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Innovation Excellence Weekly - Issue 10

Innovation Excellence Weekly - Issue 10

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Published by Braden Kelley
We are proud to announce our tenth Innovation Excellence Weekly for Scribd. Inside you'll find ten of the best innovation-related articles from the past week on Innovation Excellence - the world's most popular innovation web site and home to nearly 5,000 innovation-related articles.
We are proud to announce our tenth Innovation Excellence Weekly for Scribd. Inside you'll find ten of the best innovation-related articles from the past week on Innovation Excellence - the world's most popular innovation web site and home to nearly 5,000 innovation-related articles.

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Published by: Braden Kelley on Dec 08, 2012
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December 7, 2012

Issue 10 – December 7, 2012

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.

Elite Access: Design Insight & Foresight.................................………….. Donna Sturgess Who is Your Innovation Czar? ………………………….…………….…….…. Rowan Gibson Innovation – Activity, Tool, or Competence? …………………...…..……… Jeffrey Phillips Idea Stormers .........................……………………………………….....………..…. Peter Cook 5 Signs You’re Not as Smart As You Think .……………………..……………… Mike Myatt 6Ps of Radical Innovation for Large Companies – #6 PEOPLE ..……. Kevin McFarthing Innovation is Action. Get Up, Get Out, Go be an Entrepreneur. ……….... Dean DeBiase The Best Strategic Thinkers – 5 Sure Characteristics …………….……...….. Mike Brown Brainstorming versus Braincalming ……………….………………….…….….. Mitch Ditkoff Focus Entrepreneurship Policy on Scale-Up, Not Start-Up …………..… Daniel Isenberg

Your hosts, Braden Kelley, Julie Anixter and Rowan Gibson, are innovation writers, speakers and strategic advisors to many of the world’s leading companies.

“Our mission is to help you achieve innovation excellence inside your own organization by making innovation resources, answers, and best practices accessible for the greater good.”

Cover Image credit:


Elite Access: Design Insight & Foresight
Posted on December 2, 2012 by Donna Sturgess

Thought leaders in the design community are raising the bar and sharing their unfiltered views and behind-the scene stories around problems, opportunities and challenges that businesses face today as they stretch and grow their brands. These elite perspectives are now available through a new Designer Showcase to connect innovators and brand leaders to the best design thinking around the world.

The Showcase also represents another growing need that many businesses have which is to get beneath the buzzwords and create a whole new level of dialogue to make designers and their thinking more accessible to internal teams — marketers, engineers, researchers, and the rest of the organization. Seeing this need across their customers, Avery Dennison Materials Group has taken a step to support a more transparent and open design conversation by hosting this Designer Showcase. If you aren’t aware, Avery Dennison is a 75 plus- year -old global manufacturer of packaging materials that cover, coat, protect, label and enhance brand packaging.

Whether you are a champion or novice of great design on your business, the power of design is something every innovator must understand and leverage. Translating a brand’s essence into great form, function, expression and communication has a significant financial payoff because it can drive differentiation in a category as well as deepen the customer’s emotional connection with a brand.

The new Designer Showcase is available at your fingertips. Whether you are looking for advice on the latest packaging materials or seeking creative stimulation from others on topics like sustainability and shelf appeal, you will find it on the Designer Showcase. The Showcase curates conversation with top-flight designers and design students to produce insight, offer perspective and generally chew the fat about design.

The Showcase is the first of its kind to link design, innovation, packaging and materials together in one vertical resource. This initiative is a collaboration between the design community and Avery Dennison to integrate high-quality thinking around materials and design. According to Judy Abelman of Avery Dennison, “The Designer Showcase is a way for us to learn from designers about their needs for innovative packaging materials and to work together to better serve our customers who want to create exciting new products and experiences.”

The inaugural issue of the Designer Showcase features Debbie Millman of Sterling Brands talking about her favorite packaging and her pet peeves. Each issue will feature a new designer and their unique points of view. As you navigate around the site you will find global perspectives as seen on the street through the eyes of design students and resources available to connect to technical resources or information you may desire on packaging and materials.

Shortening the information pathways from raw materials through design and innovation is a route for innovators to create new products with the latest materials and access to the technical know-how to produce them within your production requirements. The Showcase is a spectacular resource to put all that your team needs in one place to drive remarkable thinking and innovation. Spread the word!

Check out the video - http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=wY0RWfzhFos

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Donna Sturgess is the President and Co-founder of Buyology Inc and former Global Head of Innovation for GlaxoSmithKline. Her latest book is Eyeballs Out: How To Step Into Another World, Discover New Ideas, and Make Your Business Thrive. Follow on Twitter: @donnasturgess

Who is Your Innovation Czar?
Posted on December 1, 2012 by Rowan Gibson

Where should innovation reside?

It never ceases to amaze me. I’m meeting with the executive committee of a major global company. I’ve just asked if innovation is one of their top strategic priorities. Their unanimous answer is “yes”. I then ask about their individual responsibilities. “Which one of you is the CFO?” “Who is head of HR?” “Where’s the CIO?” One by one their hands go up. Yet when I ask to see their global director of innovation, nobody raises a hand. Everyone just looks at me with a blank expression. So, sure, this company understands the innovation imperative. But nobody in its leadership team is directly responsible – or accountable – for making innovation happen across the organization. And they don’t even seem to be aware of the paradox.

Consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton made an astute observation after interviewing thousands of senior executives about corporate innovation. Their conclusion was this: ‘Of all the core functions of most companies, innovation may be managed with the least consistency and discipline.’ Some of course would argue that this makes sense. That innovation is, by definition, a creative process – a mysterious mix of happenstance, individual brilliance, and the occasional bolt of lightning. How could it possibly be managed? Business guru Tom Peters appears to share this view. Tom announced not so long ago that “‘Innovation process’ is an oxymoronic phrase, believed only by morons with ox-like brains.”

I’d rather side with Peter Drucker, who wrote – already back in the 1980s – about “the systematic practice of innovation”, and argued masterfully that innovation is a discipline that can and should be managed just like any other corporate function. What worries me is that, today, over two decades later, organizations still assign responsible people to every other core function of a company except innovation. And then they wonder why they just can’t seem to make innovation happen in a profitable and sustainable way.

Ask yourself: how many innovation managers do we currently have in our own organization? Perhaps your immediate reaction is to point to a department like R&D or New Product Development. The executives running those departments are innovation managers, aren’t they? And what about the people in charge of other innovation units like incubators, new venture divisions, or Skunk Works? Surely these are innovation managers, you might reason. And, at some level, you would be right. But confining innovation to these traditional structures is usually counter-productive.

Putting innovation out on the periphery reinforces several erroneous and persistent views. One is that innovation is something that happens at the margins, not in the core business. Another is that innovation is the responsibility of a small cadre of experts, not something that should involve everyone else at the company – and even people on the outside. Still another is that innovation is mostly about new products and

technologies, not about breakthroughs in cost structures, processes, services, customer experiences, management systems, competitive strategies, and business models.

Instead of trying to manage innovation by forcing it to reside in a disconnected silo or enclave, where it neither involves nor infects the rest of the organization, companies should be trying to embed innovation as an ‘all-the-time, everywhere’ capability that permeates the entire firm.

To make innovation a pervasive and corporate-wide capability, the responsibility for innovation needs to be broadened beyond conventional structures and spread throughout a company’s businesses and functions. This is exactly what happened to quality in the 1970s and 1980s when it ceased to be the exclusive responsibility of a specific department, and instead, became distributed to every corner of the company. What is required today is a similarly systemic infrastructure for innovation that starts at the corporate level and infiltrates every part of the organization chart. An infrastructure that makes managers accountable at all levels for driving, facilitating, and embedding the innovation process into every nook and cranny of the culture.

Let’s go back to the executive committee meeting. When I ask which of the leaders is globally responsible for innovation – in all its forms – I expect the CEO to say, “That’s me.” Building a deep, self-sustaining enterprise capability for innovation is something so vital to the destiny of the firm that it absolutely has to be spearheaded by the CEO. We see this happening right now in several of the world’s biggest and best-known companies, where innovation is being driven directly from the top. Steve Jobs at Apple, Jeff Immelt at GE, Sam Palmisano at IBM, and Alan Lafley at P&G are just a few examples. These leaders have clearly taken on the role of Chief Innovation Officer at their respective firms.

What I’d next like to see is another hand being raised – this time the COO. I’d like that executive to tell me that he or she has been appointed as the chief architect of innovation embedment at the firm – responsible for making innovation happen from an operational perspective, just as the

company succeeded in making quality happen. And I’d like him or her to proudly hold up an organization chart that shows me the company’s innovation infrastructure. I want to see a global vice president of innovation – an ‘Innovation Czar’- someone who reports directly to the CEO as the firm’s leading innovation practitioner. I want to see an innovation council, made up of the company’s top business unit leaders, that manages innovation embedment and new growth activities across the organization.

Beyond that, I want to see regional vice presidents of innovation, who work with the respective regional heads in a visible and senior position. In addition, there should be ‘Innovation Boards’ – in the regions as well as in the business units – comprised of senior leaders who manage and advance the innovation process at the local level. And the firm should also have hundreds of part-time ‘Innovation Mentors’, along with dozens of full-time ‘Innovation Consultants’, who have been intensely trained to coach and support would-be innovators, helping them push their ideas forward, and who work closely with the company’s divisions to stoke the fires of innovation by actively monitoring and managing the pipeline process.

Sound like a daydream? Not to me. I’ve actually seen innovation infrastructures similar to this one in more companies than you might think. So when I ask you how many innovation managers you have in your own organization, this is the kind of innovation management I’m talking about. Take a good look around your firm. Who exactly is in charge of managing innovation as a core corporate function? Does your firm have an ‘Innovation Czar’? If not, isn’t it time your top leadership team appointed one?

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Rowan Gibson is widely recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on enterprise innovation. He is co-author of the bestseller Innovation to the Core and a much in-demand public speaker around the globe. On Twitter he is @RowanGibson

Innovation – Activity, Tool or Competence?
Posted on December 1, 2012 by Jeffrey Phillips

There is significant, and often damaging, dissonance about what innovation “is” and how it can be deployed effectively. Innovation is something every business wants, but most aren’t quite sure how to plan or implement innovation effectively. Innovation exemplars like Apple seem to be able to spin out exciting new products and services on a consistent basis, with minimal effort and maximum gain. Yet for many organizations, confusion reigns. Is innovation an occasional activity? Is it simply a set of tools? Is it a mindset or something that should be embedded in the corporate culture? Can it be harnessed effectively? Every management team is grappling with these questions. The answers will determine how successful your firm is in the long run.

Innovation is, unfortunately, a buzzword, meaning that the user defines the word in his or her own context, and often the hearer defines the word in a different context. We’ve been told that innovation created the success at Apple, and that innovation is also responsible for many “failures”. We’ve been told there are many innovation tools and techniques – Voice of the Customer, ethnography, idea generation. We’ve been introduced to innovation management, software to capture and distribute ideas. Open innovation is now in vogue, as a way to gather ideas from customers and partners. I often imagine that the land rush to settle Oklahoma looked a lot like what innovation does in the business world today. Everyone rushing to stake a claim, with little in common.

So, let’s answer the titular questions. Yes, innovation is an activity. Any business unit or product group can engage in innovation to create a new product, new service or new business model. Occasional innovation is the most frequently practiced, and one of the most difficult, because when innovation is attempted, it is often in response to a significant new need or gap in offerings. This means that the firm is attempting new techniques (innovation) in the face of significant threats. What do we typically revert to when something precious to us is threatened? Certainty and trusted tools. Trying to innovate occasionally in the face of significant risk or change is akin to placing a novice on the back of a bucking bronco. The ride will be short, painful and the rider is likely to be trampled in the end.

Innovation is a tool, or, more distinctly, a set of tools, each of which can provide tremendous value when used appropriately. I was recently talking to a potential client who described their “front end” as consisting of “voice of the customer”. While “voice of the customer” can be a useful tool for customer insights, it is simply one possible tool for customer insight. Further, the “front end” encompasses much more discovery and insight than voice of the customer. Using only one tool or technique is like describing a room while looking through a keyhole. Using only one tool or technique is probably more dangerous than beneficial. Innovation is a collection of tools and techniques. When applied correctly and in the appropriate order, they can create incredible insights. Used poorly or ineffectively, they are no better than guesswork.

Eventually, many organizations discover than innovation should be a core competence. This requires, of course, careful definitions and strategic alignment at the highest reaches of the organization, and a defined set of innovation tools structured in a manner to provide valuable

outcomes. It requires people who understand the importance of innovation and who don’t face obstacles and threats when they attempt to innovate. When we look in envy at 3M or Apple or Google, we often look past the investments that led to innovate success, and seek to point out the tools, or techniques, or individual leaders, that seem to create the success. It’s all of that, and none of that. The success of any capable innovator ultimately resides in the understanding that innovation requires continual focus, an engaged culture, people who understand and use innovation tools and insights successfully. In other words, the best innovators understand that innovation is an activity, a set of tools, but most importantly, a competence.

You can achieve that competence through strategic alignment within your business. Paul Hobcraft and I have defined an innovation workmat approach to help senior leaders align their goals and build innovation frameworks to sustain innovation as a core competency.

image credit: blocks image from bigstock

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Jeffrey Phillips is a senior leader at OVO Innovation. OVO works with large distributed organizations to build innovation teams, processes and capabilities. Jeffrey is the author of “Make us more Innovative”, and innovateonpurpose.blogspot.com.

Idea Stormers
Posted on December 1, 2012 by Peter Cook

I have recently come into contact with Bryan Mattimore, a fellow creativity and innovation author based in the US. Bryan has just released a new book called Idea Stormers, How to Lead and Inspire Creative Breakthroughs (wiley.com). I interviewed Bryan on some important questions facing business leaders.

Tell me about your work in corporate creativity and innovation?

My company, Growth Engine, works primarily on new product development assignments for package-goods companies; but we have worked in a wide variety of other industries and assignments as well. For instance, we recently helped a large U.S. bank generate and launch several services they feel have the potential to “re-invent banking.” We also helped Good Morning America create new programming ideas; and have just taken on a project for a Fortune 100 company to create and market new health care products in developing countries around the world.

Our two points of difference in our innovation work are that: 1) we use customized/state-of-the art ideation techniques – many of which we have invented ourselves – to address specific creative challenges, and 2) we use consumers and customers at every stage of the new product development process to help generate, develop and validate new ideas.

You mention disruptive innovation in the book. Everyone is talking about that. Give me some examples of how to be disruptive without being dysfunctional?

When Clayton Christensen coined the term “disruptive innovation” he was thinking, of course, about how companies can disrupt – or be disrupted by – new innovations in their industry. Many companies say they want to disrupt an industry or category – and create something entirely new because it’s sexy and the profit margins, at least initially, are so good. But when push comes to shove, most companies don’t really want to create disruptive innovations. Why? Because creating something disruptive to a category, can also disrupt their own organization. It’s hard work, fraught with difficult challenges and dead ends, and expensive. It often involves having to create new brands, new manufacturing processes, hiring differently-skilled workers, and/or pioneering new distribution systems. Ironically, the easiest part of creating a disruptive idea may be coming up with the idea itself.

Contrast this with creating a “less-than-disruptive” innovation… which will be easier to make and market, but which may be very difficult to conceive of the original, “Big Idea.” Case in point was when Kraft asked us to help them invent a new OREO; and not just a flavor or seasonal variety… a truly new/original OREO idea. This is not an easy. For one, the OREO cookie has been around for 100 years, and so it’s hard to find a truly original idea. There are also some very important brand equities that act as “creative constraints.” Is an OREO an OREO if it doesn’t

have some sort of cream filling? Probably not! So, it should be acknowledged that it often takes a great deal of imagination and creativity to generate a truly original idea, even if it’s “only” for a non-disruptive one!

What is your take on the relationship between techniques for ideation and just facilitating new conversations?

Ideating breakthrough new ideas, when done right, is a strategically-directed activity with well-defined parameters and success criteria. We call it “focused ideation.” If you think this is oxymoronic, you are of course, correct. I spend a great deal of time trying to resolve an essential paradox: inventing focused ideation techniques that will help inspire new ideas that are at once strategically aligned AND non-obvious.

What can and should leaders do to create the conditions for an innovative enterprise?

We created a phrase to capture how we think about this: “You don’t innovate by changing the culture you change the culture by innovating.” What this means is that, paradoxical as it might sound, if a leader really wants to create a creative culture, the last thing that leader should focus on is “creating that culture.” Rather, he or she should identify a few divisions, groups, and/or teams; devote the resources (talent, funding) and political protection/support to help them innovate; and get them to work innovating. An innovative enterprise (and a creative culture) should be thought of as an an effect, not a cause of well… actually being innovative.

I like the idea that you can create internal culture change by using the innovation imperative – much better than endless hand wring, HR surveys and focus groups by the way. There are times when its necessary to focus internally, but an external need is often a much better ‘burning platform’.

What one thing in your experience should companies STOP doing in order to be more innovative?

Stop talking and start doing. Forget the slogans. Forget the mentions by the CEO in the annual report how important innovation will be to the company’s future. Forget “creativity rooms.” And forget suggestion boxes. (Sorry, that’s more than one!)

I’m OK with that. My pet hate is creativity rooms, as if it can and should all be contained in there.

How can people find out more about what you can do for them?

Reading my new book: Idea Stormers, How to Lead and Inspire Creative Breakthroughs (Wiley Jossey-Bass) will tell them a lot. They’ll see, from the range of creative challenges I include in the book, the creative techniques and innovation processes used to address these challenges, and the successes that resulted, how wide our creative/problem-solving range can be.

If someone has a specific question or creative challenge, they can e-mail me at: bmattimore@growth-engine.com, or call me in the US: 203857-4494.

image credit: humdyn.co.uk

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Peter Cook is Rock’n'Roll Innovation Editor at Innovation Excellence. He leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock, and provides Keynote speaking, Organisation Development and Business Coaching. You can follow him on twitter @Academyofrock and contact him for a copy of his book Punk Rock Business.

5 Signs You’re Not As Smart As You Think
Posted on December 3, 2012 by Mike Myatt

My question is this: Is your intellect an asset or liability? All one has to do is watch a very bright person defend their position to understand what I’m driving at with today’s post. Observing intelligent people lecture, spin, posture, position, cajole, argue, rationalize, or justify their beliefs in order to “get the win” is often times entertaining, but it can also be exceedingly frustrating.

I’ve come across more than a few self-proclaimed “intelligent” people who believe their intellectual acuity is far superior to the discernment of their peers and co-workers. Not only are these intellectual giants usually wrong, but sadly, by the time they awaken to a state of reality it is already too late. In the text that follows, I’ll share the keys to leveraging your intellectual assets as opposed to having your intelligence serve as a barrier to your success…

While leadership intelligence doesn’t have to be an oxymoron, it certainly can be. When a person begins to believe their own smoke, they have placed themselves on a very slippery slope. I believe there is truth in the statement “a person can be too smart for their own good.” How many times have you witnessed a very bright person fail to solve a problem a younger, less experienced, and perhaps even a less intelligent person solved with seemingly little effort? While raw intelligence is a valuable commodity, in-and-of-itself, and to the exclusion of other traits and characteristics, the sole reliance on IQ can be a barrier to professional growth and maturity.

Is your intellect standing in the way of your success? Are you so enamored with how smart you are you can’t get anything done? Consider this; is it more important to be right, or to achieve the right outcome? I tend to respect those who can lead others to the proper outcome as opposed to those who excoriate others just to prove they’re right. If your certitude overshadows your wisdom, you may want to dial it back a notch…

By nature of what I do for a living I tend to work with very bright people. It has been my observation hyper-intelligent people can tend to think themselves into trouble and out of opportunities with great ease. Whenever I find myself discussing issues of intellect, ego, leadership, etc., I’m always reminded of the cartoon which reads: “Rule number one: the boss is always right. Rule number two: when in doubt refer to rule number one.” If you find yourself rationalizing or justifying positions based solely upon intellectual reasoning without regard to culture, practical realities, timing, or other contextual considerations, you may be too smart for your own good. Just as a lack of belief in gravity won’t prevent you from falling, simply believing a particular opinion or theory to be fact doesn’t mean it is.

Often times the problem with intelligent people lies simply in the fact they have come to enjoy being right. Bright people can quickly find themselves in the position of confusing ego with intellect, and can sometimes defend ideas to the death rather than admit they’re wrong. Smart leaders fear being wrong more than being proven wrong. Winning an argument isn’t particularly difficult, but it may come at a very expensive

price. This confusion of ego and intellect often stems from successfully arguing wrong positions over time such that they’ve built their persona around being right, and will therefore defend their perfect record of invented righteousness to the death. Smart people often fall into the trap of preferring to be right even if it’s based in delusion.

So how do you know when you’ve crossed over to the dark-side and can’t tell the difference between fact and fiction? The following 5 items will help you discern whether or not you are using your intellect properly, or whether you’ve just simply bought-off on your own propaganda:

1. Consistent Conflict: Do you find yourself in a perpetual state of debate? Do you find yourself thinking “why am I the only one who gets it?” Is it more important for you to be right than to arrive at the correct resolution to an issue, problem or opportunity? Are you known as a bitter, pessimistic or negative person? If any of these issues describe situations that hit too close to home then you may want to take a step back and do some selfevaluation.

2. Lack Professional Growth: I’ve often said it’s impossible for stagnant leaders to sustain growing organizations. If you prefer to rest on your laurels rather than continullay stretch your mind you’re in for a rude awakening. Warning: Leaders who don’t develop themselves professionally will be replaced by those who do.

3. Exclusivity vs. Inclusivity: Do you use your intelligence to intimidate and stifle others, or to encourage, inspire and motivate others? Do you wonder why you can’t seem to retain tier one talent or why you lose key clients? If your brilliance is polarizing as opposed to engaging, then how smart are you really?

4. True Success: If an independent third party interviewed your peers and subordinates alike, what would that feedback look like? Do others see you as successful, or are you merely a legend in your own mind? What I think of myself is not nearly as important as what my family, friends, clients, and co-workers think of me. If those you surround yourself with don’t hold you in high regard, then you have no reason to.

5. You’re Too Busy: Saying “I’m too busy for _________” is code for you don’t value whatever __________ is. Smart leaders are never too busy to make good decisions, to invest in people, to listen, or to learn. The job of a leader is to understand the value of creating and leveraging white space both personally and organizationally.

Bonus: You’re A Bad Listener: Stop worrying about what you’re going to say and focus on what’s being said. Don’t listen to have your opinions validated or your ego stroked, listen to be challenged and to learn something new. You’re not always right, so stop pretending you know everything and humble yourself to others. If you desire to be listened to, then give others the courtesy of listening to them. It’s important to remember you should never be too busy to listen. Anyone can add value to your world if you’re willing to listen. How many times have you dismissed someone because of their station or title when what you should have done was listen? Wisdom doesn’t just come from peers and those above you – it can come from anywhere at anytime, but only if you’re willing to listen. Expand your sphere of influence and learn from those with different perspectives and experiences – you’ll be glad you did.

The bottom line is this…the gift of intellect is an asset to be thankful for, and put to good and productive use. It is not an excuse to be lazy, arrogant, mean-spirited or delusional. Don’t let your intellect stand in your way, but rather use it as an asset to develop those around you to their full potential thereby increasing your chances for long-term success.

Thoughts? Don’t miss an article (5,000+) – Subscribe to our RSS feed or join us on LinkedIn or Facebook.

Mike Myatt, is a Top CEO Coach, author of “Leadership Matters…The CEO Survival Manual“, and Managing Director of N2Growth.

6Ps of Radical Innovation for Large Companies – #6 PEOPLE
Posted on December 4, 2012 by Kevin McFarthing

How do large companies pursue radical innovation, the kind of new product that changes or creates a market? In my first blog I summarized the 6Ps, a template that I believe could help to increase the output of game-changing innovation. Since then I’ve covered PERSPECTIVE, POTENTIAL, PROTOTYPES, PARTITION and PERSISTENCE. The last “P” is PEOPLE, and in my view the most important one.

Any company can put structures, processes and investment in place to support innovation. These do not create competitive advantage; they are simply qualifiers that allow you to play the innovation game. The differentiating factors derive from the people themselves and their inventiveness, passion and drive to succeed. It is key to put the right people in the right positions and give them senior level support.

As Peter Sims says, the main enemy of creativity is fear of failure. If people are unwilling or feel unable to suggest or try new things, nothing “bottom up” will happen. All the options for radical innovation will be “top down” and the rest of the people in the company will simple execute what they are told to do, without ownership and probably without passion. So the first thing the large company needs to do is to create time, space and support for people to explore their creativity and come up with proposals for radical innovation. This is not just to create new ideas, but also to enable those that already exist to be put into a format that explores the business potential.

There is a massive difference between failure and learning. If people try something new and it doesn’t work, that’s not failure, they have just learned what doesn’t work (thank you Edison). If they consistently repeat the same failed experiment, that’s the time to start worrying. However the concept of punishment for failure is totally the wrong approach to radical innovation. Stefan Lindegaard and Hutch Carpenter came up with the concept of “Smartfailing”, where the idea is to get to a decision point quickly and cheaply to understand which aspects of a product, or indeed the whole thing, will not work. Stefan has selected some good reading on the topic in a recent blog.

Almost by definition, a radical innovation project is less likely to get to market than one that addresses a more certain incremental growth opportunity. This creates a challenge given that career progression depends primarily on what people achieve. In the context of innovation, key career questions are “what have you launched?” and “how much money does it make?” If a highly talented innovation professional answers these questions with “nearly” answers because they’ve worked on tough radical innovation projects, they may struggle to make the same career progress in large companies as those with ready answers.

This challenge is less of an issue in those industries with long product and project lifecycles, and where large parts of the company are set up to deal with radical innovation, for example in aerospace and pharmaceuticals. In sectors like consumer goods, there is often little incentive for the brightest and best to risk the next step on the career ladder by moving into an area where they may have nothing tangible to show for it.

So how do you give people an incentive? The first place to start is with the right people, the ones who will be motivated and fired up by the challenge – the intrapreneurs. Entrepreneurs drive successful startups, and the intrapreneur is the closest thing the large company can have. According to a recent blog by Lisa Quast, intrapreneurs have the following characteristics;

- Knowledge of the internal and external environment;

- Visionary and willing to challenge the status quo;

- Diplomatic and able to lead cross-functional teams;

- Able to build a professional support network;

- Able to persevere, even in the face of uncertainty.

I’d also add that usually they are curious and creative, and often regarded as rebels or non-conformers.

It is also important to define the career path for intrapreneurs. There must be an answer to the “what’s in it for me?” question. If for some reason they are excluded from the “normal” ladder in their discipline, they must still see a route forward to senior positions. After all, they are usually very talented and will have the ability to seriously influence the culture and direction of a company if they reach an executive position.

Large companies need people with courage and drive to take real ownership of radical innovation projects. To do this, support from an executive sponsor and, ideally, the CEO is crucial. If it matters to the person at the top, it will automatically get support further down.

What if the large company doesn’t have people with the right profile and attitude? Open Innovation can really help, but isn’t the total answer to implementing radical innovation in the market place. It’s imperative to increase the diversity and background of people in innovation leadership positions, as I pointed out in a recent blog – don’t recruit innovators using the mirror. This has benefits for both creativity and execution.

The company and individuals involved with radical innovation also need to reassess their appetite for, and tolerance to risk. Incremental innovation is safer and easier (not necessarily safe and easy) and presents a different risk profile. Key to this is having the right perspective and potential for radical innovation; changing the risk profile doesn’t make a company reckless.

In summary, people are the most important factor in driving radical innovation in large companies, particularly if the company can;

- Clearly distinguish failure and learning, and promote Smartfailing;

- Identify and support the intrapreneurs;

- Provide a clear incentive for people to pursue radical innovation;

- Recruit for diversity.

Finally, as I discussed in another blog, if the large company wants to build an innovation culture, the priority should be on the right actions, not on the objective of the culture per se. If the people actions above are followed through, one day you’ll wake up and find you have an innovation culture. And you’ll be launching successful radical innovations.

Good luck!

image credit: business people image from bigstock

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Kevin McFarthing runs the Innovation Fixer consultancy, helping companies to improve the output and efficiency of their innovation, and to implement Open Innovation. He spent 17 years with Reckitt Benckiser in innovation leadership positions, and also has experience in life sciences.

Innovation is Action. Get Up, Get Out, Go be an Entrepreneur.
Posted on December 1, 2012 by Dean DeBiase

After talking with hundreds of startup teams around the world, from the ones we are accelerating at 1871 in Chicago to a new stealth startup in India, I have found that, sometimes the best advice is to tell them to stop meeting so often at their favorite cafe/coffee shop, and instead, get out there and work on the actual startup idea! Waiting until everything is “just right” can be a entrepreneurial trap. In reality, is OK to shift and pivot along the way–some of the most successful startups have. A great Sketchbook video from our friends at Kauffman Foundation puts this into a simple perspective…”just go be an entrepreneur”. Enjoy!

Watch video here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=FOFm8fPP2Kc

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A serial CEO and innovation speaker, Dean DeBiase is the Chairman and CEO of entertainment.com, co-founder of boardroominnovation.com and Innovation Excellence, and a co-author of The Big Moo.

The Best Strategic Thinkers – 5 Sure Characteristics
Posted on December 5, 2012 by Mike Brown

When it comes to determining the best strategic thinkers to invite into strategic planning efforts, the easy and frequent decision is rattling off a list of people based on titles and positions in an organization or team. There’s a lot more to being a strong strategic thinker, however, than one’s organizational position. Consider looking for these five characteristics among strategic planning participants. The best strategic thinkers should be:

1. Open to valuable perspectives from multiple sources

Some elements of strong strategic thinking can certainly be enhanced by seniority. Importantly though, great strategic thinking is about the right combination of three diverse perspectives: front-line organizational experience, broad functional knowledge, and creative energy. These three mindsets are important because each will process and develop strategic perspectives in different ways.

People with front-line experience help frame and ground business issues. Those with functional knowledge of key business processes understand important capabilities. Creative people see and address opportunities in unconventional ways.

Any of these groups, working by themselves, will create a strategic direction lacking in some essential way. Working together, there’s the potential for game-changing moves.

Some people have one of these perspectives; others have two or all three. No matter how many one has, the more open someone is to considering perspectives he or she doesn’t possess, the stronger their strategic thinking skills.

2. Adept at incorporating both logic and emotion into their thinking

While there’s often an organizational premium placed on left brain thinking – the quantitative, analytical, logical processing that moves toward definitive answers – strong strategic thinkers need both a left brain and a right brain orientation. Right brain thinking incorporates a qualitative, connecting, and a more abstract view of market threats and opportunities.

Rarely do important organizational and market changes succeed or fail solely through an analytical and logic-based business case. Hard numbers may win the day for selling new ideas in the executive suite, but when it comes to successful implementation, emotions such as fear, hope, passion, and frustration are vital in moving people to embrace major change.

If a strategic thinking team only depends on logic and does not incorporate emotion, the strategy it develops will be lacking a vital component.

3. Comfortable thinking in ways extending beyond today’s reality

You can’t afford to have people masquerading as strategic thinkers who cannot think outside today’s reality. Solid strategic thinkers have to be able to free themselves from today to consider multiple possibilities for how your organization’s course may play out in the future.

But that’s only half the story.

When trying to view a current situation dramatically differently, people need to be able to think in ways that have only loose connections to what today actually looks like. Effective strategic planning exercises force thinking along new paths and incorporate unexpected twists and thinking detours. This SHOULD make people uncomfortable with their standard ways of thinking. A strong strategic thinker is fine with that. A strategic thinking wannabe won’t be able to go along for the unexpected ride. It’s vital to hone a strategic team’s openness to what may today seem impossible or preposterous; that’s where tomorrow’s innovation will likely originate.

4. Constantly questioning both the familiar and the new

Many people are fine questioning what they don’t support.

As a result, you have people clamoring for change who are excited to question everything about the status quo. People who are completely comfortable with just the way things are right now suddenly discover their questioning mojos when the possibility of dramatic change rears its head.

The best strategic thinkers question yesterday, today, tomorrow, and everything in the future. Additionally, the more they explore strategic options, the more new questions they generate. Strategic thinking is about exploration. If it’s fruitful exploration, the best strategic thinkers are okay with the new strategic paths they uncover being laden with new questions.

5. Open to not answering or resolving every strategic issue

This characteristic goes hand in hand with the previous one about constantly questioning. While successful executives are largely rewarded for moving things to successful resolution – and that’s vital for business performance – effective strategic thinkers do have to be able to moderate any tendencies to prematurely resolve strategic issues.

Even successful strategic thinking cannot be expected to answer everything. The future is never completely certain. Especially now, it’s imperative for organizations to be nimble enough to adapt to changing market conditions. That means it can be important to leave certain strategic options open fur future consideration. An adept strategic thinking isn’t rattled by that possibility.

How does your team stack up against the best strategic thinkers?

Based on these five characteristics, does your strategic planning team stack up well against the best strategic thinkers? If not, it’s time to make some adjustments to ensure you get the most effective strategic plan.

And while you’re evaluating your team, it’s the right time to do a self-evaluation and ask yourself how YOU are doing as a strategic thinker. If you have gaps in your own strategic thinking approach, consider adding new people to your strategic planning team to shore up where your own skills are lacking.

image credit: danieldlaine.com

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Mike Brown is an award-winning innovator in strategy, communications, and experience marketing. He authors the BrainzoomingTM blog, and serves as the company’s chief Catalyst. He wrote the ebook “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” and is a frequent keynote presenter.

Brainstorming versus Braincalming
Posted on December 2, 2012 by Mitch Ditkoff

If you work in a big organization, small business, freelance, or eat cheese, there’s a good chance you’ve participated in at least a few brainstorming sessions in your life.

You’ve noodled, conjured, envisioned, ideated, piggybacked, and endured overly enthusiastic facilitators doing their facilitator thing.

You may have even gotten some results. Hallelujah!

But even the best run brainstorming sessions are based on a questionable assumption — that the origination of powerful, new ideas depend on the facilitated interaction between people.

You know, the “two heads are better than one” syndrome.

I’d like to propose an alternative for the moment: “two heads are better than one sometimes.”

For the moment, I invite you to consider the possibility that the origination of great, new ideas doesn’t take place in the storm, but in the calm before the storm… or the calm after the storm… or sometimes, even in the eye of the storm itself.

Every wonder why so many people get their best ideas during “down time” — the time just before they go to sleep… or just after waking… or in dreams… or in the shower… or in the car on the way home from work?

Those aren’t brainstorming sessions, folks. Those are braincalming sessions. Incubation time.

Those are time outs for the hyperactive child genius within us who is always on the go.

Methinks, in today’s over-caffeinated, late-for-a-very-important-date business world, we have become addicted to the storm.

“Look busy,” is the mantra, not “look deeply.”

We want high winds. We want lightning. We want proof that something is happening, even if the proof turns out to be nothing more than sound and fury.

High winds do not last all morning. Sometimes the storm has to stop.

That’s why some of your co-workers like to show up early at the office before anyone else has arrived. For many of us, that’s the only time we have to think.

“The best thinking has been done in solitude,” said Thomas Edison. “The worst has been done in turmoil.”

I’m not suggesting that you stop brainstorming (um… that’s 20% of our business). All I’m suggesting is you balance it out with some braincalming. The combination of the two can be very, very powerful.



In the middle of your next brainstorming, session, restate the challenge — then ask everyone to sit, in silence, for five minutes, and write down whatever ideas come to mind. (Be ready for the inevitable joking that will immediately follow your request). Then, after five minutes are up, go “round robin” and ask everyone to state their most compelling idea.


Ask each member of your team to think about a specific business-related challenge before they go to bed tonight and write down their ideas when they wake up. Then, gather your team together for a morning coffee and see what you’ve got.


Conduct your next brainstorming session in total silence. Begin by having the brainstorming challenge written on a big flip chart before people enter the room. Then, after some initial schmoozing, explain the “silence ground rule” and the process: People will write their ideas on post-its or flip charts. Their co-workers, also in silence, will read what gets posted and piggyback. Nobody talks.

It’s your decision, at the end of the idea generating time, if you want the debrief to be spoken — or if you want people to come back the next day for a verbal debrief.

“Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods.” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Mitch Ditkoff is the Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions and the author of “Awake at the Wheel”, as well as the very popular Heart of Innovation blog.

Focus Entrepreneurship Policy on Scale-Up, Not Start-Up
Posted on December 4, 2012 by Daniel Isenberg

Would you allocate more of society’s resources to giving birth to more babies or to raising children well? Now, think about enterprise creation and the challenge of economic growth. Societies’ leaders need to rebalance entrepreneurship policy towards scale, not start.

In recent years, we have been witnessing a significant global shift in attitudes towards entrepreneurship in countries around the globe. This is reflected in the dramatic proliferation of start-up programs: Start-up America, Start-up Chile, Start-up Russia, Start-up Britain, Start-up Weekend, and dozens of others. “Start-up” has replaced “Silicon” as the reigning entrepreneurship buzzword: There is hardly a country or city that is lacking a start-up program.

Unfortunately, this is being guided almost exclusively by a narrow conception of entrepreneurship as consisting primarily in the starting-up of an enterprise. Equating entrepreneurship with start-up is not wrong; it is just very incomplete. It is also problematic because of two flawed implied messages: The first is that the most difficult and important task of the entrepreneur is launching his or her venture. The second is a notion we might call “the more the merrier” — i.e., the more start-ups, the more successful the program. Quantity of start implicitly trumps quality of scale.

Both of these messages are doubtful. If we look at entrepreneurship in terms of extraordinary value creation and capture, which I do, then it is clear that value can be created and captured in a large variety of ways, and there is no a priori reason to think doing this from scratch via a start-up is the only or even the best way. Extraordinary value creation may involve acquiring, re-purposing, spinning off, or recombining underutilized or undervalued assets, or what my Stanford colleague George Foster calls “re-starts.” The Kaspersky’s, for example, founded their leading anti-virus company by spinning it out from a struggling Russian institute they worked for. Over the past decade or so, search funds have become an effective vehicle for acquiring undervalued companies to infuse with capital, management and growth. Family businesses, large corporations, R&D centers and universities — any of these can be essential in creating or freeing up assets rich with untapped potential. And yet:

Extraordinary value creation cannot occur without growth, and entrepreneurial growth post start-up has numerous challenges which can be an order of magnitude more difficult than simply starting a venture. Growth entails developing a powerful sales and marketing machine, building an organization by hiring and managing diverse groups of people, and knowing how to acquire strategic inputs such as the right kinds of capital and suppliers. Growth requires amazing amounts of energy and dedication, not to mention smarts. Forward-looking policy, as well as culture and the private sector, must support all these skills and resources more than it does at present.

Indeed, when I dig into examples of start-up programs, ranging from Scandinavia to the Middle East to both North and South America, scale-up is the far bigger challenge: After two years and $12 million, Start-up Chile’s largest resident start-up employs three people, according to Horacio Melo, the CEO. A comprehensive set of start-up programs and policy reforms in Denmark in the early 2000s led to a dramatic increase in the

numbers of ventures formed, but when analyzed five years later, the vast majority had plateaued at a few employees, and fewer than 1% met the fairly modest criteria set to be considered “growth” ventures.

Chile and Denmark’s policies are not “wrong” (in fact, in Denmark this finding has provided policy makers additional impetus to strengthen efforts to crack the code of scale). The lesson is: scale-up is so much harder than start-up entrepreneurs (and policy leaders) realize. As one of my successful entrepreneur friends warns, “This is tough bloody s[***].” We need to turn the focus on growth-after-start: growth will not somehow take care of itself. To return to the imperfect analogy of my lede above, anyone who has been a parent knows that the long and complicated job of growing a healthy, educated and moral child is vastly more challenging than giving birth. I vividly remember how our first birthing class spent hours on breathing and epidurals, yet I had no clue about how to change a diaper or deal with a rash let alone be a father of teenagers! And societal resources required to formally and informally prepare parents for and support them in parenthood are immeasurably greater than for the birth process itself.

So it is just now dawning on many in business and government that when these start-up programs are successful in stimulating venture birth rather than venture scale, the tremendous challenges of growth may paradoxically become worse, not better, and can leave many stagnant or overvalued ventures that may have little real prospect of growth.

We can refocus policy on scale-up in a number of ways. One is structural: stop treating venture survival as an indicator of policy success and start looking at those that grow. It is also necessary for policy to facilitate extremely high levels of venture death and recycling in order to avoid a plethora of valueless start-ups. Focus much more attention on enriching the local labor pool, an essential aspect of an effective ecosystem. Entrepreneurs I meet with from Boston to Bangalore to Barcelona who have succeeded in obtaining market traction almost universally complain about the paucity of appropriately skilled people and managers to hire. Entrepreneurial ventures can never grow without talent, and the two basic types of talent needed — new employers and new employees — must evolve together.

Furthermore (and here is where the parenting analogy breaks down), experience and the existing data suggest that a very small number of high-growth ventures may be sufficient to generate almost all of the social and economic benefits of entrepreneurship. One venture which grows to 100 people in five years is probably more beneficial (to entrepreneurs, shareholders, employees, and governments alike) than 50 which stagnate at two. Endeavor has recently shown that just two or three unusually scaling ventures can have an utterly disproportionate impact on dozens of successors, and impact the entrepreneurship culture in a region.

Which is more important, giving birth or raising children? Obviously, birth is necessary, but it is greatly insufficient. In focusing entrepreneurship policy almost exclusively on start-ups we are favoring quantity of start-up at the expense of quality of scale-up.

Cross posted from HBR on November 30, 2012. Image credit: edublogs.org

Daniel Isenberg is Professor of Management Practice, Babson Global, and founding executive director of the Babson Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Project.

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