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.

How to Drive Fear Out of Innovation

The Tic Toc Exercise

Drive Fear Out of Innovation

“To Secure Ourselves Against Defeat Lines In Our Own Hands!” — Sun Tzu

GUEST POST from Teresa Spangler

One of my favorite books to pull out in times like these is Thinkertoys, by Michael Michalko. Keeping a fresh eye on what could catch me off guard in times when anxiety and stress could take over all mental faculties if we let it.   How might we defeat these feelings that paralyze us: anxieties, stresses, and FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt)?

“Being defeated is often a temporary condition. Giving up is what makes it permanent.” — Marilyn vos Savant

There is an exercise in Thinkertoys called Tic-Toc. It is somewhat fashioned after building anticipated scenarios of worst-case best case only this builds strength in creating our future realities by addressing the fears that we have head-on.  Here is an example of the exercise:

Tic Side- write your fear Toc-Side-write the opposite of the fear
Customers will never agree to these new ideas? Customers will really like this idea if I apply myself and engage them in a deeper conversation.
My idea is so out there I will be laughed at This is a good idea; I will share it as it doesn’t have to be accepted by everyone. If it helps just one person or if one person believes in this idea, they can help others believe in it.
Our leadership team’s plan could be so much better, but they will not listen to me. I could help my leadership team understand there are additional ways we could approach their ideas and receive even better outcomes.

This seems like such a simple exercise, but it is in fact a very powerful exercise that can have dramatically positive outcomes if you act on the right side of the chart but recognize the left side of the chart.  Here you are battling your fears head on, you are training yourself to have more conviction and take actions that may lead you out of challenges seen and unseen.  Tic Toc exercises that accompany your written set of worst-case best-case scenarios could be a trigger to new and even innovative thinking.

Innovative thinking, remodeling our businesses, considering what new normal trends will be critical to every business’ survival.  Innovation does not get out the door if we have our own self-doubts and no plans of what it really could be if we put our heart, minds, souls to the innovation we believe in and then comes the justifications, the financial modeling and the new potential business models.

If you tell yourself no one will listen, or my ideas are worthless then they will manifest in your gut creating even more anxiety and your greatness may be lost in fear.

Speak now and for NEVER, hold your peace.

Image credit: Pixabay

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6 Ways to Successfully Engage Thought Leaders on Your Innovation

6 Ways to Successfully Engage Thought Leaders on Your Innovation

GUEST POST from Teresa Spangler

The direct, early engagement with key thought leaders delivers dividends throughout the commercialization process and brings unforeseen opportunities rapidly. However, it is not for the faint of heart. Your innovation is your baby and thought leaders will inevitably tell you that your baby is ugly. But this is the moment of truth: can you defend your innovations’ value proposition? Can you demonstrate that the innovation can stand up to simpler substitution products or services? And can you easily and succinctly articulate the vision you have for changing markets?  You can choose to listen and internalize the information or reject it as irrelevant to your quest. Do the latter at your peril. Here are some things to help guide you and reinforce your strength against the onslaught of challenges:

  1. First map the key thought leaders in your market and strategize on how you will engage each one. Some are open to conversation. Some require only a response to their online presence. Some you only have to challenge at a conference. There are lots of ways to get your innovation in the discussion other than a simple email. Get into the community and become a voice.
  2. Prep your “diffusion” strategy with a solid messaging plan. Have your elevator pitch down pat. Build several versions to match the interests and concerns of the thought leader. Know what words are impactful and which ones cause confusion. Often success is found in a single word. Most importantly, change the words if they don’t work! We see too many people staying with messages that don’t resonate, only to repeat and expect a different outcome.
  3. Go quick and go hard. Gain an early review of innovation value proposition no matter what it takes. Get it out there in the open. We see so many early innovation diffusion efforts tip-toe around their innovations’ value in the hopes that confusion will ward off negative feedback. Charge indirectly. Here is where many engineers use techno-babble to project a larger picture than is warranted. Don’t let this happen. The more complicated your technology explanation the more confusion you create and the longer it takes to get to the real value of what you are trying to do.
  4. Always follow-up on suggestions, objections or new ideas learned from your engagement with a thought leader. The gold is in the adaptation of your innovations’ value to the perceptions of the thought leaders. Adapt and be agile in how you work with these people. It takes effort to place your innovation within context of the existing market noise and it takes time to internalize any new information.
  5. Work with thought leaders to expand on boundary information; this is the information that influences perceptions but may not directly relate to your innovation. Keep your radar aperture wide open to take in this influencing information. Often this is where the value reinforcement messaging is found. Keep your discussions open to tangents that relate to your innovation.
  6. Know the downstream impact of your thought leader association. Create a stakeholder relationship map. Who will the thought leader influence? Who will listen to their opinions that you can then go to later and investigate the propagation of your messaging?

One final note: Seek thought leaders from a diverse set of industry, public policy, academia and social media. This diversity will ensure a comprehensive picture of the changes and challenges your innovation will produce.

Image credit: Pixabay

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Innovate for Good – Breaking Paradoxes

GUEST POST from Teresa Spangler

At the time of my writing this, the world is in the midst of unprecedented triple crises. The COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on healthcare and on the personal lives of people globally. The economic impacts of this pandemic are crippling nations, small towns, and people all over the world. And to top it off we are experiencing incredible social unrest – protests for Black Lives Matter are taking shape all around the world, with the goal of peaceful protests for change – but they’ve been hijacked by anarchists of varied profiles… individual crusaders, terrorists acting solo, antagonists of the left and the right wings… so many different factions creating chaos. All of this to say, change is happening at paces unimaginable, and ‘INNOVATION for Good’ – of all types, centered on human, economic, and environmental impacts – is a dire necessity.

The world faces many great challenges. For example, the World Economic Forum reports that “by 2050, global food systems will need to sustainably and nutritiously feed more than 9 billion people while providing economic opportunities in both rural and urban communities. Yet our food systems are falling far short of these goals. A systemic transformation is needed at an unprecedented speed and scale.”

Speed and scale, these days, are the operative words prioritized in innovation investments. When and how are the big questions that investors and stakeholders primarily ask? Of course, these are important questions. Breaking the cycle of ‘profit first’ is not an easy shift for capitalist societies. Social Entrepreneurism, Social Innovation Organizations, and Non-Governmental Organizations are charting courses toward innovating in new and socially impactful ways, but they need the support, collaborative partnership, and help from investors and from the public and private sectors. The world of business has been groomed for years to drive everything fast, faster, and fastest – fail-fast, rapid prototype, accelerated stage gates, hire-slow-fire-fast, rapid returns… and so on. Measured return on investments drives innovation decision-making from new cure-all drugs to the closet full of patents that sit in the coffers of giant industry leaders never making it out into the commercial world, even though these may be game-changing, lifesaving, humanity-improving innovations.

This chapter looks at examples of how to shift from ‘profit first’ to ‘ethics and innovation for good and safety first’. If you build it safely, ethically, and build it to serve humanity, improve the environment, and support socially good causes, the profits will come. But investors and stakeholders need to understand the WHYs – why safety, ethics, and serving are so important. How are we innovators sharing these three critical priorities in the stories we build to gain buy-in on new ideas? So often, safety and ethics are afterthoughts. Responsible Innovation: Ethics and Risks of New Technologies, Joost Groot Kormelink, TU Delft Open, 2019 note:

“If we do not critically and systematically assess our technologies in terms of the values they support and embody, people with perhaps less noble intentions may insert their views on sustainability, safety and security, health and well-being, privacy and accountability.”

Also in the textbook, Responsible Innovation: Ethics and Risks of New Technologies, it sites are case study examples of how conflicting values can open up new opportunities to innovate responsible. As a learning method, the case study opens up our minds to the point of view or moral foundations as an opportunity:Moral dilemmas can help stimulate creativity and innovation, and innovative design may help us to overcome problems of moral overload.”

In the case study excerpt below: “Smart meters and conflicting values as an opportunity to innovate.” The case study points to an example of smart meter design.

The smart meter 3.0, which is what we are ideally looking for, is designed to accommodate both of the functional requirements in order to make energy use more efficient, while also protecting personal data. It gives us privacy and sustainability. In this respect, innovation in smart metering is exactly this: the reconciliation of a range of values, or moral requirements, in one smart design, some of which were actually in conflict before. Similarly, if we would like to benefit from RFID technology (enabling to automatically identify and track tags attached to objects) in retail, but fear situations in which we might be tracked throughout the shopping mall, it has been suggested we can have it both ways. A so-called ‘clipped chip’ in the form of a price tag with clear indentations would allow customers to tear off a piece of the label, thereby shortening the antenna in the label so as to limit the range in which the label can transmit data.

Clarity of Values-Based Purpose

In the case above, there is clear purpose-driven innovation. Study after study has shown clarity of purpose is key to engaging people in new ideas.

A Kin&Co survey conducted by Populus points out that “Not embedding purpose properly also alienates customers, because in this age of transparency employee problems leak out online, and into the press. Over a third of employees surveyed (34%) said they’d consider writing a negative review online.” One example cited is of “… the Etsy employee who started a petition against the company’s leaders for not living their purpose and values, which was signed by thousands of employees and then went viral.” From: Why purpose matters and four steps companies can take to get it right”, Rosie Warin, 14 February 2018, Ethical Corporation Magazine, Reuters Events – Sustainable Business, the conclusion was thus that …

 Having a purpose and not living it will actually hurt your business more than not having one at all! Why Purpose Matters

There is a hunger for more transparency, having our work be meaningful, and knowledge that ethics and privacy are forethoughts, not afterthoughts. It’s good for business, and certainly will drive better profits in the long run.

Breaking the ‘Fast Profit’ Addiction and Adapting Innovation for Social Benefits – Seeking Purpose

Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse.  Winston Churchill

What if we asked the BIG ‘What if?’ What if we were more focused on the benefits of our innovations to humans, the environment, and society – making these priorities over profits first? Can it be proven that if you build it, the profits will come?

The United Nations: Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The chapter Foundations of Moral Innovation (Chapter 3 – page 57) mentioned the ‘triple bottom line’ that socially conscious companies focus on serving – People / Planet / Profit… the social, environmental, and financial aspects of an organization’s impact. In 2015 the United Nations cast a vision (and put actions to their words) to build a better world for all people by 2030. Engaging a world of collaborators is key to the success of these 17 Development Goals (noted below).

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are one of the world’s best plan to build a better world for people and our planet by 2030. Adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, the SDGs are a call for action by all countries – poor, rich and middle-income – to promote prosperity while protecting the environment. They recognize that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with strategies that build economic growth and address a range of social needs including education, health, equality, and job opportunities, while tackling climate change and working to preserve our ocean and forests. See Transforming A World: A 2030 Agenda.

The Division for Sustainable Development Goals (DSDG) within the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) provides substantive support and capacity-building for these SDGs and their related thematic issues.

To say the least, as we read these 17 audaciously massive and impactful goals, the goals feel incredibly lofty; the actions to innovate solutions for three of the goals, much less 17 of them, feels nearly unachievable (in our fast prototyping, rapid release, ROI-focused, capitalistic mind-sets) and CFOs around the world sense that acting on these in any way may weigh heavily on profits. Yet many companies are collaborating to drive solutions to these goals. The United Nations built a values-based and purpose-driven platform to participate in solving these world challenges. They provide guidelines, research, information on other collaborators, tools, data, and so much support to help those that choose to participate. And participating they are! Noted from a press release in July 2019: “28 companies with combined market cap of $1.3 trillion step up to new level of climate ambition. Ahead of the UN Climate Action Summit, companies commit to set 1.5°C climate targets aligned with a net-zero future, challenging Governments to match their ambition”.

Here are a few of the participating companies from this release: AstraZeneca, Banka BioLoo, BT, Dalmia Cement Ltd., Eco-Steel Africa Ltd., Enel, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Iberdrola, KLP, Levi Strauss & Co., Royal DSM, SAP, Signify, Singtel, Telefonica, Telia, Unilever, Vodafone Group PLC, and Zurich Insurance, amongst others. The release goes on to note that this collectively represents over one million employees from 17 sectors and more than 16 countries.

It seems that the United Nations has created an intensely collaborative framework that offers a moral ground to innovate. It’s just one example, and as complex as these goals are, the framework is simple… build a mission-driven platform, engage thought-leaders around the world, set up metrics and measures for success, provide as much data as possible, offer support when and where needed, and provide as many tools as possible to encourage collaboration amongst them.

ESG – A Moral Compass

Social investors are a group growing in popularity and size. These investors focus their investments and their portfolios on corporations around the world with metric-driven processes to ensure they are building sustainable and responsible companies – a practice known as environmental, social and corporate governance, or ESG.

An example of such an organization is Philips Corporation, which has made a commitment to ESG and thus to ethics over profits. In the article, “Good business: Why placing ethics over profits pays off”, they share “When companies work ethically, they will naturally outpace competition. Why? Simply because customers, as we’ve discovered, will see them as a trusted partner, not only for what they do, but how it is delivered. Commitment from management is a key factor to effectively deal with these situations.”

In Stanford Social Innovation Review, authors Chris Fabian and Robert Fabricant write, “An ethical framework – ‘a way of structuring your deliberation about ethical questions’ – can help to bridge disparate worlds and discourses and help them work well together.” Their article further notes that, “Ethical questions might include: ‘Is this platform / product actually providing a social good?’ or ‘Am I harming / including the user in the creation of this new solution?’ or even ‘Do I have a right to be taking claim of this space at all?’”11 Such a strong ethical framework can help innovators to plan for ‘value-based collaborations’. Establishing such a framework within your innovation practice also provides a process whereby collaborators can monitor the work, and consistently ensure that ethics are intact. Moreover, planning for positive outcomes and managing to an ethical framework gives customers, buyers, stakeholders, users, and investors some comfort that the ‘net new disruptive innovations’ will be safe for all, which will result in strong profits and longevity in due time.

Very importantly, this article also points out that while ethics may involve subjectivity, nevertheless “an ethical framework can bridge the worlds of startup technology companies and international development to strengthen cross-sector innovation in the social sector.”

Fabian and Fabricant outline a 4-model framework in this article:

  • Innovation is humanistic: solving big problems through human ingenuity, imagination, and entrepreneurialism that can come from anywhere.
  • Innovation is non-hierarchical: drawing ideas from many different sources and incubating small, agile teams to test and iterate on them with user feedback.
  • Innovation is participatory: designing with (not for) real people.
  • Innovation is sustainable: building skills even if most individual endeavors will ultimately fail in their societal goals.

“Critical to the world’s innovation effort is harvesting the Human Imagination!”  Patrick Reasonover – writer and producer of They Say It Can’t Be Done

Incorporating any of the above four models provides the basis for forethought and planning. There may be additional considerations accompanying the above framework to drive even better outcomes yet – especially for those with big audacious visions of disruptive innovation. But often there are unexpected barriers. So how can one plan for the unexpected? There is a documentary film that explores some of these barriers, and four companies working to overcome them.

They Say It Can’t Be Done, written and produced by Patrick Reasonover, is an excellent documentary exploring how innovation can solve some of the world’s largest problems. The film tracks four companies on the cutting edge of technological solutions that could promote animal welfare, solve hunger, eliminate organ wait lists, and reduce atmospheric carbon. The film explores often unexpected challenges and barriers that are potentially keeping these companies from realizing success. They each share steps and strategies on how to break through the ‘concrete walls’.

The compelling theme from these companies is innovation for good – innovation with a moral foundation to improve humanity. One of the first questions typically asked by stakeholders is “When will these companies or their new innovations become profitable?” Here’s the BIG ‘What if’ question.  What if we changed this question to, “What will it take to make this successful, and how can we help you get there faster?”  These are fairly typical questions. But what about roadblocks potentially challenging even the most knowledgeable and experienced teams and proven technologies? I recently spoke with Patrick Reasonover about his mission and the documentary. Reasonover shares, “Faced with similar challenges to the companies in the documentary, I felt if more people understood barriers, the world would see more successful outcomes that could save people, improve human conditions, and the environment.”  Reasonover went on to share four themes that would greatly help disruptors in their innovation practices. These four themes are summarized as follows:

  1. One of the most important points he made in our discussion was to engage regulators and government agencies – collaborating with them very early on in the process and all along your path. Help them to understand; listen and take in their input.
  2. Institute what Reasonover calls an ‘Ambassador of Imagination’. We need more imagination in the world and in our own world. It’s too easy to get boxed into an innovation framework and forget to take the blinders off in order to think and create big things!
  3. Optimism is sorely needed in the world and especially for innovators. Getting new things out the door is daunting. Infuse your efforts with doses of optimism grounded in reality.
  4. CELEBRATE… hitting milestones should be celebrated along the way. It’s a long road, and all too often we get push back from doubters, investors wanting faster outcomes, governing approval agencies, and so on. Celebrate and move forward!

These four practices create a culture that encourages and celebrates imagination, innovation, success, and all the collaborators helping you get there. And involving agencies early on in the process helps them to understand that you are taking safety and ethics seriously. Take for example 3D-printed organs for those needing transplants. There is so much at stake. Stepping through the approval process to prove it out on less risky organs – for example, 3D printed ears – helps to chart the course for other organs as the technologies and the discovery of new methods continues to develop.

The article “On The Road To 3-D Printed Organs” in TheScientist reports, “There are a number of companies who are attempting to do things like 3-D print ears, and researchers have already reported transplanting 3-D printed ears onto children who had birth defects that left their ears underdeveloped, notes Robby Bowles, a bioengineer at the University of Utah. The ear transplants are, he says, ‘kind of the first proof of concept of 3-D printing for medicine.”

Ethics First

All in all, there is much evidence pointing to success, longevity, scale, and profits when building a framework that places ethics, safety, values, and purpose as planned practices in any innovation effort.

These practices do not have to slow the process of innovation in the least. On the contrary… they will often speed up the effort, as in the example of engaging regulators as collaborators early on in your efforts. Engaging imagination and optimism are sorely needed, and keeps teams engaged and enthused. And.. leveraging one of Stanford’s four models could save a great deal of pain by monitoring outcomes all along your development stage gates. It all just makes good and safe business sense!

*Article is an excerpt contribution (chapter 6): The Other Side of Growth: Innovator’s Responsibilities in an Emerging World

Image credit: Pixabay

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Imagine Your Next

Planning for the Future!

Imagine Your Next

GUEST POST from Teresa Spangler

“Our imagination is the only limit to what we can hope to have in the future.” – Charles Kettering

The line between humans and machines is blurring by the day. The future, as we know it today may be tomorrow’s history book; with our exponential technological advancement in fields like Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics, automation etc., there will come a time when machine intelligence could exceed human capabilities to an extent that would require us to contemplate on how this might affect society for better or worse.

The question of whether AI can take over has been at the forefront among futurists ever since computers began matching human abilities—albeit not entirely replacing them just yet! Although no one knows what lies ahead for humanity, these advancements are certainly going bring changes in every sphere from socioeconomics all the way up to space exploration.

So how best can we do future planning with so many priorities sitting on our day-to-day plates? Here is a simple exercise you and your organization can use to get imaginative about your future and design the best possible outcomes you desire.

In order to formulate the best possible outcomes for your organization, you need to get imaginative and plan. One way of doing this is by looking 10 years into the future! Can you predict what the future will look like in 10 years? Probably not. But, with a little time and creativity, we can get close!

Using this first strategy that may help you started planning a possible future.


Look forward 10 years

Divide a wall, white board or use a conference table into two sections

  • Doom– most negative possible outcomes that could happen
  • Boom– most positive possible outcomes that could happen

Considerations in your scenarios:

  • How will the world be impacted?
  • How will humanity be impacted?
  • How will your company be impacted?
  • How will you personally be impacted?
  • How did each of the above contribute to these scenarios?
  • + Any other points you feel need to be considered

Using sticky notes 

  1. Write as many worse possible outcomes as the team can imagine
  2. Write as many of the best possible outcome you can imagine impacting the world and humans positively.

Have each person contributing to craft a mini story of each scenario as if it’s happened already with as much detail as possible.  Each person read out their mini story and collectivity design one story scenario from everyone’s input.

Now you have two possible future worlds one worst case and one best case.

Now for the planning:

Take the best case and reimagine your vision and mission as a company. What products, technologies, services, solutions will you have (no barriers! Imagine anything is possible)? 

What roles will you have, what skills will everyone have, what does the organization look like, how have your customers and their needs changed?

This is not a one-hour or one-day exercise. The idea of designing the future is ongoing.

In the future, humans will coexist with machines.

The question is: how?

What do you think about this and what are your thoughts on adapting to it now?

How does company’s products change in relation to human-machine relationships or interactions reflected by technology usage habits of today’s youth who grew up using smartphones from an early age they can type faster than 5 WPM typing speed?

Consider the possibilities!

Let us help you start your journey into the future. We’d love to help!

Request our free two-hour facilitated workshop and see what you come up with!

Image credit: Pixabay

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5 Simple Steps for Launching Game-Changing New Products

5 Simple Steps for Launching Game-Changing New Products

GUEST POST from Teresa Spangler

There has never been a better time to invent, create, and innovate game-changing products, new business models, and services. In fact, I will be so bold as to say, we must change it dramatically to succeed in the future. You know your team needs to be more creative, they need to collaborate, or many seek more outside influence, but this is counter to your current culture. For years, your company has spent much of its efforts and resources on becoming a lean, mean growth machine.

A few questions you might consider:

  • Are you creating for the future? How do you know?
  • Will what you sell today to be relevant tomorrow? Do you know where your customers are headed? How are your customers changing?
  • Are you paying close attention to the growth trends in your market space? Are there competitors you cannot see lurching behind someone else’s geographic lines?

The start-up world of entrepreneurship is escalating. New things are being developed all over the world. This is good news for our needy economy, but these are the very companies that could come up and bite you where it hurts…right in your future’s revenue pocket.

Inspiring our work teams (and leadership) toward a culture of creativity and idea generation is key to just keeping pace and preparing for the future. But that may not be so easy. I have surveyed and had many conversations and meetings recently with leaders of growth companies.  How proud we are of strong EBIDTA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization). The bottom line is… this is their bottom line… very good profitability. It appears we will all earn our bonuses for managing expenses tightly.

If incentives are based on cost-cutting and expense tightening, there will be very little investment in the future. The addictive need for immediate return is paralyzing these leaders. I am all for fiscal responsibility! But, we need more balance in our plans between cost-saving efficiencies and game-changing strategies to fuel future growth.

“Ideas are great, our company has a lot of them, and we have a full innovation pipeline but there’s not been a lot of success getting these out the door to return on our investments.” One CEO shared with me. “We are not making money, so we’ve limited investments here!” First, let me say as you may already be aware, the world has some very big needs/challenges that need all hands on deck. Savvy entrepreneurs & companies that invest in the future are going to win in solving these problems and most likely to the disruption of latent business models & possibly your business.

First, let’s identify a few of the dramatic trends that may beg for new ways to serve up new ideas:

  • Boomer Segment and Aging: There is a desperate need for new ways to serve this market! Example: an elderly couple cares for each other in their home for many years but neither is very strong, and both have trouble walking much less driving, and getting around is challenging. They do not have the funds for assisted living facilities. They are, however, a lively couple wanting to do things together. What can home designers, product designers, emergency care facilities, security companies do to support these seniors?
  •  The World Is Getting Older (on average) -Shifts in demographics- this is a big change we will start to feel even more in the coming years. Where will the workforce of the future come from? Training older adults to take on new roles, providing new ways to employee talent, leveraging knowledgeable and experienced talent at any age will take shape. What are you doing today to prepare for this shift? Where can you innovate new services, products, solutions to help companies drive a successful shift.
  • The need for new ways to grow food, provide clean water, and ensure the safety of these precious resources, is a growing concern. Example: Some regions in the world still have little infrastructure to support their enormous population. The majority of the rural areas have not toilets, little running water, their streams are used for bathing and cleaning laundry and drinking… what can be created to help these rural regions around the world that have these needs. The U.S. in rural regions has similar needs. How can your company innovate to solve problems like these?
  • Consumer behavior is continuing to shift rapidly: Consider how we buy today which changed dramatically in 2020, what we buy has also changed, and so has what influences us to make a decision. And what about places where consumerism has declined for some regions, yet the birth of consumption is occurring in other regions? Example: Sensors that track us and our health (IoT), Tablets, ipads, iphones, and smart devices have changed our behavior as consumers. When you are in the car waiting for your child to come out of school … are you searching on your phone for new doctor, a home designer, a new car? Think NOT about how you are using these tools today but how these tools will progress and continue changing how we do everything. Another example: shopping for that perfect dress or suit. Take your ideas, drawings, colors, and any thoughts you have on the designs…go shopping and have your perfect outfit designed for you. Hyper customization will continue.
  • The need for alternative energy sources will only be exasperated by the explosive population growth in regions like Shanghai, Mumbai, Hong Kong, Sao Paulo, and NYC.
  • Cybersecurity: The challenges are beyond comprehension and the solutions are not enough. With all the brilliant technology and creative talent in your community and network, how could you generate breakout ideas to solve some of our most challenging issues in the world today with cyber threats?’

Push the human race forward… and while some see them as the crazy ones, we see them as genius! — Steve Jobs, Think Different

  • Global Health Care:  we’ve watched the best and the worst first-hand over the last year. There is room for improving how healthcare is delivered, prepping for future pandemic-like events, and innovating new methods of caring for people in rural areas. There are so many challenges which is to say, there are so many opportunities.
  • Mental Health Supports- THIS IS A STAGGERING Statistic reported by TheHartfordNew research finds 70% of employers report mental health challenges among their employees, 52% also report substance misuse or addiction, while 72% say mental health stigma blocks care.

These are big problems, big changes, and even bigger opportunities for entrepreneurs and brands alike to innovate. How might these trends be affecting you? Your customer? Your market?

I agree priorities should be on revenue coming in the door. It is a difficult balancing act with such tightly managed resources and focuses on the bottom line and profitability to add any new initiatives that may be futuristic and top-line focused. Much of our client work is about creating the balance for top-line growth initiatives while also managing bottom-line responsibilities.

How do you set aside resources and break down the barriers to game-changing ideas? And then how do you deal with the litany of barriers that will crop up on the path to any new inventive thing?

Let’s dissect a few of the challenges that keep us from continuous innovation on your way to market leadership. Here are 4 examples of barriers you may face along your inventive future:

  • Companies are fixated on quick returns… there is this addiction like quality to seeing our investments instantly returning benefit to us. But if we do not invest in the future to grow top line revenues and invest in new products, services that will engage the market of the future (and the future is coming at us faster and faster) we’ll extinct our own companies. Example solution: Use open communities or outside consultants that are experts at innovation and commercialization. You can budget your time, leverage their resources, and budget the funds without defocusing your current team.
  • Nay-Sayers stop us in our tracks all too often. Embrace the Nay-sayers. They should have their voices heard for their valued input but do not cave in the face of their fears. There are, what I call, negative risks and positive risks. Negative risks are those that are pushed through without planning, insights, trends or customer interactions. They are made in isolation.
  • We are Positive Risk-Takers– Positive Risk-Taking is when you’ve done homework, customer discussions, you understand the trends, but there are still certainly risks on this unknown path. Example solutions: Create pilot programs, move forward slowly, and know what metrics you need to know this big idea is gaining momentum. Give it enough time to get traction. Big ideas do not happen overnight. They do not happen even in a year or two sometimes depending on the nature of your game changing idea. Withstand the Nay-sayers, and hear them out.
  • Lack of time, mentorship, resources, and investments! in every client these are issues that persist, if you are growing you will always need more of all of those things. Leveraging our open collaboration methodology can be a great way to learn, manage early costs and keep investments low while you are in discovery, planning and building stages.
  • Lack of embracing older talent. Somewhere along the way of building our great country, corporate America narrowed our prime working years to ages 23 to 42. The employable world has been treated as this demographic is the only time creative brain power exists. What benefits could you receive by diversification of your talent pool? Example solution: build your own internal game-changing mentor network. I once did an innovation workshop and had 4 people from an AARP chapter office join the group. I was shocked (yes, maybe at the time, I had bought into the whole young creative minds thing too) to learn this group was designing alternative transportation and working with the local energy company to do so. Many of the group were retired from larger companies with great knowledge and experience and were very eager to volunteer mentor or contract themselves out. Leverage brilliance, not age.

No need to go it alone! Bring in experts to show you the way. Maybe you are very experienced. Is this where your valuable time should be spent? Leverage is the name of the game. Commercializing our client’s innovations (getting customers and revenue in the door), Aligning internal teams, and accelerating success is 99% of the work we do at Plazabridge Group. There are great options out there to help you. Use them and increasing your available time on critical priorities.

Five Baby Steps to Kick-start your way Game Changing Innovation

What tips can I provide you to break free some of the more challenging barriers? We must change our thinking, our behavior, our cultures to truly create game changing innovations.

1.   Be open to the possibility: Our educational systems educate us to research why things will not work, look for justifications, returns, market needs, corporations are stuck in this cycle of simplistic additions of products and services. Not mind-blowing, turn it all inside out, cool as innovations that excite and delight customers! So many great ideas are killed before they are even shared with 3 people. Case brief: In one of our consulting engagements with large consumer beverage company we heard, of course, under their breath “we’ve lost our coolness.” The project goal was to shift their leaders and their corporate culture (globally) from being risk averse to taking more risks. This is a big challenge in the face of Six Sigma black belts. Every idea was summarily dismissed before the idea could be written fully on the whiteboard. The young emerging leaders would get excited the senior team became paralyzed in fear and why it would not work in this lean operationally efficient system. Challenging everything they knew, they agreed to work on one of the ideas that came out of one of our sessions (this took 4 months). That idea took 3 years to finally reach the market, but it was a true game changer for this company. They captured desired market share goals, built a new sustainable revenue stream, and took back the title as “cool”!

2.   Yes AND! A first step to get there may be a simple shift: instead of YES BUT use YES AND! We often get stuck in the vision of the Mt. Everest like mountain climb but without training and dedicated Sherpas to lead the way: nearly impossible to reach the peak! We know the outcome before we’ve even taken one step. Drop this thinking now. It is devastating to any game-changing acts. You must be passionate, diligent, believe in the mission, be focused, and not worried about the ups and the downs and the back ups as that is the ride you will be on till the game is changed. Example: As a mentor to young entrepreneurs, I, too often, the words can’t and don’t. We stop ourselves before even getting a good strong start on our ventures. There are many programs through the universities, through organizations like Take advantage of all the resources you can find. In our larger client companies, we hear similar statements, “my ideas go nowhere”, “we aren’t getting traction to get game-changing technologies out the door”, “we are strapped for resources”, “where’s the ROI on the investments?” and so many other barrier statements that stop us in our tracks.

3.   Open up! Whether you “open up” to a closed circle of trusted friends and colleagues or to an open collaborative forum sharing your ideas with others who may have interest can propel ideas forward at speeds sometimes unimaginable! Example: In many of the companies we work with, there is the need for a shift in their culture to a creative and innovation culture and centering it on the customer and b. to encourage more creativity amongst themselves. I will admit this is not a baby step but one step that is critical to the success of innovation. There are many simple ways to shift cultures and. in tandem, drive successful results. Here are a few case studies on some of the work we have done:

4.   Enroll others into your vision over time! Not everyone may be as quick at seeing your idea or vision. Spend time with people one on one. Take time to grow consensus on ideas. We must help them see the way. Rarely, in game changing products or companies, do customers immediately flock to the new thing. Again, we must show them, educate, and encourage people to try new things. Example: Many of our clients are in the game changing business. To help them commercialize their new ideas and technologies we build a process that is slow, methodical, and measurable. By building in milestones and measures, we educate ourselves on what we need to do to bring our customers into buying mode. Simple steps are best to start out with and if you engage your customers for feedback along the way you will learn more about what they need from you to buy.

5.   Become a Savvy Money Navigator Vs a Bank! Money will always be the subliminal barrier at every stage of your growth! Take some time to learn where funding exists for ideas inside your company. For the CEO, really consider your future growth and task your teams to look forward! Where will growth come from? Will it be with existing customers? Do you know where their future plans are heading and how you align with their journey forward? Many companies lose sight of their customer’s future growth plans and more times than desired those plans do not include their current partners’ and suppliers’ products. Don’t assume…ASK!

How might we help you drive game-changing growth? Reach out directly to me.

Image credit: Pixabay

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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

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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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