Author Archives: Teresa Spangler

About Teresa Spangler

Teresa Spangler is the CEO of PlazaBridge Group has been a driving force behind innovation and growth for more than 30 years. Today, she wears multiple hats as a social entrepreneur, innovation expert, growth strategist, author and speaker (not to mention mother, wife, band-leader and so much more). She is especially passionate about helping CEOs understand and value the role human capital plays in innovation, and the impact that innovation has on humanity; in our ever-increasing artificial/cyber world.

Scaling New Heights – Building Resilience

Scaling New Heights – Building Resilience

GUEST POST from Teresa Spangler

“I just love it when people say I can’t do it, there’s nothing that makes me feel better, because all my life, people have said that I wasn’t going to make it.” -Ted Turner

Resilience is what allows us to scale new heights. It is the strength that comes from within, the power to push forward in the face of adversity. Resilience is what allows us to confront our fears and overcome challenges. Resilience is what allows us to build something great. When we are resilient, we are able to tap into our innermost strength and power. We are able to align our team and work together towards a common goal. We are able to face our challenges head-on and emerge victorious. Companies that continually work on building resilient processes, people and continue to innovate scale new heights.

Resilience and innovation are two critical components of any successful organization. Resilience helps organizations withstand and bounce back from challenges, while innovation allows them to proactively identify and seize new opportunities. However, too often these two functions are siloed within organizations, with little connection between them. To build a stronger relationship between innovation and resilience, leaders need to create a culture of collaboration and openness that values diversity and alignment. By fostering a culture of collaboration, leaders can encourage teams to share ideas and perspectives, leading to more innovative thinking. And by valuing diversity and alignment, leaders can ensure that all voices are heard and that everyone is working towards the same goal. When innovation and resilience are properly connected, organizations are better able to weather any challenge and emerge even stronger.

As the world increasingly becomes more VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous – organizations must build their resilience in order to thrive. Here are five strategies that organizations can use to encourage imagination, scenario planning, break processes, and throw out old assumptions:

  1. Encourage imagination: One way to encourage imagination is to encourage employees to think outside the box. This can be done by encouraging them to come up with new ideas, and by providing opportunities for them to experiment and try new things.
  2. Scenario planning: Another strategy that can be used is scenario planning. This involves thinking about different possible future outcomes, and making plans accordingly. This can help organizations be better prepared for unexpected events.
  3. Break processes: Another way to build resilience is to break processes. This means breaking away from traditional ways of doing things, and instead being open to new ways of doing things. Sometimes, this may mean taking risks, but it can also lead to new opportunities.
  4. Throw out old assumptions: Finally, another strategy for building resilience is to throw out old assumptions. This means questioning long-held beliefs, and being willing to embrace new ideas. By doing this, organizations can stay flexible.

Image credit: Pixabay

What's Next - New York City on November 17 2022

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Are You Hanging Your Chief Innovation Officer Out to Dry?

Are You Hanging Your Chief Innovation Officer Out to Dry?

GUEST POST from Teresa Spangler

Only 7 percent of companies are delivering on the growth triple play by unifying creativity, analytics, and purpose. They are driving average revenue growth of 2.3 times versus peers from 2018–19 (which increased to 2.7 times versus peers from 2019–20). McKinsey

Many innovation leaders are feeling “hung out to dry.” It’s not for the lack of desire to innovate for sure. The challenge is the current innovation processes themselves are not always conducive to actually innovating:

  1. the effort hits the balance sheet and potentially impacts profits
  2. organizational teams fear the unknown and not being involved so often does not support the effort
  3. some innovation leaders alienate team members by pushing too hard
  4. and the priorities of the day simply just get in the way of doing new things.

Innovation is not a buzzword, it is not easy or for the faint at heart. In a hyper-disruptive economy where technologies are impacting everything and changing at unfathomable speeds, keeping pace with trends will take a concentrated effort with very little tolerance for complacency.

Times of uncertainty bring times of doubt and fear on taking risks and making changes. However, the opposite is needed to continue growth in challenging economic times. Companies that infuse creativity and combine creativity with analytics and as McKinsey notes, PURPOSE, continue growth at a faster pace. These companies are creating new products that matter to their customers, they are innovating new campaigns and ways to engage customers as well as new ways to acquire new customers. Innovating methods, business models, and campaigns are just a few outcomes of driving creativity and an analytic savvy in your company’s culture.

Innovation does not have to be groundbreaking disruption (of course it can be! but does not have to be). Iterative changes to the benefit of future needs of customers can be a ground-breaking change for your company’s growth strategy. What is your company’s risk tolerance? What freedom to play with new ideas does your innovation team have or your new product development team encourage? How well aligned are creative process with sales, marketing and product teams?

Plazabridge Group has been involved with 100’s of projects over 15 years and we’ve seen success come to those that double down in the hardest times staying future focused. Segmenting out a future’s team that focuses on the future is important. The day-to-day business must keep going. There are a number of methodologies that work well but none will work at all without a few key changes to the organization to ensure ideas flow from ideation to commercialization.

In the The Wall Street Journal article: Why More Companies Are Putting the LEGO Group Bricks in the Office, Lego Serious Play (LSP) has been used by the U.S. Naval War College (Warfare Division), and spread across energy, transport and finance industries. Companies including Google, Ernst & Young, Microsoft, Visa, Lexus and Procter & Gamble have used it. Plazabridge Group uses LSP in our innovation future planning workshops for companies.

The key is not all play! The necessity to drive a stronger analytic savvy is critical to the effort. In the efforts to create, we must answer the questions: WHO CARES? and WHY? and WHAT WILL THEY CARE ABOUT IN THE FUTURE?

Here are a few tips to consider that may help make driving innovating just a bit easier on the organization:

  1. Build your innovation team’s sandbox and give them freedom to work within these constraints. Innovation is not permission to roam freely and haphazardly. Under a defined set of guidelines with a defined budget and set of resources the innovation team can be quite effective.
  2. Remove barriers to approvals under the above guidelines. Allow the innovation team to introduce to departments and company leaders new ways of thinking by hosting events or information sessions to the teams. By doing so it begins to remove fear of the unknown and the mystery around the effort. Open communications and systems can be a very positive outcome.
  3. Don’t be afraid to approach innovation from outside. There are a number of ways to do this, but you will need a strong leader inside to lead the way and manage the inside out and the outside in process.
  4. Recognize that new innovations do not always fit nicely in the current company structure, processes and culture. Consider spinning it out and investing in new ventures as their own entities.

At the end of the day, you need strong people with a tenacity to pursue outside the world of the unknown. This does not always feel comfortable to the organization. Just don’t leave the innovation team “hanging out to dry!”

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People Drive the World-Technology as a Co-Pilot via Center of Human Compassion

People Drive the World-Technology as a Co-Pilot via Center of Human Compassion

GUEST POST from Teresa Spangler

People at the Center – Technology as a Co-Pilot

Are people at the center of your innovation and new product plans? Have we made people the center of all things digital? Are human’s and our environment the center of the new world entering the 4th Industrial Revolution? When innovation is during groundbreaking disruptive inventions or whether innovation is iterating into new products… what is placed at the center of your strategies? What are the reasons for these new inventions?

So much is at stake, as the world turns to being driven by AI, humanoids, rockets’ red glare searching for new lands to inhabit, games and more games feeding our brains with virtual excitement and stimulation, devices galore on our bodies, in our hands, in our homes helping us navigate our every move and in many ways directing us on how to think. The acceleration of digital permeating our lives is mind boggling. The news we are fed, seemingly unbiased, the product advertisements that sneak into our feeds, the connections via too many social and work-related networks that appear all too promising and friendly too is overwhelming. Technology is encompassing our lives!

The Power of Technology

Don’t get me wrong, I love technology for all the positive it contributes to the world. Technology is allowing individuals to create! To create and earn! To take control of their lives and build meaningful endeavors. The creation of TIME and SPACE to live how we to live has been a major outcome of

1. technology but also 2. the pandemic.

Let’s explore the creator economy which has experienced an explosion of late. As referenced in the Forbes articleThe Biggest Trends For 2022 In Creator Economy And Web3, by Maren Thomas Bannon, Today, the total size of the creator economy is estimated to be over $100 billion and 50 million people worldwide consider themselves creators. Creators will continue to bulge out of the global fabric as individuals seek to augment their incomes or escape the confines or rigged corporate cultures. Technology is enabling creators no doubt!

Technology is also allowing forward acting organizations to scale growth at unprecedented speeds. Let’s look at a recent survey conducted by Accenture

Curious about the effects of the pandemic, we completed a second round of research in early 2021 and discovered the following:

  1. Technology Leaders have moved even further ahead of the pack and have been growing at 5x the rate of Laggards on average in the past three years.
  2. Among the “Others” there is a group of organizations—18% of the entire sample—that has been able to break previous performance barriers—the Leapfroggers.

Let’s look at a recent survey conducted by Accenture

Curious about the effects of the pandemic, we completed a second round of research in early 2021 and discovered the following:

  1. Technology Leaders have moved even further ahead of the pack and have been growing at 5x the rate of Laggards on average in the past three years.
  2. Among the “Others” there is a group of organizations—18% of the entire sample—that has been able to break previous performance barriers—the Leapfroggers.

Of course, so much technology is doing good things for the world. 3-D printing is emerging at the center of homelessness. As reported in the #NYTIMES, this tiny village in Mexico is housing homeless people. The homes were built using an oversized 3-D printer.

Another example positive outcomes of technology is the emergence of over-the-counter hearing devices. Fortune Business Insights estimates the global hearing aids market is projected to grow from $6.67 billion in 2021 to $11.02 billion by 2028 at a CAGR of 7.4% in forecast period, 2021-2028.

These devices, until this year, were regulated to being sold by medical professionals at, for the majority of population in need, very high prices $2000 to $5000+ per hearing aid. Yes typically you need two. But recent innovations in ear buds and bluetooth are allowing other technology companies into the game! Take Bose for example, the FDA recently approved Bose SoundControl Hearing Aids to be purchased on their website for $895/pair. No need for a hearing professional. This significantly changes the playing field and opens the doors for so many that have put off purchases (of these not covered by insurance by the way) devices.

Entertainment & leisure travel is going to a whole new level with the help of technology. It’s wonderful that anyone with connectivity and travel the world and explore via Virtual Reality. Here are 52 places you can explore in the comfort of your home shared by NY Times. Many of us attended conferences and events over the past two years virtually. We’ll see an exponential growth in virtual reality experiences in the coming year.

So why am I talking about creating a Center for Human Compassion if so much good is really coming out of technology? Because many of the outcomes are also unrealized and not anticipated or at least publicized to prepare people. It is essential for companies, technologists, and product teams to consider the consequences of new technologies. Not as an afterthought but at the forethought, from inception of ideas we must ask what are the downsides? How will people be affected? What could happen?

The quote below is taken from the World Economic Forum report, Positive AI Economic Futures

machines will be able to do most tasks better than humans. Given these sorts of predictions, it is important to think about the possible consequences of AI for the future of work and to prepare for different scenarios. Continued progress in these technologies could have disruptive effects: from further exacerbating recent trends in inequality to denying more and more people their sense of purpose and fulfillment in life, given that work is much more than just a source of income.

WeForum brings 150 thought leaders together to share thoughts on how we create an AI world we want. For all of AI’s good, there are potentials for negative outcomes.

Let’s take the military’s fight again hobbyists and drones. In the recent article from WSJ, The Military’s New Challenge: Defeating Cheap Hobbyist Drones, how much energy was placed on Human Compassion if drone technologies, IoT and AI got in the wrong hands?

The U.S. is racing to combat an ostensibly modest foe: hobbyist drones that cost a few hundred dollars and can be rigged with explosives. @WSJ

I feel certain there was some consideration but not enough to draw out possible negative impacts and how to mitigate them before they could even start. Did we really put people at the center of what is possible with drone technologies? What do you think?

This is no easy task. We know what is good for us can turn to bad for us when in the wrong hands, or if it’s not moderated to healthy limits. How do we help facilitate a more compassionate relationship with technology and put people at the center?

Here are four strategies to ensure you are keeping people at the center of your innovation, new products and technology development efforts.

  1. Create a Center of Human Compassion, or People Centered Technology Consortium, or what ever you wish to brand your initiative. Select trusted advisors from external (customers, partners…) and a select group of internal stake holders to join your collaborative to gather input, feedback and push back!
  2. Discuss with your trusted group very early on. Gamify initiatives around gathering what ifs! Anticipating the worst you will plan better for the best! (leaving the hope out)
  3. Build a continuous feedback loop. It is important that insights and scenarios are revisited and rehashed over and over again.
  4. Join other consortiums and get involved with AI and tech for good initiatives. If you can’t find ones you feel are of value to you and your company, start one!

Mantra for the year: #lucky2022 but not without work and placing people front and center of plans will good fortune and luck come for the masses.

As always, reach out if you have ideas you’d like to share or questions you’d like to discuss!

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Driving the Next Era of Growth: Leveraging Data to Innovate

Driving the Next Era of Growth: Leveraging Data to Innovate

GUEST POST from Teresa Spangler

“50% of US executives and 39% of European executives said budget constraints were the primary hurdle in turning Big Data into a profitable business asset. Rounding out the top 5 challenges were data security concerns, integration challenges, lack of technical expertise, and proliferation of data silos.” (Capgemini)

“The biggest challenges companies face when implementing Big Data are budget constraints” (Capgemini)

Data analytics is continuously evolving as AI and machine learning applications get faster and smarter. The benefits that may be gained by analyzing massive data sets identifying in seconds patterns, signals, and relationships between nonaligned and aligned areas is intoxicating for savvy companies seeking to innovate. We recognize that companies can make faster and better decisions with strong analytic teams interpreting the findings. Look at what information-driven analytics has done already in cool improvements around us. There are so many good examples of this. Take transportation systems, the use of information analytics to course vehicles round congested areas in actual time is one simple example. Another, that literally may have saved the restaurant industry during the pandemic, is meals delivery services which depend on data collected to forecast demand on menu items, key order times, navigation around cities and streets not to mentioned detailed knowledge individual’s meal preferences. Data helped to optimize driving routes for more efficient delivers.

As data analytics becomes more sophisticated, we might anticipate revolutionary disruptions. However, economists report spending greater funds per capita on research, yet there is a significant decline in rate of successful innovation output. One motive for this could be that we are mistakenly focusing an excessive amount of on R&D instead of on innovation output which takes exceptional justification, funding, and resources. What does data analytics have to do with innovation? Everything! Research is crucial but just one part of a puzzle for developing new products and services. Today, innovation requires a sophistication in data analytics interpretation. There’s also a need for the curiosity, for human evaluation and a bit of intuition and intelligence. Companies need an astute cleverness like no other time in history and an ingenious approach to taking research and turning it into something new and worthwhile.  The process must be diligent, but it must also be agile. Too frequently, organizations get bogged down within the details of research and improvement, without truly questioning outside the boundaries of a container process. As a result, we have delays in the process often stalling out for lack of resource allocations. Even worse, companies not focusing on deep understanding of their data may misinterpret the analytics leaving more to chance that to solid pathways.

It’s worth saying, placing a greater emphasis on creativity and innovation is imperative vs. traditional research and improvement methods. As is deeply dissecting the data in your business. Where does all that data live? What are the hidden signals of the data, what types of converging uses (products/solutions) could you turn that data into?

We are in an era of new growth. Poll your customers! They are changing rapidly and challenged with keeping up with the speed of change but know they must. Where are they doubling down their efforts? How well do they understand their own data? What products and services are they developing, who are they collaborating with and a better question, why are you collaborating with them to innovate around their future needs? Are they investing in developing a more tech and analytic savvy organization? Better question, is your company?

As cliché as it is data is the new oil. Data will be producing its own data (it’s happening today) known as synthetic data. According to Gartner, “By 2025, synthetic data will reduce personal customer data collection, avoiding 70% of privacy violation sanctions.” This begs to question the emphasis companies are placing on developing the skills sets of the organization around analytics and data. And simply put, as oil has an expansive array of products and uses, we’re now in an era of inventing new energy sources to reduce even eliminate dependencies on oil. How might data fit into the effort to transform these dependencies? Data is essential for electric and autonomous vehicle development. Innovative companies are undertaking long tail efforts to drive the next generation of IoE (Internet of everything). Data is the fuel. Let’s explore four ways that organizations can use records analytics to power innovation and stay ahead of the competition.

  1. Design new products that think for themselves: understanding data from a variety of sources may trigger new types of needs and possible new products that could be developed. For example: understanding water needs for new smart and innovative cities being designed takes enormous planning. A partner to Plazabridge Group, designs digital twin environments for the water sector. Cites like Singapore, Houston, Dubai, must anticipate the growing needs for water and plan design and building based on anticipated needs but also, they must plan for worst- and best-case scenarios. They must plan for leakage, or contamination or other possible scenarios that may impact water supplies. Digital twinning these environments is the most cost-effective way to simulate new innovative methods. Leveraging as much data as possible as well as generating newly created synthetic data cities can plan more economically, they can execute faster and prepare for events that may occur. Understanding these models around water, suppliers may produce products that help cities build these digital environments. Not just for water systems but for any part of businesses today; manufacturing, facilities management, construction…
  2. Not all innovation has to be moonshot inventions. Simply identify unmet wishes of customers, consumers or the market creating engaging products and services. UBER goes from just carting us around leveraging an incredible inventive back in logistics infrastructure to launch UBER eats! Why not, the drivers are already out and about, the data collected indicates the most popular spots riders go to for coffee, lunch, dinner, drinks… UBER analysts have vast information on customer interests in turn turned from few riders during a pandemic to delivering food as an essential business during the pandemic. A pivot turns into a scalable source of augmented revenue as the shelter lifts and people get back to riding.
  3. So much opportunity exists to improve customer engagement: records analytics can assist businesses to better understand their clients and their wishes. This expertise can then be used to improve customer service and support future-proofing your business.
  4. Extend efficiency: data crunching algorithms, digital twinning, AR/VR simulations and access to remote experts will help corporations to streamline their operations, digitally transforming themselves for greater efficiency. This increased efficiency can lead to price savings, which can be reinvested in innovation.“90% of CEOs believe the digital economy will impact their industry, but less than 15% are executing on a digital strategy.”

— MIT Sloan and Capgemini. Seek out experts and industry mentors to help your organization make these shifts. We often fear what we cannot see, the beautiful thing about the digital world is you can build a virtual environment visualizing the unseen, and plan for all types of scenarios. A model we developed (not dependent on virtual or digital anything in fact) at Plazabridge Group is around the CIA’s The Phoenix Checklist. Strategies for Regenerating is our formula for going deep into understanding problems, future opportunities, needs, anticipating deeply the “What ifs” of every possible scenario.  When done leveraging data and analytics the possibilities become endless.

Original Article

Image credits: Pixabay

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The Phoenix Checklist – Strategies for Innovation and Regeneration

The Phoenix Checklist - Strategies for Innovation and Regeneration

GUEST POST from Teresa Spangler

The general who wins the battle makes many calculations in his temple before the battle is fought.”   Sun Tzu

As reference I love using Michael Michalko book, Thinkertoys. It’s been on my shelf since first released in the 1991, especially in the most challenging times. This book has gotten me and my businesses through 2 gulf wars, 9/11/01 economic aftermath, 2008/9 deep recession and even good times where innovation felt no need.

In chapter 14, Phoenix, he shares the CIA’s checklist for dissecting and solving critical problems. BUT don’t just use this for tackling a problem, use it to help you design new business models, new revenue models, innovating a new product… the checklist applies to scenario planning and breaking down opportunities into manageable strategies to execute new ideas, processes and products.

It’s a strategy used and touted by experts over and over again and it works: The Phoenix Checklist Strategy. Challenging your own assumptions every minute of the day is not a bad thing right now. Putting a framework around how best to challenge your team and build stronger more reliable assumptions and plans is a great idea. I am sure there are strategies already at play and that too is a great thing. What more could be done today that you are not already doing? Maybe this is a great basis for the first question you want to answer using the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) trusted Phoenix checklist.

Below is the Phoenix Checklist but broken down in the way we at Plazabridge Group use the tool for innovating new ideas and solving critical issues for our clients.

>Start here: Can you imagine the result if you solve the problem?

Illusion licensed from iStock by PlazaBridge GroupGet those creative juices flowing.

What do you see?

What’s the first thing you see?

What’s the 2nd thing you see?

I. Define the problem– The first stage is to tackle the checklist.

Below are the Typical questions we ask and may have answers for… but go deeper!

  • Why is it necessary to solve the problem?
  • What benefits do you get by solving the problem?
  • What are the unknown factors?
  • Have you encountered this problem before?
  • What data do we have to help us dissect the problem down into smaller pieces?

We often fail to go deeper into defining the challenges to be solved or opportunities to create Go deeper questions:

  • What are you not yet understanding?
  • What information do you have?
  • What is not the problem?
  • Is the information you have sufficient? Insufficient? Superfluous? Contradictory?
  • Can you describe the problem in a chart?
  • Where is the limit for the problem?
  • Can you distinguish the different parts of the problem? Can you write them down? What are the relationships between the different parts of the problem? What is common to the different problem areas?

Then go even deeper exploration:

  • Have you seen this problem in a slightly different form? Do you know a related issue?
  • Try to think of a familiar problem with the same or similar unknown factors.
  • Suppose you find a problem similar to yours that has already been resolved. Can you use it? Can you use the same method?
  • Can you reformulate your problem? How many different ways can you reformulate it? More generally? More specifically? Can the rules change?
  • What are the best, worst and most likely outcomes you can imagine?

Designing the plan checklist:

Our team starts here cutting through most challenges or designing new opportunities we want to tackle.

What will solving this problem do for our company? Answer this question daily for two weeks. See what happens. It’s magical really!   Define, Write, chart, and visualize every step of the way. Assign roles to each member of the team to tackle component outcomes of the exploration.

  • How will you solve the whole problem? Can you break the problem down?
  • How much of the unknown can you influence?
  • Can you deduce something useful from the information you have?
  • Have you used all available information?
  • Have you taken into account all the essential factors in the problem?
  • Can you identify the steps in the problem-solving process? Can you determine the accuracy of each step?
    • Draw these out –
    • Then redraw them
    • And again
  • What creative techniques can you use to generate ideas? How many different techniques?
    • After exploring creative techniques go back to the previous bullet point and draw out the steps again.
    • Then again
    • And yes ONE MORE MAGICAL time

Imagine again the results in the perfect world! What would the results be, look like, feel to everyone in the company, to you and to your customers?

  • Can you imagine the result? How many different types of results can imagine?
  • How many different ways can you try to solve the problem?
  • What have others done?
  • Can you intuitively see the solution? Can you check the result?
  • What should be done? How should it be done?
  • Where, when and by whom should it be done?
  • What do you need to do right now?
  • Who will be responsible for what?

Now what? Can you do more with the plan?

  • Can you use this problem to resolve any other issues?
  • What are the unique qualities that make this problem what it is and nothing else?
  • Which milestones can best highlight your progress?
  • How do you know when you are successful?

This last point is so very important and often left out of processes. There are stages of success. Success doesn’t happen all at once so how will you create your timeline to give any new plan a chance to succeed? Better yet, how will you know if you are not succeeding? The plan was well thought out, a lot of time was invested and possibly a lot of money! Don’t give up but in your scenario planning do know what you are watching for to say, how and where shall we adjust along the way and constantly question how to improve the plan. Give it long enough, give it a fighting chance, put your top minds in the company on these challenges and opportunities.

Create your opportunity team of diverse thinkers! They are your innovators.

Create your action team! They are your executors!

Now you are ready for the next challenge or opportunity. Start at the top and repeat.

Original Article

Image credits: iStockPhoto (purchased by the author)

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