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Do the Right Things.

So many people focus on the tiny details of their jobs. They are rewarded to sweat the details. In some fields the details are critical, such as medical care, clinical research, nuclear energy; in many fields, however, this focus on details impedes authentic growth.

 

As a result, people are doing their jobs, but a lack of leadership vision and managerial muscle craft a wheel of production where talent is wasted on needless processes and protocols, rather than invested in creating value for the organization.

 

In essence, professionals are rewarded for doing what they are told, even if what they are told is nonessential, wasteful, or just busy work. What a waste of human capital from a company perspective. Even worse, when people sit idle doing purposeless tasks they do not live up to their human potential. What a shame for every individual where this process bloat occurs.

 

You could claim, therefore, that poor management is an inhibitor of humanity, a curse of control the mediocre and inept enact on others.

 

Such cultures self-elect who stays and who goes, so the social reinforcements reward diminished work and punish those who are intrinsically entrepreneurial.

 

Those who are both talented and driven leave as soon as they feel stifled by minutia. You are left with well-intentioned people who value having a job over making their mark in the field or the world. As a result, you greatly decrease your company’s ability to discover new high-margin growth, retain top talent, or craft the kind of culture that embraces new opportunity.

 

In Good to Great Jim Collins spoke of an important exercise for leaders. The essence of his prescription was that every effective leader needed not a To-Do list, but rather a Do-Not-Do list. While this behavioral tool helps leaders navigate their next moves, a Do-Not-Do list would benefit the managerial ranks and the professionals that work under them more.

 

Imagine if every director and manager spent several quiet days reflecting on what efforts were wasteful, useless, unnecessary, and which processes were redundant, over-engineered, or not worth doing anymore. Then, each one had the authority to create a Do-Not-Do list for themselves and their team. Productivity levels would rise to unprecedented heights. Collaboration would compound. Departments would be trying to out optimize one another, but also willing to share tips and insights.

 

What kind of workplace do you want to create? If it is one where positive change and growth are encouraged and embodied, don’t encumber the culture with menial tasks that are rigidly managed.

 

Only empowered people can transform into peak performers, people who do the right things and question the practices that aren’t quite right. These same people—emerging leaders, many of whom are creating and executing their personal Do-Not-Do lists—will not tolerate work-for-work’s sake. They seek significance and meaning. Don’t manage the potential out of them.

 

Do things, but make sure you and team focus on doing the right things, things that matter.

 

 

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 www.southerngrowthstudio.com to learn more.

Telling Compelling Stories

A talk by William Greenwald, Founder and Chief Neuroleaderologist, Windsor Leadership Group

 

William began with a story.

 

This one was about air travel. Something happens. The plane makes an odd noise. Then, nose dives. “What am I’m going to do?” echoed in his head. The captain chimed in, “You may use your phone — you have ten seconds to send a message.” What would you say?

 

William said, “We are going down. I love you all … remember, I’m flying on business so I get double indemnity with life ins…” His voice trails off.

 

The plane landed safely after all. A world of self-reflection confounded William and made him reflect on what matters—family, love.

 

What makes this story compelling?

 

The audience can relate. They are traveling. It is a strong opening that builds rapport with everyone in the room.

 

“Stories need to connect. Stories need to be relevant.”

 

Another tactic employed was that Greenwald waited until the middle of the story to introduce himself: “to get better reception right out of the gate.” This is a best practice of storytelling.

 

Presentation excellence calls four parts: Planning, Design, Delivery, and QA (quality assurance).

 

These four parts amount to an arc of successful storytelling. Each part has a mix of methods, both art and science, that can be planned carefully, rehearsed, and mastered.

 

Ask yourself, “Is it more important to be brilliant or relevant?” Remember, it’s not about you; it is about the listener and the impact you make on their views and actions. When it’s done, no one remembers your brilliance. Relevance drives impact. Think about adding seven words at the end of each point: “this is why it matters to you.”

 

Another tip: show up early. You’ll be more relaxed. You’ll also have the opportunity to meet your audience members beforehand.

 

You can always ask you audience if they see the relevance. Don’t be afraid to veer from slides or even close down Power Point.

 

Kill the podium. You don’t need it. Walk around. Make connections, but keep notes handy.

 

Here are some elements of successful presentations:

  1. Stories are important. Tell one.
  2. Humor can be a good tool to deepen connections.
  3. Improv makes things relevant in “a crazy way.” You have to be willing to be an in improve mode.
  4. Manage your fears. You can find ways to help lesson fear.
  5. Talent is all about practice. Practice and then practice more. Talent is simply hard work.

 

Emotions make stories work and cultivate memory. Science has proven this fact over and over. Stories aid recall. The more emotional, the more it lodges in the memory bank.

 

Stories inspire. Stories teach. Stories influence. Stories breathe life into real issues.

 

Tell yours now.

 

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 www.southerngrowthstudio.com to learn more.

 

 

 

 

Blended Reality: Riding the Waves of Innovation

A talk given by Shane Wall, CTO, HP

“Innovation is culture,” says Wall to start his keynote in high gear.

 The way you get insight is to understand culture, he suggests, is to look at societal change. Not technology.

At HP labs we are charged with “What’s the future? Where are we going? We don’t look at technology, we look at society—we look 30 years into the future, into megatrends, such as rapid urbanization, changing demographics, hyper globalizations, accelerated innovation.”

“Think about changing demographics. It will be a different world when most of the people on earth are over 50 years old. Most marketing will go after the silver spenders.”

The HP vision is called Blended Reality: the intersection of physical life with digital life. The key is to do it seamlessly. How does it all integrate? It is happening already. Look at medicine—take a diabetic, for example, how insulin pumps work.

First example of a dimension of Blended Reality trend is Hyper Mobility. “Today we think of phones and tablets—things we look at no less than 137 times a day. But, what happens when wearables measure and predict and even fix issues?” The day is coming soon.

The second one is 3D Transformation. “This is nothing less than the next industrial revolution. Consumer will be able to configure everything. Tax laws and regulations will change. Supply chains will change. Manufacturing will change.”

The last one is the Internet of All Things. This is a bigger idea than Internet of Things. Here, every single thing can be connected, even without technology. “Products and packaging can be encoded with patterns that can be read, allowing all types of tracking,” claims Wall.

So, how does HP do innovation? They say that “innovation is culture.” It goes back to the company’s roots as a garage-based start up. It’s native to their story. From this simple garage Silicon Valley was born.

HP’s innovation definition?  The word, Jugaad. It’s a Punjab word meaning innovative fix. The idea is that you have no money but you seek inventive, adaptive intelligence. You see it in India everyday. This is when you don’t have a showerhead, so you take a bottle and poke holes in it and affix it to a hose to create a shower.

You must capture this spirit. You can’t reward it with money and praise. “Rather, leadership at HP embraces change. We work to highlight innovation across the company these ways:

 

1.    Prepare yourself to recognize new opportunities and act on them, even if they don’t fit your existing business model

2.    Communicate a clear vision, direction—and communicate the vision of where you are going often. Do not let process get in the way of the destination.

3.    Empower everyone to make decisions—and celebrate decision making loudly.

4.    Suspend judgment—this is really critical. Stomp out naysayers. The best ideas often come from people who never heard, ‘We tried that already. We don’t do that, etc.”

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 www.southerngrowthstudio.com to learn more. 

Tethering the Void between Moonshot Ideas and Customer Connection

This talk was given by Donna Sturgess, Executive in Residence, Carnegie Mellon University, and the annual Front End of Innovation Conference in Boston this month.

 

“I’ve been spending a lot of time in the future,” is how Sturgess opened this evocative session. “Things get funded at Carnegie Mellon for big, breakthrough ideas, exponential innovations.”

 

Moonshot ideas is the theme. What is Moonshot thinking? How does it work?

 

“Technology runs far ahead of the customer, so far ahead that people don’t see relevance—and the sweet spot hover between relevance and shape-shifting technology.” Moonshots, then, are far-off territories of growth.

 

Here are two examples: Self-driving cars and big data.

 

Self-driving cars

The concept for autonomous vehicles began in 1939, but the ones we know began in 1984. This concept has been brewing for a long time.

 

“This car can drive from Pittsburg to Seattle without a human,” said Sturgess, showing a Cadillac. “We only need humans to fill gas and change oil.” We took it to Washington where there is concern about traffic patterns many years from now.

 

The cars are here, but policies are keeping them from being on the road. Yet, Congress realized the technology is ready.

 

One driving question is “what do people want in a self-driving car?” Here surveyed 1,000 people. Here are some of the responses:

  1. Want to connect to home system
  2. Want my car to be designed like an office
  3. Want my car to be a mobile medical office
  4. Want a have a party car.

 

Understanding the context helps design the experience. Yet, people have to see the future to believe in it.

 

 

Big Data

Big data versus little data. “The moonshot here is how advanced sensors can be. How specific can the use be? For example, if we add sensors in devices to be mindful when elderly people fall, it would be a win.”

 

There is an “enormous hunger” for services and product for sensors and the elderly.

 

Perhaps sensors can be used with infants, too. “How can sensors add real value?”

 

In this case, the sensor can measure your gait and let you know that you are moving toward a condition to anticipate falls.

 

Zooming out, Sturgess claims that the public is not open to the quantum speed of innovation. “I feel pressure where the future is being created, but we haven’t defined what kind of future we want.”

 

“Not until you are willing to abandon your world view, can you see new mental models,” she says.

 

There is a correlation between the earth and the moonshot ideas. This gulf between the two is the road to opportunity.

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 www.southerngrowthstudio.com to learn more. 

Innovation from the Inside-Out

A talk from Karen Hersherson, clay street project leader, Proctor & Gamble

Innovation for P&G is about platforms and pipelines that create long-lasting value. To get these types of results, the company had to build an incubator for project teams, named clay street.

 

Innovation for P&G gathers multi-functional teams that work together over a long period of time to create truly holistic innovation.

 

We work with teams and their leaders to create innovators. On the journey they become more confident and creative to handle the messy side of front-end innovation.

 

We have an amazing group of adjunct facility—from psychology to drama to arts and design.

 

The stories I will share are about what we’ve seen and learned at clay street.

 

Here is the main point: if we can bring more of our humanity to innovation, we get better results.

 

So, we work on seeing, feeling, and being.

 

SEEING. If you look at any work of art, any product, it is a reflection of the people that created it. A Jungian taught me this valuable lesson. Therefore, we focus on people, not the concepts.

 

People come in with very silo-ed thinking. Marketers thought as marketers, for example, and engineers thought as engineers. It is hard to see outside of their trained perspectives, as identities are tied to their role.

 

Our goal was to give space and time for people to get out of their given roles. Let people live the questions, not rush into a debrief. Let new neural connections begin to take root.

 

The second thing that got in the way was the sense of being valued. If you don’t feel valued, you won’t take risk and throw out “stupid” ideas. Therefore, we do a lot of ideation, and do “Yes, And” exercises. The idea isn’t to get the killer idea, but to learn how creativity is a team sport. Then, the valuable ideas flow.

 

What we learned is the concept of disorientation. Here, in this state of mind, the world is crazy and topsy turvy.

 

Three soft-skill methods to see dynamics underneath as part of Seeing:

 

  1. Display thinking
  2. Slow down
  3. Name it

 

 

FEELING. We now tear away the armor. We invite for everyone to put away phones and laptops. The ROI of putting these distractions away allows for genuine incubation. Data is making us lazy thinkers, invalidating our gut instincts.

 

Here’s our recipe: Take away distractions. Take away roles. Take away templates. Add love. We work on the relationships early to mitigate against the conflicts that always arise as a by-product of the creative process.

 

As we build the heart, it showed up in their work as part of Feeling:

 

  1. Subtract what distracts
  2. Ditch the templates
  3. Build relationships

 

BEING. I have to surrender control and fully trust the people and process. We use a lot of mindfulness practices. We mediate together.

 

Here are some habits of Being we practice:

 

  1. Identify your triggers
  2. Explore the feeling
  3. Build daily habits

 

 

Think about if you can see the human dynamics happening underneath your innovation practice? How comfortable are you dealing with the emotions that arise? How are you role modeling the feelings that arise?

 

These parting words should be the motto for clay street: “if you want create transformation innovations, you have to be able to transform yourself.”

 

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 www.southerngrowthstudio.com to learn more.

 

 

 

2016 Trend Report: A Masterclass with Jeremey Gutsche

Jeremy Gutsche is the CEO of Trend Hunter and the best-selling author of Better & Faster: The Proven Path to Unstoppable Ideas

 

Better & Faster Workshop at the Front End of Innovation Conference:

Jeremy started with a picture of his partner, his wife, and a story. She was chased for three hours, by zombies. Why? Fire. Bombs. Cannons. Bullets. Rockets. Race to space. Nuclear subs. GPS. Geocatching. Social media. Nike plus. The Walking Dead. In other words, she was doing a zombie run.

 

All of these breakthroughs just build on one another. Point: you don’t need one big a idea, but a lot of small ideas that build upon one another.

 

Next came a brief overview: “When we work with companies, we set up innovation accelerators inside companies.” Trend Hunter has an Exploiting Chaos Framework.

 

Pace of Change exercise

The first exercise in the workshop was the Pace of Change. First step, look at all past behaviors. Then, compare to the present. The analogue used was movies. Peer reviews, text, GPS, pre-bought tickets has utterly changed the behavior. Looking at then-to-now helps.

 

The second stage of Pace of Change was to forecast five years into the future: now-to-then. For example, movies may be interactive. You may have an avatar in the movie. Video games and movies merge. Interaction and experience have shifted. Perhaps any move may be streamed.

 

Remember, you are “not preparing for what will happen, but what may be.”

 

Design Your Own exercise

 

Design your own hip hotel sprint was the first small group task for this exercise. Personalizing an experience for real people generates actionable ideas. Advice: first hunt for cool. Examples include portable hotels, cave hotels, coffin hotel, and other benchmarks. Next step: look at hotel services including pre-cooked meals, pet spas, in-room massages, wine spas, beer spas, and more.

 

Now, your team broadens the scope to fashion, museums, tech, etc.: skateboard park inside a museum, social vending machines, so many more.

 

Now, we cluster all the ideas into trends to recognize patterns. Beware; the first insights need to be discarded because of bias. Dig deeper. Time to re-cluster the data. Develop a variety of points of view. Now, the exercise picks back up: pick one insight and rebuild.

 

“Because we drove off an insight, we innovated off a much smaller box—and the ideas were more novel,” says Gutsche.

 

Distopia/Utopia exercise

 

Ask yourself these things about distopia: What may cause your brand to miss out? What five factors can lead you to failure in five years?

 

“What are the key levers, the five factors to solve? What can lead to utopia?”

 

Take your list of factors, now figure out the key two or three that may really make a difference around which you can innovate.

 

We explored the risks, dreams, fears, and hopes.

 

This Masterclass was packed, energized and energizing, and a great addition to the conference line up.

 

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 www.southerngrowthstudio.com to learn more. 

The Evolving Role of Design

The role of design evolves at the speed of innovation, the dizzying, dynamic speed of the market. Design now has a seat at executive and board tables across the globe. More than ever, a holistic sense of design is valued as a legal means of significant competitive advantage.

But it hasn’t always been this way. The journey from the cubicle to the corner office to the open office began with the scope of what was being designed and the role design played within organizations.

Design started with designing things, objects, and then expanded to the graphics, packaging and advertising. Now, designers – not necessarily decorators – help design spaces, experiences, innovations and business models.

If you look at the world of organizational management you’ll see this same progression: First, the species learned how to manage things, then time, now energy.

Because business, the world of nonprofits, and the market are all so quickly transforming, they need designers to help craft meaning, purpose and inspiration, as well as to optimize overall gestalt – from signs to things to space to experiences.

Design is beginning to drive business needs, instead of the other way around – and that’s a positive move.

Remember what happens when design stays subservient to business needs?

Look at any mass store – Wal-Mart, Target, Walgreens, any grocery store – and you’ll see the precarious quagmire that happens when design is subservient to business needs. So much waste is created. So many me-too products fail – 95 out of 100, in fact.

When design is on the product-attribute level without fresh consumer insights (not even on the brand level, or the business level, or on the social level yet), a glut gets created with too many things that we will not consume and that will surfeit landfills across the globe. Why bother?

But if you start by creating a problem for a real human need, you craft a solution – and isn’t this urge at the heart of the design process: to make something that is beautiful both functionally and aesthetically?

So, now that design has a voice at the decision table, how can we better decide what to create? By widening the scope of design to include human factors, consumer or customer insights, and by understanding the context deeply before deciding what problem to fix.

In other words, by scanning the landscape door-to-door and being willing to challenge all organizational orthodoxies: the business model, the channel strategy, the brand elasticity, everything.

Of course there is a paradox at play. Once you design a business model and begin to craft at the experience level, then you have more freedom to design better artifacts and interiors at all with a holistic design world. Think of it as a meta-design.

The emerging role of the designer makes it imperative that you zoom out to the widest perspective of possibilities and then zoom back into the details that conjure an irrepressible world unto itself.

We are talking about Big Design, Big D, Meta D. Designing the energetics, level of interaction, the culture of work, and the methods of inquiry, creation and production – the invisible infrastructure of how all pieces and parts of an organization and the world interrelate.

Let’s call the role the creator and keeper of the golden thread of experience alignment. Others call it “the designful company,” but that speaks only about the method and doesn’t convey the value of the method. Conscious and continual renewal is the objective.

Corporations have learned that the futurist Alvin Toffler was correct: You can analyze the past but must design your future. … This is the level of design that matters, Big D. We cannot create a better world by doing what worked well in the past more forcibly.

More than ever, there are economic, ecological and socio-cultural reasons to apply this type of design in organizations.

With the hiring of Ernesto Quinteros as Johnson & Johnson’s first chief design officer (CDO), we see a growing acknowledgement that old-line companies value Big D by elevating the role of design throughout the enterprise. PepsiCo, Philips and many others have this C-suite role.

A Forbes piece notes that “the idea of design is being baked into every aspect of corporate life. … The new title also reflects the dawning of a new outlook on what companies produce and their dynamic relationships with customers. It is the well-designed products and services offering new experiences that are captivating consumers’ attention.”

Such design leaders align experiences inside and outside the company and also help that intersection of inner and outer blur to the point of insight. From the same piece: “The CDO has a unique combination of skills that help businesses understand and engage consumers in a more holistic way. Designers better understand the needs and wants of consumers that allow them to be able to better identify and create new products and services.”

Fast Company noted this position as The Job of the Future. As Yves Béhar keenly points out: “CDO will be a job in every company, overseeing the design of a business’s every touchpoint. … Designers are no longer being brought in at the end of the process to make things look pretty, but rather are providing essential insights from the ground up.”

Corporate cultures’ attitudes toward design have shifted. Visa, PayPal and other leading financial companies have design integrated into their service capabilities and leadership teams. Venture capitalists and private equity firms often insist on infusing their portfolio companies with design at every level of the business.

This paradigm shift for the field of design marks a significant transformation of the roles, skill sets and scope of the practice of design. Design has never been more highly valued as an economic and social force.

Big design is here to stay, and to craft our shared future. Embrace it or get out of the way.

Telling Compelling Stories

This is another excerpt from 2016’s FEI conference in Boston, MA.  This one comes from William Greenwald, Founder and Chief Neuroleaderologist at Windsor Leadership Group.

 

He began with a story.

 

This one was about air travel. Something happens. The plane makes an odd noise, then nose dives. “What am I’m going to do?” echoed in his head. The captain chimed in, “you may use your phone—you have ten seconds to send a message.” What would you say?

 

William said, “We are going down. I love you all … remember, I’m flying on business so I get double indemnity with life ins…”

 

The plane landed safely after all. A world of self-reflection confounded William and made him reflect on what matters—family, love.

 

What makes this story compelling?

 

The audience can relate. They are traveling. It is a strong opening that builds rapport with everyone in the room.

 

“Stories need to connect. Stories need to be relevant.”

 

Greenwald also employed the tactic of waiting until the middle of the story to introduce himself, “to get better reception right out of the gate.” This is a best practice of storytelling.

 

Presentation excellence requires four parts: Planning, Design, Delivery, and QA (quality assurance).

 

These four parts amount to an arc of successful storytelling. Each part has a mix of methods—both art and science—that can be planned carefully, rehearsed, and mastered.

 

Ask yourself, “Is it more important to be brilliant or relevant?” Remember, it’s not about you; it is about the listener and the impact you make on their views and actions. When it’s done, no one remembers your brilliance. Relevance drives impact. Think about adding seven words at the end of each point: “this is why it matters to you.”

 

Another tip: show up early. You’ll be more relaxed. You’ll also have the opportunity to meet your audience members beforehand.

 

You can always ask you audience if they see the relevance. Don’t be afraid to veer from slides or even close down Power Point.

 

Kill the podium. You don’t need it. Walk around. Make connections, but keep notes handy.

 

Here are some elements of successful presentations:

  1. Stories are important. Tell one.
  2. Humor can be a good tool to deepen connections.
  3. Improv makes things relevant in “a crazy way.” You have to be willing to be in an improv mode.
  4. Manage your fears. You can find ways to help lessen fear.
  5. Talent is all about practice. Practice and then practice more. Talent is simply hard work.

 

Emotions make stories work and cultivate memory. Science has proven this fact over and over. Stories aid recall. The more emotional, the more it lodges in the memory bank.

 

Stories inspire. Stories teach. Stories influence. Stories breathe life into real issues.

 

Tell yours now.

Tethering the Void Between Moonshot Ideas and Customer Connection

FEI Conference, Boston, MA, 2016—Donna Sturgess, Executive in Residence, Carnegie Mellon University

 

“I’ve been spending a lot of time in the future,” is how Sturgess opened this evocative session. “Things get funded at Carnegie Mellon for big, breakthrough ideas, exponential innovations.”

 

Moonshot ideas is the recurring theme. What is Moonshot thinking? How does it work?

 

“Technology runs far ahead of the customer—and the sweet spot is relevance and shape-shifting technology.”

 

Here are two examples: Self-driving cars and big data.

 

Self-driving cars

The concept for autonomous vehicles began in 1939, but the ones we know began in 1984. This concept has been brewing for a long time.

 

“This car can drive from Pittsburg to Seattle without a human,” said Sturgess, showing a Cadillac. “We only need humans to fill gas and change oil.” We took it to Washington where there is concern about traffic patterns many years from now.

 

The cars are here, but policies are keeping them from being on the road. Yet, Congress realized the technology is ready.

 

One driving question is “what do people want in a self-driving car?” Here surveyed 1,000 people. Here are some of the responses:

  1. Want to connect to home system
  2. Want my car to be designed like an office
  3. Want my car to be a mobile medical office
  4. Want to have a party car.

 

Understanding the context helps design the experience. Yet, people have to see the future to believe in it.

 

Big Data

Big data versus little data. “The moonshot here is how advanced sensors can be. How specific can the use be? For example, if we add sensors in devices to be mindful when elderly people fall, it would be a win.”

 

There is an “enormous hunger” for services and product for sensors and the elderly.

 

Perhaps sensors can be used with infants, too. “how can sensors add real value?”

 

In this case, the sensor can measure your gait and let you know that you are moving toward a condition to anticipate falls.

 

Zooming out, Sturgess claims that the public is not open to the quantum speed of innovation. “I feel pressure where the future is being created, but we haven’t defined what kind of future we want.”

 

“Not until you are willing to abandon your world view, can you see new mental models,” she says.

 

There is a correlation in between the earth and the moonshot ideas. This gulf between the two is the road to opportunity.

What’s Your Innovation Definition?

So many organizations set out to innovate, but lose their way close to the finish line. All of the time, money, and energy invested loom over them like an ominous shadow of failure ready to overtake the whole scene.

 

What happened? There was so much momentum, good will, collaboration, and then—the painful, public crash into the wall.

 

What is this wall? The revenue expectations of the business may not have been formally expressed on the front end. Pressure builds. You see it on the faces of coworkers in the hallways. Things tighten up. The market has shifted. Competitors have gained ground. All longer-term projects need to shorten their cycle or cease.

 

The scenario above happened at many companies, and in departments at companies, as they started their long journey to make innovation a formal discipline.

 

A lot of tension gets created; and, if harnessed correctly, it can be useful, creative tension. It would be a mistake and inauthentic for any organization to try and create rigid tools, processes, metrics, and even a definition for innovation without having experienced some of its transformative power first-hand.

 

If you are trying a new work mode, outside of the existing paradigm, think of the first trial or two as a learning investment. You may stumble upon revenue or insights that lead to giant leaps of both money and inspiration; however, embrace this tension at the right moment. You have arrived. Now is the right time to begin discussing a befitting innovation definition for your organization.

 

Do it too prematurely and you risk a bad fit, which ends up worse than a bloated software implementation that no one adopts after spending too much money and time on it.

 

Do it too late and you lack the formal constraints to drive meaningful business results or cultural changes.

 

When you are ready to have a filter to sift innovation, consider drafting a formal definition. While it is easy to draft an MBA-like set of Innovation criteria to please executives, this may not be the curative needed to catalyze your organization.

 

Still, the starter set of a definition, the baseline, contains these three points. Must be own-able. Must create a sustainable competitive advantage. Must be based on new market insights.

 

Yet, there is a problem with this general prescription. If you already suffer from a cultural bias, the baseline may only inflate an already chronic tendency.

 

Consider a company that jumps with an engineering solution to every synapse in their industry then sees their development costs rise while adding only flat or negative growth for years. Also, the firm may be damaging their brand equity by releasing “me-too” products or following tech trends without adding anything new to the market.

 

Adding a tenet to a definition of innovation such as “must create an irresistible product experience” could cure a world of ills.

 

There are many types of tonics for similar problems that can be embedded into an innovation definition. The point: live into it and create a custom definition for your organization.