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".

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 PST

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 PST

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 PST

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 PST