Thursday, May 25, 2017

Creative Headspace: What Innovation and Music Have in Common.

Creative Headspace: An FEI 17 Keynote
Panos Panay, Berklee College of Music

“Four stories of a record store now fit into our pockets,” the talk begins. 

“Today you can make music without playing music. You can make music without knowing music. You can make music even if you are not human.”

The way we discover and consume music is changing. Predicative analytics and diagnostic tools will be able to read our moods “and provide the right soundtrack for that moment in your life,” adds Panay.

Panos coaches musicians to be entrepreneurial at Berklee. As part of this post, he reached out to the at Stanford. Here’s what he learned, “the processes of innovation and music making are fundamentally the same, both are acts of creation.”

There are mindsets—“what we call head spaces”—that are applicable to their own career journeys.

The first one: Listening. You have to learn to listen deeply. This is the most important instinct to cultivate.

Second: Collaboration. Music is the process that brings different people and forces together into something larger than the individuals, a synthesis.

Third: Timing. Timing is critical in both music and for corporate innovation.

Fourth: Imitating. How can we draw inspiration from the past? A deep understanding of what preceded you is a great asset.

Fifth: Fusing. Fusing two things from different worlds and applying them together creates novelty.

Sixth: Captivating. This is a key aspect of storytelling. “Steve Jobs unveiling the iPhone is a lot like Freddy Mercury at Live Aid.” Captivating an audience cuts through the mental chatter. Audience and performer become one in this alchemical process.

Seventh: Failing. You learn from failure. The Beatles spent two years in Hamburg, which was a failure, other than giving them time to practice and refine their act. The experience was formative and instructive. The process leads to good outcomes. No one wins without in depth failure and practice.

Eight: Reinventing. How many Bob Dylans has the world known? The folk singer. The irreverent rocker. The confessional singer. Religious artist. The crooner. Constant reinvention is key for keeping things fresh.

So, can a bunch of musicians innovate outside of music? “About a year ago we kicked off a project that tracks rights and ownership rights of music using these methods.” If there is a singular way to collect where music is played, it changes the way musicians make money.

Working with IDEO, the school of music created the Open Music Summer Lab. One work stream worked on capturing good information, good data. A second work stream focused on consumer experiences based on that data.

“We took a team that had very diverse skill sets and ran them through a design thinking process. In three weeks they came up with 12 concepts.” Also, they learned how their skills are transferable, allowing them to pivot intelligently.

Michael Graber is the managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, an insight, innovation, and strategy firm based in Memphis, TN, and the author of Going Electric. Visit

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Soon Yu's Great Confession: Fail to Innovate

Fail to Innovate: An FEI 17 Keynote
Soon Yu

This talk spoke of the emotional toll of being a professional innovator. The candor and transparency of the speaker made it one of the most engaging keynotes in a stellar year of speakers. Essentially, when we innovate things, we too are being remade. These are tips to handle this process mindfully. 
Most of you “have experienced failure trying to innovate.” You all “fail well.”

Failure is just part of what innovators do. We share each others pain. The question is how you take failure and reframe it to be a competitive advantage.

Here are the Dirty Secrets about failure.

Dirty secret number one: “I am a much bigger failure than a success.” The stats: Yu has had four "career restarts." Five businesses dissolved. Six layoffs conducted. 30+ failed product launches. 300 Credit Score achieved two times.

Failure teaches you more than success, makes you more mature, builds empathy, and is a badge of courage, yet…

Dirty secret number two: “all the above is crap.” It’s crap because “most failure is wasted.”

In fact, "failure sucks," Yu says with pain in his voice. “Let’s face it, you get disappointed, defensive, resentful, stigmatized, and embarrassed. Failure is a tough, tough place to be.” For these reasons, “we suck at failing.”

Here are the fives stages of disappointment:
1.    Denial
2.    Anger
3.    Bargaining
4.    Depression
5.    Acceptance

“We rationalize it wasn’t really our mistake to begin with,” he adds, but it may be. “We may be playing the blame game.” We blame others, circumstances, data, and, only if we are honest, ourselves.

“I got fired because I didn’t do my job right,” he adds, “that’s the simple truth. I laid people off and was tuned out, desensitized. I was stubborn. Put money into dumb things.” Soon confessed these failures to keep the pride and romance out of failure.

How do you unlock the value of failure?

How can you get smarter, innovate yourself, and use failure as a tool to be more compelling?

“We have to get customer feedback and push past denial and gain outside perspectives,” Yu says.

Soon was told in a 360 that he was “self centered, superficial, and a political animal.” He tried to dismiss the feedback, but the outside perspective helped him get smarter once he faced the facts.

Yu recommends both Drive By-style feedback and going in-depth annually.

The payoff for doing this feedback includes:
1.    Stop repeating same mistakes
2.    Intimate knowledge of virtues and vices
3.    Knowledge of where you stand with others

So, what do you do with this feedback?

Evolve. We, as humans, "are living prototypes." We are “always in the process of getting feedback and adapting. We want to know what works and what doesn’t. More important, we will be less defensive and more curious.”

What do you do as a prototype?
1.    Experiment with new skills and behaviors
2.    Close your gaps
3.    Innovate your strengths
4.    Take stock and reapply

What is the payoff?
1.    Strengthen virtues, check vices
2.    Gain new skills and learning
3.    Provides courage, agility, and resilience

So, how can failure make you more compelling?

The power of a good story and stronger storytelling. Turn “your presentation into a Hero’s Journey that requires help from the work community. Speak to challenges and obstacles that demonstrates courage and change.”

Payoff of using your own failures as part of a presentation:
1.    Gain sympathy and empathy
2.    Demonstrates humility with courage
3.    Builds credibility from learning

“Recovery from an epic episode is a story people will love.”

Most of the world is frightened of failure, “but the best innovators know how to mine failure for gold.”

Michael Graber is the managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, an insight, innovation, and strategy firm based in Memphis, TN, and the author of Going Electric. Visit

Monday, May 22, 2017

Science Behind Empathy and Storytelling

Science Behind Empathy and Storytelling
By Tim Urmston, Founder and CEO, SEEK Company

Connecting Brands with people they serve through insights, story, ideas, and strategy—this is what supercharges a project.

Tim begins with a question. He shows a persona of a busy mom who needs more time according to the data.

Now, Tim changes the insight, but rooting the Mom inside a story. Shoulders are turned down, her tone is sharp, and she has a look of contempt.

This is a very different place from which to innovate. “It’s an emotional job, versus an intellectual exercise.” The mom in the scene has a child who requires insulin, a reminder to herself that she is broken, everything feels broken to her.

Her name is Emily. She doesn’t actually need more time, she needs something to improve the experience of giving insulin.

The story carries the weight of the empathy. The data alone doesn’t carry to weight of emotion and create to will to solve the problem.

Once a person told Tim this insight,” If I trust a person, my needs get met.” He adds “the same is true for a brand.”

There are two types of empathy: “Cognitive and Contagious.” When we cringe or sigh “we experience contagious empathy.”

Thinking verses feeling. Storytelling and the evolved brain.

Tim gives the group a brief tour of neurology and biology and their implications for empathy: Lizard brain, limbic brain, new brain, pre frontal cortex, and then the full body. Three nervous systems are outlines: head (central nervous system), heart (autonomic nervous system), and gut (enteric nervous system).

“If you are watching a story and you see someone sneak in someone’s house, you connect and feel the emotions.” Data about break-ins doesn’t motivate, but stories do. Data can persuade people but not inspire them to act. Stories inspire action.

Using stories to rewrite a brand story can make a meaningful difference in sales. Always used this method with its wildly successful Like a Girl campaign, which has more than 100 million hits on and rising market share.

“Emotions connect and create resonance,” claims Tim. We are hardwired for empathy and storytelling.

Good stories also unearth age-old tensions we all share. If an organization can penetrate the emotions underneath why people sue their products, they can harness the power of storytelling for advertising, marketing strategy, and new product development.

Evil may be the factors that block empathy. Inhabiting empathy may make us all better people. 

“You are in a pivotal position to change the products and services we use. Be storytellers. If you want to have a seat at the table, if you want to make a difference not only at your company but in the world then learn to create connection with strong storytelling,” he ends.

Michael Graber is the managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, an insight, innovation, and strategy firm based in Memphis, TN, and the author of Going Electric. Visit

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Finding Treasure

The glue that holds everything together at conferences like these is an engaging, entertaining and inspirational emcee. We were fortunate to have Mike Maddock from MaddockDouglas in that role this year. He did a great job of setting up the speakers and connecting all the dots. He also provided great insights  

We know that the next big innovation in any respective industry will come from another industry. So we need to be willing and open to learning from, at times, the most unexpected of teachers. Yesterday, we learned from a former gang leader. Today we learned from a musician. 

Panos Panay is the founder and managing director of Berklee Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship. And yes, he's a musician. King Tone shared what we can learn about innovation from the street. Panos shared what business innovators can learn from musicians. This should be interesting. Panos even admitted that he questioned, how do you coach entrepreneurialism to creative people? He determined that the very instincts that make them creative are applicable to their career journeys. He defined the following head spaces that contribute to success in innovation.

First, learn how to listen. Design thinking calls it observing.

You must collaborate. Music naturally brings people together. The ability to bring different concepts together and synthesize them, creates something completely new. This is key to innovation.

Good sense of timing is important just as timing is critical in music.

Imitation is ok. Innovation can be influenced by what has been done before. It is critical to have a deep understanding of what preceded you.

Bringing two completely different things together creates something completely new and unique.

Great musicians have the ability to get up on stage and captivate an audience. Be captivating as you present your ideas and solutions.

Failure is an important part of the learning process. We don’t always know about all the failures but for every success there are oodles of failures. Don't give up. As professionals we are so paralyzed by the fear of getting it wrong. The successful ones keep going.

We shouldn’t think of innovation as a series of ands. Artists are always influenced by their surroundings. Think of it as a continuous process that never ends. Adapting, adjusting, making new. Always becoming.

I found a great deal of treasure at FEI.

Clicky Web Analytics