Killer Innovations with Phil McKinney (Past Shows)
An award-winning podcast and nationally syndicated radio show that looks at the innovations that are changing our lives and how their innovators used creativity and design to take their raw idea and create game-changing products or services. Phil McKinney, retired CTO of HP and the creator, and host of Killer Innovations has been credited with forming and leading multiple teams that FastCompany and BusinessWeek list as one of the “50 Most Innovative”. His recognition includes Vanity Fair naming him the “The Innovation Guru”, MSNBC and Fox Business calling him "The Gadget Guy" and the San Jose Mercury News dubbing him the "chief seer".

Organizations are always trying to create the next big thing. What drives these organizations to create something new to bring to the marketplace? These are solving problems, creating opportunities, removing barriers, etc. What do all these things add up? They create value. How do you find out what people value? Look at who is going to benefit from what you are creating. You may think you know who they are, but odds are, you’re wrong. I’ll bet you are wrong. Why? You are too close to what you are creating. On today’s show, we will walk through perspectives and the value of innovation.

Identifying the Customer’s Wants

When I was at HP, there was an engineer who was pitching new features for a product line. At the end of his pitch, I asked him what the customer asked for the specific function. Did it come from a feedback form, a customer care call, or user surveys? The engineer replied, “I came up with this idea because it is a feature that I would really want.” Why did I ask this question? Because of the complexity that the feature would add to the product. It would take an HP engineer to figure out how to use the feature. The engineer mistakenly put himself in the position of the target customer.

It is vital that you, as the creator of a product/service, get out and observe what the customers want. During my years at HP, I frequented Best Buy on my weekends. If a customer looked at an HP laptop and ended up buying another computer, I’d hand them my business card and ask them a simple question. What caused you to look at this product and buy another? The answer to that question showed me what they valued. In today’s show, I am going to be discussing what the value of innovation is.

Understanding the Value of Innovation

How do you find what the customer values? You need to know their perspective. Their perspective has a significant impact on their decision making. An excellent example of this is my wife. My son Logan was a fencer back around 2009, and we were in Las Vegas at a two-day competition.

Logan was doing well and advancing in the tourney. That was great, but it also made us tight on time to get to the airport. After the competition, we raced to the airport. The person informed us at the check-in counter that there has been a delay in our flight to Phoenix. I corrected her, saying it must be a mistake because we were going to San Jose. She said that our ticket was Las Vegas to Phoenix to Los Angeles and then to San Jose. A typical flight from Phoenix to San Jose takes about one hour, but this one took 6 hours. I called my wife, and she said that booking the 6-hour flight saved $20. I thought she was kidding—at the time, I was the CTO at HP. She didn’t value my time the way I did.

Why does my wife think that way? My wife is the most frugal person in the world. Why? Because of her upbringing. She was one of six children, and her family struggled to say afloat. Her father worked double shifts in the steel industry, seven days a week, to provide for them. During this time, her family lost their home multiple times, and she was often forced to live with other family members. When she looks at the value of money, her experiences shaped her perspective. When you’re thinking about the value innovation, you may think you’ve got it all figured out. That doesn’t matter. What matters? The perspective of the person buying your product. It doesn’t matter what you think, but what they think. Do you know the “who” and what they value?

 Creating Enhanced Value

Beyond understanding how people make decisions and what they value, let’s look at how we create enhanced value. I remember, there was a social media meme that showed an iron bar: An iron bar costs about $5. If you pound out that iron bar into horseshoes, equates to $12. It’s the same amount of iron, but making the bar into horseshoes created six extra dollars. Now take that bar of iron and put it through a manufacturing process and make sowing needles. That $5 bar of iron turned into needles gives you $3,500 worth of needles. Take that same bar of iron and turn it into springs for watches, and it will be worth $300,000. That is the power of innovation.

This instance is the creation of the value of innovation. Take the raw goods and produce something that the “who” values, and they will pay the premium for it. Take birthday cakes for example. My grandmother would make my birthday cakes from scratch when I was a kid. Each cake probably cost around a dollar. When she passed, my mom started making my birthday cakes with cake mix, which probably cost around $3. It was much easier than making it from scratch. When my mom started working full-time, she would get my cake from a bakery. What began as a $1 homemade cake, was now around a $15 bakery cake. The value of the convenience was hugely valuable.

Today, with my grandkids, it has to be an experience. You go to a trampoline park and pay a couple of hundred bucks for pizza, cake, and games. Why do you do this? It’s all about the value creation brought in by innovation. People will reward you with an innovation premium because of what they value.

 “Me Too” Innovation

How do you earn the innovation premium? By conveying value uniquely and differently. If you’re an avid listener of the show, you know that I tend to rant about the “me too” innovations. Look at bottled water. There are thousands of brands of water bottles. There was a handful of them in the 70s. In the 70s, there were four types of milk and 19 in the 1990s. Today, there are hundreds of types of milk. How many different types of water bottles or milk do we need?

I was in the store the other day getting some Lays potato chips for my grandkids. I realized there were a ton of different flavors of chips. All this created complexity, and for what? The unnecessary complexity is the problem with “me too” kind of innovations. When talking about the value of innovation, you need to create something unique. Look at who your customers are, how they make decisions, what is the perspective that fuels that decision, and what is the unit of value that will convey a premium. Is what you are selling unique?

Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is feedback@philmckinney.com, or you can go to PhilMcKinney.com and drop me a note there. If you are looking for innovation support, go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops. Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

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

Lonely Leadership

What are leadership struggles? Many leaders act as if the point they’ve reached in their careers was easy to reach. From my perspective, as I progressed throughout my career, I ran into many different struggles. These struggles are some that I believe every leader will encounter. Rather than hiding these struggles from you, I will be putting them out in the sunlight for all of you to see. I have come to realize that all leaders are alike. As much as we think we are different, we are not as unique as we think. We all share the same struggles. On today’s show, I will be discussing the various struggles all leaders face and how to counteract them.

The first leadership struggle I’ve encountered is lonely leadership. As you progress through an organization it gets harder to find people that understand you. Great leaders are told that transparency is a must. Be transparent. Share things with others around you. While transparency holds importance, is it always the answer? Transparency is only important to a point. There are some things you should not be transparent about.

You should never be transparent about your self-doubt. Being open about your struggles with employees can cause them concern about your organization. Secondly, never be transparent about your opinion of others. Especially key stakeholders. They will find out. My philosophy is to never burn a bridge no matter what. This decision has come back to benefit me throughout my career.

Thirdly, never be transparent about confidential information shared with you. I’ve seen may promising leaders sidelined because of issues of integrity and trust. Building a reputation of integrity as a leader is crucial. It can be lost in just one decision. Don’t make that mistake. This will shatter your career. Being a leader is lonely. Who can you share things with? Your spouse? Not always. I remember when I was at Teligent and we were the hottest new thing. We were on the cover of Business Week, Forbes, WSJ, NY Times etc. My wife was at her hairdresser one day, and the hairdresser was drilling her about information on Teligent. He assumed she had access to confidential information and was getting aggressive. After that, me and my wife came to an agreement to protect her. I do not share any confidential information with her. Never. She doesn’t want to be in that position.

Is there anyone you can be transparent with? Your coach or mentor. Let your board/shareholders know that you have a coach or mentor. If you’re going to share confidential information with someone, they should sign a non-disclosure agreement. All of this said, you will be lonely as a leader. It comes with the position. Do you have someone that you can be transparent with?

 

 

What Got You Here Won’t Keep You Here

Will the skills that helped you reach your position keep you there? These things will not keep you here or progress you in your career. Look at me for instance. My specialty is technical work. I have not touched technical work in 15 years. I had to learn new skills in order to advance. How did I learn those different skills? Right out of college, I was told by my mentor Bob that in order to find success, I had to broaden my playing fields. I knew my specialty very well, but I needed to have a variety of experiences. What did I do? I rotated in marketing, sales, finance, IT, etc. I did everything. While these experiences broadened my knowledge, it wasn’t enough. What were the skillsets that brought me to success?

  • Organization design - How do you structure a team? You have to be willing to adjust in order to create a successful organizational structure.
  • People Reading - Each person is unique and you have to commit to learning them.
  • Consensus BuildingLearn the individuals and their objectives. I do one on one calls with each member of my board before meetings. This helps me to get a better grasp on the thoughts and feelings of each member.
  • Objective Setting – How do you set good objectives? use OKR’s/make sure they are clear and measurable. Grant autonomy letting your experts use their skills to achieve ultimate success.

 

Consequences of Ideas and Statements

Ideas and statements made as a leader have consequences. Things will get taken out of context and all the sudden they become the “new law”. When I was CEO at Cable Labs, I told my team that the most common statement they would hear was “Phil said”. In many cases what I said was misinterpreted or misused. The best proof point of this in my career is press coverage. If you google my name and read the articles on the first 16 pages of google, not a single article got the situation 100% correct. At Cable Labs, we had issues with the press pushing out false information. This caused employees to start worrying about the longevity of our Colorado office. I had to call a meeting with my all my employees to address this issue. I made a commitment to my staff that day that they would hear from me first, and not the press. In fact, this created a new culture at Cable Labs called the “no surprise rule” to constantly remind my employees of this. Why do I do this? Because ideas and statements can be a disaster. You need to be hyper-vigilant about what you say, how you say it, and how you operate. Are you conveying statements the right way?

 

Creative Self-Doubt

What is the number one skill leaders are expected to have? Creativity/ ingenuity leading to product, service, and operational innovation. Many leaders get promoted to a leadership role because of innovation they are credited with. Look at Nobel Laureates. There is a trend of peaks seen from the recipients of Nobel awards. One in their mid-twenties and one in their mid-fifties. The question comes down to this. Do you still have your creativity?

 

What type of innovator are you?

Conceptual Innovators - “Think outside the box,” challenging conventional wisdom and suddenly coming up with new ideas. Conceptual innovators tend to peak early in their careers.

 

Experimental Innovators - Accumulate knowledge through their careers and find groundbreaking ways to analyze, interpret and synthesize that information into new ways of understanding. The long periods of trial and error required for important experimental innovations make them tend to occur late in a Nobel laureate’s career. Success comes from recognizing that as an innovator we need to shift from the conceptual to the experimental.

Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is feedback@philmckinney.com or you can go to PhilMcKinney.com and drop me a note there. If you are looking for innovation support go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops. Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

Direct download: 4_Leadership_Struggles_I_Had_to_Overcome.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PST

What do you think about when looking at innovation? Most organizations look at innovation as the process of coming up with new products. This statement is only partially correct. How do you achieve innovation success? The innovation world is continuously moving. Finding the best way to innovate products and services is vital to success. How do you find the best way to innovate in your arena? Is there a better way to go beyond the small fixes and reach new possibilities? On today’s show, I will discuss in more detail how to challenge your innovation efforts with idea hacking.

When I was at HP, there was this catalyst project based on battery life. Battery life is a nightmare. How do you increase the life of batteries while making them safe? Battery life only sees improvements of 10% every year. The battery is a chemistry problem. Their design has not changed since their invention. A breakthrough was needed, but the reality was that chemistry could not move fast enough. There were improvements made to the power, but not to the battery. These come from hard drives and screen fixes that save and conserve power. How were these improvements made? The perspective of the opportunity and problem was changed. How would you define the need? How would you describe the issue to reach that different perspective?

Feature to Function Innovation

What unlocked the ideas not considered previously? Changing the challenge from “how can we improve batteries?” to “how can we improve portable power?”. This change in mindset may not seem like much, but this switch caused a seismic shift. Battery improvement is “feature innovation.” Portable power is “function innovation.” That simple shift from feature to function innovation unlocked a flood of new ideas. It created an increase in the quality and quantity of views. What was the result? A new desire for the constant availability of power. New innovative opportunities arose from this shift in thinking. HP began funding universities and hosting ideation workshops in their efforts to create new creative ideas. This concept then turned into a product. Toshiba and HP started working on a co-innovation attempt to create a portable charging device. Toshiba went on to release a refillable USB charger device that sold for USD 328. That is the power of a simple shift in thinking. New innovative ideas are born from changing the challenge. How do you apply the shift form feature innovation to function innovation to your goals?

Here are four key steps:

Step 1 –

  • Define the Product/Service You Are Focused On (Example: high-end laptop)

Step 2 –

  • Describe What its Features Are — What it Does (Example: 17” screen, Intel i9 processors. Keyboard)
  • What feature innovations are you thinking about for the next version? (Example: DreamColor screen, GPU, etc.)

Step 3 –

  • Step Back and Describe the Core “Function” of the Product or Service (Example: Portable computer)
  • How many ways could you define the function? What is the most fundamental core function? (Example: digital file cabinet, digital photo shoebox, etc.)

Step 4 –

  • Ask How Else You Could Perform/Enable the Function (Example: Portable compute — > Phone mobile -- thin/edge devices)

 

Apply the little shift in thinking to just about anything. Think about a cup. How many ways can you innovate a cup? There are coffee cups, teacups, Yeti-like cups, sippy cups, etc. What if I asked you to innovate a way to carry liquids? You could cup your hands, use your mouth, use a sponge, use a hose, etc. See what ideas you come up with and post them at The Innovators Community. That simple shift from the feature (innovate a cup) to function (innovate a way to carry liquid) shifted the perspective resulting in ideas never that were before considered.

 

Applying Function Innovation 

You can apply function innovation can to anything from products, services, business models, internal operations, etc. Apply it to any organization from small, large, government, NGO, and Non-Profit companies. Function innovation radically increases the number of ideas you unlock. Is function innovation easy to apply? No, it is a lot harder than it looks. The simple shift from innovating cups to innovating ways to carry liquid is vital to creating new ideas. Why is the process of function innovation so hard? Our human nature wants to jump to the feature. We want a larger hard drive on a laptop, or a bigger cup so we don’t have to refill it so often. We jump to the feature rather than focusing on the function. How do you fix this problem?

Here is an approach I have used thousands of times in product development:

  • Take each feature. Example: 2TB hard drive
  • Define the function: reliable mobile data storage
  • Innovate that function: idea — 2TB solid-state (no moving parts)
  • Repeat for every feature
  • Combine them to create a new product/service made up of innovated multiple functions

This process of going from feature innovation to function innovation is the secret that took HP from #3 or 4 in the marketplace to #1 tech company in the world with their computing products. This function approach will allow you to create a variety of new ideas that could lead to a breakthrough product or service.

 

Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is feedback@philmckinney.com, or you can go to PhilMcKinney.com and drop me a note there. If you are looking for innovation support, go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops. Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

 

 

 

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

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

How do you manage over $100B in spending to innovate and not let that scale overcome your vision and approach to driving the most effective outcomes?  Can you balance speed and performance, short and long term innovation in parallel? Overseeing and innovating throughout the US Navy’s vast involvements to protect is a daunting task at hand. From basic to in-depth research, development, procurement, deployment and sustainment of assets, the Navy is always working to stay one step ahead of the world in innovation. How do you optimize your choices and take the right risks while empowering your workforce to successfully complete a job? Today’s guest on Killer Innovations stands at the forefront of these decisive decisions every day and has a keen eye for high speed, low drag. Assistant Secretary of Research, Development and Acquisition James ‘Hondo’ Geurts has been innovating the U.S military’s ecosystem for over 30 years and will to discuss his involvement in taking the Navy into the next wave of innovation.

Staying Focused While Differentiating

The demands of the US Navy require a multi-dexterous approach that works to avoid getting overwhelmed by bureaucracy and standardization which limits flexibility needed for today’s forces. Many organizations have problems doing many things well or even multiple workstreams, multiple ways. Jim’s task is to ensure the Navy can do that while boldly stepping out and harnessing innovation with scale and speed, knowing there are certain areas they absolutely cannot fail in. With such vast organization and many opportunities to advance the Navy, Jim uses a simple, but powerful wet-dry framework to differentiate the work. In a large scale innovation you have to operate with speed of relevancy. Simultaneously, you may have one group operating with a longer term workstream or low iteration speed that requires assured performance, while the other at high iteration speed and low iteration cost. You can’t lock into one approach for multiple threads of innovation pacing in a single deliverable or launch. However, those workstreams have to operate and synchronize at the right timing for an effective state of the art product deliverable. Each group that is innovating at a speed relevant to their workstream needs to be valued equally, though they may have a varying culture. Staying focused on mission and how each contributes allows you to have differentiating approaches, innovation paces and cultures in one large scale innovation effort. Another challenge in balancing the speed and relevancy of a mission need is absorption rate. Sometimes rapid innovation outpaces the ability to absorb and integrate, deploy, train and operationalize capabilities. Keeping an active focus and appropriate disciplines on mission speed and relevancy ensures efficiency.    

Innovation Leadership

How do you manage the right thing at the right time and synthesize it to meet a critical mission and the expectation you have out innovated your competition? In a leadership position like this, one is often faced with the challenge of how to operationalize and develop a successful team. Jim discusses his strategy to motivate his workforce in three core ways:

  • Ruthlessly Decentralize – layout vision with focus on intent and empower your workforce—free to make decisions
  • Offer Various Tools – differentiate the work, allow them use multiple tools and customize for the right tools as needed
  • Have an Agility Mindset – create a good enough plan with proper intent, tools needed and be ready to pivot with pivot speed and adapt to change
  • Get Rid of Stupid – remove things that are wasting time in the organization and don’t replace it with more stupid time wasters, but with items that create or preserve value

When in a leadership position such as Jim Geurts, there is limited opportunity to be specifically involved in each situation. To deliver excellence for the mission, Jim has focused on enablers to deliver his intent to the organization, even when he is not available:

  • Learn Fast and Act Fast – press the boundaries, expect 50% failure with appropriate judgement and measured risk
  • It’s About Team – outcome of the idea and answer to the problem is more important than who it came from
  • Be a Servant Leader – create conditions and foundations for others to succeed—realize that you are there to help those under you, not vice versa
  • Explain Your Intent – continuously repeat your intent until your audience gets it

Importance of Agility in Innovation

How do you plan for the unknown? The unknown can be a daunting thought to those unprepared for it. Building a culture, mindset and set of skills that increase pivot speed to take advantage of upside opportunities prepares you for the unknown and ultimately makes or breaks an organization’s success. Couple of insights Jim has learned from his Special Operations Command days and other experiences he employs today:

  • Get Over Fear of Failure try something new
  • All about a Learning Environment - value best ideas not necessarily individual ideas—collaborate and improve on individual ideas with a team
  • Have a Network that is Diverse and Inclusive – engage a variety of functions, levels, internal and external organizations
  • Rip Off and Deploy – don’t just value inventing yourself, look for what can be innovated on
  • Kill Projects Fast – if a project is not going anywhere, move on – takes thoughtful deliberation, courage and leadership
  • Don’t Overvalue Discovery and Undervalue Deployment – ideas must be made real and delivered to a customer

When it comes to the working with the military, many businesses are intimidated by it. So how do you create a friendlier and easier path to make a contribution? Jim’ strategies focus on reducing barriers with a variety of incentives to bring the best ideas forward at the lowest cost. These include connecting the idea generators from the sailor to the startup with access points, and creating an environment in which contributors want to bring their best in class solutions at the best price to the Navy.

Engaging to Contribute for Success

While there is no one perfect path or mechanism for organizations to contribute to the Navy’s mission Jim Geurts, or ‘Hondo’ as many call him, has created as large a surface as he can to attract innovative solutions from any internal or external entity. With his leadership the Navy has:

  • Spent $500M+ each year on Small Business Innovation Research (SBIRs) – broadcasting events, educating and discussing needs.
  • Doubled Efforts to Leverage Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRDA)
  • Instituted Tech Bridges – multiple tech clusters to help certain mission areas
  • Created Challenges for Solutions – pay on the spot
  • Shortened Procurement Timelines – Idea to contract in 90 days or less programs

Hondo’s emphasizes the Navy’s focus on being multi-dexterous—good at all things from small to large while enabling scale and speed. There are many challenges from talent development to mission solutions. When we open up our approach and mindset working with outside sources, like inventors such as Dean Kaman, we will leverage more innovation and apply technologies to elements we didn’t envision as traditional tech solutions. That requires though an ecosystem of the best/most qualified internal and external entities supporting to complete any given mission with efficiency.

About our Guest

James ‘Hondo’ Geurts is Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development and Acquisition). Mr. Geurts is responsible for a $100B+ budget, as well as supporting and equipping Marines and Sailors with the top technology and systems to better them in their pursuit to defend the United States of America. Prior to his time current position he served as Acquisition Executive of US Special Operations Command (SOCOM), with responsibility of overseeing special operations forces acquisition, technology, and logistics. Through this position, Geurts innovative leadership and mindset bettered USSOCOM and earned him the Presidential Rank Award, USSOCOM Medal, William Perry Award, and Federal Times Vanguard Award for Executive of the Year. Prior to his service with USSOCOM, Mr. Geurts served as an executive officer with the Air Force. Throughout Geurts 30 years of extensive joint acquisition experience and service, he has earned the respect of many of his colleagues, and has used his innovative mindset to better the defenses of the United States.

Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter.  If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know.  The email address is feedback@philmckinney.com or you can go to PhilMcKinney.com and drop me a note there.  If you are looking for innovation support go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops, with our next one in Washington DC, November 18-19th.  Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

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

What can derail the innovation journey?  Recently, I finished a 3.5-day Innovation Bootcamp. In the end, I was asked an interesting question with a different look and perspective of innovation, now and in the future. The participant asked what challenges are facing innovation. After answering the question for the group, I put more thought into what I’ve seen in the past, is happening today and can persist in the future. In today’s show, I will examine in more detail what I see as the 4 challenges facing innovation that innovators need to pay close attention to and address.

Ethics in Innovation

Over the years, there have been many companies making promises and claims that were not true or half-truths. A number of them have been very high profile market players like Theranos. Poster child type companies that toe ethical lines and cross them creating innovation skepticism and pessimism in customers, investors, and markets. Whether you cross the ethical lines or have perceived to, the damage is done with confidence destroyed. This puts a negative perception on innovators/entrepreneurs as greedy people focused on making some quick money.

Why are ethical lines crossed though? Many times it is driven by ridicule and fear of failure. as well as not gaining the full potential of what may be defined as success. We need to do something to change the nomenclature of fear of failure through our education system, society in general and organizations across industries. Why was it such a big deal when Theranos crossed the line? They had created a compelling story and marketed it with no slowing while assembling a Board of Directors of who’s who of the world. But the challenge with the Board was none of the members had real sophistication around the risks, challenges and how to execute for breakthrough innovations. They had no Innovation Sophistication where they had:

  • Been intimately involved in innovation lifecycles – personally experienced it hands-on
  • Understood challenges and risks with paths to address
  • Developed and launched breakthrough ideas/innovations
  • Dealt with unknowns and may have had to pivot

Innovation sophistication doesn’t mean you took a company IPO or were sold for high multiple and big dollars.  It is the years of experience toiling in the innovation trenches where you build a sophistication, insights, and wisdom to navigate an innovation journey and have sustained success.

Unrealistic Expectations for Innovation

When you set unrealistic expectations people lose confidence and innovation outcomes diminish. In innovation many times we overstate and overpromise a capability creating an expectation bar that is hard to follow through on. We all have done it. If you underestimate you may not get the traction with the funders you need to gain appropriate funding. It is a fine balancing act of over and under-promising and setting ill-fated perceptions early on. For breakthrough innovations, it takes patience—law of patience. You have to have the intestinal fortitude to progress forward with expectation balance incorporating patience in an ecosystem that has very little patience.

Many today use the ‘Rule of 18’ to manage the innovation journey. However, this diminishes breakthrough opportunities and creates short-sightedness inflating potential capabilities, timelines, and sales. It does have some value in setting expectations, securing incremental funding (especially for companies that normally would have not received funding), incremental progress, enhancements, and capabilities--but not the highest return breakouts—Killer Innovations. The best path is to set expectations early, with a balanced view of what is achievable while providing the highest potential for a breakthrough. Be careful not to cross the lines of expectations and lose credibility.

Availability of Funding for Innovation

Raising money has always been one of the hardest things to do and today it’s more competitive and demanding then it has ever been. If you’re not in the hot trend space of the day you start off with a huge disadvantage to overcome and need to be very precise in your targeting of the right fit investors. The characteristics of entrepreneurs range, but most are in the fast lane category stretching the limits to gain traction and quickly building and flipping their innovation. With the dynamics of the market, investors and innovators the ‘Rule of 18’ quickly become the default. A dangerous zone for innovators and markets as you limit the opportunity to gain breakthrough and killer innovations.

Many innovators and investors fall into the ‘first to market’ mentality which time has proven to be rare, and not necessarily the most profitable path. Iconic names today like Google, Facebook and Apple weren’t first to market in their categories, they just made them better. As I always say the difference between a good idea and a great one isn’t about the idea, but almost always about the timing.

Characteristics Investors Look For to Invest

You have the full package and can demonstrate that you:

  • Can articulate a compelling story that makes it clear you know what you’re doing
  • Have a broad market view with a unique insight
  • Are plugged into the market, know the customers and sensitive to market timing
  • Know the challenges, risks and understand how to adjust
  • Envision the impacts of your product, service, and solution today and into the future
  • Manage expectations with balance—passionate, realistic, but also have an element of the BHAG

Most importantly you need to be very clear on your execution.  As I always say, Ideas without execution is a hobby and I am not in the hobby business. Funding is not an easy path, just as you work to create that next innovation, you need to also approach your funding with creativity. Step out and apply creativity to your funding structures. Think through all the possibilities to make it work such as:

  • Customer or channel partner investing
  • Leveraging convertible debt
  • Seeking those interested in non-governance investments

Spend some time learning your needs, financial structures that work for your innovation and company, who are the right investors and what are the market permissions that give the best chance to get funded.

Government’s Role in Innovation

I’ve been inspired since I was a child from the incredible innovations driven by the Government and long term focused private labs that reinforced my desire for inventing. From the Space Program to DARPA and the Internet. We need inventions and innovations that are a result of more long term projects. There must be a big stretch goal, coupled with patience and appropriate funding. Investing for discovery and global competition and not only financial gain. This emphasis has gone by the wayside and needs to be revitalized.

Long-range innovation has declined drastically in the Government as well as in Corporate’s comparatively to the past. The government has outsourced more of that R&D and innovations to short term focused and profit-oriented organizations. This can have a more negative than the positive impact. Today, China R&D spending is off the scale. To get a competitive advantage, breakthroughs Government and Corporates need to build back that R&D and long term innovation backbone.

Overcome the 4 Challenges to Innovation

These 4 challenges change and impact progress, discouraging innovation and slowing it down or preventing it from ever happening. The short term ‘flip it’ approach won’t lead to true discovery. It will only drive the fear of failure with setting unrealistic expectations, lack of appropriate funding, bad investments, questionable behavior, and unethical actions. We need to work to change the game so we can create breakthrough innovations and discover things we never imagined possible.

Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter.  If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know.  The email address is feedback@philmckinney.com or you can go to PhilMcKinney.com and drop me a note there.  If you are looking for innovation support go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops.  Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

 

 

Direct download: 4_Challenges_Facing_Innovation.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PST

Creating and continually innovating the entertainment experience to keep your customers on the edge of their seat is a monumental undertaking? Can the entertainment experience go to new levels? What cool innovations and technologies is the sports industry doing to make your time watching an event/ game more enjoyable. Today’s guest is always on the forefront of what it takes to keep customers engaged in the experience.  Steve Hellmuth has been innovating the customer experience for over 30 years from the Olympics to Major League Baseball and today the National Basketball Association with some of the most experiential ideas, innovations and technologies. This week on Killer Innovations, Steve Hellmuth joins us to discuss what he and his team are doing to make your experience with the NBA beyond expectations.   

Permission to Innovate

The NBA has a great reputation for willingness with ample runway to experiment and fail in order to get that next innovative experience. NBA Leadership, players, players association, fans and owners are the most progressive at experimentation and interactive experiences. Steve and his team continually are working special fan experience projects to give you the thrill of the game. It’s important to have permissions with every relation and level in innovation efforts and the platform to test your ideas and validate. At this year’s NBA Summer League Steve had his mobile unit parked in the middle of all the broadcasters to rollout some of their experiments from their innovation sandbox. This is the perfect time to interact with players, fans and management with room to experiment with innovations/ideas, fail, adjust and try again. Some of the fun experiences you will see this season have been tested at the Summer League and percolating in their innovation sandbox. A number of these ideas they have worked on for many years and just now are being deployed—sometimes innovation takes a long time to curate and requires patience.

Where is the Fan Experience Going

Innovating in this league is all about entertainment and the story. Steve teamed with Phil in the past spending a good deal of time in 3D initiatives and experimenting on the convergence looking for the focus that would give the best experience with successes and failures. So what will be the experience of the living room of the future be. Today Virtually Reality and Augmented Reality have been problematic, but it will play a part in the NBA experience as it moves towards better eye tracking and the next generation. Steve also wants to move faster towards no walls and pick your experience in your media room to feel like you are in the venue. Part of that will be to expand on the synchronous experiences with all information flow and devices to track what really catches your attention and is exciting at that moment. He envisions more immersive experiences and premium services that give the fans an opportunity to pick and choose experiences with or without advertising. Steve and team will continue to work closely with stadiums to get the most innovative blueprint and technology deployment to ensure the 6th man affect is in play in all games.   

What’s in the Innovation Sandbox for Rollout this Season

Steve’s vision is to get everyone involved in the NBA experience and to do that their innovation sandbox has to continually be testing the limits, being the first to leverage technology advances (such as WIFI-6, 5G, others) and coming up with innovative ways to put you closer to the floor and part of the game. Some of the focus this year and near future that you will experience includes:

  • Skycam’s/Spydercam’s on the Move – this active camera positioning gives a closest encounter ever catching the move by move experience and passion of the game and players following them over the court during play
  • Smartphone & Telecast Integration – produced telecast of the whole game with all audio and video in 5G from the smartphone. This is going to open up doors for fans to participate in broadcasting and will lead to more real-time and diminishing costs to produce courtside interviews, tapping into fan action shots and immediate fan broadcast experiences
  • Robotic Camera Positioning – remote action with ability to get to better views, low angles and positioning normally hard to see and get to
  • Dueling Announcers – announcers competing and dueling throughout the game with a new ultra-audio track

Where’s the Next Level of Innovation & Impact for the NBA

There are a number of areas that Steve and the team continue to experiment with for the ultimate fan experience, but one area that his in the interests of the players, fans and leadership is ensuring the players are at the top of their game and available to go at a 100%. Biometric video capture and motion capture of the players every move is a priority. This will allow for preventive actions and better load management.

With a number of dynamic player duo’s this should be a real fun season full of rich fan experience both live at the event or from your favorite sportscave.

About Our Guest

Steve Hellmuth is the Executive Vice President, Media Operations & Technology for NBA Entertainment.  Under Hellmuth’s direction there have been numerous first’s in innovation to include, SportsVU Player Tracking, the optical player tracking system in every venue, making the NBA the first major US professional sports league to quantify and analyze the player movement in live game action throughout an entire season. Steve spent time in his management career with MLB and NBC and has produced the Emmy-nominated telecasts for the 1986 World Series and coordinated the production of Olympic profiles for the 1980 Moscow games. He also produced Larry Bird Night for the Boston Celtics and the All-Century Team Celebration on field at the 1999 MLB All-Star game. Best place to see some of Steve and his team’s innovation experiments, prototyping and rollouts from the sandbox can be best observed and experiences on NBA League Pass and NBA TV.

Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter.  If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know.  The email address is feedback@philmckinney.com or you can go to PhilMcKinney.com and drop me a note there.  If you are looking for innovation support go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops.  Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

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

Is controversy good when it comes to innovating? Today’s guest is passionate about creating breakthroughs and states ‘If it isn’t controversial, it’s not a good idea’. Scott McNealy knows a few things about changing the game by challenging the status quo, disrupting platforms, products and services. Focusing on continually challenging an idea, model, platform, technology and service leads to disruptive breakthroughs and advances society. This week on Killer Innovations, Scott McNealy joins us to discuss a number of topics in the quest for future advances.

Lessons from the Trenches

Seeking to make an impact by looking at things from a different lens has always been Scott’s game if it’s technology, golf, education, marketing, politics or social issues. His open source view permeates his approaches and has led to positive impacts. Scott has had opportunities to learn from his pioneering and early mover days with Sun Microsystems to recent ventures in marketing and education platforms. There are many takeaways in the battles he and his teams engaged with over three decades of incredible growth and technology advances that made significant contributions to the boom of the PC and Internet. So what does it take to continue to innovate and grow. Scott has some key thoughts from disrupting markets, managing and leading in fast growth times to developing breakthrough products and services.

  • A Good Idea has to be Controversial – crazy and controversial ideas have to be correct or you look foolish—controversial and correct, not controversial and stupid. No controversy, no chance to survive, if it isn’t controversial then everyone does it and no differentiation or pricing power.
  • First to Market is Great when You’re Right on Timing and Team – having been on the leading edge as well as the refiner of technologies and markets, the most important aspect is ensuring you have architected a well-rounded team that will challenge the status quo, be willing to admit failure and adjust, while also being patient for timing to present itself. Sun had many ideas and technologies that were too early for the market, so it took leadership sensitive to timing and execution to seize the right opportunities at the right time.
  • Most Products and Technologies aren’t Original but Evolving and Require Pivoting – it is rare you will have something brand new, but innovating current products, business models and industries can create breakthroughs when you forge forward and are willing to adjust and pivot with what the market is presenting.
  • Observe, Analyze, Adjust and Execute Fast – A customer in China was using Sun’s Route D (routing software) technology differently and if Sun had spent more time in observation, assessed the implications and potential opportunities they would have been the router king before CISCO. It’s important to pay attention to not just how YOU view your product’s use, but how your customers are using it. Your customers can create new markets beyond your imagination.
  • If you Miss an Opportunity, Leave it Behind and Move Fast Forward – we all have ideas and innovations we worked on and didn’t execute on that someone else succeeded in. Forget about it and keep innovating and working the execution. The secret to success is always leaving the past as the past and pressing ahead with what’s next.
  • Capital Doesn’t Solve ProblemsCapital Infusion Creates Confusion –  many times more capital infusion creates more confusion and less focus on disrupting, ideating and coming up with that next innovation. More capital can get you compulsive, complacent and distracted. You can’t beat technology with more capital, you need cleverness and leadership.

 

Augmenting Education Now and the Future

We need education advancement more than ever before.  Today’s tools and platform don’t provide the best we can do as a society for our students, teachers and parents. Scott started Curriki to focus on augmenting the education experience and creating a new digital era in our education. A catalyst for Scott’s desire to challenge and create value in education was the rising cost of educational material and his open source mentality. The desire is to have no student, no teacher and no parent left behind. To fulfill that we need to continue Innovating around the facilitation of key learnings and interdisciplinary skills like critical thinking, communication, teamwork and civility along with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math). Curriki’s free and open source exchange platform with a new age of curriculum, is all about a virtual and classroom experience that:

  • Focuses on the Student’s Personal Training Needs – opening up educating for differences in aptitude and providing an adequate education at your speed and pace. Not all kids learn the same or need to learn the same material. One on one personal attention and access to custom services meet at the point of need.
  • Challenges with Interactive, Fun and Exciting Tools – bringing the binge mentality into education—like FORTNITE in gaming or Netflix entertainment has done. Why not have the same desire and demand for learning, as there is for playing and entertainment.
  • Provides a Collaborative and Transparent Community Forum – a personal dashboard with collaboration and visibility for all engaged in the lifecycle of educating from student, teacher and parent.

Scott believes this is a group effort by society regardless of your views and he is looking for people who are passionate and interested in supporting the augmentation of our education system. Everyone can help create our future of education.

Making an Impact with Issues of Today

Tackling issues in society are important, however, the forum and approach you use can be effective or destructive. Finding commonality to break the divide and divisions in business and politics helps progress us forward and strengthen the future. Scott has a lot to say on challenging ideas and having healthy conversations around them. For companies being A-political and getting involved in policies that impact your business, investors and shareholders should be the focus, but not alienating substantial fractions of your customer base. Is Government’s job to promote or regulate business? Government is not the answer to innovation, or all the challenges and problems we have in society. Financial freedoms and liberties give people and business the abilities to make a difference. Scott is in the early ideation stages of a digital issue-based platform to provide a forum for healthy discussions around the challenges we face. This digital town hall approach would give everyone with different views the opportunity to make an impact and cross the aisle to find commonality and bridge the divide and solve problems. He doesn’t believe today’s social media platforms provide the best channels to get things done in a civil and breaking the divide fashion to progress forward.

Future Advances and Taking Responsibility

The future is full of many possibilities when it comes to disruptive technology. Autonomous everything will be one of the most impactful to our society. Where do you play in it and filter through the possibilities as an entrepreneur and innovator? Any area within a technology space can be the best or worst, but it is really about the execution. Some areas people have pinpointed as the unfruitful path have turned out to be the most successful. So do your research and analysis, then dive in, adjust and be nimble on your journey—don’t wait, fire away. Scott has challenged many leading companies from Microsoft, IBM and Apple taking on their ideas, products and business model—challenge the idea, not the people. Controversy leads to the next innovation breakthrough. Most importantly we need to have more responsibility and accountability with our generation on how we manage our own lives and not rely on others or Government to take care of our actions and needs.

 

About Our Guest

Scott McNealy is the former co-founder and CEO of Sun Microsystem which pioneered it’s way in computing technologies from hardware, operating systems to software, including the JAVA language.  He was with Sun from its start in 1982, IPO in 1987 to sale to Oracle in 2010. Scott also is on many Boards and advises Fortune 500 to entrepreneurial startups.  He co-founded social media intelligence company Wayin, which was recently acquired and founded Curriki the non-profit free education service. Scott is looking for help with Curriki and you can connect with him on Twitter.

Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter.  If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know.  The email address is feedback@philmckinney.com or you can go to Philmckinney.com and drop me a note there.  If you are looking to develop a Loonshot, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops.  Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

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

Have you created a Loonshot? Have people dismissed or laughed at your Loonshot? Safi Bahcall takes us through how to manage Loonshots—a big goal, an audacious idea which has a lot of enthusiasm and support, but may be viewed as crazy. What if you nurtured these crazy ideas that are dismissed and written off. Loonshots have always been created and declared, but not always nurtured, which is critical for real success. This week on Killer Innovations, Safi Bahcall joins us to discuss how to handle Loonshots.

Phase Transitions

There are behaviors and patterns for Loonshots. Previous building blocks can support the creation of a Loonshot or destination.  However, the most important focus has to be on how you get to that destination, which is the continual nurturing of those crazy ideas. As the goal is established, the nurturing process spurns off other creations, insights and breakthroughs making the ultimate destination not only achievable, but also richer in value. A big challenge is that many times good teams kill great ideas. Why though? From experience and research there are certain properties of groups and characteristics that lead to failure or phenomenal success.

Leaders Role with Loonshots

What can you do that ensures phase transitions are balanced as a leader of innovators and those driving execution. Leaders need to understand their role, the rules and any exceptions to rules. Safi breaks this down into nurturing three elements in the toolbox, the Ice Cube, Garden Hoe and Heart.

  • Ice Cube – has two types of groups, the Artists and Soldiers. Those creating the Loonshots and those that are getting them to market. The leader has to understand these two distinctive groups have multiple dynamics and functions requiring appropriate channels and systems to operate in.
  • Garden Hoe – to manage the transfer as a leader you have to lean on as Gardner with nurturing care and not a bulldozer plowing through. It is vital that a leader carefully manages the transfer between touch and balance with each group from interactions, communications, timelines and deliverables.
  • Heart – and the most important is to ensure you demonstrate equal value to both your Artists and Soldiers. Love and care for both sides with the same vigor.

What are the Rules for Individual Innovator’s

There are three rules that are critical for innovators to always keep in their toolkit as they create Loonshots and nurture them.

  • Listen to the Suck with Curiosity (LSC) – when others critique your idea and dismiss it or call it bad, react with curiosity not animosity. Investigate and explore. Ask the questions—what was wrong and why with a mind to learn. Look for that gold nugget that can save and/ or accelerate your crazy idea.
  • Minding the False Fail – when everyone is abandoning understand if the failure is really a flaw in the idea or the experiment. The Facebook story makes it clear, don’t give in to a false fail. Examine is this really a fail or false fail – investors were leaving Friendster, but one investor, Peter Thiel, investigated deeper and realized it was not a broken social media model, but the problem scaring away investors was a software glitch. The rest is money making history.
  • Ignore Fail Fast and Pivot – when an idea and project keeps failing and all are giving up, be persistent don’t just pivot. Continue looking at the failure with different dimensions, variables and aspects. Persistence with failure doesn’t mean don’t stop and move on. How do you know though when to persist or move on. The litmus test is to determine if this is stubbornness or if you’ve been applying LSC, being curious, exploring and nurturing.

Balancing the Activities to Create Value

Managing Loonshots there are two dimensions that leaders need to balance, the size and type.

  • Balancing the Size – Loonshots are like a big ship that launches both a speedboat and helicopter. Your speedboat is your core product or service that you’re developing variations and incremental innovations while moving fast forward. The helicopter is on an exploratory search in a whole new space and completely different lane.
  • Balancing the Types – there are P-Type (Product Type) and S-Type (Strategy Type) Loonshots that you need to balance between and sometimes you may lean more towards one, but always have to ensure both are nurtured. A new technology/product may propel your organization, but if you don’t balance the strategy focus, success won’t last. Walmart began as that S-Type with a business model strategy and not innovative technology or product, but an innovative model. One of the strongest brands in history was Pan American Airlines (Pan Am) with a P-Type focus of bigger and faster engines. American Airlines focused on the S-Type and a shift in strategy while balancing technology advances. Guess who is still around today. Understanding the distinction is important and focusing on one can be fine, but achieving balance between the two can be the difference between a good innovator and a fantastic innovator.

About Our Guest

Safi Bahcall is the author of How to Nurture the Crazy Ideas That Win Wars, Cure Diseases, and Transform Industries. He is an author, second generation physicist, and CEO.  In 2001, he co-founded a biotechnology company developing new drugs for cancer. Safi led its IPO and served as its CEO for 13 years before being acquired.

Safi has numerous awards and accolades to include National Science Foundation Fellow, Ernst & Young New England Biotechnology/Pharmaceutical Entrepreneur of the Year. He also worked with President Obama's council of science advisors (PCAST) on the future of US science and technology research. Pick up Safi’s book today!

Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter.  If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know.  The email address is feedback@philmckinney.com or you can go to Philmckinney.com and drop me a note there.  If you are looking to develop a Loonshot, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops.  Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

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

Does architecture have an effect on how we think, feel, and act?  Donald Rattner has researched and explored environmental psychology and come to the conclusion that it does.  This fact plays into our daily lives, affecting how we act and feel at the office and in our personal lives.  This week on Killer Innovations, Donald Rattner joins us to discuss innovation and creativity in design of architectures that impact our daily lives.

Natures Effect on Creativity

What is the role of nature in regard to creativity?  The human body craves to be near nature; unfortunately, we spend ninety percent of our time indoors.  Rattner says to you do not have to do a lot to bring nature to your workplace.  One study showed that simply placing a plant on your work desk can boost your creative output from fifteen to twenty percent.  Fortunately, you do not need hours of exposure; you need a certain amount of inputs to achieve the necessary restorative affect nature has on the human body and mind.

Creativity at Home

People get ideas more often while at home; it is the place where you do the most unconscious ideation.  So, what can people do in their homes to improve their creativity?  First, you need to designate a creative place; pick where you want to associate creativity with.  Second, pick a place where you want to spend time in.  Try to get a sense of openness in your creative space.  Studies have shown that the more open the space, the more open your mind is to creativity.  Another point Rattner makes in his book is the effect that ceiling space has on creating an open space.  Pictures, color, beauty, lighting, sound, music, and scent all affect creativity.

About Our Guest

Donald Rattner is the author of My Creative Space: How to Design Your Home to Stimulate Ideas and Spark Innovation.   He is an architect and practitioner.  He has also taught at the University of Chicago and worked at Parson’s School of Design.  Pick up Rattner’s book today!

Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter.  If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know.  The email address is feedback@philmckinney.com or you can go to Philmckinney.com and drop me a note there.  Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

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

This week on Killer Innovations, I am joined in the studio by Katherine Radeka.  Katherine is the founder of Rapid Learning Cycles Institute.  She has a new book coming out on October 1st called “High Velocity Innovation.” Katherine started her career at HP and then went on to carry on Dr. Ellen Wards legacy as a lean product consultant.

Challenges of Innovation

The challenge inside large organizations is the challenge of catching of the innovation.  Inside any organization there has to be a pull for innovation that starts at the strategic level.  Even when they have that inside an organization, there are still going to be the innovation antibodies that create barriers and slow down the innovation engine.  Another important challenge within an organization is distinguishing between process metrics and result metrics.  Process metrics for innovation focus on how much time is your team spending on innovation activities.  For result innovation, you should be looking at the amount of revenue coming and how fast you can get to market.

Failing Fast

Companies sometimes need hurdles thrown at their innovation teams to help them grow.  Katherine recommends having escalating hurtdes at least once a quarter.  It encourages teams to find fast ways to validate whether or not their ideas are good ideas and challenge their perspective on it.  Getting feedback from management is essential to these teams because it is an incentive to learn fast.  You can keep up with Katherine at high velocity innovations.

Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter.  If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know.  The email address is feedback@philmckinney.com or you can go to Philmckinney.com and drop me a note there.  Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

 

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

On this week’s episode of Killer Innovations, Phillip Merrick joins us in the studio.  Phillip and his wife Caren started a company called webMethods and pioneered the use of web services integrating, machines, software applications and databases with XML-based software integration technologies.  He was the co-founder of a web-multimedia resume company VisualCV and is currently CEO of cloud security company Fugue with its own innovation’s. As a serial entrepreneur he is accustomed to creating and disrupting market spaces and has had a number of his companies acquired.  Phillip has been recognized for driving results including KPMG & Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Washingtonian Magazine “Titan of Technology”, and CRN “Top 25 Executive” as well as Deloitte’s fastest-growing software company in North America over the period 1998 to 2002. In 2000, webMethods went public on the NASDAQ in the most successful software IPO to date.

The 1st Mover Experience

Phillip was a software developer with a dream and when his wife, a marketing specialist, teamed with him it wasn’t immediate success. However, an initial journey of rejection and failure. Using credit cards to survive, going down to nothing financially they experienced the fear of many entrepreneurs. They had numerous rejections pitching to over 135 investors before they won over an initial venture investor in DC and eventually venture capitalists in Silicon Valley.  Success started to take hold and led to more breakthroughs

But why so hard! Well when you are creating a new space with a new technology you deal with 1st Mover pains. Many companies we know today from Apple to Google weren’t 1st Movers in a space, but Phillips vision of connecting machines to the web disrupted the market and challenged the norms into a new space. webMethod’s was challenged with people not getting what they had or were doing. His team convinced the market how to use the technology and how much easier it was. They proved it to global companies and markets from Phillip’s basement with the team of four getting a product in the hands of potential customers in record time.

Lessons from 1st Mover in a New Space to Existing Space

Phillip has moved from pioneering a space to pioneering in an existing space from VisualCV to self-healing infrastructure in cloud security with Fugue. He makes it clear that creating a space is definitely far and few in between and an exception--innovation happens in many ways in existing spaces.  You can have innovation in how you productize, market and structure your business model.  Innovation has to be in the idea, product development and driving execution.  Philip’s advice for success is that you need to realize that innovation is not just about the idea.  It is how you bring it to market, how you package it up for service, and how you build the team from recruiting to culture.  From his journey he will tell you that “No idea comes away with contact with a customer in the same shape”.

What do you wish you knew early in your career?

Within reason you can do anything you put your mind to.  Phillip was afraid of failure in a company, feared public speaking and overcome them. What’s interesting is with all of his successes at webMethod’s one of his breakthroughs was actually speaking insightfully in front of the public. There are not many limits you can’t overcome he states.

Philip says that in his career he is more focused on team building, not just the idea.  Once you get all of that figured out, then you can focus on the idea.  

Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter.  If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is feedback@philmckinney.com or you can go to Philmckinney.com and drop me a note there.  Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

 

Five Minutes to New Ideas

The world is made up of yes people and no people.  We need more people who will say yes to non-obvious ideas.  Success belongs to those people who thoughtfully and hopefully say yes, let’s try it.  Many people in an organization play the role of the anti-risk antibody; they say no because it is safe.  Why are we afraid of being wrong about new ideas? Take a risk, be willing to be wrong, and say yes to that new idea.  Are you a yes or a no person inside your organization?


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

On this week’s show of Killer Innovations, Michael George, Author, Entrepreneur and CEO of AI Technologies joins us as our guest. He is the founder of Lean Six Sigma, the most widely used process improvement method used globally. Since 2012 Mike has worked on applying Artificial Intelligence (AI) as the next big process breakthrough beyond Lean Six Sigma.  Over the years Mike has worked with Fortune 100 companies and Government’s globally and was Founder and CEO of The George Group, which he sold to Accenture as well as Founder and CEO of International Power Machines which he took Public and then sold to Rolls Royce. He has authored 8 books including “Fast Innovation”, “Lean Six Sigma”, “Conquering Complexity in Your Business” and his latest “Lean Six Sigma in the Age of Artificial Intelligence”.  

The Power of Process Innovation 

Innovating processes and discovering ways to leverage process to bring exponential returns on innovation initiatives and product development has been a mission of Michael and the results of his work has created and preserved value.  The combination of Lean and Six Sigma brought a breakthrough for non-repetitive processes and global leaders enjoyed the elimination of waste and enhanced quality.  However, leaders had another dilemma “How to Get to Market Faster with Quality Products”.  

Fast Innovation gave them:

  • Speed in the Product Development Process
  • Market Velocity with Better Forecasting and Predicting 
  • Preservation and Enhanced Quality
  • Innovation Blitzes – Fast Gating while discovering Drivers of Delays

The next iteration of Process Innovation applies AI to drive Innovation’s through a lifecycle as well as discover ideas that can create breakthroughs.

Fourth Industrial Revolution: Solving Unsolvable Problems 

Michael has been engaged in Deep Learning Neural Networks for many years.  With the onset of ‘Big Data’ we can now apply AI and machine learning to recognize patterns to help solve what has been unsolvable in the past.  With Lean Six Sigma in Age of AI they have discovered a number of valuable insights that will power organizations to the next level and help them harness the power of the Fourth Industrial Revolution:

  • Don’t get overwhelmed with your data.  Over-engineering your data quality and data cleansing efforts can grind you to a halt and not necessary – there are a number of processes to get high value sets of data for analysis in short order – a challenge for CEO’s today
  • Unseen discoveries are attainable even in the most proficient organizations—a recent effort revealed 60% of inefficiency came from only 20% of revenue
  • AI and machine learning didn’t eliminate jobs, but created more opportunities and growth while developing more productive employees

So what can leaders do to take advantage of the next wave? Michael believes every CEO should have their own AI and data expert that can comb every aspect of a business or organization to find common patterns in their activities (for instance product development and innovation initiatives) that elude human interaction. 

Future Advances 

So, what game changing innovation does Michael expect to see? AI provides approximate answers. The next big thing after AI, that is also complimentary, is quantum computing.  An exponential game changer. As it has been in the past, from the internet to semi-conductors, the Government will play a big role in quantum computing. With patience, funds and applicable activities the organization that is best suited, and has always been a leader in advancements, is the U.S. Department of Defense.  To learn more insights, keep up with Michael and his Firm.

Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter.  If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is feedback@philmckinney.com or you can go to Philmckinney.com and drop me a note there.  Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

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

What are the unique skill sets needed for innovation leadership?  We all have a list of what good leadership skills are but what are the unique ones you need to be a true innovation leader?  Today on Killer Innovations, I will discuss what I have found to be the skills needed for successful innovation leadership.

Innovation Leadership Skills

These leadership skills apply to all organizations, whether you are small organizations or a large organization.

  1. Integrity
    1. You need to trust the people you are working with.
    2. You need to know they are looking out for what is in the best interest for the team and organization.
  2. Vision and Strategy.
    1. Team members are looking to the leaders to communicate what the vision and strategy are.
    2. You need to look longer range beyond where the team is and roll that back in so they can see what your vision is.
    3. You need to be able to tell the story, make the pitch, share their dream with others.
    4. Communication is critical to successful innovation leadership,
    5. If you are going to be a leader you need to be able to interact and build relationships and truly have interests in other people’s lives.
    6. Know what is going on in your team member’s lives so you can help them eliminate distractions and really get their head in the game.
    7. You have got to persuade people to leave what they are doing now and join your team.
    8. You have to be able to convince them that what are doing is something worth their time.
  3. Adaptability and Flexibility.
    1. As a leader you cannot be rigid; you have to be adaptable and flexible with your team and organization.
    2. Can you operate as a leader of a team?
    3. You need diversity on your team to be successful.
  4. Coach and Develop.
    1. Find young and upcoming people and coach and develop them.
  5. Decision-Making.
    1. You have to be comfortable making the final decision.
    2. Realize that sometimes the decision you make are going to fail.
  6. Planning and Organizing.
    1. If you are not good at planning and organizing, then hire people to do it for your team.

These are the basic skills you need to be a successful innovation leader.  So, what skills do you need to do differently to truly be an innovation leader?

  1. Innovation leadership involves taking risks.
    1. You have to be comfortable that some of the decisions you make are going to fail.
    2. Some of your decisions are going to be flipped.
  2. You need to keep looking for new opportunities and threats.
    1. Look for threats to your organization, industry, or geography.
  3. Innovation is about change.
    1. Stability is the death of innovation.
    2. Foster a culture where change is expected.
  4. Do not rest on the traditional management techniques.
    1. Every situation is different.
    2. You need to invent the way you manage and do leadership.
  5. Be an optimist.
    1. Innovation is about being an optimist.
    2. You need to convince and convey an optimistic view of the future.
  6. Innovator’s cut through the crap.
    1. Innovation leaders need to cut through the crap and get to the core.
    2. You need to step in and stop the corporate game-playing.

Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter.  If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know.  The email address is feedback@philmckinney.com or you can go to Philmckinney.com and drop me a note there.

Thinking Beyond the Obvious

The challenges on the creativity innovation side does not change based on scale.  It is the same whether you have a five-person team or a fifty-person team.  The challenge is operating and innovating at the same level.  A lot of companies get in a rut because they are doing what they have always done.  So, how do you push yourself and people to go beyond the obvious and do the next thing?

  1. Break the rules.
    1. Corporate anti-bodies will come after new ideas; you need to recognize that these antibodies exist.
    2. Sometimes you are the corporate antibody.
  2. You have to think differently.
    1. You have to unlearn what you have been taught when it comes to conforming.
    2. Make sure that you challenge yourself to go beyond the obvious answer to questions.
  3. It is all about asking
    1. How do you ask questions that will make you think about something you have not considered before?
    2. How do you ask those killer questions?
    3. Better questions get you better answers.
Direct download: Innovation_Leadership_and_Going_Beyond_the_Obvious.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PST

We love to say anything can be innovated, anyone can innovate and innovation can happen anywhere.  Silicon Valley and other recognized innovation hubs do not have a lock on innovation or a secret sauce that cannot be modeled or improved on.  It takes a willingness to put time, your resources, explore and expand your creativity (we all have it) beyond where you are today to see the non-obvious.  When you do, you will be like our Kentucky guests, innovating in a non-traditional innovation hub, non-traditional way and a non-high tech innovation.

As part of our Innovation Across America tours, we ventured across the country in our new mobile studio to Paducah, Kentucky.  This tour was looking for those innovating “Beyond the Obvious”

In our show this week we had the opportunity to interview the founders of Fin Gourmet Foods.  Started in 2010, Fin Gourmet is a Kentucky Proud Producer™ of wild-caught Asian Carp products.  So why Asian Carp. It has the highest source of healthy clean protein and Omega-3 fatty acids, on par with wild caught salmon.  Nowhere else in the world but the USA are Asian Carp wild-caught, and those from Western KY are of the best quality. More importantly this innovation story is unique.  Fin’s mission and vision are that the Asian Carp provide economic opportunities for the communities, fostering job creation and revitalizing the inland fishing industry. 

Defining and Tackling a Problem Statement

The team at Fin Gourmet defined the problems and challenges and engaged in disruptive ideation.  As an integral part of their innovation process they considered some basic assumptions of innovation to create value including:

  • Turn other people’s trash into a product: Fin took the Asian Carp, which is an invasive species that is taking over the Mississippi and Ohio river systems, and innovated 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.  Training, teaching and building a culture that values and leverages the abilities of all.
  • Breathe life back into an 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 innovative processing techniques to:

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

With their innovative model, process and approach Fin Gourmet is making a big impact locally and across the globe with their products and story.  The Fin founders, 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.

If you find yourself in a fog with innovation, why don’t you head over to The Innovators Community.  It is a great place to connect and get energized and refreshed around innovation or send me a private message and I will respond.  I’d love to hear from you.  If you would like to learn more on ideation techniques to look Beyond the Obvious take a look at our Disruptive Ideation Workshops.  Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to join us today.  

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

I was recently asked to give a talk at TEDx Boulder.  The talk was based on a speech I gave in D.C. a few months past.  Humans have a superpower. That superpower is the ability to convince ourselves that something is true when it is not.  Seventy-five percent of us have convinced ourselves that we are an imposter or fraud when it comes to our jobs and careers.  Psychologists refer to this as the imposter syndrome. The imposter syndrome is questioning our achievements and living with the fear that someone is going to find out that we are not good enough and we are a fraud.  The imposter syndrome struggle does not know anything about career, title, identity, history; it is universal.  So many of us struggle with this, the question is what do you do about it? I am going to give you two plans of action.

  1. Find a comfortable/safe environment to share the secret that is telling you that you are not good enough.
  2. Be an encourager and encourage others on their skills and capabilities.  

I wasted twenty-five years of my career believing the lie that I was not good enough.  So what lie is telling you that you are not good enough and that you are an imposter? Whatever that lie is, the opposite is the truth.  So, what is the truth about you that is amazing?  

Fear of the Imposter Syndrome

As I shared in the speech, imposter syndrome knows no boundaries.  It is not tied to something about us, it is ourselves being hypercritical of ourselves.  The fear of being found out can be paralyzing.  What is fear? Fear is that emotion that comes from feeling threatened, feeling like you are going to get hurt, or abused, it can be the result of being physically impacted or how we will be emotionally impacted.  Fear stands for “false evidence that appears real.” My fear was not conforming to what society said would make me successful.  In the innovation game we will experience the fear of failing, the fear that the idea is not good enough.  What I learned from my experience from feeling fear from imposter syndrome is to test it.  Is it true fear? Or false evidence that appears true? Once you know, put your fear in its proper place.

If you find yourself struggling with imposter syndrome, why don’t you head over to The Innovators Community.  It is a great place to connect and post your own imposter syndrome or send me a private message and I will respond. I’d love to hear from you.  Definitely, find someone to share your imposter syndrome secret.  Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to join us today.  

 

Five Minutes to New Ideas

Have you ever purchased an item that others hated? Or what about the opposite; have you ever been using a product or service that you absolutely despise?  If you are producing a product that some people love what you are doing, there will be others that dislike your product with an equal passion. Plenty of companies trade on the fact that they represent something that the mainstream culture will find offensive or questionable.   Will it benefit you and your product to deliberately set yourself in opposition to certain social groups? Can you use the things that’s objectional about your product to create a community of customers? By looking at your product differently, from the perspective of something objectional, you may find that one thing that will set you apart.  

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

On April 4, 2008, Phil McKinney, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer at Hewlett Packard, delivered the morning keynote speech at the fifth annual Business Alliance Bootcamp for growing companies and entrepreneurs in Washington DC.

Creativity Economy

What I am going to do today is give you my perspective on some of the economic challenges and also encourage you in thinking differently when working to create value.  Knowledge is becoming a commodity.  If you have a job that can be taught at a University, your skill is at risk and your job is at risk.  The impact of this is everywhere.  Think about the transitions from an agricultural to a manufacturing economy to a knowledge economy.  My argument is that the creative economy is here.  What’s the new thing?  The new thing is this creative economy.  In the early 1980’s the market value for companies listed on the stock exchanges was concentrated on book value with most company’s stock value at 95% book value.  Twenty years later 23% is the average book value.  So, in 20 years a major fundamental shift occurred on how companies get valued.  I would argue that one of the key pieces on the increases of that intangible value is the role of creativity and innovation.  It is the value of ideas.  It is no longer what you can do with your hands or with a machine, it is the ability to continually generate new ideas, new products, and new services.  A lot of companies are unable to do this and as a result, do not survive.  Economic stability going forward is the ability to have ideas being continuously generated from the organization.  Innovation is important, but a lot of companies make the mistake of putting all of the pressure for innovation on their Chief Innovation Officer.  Go out and do a survey.  Eighty six percent of CEO’s admit that innovation is key to their business but less than ten percent have any formal process to innovate within their organization.

Bringing Back Creativity

My strong belief is that creativity is not a gift.  It is not bestowed on people, it is a skill that anybody can learn, practice, and become proficient at.  It ignores age, demographics, education levels, and geography.  It is the ability to put your own thought processes in place, to come up with the next idea, product, or service.  A lot of people are self-pessimistic and are convinced that they do not have it and they are not creative. The fact is that we are creative creatures; we were created to create.  Think about kids and how creative they are with a simple object like a toilet paper roll. The problem is through the process of our education systems and through jobs, we literally beat that creativity out of our people.  How do we bring back that amount of creativity that we see in kids and bring it back to our day to day lives?  We need that ability to take our filters off and see things from an unbiased and different perspective.  I had a conversation with a co-worker many years ago about “old think and new think.”  Old think is when you are coming up with an idea and then you put a filter on it and decide to go safe and go with the old way of doing things.  New think is all about breaking perspectives and getting rid of perspectives that confine and restrict us from coming up with new ideas.  The best ideas will sound stupid.  If you are not coming up with stupid ideas, then try harder!

FIRE and POE

“FIRE” is a very simple method you can apply to come up with ideas.

  • “F” in the acronym “FIRE” stands for focus.
    • How do you bring focus to where you are going to innovate?
    • Pick an area of focus.
  • “I” stands for ideation.
    • How do you generate ideas?
    • Ask better questions.
  • “R” stands for ranking.
    • What is the best idea?
    • I rank through five questions:
      • Will this idea fundamentally change the customer’s experience or expectation?
      • Will this change the competitive landscape?
      • Does this fundamentally change the economics of the industry?
      • Do you have a contribution to make?
      • Will this generate sufficient margin?
    • “E” stands for execution.

So, what does “POE” stand for?  “POE” is two fundamental skills that you should do each and every day in perspective to “FIRE.”

  • “P” stands for perspective.
    • You must be able to change your perspective.
    • Look for the non-obvious.
  • “O” stands for observation skills.
    • Watch how customers buy your products and your competitor’s products.
    • Get out there and see how your customer’s use your products.

Innovation Gap

Idea’s without execution are hobbies.  People’s individual career success is going to be in their own individual ability to participate in the creative economy.  What are you contributing to those intangible values that your company is creating and is going to get a return back from those investors?  Companies are suffering today on a huge innovation gap.  Small businesses are the most prolific patent producers in the entire segment in the U.S.  Small businesses are fourteen times higher than any other segment on the marketplace.  Patents that are highly referenced by other patents or materials are highly valued patents.  If you look at the top one percent of the cited patents today in the U.S. it is two times more likely that it is a small business patent.  That says that the most important innovations that are being created are coming from small businesses.  Companies and economies are going to be dependent on creating an environment where people can bring their creativity skills to create value for the business, create jobs, create economic stability, and put all the economies back on the growth curves.  Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to join us today.  If you have questions or comments on this week’s show, I’d love to hear from you.  You can also carry on the conversation with other innovators at The Innovators Community.

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

Laws of Innovation

Why do some organizations have better innovation than others?  Over the years I have collected what I call the “7 Immutable Laws of Innovation.”  No single organization could be successful in all of these laws but there are always opportunities to improve.  Let’s get started with the laws of Innovation.

  1. Law of Leadership.
    1. Leadership sets the tone of the organization. This includes the:
      1. Board of Directors and CEO
      2. Direct Reports (other C-levels, Vice President’s, Directors)
    2. Leadership must be at the front walking the walk and talking the talk.
  2. Law of Culture.
    1. “Culture eats strategy for lunch.”
    2. Create a culture of innovation to support a strategy of innovation.
    3. Culture has to:
      1. Involve people.
      2. Value ideas.
    4. All the resources need to be aligned.
    5. Communication needs to be clear.
  3. Law of Resources.
    1. This requires a committed level of resources to include people, money, time and equipment.
    2. Must effectively allocate and protect your resources.
  4. Law of Patience.
    1. Patience is critical for innovation.
    2. Management needs to have patience. Some innovation projects can take longer than twenty years to be completed.
  5. Law of Process.
    1. You can apply somebody else’s process, but you need to adapt the process to your organization.
    2. Needs to cover the full innovation chain.
      1. How you capture ideas.
      2. How you generate better ideas.
      3. How you identify the best ideas.
      4. How you execute those ideas.
    3. Never let your innovation process become stagnant.
  1. Law of the BHAG. (Bold, Hairy, Audacious, Goal).
    1. Unique characteristics of BHAG.
      1. Very clear and concise of what the target is.
      2. Needs to be a stretch.
    2. Let the process of innovation within your organization define the how.
  2. Law of Execution.
    1. Execution is the task of going through and putting a product out there for customers.
    2. Ideas without execution are a hobby.
    3. Think about segmenting the execution into phases.
      1. You will be able to kill projects that are not going to be successful.
      2. Allows you to reduce your risks.
      3. The objective is to actually execute, not review.

Not all organizations will be in a position to be successful in all of these laws.  Think about each of these laws and rank your organization.  Be honest with yourself on the areas you need to improve upon.  You can see our Organization’s Innovation Readiness survey based on the 7 Laws to assess and benchmark.

Five Questions to Ask an Innovation Consultant 

Have you noticed that the market is being flooded with a new type of consultant?  These people have branded themselves innovation consultants.  My advice to organizations is to treat consultants with a little bit of caution; they should be one of many inputs in the innovation process.  Do not discount the inside experts you already have within your organization.  There are five questions you should ask every innovation consultant.

  1. What innovations have you come up with and delivered to the market?
    1. Emphasis on them, not past clients.
    2. Weeds out the people who teach versus the people who do.
  2. What approach did you use?
    1. How did you deliver that to the marketplace?
    2. Why did you use that approach?
    3. What are the benefits versus using other approaches?
    4. How many firms are using the approach you came up with?
    5. When was the last time you innovated the approach?
  3. What were the lessons learned?
    1. What would you do differently?
  4. What innovations are you working on now?
  5. How do you personally stay innovative?

I have framed these questions specifically for people looking to hire innovation consultants, but some of you are innovation consultants looking to get hired. How would you answer these questions for yourself? And how can you improve your answers?  Consultants are needed and critical, but you need to make sure you are getting real expertise in this field.  

The MacGyver Method Creative Challenge

Based on the popularity of the last podcast’s creativity challenge, I have decided to present another one in this week’s show.  This creative challenge is called the MacGyver or the Apollo 13.  With this method:

  1. You are given a problem or objective.
  2. You open your purse, briefcase, or desk drawer.
  3. Use only the items you have.
  4. Create as many ideas within twenty minutes.

For this exercise, you get to work and realize you forgot to get a gift for a co-workers upcoming wedding.  You are given the tasks of creating or buying a gift with only the items within your reach.  For each idea:

  1. The idea must have a practical use.
  2. The idea must be made from two or more items you have on your desk.

I hope today’s show inspired you to look more in depth into the 7 Immutable Laws of Innovation and to see how it is applied in your organization and can be optimized.  Remember an innovation coach can be very impactful and help exceed outcomes, but you do need to be careful in choosing one.  Look for real experience and proof points, not just theory.  If you have questions or comments on this week’s show, I’d love to hear from you.  You can also carry on the conversation with other innovators at The Innovators Community.

Direct download: 7_Laws_of_Innovation_and_Benefitting_from_Coaching_Insights.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PST

Co-Innovation

What is Co-Innovation?  Co-Innovation is two parties with unique expertise that come together in a 50/50 funding of resources.  The key component being they have complimentary interests. Think of it as a Venn diagram.  The goal of Co-Innovation is to find where the Venn diagrams overlap.  Co-Innovation means:

  • Two parties with patented expertise.
  • A complete 50/50 venture.
    • Define what it is/why it exists.
    • Find the common area of interests.
    • Agree on what the target is.
    • How do you go about doing it.
  • Neither of you can do it alone.
    • You and your partner cannot do it alone.
    • This creates mutual dependency.
    • Requires both entities to participate in.
  • You are going to launch a real product.
    • The product had to be launched within 24 months.
    • The product had to have high impact to both organizations.

If you set up a Co-Innovation program successfully, they will have benefits to your organization such as:

  • Reducing risk.
  • Speeding up delivery of innovation.
  • Leveraging your R&D budget.

Lessons Learned

Over the years of creating these programs there are a couple lessons I have learned.

How do you manage these programs once they are under way?

  • Use your senior executive sponsorship to set the pacing.
  • Set gates and milestones.
    • You must have clear targets.
  • Share and show what you are working on.
    • Get real feedback from customers using your products.

How do you get a Co-Innovation program going?

  • You have to find the areas of mutual interests.
    • This takes time and many conversations with leaders of other organizations.
  • Set up a one-day workshop where teams from both sides talk about their areas of interests.
    • Start working together as teams and propose a target.

When Co-Innovation programs go wrong, the case is usually that people want to call it a Co-Innovation program when it really is not.

  • A lot of companies confuse Co-Innovation with contract R&D.
  • Another is that a lot of people are really focused on research with no real plan. Innovation is all about execution.
  • It turns into a PR or a marketing effort.

If you follow these basic rules, Co-Innovation programs can really ignite your organization and take you into market opportunities you would never be able to achieve on your own.

Strategic Storytelling

Why is it so hard for people to pitch their ideas?  To tell their ideas in a way that people swarm towards it and want to be a part of it.  The skill of the pitch is so hard to find.  What I have found is that the skill of pitch usually falls into two categories:

  • The person making the pitch believes they can win you with facts
    • They know what they are talking about.
    • They attempt to belittle anyone who challenges them, with facts.
  • Overwhelming with content
    • They overwhelm you with an abundance of slides and content.

So, what is it that makes people struggle with coming up with a well thought-out and structured pitch?  Many people forget about the fact that decisions are personal.  You cannot ignore the personal and emotional side of decision making.  In doing the pitch, you have to create an emotional side to your story to hook the listeners in and make them understand your pitch.  The way I do this is called “Strategic Storytelling.”  Storytelling is a critical part of the pitch.  Storytelling around a strategic pitch involves three things:

  • Define the problem in the form of a story.
  • Define the solution as part of a story.
    • Tell the story in such a way that they can see themselves using that solution.
  • Place the people in that story.
    • Tell the story in such a way that they can place themselves in that story.

The Structure of Strategic Storytelling

The way to structure the strategic storytelling is the structure of a three-act play.  A three-act play is typically what you see in TV shows and movies.

  • Act One is the set up.
    • It is about setting up location, defining characters, and laying the foundation.
    • Giving people background.
    • Warming people up to the concept of a story-telling process.
  • Act Two is the confrontation.
    • The obstacle, the problem, the challenge people are facing.
    • Describe the size, the scope, and the impact of the problem.
    • This act is used to pull out the emotions of people.
  • Act Three is the resolution.
    • Describe how the solution is going to solve or minimize the problems.
    • It tells what the role of the solution is on a long-term basis.

Think about the acts in the context of a movie.  Use this structure in your presentation; don’t just use slides, talk and engage.  There are a few basic rules I have learned about strategic storytelling:

  • Keep it short.
    • Typically, twenty minutes is a good time length for the story.
    • If it takes longer, than you do not know your subject matter well enough.
  • Tailor it to the people in the meeting.
    • Do not go in there with a generic story.
    • You can find out a lot about the people through social medias.
  • Put emotion and passion into it.
    • Do not make it sound like you are reading a script in a monotone voice.
    • Practice it so it sounds natural.
  • Understand the use of pausing and the tone of your voice to create tension and excitement.
    • Understand the role of your voice.
  • Read the body language of the people in the meeting.
    • If people are not really listening, change it up and catch their attention.
  • When you end your strategic story, end it with emphasis.
    • End it on a pause.
    • You want it to fully sink into people’s minds.

At the end of your pitch there are a few things you can do to improve your strategic storytelling.

  • Follow up with the people in the room at the end and ask how you can improve your pitch.
    • Ask if you were clear and fully conveyed your message.
    • Record it and listen back.
    • Go on YouTube and find great storytellers.

I hope today’s show inspired you to look into co-innovating and engaging in strategic storytelling.  Don’t get bogged down by distractions that take you off course from creating the next Killer Innovation, telling a compelling story and achieving your goals.  If you have questions or comments on this week’s show, I’d love to hear from you.  Or carryon the conversation about these steps to building innovation strength at The Innovators Community.

 

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

The success of the Apollo 11 mission, the first moon landing, inspires our innovative passions and pursuits.  With the 50th Anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the moon, I’ve been looking back at all of those that impacted and supported an incredible journey.  In this episode of Killer Innovations, I had the pleasure of interviewing the inventor of the early display technology that ultimately resulted in the creation of the moon monitor.  It was the moon monitor that allowed NASA and the rest of the world to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon.  An IEEE Fellow for Logic Analysis technology, he also was President of ACM, the world’s largest Computer Science society, and is an ACM Fellow. He holds HPs only Medal of Defiance, awarded by David Packard for “extraordinary contempt and defiance beyond the normal call of engineering duty”. Other awards include Engineer of the Year, Smithsonian Wizard of Computing, Top 50 inventions of the 20th century, CNN top 25 inventions of the past 25 years, Entrepreneuring Honor Roll.

Past in HP

Long before the Apollo 11 success, Chuck House was a physics major at CalTech when he had an interview with HP.  He went on to work at HP for 28 years. It was there that he was challenged by the CEOs and directors to be on top of innovation.  House says that every year at HP there was an oral exam to review each project. They would ask questions such as:

  • What contribution does it make?
  • Why is it ahead?
  • What is the next step after this?
  • What is the science underneath it?

The notion at the company was that you had to be part of a team and the team must understand the science behind what you are working on.  House discusses a number of insightful practices in a book  he co-authored about his time at HP.

Impactful Successes & Awards

House’s second project at HP, which ultimately led to the moon monitor for NASA, was to figure out how to stabilize a scope screen. The project appeared to have been a waste of time.  It even failed the technical evaluation. House was told to cancel the project and remove it from the lab.  Instead of abandoning the project, House and his team decided to put the product in production.  Within ten months it was finished. Who would have known about this project’s pivotal role in the Apollo 11 mission? The project turned out to be a huge success with sales to many leading companies and NASA.  Sixteen years later, in April of 1982, House was awarded a going away gift…the Award of Defiance.  House speaks more of this in his HP memoir.  House also received the Innovative Applications in Analytics Award (IAAA).  Other awards include Engineer of the Year, Smithsonian Wizard of Computing, Top 50 inventions of the 20th century, CNN top 25 inventions of the past 25 years, Entrepreneuring Honor Roll. 

Words of Advice

Lastly, I asked House: What advice would you give people who really have a passion to be inventors, to be innovators, to really change the world? What advice would you give them? What should they do to get ready? House believes in a lot of experimentation.  What you learn are not formulas, it is a way of thinking.  And the way of thinking is a logical, ordered, structure of cause and effect or of relationships that work. And that ordered, structured way of thinking is crucial to being able to work through to a solution. The curiosity and the enthusiasm and the drive is essential to the creativity side. But unless you can take that creativity and harness it so that you can make traction and get something in a resultant way, you are going to be slowed down.  You cannot be afraid to try new things and make mistakes.  

Giving in to corporate antibodies and giving up at the first signs of failure could seriously limit the out of this world opportunities.  Had Chuck giving up when he was told to shelf his project, we may never have seen the Apollo 11 moon landing.

If you have questions or comments on this week’s show, I’d love to hear from you.  Do you have failures that lead to success you’d like to share with us?  Spark the conversation at The Innovators Community.


What is the strength of innovation in your organization?  In this week’s Killer Innovations, we explore avenues to building innovation strength.  Innovation from Mergers and Acquisitions can be a fast track to innovation.  What are the pros and cons to this innovation path? We also look at the five biggest risks to innovation.  Your company’s innovation depends on avoiding the pitfalls. Is building innovation strength through acquiring innovation right for your company?  Avoiding the risks to innovation stretches across a broader spectrum.  Any company should be aware of the five biggest risks to innovation.

Mergers and Acquisitions: Acquiring Innovation

A growing means of building innovation strength is through acquiring innovation.  Innovation from Mergers and Acquisitions has its benefits and its drawbacks.  

To start, there are two types:

  1. Acquiring a company outright
  2. Purchasing the Intellectual Properties – This could be a product line, patents, a team, or a group of individuals with core expertise.

Let’s discuss the first type, acquiring the company.  Innovation from Mergers and Acquisitions has its pros and its cons.

Pros

    • You can get into a market fast – you don’t have to wait for R&D.
    • There are reduced risks.

Cons

    • Reduced risks = lower returns.
    • This approach can make an organization lazy.
    • This approach can be expensive.

The most common reason for Innovation from Mergers and Acquisitions are:

  1. Your company missed a trend and now you have to acquire company to get into the space.
  2. You saw the trend, but didn’t realize its impact.
  3. You saw the trend, but wanted to avoid the risk of investing in it.

Innovation from Mergers and Acquisitions can work if it is:

  • Proactive
  • Part of an innovation strategy

The second type of Innovation from Mergers and Acquisitions is purchasing Intellectual Properties (IP).  Why has it become so important? In a word: litigation. Patent lawsuits offer lucrative opportunity. Exclusivity to a company’s investment can reap financial gain.  This creates issues for those seeking to build innovation strength in this way. It can be especially difficult for the small business. To buy a patent can be expensive.  Options are out there for acquiring innovation to build innovation strength. Companies can join a patent pool. Another option is for companies to join forces and make a group purchase of a patent.

Patent Selling

Whether you are part of a large or small organization, think of this approach.  If you are a seller of patents, write it in your agreement. Prevent the buyer from using your patents in proactive litigation.  Allow the patents to only be used in defense. Why do people acquire patents?

  1. To exert a form of control.
  2. To create a defense.

Allowing your patents to be used only in defense, make them unattractive to patent trolls.  Patent trolls’ sole purpose is to buy patents and sue. We need to come up with a radical approach to addressing the patent lawsuit challenges that are taking place in organization.  

Another aspect of this are PCLs (Patent Cross Licenses).  Most large companies pre-negotiate a patent cross license.  This takes the whole risk of litigation off the table.  

The Five Biggest Risks to Innovation

It does not matter what or who you are as an organization.  It’s a common theme I have seen across organizations, irrespective of their size.  I’ve compiled what I’ve observed into “The Five Biggest Risks to Innovation.” Those risks are as follows:

  1. Corporate antibodies and the tolerance of leadership for antibodies.
    • Antibodies can prevent uncontrolled risks, but are mostly roadblocks to innovation.
    • Leaders know who they are, but still tolerate them.
    • True leaders should correct or remove antibodies from an organization.
    • If leaders never correct antibodies, it counters being an innovative organization.
  2. Lack of patience
    • Innovation is not the quick fix.
    • Have robust innovation pipeline – keep it active and full.
    • Companies realize they need ideas, but ignore it for so long that they want a quick fix.
  3. The Ambiguous Process
    • If someone in the company has an idea, what is the process for submitting the idea
    • Without a clear process, people get frustrated, then disengaged.
    • Goal should be 100% of the ecosystem engaged in your innovation agenda.

       

      How do you do this?
      • Be clear about what the process is.
      • It should inform how employees can get engaged and track the process.
      • Employees should feel their contributing to the process.
      • Contributors should know how decisions are made and what projects get funded.
  4. Unprotected Resources
    • Commit your resources.
    • Protect your resources.
  5. Poorly defined “BHAG” (bold, hairy, audacious, goal)
    • Setting the bar high for the team.
    • Provide a clear goal.

Within your organization you could see anywhere from one to all five of these risks to innovation.  As an innovation leader, you need to define the problem and find a solution. Don’t try to solve all five problems at once.  I recommend defining the “BHAG” and the ambiguous process first because those you can directly control.  

I hope today’s discussion gives you the insight on ways to build innovation strength.  Through acquiring innovation, you can get an innovative edge over the competition. But be wary of this approach as a way to play catch up.  Then, for any organization with a drive towards innovation, watch out for the Five Biggest Risks to Innovation. If you have questions or comments on this week’s show, I’d love to hear from you.  Or carryon the conversation about these steps to building innovation strength at The Innovators Community.


Innovation is all about translating ideas into real products, real services and real solutions.   Ideas without execution are a hobby.  Is your organization in the business of innovation?   This week’s show boils it down to a simple equation.  Ideas + Innovation Culture = Innovation Success.  The process starts with ideas and the management of them.  But ideas won’t develop and thrive without the right culture.  Core Attributes are about setting the basis for Innovation Culture.  When you set up a good system of gathering ideas and lay a foundation for innovation culture, innovation success ensues.

Creating Order from the Brainstorm of Ideas

The process starts with ideas coming from many sources.  Then comes the question of how to manage your ideas.  How do you log, track and rank them?  Where are your ideas today in the innovation lifecycle?  What about from all the brainstorming sessions over the last few years… and could you easily put your hand on the list of those ideas?  Ideas have value over time.

The Idea Management System, Step By Step

If you believe ideas are the currency of the economy, you need to manage ideas as a valued asset for innovation success.  Treat ideas as a valuable asset.

What’s needed in an idea management system?

  1. Idea capture and tracking
    1. Easy way to put ideas in system, track over time, evaluate them and link to other ideas that could grow into something significant.
    2. Done by people on innovation team but also open to other people in the organization who can submit an idea easily – have one place to look for all assets
  2. Idea evaluation – some form of an idea evaluation tool that allows for management to assess and look at ideas more closely
    1. Does everyone in the organization look at it and vote
    2. Use a ranking process like F-Focus, I-Ideation, R-Ranking, E-Execution
    3. Crowd source feedback
  3. System must allow for Ad Hoc Team Collaboration
    1. As people submit an idea, people can search the system to see if someone has a similar idea across the organization – can team up, combine efforts and areas of expertise
    2. Social hub of innovation within an organization
    3. Get better ideas – cross organizational efforts – collaborations that generate exciting ideas
  4. Supports whatever your organization’s process is for innovation
    1. Tool needs to match today’s and even tomorrow’s process
    2. Track ideas through the gating process your organization uses
    3. Follows phases of innovation used
      Lot of tools out there that force you to follow their process – be careful – you need a tool that follows your process.
  5. Needs to support pausing ideas
    1. Difference between a good idea and really great idea is not about the idea.  It’s about the timing.
    2. Market, customer, organization, government regulation are not ready – lots of reasons.
    3. Key is you always need ability to pause the idea – capture it so that can pause and pull out an idea later when timing is right
  6. Ability to issue challenges
    1. Don’t run idea management system like an electronic suggestion box – ideas will become incremental
    2. For breakthrough ideas, issue challenges: carefully worded questions, problems, areas of interest put out to the general population with some form of incentive for spending time thinking about ideas/approaches that will answer or solve that in form of ideas
    3. Well constructed challenges (problem statement) generate wealth of good ideas
    4. Gets org thinking – signaling where the org is going, what the direction of org is

My Experience With These Tools

  1. Without a system or tool, you are lost
    1. You have to treat them as a valuable asset
  2. Don’t restrict access to the tool
    1. Open it up to 100 percent of your organization
    2. You have to trust your employees
  3. Promote your tool
    1. Get people to engage on the tool providing their feedback
    2. This becomes the mechanism by which ideas are trained and tracked
    3. Promote constantly and consistently
  4. Close the loop with the idea submitters
    1. If someone submits an idea they need to hear back
    2. Give them feedback
  5. Think about applying some form of gamification
    1. Make it fun
    2. Give them a point or scoring system

Core Attributes

Last June, I took over a new role as CEO where I set out a hundred day plan looking at the organization and figuring out what made it tick.  I spent a significant amount of time doing one on one interviews with all the key stakeholders.  I asked them four questions:

  1. What should we preserve?
  2. What should we stop doing?
  3. What is it that you most hope I do?
  4. What do you hope I do not do?

Ninety-five percent of employees were afraid that the new CEO would not change anything.  They understood that in order for the company to flourish, some things needed to be changed.  I realized that I had to build the core attributes from scratch. So, how do you do that?  The key is to help everyone understand why core attributes are so important.  What is it the team wants the organization to become?  Core attributes articulate what you stand for.  The ones we came up with are:

  1. We need to be passionate
  2. We think big and bold
  3. We are fast and agile
  4. We are a team
  5. We unlock individual potential
  6. We lead by example
  7. We are resourceful

Once you have captured this, you are ready to start the process.  Having the list is the beginning of the process. The senior executives must own this; this must always be controlled by the senior executives. We need to manage the process to get everyone on board with the innovation culture.  It is communicating the process and communicating the core attributes.  Instead of telling people these are the core attributes, we published them and invited people to come in as part of group sessions.  We collected a list of core attributes employees liked and helped brainstorm recommendations to the executive team about how we could live it.  We have included core attributes into our performance management.  At the end of the year, employees are getting assessed on those core attributes.  The impact on the organization was beyond anything I expected.  It is not static and it is a never ending process, but it develops an effective framework for an innovation culture that drives success.

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

When it comes to the process of generating ideas, the default answer is to host a brainstorming session.  Are there other ways to generate new ideas that are not dependent on traditional brainstorming?  Today on Killer Innovations, I am going to share with you five that I use.

Mind Mapping and Wishing 

Mind mapping is a fairly common term nowadays; there are many types of software proving templates for mind mapping.  Traditionally they are used to organize your data, but it is also a great way to generate new ideas.

  • Develop your problem statement.
  • Write down the problem statement in the center of your idea (whiteboards work great).
  • Expand on this problem statement by surrounding it with terms that better describe what you need.
  • Now add a second layer to each of your needs describing how you might be able to solve for these individual challenges.
  • Keep adding to your mind map using the steps above until you have sufficiently broken down your problem into manageable parts.

It is a fantastic ideation technique that encourages creative answers.  Another great way to generate new ideas is wishing.  Wishing encourages your team to let imaginations run wild.  Assuming you have a well-researched and understood problem statement, ask each participant to dream up the most unattainable solutions they can think of related to the problem statement.  Create a list of a few dozen wishes and go through the wishes by considering and discussing the ideas in detail.  Ask yourself:

  • What makes them so impossible?
  • How can that idea be scaled down?
  • Which features of that wish could we integrate into this other approach?

You might be surprised to discover applicable, real-world solutions among the team’s wildest wishes.

Six Thinking Hats

Six Thinking Hats by Dr. Edward de Bono unleashed a new approach to generating ideas by breaking down the ideas into six areas of thought.  It helps participants put themselves into the shoes of another.  The six hats are:

  • Logic- the facts.
  • Optimism- the value and the benefits.
  • Devil’s Advocate- the difficulties and dangers.
  • Emotion- Feelings and intuitions.
  • Creativity- Possibilities and new ideas.
  • Management- Making sure the rules of the hats are observed.

So, how do you use the tool? Have each member put on one of these different “hats” for the discussion. Make sure everyone has their say and for extended sessions, rotate the hats to others so everyone gets the opportunity to see the problem and ideas from a variety of different perspective.

Brain-writing and Forced Combinations

One challenge for generating ideas is to get everything that is rattling around in your head out.  In this exercise, each participant takes a piece of paper and writes down a few rough ideas for solving the problem statement.  Each piece of paper is then passed on to someone else, who reads it silently and adds their own ideas to the page.  This process is repeated until everyone has had a chance to add to each piece of paper.  Once each participant has retrieved their original piece of paper, they read and organize the ideas.  Then each participant shares the notes and ideas on their piece of paper.  The big advantage of brain-writing is that it makes sure everybody has an opportunity to share their ideas and it also reinforces the idea of “building on the ideas of others.”  The last way to generate ideas I wanted to share is one I have used with my own product teams.  The premise is to look at non-logical combinations to create entirely new ideas.  This exercise involves bringing together ides that serve very different needs or interest to form a new concept.  How does this work?

  • Bring a bag of random items to your ideation
  • Draw up two lists side-by-side of the items in the bag.
  • Ask a team member to pick two or more items and explore different ways they can be combined.
  • On the list, draw a line for each combination shared with a brief description of the ideas that resulted.
  • Put the items back in the bag.
  • Next person selects two or more items and repeats the process.

This technique can produce some silly results, but it is ultimately a helpful way of getting your team out of a creative rut.

 

Five Minutes to New Ideas 

Everybody wants and needs change, but on the other hand we enjoy doing what we do well.  We tend to limit ourselves to the things we know we do well. When it comes to innovation, this plays out in spades when a new innovation team reaches success. They become repetitive in their process, believing the steps are what lead to success. This week on Five Minutes to New Ideas we will talk about how the only way to change creativity and generate new ideas in our lives is to do it deliberately.  We all can do things to get ourselves out of our old ruts and avoid the habit trap.

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

This week on Killer Innovations, I will discuss how to use both individual ideation and team ideation to generate disruptive ideas that will create high impact innovations.  

Individual Ideation

When kicking off individual ideation, you need to ensure that the mechanics are in place.  

  • Make sure everyone has a stack of yellow sticky notes and sharpies.
  • They will be asked to write one idea per sticky note.
  • Set the expectation of time and minimum of ideas.
  • No editing.
  • No talking.
  • Write legibly and big.

At the end of time, see how many have hit their idea quota.  Then let them take a break before the next set of exercises.  Now that everyone has their individual ideas in front of them, each person should take turns and go up to a flip chart and place each of their sticky notes on the flipchart and read what they wrote.  Once everyone has shared their ideas, the group should step back and look at the flip chart. In some sessions, I will circle the group and have the team come up with a name for the group of ideas that are the same or nearly the same.  I recorded a video of a grouping exercise I facilitated for a workshop for the US Department of Education. You can find it on my Youtube channel. Next, we want to see if there are any wow ideas.  Hand out to each person on the team four sticky notes. Each person should have their own color so they can know who/what they voted for.  Rules for this exercise:

  • No talking.
  • Place all four of your dots on a specific idea, not a group.  It is okay to place more than one dot per idea. Do not overthink it and do not move other people’s dots.
  • Time the activity (no longer than ten minutes).

You now have everyone’s ideas on the flip chart, grouping of everyone’s ideas into similar overlapping ideas and marked ideas.  

Group Ideation

Innovation is a team sport and that applies to ideation.  The benefit of a group is when we build on each other’s ideas.  So, the next exercise emphasizes looking at the individual ideas and asking how to make them better.  Ground rules for group ideation:

  • One at a time (choose someone else’s idea, not your own).
  • Ideate (think out loud).
  • Let ideas trigger ideas.
  • Build on, develop and expand each other’s ideas.
  • No evaluation.

So, the exercise is:

  • Build on each other’s ideas.
  • Select one idea you are excited about.
  • Add new ideas.
  • Group ideas together.
  • Time the exercise for twenty-five minutes.

The next step is to now rank the groups you have come up with.  It is important that you rank before you dismiss the team. You can learn more about ranking at Killer Innovations or in the chapter of my book.  So, why does this process work?

  • This is not just a group exercise.
  • You get the benefit of individual ideation which is great on generating raw ideas.
  • You get the benefit of group ideation.

These exercises are trusted and used by thousands of organizations and governments around the world.  I would love to hear the results if you try this inside your team or organization. I you need help in setting up a test to see if this will work in your organization, go here.  Put in your contact information and someone will reach out and help you think through how to test it in your organization.  

 

Five Minutes to New Ideas

I find it interesting that we usually get from other people what we expect from them.  The longer I live the more I realize the impact attitude has on me. When it comes to success attitude is more important than the past, your education, more than money, more than circumstance, and more than what other people think.  This week on Five Minutes to New Ideas we will discuss the importance of the attitude of an innovation leader. An innovation leader needs to set their expectations high.  Sow hat will your expectations be?

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

Today’s show is going to be a look behind the scenes around the time when I took over as CTO at HP.  This time is so important because it is the time that I came up with the concept “The Innovation Program Office.”  In today’s show we will talk about the pros and cons of the “IPO”, what are some of the things you need to think about regarding the “IPO”, and will it work for you?  The concept of “IPO” still applies today, and hopefully by the end of the show you will have your own insight of how it can apply to what you are trying to do in the organizations you serve.

History

A lot of traditional teams set up to “do innovation” by creating an innovation team.  This makes the innovation team a target because people not on the team no longer saw innovation as part of their job.  What a lot of organizations experienced was that it was hard to scale. Scaling is the key factor because scaling limits impact.  Even with major significant support, no organization can grow a dedicated team large enough.  Innovation is not a team of people where you have an innovation program office, innovation is around a capability that an organization can and should have that is part of that core of how you do things.  New teams need to show innovation value right away with a near zero team members. Most likely you will have zero funding yet, you need to show an early win. How do new teams do this? By getting others to support them.

  • Let them get credit for the early wins.
  • Be viewed as a resource to help.
  • Let the group benefit (new product, revenue, marketplace credit, etc.).

If you are in the innovation game and it is all about you getting the credit, the odds of you being successful in this game are near zero if not zero.  

Role of the Innovation Program Office

The role takes on many forms but the role of the “IPO” is establishing the innovation framework, securing the funding, project selection and tracking, and training and supporting the teams as they innovate.  The first thing the “IPO” needs to establish is the framework that the broader organization will align around. You need to adapt the framework to the language of the organization.  Getting others to adapt it is a “change management” process. At HP the gradual roll-out to get the framework established takes over two years for 20,000 employees. Once you have the framework in place, you need to look at the metrics.  Understand how executive decisions are made and adapt metrics to it. Test your “alpha metrics” against yourself and against your peers.

  • Does it reveal something?
  • If you have the info int eh past, would you have made different decisions?

Your objective is to find metrics that are:

  • Predictive of future challenges and opportunities.
  • Give you enough foresight to change directions and have an impact.
  • Satisfies the “fear” response from execs.
  • Prove to management that innovation can be managed.

Key with funding in the “IPO” is to move it from underneath the normal budget process and control.  Once you have the metrics it is much easier to secure the funding. Start small, prove yourself, and grow the funding.  Look forwards to what you will do not what you have done in the past. Remember that you are competing for money that could be used in other ways.  Next is project selection and tracking:

  • Define the criteria for project selection.
  • We used ranking questions.
  • Create their own.
  • Re-evaluate the selections to improve how you identify the projects that will have the biggest impact.

Once you have everything in place: the framework, metrics, funding, project selection and tracking, you then need to role it out and scale it across the organization.

Impact and Pitch

In “IPO” it is about transforming the approach.  It is not about being the innovators but instead being the enablers of innovation.  

  • Keep the “IPO” small.
  • Avoid being viewed/perceived as competition to others in the organization.  
  • Not about the doing but the enabling.

For HP, “IPO” was never bigger than thirty-five people.

  • We provided funding that was outside the budgets.
  • Teams did not need to compete for money against items already generating money.
  • Off the radar from their management team.
  • Spread the money freely; show that you are willing to fund things that you may not see as being successful.
  • Do not appear biased to your own or your team’s ideas.

How do you convince leadership to create an “IPO”?  Identify the challenges the organization will face without an innovation capability.

  • Speed of change.
  • Changing customers.
  • Market expectations.
  • Competitors who are changing.
  • Draft and get alignment around the problem statement that the organization can rally around.

What do they want?

  • Understand everyone has a boss.
  • Everyone wants to look good to their boss.
  • How can you help them look good to their boss?
  • How can you model true partnership?
  • They want to be the hero.

What do you want?

  • To show what you can do.
  • Show success and impact.
  • Transform an organization.
  • You should not want to be the hero. You want to be the guide.

How do you structure it so everyone gets what they want?

  • Focus on the agreed problem statement.
  • Do not forget what they and you want.
  • Each decision you make ask yourself:
      • Does this help solve the problem statement?
      • Does this help them achieve what I want?
      • Does this help me achieve what I want?

The “IPO” is an important resource, whether you create it as a separate team or use support from outside resources.  

Five Minutes to New Ideas

There’s an old saying that goes like this, “Speaking with passion but without the facts is like making a beautiful dive into an empty pool.”  To convince or persuade others to believe in your idea, you have to base your idea on incontestable facts that can be readily grasped and understood.  When it comes to innovation, you not only need to get people to support your idea, but also to fund it. On this week of Five Minutes to New Ideas we will be discussing the importance of facts.  What part of the story are you telling about your ideas based on absolute truth?

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

So, you are about to pull together a team of eight to twelve people into a brainstorming session; do not make the mistake that 90% of us make…no area of focus.  Most teams will be given the challenge of to “quickly come up with a product idea.” The results can be predicted; poor to none when it comes to creating any form of disruptive ideas.  This week on Killer Innovations, we will talk about four steps to better brainstorm problem statements.

Brainstorming

When you pull together a team for brainstorming, creating focus is critical.  When I say “creating focus” I mean that you need to tell the brainstorm team:

  • Who has the problem?
  • What exactly is the problem?
  • Why is it important to solve?

In full or multi-day brainstorms, I have the teams develop their own problem statement.  I set aside between four to eight hours to create a proper problem statement. Do no scrimp on this; spend the time!  A well-defined focus via a well thought out problem statement will generate more and radically better ideas when you are ideating. The core elements have to address one of the following:

  • Solve a problem.
  • Remove a barrier.
  • Improve an experience.

And while you try to answer all of this remember:

  • Need to be concise.
  • Does not state or imply a solution.
  • Specific enough to be solvable in the given time frame and with available resources or competencies.

Sounds hard doesn’t it?  Thus, why I spend four to eight hours crafting, testing and validating a problem statement before I bring the team together.  

Good and Bad Problem Statements

I have a few different templates I use for creating problem statements:

  • The (what/problem) affects (who/customer) the result of which (why/importance).
  • (Who/customer) is affected by (what/problem), the result of which (why/importance).

So, what are the steps that would allow you to create a well-defined problem statement?  The first step is to brainstorm the problem!  Ask for people to list problems, challenges, friction in the system, barriers and unmet needs.  The second step is to have each individual answer the “who, what, and why” we talked about earlier in the show.  Step three is to then take the answers and start to draft problem statements using the templates. Then repeat the “who, what, and why”, drafting multiple versions of the problem statements.  Step four is to test it with the “who”, the target segment.

Testing Your Problem Statement

Once you have a version of the problem statement that you think works, you need to test it with others.  Never use yourself as a proxy; you are too close to it. You test it by writing it out, editing it, simplifying it, and making it tight and concise.  Then find and talk to the people who you believe have the problem. Then ask them a set of questions to validate the problem and problem statement:

  • Is this (team’s hypothesis) a problem for you?  Why or why not?
  • What problem would be solved for you if the problem was fixed?
  • How frequently does the problem cause a problem for you?
  • What value would you gain if this problem was solved?

Now that you have a problem statement, I would recommend sharing it with the team for the brainstorm as “homework.”  Have the think about the problem statement and ask them to answer the validation questions from the perspective of the individuals who would receive the benefit from the brainstorm.  If you would like your team to learn how to run radically better brainstorms by writing better problem statements then I would suggest you host a one-day Disruptive Ideation Workshop.

 

Five Minutes to New Ideas


The tech and tools we have now available for podcasts are far superior to what we had back when I first started recording my podcasts in 2005.  This got me thinking about how wonderful innovation is and how easy it is to overlook it. Fifty years ago, we lived in a way that would be considered a burden today.  While it is great to be nostalgic about the past, I cannot imagine going without the innovations we have today. This week on Five Minutes to New Ideas we will talk about how change from innovation is inevitable.  If you continue as you have in the past, where will you be five years from now?

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

It goes without saying that not all ideas are good ideas that lead to market winning innovations.  Sometimes we need to remind ourselves that while failures will happen, we can learn from those that have gone before us in bringing innovations to market.  This week on the show, we are going to look at the five worst innovation failures and see what could have been done differently.  

 

Five Worst Innovation Failures No. 1: The Apple Newton

In 1993, Apple launched the Newton.  While I tracked this product at launch, it was not one that I found interesting enough to purchase.  It was not a success because it tried to do too much. What could have been done differently?

 

  • Get the hardware right.
  • Determine the most important features users are looking for.
  • Establish a model of “continuous innovation” of adding features.
  • Only release features when ready and at the quality customers expect.

 

Palm learned from one of the five worst innovation failures.  In 1997, Palm introduced the Palm Pilot, using the lessons learned from the Newton.  Palm focused on the minimal viable product.  Rather than doing twenty things poorly, the Palm Pilot did its core functionality extremely well.  The Palm Pilot dominated the PDA market for years.

 

Five Worst Innovation Failures No. 2: Microsoft Zune

In 2006, Microsoft introduced their portable music player, Zune.  It was Microsoft’s answer to the Apple iPod. Even with a ton of marketing effort the product never took off.  There was nothing unique about it that would cause someone to switch from using an iPod to take up a Zune. The product was finally killed off in 2011.  What could have been done differently?

 

  • To win you need to commit.  Taking half a step by introducing a re-branded product is not a winning strategy.
  • To win against an entrenched leader you need to out-innovate them.

 

Five Worst Innovation Failures No. 3: HD-DVD

In 2006, Toshiba, with support from Microsoft, launched HD-DVD which was supposed to become the Hi-Def successor to the DVD.  Standalone HD-DVDs players were sold and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 had a HD-DVD option. Most will not recall the HD-DVDs versus Blu-Ray wars.  It was a direct repeat of the VHS and Betamax wars. What should have been done differently?

 

  • HP should not have switched its position based on incentives.  It injected confusion into the market and impacted its technical credibility with its partners.
  • Ecosystem partnerships are critical for most, if not all, major global innovations today.

 

Five Worst Innovation Failures No. 4: Samsung Note 7

In 2016, Samsung came out with the Samsung Note 7.  This failed because it had a problem where it occasionally caught fire and exploded.  Out of prudence, the phones were banned on flights and Samsung had to recall the entire line.  What could have been done differently?

 

  • Don’t let the schedule dictate launch.
  • Get the quality right.
  • Customers will always reward quality with loyalty.
  • Balance risk of new innovations.
  • Learn from others.

 

Five Worst Innovation Failures No. 5: TwitterPeek

In 2008, Peek introduced Twitter Peek, a hardware device which allowed users to send and receive tweets using Twitter.  It was the first Twitter-only mobile device. Peek took the minimal viable product to an extreme. TwitterPeek met broad skepticism in the press.  CNN listed it as one of the top ten biggest technology failures of 2009, while Gizmodo went as far as to name TwitterPeek as one of the fifty worst gadgets of the decade.  In 2012, Peek dropped all of its hardware devices and shifted to making software for OEM’s.  What could have been done differently?

 

  • Be careful of going to extremes.
  • Test/validate.
  • Don’t outsource everything to the big design houses.

 

We can learn a lot from the innovation failures of others.  Failure is part and parcel of the innovation game. Don’t shy away from looking deep into failures to see what can be learned.  



Five Minutes to New Ideas

An institution’s impact should be measured over time.  The ability to produce a great product or service is linked to the inherent drive for quality from the team who builds it.  This week on Five Minutes to New Ideas we will talk about the importance of quality.  There is nothing more important than to instill in ourselves, our children, and grandchildren a love for quality.  Quality puts the value into everything. You should never stop asking yourself how can I improve on the quality of what I do?

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

Many people believe when it comes to innovation, you’ve either got it or you don’t.  But innovation is a skill that can be learned, practiced and perfected. One area of innovation is ideation.  Generating quality ideas is key to keeping the innovation funnel full.  How do you get started in innovation if your team doesn’t have confidence in their innovation abilities?  One way is to have a disruptive ideation workshop. On today’s show, I talk about how to create a disruptive ideation workshop.  

Boot Camp Condensed

I teach my Innovation Boot Camp course two or three times a year. This is an intense four-day session that goes twelve hours a day. The objective is building the innovation confidence of the students. One common request from students is for a one-day version for their teams.  So, I reworked the content and created a one-day version called the Disruptive Ideation Workshop.  The workshop teaches a disruptive approach to generate more and better ideas using the FIRE method.  The objectives: learn the skill, apply it, and have a pipeline of ideas for the organization.  Two weeks ago, we tested the workshop. The class consisted of 25 senior leaders from a single organization (with zero background in innovation).  The results exceeded everyone’s expectations. One of the leaders in the class summed it up: “learning disruptive ideation that generated disruptive ideas.”  So, we named the workshop the “Disruptive Ideation Workshop.”

 

The Disruptive Ideation Workshop in Brief

What does disruptive ideation mean?  Disruptive means causing or tending to cause disruption; innovative or groundbreaking; unconventional, unorthodox, off-center, unusual, unfamiliar, unprecedented; pioneering, trailblazing, revolutionary, radical, advanced, newfangled, state-of-the-art.

The Disruptive Ideation workshop is built around two major objectives:

 

  1. Teach a disruptive approach to ideation.  

This will radically increase the number and quality of the ideas that a person and team can generate.

 

  1. Through the process of learning, apply it to a real-world problem facing the organization.

At the end, students have a ranked set of disruptive ideas their organization can take forward.

 

To achieve these objectives, we teach background and skills and how to apply the skills.  

 

This course has two major sections: Section 1) Foundation and Section 2) Skills and Application/Practice.  Here’s what we cover in each.

 

Section 1: Foundation

 

  1. Myths and mysteries of innovation
  2. Innovation skills (self-doubt/negative talk, imagination, seeing with fresh eyes, etc.)
  3. Innovation Anti-bodies (ego, no risk, no change, etc.)
    • Focus
    • Ideation
    • Ranking
    • Execution
  4. Innovation framework (FIRE)

 

The focus was on Focus, Ideation, and Ranking of the FIRE method.  Special emphasis was placed on Ideation.  

 

Skills Learned

Section 2 of the Disruptive Ideation Workshop was a walk-through of the elements in FIRE.  Exercises allowed students to apply those elements to a real problem statement.

Skill number one was FOCUS.  FOCUS is about defining the problem. Having a clear “problem statement” is critical.  Without a well-defined problem statement, everyone jumps to generate ideas to solve something that is not clearly understood.  In boot camp, the team spends half a day crafting their problem statement.

Skill number two is IDEATION.  Walk through the use and power of the question to generate more and better ideas.  Team ideation is built upon the ideas generated individually.

Skill number three is RANKING.  Grouping ideas is the starting point.  Then take the large number of ideas generated and find the top two to three percent of the ideas.  

The last skill taught is EXECUTION.  Take the raw idea from RANKING and put more thought behind it.  

We also taught “Adapt and Adopt.”  Take the experiences in Section 2 and adapt the skills making adoption easier for their organization.  

 

Lessons from the Disruptive Ideation Workshop

What are the lessons learned in conducting the Disruptive Ideation Workshop?

  1. One-day is a unit of time that people can more easily step away from the day job.
  2. The problem statement is critical.  Spend time to get it right!
  3. Limit the workshop to a reasonable number of students (20 max).
  4. Establish clear next steps.
  5. Plug students into a community.  Keep the learning and excitement alive after the course ends.

If you are interested in finding out more about the workshop, send an email to us.



Five Minutes to New Ideas

Are creativity and innovation only for the young?  Silicon Valley has clearly bought into this premise.  The truth of the matter is creativity and Innovation know no limit based on age.  You can pick up creativity at any age. Do you or your organization hold a bias as to who can or cannot be creative?  Listen to this week’s Five Minutes to New Ideas for more on how age really doesn’t matter in the innovation game.

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

Making hard decisions can bring the most seasoned leaders to their knees, no matter how calm they look on the outside.  The fear of a better option (FOBO) can paralyze decision-making. It is also the enemy of innovation.  In this show I talk about 4 ways to deal with FOBO.

 

FOBO versus FOMO

What is it that causes that hesitation at decision time?  Patrick McGinnis calls it FOBO: the Fear of a Better Option.  Patrick describes it as being “paralyzed at the prospect of actually committing to something, out of fear that we might be choosing something that was not the absolute perfect option.”  The result is that you get stuck in an analysis paralysis and never make the decision. The sister term to FOBO is FOMO, the Fear of Missing Out. If you miss out, you will not have that one magic piece of data that will give you perfect information.  So, our fear of missing out feeds our fear of a better option. The result is saying “yes” to everything. I used to say “yes” to every request to speak or teach no matter the impact on myself or my family. When you combine FOBO with FOMO you can find yourself afraid of doing anything. That is FODA, the paralysis that turns into a fear of doing anything.  What I had to learn was to say “no.” Breakthrough came when a newspaper article was written about me which forced me to go public with a secret that fed my imposter syndrome.  

 

The way that I deal with FOMO is I create criteria for myself that help me prioritize the requests for my time and attention.  

 

FOBO in Innovation

When it comes to innovation, deciding to move forward on an idea, to commit to resources such as people and money, is ripe of FOBO.  I have seen a leader hesitate to give a team the green light on a project because they are not yet convinced that it is the best/perfect idea.  The truth is that no idea is a perfect idea. In this case, FOBO could be masking a more general fear of failure. But not deciding means zero chance of an innovative idea. The main object is to innovate and to do that, you need to try your ideas.  You have to come to terms with the fact that most of your ideas are going to fail.  FOBO, the fear of a better option, is the enemy of innovation. It is the tool antibodies will use to brush off your ideas.  

 

FODA (the Fear of Doing Anything)

When you combine FOBO and FOMO you can find yourself in a paralyzed position not wanting to commit to anything.  This is FODA, the Fear of Doing Anything. You need to learn to be decisive. Here are 4 ways to deal with FOBO and not get caught in the trap of FODA:

 

  • The Ask and Watch method.  Patrick McGinnis says to whittle your decision to two options.  Assign each item to either the left or right side of your watch. Look down and see where the second hand is at the moment.  Taking the final decision when you have two good options out of your control releases you from doubt.

 

  • Criteria method.  Create a clear criterion that works for you.  Mine are the Five F’s: Faith, Family, Friends, Fitness, and Finances.  Score requests on your time against your list of criteria.

 

  • The Innovation = Ranking method.  When it comes to innovation use your funnel and ranking process to create a list of “next best ideas.”  These are the ideas based on their ranking score from the FIRE framework.  With the ranked lists of your ideas, force a decision that says something like each quarter we will fund the idea with the highest score.  

 

  • The Trust but Verify method.  Apply the old Ronald Reagan maxim “Trust your decision but verify.”  If the decision is not delivering the result you expected, then adjust.  

 

These 4 ways to deal with FOBO will help you be aware of your own FODA and change.  We will never have perfect information and, therefore, will never make the perfect decision.  So, make your decision and move on. For any questions or comments send me an email.  



Five Minutes to New Ideas

Tony Robbins once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”  You can apply this quote to networks, communities, family, and friends you socialize with. To change that quote a bit, you are the average of the five social networks where you spend the most time.  This week’s Five Minutes to New Ideas considers how our social networking reflects who we are.

Direct download: 4_Ways_to_Deal_with_FOBO.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PST

Ethical lapses in some tech companies have grabbed headlines in recent years.  Tech is changing daily, touching every aspect of our lives. It’s time to define the ethical boundaries of technology.  Without focus on ethics in technology, there will be huge unintended consequences.    On today’s show, Joe Toscano, joins me.  Joe is founder of BEACON and author of Automating Humanity.  He is also a former award-winning experience designer for Google.  Joe’s background in Silicon Valley and Big Tech has led him to explore tech in terms of ethics.  

Leaving the Valley

After several years in the Silicon Valley “bubble,” Joe decided to step away.  Disconnect between life in the Valley and the world outside became his opportunity.  Joe Toscano formed a nonprofit called BEACON. BEACON stands for “Better Ethics and Consumer Outcomes Network.” It is a social innovation organization.  BEACON strives to connect the public to what is going on in the tech industry.  BEACON provides insights to policymakers in defining ethical boundaries of technology.   This tech insight equips them to address ethical concerns in a balanced way. BEACON works with technologists to create products that meet consumer demand and create positive social impact. Some tech leaders are content to leave it to regulators to define ethical boundaries of technology.  Through BEACON, Joe takes a holistic approach. Shaping ethical boundaries of technology has many factors to consider. The effect on the consumer, small business, local and global community as well as Big Tech must be in view.

Lighting the Way

Regulators cannot keep up with the pace of innovation today.  Joe believes there are certain things regulators must address. But, some things need to remain informal and driven solely by business.  This is where the nonprofit side of BEACON comes in. It is about education, research, and creating public safety tools. The goal is to educate consumers and regulators to ask the right questions.  BEACON partners with the University of Nebraska and Digital Futures Initiative.  These partnerships center on ethics in technology.

BEACON has branched out this year forming a for profit side.  In the for profit sector, BEACON is creating products that will help small businesses comply with regulations.  The first product launching will generate required legal agreements. This will minimize legal expenses for small businesses.

Ethics in Technology

Businesses that want to set ethical boundaries of technology must change the mindset.  BEACON advises that they must move their business away from the quarterly statistics and into the longer term.  

What is one of the biggest problems today? The attention economy drives tech.  This presents issues in terms of ethics. There is not a defined production value.  There’s room for innovation in defining what the production value is. The area of data is wide open for innovation.  At the core, innovations like these require thought on the long term ethical implications. BEACON’s work in the space of ethical boundaries in technology is timely and essential.

If you’d like to track what Joe is doing, visit https://www.beacontrustnetwork.com/ .   For the latest, sign up for his newsletter.  Pick up a copy of Joe’s recent book, Automating Humanity, available through Amazon.

 

Five Minutes to New Ideas

Time is one of those resources that we never have enough of.  We are given 1,440 minutes each day and once it is gone, it is gone.  When it comes to translating ideas into innovation, it comes down to opportunity costs.  This week on Five Minutes to New Ideas I discuss opportunity costs.  How can you help your team save time on things of low value to work on things of higher value?  How will you prioritize your 1,440 minutes today?

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

The latest innovation of today can quickly be replaced with the next best thing tomorrow.  Whether you’re a newcomer to innovation or the seasoned innovator, there’s something every innovator should know.  How to forecast and survive cycles of innovation.  This week Ray Zinn, longest serving CEO of a publicly traded company in Silicon Valley, shares his insights.  Ray’s astute ability to forecast what was coming enabled his company to survive the cycles of innovation.

Sage Advice: Don’t Work for Someone Else

In 1974, Ray’s boss conveyed a bit of advice.  Don’t work for someone else. This advice set Ray on the entrepreneurial path.  He started his own company. With $300,000 of self-funding, he started doing test services.  It was challenging to start a company that was profitable from day one. Ray and his business partner managed it.  By 1985, their company, Micrel Inc., hired a group of engineers and started designing their own products. Eventually, Samsung selected Micrel technology for their first cell phones.  With blue chip clients, numerous inventions and patents in wireless radio and other areas, Micrel went public in 1994. Micrel was profitable every year through 2001. Despite the fact that Ray had to rebuild the whole company, it remained profitable.  

Forecasting Innovation Cycles

How do you lead companies through the high rate of innovation change?  Ray was able to accomplish this successfully. Ray learned the cycles of innovation so he could forecast them.  You have to know the cycles so you can predict them for your company.  How do you do this? Your customers are your best lead.  The key to surviving these cycles is understanding them.  Cycles last at the most five years.  You must anticipate what is going to be the next winning product.

Getting Your Board Right

What were the insights Ray wished he had early on?  Be careful about your Board. He elaborated on his biggest mistake -  not being more selective on his Board of Director participation.  Having a viable, helpful and contributable Board is critical.  You want members who roll up their sleeves and add value where it’s needed.  You don’t need board members who will pick you apart and create tension. Ray believes that Boards need to focus less attention on what investors or shareholders want.  They need to put emphasis on what is best for the company and adds sustainable value. Boards should not be too independent. Independency leads to disconnect and a lack of understanding a company’s intricacies and operation.


The Zinn Starter

With his wealth of experience in the heart of the startup capital of the world, Ray wanted to give back.  He created the Zinn Starter, a seed investment firm akin to Shark Tank for universities. Almost every university in this country has an entrepreneur program.  The Zinn Starter consists of students taking their business ideas before a Board. If the Board approves the concept, the student has the opportunity to start a company while still a student.  Zinn Starter is limited to fully enrolled university students. It is part of the entrepreneur program for six universities. The program has been running for two years with over five thousand students participating.

Ray has also written a book called Tough Things First.  Used by many universities as a textbook, it covers his time with his company in Silicon Valley.  You can track Ray at http://toughthingsfirst.com/.  Visit his website to hear weekly podcasts and tips for entrepreneurs.



Five Minutes to New Ideas

Your idea was rejected.  You were told to give up.  If you want to succeed at innovation, you have to put yourself and your ideas out there.  This means you will get rejected. The alternative is that your idea will never become a reality.  Throughout the cycles of criticism, trust that the steps you are taking will lead to achieving your vision.  What are you willing to innovate even in the face of criticism and rejection? Listen to this week’s Five Minutes to New Ideas for insight on pushing through rejection to reach your innovation vision.

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

Leadership support for innovation is critical to an organization. Any leader knows how to spell innovation.  But few senior leaders understand what is involved or how hard it is unless they have come from an “innovation background.”  What are some essentials of innovation leadership? In today’s show we discuss the role of the CEO and the Board of Directors.  We also consider the benefits of an effective Innovation Advisory Board.

Role of the CEO

What is the role of a CEO running an organization?  

  • To set the vision.
  • To establish the leadership team.
  • To define the objectives for the organization.
  • To hold self and others accountable to achieve the vision and objectives.

The CEO crafts a structure and a budget which the Board approves or disapproves.  Where does the innovation aspect fit in? Innovation should be part of how an organization achieves its vision.  It should be funded and resourced to enable the vision and objectives. The CEO should promote innovation and its role in the organization.  The CEO should hold the leadership team accountable for innovation.

Common reasons that a CEO does not provide the innovation leadership needed:

  • Funds only where there is a clear line of sight of the results.
  • Uncomfortable with the unknown or associated risks.
  • A weak relationship with the Board.
  • On shaky ground with the Board because of past mistakes or failures to deliver.
  • Doesn’t believe in the value and impact of innovation.
  • Doesn’t know how and won’t ask for help.

What should the innovation leader do when the CEO is not fully engaged in the innovation efforts?   First, start small. Find the hidden project that someone has been doing in stealth and get behind it.  Next, lay out a clear plan and metrics that can be shared with leaders and the Board of Directors.  Lastly, gradually gain their support. After concerted effort, if there is no support, this organization may never give innovation a role.

Board of Directors

While the CEO may be the focus when it comes to innovation, the Board plays a critical role.  The Board is the “boss” of the CEO. The Board has control of the budget - a key resource for innovation.  A Board’s commitment to innovation is shown by the time spent talking about it in Board meetings. Another indicator is willingness to make it a priority in the budget process.  The committed Board understands and is comfortable with the fact that risk is associated with innovation.  The Board, with the CEO and innovation leadership team, sets realistic, high quality innovation metrics.  A Board conveys support by “protecting” the CEO when it comes to stakeholders.  

A big risk for many organizations: most Boards do not have members from an innovation background.  You need people on your Board who have lived it.

How does a Board get guidance on encouraging and supporting innovation?

  • Find outside consultants that can train the Board.
  • Have innovation leaders meet with Board members one on one to educate them.
  • Find organizations that have innovation at their core.
  • Create an innovation board of advisors.

Establishing an Effective Innovation Advisory Board

How can you get the CEO and Board to embrace innovations when it is not part of the DNA?  Recruit an Innovation Board of Advisors. This Board of Advisors should contain the innovation leader from within the organization.  Other members should be proven innovation leaders from outside the organization.  No consultants. The Innovation Advisory Board meets with organization leaders and the Board of Directors.  It provides guidance and feedback. A rewarding experience for me was serving as an outside member of the Roche Innovation Advisory Board.  I was tasked to help their innovation and management teams get “fresh eyes”.  

What did I learn from serving on an Innovation Advisory Board?

  • IABs can play a critical role in bringing outside perspectives.
  • IABs are outside validation of what and why you do the things you do.

How would I set up one today?

  • Find the best people.
  • Be prepared to pay for Board membership.
  • Set clear focus and expectations.
  • Make it real, not window dressing.
  • Give them visibility to your leadership and Board.
  • Plan a rotation of membership.

Want to know how to engage your CEO and Board of Directors?  Looking to establish an Innovation Advisory Board? Reach out and drop me a note.


Everyone is creative.  Yet some people seem more creative than others.  What do those people have that others might lack?  What’s the secret to creativity? This week we talk about finding creative inspiration outside of work.  I’ll share my thoughts on what makes people creative. We’ll also hear Kym McNicholas interview Tania Katan.  Tania has just come out with a book called Creative Trespassing: How to Put the Spark and Joy into Your Work and Life.  

Finding Inspiration

Humans use creativity every day to solve complex issues.  Some people are more creative than others in problem solving.  How do these people manage to stay ahead of everyone else creatively?  First, these people are inspired. Find something that piques your interest, that drives you to go above and beyond, to experiment and learn.  You can find creative inspiration even at work. If you are passionate about what you are doing, then you are feeding your creativity.

Practicing Creativity

Another common denominator of creative people is that they practice creativity.  People do not just wake up already skilled at something. They have to practice it until they have mastered it.  Practice can be defined as two things:

 

  • To do repeated exercises for proficiency
  • To pursue a profession actively

 

There is a myth that you can't practice creativity and innovation.  You can practice and become proficient. There are many ways to exercise your creative abilities.  There are exercises for daily, weekly, monthly, and quarterly practice of creative skills.  

Talking Creative Inspiration with Tania Katan

Tania Katan shares with Kym McNicholas how people’s creativity in personal life can enhance their work.  Her book, Creative Trespassing: How to Put the Spark and Joy Back into Your Work and Life, looks at the impact of bringing personal creative exercise into the workplace.  Tania wrote this book because she saw a disconnect between people’s creativity and what they did at their jobs during the day.  


Tania says that if you are looking for innovation, you need to bring your creativity inside your job.  Problems with innovation could be solved if we brought our creativity to work. Throughout the book there are exercises called “Productive Disruptions.”  These are creativity breaks. There was a study done by Stanford called the “Walking Creativity Study.” This proved that people who went for walks when experiencing creative blocks experienced 60 percent higher creativity afterwards.  Disruptions and breaks are scientifically proven to help improve creativity. Many people don’t improve creativity because they think they don’t have the right experience or training.  We need to break through that barrier and ask “what if” questions. Stop trying to solve problems the same way and give creativity a try.

 

Some of the greatest takeaways from the book are:

 

  • Our job does not have to be uniquely creative for us to actually be creative.
  • We need to feel free at the workplace to create a creative revolution inside our bodies, minds and cubicles.

 

One of the biggest roadblocks of creativity is the fear of thinking and doing things differently. The best way to get through that obstacle is to face it.  

 

For more information on creative inspiration pick up Tania Katan’s book Creative Trespassing: How to Put the Spark and Joy into Your Work and Life.

 

To track what Tania is doing, visit LinkedIn.




Five Minutes to New Ideas

What got me to start a podcast in 2005? I got inspired.  True inspiration goes deep. It changes us and transforms us.  On this week’s Five Minutes to New Ideas hear about finding and exploring your creative inspiration.  What is your creative inspiration? Who has inspired you? And how are you translating your creative inspiration to have an impact.  Send me a note on your creative inspiration story.

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

With major shifts in the global economy, businesses need to be ready.  Amid a slowdown of growth, companies that thrive are using innovation to grow the intangible economy.  Steven is the global head of innovation at KPMG. Steven joins us to talk about the intangible economy and what companies need to know.

Scale and Investment Equals Growth

CEOs and boards who are serious about innovation must consider the intangible economy.  KPMG conducted a study of 15,000 global firms with at least 250 employees. They called the top 10% of these firms frontier firms.  The other 90% were the followers. A remarkable factor in the findings: major growth seemed to remain with the frontier firms. Very few followers were able to reach growth at the frontier level.  Of the firms, only 18 follower firms moved to frontier status. What separated the two? Scale and how a firm invested.  Frontier firms used data and AI to transform their platform for productivity.

Harness the Power of the Intangible Economy

The value of data is clear when one considers how Amazon has harnessed its power.  Smart businesses are finding ways to use data as a business strategy.

The four pillars to consider in developing data and AI strategies:

  • Using data to change customer experience and predict customer behavior.
  • Valuing assets in the organization differently.
  • Creating service capabilities as an organization.
  • Transforming the workforce with data and AI.

Creating Core Capability Around Innovation

Using innovation to grow the intangible economy requires more than having an innovation team.  You have to create core capability around innovation inside the organization. There are a number of things that can prevent that from happening.  KPMG worked with Innovation Leader to survey large organizations worldwide about innovation. The responses reveal what is stifling innovation in organizations.

 

  • Lack of leadership engagement and support of innovation
  • Politics or turf wars between departments
  • Company culture
  • Inability to act on signals
  • Lack of budget
  • No vision or strategy

The need for innovation has never been stronger.  Leadership involvement is the driving force behind it.    Innovation is a capability not a box on your chart or team name.  The organization will take their lead from the CEO. You have to live it every day with your team.  

Challenges Faced

There are many challenges to sustaining innovation.  Part of the problem is that leaders don’t understand what innovation is. Defining innovation is an important step.  Customize the definition of innovation to fit the organization. Set the standard for the culture of innovation. Innovation is characterized in three ways:

 

  • Incremental Innovation - asks people to think differently about what they do and drives new thinking.
  • Adjacent - things you are doing that are tangential that add value.
  • Transformational - turning a traditional business into a platform for creative transformation.


Lessons Learned

One challenge that leaders face is building innovation as a sustainable activity.  Advice Steve gives for those trying to transform their organization:

 

  • Find a respected and known leader who gets things done to lead innovation.  Give that person the mandate to start building a disciplined innovation capability.

 

  • Work on the culture of the organization overall. Establish cultural momentum by talking about it and making it a strategic set of imperatives.  

 

  • Develop contests (hackathons).  Create a place that acknowledges and celebrates people across enterprise for innovation.  

 

  • Put real money behind the investment portfolio.  Money matters.

 

When it comes to your budget, be clear with yourself, your people and the marketplace.  Money should be tracked explicitly against the specific use case and efforts.

To track what Steven Hill is doing at KPMG, check out the KPMG website.  You can also reach Steven on Twitter or his email.

 

Five Minutes to New Ideas

Some people might wonder what ethics has to do with innovation and creativity?  Some organizations could take a lesson on how to establish and reinforce a culture of good ethics.  A culture must reinforce its core values. The Boy Scouts did this. Five Minutes to New Ideas explores how organizations can learn a lesson in ethics from the Boy Scouts.  What standards of ethics have you defined for yourself and your team? Does your team know the ethics you expect from them? Do you hold everyone, yourself included, to that standard?  Let’s set the standard for ethics in innovations.

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

Behind all things smart, from homes and buildings to vehicles, is IoT.  What will open up new worlds for the future? Open IoT standards.  John Osborne II is Chairman of the Board at Zigbee Alliance.  He is also Vice President of IoT, sales and marketing at LEEDARSON.  He talks with me about device innovation and enabling IoT standards across the industry.

Innovation Across Industry

John and I met years ago when he worked as Kroger’s innovation leader.  Kroger’s process of instilling a culture of innovation is featured in my book.  As Chairman of the Board at Zigbee Alliance, John is innovating an industry’s approach.  Although it may be in your home, you may wonder what Zigbee is. Zigbee is one of the original machine -to-machine protocols allowing device sensors to communicate to a mesh network.   Their device innovation has evolved into one of the premiere mesh networks in the industry. Zigbee products are designed to be long lasting and interoperate. The products require minimal upkeep and maintenance.  But Zigbee is more than device innovation. Through Zigbee Alliance, John brings industry leaders together.

Collaboration to Benefit All

A main goal of Zigbee Alliance is to get industry leaders to accept IoT standards.  Those standards will broaden innovation opportunities. Low power technology is at the forefront.  The hot topics in our world today - health and wellness, aging in place, connected vehicles.  These areas highlight the need for what Zigbee Alliance is doing.  


Joining forces will simplify the industry for customers and businesses.  But finding common ground among competitors is no easy task. Zigbee Alliance’s efforts to build relationships started with a one-week session of industry leaders.  Since that first meeting, the collaboration has grown. The meetings are now held in locations across the world. Zigbee Alliance has become the facilitator allowing companies to lead.  Amazon announced last year it would incorporate a Zigbee smart hub in Alexa. That has sparked the interest in others to follow suit.

 

The Aim of IoT Standards

The challenges still exist in to getting consensus among industry leaders.  Yet, Zigbee Alliance moves forward. Their intent is to achieve common data models, common API, and common security.  Companies want layers of security. But that’s not ideal on the consumer end. Still a few years out, companies are working towards the middle ground – designing the right security.

 

Still in the works is how IoT standards compliance will be identified.  Zigbee Alliance is working with other organizations to determine this. Once established, it will simplify the consumer’s purchase process.

 

Partnerships for Smart Device Innovation

John also highlights the work that LEEDARSON is doing in partnership with small businesses.  As an ODM, LEEDARSON has the resources. Small businesses bring their ideas. Not many innovators are aware of this type of ODM partnering approach to device innovation.  The right partner can accelerate the innovation.

 

Lessons Learned from the Innovation Leader

The process of innovation always presents challenges in the form of innovation antibodies. New people come with their own agendas and ideas.  What has John learned in his experience in device innovation and promoting IoT standards?  

 

Here are John’s tips for dealing with innovation antibodies:

  • Keep pushing your idea.
  • Give them a platform for their view.  
  • Make them part of the process.  
  • Spend a lot of time educating.
  • Work through the problems.

 

As innovators we can’t always jump to the conclusion that we’re right.  Sometimes you are the one hindering your process. When that happens, you need to self-reflect and try a new approach.  

We have to evolve ourselves.  Take a risk and try something new and different.  

The Trends

Now that the tech is here, the solutions are next.  Smart homes and advances in home security give rise to many use cases.  The trend now is managing properties remotely and aging in place. A trend of tomorrow is cloud connected cars as displayed at CES.  John’s hope for the future is connected cities. Before that can happen, issues of politics need to be resolved.  Getting ecosystems like telecoms and the sensor business to work together is another future challenge.


To track what John is doing, check out LinkedIn  https://www.linkedin.com/in/johneosborneii.  Check out his website  http://www.jeoii.com/ or send him an email.  

You may also join the conversation with John and me on The Innovators Community.  


Five Minutes to New Ideas

Inspiration, true inspiration goes deep.  It changes and transforms us. What is your creative inspiration?  Five Minutes to New Ideas explores how to discover your creative inspiration. How are you translating your creative inspiration into having an impact?

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

Making creative ideas into tangible products takes time.  Anything that can optimize the process will give the advantage.  Developing the next evolution of cloud computing is Mutable, which offers public edge cloud.  This translates into low latency, increased security and maximum efficiency. Antonio “Pelle” Pellegrino is Founder and CEO of Mutable.  Pelle joins me to discuss his innovations using edge computing.

 

Bowling Alley to CEO

Pelle’s career has been an interesting one.  From working in his parents’ bowling alley to streaming E-sportscasting, he gained business sense and startup initiative.   Four years ago, he saw the potential for innovations using edge computing. With Nathalie Zadocks, he founded Mutable. It was self-funded and revenue-based in its inception.  The company is now charging ahead as part of the CableLabs Fiterator program.

 

Solving Problems of Latency and More

Speed is no longer the metric.  Latency is what is measured, especially in gaming.  Latency depends on distance. How does Mutable managed the distribution of edge computing assets?  Through automation, from networking to server management to deployment, Mutable uses software to bring all the pieces together.  It’s a platform that makes things seamless for developers. With its innovations using edge computing, Mutable is a market maker for shared compacity.

 

Retrospective Advice  

Pelle’s experience starting up Mutable has given him some perspective.  His words of advice ring true for startups and innovators.

Innovating cable services, Mutable meets the demand in lowering latency.  To track what Mutable is doing, visit https://www.mutable.io/edge.html.  For the latest, check out their Twitter account: https://twitter.com/mutable.  

 

Five Minutes to New Ideas

Can you teach an old dog new tricks?  Great leaders know when it comes to others, there’s always more than meets the eye.  When it comes to creativity, everyone should know all the tricks, right? The truth is most people need to be taught.  Five Minutes to New Ideas explores how to recognize potential in your team’s creativity.  What will you learn from teaching your team creativity?

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

Being connected has become an essential part of our daily lives. Wireless has made huge strides over the past two decades.  IoT is connecting our world in ways we would have never imagined.  With the growing demand for constant connectivity, one area that needs fine-tuning is battery life.  All these devices we use throughout the day require battery power. Today’s guest saw this as the opportunity.  David Su is CEO of Atmosic.  His company is innovating battery life.  Creating technologies to reduce battery usage, Atmosic develops solutions that keep things powered up.  

Stanford to Startup

Much of David’s career has been in the wireless space.  With a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford, David joined Atheros Communication in 1999 as its fifth employee.  David continued with Atheros as it grew and went public. He stayed on when Qualcomm acquired Atheros. After some years, David felt his time at Qualcomm had run its course.  He ventured into new areas.  With four former work colleagues, he started a new company.  

Atmosic’s Vision

In the wireless world, battery power can be a boon and a bane. Reliance on wireless means dependence on batteries for power. When batteries lose charge, things can come to a standstill.  Limited battery life also means a lot of batteries get thrown out - to the tune of three billion per year.  Two and a half years ago, David and fellow co-founders started Atmosic with this in mind.  David, Masoud Zargari, David Nakahira, Srinivas Pattamatta, and Manolis Terrovitis brainstormed.  They sought advice from experts in the field. Their vision began to coalesce - to keep connected devices powered with little to no battery usage.  


With the vision in place, Dave and his team went to work innovating battery life.  They started with battery powered Bluetooth devices.

Solving Core Battery Problems

The advantages Autmosic’s technologies will offer:

  • Lowest power usage without compromising quality.
  • Turns device off when not in use with system level check that transmits only when needed.
  • RF energy harvesting, enabling the battery to last forever.

Long-term vision:

  • “Battery-free utopia” – ecosystem in enterprise applications.

Lessons Learned

What has David learned along the journey towards innovating battery life?  David has some tips for people whether they’re starting a company or pursuing innovation.  

  • Interoperate – work with what is already known and improve it.
  • Surround yourself with people who are smarter than you and be willing to listen.
  • Make sure what you are doing is what you truly believe in and are passionate about.
  • Ground what you are doing in reality.  

By innovating battery life, Atmosic is focusing on a problem that affects us all.  Powering down to power up will keep us connected in a sustainable way.

To track what Atmosic is doing, visit www.atmosic.com.   For the latest updates, check them out on Twitter and LinkedIn.  

 

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Five Minutes to New Ideas

Writer’s block happens to the best of us at one time or another. What is the solution to writer’s block? Doing a weekly podcast has forced me to exercise the creative muscle and fight writer’s block. Five Minutes to New Ideas explores how to cure writer's block and recharge your creativity.  What creative exercise are you going to do today?

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

Before becoming CTO at Comcast, Tony spent a good part of his career as the number two guy.  At Rogers Communications, Inc., people counted on Tony to get the job done. From there, he moved on to TCI in the number two role.  His innovative vision soon got him recognized.  A phone call from John Malone surprised Tony.  John had a problem that needed to be solved. With two weeks to mobilize, Tony brought the right people together and came up with a solution.  John was impressed. About three weeks later, Tony was promoted to Chief Technology Officer.  Success to Tony is when opportunity meets preparation.

Steps a CTO Needs to Take

What are some of the first steps a new CTO should take?  Focus on your vision, belief, and financing.


For Tony, the most important thing is to bring people with you.  The people on your team need to be fully on board and passionate about your vision.  Steve Job’s team is a great example. His team brought the innovative ideas.  Steve made those ideas into bigger things. As a CTO, you need a credible plan to sell to your team, to your peers, to the CEO, and the Board.  Then you need to execute.  

CTO Lessons Learned

Looking back on his career, Tony shares some lessons learned.  Do you have your sights on a CTO role? Here are a few words of CTO advice for the innovator:  

  • Be willing to take a step backwards to go forward.  
    • There have been times in his career that Tony has taken a step backward to gain experience.  The value of experience outweighed the financial down step.  
  • Set high expectations for yourself and your team.  
    • Tony feels at times he could have set higher expectations and would have achieved more.

 

CTO Challenges and Success

From my experience as CTO at Hewlett Packard, a CTO has a divided focus.  The challenge is to find a balance between thinking of present goals and thinking years ahead.  Senior leadership support is crucial.

Another bit of advice for the innovator is to vary your experience. What helped me find success was my wide range of experience. For long-term career success, having a variety of experiences can make the difference.  You have to step out of your comfort zone. Be willing to try different roles. Be a part of teams that you would not normally be comfortable in. Having different experiences gave me the confidence I needed to be bold in innovation.  

If you have questions or comments about today’s show, drop me a note.  Join the conversation on this and other topics at The Innovators Community.

 

Five Minutes to New Ideas

What is the opposite of bravery?  The opposite of bravery is not cowardice, but conformity.  The economy demands creativity not conformity. Five Minutes to New Ideas explores the different ways to succeed in a creative economy.  Could these tips further you and your company’s success in today’s creative economy?

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

Early in my career one man who had a huge impact on me, my mentor Bob Davis, told me to pay it forward.  As Killer Innovations kicks off Season 15 this week, we reflect on what it has meant to pay it forward.  Challenging and encouraging others toward impactful innovation has been my passion. Kym McNicholas joins me on the show as we look back at the Killer Innovations evolution from simple podcast to syndicated radio show.

Worth It

Having enjoyed success as a career innovator, I decided in 2005 it was time to pay it forward by inspiring impactful innovation on a larger scale.  I owe much of my success to the people in my life who have mentored me and led me in the direction for success. As my way of giving back to my mentors, I chose to encourage others in innovation.  Jumping back to Season 1, the feedback from listeners all over the world for Killer Innovations has motivated me to keep going.  Having an impact on people through their innovation journey is the impetus.  Along the way, I’ve developed lasting friendships with many long-time listeners worldwide.

Getting Started

As podcasting emerged in late 2004, I began experimenting with it.  The critical piece of technology enabling podcasting, the enclosure tag, allowed for media distribution.  By March 2005, I jumped in with my first Killer Innovations episode.  It was a bit like the Wild West.  I modeled myself after Earl Nightingale, a motivational speaker whose tapes and cassettes inspired me.  With a laptop and a microphone, I began the podcast from a hotel.  That was the start of it.

Making an Impact Then and Now

One eye-opening comment I received in the first year of the show has stuck with me.  It was from an avid listener whose son, a young listener of nine years old, took the inspiration to heart.  He started taking items apart in the home to “innovate” them. That boy is now 23 years old and I would love to hear from him.  I hope he’s doing creative and innovative things.

Guests I’ve had an opportunity to talk to from across the country are doing impactful innovation.  With the Mobile Studio, we’ve been stopping in small towns to find innovation in unexpected places.  Guests in the past year from Fin Gourmet Foods are innovating in such unique ways on multiple levels.  The workforce is one facet of that innovation - investing in the lives of people who need a second chance.


[shareable cite="Kym McNicholas"]Some of the best innovators take those really big, calculated risks.[/shareable]

Fin Gourmet Foods is a great example of how innovation doesn’t have to be tech or happen in Silicon Valley.  Helping people innovate their own lives is impactful innovation at its best.

Guests Who’ve Inspired Us

Guests are an integral part of the show.  As they share their innovation experience and lessons learned, we gain some valuable lessons.  One guest who has inspired us is Noah Scalin. His strategy to spark creativity is another great example of impactful innovation.  An artist based in Richmond, VA, Noah faced a creative block.  To re-ignite his creativity, he started the Skull-a-Day project.  

Another guest who’s personally inspired me is Tom Fishburne.  His on-point marketing themed cartoons show the power of creativity and influence.  His impact on people through humor is amazing.

Evolution of Killer Innovations

From starting out in a hotel room to now rolling around in the Mobile Studio, Killer Innovations continues to grow and change.  Kym recalls how she and I met - chasing the latest Tech at CES.  Now the Mobile Studio, a fully equipped 44-foot custom bus, is my studio and office while on the road.  In addition to the Mobile Studio, the show has gone from being fully funded by me to having sponsors. With the sponsorship, we are now able to pay it forward with ads for nonprofits such as Hacking Autism and Pioneer Education Africa.

The community of listeners, like Chris Woodruff, continues to impact me and others.  Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum. Recently, we created The Innovators Community.  Open to anyone interested in innovation, it’s a place where people can share their ideas and ask for advice from others in the innovation game.

 

Five Minutes to New Ideas

Don’t fall into a rut repeating the same formula to solve every problem.  You need fresh eyes. Look at things in a new light. This week’s Five Minutes to New Ideas will challenge you to use fresh eyes to find game-changing innovations.   

 

Glad you could join us for the kick-off of Season 15.  Thanks for taking the time to listen to the show. If you have any questions or comments, I’d love to hear from you.  Drop me a line.

Direct download: Season_15_Inspiring_Impactful_Innovation_Since_2005.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PST

When you’re in the middle of an important project and equipment fails, you want it fixed fast.  In this week’s show I talk with Blitzz Co-founder Rama Sreenivasan. His company is solving the inefficiencies of tech support.  Blitzz’s customer support innovation integrates AI, AR, and live video to solve problems faster.

Winding Journeys Connected

As a chemical engineer working on medical devices to starting a SaaS company, Rama’s path has taken some unexpected twists.  But at the heart of it, he is a problem solver.  The source of his inspiration: his dad who he likes to call “MacGyver”.  

Rama founded Blitzz together with co-founder Keyur Patel two years ago.  They most recently participated in CableLabs Fiterator.  This accelerator program helps startups develop a product-market fit aimed at the cable industry.

A System That Assesses Without the Hassle

When instruments stop working, it’s time to bring in a helpful live assistant. Blitz’s customer support innovation allows a better perspective of and feel for the problem. Through live video chat, companies can avoid spending for onsite technician visits. The customer support is not only heightened, but it is also trained to see around the inconspicuous.  Innovation in repair operations contributes to cuts in labor fees and time processing.  What prompted Rama to create Blitzz’s innovative approach?  During his PH. D and Post-Doctoral work, frustration with equipment breakdown mid-experiment was the impetus.  The long wait to get repairs done seemed a waste. Rama felt there had to be a better way.

AR Perception

In any given company, customer support could always be better. That’s why the addition of AR technology adds to the customer experience. Questions can be answered faster and more efficiently. No longer does one have to worry about the hassle of scheduling an in person visit.  AR perception captures it all. This innovation allows one on one human interaction on a more convenient level.

 

AI Intelligence

Equipment can malfunction and run the risk of being unreliable. AI customer support can redirect the customer to questions and answers that may be a better fit. This AI customer support innovation, becomes its own teacher. The AI brings with it the ability to learn from the information that it processes.

Lessons Learned

Rama highly recommends entrepreneurs go through an accelerator.  He learned critical elements of the startup process through that experience.  He also credits passion for driving the startup process. Connecting with mentors can help fan the flames of that passion.

If you’d like to track the latest with Blitzz, visit the website: https://blitzz.co/ or check out Blitzz on LinkedIn and Twitter.

We’re coming up on the launch of Season 15 of Killer Innovations. We’d love your feedback on what you’d like to hear on Killer Innovations for the next 15 years.  Get in touch and let me know.

 

Five Minutes to New Ideas

When you don’t find a way to differentiate from the pack, you run the risk of losing uniqueness.  What attributes do you have that you may not realize? Listen to this week’s Five Minutes to New Ideas.   Find out how you can get the most out of any opportunity or idea.

Direct download: Customer_Support_Innovation_Solving_Problems_Faster_S14_Ep51.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PST

Getting around in the big city can be easier than in smaller, less populated locations.  In many areas across the country, getting from point A to point B is dependent on having a vehicle.  This can present a challenge for people who don’t have access to a personal vehicle.  With this in mind, our guests today are solving this problem for communities in Ohio. At the Consumer Electronics Show, co-founders of SHARE, Ryan and Hoa McManus, join us in the Mobile Studio.  Ryan and Hoa tell us about seizing the opportunity with microtransit innovation. What evolving transit demographics are shaping this corner of transportation? What innovative changes are upcoming?  SHARE has a new angle on microtransit: meeting the needs of an overlooked market.

Going Places

SHARE, a startup founded 2-1/2 years ago, has been contributing to a better future in ride systems.  Their focus is to provide regularly scheduled transit for the trips people take the most.  Trust is at the center. They serve school systems, healthcare systems, and workers commuting.  SHARE fills the gap between public transport and ride-sharing. It’s affordable and reoccurring, flexible and reliable.  This benefits a significant unmet market: senior citizens.  The number of cities that the company serves continues to grow. SHARE is proving to be a model of microtransit innovation - a safe and efficient transport system.  SHARE gets people where they need to be on a daily and weekly basis.

Investing in the Team

Packing up and moving across the country, Ryan and Hoa joined an incubator.  They weathered the highs and lows. Finishing the incubator program, they promptly informed their investors about their decision to pivot.  As I say, always invest in the team rather than the tech. Their investors stuck with them. They then joined an accelerator program. From buying their first vehicles, to operating a fleet of vehicles, the tough decisions were made.  As SHARE grows, it confirms those were the right decisions.

Microtransit Innovation:  Lessons Learned

Through their shared experience as co-founders, Ryan and Hoa have learned different things.  

For Ryan, a resounding lesson is to have more clearly defined roles. Startups can get overwhelmed if they don’t establish who does what from the very start. Everyone should know where they fit and what their tasks include. It will come together if things are organized and understood. This way, the team can efficiently move towards the end goal.

Hoa’s major lesson was to have grit amid the challenges as a woman entrepreneur in the transportation industry.  Bouncing back from the low points builds endurance. Facing off with the innovation antibodies with grit makes all the difference.  It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Want to find out more about Ryan’s and Hoa’s microtransit innovation through SHARE?  Track what they’re doing on their website ridewithshare.com, or on Facebook (facebook.com/ridewithshare/) and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/ridewithshare/).

We’re starting Season 15 of Killer Innovations in March.  We’d love to hear your thoughts on what you’d like to see and hear on Killer Innovations for the next season and beyond.  Drop me a line and let me know.

 

 Five Minutes to New Ideas

This week’s Five Minutes to New Ideas examines the importance of building onto existing products that are lacking. Sometimes, making that 180 degree turn from the existing norm can really pay off. Forget the obvious solution. Take a crazy gamble.  Could you create a standardized offering of a custom product? Don’t be afraid to go the opposite direction from everyone else.


If you’ve attended the Consumer Electronics Show for many years, your perspective can be invaluable.  For Tim Bajarin, preeminent Silicon Valley analyst and President of Creative Strategies, this is his 44th CES.  When he speaks, the tech industry listens.  Tim joins us in the Mobile Studio to give his impressions on CES 2019.  What trends does Tim notice? Which innovations will impact our future? Overall, CES 2019 is one of incremental innovation.  Nevertheless, there are innovation gems that can prove to be life savers and game changers.


Trends that Matter

Of the ever-evolving innovations at CES, Tim is intrigued by those in the health area.  This year he sees a strong emphasis on digital tech impacting people’s health.  The Omron blood pressure watch, the first of its kind, is one of those innovations that will have huge impact.  For Tim, the health care innovations are fascinating in their far-reaching effect, but also on a personal note. As more people face health issues and aging in place becomes a focus, the tech world has taken on the challenges.  Stay tuned for blood pressure on the iPhone.

Ahead of Its Time

Tim recalls the flexible displays I worked on while at HP.  Well, they’ve caught on and come a long way. Flexible displays are a big opportunity.  LG’s rollable TV is staggering in its resolution, durability, and sheer size. The breakthrough of flexible displays is shown in multiple ways at CES, especially in television display.  The use cases for others are yet to be seen. It’s incremental innovation applied in new ways that’s captured the public’s attention.


Feature Wars

Tim and I talk about what I like to call the ‘feature war’ in the chase for ever increasing resolution displays.  Although content is lacking for 4K, the TV makers are pushing towards 8K and beyond. 8K is a big deal at CES 2019.  Expect to see it making a breakthrough, especially since Japan has made 8K broadcasting a requirement for the 2020 Olympics.  Keep eyes out for its appearance next year.

The distinction between High Definition HDR displays and 4K is not easy to perceive.  In fact, people notice the color more so in the High Definition HDR. When asked to identify the 4K display, people actually chose the High Definition HDR more often.  Similar is the difference between 4K and 8K. The industry moves forward towards 12K and 16K. Are these increasing resolutions useful to consumers? The competitors in the resolution race may at some point need to reassess the needs of the consumer.   

Audio Innovations

Tim talks about the medical devices that are becoming game changers.  Namely, hearing aids with a fine tune audio capturing. The movement in the sound technology means lower costs to consumers for a basic health care need.  Innovations of better audio-centered hearing aids are on the rise. Starkey, the leading hearing aid maker, is going the next step tying Alexa into the hearing aid.  What the tech world is missing is a focus on audio. The tech industry has razor sharp focus on optics, with little attention to audio. As AR and VR grows, some attention to audio will be necessary.  Starkey’s new product will tie in to AR use. The incremental transference of heightened audio is something to get excited about. No longer will the cost be daunting for the consumer. These devices will grow with you while adding more freedom.

Apple Services New Direction

Apple announced they’ll be working with major TV manufacturers to bundle Apple services iTunes and Airplay on TVs.  Apple is setting the groundwork for their services, moving their services in new directions through collaborative efforts.  With Apple services bringing in $10 billion a quarter, it’s becoming a dedicated focus.

Thank you to Tim Bajarin for his return to our show.

My Review

In this show, Tim and I touch on innovations in healthcare.  It’s a topic close to Tim and me.  For example, I’ve had to use a hearing aid for a number of years.  I was given a pair from Eargo to try out.  I had an opportunity to meet with the head of innovation at Starkey.  It’s exciting what’s happening in hearing aid innovations.

Aging in place is becoming a focus and challenge.  We’re seeing incremental innovations in this area.  As consumers age, tech is addressing the needs of the aging population.  

Both Tim are I skeptical about the increasing resolution feature wars.  What is a feature war? Industry locks on to a feature and trains the customer to buy the product with the best offering for that feature.  There may be minimal or no advantage to the upgraded feature, but it’s the hook to catch the customer. Innovators beware: don’t get caught up in a feature war.  Pick your differentiation carefully.

This year is the year of incremental innovation at CES.  It alternates from year to year between high impact innovation and incremental innovation.  Not every company has dipped into this tick tock pattern. There are some companies at CES doing the high impact innovations.  We’ll be looking at those in upcoming weeks.

If you know of a big impact innovation, let me know.  Drop me a note.

 

 

Five Minutes to New Ideas

Consumer complaints and product feedback can turn your product around. Don’t stop at simply resolving an issue. Instead, ask the question, “Who complains about my product?”    

This week’s Five Minutes to New Ideas examines how customer feedback and complaints have changed the way some companies do business.

 

Direct download: Incremental_Innovation_at_CES_2019_S14_Ep49.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PST

As the hype settles, practical AI emerges.  The use of AI in various forms is gaining traction.  Who can benefit from AI and how? Steve Guggenheimer, Microsoft VP of AI and ISV, joins us in the Mobile Studio at CES 2019.  He shares his thoughts on CES and how AI is taking shape. The cool AI of last year gives way to the practical AI of today.

CES 2019: Electronics and More

Steve, like myself, is a CES veteran.  He’s been coming to the show for years.  What has stood out about CES 2019? Clearly, it’s no longer just about electronics.  In fact, technology has taken over with just about every industry represented. Yet, for Steve, there hasn’t been a clear theme for CES 2019 above the din.  A noticeable change over the years is the companies represented. Among the TV manufacturers that have dominated in the past, new companies and relatively recent ones are taking center stage.  From Amazon and Google to startups and new Chinese companies, CES 2019 is quite different from that of 15 years ago. Some of the trends Steve noticed were smart homes, AI, Mixed Reality, and quantum.

Besides the displays, one of the biggest benefits of CES is the side meetings.  CES brings all the right people together. It’s the perfect chance to schedule meetings with customers, clients, partners the world over without having to travel all over the world.

Overhype, Disillusionment, and the New Wave

Although some things are overhyped, companies are less prone these days to hype their products.  Things get notice and tracked. As Steve puts it, he sees “less of companies sticking their necks out.”  The hype is still there and often it’s propagated by press with limited tech savvy. With too much hype raising expectation, the trough of disillusionment looms.  

Both Steve and I have done vision videos.  Rather than hype, vision videos convey the work of innovation and how it can play out in the future.  Innovation takes investment, commitment, and time. Overhype doesn’t factor that.

The building blocks of yesterday – compute, storage, networking - are not the building blocks of today.  IoT, blockchain, AI are the new wave of building blocks. People need to get out of the hype cycle and see the horizon.

AI and ISV

At Microsoft, Steve works with ISVs.  Steve helps line of business ISVs move towards SaaS.  

In addition, his focus is on AI.  As AI is becoming a hardened layer in the stack, cognitive services research is moving into APIs.  This is the work of the Microsoft Azure team.

Of the basic elements of AI – the cloud, data, the algorithms – the rate of change for the algorithms has “accelerated immensely.”  The innovation in machine learning comprehension tool sets is “superfast”.

AI from the Front Row

AI is multi-faceted.  Some areas of AI are picking up quickly.  Others are slower. While the more complex, integrated AI takes more time, some AI aspects that are gaining traction include:

  • Virtual Agents – bots that are proactive, reactive and conversational
  • AI enhanced tools for professionals – lawyers, doctors, marketing
  • Knowledge management - making a broad set of information easier to graph
  • Autonomous systems
  • Combining computer vision and other tools to digitize a physical space

The practical AI Steve promotes requires a logical approach.  For building a long-term asset, BI must come before AI. The questions he asks steer towards purposeful AI:

  • Is your data in order to do something with?  
  • What do you actually want to build yourself versus use what others have?
  • Where do you want to customize?  
  • Want to build a business out of it? Let's talk.

Is AI Right for You?

To help companies determine if AI is right for them, Steve has more questions for companies to ask:

  • How do I want to use AI to run my company better?
  • Should I build, buy, or partner?
  • Where do I want to infuse AI?
  • How do I differentiate my company with AI?
  • What do you want to add value to?
  • How do you want to add value for your customer?

If AI will not add value in the right areas, don’t do it.

When AI Fails

Often, it’s the bespoke AI project that fails. AI developed around data that is no longer tied to the core data can quickly lose its relevancy.  Failure is common with the bespoke AI project done to impress senior leadership without regard for its actual value to the business.

Another fail is the grand vision that is impossible to implement given situation and resources.  It could be a lack of expertise, financial backing, or executive patience.

Ethics and AI

Ethical AI is an important issue.  To lay out their viewpoint and start the conversation, Microsoft issued The Future Computed.  Steve advises that companies using AI have a framework for addressing ethics and AI.

If you would like to track what Steve is doing at Microsoft, visit the Microsoft AI webpage.  You can also track him on  Twitter or  LinkedIn.

Thank you to Steve Guggenheimer for once again joining us on the show.

 

 

Five Minutes to New Ideas

Could you cut the price of your product by 25%?  Take a look at your inputs. Big savings can mean the game changing advantage.  This week’s Five Minutes to New Ideas, features a company that took a gamble on less is more.

 

Direct download: Practical_AI_at_CES_2019_S14_Ep48.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PST

At times the leaps forward in technology are evident.  Then there are times when incremental steps slowly rise towards something momentous just yonder.  Bob O’Donnell is a top Silicon Valley analyst, USA Today columnist, and contributor to leading media outlets.  He returns to our show to give his take on this year’s CES.  As Bob O’Donnell surveys CES 2019, he sees tech on the cusp of innovation.

Old School

In a word, this year’s CES was packed.  From gadgets to automobiles to robotics and more, consumer electronics has morphed.  Although the range has grown, this year’s biggest strides came in CES old school mainstays.  Announcements from PC and TV makers rose above the buzz of the crowd. These were largely incremental, but nonetheless notable.  

Previews in past years gave way to the real deal.  LG’s rollable TV hits the market this year. Apple gained attention following a waning CES presence in recent years.  Partnering with the big TV players, Apple makes HomeKit, iTunes, and AirPlay 2 available on Samsung, LG, Vizio, and Sony TVs.  

Another big trend as Bob O’Donnell surveys CES 2019 is gaming.  In the gaming realm, Nvidia, Intel, and AMD took center stage with their respective innovations. On the cusp of innovation, glimpses of game streaming showed promise.  This cloud-based gaming will allow flexibility and opportunity. It’s an advantage for the hard-core gamer and novice alike. Gamers will be able to pick up or continue gaming on a range of devices.  

See the Difference?

The 8K push was evident at CES.  Vendors are offering 8K in varying forms.  Is there a noticeable difference between 4K and 8K?  The jury’s out with consumers split 50/50. Some companies have made their 8K products discrete.  Sony’s 8K TVs are much larger than the 4K. But with zero content available at the moment, Bob wonders if 8K deserves the notice?  It’s on the cusp of innovation. In my view, change is right around the corner. Japan is readying for the 2020 Olympics, which will be broadcast in 8K.  CableLabs member J:COM is on track for the Olympics 8K roll out. The big question remains: will that 8K TV fit in the living room?

Self-Drive Slowdown

The forecasts of two years ago overshot autonomous vehicle progress.  The pullback comes as issues have arisen.  The technology is not ready.  Public perception is not ready.  Real issues of safety are coupled with consumer fear and lack of trust.  Even terms can be a problem. Bob views the term ‘autopilot’ in cars misleading.  For now, the focus has shifted to assisted driving versus autonomous. Even in that area, auto assist functions become disengaged 60 – 80 percent of the time.  There’s some distance to go before autonomous becomes viable. Makers need time to get it right.  




Not Competing, Complementing

This year 5G is everywhere.  Overhype is an issue.  Bob is wary of some claims.  There is confusion over what 5G really is.  As Bob points out, looking back at how 4G enabled Uber and other services, people now are more aware.  Hence, the hype.

With the introduction of the cable industry 10G, some clarity is needed.  The G in 10G actually means gigabit.  It is not in competition with the 5G (fifth generation) cellular network tech.  10G will actually complement 5G in the future. For now, 10G program is live and rolling out.  In 80% of U.S. homes, 1 gigabit broadband internet will be available to 80% of U.S. homes. It’s a platform to build innovations on.

Oversellers Beware

The hints at what’s down the road may be exciting, but at the same time misleading.  There’s risk when companies promise more from products than products deliver or will deliver in the near future.  Overselling risks losing consumers’ trust and taxing patience. Exaggerating taints the industry and consumer perception.  Much of what we’ve seen at CES 2019 is incremental. But it’s better to make good on solid claims than take grand leaps and fall flat.

Thanks to Bob O’Donnell for sharing his insights.  

If you would like to track what Bob is writing about or working on, visit http://www.technalysisresearch.com/.  You may also view his column on USA Today or see him on Bloomberg TV.



Five Minutes to New Ideas

Are some customers not good for business?  Could a customer’s extensive use of your product or service actually cost you?  Listen to Five Minutes to New Ideas to hear creative solutions to customer challenges.

 



Direct download: On_the_Cusp_of_Innovation_Bob_ODonnell_Surveys_CES_2019_S14_Ep47.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PST

Cars that walk.  TVs that roll up.  From rising stars to tech titans, the atmosphere at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2019 has been high energy.  To consider what’s fueling that energy, I talk to the host of CES, Consumer Technology Association (CTA).  Joining us in the Mobile Studio is Rachel Horn, CTA Communications Director. She shares the CES 2019 tech trends, a few of her favorites, and why CES is so amazing.

 

CES Breaking Records

With 180 million plus attendees and 155 countries represented, CES is the largest tech and business event in the world.  It covers 2.9 million square feet of exhibitor space in Las Vegas. CES 2019 is breaking records. More than just bigger, this year’s CES unlocks new opportunities.  For the first time, medical professionals obtained continuing medical education credit for attending CES. This allows medical professionals to observe and learn about the latest medical tech and tech trends first hand.  Eureka Park, with reasonable exhibit rates, makes CES accessible for startups, entrepreneurs, and small businesses.  It boasts 1,200 exhibitors. From simple products that make life easier to larger than life exhibits that give an awe-inspiring glimpse into the future, CES 2019 delivers something for everyone.

Big Impressions

Looking outside the window of the Mobile Studio is the two-story Google complex.  It’s akin to an amusement park ride and with people queued up to get in. The rollercoaster ride takes people through the Google story.  The stakes are high for attention-grabbing at CES.  The Bell Nexus Air Taxi display was phenomenal.  During a private tour, this look at future transport awed a group of CEOs and me.  As TV display tech leaps further ahead each year, the display manufacturers dominate the floor.  The LG 4K rollable TV was exciting to see. With all the spectacle, it’s a stiff competition to stand out.  CES raises the bar. But not everything has to be big to shine. Some of the more interesting trends were seen on a smaller scale at Eureka Park.

CES 2019 Tech Trends

AI and 5G were the pervasive tech trends.  Across the board, products are sensory, connected, collecting data, analyzing, and customizing the consumer experience.  From health to lifestyle, AI is making things simpler, personalized, safer. Among noteworthy trends was digital health, especially wearables.  Silicon Valley Tech Analyst Tim Bajarin was on the trail of digital health devices.  He was impressed with a watch that can take blood pressure readings.  There are devices to continuously measure blood glucose and manage pain without medication.  These tech advances can truly transform our lives, giving people greater control over their health and wellness.  A number of products addressed aging in place. Some tech products on display included smart beds, fall detection products, remote monitors.  These impactful innovations have taken a front row. The competition among companies in the area of medical devices has propelled some further ahead.  Such is the case with Starkey, the hearing aid company, which incorporates AI into its latest product.

Little Things That Make a Difference

While the big technologies draw the crowds, the little things that make life easier are equally impressive.  Rachel noticed the Neutrogena MaskID, which uses mobile phone tech to analyze skin and create a customized face mask. Another innovation on Rachel’s must-have list is the Ring Mouse (EasySMX Ring Mouse by Padrone).  The Ring Mouse fits on the fingertip, is Bluetooth enabled, and pairs with a phone or laptop. Tactigon Skin is an interesting one hand controller device that has a number of uses. Technologies such as these that simplify life and make us more productive will transform the way we do things.

Taking Care of Business

Many international businesses consider CES the launch platform.  It’s also the place to meet with investors, retailers, partners.  The average CES attendee schedules 33 meetings.  

Not only does the CTA host CES, but it holds a number of events throughout the year.  If you’d like to know more about CTA, visit https://www.cta.tech/.  

If you weren’t able to visit CES this year, catch keynote videos, panel videos, and other highlights at https://www.ces.tech/.  You can also keep up to date on the latest with CES on Twitter or Instagram.  

 

Five Minutes to New Ideas

Do you really know who your customers are and how they use your product?  As HP CTO, I was taken by surprise when the local bakery tailored the HP TouchSmart for use as an order kiosk.  Are there more uses for your product than you imagined? How can your customer help you discover the potential? Five Minutes to New Ideas explores customers’ creative hacks and what that means for you.

Direct download: CES_2019_Tech_Trends_that_Amaze_and_Simplify_S14_Ep46.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PST

 

Keeping networks connected, secure, and visible is easier thanks to one startup.  Here at the Consumer Electronics Show, David Erickson joins me. David is Co-Founder of Forward Networks.  His company is innovating network operations. Their products transform how businesses manage networks.

Gaming to Innovating Network Operations

David’s interest in networking began as a kid playing video games.  He was always trying to optimize that connection.  That interest led him to Silicon Valley and Stanford.  As a post-grad at Stanford, David focused on software defined networking (SDN).  After completing Ph.D. work, David and three fellow Ph. Ds founded Forward Networks.  They saw new opportunity. Innovation on the operations side of networking was scarce.  Co-founder Peyman Kazemian developed unique technology. Forward Networks applies that technology to network operations.  Their software maximizes network connection, security and analysis. Based in Palo Alto, Forward Networks has been developing network solutions for five years.  Their clients include a growing number of mid to large size businesses.

Grains of Sand

With the volumes of data traversing networks, innovating network operations has been a challenge.  Others have tried to develop similar technology without success. One company refused to believe Forward Networks’ product could do what they claimed.  That company had been trying for 15 years. Forward Networks solutions do the work no human can do.  Tracking network traffic flow going in five octillion directions, it’s impossible for people to see it all.  Like grains of sand or known stars in the universe, a massive volume of data requires a smart solution. Forward Networks technology explores and proves network properties to ensure they’re secure and connected.

Solving Core Problems and Beyond

The advantages Forward Networks solutions offer customers:

  • Opens layers of visibility  
  • Creates a digital twin of the network
  • Verification: proves correctness of connections and security

They have focused on user interface making ease of use a priority.  Their products require minimal upkeep and maintenance.


A new area Forward Networks is moving into is cloud systems.  This latest development will give a “holistic picture” of “hybrid environments.”  At the heart of it, David says their software solves the core problems.

Lessons Learned

The founders of Forward Networks had a trial run in the startup process.  Out of Stanford, they started a company that created SDN training. That was “the startup before the startup.”  It gave them the experience to understand the process.

Key things David learned along the way:

Innovating network operations, Forward Networks meets a demand in an overlooked area that’s ever-expanding.

To track what Forward Networks is doing, visit https://www.forwardnetworks.com/.  For the latest, check out their blog (upper right of website) and Twitter.

 

 Five Minutes to New Ideas

Can old assets equal new value?  It can take a fight for survival to bring out bold moves.  Such is the case with magazine publishers. The internet has forced magazines innovate.  Five Minutes to New Ideas explores what some magazines are doing to keep ahead.  Could your business borrow from these unique approaches?

 

Thanks for listening to the show today.  On March 5, we’ll kick off Season 15 of Killer Innovations.  Long time listeners, do you have an anecdote or story to share about the show?  Any thoughts on going forward in Season 15? I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a note.

Direct download: Innovating_Network_Operations_Connected_Secure_Visible_S14_Ep45.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PST

 

The work of innovation culminates in execution.  But getting there is a journey with hurdles to overcome.  You need innovation confidence to face corporate antibodies, deal with setbacks, and keep innovating.  Today’s show focuses on how to build innovation confidence.  Innovation confidence will help get your ideas off the ground and on track.

 

Gifted or Skilled

Innovation is not a special gift bestowed on a select few.  Innovation is a set of skills and abilities. You can learn, practice, and perfect them.  This has been my goal in doing this show for 14 plus years. I want to help you perfect your innovation skills and abilities. What is innovation confidence?  It is self-assurance arising from one’s innovation abilities.  Building innovation confidence is a process. It takes time and practical experience.   Learn the skills and use them in a practical setting.  This will build innovation confidence.

 

Start Building

To begin building innovation confidence, you need to take stock.  Determine your innovation strengths and weaknesses.

Innovation Strengths:

Identify your innovation core strengths.  Highlight those strengths in your daily work.  Find opportunities to leverage them. Others will recognize you as innovative.  This will build your innovation confidence. Are there limited opportunities to highlight your strengths in your current role?  Volunteer for another team. Seek out a job that allows you to exercise your strengths daily.

Innovation Weaknesses:

Find the weaknesses in your innovation skill sets.  Then, improve them.

Some ways to improve weak areas and build innovation confidence:

  • Take every opportunity to learn.
    • A good start - listening to this show.
    • Innovation conferences and YouTube videos are great ways to learn.
  • Find a community.
  • Learn by doing.
    • Gain practical experience.
    • Volunteer for a project in your weak area.

 

Do Something Scary

To build innovation confidence, I challenge you to do this exercise.  Try one thing that scares you every day. Getting out of your comfort zone helps tackle the fears holding you back from succeeding in innovation.  Fear is False Evidence that Appears Real. With fear, we tend to exaggerate the negative impact of trying something new or different.  

This may come as a surprise.  I am an introvert. As CTO at HP, I stepped out of my comfort zone to understand customers.  I would observe potential HP customers at Best Buy. If a customer looked at HP products, but purchased a competitor’s, I would approach.  After handing out my business card, I would ask a few questions. Terrified as I was initially, I found people were nice and willing to give feedback.

What in the innovation skill sets scares you?  Try it every day. Get over that fear and build innovation confidence.

 

The Critic

Another step to innovation confidence - silence the inner critic.  False evidence is that negative self-talk. We tend to be more negative about ourselves than others are.  Do you struggle with this? Your inner critic is likely overactive and inaccurate. This ties into my recent TEDx Talk.  If you haven’t listened to it, check out my TEDx talk. I cover impostor syndrome. You can find it on YouTube or Philmckinney.com.

So, silence the inner critic to build innovation confidence.

 

Track the Kudos

Keep track of your successes.  I use a Moleskine notebook to do this.  It’s a handy way to track things. When confidence dips, you’ll have a reminder of your innovation successes.  

Save emails from your boss and others which congratulate your success.  Save thank you letters and letters of praise. This can help build innovation confidence.  It can be useful when starting a new job.

 

The More You Sweat, the Less You Bleed

Train like you mean it.  To paraphrase a military expression, the more you sweat, the less you bleed.  That is to say, work hard now to prevent setbacks later. To become proficient at a skill, it takes about 10,000 hours.  That’s working 8 hours a day for 4.7 years. There are ways to condense that training. Tim Ferriss has his method. The Navy SEALS have an intense training that replicates real-life scenarios.  

For innovation, experience-based training is optimal.  Major universities offer executive certificate programs.  These are intense, concentrated, focused programs. Two to three times a year, I teach the Innovation Bootcamp, an intense four-day course, made up of 14 – 16-hour days. Students go through the FIRE (Focus, Ideation, Ranking, Execution) process.  The result is a quality output. In some cases, the output is an innovation that gains support and funding.   

There are other programs to accelerate learning.  Make sure the program delivers a realistic innovation experience.  It’s under intense pressure, that you learn.

Another way to accelerate learning - learning from those who’ve experienced it.  The Innovators Community offers a place to interact with people who know the innovation ropes.

 

Balance the Confidence

As you build innovation confidence, don’t tip the balance in the wrong direction.  That is, temper your confidence.  Understand the risks and have a plan B should things not go as expected.  Have the confidence to accept a project you’ve never done, but have a recovery plan if it doesn’t work out.  And don’t let confidence lead to arrogance. Nobody wants to work with an arrogant person. So, build innovation confidence, but maintain a balance.






 

 

Five Minutes to New Ideas

Could offering an unfinished product give an advantage?  Could it become a selling point? Consider the clever strategy of Build-A-Bear.  They win by minimizing the stock in briefly popular products and charging a premium for customers to assemble their own bear.  Listen to Five Minutes to New Ideas to discover unique ways to delight your customers.

 

 

Killer Innovations is entering its 15th season on March 5.  It is a testimony to endurance and perseverance.  Killer Innovations is the longest continuously produced podcast. My mission, to pay it forward, has been the driving force.  The past 14 years are devoted to those who have had a profound influence on my career. Guests, guest host Kym McNicholas, and I have shared experiences, lessons learned, and what has inspired us.  This show exists to give listeners insights to succeed on the innovation journey. My sincere thanks to the guests, the sponsors, and you, the listeners.

Direct download: How_to_Build_Innovation_Confidence_S14_Ep44.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PST

As 2018 comes to a close, it’s time to reflect on an amazing year.  We’ve listened to innovators from around the world. We’ve found non-obvious innovation in unexpected places.  It’s been a year of new experiences, like talking at TEDx Boulder.  Excerpts from four of this year’s shows reveal the aim of Killer Innovations.  Motivating, inspiring, innovating. I hope these shows have given perspective and impetus.

Motivating: Push Back Impostor Syndrome

My struggle with Impostor Syndrome came to a halt in a surprising way.  The source of fear feeding my Impostor Syndrome became front page news. I discovered that nobody believed the lie I told myself.  Impostor Syndrome was the focus of my TEDxBoulder talk.  I shared the TEDx experience in Episode 39, Season 14.  My strong desire was in motivating others to push back on Impostor Syndrome.

Inspiring the Skeptical Executive

In a reverse move, Erich Viedge interviewed me.  Erich hosts The Skeptical Executive podcast.  In Episode 21, Season 14, Erich Viedge asked incisive questions.  We discussed creating an innovation culture.  I presented my habits for developing creativity.  The potential for innovation in any area exists. The key is inspiring it to happen.

Innovating Tradition: The Flat Wine Bottle

I posted an article on The Innovators Community.  A discussion ensued.  The topic was the flat wine bottle.  Santiago Navarro, founder of Garçon Wines, contacted me.  He wanted to fill in the details about his innovation.  Episode 38 of Season 14 was an engaging interview.  The show gave insight on how to innovate a product steeped in tradition.  Balance aesthetics and experience with the functional. Innovating the wine bottle has gained award winning reception.

[shareable cite="Santiago Navarro, Garçon Wines Founder"]If you believe in something strong enough, don’t give up.[/shareable]

 

Innovating the Non-Obvious

The year started with non-obvious innovations in non-obvious places.  Paducah, Asian Carp, and gourmet food don’t seem to have anything in common.  Fin Gourmet Foods proved this assumption wrong. Episode 45 of Season 13 is the interview with the founders of Fin Gourmet Foods.  Taking a problem in Midwest waterways and making it an in-demand gourmet food is impressive.  Hard work, perseverance, and faith have kept Fin Gourmet Foods going and growing.  Hats off to Fin Gourmet Foods.  They’re transforming an invasive fish into a gourmet item in a small Midwestern town.

One Great Year Leads to Another

2018 has been a year for motivating, inspiring, innovating.  One year, but many people sharing their stories on the innovation journey. Thank you, 2018 guests, for sharing your experiences on Killer Innovations.  

Listeners, thank you for taking time each week to listen to the show.  I am ready for another great year. Stayed tuned in the New Year for the Consumer Electronics Show interviews and what innovations will lead the way for 2019.  

If you haven’t yet, join and keep the discussion going at The Innovators Community.  It’s a free online community for innovators, designers, and creative people like you.  Join before the end of the year for 25% off products at Innovation.Tools, including The Killer Questions card deck.


Success in innovation requires more than great ideas, that amazing product, the unique service.  Innovators need support from others to make their innovations a reality. How does the innovation leader persuade and influence others to support his/her innovations?  Executive presence plays a key role. This is Part Two of the two-part series that will help you create a strong executive presence.

The Innovator and Executive Presence

Ideas without execution are a hobby.  Innovators are not in the hobby business.  To execute on those ideas, innovators need funding and support.  People are willing to listen and take a chance on the innovation leader with strong executive presence.  For some, executive presence comes naturally. Others have to work at it. Hence, this two-part series, a first for Killer Innovations.  It’s within everyone’s reach to create a strong executive presence.  Part One covered three traits and their associated skills: maintaining composure, making connections, and charisma.  Let’s explore more traits that convey executive presence.

Trait Four: Confidence

An important aspect of executive presence is confidence.  Confidence isn’t only about what’s said. Non-verbal cues reveal confidence or a lack of it.  Practice body hacks that display confidence.

  • Stand straight, head up, face and eyes forward.
  • Smile.
  • Don’t cross arms.
  • Don’t cross legs.
  • Have a strong, firm handshake.
  • Plant feet a shoulder width apart.  Don’t sway.
  • Make good eye contact.
  • Lower voice pitch.

Nonverbal cues speak volumes about a person.  Interested, engaged, and strong. Or indecisive, weak, and nervous.  Not naturally confident? These hacks will help to exude an aura of confidence and create a strong executive presence.

Trait Five: Credibility

A crucial trait of executive presence is credibility.  Building and maintaining credibility is a multi-faceted effort.  Faking it won’t make it. Sooner or later, people will find out and executive presence dissolves.   Credibility takes a long time and hard work to establish, but it’s easy to lose. Never risk your credibility.  

Steps to building credibility:

  • Establish trust
    • If people trust you, they will do business with you.
  • Exhibit competency
    • Become an expert in your field.
    • If you have the expertise, let others know without bragging.
  • Be consistent
    • Your actions and the messages you send out should align with who you are and what you do.
  • Be authentic
    • Don’t fake it till you make it.
    • Base your business or leadership on a solid foundation.  This will provide lasting stability no matter what changes may be ahead.
  • Exhibit sincerity
    • Don’t say everything you think, but mean everything you say.
    • It takes commitment, dedication, always being straightforward.
  • Respect everyone
    • No matter who or what position they hold, respect people.
    • Respect because everyone deserves it.
  • Be accountable
    • Own up to mistakes and correct them.
  • Be honest

[shareable cite="Phil McKinney"]Your trust account is more important than your bank account.[/shareable]

Trait Six: Clear, Concise Communication

Communication has a huge effect on executive presence.  Yet, it can be one of the biggest downfalls. To create a strong executive presence, you must know how to communicate with senior executives.  When conveying information to senior executives, less is more. The more concise, but clear the communication, the better. Being wordy does not impress.  

Here are some basic tips to communicating to senior executives:

  • Lead with your main point.
    • Get to the main point within the first two sentences.
  • Cut the jargon.
    • Leave jargon and slang out.
    • Use clear, concise language.
  • Use short, direct sentences.
    • Put the subject in the beginning.
  • In speaking, if the sentence has a comma, it’s too long.
    • This is advice from my speech coach in preparing for my TEDxBoulder talk.
  • Be clear with the ask.
    • When presenting to an executive, inform up front whether you have an ask or not.
  • For written communication, read it aloud.
    • If you stumble reading aloud, others will stumble reading it.
    • This helps to simplify and clarify.
  • Communicate emotion in person.
    • Don’t email or text in an emotional state.
    • Type it up, leave the address line blank, then delete it.
    • Maintain composure.

You can build or destroy strong executive presence depending on how and what you say.  Through concise and effective communication, you can persuade others to support what you’re doing.

Executive presence is critical for the innovation leader.  Leading, influencing and persuading people to come onboard with your innovation requires executive presence.  It’s not easy to create a strong executive presence. But, it’s attainable.

I hope I’ve achieved my objective in helping you to create a strong executive presence.  I’d love to get your feedback. Do you know someone who could benefit from knowing how to create a strong executive presence?  Tell them about the show. The show has grown in subscribers since March 2005 by word of mouth. Thank you for telling others.

Continue the conversation with us on this and other topics over at The Innovators Community (https://www.theinnovators.community/).  It’s a free online community of innovators, designers, and creative people just like you.

If you join The Innovators Community before the end of the year, you’ll receive 25% off an order at Innovation.Tools, including the Killer Questions Card Deck.

Direct download: How_to_Create_a_Strong_Executive_Presence_Part_Two_S14_Ep42.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PST

What makes great leaders great?  Those who motivate and inspire others and draw a following embody a strong executive presence.  If you want to lead in innovation, strong executive presence is a must. Although it may seem an elusive quality, it’s not.  Today’s show is one of a two-part series on what defines, exemplifies, and comprises executive presence. With focus and effort, you can create a strong executive presence.

Elements of a Leader

The person with strong executive presence stands out as a leader.  Executive presence is a blend of temperament, competence, and skills that send out the right signals.  It conveys that this person is in charge, confident, and capable of leading others. Leaders with strong executive presence influence others and drive results.  To garner support for their ideas, innovation leaders should harness the elements of executive presence.

Learning through Observing

Many leaders with strong executive presence learned from mentors who modelled this quality.  My mentor, Bob Davis, a leading software executive, recruited me out of college.  I learned by observing. I watched how he conducted himself, his strategies, and his dealings with senior executives.  Bob had a servant-leader focus, an important aspect of executive presence. I benefited from working with Alex Mandl at Teligent.  Alex demonstrated strong executive presence. I observed how he engaged with others and operated. These were two great examples in my life.

Every organization is different.  Be ready to adapt and be flexible.  If you’re starting out in your career, watch senior executives.  See how they operate. This can lay the foundation for your success.

Executive Presence: Traits of Great Leaders

This two-part series is the result of my observation and experience in the innovation arena.  Creating executive presence is possible. By learning, observing and practicing, you can become an innovation leader with strong executive presence.  

The three traits discussed in this show are composure, making connections, and charisma.

Trait One: Composure

Composure is the state of being calm and in control of oneself.  The ability to remain in control and calm under pressure is a key element of executive presence.  Nobody wants to follow someone who cracks under pressure or has a fierce temper. The ability to remain composed will attract positive attention.  Letting negative emotions take over results in regret and solves nothing.

[shareable]Realize that your reputation is disproportionately affected by how you handle yourself under pressure.[/shareable]

Focus to remain in control.  Focus on the underlying issue causing the problem and how to solve it.  You win when you remain calm and focused. Some people might disengage when faced with pressures.  Do not disengage. Leaders don’t give up and retreat.

Maintain perspective to remain calm in crisis.  Reputation is at stake. Regrettable words and actions make things worse.  The effect of remaining calm under pressure can build up one’s reputation. Others will take note.

Prepare for those stressful situations.  Exercise and taking deep breathes helps calm and relax the body and mind.

Trait Two: Making Connections

Building relationships with people is integral to executive presence.  Develop the ability to read and understand people. This involves one on one conversations with people.  Through direct interaction, you can demonstrate you are a person of intelligence and helpfulness.

Here are some tips for building connections with people.

  • Extreme helpfulness
    • Build up IOUs in the bank by helping others where needed.  
    • Keep a positive balance of IOUs.
  • Make people feel special
    • Remember names
    • Be encouraging
    • Give recognition
    • Remember details, e.g. hobbies, interests
    • Keep things positive
    • Be curious about people’s life and interests outside of work
  • Have open body language
    • Show interest and attention, e.g. lean forward at meetings
    • Smile, be jovial, be upbeat
    • Be approachable, don’t fold your arms across your chest
  • Maintain regular, face to face contact with your network of people
    • Have an objective when you meet
    • Give something before asking for anything, e.g. a lead on a potential client

I have a list of 25 people with whom I keep in contact on a regular basis.

Trait Three: Charisma

Charisma is the ability to attract, charm, and influence the people around you.  This trait helps you rouse followers and band people together in pursuit of a goal.  You may think that charisma is an innate trait, you’re either born with it or not. From firsthand experience, I know that’s not true.  When I first met Steve Jobs in the 1980s, he did not have charisma. He acquired it along the way. He went on to lead the Macintosh team that ultimately created the iPhone.  You can develop charisma.

Here are some starter points to building up charisma:

  • Have confidence
    • Do the research and prepare
    • Don’t wait for perfection, take risks
    • Have exuberance – that positive energy that gets others excited
  • Have optimism
    • Be optimistic your team can win
    • Smile, be approachable
  • Develop a voice tone that is friendly and passionate

These are three traits that can help you develop an executive presence.  In Part two, I’ll share more traits of executive presence. To make sure you don't miss it, subscribe to the show on iTunes or wherever you get your podcast.

If you know someone who could benefit from this series, why not tell them about it. Word of mouth is how we've grown our subscribers to the show since March 2005.

To continue our conversation on this and topics related to innovation, creativity, leadership, career, join me in The Innovators Community. Visit https://theinnovators.network/.  Membership is free.  The community is growing. That's where I hang out every day, answer questions, throw ideas out, contribute to other people's posts. Hop on over to The Innovators Community.

Direct download: How_to_Create_a_Strong_Executive_Presence_S14_Ep41.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 7:45am PST

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 (https://www.theinnovators.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 https://www.theinnovators.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 (https://www.theinnovators.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 www.garconwines.com.

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 Nightly.travel, an online hotel booking site.

You may follow him on Twitter at SantiagoBiz.  

You may also reach him through The Innovators Community (www.theinnovators.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 beyondtheobvious.com.  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 beyondtheobvious.com.  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

Observe

  • 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.

Orient

  • 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

Decide

  • 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

  • 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.

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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.

Missteps

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 PhilMckinney.com.
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.

[xyz-ihs snippet="6-Questions-Great-Leaders-Ask-Their-Employees-S14-Ep26"]

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 PhilMckinney.com.

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:

Politics

  • 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 PhilMckinney.com.
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.

[xyz-ihs snippet="Using-Influence-for-Success-S14-Ep24"]

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 PhilMckinney.com.
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 philmckinney.com.

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 box.com.  

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 beyondtheobvious.com.  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: duke-ev.org.

 

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 beyondtheobvious.com.  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 QuestFusion.com.  For a detailed guide to smart ideation, go to smartideation.com.

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 killerinnovations.com.

 

  • Find out about my book, Beyond the Obvious, at beyondtheobvious.com.  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: Fullylived.com

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 beyondtheobvious.com.  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 beyondtheobvious.com.  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 ikovecapital.com.

 

 

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 beyondtheobvious.com.  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 beyondtheobvious.com.  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 re-materials.com.

 

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 beyondtheobvious.com.  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: markstevenson.org.

 

 

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 beyondtheobvious.com.  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 cintrifuse.com.

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 info@sprocketpaducah.com or Jimi@sprocketpaducah.com.  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 http://killerinnovations.com/.  

Better yet, join us at The Innovators Community (http://theinnovators.network/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 info@safemotos.com.

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

[callout]

Guidance

  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.

[/callout]

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 Killerinnovations.com.  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: www.imagr.co

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 http://friendlyorangeglow.com/


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: https://www.icf.com/

You can follow Whit on Twitter at Papa_Whit

On Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michaelwhitakericf

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 https://www.devicebits.com/

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 https://gridraster.com/.

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 https://www.chirp.io/

Immersive Play can be found at https://www.immplay.com/

Marco welcomes you to connect with him on LinkedIn (https://www.linkedin.com/in/marcoimmplay).

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 http://www.hecaslab.com/

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 myxogo.com and www.facebook.com/myxogo.

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 www.willowpump.com.

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 Localmotors.com.  
  • Join the Local Motors innovators at the crowdsource platform Launchforth.io.
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 www.microsoft.com/en-us/ai.

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 www.Technalysisresearch.com

[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]