Tag Archives: Interviews

Reaching Beyond the Limits of Innovation and Transformation

Reaching Beyond the Limits of Innovation and TransformationRecently on Episode #873 of the Marketer of the Day podcast, I had the opportunity to sit down with Robert Plank, have a great conversation, and chat about a number of different topics. Here is a quick excerpt:

“When it comes to innovation, timing is a huge factor. Going in too soon or too late can both cost you lots of money. Innovation isn’t all about creativity and value-creation, it is also about the services that you provide around your new idea and helping people understand how your idea can be of value to their lives. But how can we know if our innovative ideas can really affect people’s lives?”

Click the play button to listen to the podcast right here, right now:

Here is Robert Plank in his own words describing what the Marketer of the Day podcast is all about:

The Marketer of the Day Podcast interviews entrepreneurs who have been through “the struggle.”

They’ve experienced the headaches of repeat failure, trial-and-error, scaling, delegating, course-correcting, and getting their online businesses to succeed beyond their wildest dreams… and want to help you get to where you need to go.

Or visit Robert’s site here for additional information and all of the ways to subscribe to his podcast:


Creating Innovation with Hardcore Soft Skills

Creating Innovation with Hardcore Soft Skills

Recently I had the opportunity to speak with Yadira Caro on the Hardcore Soft Skills Podcast.

In the episode I define what innovation really is, how people, process and technology come together to create innovation and where people go wrong.

The conversation includes a discussion of how to craft successful innovation teams because it’s such a crucial factor for successful innovation.

I also speak about the peril of idea fragments and the importance of respecting your employees by putting funding and execution capabilities in place BEFORE you ask your employees for even a single idea.

We talk about top-down innovation…

We talk about bottom-up or middle-out innovation…

And, we also speak about many different innovation misconceptions.

So, I encourage you to check out the episode!

You can listen to the embedded podcast above or click this link to go to the podcast page.

Image credit: Pixabay

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Keeping Pace with the Latest Trends in Social Media and Online Video

David Meerman ScottThe ways we communicate continue to evolve. Keeping pace with the latest trends in social media and online video, while preventing your product or service from getting lost in the digital clutter, is a daunting task. David Meerman Scott is a master at helping you speak directly to your audience, make a strong personal connection, and generate attention for your business.

In the eighth edition of The New Rules of Marketing & PR: How to Use Content Marketing, Podcasting, Social Media, AI, Live Video and Newsjacking to Reach Buyers Directly, David explores the latest approaches for highly effective public relations, marketing, and customer communications – while helping you avoid of the costs of traditional advertising!

New Rules of Marketing and PRI had the opportunity recently to interview David, a marketing strategist, entrepreneur, investor and advisor to emerging companies, and bestselling author of 12 books, including Fanocracy, about the new eighth edition of The New Rules of Marketing & PR.

Throughout his career he has been fascinated by seeing the future of how people and organizations work together, studied ‘what’s next’, and looked for patterns others don’t see.

Three times a year David (@dsmcott) is the lead marketing speaker at the legendary Tony Robbins Business Mastery events, delivering a two hour session on New Marketing Mastery.

Below is the text of the interview:

1. What is the biggest change in either PR or Marketing that today’s companies face?

I wrote this for the first edition of The New Rules of Marketing & PR back in 2007: “There used to be only three ways to get noticed: Buy expensive advertising, beg the mainstream media to tell your story for you, or hire a huge sales staff to bug people individually about your products. Now we have a better option: publishing interesting content on the web, content that your buyers want to consume.” The same is true today upon the publication of the 8th edition!

The tools of the marketing and PR trade have changed. The skills that worked offline to help you buy or beg or bug your way into opportunity are the skills of interruption and coercion. Online success comes from thinking like a journalist and publishing amazing content that will brand you as an organization or person it would be a pleasure to do business with. You are in charge of your own success.

2. Must companies re-think their approach to PR in the digital age?

Many people steeped in the tradition of product promotion naturally feel drawn to prattle on and on about their products and services. But I have news for you. Nobody cares about your products and services. Yes, you read that right.

What people do care about are themselves and how you can solve their problems. People also like to be entertained and to share in something remarkable. In order to have people talk about you and your ideas, you must resist the urge to hype your products and services. Instead, create something interesting that will be talked about online. When you get people talking on the Web, people will line up to learn more and to buy what you have to offer.

Sadly, marketers continue to hype products and services instead of understanding buyers and creating interesting content to reach them.

3. Do press releases still have value?

Yes, press releases have value but way less than most PR professionals believe. There is so much more that can be done.

Somehow along the way PR professionals have lost sight of what ‘true’ PR is and have set their focus on the media. What quick steps can PR pros take to get back to the public relations roots of creating mutually beneficial relationships with all of their publics (shareholders, stakeholders, communities, employees, etc.)?

To paraphrase the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), definition: “Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”

Nowhere does this description mention the media!

Somewhere along the line “public relations” became the same as “media relations.” What people need to realize is that these are different activities. Media relations, or working through journalists, is fine. Hey, who doesn’t want to be quoted in an important outlet?

But there are so many other ways to hear attention.

PR is about reaching your audience. There are many more ways to do that than just via the media: YouTube videos, blog posts, eBooks, charts, graphs, photos, a Twitter feed, a presence on Instagram, TikTok and so much more.

4. What role should LinkedIn play in companies’ marketing strategies? Any difference in your answer for B2B vs. B2C companies?

There are many social networks out there and LinkedIn is one of them. Marketers should understand their buyers and be active on the social networks that are most important to them. For many B2B businesses, LinkedIn is super important, so for them yes, LinkedIn is valuable. However many people use LinkedIn as another way to send unwanted sales messages. To be effective people should use LinkedIn to publish content and to engage with other people’s content.

Continue reading the rest of our conversation on CustomerThink

SIX more questions and answers!

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Creating a Movement that Drives Transformational Change

Creating a Movement that Drives Transformational Change

A while ago I had the opportunity to interview Greg Satell, author of the new book Cascades: How to Create a Movement that Drives Transformational Change.

Greg Satell is a bestselling author, speaker and adviser, who frequently contributes here to my blog Human-Centered Change and Innovation, Harvard Business Review, Inc. and other A-list publications. His first book, MAPPING INNOVATION, was chosen as one of the best business books of 2017 by 800-CEO-READ. His latest book, CASCADES, was recently published by McGraw-Hill Education.

Today, he helps leading businesses overcome disruption through impactful programs and powerful tools he developed researching the world’s best innovators and most effective changemakers.

Without further ado, here is the transcript of that interview:

1. People love to tell the story of Netflix disrupting Blockbuster. What do they get wrong?

It’s funny. People so easily assume that Blockbuster just completely ignored the Netflix threat, when actually nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the leadership came up with an effective strategy to meet that threat, executed it well and began to surpass Netflix in adding new subscribers.

The real reason that Blockbuster failed was that the leadership failed to manage internal networks—particularly franchisees and investors—and the stock price crashed. That attracted the corporate raider Carl Icahn, who had a heavy handed style. Eventually, things came to a head and he initiated a compensation dispute with the CEO, John Antioco., who left in frustration. The new CEO came in and reversed the strategy. Three years later, Blockbuster went bankrupt.

One of the most interesting parts of the story came out when I interviewed Antioco, who was—and is—something of a retail genius. He told me that, throughout his career, anytime he wanted to do something innovative, he always met resistance. He had always succeeded by pushing through that resistance. This time though, it got the better of him.

We tend to think that if we have the right idea and execute it well, we’ll be successful. The real lesson of Blockbuster is that isn’t always true. We also need to manage stakeholder networks.

2. To be efficient at scale, businesses introduce hierarchies as they grow. What weaknesses does this introduce and how should companies manage these?

To be honest, I don’t see anything inherently wrong with hierarchies. They’ve been put in place because they are effective at executing processes efficiently. Every organization needs that. However, hierarchies tend to be rigid and slow to adapt. That can be a real problem when the marketplace changes.

So what I think leaders need to focus on is building strong informal networks to supplement the formal organization. Chris Fussell calls this a “hybrid organization.” That’s what’s really key, to have the formal organization and the informal organization working hand-in-hand.

Unfortunately, there’s been so much emphasis on “breaking down silos,” that business leaders often miss that silos can be very positive things. They are essentially “centers of capability.” So you don’t want to break them up. What you do want to do is to connect silos so that they can adapt and collaborate.

3. Some would say that hierarchies are created to cascade information. How does information cascade differently within networks? How is better?

Well, hierarchies are essentially vertical networks, so information tends to move up and down fairly well, but not so good side to side, which makes it hard for an organization to adapt laterally. The types of networks I write about in Cascades are horizontal, so are much better set up to transfer information between disparate groups.

Clearly, you need both. The problem is that we tend to ignore the informal networks, which is why organizations over time become vertically driven and rigid.

Greg Satell - Digital Tonto4. What causes some movements to grow and others to be sidelined at the periphery?

That’s a great and complicated question (in fact, I wrote a whole book about it!). The truth is that, much as Tolstoy said about families, successful movements tend to look very much alike, while unsuccessful movements fail in their own way.

However, if there is one key thing that makes the difference it is to always connect out. Research has shown that the key metric that best determines success is participation. That may seem obvious, but many movements get caught up in idealogical purity and shut out potential allies. If you want to kill a change movement quickly, that’s probably the best way to do it. It’s not the fervor of zealots that brings change about, but when you get everybody else to join in that a true revolution can take place.

A great example of this kind of failure is the Occupy Movement. At first, they gained a lot of sympathy for their “99% vs. the 1%” message. However they were so extreme, and so intent on demonizing anyone who didn’t believe 100% what they believed, that they turned many people off. At one point, the legendary civil rights leader John Lewis asked to speak at a rally and was refused. I mean, John Lewis! Talk about shooting yourself in the foot!

The same is true in the business context. Think about VHS vs. Betamax. Betamax was the better technology, but VHS was more inclusive. VHS won.

Another great example is the Ignaz Semmelweis story. Semmelweis had discovered that hand washing in hospitals greatly reduced infection rates. It was a major discovery. However, rather than working to build a movement around his idea, he railed against anyone who didn’t agree with him. It would take another 20 years for antiseptic practices to gain traction and millions of people died needlessly because of it.

More recently, Jim Allison had a similar challenge with cancer immunotherapy. Pharmaceutical companies didn’t believe it would work and refused to invest in it. I still remember the sound of despair in his voice when he told me the story—and this was 20 years after it happened! But Jim kept pounding the pavement, kept working to bring others in and thousands upon thousands of people are alive today because of Jim.

So again, you have to constantly be connecting out and bringing people in. That’s why Jim Allison won the Nobel Prize last fall instead of dying in an insane asylum like Ignaz Semmelweis.

5. Why do successful movements or revolutions seem to need rules?

I think it’s better to say that movements need values. Values play two important roles: First, they provide constraints and, second, they provide rules for adaptation.

For example, during the Anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa, Nelson Mandela was accused of being an anarchist, a communist and worse. When asked about his beliefs though, he always pointed to the Freedom Charter, which was written way back in 1955. So he could point to something concrete that outlined his values and that of his movement. That commitment to values was crucial for getting support from institutions outside of South Africa and it was the support from those institutions that enabled Mandela and his movement to succeed.

When he got into power those constraints became even more important. Because one of the core values spelled out in the Freedom Charter was that all national groups should have equal rights, he couldn’t infringe upon the rights of white people, even though many urged him to do so. It is because of those self-imposed constraints that we remember Nelson Mandela as a hero and not some tin-pot dictator.

A similar dynamic played out in the “Gerstner Revolution” at IBM in the 1990s. Gerstner famously said that the last thing IBM needed at the time was a vision. But he was very clear that he wanted to shift values, to make IBM more customer focused and more collaborative. That sent important signals to customers, partners and investors and played a big part in Gerstner’s success.

Perhaps even more importantly, the focus on values helped IBM prosper long after he left the company. Irving Wladawsky-Berger, one of Gerstner’s key lieutenants, told me that if the Gerstner Revolution had merely been about strategy and technology, it wouldn’t have survived. But because it was rooted in values, IBM was able to adapt as technology and the marketplace continued to evolve.

Clearly, IBM has had its challenges since Gerstner left in 2002, but it’s still a highly profitable company that continues to be on the forefront of many cutting edge technologies, such as artificial intelligence, blockchain and quantum computing, just to name a few. It’s hard to see how that could have happened if the company was still stuck in a strategy developed in the 90s. That’s the role that values play.

6. How would you contrast the theory behind Cascades with W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne’s Tipping Point Leadership?

I think on the surface they are somewhat similar ideas. However, there are important differences “under the hood.”

First, while “Tipping Point Leadership” implicitly refers to the importance of networks, Cascades is deeply and explicitly rooted in network science. In fact, Duncan Watts and Steven Strogatz, who pioneered modern network theory, have both endorsed the book (although Strogatz has done so more informally). I believe that scientific approach really helps provide a stronger framework to understand how change occurs.

Another important difference is that while Kim and Mauborgne basically built their framework from scratch, Cascades is more of a synthesis of ideas that have already been proven successful in social, political and business contexts.

There has been a lot great thinking about this stuff for a long time, so I saw no reason to try and reinvent the wheel. Rather, I tried to shape already powerful ideas—some of which have been battle-tested for decades—into a coherent framework that people can put to good use. In that way, Cascades is very similar to my previous book, Mapping Innovation.

Of course I’m biased on this point, but I believe the result is a much richer, detailed and useful framework for driving change. When you are driving change in the real world, details matter.

7. What is wrong with the theory of influentials being central to successful change?

Well, first it’s wrong because it’s empirically been shown not to be true. Scientific research has clearly shown, across multiple studies, that you don’t need “influentials” to create a viral cascade or, as Gladwell puts it, a “social epidemic.” I reference many of these studies in the book, so that readers can go check for themselves.

Conceptually, the influentials hypothesis breaks down because you need large chains of influence to create a viral cascade. Somebody may be influential because they are a connector, a maven, or whatever, but unless the people they influence pass on their ideas to others who pass them on to others still, the movement will die out. As I write in the book, it is small groups, loosely connected, but united by a shared purpose that drives transformational change.

The one exception is celebrities like Oprah Winfrey. They can really move the needle if they choose to promote an idea, but not because they have any “rare social gifts.” It’s because what they say is broadcasted by mass media. So there’s nothing really mysterious about it.

Cascades by Greg Satell8. What are some of the critical raw materials for fueling a cascade?

The three most important elements are small groups, loose connections and shared purpose.

Small groups engender strong bonds and that’s super important. Creating change is hard. So it’s important to build deep trustful relationships that lead to effective collaboration. That’s at the root of any successful movement. For example, the Otpor Movement in Serbia started with just 11 founders.

However, a small group can’t do much on its own. So it’s important for small groups to connect to other small groups. It’s that continuous linking that creates the conditions upon which a cascade can arise. That’s how Otpor eventually grew to 70,000 members and took down the dictator, Slobodan Milošević. As I explain the book, organizational change movements, such as those in the US Army and at companies like Experian and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, play out in very much the same way.

Lastly, you need a sense of shared purpose. That’s what ties everything together. It’s also why effective leadership is so important. You need leaders to provide that purpose. As I write in the book, the role of leaders is no longer merely to plan and direct action, but to inspire and empower belief.

9. What’s your view on the phases of a successful change

Generally speaking, change movements have three phases: planning, mobilization and the victory phase.

In the planning phase, you need to formulate your Vision of Tomorrow and your values and also map out the specific constituencies you want to mobilize and the institutions you will need to influence. It’s important to not mobilize too soon, because every revolution inspires a counterrevolution. So by mobilizing too early you run the risk of inspiring opposition as much as you do supporters. This is a very common mistake.

Mobilization is largely about planning and executing tactics and there are a couple of important points to keep in mind. First, you are always mobilizing specific constituencies to influence particular institutions. You are always mobilizing somebody to influence something. You’re never mobilizing just for the sake of mobilizing or to “raise awareness” or anything like that. Everything you do needs to have a strategy in mind.

Another point is that you always want to be mobilizing out and bringing people in. And when you recruit new people you want to immediately train them and get them to act, even if the action is small. It is through action that people take ownership of change, so getting people to act is incredibly important. One of the cases I researched was Experian’s digital transformation. They really focused on this aspect and had enormous success.

The last phase is the victory phase and it’s often the most dangerous. For example, in Ukraine’s Orange Revolution, which I took part in and inspired me to write the book, we thought we had won. As it turned out, we hadn’t and soon the country descended back into chaos, which resulted in a second revolution, the Euromaidan protests in 2013 and 2014.

We’ve seen the same thing happen more recently in Egypt, where they overthrew Mubarak and ended up with el-Sisi, who is very much the same. It’s also common in startups and in corporate transformation, an early surge and then things go awry.

So you need to plan to “survive victory” ahead of time. You do that by focusing on shared values, rather than specific personalities or objectives. You never want to make a change movement about yourself or your organization. It always needs to be about values.

There is a fourth phase and it’s one you want to avoid. It is the failure phase. Almost every movement I researched had a massive early failure. In most cases, it arose from a failure to prepare and build the movement methodically. The successful movements learned from those failures and continued to evolve. The unsuccessful ones didn’t.

10. When it comes to participation and mobilization, what should people keep in mind to accelerate both?

Again, you just want to keep building out and networking the movement. Keep building links. Eventually, you will build critical mass and the movement will accelerate by itself. That’s what a cascade is, when your movement goes viral.

However, before that happens, you want to prepare as much as possible or your movement can spin out of control, if you haven’t invested in building values, training, etc. We’ve seen that happen with Occupy, Black Lives Matter and, to some extent, the modern women’s movement. Values always need to be upfront.

Perhaps most of all, you need to keep in mind that change is always possible. If you looked at Serbia in 1999, what you would have seen was a country ruled by a ruthless dictator with no effective opposition. Occupy only had a few hundred members at the time. A year later, Occupy had grown to 70,000 members and Milošević was out of office. A few years after that, he died in his cell at The Hague.

Very few change efforts have to overcome those kinds of odds, but using the same principle—those that I write about in Cascades—you can bring real change about, whether that change is in your organization, your industry, your community or throughout society as a whole.


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Building an Imagination Machine

Exclusive Interview Excerpt from InnovationManagement.se with Martin Reeves and Jack Fuller

Imagination Machine Authors

Imagination is one of the least understood but most crucial ingredients of success. It’s what makes the difference between an incremental change and the kinds of pivots and paradigm shifts that are essential to transformation — especially during a crisis.

Imagination is needed now more than ever—to find new opportunities, rethink our businesses, and discover paths to growth. Yet too many companies have lost their ability to imagine. What is this mysterious capacity? How does imagination work? And how can organizations keep it alive and harness it in a systematic way?

Drawing on the experience and insights of CEOs across several industries, as well as lessons from neuroscience, computer science, psychology, and philosophy, Martin Reeves of Boston Consulting Group’s Henderson Institute and Jack Fuller, an expert in neuroscience, provide a fascinating look into the mechanics of imagination and lay out a process for creating ideas and bringing them to life.

I had the opportunity recently to interview the authors about the concepts behind the book The Imagination Machine: How to Spark New Ideas and Create Your Company’s Future.

Below is the text of the interview:

1. What do we most need to understand about the slowing growth rates you highlight early in the book?

Long term growth rates have been slowing in recent decades and its likely that this will continue, driven by demographic maturation even in countries which have been motors of global economic growth like China, as well as by increasing material saturation and planetary sustainability limits. The consequence is that it will become harder for companies to passively participate in aggregate growth or to merely refocus on faster growing geographic or product markets. Companies will therefore need to compete more aggressively for growth by creating new opportunities through imagination and innovation.

2. How does imagination differ from dreaming and creativity?

Dreaming is fantasy, unconstrained by the laws of physics and economics. Imagination, as we use the term in the book, is conceiving of things which do not exist but could be created. Imagination is therefore grounded in causal thinking. Creativity is a capability which can help individuals generate imaginative ideas but to systematically harness the power of imagination we need to look at the entire life cycle of ideas from inspiration through obsolescence and renewal and we need to consider how ideas develop and spread socially.

3. What makes imagination go?

Imagination is triggered by surprises which do not fit our current mental model for how the world, or a business is supposed to work. These surprises occur in the form of accidents (unintended consequences), anomalies (deviations from normal outcomes), and analogies (comparisons with other situations). In order to leverage a surprise, we need to first perceive it, requiring an external orientation, keen observation and open-mindedness. We also need to care about what we see, in the sense of harboring ideals or frustrations which propel is to pursue further the impetus created by surprise.

4. What is collective imagination, why is it important, and how is it fostered?

An idea which is not communicated or supported and adopted by others can never create new realities and be of economic value. Since an idea cannot be directly observed, it creates what philosophers call the challenge of inter-subjectivity. We can share ideas socially however by creating a prototype, by sharing the experience of developing an idea together, by witnessing its effect or by hearing and being motivated by a narrative which points to the significance of the idea. Put another way, one person’s idea needs to become the next persons surprise and inspiration if an idea is to spread. Organizations can unwittingly create many barriers to the spread of ideas, from functional silos, to local organizational dialects, to applying financial criteria too early, to skeptical cultures which only embrace proven ideas.

5. What gets in the way of imagination?

There are many obstacles to harnessing imagination throughout the lifecycle of ideas. These begin with the internal orientation of large companies, and over-reliance on averages and aggregates which conceal the surprises we need to see. Then we have the fact that few managers are trained in counterfactual thinking and many company cultures reject new ideas, in the name of “practicality”. Then we have obstacles to the spread of ideas, some of which I have already mentioned. As ideas mature, success needs to replicated and scaled through codification, which many companies make too complex to be implementable or too vague to capture essential features. Finally, past success can be toxic to future success if it becomes enshrined in fixed mental models and complacency.

The Imagination Machine6. Why is it important to understand and challenge your mental models?

Mental models are often confused with facts, but constructs like an industry, a strategy or a business model are chosen simplifications, which could be otherwise. If we don’t challenge our existing mental models, we cannot create new ones which then become the basis for new realities. To do this, we need to pay attention to anomalies and use them to update and evolve our mental models. It helps if we hold several mental models in mind at one time and if we are familiar with the techniques of counter-factual thinking – like decomposing models into elements and recombining them or imposing or removing constraints. It also helps if we educate ourselves broadly in several disciplines to build our repertoire of concepts and perspectives.

7. What is the link between action and imagination?

Click to read the rest of the interview on InnovationManagement.se

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Leveraging Alien Thinking

Exclusive Interview Excerpt from InnovationManagement.se with Cyril Bouquet, Jean-Louis Barsoux, and Michael Wade

Alien Thinking

For the past decade, Cyril Bouquet, Jean-Louis Barsoux, and Michael Wade, professors of innovation and strategy at IMD Business School, have studied inventors, scientists, doctors, entrepreneurs, and artists. These people, or “aliens,” as the authors call them, are able to make leaps of creativity, and use five patterns of thinking that distinguish them from the rest of us.

Alien Thinking leads to a fresh and flexible approach to problem-solving. Alien thinkers know how to free the imagination so it can detect hard-to-observe patterns. They practice deliberate ways to retreat from the world in order to see the big picture underlying a problem. And they approach ideas in systematic ways that reflect the constraints of reality.

I had the opportunity recently to interview these three IMD professors about the concepts behind the book ALIEN Thinking: The Unconventional Path to Breakthrough Ideas.

Below is the text of the interview:

1. It looks like A.L.I.E.N. is an acronym. What are the key components that make up the approach? And what was the genesis for its creation?

Cyril Bouquet (CB): ALIEN thinking is first and foremost a metaphor that captures the need to approach problems with an open mind and a fresh perspective – like a child or an outsider – in order to develop breakthrough solutions.

About 10 years ago, my colleague Estelle Metayer (now professor at McGill University in Canada) was discussing the importance of avoiding strategic blindspots in a session she ran for groups of executives at IMD. Browsing through a book on change called Future Think, she also brought my attention to the first chapter, which was called “Looking Through Alien Eyes”. I thought this metaphor was very applicable to innovation – and at some point, I made a connection between the letters and some of the themes I was teaching to executives in class. Together with my colleagues, Jean-Louis and Mike, we came up with an acronym that highlights the essence of the creative mindset that we believe executives must embrace.

So, A stands for Attention, which is about noticing problems or opportunities that you and others previously missed by changing where and how you look.

L is for Levitation, which means stepping back to gain perspective and make sense of what you’ve seen to reflect on what you need to do differently.

I stands for Imagination, which involves connecting the dots in new and interesting ways to create original and useful ideas.

E is about Experimentation, which is about testing your promising idea and turning it into a workable solution that addresses a real need.

Finally, N stands for Navigation, which is about finding ways to get your solution accepted without getting shot down in the process.

2. Why is originality important? Why is it difficult to be original?

Jean-Louis Barsoux (JLB): Originality is a key driver of innovation and progress. It’s what fuels economic growth and brings advances in domains from science and medicine to inequality and sustainability, not to mention spiritual and emotional sustenance through the creative and performing arts.

But originality often represents a challenge to the prevailing norms and practices. It can easily trigger an allergic reaction toward the “odd” idea or its “weird” originator. The more disruptive your idea, the harder you need to work to show how it fits with the belief systems of people whose support you need to move the idea forward.

This is especially the case within companies. Intrapreneurs who come up with breakthrough ideas are often shocked to discover how much resistance they elicit from inside the organization that stands to benefit the most.

3. What does it mean to think like an “alien”?

Michael Wade (MW): Urging would-be innovators to think like aliens is similar to what Zen Buddhists call adopting the “beginner’s mind”. It’s about developing an attitude of openness and overcoming the many biases and blindspots that place artificial limits on your creative intelligence.

Perhaps the most insidious of these biases is what the French call “déformation proféssionnelle”. This is your tendency to look at the world through the distorting lens of your job, your training or profession. The very expertise that can help you solve problems can blind you to a wider range of creative possibilities. Instead of seeing the world as it is, you view it in the way an accountant, lawyer, engineer, or professor would see it.

This expertise baggage is problematic because it can impact every phase of the innovation process: starting with what problems we pay attention to or ignore; and how we interpret the information. It influences the types of ideas we generate and what aspects we stress or neglect in testing. Ultimately, it also impacts who we reach out to for support and what arguments we put forward to convince them.

It is vital to be conscious of this conditioning as we develop our ideas, test them, and try to sell them. Whenever possible we need to get input from people who think differently from us – and make sure we listen to them – to counteract our preconceptions.

4. Why do existing innovation frameworks – including design thinking and lean startup – fall short?

CB: The design thinking and lean start up methodologies have done a wonderful job of raising our understanding of innovation and creating a shared vocabulary – with concepts like “minimum viable product”, ideation, and pivot. But we feel that like other innovation frameworks, they fall short in two ways.

First, they are incomplete. They don’t explicitly take account of the vital role of reflection – what we call levitation – throughout the innovation process. Instead they emphasize speed and action, presenting innovation as a series of sprints. Lean startup takes the initial problem as a given, leaving no space for reframing it, before launching into a frenzied cycle of build-measure-learn. Nor do existing models integrate the digital aspect of innovation or show how digital technologies relate, say, to the “human-centric” principles enshrined in design thinking.

Second, existing models are misleading because they gloss over the psychological pitfalls and biases that inhibit your original thinking. They tell you what to do, without acknowledging why it’s difficult. For example, pivoting is a great concept, but to do it, you must overcome some critical cognitive biases, including confirmation biases and sunk cost effects. By contrast, ALIEN thinking surfaces some of the ways we deceive ourselves at different stages of the innovation process – and end up focusing on the wrong problems, or jumping to solutions, or sticking too long with a bad idea.

Our view is that an alien mindset can support and complement design thinking and lean startup by helping to challenge assumptions that these frameworks take for granted.

5. What can or should be the role of digital augmentation be in innovation activities?

MW: Digital technologies can boost ALIEN thinking in several ways – but especially during the attention and experimentation phases.

For example, in terms paying attention to how products or services are actually used and what are some of the unmet needs, we traditionally relied on painstaking direct observation of users. But today, a lot of that observation can be automated. You can remotely monitor people and objects in close to real time through sensors and social listening. For example, the German-based Nivea brand tapped into discussions across social media sites concerning deodorant use. Contrary to expectations, they discovered that the main preoccupation of consumers was not fragrance or effectiveness, but clothes stains. This insight triggered the development of a new category of anti-stain deodorants. Digital tools enable you to collect data without direct observation and on a much larger scale than previously.

Digital technologies also make a dramatic difference at the experimentation stage. You can build digital twins of objects to experiment quickly, safely, and cheaply. This is exactly what Bertrand Piccard’s team did when they built the first solar-powered plane, with the wingspan of an Airbus, the weight of a car and the power of a small motorcycle. Testing multiple full-scale prototypes would have been ruinously expensive. But computer simulation creates the possibility of trial without error – or at least without costly errors.

Alien Thinking6. In an era of digital saturation and burnout, how are people supposed to make time to focus and elevate their thinking?

JLB: Occasionally stepping back from the action to regain perspective and make sense of disparate pieces of information is vital to creativity. Reflection is an integral part of the innovation process – whether it’s to reconsider the problem, or your approach to it – or the solution itself.

But elevating your thinking, which we call “levitation”, has become increasingly difficult in a context where we are inundated with calls, emails, and texts from colleagues expecting quick responses.

Paradoxically, the experience of working from home, which should have given us more control over our agenda, has often exacerbated the problem, with back-to-back or even overlapping zoom calls. And although we save on commuting time, we rarely make use of that time to re-energize or re-assess.

The only way to secure reflection time is to plan for it. This may seem forced, but unless you schedule breaks, you will find that the demands of the problems at hand always win out. It also has to be a meaningful break. Snatching a short lunch at your desk while watching social media for distraction won’t help. Nor does going out a walk and taking your phone with you.

Creativity demands introspection. To leverage your pause, you really need to unplug and see where your mind leads you. You need to protect your boredom! Is it any wonder that people often report getting their best ideas in the shower? It is one of the few mindless activities that remains beyond the reach of digital technology!

Click to read the rest of the interview on InnovationManagement.se

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Building Cumulative Advantage

Exclusive Mark Schaefer Interview Excerpt from CustomerThink.com

Mark W SchaeferCumulative Advantage as a concept builds unstoppable momentum for your ideas and your business — even when the odds seem stacked against you. The book shows how initial advantages, seams of opportunity, sonic booms, and the lift from mentors can impact your world in powerful and permanent ways. It’s designed to be a practical source of inspiration for the entrepreneur, business leader, and every person with a dream that’s ready to take flight. The Cumulative Advantage concept focuses on:

  • How the initial advantage that drives momentum comes from everyday ideas.
  • The inside secrets of creating vast awareness for your projects.
  • How to nurture powerful connections that lead to break-through opportunities.
  • Why momentum is driven by the speed, time, and space of a “seam.”
  • How the “certainty of business uncertainty” can be used to your advantage.

I had the opportunity recently to interview Mark Schaefer, a globally-acclaimed author, keynote speaker, and marketing consultant. He is a faculty member of Rutgers University and one of the top business bloggers and podcasters in the world. Mark is the executive director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, Chief Executive Officer of B Squared Media and on the advisory board of several startups. He has been a contributor to Harvard Business Review and Entrepreneur magazine.

His latest book is Cumulative Advantage: How to Build Momentum for Your Ideas, Business and Life Against All Odds.

Below is the text of the interview:

1. Is success random?

Yes and no.

Momentum in life begins with some initial advantage. That is almost always random and unearned. It could be inherited wealth, a special, early educational opportunity, or being in the right place at the right time. Even being born into a free country and living in a stable household with two parents can be an advantage.

Frans Johansson wrote an entire book about this phenomenon called “The Click Moment.” I can point to a random conversation with my boss in 1992 that led to this book!

However, just having an idea or an advantage is not enough. You must pursue the idea and apply it to something changing in the world to create an opportunity. Randomness is likely to get the ball rolling, but hard work and smarts still make a difference when it comes to success.

2. Why is creating a cumulative advantage important?

There are many reasons to understand the patterns of momentum but for me, it’s the fact that it’s just so hard to stand out today. Even if you’re doing your best work, you can be buried because the level of competition and content out there is so great. How can a person or a business be heard? How can they be found?

For the past 10 years, most of my career has been devoted to this idea of becoming the signal instead of the noise. It’s never been harder for a business to be seen and heard and I think understanding how we can apply momentum to our lives is a big idea to help solve this problem.

3. Can anyone create cumulative advantage for their business or ideas?

This is going to sound weird, but honestly, no. This haunted me as I wrote the book. I realized that every business book and every self-help book is inherently elitist. The author assumes a person has the money to buy the book, the time to read it, and the resources to act on it.

But there is a big part of society that is being pulled under by Cumulative Disadvantage. It’s a cosmically complex topic that I address, in part, at the end of the book. I wanted to write a book that could help everyone, I don’t think anybody can, really.

But let’s put it this way — if you have the resources to buy the book and read it, then yes, you can probably build momentum!

4. What kinds of initial advantages might the average person have?

It can be anything really that leads to some momentum in later life. I already mentioned this idea about just living in a safe home as an advantage. Children adopted out of poverty had a substantial gain in IQ just from being in a safe environment.

Research has shown that early reading skills can lead to an advantage in education. Early athletic coaching can lead to longer and more profitable professional careers (just ask Tiger Woods or Serena Williams!). It can be a special ability, a personality trait, or even a stroke of luck along the way.

5. We are all surfing the crest of a wave that started long ago. Advantage builds on advantage. Why is curiosity so important?

I once had the opportunity to meet Walter Isaacson, the biographer of Steve Jobs, Leonardo DeVinci and Benjamin Franklin. I asked him what made a genius. He said endless curiosity and an ability to see patterns.

The world is filled with millions of ideas. An idea is worth nothing without the pursuit of curiosity, That is the beginning of momentum.

Click to read the rest of the interview on CustomerThink.com

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After Hours with Mauro Porcini – PepsiCo’s First Chief Design Officer

After Hours with Mauro Porcini - PepsiCo’s First Chief Design Officer

A short while ago I had the opportunity to sit down with Mauro Porcini, SVP & Chief Design Officer at PepsiCo, a multi-billion-dollar American corporation with more than 250,000 employees. It is the second largest food and beverage company in the world, and the largest in North America.

The initial part of this interview focused on how PepsiCo embraces failure and gets to the root of customer needs and can be found on Innovation Leader. But Mauro had so much design and innovation wisdom to share that he agreed to stay after hours and answer more questions.

Mauro Porcini joined PepsiCo in 2012 as its first Chief Design Officer and began infusing design thinking into PepsiCo’s culture and leading a new approach to innovation by design across the company’s popular product platforms and brands, as well as new platforms such as Alternative Hydration (water personalization and consumption beyond the bottle) and Spire (Smart Fountains for drinks customization).

The team’s efforts extend from physical to virtual expressions of the brands, and to the company’s focus on sustainability. In the past seven years the PepsiCo design team has won more than 1,000 Design and Innovation awards.

To dive deeper into innovation at PepsiCo I posed the following questions:

Why is innovation important to PepsiCo?

Innovation is an absolutely fundamental, core value at PepsiCo. It’s a key ingredient in the company’s success and continued growth. Our daily work as designers within PepsiCo is to keep our innovation pipeline as human-centered as possible, as well as agile, flexible, reactive and in-tune with global and local trends. This requires a multi-disciplinary effort that involves close collaboration with other functions like R&D, Marketing, Strategy, Consumer Insights, and Manufacturing to ensure we are unlocking the full potential of our brands.

Mauro, I see you’re already connecting innovation and design. Let’s dig into that.

What do you see as the intersection between innovation and design, and why is this intersection important?

Mauro PorciniThe reality is that design and innovation are one and the same. Innovation is all about people. Innovation is about imagining, designing and developing meaningful solutions for people’s needs and wants. As designers, we are trained in three dimensions: human science (desirability), business (viability) and technology (feasibility). In the projects my global design team works on at PepsiCo, we connect these three dimensions to create products, brands, experiences and services that are relevant to the communities we design for. We call this approach “design”; the world often calls it “innovation.”

It’s interesting that you see innovation and design as synonyms where many see design instead as a path to innovation. Let’s explore what it takes to excel at design.

Click here to read the rest of the interview with Mauro Porcini on CustomerThink

Other questions Mauro will answer on CustomerThink include:

  1. What are some of the most important differences between doing design and being a design leader that innovators and designers should be aware of?
  2. What was the impetus, what resistance did you face, and what excited you about this design challenge?
  3. Why is it more important to be in love with your customers than to try and satisfy them?
  4. Do you have any tips for organizations trying to get better at empathy, listening and understanding to become better innovators?
  5. What are you most curious about right now?
  6. What are you working on learning about or mastering right now to help the team?

Images courtesy of PepsiCo

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The Jobs to be Done Playbook

Exclusive Interview for CustomerThink with Jim Kalbach

Jim Kalbach JTBD PlaybookThe Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) approach offers a unique lens for viewing the people you serve. Instead of looking at the demographic and psychographic factors of consumption, JTBD focuses on what people seek to achieve in a given circumstance. People don’t “hire” products and services because of the demographic they belong to; instead, they employ solutions to get a job done.

JTBD is not about your product, service, or brand. Instead of focusing on your own solution, you must first understand what people want and why that’s important to them. Accordingly, JTBD deliberately avoids mention of particular solutions in order to first comprehend the process that people go through to solve a problem. Only then can a company align its offerings to meet people’s goals and needs.

I had the opportunity recently to interview Jim Kalbach, a noted author, speaker, and instructor in user experience design, information architecture, and strategy. He is currently Head of Customer Experience at MURAL, the leading online whiteboard. Jim has worked with large companies, such as eBay, Audi, Sony, Elsevier Science, LexisNexis, and Citrix. His latest book is The Jobs To Be Done Playbook.

Below is the text of the interview:

1. What is one of the biggest misconceptions people have about Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD)?

There are a couple, actually.

First, I often hear others referring to JTBD as something “new.” It’s not. People have been working in the field for a couple of decades now. And precursors to modern JTBD go back nearly 40 years. We really just now see a surge of interest around JTBD, and the hype around it makes it feel new.

Second, JTBD often gets conflated with existing methods in other fields. Marketers look at it is as just another type of “voice of the customer” program. Or, folks coming from human-centered design and related fields see JTBD as a version of UX design or similar. While there might be some overlaps with existing disciplines, JTBD offers a unique perspective and yields unique insights.

Finally, I see JTBD as a “language” of sorts to describe the objectives and needs of the people you want to serve, and learning a language takes practice. Even people who “get” JTBD quickly need to put time into understanding the language and techniques, which at times can be specific and rigorous. I often see people expect to walk away from reading a book or taking a workshop fully capable of practicing JTBD. That’s rarely the case, and it typically takes some effort to work into the topic and apply it.

2. What are some of the benefits of taking a JTBD approach to innovation?

JTBD offers a unique perspective that points to new insights and opportunities. The JTBD approach intentionally forces us to expunge any mention of technology, solutions, brands, or methods from our language. In doing so, you’re able to then see your domain as people do. First and foremost, they want to get their job done, not necessarily interact with your product or service. Viewing objectives and outcomes people have independent of technology opens up new possibilities and yields new conversations that point toward innovation opportunities.

Also, but removing ourselves and technology from the equation, we can better future-proof our thinking. Solutions come and go. Technology is often a fad. Jobs, on the other hand, are stable when you boil them down to their fundamental steps.

3. Who needs to be considered after selecting a job to focus on?

At first, simply consider job performers. Once you’ve defined your target job, you first want to understand how the job gets done independently of any specific technology or solution. I find that different types of job performers emerge based on the key factors, or circumstances, of getting the job done that can give rise to different personas.

Within your team, I recommending going as broad as possible and including stakeholders at all levels. Yes, JTBD can help you find hidden needs to address. But it’s also a catalyst for conversations and a way to get team alignment. Think of the various ways you can involve others in everything from the definition of your jobs landscape to interviews with job performers to creating a job map to finding opportunities.

4. What is your perspective on the interrelationship between functional, social and emotional jobs within JTBD?

I find that functional jobs give the most structure and reliability to work with initiation. So your work is generally framed by functional jobs, with emotional and social aspects layered on top. Emotional and social aspect then play a larger role when finding solutions to the unmet needs you’ve found and help frame how you’ll solve for them.

Continue reading the interview on CustomerThink

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A Revolutionary Way to Create Shared Value for Businesses, Customers, and Society

Interview with Erich Joachimsthaler

Erich JoachimsthalerI had the opportunity recently to interview fellow author Erich Joachimsthaler, the Founder and CEO of Vivaldi, one of the largest independent global strategy and business transformation firms, to talk with him about his new book The Interaction Field: The Revolutionary New Way to Create Shared Value for Businesses, Customers, and Society, to explore the important role that connections play in both business and innovation.

1. What are the key elements of an interaction field?

Interaction field companies or interaction field business models are highly open architectures that facilitate interactions among multiple participants, and distinguish from other digital business models like platforms (Uber, OpenTable, etc.) or digital ecosystem (Airbnb or Apple, etc.) in four ways:

  1. They solve new problems and intractable challenges (framing)
  2. They are interactional not transactional. They create collaboration, engagement, and participation across the entire interaction field including the nucleus, ecosystem and market makers (designing)
  3. They are open, inclusive and comprehensive and deeply integrate in the lives of participants (building)
  4. They enable sharing of value creation (sharing)

2. Why are interaction fields important?

They are important because they drive innovation in entirely new ways, create real new value for consumers and everyone else, and they can create exponential growth because they leverage the hyperconnectivity of everything today: where everything connects and is available anytime and anywhere.

3. What is broken in the current way of creating shared value for businesses, customers, and society?

What’s broken is that we all believe in it, but we don’t do it. Not because for wanting but because nobody has given us a business model or a framework and process to actually build a company that delivers on stakeholder capitalism. That business model is the interaction field model.

4. Has the importance of velocity of businesses changed? And if so, how?

We live in an age of accelerations. This isn’t a new thesis and wonderfully was explored by Thomas L. Friedman in his book: Thank You For Being Late. He believes that computing power has created the conditions for this change. How has the velocity changed? Three ways:

In the 1990s, when information connected to information over a website, called the internet. Two technologies emerged, ecommerce and search which created two of the most valuable companies today, namely Amazon and Google.

The next phase happened around 2007 and 2009 when people connected to people. Social media or networks became the technology and the smartphone enabled explosive connectivity. This created Facebook and Apple and a host of other companies.

We are now on the verge of the third phase where everything connects, people, information, companies, things, machines, devices and other things, anything, anywhere and anytime. Like in the previous phases, a new set of technologies from AI to quantum computing, converge and mature at the same time which will enable untold and unimaginable value creation, innovation and growth.

This changes everything. Traditional boundaries between industries and markets vanish, or at least blur. The notion of geography in terms of distance is changing, we truly live in a borderless world. Traditional value creation of companies through innovation will change.

The Interaction Field Book5. What is the difference between a platform-driven business model and an interaction field-driven business model?

Platform business models are transitional. They solve simple problems. Uber is an example that matches riders with drivers, OpenTable that matches empty restaurant seats with guests. They focus primarily on transactions, and scale based on the frequency of interaction, often a simple core interaction between two or more participants. OpenTable allows restaurants to list open tables, and guests provide feedback in the form of votes, ratings. Platforms are a good business model if you want to build OpenTable for X, the Airbnb for Y or the Uber or Lyft for Z. Go and organize a design thinking workshop and you pretty much can write a draft business model.

Platforms also often are merely self-serving. They create wealth for the orchestrator or shareholders. Look at Uber, are drivers really better off driving for Uber? Are gig economy workers really better off? Look at Amazon, who really benefits, anyone knows who is the richest man in the world? Who made in the pandemic $13.5 billion in one day? Look at Apple, who faces massive lawsuits from developers.

Continue reading the article on InnovationManagement.se

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