March 15, 2013

Issue 24 – March 15, 2013

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

The Music of Business....................................................................................... Peter Cook Hiring Creative Employees ……..………………………….....……...…. Jeffrey Baumgartner There Are No Best Practices ……………………….……….……..…...……… Mike Shipulski Three Friends vs. Three Enemies of Innovation ............................................ Paul Sloane Heat-Seeking Innovation .………………………………………….……….….… Paul Hobcraft Anyone Can Innovate, But Not Everyone Can ………………….....…………. Jorge Barba Build a Stronger Innovation Culture by Embracing Failure ………..... Stefan Lindegaard Innovation Comfort ……………………………………………………….….….. Jeffrey Phillips Leveraging Organizational Skeptics …………………….………………........ Stephan Liozu Innovation is Business at its Best ….………………………….………..…...… Chris Trimble

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:

Woman Listening to Music from Bigstock

The Music of Business
Posted on March 10, 2013 by Peter Cook

Innovation Excellence’s Executive Editor Julie Anixter caught up with Peter Cook about his newest book, The Music of Business.

Peter, I remember the Sunday Times article by Adrian Furnham about your last book Sex, Leadership and Rock ’n’ Roll. Adrian wrote about your work and what makes the ‘music metaphor’ so compelling in general, but also specifically to business management. Please tell our audience about your latest project…

Why did you write this book?
“The Music of Business” came from my career, which seems to rotate (accidentally) in 18 year cycles. I spent 18 years in Phar maceutical Research and Development at the Wellcome Foundation (now GSK), to bring novel life-saving drugs to market and fixing factories around the world; 18 years working for Business Schools on MBA programmes, and 18 years running my own business.

For me, The Music of Business is an unusual combination of deep industrial experience, supported by formal learning about business and management, and less formal lessons from the school of hard rock. It brings together my three passions of Science, Business and Music and I was compelled to write it. I’m pleased to say that others agree that it has been worthwhile, having got an endorsement from Harvey Goldsmith, the man behind Live Aid, Live 8 and just about every significant music event in the world. I’m waiting on another from Seth G odin, now that he has completed his UK tour. It does not get much better than that.

What can innovators specifically learn from musicians?

How to improvise, think creatively, and how to convert that creativity and improvisation into innovative products and services that an audience or customer wants, needs and is prepared to buy over and over again.

In Creativity we look at examples of great improvisers such as Deep Purple, Joe Pass, US creativity specialist Michael Michalko and virtuoso jazz-fusion guitarist Scott McGill, drawing parallel business lessons out in each case. We also compare the creative style of Hendrix versus Clapton. We look at the importance of creativity principles and techniques via articles from The Beatles with parallel lessons from Proctor and Gamble, HSBC and others. Punk rock offers a metaphor for disruptive innovation and we explore punk creativity via chapters on marketing and spontaneous thinking.

Under Innovation we address questions of individual personality via the examples of Marc Bolan, Steve Jobs and Richard Strange, the godfather of punk. We also examine principles of business innovation, using the examples of The Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol, Prince, Lady Gaga, Dyson, Innocent Drinks and more. Finally we explore the impact of the built and psychological environment on innovation using Stax Records and the experience of my hard rock friend Bernie Tormé, guitarist to Ozzy Osbourne and Ian Gillan.

There are other sections in the book on Strategy and Change, which are things which all innovators need.

What do you hope people will do differently as a result?
A few people have actually offered me examples of what they are doing differently as a result of my work. One Telecom’s compa ny developed products worth 12 product ideas each worth a minimum of £100 M turnover annually as a result of an innovation summit event. Pfizer developed four innovative ideas that would extend the life of a product and therefore head off the competition at the pass. H ere’s a couple of direct quotes that summarise reactions I’ve received from business people.

“Amongst my highlights, I love that “The Darkness are Queen without disco” and that this relates to the fact that “Companies can learn parallel lessons by adopting a mindset that looks to the future whilst respecting cultural signifiers of the past.” Cleve r and conscience pricking stuff. Well done.” - Stephen Bourne, Johnson and Johnson

“The Music of Business is a really enjoyable read. Great insights in how to approach 21st century business challenges, using lessons from the world of rock music. It’s funny and thought provoking whilst absolutely hammering home the messages of strategy, collaboration, and project execution.” – Alex Watson, Lloyds Register

“This book is a great tool for people in business” – Harvey Goldsmith CBE

Will you give us some specific lessons from bands?
Wanna Be Starting Something? - Michael Jackson Michael had a great hit with ‘Wanna be starting something?’. It’s unlikely that we would have been as successful if he had ca lled the song ‘Wanna be stopping something?’. Yet stopping the momentum of a failing project once in full flow is much harder than starting a new enterprise or innovation project. The wise leader stops a project before it has failed and regroups. I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For - U2 Business needs constant learning and reconnaissance in a complex and changing world. If you stop looking and learning, just like Kodak, you may disappear from view. Like a Virgin – Madonna To succeed in business innovation, treat each day like it’s the first time. Business decli ne can come from comfort. Keep yourself alive. I Can’t Control Myself – The Troggs Creativity at work without precise execution and discipline rarely leads to innovation. Loving the Alien – David Bowie Opposites don’t attract at work even if they do in the home and in bed. Whether we like it or not, it’s easier to surround ourselves with agreeable people at work. Unfortunately agreeable people don’t ask each other terrifying questions, don’t generally have a diverse skill set and don’t dare to venture into unknown territories. Wise leaders welcome intellectual conflict by ensuring that there is a rich mixture of people, mixed up in different permutations from time to time. Minority – Green Day Green Day made a mistake when they claimed they wanted to be the minority. When introducing innovations, a minority called the ‘innovators’ first adopts the idea, but they only represent 2.5% of the market. Successful marketers often target so-called ‘early adopters’ – about 13.5% of the market. These people are better networked and influence the ‘early majority’ – 34% of the market. Minorities matter at the outset of new product diffusion, but make sure you reach the other groups for overall success.

Chain Reaction – Diana Ross Successful innovation often requires the combination of several different talents: Inventors, who often produce ideas without concern for their practical value; Innovators, who develop ideas such that they have sustainable commercial value; Champions, who bring resources to help the product / service idea succeed. Smart people ensure that these types are represented at the right stage of an innovative project. The innovation chain reaction is then achieved.

Should we be playing/listening to more music at work?
Absolutely. The inspiration must fit in with the perspiration if creativity is to turn into innovation excellence though!

How can we get hold of The Music of Business?
It’s on, and worldwide, signed copies via The Music of Business webpage, and the book is available as a Kindle download. It will be accompanied by free iPhone and Android apps as well, covering daily business tips through the medium of music.

image credit:;

Peter Cook is a business academic, author, consultant and musician. He leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock, and provides Keynote speaking, Organisational Development and Business Coaching. You can follow him on twitter @Academyofrock. Peter is Rock ‘n’ Roll Innovation Edi tor at Innovation Excellence.

Hiring Creative Employees
Posted on March 11, 2013 by Jeffrey Baumgartner

Are you looking to hire creative employees at your company? If so, allow me to propose some characteristics you can advertise for and look for in order to find true creative thinkers. However, I also have a warning for you. But first, a little background.

I’ve been reading and hearing a lot about how companies are looking to hire creative employees. But, the job advertising I see does not reflect that. Most knowledge workers are expected to follow a rather narrow career path defined by the position they seek. Typically, that will involve a degree in a relevant field, ideally an advanced degree and similar work experience.

The individual fulfilling the job description is likely to be competent. But there is no guarantee that she will be particularly creative. Moreover, her background will be so similar to that of people already working in the division that she will be unlikely to bring much diversity of thought to the division. Diversity of thought help in collaborative creativity. The more diversity you have in a group, the more raw material you have for creative ideas.

If you want to find and hire exceptionally creative people, you need to find people with diversity in their backgrounds. This is not only a sign of creativity, but it also indicates a potential employee with more diversity of experience, knowledge and thought than the person who has followed a clearly defined career path.

Diversity and International Experience

The most important thing you should look for is international living experience. Not international travel, but living and working (or studying) experience. Research1 has demonstrated that living overseas boosts permanently an individual’s creativity. Indeed, it is to the best of my knowledge, the only proven way to boost permanently creativity. So, look for foreigners living in your country as well as nationals who have lived and worked overseas. Presumably, though it has not been tested, multiple international stints and living in very different cultures further enhance creativity.

Second best characteristic to international experience is diversity of experience. Rather than look for people who have followed a very narrow career path, look for people who have had more varied experience. Look for people who have done work significantly different to that of the position you are seeking to fulfil. If you want an IT manager, someone who has spent two years selling furniture or a year teaching skiing in addition to some IT experience is likely to be more creative than someone who has only had IT experience. Moreover, she will bring diversity of thought to the IT department — and that boosts collaborative creativity.

Aside from work experience, look for evidence of diversity and unusual points in education, hobbies and elsewhere. A marketing manager who has a degree in philosophy followed up by an MBA will probably be more creative than the marketing manager who has a business administration degree and an MBA. She will certainly bring new perspectives to the marketing department.


Having an original sense of humour — that is, being able to make jokes or be funny on your own, rather than repeating well known jokes — is an indicator of creativity. Humour is about seeing things in unusual ways that are unexpected. To be able to to do that requires creativity. This does not mean every creative person has a sense of humour. Many do not. But anyone with an original sense of humour is almost certainly very creative.

Having a sense of humour will probably not be apparent in an applicant’s CV and most people believe they have a sense of humo ur. But if the applicant keeps a blog, is active on Twitter or participates publicly in other social media where she demonstrates an original sense of humour, she is probably more creative than most.


Highly creative people tend to be rebellious. They think differently to averagely creative people, they tend to do things in unconventional ways and they are not afraid to provoke others, including senior management. This is not usually because they choose to be rebellious. Rather, highly creative people think differently and make decisions differently than do averagely creative people. Often, highly creative people are blind to the relevant conventions. They are likely to believe their ideas are better than more conventional ideas.

This means that if you really want to hire highly creative people, you should be looking for evidence of rebelliousness. However, this characteristic is unlikely to be mentioned in the prospect’s CV for obvious reasons. It is a characteristic you will need to identify through interviews and perhaps by looking at the prospective employee’s profile on social media. Unfortunately, rebelliousness does not necessarily indicate a creative person. Some people are rebellious for other reasons. So, hiring a rebellious person does not guarantee she will make a creative contribution to your company. Rather, it should be considered along with other characteristics I have described here.

Of course, hiring rebels should also give you pause for thought. Hiring highly creative people will almost certainly result in hiring rebels, people who will not easily conform to your company’s social culture; people who may be critical of their managers and the way you do things in your company; people who believe they know better than you and your managers. Sometimes, the rebels will be wrong. Other times they will be right. But you need to ask yourself: do you really want creative employees so badly you are willing to accept the consequences of having a number of highly creative rebels in your organisation.

Because, make no mistake, rebels or not, highly creative people are by definition different to the average person. They think differently. They do not conform. They may be rebels. They will certainly become frustrated and leave if you ignore their creative ideas and stick to safer, less creative ideas that are also less risky.


That pretty much sums up highly creative people: they are different. They will have different backgrounds to averagely creative people — and that background may very well include international living and working experience. They will behave differently to averagely creative people and they will offer different results: creative results. If you keep this in mind, it will not be hard to find and hire creative people. The challenge will be challenging them sufficiently to keep them!



William W. Maddux and Adam D. Galinsky (2009) “Cultural Borders and Mental Barriers: The Relationship Between Living Abroad and Creativity”; Journal of Personality and Social Psychology; Vol 96, No 5, pp 1047- 1061). See here as PDF.

Jeffrey Baumgartner is the author of the book, The Way of the Innovation Master; the author/editor of Report 103, a popular newsletter on creativity and innovation in business. He is currently developing and running workshops around the world on Anticonventional Thinking, a radical new approach to achieving goals through creativity — and an alternative to brainstorming.

There Are No Best Practices
Posted on March 9, 2013 by Mike Shipulski

That’s a best practice. Look, there’s another one. We need a best practice. What’s the best practice? Let’s standardize on the best practice. Arrrgh. Enough, already, with best practices.

There are no best practices, only actions that have worked for others in other situations. Yet we feverishly seek them out, apply them out of context, and expect they’ll solve a problem unrelated to their heritage.

To me, the right practices are today’s practices. They’re the base camp from which to start a journey toward new ones. To create the next evolution of today’s practices, for new practices to emerge, a destination must be defined. Thi s destination is dictated by problems with what we do today. Ultimately, at the highest level, problems with our practices are spawned by gaps, shortfalls, or problems in meeting company objectives. Define the shortfall – 15% increase in profits – and emergent practices naturally diffuse to the surface.

There are two choices: choose someone else’s best practices and twist, prune, and bend them to fit, or define the incremental functionality you’d like to create and lay out the activities (practices) to make it happen. Either way, the key is starting with the problem.

The important part – the right practices, the new activities, the novel work, whatever you call it, emerges from the need.

It’s a problem hierarchy, a problem flow-down. The company starts by declaring a problem – profits must increase by 15% – and the drill-down occurs until a set of new action (new behaviors, new processes, new activities) is defined that solves the low level problems. And when the low level problems are solved, the benefits avalanche to satisfy the declared problem – profits increased by 15%.

It’s all about clarity — clearly define the starting point, clearly define the destination, and express the gaps in a single page, picture-based problem statements. With this type of problem definition, you can put your hand over your mouth, with the other hand point to the picture, and everyone understands it the same way. No words, just understanding.

And once everyone understands things clearly, the right next steps (new practices) emerge.

Mike Shipulski brings together people, culture, and tools to change engineering behavior. He writes daily on Twitter as @MikeShipulski and weekly on his blog Shipulski On Design.

Three Friends vs. Three Enemies of Innovation
Posted on March 8, 2013 by Paul Sloane

For most organizations innovation is a struggle. The natural thing to do is to stay in the current state. The CEO preaches the need for innovation but people further down know that it involves risk, time, effort, cost, disruption and potential failure. In this contest innovation has some powerful friends and some dangerous enemies.

Let’s start with three of its most important friends, the VCC.

1. Vision.

The most powerful friend of innovation is a shared vision of a better future. The leader and his or her team have to effectively communicate a common goal that people buy into. The vision has to be believable, aspirational, worthwhile and demanding. People in the organization must have faith in the vision and see that it involves a change that is worth making. Furthermore the staff must see that they have an important role to play in achieving the vision. They have to agree that the journey is worth undertaking, despite the uncertainties and hardships, and that the destination can be reached. Jack Welch of GE was a great believer in the power of vision and the need for the leadership team to constantly expound its benefits and importance.

2. Curiosity.

The second friend is a culture of curiosity and challenge. Everyone should be encouraged to look for better ways to do things. We need an endless curiosity about why people buy or do not buy our products, about why we do things the way we do, about how we can make every system and service and method better. We need a culture where anyone anywhere can challenge the existing way of doing things in a constructive manner knowing that their ideas will be listened to. We should be inquisitive about how they solve our kinds of problems in different organizations, cultures and countries. There is always a better way to do everything we do and curiosity can help lead us there.

3. Courage.

It is fine to have a great vision and a fruitful supply of creative ideas but nothing happens without the courage to act. There is always a long list of reasons why action should not be taken. We need to assess the options, consider the risks and then reach for our third friend, courage, to take the key decisions to move forward. Courageous leaders take calculated risks as they move the business forward. Not every bet succeeds so they must be brave enough to admit they made the wrong decisions on occasions.

So much for the friends, now for the enemies. These can be harder to spot because they are quiet and unassuming. But do not be fooled. They can stop any innovation initiative in its tracks.

1. Busyness.

People are often so busy working on the day job that they do not have time for innovation. People are working hard. They are meeting their short-term objectives and do not want distractions. They do not assign space in their schedule for exploration, brainstorms, looking outside the organization or experimentation. The most innovative companies meet this challenge head on by allocating time for innovation. 3M have a famous provision allowing any engineer or scientist to spend 15% of his or her time on any investigation they fancy. Google and Genentech go further – every employee can spend one day a week researching any business issue that they consider of interest.

2. Bureaucracy.

Many organizations have convoluted approval processes requiring multiple sign-offs for any significant change. Initiatives get mired with regulations and compliance requirements that slow things down to a crawl. Of course some checks and balances are needed but they need to be appropriate for the level of change and risk involved. Many procedures are too heavy duty. Shell overcame this problem in its Gamechanger program by allowing engineers to get sign-off on innovations from a panel of their peers rather than having to go to several higher levels.

3. Complacency.

In his seminal book, Leading Change, John Kotter identifies complacency as the number one reason why change projects fail. Complacency is a particularly dangerous foe if the organization is successful. It undermines the need for change. We are doing well right now so why do we need to rock the boat? What is the best way to fight contentment with the status quo? By communicating the urgent necessity for change and the importance of the vision. Fighting complacency is one of the leader’s key tasks.

Busyness, Bureaucracy and Complacency (BBC) are the silent but deadly enemies of innovation. They must be confronted and vanquished if the organization wants to become more agile and competitive. If we want more innovation we need to support its friends and fight its enemies.

image credit: fly fight image from bigstock

Paul Sloane writes, speaks and leads workshops on creativity, innovation and leadership. He is the author of The Innovative Leader and editor of A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing, both published by Kogan-Page.

Heat-seeking Innovation
Posted on March 10, 2013 by Paul Hobcraft

So for a little bit of fun I took a look at some of the comparisons between heat seeking missiles and applied those to heat-seeking innovation. Ok, I know a little “left field” but it became interesting, so stay with me for a few moments of wanderings.

Stretching your thinking around heat-seeking innovation

So, I’m stretching our thinking, ignoring much within the design of heat seeking missiles but looking at some of the commonalities that are surprisingly around us in different ways when we need to build into our innovation capability, building for future innovation, to respond too in far more smarter ways. Can you see these commonalities?

Heat-seeking innovation relies on piecing together considerable data, rapidly absorbing the individual values to ‘react’ to the un familiar and continue to manage the constant and familiar.

The parallels with heat-seeking missiles

With so many new business models occurring, they are out to destroy what is already in place and part of the incumbent CEO’s role is to avoi d this fate, or be the one to bring the new business model to fruition. They need to ‘seek out’ more and ‘invest in risk’ far m ore.

As the name implies heat-seeking missiles home in on the hot areas of a target, the parallel is that our innovation needs to do the same job. Home in and do the job, disrupt (destroy) the existing, reduce its value or position and gain the advantage through new business models, products and services.

Heat seeker innovation requires us all to get a whole lot smarter

We need to get a whole lot smarter with our innovation efforts, we need to build innovation systems that are “smarter” in dis criminating targets and resisting the jamming effects, internally and externally often deployed to try and influence and alter their mission. We need to use the heat map to focus in and cut out this ‘background’ clutter. We need to stay the innovation course.

What do we need in heat-seeking innovation?

Firstly we need innovation combustion.

It is the amount of innovation heat, the energy feeding into the system, to quote from one article on heat seeking missiles: “the energy is in the form of a crystal lattice of vibrations that vibrate along the chain”. The more heat one omits you achieve a continuous band that raises the (innovation) temperature and increases the thrust and combustion.

All sources of energy (our people) emit the potential for innovation activity. The more you ‘emit’ you achieve growing propulsion in new innovative energy so the more you vibrate (with innovation) the higher the intensity. You need to build the innovation engine that allows the energy source to propagate (our people and their ideas and actions) and champion its value and source of future growth.

Controlling the burn

Propulsion needs a controlled burn time. To get a better speed, to move organizations forward faster levels of heat-seeking innovation, there is a need to have a combination of proximity and impact infusing. Here the CEO needs to lay down all the “guidance systems”, provide the positioning of targets and issues the necessary commands (the innovation strategy aligned to corporate goals) to achieve the desired flight path. Getting close to our customers, our markets and having available core capabilities to deliver desired results does need a certain closeness and determination to infuse the parts.

There also needs to be in place optical filters which I gather for heat-seeking missiles are made up of absorption filters that have wide bandwidth (scanning and assessments) and interference filters that design down to extremely narrow bandwidths (clear innovation focus) and both require good transmittance (communications) and reflecting unwanted energy (a design of a common language and intent) instead of absorbing it.

Reject what is not relevant to getting the heat seeking innovation away (good governance and project management). In other words stop unnecessary interference which comes from our own reflection (dogma’s and mindsets) and laser in on what secures your future. Push through the “flak.”

What we need to set up targeted directional information to accelerate this impact infusing

So we need to ensure the following to be put into place for optimising our heat-seeking innovation (missiles) to become operative and deliver their full impact.

We need seeker types

We call these innovation scouts. These are the source for detecting new innovation, targets to zoom in on, seek out their heat and these targets allow up to home in on to defeat with countermeasures, provide the information to avoid, possible seek and destroy as threats, or rapidly learn from as these take evasive actions to improve our own innovation efforts.

We need scanning patterns and modulation

As we build our own capabilities in innovation it is the space in front of us becomes the one to scan for new targets (core, adjacent or new spaces). We need to amplify the signals (weak signals offer tomorrows innovation). The more we ‘do’ innovation, increase its frequency, the better we become at hitting the right targets more accurately.

Cooling effect

Heat-seeking missiles need to lock into increasing lower level signals and often the heat being omitted by much within the system can overpower the weak signal. We sometimes need to cool our systems to lock into these targets (portfolio pruning), especially over longer time frames and horizons (the three horizons of innovation)


Heat seeking missiles have their seekers mounted on a gimbal. This allows the sensor to be pointed at the target while the missile might not be. Like missiles innovation cannot always be pointed at the target, we need to explore other trajectory paths, but at a given time we lock into the target (innovation value chain) and begin to control the direction innovation points in its execution and delivery. The interesting point is the gimballed seeker needs to be able to track the target independently (stay true to course) until you make that decision to lock in and fully align in the final execution.

Hitting the target

We all like to take the most direct path to the intercept, to deliver innovation. Newer missiles are smarter and use the gimballed seeker combined with what is known as a proportional guidance in order to avoid oscillation (our fear and doubts) and stay locked into the best, most efficient intercept path.

So maybe there is sufficient with heat-seeking missiles but in our approach to innovation I would argue we need to develop up a greater ‘design capacity’ for heat-seeking innovation so we can zero in on all that threatens us. We take design to a greater height, take out what is currently known and leave us with the blue sky and the dawning of a new age, simply flying into the “unfamiliar and unknowns”. Hang on………

Just a minute why have some guys in white coats just arrived at my door?

OK, I’m returning to my innovation real world but this had some heat -omitting fun (for me). I need to watch for others to home in and comment on this. Time for some evasive action and drop below the visible spectrum where heat is generated, and stop emitting useless radiation and all this background clutter to return to the serious job on hand, building our organizations capabilities and capacities for our business innovation needs.

Although I have to admit- I do like the idea of “heat-seeking innovation”. Now let’s take the medication I’m being offered by these guys. Such a calming effect on me- lift off.

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Paul Hobcraft runs Agility Innovation, an advisory business that stimulates sound innovation practice, researches topics that relate to innovation for the future, as well as aligning innovation to organizations core capabilities.

Anyone Can Innovate, But Not Everyone Can
Posted on March 12, 2013 by Jorge Barba

Yes, anyone can. But not everyone can. Here’s why…

It is very simple. First of all, to innovate, you need skill combined with will. The skills needed are very straight forward, to begin you need to identify a problem, understand it and then have access to people and information that can help you solve the problem.

And, that is just the beginning…

Anyone can identify problems, but not everyone has the patience and will to dig deeper, and keep going. And, not many cultivate an idea network which constantly feeds them ideas and insights, therefore not everyone has access to diverse knowledge sources to help them see beyond the obvious. Which is critical.

Also, just because you’re creative doesn’t mean anything. I know, and work with, creative people who have no discipline (ther e are exceptions). The ones who live in their dreams need a helping hand in making things happen. This is where will comes in. And, with will comes guts and daring.

This is where the bottleneck is. So you see, it isn’t as simple as asking everyone for ideas and them letting them roll with whatever is on their mind. Unless the culture exists, set by the leader, don’t expect anyone to t ake risks and experiment.

So what is a company to do?

You have two options:

1. Walk the talk. Easier said than done, but if you are an un-innovative traditional company (which most are), then you must provide your people with innovation skills. Heck, if you are the leader of the organization, set the example and get the skills with them. Be the example.

2. Get out of zombie mode. If you’re a company that started with an innovation, but has lost track, you need to go back to your roots. Most likely, business-as-usual has set in and your organization needs a reset to shake it out of zombie mode. Ask yourself: What is our reason for existing? Why do our customers value us? What difference are we making? If we started today, would we do it differently?

If we view value creation as critical, which you should, then innovation is the only way to achieve it. And, if you’ve been in zombie mode delivering more of the same, you need to do a 360′. The path to transformation is not for the faint of heart, it is a critica l.

Warning signs are right in front of you Companies, for the most part, treat new capabilities as nothing more than add-ons to the current structure. This is a warning sign, because to

create new capability, such as innovation, you need to stop doing other things. You need to shed some skin. You need to lose some weight if you will.

The difference between new ventures and incumbents, is how they approach value creation. To the incumbent, value creation means getting more pay-off out of what they already have. To the new venture, it means either doing things better or differently than what currently exists. Of course, this path is not without its challenges.

The point: Anyone can innovate if they are willing to change their ways, but not everyone can because change isn’t a priority. It is something that happens, and most are more than comfortable waiting until they have to. Those with guts are bound for glory. Take the first step, shed some skin to make way for new capabilities. That is how you start the transformation.

image credit: business people image from bigstock

Jorge Barba is an Innovation Insurgent and is the Creative Strategist at Blu Maya, a San Diego based Digital Marketing Firm that helps organizations build their online business with strategy development for new products and services. He’s also the author of the innovation blog Game Changer. And lastly, you can follow him on Twitter @jorgebarba.

Build a Stronger Innovation Culture by Embracing Failure
Posted on March 12, 2013 by Stefan Lindegaard

The fast pace of change, business and thus innovation requires several changes in the innovation processes as well as in the innovation culture in today’s organizations.

One key element is that they must embrace and foster a culture of experimentation in which failure is acceptable as long as the intentions were relevant and if the learning of the failure was captured so that you don’t go on repeating the same failures over and over again.

This is not the case today because most companies have “low tolerance for failure culture”. This leaves no room for experimentation and without much of a surprise the punching back for this is the top leadership.

Before I get into why top leadership takes the blame for this and what can be done about it, I want to share some thoughts on the definition of failure in the context of innovation. Like most words, it can mean different things to different people. It can also be defined differently from one organization to the next.

Paul Sloane, an internationally known author and speaker on innovation and leadership, points out, it’s important to “ distinguish between the two types of failure – honorable failure is where an honest attempt at something new or different has been tried unsuccessfully and incompetent failure where people fail for lack of effort or competence in standard operations.”

Jamie Notter put it this way in a blog post: “A mistake is when you do something wrong, even though you knew the right way to do it. Failure is when you are trying something new, and you don’t know ahead of time how to make it successful. “

Certainly, our topic here is not incompetent failure or mistakes. If your organization suffers from repeated bouts of incompetent failure and/or mistakes, your company almost certainly has bigger problems that I am prepared to address. But how else can we define failure?

Tim Kastelle, who co-writes the Innovation for Growth blog says, “Mistakes are things you do even though you know better. Experiments are tests designed to expand your knowledge. The big difference is that you learn from experiments (or at least you should).”

I completely agree; to innovate, we have to learn and we do that through experimentation, some of which are destine d to fail. But it’s not the failure that drives innovation, but rather the learning. Hence, my term “smartfailing” as I have written about in previous posts.

Kastelle also offers up this hierarchy of failure:

• System failure (the collapse of communism)

• System component failure (stock market crashes)

• Major firm failure (Enron going out of business)

• Start-up failure ( going out of business)

• Product failure (New Coke tanking)

• Idea failure (Apple Navigator prototyped but never launched)

For our purposes here, we are primarily talking about the last three categories on the hierarchy, although, certainly, if a company continuously experiences product and idea failure, they put themselves at risk of eventually moving up the hierarchy to suffer a major firm failure.

Business model failure is another level we might consider adding to the hierarchy because a lot of innovation revolves around finding a new way to do business and, certainly, lots of failure occurs there, too. This is different than start-up failure because often start-ups are following old business models that have succeeded elsewhere.

Another point to make about this Kastell’s suggested hierarchy is that the failure to s top ideas or projects early on can lead to bigger failures later in the process. To use one of Kastelle’s examples, the executives at Coca -Cola ignored warning signs that arose in focus groups as they tested New Coke that should have alerted them to the considerable backlash they would face if they messed with the formula for Coke.

Yet they went ahead with an expensive product launch that quickly resulted in a complete humiliation for the company when it had to pull the much hyped new product off the market in less than three months. Examples like this, where companies should have shut down a project far sooner than they did, litter the innovation landscape. There is little doubt that part of the problem here is an unwillingness by people at various levels and at various stages along the way to admit they might be on the wrong track, i.e., the track to failure.

Here is another way to look at failure. I believe failure in organizations most often happen on two levels: the failure to anticipate and the failure to execute. I would also argue that failure to anticipate happens on three levels:

• Organizations fail to anticipate changes in the market

• Organizations fail to anticipate changes that impact the platforms needed to bring their products and services to market. This includes the failure to build proper ecosystems.

• Organizations fail to anticipate changes that will have an impact on their organizational setup and the culture.

My focus on this is very much about change; it is important to notice that the fast pace of change we experience today actually seems to happen much faster outside organizations than inside. It takes time for organizations to adapt to changes and this creates pockets of opportunities that can be lost or won.

At last, I can also mention that another key element of failure for organizations is related to execution. Not so much of a surprise.

Top Executives Are at Fault Based on my recent survey on why corporate innovation fails, Paul Hobcraft identified the top ten causes of innovation failure and this points straight to the top of the of organization.

Here you get the top six causes as mentioned in Paul’s post :

1) unrealistic expectations from top management regarding resources and the time really required in achieving innovation

2) the lack of resources allocated in budget, people, infrastructure and

3) far too much focus on products and technology and ignoring the other options within innovation, such as service, business model, platform collaborations etc.

4) that people or teams operate in silo’s instead of broader collaborative approaches,

5) the wrong personnel are in place to make innovation happen and

6) that classic of classics, a poorly defined innovation strategy and the goals to achieve this.

I fully agree with Paul that each of these are top management failures and the key reason is that the executives simply do not understand innovation well enough to lead these efforts in the best possible way. This is unfortunate as this means that there are no quick fixes to this problem.

Nevertheless, here you get some of my suggestions on what we can do about this:

Better overview, new processes: Corporate innovation teams must identify the key reasons for failure in their organizations and then they must develop a learning process on how to address this. This process can be inspired by other failure/learning processes in the company (perhaps in production) or if the team already has a process in place in which they learn from their successes.

Be open about failures: There is not much surprise here. You need to talk more about failures and how to learn from them if you want to change an innovation culture for the better.

Reward learning behaviors: If you only reward outcomes (successes), then you do not improve your corporate innovation capabilities by much. You will also need to find ways to reward behaviors including the ability to detect early failure and deal with this (correct it or kill it). We need to remind ourselves that learning behaviors are the true drivers of a culture of innovation.

Educate up and down on innovation: It is the responsibility for corporate innovation teams to educate and train the organization on innovation. They also need to educate upwards (the executives) which is often neglected since it is difficult for many to point out to their executives that they have shortcomings that need to be addressed. But they need to ask themselves an important question here: Who else will do this? As I said, there are no quick fixes to these issues, but I hope these thoughts will help organizations get started on improving their innovation processes and culture by becoming better at learning from failure.

Your input is much appreciated.

image credit: mixed hands image from bigstock

Stefan Lindegaard is an author, speaker and strategic advisor who focus on the topics of open innovation, social media and intrapreneurship.

Innovation Comfort
Posted on March 9, 2013 by Jeffrey Phillips

I think Newton left out a law when he devised his three laws of nature. You know the laws I’m speaking of – objects at rest tend to stay at rest. Every forced is opposed by an equal and opposite force. And so on.

But one important one that he missed is what we’ll call the Phillips corollary – objects (and corporations, and people) tend to seek their specific level of desired comfort and then resist any change that threatens their comfort. This is true in life as it is in business. But it’s impact is probably felt most keenly in innovation settings.


Think about it. From your earliest days people have been concerned about your comfort. As a young child your parents did everything they could to make you comfortable. When you visit family and friends they want to make you comfortable with the accomodations. When you encountered problematic or difficult decisions, it is common to ask – Are you comfortable with this? Because discomfort signals a problem, and if people believe a problem exists then they cannot regain their expected level of comfort. And we’l l move heaven and earth to regain comfort if at all possible.

Innovation threatens comfort

Now let’s turn our attention to something sure to create some dissonance in the comfort arena – innovation. By its very nature innovation should create some discomfort. Innovation introduces change, which is likely to move many people from their comfortable positions or perches, and it introduces risk and uncertainty. Innovation changes the natural order, and forces people to consider their strategic goals and options in a manner in which they are unaccustomed to doing. Once an organization has reached its level of comfort, innovation can be a difficult and frankly dangerous force. Increasingly, however, many organizations have no choice. No matter how comfortable they area in their processes, products and markets, they have to innovate to grow and thrive, which means they must sacrifice comfort. The interesting concept is that many firms believe they will simply shift from one level and position of comfort pre-innovation to another position of comfort post-innovation, like electrons moving in orbit around a nucleus. They can’t wait until things are as they used to be. But it doesn’t work that way .


We’ve introduced the idea that for many firms innovation cause s change and discomfort. There are really only two options, both of which require change. Either the senior team needs to force discomfort onto a complacent and comfortable organization, to shock it into realizing the need for innovation and to shake off its inertia, or the organization must grow comfortable with the concept of innovation.

The shock and awe strategy works to kick-start a complacent organization and engage it short term and periodically, if the executive team can create enough of a burning platform. But at the end of the exercise, the firm will revert back to its desired level of comfort and complacency, having done just enough innovation to survive, but not sustaining innovation to thrive. This is why many innovation activitie s aren’t seen as successful – they don’t have a long lasting impact. The organization simply reverts to the way things were, as much as possible, enduring the discomfort of innovation for the short run.

The other option, the one that requires more investment in skills and a sustained focus, is simply to create an organization that is comfortable with innovation. If we can create an organization that is comfortable with change, and risk, and uncertainty, if we can create a culture that thrives on innovation and sustains it, then innovation isn’t uncomfortable, it is expected. And when it is expected, it can be more easily repeated. In this case innovation isn’t viewed as a short term intrusion but a long term commitment to growth and change.

Organizational level of comfort and complacency

What’s your organization’s desired level of comfort and complacency? If you have an organization and culture that strives to maintain its comfort and avoids change, innovation is exceptionally difficult without a significant event or “burning platform” and the organization will revert to that context as quickly as possible after the innovation activity. To sustain innovation over the long term, you must create a culture where risk, uncertainty and change are embraced as part of the expecta tion and the “comfort” level. This requires changes to attitudes, compensation, skills and processes. In other words, comfort is a cultural phenomenon, and can only be changed through sudden shifts that cause disruptions or through longer term consistent investments. The good news is that you get to choose how you react.

Will you have to force and prod your organization out of its comfort zone each time innovation is deemed necessary? In other words, will innovation remain an uncomfortable activity that requires a burning platform? Or, will you build the attitudes, skills and awareness to build a new level of comfort that includes sustained innovation?

image credit: business relax image from bigstock

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 Relentless Innovation and the blog Innovate on Purpose.

Leveraging Organizational Skeptics
Posted on March 10, 2013 by Stephan Liozu

Change is hard. Literature on change reports that over 70% of projects fail due to the inability of people and organizations to change. Change is even harder when it is transformational in nature and requires a change in culture and DNA. Our experience with organizational transformations in the area of innovation reveals that organizational skeptics typically are the ones resisting change the most and spreading their views on the rest of the organization. It is common to hear comments like these:

“This will never work. We have tried it before and failed.”

“We have never been successful at this in the past”

“We are already very innovative. There is no need to change.”

“We do not have an innovation problem”.

“Our culture is different. We do things differently around here.”

Every organization faces skeptical people. There are generally several reasons that explain a chronic skepticism in people:

1) Skepticism born from fear and uncertainty: breakdowns in rationality and limitations of the human mind to grasp and handle uncertainty can manifest themselves by strong resistance to change. This is what famous behavioral scientist Herbert Simon called the limitations of the “rational man”.

2) Skepticism as a result of organizational change fatigue: Change is either constant or punctuated in nature. Either way, it is hard and can drain organizational resources. The concept of fatigue is critical to pay attention to in order to change at the right pace so that the organizational actors can absorb change. It is all about making it stick!

3) Skepticism as a result of stress and multi-tasking: There is so much multi-tasting that organizational actors can do. The emergence of multiple projects and initiatives create skepticism and reactions such as “here is the project du jour”. Multi -tasking contributes to the lack of focus and can create a perception that not much is getting accomplished.

4) Skepticism as a result of accumulated expertise: Some people like to play devils advocates and challenge common wisdom. Some do this because of the tremendous amount of expertise accumulated over years of work. They perceive their expertise as a pass to become bottlenecks, challenge everything, and volunteer insights.

5) Skepticism as a mindset: Some people are born skeptics. They see the glass half-empty and there might be very little you can do to change that!

You might think that organizational skeptics should be better off outside the organization. We conjecture that having a few skeptics in the organization is a good way to keep the pulse on the organization, to get different views on transformational projects and also to provide a voice that is generally not heard very often. These people can bring rich and valuable insights on the innovation processes and initiatives that are about to be deployed by injecting a sense of realism, common sense and pragmatism.

So, if you are embarking on an innovation cultural transformation, leverage your skeptics as follow:

1) Identify progressive and positive skeptics inside your organization. Start establishing a relationship with them and engage them in regular conversations.

2) Listen to them carefully as they might become the pulse of the organization with regards to your innovation strategies or your change initiatives. Do this early on during the discovery and design phase.

3) Sort through what is skepticism versus relevant devil’s advocate views. It important to get to know them and to be able to differentiate between whining and useful feedback!

4) Invest time to bring them along and get their buy-in with proposed changes and innovation initiatives.

5) Coach them to leverage their participation in bringing the rest of the organization along. Once they are on board and the organization sees that while knowing their level of chronic skepticism, you might accelerate overall buy-in.

Organizational transformations require the skills and expertise of the best in your organization. Organizational skeptics can also play a critical role in innovation transformations.

image credit:

Stephan Liozu, PhD is the Founder of Value Innoruption Advisors and specializes in disruptive approaches in innovation and value management. He holds a PhD in Management at Case Western Reserve University and can be reached at

Katie Richardson is a Game Changing Coach at Ennova Inc and specializes in game changing behaviors using The Shared Clarity System™. She can be reached at

Innovation is Business at its Best
Posted on March 11, 2013 by Chris Trimble

More than ten years ago, when I was just getting started in innovation research, I had the opportunity to interview Ray Stata, then the chairman of Analog Devices, a Massachusetts-based semiconductor company. Mr. Stata left more than one lasting impression.

I was there to study the company’s venture to commercialize modern-day crash sensors, devices that look like ordinary computer chips but contain a microscopic moving part that detects a crash. It took years for the company to figure out how to reliably manufacture these devices — longer than anyone had anticipated. And, when I interviewed Mr. Stata, the company had yet to fully recover the tens of millions of dollars it had invested in the venture.

Nonetheless, there was no mistaking Mr. Stata’s pride in his company’s work. The investment may not have paid off yet, but An alog Devices would eventually recoup the investment, he believed. Further, there were many other potential applications for the technology, beyond crash sensors, that could stimulate further growth. (Indeed, the same devices are now the motion sensors inside certain video game consoles like the Nintendo Wii.)

But Mr. Stata’s satisfaction was not fundamentally rooted in any return -on-investment calculation. Though earning money was certainly a driver, the core ambition was far simpler than that. It was to improve the world. After all: Crash sensors save lives.

It was a reminder to me that innovation is business at its best. It is through innovation that we solve unsolved problems, create jobs, and raise living standards. As Mr. Stata himself put it in a graduation address at MIT, “As MIT graduates we are all innova tors and entrepreneurs at heart. We search for opportunities to do things better, to make things happen, and to change the world.”

It’s part of what has kept me fully engaged in studying innovation for nearly 13 years now. Innovation matters most. Everythi ng else just keeps the trains running on time.

Mr. Stata said something else to me that was equally memorable. He said “The limits to innovation have nothing to do with cre ativity, and nothing to do with technology. They have everything to do with manageme nt capability.”

I believe he was spot on, but I’ll leave further thought about it for a future blog.

image credit:

Chris Trimble is an expert on making innovation happen in large organizations. He is a frequent speaker on the topic — keynote, roundtable discussions, and executive education programs. Chris is on the faculty at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and at The Dartmouth Center for Health Care Delivery Science. He has written four books: How Stella Saved the Farm; Reverse Innovation; The Other Side of Innovation; and 10 Rules for Strategic Innovators – from idea to execution.

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