Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Hard Part: Sorting through all these ideas

“OK, fun’s over gang. Yeah, yeah, we’ve got a billion new ideas, whoop-de-doo, now how on earth are we going to get to a number we can actually do something with?”

There comes a time in the invention cycle when you must go from many ideas to few. This is a difficult transition to make. We fight so hard as facilitators of brainstorm sessions to first get the participants to stretch themselves and come up with as many ideas as possible. We then tell them to flip the switch and leverage a completely different skill set to cull down those ideas, which we have, by design, made them love equally (in theory).

So, how do we do this? Firstly, not everyone is involved. While consensus has its place in decision-making, it can’t get to the hard answers – and narrowing down ideas elicited by the group is one place where group decisions would never get anywhere. So, elect one or two people – in our case this is typically the client – and call a break.

This does not mean everyone’s voice is not heard. Elicit input from the full group before narrowing down. We like to have everyone look back over the ideas that they came up with and vote for their favorites – we often have them select a number of both “just do it” and “exciting but need work” ideas to get short and long term candidates.

Then, from the top vote-getters the client(s) select a manageable number of ideas to take forward per the task – manageable in this instance means what the group can develop into more detailed concepts (one to two pages detailing the idea, its target customer/user, the need, etc.), thus it will vary! But, it’s generally no more than a dozen.

Then what? After the dozen or so concepts have been fleshed out, then you have to sort the ideas again. Nothing is getting left behind here, but it’s extraordinarily rare that a company can move ahead on 12 ideas at the same time. So, here you have to get more specific with how many can move forward to proper testing. This means getting more specific with the criteria. Typically these criteria for advancement include an estimate of the size of the market opportunity, the potential impact, and the fit with the company’s strategy (for more see Jay’s post on the SNIFF test). For these concepts we like to use the stoplight metaphor. Green light ideas that are a “go”, red light ideas that are a “not now”, and yellow light ideas that need work before they can fit into either red or green. Once you’ve worked through all the yellows then you’ve got your work items (green) and a list of promising concepts in your back pocket (the reds). Define some next steps and it’s off to the races!

How do you sort through the many ideas? Have you tested out different methodologies? I would love some feedback on the above as well as your own personal experiences with sorting!

- Clay Maxwell (@bizinovationist)

Clay is a Business Innovationist with Creative Realities, an innovation strategy consulting firm. He is a frequent contributor to their Innovationist Blog where all things innovation are discussed. You can find out more about Creative Realities at

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Translate Inspiration into Growth – Future Trends Will Tell You How

What is inspiration? Where does it come from? And most importantly, how do you take your personal inspiration and strategically apply it to your professional business decisions?

Dali developed a system to capture dreams. Hemingway wrote every morning (rain or shine, intoxicated or sober). Hunter Thompson re-wrote entire books.

What can you do? 

Attend Future Trends this October at the Gansevoort in Miami, as we bring together a community of trend spotters to inspire you- and help you translate inspiration into growth.

Future Trends 2011 will feature:
• Genevieve Berger, Chief Research & Development Officer, UNILEVER
• Mauro Porcini, Head of Global Strategic Design, 3M
• Jim Meier, Director, Foresight, Innovation Strategy & Growth Ventures, PEPSICO
• Faith Taylor, VP Sustainability and Innovation, WYNDHAM WORLDWIDE
• Scott TrowBridge, Vice President, Research and Development, WALT DISNEY IMAGINEERING
• James F. Newswanger, Senior Research Manager, Corporate Workplace Analytics, IBM
• Rick Holman, Manager Global Trends Network and Suzette Malek, Global Research Manager, Advanced Concepts and Societal Trends, GENERAL MOTORS
• Arthur Puff, Medical Director, UHG
• George Iannuzzi, Vice President Communications for the Color marketing Group, Market Development Manager Performance Materials, EMD CHEMICALS, MERCK
• Rajesh G. Mishra MD, PhD, Vice President Research & Development, GLAXOSMITHKLINE CONSUMER HEALTHCARE
• Jenn Westemeyer, Brand Design Director, KIMBERLY CLARK
• Samantha Skey, Chief Revenue Officer, RECYCLEBANK • Katherine Plueger, Director Consumer Insights - Global Innovations, AVEDA
• Mary M. Rodgers, Director of Marketing Communications, CUISINART AND WARING
• Thomas W. Brailsford, Consumer Understanding & Insight Manager, HALLMARK CARDS
• Grant McCracken, Author, CHEIF CULTURE OFFICER
• Robert Batic, Director, Portfolio Strategy Analytics - Snacks, KRAFT FOODS
• Laura Cross, Partnership Programs Manager, INTERCONTINENTAL HOTELS GROUP
• Adrienne Allen, Creative and User Experience Lead, XBOX
• Rich Duncombe, Senior Strategist, HP
• Rob Huber, Vice President, Innovation, FAURECIA
• Dipanjan Chatterjee, Senior Trend Specialist, TARGET CORPORATION
• Traci F. Milholen, Senior Direction, Strategy & Market Research, WESTFIELD
• Cassandra H. Lin, 13 year old Co-Founder, JUNIOR WIN TEAM
• Janet Lyons, Founding Partner, & Sue Haxager, Managing Partner, NEW THINK, INC
• Kate Pawlicki, Founder, PULP INC, PULP LAB
• Josh Rubin, Founder, Editor in Chief, COOLHUNTING.COM
• Mikel Cirkus, Global Director, Conceptual Design, & Steven van der Kruit, Creative Director & Visionary, FIRMENICH PERFUMERY

Download the Future Trends brochure now for more details.

We could tell you ways to be inspired...or we could actually inspire you.

Register today and come find your inspiration at the Gansevoort in October,
The Future Trends Event Team

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Workplace Friendships and Innovation Success

Have you ever taken a workplace survey that asked about your friendships at work? If you took a Gallup survey, the question asked you to rate the statement "I have a best friend at work." In looking at the dimensions that promote employee retention, customer metrics, productivity, and profitability, Gallup found the friendship question consistently correlated with all four dimensions. In fact, employees who had best friends at work were:

  • 43% more likely to report having received praise or recognition for their work in the last seven days.
  • 37% more likely to report that someone at work encourages their development.
  • 35% more likely to report coworker commitment to quality.
  • 28% more likely to report that in the last six months, someone at work has talked to them about their progress.
  • 27% more likely to report that the mission of their company makes them feel their job is important.
  • 27% more likely to report that their opinions seem to count at work.
  • 21% more likely to report that at work, they have the opportunity to do what they do best every day.

As I thought about the benefit of friendships at work, I began wondering whether there was a positive correlation between friendship and the success rate of innovation. To me, it makes sense that the success or failure of innovation initiatives might be related to the support and involvement they have with friends in the workplace.

Innovation can be an emotionally draining uphill battle. Innovation is also a team sport. Thus, having friends help you push the ball uphill would be a great benefit. Guess that explains why innovation job posting require 'strong communication and persuasion skills.' I suppose when you're role is to challenge the status quo, the ability to make friends comes in handy to help smooth over any resistance to change.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

CIO's Urged to Think Outside the Box

If you think the need for innovation hasn't touched every corner of the workplace, think again. According to Network World, IT personnel who have their sights on becoming CIO's need to think out of the box.

With the complexity of issues facing CIO's, it is no wonder creative and innovative attitudes are required to get the job done. Issues like globalization, the need for acceleration, more and more data, a push to digitize, increasing proliferation of personal devices in the workplace, and having to do more with less budget, requires a great deal of out of the box thinking.

Some advice for inviting innovation into the world of IT includes encouraging IT staff to spend 10% of their time working on non-operational tasks. Makes sense, right? If Google can implement 20% time, then surely IT departments can implement 10% time.

Not so fast, though. Extra time in the work week doesn't come easily. CIO's report 10% time works best when supported by management. In fact, when managers are measured on enforcement of time away from the daily grind to focus on innovation, compliance improves.

Moving from the "server room to the boardroom" isn't an easy task. Getting on board with innovation might be one way CIO's can speak the same language as CEO's.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Jonah Lehrer Discusses The Front End of Innovation

I had a chance to speak with Jonah Lehrer, author of HOW WE DECIDE: THE NEW SCIENCE OF DECISION MAKING and contributing editor at Wired, the Front End of Innovation Conference a few weeks ago, shortly after his keynote presentation.

Watch the video to see what Jonah had to say about Innovation (hint: must-have, future trends (hint: super city), and what his experience at the three-day event was like (hint: community)...

Valerie M. Russo is a Senior Social Media Strategist at IIR USA with a technology, anthropology, marketing and publishing business acumen. She is a published poet and also maintains a literary blog. She may be reached at Follow her @Literanista.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Six Creative Ways to Persuade Your Team to Implement Your Innovation

Have you ever wondered why it is that some people are persuasive and are able to move their innovation projects forward? Why is it that some of us are able to persuade others to understand and accept new concepts? Some innovators are able to inspire and influence a team to accomplish a common goal.

Some of us have had the benefit of a significant investment in training to learn how to be persuasive. However, even though we were taught the techniques, we never understood why some of these techniques worked.

I recently read the book, Influence, by Robert B. Cialdini. As I read, I finally understood why these persuasive techniques are so influential on others. Why does our brain instinctually react to certain situations? Why are we then persuaded to do things we ordinarily would not do?

You will find some practical tips here on how you can immediately create influence and become more persuasive in your efforts to move your innovation projects forward.

1.) Ask for a ten minute appointment instead of a longer appointment with executives. It is far more likely they will grant you a small request for time. Ten minutes is sufficient time to convey your concept at a strategic level.

2.) Quantify and present your idea or initiative in terms of how much money the company “will lose” if it is not adopted instead of how much it will save.

3.) To successfully implement your innovation be aware that others need social proof from their respected peers before so they will know how to react to your innovation. The best way to accomplish acceptance is to identify the most respected individuals within your peer group and persuade them first. Acceptance of innovation comes from the side not from the top.

4.) Explain the benefits of your innovation to team members. Ask them if they support your initiative. When they respond in the affirmative, ask them to describe to you why they support your innovation. You must gain a voluntary commitment, they must be actively engaged, and they must declare their support. Now you have significantly increased the likelihood they will support your innovation within the organization.

5.) Customize your presentation to each unique receiver. Use the first letter of that executive’s name or a phrase that sounds similar in the title. For example: If their last name is Smith, then begin with an “S.” To increase the likelihood you will gain their mind share, you might name your presentation, “Sailing into the Future or “Smile on your way to the Bank.”

6.) Name your innovation or initiative with a word that is simple and easy to pronounce. Think of Apple or Google. If it is hard to pronounce, you have immediately lost your audience before you even began your presentation. Keep your language simple and straightforward during the rest of your presentation. Many of us use polysyllabic words in an effort to impress. The end result is confusion and a loss of persuasiveness. Remember to keep it simple.

I know these persuasive techniques are effective in moving projects forward. I have used them many times with superb results. Try them and let me know if they work for you.

What other ideas have you used to be persuasive and influential?

Connie Harryman is President of the American Creativity Association-Austin Global. She is the CEO of Applied Concepts Creativity and identifies herself as a Creativity Developer. You are invited to connect with Creative Connie on LinkedIn, facebook, and Twitter. Connie Harryman is a guest blogger with the Front End of Innovation sponsored by the International Institute of Research.

Take a "Trend Trek" with two of the world's top Trend Visionaries

When dealing with trends, there is no "wait and see." To turn trends into a real business advantage, you must spot them in an early stage, allowing ample time to anticipate and implement winning business propositions.

This October at Future Trends, two of the world's top 10 Trend Visionaries help you do just that as they take you on a Trend Trek around Miami's most cutting edge areas.

Firmenich's 'TrendTreking' is a unique system that detect trends in their infancy (mostly 3-4 years before they globally manifest themselves). It allows not only to signal the new trends early, but also to reveal the process of change/trends.

Become a "cultural anthropologist" as you explore various environments, all while generating new, actionable trend insights. You will learn how to see differently, while observing 'things you have never seen before'.

Download the Future Trends brochure now to learn more about TrendTreking and this year's program.

The TrendTrek is only open to 20 participants who are attending the Future Trends conference. This Trek is available on a first come, first serve basis. Register now to reserve your spot here.

We look forward to seeing you this October in Miami!
The Future Trends Event Team

Want to learn more? Visit the Future Trends webpage, follow us on Twitter @Future_trends or become a fan on Facebook.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

100 Years of Innovation

There is a great look at IBM's history over at today that features the video below:

100 Years of Innovation at IBM 
The video showcases 100 Years of Innovation at IBM and "features one hundred people, who each present the IBM achievement recorded in the year they were born. The film chronology flows from the oldest person to the youngest, offering a whirlwind history of the company and culminating with its prospects for the future." IBM also created an impressive dedicated website to celebrate their 100 years of innovation.

Back End of Innovation
Lately, we have been thinking about the Back End of Innovation a lot, what it takes to build a system to continually drive innovation, ensuring innovation is a repeatable process, rather than a one-off occurrence.

Your Turn:
What do you think is needed to sustain a corporate innovation system? What made it possible for IBM to do so? Are there other companies with a comparable innovation history and/or systemic process? We'd love to hear your thoughts!

Valerie M. Russo is a Senior Social Media Strategist at IIR USAwith a technology, anthropology, marketing and publishing business acumen. She is a published poet and also maintains a literary blog. She may be reached at Follow her @Literanista

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Business (Not) As Usual - Conducting Business Abroad

I realize this is a departure from my usual verbosity, but I am extremely interested in opening a conversation around this topic. The topic: conducting business abroad.

I’ve been to Europe twice in the last 4 weeks, and these experiences have opened up whole host of questions for me. The first trip was for pleasure, during which I was exposed to the expat life. The second was for business with Creative Realities, and I was struck by the multitude of differences between how Americans conduct business versus Europeans (in this particular instance Germans – yes, I realize all parts of Europe are not equal…). The formality – Herr, Frau – the incredible deference, was eye-opening.

I am far from a first-timer abroad but this was the first time I hopped across the pond with business on the agenda. And, in retrospect, I found that I was deferential in some respects but completely obstinate in others. For example, in the use of first names I stuck to my guns. Having been communicating with this team for almost a month over email, and having been on an imposed (by me) first name basis from day one, I did not change my behavior. This was not with selfish or disrespectful intent, but out of respect for consistency of delivery and also the congeniality we hope to convey in all of our interactions with our clients. It still leaves me feeling a little funny knowing that they would do otherwise.

So here’s where I would love some conversation, and more experiential evidence. What have your experiences been? Do you try and push your typical operating model onto the other or do you acquiesce? Where is the happy medium? Is there a happy medium? At the end of the day, does it matter? I ask that final question because ultimately, I think both parties in my most recent experience were accommodating and polite in all respects, and as such, no behavior was negatively construed regardless of whose norms it followed.

What do you think?

For full disclosure I do hope to personally benefit from the output of this discussion as I head back to Deutschland in a week, but I think and hope others will similarly prosper.

- Clay Maxwell (@bizinovationist)

Clay is a Business Innovationist with Creative Realities, an innovation strategy consulting firm. He is a frequent contributor to their Innovationist Blog where all things innovation are discussed. You can find out more about Creative Realities at

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Top Down VS. Bottom Up: Or How Organic Growth and Adoption Happen with New Innovation Management Systems

The collaborative tools generally referred to as Innovation Management Systems (or sometimes Idea Management Systems) are by definition Enterprise Software Solutions. To be truly effective, it needs to be the only system of its type deployed within the organization and it should be made available to every employee of the company. Like most Enterprise Software Systems, it routinely has a business sponsor and a group of business people who benefit by having it.

Innovation Management Systems share these attributes with other systems, like those for Accounting (General Ledger, Accounts Receivable) and for more specific purposes like CRM (Customer Relationship Management Systems). But Innovation Management Systems are certainly different than those other Enterprise Solutions.
The most apparent distinction of an Innovation Management System is a truly successful deployment of THIS particular Enterprise Solution is that it gains success with a “Bottom Up” instead of a “Top Down” approach.
Innovation Management Systems are similar to other Enterprise solutions in the sense there should be only one deployed at a company to achieve maximum effectiveness. But when other Enterprise systems are rolled out, some Business Sponsor at a high level (perhaps an EVP) will launch it by clearly communicating something on the order of “This is our new system. It was a big decision for our company to pick this one. We conducted a thorough review of all the software systems in the market and we included a cross section of user types from within our company in the selection process. The company doesn’t want any other systems to pop up in the future and any existing pockets of use of similar systems should cease at once with all the information contained therein to be moved over to the new system. As EVP, I just spent a lot of the company’s money on this new system and I promise you it WILL be a success. If my job is on the line for this decision yours is too, so USE IT.”

OK, maybe they didn’t say those last few sentences but they were tacitly implied.

The Innovation Management System License your company will acquire will benefit the company better if it is treated like a social media system, a la Facebook. Users will flock to the new Innovation Management System because they “hear” that there is a lot of cool, interesting information in there and folks want to see it.
The Innovation Management System will flourish for the same reasons Facebook has been such a big success…Some of the users like to discover information out there on the Internet and enjoy sharing it with their cohorts. Other users will like to read information that those just mentioned post and “share” it with people they work with thinking these coworkers will benefit or enjoy seeing this information.
Different users will post different information according to their interests. Those with “common areas of interest” will begin to follow each other or form “groups”.

Others still will use the new Innovation Management System to store all their work product that has an attribute they think others will benefit by seeing (on Facebook maybe my kids will post pictures knowing I’d like to see them and rather than email me, their Mom, their siblings and their friends each a copy of the pictures they post them on Facebook and we all can see them). At work, if I have an area of expertise and I know many of my coworkers consistently ask me to be privy to my work product, I can just post it on the Innovation Management System and others can retrieve it as often as they like.

When using the Innovation Management System, a user can search for profiles of other users if they think knowing them will be of benefit. They can join groups. They can post, search for and retrieve images, files, videos, events and comment on all of them. They can look for RSS Feeds from industry publications. Unlike Facebook, but most importantly, the new Innovation Management System can solicit ideas and can take in ideas that are unsolicited as well. Posted ideas can benefit from a collaborative work effort from a wide variety of users from different disciplines, different divisions of the company and different time zones. As long as someone has a contribution to make, they can play a part in the collaborative process. And the ideas will benefit, gaining shape, by tapping into the “wisdom of the crowd”.

If a bunch of people at the company are toiling over the shaping of an idea while on the system and they get stuck, they can “invite” other coworkers to join the discussion. “Bill you know a lot about Carbon Bonding (or whatever). Maybe you can give us your opinion on this great new idea we’ve been working on”. These invitations, and the subsequent input, yield “organic growth” of the Innovation Management System.
Having the Innovation Management System integrated with email aids this process.

If an analysis of the system usage tells us there are many Engineers on the new Innovation Management System, but not too many Marketing people, Innovation Managers can take steps to draw the Marketing people into the conversations. Maybe they create a Challenge likely to appeal to the sensibilities of a Marketing Person. Maybe a weekly newsletter goes out to all potential Marketing users with a list of the most popular ideas or discussions containing links to those discussions so it’s easy for the Marketers to click and jump in.
It has been our experience at CogniStreamer clients that when employees at a company get wind of what has been happening on the new Innovation Management System, they ask to join the new system. So simple “word of mouth” plays a role in adoption.

Another “Bottom Up” approach is the method of how “Innovation Managers” on the system are appointed. The new Innovation Management System may benefit less by the appointment of mid level or senior managers as Innovation Managers on the system. Instead it is usually a wise course to notice which users are the most “active” on the system. Obviously these “early adopter” types are quite comfortable with the technology and, in fact, they embrace the new system. Because they are happy to participate on the system, they make ideal Innovation Managers for the system. They don’t have to have “manager” in their official titles at the company, but instead enthusiastic approaches to the use of the system.

Another simple method to support Bottom Up Organic Adoption is to post a list of the most active users on everyone’s landing page or dashboard. With a scheme that makes getting on the list attainable to all users (perhaps restarting it every week), the list can act as an incentive for adoption and usage. Users want the recognition of their peers; they want to be on that list. We’ve seen some companies use the Innovation Management System as the place where budgets get allocated for new projects. If you want budget for your program, you better submit the project as an Idea on the new system and subject it to the scrutiny of your collaborative coworkers otherwise we will give budget to those who have.

Careful consideration must be given to the use of rewards to drive adoption; else the rewards have a counter intuitive result. For instance if I have no hope of winning the reward, I just won’t contribute. If I think everyone will steal my idea and just enter their own version of the same idea but with a twist, no ideas will get submitted during the life of the contest until a day before the deadline. Not a lot of collaboration going on in an environment like that. And you’re back to square one, requiring someone to manually sort and filter the best ideas instead of using the system to do the heavy lifting.

Many organizations are afraid the initial investment of an Innovation Management System will not pay off because the users fail to adopt. A great approach is to make adoption and usage one of the criteria for judging the success of the pilot. This way the software vendor that offers the license has “skin in the game”. They can use their best practices to counsel the users and encourage adoption based on experiences gained at other clients. In fact ideally every employee of the company should have system log in credentials (and single sign on) to smooth the way toward usage. And the vendor should agree only to charge license fees for those at the company who are “Active Users” (say those who log in and contribute at least five times or more per month).

An Innovation Management System will be successful if a Bottom Up approach is taken toward adoption. The use of “marketing newsletters”, few obstructions to logging in, the encouragement of leaders on the system based on their enthusiasm and the clever constructions of compelling campaigns or challenges will all yield a tremendously successful deployment of the new Innovation Management System within your organization.

Ron Shulkin is Vice President of the Americas for CogniStreamer®, an innovation management system. You can learn more about CogniStreamer here

Ron manages The Idea Management Group on LinkedIn (Join Here) . He has written extensively on Idea Management (Read Here) He has been a guest blogger on the Front End of Innovation (FEI) web site and you can read many of these entries here: here: here: here: and here: (Or just search on “shulkin” while you’re here at the FEI blog site) Here’s a link to the CogniStreamer blog site where you can get a good feel for our unique point of view: . One of Ron’s early blog entries actually listed all the offerings in this space. You can link to this specific entry here:

CogniStreamer® is an idea management software tool. It is an open innovation and collaboration platform where internal colleagues and external partner companies or knowledge centers join forces to create, develop and assess innovative ideas within strategically selected areas. The CogniStreamer® portal is an ideal collaborative platform that invites users to actively build a strong innovation portfolio. In addition it provides a powerful resource for internal and external knowledge sharing. The CogniStreamer® framework is used by industry leaders such as Atlas Copco, Bekaert, Case New Holland, Cytec, Imec, Picanol and ThyssenKrupp. CogniStreamer® represents the best use of adaptive collaborative technology such to harness human skill, ingenuity and intelligence.

Monday, June 13, 2011

How Do You Create the Capacity to Focus on Future and New?

We recently received an email from Doug Berger, Managing Director at INNOVATE on thoughts from the Front-End of Innovation conference, last month. We liked it so much, we wanted to share it with you:

After speaking with many attendees, I noticed an emerging insight beginning to move into mainstream thinking ... the gaining recognition of the critical importance of the human system (leadership, culture, individual predispositions, key staff selection) when it comes to truly innovative concepts and making them a commercial success. The truly innovative has more of a feeling of new and different. And if we tell the truth, most of us humans are uncomfortable and unskilled in this realm.

Highlights and Key Takeaways:

Jonah Lehrer, Author, How We Decide: When people are solving "seemingly impossible" problems, moments of insight come from making remote associations, not from focused thinking. We can develop "wise emotions" that point us in constructive directions and away from impulse decisions. When we have a knowing feeling that we are making progress ...focused attention works. When we don't have our inner guidance working ... go for new insights. An unexpected insight: when looking for predictors of successful people, the key personal attribute is perseverance ...people who delay immediate gratification and stick with getting the gritty work done.

Terri Kelly, CEO, W.L. Gore & Associates: What does Gore cultivate in its leaders? The ability to engage in contradictions, challenge, change people's presumptions, and do battle with the opponent in one's own head. The Gore mantra: "Let's be innovative and creative where it matters" and have that live in the organization every day. Gore understands ...leaders create culture.

Charles Camarda, Astronaut, NASA: When failure can be tragic, how do you manage? Assume that the impossible can occur. Create forums to openly question assumptions, encourage dissent. Beware of the confirmation bias. Test to the failure point.

John Kotter, Harvard Business School, speaking on 'Buy-in': Once the mind has learned something, it locks into patterns. False urgency is anxiety-based activity; true urgency is aligned movement towards a big opportunity. People don't understand how to operationalize what they see needs to be done. This last point is quite salient coming from the originator of organizational change management.

As I said at the outset, we humans are unskilled in the truly new and different. So, how do you create the capacity to focus on future and new? Panelists drew on their experiences. 1) Tell a new story or "walk-back" stories of past blockbuster successes ... BMW DesignWorks is using Hollywood to create video trailers for a new idea. 2) Find the things that have appeal to individual C-level executives. 3) Build new and future oriented cadres scattered throughout the company vs. focusing in one place. 4) Use the words of customers - what they actually say.

If I were to boil it down to a key takeaway with which I walked away from FEI2011, this would be it can cultivate truly innovative enterprise-wide thinking and behavior but you can't gift wrap and tie it up with a bow. This is hard work ... and requires perseverance and true grit. As Terri Kelly said, "There are never enough leaders to do this.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Hospitals turn to Creativity and Innovation to Deliver Better Care

Though it may be counter to how many people view productivity, in order to improve patient safety while being squeezed by health care reform, Bassett Healthcare Network is giving leaders and staff paid sabbatical days. Wouldn't it be great if all workplaces gave employees paid sabbatical days? You're probably thinking you'd love the time off. But, what does paid time off have to do with delivering better health care? Well, Bassett Healthcare Network recognizes that doing more with less requires creativity and innovation. Sabbatical days allows leaders and staff the time to think up and pursue new ideas. This time away from the daily grind and pressures of meeting financial performance goals and providing better services paves the way to think differently about the challenges that plague the health care industry.

As you can imagine, implementing sabbatical days and focusing on creativity and innovation takes a cultural shift. With any established organization there is resistance to change. Some of the ways Basset Health Care Network is helping to build a culture of creativity and innovation in addition to the policy of paid sabbatical days includes:

  • Exposing hospital executives to the front lines of hospital care. Think of it as, out of the board room and into patient rooms. This practice is resulting in bringing together the executive staff with the front-line staff.
  • Embracing the notion good ideas come from everywhere. An expectation is that employees regularly reflect on questions like, "Can an employee two steps lower on the organizational chart ask a question that challenges the firmly held opinion of a leader?"
  • Encouraging discussion rather than order giving and order taking
  • Setting aside a budget for implementing new ideas

Although some of these policies may seem like no-brainers to those not in health care, the established ways of the health care system are deeply embedded within the people, processes, policies and culture. Inviting change also means inviting fear. When summing up the challenges faced with embracing creativity and innovation the vice president of nursing and patient care services said, "They're afraid."

At the end of the day change can be scary to many. Creativity and innovation don't come easy within established businesses and institutions. A focus on the people-side of the equation and the culture of the organization can help improve success.


Bush, Haydn. In an era of 'doing more with less, executives nurture creativity. Hospitals and Health Networks, June 11, 2011.

Friday, June 10, 2011

What's Your Innovation Motive?

This case study was sent to us by the folks at Ideaken.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Silencing the Voice of the Customer (VOC): An update on new research methods to create breakthrough products & services

On April 20, 2011, Tony Ulwick, founder and CEO of Strategyn, explained why he believes the voice of the customer (VOC) needs to be silenced in a webinar conducted by the Institute for International Research and Strategyn. We had great participation and feedback, but unfortunately we ran out of time before we could answer all the questions that were coming in.

If you missed the Silencing the Voice of the Customer (VOC): Focus on the "job-to-be-done" and create breakthrough products and services webinar, you can view it here.

We would very much like to respond to some of those questions now:

Q: Is the job map only for functional jobs, or does it also apply to social and emotional jobs too?

A: Strategyn defines a job as the fundamental goal or goals customers are trying to accomplish, or problems they are trying to solve, in a given situation. This includes functional and emotional jobs. The job map, however, is only applicable to the functional job that is being studied, as it reveals how to improve product function. Making the job the unit of analysis is the cornerstone of the outcome-driven innovation philosophy.

Q: You assume that the job to be done is not changing. However, often, this is not the case because as capability to do different things changes, often the request for a specific job then changes. How do you handle this?

A: Changes in the capability to do things actually represents changes in the tools for the job, not changes in the actual job. The job does not change – that is a safe assumption. Let’s say you switch from using a toothbrush and toothpaste to clean your teeth to a Sonicare cleaner or to chewing gum with antiplaque ingredients in it. If you think in terms of the tools—the solutions—you might think the job has changed, but it hasn’t: the job is still cleaning your teeth. Only the tools to do the job have changed.

Q: How do you know everything a customer wants when they don't even know what they want?

A: Traditional innovation approaches often say customers don’t know what they want because those approaches are thinking in terms of solutions, and it’s true that customers often can’t envision what solutions will help them get a job done best – after all, they are not the technology experts. But customers do know exactly what jobs they are trying to get done, and the 50 to 150 metrics they use to measure the successful execution of a job. We have completed hundreds of studies that prove this is so. These metrics are the customer’s needs, and they know them – all of them. With these metrics in hand, companies can envision and create the products that will help customers get the job done better, which is the goal of innovation.

Q: If you are silencing the voice of the customer, who do you talk to in order to find out what jobs the customers are trying to get done?

A: We are not suggesting that companies stop talking to customers. What we are suggesting is that companies silence the voice of the customer as a practice – it does not work for innovation. In other words, companies should silence VoC and adopt the practices we are describing here. These improved practices are still dependent on customer input, but the focus is on understanding the job they are trying to get done and not on how to improve a product, which is where VoC goes wrong. We ask the customer to describe all the steps they take to get a job done, and then we ask them to tell us what makes each step time- consuming, unpredictable, and inefficient. We then listen for the metrics they use to measure success and document them as customer needs.

Q: How different is the outcome-driven approach when it is used for breakthrough innovation vs. product improvement?

A: In both scenarios, the outcome-driven innovation process is executed the same way. Differences do arise, however, when new solutions are being proposed. Product improvement assumes new features will be added to an existing product platform, but breakthrough innovation typically requires the conceptualization of a new platform. In either case, your primary goal is to find solutions that address the unmet needs of the customers. The tools to get there are the same.

Q: What was the independent study that quantified the change in success rate from ODI?

A: In 2010, Strategyn engaged researcher Janet Bumpas to study the success rates of traditional innovation methods and its own innovation process, Outcome-Driven Innovation® (ODI). The results show that while traditional innovation processes have an average success rate of 17 percent, ODI’s success rate is 86 percent. This means that 86 percent of the products and services launched by Strategyn clients using ODI were a success. You can find more details of the study on our website.

Q: How was innovation success defined in this study?

A: Companies were asked to judge the success of a product based on one of four metrics: revenue, market share, customer satisfaction, or return on investment.

Strategyn believes it’s time to silence the voice of the customer as an innovation practice. The customer does indeed have insight into the jobs they are trying to get done, but you need to think from a different perspective in order to turn that insight into valuable customer inputs. Strategyn’s ODI methodology does exactly that. Armed with that knowledge, you can tackle the challenge of innovation knowing that you will be successful: and you will create growth plans that work.

For more information on Outcome-Driven Innovation, please visit our website to download the free white paper.

Contributed by Tony Ulwick, Founder & CEO, Strategyn, Inc.

Tony Ulwick is a thought leader, author, and a long-time practitioner in the field of innovation. Tony is the inventor of Outcome-Driven Innovation®, a patented process built around the theory that people buy products to get jobs done. His methodology has been adopted as a best practice by dozens of the world’s leading firms, including Microsoft, Johnson & Johnson, Kimberly-Clark, and Colgate-Palmolive.

His articles on strategy and innovation include the Harvard Business Review’s “Turn Customer Input into Innovation” and “The Customer-Centered Innovation Map.” He is also the author of the best-selling book What Customers Want.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How Do You Rank?

I was catching up on some reading while on a flight home from Philadelphia this evening. I was reading the cover story from the June 2011 Fast Company magazine entitled “The 100 Most Creative People In Business”. I found the profiles pretty interesting. It made me wonder how I’d rank within my own company.

Pick virtually any parameter you want - creative, innovative, etc. - and ask yourself a question. How do you rank within your organization?

If you don't like the answer, do something about it.  A little introspection every once in a while can be beneficial for you and your organization. It will make both or you stronger.

Is Brainstorming Broken?

Last month, at the Front End of Innovation Conference in Boston, the second day of the event was kicked off by a thought-provoking keynote by Jonah Lehrer. A Rhodes scholar, author, and contributing editor at Wired Magazine, Jonah is an all-star. His polished presentation focused on shedding some light on understanding how our brains work, bringing a welcome change from the case histories of the previous presentations (not that there is anything wrong with those).

He made one statement though that sent a bit of a murmur through the crowd and stuck in my mind, and on which I want to focus this post. Likely a controversial opinion amongst the FEI crowd full of innovation practitioners, in touting the power of the relaxed state of mind, Jonah suggested that brainstorming doesn’t actually work, and, further, in fact inhibits our imagination – thus, the title of this post, and the question I want to put to you.

His argument is that our attention in a non-relaxed state is too occupied with things other than coming up with a good idea to indeed come up with a good idea. He extends this to a brainstorming session, suggesting that the scheduled, predictable nature of such a meeting not only hampers creativity but situationally brings with it demands on our attention that we won’t be able to shake (e.g. What do I have after this? What’s for lunch? I have to respond to that email…).

This seems to be true if we are considering the value of a single idea created on-demand (as in a brainstorm) versus a single idea created in a relaxed state of mind. However, if you have 15 people in a room operating at 60% attention capacity, versus one at 100% (or as close as it is truly possible to reach), you counteract the effect of the distractions. Furthermore, in a group brainstorm setting you have a multiplicative effect stemming from the ability of the members to build on one another’s ideas. Brainstorms are so powerful because you get not just a single idea but as many as time and energy allow.

In truth, Jonah is undeniably right in that a relaxed mind has a greater likelihood of producing a valuable idea. What we all know is that the odds of that happening, even at the highest level of relaxation (the most attention “available” to be devoted to free ideation), are extremely low. Realistically, a point change in attention level does not linearly correlate with a point change in number of good ideas.

Now, perhaps the new question is whether there is an effective and efficient way to get a group of people close to the ideal relaxed state in a brainstorm setting.

I don’t want Jonah’s main point to be absent from this post. He says that the ability to strategically allocate attention is a skill highly correlated with success. Do this and you are positioned not only to be more innovative but more effective in general. He closed by offering, “Our self-knowledge of how the brain works is very useful knowledge that can help us make it work a little better.” I couldn’t agree more.

So, what do you think, is brainstorming broken?

- Clay Maxwell (@bizinovationist)

Clay is a Business Innovationist with Creative Realities, an innovation strategy consulting firm. He is a frequent contributor to their Innovationist Blog where all things innovation are discussed. You can find out more about Creative Realities at

Monday, June 6, 2011

Connecting Dots for Innovation Video from #FEI11

A (ironic) clip from the presentation made by Timothy Grayson, author of The Spaces In Between, at the 2011 Front End of Innovation Conference in Boston.

Visit to view all of his FEI11 coverage.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Innovation is Seeing the Invisible

In an FEI11 presentation by Timothy Grayson, author of The Spaces in Between, Grayson shared how successful innovators don't look at the the dots or the lines connecting them, but the spaces in between. Grayson started by saying when it comes to innovation, we (people) are the problem. He believes we are programed to make innovation harder and that becoming better innovators means seeing what is invisible. Grayson listed some reasons we get in our own way including:

  • Cognitive biases - status quo bias, ambiguity effect...we don't know what is going on in our own heads
  • Complexity and chaos science. In short, we have incorrect beliefs...we believe in stability, then every now and then we get a disproportionate, catastrophic event like the natural disasters that hit New Orleans, Haiti and Japan
  • Behavioral economics - makes us question whether or not we should believe in things like supply and demand
  • We get stuck in ruts that those who came before us created. And, because the future is path dependent on what happened in the past, it makes it more difficult to get out of the rut.

Grayson then poked holes in the reasons why we get in our own way including: the information we base our decisions on are unstable (information changes), information is incomplete (sometimes, we need to wait for things to unfold), information is a narcotic, or addictive (it is hard to be novel because we are stuck trying to deal with what is there).

Grayson sees the success in innovation as the ability to see what no one else can see and act on it. Here are his 7 tips for getting out of your own way and seeing the invisible:

  1. Be observant
  2. Break the rules (can't discover unless you break rules, or color whole new lines)
  3. Gather broad knowledge (be obsessively curious in order to make connections)
  4. Watch your metaphors (every now and then try out something new, just because)
  5. Act now (action in a system changes a system)
  6. Guess...and get lucky (never underestimate the power of serendipity. If it doesn't succeed, you've narrowed the potential alternatives, or discovered something better)
  7. Make stuff up (since it is invisible, you'll need to do this anyway. Play "What if?... " Look for novelty)

In closing, Grayson provided the following advice, "As innovators, we need to see the invisible. Stop looking for what is obvious. Search the spaces in between."

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Marshmallow Test as a Predictor of Future Financial Woes

In the 1970's Dr. Walter Mischel of Stanford University conducted the famous marshmallow tests where he put 600 of 4-year olds into a room by themselves and told them they could have one marshmallow or cookie right away, or wait until he came back and have two marshmallows or cookies. This test of willpower, self-control and immediate gratification ended in 30% of the preschoolers eating the treats and some waiting as long as 20 minutes to double the number of treats. The interesting learning from this study is how 4-year olds performed on this test predicted patterns later in life. In short, children who were able to delay gratification were more successful later in life. They performed better on the SAT and were described by parents as (Mischel, Yoda & Rodriguez 1983) "more attentive and able to concentrate, competent, planful, and intelligent." While students who were unable to delay gratification were not as successful later in life sometimes dropping out of school or engaging in risky behaviors.

Decades later, Sesame Street is using the learning from Mischel's marshmallow tests to teach financial literacy. In a June 3, 2011 report PBS Newshour correspondent Paul Solman described how Elmo, Grover and Cookie Monster provided strategies for smart ways to save and spend money based Mischel's principles of delayed gratification. Solman began,

If Elmo's going to save, that would distinguish him from a host of grownup Americans, more than a third of whom have a mere $1,000 or less socked away, in total. Twenty-nine percent of us report not having saved one penny for retirement. Related, perhaps, we can't calculate our way out of a paper bag.

Remember the 30% of children who were unable to delay gratification? Strikingly familiar to the 29% of Americans who reported not saving for retirement. Children who have very little self control tend to suffer from severe financial woes by the time they are in their 30's. Self control transcends socioeconomic conditions and intelligence. Self-control can also be learned.

Some strategies for building self control and willpower include shifting your attention away from the temptation and changing the way you think about the object you desire. Think about it, if you have your sights and intentions locked on a marshmallow and cannot get it out of your mind, the act of paying attention to the marshmallow increases desire to eat the marshmallow. While shifting attention away removes the marshmallow from your mind. In the case of Sesame Street, they're working to get kids into the habit of saving earlier and importantly, giving them rules of what is appropriate when it comes to finances and financial literacy.

Being a parent of a 5-year old and a 7-year old, I find the marshmallow tests disturbing. Would my children be able to resist temptation? To find out, I ran a similar test using chocolate morsels. My 7-year old did well, while my 5-year old gave in a bit to temptation. Interestingly, in my heart of hearts, I knew this would be the outcome. While my 5-year old did not technically eat the entire chocolate morsel, he licked it twice before he instinctively made toys out of some of the items in the room to distract himself. With the outcome of the morsel test, I plan to include teaching self-control in our family routine.

Given 1.5 million Americans filed for bankruptcy in 2010 and the terrible fiscal condition of countries around the globe, perhaps we should all pay heed to Mischel's marshmallow tests and Sesame Street's initiatives. As I've mentioned in past articles, research on neuroplasticity tells us while we are born with particular brain patterns, we can change those patterns based on our experiences. Sounds like we long overdue for creativity in thinking up new experiences to promote financial literacy.

Mischel, Walter, Yuichi Shoda, and Monica L. Rodriguez. "Delay of gratification in children." Science 244.4907 (1989): 933+. Academic OneFile. Web. 4 June 2011.
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Thursday, June 2, 2011

What City Should Host FEI Europe 2012? YOU DECIDE

Stay tuned for news about FEI Europe 2012 here!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Managing (Someone Else's) Process

A critical aspect of what we do – managing the Front End of Innovation – is process management, a.k.a. facilitation. In order to empower our clients to build a sustainable capacity for innovation, we have to fully engage them. Doing so involves taking the process out of our clients’ hands so that they can focus on the content, the newness. To this point, we like to say, “You have a passion to implement what you help to create.” This mantra is why we’ve been named the Innovation Management Collaborative. They actually have to have a hand in coming up with the solution - doing it for them doesn’t carry the same weight, and threatens the success and longevity of new ideas.

Normally, our engagements begin with an Innovation Diagnostic – an assessment of what’s working and what’s not in regard to innovation within an organization. From there we design a program tailored to achieve breakthrough innovation appropriate to the needs, competencies and aspirations of the client company. On occasion however, we come into an innovation effort midstream. Earlier this year, I went out with a team to help a terrific client of ours run a leadership (top 40 people in the organization) strategy alignment session. They had already done the majority of the planning and needed someone to manage the process (so everyone could participate) and offer some strategic insights at the pivotal moments to move from one activity to the next. No problem – right in our wheelhouse. This will be a piece of cake.

Well not exactly. Let’s be clear though, the meeting went very well. The senior sponsors got what they wanted (input from the group around the strategic direction). However, from our perspective as innovationists, we left with some significant insights garnered from running a process that was not our own. Here’s what we learned:

When you run the process of a meeting, whether you designed it or not, it will be assumed to be yours. Be prepared to get questioned about the reasoning behind doing it this way versus that. This means you must ensure that you’ve elicited this rationale from your client, so you don’t have to continually redirect mid-session, putting the sponsors on the spot time and time again.

Another thing that came up here was that the group was bothered by the amount of boldness, or rather the lack thereof, that was coming up in the offers. As much of the group had worked with us before, they wondered why they weren’t getting to the same level of newness. The process, their process, was set up to get to the big strategic decision points that they needed, not to invite unique offers. Newness and stretch are not built into this strategic planning process, nevertheless it was seen as our process because we were running it, and thus the absence of boldness was evident.

This experience also presents for us a bit of an existential conundrum, as facilitation is but a small (nonetheless important) piece of what we deliver for our clients. For these guys, we’d do anything, but where do you draw the line?

I would love to hear from others what their experience has been with this. How do you manage a process that you did not design? And, how do you jump the hurdles that inevitably arise?

- Clay Maxwell (@bizinovationist)

Clay is a Business Innovationist with Creative Realities, an innovation strategy consulting firm. He is a frequent contributor to their Innovationist Blog where all things innovation are discussed. You can find out more about Creative Realities at

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