Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Ask the Innovation Expert: Mohan Nair

How can you ensure that great ideas translate into profit for your business? The back end is the make or break point for ideas in the innovation process. It’s where great ideas will either flourish or die. This is your reality check. What you take to market and how you execute on innovation determines your ROI and growth.

The Back End of Innovation 2015 Conference unites cross-industry leaders sharing challenges, lessons learned and best practices on commercializing new ideas and profitably executing your go to market innovation strategy. Move beyond incremental product and service improvements and discover the lessons of ground breaking innovation – meaningful disruption across categories, value chains and markets.

That’s why we recently sat down with BEI 2015 speaker, Senior VP, and Chief Innovation Officer of Cambia Health Solutions, Inc. Mohan Nair. He talked to us about best practices to support successful innovation execution and the challenges that come along with it.

Here’s what Nair had to say:

Innovation execution begins with establishing the principles of innovation in your organization first.  For example, ours is that Innovation is a value, like ethics or teamwork. This drives that it belongs in the everyday and not in a few for the many.  Designing innovation is also of importance because many drive into their own concept of innovation as leads and the team seldom follow. 

Further, companies who have a culture of following rules of the present are challenged when told to “think and do out of the box”. The culture of compliance must live with the culture of innovation at the same time.  The best practices strive to ensure that a corporation is ambidextrous and able to the inspired to fly the plane and build a new one at the same time.

Barriers to innovation is always around culture first.  Second to this would be your own mindset as a innovation leader.  Believing in the potential and having the real skills to design a long term lasting innovation agenda is a skill found only in a few but professed by many. To be that few, you must learn and practice the craft daily.  Third is finding a CEO that not just believes but enables calculated risks to be taken. “

Want to hear more from Nair? Attend BEI 2015 in San Jose, CA this fall. To learn more about the event or to register, click here:

Monday, June 29, 2015

Culture Trumps Concepts

When many people hear the word “Innovation” they think of a service that created a category: Xerox or FedEx. Or, they think of one that made bold, brilliant moves to earn a leadership position in an emerging space: Google, Facebook, Uber and Airbnb.

They may claim that innovation is one of their organization’s core values or core pillars, but no one there can quite articulate how their formal innovation programs works.

Or, you hear bitterness in their voice: “They tried Innovation, once.” This is a composite sketch of many similar stories.

They procured modest funding, were given some time away from their other role, and were charged to bring back something big, something disruptive. On the organization’s dime they went to a few conferences, read a few books, even took a workshop. By retooling themselves they reoriented how they see the business, their mental model of reality. Worlds of possibilities began to open to them – new products, services, adaptations to the business model and, yes, a new platform that would position the organization for optimum growth fueled by radically disrupting the industry.

Rife with potential and inspired by this license to innovate, they morphed together several methods and tools. They got fresh, first-hand insights from the people who use their products and services. They enrolled a few others to join this positive, creative revolution inside the company. The team was electrified, intent on creating not only some cool things, but by the prospect of really helping people have a great experience with their company’s products and services.

The initial business case seemed irrefutable. With the zeal of a business prophet a presentation was given to senior leadership. A portfolio of concepts that could, with modest investment, change the course of the organization for the better were ready to implement.

Then, all of the momentum crashed into a wall. “We’d like to thank you and your team for this new thinking,” says one executive. “We’ve invested a lot into this program, but now is just not the time to actually try these ideas in the market.”

“From this point, just go back to your former role full-time,” says the crestfallen one’s director.

From this point in the organization’s history, this is the perception of Innovation – a few rebel cells in an otherwise orderly body. Yet in reality, the concepts were valid, tethered to the larger context of the company’s identity and strategy. Generating valuable ideas was not the problem.

If you want a value-generating innovation program, you have to first craft a culture that accepts innovation before the commission of a project. Start with the executive team.

Culture first, then concepts – otherwise, you’ll have a business that thinks it has checked the Innovation Box, proven it’s just a fad, and gets back to the same old things, a calcifying culture.

Michael Graber, managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, can be reached at

Friday, June 26, 2015

This Week In Innovation: 6/22/15 - 6/26/15

Six Degrees Of Innovation: Business model features you need to innovate

Why Digital Disruption Is Not Good For Incumbent Companies: Disruption will displace 40% of incumbent companies in 12 industries studied 

Where Design Boosts Creativity: The Google Offices

Creating A Productive Culture In Your Organization: From cultural awareness to an innovative mindset

The Five-Fold Path To Disruption: Leveraging competitive differentiators

Redefining The Future Of IT: Five trends that are shaping the future

The Evolution Of SEO Trends Over 25 Years: The past and looking forward

5 Predictions For The Future Of Social Media

Apple, Google And Samsung Bet On Walletless Future: Getting rid of cards and wallets to buy groceries

Data And Creativity: The new cozy bedfellows

About the Author:

Ryan Polachi is a contributing writer concentrating his focus on Marketing, Finance and Innovation. He can be reached at

Thursday, June 25, 2015

How to Stay Ahead of the Curve

By: Scott Steinberg

So much for the status quo…research confirms what most already suspect: Continuous change is the new norm in business. Happily, in today’s highly-disruptive world, innovation is just another word for improvisation—and anyone can adapt to new and novel problems the same way leading innovators do:

By studying problems, brainstorming original solutions, then steadily trying and improving as they go. To thrive in fast-changing times, change with them; to future-proof yourself, become more flexible. Organizations like Amazon and Google create competitive advantage by consistently experimenting with and learning from new ideas. Individuals succeed more frequently by thinking fast on their feet and resiliently forging ahead despite setbacks, not possessing greater IQ or inborn talent.

Today, winning isn’t about having more resources, rather being more resourceful; getting ahead not about being a genius, but more ingenious instead. To succeed in unpredictable environments, you’ve got to find the courage to take chances.  In uncertain times, everyone wants to be risk-free. Instead, you can create competitive advantage by being risk-averse—recognizing that change is coming, and making smart, calculated, and cost-affordable bets that can help you gain the insights, talents or capabilities today that will be in-demand tomorrow.

Whatever your stated goal, pick a portfolio of promising growth activities to try—launch a new product line or re-launch an existing one; attend night school or take online computer programming courses—and start pursuing them immediately. Just don’t sit still while times, trends and competitors are also evolving. Staying ahead of the curve is easier than it sounds, as long as you’re staying in constant motion.

About the Author: Award-winning professional speaker Scott Steinberg is a bestselling expert on leadership and innovation, and the author of Make Change Work for You: 10 Ways to Future-Proof Yourself, Fearlessly Innovate, and Succeed Despite Uncertainty. Among today’s leading providers of keynote speeches, workshops and seminars for Fortune 500 firms, his website is

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The View from Start-Up Labs

By: Travis Parsons and Tim Fielding

Attending the FEI conference in Boston and chairing the Start Up Labs this year, we were struck by the number of conversations we had with other delegates who were not including Digital in their strategic approaches to Innovation, on the basis that their businesses were not primarily ‘Digital’. At a time when businesses that are about as rooted in the physical realm as it is possible to be - like Hotels and Taxis - are being famously disrupted by software systems and consumer networks - for example, by Air BnB and Uber - we found it surprising that so many businesses would not be putting Digital to the front of the Innovation agenda.

At Castle, we specialize in helping businesses achieve market leadership through the design and development of game-changing digital products and platforms, so while twiddling our thumbs post networking cocktails at the Seaport Center, we decided to play a game. We took a random samples of the companies represented at FEI this year, to see if we could think of ways in which innovations in digital could make a strategically critical impact on their businesses.

Here are the results:

1.      Big Tobacco

You can’t digitize a smoke, right? Even an e-cigarette. But what about the notoriously regulated field of marketing communications for tobacco companies? As traditional advertising channels become increasingly inaccessible and ineffective for tobacco brands, and all sorts of new product lines spring into existence following deregulation in states like Colorado, could Big Tobacco take a leaf out of Birch Box’s book and blow up their direct marketing efforts around a community of fans that actually love their products? This could involve a monthly mailout of trial product samples and diversion of ad $ into supporting a team of bloggers celebrating the culture and building a fan base. We won’t pretend to be any kind of experts on the regulations governing controlled substances and social media, but we do know that positive messages from fans rank a lot higher on Facebook than messages from brands, and they also promote healthier products and better consumer experiences. So maybe a win-win there, for a company that’s prepared to invest in navigating this highly-charged area.

2.      Big Pharma

Patients are increasingly connected to one another and accessing greater degrees of user generated data and content. Communities such as are enabling information sharing between pharma customers like never before. Pharma companies should embrace this trend with a goal of guiding the conversation rather than finding themselves in defensive mode. Publishing content and data on the web as reference tools for these self-service communities as well as active community participation would be a first step. The traditional marketing message and channels can remain the front line of brand building, but building relationships with prospective and current customers through engagement creates longer term brand loyalty - and potentially leads to more innovative digital relationship building/engagement concepts.

3.      Food & Bev

As evidenced by the full-house that Start-Up Labs received for Seth Goldman’s excellent presentation about HelloFresh, the Food industry has definitely woken up to the potential of networked communities combining with direct mail and curatorial expertise to deliver a wildly disruptive service to a previously sleepy corner of the market. Reminiscent of how Netflix originally distributed its movies via the mail, HelloFresh will UPS you a box of ready-cook meals as you’ve never experienced them before. (Although to continue the Netflix analogy, it’s hard to imagine how they will evolve to the equivalent of VOD streaming - at least until an affordable 3D printer can magic you up something you might actually eat). Through a combination of smart digital systems for operations, innovations in packaging and shifts in user behavior towards healthier, more adventurous eating, we expect there will be many companies competing to deliver restaurant-quality food at home and in the workplace. Last time we checked, even Uber was getting in the game with a lunchtime delivery service plugged into kitchens offloading surplus sandwiches from restaurants in LA.

It seems like a no-brainer that oil companies will eventually be getting out of fossil fuels and into renewable energy. In light conversation at FEI, we heard multiple CleanTech concepts ranging from carbon capture fuel conversion by algae systems to miles of thermionic cells embedded in the sun-scorched blacktop to power charging stations down Route 66. It all sounds amazing, but most sustainable energy solutions are dependent on a smart grid to distribute the electrons. This sounds like one almighty algorithmic and logistical challenge. Who better to take it on than the captains of industry whose operations run so slickly that your local pump never runs dry? Their expertise in supply chain management could be channeled into unravelling a puzzle that has confounded the electricity companies for decades, creating a massive opportunity for ‘digital’ disruption by an industry with its roots literally buried in the ground.

If there’s a pattern to be observed here, perhaps it is that these innovations concern marketing and distribution more than the core product itself. But these days, if it’s common among marketing people to be positing that ‘the product is the campaign and the campaign is the product’, maybe those involved in corporate innovation strategy should be thinking about how those lines are blurring’? A good subject for our next blog post, perhaps?

About the Authors:

Tim Fielding is the VP of Marketing and Business Development at Castle - He has a long career in innovation and entrepreneurship ranging from music and clubs to social media and mobile apps. Follow him at

As the CEO of Castle, Travis Parsons has helped create over 40 new digital products and platforms for visionary companies. Prior to co-founding Castle, Travis was the Founder and CEO of logistics SaaS leader Elogex, which was acquired by One Network Enterprises in 2003. Travis began his career as a private equity investment professional with Blue Point Capital Partners and Bank of America Capital Investors. Travis graduated Phi Beta Kappa and with Distinction from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill in 1994.

Friday, June 19, 2015

This Week In Innovation: 6/15/15 - 6/19/15

How to Rev Up Your Growth Strategy: Inject innovation into everyday

Your Corporation Is Killing Innovation... Without Knowing It

Can Uber Disrupt FedEx and UPS? Their jump into local delivery market 

3D Printer May Soon Make Human Skin?! It could happen within 5 years

Are You Good Enough For The Good Enough Market? via Forbes

Death By Digital Disruption: How do marketers stand to gain?

7 Strategies For Digital Transformation

Video: Can New Twitter CEO Balance Innovation And Business?

Is the 'App Mentality' Killing Students' Creativity? Viewing their lives as string of apps

About the Author:

Ryan Polachi is a contributing writer concentrating his focus on Marketing, Finance and Innovation. He can be reached at

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Future of Fatherhood

Men’s attitudes towards everything from work and education to marriage and raising children have been changing over time. What’s driving these changes in attitude? Are men approaching fatherhood differently than previous generations? How should businesses market to these new dads?

The answer to these and other questions are available now at Future in Focus

Kevin Osborn, Head Futurist for Future in Focus and author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide® to Fatherhood, discusses Millennials as parents, new American grandparents, and the fast growing segment of stay-at-home dads.

Like this topic? If so, then you will love the Foresight & Trends conference, taking place September 29 – October 1 in Los Angeles. It’s the one event that reveals what's coming next and translates that information into actionable insights. Stay tuned to for event updates.

The Future Trends Team

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

5 Reasons Why You Can’t Miss BEI 2015

BEI: Back End of Innovation is an event for all those charged with executing innovation and commercializing creativity.  Learn proven strategies to drive revenue, unlock growth and make innovation profitable within your organization.

BEI: Back End of Innovation 2015
October 21-23, 2015 // San Jose Marriott // San Jose, CA
Top 5 Reasons You Can't Miss BEI: Back End of Innovation this Fall:

1.       Innovators need permission to fail.
Nintendo's Tim Russell, Manager, Organizational Development will share the effect fear has on innovation, and how leadership development can support innovation on the back end.
2.       See firsthand how innovation is brought to life.
BEI brings you outside of the conference walls to TechShop. In addition to a private tour of the facility, you'll hear from entrepreneurs who arrived with an idea and left with a multi-million dollar business (think companies like Square, DoDo Case and Lumio Book Lamp). Tour limited to 35 people, register early to secure your spot!

3.       Select, value and scale new ventures
Intel's VP and GM of New Business Initiatives, Jerry Bautista will share the processes THEY USE for execution and strategic selection that are not based on the judgement of individuals, but rather processes that can be applied for selecting, valuing and scaling ventures
4.       Accelerate the pace of innovation in your organization.
The Mayo Clinic Center for Innovation reveals how they've incorporated human-centered innovation methodology and design thinking practices into new care delivery models.
5.       Solve your million dollar problem.
Innovation leaders from Hewlett-Packard, University of Oregon, SmartOrg, DuPont-Pioneer and Ingersoll Rand provide the insights you need to overcome your challenges to drive innovation forward. From building credibility for your innovation team, overcoming objections to balance your portfolio with incremental and innovative projects, this workshop covers it all.

BONUS! Become an Innovation Catalyst: BEI 2015 invites you to go behind the scenes at Intuit for a hands-on experience that shares the tools and techniques that have helped turbocharge Intuit's innovation culture, inspire employees and ultimately delight customers. Click here for more details:

Join us in October to understand how to create a culture that supports innovation, establish go to market strategies and accelerate your return on innovation.

Use code BEI15BL for $100 off the current rate. Register today:

The BEI 2015 Team

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