board of Advisors. This Board of Advisors should contain the innovation leader from within the organization.  Other members should be proven innovation leaders from outside the organization.  No consultants. The Innovation Advisory Board meets with organization leaders and the Board of Directors.  It provides guidance and feedback. A rewarding experience for me was serving as an outside member of the Roche Innovation Advisory Board.  I was tasked to help their innovation and management teams get “fresh eyes”.  

What did I learn from serving on an Innovation Advisory Board?

  • IABs can play a critical role in bringing outside perspectives.
  • IABs are outside validation of what and why you do the things you do.

How would I set up one today?

  • Find the best people.
  • Be prepared to pay for Board membership.
  • Set clear focus and expectations.
  • Make it real, not window dressing.
  • Give them visibility to your leadership and Board.
  • Plan a rotation of membership.

Want to know how to engage your CEO and Board of Directors?  Looking to establish an Innovation Advisory Board? Reach out and drop me a note.


Everyone is creative.  Yet some people seem more creative than others.  What do those people have that others might lack?  What’s the secret to creativity? This week we talk about finding creative inspiration outside of work.  I’ll share my thoughts on what makes people creative. We’ll also hear Kym McNicholas interview Tania Katan.  Tania has just come out with a book called Creative Trespassing: How to Put the Spark and Joy into Your Work and Life.  

Finding Inspiration

Humans use creativity every day to solve complex issues.  Some people are more creative than others in problem solving.  How do these people manage to stay ahead of everyone else creatively?  First, these people are inspired. Find something that piques your interest, that drives you to go above and beyond, to experiment and learn.  You can find creative inspiration even at work. If you are passionate about what you are doing, then you are feeding your creativity.

Practicing Creativity

Another common denominator of creative people is that they practice creativity.  People do not just wake up already skilled at something. They have to practice it until they have mastered it.  Practice can be defined as two things:

 

  • To do repeated exercises for proficiency
  • To pursue a profession actively

 

There is a myth that you can't practice creativity and innovation.  You can practice and become proficient. There are many ways to exercise your creative abilities.  There are exercises for daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly practice of creative skills.  

Talking Creative Inspiration with Tania Katan

Tania Katan shares with Kym McNicholas how people’s creativity in personal life can enhance their work.  Her book, Creative Trespassing: How to Put the Spark and Joy Back into Your Work and Life, looks at the impact of bringing personal creative exercise into the workplace.  Tania wrote this book because she saw a disconnect between people’s creativity and what they did at their jobs during the day.  


Tania says that if you are looking for innovation, you need to bring your creativity inside your job.  Problems with innovation could be solved if we brought our creativity to work. Throughout the book there are exercises called “Productive Disruptions.”  These are creativity breaks. There was a study done by Stanford called the “Walking Creativity Study.” This proved that people who went for walks when experiencing creative blocks experienced 60 percent higher creativity afterwards.  Disruptions and breaks are scientifically proven to help improve creativity. Many people don’t improve creativity because they think they don’t have the right experience or training.  We need to break through that barrier and ask “what if” questions. Stop trying to solve problems the same way and give creativity a try.

 

Some of the greatest takeaways from the book are:

 

  • Our job does not have to be uniquely creative for us to actually be creative.
  • We need to feel free at the workplace to create a creative revolution inside our bodies, minds and cubicles.

 

One of the biggest roadblocks of creativity is the fear of thinking and doing things differently. The best way to get through that obstacle is to face it.  

 

For more information on creative inspiration pick up Tania Katan’s book Creative Trespassing: How to Put the Spark and Joy into Your Work and Life.

 

To track what Tania is doing, visit LinkedIn.




Five Minutes to New Ideas

What got me to start a podcast in 2005? I got inspired.  True inspiration goes deep. It changes us and transforms us.  On this week’s Five Minutes to New Ideas hear about finding and exploring your creative inspiration.  What is your creative inspiration? Who has inspired you? And how are you translating your creative inspiration to have an impact.  Send me a note on your creative inspiration story.

Direct download: Creative_Inspiration_Outside_of_Work.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

With major shifts in the global economy, businesses need to be ready.  Amid a slowdown of growth, companies that thrive are using innovation to grow the intangible economy.  Steven is the global head of innovation at KPMG. Steven joins us to talk about the intangible economy and what companies need to know.

Scale and Investment Equals Growth

CEOs and boards who are serious about innovation must consider the intangible economy.  KPMG conducted a study of 15,000 global firms with at least 250 employees. They called the top 10% of these firms frontier firms.  The other 90% were the followers. A remarkable factor in the findings: major growth seemed to remain with the frontier firms. Very few followers were able to reach growth at the frontier level.  Of the firms, only 18 follower firms moved to frontier status. What separated the two? Scale and how a firm invested.  Frontier firms used data and AI to transform their platform for productivity.

Harness the Power of the Intangible Economy

The value of data is clear when one considers how Amazon has harnessed its power.  Smart businesses are finding ways to use data as a business strategy.

The four pillars to consider in developing data and AI strategies:

  • Using data to change customer experience and predict customer behavior.
  • Valuing assets in the organization differently.
  • Creating service capabilities as an organization.
  • Transforming the workforce with data and AI.

Creating Core Capability Around Innovation

Using innovation to grow the intangible economy requires more than having an innovation team.  You have to create core capability around innovation inside the organization. There are a number of things that can prevent that from happening.  KPMG worked with Innovation Leader to survey large organizations worldwide about innovation. The responses reveal what is stifling innovation in organizations.

 

  • Lack of leadership engagement and support of innovation
  • Politics or turf wars between departments
  • Company culture
  • Inability to act on signals
  • Lack of budget
  • No vision or strategy

The need for innovation has never been stronger.  Leadership involvement is the driving force behind it.    Innovation is a capability not a box on your chart or team name.  The organization will take their lead from the CEO. You have to live it every day with your team.  

Challenges Faced

There are many challenges to sustaining innovation.  Part of the problem is that leaders don’t understand what innovation is. Defining innovation is an important step.  Customize the definition of innovation to fit the organization. Set the standard for the culture of innovation. Innovation is characterized in three ways:

 

  • Incremental Innovation - asks people to think differently about what they do and drives new thinking.
  • Adjacent - things you are doing that are tangential that add value.
  • Transformational - turning a traditional business into a platform for creative transformation.


Lessons Learned

One challenge that leaders face is building innovation as a sustainable activity.  Advice Steve gives for those trying to transform their organization:

 

  • Find a respected and known leader who gets things done to lead innovation.  Give that person the mandate to start building a disciplined innovation capability.

 

  • Work on the culture of the organization overall. Establish cultural momentum by talking about it and making it a strategic set of imperatives.  

 

  • Develop contests (hackathons).  Create a place that acknowledges and celebrates people across enterprise for innovation.  

 

  • Put real money behind the investment portfolio.  Money matters.

 

When it comes to your budget, be clear with yourself, your people and the marketplace.  Money should be tracked explicitly against the specific use case and efforts.

To track what Steven Hill is doing at KPMG, check out the KPMG website.  You can also reach Steven on Twitter or his email.

 

Five Minutes to New Ideas

Some people might wonder what ethics has to do with innovation and creativity?  Some organizations could take a lesson on how to establish and reinforce a culture of good ethics.  A culture must reinforce its core values. The Boy Scouts did this. Five Minutes to New Ideas explores how organizations can learn a lesson in ethics from the Boy Scouts.  What standards of ethics have you defined for yourself and your team? Does your team know the ethics you expect from them? Do you hold everyone, yourself included, to that standard?  Let’s set the standard for ethics in innovations.

Direct download: Using_Innovation_to_Grow_the_Intangible_Economy.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Behind all things smart, from homes and buildings to vehicles, is IoT.  What will open up new worlds for the future? Open IoT standards.  John Osborne II is Chairman of the Board at Zigbee Alliance.  He is also Vice President of IoT, sales and marketing at LEEDARSON.  He talks with me about device innovation and enabling IoT standards across the industry.

Innovation Across Industry

John and I met years ago when he worked as Kroger’s innovation leader.  Kroger’s process of instilling a culture of innovation is featured in my book.  As Chairman of the Board at Zigbee Alliance, John is innovating an industry’s approach.  Although it may be in your home, you may wonder what Zigbee is. Zigbee is one of the original machine -to-machine protocols allowing device sensors to communicate to a mesh network.   Their device innovation has evolved into one of the premiere mesh networks in the industry. Zigbee products are designed to be long lasting and interoperate. The products require minimal upkeep and maintenance.  But Zigbee is more than device innovation. Through Zigbee Alliance, John brings industry leaders together.

Collaboration to Benefit All

A main goal of Zigbee Alliance is to get industry leaders to accept IoT standards.  Those standards will broaden innovation opportunities. Low power technology is at the forefront.  The hot topics in our world today - health and wellness, aging in place, connected vehicles.  These areas highlight the need for what Zigbee Alliance is doing.  


Joining forces will simplify the industry for customers and businesses.  But finding common ground among competitors is no easy task. Zigbee Alliance’s efforts to build relationships started with a one-week session of industry leaders.  Since that first meeting, the collaboration has grown. The meetings are now held in locations across the world. Zigbee Alliance has become the facilitator allowing companies to lead.  Amazon announced last year it would incorporate a Zigbee smart hub in Alexa. That has sparked the interest in others to follow suit.

 

The Aim of IoT Standards

The challenges still exist in to getting consensus among industry leaders.  Yet, Zigbee Alliance moves forward. Their intent is to achieve common data models, common API, and common security.  Companies want layers of security. But that’s not ideal on the consumer end. Still a few years out, companies are working towards the middle ground – designing the right security.

 

Still in the works is how IoT standards compliance will be identified.  Zigbee Alliance is working with other organizations to determine this. Once established, it will simplify the consumer’s purchase process.

 

Partnerships for Smart Device Innovation

John also highlights the work that LEEDARSON is doing in partnership with small businesses.  As an ODM, LEEDARSON has the resources. Small businesses bring their ideas. Not many innovators are aware of this type of ODM partnering approach to device innovation.  The right partner can accelerate the innovation.

 

Lessons Learned from the Innovation Leader

The process of innovation always presents challenges in the form of innovation antibodies. New people come with their own agendas and ideas.  What has John learned in his experience in device innovation and promoting IoT standards?  

 

Here are John’s tips for dealing with innovation antibodies:

  • Keep pushing your idea.
  • Give them a platform for their view.  
  • Make them part of the process.  
  • Spend a lot of time educating.
  • Work through the problems.

 

As innovators we can’t always jump to the conclusion that we’re right.  Sometimes you are the one hindering your process. When that happens, you need to self-reflect and try a new approach.  

We have to evolve ourselves.  Take a risk and try something new and different.  

The Trends

Now that the tech is here, the solutions are next.  Smart homes and advances in home security give rise to many use cases.  The trend now is managing properties remotely and aging in place. A trend of tomorrow is cloud connected cars as displayed at CES.  John’s hope for the future is connected cities. Before that can happen, issues of politics need to be resolved.  Getting ecosystems like telecoms and the sensor business to work together is another future challenge.


To track what John is doing, check out LinkedIn  https://www.linkedin.com/in/johneosborneii.  Check out his website  http://www.jeoii.com/ or send him an email.  

You may also join the conversation with John and me on The Innovators Community.  


Five Minutes to New Ideas

Inspiration, true inspiration goes deep.  It changes and transforms us. What is your creative inspiration?  Five Minutes to New Ideas explores how to discover your creative inspiration. How are you translating your creative inspiration into having an impact?

Direct download: Device_Innovation_Enabling_IoT_Standards.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Apply technology designed for one use to a whole new product. Then expect the unexpected. Tech that detects motion on bridges and other large structures is the backdrop.  Chief Operating Officer Nadia Giuliani joins the show from CES 2019. She shares the latest product from Next Industries: Tactigon Skin.  It transforms the controller, creating motion and gesture control for a number of uses.

Monitoring in Milan

Next Industries is a startup located in Milan, Italy.  The company has been running for the past five years. Their first products focused on vibration detection and motion capture.  The use is structural monitoring to improve maintenance and decrease risks. As an R&D company, they sought new avenues for their expertise.  They decided to revolutionize the controller.

Revolutionary Controller

Next Industries has designed a new motion controller.  Tactigon Skin is a programmable controller. It allows hands-free gesture control for a range of electronics.  PC games, robots, computers, VR/AR, 3D printers, apps, and drones. Tactigon Skin is designed to fit like a glove with inner workings akin to a smartwatch.  It connects to Bluetooth, smartphone devices, and laptops. There is future potential for retail. With a final prototype, Next Industries is seeking funds to bring the product to market.  They are exploring crowdfunding options.

Solving Problems

Creating motion and gesture control in Tactigon Skin was a challenge.  The intricacies of the product demand constant problem-solving. Add to that the funding for the design phase.  Nadia and the team persevered through tech problems and financing the long period of development. Next Industries navigated through with success.  They have been in development for one year now. Nadia’s advice to others going through product development is to keep at it. You must persist to survive.

 

Ergonomic form factor is another problem the Next Industries design team faced.  Finding the right fit for all in creating motion and gesture control was even more difficult than the tech challenges.  The response at their CES demo has been positive.

Lessons Learned

Throughout this process, Nadia and her team have learned a few key tips that have helped them.

  • Be independent of outside investors.
  • Find good partners.
  • Wait for the right platform.

Creating motion and gesture control, Next Industries meets a demand for agility and ease of use.

To track what Next Industries is doing, visit https://www.thetactigon.com/ and http://www.nextind.eu/en/.  For the latest, check out their Twitter and Facebook accounts.


Five Minutes to New Ideas

Should we rely more on data or human insight?  The answer is both! This week on Five Minutes to New Ideas we explore applying human insight and skepticism to innovation.  How can you challenge yourself and your team to uncover an insight that is not obvious?

Direct download: Creating_Motion_and_Gesture_Control_with_Style.mp3
Category:Past Guests -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Making creative ideas into tangible products takes time.  Anything that can optimize the process will give the advantage.  Developing the next evolution of cloud computing is Mutable, which offers public edge cloud.  This translates into low latency, increased security and maximum efficiency. Antonio “Pelle” Pellegrino is Founder and CEO of Mutable.  Pelle joins me to discuss his innovations using edge computing.

 

Bowling Alley to CEO

Pelle’s career has been an interesting one.  From working in his parents’ bowling alley to streaming E-sportscasting, he gained business sense and startup initiative.   Four years ago, he saw the potential for innovations using edge computing. With Nathalie Zadocks, he founded Mutable. It was self-funded and revenue-based in its inception.  The company is now charging ahead as part of the CableLabs Fiterator program.

 

Solving Problems of Latency and More

Speed is no longer the metric.  Latency is what is measured, especially in gaming.  Latency depends on distance. How does Mutable managed the distribution of edge computing assets?  Through automation, from networking to server management to deployment, Mutable uses software to bring all the pieces together.  It’s a platform that makes things seamless for developers. With its innovations using edge computing, Mutable is a market maker for shared compacity.

 

Retrospective Advice  

Pelle’s experience starting up Mutable has given him some perspective.  His words of advice ring true for startups and innovators.

Innovating cable services, Mutable meets the demand in lowering latency.  To track what Mutable is doing, visit https://www.mutable.io/edge.html.  For the latest, check out their Twitter account: https://twitter.com/mutable.  

 

Five Minutes to New Ideas

Can you teach an old dog new tricks?  Great leaders know when it comes to others, there’s always more than meets the eye.  When it comes to creativity, everyone should know all the tricks, right? The truth is most people need to be taught.  Five Minutes to New Ideas explores how to recognize potential in your team’s creativity.  What will you learn from teaching your team creativity?

Direct download: Innovations_Using_Edge_Computing.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Being connected has become an essential part of our daily lives. Wireless has made huge strides over the past two decades.  IoT is connecting our world in ways we would have never imagined.  With the growing demand for constant connectivity, one area that needs fine-tuning is battery life.  All these devices we use throughout the day require battery power. Today’s guest saw this as the opportunity.  David Su is CEO of Atmosic.  His company is innovating battery life.  Creating technologies to reduce battery usage, Atmosic develops solutions that keep things powered up.  

Stanford to Startup

Much of David’s career has been in the wireless space.  With a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford, David joined Atheros Communication in 1999 as its fifth employee.  David continued with Atheros as it grew and went public. He stayed on when Qualcomm acquired Atheros. After some years, David felt his time at Qualcomm had run its course.  He ventured into new areas.  With four former work colleagues, he started a new company.  

Atmosic’s Vision

In the wireless world, battery power can be a boon and a bane. Reliance on wireless means dependence on batteries for power. When batteries lose charge, things can come to a standstill.  Limited battery life also means a lot of batteries get thrown out - to the tune of three billion per year.  Two and a half years ago, David and fellow co-founders started Atmosic with this in mind.  David, Masoud Zargari, David Nakahira, Srinivas Pattamatta, and Manolis Terrovitis brainstormed.  They sought advice from experts in the field. Their vision began to coalesce - to keep connected devices powered with little to no battery usage.  


With the vision in place, Dave and his team went to work innovating battery life.  They started with battery powered Bluetooth devices.

Solving Core Battery Problems

The advantages Autmosic’s technologies will offer:

  • Lowest power usage without compromising quality.
  • Turns device off when not in use with system level check that transmits only when needed.
  • RF energy harvesting, enabling the battery to last forever.

Long-term vision:

  • “Battery-free utopia” – ecosystem in enterprise applications.

Lessons Learned

What has David learned along the journey towards innovating battery life?  David has some tips for people whether they’re starting a company or pursuing innovation.  

  • Interoperate – work with what is already known and improve it.
  • Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and be willing to listen.
  • Make sure what you are doing is what you truly believe in and are passionate about.
  • Ground what you are doing in reality.  

By innovating battery life, Atmosic is focusing on a problem that affects us all.  Powering down to power up will keep us connected in a sustainable way.

To track what Atmosic is doing, visit www.atmosic.com.   For the latest updates, check them out on Twitter and LinkedIn.  

 

******************************************************

Five Minutes to New Ideas

Writer’s block happens to the best of us at one time or another. What is the solution to writer’s block? Doing a weekly podcast has forced me to exercise the creative muscle and fight writer’s block. Five Minutes to New Ideas explores how to cure writer's block and recharge your creativity.  What creative exercise are you going to do today?

******************************************************

Direct download: Innovating_Battery_Life__Powering_Down_to_Power_Up.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Before becoming CTO at Comcast, Tony spent a good part of his career as the number two guy.  At Rogers Communications, Inc., people counted on Tony to get the job done. From there, he moved on to TCI in the number two role.  His innovative vision soon got him recognized.  A phone call from John Malone surprised Tony.  John had a problem that needed to be solved. With two weeks to mobilize, Tony brought the right people together and came up with a solution.  John was impressed. About three weeks later, Tony was promoted to Chief Technology Officer.  Success to Tony is when opportunity meets preparation.

Steps a CTO Needs to Take

What are some of the first steps a new CTO should take?  Focus on your vision, belief, and financing.


For Tony, the most important thing is to bring people with you.  The people on your team need to be fully on board and passionate about your vision.  Steve Job’s team is a great example. His team brought the innovative ideas.  Steve made those ideas into bigger things. As a CTO, you need a credible plan to sell to your team, to your peers, to the CEO, and the Board.  Then you need to execute.  

CTO Lessons Learned

Looking back on his career, Tony shares some lessons learned.  Do you have your sights on a CTO role? Here are a few words of CTO advice for the innovator:  

  • Be willing to take a step backwards to go forward.  
    • There have been times in his career that Tony has taken a step backward to gain experience.  The value of experience outweighed the financial down step.  
  • Set high expectations for yourself and your team.  
    • Tony feels at times he could have set higher expectations and would have achieved more.

 

CTO Challenges and Success

From my experience as CTO at Hewlett Packard, a CTO has a divided focus.  The challenge is to find a balance between thinking of present goals and thinking years ahead.  Senior leadership support is crucial.

Another bit of advice for the innovator is to vary your experience. What helped me find success was my wide range of experience. For long-term career success, having a variety of experiences can make the difference.  You have to step out of your comfort zone. Be willing to try different roles. Be a part of teams that you would not normally be comfortable in. Having different experiences gave me the confidence I needed to be bold in innovation.  

If you have questions or comments about today’s show, drop me a note.  Join the conversation on this and other topics at The Innovators Community.

 

Five Minutes to New Ideas

What is the opposite of bravery?  The opposite of bravery is not cowardice, but conformity.  The economy demands creativity not conformity. Five Minutes to New Ideas explores the different ways to succeed in a creative economy.  Could these tips further you and your company’s success in today’s creative economy?

Direct download: CTO_Advice_for_the_Innovator.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Early in my career one man who had a huge impact on me, my mentor Bob Davis, told me to pay it forward.  As Killer Innovations kicks off Season 15 this week, we reflect on what it has meant to pay it forward.  Challenging and encouraging others toward impactful innovation has been my passion. Kym McNicholas joins me on the show as we look back at the Killer Innovations evolution from simple podcast to syndicated radio show.

Worth It

Having enjoyed success as a career innovator, I decided in 2005 it was time to pay it forward by inspiring impactful innovation on a larger scale.  I owe much of my success to the people in my life who have mentored me and led me in the direction for success. As my way of giving back to my mentors, I chose to encourage others in innovation.  Jumping back to Season 1, the feedback from listeners all over the world for Killer Innovations has motivated me to keep going.  Having an impact on people through their innovation journey is the impetus.  Along the way, I’ve developed lasting friendships with many long-time listeners worldwide.

Getting Started

As podcasting emerged in late 2004, I began experimenting with it.  The critical piece of technology enabling podcasting, the enclosure tag, allowed for media distribution.  By March 2005, I jumped in with my first Killer Innovations episode.  It was a bit like the Wild West.  I modeled myself after Earl Nightingale, a motivational speaker whose tapes and cassettes inspired me.  With a laptop and a microphone, I began the podcast from a hotel.  That was the start of it.

Making an Impact Then and Now

One eye-opening comment I received in the first year of the show has stuck with me.  It was from an avid listener whose son, a young listener of nine years old, took the inspiration to heart.  He started taking items apart in the home to “innovate” them. That boy is now 23 years old and I would love to hear from him.  I hope he’s doing creative and innovative things.

Guests I’ve had an opportunity to talk to from across the country are doing impactful innovation.  With the Mobile Studio, we’ve been stopping in small towns to find innovation in unexpected places.  Guests in the past year from Fin Gourmet Foods are innovating in such unique ways on multiple levels.  The workforce is one facet of that innovation - investing in the lives of people who need a second chance.


[shareable cite="Kym McNicholas"]Some of the best innovators take those really big, calculated risks.[/shareable]

Fin Gourmet Foods is a great example of how innovation doesn’t have to be tech or happen in Silicon Valley.  Helping people innovate their own lives is impactful innovation at its best.

Guests Who’ve Inspired Us

Guests are an integral part of the show.  As they share their innovation experience and lessons learned, we gain some valuable lessons.  One guest who has inspired us is Noah Scalin. His strategy to spark creativity is another great example of impactful innovation.  An artist based in Richmond, VA, Noah faced a creative block.  To re-ignite his creativity, he started the Skull-a-Day project.  

Another guest who’s personally inspired me is Tom Fishburne.  His on-point marketing themed cartoons show the power of creativity and influence.  His impact on people through humor is amazing.

Evolution of Killer Innovations

From starting out in a hotel room to now rolling around in the Mobile Studio, Killer Innovations continues to grow and change.  Kym recalls how she and I met - chasing the latest Tech at CES.  Now the Mobile Studio, a fully equipped 44-foot custom bus, is my studio and office while on the road.  In addition to the Mobile Studio, the show has gone from being fully funded by me to having sponsors. With the sponsorship, we are now able to pay it forward with ads for nonprofits such as Hacking Autism and Pioneer Education Africa.

The community of listeners, like Chris Woodruff, continues to impact me and others.  Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Recently, we created The Innovators Community.  Open to anyone interested in innovation, it’s a place where people can share their ideas and ask for advice from others in the innovation game.

 

Five Minutes to New Ideas

Don’t fall into a rut repeating the same formula to solve every problem.  You need fresh eyes. Look at things in a new light. This week’s Five Minutes to New Ideas will challenge you to use fresh eyes to find game-changing innovations.   

 

Glad you could join us for the kick-off of Season 15.  Thanks for taking the time to listen to the show. If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you.  Drop me a line.

Direct download: Season_15_Inspiring_Impactful_Innovation_Since_2005.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

When you’re in the middle of an important project and equipment fails, you want it fixed fast.  In this week’s show I talk with Blitzz Co-founder Rama Sreenivasan. His company is solving the inefficiencies of tech support.  Blitzz’s customer support innovation integrates AI, AR, and live video to solve problems faster.

Winding Journeys Connected

As a chemical engineer working on medical devices to starting a SaaS company, Rama’s path has taken some unexpected twists.  But at the heart of it, he is a problem solver.  The source of his inspiration: his dad who he likes to call “MacGyver”.  

Rama founded Blitzz together with co-founder Keyur Patel two years ago.  They most recently participated in CableLabs Fiterator.  This accelerator program helps startups develop a product-market fit aimed at the cable industry.

A System That Assesses Without the Hassle

When instruments stop working, it’s time to bring in a helpful live assistant. Blitz’s customer support innovation allows a better perspective of and feel for the problem. Through live video chat, companies can avoid spending for onsite technician visits. The customer support is not only heightened, but it is also trained to see around the inconspicuous.  Innovation in repair operations contributes to cuts in labor fees and time processing.  What prompted Rama to create Blitzz’s innovative approach?  During his PH. D and Post-Doctoral work, frustration with equipment breakdown mid-experiment was the impetus.  The long wait to get repairs done seemed a waste. Rama felt there had to be a better way.

AR Perception

In any given company, customer support could always be better. That’s why the addition of AR technology adds to the customer experience. Questions can be answered faster and more efficiently. No longer does one have to worry about the hassle of scheduling an in person visit.  AR perception captures it all. This innovation allows one on one human interaction on a more convenient level.

 

AI Intelligence

Equipment can malfunction and run the risk of being unreliable. AI customer support can redirect the customer to questions and answers that may be a better fit. This AI customer support innovation, becomes its own teacher. The AI brings with it the ability to learn from the information that it processes.

Lessons Learned

Rama highly recommends entrepreneurs go through an accelerator.  He learned critical elements of the startup process through that experience.  He also credits passion for driving the startup process. Connecting with mentors can help fan the flames of that passion.

If you’d like to track the latest with Blitzz, visit the website: https://blitzz.co/ or check out Blitzz on LinkedIn and Twitter.

We’re coming up on the launch of Season 15 of Killer Innovations. We’d love your feedback on what you’d like to hear on Killer Innovations for the next 15 years.  Get in touch and let me know.

 

Five Minutes to New Ideas

When you don’t find a way to differentiate from the pack, you run the risk of losing uniqueness.  What attributes do you have that you may not realize? Listen to this week’s Five Minutes to New Ideas.   Find out how you can get the most out of any opportunity or idea.

Direct download: Customer_Support_Innovation_Solving_Problems_Faster_S14_Ep51.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Getting around in the big city can be easier than in smaller, less populated locations.  In many areas across the country, getting from point A to point B is dependent on having a vehicle.  This can present a challenge for people who don’t have access to a personal vehicle.  With this in mind, our guests today are solving this problem for communities in Ohio. At the Consumer Electronics Show, co-founders of SHARE, Ryan and Hoa McManus, join us in the Mobile Studio.  Ryan and Hoa tell us about seizing the opportunity with microtransit innovation. What evolving transit demographics are shaping this corner of transportation? What innovative changes are upcoming?  SHARE has a new angle on microtransit: meeting the needs of an overlooked market.

Going Places

SHARE, a startup founded 2-1/2 years ago, has been contributing to a better future in ride systems.  Their focus is to provide regularly scheduled transit for the trips people take the most.  Trust is at the center. They serve school systems, healthcare systems, and workers commuting.  SHARE fills the gap between public transport and ride-sharing. It’s affordable and reoccurring, flexible and reliable.  This benefits a significant unmet market: senior citizens.  The number of cities that the company serves continues to grow. SHARE is proving to be a model of microtransit innovation - a safe and efficient transport system.  SHARE gets people where they need to be on a daily and weekly basis.

Investing in the Team

Packing up and moving across the country, Ryan and Hoa joined an incubator.  They weathered the highs and lows. Finishing the incubator program, they promptly informed their investors about their decision to pivot.  As I say, always invest in the team rather than the tech. Their investors stuck with them. They then joined an accelerator program. From buying their first vehicles, to operating a fleet of vehicles, the tough decisions were made.  As SHARE grows, it confirms those were the right decisions.

Microtransit Innovation:  Lessons Learned

Through their shared experience as co-founders, Ryan and Hoa have learned different things.  

For Ryan, a resounding lesson is to have more clearly defined roles. Startups can get overwhelmed if they don’t establish who does what from the very start. Everyone should know where they fit and what their tasks include. It will come together if things are organized and understood. This way, the team can efficiently move towards the end goal.

Hoa’s major lesson was to have grit amid the challenges as a woman entrepreneur in the transportation industry.  Bouncing back from the low points builds endurance. Facing off with the innovation antibodies with grit makes all the difference.  It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Want to find out more about Ryan’s and Hoa’s microtransit innovation through SHARE?  Track what they’re doing on their website ridewithshare.com, or on Facebook (facebook.com/ridewithshare/) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/ridewithshare/).

We’re starting Season 15 of Killer Innovations in March.  We’d love to hear your thoughts on what you’d like to see and hear on Killer Innovations for the next season and beyond.  Drop me a line and let me know.

 

 Five Minutes to New Ideas

This week’s Five Minutes to New Ideas examines the importance of building onto existing products that are lacking. Sometimes, making that 180 degree turn from the existing norm can really pay off. Forget the obvious solution. Take a crazy gamble.  Could you create a standardized offering of a custom product? Don’t be afraid to go the opposite direction from everyone else.


If you’ve attended the Consumer Electronics Show for many years, your perspective can be invaluable.  For Tim Bajarin, preeminent Silicon Valley analyst and President of Creative Strategies, this is his 44th CES.  When he speaks, the tech industry listens.  Tim joins us in the Mobile Studio to give his impressions on CES 2019.  What trends does Tim notice? Which innovations will impact our future? Overall, CES 2019 is one of incremental innovation.  Nevertheless, there are innovation gems that can prove to be life savers and game changers.


Trends that Matter

Of the ever-evolving innovations at CES, Tim is intrigued by those in the health area.  This year he sees a strong emphasis on digital tech impacting people’s health.  The Omron blood pressure watch, the first of its kind, is one of those innovations that will have huge impact.  For Tim, the health care innovations are fascinating in their far-reaching effect, but also on a personal note. As more people face health issues and aging in place becomes a focus, the tech world has taken on the challenges.  Stay tuned for blood pressure on the iPhone.

Ahead of Its Time

Tim recalls the flexible displays I worked on while at HP.  Well, they’ve caught on and come a long way. Flexible displays are a big opportunity.  LG’s rollable TV is staggering in its resolution, durability, and sheer size. The breakthrough of flexible displays is shown in multiple ways at CES, especially in television display.  The use cases for others are yet to be seen. It’s incremental innovation applied in new ways that’s captured the public’s attention.


Feature Wars

Tim and I talk about what I like to call the ‘feature war’ in the chase for ever increasing resolution displays.  Although content is lacking for 4K, the TV makers are pushing towards 8K and beyond. 8K is a big deal at CES 2019.  Expect to see it making a breakthrough, especially since Japan has made 8K broadcasting a requirement for the 2020 Olympics.  Keep eyes out for its appearance next year.

The distinction between High Definition HDR displays and 4K is not easy to perceive.  In fact, people notice the color more so in the High Definition HDR. When asked to identify the 4K display, people actually chose the High Definition HDR more often.  Similar is the difference between 4K and 8K. The industry moves forward towards 12K and 16K. Are these increasing resolutions useful to consumers? The competitors in the resolution race may at some point need to reassess the needs of the consumer.   

Audio Innovations

Tim talks about the medical devices that are becoming game changers.  Namely, hearing aids with a fine tune audio capturing. The movement in the sound technology means lower costs to consumers for a basic health care need.  Innovations of better audio-centered hearing aids are on the rise. Starkey, the leading hearing aid maker, is going the next step tying Alexa into the hearing aid.  What the tech world is missing is a focus on audio. The tech industry has razor sharp focus on optics, with little attention to audio. As AR and VR grows, some attention to audio will be necessary.  Starkey’s new product will tie in to AR use. The incremental transference of heightened audio is something to get excited about. No longer will the cost be daunting for the consumer. These devices will grow with you while adding more freedom.

Apple Services New Direction

Apple announced they’ll be working with major TV manufacturers to bundle Apple services iTunes and Airplay on TVs.  Apple is setting the groundwork for their services, moving their services in new directions through collaborative efforts.  With Apple services bringing in $10 billion a quarter, it’s becoming a dedicated focus.

Thank you to Tim Bajarin for his return to our show.

My Review

In this show, Tim and I touch on innovations in healthcare.  It’s a topic close to Tim and me.  For example, I’ve had to use a hearing aid for a number of years.  I was given a pair from Eargo to try out.  I had an opportunity to meet with the head of innovation at Starkey.  It’s exciting what’s happening in hearing aid innovations.

Aging in place is becoming a focus and challenge.  We’re seeing incremental innovations in this area.  As consumers age, tech is addressing the needs of the aging population.  

Both Tim are I skeptical about the increasing resolution feature wars.  What is a feature war? Industry locks on to a feature and trains the customer to buy the product with the best offering for that feature.  There may be minimal or no advantage to the upgraded feature, but it’s the hook to catch the customer. Innovators beware: don’t get caught up in a feature war.  Pick your differentiation carefully.

This year is the year of incremental innovation at CES.  It alternates from year to year between high impact innovation and incremental innovation.  Not every company has dipped into this tick tock pattern. There are some companies at CES doing the high impact innovations.  We’ll be looking at those in upcoming weeks.

If you know of a big impact innovation, let me know.  Drop me a note.

 

 

Five Minutes to New Ideas

Consumer complaints and product feedback can turn your product around. Don’t stop at simply resolving an issue. Instead, ask the question, “Who complains about my product?”    

This week’s Five Minutes to New Ideas examines how customer feedback and complaints have changed the way some companies do business.

 

Direct download: Incremental_Innovation_at_CES_2019_S14_Ep49.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

As the hype settles, practical AI emerges.  The use of AI in various forms is gaining traction.  Who can benefit from AI and how? Steve Guggenheimer, Microsoft VP of AI and ISV, joins us in the Mobile Studio at CES 2019.  He shares his thoughts on CES and how AI is taking shape. The cool AI of last year gives way to the practical AI of today.

CES 2019: Electronics and More

Steve, like myself, is a CES veteran.  He’s been coming to the show for years.  What has stood out about CES 2019? Clearly, it’s no longer just about electronics.  In fact, technology has taken over with just about every industry represented. Yet, for Steve, there hasn’t been a clear theme for CES 2019 above the din.  A noticeable change over the years is the companies represented. Among the TV manufacturers that have dominated in the past, new companies and relatively recent ones are taking center stage.  From Amazon and Google to startups and new Chinese companies, CES 2019 is quite different from that of 15 years ago. Some of the trends Steve noticed were smart homes, AI, Mixed Reality, and quantum.

Besides the displays, one of the biggest benefits of CES is the side meetings.  CES brings all the right people together. It’s the perfect chance to schedule meetings with customers, clients, partners the world over without having to travel all over the world.

Overhype, Disillusionment, and the New Wave

Although some things are overhyped, companies are less prone these days to hype their products.  Things get notice and tracked. As Steve puts it, he sees “less of companies sticking their necks out.”  The hype is still there and often it’s propagated by press with limited tech savvy. With too much hype raising expectation, the trough of disillusionment looms.  

Both Steve and I have done vision videos.  Rather than hype, vision videos convey the work of innovation and how it can play out in the future.  Innovation takes investment, commitment, and time. Overhype doesn’t factor that.

The building blocks of yesterday – compute, storage, networking - are not the building blocks of today.  IoT, blockchain, AI are the new wave of building blocks. People need to get out of the hype cycle and see the horizon.

AI and ISV

At Microsoft, Steve works with ISVs.  Steve helps line of business ISVs move towards SaaS.  

In addition, his focus is on AI.  As AI is becoming a hardened layer in the stack, cognitive services research is moving into APIs.  This is the work of the Microsoft Azure team.

Of the basic elements of AI – the cloud, data, the algorithms – the rate of change for the algorithms has “accelerated immensely.”  The innovation in machine learning comprehension tool sets is “superfast”.

AI from the Front Row

AI is multi-faceted.  Some areas of AI are picking up quickly.  Others are slower. While the more complex, integrated AI takes more time, some AI aspects that are gaining traction include:

  • Virtual Agents – bots that are proactive, reactive and conversational
  • AI enhanced tools for professionals – lawyers, doctors, marketing
  • Knowledge management - making a broad set of information easier to graph
  • Autonomous systems
  • Combining computer vision and other tools to digitize a physical space

The practical AI Steve promotes requires a logical approach.  For building a long-term asset, BI must come before AI. The questions he asks steer towards purposeful AI:

  • Is your data in order to do something with?  
  • What do you actually want to build yourself versus use what others have?
  • Where do you want to customize?  
  • Want to build a business out of it? Let's talk.

Is AI Right for You?

To help companies determine if AI is right for them, Steve has more questions for companies to ask:

  • How do I want to use AI to run my company better?
  • Should I build, buy, or partner?
  • Where do I want to infuse AI?
  • How do I differentiate my company with AI?
  • What do you want to add value to?
  • How do you want to add value for your customer?

If AI will not add value in the right areas, don’t do it.

When AI Fails

Often, it’s the bespoke AI project that fails. AI developed around data that is no longer tied to the core data can quickly lose its relevancy.  Failure is common with the bespoke AI project done to impress senior leadership without regard for its actual value to the business.

Another fail is the grand vision that is impossible to implement given situation and resources.  It could be a lack of expertise, financial backing, or executive patience.

Ethics and AI

Ethical AI is an important issue.  To lay out their viewpoint and start the conversation, Microsoft issued The Future Computed.  Steve advises that companies using AI have a framework for addressing ethics and AI.

If you would like to track what Steve is doing at Microsoft, visit the Microsoft AI webpage.  You can also track him on  Twitter or  LinkedIn.

Thank you to Steve Guggenheimer for once again joining us on the show.

 

 

Five Minutes to New Ideas

Could you cut the price of your product by 25%?  Take a look at your inputs. Big savings can mean the game changing advantage.  This week’s Five Minutes to New Ideas, features a company that took a gamble on less is more.

 

Direct download: Practical_AI_at_CES_2019_S14_Ep48.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

At times the leaps forward in technology are evident.  Then there are times when incremental steps slowly rise towards something momentous just yonder.  Bob O’Donnell is a top Silicon Valley analyst, USA Today columnist, and contributor to leading media outlets.  He returns to our show to give his take on this year’s CES.  As Bob O’Donnell surveys CES 2019, he sees tech on the cusp of innovation.

Old School

In a word, this year’s CES was packed.  From gadgets to automobiles to robotics and more, consumer electronics has morphed.  Although the range has grown, this year’s biggest strides came in CES old school mainstays.  Announcements from PC and TV makers rose above the buzz of the crowd. These were largely incremental, but nonetheless notable.  

Previews in past years gave way to the real deal.  LG’s rollable TV hits the market this year. Apple gained attention following a waning CES presence in recent years.  Partnering with the big TV players, Apple makes HomeKit, iTunes, and AirPlay 2 available on Samsung, LG, Vizio, and Sony TVs.  

Another big trend as Bob O’Donnell surveys CES 2019 is gaming.  In the gaming realm, Nvidia, Intel, and AMD took center stage with their respective innovations. On the cusp of innovation, glimpses of game streaming showed promise.  This cloud-based gaming will allow flexibility and opportunity. It’s an advantage for the hard-core gamer and novice alike. Gamers will be able to pick up or continue gaming on a range of devices.  

See the Difference?

The 8K push was evident at CES.  Vendors are offering 8K in varying forms.  Is there a noticeable difference between 4K and 8K?  The jury’s out with consumers split 50/50. Some companies have made their 8K products discrete.  Sony’s 8K TVs are much larger than the 4K. But with zero content available at the moment, Bob wonders if 8K deserves the notice?  It’s on the cusp of innovation. In my view, change is right around the corner. Japan is readying for the 2020 Olympics, which will be broadcast in 8K.  CableLabs member J:COM is on track for the Olympics 8K roll out. The big question remains: will that 8K TV fit in the living room?

Self-Drive Slowdown

The forecasts of two years ago overshot autonomous vehicle progress.  The pullback comes as issues have arisen.  The technology is not ready.  Public perception is not ready.  Real issues of safety are coupled with consumer fear and lack of trust.  Even terms can be a problem. Bob views the term ‘autopilot’ in cars misleading.  For now, the focus has shifted to assisted driving versus autonomous. Even in that area, auto assist functions become disengaged 60 – 80 percent of the time.  There’s some distance to go before autonomous becomes viable. Makers need time to get it right.  




Not Competing, Complementing

This year 5G is everywhere.  Overhype is an issue.  Bob is wary of some claims.  There is confusion over what 5G really is.  As Bob points out, looking back at how 4G enabled Uber and other services, people now are more aware.  Hence, the hype.

With the introduction of the cable industry 10G, some clarity is needed.  The G in 10G actually means gigabit.  It is not in competition with the 5G (fifth generation) cellular network tech.  10G will actually complement 5G in the future. For now, 10G program is live and rolling out.  In 80% of U.S. homes, 1 gigabit broadband internet will be available to 80% of U.S. homes. It’s a platform to build innovations on.

Oversellers Beware

The hints at what’s down the road may be exciting, but at the same time misleading.  There’s risk when companies promise more from products than products deliver or will deliver in the near future.  Overselling risks losing consumers’ trust and taxing patience. Exaggerating taints the industry and consumer perception.  Much of what we’ve seen at CES 2019 is incremental. But it’s better to make good on solid claims than take grand leaps and fall flat.

Thanks to Bob O’Donnell for sharing his insights.  

If you would like to track what Bob is writing about or working on, visit http://www.technalysisresearch.com/.  You may also view his column on USA Today or see him on Bloomberg TV.



Five Minutes to New Ideas

Are some customers not good for business?  Could a customer’s extensive use of your product or service actually cost you?  Listen to Five Minutes to New Ideas to hear creative solutions to customer challenges.

 



Direct download: On_the_Cusp_of_Innovation_Bob_ODonnell_Surveys_CES_2019_S14_Ep47.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

Cars that walk.  TVs that roll up.  From rising stars to tech titans, the atmosphere at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2019 has been high energy.  To consider what’s fueling that energy, I talk to the host of CES, Consumer Technology Association (CTA).  Joining us in the Mobile Studio is Rachel Horn, CTA Communications Director. She shares the CES 2019 tech trends, a few of her favorites, and why CES is so amazing.

 

CES Breaking Records

With 180 million plus attendees and 155 countries represented, CES is the largest tech and business event in the world.  It covers 2.9 million square feet of exhibitor space in Las Vegas. CES 2019 is breaking records. More than just bigger, this year’s CES unlocks new opportunities.  For the first time, medical professionals obtained continuing medical education credit for attending CES. This allows medical professionals to observe and learn about the latest medical tech and tech trends first hand.  Eureka Park, with reasonable exhibit rates, makes CES accessible for startups, entrepreneurs, and small businesses.  It boasts 1,200 exhibitors. From simple products that make life easier to larger than life exhibits that give an awe-inspiring glimpse into the future, CES 2019 delivers something for everyone.

Big Impressions

Looking outside the window of the Mobile Studio is the two-story Google complex.  It’s akin to an amusement park ride and with people queued up to get in. The rollercoaster ride takes people through the Google story.  The stakes are high for attention-grabbing at CES.  The Bell Nexus Air Taxi display was phenomenal.  During a private tour, this look at future transport awed a group of CEOs and me.  As TV display tech leaps further ahead each year, the display manufacturers dominate the floor.  The LG 4K rollable TV was exciting to see. With all the spectacle, it’s a stiff competition to stand out.  CES raises the bar. But not everything has to be big to shine. Some of the more interesting trends were seen on a smaller scale at Eureka Park.

CES 2019 Tech Trends

AI and 5G were the pervasive tech trends.  Across the board, products are sensory, connected, collecting data, analyzing, and customizing the consumer experience.  From health to lifestyle, AI is making things simpler, personalized, safer. Among noteworthy trends was digital health, especially wearables.  Silicon Valley Tech Analyst Tim Bajarin was on the trail of digital health devices.  He was impressed with a watch that can take blood pressure readings.  There are devices to continuously measure blood glucose and manage pain without medication.  These tech advances can truly transform our lives, giving people greater control over their health and wellness.  A number of products addressed aging in place. Some tech products on display included smart beds, fall detection products, remote monitors.  These impactful innovations have taken a front row. The competition among companies in the area of medical devices has propelled some further ahead.  Such is the case with Starkey, the hearing aid company, which incorporates AI into its latest product.

Little Things That Make a Difference

While the big technologies draw the crowds, the little things that make life easier are equally impressive.  Rachel noticed the Neutrogena MaskID, which uses mobile phone tech to analyze skin and create a customized face mask. Another innovation on Rachel’s must-have list is the Ring Mouse (EasySMX Ring Mouse by Padrone).  The Ring Mouse fits on the fingertip, is Bluetooth enabled, and pairs with a phone or laptop. Tactigon Skin is an interesting one hand controller device that has a number of uses. Technologies such as these that simplify life and make us more productive will transform the way we do things.

Taking Care of Business

Many international businesses consider CES the launch platform.  It’s also the place to meet with investors, retailers, partners.  The average CES attendee schedules 33 meetings.  

Not only does the CTA host CES, but it holds a number of events throughout the year.  If you’d like to know more about CTA, visit https://www.cta.tech/.  

If you weren’t able to visit CES this year, catch keynote videos, panel videos, and other highlights at https://www.ces.tech/.  You can also keep up to date on the latest with CES on Twitter or Instagram.  

 

Five Minutes to New Ideas

Do you really know who your customers are and how they use your product?  As HP CTO, I was taken by surprise when the local bakery tailored the HP TouchSmart for use as an order kiosk.  Are there more uses for your product than you imagined? How can your customer help you discover the potential? Five Minutes to New Ideas explores customers’ creative hacks and what that means for you.

Direct download: CES_2019_Tech_Trends_that_Amaze_and_Simplify_S14_Ep46.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

 

Keeping networks connected, secure, and visible is easier thanks to one startup.  Here at the Consumer Electronics Show, David Erickson joins me. David is Co-Founder of Forward Networks.  His company is innovating network operations. Their products transform how businesses manage networks.

Gaming to Innovating Network Operations

David’s interest in networking began as a kid playing video games.  He was always trying to optimize that connection.  That interest led him to Silicon Valley and Stanford.  As a post-grad at Stanford, David focused on software defined networking (SDN).  After completing Ph.D. work, David and three fellow Ph. Ds founded Forward Networks.  They saw new opportunity. Innovation on the operations side of networking was scarce.  Co-founder Peyman Kazemian developed unique technology. Forward Networks applies that technology to network operations.  Their software maximizes network connection, security and analysis. Based in Palo Alto, Forward Networks has been developing network solutions for five years.  Their clients include a growing number of mid to large size businesses.

Grains of Sand

With the volumes of data traversing networks, innovating network operations has been a challenge.  Others have tried to develop similar technology without success. One company refused to believe Forward Networks’ product could do what they claimed.  That company had been trying for 15 years. Forward Networks solutions do the work no human can do.  Tracking network traffic flow going in five octillion directions, it’s impossible for people to see it all.  Like grains of sand or known stars in the universe, a massive volume of data requires a smart solution. Forward Networks technology explores and proves network properties to ensure they’re secure and connected.

Solving Core Problems and Beyond

The advantages Forward Networks solutions offer customers:

  • Opens layers of visibility  
  • Creates a digital twin of the network
  • Verification: proves correctness of connections and security

They have focused on user interface making ease of use a priority.  Their products require minimal upkeep and maintenance.


A new area Forward Networks is moving into is cloud systems.  This latest development will give a “holistic picture” of “hybrid environments.”  At the heart of it, David says their software solves the core problems.

Lessons Learned

The founders of Forward Networks had a trial run in the startup process.  Out of Stanford, they started a company that created SDN training. That was “the startup before the startup.”  It gave them the experience to understand the process.

Key things David learned along the way:

Innovating network operations, Forward Networks meets a demand in an overlooked area that’s ever-expanding.

To track what Forward Networks is doing, visit https://www.forwardnetworks.com/.  For the latest, check out their blog (upper right of website) and Twitter.

 

 Five Minutes to New Ideas

Can old assets equal new value?  It can take a fight for survival to bring out bold moves.  Such is the case with magazine publishers. The internet has forced magazines innovate.  Five Minutes to New Ideas explores what some magazines are doing to keep ahead.  Could your business borrow from these unique approaches?

 

Thanks for listening to the show today.  On March 5, we’ll kick off Season 15 of Killer Innovations.  Long time listeners, do you have an anecdote or story to share about the show?  Any thoughts on going forward in Season 15? I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a note.

Direct download: Innovating_Network_Operations_Connected_Secure_Visible_S14_Ep45.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

 

The work of innovation culminates in execution.  But getting there is a journey with hurdles to overcome.  You need innovation confidence to face corporate antibodies, deal with setbacks, and keep innovating.  Today’s show focuses on how to build innovation confidence.  Innovation confidence will help get your ideas off the ground and on track.

 

Gifted or Skilled

Innovation is not a special gift bestowed on a select few.  Innovation is a set of skills and abilities. You can learn, practice, and perfect them.  This has been my goal in doing this show for 14 plus years. I want to help you perfect your innovation skills and abilities. What is innovation confidence?  It is self-assurance arising from one’s innovation abilities.  Building innovation confidence is a process. It takes time and practical experience.   Learn the skills and use them in a practical setting.  This will build innovation confidence.

 

Start Building

To begin building innovation confidence, you need to take stock.  Determine your innovation strengths and weaknesses.

Innovation Strengths:

Identify your innovation core strengths.  Highlight those strengths in your daily work.  Find opportunities to leverage them. Others will recognize you as innovative.  This will build your innovation confidence. Are there limited opportunities to highlight your strengths in your current role?  Volunteer for another team. Seek out a job that allows you to exercise your strengths daily.

Innovation Weaknesses:

Find the weaknesses in your innovation skill sets.  Then, improve them.

Some ways to improve weak areas and build innovation confidence:

  • Take every opportunity to learn.
    • A good start - listening to this show.
    • Innovation conferences and YouTube videos are great ways to learn.
  • Find a community.
  • Learn by doing.
    • Gain practical experience.
    • Volunteer for a project in your weak area.

 

Do Something Scary

To build innovation confidence, I challenge you to do this exercise.  Try one thing that scares you every day. Getting out of your comfort zone helps tackle the fears holding you back from succeeding in innovation.  Fear is False Evidence that Appears Real. With fear, we tend to exaggerate the negative impact of trying something new or different.  

This may come as a surprise.  I am an introvert. As CTO at HP, I stepped out of my comfort zone to understand customers.  I would observe potential HP customers at Best Buy. If a customer looked at HP products, but purchased a competitor’s, I would approach.  After handing out my business card, I would ask a few questions. Terrified as I was initially, I found people were nice and willing to give feedback.

What in the innovation skill sets scares you?  Try it every day. Get over that fear and build innovation confidence.

 

The Critic

Another step to innovation confidence - silence the inner critic.  False evidence is that negative self-talk. We tend to be more negative about ourselves than others are.  Do you struggle with this? Your inner critic is likely overactive and inaccurate. This ties into my recent TEDx Talk.  If you haven’t listened to it, check out my TEDx talk. I cover impostor syndrome. You can find it on YouTube or Philmckinney.com.

So, silence the inner critic to build innovation confidence.

 

Track the Kudos

Keep track of your successes.  I use a Moleskine notebook to do this.  It’s a handy way to track things. When confidence dips, you’ll have a reminder of your innovation successes.  

Save emails from your boss and others which congratulate your success.  Save thank you letters and letters of praise. This can help build innovation confidence.  It can be useful when starting a new job.

 

The More You Sweat, the Less You Bleed

Train like you mean it.  To paraphrase a military expression, the more you sweat, the less you bleed.  That is to say, work hard now to prevent setbacks later. To become proficient at a skill, it takes about 10,000 hours.  That’s working 8 hours a day for 4.7 years. There are ways to condense that training. Tim Ferriss has his method. The Navy SEALS have an intense training that replicates real-life scenarios.  

For innovation, experience-based training is optimal.  Major universities offer executive certificate programs.  These are intense, concentrated, focused programs. Two to three times a year, I teach the Innovation Bootcamp, an intense four-day course, made up of 14 – 16-hour days. Students go through the FIRE (Focus, Ideation, Ranking, Execution) process.  The result is a quality output. In some cases, the output is an innovation that gains support and funding.   

There are other programs to accelerate learning.  Make sure the program delivers a realistic innovation experience.  It’s under intense pressure, that you learn.

Another way to accelerate learning - learning from those who’ve experienced it.  The Innovators Community offers a place to interact with people who know the innovation ropes.

 

Balance the Confidence

As you build innovation confidence, don’t tip the balance in the wrong direction.  That is, temper your confidence.  Understand the risks and have a plan B should things not go as expected.  Have the confidence to accept a project you’ve never done, but have a recovery plan if it doesn’t work out.  And don’t let confidence lead to arrogance. Nobody wants to work with an arrogant person. So, build innovation confidence, but maintain a balance.






 

 

Five Minutes to New Ideas

Could offering an unfinished product give an advantage?  Could it become a selling point? Consider the clever strategy of Build-A-Bear.  They win by minimizing the stock in briefly popular products and charging a premium for customers to assemble their own bear.  Listen to Five Minutes to New Ideas to discover unique ways to delight your customers.

 

 

Killer Innovations is entering its 15th season on March 5.  It is a testimony to endurance and perseverance.  Killer Innovations is the longest continuously produced podcast. My mission, to pay it forward, has been the driving force.  The past 14 years are devoted to those who have had a profound influence on my career. Guests, guest host Kym McNicholas, and I have shared experiences, lessons learned, and what has inspired us.  This show exists to give listeners insights to succeed on the innovation journey. My sincere thanks to the guests, the sponsors, and you, the listeners.

Direct download: How_to_Build_Innovation_Confidence_S14_Ep44.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PDT

As 2018 comes to a close, it’s time to reflect on an amazing year.  We’ve listened to innovators from around the world. We’ve found non-obvious innovation in unexpected places.  It’s been a year of new experiences, like talking at TEDx Boulder.  Excerpts from four of this year’s shows reveal the aim of Killer Innovations.  Motivating, inspiring, innovating. I hope these shows have given perspective and impetus.

Motivating: Push Back Impostor Syndrome

My struggle with Impostor Syndrome came to a halt in a surprising way.  The source of fear feeding my Impostor Syndrome became front page news. I discovered that nobody believed the lie I told myself.  Impostor Syndrome was the focus of my TEDxBoulder talk.  I shared the TEDx experience in Episode 39, Season 14.  My strong desire was in motivating others to push back on Impostor Syndrome.

Inspiring the Skeptical Executive

In a reverse move, Erich Viedge interviewed me.  Erich hosts The Skeptical Executive podcast.  In Episode 21, Season 14, Erich Viedge asked incisive questions.  We discussed creating an innovation culture.  I presented my habits for developing creativity.  The potential for innovation in any area exists. The key is inspiring it to happen.

Innovating Tradition: The Flat Wine Bottle

I posted an article on The Innovators Community.  A discussion ensued.  The topic was the flat wine bottle.  Santiago Navarro, founder of Garçon Wines, contacted me.  He wanted to fill in the details about his innovation.  Episode 38 of Season 14 was an engaging interview.  The show gave insight on how to innovate a product steeped in tradition.  Balance aesthetics and experience with the functional. Innovating the wine bottle has gained award winning reception.

[shareable cite="Santiago Navarro, Garçon Wines Founder"]If you believe in something strong enough, don’t give up.[/shareable]

 

Innovating the Non-Obvious

The year started with non-obvious innovations in non-obvious places.  Paducah, Asian Carp, and gourmet food don’t seem to have anything in common.  Fin Gourmet Foods proved this assumption wrong. Episode 45 of Season 13 is the interview with the founders of Fin Gourmet Foods.  Taking a problem in Midwest waterways and making it an in-demand gourmet food is impressive.  Hard work, perseverance, and faith have kept Fin Gourmet Foods going and growing.  Hats off to Fin Gourmet Foods.  They’re transforming an invasive fish into a gourmet item in a small Midwestern town.

One Great Year Leads to Another

2018 has been a year for motivating, inspiring, innovating.  One year, but many people sharing their stories on the innovation journey. Thank you, 2018 guests, for sharing your experiences on Killer Innovations.  

Listeners, thank you for taking time each week to listen to the show.  I am ready for another great year. Stayed tuned in the New Year for the Consumer Electronics Show interviews and what innovations will lead the way for 2019.  

If you haven’t yet, join and keep the discussion going at The Innovators Community.  It’s a free online community for innovators, designers, and creative people like you.  Join before the end of the year for 25% off products at Innovation.Tools, including The Killer Questions card deck.