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".

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