Monday, June 29, 2015

Culture Trumps Concepts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 26, 2015

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

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

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

Where Design Boosts Creativity: The Google Offices

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

The Five-Fold Path To Disruption: Leveraging competitive differentiators

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

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

5 Predictions For The Future Of Social Media

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

Data And Creativity: The new cozy bedfellows

About the Author:

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

Thursday, June 25, 2015

How to Stay Ahead of the Curve

By: Scott Steinberg

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The View from Start-Up Labs

By: Travis Parsons and Tim Fielding

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

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

Here are the results:

1.      Big Tobacco

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

2.      Big Pharma

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

3.      Food & Bev

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

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

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

About the Authors:

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

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

Friday, June 19, 2015

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

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

Your Corporation Is Killing Innovation... Without Knowing It

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

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

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

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

7 Strategies For Digital Transformation

Video: Can New Twitter CEO Balance Innovation And Business?

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

About the Author:

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

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Future of Fatherhood

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

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

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

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

The Future Trends Team

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

5 Reasons Why You Can’t Miss BEI 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The BEI 2015 Team

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

This Week in Innovation: 6/8/15 - 6/12/15

Overcoming The Biggest Barriers To Innovation: Redefining Efficiency

Stalled Corporate Culture Of Innovation? Tips to help get you unstuck

Avalanche Of Business Disruption: Digital Technology's Growth Curve is Exponential

How To Harness The Power Of Design Thinking? Increasing performance

Is Google Planning A Glass Relaunch? Glass 2.0 is nearing completion

What Innovation In AV Looks Like: How AV can approach it as an industry

A New Kind Of Password: Brainprints could be the future

3 Innovation Pitfalls For Business To Avoid

Mobile On The Mind: The present and future of mobile marketing

Innovation Is A Team Sport: 7 Habits Of Successful Innovators

About the Author:

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

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Too Fast For Twitter: Five FEI Memories: Two Swisher

~ by Aaron Keller
This may seem odd, but as this writer ages, odd becomes as comfortable as an alma mater sweatshirt. So here we go. How do you use Twitter? Or do you at all? If you don't, you're missing out on one of the largest micro movements in social (yes, the oxymoron was intended). For instance, if you jumped on the television movement almost a century ago, but still to this day never upgraded to color. That's what you're missing.  For those of you who do tweet, any other comparisons? 

For as many people who use Twitter, there are nearly as many uses for it as a social platform. There are certainly the icky ones, like the rest of the Internet. But, we chose to use social for good because someday soon, being good will become popular again. So, my use for Twitter at events is aggregate note taking. 

Using Twitter as my preferred note taking device when consuming speaker content allows me to go back and remember the most important pieces of a speech with #hashtags. It also shows me others who identified a similar point or different quotes from the speaker. So, I'm essentially taking aggregate notes with the audience (with those who do tweet). And, as a writer, author and blogger for this event, taking copious notes is essential to writing informed, thoughtful blog posts. 

Now, there I was, in a breakout session, innocently awaiting the next speaker. Next I notice its a banker from a bank I'd never heard of and I'm sitting at the front so there's no socially acceptable escape. I'm stuck.

But, what happened in the next 45 minutes was something rather unusual. An innovator, who happened to work for a bank, took the stage and turned on a firehose. Some people apologize for firehose delivery of content, he didn't. Some people have filler and ramblings unworthy of the sound wave energy they travel upon, Mr. Swisher did not. The quality and delivery cadence of his content didn't leave time for 140 characters. The insights were there, just as the audience would look down to thumb a new thought into Twitter, another one came. 

He broke my Twitter thumbs. And, looking back on what the crowd supplied (one tweet), I know this wasn't just me. After a bit the audience just gave up trying to capture the sound waves in 1s and 0s. We just let the waves of content flow over the crowd. Which means, no notes. Lucky for all of us, he was supplying his presentation. 

Now, there are two teaspoons of content I pulled from the firehose delivery. The first is embodied in a summary of one of his slides: "Big companies don't beat small companies. Small companies don't beat big companies. Fast companies beat slow companies. The only truly sustainable competitive advantage is the speed at which a company learns." This is a fundamental life lesson. The second is the counter intuitive measurement methodology in one of his slides. Going against intuition is always intriguing, because it makes you wonder, is it you individually or is it a collective intuition. 

So, enjoy this small portion of the wisdom Phil shared with the audience at FEI15.

Phil Swisher
Trevian Wealth Management Venture
Twitter @p_swish

Monday, June 8, 2015

Industry Alert: Official Call for Presenters for Intrapreneur Summit in NYC

The Institute for International Research (IIR) is currently seeking presenters for:

Intrapreneur Summit
October 8, 2015

Coming off the heels of our largest & most successful FEI: Front End of Innovation to date, we’re excited to announce the launch of a new spin-off event: The Intrapreneur Summit, taking place October 8th in NYC.

We will be reviewing speaker submissions now through Thursday, June 18th. Due to the high volume of submissions, we suggest you submit your proposal early to Kelly Schram, Program Director at
Only corporate/client-side speakers will be considered. If you are a consultant or a solution/technology provider (even if you are proposing a joint client presentation), please see contact details below for sponsorship/exhibit opportunities. Speakers receive FREE admission to the conference.

“Intrapreneurs” are becoming a key focus of innovation leaders within corporate organizations, in an effort to create new business value, scale cultural impact and respond to new competitive threats. We are currently looking for speakers to join panels/debate sessions, lead collaborative exercises, and spark provocation with short presentations around:  

·         Intrapreneurial framework development case studies
·         Partnering with business functions to support intrapreneurs
·         Examining the various models of intrapreneur support within a corporate context
·         The value of innovation incubators within a corporate organization
·         Overview of an intrapreneurial framework within a corporate context
·         Incenting, rewarding and engaging intrapreneurs from a HR perspective
·         Tracking the success of intrapreneurs: What does ROI look like?
·         Identifying and supporting intrapreneurs within your organization

Sponsorship & Exhibition Opportunities:
If you are interested in sponsorship or exhibit opportunities please contact Liz Hinkis, Business Development Manager at 646.616.7627 or
Due to the high volume of submissions, only accepted proposals will be notified. For consideration, please email with the following information by June 18th, 2015:
·         Proposed speaker name(s), job title(s), and company name(s)
·         The main theme you plan to address
·         Which format you'd like to present
·         Please indicate what is NEW about the presentation
·         What the audience will gain from your presentation (please list 3-5 deliverables)

The FEI Team


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