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".

Today’s guest is a follow up of a show we did recently around 3D printing. A lot of the listeners were interested in learning more about the overall tools and techniques of 3D printing. Andy Roberts, Vice President, inventor, and lead developer of Live Parts™ at Desktop Metal joins us today. On today’s show, we will discuss 3D printing and how Andy and Live PartsTM seeks to innovate the manufacturing process.

 

Andy’s Background

Andy was in the software industry for many years before getting involved with 3D printing. Eventually, he wanted to be involved in something more tangible like manufacturing. When Desktop Metal started, he saw an opportunity to innovate manufacturing by mixing software with hardware through 3D printing technology. I have a little background in subtractive manufacturing (building by removing material), as my father worked at an old milling machine company. When it comes to additive manufacturing (building by adding material), it is quite interesting. Technology is so sophisticated that it can create finished or near-finished products. It allows parts to be made in ways that they weren’t able to be made before. Desktop Metal is building these printers for the creation of products, as well as the software so people know how to properly use them. That is important because if a user is not from a manufacturing background, this software allows them to create quality parts. 

 

Live PartsTM

Andy was interested in innovating manufacturing by creating new design tools for engineers. One day he was looking out a window and watching trees blow in the wind. He thought about nature and how no one designs a tree, but rather plants the seed and it grows and adapts on its own. He started studying cells and how individual cells grow and take the form of different shapes. He created a prototype design tool based on this process. While it seemed like a cool idea twelve years ago, the technology was not there, so Andy put it on the shelve and pursued other ventures. Four years later, Desktop Metal was started, and Andy reached out to them to help build this software through 3D printing. The process starts with an assembly of existing parts. You then designate the regions that have to connect to different parts and send the information to the system. You need to specify the material which defines the strength of the parts. The system knows to get rid of excess material for less weight or to add material for more strength. 

 

The Creation Process

Andy walked us through a video showing the process of a skateboard being created by Live PartsTM. The parts were shown growing to fill in the regions connecting the parts. Next, they went through a process of adapting, in which old cells were killed off and new cells were spawned. The analysis of the part simultaneously takes place as the part grows, similarly to what happens in nature. When it comes to different materials, the parts can be very different. Engineers have the opportunity to choose different materials and change them during the process based on their wants. The parts react just like living cells and adapt accordingly, which is how Live PartsTM has innovated manufacturing through 3D printing. 

 

Advice for the Listeners

In the innovator space, there is a lot of interest in rapid prototyping to get ideas tangible. Many innovators have the ideas but don’t have a mechanical background or any experience with 3D printing. Andy recommends that innovators get their feet wet with 3D printing in some sort of capacity. If you work for an organization that has access to printing materials such as plastic or polymer, start using them. Learn about the benefits and drawbacks of using these technologies. A common misconception is that you just push a button and it starts printing things. There are a lot of details and constraints that will affect your design when you are attempting to innovate manufacturing. You don’t have to buy a 3D printer to get involved in it. There are a lot of places that have access to 3D printers so you can get started.

 

About our Guest: Andy Roberts 

Andy Roberts is Vice President, inventor and lead developer of Live Parts™, a new generative design tool at Desktop Metal that uses morphogenetic principles to enable engineers and designers to quickly realize the benefits of additive manufacturing, including material and cost efficiency, and design flexibility. A graduate of Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology with extensive experience at leading technology innovators such as Parametric Technology Corp., Ab Initio, Azuki Systems, and IBM, Andy has a proven track record of bringing to market successful products for engineers and developers.

 

If you want to keep updated with what Andy is doing with Live Parts, check out Desktop Metal’s website here.

 

Direct download: How_to_Use_Nature_to_Innovate_Manufacturing.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PST

This week’s guest innovates in an area that most view as already being innovated to its max potential. This view can’t be further from the truth, as this innovator and his team have made game-changing new products. Dave Fabry, Chief Innovation Officer at Starkey, joins us to discuss the innovation of hearing aids. We will discuss innovations in audio and what Dave and Starkey are doing to advance hearing aids technology. 

 

Dave’s Background

Dave is not the typical CIO, as he didn’t come from a tech background. Growing up, he wanted to be a veterinarian and found audiology while on that path. In the early 1980s, Dave went to the Mayo Clinic as an extern, and fell in love with clinical practice and working one-on-one with those who suffered from bad hearing but were reluctant to use aids. After getting his PHD., he went on to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he got direct exposure to acoustic pathology that many soldiers struggle with. Later in his career, he switched over from the clinical side of audiology to the industry side, and that eventually lead him to Starkey. 

 

Starkey’s Mission

In the U.S, only one in three people that need hearing aids wear them. If people become complacent with that, they leave room for a newcomer to disrupt. The mission at Starkey is to self-disrupt the market while still focusing on its core strategy of better hearing. They wanted to provide the first hearing aid with employed sensors connected to the internet. Starkey aims to turn hearing aids from something that people have to wear, into something they want to have and wear. On the show, we have talked about battling innovation antibodies, and how people deal with their innovation antibodies in an organization. At Starkey, Dave challenges himself to look at what the needs of the patient are rather than what his perspective would lead him to believe. He wears the products at times and works directly with patients when working on new technology. Many organizations view innovation programs as lab-oriented activities. You need to get out there and see first-hand what the customer is interested in, to fill their needs and wants genuinely. 

 

Starkey’s Features

Dave has a relatively young staff under him at Starkey. The average first-time hearing aid user is 67 years old. Starkey continually has to adjust their perspective to that of the end-user as they do not see things the same way as their older users might. On top of that, they have to care enough to learn about the patient’s situation. They are increasingly taking in consideration of other elements that the family and users need. One challenge of innovating for an aging population is the intimidation factor. For me, I had my Starkey’s custom-built to help me hear questions coming from large audiences, and I’m a tech-savvy person. If it were my grandparents in the same situation, it would go right over their heads. Starkey focuses on creating hearing that is useful and effective without much effort from the user. They recently introduced Edge Mode that uses AI technology that provides an acoustic analysis of the situation by just tapping on the device. Starkey has partnered with companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon to take advantage of cloud computing. They also have a feature called thrive care that allows the family to monitor the user’s activity from an app with the user’s permission. They also have Bluetooth features that are compatible with iPhone and Android platforms. 

 

Challenges/Changes

Starkey is continuously working on multi-functionality for its users. One unique challenge is similar to a problem I had at HP, which is battery life. A little bit of optimization makes a big difference, as battery life is only going up 10% a year. At Starkey, they have rapidly changed from regular batteries to rechargeable batteries that give more efficiency to their product. Innovation isn’t about reinventing the wheel but instead thinking about what is in front of you differently. 

 

About our Guest: Dave Fabry

Dave Fabry, Ph.D., is the Chief Innovation Officer at Starkey leading end-to-end innovations within the clinical audiology department. Dave received his Ph.D. in hearing science from the University of Minnesota. Subsequently, he divided his career between academic/clinical roles at the Mayo Clinic, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the University of Miami Medical Center, and several industry positions. He served as President and Board Member of the American Academy of Audiology, and recently, elected to the Board of Directors of the American Auditory Society. Dave has served as Editor-in-Chief of Audiology Today since 2008 and is a past Editor of the American Journal of Audiology and Section Editor of Ear and Hearing. He is a licensed Audiologist in Minnesota, Florida, and Rwanda. His 30+ years of industry experience and proven ability to implement forward-thinking concepts are instrumental in shaping future innovations at Starkey.

 

If you want to keep update with what Dave and Starkey are doing, check out their Facebook here. Check out Starkey’s website here.

Direct download: Audio_Innovations_You_Can_Hear.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PST

Over the last few weeks, we have been focusing the shows on different thinking styles, such as out of the box thinking. This week's topic is a different twist on what we have been recently discussing. People often overlook what I call inside the box thinking and try to stay away from it. On today's show, we will discuss inside the box thinking and how it can be utilized in any team or organization to boost innovation success.

 

Inside the Box Thinking

'Inside the box thinking' means to innovate within the constraints defined by the box. It is more generally described as constraint-based innovation. The idea behind it is understanding your constraints and utilizing those constraints to innovate beyond the box. The box can be an organization, government, or even a team. It defines where you are operating here and now. The box can contain inside constraints that you can change. It may also include outside the box constraints that are out of your control. Let's look at what those constraints can look like:

 

  • Strategy/Vision – Going into a particular market with a fixed and specific plan.
  • Policies/Procedures – Depending on how these are set up, they can be very constraining.
  • Decision Making – Who makes the decisions? What are the decision-making criteria?
  • Resource Allocation – How does your organization allocate resources (time, people, money, equipment)?

 

The Seven Laws of Innovation

Dealing with inside constraints can be a tough task. What I like to call the seven laws of innovation, are laws that are critically important for inside the box thinking. Here's what the seven laws mean: 

 

  • Leadership – Having leaders within an organization that support innovation is critical. An alignment amongst the organization must happen to achieve innovation success.
  • Innovation Culture – Culture is key because an innovation culture encourages people to get out and try new ideas. Likewise, a bad culture can drag an organization down.
  • Resources – It is critical to have resources that are devoted to innovation, and to use your best resources. 
  • Patience – Inside innovation takes time. Stay committed. 
  • Innovation Framework Process – You need to have an innovation framework process that is tailored to your organization's culture. 
  • Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) – What is the colossal objective that you are going to pursue? The goal needs a timeline and plan of execution. 
  • Execution – Remember that ideas without execution are hobbies. There is no value without execution. 

 

Outside Constraints

These can include competition, outside investments, partners/suppliers, government regulations, etc. I've worked in regulated industries, which have given me a good perspective on what this is all about. Outside constraints are typically outside of your control and have been imposed upon you. These don't always have to be negative and can often be used to your advantage. Let's look at what these are:

 

  • Competition – If your competitor is much larger than you, they can invest and fund a lot more than you. You can innovate around the economy of scale by blowing it up. Look at what Uber and Lyft did to the taxi and rental car industry. 
  • Outside Investments – Innovation requires capital. It is challenging to do game-changing innovations without capital these days. That being said, there are a ton of different ways to get capital. 
  • Partners/Suppliers – If you combine your innovation efforts with partners, you can bring products to market faster. I call this co-innovation, and I have done this a lot throughout my career. A common interest and culture are vital when partnering with someone. 
  • Government Regulations – Governments can define regulations that restrict your access to raw materials/different markets. Sometimes you have to meet specific requirements to operate in a particular market. 

 

Summary

Like I mentioned earlier, people tend to think that good ideas only come from out of the box thinking, which is not true. Inside the box thinking is to constrain the problem but not the potential ways of solving it. Problem statements are critical because they radically increase the quantity and quality of your ideas. Inside the box thinking is also to constrain the atmosphere, but not the team. This is around culture and giving permission and autonomy to innovate. You don't want to limit the team so that they can't innovate ideas. Another part of inside the box thinking is restricting the resources but not the ways to utilize them. Constraint-based innovation is hugely powerful in limiting resources and can empower a team to create something novel. 

Direct download: Inside_the_Box_Thinking.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PST

This week we are joined by a guest who has helped a wide range of companies speed up the process of innovation. John Carter, an inventor of Bose’s Noise Cancelling Headphones, designer of Apple’s New Product Process, and founder of TCGen Inc., joins us to talk innovation. On today’s show, we will discuss the lessons John learned while working under Dr. Bose, and how you can better your innovation pursuits.

 

Background

John believes that viewing things as a system rather than individual components helps achieve more profound innovations. By system, John means a collection of components that lead to consumer value. He found his interest in systems while studying engineering at Harvey Mudd College. His interest was focused on sound systems, so he pursued a master’s degree at MIT after graduating. While at MIT, he got connected with Dr. Bose and went on to work at Bose for 15 years. John learned many life-changing lessons from Dr. Bose that greatly impacted his career. 

 

Lessons Learned

While at Bose, John worked on noise-canceling headphones for seven years. He learned an important innovation lesson right away while working on microphones for headphones and quality loudspeakers. His first two projects were solely with Dr. Bose and a technician. During the first couple of months, they were making great progress on the headphones but were having some challenges. Dr. Bose decided to drop the other program and focus on the headphones. While focusing on improving the base and distortion of the headphones, they realized that the customers wanted noise cancelation. As the inventor, they thought they knew how the customer would like the product, and they were dead wrong. John and his team made the mistakes of not understanding the true benefits of the product and overengineering. When I was at HP, there was a lot of overengineering with our printing business. We were engineering way out on the curve, while the customers couldn’t even tell the difference that we thought was noticeable. John says that Bose was able to beat its competitors by not focusing on improvements that aren’t very noticeable. 

 

The Importance of Marketing

In the last segment, we talked about the patience required through the innovation process. The noise-canceling headphones have always impressed me, not just the product, but how it was brought to the market. $300 noise-canceling headphones were so new and radical to the market. Some of the greatest innovations at Bose were done on the marketing and sales front, not the product. They used simple product mission statements such as “great sound from small packages”. While John was developing products in the lab, Dr. Bose was focused on retail and marketing experiments. He used an innovation process of successive refinement and thought outside the box. Firstly, he tried selling Bose products door to door. Next, he went to direct mail by putting coupons in magazines. Lastly, he went through a radio station that covered various products. This allowed Bose to build a dedicated fan base and taught John the importance of third-party credibility. Having someone else in a position of authority talk about you in glowing terms is very impactful. Dr. Bose was an amazing innovator when it came to marketing. His willingness to experiment, fail, and try again is what brought Bose to where they are today. Failure is education and is about cutting out dead alleys to find the right way. 

 

Advice for the Listeners

One common question I get is around innovation investment. In John’s experience, you should spend about 10% of your budget innovation three-five years into the future. When I first got to HP, innovation was a low percentage of the budget. Over time, we shifted to using 10% of our budget on innovation as well. For smaller organizations, John says a rule of thumb is to fund about ten to twenty thousand dollars a year of every technical person you have on board as an investment. Many organizations hurt themselves by not hiring the right people and not letting them do their thing. Having small teams and a high focus is very important for innovation success. 

 

If you want to keep updated with what John is doing, check out his website here. Check out his book here

 

About our Guest: John Carter

John Carter is a widely respected expert on product development. He is an inventor of Bose’s Noise Cancelling Headphones and designer of Apple’s New Product Process. As Founder of TCGen Inc., he has consulted for Abbott, Amazon, Apple, Cisco, HP, IBM, Mozilla, Roche, and 3M. He is the author of “Innovate Products Faster,” featuring more than 40 tools for accelerating product development speed and innovation. John has an MS in Engineering from MIT.

 

Direct download: Innovation_Lessons_from_Bose.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PST