Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Smart Ideas Need Smart Collaborations

Ever felt the electricity of the group in an idea building session? That’s what true collaboration feels like. At the end of the session, no one individual feels like they own the idea/solution/concept. It has resulted from the contributions and building-block approach of the whole.
It is also a process that has no place for ego. There is no room for “that’s my idea”. It’s all in. It’s a truly creative process. And it feels sensational!
And it’s even more exciting when the teams are multidisciplinary. We are all the sum of our individual experiences and form our own associations and connections. In short, no two of us bring the same experiences to the table. So that means double the fun! 
Smart Ideas are usually the result of well-defined problems. Throughout history, our greatest progress has been made when we strive to create an easier pathway to achieve what has traditionally presented as problematic, or when we have imagined something that in our present experience seems beyond our reach. Like travelling to the moon. Like transportation. Like healing a particular disease. A Smart Idea is the first step to finding a solution. That's where the innovation journey begins.
There are many quotes about change. George Bernard Shaw covers it nicely with “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything”.  Innovation, by its simplest definition, is about useful change.
For some time governments, organisations, businesses and individuals have thrown the word ‘innovation’ into marketing material, grant proposals, investment opportunities and television programs. Unfortunately it’s not often that “we put our money where our mouth is”. 
This May, at the Front End Innovation Conference in Boston, there will be a myriad of opportunities to connect with those that can help you transform your Smart Ideas into Market Winning Strategies. There will be opportunities to connect with people from every corner of this planet. And when opportunity presents itself, the best thing to say is YES!
I travel to Boston each year from the land Downunder to soak up the information from speakers and other delegates. Now a regular (I refer to myself as a conference tragic), initially I contemplated the expense and time out from my business that attending would require. Hindsight is a truly wonderful thing so I can tell you unequivocally it was one of the best investments I have made. The opportunities that attending the conference opened up for me, the content that I could share with my clients and the sharing and development of Smart Ideas, have resulted in increased satisfaction with my work and the opportunity to be of greater service to those I have the good fortune to work with.
It's no editing oversight that I have used the word 'opportunity' several times in this article. Creating opportunity and possibility is what I do, through opening hearts and minds to innovation. Got a Smart Idea? How will you make it happen? Just how will you take it to market? Bring your Smart Idea and grow it up at the Front End Innovation Conference 2017.

FEI Reveals the 2017 Keynote Lineup

How can you truly generate momentum for the next generation of innovation cultures, leaders, business models, and structures?

The FEI: Front End of Innovation keynote stage explores exactly this by uniquely pairing industry legends and tech gurus with the next-generation thinkers you don’t know now, but will change the way you think about everything in the future.

Where else but FEI can you find Clay Christensen alongside the former head of the largest Hispanic Street gang? Or the head of Apple's iPod Division alongside a former Google innovation lead now set to revolutionize the marijuana industry?

Diversity + Provocation = Fresh New Insights. This is a can’t miss business experience.

View the full agenda here:

·         Competing Against Luck: Do You Know What Jobs Your Customers Are Hiring You To Do?
Clayton Christensen, Professor, Harvard Business School, Father of Disruptive Innovation, Best-Selling Author, The Innovator’s Dilemma and Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice
·         Setting Constraints, Ignoring Experts & Embracing Self-Doubt
Tony Fadell, Founder & CEO, Nest, Former VP of iPod Division, Apple
·         Scaling Up Excellence: Getting to More without Settling for Less
Robert Sutton, Professor, Co-Founder, Stanford, Best-Selling Author, Scaling Up Excellence
·         New Avon, a 130-Year Old $1B Start - Reinventing an Iconic Brand
Helene Rutledge, Chief Innovation Officer, New Avon
·         Play Bigger: How to Design Your Market Category and Win
Chris Lochhead, Author, Play Bigger: How Pirates, Dreamers and Innovators Create and Dominate Markets, Co-Founding Partner, Play Bigger Advisors
·         Leadership Lessons from the Street: Commonalities Between Hacking the Culture of Criminal Organizations and Fortune 500 Companies
Antonio Fernandez – aka “King Tone” – former Leader of the Largest Hispanic Street Gang in the US
·         Marijuana is the Future of Tobacco
Alan Gertner, Co-Founder & CEO, Tokyo Smoke

Use code FEI17BL for $100 off the current rate. Book Your Ticket Today:

We hope to see you in Boston this spring!

The FEI Team

Monday, January 23, 2017

A Systems Approach to Creating an Innovation Funding Board

Back End of Innovation Conference Keynote
A Systems Approach to Creating an Innovation Funding Board
Craig Wirkus, Cisco

Cisco’s five pillar strategy for innovation: Build, Buy, Partner, Invent, and Co-Develop.

Craig runs the Services Innovation Excellence Center for Cisco. The mission of this team is “to help teams to drive business impact through innovation.”

SIEC seeks to foster an intrapreneurial mindset by having conversations about pivots and by providing rigor and process. “It’s easy for an engineer to disappear into a corner, create something that fails terribly well in the market in two years.” The mindset requires toughness and fortitude.

“We’ve built an Incubation Framework,” says Wirkus, that is completely agnostic, rich in examples, methods, and processes. The goal is to provide tools.

“We also developed a Managing Innovation Playbook,” he says. SIEC also offers innovation coaching and mentoring to provide business expertise, technical expertise, and incubation expertise.

“Engineers don’t know how to size a market opportunity, that’s weird juju to them, so we provide resources to help them,” Wirkus adds. We have also begun a three-day Startup bootcamp that is focused on human-centered design. “The engineers get antsy when they have to deal with people rather than things for the first day-and-a-half.” After this immersion into the people-side empathy, a minimally viable product gets built.

What we’ve learned--
There’s no silver bullet. Provide playbooks, coaching, and programs. Stay rigorously customer-center.

Now, Craig spends time on their internal venture capital model. Using an innovation funding board and set budget helps stimulate real process. “We treat people like adults, give a little guidance, but make it as simple as possible,” he says. Due diligence is customer-centered learning—this is the main point of the stress test.

Teams track implementation readiness as a progress measure against key milestones. The outputs include: Opportunity Charter, an Initial Discovery-driven Business Plan, an Interim Discovery-driven business plan, and an Implementation Business Plan.

Keep in mind that this is just a framework with many innovation funding boards, blending Lean Startup and Venture Capital concepts. We provide the logistics and basic methods.

We are internal advisors and we have to prove our approach through influence. We change the way the “teams talk.”

Thursday, January 19, 2017

BEI J&J Partner of Choice

Back End of Innovation Conference Keynote

Becoming a Partner of Choice through Supplier Enabled Innovation
By Janette Edelstein, Director External Innovation and Chris Ryan, Director Innovation Sourcing: Johnson & Johnson

Janette began by harkening to the company’s values: “Our goal is to be smart, focused, and purposeful, based on the J&J credo.”
Our global footprint requires that we go deeper than a supplier relationship. We prefer to call our suppliers partners.
Johnson and Johnson has a strong legacy of innovation—from band aids to baby shampoo.
The question for us was how to take this vital culture of internal innovation and expand it to our partners on the outside.
With brands such as Aveeno, Johnson’s Baby, Band-Aid, Tylenol, Neutrogenea, Visine, and others—we need to keep the innovation pipeline full—and there are many more solutions outside our organization than inside.
Being a large organization that has a Pharma bent, our consumer brands can speed us the access to market by looking externally.
How we do external innovation:
“We co-create with the world to accelerate new consumer solutions.”
Discover | Design | De-Risk| Deliver is the method J&J developed.
J&J has innovation centers handle the front end of Discover. Market screening and Learning Plan Validations help the Design end of the process. Partners/supplier-enabled innovation helps De-Risk and Deliver, how we execute and take the solutions to the market.

Advanced Sourcing & Innovation: here’s how we enhance the value creation of supplier-need innovation. We try to think through a Joint Value Creation to ensure world-class capabilities, build a collaborative and performance-based partnership model, and manage the relationship with key financial metrics with a 3-5 year view.
This way we can manage the pipeline while speeding up the timelines. Projects can move forward.
External Innovation Mythbusters:
1.    Innovation business models founded on strategic areas and funded.
2.    We need optimized resources based on capabilities of partners—so it is a blend of internal and external.
3.    Synergy improves efficiency—and makes time-to-market faster.
Two case studies of this method are Band-Aid and Neutrogena.
These partnerships enable us to launch in a year. By leveraging partners’ capabilities and development processes, we can get to market faster. “I want our partners to feel like they own these equities as much as J&J does,” says Janette. The Neutrogena Light Therapy Acne Mask empowers consumers to pay $40 to perform a treatment for which they would have to pay much more and spend more time having this procedure performed at a dermatologist’s office. The Shower Care Band Aid meets a wound-care need for consumers—and is something we didn’t develop in house.

Partnerships aid our overall pipeline and pipeline development, creating platforms for sustained innovation.
Key Focus Areas for External Innovation Business Model:
1.    Focused empowered teams (dedicated teams)
2.    Quicker decision making
3.    Process toolkit—clear expectations
4.    Clear guidance on Strategy for External Innovation scope
5.    Better defined agreements for partnerships (aids activation and efficiency)

 Michael Graber is the managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, an innovation and strategic growth firm based in Memphis, TN and the author of Going Electric. Visit to learn more.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Front End of Innovation 2017 Event Agenda Just Released

We’re starting the year off with some big news…the FEI 2017 event agenda is ready for YOU.

Year after year, FEI: Front End of Innovation boasts the most expansive combination of critical innovation topics with industry-leading speakers to help transform your ideas into market winning strategies. The 2017 program ups the ante to provide even more hands on experiences and actionable take-aways:

FEI: Front End of Innovation
May 9-11, 2017| Boston, MA

·         75+ Speakers including Clay Christensen - the ‘Father of Disruptive Innovation’, and Tony Fadell - former advisor to Steve Jobs and VP of Apple’s iPod Division, and Founder of Nest. 

·         4 Days including a full pre-day  on how LARGE CORPORATES CAN PARTNER WITH STARTUPS (hosted at the MassChallenge Accelerator) and a BRAND NEW Chief Innovation Officer Summit.

·         60+ Sessions designed to tackle critical issues encountered across the entire innovation spectrum: Design Thinking, Customer Driven Innovation, Sparking Culture Change, Disruptive Trends & Tech, Growth Strategy & Business Model Innovation

Explore the 2017 Program Now:

Use your exclusive LinkedIn discount code FEI17BL for $100 off the current rate. Buy tickets:

We hope to see you in Boston this spring!

The FEI Team

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

5 Keys to Successful Collaboration

Back End of Innovation Conference Keynote
Five Keys to Successful Collaboration
Daniel Shapiro, Ph.D, Associate Professor of Psychology, Harvard Medical School/McLean Hospital and Associate Director of Harvard International Negotiation Project

Shapiro begins his keynote by the fantasy of how easy innovation can be—and how it crashes against the steel wall of the reality.

“The key to successful commercialization is successful collaboration,” he claims. “Think of the conflicts, the stress, the negotiations—and imagine if you can streamline that process and make it even five percent better. It’s an emotional problem, not a rational one.”

Shapiro proposes a framework for socializing the efforts, to better understand the emotional side of collaboration and deal more effectively with the emotions of others.

The primary question is how do you deal with emotions. The default is to suspend emotions, but the reality is that you cannot. Emotions are complicated and complex, but essential to the human experience and meaningful collaboration.

Don’t focus on emotions directly is his advice. Instead, take one step back and focus on core concerns. The five basic core concerns are: Appreciation[RE1] , Affiliation, Role, Status, and Autonomy. If you deal well with these five concerns, you are in a better position.

Let’s start with Appreciation. No one likes to feel unheard, devalued, not understood. Appreciation has a big impact on emotions. This is a key tool to getting concepts approved. How do you do it? Here are three basic tactics:
1.     Understand the other’s point of view
2.     Find merit in what they think, feel, or do
3.     Communicate your understanding

This is the most powerful tool for executives in negotiating. The key to such communication is listening—and also asking good, open-ended questions.

The next core concern is Autonomy. Autonomy is the freedom to make decisions without imposition from others. When someone’s autonomy feels imposed upon, professionals get defensive.

How do you deal with Autonomy? Always consult before deciding.

Affiliation is the emotional connection between you and others. The ideal is to turn an adversary into a colleague.

To build Affiliation don’t walk in and state a position. Rather, walk in as ask for advice authentically.

Status is about who is up and who is down. Status is your standing in relation with another.

The final of the five concerns is Role. We play pre-established roles. Strategy, shape your roles and theirs.

To stimulate helpful emotions:
1.     Respect autonomy
2.     Build affiliation
3.     Acknowledge status
4.     Shape a fulfilling role
5.     Express appreciation

Seek to understand all parties’ emotions.

Michael Graber is the managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, an innovation and strategic growth firm based in Memphis, TN and the author of Going Electric. Visit to learn more.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Performance Management - Raising team performance to 90%+ of potential

How do you manage the performance of your teams in order to raise their productivity to 90% of potential from the current US average of 45%?

This is the 3rd in a five-part series on Human Capital Management

Think back to the last time you interviewed someone that you subsequently hired. Remember the sparkling eyes, the cocktail party charm, the attack-dog ambition, the body language redolent with energy. What happened to it?

Six months later, the plucky individual who you thought was sure material for a future CEO is now just like the rest of the team, coasting. Instead of being the division's standard-bearer, they are now settling for middle of the road performance, doing just enough to keep their job, not enough to win the promotion you desperately want to give them.

Is it their fault?

Is it yours?

Or is it just the way things always is?

What's sure is that it's no-one's fault. Nobody set out to deceive anybody. And it doesn't have to be the way things is any longer.

We now know that when a person puts themselves forward as a candidate for a job and is accepted for that job, the entire process has been carried out at a superficial level. That's right, it's as cosmetic as applying eyeliner to a face and expecting a fundamental change of character to occur. The hiring industry is almost a fraud.

Traditionally, we advertise a job by describing the skills and experience required. We then go and look for someone who possesses the requisite skills. When we have a match we clap our hands and hit them with an employment contract. Job done.

Unfortunately, job not so done.

What neither the candidate nor the hirer have realized is that beneath the surface of the candidate's skills and experience lies something far more fundamental and important to their future success. It's a layer of the mind in which is writ all of the deeply personal drivers that fuel our ambition. We use expressions like 'life goals', 'what I'm here for', and 'my purpose in life' to describe this layer. In Method Teaming we call this layer our natural strengths and talents.

Our natural strengths and talents are like wild horses that want to pull us in a particular direction. They do not pull us towards a particular career (such as engineering, accountancy, sales) but rather indicate the way in which we want to apply that career. Natural strengths and talents are like the tectonic plates of our psyche: they are hidden, they are deep, they are formidable and they have now been uncovered.

Method Teaming is a science that has revealed the hidden fields of our mind. More importantly, it is a science that can be taught to anyone. It has catalogued, described and mapped the complicated landscape of mankind's natural strengths and talents. Yet it is able to reveal them in a visual form that anyone can immediately read and understand.

Method Teaming was developed by business people for business people. It can be used to make absolutely perfect recruitment decisions. But it can also be used throughout the duration of a person's employment with their firm to ensure that whatever role they are performing (and most of us change roles quite frequently within our corporation, few people stay for ever doing the same job they were hired for) it entirely tallies with the demands of their natural strengths and talents.

The Method Teaming Pay-Off: Going from 45% to 90%+ of potential.

When our job role aligns with our natural strengths and talents, two astonishing things happen. The first is that our productivity leaps up the scale. We approach each day with the same sparkle and energy that we showed at our interview and we keep that energy through the day until we go home. 

We achieve goals and stretch targets routinely and we eat work like Leiningen's ants eat a forest, ravenously. The second thing that happens is our job satisfaction ratings soar as if someone lit the fuse. We look forward to our next day's work as if to our favorite leisure pursuit. We enjoy what we do. The wild horses are pulling us towards our place of work not away from it.

And when these two things come together, productivity and satisfaction, that's when not only does overall performance rise inexorably towards 100%, but your employees are smiling while they do it. If you're a manager and you've brought about the changes that are behind that drift to the top, you can honestly say you've managed performance. Job done.

Monday, January 9, 2017

If You Want to be in Front, Lead from Behind

Back End of Innovation Conference Keynote
Tamara St. Claire
CIO: Xerox Healthcare
Three key tools for Xerox Healthcare's innovation efforts:
1.     Lean Start Up model: Based on a non-conventional approach to management to act more like a start up, not assuming you know what the market wants. Build. Measure. Learn—this is the cycle of Lean Start Up. Then, build MVP, minimally viable product, which is a way to test customer reactions. Develop criteria for success. Should you pivot or persevere? This process manages the chaos and uncertainty of new product development. 
2.     Business Model Canvas model: Forget writing business plans, write business canvas models. The vital concept is that it distills down the value on one page, which is all that any executive has time to devote on a new idea. These canvases can be evergreen and dynamic. This tool helps you map, design, and create new business models. You can map out the whole business model on one canvas. 
3.     Getting Out of the Building: Your business plans will never survive your first customer. Take the hypothesis into the market and test. Remember, it’s not a sales call. This is not a Voice of the Customer exercises. This is a What If exploration, an opportunity to both pressure test a model and learn what may make it better.

These three concepts are practices we use everyday in my innovation group, says St. Claire. What I want to share is why Chief Innovation Officer role is important. Having someone who is responsible with real metrics for innovation is critical for innovation to take root.

Five Tools for Innovation:

1.     Strategy: So many organizations do not have strategies; it is staggering. Innovation must be tied to the strategy. Strategy defines the sandbox that innovation can play in. Guardrails of strategy are important. Conversely, innovation can inform strategy. It’s a yin and yang, strategy and innovation. These forces must collaborate.
2.     Ethnography: Many companies have a technology-led innovation. Ethnography keeps the focus on the problem, not the solution. Ethnography is the study of human behavior in a culture. Using real insights from real people can inspire innovation teams to create really necessary and obvious solutions.
3.     Market Timing: Being too early to the market is just as bad as being too late. At PARC they invented the tablet 15 years before the iPad. Gartner’s Hype Cycle is a lifecycle method. Here is the 2016 version:
a.     Technology Trigger: a new technology breakthrough. No practical application. No real viability. 10 or more years will be spent before the technology is widespread.
b.     Peak of Inflated Expectations: you have a few successes and many failures. Here is where the lemmings of VCs jump in. Categories include: autonomous cars, connected home.
c.      Trough of Disillusionment: example, augmented reality.
d.     Slope of Enlightenment: here you see the 2.0s and 3.0s and strategics begin to invest. Example: virtual reality.
e.     Plateau of Productivity: example: Enterprise Cloud.

And yet, there is “no real easy answer to market timing.” There is one view that if you take a niche product to an early-adopter market and get traction, then you may have the ability to scale.

4. Build, Buy & Partner

Often M&A groups, marketing, and RND all have their own silos, all going in various directions. If they can all coordinate and ladder up to a shared strategy, then they can work in sync.

We have a series of formal question to vet whether to build, buy, or partner. You must be able to build a business case that justifies the acquisition. Having these three levers—build, buy, or partner—are critical to get to market effectively and with impact.

5. External Communications: Before we entered the space, we had a two-year plan to establish thought leadership in telemedicine. This “Trojan horse” method works as a powerful tool to socialize ideas and establish a position and point of view around possible areas of exploration.

Innovation cannot happen in a silo. The whole innovation ecosystem is critical to our mission. Bringing relationships with VCs, incubators, and ventures allows us to see the “froth,” the areas that are emerging. We need to all collaborate more, partner deeper, to truly innovate.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Keurig's Journey into Connected Appliances

Keurig’s Journey into Connected Appliances

Rachael Schwartz, General Manager and Senior Director Innovation, Keurig Green Mountain

Schwartz began with two main points:

1. You need a culture of innovation to successfully drive innovation within a company.

2. Innovation is built upon consumer-led pain points and trends.

A brief history: Keurig was founded in 1990 by three MIT professors who thought there was a better way to make coffee. We miniaturized the process and made it more simple, personalized, and fast. Convenience is the hallmark of our brand. What we also discovered is that spouses may like their own flavors, so personalization is key to our equity.

Keurig has more than 500 varieties from 75 brands, so our business is as much about these brand relationships as much as the machines that make the beverages themselves.

Schwartz shared a map of all of the consumer pain points, which the company sees as opportunities for innovation. This journey map helped find the needs in the market.

At the same time, smart appliance trends point the way to solving these consumer pain points. The company then mapped benefits of concepts to consumer pain points. This mapping exercise help set priorities for developing prototypes. The company developed a promise: The best Keurig Experience ever, and then tested the concept.

Then, the company did market research. IOT early adopters craved smarter coffee appliances—and were upset the company hadn’t already developed such items.

But those who desire an ideal coffee experience wanted these types of machines—many suburban moms and white-collar workers. “From these sessions, we began to more deeply understand consumer brew behavior.” From the research, personas were developed that explored purchase versus consumption data.

Relationships with consumers allow the company to better target  consumers that actually build relationships: smarter recommendations and automatic reordering, for example.

Three takeaways:
1.    Good innovations fall at the intersection of brand, trends and technology, and consumer pain points
2.    Build from consumers’ insights and pain points
3.    Create a culture that leans into disruption

Q: How simple can you make the set up for connected products?
A: That is the key question—the set up is a barrier. We are trying to make it as simple as possible.

Q: How much does culture play into your analysis of this process?
A: For consumers, our tribe is those who value convenience.

Michael Graber is the managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, an innovation and strategic growth firm based in Memphis, TN and the author of Going Electric. Visit to learn more.

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