Tag Archives: Learning

Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of August 2022

Top 10 Human-Centered Change & Innovation Articles of August 2022Drum roll please…

At the beginning of each month we will profile the ten articles from the previous month that generated the most traffic to Human-Centered Change & Innovation. We also publish a weekly Top 5 as part of our FREE email newsletter. Did your favorite make the cut?

But enough delay, here are August’s ten most popular innovation posts:

  1. Why Amazon Wants to Sell You Robots — by Shep Hyken
  2. Now is the Time to Design Cost Out of Our Products — by Mike Shipulski
  3. How Consensus Kills Innovation — by Greg Satell
  4. The Four Secrets of Innovation Implementation — by Shilpi Kumar
  5. Reset and Reconnect in a Chaotic World — by Janet Sernack
  6. This 9-Box Grid Can Help Grow Your Best Future Talent — by Soren Kaplan
  7. ‘Fail Fast’ is BS. Do This Instead — by Robyn Bolton
  8. The Power of Stopping — by Mike Shipulski
  9. The Battle Against the Half-Life of Learning — by Douglas Ferguson
  10. The Phoenix Checklist – Strategies for Innovation and Regeneration — by Teresa Spangler

BONUS – Here are five more strong articles published in July that continue to resonate with people:

If you’re not familiar with Human-Centered Change & Innovation, we publish 4-7 new articles every week built around innovation and transformation insights from our roster of contributing authors and ad hoc submissions from community members. Get the articles right in your Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin feeds too!

Have something to contribute?

Human-Centered Change & Innovation is open to contributions from any and all innovation and transformation professionals out there (practitioners, professors, researchers, consultants, authors, etc.) who have valuable human-centered change and innovation insights to share with everyone for the greater good. If you’d like to contribute, please contact me.

P.S. Here are our Top 40 Innovation Bloggers lists from the last two years:

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Innovating Through Adversity and Constraints

Innovating Through Adversity and Constraints

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

It’s been almost two and a half years since most of us shifted to working virtually and remotely, which, in turn, seriously disrupted most of our business-as-usual behaviors and learning habits. Interestingly, this also disrupted our habitual unconscious safety and comfort zones, and, in many cases, disconnected our overall sense of security. For some of us, our ability to make sense of ourselves and our futures, has been impacted, impacting our abilities to find new ways of being creative and innovating through the range of constraints and adverse situations.

Looking inward

Some of us have also had our confidence to survive and thrive in a world severely impacted, and many of us have felt exploited, exhausted, and depleted by our employers. According to Lynda Gratton, in a recent article in MIT Sloane Magazine “Making Sense of the Future” many of us are looking inward — working through the impact of our changing habits, networks, and skills, and begin to imagine other life trajectories and possible selves.

Looking outward

Again, according to Lynda Gratton, some of us are now also looking outward to analyze how talent markets are changing and what competitors are doing, which is creating momentum and a force for change, but also frustration and anxiety, given institutional lag and inertia.

The larger-than-life, terrible, and confronting conflict in Ukraine has also inflated, for some of us, a deeper sense of helplessness and exhaustion, and amplified our concerns and fears for a sustainable future.

The momentum for change is growing 

Yet some people have successfully responded to worries and concerns about the inertia holding our companies back, and have adapted to working, learning, and coaching online. Using this moment in time to help de-escalate our reactivity to what’s been going on to deeply connect, explore, discover, listen, and respond creatively to what is really important, to ourselves, our people, teams and our organizations.

To help shift the tension between today and tomorrow, through regenerating and replenishing ourselves and our teams, by shifting the dialogue towards renewing and innovating through constraints and adversity in uncertain and unstable times.

Innovating through constraints at ImagineNation™

Innovating through constraints enabled the collective at ImagineNation™ to design and deliver a bespoke, intense, and immersive learning journey for an executive team aiming at igniting and mobilizing their collective genius to step up to face their fears, adapt, take smart risks and innovate in uncertain and disruptive times!

Some of the constraints we collaboratively and creatively mastered included adapting to differing:

  • Geographies, we are based in Melbourne, Australia, and our client was based in Canada, which made managing time zone schedules challenging, including some very early 4.30 am starts for us –  Making flexibility and adaptiveness crucial to our success.  
  • Technologies, balancing Zoom-based online webinars and workshops, with Google chat rooms and jamboards, completing one on one coaching sessions, and assigning, completing, and presenting group action learning assignments – Reinforcing the need for constant iteration and pivoting to ensure the delivery of outcomes, as promised.
  • Communicating, including air freighting hard copy reflection packs, scheduling, and partnering virtually, all within a remote and fractured working environment –Ensuring that clarity and consistency would lead to the successful delivery of the outcomes, as promised.

Shifting the dialogue

Demonstrating that we can all be resilient and creative when we live in times of great uncertainty and instability through investing in reskilling people and teams to become more purposeful, human, and customer-centric.

We can all break the inertia by challenging our business-as-usual thinking and shifting the dialogue towards exploring our inner challenges and navigating the outer challenges of our current environment.

If we commit to doing this with more consciousness, hope, optimism, and control, to follow a direction rather than a specific destination by:

  • Perceiving this moment in time as an “unfreezing opportunity” and an opening to shift out of inertia and complacency, to re-generate and re-invent ourselves and our teams?
  • Knowing how to connect, explore, discover, generate and catalyze creative ideas to rapidly and safely unlearn, relearn, collaborate and innovate through constraints and adversity?
  • Committing to letting go of our “old baggage” and ways of making sense of our new reality, by experimenting with smart risk-taking, and making gamification accessible in an environment that is unpredictable?

Re-generating and re-inventing in uncertain and unstable times

In fact, many of us successfully adapted to online working, learning, and coaching environments by de-escalating any feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

To bravely focus on regenerating and reinventing ourselves and our teams and using this moment in time to be curious, shift the dialogue, explore possibilities, harness collective intelligence and ask some catalytic questions:

  • What if we intentionally disrupted our current way of thinking?
  • How might we think differently to shift our perception and perceive our worlds with “fresh eyes”? What might be possible?
  • What if we shift the dialogue to engage people in innovating through constraints?
  • How might we shift the dialogue to activate and mobilize people towards taking intelligent risks through constraints?
  • How might thinking differently empower, enable and equip ourselves and our teams to navigate the current environment with more hope and optimism?
  • What if re-consider and perceive these constraints differently?
  • How might we support people to ignite their creativity?
  • How might we equip people to be creative and develop better ideas?
  • How might we resource people to force more change and innovation?
  • How might we discover new ways of creating value for people in ways that they appreciate and cherish?

Grappling with the future is paradoxical

Finally, Lynda Gratton suggests that we need to:

“Acknowledge that this is not straightforward. Right now, many leaders are stuck between two sources of tension: the tension of enlightenment, where they can begin to imagine what is possible, and the tension of denial, where they are concerned that more flexible working arrangements will negatively affect performance. They grapple with whether the change will be necessary or possible. These are legitimate tensions that are only exacerbated by the sense of exhaustion many people feel”.

If we perceive these constraints as catalysts for setting a clear focus and direction, it might force us to experiment with creative ways of acting and doing things differently.

It might also force us to make tougher decisions around our inner and outer priorities, by exploring and discovering more balanced, creative, and inventive ways of constantly iterating and pivoting whatever resources are available to get the important jobs done.

An opportunity to learn more

Find out about our learning products and tools, including The Coach for Innovators Certified Program, a collaborative, intimate, and deep personalized innovation coaching and learning program, supported by a global group of peers over 9-weeks, starting Tuesday, May 4, 2022.

Image Credit: Unsplash

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Five Lessons I Learned as an Accidental Entrepreneur

Five Lessons I Learned as an Accidental Entrepreneur

You don’t have to start a business to learn from my journey.

I like think of myself as an accidental entrepreneur. I originally set out to make innovation insights accessible for the greater good. But, nearly 15 years after publishing my first article, I sold a site that had more than 8,000 articles from around 400 contributing authors.

Along the way I learned a great deal of things, some the easy way and some the hard way. Here are the five key lessons I learned from my 15-year journey as a webpreneur:

1. Before turning a passion into a business, nail the business model

My website, Innovation Excellence, started as a passion project that shared my own thoughts about innovation. The site didn’t begin with a business model and sort of evolved as my project grew. Even after bringing in partners to transform my project, everyone had a day job and didn’t have time to develop the most viable revenue streams. I began to experiment with advertising and sponsorships, but everything was difficult and quite manual. From this inability to invest, I learned that you shouldn’t start commercializing a passion project before nailing the business model. If you can’t, leave it as a small, manageable hobby.

2. Don’t give up too much equity too soon

I eventually brought on three partners, but ended up owning less than a third of my creation. I now see that I placed too little value on all of the work that I had done to that point.

Don’t give away half the commercial potential of your passion project to the first person offering you money to grow it. You always have the option of not growing it or growing it more slowly with more control. Make these choices carefully and err on the side of only giving up small amounts of equity for investment. I brought on some great people as partners, but the painful reality is that I gave up equity to fund a redesign that we ended up throwing away for another redesign that I did myself.

3. In any partnership, make sure ownership percentages match contributions

It takes work to run a website. If someone owns a third of your business, they should be doing a third of the day-to-day work involved. Even financial investors should be getting their hands dirty. Refuse purely financial investors unless their money funds the successful launching of a profitable business model.

4. Create as many win-wins as possible

My team was able to build Innovation Excellence into a saleable asset because it was a purpose-driven business focused on creating as many win-wins as possible. Every decision was measured against the mission to make innovation insights accessible, and we were focused on creating value for our global innovation community and value for our contributing authors. We turned down advertising dollars we didn’t think would be a win for our community and our authors.

If I start a new site, it will definitely follow this paradigm of creating value for as many stakeholders as possible. Win-win relationships create value over time, while win-lose relationships destroy value until it reaches zero.

5. When it’s time to sell, make sure the buyers share your vision

I’m proud of what I built with Innovation Excellence and grateful for my partners. Sadly, Innovation Excellence has disappeared. The buyers said they shared our vision, wanted to do no harm, respected what we had built and only wanted to make it better, but they completely replaced the brand nonetheless.

The buyer had every right to do this in pursuit of leveraging the assets they purchased, but it’s still painful as a founder to not be able to point people to the thing that you built. This should be a consideration when you sell something you’ve poured your heart and soul into.

Building and selling the Innovation Excellence was a wild ride, and I definitely learned a lot along the way. But you don’t have to build a company to gain insights. You can learn so much about how investors think by watching Shark Tank or reading articles. Talk to other entrepreneurs so you can learn without going through the hard part. Always look to grow and keep innovating, so you’re prepared when entrepreneurship comes knocking.

This article originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com

Image credit: Pixabay


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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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Using Boredom to Help Students Learn

Bored Game TeacherWhat do you get when you take the technology away from a group of 10 and 11 year olds and ask them to be creative with a handful of household objects?

Well, Thomas Fraser, a teacher at Crestwood Elementary School in Edmonton, Canada, troubled by the short attention spans of today’s youngsters endeavored to find out by creating what he calls the Bored Game, which involves giving students a handful of common household objects with the only instruction being to do something interesting with them.

The reaction at first from his group of always on youngsters were perplexed looks of how can I create something without an iPad, smartphone or a computer?

Then they started to get into it, and were sad when they didn’t get to play the Bored Game.

CTV recorded an interview about the Bored Game that you can watch here:

(sorry, video is no longer available)

My favorite part of the story is that they’re finding that the performance of the children in a range of subjects is increasing as the children have this periodic time to play and engage their creative problem solving skills.

So, maybe we need less technology in the classroom if we want to teach kids how to learn?

In my opinion, we focus too much on teaching kids to repeat activities, facts, and figures, focusing and what they’re able to memorize and regurgitate and not enough on actually teaching kids creative problem solving and how to learn. We don’t need a new generation of trivia experts, we need a new generation of problem solvers that can help repair the world.

We’ve all heard the saying “If you give a man a fish he’ll eat for a day, if you teach a man to finish he’ll never go hungry.”

If you want your child to be more successful, you have to do the same thing…

“Good teachers teach kids how to do well on the test, great teachers teach kids how to learn so they do well in life.”

For more, I encourage you to check out the Edmonton Journal Article (link expired)

Image credit: Edmonton Journal


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The Challenge of Autonomous Teaching Methods

The Challenge of Autonomous Teaching Methods

An estimated 250 million children around the world cannot read, write, or demonstrate basic arithmetic skills. Many of these children are in developing countries without regular access to quality schools or teachers. While programs exist to build schools and train teachers, traditional models of education are not able to scale fast enough to meet demand. We simply cannot build enough schools or train enough teachers to meet the need. We are at a pivotal moment where an innovative approach is necessary to eliminate existing barriers to learning, enabling the seeds of innovation to be imparted to every child, regardless of geographic location or economic status.

XPRIZE Chairman and CEO, Dr. Peter H. Diamandis announced the $15M Global Learning XPRIZE today to help solve these challenges. The Global Learning XPRIZE is a five-year competition challenging teams to develop an open source solution that can be iterated upon, scaled and deployed around the world, bringing quality learning experiences to children no matter where they live. Enabling children in developing countries to teach themselves basic reading, writing and arithmetic.

At the same time, XPRIZE will launch an online crowdfunding campaign to mobilize a global street team of supporters to get involved with the Global Learning XPRIZE. Every dollar pledged will go towards optimizing the success of the prize, specifically focusing on supporting team recruitment globally and expanding field testing.

The Global Learning XPRIZE will launch with a six-month team registration period followed by 18 months of solution development. A panel of third-party expert judges will then evaluate and select the top five teams to proceed in the competition, and award each of them a $1M award. Solutions will be tested in the field with thousands of children in the developing world, over an 18-month period. The $10M top prize will ultimately be awarded to the team that develops a technology solution demonstrating the greatest levels of proficiency gains in reading, writing and arithmetic.

The learning solutions developed by this prize will enable a child to learn autonomously. And, those created by the finalists will be open-sourced for all to access, iterate and share. This technology could be deployed around the world, bringing learning experiences to children otherwise thought unreachable, who do not have access to quality education, and supplementing the learning experiences of children who do.

The impact will be exponential. Children with basic literacy skills have the potential to lift themselves out of poverty. And that’s not all. By enabling a child to learn how to learn, that child has opportunity – to live a healthy and productive life, to provide for their family and their community, as well as to contribute toward a peaceful, prosperous and abundant world.

XPRIZE believes that innovation can come from anywhere and that many of the greatest minds remain untapped.

What might the future look like with hundreds of millions of additional young minds unleashed to tackle the world’s Grand Challenges?

The Global Learning XPRIZE is funded by a group of donors, including the Dick & Betsy DeVos Foundation, the Anthony Robbins Foundation, the Econet Foundation, the Merkin Family Foundation, Scott Hassan, John Raymonds and Suzanne West.

For more information, visit http://learning.xprize.org.

COMMENTARY

I am very excited about this new effort, as I am a big believer that we should live in a world where the next Einstein could come from anywhere, but I have a few of concerns:

  • It seems to be focused on the use of technology
  • Five years is a long time (will they get a five-year-old solution?)
  • It doesn’t engage the target users in co-creation throughout the whole process (it’s outside in)
  • It seems to ignore the infrastructure in place in areas of the greatest need (where students don’t even have desks)
  • The most capable solutions may be too expensive to implement in the target areas
  • The goal should be to build an autonomous learning system that can be used for reading, writing, and arithmetic, but also extended to do much more
  • Teaching students skills autonomously is fine as long as there is social practice as part of the curriculum
  • An over-reliance on autonomous teaching will lead to less innovation not more
  • We are already seeing negative effects in first-world society from too much reliance on technology
  • If we want more innovation, we need to be teaching our kids ICE skills not just STEM, ICE being Invention, Collaboration, and Entrepreneurship – these are all social skills that don’t need technology (but can use it)

For more on my views on improving education (which doesn’t require education reform or new technology), please see my article Stop Praying for Education Reform.

For those of you who are going to enter a team, I look forward to seeing what you come up with and I hope that you’ll keep some of the above in mind!


Build a common language of innovation on your team

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Innovation Quotes of the Day – May 28, 2012


“The more successful an organization becomes the bigger it gets. The bigger it gets the more it focuses on optimizing its resources. The more it optimizes it resources the more it eliminates variation. Innovation requires variation. We have seen the enemy and he is us.”

– Jeff DeGraff


“It is in identifying which of The Nine Innovation Roles are vacant (or sub-optimally filled) that you will be able to see some of the areas where your efforts are likely to come up short, and then can take actions to improve your chances of innovation success.”

– Braden Kelley


“It is not enough to simply go through the motions. In order to build our abilities, cognitive or otherwise, we must think about what we’re doing, concentrate while we’re doing it and then review what we have done. Further, we need to seek out mentors and peers who will critique our efforts.”

– Greg Satell


What are some of your favorite innovation quotes?

Add one or more to the comments, listing the quote and who said it, and I’ll share the best of the submissions as future innovation quotes of the day!

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Innovation Quotes of the Day – May 17, 2012


“Indeed parents of some of the most innovative young people whom I interviewed for this book carefully monitor and limit ‘screen time’…the Innovation Generation, have extraordinary latent talent for – and interest in – innovation and entrepreneurship, likely more than any generation in history.”

– Tony Wagner


“The faster you get at learning from unforeseen circumstances and outcomes, the faster you can turn an invention into an innovation by landing smack on what the customer finds truly valuable (and communicating the value in a compelling way).”

– Braden Kelley


“It’s a lot easier to name the things that stifle innovation like rigid bureaucratic structures, isolation, and a high-stress work environment.”

– Senior IBM Executive


What are some of your favorite innovation quotes?

Add one or more to the comments, listing the quote and who said it, and I’ll share the best of the submissions as future innovation quotes of the day!

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Innovation QuickStart Guide

Innovation QuickStart GuideYou know how sometimes when you order a product you get this inch-thick instruction manual that you never read, but also how there is sometimes a QuickStart Guide of 5-10 simple steps to get you up and running quickly?

Well, Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire is the instruction manual that an increasing number of organizations are ordering for teams to help them with their innovation efforts. But, I’m sure companies could also use an Innovation QuickStart. So, here is one you could use (excerpted in part from my book):

10 Steps to Get Your Innovation Efforts Off to a Good Start

1. Conduct an Innovation Audit

How can you know where you are going to go with innovation if you don’t first know where you already are? For this reason I created a 50 question innovation audit and linked it to an Innovation Maturity Model from Karl T. Ulrich and Christian Terwiesch of Wharton Business School.

Innovation Maturity Model

2. Define What Innovation Means for Your Organization

Here is a simple exercise you can do next time you get together in your organization to talk about innovation. Have everyone in the group write down what their definition of innovation is, and then compare that to the official definition of innovation for the organization (if you have one) and the innovation definitions of others in the group. Defining innovation as an organization is important because it helps you determine what kinds of innovation you are focusing on as an organization, and what kinds of innovation you ARE NOT focusing on.

3. Create a Common Language of Innovation

Creating a definition of innovation is the first step in creating a common language of innovation. The importance of creating a common language of innovation is that language is one of the most important components of culture. If people in your organization don’t talk about innovation in a consistent way and see communications reinforcing the common language, how can you possibly hope to embed innovation in the culture of the organization? Ensuring consistent language in presentations, emails, etc. and having people read the same book on innovation or taking the same training courses are just some ways to help create and reinforce a common language of innovation.

4. Define Your Innovation Vision

A startup begins life as a single-minded entity focused on innovating for one set of customers with a single product or service. Often as a company grows to create a range of products and/or services, the organization can start to lose track of what it is trying to achieve, which customers it is trying to serve, and the kind of solutions that are most relevant and desired by them.

Jack Welch, CEO of GE once said, “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”

Vision is about focus and vision is about the ‘where’ and the ‘why’ not the ‘what’ or the ‘how’. A vision gives the business a sense of purpose and acts as a rudder when the way forward appears uncertain. An innovation vision is no less important, and it serves the same basic functions. An innovation vision can help to answer some of the following questions for employees:

  • Is innovation important or not?
  • Are we focusing on innovation or not?
  • What kind of innovation are we pursuing as an organization?
  • Is innovation a function of some part of the business?
  • Or, is innovation something that we are trying to place at the center of the business?
  • Are we pursuing open or closed innovation, or both?
  • Why should employees, suppliers, partners, and customers be excited to participate?

When people have questions, they tend not to move forward. For that reason it is crucial that an organization’s leadership both has a clear innovation vision, and clearly and regularly communicates it to key stakeholders. If employees, suppliers, partners, and customers aren’t sure what the innovation vision of the organization is, how can they imagine a better way forward?

Pre-Order Nine Innovation Roles Card Decks

5. Define Your Innovation Strategy

Many organizations take the time to create an organizational strategy and a mission statement, only to then neglect the creation of an innovation vision and an innovation strategy. An innovation strategy is not merely a technology roadmap from R&D or an agenda for new product development. Instead, an innovation strategy identifies who will drive a company’s profitable revenue growth and what will represent a strong competitive advantage for the firm going forward. Under this umbrella the innovation goals for the organization can be created.

An innovation strategy sets the innovation direction for an organization towards the achievement of its innovation vision. It gives members of the organization an idea of what new achievements and directions will best benefit the organization when it comes to innovation. As with organizational strategy, innovation strategy must determine WHAT the organization should focus on (and WHAT NOT to) so that tactics can be developed for HOW to get there.

Innovation Vision Strategy Goals

6. Define Your Innovation Goals

Just as managers and employees need goals to know what to focus on and to help them be successful, organizations need innovation goals too. Clear innovation goals, when combined with a clear innovation strategy and a single-minded innovation vision for the organization, will maximize the instinctual innovation that emerges from employees and the intellectual innovation that occurs on directed innovation projects.

While an innovation vision determines the kinds of innovation that an organization, and an innovation strategy determines what the organization will focus on when it comes to innovation, it is the innovation goals that break things down into tangible objectives that employees can work against. Let’s look at P&G as an example to see how these three things come together at the highest level:

Innovation Vision

  • Reach outside the company’s own R&D department for innovation

Innovation Strategy

  • Create a formal program (Connect + Develop) to focus on this vision

Innovation Goal

  • Source 50% of the company’s innovation from outside

The 50% goal gives employees and management something to measure against, and it sets a very visible benchmark that the whole organization can understand and visualize how big the commitment and participation must be in order to reach it. It is at this point of communicating the innovation goals that senior management also has to communicate how they intend to support their efforts and how they will help employees reach the innovation goals.

7. Create a Pool of Money to Fund Innovation Projects

Product managers leading product groups and general managers leading business units typically have revenue numbers they are trying to hit, and they will spend their budgets trying to hit those numbers. As a result, there are often precious little financial resources (and human resources) available for innovation projects that don’t generate immediate progress toward this quarter’s business goals. As a result, many organizations find themselves setting money aside outside of the product or business unit silos that can be allocated on the future needs of the business instead of the current needs of the product managers and general managers. This also allows the organization to build an innovation portfolio of projects with different risk profiles and time horizons. But, however you choose to fund innovation projects, the fact remains that you need to have a plan for doing so, or the promising projects that form your future innovation pipeline – will never get funded.

8. Create Human Resource Flexibility to Staff Innovation Projects

Some organizations allow employees to spend a certain percentage of their time on whatever they want, but most don’t. Some organizations allow employees to pitch to spend a certain percentage of their time on developing a promising idea, but most organizations are running so lean that they feel there is no time or money for innovation. Often this is true and so employees sometimes work on promising ideas on their own time, but they shouldn’t have to. And if you make them do so, it will be much more likely that they will develop the promising idea with others outside the company and the organization will gain nothing from these efforts.

Don’t turn your motivated intrapreneurs into entrepreneurs.

You must find a way to create resource flexibility. Organizations that want to continue to grow and thrive must staff the organization in a way that allows managers to invest a portion of their employees’ time into promising innovation projects. One model to consider is that of Intuit, which allows employees to form project teams and to accumulate percent time and then schedule time off to work on an innovation project with co-workers in the same way that they schedule a vacation. This allows the manager to plan for the employees’ absence from the day-to-day and allows the employee to focus on the innovation project during that scheduled leave from their workgroup. But that’s just one possible way to create human resource flexibility.

Pre-Order Nine Innovation Roles Card Decks

9. Focus on Value – Innovation is All About Value

Value creation is important, but you can’t succeed without equal attention being paid to both value access and value translation because innovation is all about value…

Innovation = Value Creation (x) Value Access (x) Value Translation = Success!

Now you will notice that the components are multiplicative not additive. Do one or two well and one poorly and it doesn’t necessarily add up to a positive result. Doing one poorly and two well can still doom your innovation investment to failure. Let’s look at the three equation components in brief:

Value Creation is pretty self-explanatory. Your innovation investment must create incremental or completely new value large enough to overcome the switching costs of moving to your new solution from the old solution (including the ‘Do Nothing Solution’). New value can be created by making something more efficient, more effective, possible that wasn’t possible before, or create new psychological or emotional benefits.

Value Access could also be thought of as friction reduction. How easy do you make it for customers and consumers to access the value you’ve created. How well has the product or service been designed to allow people to access the value easily? How easy is it for the solution to be created? How easy is it for people to do business with you?

Value Translation is all about helping people understand the value you’ve created and how it fits into their lives. Value translation is also about understanding where on a continuum between the need for explanation and education that your solution falls. Incremental innovations can usually just be explained to people because they anchor to something they already understand, but radical or disruptive innovations inevitably require some level of education (often far in advance of the launch). Done really well, value translation also helps to communicate how easy it will be for customers and consumers to exchange their old solution for the new solution.

The key thing to know here is that even if you do a great job at value creation, if you do a poor job at either value access or value translation, you can still fail miserably.

10. Focus on Creating a Culture of Learning Fast

There is a lot of chatter out there about the concept of ‘failing fast’ as a way of fostering innovation and reducing risk. Sometimes the concept of ‘failing fast’ is merged with ‘failing cheap’ to form the following refrain – ‘fail fast, fail cheap, fail often’.

Now don’t get me wrong, one of the most important things an organization can do is learn to accept failure as a real possibility in their innovation efforts, and even to plan for it by taking a portfolio approach that balances different risk profiles, time horizons, etc.

But when it comes to innovation, it is not as important whether you fail fast or fail slow or whether you fail at all, but how fast you learn. And make no mistake, you don’t have to fail to innovate (although there are always some obstacles along the way). With the right approach to innovation you can learn quickly from failures AND successes.

The key is to pursue your innovation efforts as a discrete set of experiments designed to learn certain things, and instrumenting each project phase in such a way that the desired learning is achieved.

The central question should always be:

“What do we hope to learn from this effort?”

When you start from this question, every project becomes a series of questions you hope to answer, and each answer moves you closer to identifying the key market insight and achieving your expected innovation. The questions you hope to answer can include technical questions, manufacturing questions, process questions, customer preference questions, questions about how to communicate the value to customers, and more. AND, the answers that push you forward can come from positive discrete outcomes OR negative discrete outcomes of the different project phases.

The ultimate goal of a ‘learning fast’ approach to innovation is to embed in your culture the ability to extract the key insights from your pursuits and the ability to quickly recognize how to modify your project plan to take advantage of unexpected learnings, and the flexibility and empowerment to make the necessary course corrections.

The faster you get at learning from unforeseen circumstances and outcomes, the faster you can turn an invention into an innovation by landing smack on what the customer finds truly valuable (and communicating the value in a compelling way). Fail to identify the key value AND a compelling way to communicate it, and you will fail to drive mass adoption.

Summary

When you start with an innovation audit and creating a common language of innovation (including a definition of innovation), it sets you up well to create a coherent innovation vision, strategy, and goals. And then if you build in the financial and human resource flexibility necessary to create a focus on value creation, access and translation – and support it with a culture that is focused on learning fast – YOU WILL have built a solid foundation for your innovation efforts to grow and mature on top of. Are there more things that go into embedding innovation into your culture and creating sustainable innovation success? Absolutely. But, if you work diligently on these ten items you will get your innovation efforts off to a strong start.

What are you waiting for?

Image Credits: Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire


Build a Common Language of Innovation

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Innovation Quotes of the Day – April 25, 2012


“Figure out how to take risks that keep you in the game even if you fail.”

– Seth Godin


“Over the last couple of decades, companies have increasingly found that employees who pursue what they do with passion will outperform an employee with a gun to their head every time.”

– Braden Kelley


“Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.”

– Albert Einstein


What are some of your favorite innovation quotes?

Add one or more to the comments, listing the quote and who said it, and I’ll share the best of the submissions as future innovation quotes of the day!

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