Saturday, May 31, 2014

Inside Toronto's most innovative organizations

We are thrilled to announce FEI: Front End of Innovation, the world's leading innovation conference, is coming to Toronto this September 29-October 1st at the Ritz-Carlton. Join your innovation, R&D, product development and insights peers as they accelerate systematic innovation growth, from ideation to execution.

This year alone, over 1,100 of your innovation and R&D colleagues have already attended one of the FEI: Front End of Innovation portfolio of events in either Boston, Munich or Venice.


For 2014, we've added some can't miss elements to truly drive innovation implementation:

EVALUATE with Front End and Back End BUSINESS CASES: allow you to learn by examples from others in the trenches to evaluate what worked, what didn't, and why

CREATE with Collaborative LEARNING LABS: Mini innovation workshops create the ideal space to get hands-on and put innovation to work through interactive activities.

• EXPLORE with FIELD TRIPS: get outside the conference walls as you visit the HQ's of some of Toronto's most innovative organizations.

• Innovation superheroes keynotes include:

- Jeremy Gutsche, CEO & Chief Trend Hunter, TrendHunter, Author, Exploiting Chaos, and forthcoming Better & Faster

- Vijay Govindarajan, leading innovation and strategy expert, best-selling author, Thinkers50 Award Winner, and Tuck professor.

- riCardo Crespo, former SVP, Global Creative, Century Fox Film Corporation, Chief Creative Officer, TH13TEEN

- Gillian Ferrabee, Director, Creative Lab, Cirque du Soleil Media
And, Many more

Plus, Access to the North American Consumer Insights Event

At the intersection of consumer insights and innovation lies COMPETITIVE STRATEGY! In one venue you get access to two events and senior level executives from across the value chain. ONE investment gives you access to double the content, double the sessions, double the speakers, double the insights, double the value!

We want to personally invite you to join visionaries from across North America at the FEI Toronto event.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Sikorsky Innovations “Cracks the Code” of Working with Entrepreneurs with SPARK WHAT’S NEXT™

Jonathan Hartman, Disruptive Technologies Lead from Sikorsky Innovations, took the stage at the 2014 Front End of Innovation Conference to talk about his company’s Innovation DNA and how it is accelerating the future with its Entrepreneurial Challenge. His talk coincided with the launch of the latest “Entrepreneurial Challenge” as well as a press release announcing the winners of the 4th Entrepreneurial Challenge and an exciting announcement about the growing success of EvoLux Transportation, Inc., a start-up company who won the 2nd Entrepreneurial Challenge.

You may know Sikorsky, the company that makes the BLACK HAWK helicopter and other military and commercial helicopters. What you may not know is that Sikorsky, founded by entrepreneur Igor Sikorsky, has had to reinvent itself in major ways at least twice due to major disruptions—World War II for example—where it almost went out of business. You may also not be aware that Sikorsky is part of United Technologies Corporation, a group of successful high-tech aerospace and building systems, products and services, with brands that include Otis and Carrier.  

Sikorsky Innovations is a network of employees within Sikorsky that was formed to discover innovative technology solutions to the toughest problems in vertical flight. Their approach involves collaborations with government technology agencies, academic institutions, other United Technologies businesses, and most recently, entrepreneurs.

In early 2012, Sikorsky launched the first “Entrepreneurial Challenge,” calling upon small technology startups to pitch their winning concepts. The winners of that first entrepreneurial challenge were awarded office space in the nearby Stamford Innovation Center, access to technology experts within Sikorsky as well as introductions to channel partners, universities and other experts. In addition, they were connected to mentorship and expertise to help them grow their own business. Most importantly, the entrepreneurial challenge winners did not have to sign over their intellectual property in order to participate.

Since then, Sikorsky Innovations has run 3 additional competitions, honing its approach each time and increasing both the quality and quantity of submissions. Jonathan Hartman, who runs the entrepreneurial challenges, did an “Innovation Tour” last fall across the US. Jonathan went to 10 cities known for entrepreneurial energy and visited incubators and places where start-ups congregate. He sponsored food. He talked directly to entrepreneurs. He answered questions. As a result, there was a three-fold increase in submissions. Sikorsky also broadened its definition of an “entrepreneur.”  “At first,” said Hartman, “we restricted entrants to companies with 1-10 people. We have since expanded our definition of what constitutes an entrepreneur. They could be working in a company with 100 people, or even a team within a larger company.”

How to attract the best talent to the competition? According to Hartman, it is all about debunking myths. "How does a company that has a reputation as a stodgy, New England manufacturing company reach out and touch very agile, flexible, innovative people?” asked Hartman, rhetorically. The first myth to be debunked is that Sikorsky is stodgy. Sikorsky is not stodgy. It has innovation in its DNA and always has. 

The second myth to debunk:  An entrepreneur with no aviation experience cannot work with Sikorsky. As Hartman says, “while we are searching for experts in our field – we are searching for technology experts in other fields who have an aviation application and they don’t know it. Our search is about finding those folks and telling them ‘we have aviation experts at Sikorsky – you have domain experience that we don’t have. Let’s collaborate to create a win-win situation.’"

The Entrepreneurial Challenge questions are broad enough to permit entrepreneurs from various disciplines to submit. To date, Sikorsky Innovations has awarded 9 winners.The Entrepreneurial Challenge continues to evolve. Sikorsky explicitly wants self-sustaining partners who will champion their ideas and who want to work with Sikorsky. A singularly good idea has to be championed by them. The award package is tailored to the entrepreneur’s development stage and capabilities. 

The latest entrepreneurial challenge is called SPARK WHAT’S NEXT™, and entrepreneurs are invited to submit ideas until October 3, 2014.



Ivy Eisenberg is founder of Our IdeaWorks, an Innovation and Lean Customer Research™ consultancy that helps companies connect to customers and other stakeholders to discover business opportunities, accelerate growth, and build and deliver successful products and services.  Ivy has more than 25 years of experience in the Front End of Innovation, user interaction design, and software product and project management. She has worked in healthcare, financial services, B2B, consumer goods, and telecommunications sectors.  Ivy is also an award-winning humor writer and storyteller, with an MBA in Marketing, Entrepreneurship and Innovation from NYU’s Stern School of Business.



Monday, May 26, 2014

Disrupting Brands Webinar Encore

Here's your chance to explore Disrupting Brands: Innovations that Challenge Identity have much Different Dynamics than those Innovations of Pure Utility.

Sign up to discuss

• The Utility-Identity Brand Continuum
• Culture as the Arena for Rapid Meaning Transfer
• What Artists Can Teach Business about Disruption



 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

14 Things of Note from FEI 14















What was your favorite takeaway?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Live from FEI 2014: Tom Graznow and Andrea Klemm on Human-Centered Design Thinking

At any conference on innovation, one of the terms that will get kicked around a lot is "design thinking," which can make it seem almost like a disembodied construct that lacks any kind of human significance. In their presentation, Stryker Medical's Tom Graznow and Tribune's Andrea Klemm remind us that, even when designing products or machines, design is by people, and for people.

Because of how easy it is to overlook the human element in design thinking, Graznow warned that it is important to put the people side into the innovation framework so that it becomes part of the discipline, or perhaps even the primary focus of design endeavors. While this missive may seem like it requires some sort of formal process to integrate, Graznow suggests just jumping in and getting started, and just maintaining a focus on people.

At first blush, the implication seems to be an orientation towards customers, but while no one would suggest that a company do otherwise, both Graznow and Klemm were primarily looking at the innovators themselves. Many of the guides to innovation and design-thinking are full of great advice and ideas, but the trouble is that they were not written with a specific company's culture in mind. To that end, Klemm warned "Don't let the theory fool you!" It is imperative to reverse-engineer the given advice to fit the culture of the company and the innovation team, and likewise the tools that they find effective.

Another big issue with design thinking is that it is often presented as a clean-cut process. The reality, acknowledged Klemm, is a whole different ballgame. Designing and innovating is a non-linear and messy process that has the potential to get stymied by any number of company gatekeepers and procedures, which means playing through failure, contesting bad calls (and playing politics!), and expecting the unexpected.

Critically, human-centered design thinking is about going beyond the numbers of research and into the hearts and minds of people. It is about understanding problems, knowing that they have a human side, and then remembering that the people who solve them are human, too.


Orin C. Davis is a positive psychology researcher and organizational consultant who focuses on enabling people to do and be their best.  His consulting work focuses on maximizing human capital and making workplaces great places to work, and his research focuses on self-actualization, flow, creativity, hypnosis, and mentoring. Dr. Davis is the principal investigator of the Quality of Life Laboratory and the Chief Science Officer of Self Spark. (@DrOrinDavis)

Live from FEI 2014: David Jensen on Agile Innovation

Agile innovation is the art of making hard things easy and leveraging digital to enable new viable business offerings faster!

One of the toughest aspects of innovation is that it needs to move at the speed of business. Companies need to create quickly to get first-mover advantages, fast ROI's, and sufficient prototyping to perfect the new product/service. Shareholders will not wait, and neither will competing startups, which means that firms need to engage in agile innovation. As explained by Ernst & Young's David Jensen, agile innovation is about finding problems worth solving and finding ways to catalyze the innovation process through high flexibility and fast iteration cycles.

Many of the principles of agile innovation are aligned with some of the recent scholarship about creativity and innovation. For instance, agile innovation requires high tolerance for failure and the ability to use it to change course, which effectively means taking little bets whose outcomes can be realized quickly in order to guide the innovation process. Moreover, while many companies are inclined to keep innovation processes internal, Jensen points out that agile innovation actually requires companies to think outside the firm. Whether this is working alongside customers[1] or creating innovation challenges, the aim is to interact with a wide range of stakeholders. Another hallmark of agile innovation is the freewheeling communication and self-organization that is common in the most synergistic teams[2]. Each of these principles requires acceptance of ambiguity[3] and the ability to refrain from closing off ideational avenues prematurely[4].

On the operations side, Jensen reviewed some of the primary ways to set up high-impact teams. First and foremost, there must be sufficient trust and psychological safety for people to contribute their best and most creative material. Second, there needs to be shared responsibility and accountability, so that every member of the team understands the importance and value of his/her contribution. Third, the team needs to be comprised of people whose skill sets fit the innovation goals under which the team was formed. Finally, the freewheeling communication also needs to have transparency, such that there is shared language and everyone knows how to contribute[5].

There is a wealth of advice out there for any company that wants to learn to innovate, but where Jensen's talk really shined was showing how firms can be agile enough to make innovation happen quickly. As Teresa Amabile points out, the key is for everyone to be innovators on a mission!


Orin's Asides
1) See Adrian Slywotzky's Demand for discussion.
2) See research by Keith Sawyer (example).
3) See work by Eric Abrahamson (example).
4) See Arie Kruglanski's research for more (example).
5) There is an extensive amount of research on this topic.  For overviews, see work by Hackman & Oldham and Katzenbach & Smith. For more detailed analysis, see work by Eduardo Salas.


Orin C. Davis is a positive psychology researcher and organizational consultant who focuses on enabling people to do and be their best.  His consulting work focuses on maximizing human capital and making workplaces great places to work, and his research focuses on self-actualization, flow, creativity, hypnosis, and mentoring. Dr. Davis is the principal investigator of the Quality of Life Laboratory and the Chief Science Officer of Self Spark. (@DrOrinDavis)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Live from FEI2014: An Interview with Stevens Institute of Technology's Jorge Salome

As innovators, we are concerned not just with the future of our business endeavors, but with the talent pipeline that is coming through the universities. As a professor of business and psychology, I'm getting multiple requests from companies each year to pass along my best students. At FEI 2014, we were treated to a look at the future from Stevens Institute of Technology professor Peter Koen, who showcased the products of his entrepreneurship course for first-years, in which students were tasked with inventing new products and taking them from concept to prototype in seven weeks flat.

The most amazing part, however, was that several groups were actually accepted to Kickstarter and their campaigns to launch a startup are underway. Two of the projects, Modu-Strip and Key Vida, were featured during Prof. Koen's opening keynote. I had the opportunity to interview one of the inventors on the Key Vida team, Jorge Salome, whose story is inspiring to rising entrepreneurs and businesses alike.

When I started high school, I didn't know I would become a leader -- I was a shy guy.

Jorge was born in Peru, and came to the US at the age of 10. Settling in one of the inner-city parts of Northern New Jersey, Jorge worked diligently to learn English and get into the mainstream classes, and then earned admission into the engineering program of the Passaic County Technical School. Though initially a quiet and unassuming fellow, Jorge found himself growing into leadership positions, eventually becoming the captain of the engineering team and specializing in robotics. Seeking to make an impact, even in high school, Jorge thought about people with hand/arm injuries that could lose the ability to drive, and ultimately built a prototype of a hovercraft car that can be controlled entirely by one's feet.

Jorge decided to go to Stevens Institute of Technology, where he could focus on engineering but also get exposure to a broad range of fields. Believing that engineering and innovation go hand-in-hand with business, he took Peter Koen's entrepreneurship course, and his story is a great example of how any company can just launch an innovation initiative:

As soon as we started I was jumping right in with pitching ideas...We were always looking ahead at what we were going to do next. I learned how important marketing is, and it is important to talk to the right people in the business world...We knew we wanted the idea of the phone case, but I realized that I have too many keys and my key ring is too big (too many keys), and it's such a hassle to go dig my keys out of my bag, and the team built on the idea quickly, and realized that "key" also included ID. They realized that many cases had space for keys/cards, but none of them allow you to use them without taking them out of the case...Professor Koen suggested that we apply to Kickstarter, and we did, and then he continued to give us opportunities to show the product...I didn't believe this was possible until Prof. Koen showed us that it was.

When I asked Jorge what inspired him to believe that he could make it all the way to a Kickstarter campaign, and possibly beyond, he replied that it was a step-by-step process, with little steps, and little goals, building each one out of the recognition that he faced difficulty before and prevailed. Regardless of whether the Kickstarter campaign succeeds, The fact that I learned from this, the fact that I was exposed to this...getting to know networking...that's something I'm never going to forget...and, for the next challenge, maybe I will be able to use that.

I asked Jorge what advice he would give to kids from the inner-city that hope to follow his path, and his answer sounded like the battle cry of every entrepreneur:

Always give yourself new goals...It's easy to give up, that's the easiest thing to do...It's harder to just step up, and keep up...I would tell them to believe in themselves, to go one step at a time, that they have already gotten this far, and they have nothing to lose.  We got here to do something, so let's do something...Do something that you like...or that you might like doing, and specialize in that...You can't give up...It's gonna be rough.  You might have to work and study and other stuff...

It's not going to be easy.  If you believe it's going to be worth it someday...[that] the things we change now are going to affect our later generations...You have to work hard to get far...[When people believe in you], it makes you fight harder...If you give up, you give up on everyone who stands behind you...It means a lot...somebody believing in you like that, it could be life-changing.

There are opportunities that you are given.  Accept the opportunities.  Never say no to opportunities...If I said, 'Oh, no, I don't want to do this because I'm scared...'  They have nothing to lose...I was able to accept [the opportunities], take the challenge.  

I haven't reached my goal yet, but maybe I will one day...or die trying!

(Check out Jorge's Key Vida project on Kickstarter!)

Orin C. Davis is a positive psychology researcher and organizational consultant who focuses on enabling people to do and be their best.  His consulting work focuses on maximizing human capital and making workplaces great places to work, and his research focuses on self-actualization, flow, creativity, hypnosis, and mentoring. Dr. Davis is the principal investigator of the Quality of Life Laboratory and the Chief Science Officer of Self Spark. (@DrOrinDavis)

Strategic Innovation and Executive Leadership from #FEI14

Michael Tushman just presented at Front End of Innovation conference last week on “Strategic Innovation and Executive Leadership” that went straight to the heart of the dilemma many companies face. How to balance executing on today’s business with the need to create tomorrow’s business, and do it all without missing earnings that cause Wall Street to get upset.

As industry after industry is disrupted, Tushman took us inside the thinking of one company – Havas, an advertising agency in France – that is facing the crowdsourcing revolution on it’s industry. One senior leader who spoke seemed to get the nature of the disruption, the other, almost comically, did not. Showing a headline from a business publication “What’s gone wrong at HP” Tushman noted that it’s not a lack of quality engineers, it’s “what’s going on with the leadership team.” He further noted that Harvard University itself is in the cusp of a disruption in the way education is delivered, but didn’t further elaborate on how its process of innovation was benefiting from his research and avoiding the coming revolution’s fallout on its business model.

Tushman’s solution is to encourage organizations to become ambidextrous. To execute and “exploit” efficiencies in today’s business, and to form special teams and processes to explore tomorrow’s business. “Once leaders and their teams get it, this is not rocket science,” he argued.”Successful firms get caught by inertia” but it doesn’t have to lead to a Blackberry Moment.

Although Tushman’s presentation favored classing examples from the 70s and yesteryear, he did allude to emerging tools like crowdsourcing and companies like Innocentive (that bring together problem solvers and big problems organizations need to solve but can’t without help).

Most firms move to exploration when they are stuck. But proactively building in “exploratory capabilities” is key, and often runs up against “politics.”  Had Tushman had more time, I for one would have enjoyed his taking us behind the scenes into the political dynamics of top teams, and give us a view of how the various actors cope with these issues for better or worse.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Robert B. Tucker is president of The Innovation Resource Consulting Group, and the author, most recently, of Innovation is Everybody’s Business (Wiley and Sons). Details: rtucker@innovationresource.com


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Exploiting Chaos: Free Book on How to Spark Innovation

Exploiting Chaos - 150 Ways to Spark Innovation During Times of Change" is an award-winning book on innovation by Trend Hunter CEO Jeremy Gutsche. The book is now completely free to share online and with your team. You can also get the PDF free for a Tweet at: www.trendhunter.com

It will teach your organization:

1) STRATEGY - Turn chaos into opportunity
2) CULTURE - Create a culture of innovation
3) TRENDS - Filter through all the noise
4) INNOVATION - Increase your odds
5) MARKETING - Infectiously market your ideas


Monday, May 19, 2014

Live from FEI 2014: Panel on Building New Business in Established Organizations

One of the biggest challenges faced by large, established businesses is the fact that inertia and the maintenance of their main product and service lines can prevent them from innovating. Even the "innovate or die" mantra, of which they are aware, does not provide enough impetus to get them to try and disrupt themselves.[1] Yet, some firms, like IBM and P&G, have been able to innovate without necessarily resorting to skunkworks projects like Google[x], and today's session featured advice from Dr. Carol Kovac (IBM) and George Glackin (P&G) on how they managed to do this (they were joined by changelogic's Andy Binns).

Flat out, here is the problem: The very qualities that make a company great are also the greatest hindrance to growth and transition in times of change, threat, or opportunity. There is a risk that any changes made to the firm will cause it to go under sooner than it might have otherwise, even as inaction will lead to certain doom. Yet, as the panel pointed out, this is not an impossible situation. There are a number of steps that an organization can take to make innovation and new business happen in a well-established entity:

1) Strong leadership -- The company needs to choose people who can both lead a business and can bring in a solid foundation of knowledge of both the organization and its brand. This allows for strong leadership that is consistent with the mission and meaning of the company.

2) Efficient HR planning across the hierarchy -- Make sure that there are representatives from all levels of the company so that the people involved in innovation initiatives understand that their endeavor has the support of the C-suite.[2,3]

3) Rigorous fiscal planning and disciplined investment -- This is actually a delicate balance. On the one hand, the company needs to budget sufficiently for the innovation endeavors and have a consistent and disciplined investment plan. On the other, the innovation process needs to be nimble and fast, and it should be accepted that it will not adhere to traditional financial measurements and benchmarks. Consequently, its success/outcomes should not be evaluated like the other, established parts of the business.

4) Drive to deliver near-term shareholder value -- Without this, the company is going to face a serious backlash from its investors.

5) Ability to scale -- Whatever the company is working on, it needs to be something that can be scaled quickly, easily, and readily.[4]

6) Relentless focus on the customer -- This is consistent with most of the established advice on innovation (see asides below), but bears repeating. Companies can sometimes get so wrapped up in their own processes that they forget to be in touch with the end users of their products and services (which are also the people who provide the revenue!).

Even with steps as clear-cut as these, the genius of the companies that follow them lies in the execution. Few are able to do it successfully, but there are enough proofs-of-concept to demonstrate that it is possible for even old, big, and established companies to innovate like a start-up.


Orin's Asides
1) Which, as Luke Williams points out, is important for any business.
2) Peter Koen on why C-suite support is key.
3) My recommendations for bringing in good talent.
4) See Bob Sutton's and Huggy Rao's book on scaling.


Orin C. Davis is a positive psychology researcher and organizational consultant who focuses on enabling people to do and be their best.  His consulting work focuses on maximizing human capital and making workplaces great places to work, and his research focuses on self-actualization, flow, creativity, hypnosis, and mentoring. Dr. Davis is the principal investigator of the Quality of Life Laboratory and the Chief Science Officer of Self Spark. (@DrOrinDavis)

Seeing and Telling Your Innovation Stories Webinar Encore

If you missed our live Web Chat on Seeing and Telling Your Innovation Stories.

View the webianr below to view how we describe how we are going to prototype, curate and crowd-source, using HypeGo, stories of real innovators, caught in the act of changing the world, industry-by- industry, city-by-city.

We’re going to share these stories freely, and do the research on what helps them “spread,” with help from Sam Ford, MIT Media Studies Researcher and author of Spreadable Media. We will also look at the patterns in the stories, as media forms and as news, with Kim Garretson, Fellow, Reynolds School of Journalism.

Sign up to discover:

• How to participate in Innovation Excellence’s Story Project to share your own story
• What makes a great innovation story?
• What is spreadable media?
• The strategic role of stories in creating, disseminating and capturing innovation outcomes
• Crowdsourcing and open-innovation approaches to story capture and sharing



Thursday, May 15, 2014

Human Centered Design Thinking

Lessons from the Human Centered Design Thinking presentation:

  • Ask the right questions - When asked the right way questions can increase the number of ideas. However, when asked the incorrect way questions can stifle ideas. For example, while it may be difficult for a person to come up with an app for family law, by asking what are the problems you face every day in practicing family law, it becomes easier to come up with ideas.
  • Practice re-framing - ask a friend to draw a flower vase. Give them one minute. After the minute is up, more than likely the drawing you'll see will be pretty standard. Now, ask that same person to draw ways to use flowers in their home. Give them two minutes. More than likely you'll get a greater array of ideas. You might see drawings of wallpaper, potted flowers, or even a mural. Yes, re-framing by asking the right question works!
  • Learn from mistakes: 1) Don't let theories fool you - the ideas on design thinking don't always translate to your specific culture 2) A good idea isn't enough - be sure you have the right advocates to support you; don't get stuck by the gatekeeper and don't get blindsided (pre-meetings and researching POVs beforehand work) and lastly 3) research is more than numbers; need to balance the story with the proof.

Alicia Arnold holds a Master of Science in Creativity, Innovation and Change Leadership from the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State College and an M.B.A in Marketing from Bentley University. She enjoys writing about creativity and innovation and is published with Bloomberg Businessweek, the Huffington Post, The National Association of Gifted Children, and iMedia Connection. In her role as an award winning, digital marketer, she uses her passion for creativity and innovation to develop breakthrough digital and social experiences. You can connect with Alicia on Twitter @alicarnold.

The Science of Fun, Play and Humor

Jaspar Roos talked about fun, play, and humor yet he began his career as a banker. Hmm, they must do things differently in Amsterdam!

Some problems in corporate life:

  • As we get older, we get too serious and stop asking questions; corporations are looking for inspiration and the crushing culture of being more efficient
  • We shy away from taboos; thought we talk about failure, we don't really do it
  • R&D doesn't buy innovation; we need to find another way
How should we reframe our way of thinking? First, innovation should be more about people! Hint: a focus on culture helps to unlock people to become more innovative. What Jasper found was that humor, fun, and play provides a way in (get people to laugh, get them to let down their guard).

More about humor:
  • Humor increases energy, motivation, and well being
  • Humor improves the organizational climate
  • When you've had the most fun at work, you've probably had the best performance
How to add humor?
  • Guerrilla tactics work
  • Change the physical environment (think Viagra light switch, add slides rather than stairs)
  • Organizational change (create alternative titles)
It's not B2B or B2C, it's H2H (Human to Human).


Alicia Arnold holds a Master of Science in Creativity, Innovation and Change Leadership from the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State College and an M.B.A in Marketing from Bentley University. She enjoys writing about creativity and innovation and is published with Bloomberg Businessweek, the Huffington Post, The National Association of Gifted Children, and iMedia Connection. In her role as an award winning, digital marketer, she uses her passion for creativity and innovation to develop breakthrough digital and social experiences. You can connect with Alicia on Twitter @alicarnold.

Live from FEI 2014: Michelle James on Creative Leadership from the Inside Out

Author's Intro: One of the best parts of attending Michelle James's presentations is that they are never the same twice. I had a blast at Michelle's sessions at FEI12 and FEI13, and was very excited to see what would come this year. Needless to say, this standing-room only crowd had a really good time!

One of the best parts about doing improv exercises is that they force us to relax and go with the flow, which is an essential component to the freewheeling discussion necessary in idea generation. Over time, the lessons and experiences from these exercises evolve into an integrated mindset in which we become capable of thinking on our feet, being prepared for odd contingencies, and feeling comfortable with ambiguity, all of which keep us open to the many exciting possibilities that can appear in the innovation process.

Thankfully, James had some excellent handholds that supported us through the process of opening our minds, eyes, and hearts to the potential right in front of us:

Experience first, make sense second

I guess in Brooklyn that would be, "Fugeddaboutit," but the bottom line is that not everything needs to make sense right away. As much as it can be uncomfortable to be involved in a process that is unclear and evolving in shape, people can handle that fear if they focus on experiencing whatever is happening in the moment. Just as this holds for the ideation that occurs in an improv game, so too does this hold for the ideation that occurs during innovation endeavors. When people are working together and aiming to maximize both their individual and synergistic potentials, it may take time for the Gestalt to appear as a whole greater than the combination of its components. To handle the frequent need for clarity and closure[1] without getting edgy, the trick is just to be mindful in the moment and appreciate the experience.

Sometimes the best ideas are several iterations out

One of the things that makes waiting so difficult is when it is unclear what we are waiting for! Even when we can experience first and make sense second, it still takes time and effort to go through the give-and-take process of idea generation. Consequently, we want to know that there will be results, and can get impatient with "merely" experiencing and not "arriving." To foster some patience, it is important to remember that the best ideas may require multiple rounds of back-and-forth. Consequently, it is critical to take a long-term strategy to developing any concept or product, and to go with the flow without expecting a fast resolution. Insofar as violated expectations are one of the biggest sources of discomfort, starting with the expectation of a lengthy iterative process will make it easier to go with the flow and just be mindful of the ideation experience.

By engaging with these two pieces of advice, we will be able not just to recognize the brilliance of our colleagues, but to build upon it to make something far greater than either of us could have constructed on our own. As Michelle James showed through the improv exercises, the results can be astounding and utterly delightful!


Orin's Asides
1) See research by Arie Kruglanski.

Orin C. Davis is a positive psychology researcher and organizational consultant who focuses on enabling people to do and be their best.  His consulting work focuses on maximizing human capital and making workplaces great places to work, and his research focuses on self-actualization, flow, creativity, hypnosis, and mentoring. Dr. Davis is the principal investigator of the Quality of Life Laboratory and the Chief Science Officer of Self Spark. (@DrOrinDavis)

Live from FEI 2014: Scott Millward on Fostering Effective Talent Solutions

Author's Intro: In a talk that was rich with examples and anecdotes, Dr. Scott Millward brought tale after tale about how companies can strategically bring in the talent. Rather than pass along the anecdotes, I want to pass along several fantastic insights from Dr. Millward's talk.

Mark Fields once cited Peter Drucker as saying "Culture eats strategy for breakfast." True though this may be, Dr. Millward upended this thinking with a simple twist: "...But your talent can change what's on the menu!" In this is a reminder that strategy is also what determines the requisite talent, and vice versa.

What is more important to your company? Process (how things get done) or outcome (outcome focus)? Short-term or long-term? Strong or weak?
Effectively, these three questions correspond (respectively) to culture (process vs. outcome focus), strategy (short- vs. long-term), and structure (strong or weak), which in turn raises the question of whether one should mold strategy to fit culture, or vice versa.[1] As Millward concludes, "Craft talent strategies that are incremental and fit with the culture."

Conflict is thinking
This is a very important strategy when it comes both to innovation and to hiring. While there is a strong inclination to "hire like me," the reality is that diversity of thought allows people to view ideas from multiple angles. When everyone is agreeing, there is nothing new in the room, and consequently no foundation for innovating.

Good talent is made better by good talent
Getting good talent in the door can be tricky[2], but the most important part of the hiring strategy is to take a long-term approach to hiring and continually building the trove of talent that the company has. As Millward pointed out, "A short-term, outcome focus creates a talent dilemma...You're looking for lighting in a bottle every time."[3]

There is far too much short-term thinking in business today, what with investors looking to make a quick buck, hiring managers expecting ready-made candidates, and innovation portfolios with a six-month scope. Yet, in the back of everyone's mind is the knowledge that, even at the speed of business, investing, hiring, and innovating are necessarily long-term endeavors. It is a far-reaching view that will enable companies to have the right people on board to invent the future.

Orin's Asides
1) It depends, says organizational design professor Lex Donaldson, who has been quick to point out the interlocking relationships between structure, strategy, and personnel in his many writings on contingency theory.
2) My thoughts on how to bring in the talent here.
3) This goes hand-in-hand with unicorn hunting.


Orin C. Davis is a positive psychology researcher and organizational consultant who focuses on enabling people to do and be their best.  His consulting work focuses on maximizing human capital and making workplaces great places to work, and his research focuses on self-actualization, flow, creativity, hypnosis, and mentoring. Dr. Davis is the principal investigator of the Quality of Life Laboratory and the Chief Science Officer of Self Spark. (@DrOrinDavis)

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Idea Diversity

In this conversation with Booz Allen Hamilton, Kurt Scherer talked about innovation, or in his words, "change with impact."

When it comes to increasing idea diversity, it's about 1) sources of new ideas 2) avenues to evolve great ideas and the 3) competencies and maturity to measure that you're doing the best you can with innovation.

Sources: what makes ideas for each of these groups different?

  • Corporations
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Crowd
Coming up with diverse ideas means looking at the situation from different lenses. For example, Booz Allen Hamilton partners with Microsoft, entrepreneurs, and taps into the wisdom of the crowd to bring forward new ideas.

Avenues: what tools can help you network, share, and collaborate?
  • In-person tools: Ideas Festival, Combustion Chamber, Pitch Jam
  • Virtual Tools:  Social Media, Idea Exchange
Competencies: understanding what to focus on with innovation
  • Doing work is different than making progress. The areas of competency (from the company's perspective) includes: Individuals, Teams, Environment, Resource Allocations, Networks and Sharing, Enterprise
Using the above framework for competency as a filter, it becomes easier to see where your innovation could come off the rails.


Alicia Arnold holds a Master of Science in Creativity, Innovation and Change Leadership from the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State College and an M.B.A in Marketing from Bentley University. She enjoys writing about creativity and innovation and is published with Bloomberg Businessweek, the Huffington Post, The National Association of Gifted Children, and iMedia Connection. In her role as an award winning, digital marketer, she uses her passion for creativity and innovation to develop breakthrough digital and social experiences. You can connect with Alicia on Twitter @alicarnold.

Start-Up Secrets

One of Daniel Choi's main points was that an individual or a corporation's mere existence is risky. It's not that an individual or corporation needs to do anything to incur risk, but the surprising fact is that there are risk factors all around us that we don't even recognize on a day-to-day business. So following that logic, the status quo is risky. 

There are three traps that keep companies bound in the status quo including the:

  1. Physical Trap - tied to structural inertia (i.e. with a multi-million dollar IT investment, it is harder to move away from what you already have. An example of a physical trap is Blockbuster)
  2. Psychological Trap - is when companies get so trapped in what made them great that they can't move beyond it (i.e. Research in Motion)
  3. Strategic Trap - this is a plain failure to move forward (i.e. Kodak)
So, it is evident we need to change. But, most people think change is more risky than the status quo. Here are some things to consider about change:
  • Just because there's more perceived uncertainty about a particular change, it doesn't mean that the uncertainty is actually there
  • Finding the right people to foster intelligent change is important. Change then needs to be supported by a culture of innovation, directed by a unified company vision, and validated in quick iteration cycles
This led to a Q&A (all paraphrased):

Q:  As a start-up how do you work with large entities like banks and credit card companies?
A:  Find a champion who is bought into your vision at the company. And, if they're new in their position (hungry) or in business development (interested in talking to people), it's even better.

Q:  Can you pay for health care with Plastiq?
A:  Yes, it is in the works.

Q:  How did you validate quickly?
A:  Daniel setup a website and conducted a multivariate test. But, as stakes were raised, he focused on the "unit economics" to prove out the acquisition and re-use numbers were right



Alicia Arnold holds a Master of Science in Creativity, Innovation and Change Leadership from the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State College and an M.B.A in Marketing from Bentley University. She enjoys writing about creativity and innovation and is published with Bloomberg Businessweek, the Huffington Post, The National Association of Gifted Children, and iMedia Connection. In her role as an award winning, digital marketer, she uses her passion for creativity and innovation to develop breakthrough digital and social experiences. You can connect with Alicia on Twitter @alicarnold.

Creative Leadership from the Inside Out: Applied Improvisation

In Michelle James' session, she led participants through improvisation techniques to help unlock creativity and innovation. We started with a warm-up called 3 elbows. When Michelle said, "3 elbows" the groups arranged themselves in a group of 3 elbows. Finding new partners each time, next came "4 knees, 11 hips (not lips, LOL), 3 fingers..." Why this activity as a warm-up? Any little physical moment, gets people into the moment and out of their heads.

Next, we talked about how improv helps leaders to become aware of how quickly they are to judge, or make meaning rather than making room for divergent space. Michelle invited participants to be present and not spend time thinking about why. Now for some techniques:

Yes, And
With this improv technique, participants formed groups of two. In their groups, participants took turns drawing one line each (and building upon it) to create a "living animal." In this non-verbal activity participants learned to suspend judgement (i.e. no talking).  In order to complete the activity, participants had to accept what their partner drew and build on the idea. Once the living animal was complete, participants took turns naming their being one letter at a time. The goal was to allow partners to make their teammates look good by accepting their offer and making the best of it.

Participants commented, Yes, and was..."fun." It gave us permission "to be silly." One of the things to take away from this activity is that our brains seek to make meaning, yet our brains don't give us enough time to live in the non-sensical space before making things concrete.

Serve the scene (or the good of the whole)
To serve the scene, rather than looking at how you're going to say or do something, look for what's best for the team in order to serve what's happening out there. In this activity, participants learned to serve the story and practice Yes, and.

Participants took turns adding to the plot about a trip to Mexico where something unexpected happened. After some time improvising, Michelle introduced a "freeze" where participants had to justify why what their partner said made sense (i.e. yes that was significant, because xxx, and then...). Adding a "freeze" helps ideas get bigger - the affirmation helped generate more ideas. A different way to conduct this activity is to use "that's brilliant because."

Breaking the Pattern
In groups of two, participants picked a subject and storyline to take turns adding to. After taking turns building on the story, Michelle directed participants to break the pattern by adding unexpected elements into the story and having their partners build upon them. To up the ante, Michelle suggested throwing in random words (i.e. if the story was about a goldfish, say "marshmallow") to see where the storyline would lead. Lastly, one partner had to bring the whole story together while the listening partner threw in "support" random words.


Alicia Arnold holds a Master of Science in Creativity, Innovation and Change Leadership from the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State College and an M.B.A in Marketing from Bentley University. She enjoys writing about creativity and innovation and is published with Bloomberg Businessweek, the Huffington Post, The National Association of Gifted Children, and iMedia Connection. In her role as an award winning, digital marketer, she uses her passion for creativity and innovation to develop breakthrough digital and social experiences. You can connect with Alicia on Twitter @alicarnold.





Daniel Pink's Keynote

In Daniel Pink's keynote, he led us through 2 Insights, 3 Principles, and 2 Things to Try

2 Insights

Insight #1: Four economists conducted 9 studies in Cambridge, MA and India. They had participants perform escalating cognitive tasks like throw a ball through a hoop and alphabetizing, along with tougher cognitive challenges. The economists segmented the groups and incentivized them based on how well they did (small reward, middle reward, large reward). For mechanical skills (throwing a ball) the higher the pay, the higher the performance. However, once the task required "rudimentary cognitive skill" the larger reward led to poorer performance. This finding was contrary to what scientist hypothesized (ie with a larger the reward, the scientist expected better performance).

Implication: We use "if-then" rewards in business (ie. if you do this, I'll give you that). Yet, social science tells us that if-then rewards are great for simple and short term tasks, but NOT SO GREAT for complex and long-term tasks.

Conclusion: For innovation, if-then rewards aren't the best fit.

Insight #2: Theresa Amabile studied what motivated artists. She collected 460 works of art from various commissioned and non-commissioned artists and invited scholars and art experts to rate the art. What she found was "The commissioned works were rated as significantly less creative than the non-commissioned works, yet they were not rated as different in technical quality."

Implication: Constraint (being commissioned) can sometimes inhibit creativity. In the workplace, there is no such thing as non-commissioned work.

Conclusion: Build in non-commissioned work (like Google's 10% time).

3 Principles

Pay people enough. And, give them Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.

Money is a motivator, but it matters in a peculiar way. Money can't violate the rule of fairness. If two people are doing the same work, they both need to be paid the same amount, otherwise the person getting paid less will be less motivated. For innovative work, people should think about the work, rather than the money. To do so offer autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Implication: Management is a tool that gets compliance, yet many times what we seek is engagement. The tool for engagement is self-direction. Innovators are better engaged when they can direct time, resources, the process, etc. (see Atlassian Ship It Days for an example of how they deployed autonomy across their organization)

Conclusion: Offer autonomy as an incentive for innovation AND offer non-commissioned work. How? Create a "To-Don't" list by taking out the things that distract us, annoy us, and get in the way.

When it comes to motivation, focusing on the purpose is better than talking about the benefits. The example Dan Pink gave came from call center employees who performed better when they understood the "Why?"


2 Things to Try

  1. Start small and carve out a genius hour, or an hour of autonomy. 
  2. Have 2 fewer conversations about "how" and two more about "why."

Alicia Arnold holds a Master of Science in Creativity, Innovation and Change Leadership from the International Center for Studies in Creativity at Buffalo State College and an M.B.A in Marketing from Bentley University. She enjoys writing about creativity and innovation and is published with Bloomberg Businessweek, the Huffington Post, The National Association of Gifted Children, and iMedia Connection. In her role as an award winning, digital marketer, she uses her passion for creativity and innovation to develop breakthrough digital and social experiences. You can connect with Alicia on Twitter @alicarnold.






Live from #FEI14: Techniques on Unleashing Innovation in the Workplace

The Front End of Innovation Conference in Boston got off to a roaring start yesterday with a day of powerful and informative speakers. I attended a session led by former director of JP Morgan’s private banking division head Bill Greenwald on “The Neuropsychology of Creativity and Design,” which was full of practical techniques on unleashing innovation in the workplace.

Greenwald, after leaving Morgan, went back to school to study the brain, and based his program on current research into the brain function. He stressed the need to eliminate fear from the workplace in order to generate new ideas and collaboration. “fear and survival mode.” “Put that (brain scan) helmet on and I can see what your brain does,” he told the audience. “See how fear takes over. How does the US Navy train its SEALS against fear? You can’t eliminate it, but you can desensitize it, and take your fear offline. When they see danger they keep fear at bay, so they can still think creatively by drilling this. They envision success to distract themselves. They think about going home and surprising their daughter after this firefight, keep the fear at bay.”

Here are some creative techniques offered up by Bill Greenwald:

1. Increase exposure to creative endeavor.
2. Value and expect creative behavior. What are your leaders doing as role models? Shutting people down “never works.” If you want to value something you have to say yes to ideas.
3. Avoid premature judgment.
4. Provide time and opportunity for solitude.
5. Provide communion with other creative individuals.
6. Give people time to think

I’ll be blogging later today on other sessions, so stay tuned.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Robert B. Tucker is president of Innovation Resource Consulting Group in Santa Barbara, California and a much requested speaker at conferences. www.innovationresource.com


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Live from FEI 2014: Heidi Hattendorf on Real World Innovation in a Competitive Envrionment

Heidi Hattendorf brought in a wealth of information about how Motorola addresses real-world challenges through their extensive innovation system, which is comprised of six key parts:

  • *People -- innovation champion network
  • *Tools and process -- idea management tools
  • *Metrics -- scorecards, business reviews
  • *Communications -- town halls, newsletters
  • *Recognition (monetary and non-monetary)
  • *Sponsorship -- buy-in, resources, accountability

The last two items are of especial importance to innovation endeavors, and where Hattendorf's insights were really helpful was that she focused on where the rubber meets the road in firm-wide innovation endeavors.

"Companies vote with dollars...and [by] putting people on projects."

Innovating means living on the edge, and taking risks. It can often seem unclear whether others might view the risk as a reasonable and meaningful endeavor or a quixotic tilt at a windmill.  But, it is rewards and recognition that enable us to tell the difference. As Hattendorf pointed out, recognition and reward can occur at multiple levels:

Individual: Individuals can be recognized as innovators and rewarded with people who will champion their ideas, causes, and endeavors throughout the organization. Nothing says "great idea!" like having someone pass it along and ask other people to endorse it. Likewise, being referred to as someone who acts, creates, and innovates can be an incredibly rewarding feeling.

Businesses and teams: At the level of businesses and teams, rewards and recognition generally take the form of the contributions that people make to the innovation endeavor, and the willingness to take up projects and put in the team's/firm's effort to making them a reality.

Ideas: Ideas can be a cause for celebration and the acknowledgement of their impact. This can have a profound effect not just on the people who contributed to the idea, but on the people who may have an idea for the future.

Results: This is a separate category from ideas, insofar as it is crucial to reward and recognize both good ideas and good results. Once results are achieved, they can be recognized by actually adopting the results and enacting them. Notably, just because an innovation endeavor goes to completion does not mean that anyone is actually doing anything differently. Recognizing and rewarding the results means acting, living, and transacting the firm's business in new ways as a function of these results.

In combination, these four forms of recognition and reward make it clear to all of the company's stakeholders that the firm will support innovation at every level, from the offbeat idea straight through the active implementation in day-to-day living.

"[Employees] don't need their manager to tell them, 'Oh, you must innovate!'...Sponsorship makes it real."

One of the key engines of innovation is sponsorship, and it has to come from the C-suite on down. Moreover, it cannot be management-fad-of-the-week language that tells people that they are supposed to innovate.  Rather, there needs to be sponsorship of the employees' endeavors, which, in addition to rewards and recognition, involves six key constructs:

1) Buy-in -- Express belief in employees' abilities to innovate, and actively seek ideas from employees
2) Resources -- Give employees time, tools, and constructive feedback
3) Accountability -- When ideas are generated, follow through and follow up to make sure that they are executed
4) Visibility -- Let people know what others are working on and provide continuous updates about the targets, processes, and results
5) Definition -- When it is time to engage in idea generation, help employees to define the challenges and put out a broad call for ideas
6) Connection -- Link innovators to internal and external people that can provide talent, support, and collaboration

In any large company, it can be difficult even to decide to innovate, but inertia can interfere with the implementation. The processes of recognition/reward and sponsorship, however, are two of the key first steps to having an innovative spirit pervade the company. As Heidi Hattendorf has shown with her series of concrete and actionable recommendations, an innovative culture is within reach for any company.

Orin C. Davis is a positive psychology researcher and organizational consultant who focuses on enabling people to do and be their best.  His consulting work focuses on maximizing human capital and making workplaces great places to work, and his research focuses on self-actualization, flow, creativity, hypnosis, and mentoring. Dr. Davis is the principal investigator of the Quality of Life Laboratory and the Chief Science Officer of Self Spark. (@DrOrinDavis)

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