Monday, September 21, 2015

Meet our BEI Blogger, Michael Graber

The Back End of Innovation Conference features live blogging from innovation thought leaders.

 Meet one of them, Michael Graber, in a podcast interview from The Everyday Innovator.

TEI 038: Product Managers Take Note: Changing a Culture for Innovation – with Poet Michael Graber

Product Manager, Innovator, Poet - Michael GraberI met my guest at Innovation Excellence, the online home of the global innovation community, where we both contribute innovation insights regularly. Truth be told, I was giving in to my vanity and checking out the top-20 posts for the month. My record is three posts in the top-20 in one month. For the month I was checking, Michael Graber’s name took the spotlight, and of course, I immediately thought he would be a great person to interview. When I did, I was not disappointed. Michael has more than twenty years of experience leading marketing and innovation efforts. As an expert in marketing and user interface, he has become an accomplished brand strategist. And, this is what really made me curious to talk with him – he is also a published poet and musician – creative forces that compliment his analytical side. Even when he is talking about innovation and brand strategy, he does so poetically and effectively.

Practices and Ideas for Product Managers, Developers, and Innovators

  • Michael has a firm grasp on the connection between his artistic pursuits and innovation development. Story propels brands and God created the universe for stories. Further, poets are the original systems thinkers. The root of the word “poet” means “to make.”
  • The heart of storytelling is motivation and getting people to think new thoughts – the connection with brand development.
  • Storytelling also requires knowing your audience and speaking in terms that your audience will understand and appreciate. Product managers and brand managers must do the same thing.
  • When preparing a story to tell, creating a persona for the group you’re telling the story to will allow you to make a better connection and make a more persuasive argument.
  • To understand your audience, apply empathy and walk in their shoes.
  • An odd dynamic is taking place among the C-suite of many companies. They are demanding more innovation from the organization without really knowing what that means and the implications it has for the organization. Innovation requires a change in the organization but leaders are too often unwilling to do what is required to make the changes.
  • When the organization needs more innovation, start with innovation exercises, such as meeting with customers, practicing empathy, conducting interviews, etc.
  • The second element is working on the culture. Without working on the organizational culture, a new innovation team can do ideation work with customers and be excited about the new product opportunities, but the existing culture can stifle these efforts. It is like antibodies attacking an unknown element in the organization.
  • To begin considering a change in culture, one activity asks the senior leadership team to examine new models of revenue. This helps to push the team in new directions and can also identify revenue opportunities that are easily attainable.
  • Another cultural change tool is examining existing orthodoxies. Once these are understood, then conduct a mindset change exercise by introducing a completely new direction for the organization. For example, if the company was purchased by a competitor, how would that change orthodoxies?
  • To become more innovative as a company, you first have to decide what you want to become.
  • These cultural change activities help the organization to understand what exists, what can be changed, and what is essential. Organizations frequently find that what they thought was impossible is actually within reach.
  • Organizations seeking to improve their innovation culture need three things:
    1. The full support and backing of the executive team in ways that are visible to the organization.
    2. Building multidisciplinary innovation teams that understand how to lead innovation efforts.
    3. These teams then help others in the organization, being Sherpas to show methods, teach, and walk alongside those learning the new techniques.
  • Michael defines brand in exactly the same way as culture – what we do and what we don’t do. Culture is the actions we take and don’t take and brand expresses what we stand for and what we don’t stand for. Your brand is your culture.

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