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".

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