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December 28, 2012

Issue 13 – December 28, 2012

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

Disrupt Yourself – Our Interview with Whitney Johnson.............................. Julie Anixter Innovation Themes from Architect Daniel Libeskind ……………..…….…. Scott Bowden 6 Innovation Roadblocks Worth Breaking Through ………….....…..……… Greg Verdino Innovation Philosophy and the Truth about Technology ..........................…. Greg Satell The Pope Tweets, so why not CEOs? .…………………………….…………… Kevin Maney Leadership Is About Leading …………………………..…………………………. Mike Myatt Lasting Behavioral Change ……………………………………………….….... Mike Shipulski When Innovation Goes Wrong ………………………………………..…...….. Rowan Gibson Why Environment Matters to Innovation ……………………………..….….. Jeffrey Phillips Who Wants a Big Mac for Christmas? Bah! Humbug! ….……….….…..… Adam Hartung

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:

Elderly Man’s Face over Dry Desert Background

Disrupt Yourself – Our Interview with Whitney Johnson
Posted on December 23, 2012 by Julie Anixter

Together we approach the end of 2012. Twelve Twelve Twelve had such a nice ring to it! Then December 14 th broke our collective hearts as we watched the events in Newtown unfold, destroying lives and so much of the joy of the season.

Here we are on December 23rd, mourning still and picking up the pieces, at least here in America, where mass murder happened (again) in our back yards.

But no matter where we are, and what tragedies and disappointments befall, all can never be lost while we can still find the courage to act. In the face of disappointment and worse, we can still act, and, must act and invoke our best selves to make it, invoking Lennon and McCartney, better, better, better, better. We believe one reason our IX community continues to grow with such vibrancy is that the word innovation is a powerful magnet for the best selves in all of us. The promise of innovation, however you define it, is a more enlightened way forward, especially when we can activate it in the broader conversation and create new irrefutable value.

This year, I’m consumed with a particular conversation inspired by Whitney Johnson, and indeed betting on dreaming as a key to our way forward. We may have to be a little more open and childlike, a little less cynical, to really dream. But this time of year has a certain sweetness to it, and offers the time to pause, reflect, and yes, do some active dreaming. Borrowing from the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow The Children’s Hour…

“Between the dark and the daylight, When the light is beginning to lower,

Comes a pause in the day’s occupation, That is known as the Children’s Hour.”

Pause and join me for the webinar interview Innovation Excellence did recently with author Whitney Johnson, whose book, Dare, Dream, Do, is interrupting or better yet, disrupting our notion of the role of dreaming in innovation and in life, and in doing so, challenging us to rethink what dreams mean to us.

Whitney is a deliberate strategist and investor, a big picture thinker who defies easy description. It is no surprise to me that a community is building around her on the HBR blog, on twitter, and in her speeches and classes, as she calls us to deliberately dare to dream fully enough to invest in and reshape our worlds. According to Whitney “it’s our privilege to dream” but we have to first dare to step up and take that privilege. As the year ends, we invite all of you to step up and claim that privilege for yourselves. The world really needs you.

photo image: whitneyjohnson.com

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Julie Anixter is Chief Innovation Officer at Maga Design and the executive editor and co-founder of Innovation Excellence. The co-author of three books, she’s working on a fourth on courage and innovation. She worked with Tom Peters for five years on bringing big ideas to big audiences. Now she works with the US Military, Healthcare, Manufacturing and other high test innovation cultures that make a difference.

Innovation Themes from Architect Daniel Libeskind
Posted on December 19, 2012 by Scott Bowden

One of the greatest modern architects is Daniel Libeskind, whose masterprieces range from the bold angles of the Denver Art Museum to the stunning alignment of old and new in the Dresden Military History Museum to the creative master plan for One World Trade Center in New York.

In a recent interview with Elmear Lynch in Conde Nast Traveler, Libeskind reflects on some of the great innovation themes that instructed his previous work and speculates on several new trends that will drive architectural innovation in the coming years. By parsing each of the ideas identified by Libeskind, we can derive useful insights into our work as practitioners of innovation. Libeskind’s themes can be useful tools for innovation workshops and can assist in brainstorming exercises.

Themes from Past Architectural Innovation
“Living Rooms Moved Outside”

In this theme, Libeskind explores the trend in urban living where living spaces became smaller while public green spaces grew in size. Libeskind factored this into his building designs by paying particular attention to room for outdoor seating and greenspace, which would be easily accessible by large entryway doors, such as his World Trade Center design.

Innovation Theme – For the innovator, we should think about turning concepts inside-out. For example, when thinking about a problem to solve, we should consider removing the problem from its current environs and flipping it to the opposite space to generate new ideas. A simple example would be a team designing a new leaf blower. The tool is designed to be used outside, but as a thought exercise the team should consider what it would be like to operate the tool indoors and think about the types of capabilities that would be needed operating in this new environment (noise reduction, adjustable speeds, smoke reduction, etc.). Thinking about these capabilities could provide insights for outdoor operation or identify a new concept that the team might have missed by its limited focus.

“Substance Became One with Style”

Libeskind’s theme here envisions matching form and function by conceptualizing not just how a building looks but also how it functions for the people who use the facility. In this architectural approach, conservation of water and energy carries the same importance as stunning exterior and interior design.

Innovation Theme – An innovator leading a product development team could trigger an interesting thought experiment by transposing the roles of team members. Engineers could focus on style, while marketers could focus on substance. By forcing individuals outside of their comfort

zones, the innovation leader could generate some interesting new concepts to consider for the product. Another idea would be for an innovation leader to make sure that his or her requirements are not solely focused on form or function but, rather, represent a mix of the two.

“Nations Declined as Cities Rose Up”

According to Libeskind, the city has evolved into a much more important entity than in the past, almost the point of the city-states of the past that are all-encompassing in their pluralism and power. Cities reinvented themselves from declining relics into powerhouses of creativity and growth.

Innovation Theme – The re-emergence of cities in terms of prominence vis-a-vis the nation is a classic case of Mark Twain’s famous assertion that the reports of his demise were greatly exaggerated. There was a time where cities were seen as over-tired remnants of a time gone by and that they could not compete with the growing suburbs and exurbs because of infrastructure and space limitations. Some of the great cities of the world have fought this migration and transformed themselves to the point where the migration is reversed and cities are once again the land of opportunity. For the innovator, this theme indicates the importance of focusing intensively on the inherent value of an entity rather than the outward appearance. During the period of their supposed decline, cities still maintained at their essence an energy and vitality that the suburbs and exurbs would never be able to match. The job of the innovator working on a new concept is to identify that core essence of an entity and find ways to drive it to the surface.

Themes from Future Architectural Innovation
“Everyone will be an Architect”

Software, Libeskind notes, will enable individuals to design their own architectural solutions and be less dependent on experts. People will be able to generate their own blueprints for complex designs without incurring the large costs of traditional architectural services.

Innovation Theme – An innovation team could focus on where some task, process, or technology is complex and costly today but could be rendered simple and more user-friendly in the future. The team could then consider the implications of that transformation and identify new products and services that would flow from that newly-enabled simplicity.

“Individualization will Reign”

In this innovation theme, Libeskind observes that the era of mass production is nearing an end and mass-customization will insert itself into the manufacturing process. Architecture will become more of an extension of the individual and less of a statement of the masses.

Innovation Theme – An innovator could look at a product from the perspective of the end user or customer and think about the different attributes of that product that the end user would want to customize if given the opportunity prior to the manufacturing process. For instance, who would have imagined years ago that so much attention would be paid to the color of interior and exterior lighting in an automobile interior?

“Rooms will Change in the Blink of an Eye”

According to Libeskind, architecture will evolve away from its current static nature. Windows that can become opaque by sensing the light of the sun, along with floors that change appearance at the flip of a switch, will drive instant transformation to spaces that were once considered static.

Innovation Theme – This theme focuses on the size and rapidity of transformation. By size we mean something more than just a picture frame on a desk. Rather, we mean to target an entire wall of windows, or a floor for an entire room, with transformative capabilities. By rapidity, we mean the speed of the transformation. We are all familiar with transformation by re-arranging furniture or painting a room a new color. This innovation would focus on that change happening instantaneously. For an innovation workshop, we could look at a product, process, or technology and ask ourselves what value could be derived from large-scale, rapid changes to the target concept.

“Small Spaces will Make Us Smarter”

It is well-known that the increasing interactions of individuals in cities result in an innovation premium derived from certain urban locations (New York, London, Shanghai, etc.). Libeskind sees increasing urbanization trends continuing to drive innovation and greater intelligence, as larger number of people must be creative about organizing their lives in smaller spaces.

Innovation Theme – Two of the driving forces behind the increasing innovation activity occurring in cities are friction and doing more with less. Friction is the greater interaction between human beings that is facilitated by a city. The more people packed into a smaller space, the greater the frequency and intensity of interactions among those people. Over the course of time, these increased interactions lead to a greater likelihood of sharing ideas. Likewise, doing more with less is a typical requirement for urban dwellers who know they will have limited space for their daily lives, thus forcing them to think about how to get more out of their living spaces. For an innovator, this theme could mean increasing the quantity of participants in a workshop to obtain a greater variety of ideas and thinking about a problem from the standpoint of how to do more with less.

“Historic Cities will get Modern”

Libeskind’s final theme is magnificently demonstrated in his design for the Dresden Military History Museum. In this theme, old and new must co-exist in historic cities by leveraging the power of contemporary architecture to bring out the eminence of the relics of the past.

Innovation Theme – This theme emphasizes the surprising value of a juxtaposition of old and new. For an innovator working on a new product or service, a thought exercise could be to juxtapose that new concept with some themes from the past, looking for inspiration or ideas in the way that past innovators solved a problem.

By using these different themes from Libeskind’s observations on past and present architectural innovations, the innovation practitioner can inject new thinking into his or her efforts. If the innovator is not inspired by thinking through these different themes, then perhaps a trip to visit one of Libeskind’s architectural creations is in order.

Source: Eimear Lynch, “The Future of Design: Architect Daniel Libeskind’s Predictions,” Conde Nast Traveler (December 2012), p. 40.

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Scott Bowden works on Innovation Programs for IBM Global Services.

6 Innovation Roadblocks Worth Breaking Through
Posted on December 23, 2012 by Greg Verdino

If there’s a poster child for innovation, it’s most likely Thomas Edison. And if there’s a slogan scrawled across his poster, it’s probably his often-cited quote, I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work“, which is generally believed to relate to his work on the light bulb.

If you’re looking for a nicely packaged call for the power of perseverance, the rewards received for taking risks, or the benefits of having a go-get-’em can-do attitude you really can’t do much better than these words of wisdom from the man who gave the world the light bulb, the telegraph, the phonograph and motion pictures. It’s little wonder that innovation pundits love to trot out this oldie but goodie to inspire business leaders to lean further into the future, take chances, accommodate failure, and adopt an innovation mindset.

Granted Edison may never have actually said these words (although generally attributed to the inventor, they’ve never been confirmed as his own). For that matter — despite popular belief — he didn’t really invent the light bulb, arguably the object most often associated with his name and the icon that has become the de facto visual shorthand for “great idea”, but an invention that predates his work to improve upon it by roughly 50 years. So not to take anything away from the man (his accomplishments are many), but the 10,000 ways that won’t work story is a myth. An innovation creation myth of sorts, from which the permission to innovate springs forth.

But neither a questionable quote nor a faulty fact point to the real issue here. You see, as inspirational as it may seem, the 10,000 ways quote doesn’t actually provide a formula for successful innovation (sorry experts!). By any measure, no matter what the end result, 10,000 tries for every every successful completion make for a very poor track record. 10,000 to 1 is a ratio that favors quantity over quality, and suggests that the answer lies in generating more ideas when in reality it lies in generating good ideas. More and good are not mutually exclusive of course, but imagine the resources a 10,000 idea torrent would consume in your own business. And imagine how long it could take to generate, filter and then find the (arguably) few ideas even worth testing — even with an open innovation model in which the ideas may come fast and furious, the follow up effort of giving each idea the appropriate level of consideration is hardly a trivial task. Maybe businesses had the luxury of time back around the turn of the last century, but a dozen years into this century the frenzied pace of change means that time is of the essence. Innovators need fast. Innovators need efficient. Innovators need to find the one thing that works without having to wade through the 10,000 that won’t.

So 10,000 ways is a myth that might encourage an otherwise risk adverse leader to consider innovation — but it’s not one that serves today’s companies particularly well. Oh well…

That said, this type of myth may actually be the lesser of two evils. At a bare minimum, the 10,000 ways quote speaks to the importance of trying again and again, until you ultimately break through the roadblock that sits between you and your goal. It’s benign compared to the

many innovation myths that have the exact opposite effect: The effect of holding businesses back — misconceptions about what innovation is, where it sits in an organization, how it gets done, and what it’s meant to accomplish. For the remainder of this post, I’d like to run down some of these myths — the innovation roadblocks — and bust them one by one.

6 Innovation Roadblocks Worth Busting Through

Myth #1: Innovation Is Just Ideas. Edisonian math aside, ideas are indeed important to innovation — what’s less clear is whether your innovation effort will require three, 300 or 30,000 ideas in order to get to a single solution. They key word there is solution. Innovation isn’t about generating ideas — it is about finding solutions. To create value, innovation must focus on solving a clearly defined challenge (for the company or, even better, for its customers) through applied creativity, a clear path to implementation, and an eye on accountability. If your company’s attempts at innovation amount to little more than shiny object chasing and trivial distractions from the matter at hand, it’s not because your ideas aren’t any good (they may be, they may not be). It’s because you haven’t kept your purpose in mind.

Myth #2: Innovation Can Be Handled as an Event. When companies confuse ideas with innovation, they tend to rely too heavily on eventbased innovation exercises like brainstorming sessions or executive off-sites. Sure, they can be fun, the participants leave jazzed, and the organizers feel like they’ve amassed a handful of new ideas. But within a day or two, everyone goes back to business as usual. Plenty ventured, nothing gained. Why? Because real results require an always-on approach, sustainable processes, and platforms that empower your people (and in the social era, your customers and partners) to function as a well-tuned innovation capability. (More thinking on innovation capabilities here.)

Myth #3: R&D Owns Innovation. R&D absolutely plays a key role in product innovation, but even on that front it can be a mistake for the customer-facing functions in an organization (like marketing, sales and customer support, at the very least) to relinquish their own roles in making sure innovation is market-focused. But that’s not the only reason to debunk the notion of R&D-only innovation. Done right, innovation creates competitive advantage by differentiating your business across all core areas — from strategy, sales and customer service, to people, product and process (not to mention everything in between). I can’t think of many R&D organizations that would consider improving marketing

efficacy by employing new social or mobile strategies, increasing company cash flow by adopting an untried approach to collections, or increasing knowledge sharing and productivity by fostering a more collaborative mindset to be among their top priorities. In fact, I can think of exactly zero R&D departments where this would be the case. So who really owns innovation? Everybody in the organization — at least as it pertains to delivering excellence in their own areas of subject matter expertise. But even better, beyond their own areas of subject matter expertise. Who’s to say an accounting clerk might not have a creative solution to a supply chain problem or branding challenge?

Myth #4: Innovation Is All iPhones. This is my shorthand for a common innovation objection — one that is closely related to the R&D argument just above, and hinges upon the notions that all innovation is radical or disruptive, and that all innovation aims to bring bold new products into the world. A couple of years back, I was doing some work with the innovation lead at a large consumer packaged goods company. In his role, he considered it his job to bring to life not only innovations that were new to the world or even new to his category, but also those that were simply new to his company. Good thinking. No matter what business you’re in, success requires you to manage a diverse portfolio of radical, substantial and incremental innovations that together strike the right balance between risks and rewards. In fact, it can often be the incremental, bread-and-butter changes that add up to lasting value. Remember — Edison didn’t invent the light bulb; he improved on it. Yet a century later, his is the name we most closely associate with our bright present.

Taking things one step further (Myth #4.5 perhaps), it might even be a mistake to think of new products as core to innovation (whether radical, substantial or incremental) at all. Today, businesses are more likely to have greater impact by focusing their efforts on creating new value through experiences (products + services + participation) or new business models, even where the product itself is essentially unchanged. For example, Zipcar didn’t change the car but they did introduce a new model by which urban dwellers can rent it; Netflix didn’t reinvent the DVD but they did change the model by which movie fans rent those. Business Model is the new iPhone — and your company or industry may not be aching for its next iPhone-caliber product innovation, but its basic business model might benefit from some shaking up (from the inside out).

Myth #5: Innovation Is Out of Reach. This one comes in a variety of forms but the two objections I hear most often boil down to my industry isn’t interesting enough and but I’m not a visionary. Neither holds water, in my opinion. One of Clayton Christensen’s most popular examples of disruption pits upstart, low-end rebar manufacturers against established, high-end sheet metal fabricators. I’m sure the steel industry is fascinating to some, but it’s hardly the stuff of next generation entrepreneurial day dreams. No business is so boring as to be insusceptible to change. Then we have the popular mythology that surrounds modern day Edisons like Steve Jobs — here was a man who foresaw the future

not just once but several times over, remaking industries as diverse as home computing, entertainment and telecommunications. How can anyone compare, particularly if she’s a merely mortal accountant, attorney, corporate program manager, or marketing strategist? Here’s how… Innovation doesn’t require you to understand the future, so much as it requires you to understand your customers’ needs. I know Jobs was famous for disregarding customer needs in favor of creating new-to-the-world products that would ultimately create unrealized customer demand. Fantastic, but for most of us, defining more effective or more efficient ways to meeting known or clearly emerging customer demands — whether your customers are external to your business or internal to it, as they may be for those who work in finance, corporate communications, project management or other ostensibly meat-and-potatoes functions — lies at the heart of sustained, always-on innovation. In short, if you can conceive of a better way to do even just one small aspect of your job, and have just enough drive to do something about it, you are playing a role in business innovation. It may not be iTunes, iPhone or iPad sexy, but it is just as vital to the ongoing success of your company.

Myth #6: Innovation Is Optional. In today’s business environment, it’s difficult enough to sustain momentum, all-consuming just to maintain the status quo. Can we really afford to invent the future when there’s so much to get done just to keep pace with the present? The truth is, you can’t afford not to. For businesses — and business people — who believe that innovation is a nice to have more than a must have, a flavor of the month more than a nourishing staple of their diet, this myth is the most damaging of all. It’s the one that gives permission to get by with an occasional and ineffective check-the-box-for-innovation brainstorm, to abdicate responsibility to the guys in the goggles, to place the promise of innovation just out of reach. It’s the one that causes companies to fall behind, fall out of favor, and fall apart in the face of disruption. Disruption is only disruption when it happens to you from outside your organization and beyond your control. Otherwise, it’s transformation — and innovation is the engine for positive transformation. It is essential. Just as Peter Drucker (or Milan Kundera, or maybe both — yet another disputed quote) contends that innovation is one of only two basic functions of a business, former Proctor & Gamble chairman A.G. Lafley has said, “Innovation is the central job of every leader — business unit managers, functional leaders, and the CEO.” Now that’s a mandate worth repeating 10,000 or so times over.

Now, while I don’t suppose there are 9,994 additional roadblocks — or harmful myths — that throw businesses off track when it comes to innovation, I do expect there are more than the simple six I’ve laid out here.

So this is where you come in. What other myths, misconceptions or roadblocks do you see holding companies back when it comes to turning innovation into a competitive advantage?

image credit: notablebiographies.com

Greg Verdino is Founder & Principal Strategist of VERDINO LLC. His company is a strategic consultancy that helps organizations create and capture value in the hyper-connected economy. Greg’s current and recent clients include AT&T, Audyssey, Discover Financial Services, Healthfirst, Katz Media Group, Power Balance, Samsung, Sanofi Aventis, and the State of Michigan; and has partnered with best-in-category agency, consultancy and technology partners including The BLEND Agency, Dachis Group, INgage Networks, Luminary Labs, refine+focus, StrategyJQ and Upstart Labs.

Innovation Philosophy and the Truth about Technology
Posted on December 19, 2012 by Greg Satell

Einstein was a low-level clerk when he dreamed up relativity. Mendel was a monk when he discovered genetics. The structure of DNA was cracked not by the acclaimed minds of the day, but by two young, underachieving post-grads working in relative obscurity.

Breakthrough innovations tend to pop up in funny places. Some like penicillin and teflon were accidents. Others, like the Internet, world wide web and the graphical user interface, originated in big labs, but flourished elsewhere.

What do we make of that? Why do really big ideas tend to come from small places? How do we push our organizations to innovate when it seems like organization itself often squelches innovation? The answer lies, strangely enough, not so much in organizational structure, but in organizational purpose, outlook and philosophy.

Why Germany Kant Compete
Way back in 1999, when the Web was just beginning to pay off economic dividends, it had already became clear that America was dominating the digital space. But why? The Web, after all was a European invention, born at a CERN, a massive government funded physics lab that had little use for it.

The story is not unique. Steve Jobs famously made use of Xerox PARC’s innovations to create the Macintosh, a fact that led Malcolm Gladwell to proclaim him a tweaker. It seems that, in the digital age, such tweakers have the advantage, while massive R&D centers, with all of their brains and resource, are left to watch in awe as others exploit the fruits of their labor.

The economist, Paul Krugman, wrote an essay, Why Germany Kant Compete, in July of 1999 that proposed an interesting explanation. The answer, he argued, lay not in economics, but in philosophy:

The real divide between currently successful economies, like the U.S., and currently troubled ones, like Germany, is not political but philosophical; it’s not Karl Marx vs. Adam Smith, it’s Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative vs. William James’ pragmatism.

What the Germans really want is a clear set of principles: rules that specify the nature of truth, the basis of morality, when shops will be open, and what a Deutsche mark is worth.

Americans, by contrast, are philosophically and personally sloppy: They go with whatever seems more or less to work. If people want to go shopping at 11 P.M., that’s okay; if a dollar is sometimes worth 80 yen, sometimes 150, that’s also okay.

Therefore, he concluded, over the long haul orderly institutions get better at making things efficiently and with precision, while ad hoc upstarts are more likely to try new things and adapt to change.

The Corporate Divide
Krugman’s notion is especially troubling for large corporations. They, after all, have to get things done. They have employees and suppliers to pay, investors to keep happy and margins to maintain. The trains need to run on time. If they don’t, the organization’s stock price will fall and they will become a takeover target.

Making money is hard work. It requires a certain amount of planning and organization. Expenses must be subject to an approval process, investment must be planned through an asset allocation strategy and so on. Senior management has to keep a steady hand at the helm or chaos will ensue.

That’s in stark contrast to start-ups, where chaos is often the order of the day. The problem is, they rarely make money. They often fail and the ones that do succeed, as I’ve noted before, end up having their own problems. Some falter and are unable to stay competitive, others, like AOL and Yahoo, continue to make money but become unable to innovate.

Infinite Monkeys and the Library of Babel
I think that key to the problem is the infinite monkey theorem made famous by the Jorge Luis Borges story The Library of Babel. The basic idea is that if you had enough monkeys at typewriters, they could compile all the great works of literature just by pecking randomly. Great works would, in fact, just be a matter of time and curation.

The idea is disturbing because we have come to prize our Homers and our Kafkas, just as we revere our Einsteins, our Watsons, our Cricks and, of course, Steve Jobs. It’s not just the innovations themselves that thrill us, but that fact that the story has a hero. Tales without protagonists are notoriously poor sellers.

But why? Scholars doubt that Homer existed. Kafka died completely unknown. Einstein, Watson and Crick discovered no new information, but simply synthesized the ideas of others. Others surely would have put the pieces together in time. Einstein published his theory of general relativity only one week before David Hilbert published another version.

The truth is, as I’ve written before, technology is something we uncover more than it is something we build. The monkeys have already written the story and we are merely curators in our own Library of Babel.

Strategy, Optimization and Innovation
Big ideas are useless. They represent a new uncovering and therefore don’t apply to the world as it is, but as it might become. Small ideas don’t get noticed, we merely put them to their purpose and call it a day’s work. We of course, need both: to uncover and to build.

That’s the fundamental difference between strategy, optimization and innovation. Strategy and optimization are products of design. Successful organizations are immense undertakings in clockmaking, where each piece needs to work in lockstep with every other piece. Innovators, of course, are searching for a new way to tell the time.

The real trick is to be able to do both. As F. Scott Fitzgerald put it, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function”

image credit: wikipedia.org

Greg Satell is a consultant who concentrates on media, marketing and innovation. Check out at his site, Digital Tonto and follow him on twitter @digitaltonto

The Pope Tweets, so why not CEOs?
Posted on December 25, 2012 by Kevin Maney

So the Pope plans to tweet. Which makes him, at age 85, more savvy about digital content than most Fortune 500 CEOs.

CEOs tend to wonder why they should be on Twitter, or what they’d say, or what value tweeting could possibly bring to them or their companies. But here’s what Pope Benedict has already proven: People want to hear from their leaders. Within 24 hours of announcing and setting up his account, the Pope got 370,000 followers. That’s before a single tweet.

How does that rack up in the Twitter universe? For one thing, CEOs are pretty much nowhere to be found. The most followed person on Twitter is Lady Gaga, with 31.7 million followers. She’s just ahead of Justin Bieber, Katy Perry and Rihanna — and then comes President Obama with 24.1 million followers.

After Obama, every top tweeter is a performer or sports figure or entity like CNN, until you get to Bill Gates at number 37. Gates has 9 million followers — and he actually aggressively tweets, almost entirely about issues related to his philanthropic work.

Rex Tillerson, CEO of the biggest company, ExxonMobil, doesn’t have a Twitter account. Neither does Michael Duke, CEO of the secondbiggest company, Wal-Mart. Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon and Fortune‘s business person of the year, doesn’t tweet. Neither does Keith Wandell, CEO of Harley-Davidson. Surely lots of Harley fans would want to follow Wandell.

Warren Buffett has a Twitter account and 117,603 followers. He’s tweeted exactly once — on Feb. 20, 2009, to say he was about to start tweeting. That’s a lot of disappointed followers.

On the other hand, Jeff Immelt, GE’s CEO, tweets quite a lot, but hardly anyone seems to care — at least compared to Lady Gaga, or even a deficient tweeter like Buffett. Immelt has 6,327 followers.

Certainly Twitter is not a stand-alone content strategy. Just tweeting doesn’t do much. But it can be an effective part of a broader plan to win an audience. You want those brief little tweets to take people to other content — videos, books, products, news, etc. And you want to pump out tweets that matter, so that followers will re-tweet, spreading the word. As Mo Rocca says, re-tweeting is the new applause.

image credit: mexicotoday.org

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Kevin Maney, journalist and author, is Editorial Director at VSA Partners. His book credits include: Making the World Work Better, commissioned by IBM; The Two-Second Advantage: How We Succeed by Anticipating the Future…Just Enough; and Trade-Off: Why Some Things Catch On, and Others Don’t. At USA Today for 22 years, he was the technology columnist, and has also contributed to Fortune, The Atlantic, Fast Company and other magazines. Kevin has appeared on PBS, NPR, CNBC, and is a frequent keynote speaker and on-stage interviewer at events and conferences.

Leadership Is About Leading
Posted on December 24, 2012 by Mike Myatt

Leadership is about leading. Leadership is a 24-7-365 endeavor. In fact, I’d go so far as to say the best leaders view what they do as a calling and not just a job. If you’re a leader, what you do in public or private, in silence or in word, and in thought or in deed will be observed, evaluated and critiqued – count on it.

There are simply no free passes for leaders. Don’t believe me? Just look around – the news is littered each day with examples of people in leadership positions who ignore or forget what I’ve just espoused. In today’s post I’ll examine the fallacy of leading by not leading.

There has been an interesting amount of chatter of late around the concept of “when to lead.” What puzzles me is this statement’s inference there must be a good time not to lead. I couldn’t disagree more – abdication is not a leadership quality, characteristic or trait. Leaders who view their role as a part-time activity will be replaced by those who realize the frivolity of such a belief. When you’re in a leadership role, everything you do is on the clock. Whether you realize it or not, everything you do as a leader is leading – the question is whether or not your action or inaction constitutes good or bad leadership.

Let me take a moment and dismiss the sophomoric leadership theorists who believe that sometimes a leader must not lead by stepping-back, stepping-aside or stepping-away and acquiescing leadership to others. This doesn’t represent an example of not leading, rather it is a great example of real leadership. Real leaders know that choosing to surrender the floor, to remain silent, to delegate, or to utilize any number of other subtle acts of leadership demonstrate astute examples of situational and contextual leadership.

Furthermore, real leaders don’t stop leading when they leave the workplace – they are the same person at work, in the home, or in social settings. They also understand effective leadership doesn’t always require a physical presence. They recognize good leadership is transferable,

distributable and scalable, and therefore, should continue in their absence as well. Leadership that doesn’t exist in the absence of a leader really isn’t leadership at all.

Leadership isn’t about volume – it’s about vision. Leadership has little to do with personal glory, but everything to do with influencing the right outcomes. Smart leaders understand leadership influence is multi-directional and can come from many angles. While leadership is most easily recognized when appearing from the front, it is often times more effective being exerted from behind through service, or in collaborative engagement standing along side those you lead. Regardless of approach, great leaders understand leadership failure comes most often when leaders fail to lead.

Everything you do as a leader sets an example or sends a message – good or bad. Leaders are measured by how they conduct themselves online and offline, in business and social settings, and by how they value family and friends. Whether you accept a leadership position, or are thrust into a leadership role by circumstance, once you make the choice to be a leader you must ALWAYS lead. Dismiss or forget this advice at great cost and peril – remember it and you’ll be long admired for your service as a leader.

Thoughts?

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

Lasting Behavioral Change
Posted on December 22, 2012 by Mike Shipulski

Whether it’s innovation, creativity, continuous improvement, or discontinuous improvement, it’s all about cultural change, and cultural change is about change in behavior.

With the police state approach, detailed processes are created and enforced; rules are created and monitored; and training is dealt out and attendance taken. Yes, behavior is changed, but it’s fleeting. Take your eye off the process, old behavior slips through the fence; look the other way from the rules, old behavior clips the barbed wire and climbs over the wall. To squelch old behavior with the police state approach, gulag energy must be consistently applied.

To squelch is one thing, but to create lasting behavior change is another altogether. But as different as they are, there’s a blurry line of justice that flips innocent to guilty. And to walk the line you’ve got to know where it is:

 

Apply force, yes, but only enough to prevent backsliding – like a human ratchet. Push much harder and heels dig in. The only thing slower than going slow is going too fast. (Remember, you’re asking people to change the why of their behavior.) Go slow to go fast.

Set direction and stay the course, unless there’s good reason to change. And when the team comes to you with a reason, deem it a good one, and the cornerstone of trust is laid. (This is a game of trust, not control.)

But there are some mantras to maximize:

  

Over emphasize the positive and overlook the negative. Praise in public. Don’t talk, do.

The first two stand on their own, but the third deserves reinforcement.

This isn’t about your words; it’s about your behavior. And that’s good because you have full authority over your behavior. Demonstrate the new behavior so everyone knows what it looks like. Lead the way with your actions. Show them how it’s done. For lasting change, change your behavior.

Even if changing your behavior influences only one person, you’re on your way. The best prison riots start with a single punch.

Dr. Mike Shipulski brings together the best of Design for Manufacturing and Assembly, Axiomatic Design, TRIZ, and lean to develop innovative products and technologies. His blog can be found at Shipulski On Design.

When Innovation Goes Wrong
Posted on December 23, 2012 by Rowan Gibson

Ever since innovation became the buzzword du Jour, a lot of people seem to have lost their ability to tell smart ideas from stupid ones. Case in point: the financial “innovations” (read: stunningly stupid loan products) that kicked off the trillion-dollar economic meltdown mess we’re currently in. The simplistic notion that “new equals good” has often been a recipe for grand-scale disaster, just as it was in the dotcom debacle at the turn of the millennium. And when the doo-doo inevitably hits the fan, it’s all too easy to level the blame at innovation per se rather than admit to being a bonehead. Here’s why many ideas that are labeled “innovations” are just plain stupidity.

Simply put, innovation goes wrong (sometimes big time) when an organization over-commits to an idea before validating the key assumptions on which it is based. Let’s take the infamous sub-prime mortgage. The assumption here was that a jobless, homeless person who is just out of jail and doesn’t even have a bank account can afford to make mortgage repayments of any description, let alone horrendously overpriced ones.

The idea of selling mortgages to poor people with bad credit was clearly “new” given that banks have traditionally offered 30-year, fixed-rate amortizing home loans to people who looked like they could actually pay the money back. But going after this risky, low-end market segment with a ripoff financial product wasn’t exactly what the late C.K. Prahalad had in mind when he talked about “the fortune at the bottom of the pyramid”. And it turns out – duh! – that this particular “financial innovation” wasn’t a very smart one (to put it mildly), and even less smart when used as the cornerstone for a multitrillion dollar house-of-cards based on endless derivatives of derivatives.

“Innovation can never be risk-free, but you can certainly make sure you look before you leap.”

It’s precisely big boondoggles like this one that give innovation a bad name. In fact, columnist Paul Krugman wrote in the New York Times that “financial innovation” is a phase that “should, from now on, strike fear into investors’ hearts.” Yet should the financial services industry – or any industry for that matter – now decide to “throw the baby out with the bathwater” when it comes to innovation? Absolutely not. It’s worth remembering that over the last couple of decades, innovation has given us a string of success stories in financial services: Charles Schwab’s online equity trading, Commerce Bank’s open-all-day, seven-days-aweek business model, First Direct’s branchless banking, Grameen Bank’s micro-credit lending concept, PayPal’s userfriendly, online-payment service, or Umpqua Bank’s people-centered retail

environments, to name just a few. The difference with these opportunities is that they were all based on very solid assumptions about the viability and sustainability of the business model; they were not built on proverbial sand. That’s why these innovations have created significant new value and wealth, instead of destroying it.

Unfortunately, there are all too many cases where companies have overcommitted to an idea that wouldn’t even pass the sanity test. These tend to be ideas where the customer benefit is unclear or unimportant to people, or where the technology is not yet up to the task, or where the market is just not there, or where the business model is so stupid that it’s dead on arrival. Instead of first checking the validity of critical assumptions on which the idea is based, sometimes a company (or even a whole industry) decides to jump from 10,000 feet without a spare parachute, hoping against hope that the thing will somehow work.

Take Iridium, Motorola’s failed satellite telephone venture, which was built on a fundamentally flawed assumption about the size of the target market. Basically, Motorola totally underestimated the speed at which cellular coverage would spread. Their premise was that there would be huge regional gaps in the global network – parts of the world that would have no mobile phone coverage for a long time to come. That would have made Iridium the perfect answer. It turned out quite quickly that those regions would be very few and far between (you would practically have to be an Arctic explorer to need an Iridium phone!), so the target market soon shrank to insignificance. This is something Motorola should have known better.

Or take Webvan, the “oh-so-dotcom” online grocery business that burned through a billion dollars and went belly-up. There was nothing fundamentally flawed about the idea of online grocery shopping, as a host of other retailers have since proven. Rather, Webvan’s massive failure was based on a whole series of flawed and untested assumptions around the customer value proposition, the economic engine, the value of partnerships, and the product and service offering.

Business history is full of such examples: from Coca-Cola’s infamous “New Coke”, to GM’s all-electric EV-1 project (which cost a billion dollars and sold only 700 vehicles), to all those other empty dot-com business models in the late 1990s – like Pets.com – that quickly disappeared. The lesson from all these disasters is to look before you leap. A

company should first reduce the uncertainty surrounding critical project assumptions before committing irreversible and non-recoverable resources to an idea. The greater the uncertainty surrounding these assumptions, the greater the risk associated with any new opportunity. Therefore, the focus of an innovation project should initially be on learning rather than earning. It should be on launching experiments to test whether a business model makes sense or not, or whether a new technology will work or not, or whether customers would value the new service, or what they would be willing to pay for it, or which product configuration would work best, or which distribution channels would be most effective, and so on.

Clearly, innovation can never be risk-free. But the process of validating or invalidating these critical project assumptions should stop you from ever completely misreading the basic economics of an opportunity. It will make sure that hubris never gets the better of humility.

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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.

Why Environment Matters to Innovation
Posted on December 20, 2012 by Jeffrey Phillips

I’d like to write today about the concept of environment, and why it matters so much to innovation. This blog post and others that will follow are meant to expound on the Innovation Workmat that Paul Hobcraft and I developed and published in Innovation Excellence. Within the “workmat” we identified 7 domains that executives and senior managers can influence which accelerate or limit innovation. One that I’ve dealt with recently, even this week, is the concept of “environment“.

In this context, environment has several meanings. The first is obvious, the environment in which you work. Is the physical environment conducive to innovation? The second context is the intangible environment erected by your corporate culture. This creates barriers and limits to thinking, to risk and uncertainty. Does your intangible environment block innovation? The third context is an internal/external environment. How “far” does your environment reach? Do you have extensive interactions and networks with external partners, customers and prospects? The fourth context examines the fluidity of your environment. Does your organization have porous borders? Can you find a good idea or technology outside the boundaries of your organization and bring in “inside”?

Physical Environment

If physical environments didn’t matter to the human condition then we’d all live in the most simple, unadorned caves. Designers, architects and people concerned with interior design, spaces and human interaction understand that spaces and environments impact the thinking and behavior of the people in the environment. A dull gray regimented environment leads, more often than not, to dull gray regimented thinking. I had the chance to lead an innovation session with a client this week in a space purpose built for creativity and innovation. Several of the people commented as they entered the space “I feel more comfortable and creative already”. Their work environment (where the environment is built for efficiency) doesn’t support or sustain creativity. Space, environment, design of the physical meeting and idea generation space matters. Every firm that seeks to create more innovation ought to either create a more creative space in which its innovation teams can work, or find local partners who offer such spaces. Some we’ve worked with include Catalyst Ranch and the Magellan Idea Center.

Intangible Environment

While we interact with the physical environment – walls, floors, halls and cubes – we also interact with the intangible environment. By intangible environment I mean the attitudes, perspectives and organizational thinking and history formed by corporate culture. These create intangible “walls” as rigid and unyielding as physical walls. A risk averse, highly efficient firm can create an interesting new physical space, but it must also change its intangible environment – its culture. Any sufficiently powerful culture can impact how people think, the depth and breadth of their

ideas, the amount of creativity they are willing to embrace and the kinds of ideas they can create. The intangible environment must be addressed at least as much as the tangible environment.

Reach of your networks

In the book the Innovator’s DNA the authors describe five qualities that many innovators share. One of them is the breadth and diversity of the individual’s network. Your corporate environment impacts the breadth and depth of your network, and by extension your ability to generate interesting ideas. It’s been demonstrated that good innovators have larger, more extensive and more diverse networks. They are influenced by ideas and technologies within their industry or geography, and by ideas that exist outside their industry or geography. These insights are refreshed by conferences, trade shows, customer interactions and their personal and professional networks. When companies limit travel or restrict access to trade shows or conferences, or provide marketing information on paper rather than as an engagement with live prospects, they limit the experience and the external environment, which limits the range and depth of insights and ideas.

How porous is your boundary?

Henry Chesbrough popularized the idea of “open” innovation, and it continues to be a source of great discussion. The real question for your organization and its “environment” is – how porous is your corporate boundary? Has your executive team come “on board” to the idea of open innovation? What types or approaches are acceptable? What potential partners or customers can contribute ideas, technology or intellectual property? What happens to the ideas as they cross the organizational threshold? Good ideas exist outside your organization, and may be within your innovation “environment” but your organization and its leadership must define the best partners and approved approaches, and must demonstrate that the origin of an idea is less important than its potential.

Environment matters

We live and work in a petri dish of physical walls and intangible expectations. Beyond our regular petri dish are other teams in other dishes working on similar and wildly different ideas and technologies. Realizing that the environment matters, adjusting both the internal and external environments to achieve more innovation, and integrating both environments for greater innovation exchange will drive far more innovation in your business.

image credit: group meeting 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.

Who Wants a Big Mac for Christmas? Bah! Humbug! McDonald’s Scrooge!
Posted on December 24, 2012 by Adam Hartung

How would you recognize signs of a troubled business? Often the key indicator is when leadership clearly takes “more of the same” to excess.

This week McDonald’s leadership began encouraging franchisees to open on Christmas Day. Their primary objective, clearly stated, was to produce more revenue and hopefully show a strong December.

I nominate McDonald’s action for the 2012 Dickens’ Award as the most Scrooge-est business behavior this season.

“Christmas is but an excuse for workers to pick their employer’s pockets every 25th December” is I believe how Charles Dickens put it in “A Christmas Carol.” Poor Jacob Marley couldn’t even have 1 day off per year. And in McDonald’s case the company founder actually made it corporate policy to never be open on Thanksgiving or Christmas days so employees could be with family.

Bah! Humbug!

Now, there are a lot of trends McDonald’s could legitimately cite when making a case for being open on Christmas – a case that could actually shed a positive light on the company:

The number of single people has risen over the last decade. This trend means that many more people now have a need for at least one meal not in a family setting on 25 December.

America has a large and storied Jewish community for whom 25 December does not have a special religious meaning. For these
people enjoying their habitual norms such as eating at McDonald’s would indicate an open-minded company supports all faiths.

America is a nation of immigrants. While the founders were European Christians, today America has a very diverse group of immigrants, especially from Asia and the Indian sub-continent, who follow Islam and other faiths for which 25 December has, again, no particular meaning. Offering them a place to eat on their day off could show a connection with their growing importance to America’s future. An act of understanding to their impact on the country.

These are just 3, and there are likely more and better ones (please offer your thoughts in the comments section.) But truthfully, this is not why McDonald’s is urging franchisees to toil on this national holiday. Instead, it is just to make a buck.

But then again, what trend has McDonald’s successfully leveraged in the last… let’s say 2 decades? Despite the rapid growth of high end coffee, the “McCafe” concept was a decade late, and so missed the mark that it has made no impact when competing against Caribou Coffee, Peet’s or Starbucks. And it has had minimal benefit for McDonald’s.

To understand the dearth of new products just go to McDonald’s web site where you’ll see an animated ad for the “101 reasons to eat a McRib” – that mystery meat product which is at least 30 years old and rotated on and off the menu in the guise of “something new.”

McDonald’s had a very rough last quarter. It’s sales per store declined versus a year ago. The number of stores has stagnated, sales are stagnant, new products are non-existent. Even Ronald McDonald has aged, and apparently moved on to the nursing home. What can you think about that is exciting about McDonald’s?

Desperate to do something, McDonald’s fired the head of North America. But that doesn’t fix the growth problem at McDonald’s, it just demonstrates the company is internally fixated on blame rather understanding external market shifts and taking action. McDonald’s keeps doing more of the same, year after year; such as opening more stores in emerging markets, staying open longer hours at existing locations and even opening on Thanksgiving and Christmas in the U.S.

McDonald’s Ghost of Christmas past was its great strength, from its origin, of consistency. In the 1960s when people traveled away from home they could never be quite sure what a restaurant offered. McDonald’s offered a consistent product, that people liked, at a consistent (and affordable) price. This success formula launched tremendous growth, and a revolution in America’s restaurant industry, creating a great string of joyous past Christmases.

But the Ghost of Christmas present is far more bleak. 50 years have passed, and now people have a lot more options – and much higher expectations – regarding dining. But McDonald’s really has failed to adapt. So now it is struggling to grow, struggling to meet goals, struggling to be a kind and gentle employer. Now asking its employees to work on Christmas – and ostensibly eat Big Macs.

What is the Ghost of Christmas Future for McDonald’s? Not surprisingly, if it cannot adapt to changing markets things are likely to worsen. No company can hope to succeed by simply doing more of the same forever. Constantly focusing on efficiency, and beating on franchisees and employees to stay open longer, is a downward spiral. Eventually every business HAS to innovate; adapt to changing market conditions, or it will die. Just look at the tombstones – Kodak, Hostess, Circuit City, Bennigan’s ….

Take time between now and 2013 to ask yourself, what is your Ghost of Christmas past upon which your business was built? How does that compare to the Ghost of Christmas present? If there’s a negative gap, what should you expect your Ghost of Christmas Future to look like? Are you adapting to changing markets, or just hoping things will improve while you resist putting enough coal on the fire to keep everyone warm?

image credit: opposingviews.com

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Adam Hartung, author of Create Marketplace Disruption, is a Faculty and Board member of the Lake Forest Graduate School of Management, Managing Partner of Spark Partners, and writes for Forbes and the Journal for Innovation Science.

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