Killer Innovations (Past Shows)
The award winning Killer Innovations™ Podcast and nationally syndicated talk radio show (on +30 radio stations) is hosted by Phil McKinney, an award winning innovator of technologies and products used by hundreds of millions of consumers and businesses worldwide. The podcast is Phil's way to "pay-it-forward" by sharing his experience and expertise in innovation so that individuals and organizations can achieve success in the innovation/creative economy. About the Host: Phil retired as the CTO at Hewlett-Packard where he led the product/R&D for the $40B PC, Mobile, Display/TV and Workstation business. He is currently the President and CEO for CableLabs, the non-profit R&D and innovation lab for the global cable industry. Phil shares his rule-breaking approach to innovation and creativity in his book "Beyond The Obvious" and via the podcast. He 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". For more information on Phil visit his blog at

We’ve all heard these larger than life claims made about some innovation.  If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Bogus innovations cause serious damage.  They hurt consumers, employees, investors, and the innovator community as a whole. But how do you know if it’s fake?  There are telltale signs that should cause you to dig deeper. These tells will clue you in to a bogus innovation.  

The 4 Tells of Bogus Innovation

Before you invest in that startup, join that cutting-edge innovation company, buy the latest device, assess.  Check the organization and innovation against these four tells.

  1. Unvalidated claims
  2. Technical oversight
  3. Fact checking
  4. Organizational governance

Don’t take for granted that someone else, perhaps a well-known board member, is standing by it.  Do the due diligence yourself. Be aware and avoid the expense and pain of being fooled by bogus innovations.

Tell Number One

Companies often promote their innovation as the next big thing.  But, claims without validation should be treated with great suspicion.  To a degree, most companies want to protect the secret to their innovation.  But when a company insists on keeping the entire input secret and expects you to trust them, alarm bells should ring.  The company should be able to demonstrate an input and the resulting output to back up their claim.

I am often asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) before I ever lay eyes on an innovation.  I won’t. An NDA binds you even if you uncover some fault with the claims. It requires a level of secrecy and trust before validating the claim.  When a company goes to great lengths to protect their own testing and status of the innovation, beware. Dubious companies may use NDAs, employee agreements, arbitration agreements to create a fear factor.  These could be a firewall for a false narrative.

Theranos, the now defunct medical technology company, made unvalidated claims.  They claimed their blood testing equipment could perform a number of blood tests with a single drop of blood.  Many bought into their claims without validation. The day of truth came and Theranos claims were proven false.  But not without first hurting a number people and creating a lot of damage.

Best practices to validate claims are emerging in the wake of bogus innovation scandals.  

Best practices:

  • Get independent lab results throughout the funding phases.
  • Have senior leaders (CEO, CIO, CTO) attest to the results.

Tell Number Two

A lack of technical oversight should be another red flag.  The lack of industry and technology experts on the boards of companies is shocking.  Many companies stack the board of directors with big names, former CEOs or CFOs with backgrounds in sales or finance.  There’s a dearth of technical expertise. Bernie Madoff bilked millions from investors. No one questioned the lack of technical oversight until it was too late.

I’m a big proponent of diversity, with a particular interest in neurodiversity.  On the board of directors, diversity of expertise is essential.  The board should include an independent, deep technical expert who can push back and challenge where needed.  This expert should not be the inventor or closely linked to the innovation. There’s an alternative to a technical board member.  Set up a Science and Technology Advisory board to investigate and validate claims.

Best Practices:  

  • Include an independent technical expert on board of directors, or
  • Have a Science and Technology board.

Tell Number Three

Simple fact checking could reveal something’s amiss.  Many biomedical innovations have claims of FDA approval.  A quick fact check could reveal if this is true. Companies may make other government endorsement claims.  Theranos made false claims that the Defense Department used their product on the battlefield. This was not the case.    

Hire a fact checker to research every claim a company makes.  Should any claims prove misleading or false, make them public and have them corrected.

Companies should consider supporting an ombudsman type role.  This would be the company’s point of contact for external concerns about false or misleading claims.  An ombudsman investigates claims and reports directly to senior leaders.

Best Practices:

  • Hire a professional fact checker to go through each claim a company makes.
  • Talk to every customer a company claims to have sold to.
  • Make misleading or false claims public and correct them.
  • Companies should appoint an ombudsman to field outside concerns and investigate.

Tell Number Four

Organizational governance is tell number four.  Many companies caught in fraud had stellar innovation leaders on their boards.  The fact is, many board members fail to do the due diligence. They instead do what I call due diligence by proxy.  They assume the other members of the board have done the research. Many people on boards are serving on too many boards.  They are lending their name without making the effort to ensure that what they are backing is real innovation.

Best Practices:

  • Ensure each board member has done his/her own due diligence.
  • Review board participation to see if they are fully behind the company.

Keep the Bogus Innovation at Bay

I’m concerned about the growing list of bogus innovations.  Fake and false claims hurt people – investors, employees, customers.  Keep a lookout for the four tells of a bogus innovation. It’s up to those of us who are passionate about innovation to raise the bar.  Keep lies, fraud, and false claims out of the innovation arena.


If you have an example or comment about this, join me at The Innovators Community (  The Innovators Community is a free community of innovators, designers, creators, and futurists.  I hang out there every day. It’s where we can collectively go deeper on topics like bogus innovation.  Head over there to continue the conversation.

We will be at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas soon.  If you’re going to be at CES, let me know. For details on where we will be located at CES, visit The Innovators Community

Thanks for listening.  If you enjoyed this episode, share it with somebody.

Check out Zoom, our sponsor.  Let them know you heard about them on this show.

Direct download: 4_Ways_to_Sniff_Out_a_Bogus_Innovation_S14_Ep40.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 7:36am PST

A good number of us harbor a secret fear about our abilities or qualifications.  We’re shadowed by clouds of doubt. Do you feel like a fraud and an impostor when it comes to your career?  You’re not alone. I was an innovator with Impostor Syndrome. In this week’s show, I share my recent TEDxBoulder talk about my experience.  


The Truth About Impostor Syndrome

Impostor syndrome is a real fear founded in unreality.  It’s a fear that you’re not good enough. Maybe it’s a secret you’ve held onto that you feel discredits all you’ve accomplished.  That was the case for me. After a twenty-five year, rather successful, career, my secret came out on the front page of a major newspaper.  I never graduated from college. Once the secret was out, the fears dissolved in the days following. I realized others did not view me as the impostor I felt I was.  All those years, I had held onto the fear and my feelings of not being up to par.  In the end, it didn’t matter to others that I didn’t graduate from college.  I wasn’t an impostor, but I was an innovator with Impostor Syndrome.

Overcome the Fear

Seventy-five percent of adults feel they are a fake, a fraud, not worthy, an impostor when it comes to their career.   Impostor syndrome is universal, transcending titles and backgrounds. It can have crippling effects. For me, with each new success, the fear intensified.  Fear is False Evidence that Appears Real. You need to test the fear.  Is it real?  Or is it false evidence that only appears real?

How do you overcome the Impostor Syndrome?  

Two pieces of advice:

  1. Tell someone about your fears.  
    • Reveal your secret on your terms.  
    • Find a place and person you are comfortable with.
    • Let others know when you are impressed by their skills or abilities.
  2. Be an encourager.

Don’t be an innovator with Impostor Syndrome.  Don’t delay pushing back on Impostor Syndrome. It cost me 25 years of unneeded worry.  


The TEDxBoulder Adventure

When I got the call to do a talk at TEDxBoulder, I was excited about the opportunity.  While I'm a regular attender at TED, I never could have imagined the prep that goes into giving one of these talks.  I had to condense a prior talk on Impostor Syndrome I gave from 45 minutes to nine minutes. I spent more time on this talk than any other talk in my entire career, bar none.  The pressure was intense. What you see of TEDx on YouTube is not what you get live. Speakers may fumble, freeze, forget lines. They can pause and restart their talk if that happens.  Then, it’s polished and edited on the recording for release.


The practice, the memorizing, the coaching was worth the effort.  The subject definitely struck a chord with the audience.  A number of people came up to me afterwards to talk about it and share their struggles with Impostor Syndrome.  It was great to share my personal journey and struggle with Impostor Syndrome. I hope you’ve found it useful.


Are you looking for a place to talk about challenges in the innovation game or with Impostor Syndrome?  Hop over to The Innovators Community (  It’s a free online network of innovators who help each other.  I’m on The Innovators Community every day. Share your innovation struggle, post a question, or send me a private message through The Innovators Community.



Five Minutes to New Ideas

Does your product evoke a strong emotion?  Is there a benefit to being disliked by some?  Could this set your product apart? Five Minutes to New Ideas challenges you to think in unique ways about creating your own community of customers.


Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to listen.  

If you have comments, drop me a line.

I’ve been doing this show since 2005 to pay back my early mentor by paying it forward.  

Would you help me pay it forward?  

  • Share the show with others.
  • Give us a rating wherever you get your podcasts.

This show is produced by The Innovators Network

Direct download: An_Innovator_with_Impostor_Syndrome_S14_Ep39.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 7:04am PST

When delivery fails, it costs in more ways than one.  In today’s show, I talk with Santiago Navarro, founder and CEO of Garçon Wines.  Santiago shares his unique solution to a constraint that caused major problems for his online wine business.  Based in the UK, Santiago developed a packaging innovation that ensures delivery the first time. But his flat wine bottle does much more than simply guarantee delivery.  This constraint-based innovation gives rise to market opportunities beyond the mailbox.   

Constraints that Spark Innovation

Santiago’s online wine business suffered because wine bottles would not fit through the traditional UK mailbox.  Failed deliveries cost the business. This was the spark for his flat wine bottle innovation. In developing the bottle design, other constraints factored.  When it comes to wine, heritage and tradition are strong elements. The wine bottle designs used today date back 200 years and are steeped in tradition.  The challenge was to toe the line of tradition as much as possible with the packaging innovation.  Another constraint was aesthetics. The new design had to present well on the table. In the case of this constraint-based innovation, the constraints further refined the product.

Shaping the Flat Wine Bottle

The design process involved focus on three circles of a Venn diagram:

  • Aesthetic, emotional and experiential in one circle,
  • Function and functionality in another circle,
  • Sustainability in the third circle.

Respect for tradition along with these elements helped to shape the design.  The result was a packaging innovation that solves a number of problems. Aside from cost savings, the flat wine bottle leaves a smaller carbon footprint.  It minimizes the space needed in delivery. The bottle is made of post-consumer recyclable material. This also makes the packaging innovation friendly to the environment.

Timing is Everything

The flat wine bottle has gained broad acceptance.  Leaders in wine and wine logistics are taking notice.  Airlines, where space is a premium, are interested. His packaging innovation has won awards and received plenty of media attention.  In fact, I posted an article on the flat wine bottle at The Innovator’s Community, which led to this show.

[shareable cite="Santiago Navarro, Founder Garçon Wines"]For us, it's fundamentally important to take our business customers through an innovation journey, not a sales process.[/shareable]

The desire for convenience, sustainability and cost savings resonates with people.  The timing is right for the flat wine bottle.  It’s a wine bottle for the 21st century.  But Santiago recognizes that not everyone is ready to embrace it.  He doesn’t want to rush it.

Words of Advice

It took years to get his packaging innovation from idea to market.  Reflecting on this, Santiago says don’t give up if you believe in what you’re doing.  

He offers another word of advice for those innovating a physical product.  Get a minimum viable product (MVP) as soon as possible.  This is essential when presenting your idea to people.  It will save time and money in the long run.

For details on Garçon Wines, visit

Today’s Guest

Santiago Navarro is founder and CEO of Garçon Wines, creator of the flat wine bottle.  He is a serial entrepreneur, launching his first start-up, Vinopic Wines, in 2011. He is also co-founder of, an online hotel booking site.

You may follow him on Twitter at SantiagoBiz.  

You may also reach him through The Innovators Community (, a free online community for innovators.

[xyz-ihs snippet="Packaging-Innovation-S14-Ep38"]

Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to listen.  

Would you help me pay back my early mentor by paying it forward?

  • Share the show with others.
  • Give us a rating wherever you get your podcasts.

We are getting ready for CES 2019.  If you know someone who will be at CES and would be a great guest on the show,  drop me a line.  We will be hosting Killer Innovations in the Mobile Studio at CES. If you’ll be there, stop by the Mobile Studio to check it out.

For more on innovation, check out my book, Beyond the Obvious including extensive excerpts, over at  You can find hardcover, digital, and audio versions of my book on Amazon or wherever you get your books.

This show is produced by The Innovators Network.

Direct download: The_Wine_Bottle_Ripe_for_Packaging_Innovation_S14_Ep38.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:06am PST

For innovation leaders, one of the hardest tasks is keeping the innovation funnel full.  Yet, this is key to sustaining an innovation effort. What’s worked for me is to create an innovation challenge.  Today’s show lays out a process for making an innovation challenge. Creating a challenge will keep the funnel stocked with high quality ideas.

What’s an Innovation Challenge?

An innovation challenge is no mere cattle call.  A vague request for innovative ideas from everyone will result in low quality ideas and not many.  An innovation challenge is a well-defined effort to draw in the best and non-obvious ideas.  It invites those whose daily job may not be innovation. It opens up the funnel to unique perspectives.  

[shareable cite="Phil McKinney"]The wisdom of the crowd is always more powerful than the wisdom of one. [/shareable]

An innovation challenge requires two things.

1) Crafting an innovation challenge statement.

2) Creating the process that invites people to submit their ideas.

Innovation is a team sport.  But if you limit the game to those on your innovation team, you may be missing out.  While the innovation team is busy bringing ideas to market, the funnel is drying up. You need backup.  Use the power of the crowd to help fill your funnel with breakthrough, game changing ideas.

Defining the Challenge

To get your innovation challenge started, begin with focus.  It’s the “F” in the FIRE framework (Focus, Ideation, Ranking, Execution).   Create a focused innovation challenge statement.  

The key elements of the challenge statement answer who, what, and when.

  • Who is the target for the innovation?
  • What is the problem or opportunity?
  • When will the challenge be realized?

Those invited to participate in your challenge will answer the “how.”  

The more specific and targeted your statement, the better the ideas that result.  In fact, the smart use of constraints will also improve the quality and impact of the ideas submitted.  

Take time to get your innovation challenge statement right.  Once you’ve drafted the statement, test it with a small group of people.  Listen carefully to feedback and make changes. Test it two to three times before releasing the final innovation challenge statement.

Setting Up the Challenge

In deciding how to run the challenge, determine:  

  • What constitutes success in the innovation challenge?  
    • Is it the number of ideas received?
    • Is it the attention the challenge generates for the sponsor?
    • Is it the innovative solution to an actual problem?
  • To whom will the challenge be open?
    • Will it be open to the general public?
    • Will it be internal to the organization?
    • Will it be by invitation only?
  • What is the motivation to participate?
    • Will the challenge offer prize money, royalties, investment in the idea?
    • Will name recognition or promotion be the motivator?

Consult a legal team while developing the challenge.  The legal team can help set clear guidelines on who owns an idea that’s been entered.

Launching the Challenge

Once you’ve got your challenge statement and structured the challenge, you need participants.  The next step is promoting the challenge. Find out where your target participants hang out. What social media are they on?   If the innovation is a social challenge, engage the press in promoting it. Use the networks of others to reach out. If you’re opening an innovation challenge to the public, drop me a note.  Or join The Innovators Community and promote your challenge there.  Keep promoting the challenge until it closes.

After the Challenge

Once you’ve created and launched the challenge, here are some points to keep in mind.

Recognize the best ideas.  Call out the people who came up with them.  

Keep every idea.  It may be useful in the future.  The difference between a good idea and a great idea is rarely the idea. It's the timing.  

Set up a regular schedule if an innovation challenge will become part of your long-term strategy.  This will allow people to prepare for your next challenge.

Now go out and create an innovation challenge that will fill that funnel with game changing ideas.


[xyz-ihs snippet="Innovation-Challenge"]


Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to listen.  

Would you help me pay back my early mentor by paying it forward?

  • Share the show with others.
  • Give us a rating wherever you get your podcasts.

We are getting ready for CES 2019.  If you know someone who will be at CES and would be a great guest on the show,  drop me a line.  We will be hosting Killer Innovations in the Mobile Studio at CES. If you’ll be there, stop by the Mobile Studio to check it out.

For more on innovation, check out my book, Beyond the Obvious including extensive excerpts, over at  You can find hardcover, digital, and audio versions of my book on Amazon or wherever you get your books.

This show is produced by The Innovators Network.

Direct download: Dont_Let_the_Funnel_Dry_Up__Create_an_Innovation_Challenge_S14_Ep37.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 10:44am PST

Big corporate innovation or startup getting off the ground, the challenges are similar.  Amy Radin knows something of both. She went from direct marketing to becoming the first Chief Innovation Officer of Citibank.  Now she advises startups. Her latest book, The Change Maker’s Playbook, offers insight on getting your innovation from idea to scaling.  In today’s show, Amy defines what it means to be a change maker and how to win in the innovation game.

The Change Maker at Work

As the internet emerged, Amy recognized its future impact.  Her direct marketing experience gave her insight. She went on to lead digital transformation at Citibank.  She knows first-hand the hard work of corporate innovation. The nature of big companies is “predictability” and “continuity.”  Innovation disrupts that momentum. Amy prepared for resistance by pulling together a strong, diverse, collaborative team.  She built strong partnerships.  And she used her direct marketing skills.  Amy put consumer insight up front: know the customer’s unmet need, then meet it with technology.

[shareable cite="Amy Radin, Author The Change Maker’s Playbook"]I think tough problems are more likely to be solved when you have diversity of thought, expertise, perspective, life experience.[/shareable]

Corporate Innovator versus Startup

When it comes to innovation, do corporate innovators and startups have anything in common?  

Amy interviewed innovators from large and small sized companies across sectors. She found that the “how” differs, but the challenges are similar.  The startup has speed, passion, and purpose. The less agile corporate entity has the advantage of resources, scale, and brand infrastructure. With each having its advantage, the real success for corporations and startups is to partner.

Defining a Change Maker

A change maker finds a solution to a market problem.  With purpose and passion, the change maker drives the idea to execution and scaling.  Through hurdles and successes, the change maker sees it through.  In reality, rarely is it one person who does it all.  The change maker is a team. One person may have the initial idea and leadership.  That person brings the right team together, finding those who have the skills to fill the gaps.  This team becomes the change maker.

Framework for Innovation

Amy has developed a framework for innovation.  It’s based on thorough research and her own experience.  Through interviews with founders, investors and corporate innovators across sectors, she formed this practical approach.  

The pillars of this framework are seek, seed, scale.  

  1. Seek
    • Once an idea takes root, focusing on target users’ insights.
    • Finding answers through users’ behavior.
  2. Seed
    • Validating your concept through prototype.
    • Connecting user insights to your business model.
  3. Scale
    • Amy calls it the “green light moment”
    • Confirm you have what’s needed to scale.

Key Advice from a Change Maker

Amy’s key advice for innovators and change makers is to listen.  Listen to users so you can fully grasp their needs.  Listen to those you need to influence. Listen for the emotional reaction.  In Amy’s words, “360 listening is going to help change makers be more successful.”

To learn more about Amy’s framework for innovation and how to be a change maker, read The Change Maker’s Playbook.  Find excerpts and a free download infographic on seek, seed, scale at Amy’s website.

[xyz-ihs snippet="A-Change-Maker-S14-Ep46"]

Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to listen.  

We are getting ready for CES 2019.  If you know someone who would be a great guest for our CES show in the Mobile Studio,  drop me a line.

Would you help me pay back my early mentor by paying it forward?

  • Share the show with others.
  • Give us a rating wherever you get your podcasts.


This show is produced by The Innovators Network

Direct download: A_Change_Maker_in_the_Innovation_Game_S14_Ep36.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:36am PST

Today we delve into the future.  I discuss topics in three areas: top innovations, teaching the future, and tomorrow’s healthcare.  What innovations will have the most impact on our future? What can we do today to prepare students for the future?  How will technology help tomorrow’s healthcare? I based this show on a speech I delivered recently to staff of federal policy makers. It’s a future look at innovation, education, and healthcare.

Top Innovations with Future Impact

The top innovations that will transform our lives in the future are already in the works today. Artificial intelligence, light field display, and next generation storage will be life-changing. But a future look reveals issues.  These issues need study now to ensure that innovations better the lives of future generations.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one area that will dominate the future.  People tend to think AI as something off in the distant future. But it's here.  The social media imbedded with AI gathers data on users. AI captures behavior patterns to improve user experience and focus advertising.  The impact of AI today is significant. Its future will be exponential. The power and potential of AI give rise to concerns of ethics Now is the time to explore and define the ethical boundaries for AI.

Light field display is another innovation that will impact our future.  Also known as volumetric display, light field display projects an image creating depth without the use of special glasses.  It is a high resolution, full color image you can walk around. Light field display will transform the way we view content. The latest vision video, The Near Future: Ready for Anything features light field displays.

Next generation storage will be like carrying a personal cloud in your pocket.  It will transform computing. Every bit of information – photographs, videos, documents, files, data – will fit in a small kind of USB key.

Educating for the Future

Are we teaching the future to students?  How do we prepare students for a job that does not yet exist, using a technology that has not yet been invented, to solve a problem we don't even know exists?  This presents a lot of unknowns. But one thing I do know: traditional methods of teaching are no longer enough.  

Students will need skills in critical thinking, creative thinking, collaboration.  Students who learn to look at any problem and derive a solution will be ready for the future.  Teaching the future means encouraging natural curiosity and investigation. I believe jobs of the future will be fluid. Learning to translate ideas from one area, industry, or discipline to another will help prepare students.  Teaching the future requires rethinking education. Finding ways to develop those critical skills in students will drive future success.

Tech for Tomorrow’s Healthcare

Healthcare is a hot topic now.  One reason is the rise in the aging population in the U.S. and many other parts of the world.  Low birth rates in recent decades mean less people fueling the economy and fewer people to care for the aging.  With the increasing aging population, what are the needs for tomorrow’s healthcare? In a future look at healthcare, here are areas to innovate and bring value to people’s lives.

There are not enough assisted living facilities in the United States to fill the need.  That fact and my own experience with my grandmother have caused me to think about “aging in place.”  Can we help aging people through tech and innovation live independent and fulfilling lives in their own homes?  Technologies that allow remote monitoring need to be intelligent, not just collecting data.  The tech needs to be unobtrusive. It should maintain privacy and independence, but still alert caregivers or family if something isn’t right.  This is a huge, open area to innovate tomorrow’s healthcare.

Another area open for innovation is communication for the aging.  Obstacles like limited hearing, lack of tech, or knowing how to use it can be big barriers.  Isolation is a real problem for many aging people. Having a better, simpler, more interactive way to communicate could add value to the lives of the aging.

Remote medical monitoring is another area to innovate.  This tech could track a patient’s condition after surgery.  But hand in hand with that, the laws need to keep pace with the technology.  Having tech to adjust a patient’s medicine remotely is worthless if the law doesn’t allow it.  

I hope this future look at what will impact us in innovation, education, and healthcare will spark deeper thoughts.   These are areas for innovators and policy makers to work out the challenges of tomorrow today.

[xyz-ihs snippet="A-Future-Look-S14-Ep45"]


Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to listen.  
If you have comments, drop me a line.
I’ve been doing this show since 2005 to pay back my early mentor by paying it forward.  
Would you help me pay it forward?  
  • Share the show with others.
  • Give us a rating wherever you get your podcasts.
This show is produced by The Innovators Network

[shareable cite="Antoine de Saint Exupéry"]The time for action is now. It’s never too late to do something.[/shareable]

When the enemy is in close pursuit, there’s not a lot of time to decide what’s next.  Fighter pilots are trained to make decisions fast. It’s a decision that could mean life or death.  And fast is not enough. Fighter pilots must make fast and accurate decisions.  Decision-making is critical in innovation too.  Freezing, making the wrong move, or having a slow process for decision-making can mean endgame.  A competitor will swoop in and take over, leaving you in the dust.  What works for fighter pilots may work for you. It’s called the OODA Loop.

Speed up the Pace

Continuing the series on innovation leadership skill sets, this show addresses a question from a number of listeners.  The question centers on decision-making. You’ve been trying to stand up an innovation effort in your organization.  But, the decision process through the organization is slow.  How can you speed up decision-making?

What has worked for me over the years is the OODA Loop.  It’s a military framework for decision-making.  A military leader developed the OODA Loop to train pilots to make swift, critical decisions.  The OODA Loop helps pilots in crisis situations. It trains them to avoid rote thinking and solve immediate problems creatively.  This decision-making framework translates well beyond the military.  It has had wide use across business, industry, and organizations.

What it Means

OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act.  These are the steps to take to making fast and accurate decisions.  The Loop is the repeat of the steps until you arrive at the solution.    The OODA loop guides you to look and evaluate a variety of things, test them, and act on them.  Based on the result, you go back through the OODA loop again until you can get to a solution. Each time you go through the loop, you add what you learned from the last loop.  If your first run through the OODA Loop doesn’t resolve the issue, on the next Loop, you know what to change.

The Steps


  • Collect data – this could be hard data, customer surveys and feedback, sales numbers, competitor’s sales info
  • Gather information from observing – customers, competitors
  • Rapidly gather as much information as possible accurately.
  • This will never be complete, but don’t let that delay you.


  • Identify the barriers to decision-making
  • Recognize biases – “we’ve always done it this way”
  • Traditions -- competitors will predict your move based on them
  • Beware of confirmation bias – leaning on what’s worked in the past
  • Sift through the overflow of information to pull out essential elements
  • Synthesize information gathered in unique and different ways


  • Use the information observed and orientated to make informed decision
  • Choose the most relevant option
  • Avoid first conclusion bias – don’t make the same decision over and over again if the outcome was negative


  • Act quickly on the rational decision
  • Test it, experiment
  • If it doesn’t work, go back through the OODA Loop
  • Use the results to feed into the OODA Loop

Keep in mind that you need to cycle through the OODA Loop very fast.  Don’t stay in any one step of the Loop for any length of time. The quick- paced, continuous loop improves decision-making.  With each cycle, it’s a feedback mechanism.

OODA Loop Advantages

I’ve used the OODA Loop with many teams and projects.  For a number of reasons, I like using the OODA Loop.

  1. It unfreezes teams
    • In nearly every innovation project, there’s a point where things freeze.  
    • The OODA Loop helps teams break free of that state.  
    • It forces teams to do something continuously.  
  2. Speed
    • It is a fast and accurate way to decision-making.
    • Good teams will cycle through the OODA Loop to action in minutes.
  3. Gets teams comfortable with uncertainty
    • You will never have perfect data.
    • Teams learn to accept that and move on with the data at hand.
  4. Helps teams to create the unpredictable
    • The fast pace and unique synthesis of data creates an unpredictable output.
    • This will baffle the competition.
  5. Based on testing
    • As you cycle through the OODA Loop, you can test the action
    • The testing result can be fed back into the Loop

Using a framework such as the OODA Loop, you can reach fast and accurate decisions.  What’s worked for fighter pilots in intense dogfights can help you to keep ahead of your competitors and win in the innovation game.

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Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to listen to the show.  If you have any questions or comments, drop me a note.

If you’ve enjoyed the show, would you do me a favor?   Rate the show wherever you get your podcast.

This show is produced by The Innovators Network.
Direct download: Decision-making_OODA_Loop_for_Fast_and_Accurate_Decisions_S14_Ep33.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 4:14am PST

Every year Chicago highlights the art of invention and innovation.  I’m honored to welcome back Tom Kuczmarski to the show.  Tom talks about exciting things going on in the realm of Chicago innovation and student invention.  If you’ve had trouble buttering your toast, today’s show might have the solution. At the Chicago Student Invention Convention, one student invention solves a simple breakfast hassle.  Great and small, Chicago innovation is making a difference and Tom is helping to lead it.

Chicago’s Invention and Innovation Evangelist

Tom’s enthusiasm for innovation is catching.  His career is multifaceted. Senior Lecturer at Northwestern University, author, and President of Kuczmarski Innovation. Tom is dedicated to bringing the art of invention and innovation to life in greater Chicago.  Co-founder of the Chicago Innovation Awards, he has cheered on Chicago innovation for seventeen years. Recently, offshoots of the Chicago Innovation Awards have emerged. The Chicago Student Invention Convention and the Woman’s Mentoring Co-Op have been huge successes.  

Inspiring Young Minds through Student Invention

The Student Invention Convention challenges young students in the greater Chicago area to invent.  Students work with teachers in a ten-week program to create inventions that solve a range of problems.  It thrills Tom to see these kids engaged in the art of invention and innovation.  The exposure to invention and innovation at an early age unlocks their future potential.  

Fostering Woman Entrepreneurship and Innovation

The Woman’s Mentoring Co-Op has nearly doubled every year since its inception.  This program involves successful women mentoring women innovators who want to grow their business.  It’s a way for women to help each other with the unique challenges for women in business and innovation.  Tom’s proud of the strength and power created by this new community of Chicago innovation.

Unlikely Partners

Tom recalls a conversation several years ago with the CEO of a major hotel chain.  Tom broached the topic of Airbnb as a potential competitor. The CEO dismissed his concern. In the last five years, Tom’s seen a major shift in the thinking of major corporations.  Rather than keeping innovation in-house, corporations are opening up.  Major corporations are seeing the need and benefit of partnering with startups.  That’s where the Chicago Corporate Start-Up Matchmaking program comes into play. It’s similar to the CableLabs Fiterator program, but on a broader spectrum.  The Matchmaking program connects corporations with start-ups whose Chicago innovation can bring value.

What Recognizing Others Reaps

Tom likes to recognize others in their innovation and invention.  There is power in creating an environment that values people at all levels.  His latest book is co-authored with Susan Smith Kuczmarski.  Lifting People Up: The Power of Recognition focuses on encouraging people.  He sees this as pivotal for leadership now and the future.  In fact, he feels peopleship should replace leadership. Leaders should motivate and value the people within the organization.  This is especially critical in innovation, which is a team effort.

[shareable cite="Tom Kuczmarski, Co-author Lifting People Up: The Power of Recognition"]Peopleship needs to be the word now that captures what leadership is all about because our focus has to be on the people within an organization.[/shareable]

Just as Tom likes to award and recognize others, the same returns to him.  Tom and Susan have already garnered awards since their book’s May release. They received both the Living Now Awards Silver medal and the Carl Sandburg Award.  

Innovation Practices with Big Impact

As innovation consultant, Tom highlights two best practices.  

  1. Understand and address consumer pain points.
    • When a company solves a consumer pain point, it is on the right track.
    • Example: Abbott’s innovations to manage diabetes.
  2. Have a cross functional team.
    • The more diverse the better with different perspectives and experience.

Tom has done so much for promoting and encouraging Chicago innovation.  The Chicago Innovation Awards recognize top innovators. He is opening up new worlds for students introducing them to the art of invention and innovation.  Through his efforts and others, Chicago’s women innovators are building a strong community for success.

Interested in tracking what Tom is doing?  Visit Kuczmarski Innovation.

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Direct download: The_Art_of_Invention_and_Innovation_in_Chicago_S14_Ep32.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:08am PST

Anyone who wants to be highly creative, be an innovator, and generate killer ideas needs above all else one thing.  You need your brain. That’s why it’s of primary importance that you take care of your brain health. Your brain, like any muscle can be exercised and strengthened.  In today’s show, we talk about how you can optimize your brain health for innovation and creativity.  

Good News for Your Brain

Reading the Chicago Tribune, I came across an interesting article by Leslie Barker.  The article reveals research findings from the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas.  At the forefront of the research is Sandra Bond Chapman, founder of the Center for Brain Health.  The research indicates that we can strengthen our brain and improve our brain health.  If you’re thinking Sudoku, think again. And while I do practice some of these tips for brain health, there is room for improvement. Since I plan to be in the innovation game for life, brain health is essential.  So, I’ll be working on these. I hope you’ll join me.

Steps to Brain Health

What’s good for your body is also good for your brain.  Want to increase your brain bandwidth to maximize your innovation and creativity output?  Do you fear the potential diseases of Dementia and Alzheimer’s? Maybe someone in your family has gone through one of these cognitive diseases.  Don’t sit back and give up because the disease is in the genes. There’s hope to increase your brain’s potential and minimize decline.

Physical Exercise

First, getting physical exercise increases your brain health.  The higher your fitness level, the better your brain wiring. Exercise can increase the number of pathways through your brain and widen pathways.  This can only increase your ability for innovation and creativity. Physical fitness may also slow cognitive decline. Conversely, if you let your body get out of shape, your brain will follow.  To slow or prevent the development of Dementia or Alzheimer’s, stay active. The study recommends 30 minutes most days. I’ll admit, this doesn’t come easy for me. While my wife is great at keeping an exercise regimen, this is something I have to get better at.  Set the goal and make exercise a habit for your brain health.  

Five by Five

The second step for brain health is to take five -minute breaks five times a day.  It’s what we call five by five. Breaks can mean getting up from your desk and taking a walk outside or even staying at your desk, but unplugging from work.  In the office, I sometimes sit back in my chair at my cubicle, close my eyes, and take a short break. As CEO, I do this in full view of my team as we are all in cubicles.  In this way, I let them know it’s ok to take a brain break. If you’re a leader, I encourage you to model this with your team. Those of us in the innovation game put our brain under a lot of pressure and stress.  By doing five by five brain breaks, the benefits are all around.  Brain health improves innovation and creativity.  Remember five by five.

Quit Multitasking: Focus

The third step to brain health is to stop multitasking.  This one goes hand in hand with the “F” in the innovation framework FIRE.  That is focus. If you are doing multiple tasks at once, the quality of your work declines and the potential for mistakes increases.  The time it takes to do these tasks increases. By focusing on a single task, your ideas will have greater depth and quality. Even better, you are exercising your brain when you focus on one thing at a time.  In the office, when I need deep focus, I put my earbuds in and listen to instrumental music. No lyrics and low volume. This helps to minimize the background office noise and keep me focused on the one task at hand.

Eat More Fruits and Veggies

For brain health, increase your intake of fruits and vegetables.  If my wife were listening to this podcast, she would quote this back to me.  Your brain needs healthy eating. Eat whole berries, fresh vegetables like green leafy vegetables, healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, and fish.  I’m getting better at this. Eating more fish. Snacking on trail mix. Trying to eliminate the sugary drinks. As I was preparing for my TedX Boulder talk, I noticed I needed more fuel.  I’ve put more effort into this talk than any talk I’ve ever done in my whole career.  The mental energy has made me consume more. But I didn’t crave the sugary stuff. I craved real fuel, healthy food.  Feed your brain the good stuff.

Practice Innovative Thinking

Innovative thinking actually improves your brain health.  Thinking about things differently and in new ways increases the brain’s strength.  This helps you to maintain mental independence as you age.  It’s also what we do in the innovation game.  Innovation and creativity are good for brain health.  Just in the day to day, some ways to practice innovative thinking are coming up with new words to thank someone.  Or use a different structure for your emails. Change it up. Find creative ways to practice innovative thinking daily.

Put the Tech to Rest

As laughable as it may seem coming from me, put the tech away to give your brain a rest.  While technology may stimulate the brain, it may not always do so in a beneficial way. So, give your brain a respite.  In my own experience, I don’t seem to retain as much information reading from a screen versus paper copy. Research shows that reading things digitally, the brain tends to click into skimming mode.  For depth, retention, and the thinking process, shut off the technology. If there’s a topic or book I want to think deeply on, I’ll buy the book. Even consider removing technology from meetings. It may result in shorter more productive meetings.  Give your brain a break from the digital.

Don’t Doubt Your Brain

If relatives have suffered from Alzheimer’s or Dementia, don’t give in to fears that it’s on the horizon for you.  Believe that your brain will be strong and that you can strengthen it. Through exercise and eating well, exercising your creative muscle and keeping your brain sharp, you can push back symptoms.  

If you’re in the innovation and creativity game, you are doing amazing things.  What’s helping you to do those amazing things is your brain. It’s your most valuable asset.  So, I hope these tips will help you to protect, maintain, and improve your most valuable asset, your brain.

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Thank you for listening to the show.  Killer Innovations exists to pay back my early mentor, Bob Davis, by paying it forward.  If you like the show, please do me a favor and pay it forward. Give us a rating wherever you get your podcast and tell others about the show.

This episode of Killer Innovations is produced by The Innovators Network.
Direct download: Brain_Health_for_Innovation_and_Creativity_S14_Ep31.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:15am PST

Growing up with an inventor dad, Jarl Jensen knew innovation and ideas were in his future.  As a kid, his dad would play the “Invention Game” with him.  His dad would present an object and together they would come up with different ideas for its use.  In his teens, Jarl was already on the road to success writing a medical patent. Now Jarl has several patents in medical innovations.  He was also front and center in Euro-Med, Inc., a company launched in 1991 and recently selling at a record high multiple.  But Jarl sees the economy as an area void of innovation. It is a passionate concern of his.  He shares his unique perspective on innovating the economy.

Contracting Economy

Currently, Jarl is working on further patents in advanced burn care as well as two startups.  But his thoughts linger on the economy. He is the author of Optimizing America.  It’s a parable of sorts which explores what could be if economic change took place.  What is Jarl concerned about? Over the last 100 years the economy has operated in much the same way.  In the beginning, opportunities for economic expansion were wide open. But over the years, what defines the economy has narrowed.  In Jarl’s view, the economy is on a path to contraction rather than expansion. It’s an economy based on debt with banks holding the controls.  The catch to innovating the economy is that the shareholders in this case are the banks. And what is in the best interest of the banks may not be in the best interest of people.

[shareable cite="Jarl Jensen, author, Optimizing America"]…if you took a bunch of innovators from any other industry and put them in charge of currency and our money, very quickly you come up with some very different ideas of how to run the economy and how to use the money for the benefit of everyone…[/shareable]

Innovation Antibodies and the Economy

In Jarl’s view, who are the innovation antibodies?  Commercial banks hinder innovation of the economy.  He fears the day is coming when more jobs will go away than will be created.  Like the proverbial frog in boiling water, the economy has evolved and we are so used to it, we don’t recognize the problem.  Are there changes, small or large, that could achieve a more balanced, less debt-ridden economy? Is there a broader purpose to serve?  Are there better ways to grow the economy than means that hinge on loans and debt? Do banks have too much control over technology and innovation because they control the outflow of money to support innovation?  These are thoughts for innovators and leaders to contemplate.

If you’d like to track what Jarl Jensen is doing, visit his blog Optimizing America.  You may also find Jarl’s books at Amazon.

We are getting ready for CES 2019.  If you’ll be in Las Vegas for CES, stop by the Mobile Studio for a tour.  If you know someone who will be at CES and would be a great guest for the show, contact me.

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Direct download: Innovating_the_Economy_S14_Ep30.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 5:03am PST

September is National Peripheral Artery Disease Awareness month.  In view of this, today’s show is an edited re-broadcast of two shows from November 2017.   Kym McNicholas and I interview Ra Medical founder, Dean Irwin.  Dean shares his unusual path to medical innovation with some key lessons for innovators.

From TV Tubes to Thermonuclear Fusion

Dean started his journey of lifelong learning and discovery as a kid.  Tinkering with old television sets led to working in a television repair shop as an early teen.  He was self-taught, reading about electronics and buying test equipment with paper route money. Innate curiosity and boldness brought him to the door of Universal Voltronics at 16.  That cold call opened the door to designing circuits. People came alongside.  They taught Dean the corporate ropes and helped him develop his technical skills.  It was here he had a chance to work with an M.I.T. group on the Alcator program. This introduction to thermonuclear fusion opened a new world for Dean.

At 17, Dean moved from the east coast to California and joined General Atomics.  The physicists gave him exposure to different areas and helped him determine his strength in Applied Physics.  With experience gained at General Atomics, Dean launched his first startup. He built custom designed equipment for General Atomics.  He was 21. After a good run of six years, his company went bankrupt. Going through the bankruptcy was a learning experience.  As Dean says, “You actually build up a tool chest to help you navigate.”  It gives you the “hindsight” to help “predict some of these issues before they arise.”  

Charting a New Path

The bankruptcy didn’t stop him.  He teamed up with another startup.  This was the beginning of Dean’s foray into medical innovation.  Believe it or not, thermonuclear fusion was the groundwork for the medical innovation he spearheads today.   According to Dean, the path was straight. And it was a clear link between thermonuclear fusion and designing a treatment for atherosclerotic disease.  In fact, the transition from repairing televisions to working in thermonuclear fusion was no great leap. Dean has an innate curiosity. His transfer of knowledge and skills in one field to a seemingly unrelated field boils down to one question.  Why not? The principles are the same with different constraints.   

[shareable cite="Dean Irwin, Ra Medical CEO"]There are so many similarities in physics and in nature that you'll see the same problems solved perhaps many different ways, but with a very common thread. And that common thread can tie it all together. [/shareable]

Pushback?  Persevere.

The Ra Medical excimer laser has proven itself in over 500 cases.  It’s used in six countries and has gained FDA approval. It’s ease of use while cutting through plaque sets this product apart.   Add to this the positive patient outcome and cost-efficiency.

Dean connected similarities from nuclear fusion to medical innovation.  This has produced a design that is definitively outside of the box.  Others said it would not work.  Engineers, scientists and physicians were skeptical.  Unfazed by naysayers, Dean persevered.    He didn’t let innovation antibodies distract him.  He kept focus on the medical innovation that will impact people’s lives.  Breaking from the mold, he’s developed a product that is truly innovative.

If you’d like to learn the latest from Ra Medical, check out Linkedin or the Ra Medical Systems website.

Are you battling innovation antibodies?  Need some help with your innovation. Connect to a community of innovators who support each other through the innovation process?  Join The Innovators Community.

Direct download: Unusual_Path_to_Medical_Innovation__Ra_Medicals_Dean_Irwin_S14_Ep29.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 4:14am PST

A recent event brought back to mind a blog I posted in January 2017 on the innovation economy.  A news agency reporting on a candidate running for governor referenced that blog post.  The candidate‘s platform is the innovation economy. It seems to be gaining traction this political season.  There is a drive for economic rebirth of urban areas or to reestablish the growth engine for states. This has turned eyes on the innovation economy.  

Some term it the “creative economy.”  Gary Hamel calls it the “new economy.”  I refer to it as the “innovation economy.”  But what exactly is it? The ability of people to create, innovate, and develop ideas, products, and services that generate value.  The value people place above the bill of materials is the innovation value. Done well that value elicits a margin premium, the growth engine of an innovation economy.

Turning the Downturn Around

Like the steel industry, which tanked in the 70s, a number of states in the U.S. have been facing economic downturn.  Their economies relied on industries that have slowed, shrunk or halted. Politicians are seeking economic growth engines to re-energize their state and local economies.  Places like Detroit are establishing programs, activities, and systems to attract creative people to relocate. They are seeking creative minds who will jump start the innovation economy with their ideas, products, and services.  

There are success stories - Boulder, CO; Portland, OR; Austin, TX and Boston’s Route 128.  These places built an innovation economy that flourishes, creating jobs and economic growth.  But it’s not a quick fix. Establishing a thriving innovation economy takes long-term commitment.  

Humble Beginnings to World Stage

From its beginning in a garage in Palo Alto, CA, HP became the match that started the flame.  Silicon Valley became a thriving innovation economy. This sparked highly creative, rapid growth and expansion in the tech industry.  Today, I can’t go anywhere without seeing the effects of that, even in name. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has become known as the “Silicon Prairie.”  

The innovation economy is changing the world.  Disruptions have spread across a variety of industries.   Crowd sharing technologies have allowed unexpected disruption.  Airbnb, the largest provider of overnight accommodation, does not own a hotel.  Uber, the largest provider of passenger transport, does not own a fleet of vehicles.  Brick and mortar retailers are closing as online retailers take over. The impact of the innovation economy is undeniable.  Don’t think any job is above that impact. One company uses chatbots and artificial agents to process and negotiate traffic tickets in court.  X-rays are sent overseas for diagnostics. Like it or not, the innovation economy is here to stay. Don’t let your sphere of influence sink. Get started building an innovation economy where you are.

Building the Innovation Economy in Your Sphere

So, what’s a politician or anyone who cares about their livelihood, their business, the place they call home to do? Start by asking the questions:

  • What are the rules by which an industry operates?
  • What would totally disrupt that industry?
  • What would happen if it turned on its head and completely changed?
  • What is that impact?  What is its unintended consequence?  Or its intended consequences?

Perhaps this has already happened in your area and you are left to deal with the unintended consequences.  Possibly an industry has dissolved and joblessness is an issue. Then you need to counter that by building a new, innovation economy.  

Whether you foresee what may happen or are dealing with the aftermath, ask:

  • What can I do to encourage a creative or innovation economy within my local area?

A good place to begin building the innovation economy is the education system.  Shift the teaching model. Move toward emphasis on STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math.  Students need to be prepared to compete in a new economy.  Students need to know how to use technologies that have not yet been invented to solve problems that don’t exist today.  To do this, educators must develop their students’ critical thinking skills.  They must help students find and exercise their creativity.  The classroom should be the incubator for teamwork, collaboration, leadership, and ideation.

Another segment of the population affected by disruption is the aging population.  This is something communities and politicians should be aware of. When industries decline, older workers face a dilemma: be jobless, retrain, or retire.  Left unaddressed, such concerns will put strain on the economy in areas such as social services. Make the investment now. Develop programs to prepare people for the innovation economy.  The innovation economy can also bring amazing means to enrich the lives of the aging.  Be attuned to the resources on the horizon that can make life better for the citizens in your community.

What’s Stopping You?

Massachusetts is experiencing phenomenal growth through its innovation economy.  It is a leader in economic output from the innovation sector. This takes years to cultivate.  Having impact in the innovation economy comes from having prepared workers. This means education that prepares students to work in the innovation economy.  In addition, it requires developing the means to attract creative talent.

The biggest barrier to an innovation economy is lack of ideas.  That goes hand in hand with creativity. Creativity has been stifled in our education system.  Yet, today the number one skill CEOs are looking for is creativity. Nurture creativity. And with that comes ideas.  Allow those ideas to develop and translate into innovations. Innovation is ideas made real.

The innovation economy impacts us all.  It is for us all. Anyone can take advantage of the innovation economy. Anyone can make their ideas real, make their innovations count, and contribute to economic growth.

I’d love to get your feedback on this show.  Post your comments at Killer Innovations or wherever you get this podcast.

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Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to join me.
If you have any comments or suggestions, drop me a note.
Could I ask for a favor?  Give us a rating wherever you get your podcast.  Help spread the word by telling others about the show.
This episode of Killer Innovations was produced by The Innovators Network.
Direct download: The_Impact_of_the_Innovation_Economy_S14_Ep28.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 2:41am PST

In a recent show, I talked about setting innovation objectives.  Listeners wrote in asking for details on how to include innovation in the objective setting process.   So, in this week’s show I share the steps to setting innovation objectives. Done well, innovation objectives can result in exponential success for your organization.

The purpose for setting objectives is to gain alignment in the organization.   Innovation success depends on getting everyone in the boat and rowing in the same direction.  When you incorporate innovation objectives into individual, team, and organizational objectives, you gain alignment.  This will be evident around the innovation focus, funnel, and strategy.


Setting innovation objectives is hard work.  Over the years, my approach has changed. In my days leading teams at HP, objectives did not provide clear guidance leaving engineers to figure things out.  When objectives are vague, people wonder whether what they’re doing aligns with the organization.  

Other issues arise when objectives are…

  • Too task-oriented leaving no room for creativity.  
  • Too rigid, locked in concrete until annual performance reviews.  
  • Too broad or include too many things creating a fog.   
  • Measurable, hence tied to performance review and annual budget cycles.  

Getting it Right

To help with setting innovation objectives, I’ve come to believe in OKRs (Objectives and Key Results).  Andy Grove, co-founder of Intel, defined this objective setting process. Many major companies are using OKRs today.  I use a simplified version of OKRs.  Think of the objective as the vision or goal line.  It’s where you want to go. The key results are the measurable steps to get you there.   When the objectives are clear and the key results align, the outcome is inspiring. People see a successful and meaningful impact in their efforts.  

To begin, I set the objective with two to five key results.  It can be set for one year to five years. Key results are laid out in a six-month rolling process.  Every six months, a key result is met and the next key result begins.

Alignment and autonomy are the overarching goals.  Get the entire organization aligned. Give employees the goal and allow them to use their creativity to achieve it.  Provide the direction and measurement of success. Leave the ‘how’ to them.

Advice on Setting Objectives

  • Take time to set objectives.  
    • I spend hundreds of hours, write and rewrite, and get feedback from others.
  • Make sure there is clarity.
    • Wording is important.  
    • Clarity is key to getting alignment.
  • Be transparent.  
    • Share objectives with others.
  • Avoid too many objectives.  
    • Three to five objectives with two to five key results for each.
  • Objectives should be adaptable.
    • Change the objective based on learning.
  • Objectives should be specific.  

Good Innovation Objectives

A basic element of good innovation objectives is a framework.  I use the FIRE framework.  FIRE stands for Focus, Ideation, Ranking, Execution.  I’ve done many blogs and shows over the past fourteen years on FIRE.  It’s also laid out in my bookBeyond the Obvious.  

Below I describe the FIRE framework and give examples of using it to develop innovation objectives.

  1. Focus.
    • Focusing the search for areas of innovation.
    • Three focus areas are “who”, “what”, “how”.
      • Example of “who”:  
        • What could be the focus over the next six months to learn more about who your customer is?
      • Example of “what”:
        • What focus areas should you set for your products or services.
      • Example of “how”:
        • Focus on how you operate, how you innovate your team/organization to be better than the competition.
    • The objective is to expand your search for areas of innovation.
    • The Key Result would be the steps that need to be taken to do the search.
    • Another objective could be relooking at old ideas.
  2. Ideation.
    • This is the generating of ideas.  “The fuel for innovation.”
    • Hundreds of ways to generate ideas (Thinkertoys, brainstorming)
    • Determine which tools work for your organization.
    • An objective could be “experiment with different approaches to creating ideas.”
    • Another objective could be “deploy an Idea Management System” (IMS).
  3. Ranking.
    • Fills your innovation funnel.
    • Score ideas and work on highest scored ideas first.
    • Examples of objectives around ranking:
      • Testing the scoring method
      • Determine if ranking approach draws out truly high-quality ideas.
      • Ensure the funnel is full of high quality ideas.
      • Re-score ideas in the IMS that are not in the funnel.
      • Search for external high-quality ideas.
  4. Execution.
    • Examples of objectives:
      • How many ideas are there in each phase of execution?
        • How many in market validation, customer validation, prototype, commercial launch?
      • How many proof of concepts working on or have shown.
      • Measure the end result of innovations that shipped. What was the impact?
      • Track your kill rate. How many ideas in each phase don't make it to the next phase?

Things to Keep in Mind

  • I keep a rolling 12 months of objectives and key results, broken up into 6-month increments.  Work on and complete key results in first six months, but have second set ready for the next six months.
  • Look back and assess which objectives and key results worked and which ones didn’t.  Adjust accordingly.
  • Test objectives after a while to see if they contribute to the long-term success and impact of the overall objective.
  • Share and learn from others.  Find out how others set objectives.  A great way to share and learn from other innovators is The Innovators Community, our online Slack community.  Join to share and get coaching and advice from the community of innovators.

[xyz-ihs snippet="Setting-Innovation-Objectives-S14-Ep27"]

Five Minutes to New Ideas is now available as a standalone show.  It’s designed for the creative mind looking for that next great idea.  Listen on Apple iTunes, Spotify or at
Direct download: Setting_Innovation_Objectives_S14_Ep27.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:34am PST

A key mission for an innovation leader is to motivate, support, and help your teams learn good innovation habits.  This should occur daily with each interaction. Modeling leadership habits and exhibiting leadership skills inspires employees to become leaders.  In today’s show, I share six questions I ask my employees. These questions encourage good habits and sharpen innovation leadership skills within my organization.

I weave the questions into one on one meetings with my direct staff and skip levels (those who report to my direct staff).  The questions reflect an innovation culture that is essential to success. Another element of refining the innovation culture is organizational objectives.  This year, my organization is redefining objectives. Using the objectives and key results framework (OKRs), focus is on the long-range vision.  This promotes thinking long term rather than on annual goals that tie to budget, pay raises, and bonuses.  To build a high impact innovation organization, you need to instill good leadership skills and habits in line with long-range goals.  So, here are the six questions that can help move your organization in that direction.

Six Questions to Ask Your Employees

1. What went well since we last met?  

Once you ask the question, sit back and listen.  Give employees the opportunity to relate their successes and share….

  • What their priorities were.
  • Where they made good progress.
  • Who played a key role in that success.
  • Who helped, even outside the team/department.
  • What's next.

Offer sincere support and appreciation.  Stay in the loop on where they're heading.  Provide coaching and mentoring. Reinforce that innovation is a team sport.  Help them get into the habit of giving credit to others who’ve contributed to the team’s success.  Giving credit to others is vital to good innovation leadership skills.

2. What went wrong and what did you learn from it?

We will always have things that go wrong, mistakes that happen.  Nothing is completely in our control.  The key is to put it on the table. Don’t hide it when things go off course.  Encourage employees to share what went wrong and what they’ve learned.

The benefits of doing this…

  • Others in the organization can learn how to avoid the same or similar pitfalls.  
  • They’re in good company.  Good innovation teams tend to have an 80 to 90% failure rate.  
  • It’s liberating for the organization if leaders are willing to share their mistakes or failures.  
  • It shows support for experimentation.

3. What did you find that was broken or could be improved?  What did you do to fix or improve it?

This gives people permission to go fix things.  IF YOU SEE IT, FIX IT.

What employees learn from this:

  • We are all in this together.    
  • Don’t find something wrong, then point to someone else to fix it.
  • Silos and turf should not exist.  If you can fix it, don’t worry that it’s not in your department.

4. What did you do to help create a motivating environment?  Who did you catch doing something right?

When someone pitches an innovation idea, what is the reaction?    In our organization, we give out gift cards to recognize employees’ efforts and good innovation habits.  

To create a motivating environment…

Good leaders find people who are doing right.  Then they reinforce it by acknowledging it publicly.  This shows others what habits and actions to strive for in their team and organization.  

5. What roadblocks are you facing that I could help clear for you and your team?

As a leader, your job is to be the filter, sifting out things that hinder team productivity.  Roadblocks can be anything from issues with purchasing to a cumbersome process for expense reporting.  Nothing is too insignificant. If there is an admin issue they’ve tried to resolve, but can’t, you as the leader should step in.  Leaders should remove the barriers so that their teams can stay focused on what’s important. Don't let sand get in the gears and slow things down. The pace of innovations is accelerating.  We have to find ways to drive productivity and efficiency.

6. What else would you like to talk about?

This open-ended question allows your employees to share something that might be weighing on their mind.  It gives you the opportunity to see where you could make a difference.  One of my organization’s core values is “candor with respect.”  This gives employees confidence to be honest and transparent free from concern about negative reactions.  Protect confidentiality so employees feel they can open up. I’ve had employees present challenges in their personal lives.  In some cases, I’ve been able to help. The results have improved employee morale and generated positive change for the organization.

I hope these questions will help you inspire innovation leadership skills in your sphere of influence.

Want to share your experiences and learn from others in the innovation world?  Join The Innovators Community.

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Five Minutes to New Ideas is now available as a standalone show.  It’s designed for the creative mind looking for that next great idea.  Listen on Apple iTunes, Spotify or at

A common question I get from listeners is how to fight against the roadblocks and barriers to innovation.  In this week’s show, I address five of the biggest barriers to innovation. The list is based on the 2018 Innovation Leader study done in partnership with KPMG.  The study surveyed Chief Innovation Officers in organizations ranging from small to large.  As many of you have let me know, these barriers resonate with you. As we walk through the list, I will share my thoughts on each of these barriers to innovation.

The Roadblocks and Speed Bumps

First, here’s the list of barriers to innovation and how they rank among Chief Innovation Officers surveyed.

  1. Politics, turf wars, no alignment.   55% of innovation leaders say this is the #1 issue.
  2. Cultural issues.  45% claim this as the #2 barrier to innovation.
  3. Inability to act on signals.  41% placed this at #3.
  4. Lack of budget. 40% of innovation leaders found this to be the #4 obstacle.
  5. Lack of strategy, lack of vision.  35% put this at #5.

Let’s take a closer look at these and what I would do to get around these barriers to innovation.

Number One: Politics, Turf Wars, No Alignment

There are many manifestations of politics be it people vying for credit or the corporate antibody.  Politics can be a big challenge especially in large organizations.  The higher people rise within an organization, the more risk averse and defensive they tend to become.

Turf wars can erupt when “innovation” is used in a team name or a position title.  The innovation team creates an innovation for a product group. The product group team gives it an icy reception.  It’s an invasion of their turf.

No alignment occurs when people within the organization are going in different directions.  Leaders announce the need for innovation fast, but give no guidance. There’s no alignment of the activities or the overall organizational vision.  This is a lack of leadership.

Here are ways to bring down these barriers:


  • Don’t worry about getting credit.  It’s about the impact to the organization.  Good leadership will recognize where the credit is due.
  • Don’t use the word “innovation” in a team name or job title.  Innovation is not the realm of a single team. It should permeate the organization.  

Turf Wars

  • Don’t innovate in isolation.  Open up opportunities for innovation across the organization.  Think ecosystem.

No alignment

  • Have focus up front and communicate that focus to your organization.  When you define the where and what, you get maximum leverage. Quantity and quality of ideas will increase.

Number Two: Culture

Some of the underlying issues I’ve seen with culture are fear of failure and unwillingness to experiment.  If these are concerns, a work around is to go stealth with your innovation.  

But, if you really want to fix the problem…

  • Identify core values that encourage innovation.  
  • Include the core values in employees’ performance reviews.  

Number Three: Inability to Act on Signals

The inability to act on signals signifies inflexibility within the organization.  Maybe you see a new opportunity or risk on the horizon but all resources are committed until the next budget cycle.  Or maybe you do not have a mechanism in place to identify weak signals.

The key to breaking this barrier to innovation:

  • Identify weak signals.
  • Be willing to change.
  • Have the flexibility to change.

Number Four: Lack of Budget

Budget is a challenge for innovation because budget cycles tend to be annual, but innovation does not follow an annual cycle.  Budget does not support or align with innovation. It creates a start-stop interference to innovation programs. I’ve been experimenting with trended spending in my organization.  It gives innovation teams flexibility to adjust funding and confidence funds will be there when needed.

The Rule of 18 also comes into play as a barrier.   It is the length of time senior leaders are willing to commit to a project before they expect to see some form of impact.  If the innovation project does not show impact within 18 months, it’s likely to be axed.

My advice for budget related barriers to innovation:

  • Chunk down your projects to show impact and deliverables on an 18-month cycle.
  • CEOs and Chief Innovation Officers: make a multi-year commitment and stick with it.
  • Don’t underspend.  Budget is not the metric in innovation.

Number Five: Lack of Vision, Lack of Strategy

If an organization’s overall vision does not include the innovation vision and strategy, it’s unlikely innovations will succeed.  

My advice:

  • Define an innovation vision and innovation strategy.
  • Need help with this?  There’s a lot of good material available.  Drop me an email and I will point you to some sources.

If you’ve got a specific example or you’re struggling with an innovation issue, drop me an email.

Better yet, join us at The Innovators Community, a private slack community of leading innovators from around the world.  Post your questions or direct message for advice and feedback.


Five Minutes to New Ideas is now available as a standalone show.  It’s designed for the creative mind looking for that next great idea.  Listen on Apple iTunes, Spotify or at
Direct download: Five_Barriers_to_Innovation_S14_Ep25.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 4:33am PST

Success in the innovation game requires strong innovation leadership.   But there is confusion about what defines leadership. To understand leadership, we need to boil it down to the essence – what it is and what it isn’t.  We need to identify a key leadership skill and determine how this skill can elicit success. There are leaders who stand out in my mind. They have had an effect on me through my career and life.  They have one common leadership skill: influence.

What It’s Not

I’ve had the title of Chief Technology Officer at HP.  Now I have the title of CEO leading 200 bright and motivated people.  But a title does not make a leader. Some may think leadership is directing people in what to do.  It’s assigning tasks, then watching from on high while others do the work.  That is not leadership. There are those who confuse leadership with micromanagement.  They expect their managers to clear every decision with them before they make it. That is not leadership.  How do you distinguish true leaders from managers, supervisors or those who just have control?

Essence of Leadership

Leadership is about inspiring others.  It’s about motivating others to achieve success beyond what they could’ve ever imagined.  One leader who’s inspired me is Bob Davis.  He hired me in my first real job and became my mentor.  He modeled leadership and I was drawn to the projects and teams he led.  When I considered what made Bob different from others in management, it came down to leadership skills.  His skills in leadership led to success. What made him stand out was his ability to influence.

Innovation Leadership

Leadership isn’t just for managers.   It’s essential to any team. You need leadership skills when you are a team contributor, self-leading, and when there is no clear person in charge.  That is why leadership is crucial in innovation.  Innovation leadership drives innovation from ideas on a whiteboard or in a notebook to something mind-blowing.  How do you hone the skills of innovation leadership? Let’s examine one key skill.

The Key

Influence is the key skill in innovation leadership.  

Two definitions of influence are

  1. The power to cause change without forcing the change to happen.  
    • Not making the change happen.
    • Not doing the task.
    • Not giving the answer.
  2. A person who affects someone in an important way.
    • Someone you admire who has inspired you.
    • Someone whose behavior you want to model.
    • Could be your spouse, an old boss, a teacher, a professor, a friend.  

Attributes of Influence

There are three attributes of influence that leaders have.

  1. Knowledge
    • Experience – successful work in the past that is the same or similar to the work at hand.
    • Expertise – relevant training (such as college) or working for an expert in the field.
  2. Credibility
    • Past actions – how the leader achieved success and handled failure.
    • Thinking beyond self – working for the larger, mutually beneficial goal.
    • Follow through – leaders do what they say they’re going to do
  3. Integrity
    • The core set of values that guide what one does.
    • Projected through actions.
    • Core values include
      • Honesty and truthfulness
      • Win-win always
      • Transparency
      • Team first

How to Influence for Success

Influence is core to innovation leadership.  Those who have the ability to elicit positive change have mastered the skill of influence.  How can you influence others? It’s a non-obvious answer. The most powerful influence you can have is often not trying to influence.  

How to exert influence without authority?

Step One:   Understand those you want to influence.

  • Learn their motivations, objectives, dreams, fears and desires.
  • Craft a win-win.  Achieve what you want to achieve while supporting and enabling those you want to influence to reach their objectives.

Step Two:  Active listening.

  • Shut up and listen.
  • Let others feel they are part of the conversation, that they’re contributing.

Step Three:  Ask questions.

  • Well thought out questions that do not convey an agenda or define a target
  • Questions that prompt conversation and allow others to share their opinions, thoughts, experience and expertise.

Innovation needs innovation leadership and influence is the key to success.

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Five Minutes to New Ideas is now available as a standalone show.  It’s designed for the creative mind looking for that next great idea.  Listen on Apple iTunes, Spotify or at
Direct download: Innovation_Leadership_Using_Influence_for_Success_S14_Ep24.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:46am PST


Today’s show is unique.  I recorded it as I drove back to Denver from an annual event in Keystone, Colorado.  The event centers around what’s coming in the next three to eight years in technology and innovation.  So, sit back and enjoy the ride as I share my thoughts on innovation and the near future.


Pondering AI and Ethics

I delivered two keynotes at the event.  During one, I got a question about Artificial Intelligence.  To be specific, did I agree or disagree with what other tech leaders were saying about AI.  This prompted a lively talk during the keynote and afterwards. The discourse kept me mulling over thoughts on innovation, AI and the future.


We’ve featured some shows this year that touch on the use of AI.  Recently, the Box Chief Product Officer shared how Box is using AI for content management.  Earlier in the year, Microsoft’s Corporate VP for AI, Steve Guggenheimer, gave insight into applying AI for innovative solutions.  


Yet, some have negative views on AI and where it could lead.  They preach a doomsday message - job losses, robots taking over.   Where am I in this spectrum? In my response to the question, one of my points was to consider ethical innovation.  The innovation doesn’t matter. People can innovate for good or evil. What we need to think about is how we define ethical innovation.  Are there innovations that should not be made for ethical reasons?  And we must consider the unintended consequences of innovations.  

I don’t have all the answers.  But the conversation should continue.  Innovators must ponder, discuss, and debate the ethics.  I’m interested in your thoughts on ethical innovation. Hop on over to Killer Innovations, look at the show notes, and post your comments.  Let’s raise the visibility. If we in the innovation game don’t address this now, there could be greater issues and dire effects in the future.


Keeping up with the Pace of Innovation

Continuing my thoughts on innovation is another topic.  The pace of innovation and absorption. As the pace of innovation increases, it impacts industries.  It especially affects those dependent on ecosystems. The window to develop innovation, bring it to market and get a return on investment is short.  As the cycle concludes, the next round of innovation pushes forward. Customers can’t always keep up with the pace. Absorption becomes an issue.


How do you synchronize it?  How do you mesh the creation of innovation with the customers’ ability to implement?  And is it worth it to the customer to keep up with the constant influx of innovations?


The Near Future

One of the highlights of the event is the premiere of the latest in the vision video series The Near Future.  We’ve been doing this since 2016 at CableLabs.  I’ve worked on vision videos most of my career. During my tenure at HP, I made a series of six vision videos.  One influential video was Roku Reward – The Future of AR Gaming produced in 2006.  It became a popular pitch lead in for entrepreneurs.  The video predates iTunes, connectivity, and mobile apps.  It’s a precursor to the now popular Pokémon Go. At the time Roku Reward was made, we were anticipating this technology would arrive within eight years.  It actually took ten, but the vision was there.


The intent of The Near Future series is to create a visual on innovations in everyday life three to eight years out.  The 2016 film, called The Near Future: Bring It On, opens up a window into what the future looks like in a home with ultra-high-speed bandwidth.  In 2017, the video The Near Future: A Better Place, featured Rance Howard, actor and father of director Ron Howard.  This video gives a glimpse of the future for older adults. It shows how innovation can enable independent living, mobility and immediate access to healthcare.


Last week we premiered The Near Future: Ready for Anything.  It takes a look at education of the future.  From a virtual chemistry lab to connecting students globally, see how the next generation will learn in the near future.

Vision videos are a great way to tell your product’s story.  If you’d like to do a vision video, reach out.  I could give advice, guidance, and make introductions to help bring your story to life.


Thanks for joining me as I share my thoughts on innovation.  I would love to get your comments on any of the topics mentioned and start the dialogue.  Leave your comments after the show notes at Killer Innovations.


Want to discuss these and other innovation issues with your fellow innovators?  Join The Innovators Community.


Five Minutes to New Ideas

Price is king.  Build ‘em cheap stack ‘em high.  It’s practically the motto for most segments of the tech industry.  It’s a core assumption about what the majority of customers want. But that assumption is not always true.  Take the sales of the HP DreamScreen in India, for example. Value sometimes outweighs price in a customer’s decision.  If the value the product brings to lives justifies the cost, they will go to the ends of the earth to find a way to make that purchase.  Price and value are not the same thing. Listen to Five Minutes to New Ideas for more on customer perceptions and innovative ways to bring value at the right price.



Direct download: On_the_Road_Thoughts_on_Innovation_S14_Ep23.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:08am PST


Often when we think about innovation, it’s high tech or a game changing breakthrough.  Today, we look at innovation through a different set of glasses. Rather than innovating a product or service, “costovation” innovates on the business model.  Stephen Wunker talks about innovating behind the scenes, creating customer value through cost innovation.

New Markets Advisors founder and managing director, Stephen has had a successful and varied career.  From innovation consultant to leading innovator developing the first smartphone, he’s come full circle.  Back in consulting, he’s worked with Harvard professor and innovation great Clayton Christensen for many years.  (If you’ve never read Clayton’s books, they’re a must.)  Stephen has co-authored Costovation: Innovation that Gives Your Customers Exactly What They Want—and Nothing More.  His book opens up a new way of thinking about innovation.

What is Costovation?

If you’re like me, the initial thought on cost innovation may be that it’s just cutting costs and going down market.  But Stephen demonstrates that it’s much more and the result is not a cheap offering. It’s not about delivering an inexpensive product or service that is less than adequate.  Costovation is finding the “opportunity in the guts of the business”. Then, delivering customer value while minimizing costs.   

Cost innovation on the overall business model can create immediate profits or make products more affordable.  

The Importance of Costovation

While the U.S. economy has experienced a long recession-free streak, it would be foolhardy not to plan for a downturn.  Furthermore, median incomes are flat and many people are not growing with the economy. There is a market for people who deserve value.  They can’t afford the top of the line and don’t need all the bells and whistles.  The focus in costovation is to delight the customer with what they need at a price point they can afford.

Costovation Success Stories

Costovation is stocked with success stories.  Stephen’s book gives many examples from a spectrum of industries.  BMW’s re-release of the Mini Cooper is one example. BMW turned around the generally low profit market of small cars.  The Mini is low-cost to produce. Yet, BMW found a way to a market premium. They offer post production detail options to customize the Mini.  Their cost innovations have succeeded in creating customer value. The Mini is well built and a market success.

Another example is the electric toothbrush company quip.  By selling customer direct and using their own brand name, quip offers an electric toothbrush at much lower cost.

How to Costovate

The three common steps to cost innovation are

  1. Get a breakthrough perspective.
  • Step back from industry
  • Critically look at long held industry assumptions
  • Take a fresh look
  1. Have a relentless focus
  2. Blur the boundaries

Through cost innovation, you can unlock new markets and deliver customer value for less.

For more on costovation, read Costovation: Innovation that Gives Your Customers Exactly What They Want—and Nothing More.  You can also read Stephen’s articles in Harvard Business Review and other publications.

To keep up with what Stephen’s working on, visit the New Markets Advisors blog, join him on Twitter @costovation, or visit the New Markets Advisors website.


Five Minutes to New Ideas

It’s not enough to know what your customer needs and wants.  Dig deeper. You need to understand the internal philosophy of what the customer’s doing and why.  If you don’t, your product may miss the mark.

This week’s Five Minutes to New Ideas challenges you to ask the questions that will reveal a deeper understanding of your customer.


If you know someone that you think would be a great guest on the show, drop me a note.  I would love to give people the spotlight who are doing interesting things, thinking about things in a different way and transforming their business, their community, their lives through innovation and creativity.  

Check out The Innovators Network, the producer of this show and others.  Kym McNicholas’s show, “Kym on Innovation”, is over there.  Kym has been on my show many times. She’s an Emmy Award winning Forbes reporter living in Silicon Valley.  

Direct download: Creating_Customer_Value_through_Cost_Innovation_S14_Ep22.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:54am PST

On today’s show, instead of hosting a guest, I am the guest.  Erich Viedge interviews me for his podcast, The Skeptical Executive.  Erich brings innovation to unique industries.  He’s also an early listener of Killer Innovations. Erich has some good questions to ask me. We touch on a range of thoughts and issues around innovation and creativity.

Is Innovation for Everyone?

Are there industries or businesses where there’s no role for innovation?  Many companies claim innovation as a value. Erich’s local carpet cleaner has ads claiming “innovation”.  Erich’s skeptical. My belief is that there’s always room to innovate.  That carpet cleaner may not revolutionize the cleaning process.  But he could innovate the customer experience. That may set the cleaner apart from the competition.   If you’re not innovating, you’re standing still. If you’re standing still, someone’s going to go right past you.  In any industry, there’s opportunity to look at the business, the customers, the operations differently. All are ripe areas for innovation.

Hidden Benefits

What are the hidden benefits of innovation done right?

When I was CTO at HP, our market share in PC laptops was low and we were losing money.  It was my job to turn it around. The prevailing thought at the time was there wasn’t much to innovate in laptops.  My team proved that wrong. We researched and found the customers’ spoken and unspoken needs. The result: our market share jumped to number one.  The hidden benefits were several. It boosted employee morale. The innovations energized the engineers with the chance to do something different. Shareholders benefited.  The profits gave HP flexibility to invest in new product lines.

Even commoditized products like laptops can use innovation.  When you meet customers’ needs and wants, they will pay a margin premium.  A margin premium gives you flexibility to adapt your business, to be the leader in the marketplace.  It’s that breathing room that becomes critical in these highly competitive times.

The Right Consultant

What should a CEO do when ready for innovation?  How does that CEO find the right innovation consultant?  Here are some questions to consider in vetting a prospective consultant.

  1. Does the consultant have experience leading innovation?
    • Experience in the trenches dealing with organizational change?
    • Done it, lived it, been successful at it?
  2. What is the consultant’s philosophy on a business’s culture?
    • In his/her view, what kind of culture fosters innovation?
    • Does that view align with the CEO’s?
    • Does the consultant address major issues such as
      • Fear of failure,
      • Corporate antibodies,
      • How authority is handled,
      • How decisions are made.
  3. What is the consultant’s innovation process?
    • Does he/she expect the organization to adapt to his/her process, or
    • Will the consultant create and adapt processes to fit the organization?

Sometimes the culture of a business needs to change before innovation can happen.  Erich’s experience with the mining industry demonstrates how challenging changing the culture can be.  For one mining client, it took two years for the culture to change before innovation processes could begin.

Habits for Innovation Success

Creativity is essential for innovation.  It’s like a muscle that needs to be exercised.  My habit for building creativity is to spend 30 minutes Monday through Friday ideating. This is my time to brainstorm creative solutions to problem areas for the various roles I hold.  On Saturday, I rank these ideas and prepare the best for teams working the problem space. For momentum in my ideation session, I start with some inspiration (music or a brainteaser) and set a quota for ideas.  I keep going until I meet the idea quota.

Trend safaris are another great way to spark creativity.  I take these safaris with teams or individuals to places far and near looking for trends and weak signals.

Think you’re not creative?  Think again.  We all are born creative.  Unfortunately, we are untaught this creativity along the way.  Looking to reignite that creativity? Check out more Killer Innovations shows or read about creativity at

Thank you, Erich, for a great interview.

Direct download: No_Limits_to_Innovation_and_Creativity_S14_Ep21.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:49am PST


From my shows on this year’s CES, you’ll know I’m leery of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the many companies touting it.  On the flip side, I have also featured some interesting ventures into AI.  When I heard that Box was delving into AI, I had to learn more.  In this show, hear how Box’s content management innovation increases the value of content stored.


Can Awesome Get Better?

Box offers cloud content and file sharing for businesses large and small.  This company has a solid reputation and millions of users. I have used Box since the inception of my Killer Innovations show.  Through Box, I also worked with my editor, publisher, and fact checkers on my book, Beyond the Obvious.  Before that, my team at HP used Box.  I’m definitely a fan. But how can AI be applied to content sitting in a cloud?  Today Jeetu Patel, Box Chief Product Officer, shares how AI is changing the value of content in Box.  This company is developing smarter ways to manage their customers’ critical asset – their content.


The Megatrend Tailwind

Jeetu watches the megatrends.  He’s seen three megatrends impacting our world.  Two, the cloud and the mobile revolution – have had profound effects on how we all do business.  Jeetu sees AI as the tailwind powering the next wave of innovation. Riding this wave, Box goes beyond merely a repository of content.  Through content management innovation, Box brings value to the content their customers entrust them with. Machine learning organizes and tags the content.  In a complex world, things just got simpler. Content residing in Box becomes worth more inside the Box platform than outside it.

Help!  I Can’t Find …

Box’s customer content is doubling every 12 – 14 months.  The exponential growth of content is overwhelming. It can make finding any particular bit of data time consuming.  With this customer problem in mind, Box has introduced AI machine learning to their platform. Box Skills, launched last year, uses sophisticated tagging mechanisms to label, classify and transcribe content.  This content management innovation enables quick, precise retrieval of objects and text within content files.  Machine learning integrated into Box offers facial and voice recognition, topic deduction and sentiment analysis.  Not only does this increase efficiency, but also use cases.


Connecting the Content

Box Skills has made content search easier.  But Box Graph enhances content, making connections.  This content management innovation recognizes relationships in content and among users.  With this intelligence, Box Graph makes recommendations in such areas as security, compliance and workflow.  


At Stake in the AI Revolution

Applying AI can revolutionize the way we do things.  There are certain tasks that machines can do better at scale.  As AI gains traction, Jeetu believes the tech industry bears responsibility for helping transition society.  The disruption AI may cause will affect lives and jobs.  The industry must consider how to retrain and prepare people for this revolution.


Sustaining Innovation

How does Box continue to innovate and build its customer base from small businesses to Fortune 500s?  Jeetu gives two secrets to Box’s success.

  1. Keep team’s small – 8 to 10 people
  2. Scarcity is your friend.  Limit resources to focus the team on the task.


Interested in learning more about Box and its content management innovation?  Go to  

If you’re in the Bay area August 29 & 30, come to BoxWorks an annual event hosted by Box.



Five Minutes to New Ideas

Seeing the value in something considered worthless can make all the difference.  To make game changing innovations, you have to deconstruct your assumptions about what has value and what doesn’t.  I did this as an executive at the telecom Telligent in 1997. My discovery allowed us to stand out in a crowd of competitors.  Listen to Five Minutes to New Ideas.  I hope it inspires you to come up with your own game changer.



We’re getting ready to head out on travel in the Mobile Studio.  We're looking for innovators in non-obvious industries and non-obvious locations.  Fin Gourmet Foods in Paducah, Kentucky kicked off this theme.  If you have a company or location doing really interesting innovation, drop me a note.  We’d love to see if we can come by with the Mobile Studio and do a broadcast.  Between now and the end of the year, we’ll be focusing east of the Mississippi.  After the first of the new year, we’ll be focusing west of the Mississippi.


  • Find out about my book, Beyond the Obvious, at  Get a copy through Amazon or wherever you get your books.
  • Pay it forward.  When I wanted to repay my mentor for his investment in my career, he told me to pay it forward.  Help me pay it forward. Give us a rating where you get your podcast. Help spread the word. Tell others about the show.  
  • Be part of the conversation between the shows.  I hang out at The Innovators Community on Slack.  This private community of vetted innovators helps each other succeed.


The Killer Innovations podcast is produced by The Innovators Network.

Direct download: Catching_the_AI_Wave-_Content_Management_Innovation_S14_Ep20.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:23am PST

Keywords:  innovation; fuel efficiency innovation


Competing for Fuel Efficiency Innovation

There’s been an explosion of innovation competitions in recent years.  They highlight the fact that innovation can come from non-obvious sources.   These competitions bring together smart people – usually industry outsiders - to tackle a problem.   The annual Shell Eco-marathon Americas took place this year in Sonoma, California.  In today’s show I welcome three members of the Duke Electric Vehicles team from Duke University.  They share their experience of competing for fuel efficiency innovation.


The Shell Eco-marathon Americas draws teams of high school and college students from North, Central, and South America.  The challenge is to create the most fuel-efficient car. The Duke Electric Vehicles team took first place in three categories.  On the track, they won awards in hydrogen fuel cell and electric prototypes. Off track, they won in technical innovation. Shomik Verma, Gerry Chen, and Patrick Grady give a glimpse of the competition and their road to victory.


The Race is On

The team starts in August and works on the car throughout the school year.  Amid academic studies and other obligations, students devote evenings and weekends to making the car.  They spend the first semester designing. The second semester, they build and test the car. The Duke Electric Vehicle team built a small, oblong 50-pound car in which the driver has to lie flat.  The car gets an estimated 12,000 miles per gallon. The secret to their fuel efficiency innovation: a super capacitor in the hydrogen powertrain. Now that the team has tasted victory, they are not stopping.  This summer they are working on beating the Guinness World Record for the most fuel-efficient car.


Learning Innovation Hands-On

Students don’t often get to bridge the theoretical to the practical in school.  The competition offers the chance to put the classroom theory into practice.  At the competition, there was a unique level of cooperation among the teams – from borrowing tools to asking advice.  The focus on one problem, fuel efficiency, maximized the potential for innovative solutions. The team members sharpened essential skills of innovation - problem-solving, creativity and collaboration.  


Lessons Learned

  • Have determination and perseverance.
    • Shomik learned determination and to persevere through unexpected difficulties.  In his words, “It was really important for us to rely on team members and rely on the fact that we knew we did good work.”
  • Use a methodical, organized approach.
    • Gerry learned the importance of a methodical approach, being organized, and breaking things down into subcomponents.
  • Go back to basic theory for the solutions.
    • This was Patrick’s fourth year on the team and second as team president.  He learned many lessons through the years working on efficiency vehicles. One of the biggest was how to go back to basic theory.

Wishing the Duke Electric Vehicles team the best in breaking the Guinness World Record and beyond.

Want to keep track of the Duke Electric Vehicles Team?  Visit the Duke Electric Vehicles  Facebook page.  Or check out their website:


Five Minutes to New Ideas

Could your business benefit from creating a standardized offering of a custom product?  Back in 1985, there was no such thing as a standard PC. You owned a specific brand and had access to programs written specifically for that make.  Each company was attempting to create lock-in for their third-party software developers. Working for a startup in Silicon Valley, my colleague and I faced a dilemma.  What PC should we tailor our typing instruction program to? We came up with a creative solution. Listen to Five Minutes to New Ideas.  Hear how going in the opposite direction of the crowd can pay off.



We’re getting ready to head out on travel in the Mobile Studio.  We're looking for innovators in non-obvious industries and non-obvious locations.  Fin Gourmet Foods in Paducah, Kentucky kicked off this theme.  If you have a company or location doing really interesting innovation, drop me a note.  We’d love to see if we can come by with the Mobile Studio and do a broadcast.  Between now and the end of the year, we’ll be focusing east of the Mississippi.  After the first of the new year, we’ll be focusing west of the Mississippi.


  • Find out about my book, Beyond the Obvious, at  Get a copy through Amazon or wherever you get your books.
  • Pay it forward.  When I wanted to repay my mentor for his investment in my career, he told me to pay it forward.  Help me pay it forward. Give us a rating where you get your podcast. Help spread the word. Tell others about the show.  
  • Be part of the conversation between the shows.  I hang out at The Innovators Community on Slack.  This private community of vetted innovators helps each other succeed.


The Killer Innovations podcast is produced by The Innovators Network.

Direct download: Competing_for_Fuel_Efficiency_Innovation_S14_Ep19.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 5:04am PST

Great ideas come and go, but what makes an idea into something bigger?  How do you develop your idea into a product that will attract venture capitalists and scale your business?  Is the idea sustainable beyond one or two seasons of growth? Can the idea bloom into a niche market and then cross pollinate?    Patrick Henry, QuestFusion founder and CEO, shares his framework for cultivating ideation that reaps success.  He calls it smart ideation.

Steps to Smart Ideation

Smart ideation is a five-step process for entrepreneurs and business owners building a growth company.  The process focuses on business factors rather than simply developing the product.  Patrick’s book, Plan, Commit, Win: 90 Days to Creating a Fundable Startup, lays out the framework for smart ideation.

The steps are as follows:

  1.  Customer Problem Solution Test

This test answers three questions:

  • Is it a big and important problem for the customer?
  • Is the customer desperate to solve the problem?
  • Is my solution superior to alternatives?
  1.  Sustainable Competitive Advantage Test

Once you answer yes to the questions in #1…

  • How do you sustain business growth over time?
  • What is your innovation roadmap for the next five to ten years?
  • Can your core technology penetrate adjacent product market segments?
  • Can you build layers of competitive advantage?
  1.  The Intersection Test

Facing the challenges to scale your business, you need an intersection of

  • Passion
  • Domain expertise – specialized product and market knowledge
  • A big customer problem
  • A team who can execute
  1.  The Market Size and Growth Test

Applies to businesses funded by venture capital

  • Success or failure hinges on this
  • Must determine growth opportunity in your target market
  • Penetrate a defensible niche, then conquer adjacent markets
  • Have a big long-term vision to scale your business
  • VCs looking for upwards of $100 million in annual revenue
  1.  The Idea Refinement Test

Three ways to refine your idea.  

  • Through intimate customer engagement
  • Through a technical and business advisory board that will provide unbiased feedback
  • Through teaching customers willing to provide feedback early on in exchange for some exclusive benefit


Qualities of a Successful Ideator

Along with the smart ideation process, consider what makes a successful ideator.  Patrick sees the successful ideator as one with a unique perspective and perpetual curiosity.  They are the tinkerers, gadget users, early adopters who come up with new ways of doing things.  These people are disciplined, hardworking, and passionate.


Are you ready to scale your business, to bring it to the next level?  For more information on smart ideation, go to  For a detailed guide to smart ideation, go to

Find Patrick on Twitter: @questfusion, Facebook: @questfusion, and Instagram: @plancommitwin.

Five Minutes to New Ideas

How do you address customer complaints?  Are they an annoyance to dismiss and be done with?  Don’t make the mistake major companies have made minimizing or ignoring complaints.  It may come back to haunt you. Be proactive in addressing customer issues. Listen to this week’s Five Minutes to New Ideas for insight on this important topic.

I’m getting ready to head out in the Mobile Studio in search of interesting innovators.  I’ll be east of the Mississippi this Fall and west of the Mississippi the first of 2019. If you know somebody who would be a great guest on the show, drop me a note at


  • Find out about my book, Beyond the Obvious, at  Get a copy through Amazon or wherever you get your books.
  • Pay it forward.  When I wanted to repay my mentor for his investment in my career, he told me to pay it forward.  Help me pay it forward. Give us a rating where you get your podcast. Help spread the word. Tell others about the show.  
  • Be part of the conversation between the shows.  I hang out at The Innovators Community on Slack.  This private community of vetted innovators helps each other succeed.


The Killer Innovations podcast is produced by The Innovators Network.

Direct download: Smart_Ideation_to_Scale_Your_Business_S14_Ep18.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:02am PST

Did you ever set a goal or New Year’s resolution only to abandon it?  Do find your life lacks purpose? Do you doubt your ability to accomplish amazing things?  Today’s show features Tal Gur, blogger, author, motivational speaker.  Tal’s goal, or one of many, is to inspire you to set goals and achieve them.


The Start of a Life Journey

Some people may do one or two extraordinary things in their lifetime.  Maybe it’s traveling to a far-away country, running a marathon, or mastering a foreign language.  Tal Gur has done at least one hundred and counting. From learning to speak Spanish to becoming an international public speaker, Tal set out to live the dream.  Abandoning the 9 to 5 job, he established a source of passive income and went on a journey. It was a journey of self- discovery and facing challenges head on. Each year he set a major life goal and accomplished it.  After ten years, he penned his experience in the book, The Art of Fully Living: 1 Man. 10 Years. 100 Goals.


It may sound like for Tal goal setting and achievement come easy.  Not so. He faced self-doubt and hurdles. After all, who would expect a smoker to do a triathlon?  Tal felt doubt about this daring goal, especially since he was a smoker.  He found ways to overcome the challenges.   And he did, indeed, do a triathlon.


Tal considers a goal as the container.  Your personal growth as you work towards the goal is what’s most important in setting and achieving goals.  


Goal Setting Strategies

Tal’s book lays out steps to setting and achieving goals.  He shares some of these with us.

  • Make the goal specific.  When the goal is clear, it is more achievable.
  • Immersion.  By immersing yourself, you learn more lessons and extract more wisdom out of the journey.  When you immerse yourself in achieving a major goal, set smaller, milestone goals.  It creates momentum for the major goal.  
  • Put happiness before goals.  Don’t expect achieving your goal will bring happiness.  Find inner happiness independent of your goals.


Tal discovered some truths to help in goal setting and your life journey.

  • A crisis or challenge can lead to a great calling.
  • Start from the inside out.  Don’t focus on the mechanics, the how-to.  If you have the right mind-set and source from the inside, the goal will be easier to reach.
  • Develop and use intuition.  The more you practice using intuition, the better you get.  For more on intuition, Tal recommends the book Thinking Fast Slow by Daniel Kahneman.
  • Redefine failure.  Not achieving your goal is not failure.  Failure is not trying.

Interested in tracking Tal and his adventures.  Visit his blog:

Need help in setting and reaching your life goals.  Get his book, The Art of Fully Living: 1 Man. 10 Years. 100 Goals., in paperback, audio or Kindle on Amazon.


Five Minutes to New Ideas

What input, if reduced, would allow you to cut the price for your product or service by 25%.  To get ahead of the competition, you need to make game changing moves. A bold move like big savings could place you in the leader of the pack position.  One car manufacturer with rock bottom prices may soon take U.S. manufacturers by surprise.  Are there gaps in your product offering for a competitor to sneak a game changer into the marketplace?  Could you make a sidestep in your product development to prevent this? For insight, listen to Five Minutes to New Ideas.    



  • Find out about my book, Beyond the Obvious, at  Get a copy through Amazon or wherever you get your books.
  • Pay it forward.  When I wanted to repay my mentor for his investment in my career, he told me to pay it forward.  Help me pay it forward. Give us a rating where you get your podcast. Help spread the word. Tell others about the show.  
  • Be part of the conversation between the shows.  I hang out at The Innovators Community on Slack.  This private community of vetted innovators helps each other succeed.



The Killer Innovations podcast is produced by The Innovators Network.

Direct download: Goals_and_the_Journey_to_Fully_Living_S14_Ep17.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 4:58am PST

The pressure is intense in the U.S. government to get innovation efforts underway.  “Beltway bandits” riddle proposals with “innovation” in hopes of securing contracts.  Politicians believe it will solve all the problems. This politics of innovation doesn’t always bring about impactful innovation.  What can governments do to generate meaningful innovation? How should politicians think about innovation?

Satyajit Das’s article in Forbes India makes good points on the politics of innovation.  Here are some of his points along with my thoughts on how politicians can promote impactful innovation.

A Vague Notion

When politicians promote innovation, often the idea is vague and broad.  Politicians push innovation without careful thought to what areas need innovation.  The “how” is clear, but the “what” is not. The more defined the focus area is, the better the results.   The quality of ideas will flourish when it is clear what the innovation needs are.

Money is Not Always the Answer

Offering financial incentive to attract innovation may produce short term benefits.


This alone won’t bring significant innovation.  Few policymakers are concerned with long-range innovation.  Funding for it has steeply declined. Yet, only the government can sustain long-range innovation and fundamental research that will have future impact.  Some great innovations we benefit from today are long-range innovations the government developed over many years. For example, NASA made major life-changing innovations.

Misperception of Innovation Impact

Many politicians see innovation as the solution to ills their constituents face.  The statistics tell otherwise. Less than 10% of U.S. GDP is technology. Only 0.5% of employees are in industries that didn’t exist before 2000.  Only 1.8% of employees in Silicon Valley work in new industries.

Another misperception: innovation translates to technology.  Innovation applies to all industries, all segments, all jobs.  Manufacturing comprises 25% of jobs. Yet, scarce innovation funding is focused in this sector.  Politicians need to think beyond Silicon Valley. The Innovators Network highlights innovation in non-traditional industries in non-traditional locations.  


Innovation and Inequality

Many believe that innovation creates economic inequality.  Innovations may not have universal distribution early on. But they spread quickly.  Another concern is that AI and robotics will increase unemployment. Looking at the past, similar fears proved unfounded.  In the 1960s, predictions were made that computers would bring a 50% unemployment rate. That has not been the case.

Innovation is a global phenomenon.  The boundaries of innovation do not stop at the boundaries of countries.  Politicians should be careful of trade barriers that block or protect innovations.  In the politics of innovation, politicians must adopt a new way of thinking.

Promoting Innovations that Work

  1. Focus the search for innovations.
  2. Crowdsource ideas.
  1. Learn to experiment and test.
    • Get comfortable with failure.
    • Don’t expect a Big Bang.
    • Internet was multi-decade investment
    • Invest in near, mid- and long-term innovations
  2. Do NOT ignore long-range research.

Don’t let the innovation funnel dry up.  JFK’s BHAG put a man on the moon.  Consider the destiny we leave for our children and grandchildren.  Create the BHAG for today and the future.


Five Minutes to New Ideas

We tend to assume that any customer is a good customer.  Are there cases when this is not true? The most ardent customers can create unexpected issues for your overall business.  You may have to ask the question, “who do I not want as my customer?”  Listen to this week’s Five Minutes to New Ideas to hear some creative solutions companies have found to manage customers.  




  • You can also find out information about my book, Beyond the Obvious, at  Get a copy through Amazon or wherever you get your books.
  • Pay it forward.  When I wanted to repay my mentor for his investment in my career, he told me to pay it forward.  Help me pay it forward. Give us a rating where you get your podcast. Help spread the word. Tell others about the show.  
  • Be part of the conversation between the shows.  I hang out at The Innovators Community on Slack.  This private community of vetted innovators helps each other succeed.



The Killer Innovations podcast is produced by The Innovators Network.

What brought a successful Wall Street investor and a lauded entrepreneur to Central Ohio?  Flavio Lobato and John D’Orazio, Ikove Capital Co-Founders, saw amazing innovation where few were looking.  To cultivate technology growth in the Midwest, Ikove Capital developed the Innovation Nursery.


Nurturing the Startup

Ikove means “growth” in the Brazilian indigenous language Tupi-Guarani.  This aptly describes the focus of Ikove Capital. It is a firm dedicated to venture development.   Through a hands-on approach Ikove
Capital nurtures startups in its Innovation Nursery.  The trend for venture capitalists is toward late stage investing.  Ikove Capital co- founder Flavio Lobato saw the opportunity. There is a huge investment in research that flows into the Central Ohio region to the tune of $70 billion.  Yet, only one percent of resulting research attains commercialization. Early stage funding is tough to obtain.  Hence, the baby never matures.  In steps Ikove Capital to spur technology growth from inception.

Setting Up the Innovation Nursery

Ikove looks for regional technology research that has commercial potential globally.  They search for babies to fill the innovation nursery.  The search list includes universities - Ohio State and Wright State.  It also includes Air Force research labs, The Cleveland Clinic, the James Cancer Hospital.  A hub of research and development and an ample engineering talent pool offer plenty of choice.  Ikove Capital identifies and vets potential projects. They divide projects into three verticals – STEM, Med Tech, Agri-Tech.  A fourth is on the way – Food Tech.


The Ikove Capital team offers corporate expertise in finance, entrepreneurship, business acumen.  They bring all the resources together that a startup needs to grow and thrive.


From Local to Global

Although the research and innovation start in the Midwest, the reach is global.  The final company established may be anywhere in the world.  The funding that gets these startups into the innovation nursery and through the process of growing is global too.  Investors from ten countries sourced the latest round of investing. Over 25 years in business and finance, Ikove founders have established global connections.  

Technology growth is a global demand.  Ikove’s future is to take the Innovation Nursery to new regions within the U.S. and beyond.  Flavio sees global opportunity for the Innovation Nursery. Plans are in the works to offer Ikove Capital venture development in Europe and Asia within the next five years.


Learn more about Ikove Capital at



Five Minutes to New Ideas

What assumptions do you make about why your customer buys your product?  Are your customers using your product as you intended? Have they found a unique way to customize your product to suit their needs?  As in the blog IKEA hackers, there may be some unusual ways to repurpose or customize your product.  Listen to Five Minutes to New Ideas.  Hear how the owner at my local bakery made use of an HP product in a non obvious way.




  • You can also find out information about my book, Beyond the Obvious, at  Get a copy through Amazon or wherever you get your books.
  • Pay it forward.  When I wanted to repay my mentor for his investment in my career, he told me to pay it forward.  Help me pay it forward. Give us a rating where you get your podcast. Help spread the word. Tell others about the show.  
  • Be part of the conversation between the shows.  I hang out at The Innovators Community on Slack.  This private community of vetted innovators helps each other succeed.


The Killer Innovations podcast is produced by The Innovators Network.

Direct download: The_Innovation_Nursery-_Technology_Growth_in_the_Midwest.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 5:12am PST

At the Innovation Boot Camp, I had a chance to talk with Kym McNicholas.  We’ve both been traveling.  Kym’s made stops in Europe and Asia to promote medical innovations.  I’ve driven 12,000 miles in four months in the Mobile Studio. On the road, we’ve found innovation in non-obvious locations.  Here’s a recap of what we’ve been tracking in the innovation arena.


A New Market of Employees

Kym notes, “Real innovation is happening in different parts of the country.”  I found this in Paducah, Kentucky. FIn Gourmet Foods is innovating on several levels.  This company has created a unique solution to an invasive species problem.  Their processing method renders Asian Carp a hot menu item in tony New York restaurants.  They also employ felons on parole. Through employment, they help these people readjust to independent living.  


On our diverging travels, one stop Kym and I had in common was South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, TX.  I hosted a talk on neurodiversity hiring.  Like FIn Gourmet Foods hiring approach, I encourage companies to discover a new market for employees.   Working with Hacking Autism I’m exploring ways to bridge the work gap for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Companies interested in sparking innovation should consider a neurodiversity hiring program.  Many autistic adults are highly intelligent, capable people. They can offer a fresh and different perspective to a team.  By establishing this hiring program, companies will gain an edge. At CableLabs, the people in our program are having phenomenal impacts on our business.


An Invitation to Create

At SXSW, Kym’s focus was on electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (VTOLs).  Kym joined a discussion with partners Embraer and Uber.  There are challenges and potential for VTOLs in urban settings.  Embraer and Uber invited the innovation community to get involved.  The drive is to start testing by 2020 and market by 2024.  Through empowering the community to create with them, Uber and Embraer hope to achieve this goal.  Other companies may create in parallel. But Uber realizes the need for an ecosystem.

Tell the Story

One of the challenges in launching a “flying car” is navigating the regulatory system.  VTOL creators need to ensure federal, state and local regulations accommodate use in urban environments.  As with many innovations that face this issue, innovators need to convey the story. It’s not the pitch laden with tech speak.  It’s not something that sounds good but doesn’t hold water. The innovation story has to be genuine, compelling and convincing.  It has to reach the audience. The story should make them understand what you’re doing, see the value in it, and realize why it’s important.



Five Minutes to New Ideas

Magazine publishers are in a predicament.    With free content available on the internet, magazine publishers must make their content worth paying for.  One creative way to keep customers engaged with the product is to tap into the backlog of content. Those willing to experiment and try repurposing will discover new areas of growth in their business. Could you provide components separately or in unique combinations to serve new customers?  Listen to Five Minutes to New Ideas to learn more.



  • You can also find out information about my book, Beyond the Obvious, at  Get a copy through Amazon or wherever you get your books.
  • Pay it forward.  When I wanted to repay my mentor for his investment in my career, he told me to pay it forward.  Help me pay it forward. Give us a rating where you get your podcast. Help spread the word. Tell others about the show.  
  • Be part of the conversation between the shows.  I hang out at The Innovators Community on Slack.  This private community of vetted innovators helps each other succeed.



The Killer Innovations podcast is produced by The Innovators Network.

Take a look in an unexpected direction and discover non-obvious innovation.  One entrepreneur is building solutions to meet basic needs in rural and urban slums of India.  Hasit Ganatra is founder of ReMaterials.  His company designs and produces the ModRoof, roofing for the developing world.  ReMaterials solves a serious problem in a non-obvious location.


Microchips to Roofing

Hasit could have made a comfortable living in L.A.   He held an Engineering degree from the University of Southern California.  He worked in microchip design. But far from the tech hub, inspiration sprung from a non-obvious location.  A trip to the vegetable market in India with his mother sparked the idea for his first startup.


His second startup is a non-obvious innovation in roofing.  Hasit’s scope and vision for Re-Materials is far-reaching. His roofing solves issues of leaks, excessive heat, toxicity, and roof deterioration.  Beyond that, Hasit and his team are designing solar panels to attach to the roofing. The solar panels will provide power for lighting. Lighting is a major need throughout the developing world.  Meeting this basic need allows a better life and future to an underserved population.


Seeing Things in a Different Light

What drove Hasit to leave L.A. for the non-obvious location of rural and slum areas of India?  In his words: “Always wanting to solve real problems on the ground.  Be in the action.”  Seeing the problems of India’s rural and urban poor communities, Hasit bypassed a high tech career.

Hasit credits C.K. Prahalad’s The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid with helping to see things in a different light.   Prahalad’s book was an inspiration to my wife and me as well, prompting us to invest in developing countries.  The book dispels the myth that rural and low-income communities are not a starting point for investment.  What we consider a non-obvious location for investment may soon become obvious to many.


Hasit’s for-profit business model combines social impact and profit.  ReMaterials produces the ModRoof using biodegradable, recycled materials.  Hasit states, “Our goal was not to be cheapest in market, but the best in the market.”  For customers who cannot afford the outright expense, microfinancing is available.


Advice on Non-Obvious Innovation in a Non-Obvious Location

  • You have to be passionate about living and working in the non-obvious location.
  • There are going to be issues.
    • You can’t give up in these situations.
  • Test the waters.
    • Experience the location on a trial basis (i.e., internship).
    • This will help you determine if you’re willing to give your life to it.
  • Once you  get involved, it will require 100% commitment.
    • It’s no longer a hobby.


Learn more about ReMaterials and how Hasit is making an impact in India.  Contact Hasit through the website


Five Minutes to New Ideas

Could offering an unfinished product increase the value of your product?  There are companies successful in offering such products. Some advantages to this model allow companies to

  1. reduce risks by minimizing inventory and
  2. charge a premium for the pleasure of assembling the product.

It’s a fine line.  If assembling the product is too easy, it feels like cheating.  If it’s too complex, the consumer sees no value in the supposed convenience.  The right balance gives the customer the satisfying feeling of “I did this.”

Consider the possibility of creating an on-demand service for your product.


The Killer Innovations podcast is produced by The Innovators Network.

Direct download: Non-Obvious_Innovation_Non-Obvious_Location_S14_Ep13.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 5:51am PST

Keywords: (1) Copycat Innovation and (2) Ethical Innovator


Copycat Innovation and the Ethical Innovator


This year at South by Southwest (SXSW), I facilitated a discussion on neurodiversity hiring.  This is part of my work with Hacking Autism.  SXSW is a multi-week event, part music festival, part innovation reveal.  It’s where big names like Twitter first launched. However, I noticed at this year’s SXSW, as with CES, a shocking lack of originality.  The trend towards identical look, feel, and function is unsettling. This prompted me to ponder the copycat innovation and the ethical innovator.


First or So They Claim…

As I observed hundreds of nearly identical products, the degree of copycat innovation was mind-boggling.  Everyone is copying everyone else. I am bothered by the claims made on copycat innovation. Companies claim to be the originator or the first in their category even when they clearly are not.  There is a dearth of acknowledgment for those that came before.


Is all copycat innovation bad?  No. There’s nothing wrong with taking a product or service and improving on it.  There are many cases of borrowing an idea from another source to create an innovation.  Biomimicry is a good example of copycat innovation.  Innovators look to nature and replicate its creative solutions.  The very name biomimicry indicates the source of inspiration.


The problem comes when the innovator lays claims to being the first to create or innovate when that is not the case.  Being first doesn’t always mean being the best. The ethical innovator would steer clear of making such claims. Innovations and innovative ideas are process of building on what you observe and know.  Innovation is not creating in isolation. Great innovators make unique connections from inspirations.  They may look to others and improve on existing products or services.  Be an ethical innovator. Don’t get caught up on staking a claim as the “first.”


Credit: Is it Better to Give or Take?

Another issue is the failure to acknowledge or give credit to the true originator of an idea.  Rather than making shaky claims, the innovator who improves on someone else’s idea should give credit where it’s due.  Giving credit to others will not discredit your product or service if it’s a worthwhile innovation. Strive to be an ethical innovator, giving credit for the source of your inspiration.


Innovators should consider a way to acknowledge their inspiration.  Just as academics provide detailed footnotes in their papers, innovators could create a means to credit those who’ve come before.  On that note, I’d like to credit Earl Nightingale with being the inspiration for this podcast.  I’ve been on air now for fourteen years. My inspiration for the Killer Innovations show was the Nightingale-Conant audio series Insight, which I subscribed to in the 80s.


I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic of copycat innovation and the ethical innovator.  Drop me a note.  Share your thoughts, contributions, and experiences in acknowledging others or being acknowledged.


Continue this and other conversations around innovation.  Join The Innovators Community on Slack.  This is a private community of vetted innovators helping each other succeed.



Five Minutes to New Ideas

Understanding the life cycle of your industry is essential to continued success.  A big part of business is responding to life cycles of industry and its customers.  By challenging yourself and your team to think about your customer’s future, you stand a great chance of staying ahead of those inevitable changes.


Listen to this week’s Five Minutes to New Ideas to learn more about staying connected to your customer through the life cycle.


The Killer Innovations podcast is produced by The Innovators Network.

Direct download: Copycat_Innovation_and_the_Ethical_Innovator_S14_Ep12.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 2:00am PST

Being content may be a positive emotion in some senses.  Not so with innovation. If you are ready to rest on your laurels after a triumph or a stressful circumstance, get ready.  Major change could be looming around the corner. Let me explain why I believe being content can be the enemy of innovation.


First, consider what being content means.  Feelings of peace, calm, acceptance of where we are in life, happiness, satisfaction.  Doesn’t sound too bad. The problem comes when we embrace contentment to the point of giving up.  We don’t want to let go of being content. Therefore, we avoid conflict, stress or anything that may rock the boat and shake up the status quo.  


Innovation is the antithesis of stasis.  It’s about being tuned in to what’s wrong with the picture.  Not just seeing the problems but seeking ways to improve on things.  When we are fixed on being content, we develop a false sense that change is slowing down.  It’s at this time that we will miss the weak signals, subtle signs that major change is coming down the pike.  


A false sense of satisfaction is its own form of an innovation antibody.  This state of being content will cause you to shy away from change and avoid risk.  You will trade off the challenges of innovation, going against the grain, for that easy feeling.  Being content becomes the enemy of innovation. True innovators are not content.

Three or four times across my life I’ve slipped into this state of being content.  That is, I felt satisfied and turned on autopilot. Rather than being active, engaged and looking for new ways and new directions to move, I put blinders on and checked out.  The content feelings were short lived. I was taken off guard. Some major change in the world around me took me by surprise. The contentment quickly dissolved.


Don’t get caught off guard.  Here’s what you can do to keep the enemy of innovation at bay.

  1. Challenge yourself to do something uncomfortable.
  • Do something you’ve never done before.
  • Learn something new, something outside your skill set.
  • It opens your eyes to new things and energizes you.


  1. Change up how you do things.


  1. Do daily creative muscle exercises
    • Challenge yourself to come up with 5 problems that need to be solved.
    • These can be
  • personally
  • in your community
  • at your job or school
  • for a non-profit


There are always problems to be solved.  Find a problem. Then go innovate a way to fix it.



Five Minutes to New Ideas

Some products or services evoke strong emotional responses.  They are either loved by devoted fans or hated by others. Plenty of companies trade on the fact that mainstream culture will find their product offensive or questionable.  


Is there any benefit or purpose to being strategically disliked by some and adored by select devotees?  Listen to Five Minutes to New Ideas to hear why you might consider this approach.




  • You can also find out information about my book, Beyond the Obvious, at  Get a copy through Amazon or wherever you get your books.
  • Pay it forward.  When I wanted to repay my mentor for his investment in my career, he told me to pay it forward.  Help me pay it forward. Give us a rating where you get your podcast. Help spread the word. Tell others about the show.  
  • Be part of the conversation between the shows.  I hang out at The Innovators Community on Slack.  This private community of vetted innovators helps each other succeed.



The Killer Innovations podcast is produced by The Innovators Network.

Direct download: Being_Content_is_the_Enemy_of_Innovation_S14_Ep11.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 7:22am PST

Ever wish you could travel the world discovering better ways of doing things?  The next best thing - read the book. Author Mark Stevenson is an innovation explorer.  He’s visited remote parts and populous cities worldwide. This ‘reluctant futurist’ searches for people whose innovations are making a positive impact.  In the process, he’s discovering the roadmap to a better future. His book, We Do Things Differently: The Outsiders Rebooting Our World imparts the stories of those paving the way.


The rapid pace of change in today’s world leaves many behind.  Advances in technology can create a wake of unintended consequences.  Mark isn’t here to paint a doomsday picture, but to illuminate the roadmap to a better future.  His book tells the story of innovators, inventors and creatives who are making major impacts on communities.


Technology has often led to job losses as new processes replace old ways.  It is a certain fact read out in headlines throughout history. Loss of jobs due to tech advances is a transition from an old economy to a new one.  A better future demands that education, government, and other systems swiftly adapt to these changes.  While some countries such as Estonia address this need, many do not.  The catalyst for his book is those who have successfully affected systemic changes.  They are the ones plotting the roadmap to a better future.

Mark lays out the good, the bad, and the ugly.  The next twenty years are critical in developing the roadmap to a better future.  Major changes are necessary in our systems of education, government, healthcare, and businesses.  

  • Bad news first: everything’s broken.  
  • Good news: it’s fixable.  
  • It’s going to get ugly.

Mark wants to “make the transition less messy for less people and make it a little bit shorter.”


A systemic approach to tech advances is essential for a better future.  Mark dislikes the moniker “futurist”. The term suggests one who sees technology as the answer to all problems.  For Mark, technology is the question. Technology development should not be done in isolation. People must evaluate factors beyond the technology itself.  Policy makers and innovators alike have to step back and look at the big picture. What are the far-reaching, future results of the technology? How will it affect society?  Developing the correct measure for success is just as important as developing the innovation.


In the quest for discovering systemic changes that work, Mark has found common threads:

  • They come from the bottom up – grassroots people who make a change to fix what’s broken.
  • The catalyst is a new technology or way of thinking.
  • In the service of a different social contract - decisions and choices for reasons other than money.
  • The catalyst is outside the system
  • The actors have herculean levels of perseverance and powerful motivation.


To find out more about Mark and his books track him on Twitter @optimistontour or via his website:



Five Minutes to New Ideas

How do you design a product the customer will prefer or crave over the competition?

You need to determine

  • how your business environments are evolving.
  • how your customers are changing.
  • what you need to modify to keep the product relevant and desirable.

Go beyond the competition.  Look at industries that are distinctly different but share similar key elements with your business.  By asking the right questions and looking at non-obvious businesses, you may find that one inspiration that can transform you and your ideas.



  • You can also find out information about my book, Beyond the Obvious, at  Get a copy through Amazon or wherever you get your books.
  • Pay it forward.  When I wanted to repay my mentor for his investment in my career, he told me to pay it forward.  Help me pay it forward. Rate the show where you get your podcast. Help spread the word. Tell others about the show.  
  • Be part of the conversation between the shows.  I hang out at The Innovators Community on Slack.  This private community of vetted innovators helps each other succeed.


The Killer Innovations podcast is produced by The Innovators Network.

Direct download: Discovering_the_Roadmap_to_a_Better_Future_S14_Ep10.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:10am PST

When civic and business leaders have a meeting of the minds, amazing things can happen.  Cincinnati is home to several major corporations and health care organizations. The demand is high for tech innovation.  This midwestern city has created a unique approach to draw in the best talent.  Cintrifuse is the confluence of innovation in Cincinnati.

Cintrifuse exists through public private partnership.  Its purpose is threefold. It’s a startup accelerator and venture capital fund.   It’s also the go to source for large companies seeking innovative solutions to their tech problems.  CEO Wendy Lea comes to Cincinnati from Silicon Valley as an expert in digital innovation.

[shareable cite="Wendy Lea, CEO Cintrifuse"]To build a sustainable economy, you have to have supply and demand. We're unique in that we have two portfolios of supply for startups and we have an amazing set of large companies with strong appetite for technology innovation.[/shareable]

West Coast to Midwest

Arriving in the Cincinnati area, it surprised Wendy to find six major healthcare systems in the region.  In addition, there are 140 major companies including Proctor & Gamble that call this area home.  The local government sought economic growth.  The need for cutting edge tech innovation and economic growth brought all these players together.  The perspective from the various communities is distinct from what Wendy’s observed in Silicon Valley.  These communities work closely together to tackle regional issues. Their collaborative effort formed Cintrifuse.  

Startup versus BigCo

Contrary to what one might think, this is not a face off between startup and big companies.  Large companies seek to draw the entrepreneurs, ideas and talent. They are the customers to the startups product or service offering.  

Growing the Startup Community

Wendy has seen Cintrifuse’s portfolio of startups grow 40% year over year.  What started with eleven startups on the Cintrifuse books has grown to 470 startups in the region.  Some startups that come through Cintrifuse’s doors are located within the Cincinnati area. Others located elsewhere benefit from Cintrifuse venture capital funds.  The benefits are mutual. The relationships developed allow Cintrifuse to connect startups with large companies seeking tech innovation.

To learn more about Cintrifuse, check out

Check out The Innovators Network where you can listen to podcasts with Kym McNicholas on Innovation and Killer Innovations with Phil McKinney.

Exploring rural innovation, I stopped in Paducah, Kentucky.  Drs. Lula Luu and John Crilly, founders of FIn Gourmet Foods, joined the mobile studio.  Word got around town. Monica Bilak contacted me through The Innovator’s Community.  I’m pleased to welcome Monica and Jimi Gwinn.  They share how Sprocket is inspiring student innovation in Paducah.

Sprocket is a makerspace for students and the local community to learn and create with access to technology. Three years ago, the idea emerged.  Today, Monica is the Development Director with a background in education and design. Jimi Gwinn, the Director, brings engineering, woodworking and metal artistry skills to the table.  A boiler room and coal closet transforms into an 840 square foot space to design, build, innovate.

The Creative Drivers

What brought Monica from East Africa to Paducah 17 years ago was a spirit of creativity.  For a dollar, she bought a house under the Artist Relocation program. In her words, Paducah was “a little town that had something going.”  She opened a fair trade and coffee shop and worked in downtown development. Eventually she returned to her roots in education.

Life brought new challenges for Jimi Gwinn when he was in a car accident.  One challenge was the awkward fit of his legs and wheelchair at the desks in college.  He designed his own desk. Starting with basic materials, he finished with a mahogany, teak and burled cherry desk.  He found his passion for woodworking.

Another life changing moment came with spinal fusion.  The relief from constant pain freed his mind to think in new directions.  He began designing a wheelchair controlled by body lean. A retired engineer pointed him towards University of Kentucky.  Jimi jumped into the engineering program. His experience and training made him a prime candidate for inspiring student innovation.  Monica recruited him to lead Sprocket.

The Perfect Storm

Monica was working with homeless 6th graders in an afterschool program.  She introduced technologies and programming.  Highly motivated, the kids loved learning in this non-traditional environment.  Inspiring student innovation this way was one element of a perfect storm.

Local business, Computer Services Incorporated, reached out to educators.  They valued their local employees and wanted to continue hiring locally.  The problem – how to find the local talent. The next generation of skilled employees needed to build those skills now.  The community went to work.

Monica took time off from her design degree pursuit.  She focused on students’ needs.

[shareable cite="Monica Bilak"]The district has the profound awareness that the world is changing really fast…the system of education is not aligned with how we think and need to work in this age.[/shareable]

They needed to develop highly valuable skills, build social networks and connect to local business and industry.  The idea of a makerspace struck a chord. Sprocket launched with grants from the Kentucky Workforce and Education Cabinet, fundraising, and donations from companies like Toyota.

Lessons to Share

What Monica and Jimi learned along the way…

  • Start – even if it’s small and imperfect.
  • Keep going – don’t let failure be the end game.
  • Cast the vision wide -take time to meet everybody.
  • Don’t stop building the culture of innovation.

Keep up with Sprocket or support their effort at or  You can also contact them through Paducah Innovation on Facebook.

Is there a guest you think should be on the show?  Is your community doing interesting things? Drop me note at Killer Innovations or The Innovators Studio on Facebook.

Direct download: Small_Spaces_Inspiring_Student_Innovation_S14_Ep8.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:33am PST

Every so often we should pause and reflect.  On the way to the airport after hosting a South by Southwest meet up on neural diversity hiring, traffic was slow.  This allowed an engaging conversation with the taxi driver.  He asked me what led to success in my life. This prompted me to write down my 7 rules to live by.  I hope these will help you in creating personal and professional success.

My 7 Rules to Live By

  1. Stay connected to the people who matter most.
    • I learned from my early mentor to regularly get in touch with those who matter to me.
    • Make personal contact (phone call/meet up). Electronic contact (Facebook, email, etc.) doesn’t qualify.
    • I have an in-depth, personal relationship with the people who matter to me.
  2. Listen more, talk less.
    • Listen actively, ask questions. Have genuine interest in others.
    • Conclude conversation by asking how you can help.
  3. Make commitments you are truly committed to follow through on.
    • Don’t make false promises.
    • If you can’t deliver, admit it. Then ask if there’s something else you could do.
    • Don’t swing the pendulum the other way and never commit to anything.
  4. Don’t get hung up on credit.
    • Credit will always find its natural owner.
    • Innovation’s a team sport.
    • If you grab credit, it could kill others’ interest to participate and contribute.
  5. Acknowledge others – give out words of encouragement.
    • I didn’t get to CEO position by myself. Others played a critical role.
    • Mentoring and reverse mentoring - great ways to acknowledge and encourage.
  6. Hug the haters.
    • With success, there are always those who are critical.
    • I pause before I respond. Count to ten or wait a day.
    • Sometimes it’s better not to respond at all.
    • Ask others to hear the criticism and your response before delivering it.
    • Respond with compassion, not harshness, rudeness, or name calling.
    • Never, ever burn the bridge.
  7. Set priorities.
    • When demands come, you can filter what needs to be done.
    • For me it’s “the 5 Fs
      1. Faith – I don’t get involved if it doesn’t align with my faith.
      2. Family – My wife, kids and grandkids.
      3. Friends – ties into my Rule #1 Stay Connected
      4. Fitness – Don’t overwork, burnout, and suffer health issues.
      5. Finance – Takes care of itself, if put finances at the bottom and follow other rules, it

Now that you have my 7 rules to live by, define your own set of rules to creating personal and professional success in your life.


Five Minutes to New Ideas

Weak signals are all around us.  How can you stay attuned and take advantage of emerging trends or fads?  Tune in to Segment 4 of today’s podcast to learn more.


Thanks for taking the time to join us.  We’d love to hear your comments. You can add your comments at  

Better yet, join us at The Innovators Community (, an online Slack community where you can be a part of the conversation with leading innovators from around the world.

Creating safe transportation on the African continent takes a unique approach.  The solutions of the Western world and Silicon Valley simply won’t work.  Colonial cities have grown into major urban environments. The infrastructure doesn’t sustain the growth.  Traffic jams, broken-down vehicles, bad road conditions are endemic.  But there are individuals making a difference in creating safe transportation.

As our guest Barrett Nash says, “The best way to make a solution is to solve a problem you yourself experience.”  

A death defying motorcycle ride through a crowded city and a question of safety.  Barrett Nash, Co-Founder and CEO of SafeMotos recalls the day.  He took a ride on a motorcycle taxi through Kigali, Rwanda to meet roommate Peter Kariuki for a beer.  The two men talked about the dangers of motorcycle taxi rides. This prompted them to imagine ways to make the motorcycle taxi ride safer.  That’s what it took to start the journey for SafeMotos.

Safety: An Obvious Assumption

Vehicle travel across an urban setting in Africa can be fraught with risk.  Sometimes the choice is waiting hours for a bus, sitting in traffic in a vehicle, or hopping on the back of a motorcycle taxi for a more convenient ride.  While the motorcycle taxi might get you there quicker, the risk is high. In fact, the #2 killer in the emerging world is vehicle accidents. Eighty percent of accidents in Rwanda involve motorcycle taxis.

You would think people would jump at the option for safer urban travel.  Not so. Creating safe transportation has its challenges. Selling it even more so.  Initially, SafeMotos followed the Uber business model. Customers could locate a safe ride via smartphone.  SafeMotos vetted and rated the motorcycle taxi drivers on driving practices and experience. For a higher price, people would get a safer option.  

What the Customer Really Wants

What they quickly realized is price and convenience outweighed safety in Kigali.  To make their product offering viable, they had to consider the product/market fit and the pain points.  Their focus shifted.  Creating safe transportation became the by-product.  

Blind Luck and Help from Unusual Places

Barrett and Co-founder Peter have been at it since 2014.  Doing business in Africa has challenges. While there is a spirit of entrepreneurship, few startups succeed.  As Barrett puts it, blind luck put them in touch with an accelerator in Cork, Ireland. This helped jumpstart SafeMotos.

[shareable cite="Barrett Nash, SafeMotos"]Technology needs to disconnect from a Silicon Valley style problem solving format. We’re not trying to solve middle class problems. We’re trying to enable a middle class. That’s where technology can really disrupt the arc of the story of Africa.[/shareable]

Barrett’s advice for startups, especially in Africa:

  • Make sure you are solving a pain point
  • Have a profit-making business model from unit economic perspective day one
  • Don’t launch too soon - get finance and story figured out
  • You have to go through the journey

Barrett welcomes you to reach out at

If you’ve got a guest you think should be on the show, drop me a note.

We’re continuing trips across the country, talking to rural entrepreneurs.  If you’d like us to stop by your town to meet your entrepreneurs, drop a note at The Innovators Studio on Facebook.

Direct download: Creating_Safe_Transportation_in_Urban_Africa_S14_Ep6.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 7:38am PST

Today’s show addresses questions from listeners on innovation KPIs.  I’m back in Colorado after clocking 12,000 miles in the mobile Innovators Studio.  On the road, I talked with interesting innovators and analysts.  Taking a break from interviews, I’d like to answer your questions on measuring innovation success.

There are hundreds of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure innovation success.  What are the right innovation KPIs to use?  What KPIs will give insight into the innovation process?   KPIs should be unique to your organization.  Think through what KPIs will measure and how that can guide innovations and your organization.

KPI Building Blocks

I’ve broken innovation KPIs into categories, like building blocks.  Build up the blocks to get a complete perspective on your innovation effort.  

Six categories for Innovation KPIs:

  1. Idea process/managing the idea funnel
    • What’s done to get ideas, put them in a funnel, review, manage and analyze them?
      • Raw ideas
      • Raw ideas validated
      • Ideas prototyped
      • Age of ideas
  2. Idea commercialization
    • Innovation idea brought to market.
      • Innovations that became a product
      • Innovations that make a profit
      • Are early customers willing to pay a margin premium?
      • Innovations purchased
      • Are resources in organization aligning to make product a reality?
  3. Financial impact
    • Tough to measure - long lag from time of investment to product launch in market
      • Revenue from new innovations
      • Profit from innovations
      • Revenue protected by patents
      • Revenue from patent licensing
  4. Customer impact
    • Customer success compared from old product to new innovation

      • What has new product allowed customers to achieve?
      • How many customers have shifted to new?
      • Market share trend for innovation - grabbing from competitors?
  5. Organizational impact
    • New products/services have an impact
    • Can pull organization into new category or focus
      • Ratio of sales from old versus new - sales ramping up for new/declining for old?
      • Ratio of profit from old versus new
      • Investments – is investment shifting from old to new?
      • Rate of return on innovation investment
      • Has it driven brand awareness?
  6. Pure Innovation KPIs
    • Catch-all
      • Staff trained for innovation
      • Use of formal creativity tools
      • Implementation and use of Idea Management System
      • Structured problem-solving tools
      • Committed resources to innovation
      • Patents/year



  1. Pick three to five KPIs from each category that work for your organization.
  2. Ensure you have the ability to measure them.
  3. Validate KPIs drive the right behavior and achieve the desired outcome.
  4. Test/adjust KPIs as needed.
  5. Share with the community.


We’d love your feedback.  What do you think about the five-minute focus in the last segment of today’s show?

Like what you hear?  Leave us a comment or review where you listen to the show.

Check out the show notes on  We post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter.  Follow us on your favorite social media site.

Direct download: Innovation_KPIs_Six_Categories_to_Measure_Success_S14_Ep5.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 5:37am PST

Delays at the grocery checkout line set William Chomley on a retail innovation course.  Like most of us who are short on time, a quick stop at the supermarket took longer than he liked.  He began ideating on a better way to shop – reinventing the checkout process.

William Chomley, Founder and CEO of IMAGR, joins me in the mobile studio from his home base in New Zealand. He’s been working on his retail innovation concept for three years. It’s been an uphill trek, but the company is now ready to put the product to the test.

When Will’s retail innovation idea sparked, he jumped in head first.  Quitting his finance job, he focused on a solution using RFID (radio frequency identification) technology.  It was simple: put RFID tags on products and eliminate the checkout line. But it wasn’t that easy. He ran into roadblocks, cost to implement and technology limitations to name a few.  His business failed.

Will didn’t give up on his idea.  He reworked it – went back to the drawing board.  This time he did the product/market fit research.  This involved a lot of talking and listening to retailers, researchers and investors.  His new design incorporated computer vision, a form of Artificial Intelligence (AI). A computer with computer vision “sees” and processes information much like the human eye, then performs tasks accordingly.

With a new design plan, Will pitched to investor after investor.  Rejection brought him nearly to the “end of his tether”. Over 150 investors later, he finally got the funding in 2016.  Through all, he held three jobs to keep afloat. Persistent and undaunted, Will kept going through tough times and held fast to his vision.

The SmartCart will undergo trial testing this year.  It’s a shopping cart equipped with small cameras to capture product data as the shopper places a product in the cart.  The cart system is synced to the shopper’s mobile phone. Through an app, the shopper sets up the payment method prior to shopping.

Looking back, Will has three points of advice for entrepreneurs.

  1.  Do product/market fit as soon as possible.
  1.  “Get in front of as many people as you can.”
  • He learned through the experience of facing numerous investors
  • The rejections/failures helped refine his product and pitch.
  1.  Look for “smart money.”
  • Seek investors experienced in your area of innovation who can guide/advise.
  • Be picky about who you bring into your business

The best place to track Will’s retail innovation:

If you have a guest you think should be on the show, drop me a note.

Direct download: Retail_Innovation_for_the_Impatient_Shopper_S14_Ep4.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:26am PST

If we were to trace the roots of what we do online, what would we assume about the creation of the online community?  Whether it’s taking college courses or Facebooking, when did it start. The 1990s with the internet. Was that the start of online video games, chat rooms, blogging, online courses? Most of us know the foundation of the internet – the ARPANET.   With ARPANET, the first successful network computer message was sent in 1969.  Less known is the internet forerunner, the PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations) system.  The creation of the online community truly began with PLATO.

Before PC there was PLATO

Plato said, “You know that the beginning is the most important part of any work.”

Before the ARPANET, an interpersonal computer revolution kindled.  A group at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign created the PLATO system.  It was 1960 and thousands of miles from Silicon Valley. The intent for PLATO was a computerized learning system.   Ambitious and wild as it may have seemed, by the mid-1960s, the University offered college credit for courses taken through PLATO.  Here was the beginning of computer-based training.

Beyond Computer Based Training

Through the 60s and 70s PLATO bloomed into an orange glow of computing innovation.  Expanding the purpose for the PLATO System, students, professors, hackers and hobbyists joined the fun.  Innovative and sometimes eccentric, this motley group continued adding functions and apps to PLATO.  Through the orange glow of plasma screens, a vibrant and varied community ideated, created, and chatted.  The creation of the online community emerged.

History in the Making

You might wonder why hasn’t everybody heard about PLATO?  You’re in good company.  Enter Brian Dear. Brian has collected data on PLATO for over thirty years.  His early career working on PLATO sparked his fascination with its capacity. By the 70s, the PLATO system already had touch screen and plasma displays among its features.

PLATO had fundamental influence on the technologies that we have in our pocket and on our desks.  Yet, this amazing system seemed unrecognized, uncredited, unnoticed. By creating PLATO, brilliant minds had invented the future.  Now PLATO was slipping into the shadows.

[shareable cite="Brian Dear , Author The Friendly Orange Glow"]I knew even in the 80s that it was something really phenomenal….This was historic, what was going on.[/shareable]

Brian waited for someone to write the book.  He could not even find PLATO referenced in computer history books.  He feared this important piece of computer history would disappear. Finally, he set out to do the work himself.  The result is The Friendly Orange Glow: The Untold Story of the PLATO System and the Dawn of Cyberculture.  The book captures the history of PLATO and the creation of the online community around the orange glow.

Want to know the story behind the term “orange glow”?  Listen to the story on the podcast.

Find out more about Brian Dear and his book at

For large companies, does innovation happen tucked away in a lab?  How does a professional services company innovate?  I delve into these questions with Michael Whitaker (“Whit”) of ICF.  He dispels misguided concepts about service innovation. The unique challenges of this industry demand a unique process.  Whit shares his process for innovation at ICF.

A global company, ICF delivers strategic consulting services.  ICF employs experts in a range of fields. It may seem an unlikely place to innovate.  But it’s a non-traditional industry creating non-obvious solutions.  

Whit joined ICF after ICF acquired his startup, Symbiotic Engineering.  He went from a small, nine-person company to a large, global one. Innovation at Symbiotic Engineering may have been tenable.  It is a bigger challenge at ICF. He watched efforts to instill an innovation culture. But it didn’t take off. ICF lacked a clear pathway to innovation.  With advancing technology, ICF recognized the need to keep apace.  It was time to get serious about innovation.  ICF established Whit’s position as President of Emerging Solutions.  

The Challenges

Whit employs a “pragmatic agitation approach”.  The ICF performance engine is delivery of expert services.  To provide clients with the cutting-edge, ICF must keep ahead of technology.  It’s a delicate balancing act.

In the services business…

  • profit margins are narrow
  • clients are risk averse
  • there is no R&D budget
  • innovation is not the main focus

You have to weave innovation into the company’s daily workings. Service innovation must happen while keeping the performance engine on track.

[shareable cite="Michael Whitaker, ICF"]The vast majority of employees throughout their entire careers have been incentivized and trained for execution, not for innovation.[/shareable]

This industry conditions most employees to execute not innovate.  Execution and innovation are different skill sets and mind sets. How do you get the domain expert to think about innovation?  

The Process

Whit considers his role as supportive and integrative.  He works to lay out clear and believable pathways to innovation.

The book Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change has been a good resource.  He highly recommends this book to those pursuing service innovation.

Steps to building service innovation include:

  • Choose an area to incubate.
  • Conduct surveys to assess your organization’s culture of innovation.
  • Establish a common language of innovation.
  • Make innovation management a core project delivery discipline.
  • Build training programs to grow innovation skill sets.
    • Teach the language of innovation
    • Encourage employees to share peer stories of innovation
    • Encourage innovation discussions with the team and client
    • Train a subset of employees on spark sessions
    • Coach emerging innovation managers/leaders

To learn more about ICF, visit their website:

You can follow Whit on Twitter at Papa_Whit

On Linkedin:

Would you like to continue the discussion with Whit?  Join him at The Innovator’s Community on the Slack channel.

If you know someone who would be a great guest for the show, drop me a note.

Direct download: Emerging_Solutions_Service_Innovation_S14_Ep2.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 4:18am PST

I’m searching for real innovation in Artificial Intelligence (AI).  A surfeit of AI products leaves me skeptical. Not to rain on anybody’s parade, but the term appears on countless products.  Even so, some companies do the work of real innovation in AI.

Charting AI Territory

DeviceBits is one such company.  This start-up charts a unique path.  Their AI customer support suite is distinctly real innovation.  AI customer support is new ground and makes a widespread impact.  It brings value to people’s everyday lives.

The Rankled Customer

Who hasn’t reached peak frustration with some new tech product that won’t function?  You seek answers on the internet and through product instructions. Finally, you call customer service.  This heightens the tension. Maybe the customer service agent can’t resolve the issue. Or the agent doesn’t answer the phone quick enough.  At this point, you may do one of the following. 1) vow never to buy that company’s products again. 2) return the faulty item to the store. 3) shelf it until something better arrives on the market.  From the company’s perspective, they lost a customer.

The Catalyst for Real Innovation

This frustration was the catalyst for JC Ramey, DeviceBits CEO.  His previous start-up focused on mobile application development. This was early in the mobile applications market.  The business grew from a basic text messaging app to millions of apps. In a short time, the growth of technology was exponential.

During this tech spurt, JC observed customers - including himself, friends, and family.  People struggled to understand, use and fix these products.  This highlighted an area for improvement: customer support. JC had career experience in tech and telecom.  He’s also a self-described “ultimate consumer.” This gave JC insight from both sides. 

AI Innovation Gets Real

DeviceBits’ customer support solutions integrate AI.  Customer service agents access AI generated knowledge portals.  The portals enable quick response and resolution. Another option is AI assisted self-service.  Customers can resolve issues on their own using this interactive support. These products exemplify real innovation.  They reach beyond incremental improvements.  DeviceBits transforms a critical aspect of business.

The Takeaway

Key lessons JC shares from his experience (big telecom to start-up):

1. Put yourself in the place where things happen.  

  • For JC, this was Silicon Valley.  The move set things in motion for him.

2. Your team is critical.

  • Temperaments and skill sets should complement and sometimes even conflict.
  • To garner respect and bring value, team members should know their swim lane.

[shareable cite="JC Ramey, DeviceBits CEO"]Know your swim lane really, really well. And no matter how brash you may appear, everybody respects the knowledge that you have and what you bring to the organization.[/shareable]

Track DeviceBits at

Today’s Killer Innovations podcast begins Season 14.  It’s hard to believe the show has run for thirteen years.  I’m thrilled to propagate the best of the innovation world.  Killer Innovations exists to foster creativity and innovation. This past year welcomed two new resources to stoke the innovation fires. The Killer Innovations mobile studio and The Innovator’s Community. I'm excited about the new season and hope you are too.

Direct download: Real_Innovation_in_Artificial_Intelligence_S14_Ep1.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 5:57am PST

Are VR/AR (Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality) glasses the future?  It might bring to mind an awkward image. People lumbering with bulky headgear.  Besides intense gaming, what are the practical uses for VR/AR technology? By refocusing the innovation and having the courage to pivot, GridRaster Inc. reveals that VR/AR technology is not reserved for gaming enthusiasts.  This innovative start-up is creating the foundation for a new world.

Seeing Beyond the Bulky Glasses

Rishi Ranjan, CEO and Founder of GridRaster Inc., joins me in the mobile studio to share his insights on this burgeoning technology.  VR/AR tech has amazing, unexpected uses. But it’s hard work on the road ahead. It’s a road with some twists and turns, such as when the GridRaster team made the decision to pivot.  

Rishi highlights the complexities of developing infrastructure to sustain VR/AR for the future.  Speaking of future, Rishi believes VR/AR glasses will be the next ubiquitous device.

“We strongly believe by 2025, everyone will be walking around with these glasses.  But, we have to start building the infrastructure today.”

Mobile phone shelved, we will all don a pair of streamlined VR/AR glasses to interact with the world.  Think sunglasses with superpowers.

Consumer or Industry: Refocus

Things weren’t so clear for Rishi in the beginning.  When GridRaster Inc. started in 2015, the focus was on VR/AR for the general public – the consumer.  They centered the technology around the mobile device platform. Gaming was the assumed end use.

GridRaster soon realized  refocusing the innovation was essential.  Their focus shifted from consumer to industrial and retail businesses.  Industries can afford to invest in this technology and see a return on investment.  

Time to Pivot

Business partner ODG helped GridRaster pivot.  They homed in on three use cases - industrial maintenance work, industrial training, and retail business.

Rishi states, “This will be the beachhead - they can build the network based on these use cases.” GridRaster continues to develop and refine their technology.  As they establish infrastructure, the game's afoot.  By refocusing the innovation now, their future customers will have a product that is usable and affordable for gaming and beyond.

[shareable cite="Rishi Ranjan, GridRaster, Inc."]It’s hard to change the passion, but you can’t afford to lose time in a start-up.[/shareable]

Balance and Adapt

Rishi has two lessons to share:

1. Keep your family onboard with the start-up process.

  • Don’t lose sight of what’s most important – your loved ones.
  • Apprise family members of what’s going on
  • Have balance – don’t let your start-up consume your life

2. Be ready and willing to adapt, refocusing the innovation if needed.

  • Weigh input from partners, mentors, customers.
  • Same input from multiple sources? Might be time to pivot.

Check out GridRaster’s innovative VR/AR technology at

Follow us on the road at The Innovators Studio on Facebook to check out where the mobile studio is headed next.

If you are looking for advice and coaching around your innovation efforts, then reach to The Innovators Network or look into joining the community of innovators that are hanging out at The Innovators Community.

Direct download: Refocusing_the_Innovation_for_the_Future_S13_Ep53.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 5:03am PST

Walt Disney said, “You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.”  Marco Carvalho would like to share this lesson with a fellow entrepreneur and innovator.

As Marco travelled the world, he discovered the need to reach out to others and extend a hand.  Be it mentoring, networking, sharing of information and expertise, innovation doesn't happen in a vacuum.

Small Town Entrepreneur with Big Dreams

At thirteen, he teamed with a friend’s father to bring internet to his hometown in Brazil.  Arriving in Shanghai as a late teen, he confronted the complete aloneness of his situation.  A mentor would have made the way smoother.  Although the road was difficult going it alone, Marco acquired a gamut of international business development and trade experience.

Mentoring that Made the Difference

Marco’s dream is in the realm of interactive children’s toys.  Endeavor is a non-profit organization that promotes entrepreneurs worldwide.  Through the support of Endeavor, Marco developed a solid network of mentors and supporters.   Now based in California, he continues to expand his vision in interactive entertainment through his company, Immersive Play.

[shareable cite="Marco Carvalho"]When you’re an entrepreneur, everybody will tell you that you’re crazy.[/shareable]

Making the Right Connections

Technology barriers in product development led Marco to connect with Chirp.  This U.K. based company uses sound to encode and transmit data.  The U.S. network Marco gained through Endeavor allowed him to further Chirp’s exposure in the U.S.  He now oversees Chirp’s business development efforts in the Americas.  This is a symbiotic relationship.  Marco uses Chirp technology in his Immersive Play products.

Keep the Dream Going

Marco states: “When you’re an entrepreneur, everybody will tell you that you’re crazy.”  This didn’t deter him.  It generated excitement.

Marco’s advice for entrepreneurs is two-fold:

  1. Mentoring is essential.
  • His experience in China highlighted this need
  • Endeavor showed him the immense benefit of mentoring
  • He mentors and is mentored regularly

     2. Innovation takes time.  Don’t rush it, test it…

  • Do your MVPs (Minimal Viable Products)
  • Take time to work out the issues
  • Don’t release a product until your customer base is ready for it

Marco and I had the honor of hearing Eric Ries speak at a CES event.  Eric provides an excellent gauge for keeping innovation on track.

  • Check out his books The Startup Way and The Lean Startup.
  • Eric’s advice benefits the entrepreneur getting started, the big corporation, and every innovation driven organization in between.

To check out what Chirp has to offer, visit

Immersive Play can be found at

Marco welcomes you to connect with him on LinkedIn (

Seeking an innovation mentor or a community to share what you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?  Join The Innovators Network.

Direct download: No_Entrepreneur_is_an_Island_Mentoring_Networking_Sharing_S13_Ep52.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 5:54am PST

Imagine a major sporting event that you can’t sit at home with friends to watch on TV.  Maybe you’ve had to work late or you’re a student returning from classes on the subway.  You do the next best thing.  You take out your mobile device to live stream it.  To add to the excitement, you live chat with friends who are streaming the event.  Then, you hear your friends cheer.  What just happened?  You missed it - the winning goal your friends saw first.  Only seconds of delay but big disappointment.  It’s prime time for a live streaming innovation.

South Korean start up company Hecas has tackled this problem.  The company focuses on live video streaming solutions.  Hoisoo Cho, Hecas Marketing Director, joined me in the mobile studio to discuss Hecas and its live streaming innovation.

Making Real Time Real

In live streaming, latency is the delay between a live event and the time it appears on your viewing device.  As Hoisoo points out, what’s called live is not in real time because of latency.  South Koreans love video live streaming.  From sporting events to K-pop to personal broadcasters, South Koreans like to connect and watch in real time.

[shareable cite="Hoisoo Chu"]The seconds of latency will make the difference between users who stay or leave.[/shareable]

Hecas has stepped up to meet this demand for mobile low latency live streaming.  With the Olympics hosted in South Korea, the timing couldn’t be better.  Their customer driven solution has gained traction with big players in South Korea.  Companies like South Korean Telecom have tapped into Hecas’s mobile live streaming innovation.  Now Hecas is ready to break through international markets.

“The seconds of latency will make the difference between users who stay or leave.”  Hoisoo affirms.  For video streaming, I agree - latency is the new metric.  It’s impact on a variety of applications is going to become more critical.

Friends and Failure

Two things that Hoisoo learned in the start up process:

  1.  Teaming with the right people is everything
  • Hoisoo was fortunate to make great connections at university – a core group of like-minded friends who had the entrepreneurial vision
  • She launched her first start up with these friends
  1. Failure can be a good thing.
  • University is an excellent environment to initiate a start up – it’s a safe place to experiment and fail.
  • Failure can offer valuable lessons

Listen to this week’s podcast to learn about Hecas.  It’s journey from a group of college friends to a company working with the largest telecom company in South Korea is inspiring.

Track how Hecas is shaping the future with live streaming innovation at

Direct download: In_Real_Time_-_Live_Streaming_Innovation_S13_Ep51.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 11:50am PST

A video game competition between siblings is one of those simple joys of childhood.  But it is no simple thing when one of those children has physical limitations that have kept him from that joy.  His smile when at last he can play a virtual soccer match against his sister speaks volumes.  Xogo is an accessible innovation that makes things possible for the physically challenged.

Motivation and Inspiration

People with disabilities are a largely underrepresented group in the U.S.  Bansen Labs, the company behind Xogo, focuses on the needs of these people.  One of their goals is to make technologies accessible at a reasonable price.  Their merging of business and social good is inspiring.

Ray Abel, CEO of Bansen Labs, tells us about this remarkable product. He shares what brought the company from class project to the Cable Labs Fiterator. One of the things that sets Bansen Labs apart is its unique perspective.  Dalton Banks, Bansen’s Chief of Product, grew up with a person who was physically disabled.  This was his inspiration behind the class project.

When it comes to accessible innovation, Ray feels that those who have a personal connection have the advantage.  The result is a product that looks better, works better, has a broader range, and a lower price.

From Classroom to Living Room

When you think of gaming, you may not think life changing innovation.  From its beginnings as a class project, Xogo has emerged as an innovation with a broad range of uses.   This technology interface product enables people easier access to and control of home electronics.

As the Xogo technology matures, its potential uses have expanded.  If you know someone who gets frustrated with technology in the home, consider Xogo.  It simplifies and streamlines home electronics.  Bansen Labs has created an accessible innovation that opens new worlds to people.

To learn more about Bansen Labs and Xogo, visit and

Direct download: Gaming_and_Beyond_Accessible_Innovation_S13_Ep50.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:59am PST

Innovation can spring out of ideating beyond your own needs.  Look to others’ challenges to shine a light on prime areas for innovation.  Innovation can also come from dire need.  Both cases push innovators to ask questions.  What can I do to make this better?  Can innovation through collaboration improve or accelerate the process?

Overdue Innovation

John Chang, co-founder of Willow, discusses his solution to an overlooked problem.  A mechanical engineer, John had the technical background.  But the conversation with his wife about the challenges moms face launched Willow Pumps.

As part of a business incubator, John searched for areas of innovation.  The spark of an idea began with his wife’s input.  It became an innovation through collaboration with mothers – relatives, friends, business associates.  He asked these women “what are the unmet needs of mothers with babies.” 

[shareable cite="John Chang, Co-Founder of Willow"]The most gratifying result: knowing this product has helped women and babies. [/shareable]

The recurring theme: the breastfeeding pump is overdue for innovation.  The products on the market were bulky and noisy.  The basic design had not changed much since the pump’s development.  In designing the product, John focused on the target customer.   

Now available, the Willow pump is discrete, quiet, handsfree, and mobile.  The most gratifying result: this product has helped women and babies.

Learn more about Willow at

Timing is Everything

On the battlefield getting the right product could be a matter of life or death.  The problem – long lead times for innovations.  As a soldier, Jay Rogers felt open sourcing and crowdsourcing could accelerate military vehicle innovations.  The faster turnaround would benefit the military.

Jay founded Local Motors to build upon this idea of innovation through collaboration.  His first success was the Rally Fighter, the world’s first crowdsourced vehicle.  It reached market within one year.  

Justin Fishkin is Chief Strategy Officer for Local Motors.  He is committed to impact investing and the environment.  The company mirrors these values.  At the core of Local Motors’ business are co-creation and microfactories.  A microfactory is small volume production in local markets.  This sustainable way of doing business has future impact.  Justin believes it “could solve the issues globalization may have caused in the early days of outsourcing.”

Local Motors’ innovations are a fusion of ideas from contributors in all walks of life.  The company exemplifies innovation through collaboration.  In a sense, Local Motors is bridging the local and the global communities.  Drawing innovative ideas from the far reaches of the world and bringing production down home to local communities.

  • Check out Local Motors’ Olli, a self-driving vehicle.  Watch it in action at CableLabs on Youtube.
  • Track the latest with Local Motors at  
  • Join the Local Motors innovators at the crowdsource platform
Direct download: Innovation_Through_Collaboration_S13_Ep49_UPDATED.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 9:00am PST

Among the emerging technologies, gadgets and hype, what innovation standouts were at CES 2018?  What trends have staying power?  

With almost every startup claiming AI, I’m having flashbacks to the dot com era when every business changed its name to get in on the buzzword bandwagon.  Is there something behind the AI buzzword that substantiates the fervor?  Interestingly enough, while the competition intensifies in areas of innovation, I notice a new level of cooperation among industry leaders in other areas.

I welcomed three guests-Tim Bajarin, Steve Guggenheimer, and Teresa Hsu- to the mobile studio to discuss the innovation standouts we’ll see in 2018.

Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is President of Creative Strategies, Inc, and a renowned technology trends analyst.  During the interview, he shared his view of  some innovation standouts in Augmented Reality (AR), 8K TV and Voice User Interface.

[shareable cite="Tim Bajarin"]Don’t create what you think the customer wants – address the pain points to create the solution.[/shareable]

Tim’s eyes weren’t on AI so much as AR.  He anticipates AR becoming more sophisticated in its capabilities and uses. He envisions an evolution of AR technology that eventually delivers real time information and overlays of data through a pair of voice command AR glasses.

Tim considers the leap in TV resolution to 8K remarkable.  Sometimes the drivers that propel innovation come from unusual places.

Voice User Interface technology is a neck and neck competition in an ecosystem battle.  In Tim’s opinion, Amazon has emerged as an unexpected leader because they asked the right questions.  He advises clients: don’t create what you think the customer wants – address the pain points to create the solution.

Interested in hearing more from Tim?  Follow him on Twitter @bajarin or visit his website Creative Strategies

Steve Guggenheimer

Steve Guggenheimer has been a long time executive at Microsoft having most recently been Microsoft Chief Evangelist. In his new role as Microsoft Corporate Vice President of AI Business, Steve has shared what he sees as the real benefits of AI solutions.  In summary -- he sees AI as a phenomenal area for innovation.

[shareable cite="Steve Guggenheimer"]Take time to experiment and apply AI to focused areas for innovative solutions.[/shareable]

Three types of industries Steve believes AI can be applied to are:

  1.    Businesses with voice driven and agent based front ends.
  • Explore cognitive services, agent technology or bot framework and know how to use them.
  1.    Businesses with a significant amount of data.
  • Apply machine learning tools to data to drive real insight.
  1.    Businesses with a horizontal problem.
  • Build a solution from the ground up using AI.

His advice: take time to experiment and apply AI to focused areas for innovative solutions.

You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevenguggs  and discover more about AI and what it can do for your business at

Teresa Hsu

The technologies on display cover a broad spectrum across all avenues of our lives.  Teresa Hsu, Senior Manager with Consumer Technology Association (host of CES), shared that the trend is not just gadgets, but the technology inside and behind products that make them smarter.

What technologies are on the innovation horizon for this year? I had a chance to sit down with acclaimed Silicon Valley tech analyst, Bob O’Donnell, at the The International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), to discuss the highlights of the show and where tech innovation is headed.

Bob shared that many of the products on view at CES were technologies debuted in past years, but with tweaks, improvements and continuing development. In his opinion, we are now coming in to the necessary, but less thrilling, phase of making things work together – a gradual progression, migration and integration - steps that need to happen to make these innovations a viable reality.

Fully Autonomous Vehicle

One of the biggest features at CES that Bob was most excited about was the fully autonomous vehicle. The timeline for final market release of these vehicles is a good example of how public expectation and actuality are not synchronized. Bob shared that this is a great example of where the public may expect an innovation to become accessible within six months, but in reality it will be three to five years before we are closer to these vehicles hitting the road.

Voice-based Computing

Voice-based computing was everywhere and the competition is stiff in the area of voice-assisted tech. Bob proclaimed that this is the new OS war with a lot of contenders. The advances and possibilities in smart home technology were impressive although smart home and voice assisted technologies are not without their problems.

[shareable cite="Bob O'Donnell"]Voice-based computing is the new OS war[/shareable]

2018 Technologies On The Innovation Horizon

Some of Bob’s predictions for 2018 (You can see his predictions in more detail at Tech.pinionsTechspot and Seeking Alpha):

  1. Empathetic AI: You will see AI drive empathetic computing. Our devices are still not smart, there’s no sense of context, but you will start to see that at end of 2018.
  2. The Year of the Accelerator: Development of neural network accelerators using chip technologies that operate more efficiently and are extremely power sensitive, allowing you to put more intelligence on the Edge.
  3. Growth of Edge computing: Now everything connects to the Cloud. Companies are innovating in the realm of Edge computing as an alternative to Cloud based computing.
  4. Voice computing: This year we will see refinements and enhancements in voice computing.
  5. Streaming services: As such services multiply – in media and beyond, the integration of these services will be a focus.

Want to keep up to date with what Bob is tracking? Check out

[callout]Click below to listen to Bob O'Donnell's discussing the technology and innovations at CES 2018[/callout]

Direct download: What_Technologies_Are_On_The_Innovation_Horizon_For_2018_S13_Ep47.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 8:16am PST

Have you ever circled around a busy city block searching for parking? You know how frustrating it can be. If you run a business that depends on drivers finding a parking space, parking becomes mission critical. Is there an innovative parking solution that addresses this problem?

This weeks guest, Jeremy Leval, discusses the parking challenge and how Parknav addresses it. He shares his journey from entrepreneurial youth to becoming a part of an innovative solution to a very common problem.

[shareable cite="Jeremy Level"]Don’t overlook the benefit of accelerators and incubators to grow your business[/shareable]

As a child with the lemonade stand, Jeremy had the idea of offering free pretzels to keep the customers coming back for more. His desire to challenge himself and stand out compelled him to try new things, learn new skills and use these skills to establish start-ups. Jeremy continued to move into new avenues of entrepreneurship, seeking ways to solve everyday problems in creative ways.

Innovative Parking Solution: Parknav

While enrolled in an MBA program, Leval kept the entrepreneurial flame burning by teaming up with a colleague, now Parknav CEO, to establish a forum for engaging a community of entrepreneurial-minded people. Jeremy  found that listening to and learning from others’ mistakes was especially useful in side-stepping potential pitfalls in his own venture. He emphasizes the value of having input from people who are disconnected from your particular venture and are willing to provide a critical, independent and qualified viewpoint.

After college, he met a University of Illinois professor who had a simple problem: finding street parking in the city. Such was the beginnings of Parknav, a navigation system that finds that elusive street parking space for you.

As Parknav began to come together as a business entity, Jeremy and his business partners had to determine where to focus their product offering – who was their best target audience. They came to a decision to pivot from their original consumer focus to focus more on a business-to-business solution.

[shareable cite="Jeremy Leval"] Don’t give up on the first no. Persevere.[/shareable]

Innovators Advice:

During the interview, Jeremy shares his advice to innovators:

  • Have a community and advisers,
  • Knowing when to pivot
  • Take advantage of business accelerators to help launch your business that will bring the right partnersto the table.

Show Links:

[callout]Click below to listen to this weeks show on innovating solutions to very common problems[/callout]

Innovation is not something restricted to Silicon Valley or other Silicon Valley like location (e.g. Austin, Boston, etc). Innovation can happen anywhere. If you are willing to invest some time and little effort, you can find non-obvious innovation happening in some very unusual locations.

This week, we take the new mobile studio to Paducah, Kentucky to interview the founders of Fin Gourmet Foods. The business challenges some basic assumptions of innovation including:

  • Turn other peoples trash into a product: Fin takes the Asian Carp, which is an invasive species that is taking over the Mississippi and Ohio river systems., and innovate a way to turn it into a great food source.
  • Give opportunities to people overlooked: In addition to locating in a rural part of the country, Fin works with local halfway houses to offer jobs to former prison inmates and others down on their luck.
  • Breathe life back into a industry overlooked by others: Fin pays a premium price for what many considered "trash" to help local independent fishing families to transition to this new species of fish and the economy it can support.

What is the non-obvious innovation at Fin?

Fin has two patented processing techniques:

  1. To debone Asian Carp fillets and
  2. To make all-natural surimi (Japanese fish paste) from the Carp without using water or chemicals.

More on Fin Gourmet Foods:

Started in 2010, Fin’s mission and vision are that the Asian Carp provide economic opportunities for our communities, fostering jobs creation and revitalizing the inland fishing industry. Together with fisherman like Ronny Hopkins, we will better manage the Asian Carp so that our rivers/lakes/estuaries are better protected while employing people who need second chances from incarceration, drug court, domestic violence, or just to have a better life path.

[callout]Click below to listen to this weeks show on non-obvious innovation from unexpected places.[/callout]

Lets face it. Innovation is hard word and requires leadership support if an organization is going to be successful at it. Thus every CEO needs an innovation coach who can come alongside and help the CEO achieve innovation success.

Why does an organization success with innovation fall in the lap of the CEO? Because the CEO needs to own the innovation agenda. This is not something that can easily be passed on to the others. While an organization may hire an CINO (chief innovation officer), the innovation success of an organization is not something that can be handed off.

4 Reasons Every CEO Needs An Innovation Coach

  1. Innovation Coach Can Help A CEO Find Their Blind Spot: We all have blind spots and we need an outsiders perspective to see them. This is especially true when it comes innovation blind spots.
  2. Innovation Coach Takes A Dispassionate View: Innovation can become very political inside an organization. A CEO needs a dispassionate independent adviser who doesn't have a dog in the hunt.
  3. Innovation Coach Can Ask The CEO Questions No One Else Can: CEO needs to be able to talk and work through issues with someone who has the role and permission to challenge and advise. The CEO cannot have this same level of conversation with their Board or team. The coach must ask the questions no one else will.
  4. Great Performers Have A Coach: People and team who want to outperform their peers have coaches. These include business, leadership and personal coaches. If innovation is import to your organization, then you need an innovation coach.

As a CEO myself, I can attest to the challenges and loneliness of the role. Having a team of advisers and coaches are invaluable to achieving personal and leadership success. Innovation should be the next area of coaching every CEO should take advantage of.

[callout]Click below to listen to this weeks show on the 4 reasons every CEO needs an innovation coach. [/callout]

Show Links:

For peer-to-peer coaching, check out TheInnovators.Community. A private Slack community of people who are passionate about innovation.

Additional Resources:

[callout]Click below to listen to this weeks show on the 4 reasons every CEO needs an innovation coach. [/callout]

Direct download: 4_Reasons_Every_CEO_Needs_An_Innovation_Coach_S13_Ep44.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 9:00am PST

To some organizations, starting an innovation effort seems easy. Just hire some consultants, host a few all-hands meetings and then decree that the organization is embracing innovation. Sustaining innovation over time is incredibly hard. Without a long term commitment, most organizations experience innovation collapse.

Are there weak signals that an organization is heading towards innovation collapse?

4 Signs Of Coming Innovation Collapse

Here are four signs that organizations should keep a look out for.

  1. Innovation Out Of Fear: For sustained innovation, an organization needs to have a bedrock reason why innovation is important.  For some, it's out of fear. Fear that share price is suffering  because of a lack of innovation. Fear that everyone else is doing it and the organization is being left behind. While fear is a catalyst for innovation, its not a sustainable motivator.
  2. Competitive Urgency: For many organizations, their idea of innovation is responding to their competitors actions. When a competitor launches a new product or service, the organization responds by catching-up. Its innovation effort is reactionary which is not a sustainable approach to innovation.
  3. Innovation Silos/Innovation Fragmentation: Some organizations will attempt to catch-up by starting a large amount of innovation projects. The innovation version of throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks. Projects will make everyone feel like they are doing something but without coordination and prioritization, the odds of success are slim.
  4. Lack of Will Power: For an organization to create a sustainable innovation program, their leadership will need to make some changes. Do they have the will power to do whatever it takes for innovation success?

During this weeks show, we discuss in more detail each of the 4 signs of pending innovation collapse.

We also share what you can do to avoid it.

[callout]Click below to listen to this weeks show on innovation collapse.[/callout]

While many are familiar with the story of how DARPA (actually it was its predecessor ARPA) invented the internet. What few are familiar with is the untold stories of of DARPA and how its innovators solved some of the most pressing problems we faced.

DARPA was created in 1958 in response to the launch of Sputnick with the mission to ensure that the United States didn't find itself behind the Soviets when it came to technology - especially in space. While its focus was on technology and innovation for the Pentagon, its work has had significant impact on civilian life.

This weeks guest, Sharon Weinberger, shares some of the untold stories abut DARPA based on her newly released book, The Imagineers of War: The Untold Story of DARPA, the Pentagon Agency That Changed the World

The Untold Stories of DARPA

DARPA is responsible for some of the most important technologies of the past six decades. Some of its projects are successes, some are failures, and some are best left to history to judge. Here is a list of DARPA’s most notable—and in some cases notorious—contributions to science, technology and warfare.

Driverless Cars: Today’s driverless automobiles being developed by Google, Uber and others are a direct result of DARPA’s robotic car races that began in 2004, with a course that ran across the Mojave Desert. The first winner of it's Grand Challenge competition was recruited by Google to start work on the company’s autonomous vehicles.

The Internet: More than any single person or agency, DARPA can lay claim to having “invented” the Internet. In the 1960s, it sponsored development of a system of networked computers called the ARPANET, the predecessor to the modern Internet. DARPA’s work on areas such as networking, packet switching and time-sharing laid the foundations for personal computing.

Drones: During the Vietnam War, the agency was responsible for developing the first armed drones. In the 1990s, the agency funded an Israeli aerospace engineer to build an unmanned aerial vehicle, which later evolved into the Predator, the armed drone most closely associated with targeted killings.

Agent Orange: In the 1960s, DARPA introduced chemical defoliation to Southeast Asia, believing that it could help eliminate jungle cover used by communist insurgents fighting the U.S.-backed government in South Vietnam. The work grew from early experiments into a widespread military spraying program that today is held responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths and sicknesses.

Border Wall Technology: In 1962, scientists working for DARPA outlined a proposal to create a barrier between North and South Vietnam. Eventually, that proposal morphed into the infamous McNamara Line, an electronic barrier that failed. Yet many of the concepts and technologies developed by DARPA, such as tethered aerostats and seismic sensors, are now used along the U.S.-Mexican border.

Stealth Aircraft: In the 1970s, DARPA sponsored development of the first “invisible aircraft,” a stealth prototype codenamed Have Blue. The stealth aircraft was designed to be invisible to radar in order to slip past Soviet air defense systems. The U.S. military’s current fleet of stealth aircraft, including the stealth helicopters used in the 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, can all be traced back to DARPA.

Nuclear Test Detection: One of DARPA’s earliest projects was a network of sensors and satellites to detect foreign nuclear tests. President John F. Kennedy relied on DARPA’s results in deciding to go forward with a Limited Test Ban Treaty in 1963 that halted nuclear tests in the atmosphere, oceans and outer space.

Modern Seismography: To advance work in underground nuclear test detection, DARPA invested heavily in the discipline of seismography and built a worldwide network of seismograph stations. The sensor network, and DARPA funding, is widely credited with advancing seismography and allowing scientists to collect the data needed to confirm the theory of plate tectonics.

M-16: During the Vietnam War, DARPA bought the Armalite-15 rifle for South Vietnamese soldiers. Eventually, it became the M-16, the standard weapon used by all three U.S. military services.

Artificial Intelligence: In the 1980s, DARPA launched a billion dollar initiative to develop artificial intelligence. The agency invested in everything from computer vision—teaching machines to “see” —to thinking computers that could help military pilots fly aircraft. The program was shut down in less than a decade and branded a “failure” at the time. Yet now some of the technologies DARPA invested in, like voice recognition, are widely used in the commercial sector (iPhone’s Siri, for example, was a spinoff of a DARPA project).

Robotics: DARPA has been the leading investor in robotics in the United States for decades. Many of today’s most recognizable robots, like iRobot’s PackBot, a bomb disposal robot used in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Roomba, the vacuum cleaner robot, can be credited to DARPA.

Data Mining: In the days after 9/11, the agency was responsible for creating one of the most high profile and controversial data-mining projects, called Total Information Awareness. The project was designed to trawl through large amounts of data, from car rental records to intelligence reports, to ferret out domestic terrorists. It was accused of being an Orwellian spy program and the work was moved to the National Security Agency.

Presidential Protection: After the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the agency ran a top-secret project to protect the president. Though many of its ideas were rejected as too fanciful, like a proposal to protect the president with a mirage-producing system, DARPA was responsible for the first armored presidential limousine.

Neuroengineering: DARPA in the 1970s helped lay the foundation for Brain-Computer Interface (brain-driven computers), imagining a future where humans could control machines, like drones, with nothing more than their minds. Today, DARPA is working on neural chips designed to help those with brain injuries recover memories and prosthetics controlled directly by the brain.

Satellites: Created in 1958 as the nation’s first space agency, it was responsible for developing the first communications satellite and first spy satellite. The agency also played a brief but critical role in sponsoring the Transit satellite, which led to the Global Positioning System.

Lessons From DARPA Success

Sharon shared three lessons from the success from DARPA:

  1. Price of Success is Failure: Be willing to try, fail and then learn from it.
  2. Be Clear About What Problem to Solve
  3. Function is More Important Than Form

[callout]Listen to this weeks show to hear Sharon Weinberger share  some of the untold stories of DARPA.[/callout]

About Sharon Weinberger:

Sharon Weinberger is the executive editor for news at Foreign Policy. Her most recent book, published in March 2017, is The Imagineers of War: The Untold Story of DARPA, the Pentagon Agency That Changed the World (Knopf, 2017). She is currently a non-resident global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, Nature, Discover,, Slate, Wired, the Washington Post, Foreign Policy, and the Financial Times, among other publications. She was previously a senior editor at Aviation Week and a co-founding writer and editor for Wired's national security blog, Danger Room.

[callout]Click below to listen to hear Sharon Weinberger share the untold stories of DARPA.[/callout]

To invent and deliver innovation at scale, infrastructure can quickly become the roadblock that will turn a great idea in to nightmare. For those of us who have been on Twitter for any amount of time, how can we forget the "fail whale" whenever it went down.

While many may consider infrastructure the "boring" part of launching a new product or service, its not something innovators can overlook.

So do you have to reinvent or can you learn from the hard earned lessons of others?

Innovation At Scale

Fortunately there are a number of open source projects that shares the lessons learned from companies who deliver their innovations at scale such as Twitter, Google, Facebook. Microsoft and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

This weeks guest, Florian Leibert, brings his experience of being part of the team that solved the "fail whale" problem at Twitter. Florian is the co-founder and CEO of Mesosphere - the company that brings infrastructure that allows its customers to create and launch their innovations at scale.

To date, Mesosphere has secured nearly $126 million from 14 Investors, including A Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Khosla Ventures, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and Microsoft. The company counts more than 100 enterprise customers, including Autodesk, ESRI, Verizon, Netflix, and Deutsche Telekom. This summer, the company was added to the Forbes Cloud 100 and selected as a Technology Pioneer by the World Economic Forum.

[callout]Listen below to this weeks show to hear what is required to deliver your next innovation at scale.[/callout]

About Florian Leibert

Florian Leibert is the CEO and co-founder of Mesosphere, the company behind DC/OS – the premier platform for building and running data-rich, containerized applications.  Prior to founding Mesosphere, Florian was technical lead at Airbnb, where he built the company’s data infrastructure and co-authored a popular open source tool called Chronos. Before that, he was technical lead at Twitter. At Twitter he built the company’s distributed search service and introduced Apache Mesos to improve the scalability and reliability of Twitter’s platform. This helped to eliminate the then infamous “fail whale.” Leibert has been a researcher and software engineer developing distributed systems for more than a decade.

[callout]Listen to this weeks show to hear Florian Leibert's experience of delivering innovation at scale.[/callout]

Direct download: Innovation_At_Scale_The_Role_Of_Infrastructure_S13_Ep41.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:01am PST

Building an innovation ecosystem of support across your organization is critical to achieving success. Without it and you will struggle taking and idea and making it real.

This week, we take a look at another listner question on how to get support across the organization.

[shareable cite="Fotune 50 Innovator" text="What kind of incentive program should we put in place for new innovative products and services?"]A problem in large organizations with innovative ideas is getting the sales team engaged to proactively sell your idea to customers. It's relatively easy to setup a market trial but getting 5 account teams to sell this to help prove out the market trial is a challenge: the sales teams are just too busy meeting their targets with current products. What kind of incentive program should we put in place for new innovative products and services? What other ideas? Be good if you could take a service as an example - rather than the usual product focus. Innovation can happen in services too![/shareable]

Innovation Ecosystem

By building an ecosystem of groups and departments that you need support from to make your innovation successful, you greatly enhance your chances for success. This innovation ecosystem can consists of:

  • Operations (finance, IT, legal, etc)
  • Manufacturing/supply chain
  • Product development/services delivery
  • Sales and Marketing

Dealing With A Lack Of Innovation Support

Why is so hard to get them to support innovation? Many believe that with executive, or even CEO support, the rest of the organization will fall in. Top down "declarations" that innovation is important is NOT enough.

As an innovation leader, you need to create an environment that invites and encourages others to be a part of the work you are doing.

5 Steps Building A Strong Innovation Ecosystem

  1. Build innovation interface points across the organization. Treat them like they are part of your team. Their role is to be your evangelist inside the silo's when you need their support. Do NOT wait until you need them. Have the relationships well in place before the first crisis appears.
  2. Identify the "catching team" early. Who will own the innovation after launch? Get them engaged early. Don't ask for a lot of resources. Ask for a named individuals who will own it.
  3. Ramp up the resources. As an innovation gets traction, ramp up the resources from the teams as needed.
  4. Ramp down your involvement. At the same time as other resources are ramping up to support the innovation, you and your team need to ramp down. Minimize your role in leading the innovation effort. Instead, move the ecosystem to take on leadership roles.
  5. Let the catching organization get the credit. The easiest way to win over the innovation ecosystem inside your organization is to not focus/worry on who gets credit.

Incentive's To Encourage Support For Innovation

What incentives should/could be in place? Here are two examples:

  • # of innovations that resulted in new product/services.
  • % of revenue from new products/services launched in the last x years.

These are just a start. There is a lot more to consider when it comes to incentives. If there is interest in this topic, we will cover it in a future show.

[callout]Listen below to this weeks show to learn how to build a strong innovation ecosystem within your organization.[/callout]

I'm not sure how many people would up and quit google and sell their house to fund an innovation. On top of that, the idea was in an area that many say had no room for new innovation. A very typical innovation antibody response to this persons idea.

Unexpected Innovation

Many innovations that go on to become market leaders are the result of the innovators own personal frustrations. For Renee, that frustration came from wanting a better way to search and find audio content that allowed her to stay up with everything going on.

While many believe that world does NOT need yet another podcast application, Renee believed that allowing for audio keyword search was one such innovation that others would find helpful.

I was one of those people. While I've tried just about every podcast app going back almost 14 years, CastBox did create something unique.

Innovation Through Sacrifice

What are you willing to do to take your idea and create the product or service you envisioned? Some will use some of their savings or maybe even borrow from a few credits cards. Few will go the levels Renee has done. In her case, she quit the ultimate job with Google and sold her house to fund what became CastBox.

That is true sacrifice to fulfill a vision.

About Renee Wang:

Renee Wang started her technical career working for Google. Her passion for listening to spoken audio led her to asking the questions, "why can't I search for keywords in audio?." This simple question led her down the path of finding a solution to this obvious question. 

Renee quit her job and sold her house to launch CastBox. What is it? It's a global audio platform pioneering in-audio search and delivering contextual recommendations to listeners of podcasts, on-demand radio and audiobooks.


[callout]Listen to this weeks show below to hear how Renee Wang, founder and CEO of Castbox, went from idea to innovation in audio.[/callout]

Direct download: Would_You_Quit_Google_and_Sell_Your_House_for_an_Idea_S13_Ep39.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:29am PST

When it comes to tackling some of the hardest medical innovations, patience becomes a fundamental requirement. Because of the regulatory challenges of getting government approval, its not uncommon to wait for years before an innovation is approved for use. That assumes you can solve all of the technical and medical issues before even starting to secure government approval.

In the case of Dean Irwin, the innovation he envisioned needed innovation in components before the product could be created. How long would you be willing to wait? In Dean's case, that wait was for 15 years.


Waiting 15 years to bring an innovation to market is the ultimate example of patience. Why did it take so long? To achieve the design objectives, the product needed innovation in a number of areas including smaller and cheaper lasers, improved delivery approaches and confidence in the vision of using lasers to address a medical need that no one else considered.

So how do you fund innovations that take so long?

Dean's company took the basic elements and went after a market that was less demanding and that could generate enough margin to fund the long term vision. The result was a bootstrap approach to ensure control of the vision and funding to drive the innovations needed.

What's the status of the innovation Dean has waited so patiently for?

[callout]Listen below to this weeks show to hear how Dean Irwin's patience is saving lives.[/callout]

About Dean Irwin

Dean Irwin is founder and CEO of Ra Medical Systems. Since founding Ra Medical Systems, he has spearheaded the successful design, development, and commercialization of the Pharos excimer laser for dermatology as well as the investigational DABRA excimer laser and DABRA catheter for peripheral artery disease (PAD).

Over his career, he has published numerous engineering and scientific papers including consulting to the Plasma Research Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Institute of Plasma Physics at Nagoya University in Japan. Dean has been issued eight patents in the field of ultraviolet light and phototherapy, four patents for advanced display technologies, and has numerous patents pending for methods, devices, and catheters for cardiovascular applications.

Show Links:

[callout]Listen below to this weeks show to hear how Dean Irwin's patience is saving lives.[/callout]

Direct download: Patience_Waiting_15_Years_To_Bring_An_Innovation_To_Market_S13_Ep38.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:11am PST

We've all heard the mantra to never give up. We say it to our kids in the hopes that they stick with something that has impact. In the case of Dean Irwin, this mantra as child set him on a path that few could imagine.

Dean left school at 13 to become an entrepreneur. His first effort was studying and repairing radios and TV back when they relied on vacuum tubes. This foundation let to him becoming and engineering consultant at MIT working on nuclear fusion.

How do you go from a kid of 13 fixing TV's to working on nuclear fusion at one of the most prestigious universities? Through passion, curiosity and willingness to use his understanding of the basics and applying them to new technologies. It turns out that understanding the basic of vacuum tubes is directly attributable to understanding and building the elements needed for nuclear fusion.

Never Give Up

Dean credits his upbringing that encouraged his interests to learn, understand and apply his ideas in unique ways. To never give up on his dreams and interests. Even if that means going in directions that sometimes don't seem logical.

I'm not sure as a father and a grandfather I could get comfortable with one of my kids or grand-kids leaving school at such a young age to go live their dream. Does that sound too conservative or too logical? Maybe. As I've preached many times, we all need to get comfortable being uncomfortable. And when we see youth who are on a path to transform society, we sometimes have to be willing to let go.

Dean Irwin is one of those rare bread of entrepreneurs and innovators that can see what others can't and create life impacting innovations.

[callout]Listen below to this weeks show to hear Dean Irwin's story and how he is changing our lives.[/callout]

About Dean Irwin

Dean Irwin is founder and CEO of Ra Medical Systems. Since founding Ra Medical Systems, he has spearheaded the successful design, development, and commercialization of the Pharos excimer laser for dermatology as well as the investigational DABRA excimer laser and DABRA catheter for peripheral artery disease (PAD).

Over his career, he has published numerous engineering and scientific papers including consulting to the Plasma Research Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Institute of Plasma Physics at Nagoya University in Japan. Dean has been issued eight patents in the field of ultraviolet light and phototherapy, four patents for advanced display technologies, and has numerous patents pending for methods, devices, and catheters for cardiovascular applications.

Show Links:

[callout]Listen below to this weeks show to hear Dean Irwin's story and how he is changing our lives.[/callout]

Direct download: Never_Give_Up_Leaving_School_At_13_To_Study_Nuclear_Fusion_S13_Ep37.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 10:59am PST

Over my career, twice I found myself part of what I would consider high performance teams. These are teams that achieved far beyond expectations. Once you've been a part of a high performance team, you will do everything in your power to find another team just like it.

What I struggled with was unlocking why some teams are high performing while others were so bad I did everything in my power to get off of them.

This begs the question: Is there a formula or set of rules to creating and maintaining high performance teams?

Yes - per the authors Linda Adams and Audrey Epstein, of The Loyalist Team: How Trust, Candor and Authenticity Create Great Organizations.

In their book, they establish the framework that there are four types of teams.

  • Saboteur: Team members are working actively to sabotage the project and team members.
  • Benign Saboteur: Depending on the the situation and personal goals, team members will throw others under the bus with no commitment to the success of the team and its projects.
  • Situation Loyalist: Team members support the team and its members depending on the situation and personal objectives.
  • Loyalist: Team members are fully committed and have each others back.

Compared to saboteur teams, loyalist teams are 2000x more likely to be viewed as highly effective by their stakeholders.

Mindset of High Performance Teams

In their book, the authors layout what they believe are the tell tail signs of the loyalists team mind set:

  • We win or lose together
  • We have each other's backs
  • We are committed to the team goals
  • We hold each other accountable

What type of team are you on?

Which team are you a part of? Take a free survey offered at

[callout]Listen below to this weeks show to hear how you can create high performance teams.[/callout]

About The Guests:

Audrey Epstein's 20-year corporate HR career has focused on her passion: driving executive, team and organizational excellence. Prior to her consulting experience, Audrey managed learning and development functions within large companies and non-profits. Her experience includes building state-of-the-art leadership programs for executives, high potential groups, and special populations such as executive women.

Linda Adams brings over 40 years of experience as a Human Resources professional in several large international corporations and as an Executive Coach to the senior leadership of several top North American businesses. Linda focuses her work on creating dynamic and sustainable change in the way executives interact and create results for their teams and their organizations. She works with senior executive leaders to articulate vision, build alignment, establish accountability and drive to attain results for their organizations.


[callout]Listen below to this weeks show to hear how you can create high performance teams.[/callout]

Direct download: Can_You_Create_High_Performance_Teams_S13_Ep36.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:14am PST

Have we become addicted to innovation? I love the next new thing as much as anyone as evidenced by all of the stuff I've accumulated. As an innovators, the challenge is how to get the innovation timing right to satisfy the market and stay ahead of the competition.

The pull on companies to create the next great product or service is hard to avoid. Consumers are asking and your competition is on your heals.  Its the innovation version of "keeping up with the Jones".

But innovation is not a one and done type activity. Once you start, the customer is always looking for what's next. The pace of innovation drives your activity and its not slowing down. In fact, its accelerating.

The Goldilocks Problem

As an innovators, can you or should you speed up your innovation refresh rate? This is a Goldilocks problem. You go too slow and your competitions will blow right past you. Go too fast and your customers cannot absorb what you are creating. You risk creating innovation exhaustion.

You need to get the innovation timing "just right".

Behind The Scenes Look At How I Do It

You are probably asking yourself, if this is so hard, what hope do you have in getting it right? Don't expect perfection.  There is NO magic formula that when performed generates innovation planning success.

Innovation is messy and unpredictable.  So how do you set the right flow?

Four Step Process To Set Your Innovation Timing

  1. Set your funnel "output" rate. For example,  At HP, the rate of innovation from the Innovation Program Offices was 2 per year for HP. In my current role as a CEO with ~200 people, we have an innovation rate slightly higher than what we had at HP.
  2. Define your stages in the funnel. I use a four stage funnel/gates to ensure oversight of ideas in different stages of development.
  3. Calculate out how many total ideas to achieve your "output" rate. For example, at HP we set our metrics as:
    • Market Validation = 20 ideas
    • Customer/Product Validation = 10 ideas
    • Limited Launch/Trial = 5 ideas
    • Global Launch = 2 ideas
  4. Pace yourself. Its easy to get enthusiastic on the ideas you have in the funnel. To achieve long term, sustainable innovation, you need to prioritize your funnel and be discipline on 2 per year.

The above may sound simple but trust me, its a lot harder than it looks. Leaders within your organization will derail the funnel at ever turn. Be prepared to defend and protect the funnel.

Hard Learned Lessons

Some lessons I've learned when leading and managing innovation organizations:

  • Do not over extend your rate by pushing more innovations than the rate you've set. For 2 ideas per year, we required 35 ideas in the funnel (see metrics below). If you were to go to 3 ideas per year, you would need roughly 52 ideas in the funnel. Think about that carefully.
  • Be aware of what your customers (or internal catching organization) can absorb. If you exceed their innovation adoption rate, you will burn them out with innovation exhaustion.

Listener Question: Starting A New Business

This week, we took time answer a listener question:

[shareable cite="Roberta " text="Should I start my business as an affiliate or as a distributor ?"]I am stuck trying to decide between starting a new business (non tech actually, small regional chocolate creators) that is either affiliate which is limited start up fees and also limited % or distributor which requires a WHOLE lot more capital as well as commercial kitchen for storage, receipt of products and distribution, etc.[/shareable]

Answer: Yes. Listen to this weeks show to hear my advice to Roberta on starting a new business.

[callout]Listen below to this weeks show to get a behind the scenes look at getting the innovation timing right.[/callout]

During some recent travels, I started noticing the comments and suggestions that "being part of Silicon Valley must be exciting". As I paid more attention, it came across as almost hero worship of Silicon Valley and the companies its has launched. It's like people believe that innovation outside Silicon Valley is a rare if not impossible occurrence.

I have to admit that when I first showed up in Silicon Valley in 1984, I was in awe. I felt that I had arrived and proven myself. It took me better than 4 years to open my eyes and see that it wasn't that unique or special. There are some advantages to being there but human creativity and innovations they create are not limited to small piece of land. There is innovation outside of Silicon Valley.

Venture Capital

One unique characteristic to the valley is the access to billions of risk capital that people are willing to invest in new innovations. But risk capital is available in other places also. For example the State of Ohio Venture Fund which is helping new innovative companies stay in the state rather then feeling they need to go to the valley to be successful.

Unexpected Innovations

Innovation can come from anywhere such as the result Hurricane Katrina, a taxi drive in NYC working on new medical innovations and the solution to predictors killing livestock in Africa. While many of these innovations start out as solutions to immediate hyper local issues, they can and do turn into products and services that we all benefit from.

Remember that innovation does not equal technology. There are an unlimited number of ways to apply innovation to what you do.

How To Help

The challenge is how to help innovators who are outside of Silicon Valley to be successful while also impacting their local economy. Here are some ways we can all help:

  1. By highlighting what others are doing (e.g. social media) to give them some exposure.
  2. By shows what others are doing, reinforcing that anyone can innovate.
  3. By showing how to innovate (e.g. joining The Innovators Community), give others the skills to take their idea and turn it into a business.

[callout]Listen below to this weeks show on Innovation Outside of Silicon Valley.[/callout]

Direct download: Innovation_Outside_Silicon_Valley_S13_Ep34.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 3:34am PST

When it comes to looking and selecting the right ideas to get behind, we all suffer from biases and blind spots. When you look at the success rate for venture capitalists, the only expect to have one hit out 10. So, why do we repeatedly find ourselves backing the wrong ideas and what can we do about it?

While some if not many companies will fail, there are a corresponding set of great ideas that will never see the light of day. Why is that? Because those entrepreneurs can't get the support to turn their idea in to that next killer innovation.

Stop Backing The Wrong Ideas

This weeks guest, Ross Baird, shares what he calls the "innovation blind spot". This blind spot is based on three areas:

  1. "One size fits all" - the attempt by entrepreneurs to take an idea, opportunity or problem and apply basic/simple rules to solve or address it. This creates blind-spots that we are not even aware of.
  2. "It's not what you know; its who you know" - this is manifest through biases of who we work with, who we invest in, who do we trust. What has historically been the result is that people work with, invest in and trust people like themselves.
  3. "Two pocket thinking" - when we can integrate what we do and why we do it, we will get better results.

During the show, Ross shares how to counteract these innovation blind spots and why we need to stop backing the wrong ideas if we are to impact the important issues facing our society.

About Ross Baird:

Ross Baird is the founder of Village Capital, a firm that finds and invests in entrepreneurs solving the most important problems in society.Since founding Village Capital in 2009, Ross has supported hundreds of entrepreneurs in over 50 countries. Ross has spent his entire career on the founding team of start-up enterprises or investing in startups.

He also serves on the faculty of the University of Virginia, where he teaches entrepreneurship and impact investing.

[callout]Listen below to this weeks show on how to address your innovation blind spot so that you can back the best ideas.[/callout]

Direct download: Why_Do_We_Back_The_Wrong_Ideas_S13_Ep33.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 7:37am PST

In a recent discussion with some colleagues, we get to discussing the current state of the US and global economy. Why has the economic recovery been so slow which has caused the middle class income to stagnate? In my opinion, its because the companies and jobs we are creating are not delivering high value products or services. What we need is innovation driven entrepreneurship.

The State Of The Current Economy

Entrepreneurship and the start-ups they create are the engine that drives economic growth and jobs. In 2016, 99.7% of all firms in the US were small businesses (private sector companies with less than 500 employees).  These same small businesses create 33.6% of known export value and employ 48% of private sector employees. In addition, 60% of all new jobs are created by small businesses.

That's a lot of impact on the economy. So what is going on? When you dig underneath the numbers, the reveal some shocking issues.

While 60% of all jobs today are created by small businesses, back in 2001 that number was 69.8%. At the same time, the average median income has been effectively flat since 1998 when you account for inflation.

So we are see a slowing of start-ups creating new jobs and the jobs they are creating has caused the median household income to stagnate.

Innovation Driven Entrepreneurship

We need more than just more start-ups who create low paying jobs. We need businesses that brings innovations to market that deliver such high value that customers are willing to pay a margin premium.

This is what I'm calling innovation driven entrepreneurship or some may call it innovation driven start-ups.

These start-ups don't have to follow in the model of Silicon Valley and be focused on technology. Innovations can cover a wide range of areas. I recently came across a very innovative idea for a new approach to a bicycle that I think could open that market to new customers who are not ridding today.

Another example is innovating education and how we prepare students with STEM skills that will prepare them to compete in the emerging creative economy. Check out what Zaniac is doing.

What I'm not talking about is an entrepreneur copying some existing business or franchising a business for their local community. These are all good and play a role in the economy. But these small businesses are  typically not going to drive a disruptive product or service that will return a margin premium.

How Do You Start An Innovation Driven Start-up?

We've covered on this show a number of ways to think about discovering ideas and then executing to turn those ideas into a killer innovation. When it comes to innovation driven entrepreneurship, think about in two parts:

Innovation: Find a problem, ideate a solution (product, service, business model, etc), test it with others then adjust and repeat the process.

Entrepreneurship: Find and focus on a customer who needs your innovation, serve that customer, find another customer and then repeat until you achieve scale.

While this sounds simple, it is incredibly hard. You will face disappointment and setbacks while also experiencing the thrill when a customer says they love your innovation and actually pays for it.

How Can I Help You With Your Start-Up?

I want to help you take your idea and create a business that turns your idea into an innovation. Given the sheer number of people, I can't do this 1:1. So I've joined a community that hangs out in a private Slack area full of innovators and entrepreneurs. There is where you can find the expertise you need while also sharing you expertise with others.

Check out The Innovators Community to learn how you can be part of the community.

[callout]Listen below to this weeks show on how innovation driven entrepreneurship can drive the economy.[/callout]

Direct download: Innovation_Driven_Entrepreneurship_S13_Ep32.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 11:26pm PST

Over the years, I noticed that I seem to get a similar set of questions from the participants at my talks, workshops, and innovation boot camps. What this tells me is that there are a set of common questions about innovation that are on everyone's mind.

Here are the 9 common questions on innovation that I get.

How do I define innovation?

Innovation is when an idea becomes real to the point where someone is willing to exchange value to get it. Ideas are easy. Turning them into something that has impact is really hard.

What is a killer innovation?

Some people over the years have criticized and attacked my use of the word "killer". When I started the show back in 2005, the word "killer" was used to describe things like "killer apps" which is translated to -- "best app".

My definition of killer innovations is an innovation that is a significant and highly profitable departure from current offerings or practices that would be difficult to duplicate.

So ... incremental innovation is of no value?

NO. There are multiple types of innovations and incremental is just as important as the others. An incremental innovation is when you build on top of an existing innovation with something new and unique.

Incremental innovations are highly valuable since most organizations depend on these incremental innovations to pay the rent while the next disruptive innovation is being worked on.

Why is innovation so difficult?

Its not just about the idea. There are a lot of pieces that must come together to turn an idea into a game changing -- killer innovation. And most of these things you are not in control of.

What are some of the things you cannot control?

One thing critical to innovation success that you cannot control is timing. You may have the best idea but if the market is not ready, technology is not ready, government regulations are not ready -- you're stuck.

Remember that Steve Jobs and Apple did NOT invent the smart phone. Depending on who you talk to, it was either Nokia and/or Palm. Steve and Apple just got the timing right.

[shareable]The difference between a good and a great idea is rarely the idea. It's the timing.[/shareable]

What are some of the things you CAN control?

Your team. Innovation is a team sport. Who you hire -- who you allow to be on your team -- will be the most important decision you make.

I look for passion and culture fit. I can teach skills. I cannot teach/inject passion. And if you're a jerk, then there is no room on my team for you.

What is one of the biggest mistakes more organizations make when it comes to innovation?

Creating a culture where "failure" is not allowed. Innovation is all about failure. If you aren't failing, you aren't innovating.

Best in class teams and organizations have a 90% failure rate. If your's is lower, then you are not stretching. You are making the safe bets.

If you're failure rate is above 90%, then take a look at how you are selecting and managing your idea funnel.

How can organizations get over their fear of failure?

By celebrating failure when they occur versus hiding them. In a previous role, I actually put in place a bonus system that would reward failure. You need to send the message that a willingness to take risks and try is just as important as the successes.

WARNING: If an organization has a history of punishing failure such as firing or demoting people whose project didn't succeed, then changing the culture will be incredibly HARD if not impossible.

What is another mistake most organizations make?

Most senior leader lack patience. Innovation is HARD and as a result, its hard to predict when a breakthrough will occur.

No matter how good you think you are at predicting and managing projects, when it comes to innovation -- it takes long than you think. Get used to it.

Bonus question: Who are the best people to be innovators? Who should I hire?

EVERYONE! Everyone is an innovator. It doesn't matter the role, function, education, background or skills. Innovation is a skill that you can learn, practice and become proficient at.

Now -- some will be better at it than others but that is because they work at it. They practice it. They exercise their creative muscle everyday. Do you?

If not, then don't set back and complain because someone else is "more creative" because of some special gift.  Your ability to innovate is in your control.

To exercise your creativity muscle, check out this speech on creative thinking.

[callout]Listen below to this weeks show on the 9 Common Questions on Innovation[/callout]

Direct download: 9_Common_Questions_About_Innovation_S13_Ep31.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 3:55am PST

Technology megatrends, or what some call long range technology roadmaps, are an important input into your strategic thinking as you build your innovation pipeline. I've been researching, tracking and presenting on technology megatrends for the last 30 years of my career.

During a live show broadcast on Facebook, a member of the audience asked about what technology trends would have major impact on businesses. Rather than just giving a quick off hand answer, I took on objective of giving you insight into the technology megatrends that I'm tracking. The megatrends will have significant impact on society, governments, businesses industries and career.

[button href="" primary="true" centered="true" newwindow="true"]Download the Technology Megatrends Slides[/button]

Background on Technology Megatrends

How do you get from technology to innovation? When I think about technology, I look specifically at exponential technologies such as Moore's Law. I think what capabilities it will bring 2, 3 even 5 generations in the future. This in turns starts to inspire exponential ideas. These are the ideas that are disruptive to industries and economies. The final step is to translate these exponential ideas and turn them in to exponential innovations.

So -- for me, it all begins with looking at technology that could be transformative.

Major Technology Megatrends

Catalyst & Building Block Technologies: These are technologies that are combined with others to create resulting innovations. For example, high density batteries in the future and their role in innovating transportation.

Perceptive Technologies: Technoligies that acquire input from the world and transform it into a useful purpose. This include machine learning (taking large amounts of data and looking for pasterns) and macro robots that learn by observing.

Immersive Media: How will we receive and consume media in the future? These technologies cover the range from flexible displays to smart vision contact lenses.

Augmented Communications: The ability to enhance and improve our ability to communication and collaborate can transform society and relationships. For example, the transition from immersive telepresence to holographic volumetric displays will allow true seamless collaboration across distances.

Experience Continuum: Enhanced experiences from technologies are just around the corner. Imagine virtual travel where you can experience people, places and things you never thought possible. How will that impact the empathy of others when you can see and experience people from around the world in their environment.

Long Better Lives: I can make one prediction that I'm 100% positive I will get right. We are all getting older. Technology can play a critical role that will allow us to age gracefully and make the near future a better place. One technology that I'm particularly interested in is genome-matched treatment that would allow Dr's to create cures for a specific person based on their genetic code.

Sensor-Driven World: Sensors will allow these other technologies to become smarter about the environment around us. This in turn will enhance our ability to take advantage of the technology megatrends we've been talking about.

[button href="" primary="true" centered="true" newwindow="true"]Download the Technology Megatrends Slides[/button]


Continue the conversation by joining The Innovators Community over on Slack. This is a private community of innovators from a wide range of industries who come together on Slack to share and discuss creativity and innovation.

[callout]Listen below to this weeks show and see what Technology Megatrends could impact you! [/callout]

Direct download: Technology_Megatrends_S13_Ep30.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:13am PST

Over the last few decades, the importance of design has been growing in the context of how to create disruptive game-changing innovations. Human centered design (HCD) is the way that innovators integrate design with a clear view of customer in to the process of creating an innovation that has impact. Be careful as bad design can doom innovation to the trash heap.

What is human centered design?

[shareable]Human-centered design (HCD) is a design and management framework that develops solutions to problems by involving the human perspective. Human involvement typically takes place in observing the problem within context, brainstorming, conceptualizing, developing, and implementing the solution.[/shareable]

Early Inspiration

Many guests on the show have shared their inspirations when it comes innovation and design. This week is no different. Our guest, Gordon Stannis, shared how a 9 month cross country bike ride sabbatical armed him with a sense of fearless curiosity. By meeting and talking with a wide range of people from different backgrounds, Gordon became equipped to represent them and needs when designing products and services.

He took that experience and perspective to leading design positions at Herman Miller, BMW Group and Prince / Johnson Controls. Even with that experience, he recognized the need to do more. It just wasn't about design but an integrated discipline of design plus technology.

Started Twisthink

Gordon and a partner (who was technical) made the decision to create a company that was both design and technical with some unusual characteristics. There are no departments so no silo's could get established. To reinforce this, every six months Gordon re-shuffles where people set. This creates a constant sense of making of new connections across the organization.

Advice On Human Centered Design (HCD) And Innovation

What are the three pieces of advice Gordon gave for organizations who are thinking about embracing human centered design?

Develop a common language: Teams should create a process and language of human centered design and then train everyone in your organization to understand and use it. This will allow anyone to then run with it on their own.

Visualize: Vizio, PowerPoint and project charts are not tools of visualizing the solution. Organizations need to embrace the process of creating 3D highly visualized forms of the ideas and put them up for everyone to see. Not on some some small whiteboard. Take up the entire wall 10 feet high. Immerse yourself and the team in the visual representation of the innovation.

Understand the hierarchy of innovation: There is a hierarchy of innovation that organizations needs to understand and reward individuals and teams for achieving. These are:

  1. Curiosity (Like the parking lot when attempting a climb)
  2. Imagination (Base camp)
  3. Creativity (Mid-camp)
  4. Innovation (Peak of the mountain)

About Gordon Stannis

Gordon Stannis is the Director of Design and Strategy at Twisthink.  One of Gordon’s greatest accomplishments is Co-Creating Twisthink based on the belief that there was a better way to create and deliver value to clients battling against the relentless wave action of commoditization.

Gordon holds a large number of Utility Patents and International Design Awards in transportation, consumer electronics, durable goods, medical, furniture and more.

[callout]Listen below to this weeks show and be inspired to take advantage of human centered design (HCD).[/callout]

Direct download: Human_Centered_Design_HCD_S13_Ep29.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 3:06am PST

When it comes to sourcing innovation, most focus on trying to come up with a clever technical or business hook. Over years of experience of both innovation success and failures, I've uncovered three areas of focus for sourcing innovation that will have significant impact.

Before jumping into the three areas of focus, there is a basic skill that is required. That is the ability to create questions that will cause you to look at these three areas differently.

Power of Questions

I believe that a good question is one that causes people to really think before they answer it, and one that reveals answers that had previously eluded them.

Our ability to ask and answer question is uniquely human. According to primatologists, the great apes can understand and answer simple questions. However, unlike humans, a great ape has never proven that it can ask questions.

Learning how to use the power of questions to think differently is a skill that everyone has -- even if it’s not your automatic instinct. I believe that anyone can develop and harness this power through the use of provocative questioning and discovery.

Secret #1 - People

The key to many innovation successes is to dig deep and understand the customer/user of your innovation. I'm not a fan of using third party definitions of customer segments. If you are going source innovation that are different from everyone else, you need to have unique insights of your target customers. These insights will allow you to uncover their unspoken needs and wants.

See the slides below for common and not so common ways others look at customer segments.

Take a look at the customer segments I talked about in the show.

Secret #2 - Time

Time is valuable. You can't save it. You can't store it. You can't but more of it. Its perishable. Innovations that understand and find unique ways to make time even more valuable to customers can find themselves in a unique and defensible position.

See the slides below for unique ways to think and innovate time.

Secret #3 - Money

Rather than think like other innovators when they think of money (e.g. this idea will make me rich), focus on how to deliver value to your customer. If you innovate ways for them to make more, save more, get more items for less, protect money, etc -- you will separate yourself from most of your competition.

Bonus Secret: Pitching Your Idea

Once I've discovered an idea that I believe in, then I need to find a way to show and tell others what I'm thinking. One of the most impactful ways in through vision videos. Vision video's use strategic storytelling to place the person in the middle of the story and create empathy for the impact of your idea. Done right -- they will attract others who will want to invest time and in money to realize your vision.

Sourcing Innovation

Now you know my secrets to better sourcing of innovation. The key is to look beyond the obvious and align your innovations to people, time and money.

[callout]Listen to this weeks show and learn my 3 secrets to sourcing innovation.

We've also included below the slides that Phil shared during the live broadcast.[/callout]

[slideshare id="79614937"]


For help and guidance in sourcing innovation for your organizations, check out The Innovators Network.

Direct download: My_Secret_to_Sourcing_Innovation_S13_Ep28.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 3:43am PST

Some of the smartest, most creative people I know spend time doing nothing but thinking. For example Einstein was often criticized for his day dreaming. His form of day dreaming was to run his thought experiments.  Experiments carried out completely within his imagination.

Our society doesn't embrace or allow for day dreaming. Most organizations view this as being lazy and unproductive. Companies are focused are measuring things like hours worked, project deliverables and improved productivity.

Henry Ford and Day Dreaming

There is a famous Henry Ford story where an efficiency expert he had hired complained about a man who sat at his desk with his feet up. The expert's point was the obvious lack of productivity and output from this person. Ford said that that specific person came up with an idea that saved him millions by setting at his desk and just thinking. Ford added that he was paying that man to come up with the next great idea.

When I look at people whose ideas have changed the world, day dreaming combined with "reflective thinking" was a common trait.

Is it a coincidence or is there something to this?

[shareable cite="Fiona Kerr, University of Adelaide"]Daydreaming (with reflective thinking) allows the mind to wander. The outcome is consistently more productive when dealing with complex problems or coming up with creative solutions and ideas.[/shareable]

Day Dreaming Experiment

To either prove or disprove the hypothesis that day dreaming improves creativity, I'm proposing an experiment. This experiment was inspired by Zat Rana.

I commit (and invite you to do it yourself) to two hours per week for two months of focused day dreaming. What does that mean?

  • No computer
  • No mobile phone
  • No music
  • No talking

I will be using my Moleskine notebook to record my thoughts and ideas to see if I can notice an improvement in my personal creativity.

How To Get Started Day Dreaming?

One way to spark your day dreaming is to simply ask yourself a set of questions. Here are few to start with (again, inspired by Zat Rana)

  • Do I have the right set of priorities and do I apply them?
  • Is my work/life balance working?
  • What idea do I have that I am not pursuing?
  • What small step could I take that would have a MAJOR impact on the idea
  • Where do you want to be in one year with your idea with your life?

Be Part Of The Experiment

If you are part of The Community, I will setup a Slack channel for this experiment so that we can discuss, share and track the results. If you are not part of The Innovators Community, you should check it out. Its a community of innovators and creatives from around the world who share, challenge and grow as innovators.

I will also share my results in a future show.

[callout]Listen to this weeks show on how day dreaming can be the spark to boost your creativity.

Note: We apologize for the background clicks and pops in this weeks show. [/callout]

Show Links:

Direct download: Day_Dreaming_2_Hours_To_Boost_Your_Creativity_S13_Ep27.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 1:02pm PST

When I was a software engineer, one area of importance was the design and testing of user interfaces. The work was frustrating because you had to decipher what the user was "thinking" to understand how they would use your software. Over the years, the research has taken on the challenges of human computer interaction with next generation technology.

Our guest today, Dr. Chris Harrison from Carnegie Mellow University, is the Assistant Professor of Human Computer Interaction at Carnegie Mellon University. While this is his work today, his Master's research thesis was in understanding if a persons activities (timeline) could be used to better organize documents. This idea of improving human computer interaction around documents led to his PhD research that focused on next generation technology around touch.

Human Computer Interaction

In addition to his own research area, he also oversees the Future Interfaces Group (FIG) as CMU. The mission and purpose of FIG is:

[shareable cite="Future Interfaces Group at CMU" text="... foster powerful and delightful interactions between humans and computers."]To create new sensing and interface technologies that foster powerful and delightful interactions between humans and computers. These efforts often lie in emerging use modalities, such as wearable computing, touch interaction and gestural interfaces.[/shareable]

This work goes beyond the technology of touch to also include the psychology and human response to find better ways to allow next generation technology to be a tool that is easier to use and benefit from.

Next Generation Technology: Electrick

Electrik is focused on bringing touch to volume and shapes not achievable with today's technology. By using a "poor conducting" paint, this solution allows you to easily enable touch interfaces and interactions on all kinds of surfaces such as car steering wheels, table tops, toys, etc.

[youtube id="38h4-5FDdV4"]

One immediate application for this new technology is in the area of "fast prototyping". You can now create a 3D printer prototype, apply Electrick and create the interaction experience of the prototype .. all with hours or days rather than months.

Next Generation Technology: Infobulb (light bulb 2.0)

Chris also shared his work on bringing touch interaction to any surface without the need for special treatment. His vision is to create the next generation light bulb, what he is calling infobulb. It deliver information in addition to light. The surface that the lift falls on creating a new kind of human computer interaction. The surface becomes touch enabled. To learn more, check out Chris's intervew over at TechRepublic.

[callout]Listen to the interview below for the full backstory on these next generation technologies and innovations ...[/callout]


About Chris Harrison:

Chris Harrison is an Assistant Professor of Human-Computer Interaction at Carnegie Mellon University. He broadly investigates novel sensing technologies and interaction techniques, especially those that empower people to interact with small devices in big ways. He has been named:

  • Top 30 scientist under 30 by Forbes
  • Top 35 innovator under 35 by MIT Technology Review
  • A Young Scientist by the World Economic Forum
  • One of six innovators to watch by Smithsonian

Last year, his lab won a Fast Company Innovation by Design Award for their work on EM-Sense. Chris has also been awarded fellowships by the Packard Foundation, Google, Qualcomm and Microsoft Research.

Show Links

  • Join The Innovators Community -- where you can meet, discuss and be part of a community of innovators. This is a private slack community.
Direct download: Next_Generation_Technology_Human_Computer_Interaction_S13_Ep26.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:03am PST

As humans, we have some unique abilities. We are self-aware, we exhibit critical thinking and we have the ability to be creative and innovate. Will that always be the case? Some think that artificial intelligence (AI) will someday take over creativity and innovation.

In my opinion, AI will become a tool that will help improve our creativity and innovation but I doubt that it can takeover what I see as an inherit human ability to our conscious and unconscious mind to invent.

How Will Artificial Intelligence Help Our Creative Ability?

In a recent article in Venture Beat by Tim Sox titled, "How AI will advance our creative thinking", the author shares a list of ways AI will be a tool. These include:

  • AI will reshape talent and recruitment
  • It will test and develop creative thinking
  • AI will uncover non-obvious insight
  • It will speed up the creative process
  • It will transform global communication

What Will Be Artificial Intelligence Impact On Jobs?

If AI is going to eliminate some of the more mundane jobs, which jobs will be impacted and what should you do about it? In a recent article by  Scott Gerber of on TNW, he shares the results of a survey from the Yound Entrepreneur Council asking them which jobs would be most impacted by artificial intelligence.

Here is the high level list - not in priority/impact order:

  1. Forcasting
  2. Customer Service
  3. Education
  4. Finance
  5. Foodservices
  6. Personalized Healthcare
  7. Medical
  8. Logistics
  9. Loyalty Programs
  10. Marketing
  11. Procurement
  12. Public Relations
  13. Search
  14. Security

Check out the full description of how and why AI will impact these jobs over at TNW.

Will We See Artificial Intelligence With Imagination?

Can AI have imagination? Can it imagine the future of what might happen without being told to do so?

We've all seen the current public displays of artificial intelligence including AlphaGo which benefits from having clearly defined rules which allow outcomes to be predicted very accurately in almost every circumstance.

Or Facebook which has created a bot that could reason through dialogue before engaging in conversation in a fairly constrained environment.

The real-world is significantly more complex than this.

Mallory Locklear in Engadget wrote an article on what IBM is doing with what it calls "imagination-augmented agents - or I2As. These are neural network trained to extract any information from its environment that could be useful in making decisions later on. These agents can create, evaluate and follow through on plans.

Creativity and Innovation Overrated?

Eliot Gattegno from Techcrunch wrote a post back in May titled "Creativity is Overrated". While the title could be viewed as clickbait, then premise he makes is important.

We are seeing society fall into "creativity worship" when we see star status applied to innovators. What about the non-creatives? A company full of Steve Jobs' will not be successful. As I've said many times, innovation is a team sport. Without these other role, creatives would not be successful trying to deliver innovations on their own.

Today, roles typically not attributed to being creative in an organization (e.g. accounting/finance, HR, facilities) are the ones that could be viewed as being at risk with growing role of AI.

This change could have significant impact.

Check out this episode of show and let me know your thoughts in the comments below ..


Show Links

Check out The Innovators Community. A private slack community of innovators from a wide range of industries coming together to share, learn and support each others innovation successes. Check it out at TheInnovators.Community.


It’s human nature to want to make a lasting impact with the innovations we create. To do something meaningful and enduring. To create a lasting legacy that makes the world a better place. I call this innovation with purpose.

In some cases, we need help to realize a vision we have that manifests this idea of innovation with purpose.

This week at an annual event we host in Keystone, Colorado, we premiered a new vision video with the objective of inspiring others to think about what innovations they can contribute to health care needs of our aging population. How do we make the future a better place for ourselves and our family members.

The video is titled, "The Near Future: A Better Place"

[youtube id="k0KIqRAoGBk"]

So why is the cable industry interested in the needs of those looking to age in place?

This is a need that will impact all of us.  Today, roughly 8.5 percent of the world’s population is aged 65 and over. By 2050, this older population will represent 16.7 percent of the world total population.

The broadband networks provided by the cable industry are what will enable innovators to invent this vision of the near future. It will take an ecosystem to address this need and the broadband network is part of the ecosystem.

At CableLabs, we are tasked as the R&D and innovation lab for the global cable industry, we are focused on innovation with purpose. In this case, that innovation with purpose is to create and inspire innovations that allow people like Jim love a long and fulfilling life the way they want to live it.


Additional Resources

In addition to the main film, there are two additional films to provide more background.

This film is a "Director's Commentary" where I describe the background and inspiration for the film.

[youtube id="Beb832Oe_lA"]

This film is a look a the technology behind The Near Future: A Better Place.

[youtube id="YOax3EFz2r0"]


If you want to see all of the vision video's I've created over the years, go check out this blog post: Predicting The Future With A Vision Video



Direct download: Innovation_With_Purpose_Inspiring_The_Near_Future_S13_Ep24.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 5:59am PST

Once we have experienced that taste of success, we will do anything to experience it again but instead, we fall into the trap of success. Success leads us down the path of taking a more conservative approach in hopes that we can repeat the success we just experienced.

The assumption is that if we repeat what we just did, we increase the likelihood that we will repeat the success again. That is a bad assumption.

When it comes to innovation, success can be traced to a team that is willing to challenge the how and therefore take a maverick role within the organization. Instead of embracing this mavrick approach, we fall into the trap of success and go the exact apposite direction. We become more conservative and relegate the team to being a one-hit wonder.

So how are we to avoid this trap of innovation success and stay a maverick??

Injecting Creative Stress Through Competition

When a team a needs to achieve innovation success, they need to be willing to throw out everything they know. The easiest way to get a team or organization to change is when there is a crisis such as a having a significant competitor.

Without this crisis, most teams and organization cannot find the will to be a maverick and instead fall into the trap of success.

While at HP, we were tasked to go from #3 and #4 market share to #1 in 3 years. To achieve that success, the entire organization had to re-think what a PC was and how to make them meaningful -- if not actually desirable.

[youtube id="PcWcD8vcPr8"]

We threw everything out the window and started from scratch. It was a "bet the farm" move to achieve a BHAG that we knew we needed to achieve.

Once you've achieved the BHAG, you need to find the next competitor/BHAG. This is what allows you to deliver repeatable innovation successes.

Creative Stress For Teams

Another approach to avoiding the trap of success is to create some creative stress between teams within the organization. This is the approach Disney Animation and Pixar put in place to help drive each other to more success.

How did they achieve this without destroying the culture and teamwork? By establishing some basic rules:

  1. The studios would not be allowed to borrow each other’s resources when they got into a pinch.
  2. The wouldn’t be able to take over each other’s projects.
  3. No team would have veto power over another team’s movie.
  4. They were on their own to develop their own cultures and storytelling.
  5. But, they would have to openly share their work and they would have to listen to each other’s criticism.


Wouldn't life be great if it could predictable? Follow these 5 easy steps and everything will work out. While that sounds enticing, I would argue that life would also get boring.

Life in unpredictable. That's what creates opportunities for innovators. But as innovators -- once we've tasted innovation success -- we fall in to the same trap of success as everyone else. Follow these 5 steps and you can repeat success. But we just said that life is unpredictable ... didn't we?

So what are we to do?

Inject some creative stress into our projects by identifying the competitor "out there". That competitor can be external to your organization or it can be another team inside. That is what Disney Animation and Pixar did to achieve repeatable success.

To hear more on the trap of success, listen to the full show below ... 

Direct download: How_To_Avoid_The_Trap_of_Success_S13_Ep23.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 8:28am PST

The pace of innovation continues to accelerate and in many instences, we are surprised from the unintended consequences from innovation adoption. While innovators focus on the adoption, we overlook the need for society to adapt to these new innovations and the impact it has.

[shareable cite="John Maynard Kaynes - 1930"]I believe that this is a wildly mistaken interpretation of what is happening to us. We are suffering, ... from the growing-pains of over-rapid changes, from the painfulness of readjustment between one economic period and another.[/shareable]

Some adaptations are conscious while others are thrust upon society with both positive and unintended consequences.

Innovation Adoption Examples

One example would be the rapid adoption of social networks and how society has adapted itself to its role in how people share and receive information. While social networks have allowed people to stay connected, it has also redefined what it means to be friends and the role of trust when it comes to the information that is shared.

Another example would be the retail sector. It has seen a never ending wave of innovation that has disrupted even the well established retailers. It started with the "big box" retailers disrupting the small local and regional retailers. Now its the online retailers such as Amazon disrupting the big box retailers.

Unintended Consequences

There are many more examples of the unintended consequences of innovation disruption.

So what is the role of innovators to help those that are being disrupted? Do we just play the role of disruptor and let everyone else figure out the consequences?

I would suggest that we as innovators need to go beyond simply launching our disruption. We need to spend time thinking about the possible unintended consequences. When we identify them, we can then understand what we can do about them.

There are many examples where innovators go out and launch in hopes that those impacted (e.g. local, state and federal governments) won't be able to keep up thus creating some unique advantage over established models.

Is that the right thing to do?

I would argue that ethical innovation calls for us to think beyond just the adoption of a new innovation. We need to acknowledge that others will need to adapt to it and the possible unintended consequences.

Do you agree??

Listen to the full show to hear my thoughts ...


Direct download: The_Unintended_Consequences_From_Innovation_Adoption_S13_Ep22.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 7:43am PST

Helping companies and teams to unlock their natural creative ability can be daunting to innovation leaders. One method that I have found incredibly useful is to use improv comedy skills as a way to get team members comfortable being uncomfortable since in improv, you never know what's going to happen next.

Kelly Leonard, Executive Director of Insights and Applied Improvisation at The Second City and Second City Works, shares his experience and insights from Second City being part of the training for such creative talent as Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert, Amy Poehler, Seth Meyers, Steve Carell, Keegan Michael Key, Amy Sedaris and others.

So what role can and does improv comedy skills play in helping teams and individuals boost their creative output?

Through Second City Works, Kelly and his team bring the skills, training and experiences of improvisational comedy to help companies such as Coca Cola, Microsoft, Memorial Sloan Kettering and DDB Worldwide unlock their teams natural ability to be highly creative.


Improv Comedy Skills

Leonard shares there are two core basic skills that directly apply:

  1. Careful listening: In one exercise he uses with clients, a group has to create a story one word at a time by having each person in a circle add one (and only one) word to the story based on what has been said already. It forces people to have to focus on their listen skills and not their talking skills since 90% of this exercise is about listening.
  2. Building on the ideas of other by using "Yes And ..": In a second exercise, Leonard sets a rule that for the first team minutes, any comments ideas must build on the ideas of others by starting each statement with the words, "Yes - and ...". This reinforces listening skills and offering positive reinforcement to the original idea and the premise that the best ideas on built upon the ideas of others.

For more exercises and how they apply to the business world, check out Kelly Leonard's book, Yes, And: How Improvisation Reverses "No, But" Thinking and Improves Creativity and Collaboration--Lessons from The Second City.

Kelly shares a number of other experiences and examples of how improve comedy can boost innovation. To hear the other examples, listen to the audio from show below ..



What inspirations feed your ideas for innovation? In this case, seeing a news report on a tragic death of a 6 month old baby let a young entrepreneur to create an innovation that could save kids left in the car.

Bishop Curry is headed into the 6th grade this fall. Its was a the tragic death of Fern Theford, a six month old infant, in 2016 that was the inspiration to innovate a solution to prevent this accident from happening again.

In a Washington Post article on the accident, the author Travis M. Andrews shared:

The temperature in a car can rise rapidly, and children left inside — even for just a half hour, even on a relatively cool spring or summer day — are almost immediately in danger.

Christopher Haines, director of pediatric emergency medicine at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia, told WebMD that most parents don’t understand how quickly an innocuous errand can turn deadly.

“On a day that is just 72 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature [inside a car] can increase by 30 to 40 degrees in an hour, and 70 percent of this increase occurs the first 30 minutes,” Haines said.

In addition, a child’s body heats up three to five times faster than an adult’s, according to the Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Bishop went after the problem and figured out a way to save kids left in the car

Through a series of prototypes, he came up with a solution. To raise the funds needed to move the idea forward, Bishop's parents setup a GoFundMe page with a target of raising $20,000. So far it has raised more than $45,000 and its still going.

To secure the idea, he has begun working with a patent attorney and has plans to build some early prototypes so that they innovation can be refined.

So what are the lessons?

  1. Don't let age or experience hold you back.
  2. Don't be afraid to try an idea because it might fail.

Hear it from Bishop himself in the audio from the show below ...

More on Bishop Curry:

Bishop B. Curry, V is headed into the 6th grade in the fall. He lives in the Dallas Texas area with him Mom and Dad and younger siblings Isaiah (9) and Anistyn (2). He came up with the idea for Oasis when Fern Thedford (6 mo) died tragically in a hot car last summer. Bishop's ingenuity is God-given and to supplement what comes natural, Bishop attends an engineering camp every summer when school is out. When he grows up Bishop plans to be an inventor and an actor.

Press on Oasis ...

What would you think if your child, grandchild, niece or nephew came to you and said that they were skipping college to start a business?

Almost a year ago, I interviewed Nick Titus who was soon to be a High School Senior about his science fair project that was quickly becoming an innovation that could impact the lives of those who had lost mobility. To get an update, I invited Nick back to the show to share an update.

To start off, Nick and his friends have decided to take a "gap year" and skip college to start a business. That business is Myonic. Myonic is taking what started as Nick's science fair project to hack a TENS device so that people who had suffered a spinal cord injury or stokes could regain movement.

Since we last talked with Nick, he has achieved some major milestones including:

At the same time, Nick and his team has advanced the product to now allow mind control. This allows the user to think what action they want to perform, such as close the hand. By combining that with other motions such as gritting teeth, the device knows that you want to crush a pop can versus wanting to gentle pick up a raw egg.

While we talked about this feature a year ago, Nick and team have not only worked out the technical issues, they have created a working prototype.

So what's next?

They are on track to close a round of pre-A funding while announcing that will be opening up access to their product to beta testers. If you are interested, please check-out their new web site at

So what lessons did Nick learn trying to finish his Senior year of High School while also being a CEO? Focus. He shared that prioritization and focus became the challenge while trying to juggle all the demands on his time. Welcome to adulthood.

Listen to the full interview below.

More on Nick Titus:

Nick Titus is the CEO and Co-founder of Myonic Technologies Inc. Myonic has created a wearable device that allows paralyzed users to regain control of their muscle. He founded the company after developing the medical device in his high school engineering lab for a science fair project. He saw the good that this device could bring to people's lives first hand and decided to launch a company to get this technology in the hands of more people around the world.

You can follow Nick and Myonic on FacebookTwitter or on their website.

Direct download: Skipping_College_To_Start_A_Business_S13_Ep19.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 5:25am PST

This is for CxO's or those who want to eventually be a CxO. How are you thinking about innovation within your organization? What are you doing to ensure that you have the right innovation leader in place?

Why Is Innovation Important?

A recent McKinsey & Company surveyed more than 2,000 executives and asked how important is innovation to them. Not surprisingly, +80% responded that innovation was extremely or very important to their companies' growth.

If that wasn't convincing, The Boston Consulting Group found that nearly 80% of executives put innovation as one of the top 3 priorities for their companies, and more than 20% made it the single top priority.


Research has shown that consistently innovative companies hold 6 times the market share and make 3 times the profit than the average in their industry.

So - what things should your innovation leaders be able to bring to your organization?

The 8 Things Your Innovation Leader Should Bring To Your Organization

#1 - They Bring Experience: They've lived the front line of taking an idea and turning it into a success. Having a failure under the belt is a big plus. Consultants are not experienced. While they can help you understand the theory and maybe implement a process, they do not bring the experiences you need for innovation success.

#2 - Build A Culture For Innovation: Building and extending a culture for innovation is critical to an organizations success. If the culture is not aligned with innovation, the innovation leader needs to have the skills to do the hard work of re-building the culture.

#3 People: Innovation leaders understand that innovation is about people. It's human ingenuity that sparks that ideas that transform organizations. At the same time -- innovation DOES NOT happen from a single team and the role of the innovation leader is to help other leaders in the organization succeed when it comes to innovation.

#4 Executive Presence: The innovation leader must have the executive presence and ability to communicate at the most senior levels within the organization. Their role is to act as translator. They translate innovation so that executives see and understand the what and the why. They also translate executive speak so that the innovators understand what the innovation objectives are.

#5 Great Ideation Facilitator: The innovation leader knows how to create the right BHAG (Bold Harry Audacious Goal). This is what enables teams to create ideas that become game-changing innovations. The innovation leader has a proven ability to use team diversity (much broader than the HR definition of diversity) for generating better ideas.

#6 Innovation Metrics: The innovation leader has a proven track record of creating, measuring and delivering against innovation metrics. They know how to define innovation metrics tailored to the organization.  They commit and take responsibility to deliver against the metrics even though they are beyond their direct control.

#7 Coach and Mentor: The innovation leader understand the difference between coach and mentor and knows when to apply each. A coach provides specific instruction regarding how to improve your performance. A mentor becomes more of a trusted adviser in areas that can cross personal and professional lines.

#8 Great Collaborators: Collaboration is fundamental to innovation success and great innovation leaders model collaboration. NIH (Not Invented Here) doesn't belong inside ANY organization just as fighting over credit is NOT collaboration. Innovation leaders are focused on getting the best out of others and not worrying about who gets credit in the end.


While I started off addressing this show to CxO's its a good scorecard for those of you who want to become innovation leaders insider your own organization.

So how would score yourself against each of the 8 items??

Don't sweat it. No one has all eight. There are a few items on the list that I need to work on myself.

The Truth And Disappointment Of Orphaned Innovations S13 Ep17

Direct download: The_Truth_And_Disappointment_Of_Orphaned_Innovations_S13_Ep17.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 11:28am PST

Inside any size organization, getting everyone engaged on innovation can be daunting. Its not just as simple as saying that innovation is important. You need to show the organization how. At Adobe, Mark Randall reversed engineered his approach to grassroots innovation and structured into a process called Kickbox. He didn't stop there. He and Adobe decided to open source the Kickbox approach to grassroots innovation to help other organizations innovate.

During the interview, Mark and Phil discussed:

Grassroots Innovation

  • Mark's work experience that led him to being at Adobe and heading up innovation.
  • His experience in being an entrepreneur and how that prepared him for his role in innovation leadership.
  • The difficulty in reverse engineering how someone innovates so they can teach others.
  • Challenging large organizations to innovate.
  • The challenge that resulted in the creation of Kickbox (hint: grassroots innovation).


  • The overall structure of Kickbox
  • What is in the Red Box?
    • The six step/level process
    • Pre-paid credit card with $1,000
    • Scorecards, frameworks and exercises to develop ideas
  • The objective of the two-day workshop where participants are given their Red Box.
  • How does someone "get" a Blue Box?
  • What is in the Blue Box?

Impact on Adobe and Others

  • What has been the impact from Kickbox on Adobe?
  • What other organizations have used Kickbox and what has been the result? (e.g. Cisco, Caterpillar)
  • What improvements and changes has been contributed back to the open source material for Kickbox?


About Mark Randall:

Mark’s serial entrepreneurial career conceiving, designing and marketing innovative technology spans nearly 20 years and three successful high-tech start-ups. As VP of Innovation at Adobe, Mark Randall is focused on infusing divergent thinking at the software giant.

Mark has fielded over a dozen award-winning products which combined have sold over a million units, generated over $100 million in sales and won two Emmy awards. As an innovator, Mark has a dozen U.S. patents, he’s been named to Digital Media Magazine’s “Digital Media 100″ and he is one of Streaming Magazine’s “50 Most Influential People.” Mark speaks & teaches frequently on entrepreneurship, innovation and strategy and has appeared on CNN, ABC, NBC and CNBC.

Direct download: Grassroots_Innovation_Using_The_Kickbox_Process_From_Adobe_S13_Ep16.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 7:00am PST

The boomer market is quickly becoming the target demographic that is driving a new category of technology and innovation. The desire to allow those in this gray wave of aging adults to age in place is one area of innovation we all can appreciate.

In this weeks show, serial entrepreneur and technology executive Wendi Burkhardt shares how she found her purpose project by bringing technology and innovation to the gray wave of aging adults.

Technology and Innovation For The Gray Wave

During the show, we answer questions such as:

  • What was the experienced that cause your to co-found Silvernest?
  • People are living longer than ever and wanting to age in place. What are the opportunities that aging adults present as a large (and growing) segment of the economic and consumer base?
  • How does technology and innovation cater to this growing gray wave?
  • What are some of the emerging trends in the aging demographic that are fueling innovation?
  • Is it harder for companies to innovate in the aging industry because they’re perceived as serving a lower-tech audience?
  • Are Boomers more receptive to new technologies than their parents were? How are their outlooks and circumstances different?
  • Are you finding that the 50+ demographic is open to participating in the sharing economy?
  • How is the sharing economy and technology transforming aging?
  • You’ve called gerontechnology – the blending of gerontology with technology – the hottest thing in Silicon Valley. Why is it so attractive and set to explode?
  • Some of the innovation in this space is obviously coming technology, but are there other ways that companies need to innovate in their thinking or marketing to reach Boomers, empty nesters and other aging adults?
  • How do we need to be shifting the conversation around innovation and technology for gray wave?
  • What recommendations do you have for companies who are working to innovate in ways that serve aging adults?

About Wendi Burkhardt

As CEO of Silvernest, Wendi Burkhardt is responsible for driving the company’s overall direction and strategic growth, as well as overseeing day-to-day operations. She boasts more than 25 years of technology experience working with venture startups, emerging technology companies, rapid-growth tech firms and Fortune 500 corporations.

Her history also includes working with Home Instead, a $1B in-home, senior care corporation as a key client. She is a seasoned entrepreneur, as well as a mentor and coach to social ventures.

Wendi holds a degree in International Trade & Finance from Louisiana State University, and has completed an executive education program at Northwestern University’s Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

I've been going back and looking at past shows that had guests in an attempt to trigger ideas for new guests we should invite to be on the show. During the process, I started to see patterns of common attributes across this group that I label as the most the innovative people I've interviewed.

The show archive goes back to March 2005 and we've had more than 100 innovation experts and authors. These guests range from:

  • Sir Tim Berners-Lee - the inventor of the world-wide web -- was on the show Dec 10, 2009
  • Geoffrey Moore - author of Crossing The Chasm -- was most recently on the show July 17, 2015
  • Bob Metcalfe - inventor of Ethernet and co-founder of 3COM -- was on the show April 10, 2010
  • Peter Guber - co-owner of the Golden State Warriors -- was on the show Sept 28, 2015
  • Nick Titus - co-founder of Myoinc Technologies -- was on the show Aug 23, 2016

I've also had the benefit of meeting and supporting other leaders with their innovation projects including Elon Musk (on the large display that is part of the dash in Tesla), Jimmy Iovine (on Beats and bringing it to the consumer electronics market) and Will.I.Am (as a sounding board on his software ideas).

6 Most Common Attributes of the Most Innovative People I've Interviewed

  1. Curiosity: Highly innovative people have an insatiable level of curiosity. How do they exhibit this curiosity? By asking really great questions. Its through questions that they push to discover more about problem or opportunity and thus allow them to form an ideas or solution.
  2. Being a non-conformist (brave): These innovation leaders do not fall into a simple category of type or backgrounds. They each have gone their own way to achieve their innovation vision and they've done it without regard to what others thing.
  3. Chasing the "new": Innovation leaders are always aware of the latest thing in their area of interest(s). They pride themselves on being on the leading edge - always experimenting and learning. In the technology world, they tend to have the latest devices, applications and services.
  4. Perseverance: They don't take "no" for an answer. They don't let speed bumps, distraction or corporate/innovation antibodies to get in the way. They find ways to work with and around others to achieve their innovation vision.
  5. Highly Flexible: Its rare that an idea will manifest itself with out changes and pivots along the way. Highly innovative people will adjust and change as they move along the process of transforming the idea into that new product or service.
  6. Takes Action: Innovators don't wait around for permission. They act. They don't let themselves get caught in the "resource trap" of believing they need people, time and money to begin. They find a way to start moving forward and let the rest catch-up.

[shareable]Ideas without execution are a hobby -- and real innovators are NOT in the hobby business[/shareable]


Most people would look at the show guests and believe that each had been blessed with some kind of "super power". The reality is that we all have been blessed with the superpower of creativity and innovation -- we just need to find it, harness it, practice it and then use it.

These attributes of the most innovative people I know proves that any of us can achieve the same level of success if we want.

The ball is in your court.

Direct download: 6_Attributes_of_the_Most_Innovative_People_Ive_Interviewed_S13_Ep14.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 9:30am PST

While most innovators think about innovation across two types, incremental and disruptive, there is actually a third type; little ideas. Little ideas are complimentary to the existing offerings thus low risk. At the same time, little ideas can have high impact. The risk for little ideas is the desire by managements and the MBA's to apply traditional management approaches. The typical approaches, such as defining success KPI's at the start,  is what will kill innovation inside an organization.

Today's guest, David Robertson, is the author of The Power of Little Ideas and we discuss:

How MBA's Kill Innovation

  • The benefits and challenges of management consulting projects with such firms as McKinsey.
  • Background on the concept of the little ideas and why its the "third way" to innovate.
  • Walk through the four decisions organizations need to make when it comes to innovation.
    • What is your key product?
    • What is your business promise?
    • How will you innovate?
    • How will you deliver your innovations?
  • How do MBA's kill innovation?
  • Why are early metrics a risk to innovation?
  • How should companies be organized to take advantage of little ideas?
  • Why the metaphor of "innovation is dating" is so powerful
  • How do get the MBA to understand why little ideas is different?

About David Robertson ..

David Robertson is a Professor of Practice at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. From 2002 through 2010, he was the LEGO Professor of Innovation and Technology Management at IMD in Lausanne, Switzerland. Robertson is the host of Innovation Navigation, a weekly radio show and podcast that focuses on the management of innovation. Robertson is the author of Brick by Brick: How LEGO Rewrote the Rules of Innovation and Conquered the Global Toy Industry and coauthor of Enterprise Architecture as Strategy.

About David Books, The Power of Little Ideas ..

The Power of Little Ideas looks at how well-known companies, including CarMax, GoPro, LEGO, Gatorade, Disney, USAA, Novo Nordisk, Victoria’s Secret, and many others, used this approach to stave off competitive threats and achieve great success. The book lays out a clear four-step process for implementing this approach to innovation, outlines the organizational practices that can unintentionally torpedo this approach in companies, and shows how organizations can overcome those challenges.

Direct download: How_MBAs_Kill_Innovation_S13_Ep13.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 5:00am PST

When I was in college, the way we learned was lecture, reading and testing — with a little bit of lab work tossed in for good measure. When it comes to leadership, universities still teaches using this same model. The result is the struggle for graduates to understand the difference between management and leadership. To prepare […]
Direct download: Innovating_The_Way_We_Teach_Leadership_S13_Ep12.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:05am PST

A few shows back, I ranted on why I disagree with an article from an executive at Accenture who said that innovation inside large organizations was impossible. In this show, rather than you listening to more of my experiences, I decided to bring on a listener of the show who has direct experience of being a successful […]

Artificial Intelligence (AI)  is quickly becoming a key element for today's innovations. While many think that AI is new, its been around for decades but just now finding the traction it needs to be applied to a broad set of innovations. In today's show, we have a discussion with Kerri McMaster, co-founder and head of […]

The hope and dream of every innovator is to come up with an idea that disrupts and transforms industries. To do it multiple times over a career puts that person in to a category of being a disruptive entrepreneur. Our guest this week, Sachin Dev Duggal, is an innovator, serial entrepreneur, and an advocate of enterprise […]
Direct download: How_To_Be_A_Disruptive_Entrepreneur_S13_Ep9.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 5:00am PST

When you are tasked with coming up with a new produce or service, the immediate reaction for most is to panic. Where and how do you start? The approach I've used for decades and that has helped me to create hundreds of products and services generating billions in revenue — ask questions. There is a […]
Direct download: How_To_Ask_Questions_To_Find_New_Ideas_S13_Ep8.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:48pm PST

In June 2007, after finding himself creatively drained,  Noah started a personal project — Skull-A-Day. This yearlong art project's objectives was to create challenges that would jumpstart his personal creative energy.  What started out as a personal project ended up transforming his creative future. The project went viral and became an Internet sensation which led to a […]
Direct download: Using_30-Day_Challenges_to_Jumpstart_Your_Creativity_S13_Ep7.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 7:01am PST

Culture is hard and creating and maintaining an innovation culture is even harder. One of the challenges for creating a culture of innovation within an organization is our ability to get along with others. Innovation is about constant change which is uncomfortable and stressful. The result is that some individuals/groups will not respond and actually become quite negative […]
Direct download: Innovation_Culture_Requires_That_We_Get_Along_With_Others_S13_Ep6.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:35am PST

As the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20. As I look back over my career leading innovation teams and organizations, I wish someone had sat me down and shared some of the core fundamentals to innovation leadership. These “hacks” are part of my core rules that I attempt to follow. I'm not perfect and still stumble […]
Direct download: The_5_Innovation_Leadership_Hacks_I_Use_S13_Ep5.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 10:21am PST

During a recent mentoring session with a Chief Innovation Officer (CINO) of a major multi-national company, the executive expressed a private fear. He attributes his past success as “being lucky” .. “being in the right place at the right time”. His fear is someone would find out that “he wasn't that good” and this his […]
Direct download: How_To_Overcome_Impostor_Syndrome_And_Be_More_Creative_S13_Ep4.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:02am PST

I came across a recent article where the Managing Director of Accenture Digital made the bold claim that large companies cannot do innovation. More accurately, Narry Singh said, “.. Corporate innovation does not work.” He goes on to claim that innovation at large companies do not work because “.. the firms are too slow to move – […]
Direct download: Can_Large_Companies_Be_Successful_At_Innovation_S13_Ep3.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 5:00am PST

Innovation is all about change. The need to change includes you and your career, the organizations you are a part of and even the governments that serve us. This change requires us to be in a constant state of being uncomfortable. This weeks guest on the show is Gretchen McClain. I met Gretchen back in […]
Direct download: Key_To_Success_Getting_Comfortable_Being_Uncomfortable_S13_Ep2.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 5:00am PST

It's hard to believe that it was 12 years ago when I released the first episode of Killer Innovations in to the wild. Its been a wild ride. What I find especially interesting is how has innovation changed over the last 12 years. The original motivation for the show came from my mentor, Bob Davis. […]
Direct download: How_Has_Innovation_Changed_Over_The_Last_12_Years_S13_Ep1.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:46am PST

I am a believer that constraint based innovation creates better ideas. It forces the team to throw out the old rule book and innovate a new approach. The same applies when you are forced to innovate under financial constraints. While my staff doesn't always agree that constraints are good, in my experience a team that […]
Direct download: How_To_Innovate_Under_Financial_Constraints_S12_Ep48.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 5:00am PST

Everyday, we can't avoid reading articles that tout the latest and greatest technology and innovation. What we don't see that often is the role innovation can and should play in philanthropy. If you agree that it has a role, how do you bring innovation to philanthropy? This weeks guest, Jared Angaza, has spent his life […]
Direct download: How_Do_You_Bring_Innovation_To_Philanthropy_S12_Ep47.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 5:00am PST

We've heard the mantra in the past. We are all creative. We are born creative. That is a nice idea but not helpful when you need to call on your muse to be creative when you need to be creative. What are the secrets to personal creativity? If creativity is natural – then why is […]
Direct download: My_Secrets_To_Personal_Creativity_S12_Ep46.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 5:00am PST

As an officer in two public companies and a Board member for a third public company, I've seen up close and personal the challenges executive leadership faces when trying to balance achieving the quarterly results while knowing that they  need to make long term investments in research and innovation.  This short-term thinking on quarterly results has […]

Innovation is not constrained to individuals, teams or organizations. In some cases, the best to way to innovate is when entire industries comes together to share the effort and the investment necessary. Industry innovation is one approach that is commonly overlook and undervalued. In today's show, we talk with John Osborne who is General Manager […]

When it comes to innovation, there are a collection of unwritten rules of thumb and myths of innovation that both help and hurt innovators. We all use rules of thumbs and myths in our everyday lives such as estimating how long something will take to complete. At the same time, rules and myths can be […]
Direct download: 5_Myths_of_Innovation_S12_Ep43_UPDATE.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 5:00am PST

Innovation is everywhere – in our pockets, in our cars, in our work and in our home. Where do these new ideas come from? New ideas are the foundation of our future and growing economic driver of society. This emerging innovation economy, which value ideas over anything else, is quickly overtaking the information/knowledge economy that […]
Direct download: Winning_in_the_emerging_innovation_economy_S12_Ep42.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 5:00am PST

Many make the mistake of thinking that their lives are going to work out as planned. It never does. What would happen if you treated your life like a startup? The guest for this weeks show, Dr. Anna Akbari, discusses her book, “Startup Your Life: Hustle And Hack Your Way To Happiness.” As an entrepreneur, […]
Direct download: Treat_Your_Life_Like_A_Startup_S12_Ep41.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 5:00am PST