Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Day One: Insights, quotes and quips from FEI

Day One: Insights, quotes and quips from FEI

This is my fourth trip to FEI Boston. Looking back, there are so many great speakers it sometimes feels like you’ve jumped in upstream from Angel Falls and you’re swimming to stay alive. Each time, this feeling falls away faster as footing is found and patterns emerge. Having these years of experience prompts a desire to put more behind the quips and quotes so often broadcast from an innovation conference. While there’s nothing wrong with the behavior of focusing on quotes, the missing back story adds the proper color to help learning emerge.

Thus, as a day one summary, a series of quotes, pulled from Twitter, my own notes or my fellow colleagues attending from Capsule. The added color comes from experiences working with organizations in almost every sector using design principles to facilitate innovation.

Great quotes from FEI:

“Fall in love with the problem”
Bharath Kadaba, CIO, Intuit

This one dropped into the crowd as if he threw a bag of diamonds across the room, everyone with a pen or keyboard immediately grabbed at it. It changes your perspective on a problem, putting it in the context of falling in love. Making the problem part of your life, living with it, having empathy for the problem and the people facing it. Even though the audio equipment scratched out Bharath’s speech with annoying irregularity, he kept the show going and delivered some generous insights.


“Punched in the face by the future”
Mike Maddock, Founder Maddock Douglas

Yes, with a modest energy, Mike delivered a large women's handbag of great quotes. This quote depicts the images our mind creates of the future, paired with the fear we have for the social pain of corporate failure. This seems like a good indication for the type of writing MIke does in his books, a bit of quip with a lot of lesson packed into the punch. His books are now on my reading list.



“Are you wasting your time at this conference?”
Peter Koen, FEI Chairman and guy who can’t be fired.

When you can’t be fired, you’re able to say things most would cringe on delivery. Peter Koen, the founder of this conference delivers an honest look at the state of the state of innovation with a lesson for how you can make sure the answer is “no.” More keynotes, sponsors or people starting a talk should begin with this question in mind. It reflects back on your own talk, making sure your audience can image three or perhaps seven letters. “No” or “Hell no!”


“When you’re doing deep dives into consumer behavior, look for compensatory behavior”
Peter Koen, FEI Chairman and guy who can’t be fired.

In other words, how are human beings compensating for the design of your product? What are they doing to, metaphorically, “fill in the gaps” where your offering comes up short. Sometimes these are hard to see, they could be just things people do and sometimes you need people trained to see semiotics, human behaviors or expectation gaps.



“Unclean bathrooms are an indication of other bad behaviors in a store.”
Barry Feld, Cost Plus World Market

This was actually pulled from Bob Sutton’s speech, but deserves its own attention. It is as if Barry Feld, CEO, is an anthropologist of his own stores, seeing patterns historically and extrapolating them to the entire system. The truth can be hidden in an indicator, if your store staff at Cost Plus World Market isn’t keeping the bathrooms clean, they’re likely slacking on other important behaviors. Elegant point and worthy of noting for those in leadership trying to find patterns that matter.


“If you can innovate in the US Military, you can innovate anywhere.”
Mick Simonelli, Former head of innovation at USAA

Well, Mick started us off with the three monkey experiment, which isn’t real but still offers a great lesson. Behavior change that becomes systemic will be harder to change and impede an organization from “grabbing the banana.” But, before he jumped into this insight he dropped this quote on the crowd, which makes intuitive sense. And, it is likely the reason there are so many external military contracts.


“Innovation management is lonely.”
Mike Hatrick, Innovation Leader at Volvo trucks

Yes, anything challenging the conventions, going against the organism (corporation) will be lonely. Mike gave us a look inside the life and timeline of an innovation manager. It was honest, thoughtful and empathetic to a degree that almost begged for this quote as a finish, just as much as it was a starting insight. Innovation takes a tremendous amount of confidence in yourself first, then the team you build to face the challenges. It is no wonder the rotation out of Innovation is more common that most would hope. We commend Mike for standing in front of a large crowd and delivering such a challenging speech.


Kitty Hart, Lucy Robb and I write for the FEI event blog, please reach out if you have a story to share.

Founder, Capsule Design



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