Bureaucracy and Politics versus Innovation

Bureaucracy and Politics versus Innovation

Innovation in military hardware is really hard.

I wanted to call this article “Corruption versus Innovation” but I sailed back from the precipice to a more forgiving title to give the government and military contractors the benefit of the doubt that the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) program – aka Little Crappy Ships – was not corporate welfare but merely a poorly executed military contract.

Back in 2004 the Bush administration decided it wanted to increase military spending.

One of the ways they decided to do this was to initiate a new shipbuilding program that benefited Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics. The initial phase of the project called for two ships of each design to be built at an estimated cost of $220 million each. The initial phase of this suspect shipbuilding program went so poorly that congress canceled the second ship each company was scheduled to build and re-opened bidding.

The government pushed for fixed price contracting, and despite agreeing to a fixed price of $432-437 million each, the first ship set sail at a price of $637 million and the second at a whopping $704 million. This for a ship that was initially envisioned to only need a crew of forty sailors (eight officers and 32 enlisted) to operate. This was later changed to a crew of 73 sailors and 20 airmen to operate helicopters, UAV’s or other special equipment.

After beginning the LCS program in 2004, it wasn’t until 2013 that the initial LCS achieved its first deployment – to Singapore. That’s nine years from initiation to product launch. Think about how much has changed in the last nine years – we’ll come back to this point later.

The continuing poor performance of both the program (never-ending cost overruns), and the ship itself, forced the US Navy to reduce its orders from 55 of the ships to 32. Despite this reduction in the number of ships, the Navy chose to still take delivery of all 120 of the helicopters designed to pair with the ships, deeming it more expensive to cancel the contract for the excess helicopters than to go ahead and take delivery.

You can probably see now why I was going to call this article “Corruption versus Innovation” as the billions of dollars siphoned from the taxpayers to the military contractors and their shareholders pile up.

What’s worse, not only have the ships proven to be THREE TIMES more expensive to acquire than advertised, but they break down all the time and cost nearly as much to operate annually as an Arleigh-Burke Destroyer AND they have still yet to deploy their mine countermeasure and anti-submarine warfare capabilities.

The situation is so bad that the Navy is abandoning the program and looking to replace its little crappy ships (LCS) with a new Frigate program – the FFG (X) to be constructed by an Italian shipbuilding firm.

So, what went wrong?

Through the eyes of both a U.S. Navy Veteran, and as an innovation professional, here are my thoughts about how the U.S. Government can require its contractors to leverage more innovation best practices in their provision of services on behalf of the American people. Here are five places to start:

1. Pick the Right Time Horizon for Your Design Challenge

One of the biggest mistakes that organizations make is not consider how long it takes to develop, launch and market a new product or service without considering how an identified customer insight might change over that timeframe. For example, if it takes you two years to launch a new product and you’re developing that product based on a customer insight identified today, there is a chance that two years from now the customer may no longer value the key elements of the solution you’re designing. So, you must make sure that you’re designing against a customer insight that will still be relevant at the end of your product development and launch timeline.

Innovating for the Future Present

For more, see my article Are You Innovating for the Past or the Future?

2. Make Sure You’re Solving a Problem Worth Solving

It is really easy to latch on to a single problem and decide to solve it. But is it the right problem to solve?

Smart organizations don’t jump to problem solving too soon, but instead start with problem finding in a divergent manner before converging via problem prioritization, then diverge again in a problem deep dive and finally converge into a problem summary and a research brief focused on a carefully chosen problem worth solving.

Preparing to Solve the Right Problem

For more, see my article Picking a Problem Worth Solving From a Sea of Problems

3. Identify Potential Fatal Flaws

No idea is perfect, and so when you can identify the potential fatal flaws or the high hurdles that have to be overcome, you can challenge them, you can solve for them, you can unleash the passion of your team on trying to find a way around them.

The fatal flaws are always there, and the wise innovator doesn’t ignore them or assume that they will overcome them at some point in the future, but instead invests energy upfront into both trying to identify the fatal flaws of their idea and into identifying whether they can isolate the solutions before moving the idea forward.

For more, see my article Innovation and Entrepreneurship Fatal Flaws

4. Create an Experimentation Strategy and a Plan for Learning Fast

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?”

The Experiment Canvas

My Experiment Canvas is a great free tool you can download from this web site to help you design and execute a series of carefully selected experiments to help you get the right learning and to help identify early on whether or not you can realistically solve for the potential fatal flaws – as early as possible – while investments are low.

For more, see my article Don’t Fail Fast – Learn Fast and download your free Experiment Canvas poster to print or to use as a background to lock down and put virtual sticky notes on top of in online whiteboarding tools like Miro, Mural, LucidSpark or Microsoft Whiteboard.

5. Design for Modularity to Reduce Obsolescence

The LCS was promised to be a modular warship capable of performing multiple missions, but the contractors have failed to deliver on this promise.

It takes a really long time to put a new ship design to sea and into service. So, if you get it wrong, like with the LCS program, it will be many more years before you can replace a faulty design with a new design.

We rarely successfully predict the future, so it is important to design in the capability to adapt solutions as they are developed to match emerging realities. Otherwise, you can end up designing a solution for a problem that goes away.

To reduce the chances of designing a new ship for a mission that may no longer be needed by the time it is put to sea, it is imperative that each ship is designed to be intentionally modular. It is imperative that each ship is designed as a platform of platforms.

The automobile industry has gotten really good at designing in this way. Different trim levels have different stereo options, for example, or a dealer can install a spoiler or a luggage rack pretty easily if a customer desires it.

Designing with modularity and upgradeability in mind to change out key components to different mission needs that may emerge over time or new technologies that may create new or enhanced capabilities, is an incredibly powerful way to extend the usefulness and lifespan of each new maritime defense hull.


The U.S. Navy is in a quandary about what to do with the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) it already has.

So much so that it has reached out to fleet commanders to inquire what missions the ships should be deployed against – according to Naval Surface Forces Vice Adm. Roy Kitchener.

The Navy should consider opening up their queries for help even wider, perhaps to the global innovation community.

But, with that said, as a U.S. Navy veteran I think the perception of the success or failure of this program would be seen much differently if they had successfully deployed the Anti-Mine Countermeasure and Anti-Submarine Warfare capabilities BEFORE the Surface Warfare capabilities.

Frigates and Destroyers are much more capable surface warfare platforms, and in hindsight the billions of dollars wasted on this program could have been much better spent for the benefit of the American people.

So, I hope that military contractors and the U.S. Government will improve their ability to deliver increased value at a decreased price as they pursue future shipbuilding programs and leverage some of the innovation best practices above.

Grabbing a copy of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire would also be a great place to start.

Go Navy!

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons (ship photo)
All other images: Braden Kelley (All Rights Reserved)

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Teaching Old Fish New Tricks

Teaching Fish New Tricks

We used to assume that the world was flat.

We used to assume that the sun orbited around the earth.

We used to assume that it was impossible to go faster than the speed of sound.

These assumptions were all challenged and proved to be wrong, fundamentally extending the boundaries of potential innovation and exploration in the decades that followed.

Challenging orthodoxies or questioning your assumptions is one of the key techniques to use with your innovation teams to uncover new insights to form the seeds of future innovation.

This isn’t always easy to do, and in workshops it can be a challenge to put people in the right frame of mind for questioning assumptions and challenging orthodoxies.

I find that having a stable of short videos can help in setting the stage for the very important innovation work.

Now, let’s have a look at one of my new favorite assumption-challenging videos…

Who says you can’t teach old fish new tricks?

Yes, I said fish, not dog – which challenges an orthodoxy in and of itself.

I was intrigued to hear recently that scientists in Israel have managed to teach goldfish how to drive a car.

Don’t believe me?

Check out the video:

Gradually, we are finding out that humans aren’t as special as we like to believe.

We’ve learned that trees can communicate via root systems, research is progressing into plant sentience and yes apparently, goldfish can be taught to drive.

Now that you’ve seen this video, you can now see that the assumption that fish can’t navigate vehicles through physical space – is incorrect.

What other assumptions do we make about goldfish and other living creatures that might be incorrect.

How might we set up experiments to test these assumptions?

What are some of your favorite short videos to put people in the right mindset to challenge orthodoxies and question assumptions?

Add them to the comments!

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Four Innovation Ecosystem Building Blocks

Four Innovation Ecosystem Building Blocks

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

It’s hard to find anyone who wouldn’t agree that Microsoft’s 2001 antitrust case was a disaster for the company. Not only did it lose the case, but it wasted time, money and—perhaps most importantly—focus on its existing businesses, which could have been far better deployed on new technologies like search and mobile.

Today, Microsoft is a much different organization. Rather than considering open source software a cancer, it now says it loves Linux. Its cloud business is growing like wildfire and it is partnering widely to develop new quantum computers. What was previously a rapacious monopolist, is now an enthusiastic collaborator.

That’s no accident. Today, we need to compete in an ecosystem-driven world in which nobody, not even a firm as big and powerful as Microsoft, can go it alone. Power no longer comes from the top of value chains, but emanates from the center of networks. That means that strategy needs to shift from dominating industries to building collaborative ecosystems.

1. Connect to Startups

In its heyday, Microsoft enthusiastically followed Michael Porter’s five forces model. It saw threats coming not only from direct competitors, but also suppliers, customers, substitute products and new market entrants. Startups, in particular, were targeted for either acquisition or destruction if they were seen as posing a potential threat.

Today, however, Microsoft actively supports startups. Take, for example, its quantum development effort, in which it is partnering with more than a dozen entrepreneurial companies. These firms also get free access to Microsoft technologies, such as its Azure cloud platform and go-to-market resources and advice, through its Microsoft for Startups program.

Another approach that many firms take is corporate VC programs which actively invest in promising new companies. Unlike a typical investor, corporations bring a wealth of market and technical expertise, can help with things like distribution, supply chain management and marketing acumen. Corporations, for their part, get far more insight into new technologies than they could as an operating company.

Scott Lenet, President of Touchdown Ventures, which operates venture funds for corporations, told me that, “Startups thrive on new ideas and big firms know how to scale and improve those ideas. We’ve seen some of our investments really blossom based on that kind of partnership.”

2. Form Ties to the Academic World

When Sun Microsystems co-founder Bill Joy said, “no matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else,” he was explicitly referring to Bill Gates’s assertion that Microsoft was an “IQ monopolist.” Joy’s position was that “It’s better to create an ecology that gets all the world’s smartest people toiling in your garden for your goals. If you rely solely on your own employees, you’ll never solve all your customers’ needs.”

Make no mistake. Innovation is never a single event. It is a process of discovery, engineering and transformation and those three things almost never happen in the same place or at the same time. That’s why the most innovative companies work hard to build links to the best minds in the academic world.

Today Microsoft has an extensive academic program that extends grants to graduate students and faculty members that are pursuing research that is of interest to the company. Google takes it even a step further, inviting dozens of the world’s top minds to work alongside its scientists and engineers for a sabbatical year.

Microsoft and Google are, of course, firms with enormous resources. However, just about any business can, for example, support the work of a young graduate student or postdoc at a local university. For even a senior researcher to collaborate with your staff is rarely prohibitively expensive. Researchers care far more about genuine support of their work than the size of your investment.

3. Leverage Domain-Specific Consortia

By the mid-1980’s, the American semiconductor industry seemed like it was doomed. Tp respond to what it saw as a national security threat, the American government created SEMATECH in 1986. It was a consortium of government agencies, research institutions and private firms focused on making the industry more competitive. By the mid 1990’s, the US was once again dominating semiconductors.

Any significantly complex technology takes years—and often decades—to develop before it becomes mature enough to engineer into a marketable product. So there is great potential in collaborating, even with competitive firms, in the pre-competitive phase to figure out the basic principles of a nascent technology.

For example, Boeing and Airbus are arch-rivals in aviation, much like DowDupont and BASF are in chemicals. Yet all of these companies, along with many others, collaborate at places like the Composites Institute (IACMI). They do this not out of any altruism, of course, but self-interest, because it is at places like the Composites Institute that they can collaborate with academic scientists, National Labs and startups working in the space.

As technology becomes more complex, domain specific consortia are becoming essential to any ecosystem strategy. The Composites Institute is just one node in the network of Manufacturing Institutes set up under the Obama Administration to support this type of collaboration. In areas ranging from advanced fabrics and biofabrication to additive manufacturing and wide-gap semiconductors, firms large and small are working with scientists to uncover new principles.

And the Manufacturing Institutes are just the start. The Internet of Things Consortium is helping bring computation to the physical world, while the Partnership on AI focuses on artificial intelligence and the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research is helping to develop advanced battery technology. All are open to the largest multinationals and the smallest startups.

4. Move From Hierarchies to Networks

Back in the 90s, when Microsoft still dominated the tech world, markets were still based on linear value chains dominated by one or two industry giants. Yet as I explain in Cascades, we are quickly moving from a world of hierarchies, to one dominated by networks and ecosystems. That changes how we need to develop and grow.

In a hierarchy-driven world, the optimal strategy was to build walls and moats to protect yourself against would-be invaders, which is why Microsoft fought tooth and nail to protect its operating system monopoly. Today, however, industry lines have blurred and technology moves too fast to be able to build effective barriers against disruption.

That’s why today “Microsoft loves Linux”, why it developed an academic program to collaborate with scientists at universities and why it often partners with startups instead of always trying to crush them. The technology being developed today is simply too complex for anyone to go it alone, which is why the only viable strategy is to actively connect to ecosystems of talent, technology and information.

Power today no longer sits at the top of hierarchies, but emanates from the center of ecosystems and you move to the center by widening and deepening connections. Closing yourself by erecting barriers will not protect you. In fact, it is an almost sure-fire way to hasten your demise.

— Article courtesy of the Digital Tonto blog
— Image credit: Pixabay

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Everyday Innovation

Everyday Innovation

GUEST POST from John Bessant

We’re all innovators, even if we never thought of calling ourselves that…

Here’s a challenge.

Close your eyes and try to visualize an entrepreneur.

There’s a good chance that what you’ve come up with will be one of the usual suspects — Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Jack Ma, perhaps some of the older versions like Steve Jobs or even Thomas Edison. Hopefully there’s a fair number of women represented, players like Oprah Winfrey, Beyonce or Ariana Huffington; after all statistics show that close to half of the entrepreneurs in the world are female.

But there’s an equally good chance that you won’t have come up with some of these characters, though they all have a strong claim to be featured in our ‘entrepreneur’s gallery’. They may not have become trillionaires but they certainly made an impact. People like Margaret Knight, back in the 19th century; a natural born inventor who was famous before she hit her teens for the wooden sledges she’d fashion for local kids. Working in a textile factory she witnessed an awful (but preventable) accident in which a worker was badly injured by a shuttle flying off a loom. It prompted her to develop a safety device to prevent this happening; she succeeded, her idea worked and it was widely adopted by other textile mills in the area. Unfortunately she was too young to hold a patent and in any case had little understanding of the legal mechanics of doing so. A hard lesson — but one which later served her well.

Margaret Knight Patent Illustration

She moved on through a series of jobs which gave her an appreciation of many different technologies and production processes and finally found herself at the Columbia Paper Company. Her job involved folding every paper bag by hand — a slow process and one with a high potential for human error. During her long working day (10 hour shifts, monotonously folding and gluing) she had ample opportunity to think about how to improve the process — and by night she’d sketch out her ideas in the boarding house where she was living. Within six months she’d managed to build a working prototype out of wood which could cut, fold and glue bags each time a crank was turned.

This time she tried to patent her idea, only to find someone had got there first, having stolen her concept. He’d seen the potential in the design and had decided to copy it and pass it off as his own. After all who would believe that a woman factory worker could produce something so clever and complex?

But Margaret Knight was tough as well as clever; she’d kept all her working drawings and was not going to surrender meekly. Although it cost her most of her savings she was vindicated; in 1871 she was granted US Patent 116842, the first woman in the country to hold a patent. It may have been an improvement innovation but its impact was radical. Her invention revolutionized the paper bag industry by replacing the work of thirty people with one machine. It provided the ‘dominant design’ around which others would innovate, and created the model for the paper shopping bags we still use today.

Or how about Betty Nesmith Graham, a single mother working as a secretary in the Dallas headquarters of the Texas Bank. Which meant spending much of her time typing (or to be more precise, correcting the mistakes she’s made by re-typing). In her frustration she wondered if there was a way to cover up the mistakes, somehow magically clean the paper and type over it once again. After all, when she was painting (her hobby when she got time for it) she’d not spend ages rubbing out or throwing away the canvas so she could start again. She’d just paint over what she’d done wrong, fix it, move on.
She began to experiment at home on the kitchen table. Took a small brush, mixed up some egg white and a little of her precious white tempera paint in the kitchen blender. Played around until the consistency felt right, then dipped her smallest water colour brush into the mixture and painted carefully over a line of typing on the polite letter informing her that her phone bill was overdue for payment. The black key strokes faded beneath the white, the page became blank again ready for someone to type a new line on it.

Back at work the next day it didn’t take her long to make another mistake, her fingers overstepping themselves as she tried to type faster. But this time she carefully wound the roller up a few notches, took a nail varnish pot filled with her concoction from her handbag and painted over the mistake. After a couple of minutes she picked up the mistaken page — and saw her mis-typed words erased, the letter ready for her to try again.

That was the birth of what became ‘Liquid Paper’; it wasn’t an easy journey from idea to successful business but by 1979 over 25 million bottles/year were being made and she employed over 200 people. At this high point she decided to sell the (by now very profitable) business to the Gillette Corporation for $47.5million.


Or Brownie Mae Wise, another single mother trying to keep her family afloat and working as a demonstrator for Stanley Home Products, selling door-to-door. They began experimenting with a new idea, hosting demonstration events in people’s houses and she took to it like a natural. Her social skills coupled with her sales gift meant that pretty soon she was the top agent with much of her success coming with a new product the company had just taken on for a client — Tupperware. She pioneered the idea of social marketing, turning the Tupperware party into a model which transformed the Tupperware business and led to her becoming a powerful role model for women of her time. In 1954 she was featured as the first woman on the cover of Business Week magazine.

With examples like these we clearly need to expand our picture of what makes an entrepreneur. We should, for example, add Dr Govindar Venkataswamy who worked all his life as a surgeon in India specializing in cataract treatment; on retirement he set himself the goal of bringing this operation within the reach of the rural poor in his native state of Tamil Nadu. To do so he needed to find a way of bringing down the cost from around $300 in a city hospital to $30, without compromising safety. He found an answer not in the world of healthcare but by adopting ideas from McDonalds, the fast-food business. The model for his Aravind eye care system worked, the average cost of the operation today is $25, it has one of the best safety records in the world and around 15million people can see who would otherwise have gone blind.

Or how about students Andrea Sreshta and Anna Stork who founded Luminaid as a response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake? They realized that there was a requirement for something beyond food, water and basic first-aid supplies — light. For vulnerable communities, access to a safe, waterproof and transportable light source, which can be powered by the sun could be valuable. Accessible lighting provides a sense of security and community; beyond this, light facilitates study into the evening, providing much-needed access to education for disadvantaged children across settings around the world. Since 2010 over 250,000 LuminAID lanterns and chargers have been distributed by major aid agency partners to those in need, 50,000 of which were sponsored directly through their Give Light, Get Light program.

People like them are also change agents, driven by the desire not for money but for impact, making the world a better place.

And what about the quiet unsung heroes who work away in organizations and who come up with new ideas and take them forward — they too qualify as change agents. People like George Laurer, working for IBM in the early 1970s. One Sunday afternoon he walked across the lawn to tell his neighbor Paul McEnroe (who also happened to be his boss) “I didn’t do what you asked.”

What McEnroe had asked for was a circular bullseye optical scanning code which could be printed on labels. This needed to be compatible with the scanners being installed in supermarkets for which IBM was developing technology. But Laurer could see the problem — printed circles in a high speed press risked blurring at the edges and misinformation. So instead he devised his own code, a pattern of vertical stripes, readable even under difficult lighting conditions.

McEnroe told him to go ahead with preparing his presentation for the next day anyway but didn’t exactly offer warm support, telling Laurer “…there’s nothing I can do about it now….you make the presentation but if it’s not accepted it’s going to be your butt not mine”

Fortunately for George — and IBM — the idea was accepted; it was the bar code strip, formally known as the Universal Product Code — UPC — which provides us with a continuing reminder of the power of such ‘quiet innovation’.

Another group we ought to add into our (now very large) community — user innovators. For many people in all walks of life frustration is often the Mother of Invention. They want a solution to a problem which is bugging them and they’re not afraid to experiment and hack their way to a solution which works. Very often they aren’t particularly interested in spreading their ideas more widely but if someone else can benefit then that’s OK. Examples include farmers improvising add-ons and fixes to their equipment or patients and their carers coming up with solutions to make living with chronic disease more comfortable.

For housewife Valerie Gordon-Hunter back in 1947 the frustration was the endless process of washing nappies for her three children and her dream of finding some kind of disposable version. She developed her own solution– the Paddi — made out of old nylon parachutes, tissue wadding and cotton wool which she sewed together at her kitchen table.

At the same time across the Atlantic Marion Donovan came up with the idea of a cover which would stop the contents of a dirty nappy from soiling surrounding clothes or bed linen. Once again the target was reducing the superhuman effort involved in constantly washing clothing; her invention was called the ‘Boater’ because of its resemblance to a boat. It involved a shower curtain as raw material sewn into a pair of pants which, with the addition of snap fasteners to replace safety pins, kept the nappy in place without soiling the surrounding clothes or bed sheets. And she hit on the idea of some kind of absorbent insert which could be disposable — experimenting with various mixes of cotton wool and once again nylon parachute material.

Disposable Diapers

Today’s market for disposable nappies is estimated at around $10bn.

Sometimes it’s a matter of inspired improvisation. On a hot July day in 1904 at the St Louis World’s fair the ice cream seller next to Ernest Hamwi’s waffle stall hit the nightmare scenario — a queue of people wanting ice cream and no dishes left to sell it in. But Ernest came to the rescue — he had the idea of rolling one of his waffles into a cone shape, and one of the great ideas in the food world was born.

Improvisation of this kind is often something which is born out of crisis; it’s useful to remember the Apollo 13 space mission which had the world holding its breath in the aftermath of the radio message “Houston, we’ve had a problem.” At 2am on April 14, 1970 the failure of a major part of the electrical system suddenly put the crew’s lives at risk. With one of its main oxygen tanks ruptured and with the clock ticking away the teams on the ground and in the module had to improvise solutions fast. They needed to secure enough breathable oxygen for three men in a capsule only designed to take two — and so built an air purifier system using plastic covers from their flight plans, plastic bags, some sticky tape and a soggy sock!

The same kind of crisis-driven improvisation led Willem Kalff to develop the world’s first kidney dialysis machine. Because he was working during wartime under Nazi occupation in the Netherlands his was something of a ‘scrapyard challenge’; he built his machine out of salvaged car and washing machine parts, orange juice cans and sausage skins.

It’s the same kind of spirit that led to ‘citizen innovators’ developing a wide range of apps to help deal with the aftermath of the 2010 Haiti earthquake; their solutions included crisis mapping, reuniting displaced families, mobilising an alternative banking system to help distribute aid and crowdsourcing design information to feed 3D printers creating urgently needed medical spare parts.

We could go on but the point is clear. Innovation– creating value from an idea — is something which all sorts of people do in many different contexts. Peter Drucker’s famous comment is helpful here; ‘innovation is what entrepreneurs do’. We’re familiar with the start-up but that’s only one of the many places in which we might find ‘entrepreneurs’ — people who make change happen.

In fact we are all potentially entrepreneurs — think about situations like these in your own life. Standing in a queue and turning over in your mind the thought that ‘there has to be a better way…’ You’re beginning the same kind of mental journey of innovation, frustration prompting you to think of alternative solutions. Or look around your home and list all the little hacks you’ve put in place to solve problems or make life easier. Innovation, once again.

We shouldn’t be surprised; after all this is something human beings have been doing for thousands of years. Our survival as a species rather depended on being able to come up with now solutions to the problem of not being eaten or having enough to eat ourselves. We’re not big or fast — but we do have half a kilogram of grey stuff inside our heads which is pretty useful at coming up with new ideas.

This isn’t just semantics. At a time when we need as much innovation as we can get (never mind trying to survive a pandemic we also have a planet whose future is in considerable doubt unless we change things pretty fast and radically) mobilizing the skills of innovation is an urgent priority. Not for nothing are efforts being made to introduce the core skills of entrepreneurial behavior to everyone from kindergarten kids through to care home residents.

And the good news is that we have learned a lot about what those skills involve; far from entrepreneurs being somehow magically different (like unicorns) we now understand the core elements in the craft. Turning ideas into value is about learning to make a journey and we have a map for that which has been drawn from over 100 years of experience of success (and failure) — a kind of supercharged ‘Trip Advisor’ or Hitchhiker’s Guide.

It still helps to have a growth mindset and plenty of ‘grit’ — being prepared to persevere in the face of obstacles and learning to manage failure as part of the process. But thinking about how to develop our skills as an ‘everyday entrepreneur’ might be a good resolution for kicking off the 2022 new year.

Image credits: Pixabay, USPTO, Unsplash

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Top 100 Innovation and Transformation Articles of 2021

Top 100 Innovation and Transformation Articles of 2021

2021 marked the re-birth of my original Blogging Innovation blog as a new blog called Human-Centered Change and Innovation.

Many of you may know that Blogging Innovation grew into the world’s most popular global innovation community before being re-branded as InnovationExcellence.com and being ultimately sold to DisruptorLeague.com.

Thanks to an outpouring of support I’ve ignited the fuse of this new multiple author blog around the topics of human-centered change, innovation, transformation and design.

I feel blessed that the global innovation and change professional communities have responded with a growing roster of contributing authors and more than 15,000 newsletter subscribers.

To celebrate we’ve pulled together the Top 100 Innovation and Transformation Articles of 2021 from our archive of over 700 articles on these topics.

We do some other rankings too.

We just published the Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2021 and as the volume of this blog grows we may bring back a monthly ranking to complement this annual one.

But enough delay, here are the 100 most popular innovation and transformation posts of 2021.

Did your favorite make the cut?

1. All Leadership is Change Leadership – by Randy Pennington

2. Next Generation Loyalty – Part One – by Braden Kelley

3. Visual Project Charter™ – 35″ x 56″ (Poster Size) and JPG for Online Whiteboarding – by Braden Kelley

4. Where Do Innovation Strategies Usually Go Wrong? – by Jesse Nieminen

5. Black Friday Shows No Loyalty – by Braden Kelley

6. The Fail Fast Fallacy – by Rachel Audige

7. Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2020 – by Braden Kelley

8. What is Human-Centered Change? – by Braden Kelley

9. 10 Clever Ways to Stop Ideation Bullies from Hogging Your Brainstorming Sessions – by Howard Tiersky

10. 50 Cognitive Biases Reference – Free Download – by Braden Kelley

11. Free Customer Experience Maturity Assessment – by Braden Kelley

12. The Human-Centered Change Methodology – by Braden Kelley

13. Innovation vs. Invention vs. Creativity – by Braden Kelley

14. America Drops Out of the Ten Most Innovative Countries – by Braden Kelley

15. The One Movie All Electric Car Designers Should Watch – by Braden Kelley

16. Nine Innovation Roles – by Braden Kelley

17. No Regret Decisions: The First Steps of Leading through Hyper-Change – by Phil Buckley

18. Free Innovation Maturity Assessment – by Braden Kelley

19. Myths About Physician Entrepreneurs – by Arlen Meyers

20. Human-Centered Change – Free Tools – by Braden Kelley

21. The Five Keys to Successful Change – by Braden Kelley

22. Discipline Has a Role in Innovation – by Jesse Nieminen

23. Advances in the Management of Worthless Meeting Syndrome – by Arlen Meyers

24. 550 Quote Posters – by Braden Kelley

25. The Jobs-to-be-Done Playbook – by Braden Kelley

26. We Need a More Biological View of Technology – by Greg Satell

27. Free Human-Centered Change Tools – by Braden Kelley

28. Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire – by Braden Kelley

29. The Pyramid of Results, Motivation and Ability – by Braden Kelley

30. Experience Thinking – The Next Evolution for Design Thinking – by Anthony Mills

Build a common language of innovation on your team

31. Scaling Innovation – The What, Why, and How – by Jesse Nieminen

32. Charting Change – by Braden Kelley

33. The Experiment Canvas™ – 35″ x 56″ (Poster Size) – by Braden Kelley

34. To Change the World You Must First Learn Something About It – by Greg Satell

35. Digital Transformation Virtual Office Hours – Session One – by Braden Kelley

36. Lead Innovation, Don’t Manage It – by Arlen Meyers

37. Are doctors wasting their time on entrepreneurship? – by Arlen Meyers

38. What is design thinking? – EPISODE FIVE – Ask the Consultant – by Braden Kelley

39. Zoom Tutorial – Amazing New PowerPoint Background Feature – by Braden Kelley

40. COVID-19 Presents an Opportunity to Create an Innovation Culture – by Pete Foley

41. Increasing Organizational Agility – by Braden Kelley

42. Innovation Requires Going Fast, Slow and Meta – by Greg Satell

43. Remote Project Management – The Visual Project Charter™ – by Braden Kelley

44. Is innovation everyone’s job? – by Braden Kelley

45. What is your level of Innovation Maturity? – by Braden Kelley

46. Flaws in the Crawl Walk Run Methodology – by Braden Kelley

47. Innovation Teams Do Not Innovate – by Janet Sernack

48. We’re Disrupting People Instead of Industries Now – by Greg Satell

49. Don’t Forget to Innovate the Customer Experience – by Braden Kelley

50. Change Management Needs to Change – by Greg Satell

Accelerate your change and transformation success

51. Everyone hates to fail, why do you? – by Janet Sernack

52. Going with the Flow – by John Bessant

53. Can You Be TOO Strategic? – by Howard Tiersky

54. Competing in a New Era of Innovation – by Greg Satell

55. Fast Company is Wrong – by Braden Kelley

56. A New Age Of Innovation and Our Next Steps – by Greg Satell

57. Avoid the Addition Bias – by Paul Sloane

58. Visualizing Project Planning Success – by Braden Kelley

59. Innovation Ecosystems and Information Rheology – by Arlen Meyers

60. Rise of the Evangelist – by Braden Kelley

61. Creating 21st Century Transformational Learning – by Janet Sernack

62. Re-Skilling and Upskilling People & Teams – by Janet Sernack

63. Creating a Movement that Drives Transformational Change – by Braden Kelley

64. How to Scale Your Culture – by Arlen Meyers

65. A Trigger Strategy for Driving Radical, Transformational Change – by Greg Satell

66. Human-Centered Innovation Toolkit – by Braden Kelley

67. You Must Play and Experiment to Create and Innovate – by Janet Sernack

68. Managing Both the Present and the Future – by Janet Sernack

69. Why Change Failure Occurs – by Greg Satell

70. Developing a Future-Fitness Focus – by Janet Sernack

71. Using Intuition to Drive Innovation Success – by Braden Kelley

72. The Academic Intrapreneur Dossier – by Arlen Meyers

73. The Rise of Employee Relationship Management (ERM) – by Braden Kelley

74. An Example of Successful Alchemy – by John Bessant

75. The Dreaded Perfect Entrepreneur – by Arlen Meyers

76. Should intrapreneurs really ask for forgiveness and not permission? – by Arlen Meyers

77. Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow – by Robert B. Tucker

78. Importance of Long-Term Innovation – by Greg Satell

79. Co-creating Future-fit Organizations – by Janet Sernack

80. What you should learn from the Google Health failure – by Arlen Meyers

Get the Change Planning Toolkit

81. Teaching to Win the 4th Industrial Revolution – by Arlen Meyers

82. Catalysing Change Through Innovation Teams – by Janet Sernack

83. Innovation and the Scientific Method – by Jesse Nieminen

84. Being Too Focused on the Test is Dangerous – by Arlen Meyers

85. Architecting the Organization for Change – by Braden Kelley

86. Healthcare Jugaad Innovation of a 17-Year-Old – by Braden Kelley

87. New Capability Mapping Tools for Business Architects – by Braden Kelley

88. How can I create continuous innovation in my organization? – EPISODE TWO – Ask the Consultant – by Braden Kelley

89. Thank You for Your Thinkers50 Nominations – by Braden Kelley

90. Preparing for Organizational Transformation in a Post-COVID World – by Greg Satell

91. Why Change is Hard – by Braden Kelley

92. Building a Better Change Communication Plan – by Braden Kelley

93. What is digital transformation? – EPISODE THREE – Ask the Consultant – by Braden Kelley

94. ACMP Standard for Change Management® Visualization – 35″ x 56″ (Poster Size) – Association of Change Management Professionals – by Braden Kelley

95. Borrow an Idea from a Different Field – by Paul Sloane

96. How to Go From Nail It to Scale It – by Arlen Meyers

97. Innovation in the time of Covid – Satisfycing Organizations – by Pete Foley

98. Sickcare Culture of Conformity versus a Culture of Creativity – by Arlen Meyers

99. Start 2021 with a Free Innovation Audit (Now in Portuguese or English) – by Braden Kelley

100. Outsmarting Those Who Want to Kill Change – by Greg Satell

Curious which article just missed the cut? Well, here it is just for fun:

101. Why so much medical technoskepticism? – by Arlen Meyers

These are the Top 100 innovation and transformation articles of 2021 based on the number of page views. If your favorite Human-Centered Change & Innovation article didn’t make the cut, then send a tweet to @innovate and maybe we’ll consider doing a People’s Choice List for 2021.

If you’re not familiar with Human-Centered Change & Innovation, we publish 1-5 new articles every week focused on human-centered change, innovation, transformation and design insights from our roster of contributing authors and ad hoc submissions from community members. Get the articles right in your Facebook feed or on Twitter or LinkedIn too!

Editor’s Note: Human-Centered Change & Innovation is open to contributions from any and all the innovation & transformation professionals out there (practitioners, professors, researchers, consultants, authors, etc.) who have a valuable insight to share with everyone for the greater good. If you’d like to contribute, contact us.

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Posted in Change, Design, Entrepreneurship, Healthcare, Innovation, Leadership, Top 10 | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Why Most Corporate Mindset Programs Are a Waste of Time

What to Focus on Instead

Why Most Corporate Mindset Programs Are a Waste of Time

GUEST POST from Alain Thys

You may know that I’m hunting for a Transformation Algorithm

Its goal is to help us move beyond the >70% failure rate of corporate transformations and create transformative experiences for employees, customers and society. Ambitious? Moi?

To get there, I’m walking around the problem.

Looking at it from all perspectives (Japan style). So without claiming expertise in any domain, I’m blending systems thinking with neuroscience, behavioral psychology, philosophy and my background in experience design. There’s even a little math (I couldn’t resist .

It’s a work in progress, but I’m getting there.

Meanwhile, here are some more thoughts as I put together the puzzle. The article starts a bit gloomy, but it ends more upbeat… I promise.

It’s all work in progress in which I’m still improving both language and content.
So don’t hold back on comments, compliments or corrections.

These days, every company wants to see a ‘mindset change’.

People need to be customer-centric. Digital. Agile. Sustainable. Innovative. More in love with the color blue. After all, the consultants, executive trainers and software vendors say this is the future. Not to mention Mark’s metaverse:

To make this happen, organizations unleash a barrage of initiatives

They do enthusiastic presentations. Introduce new KPIs and dashboards. Launch internal communication programs and training academies. Create new journey maps. Introduce AI. Get some fancy software.

Some even call me (obviously the smartest ones ).

At first, the signs are good.

After all, with enough pressure, you can get water to go uphill. Also, any decent third-party consultant or vendor will make sure that employees leave those workshops with a smile and some quick wins. Especially those that show progress in pretty graphs and numbers.

But then – one by one – the ‘old ways’ assert themselves

They raise dozens of practical, budgetary, emotional and IT concerns which are all valid and require the change program to be calibrated. After all, leaders need to be pragmatic. These thousand slight cuts erode the big transformative vision and expectations get lowered. Things might even become as they were.


What if we were aiming at the wrong target?

If you look up mindset in a dictionary, you find it is a mental attitude or inclination. The combined set of assumptions, methods and notions with which each of us approaches problems and the world at large (our perspective). Something rooted in the way we view the world and our perception of reality (our paradigm).

This means that every mindset change is in fact a change in perspective or paradigm.

Let me illustrate with a consumer electronics company that wanted to go from product- to customer-centric value propositions. Digging deep, we found that from the engineer’s perspective, the requested mindset change meant letting go of their long held belief that as the world’s best technical experts they knew how to make the best products on the planet (and had the awards and accolades to prove it).

Instead, they had to embrace that the customer knew better what great looked like and their opinion didn’t matter as much as they thought.

If you’ve worked all your life to become that smart and esteemed technical expert, this is an existential pill to swallow. Especially if the only rationale from the top is that “our Net Promoter Score should improve”.

These shifts in perspective lurk in any transformation

Being agile means seeing that we live in a chaotic world where we can never really be sure of our best next step. True sustainability means accepting that there are limits to growth, also ours. Going digital means letting go of activities we have long considered to be uniquely human (ours?). Innovation requires unlearning the orthodoxies and beliefs we may have held since childhood. And so on.

For some people, these steps may be easy. But for most, they can challenge the core of who they are (even if they may not admit this to themselves).

Ignoring this deeper reality can doom your transformation from the start.

If the new KPIs, processes, systems and incentives you introduce do not match the worldview of the people you target, they will reject them. Sometimes they rebel. Sometimes they stand in the way without realizing it themselves. Either way, your culture will eat your strategy for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

So what to do instead?


If you want mindset change, focus on the paradigm shift first.

Before you expect people to approach problems differently (mindset), work on the way they perceive these problems and their context. Clearly describe the required paradigm shift in a FROM… TO… statement and make it as compelling as possible. All while acknowledging the uncomfortable bits head on.

Then, give people opportunities to embrace this new narrative through experiential programs (remember: the old brain doesn’t do PowerPoint).

Once they see the world with fresh eyes, the mindset and changes will follow.

Or as my ultimate change guru Antoine de Saint-Exupéry used to say: “if you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

But always remember that your perception as a leader is flawed too.

When you say: ‘I want a mindset change’, you are actually saying: ‘I want you to see the world as I do’.

This is often a big ask, as chances are you live in a world that is more affluent, more educated and more informed (I won’t mention diversity … oops, I did). You probably have a different education, live in a different social media bubble and even shop in different stores. You may even have the freedom to make your own decisions.

Seeing life your way, may not be as easy for someone who has grown up, works and lives in a different context (no value judgment here, just observation).

Inversely, unless you’ve done their jobs and lived their lives, you will have difficulties to imagine the world through the eyes of your people. No matter how you try.

So before you talk about mindset change.

Understand and start from your people’s perspective and then expand it in the direction you propose. And if the gap between the two is too big, consider adapting your strategy.

Perhaps your world view and sense of possibility need an update too.

Image Credits: Pixabay

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Why Change Must Be Built on Common Ground

Why Change Must Be Built on Common Ground

GUEST POST from Greg Satell

When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997, one of the first things he did was develop a marketing campaign to rebrand the ailing enterprise. Leveraging IBM’s long running “Think” campaign, Apple urged its customers to “Think Different.” The TV spots began, “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes…”

Yet Jobs actual product strategy did exactly the opposite. While other technology companies jammed as many features into their products as they could to impress the techies and the digerati, Jobs focused on making his products so ridiculously easy to use that they were accessible to everyone. Apple became the brand people would buy for their mothers.

The truth is that while people like the idea of being different, real change is always built on common ground. Differentiation builds devotion among adherents, but to bring new people in, you need to make an idea accessible and that means focusing on values that you share with outsiders, rather than those that stir the passions of insiders. That’s how you win.

Overcoming the Desire to Be Different

Apple’s ad campaign was effective because we are tribal in nature. Setting your idea apart is a great way to unlock tribal fervor among devotees, but it also sends a strong signal to others that they don’t belong. For example, for decades LGBTQ activists celebrated their difference with “Gay Pride,” which made gay people feel better, but didn’t resonate with others.

It’s not much different in the corporate world. Those who want to promote Agile development love to tout the Agile Manifesto and its customer focused ethos. It’s what they love about the Agile methodology. Yet for those outside the Agile community, it can seem more than a bit weird. They don’t want to join a cult, they just want to get their job done.

So, the first step to driving change forward is to make the shift from differentiating values, which make ardent fans passionate about an idea, to shared values, which invite people in. That doesn’t mean you’re abandoning your core values any more than making products accessible meant that Apple had to skimp on capability. But it does create an entry point.

This is a surprisingly hard shift to make, but you won’t be able to move forward until you do.

Identifying and Leveraging Your Opposition

Make no mistake. Change fails because people want it to fail. Any change that is important, that has the potential for real impact, will inspire fierce resistance. Some people will simply hate the idea and will try to undermine your efforts in ways that are dishonest, deceptive and underhanded. That is the chief design constraint of any significant change effort.

So, you’re going to want to identify your most active opposition because you want to know where the attacks are going to be coming from. However, you don’t want to directly engage with these people because it is unlikely to be an honest conversation. Most likely, it will devolve into something that just bogs you down and drains you emotionally.

However, you can listen. People who hate your idea are, in large part, trying to persuade many of the same people you are. Listening to which arguments they find effective can help unlock shared values and that’s what holds the key to truly transformational change. But most importantly, they can help you define shared values.

So, while your main focus should be on empowering those who are excited about change, you should pay attention to your most vocal opposition. In fact, with some effort, you can learn to love your haters. They can point out early flaws. Also, as you begin to gain traction they will often lash out and overreach, undermine themselves and and end up sending people your way.

Defining Shared Values

Your most active opposition, the people who hate your idea and want to undermine it, have essentially the same task that you do. They want to move people who are passive or neutral to support their position and will design their communication efforts to achieve that objective. If you listen carefully though, you can make their efforts work for you.

For example, when faced with President Woodrow Wilson’s opposition to voting rights for women, Alice Paul’s band of Silent Sentinels picketed the White House with phrases lifted from President Wilson’s own book. How could he object, without appearing to be a tremendous hypocrite, to signs that read, “LIBERTY IS A FUNDAMENTAL DEMAND OF THE HUMAN SPIRIT?

In a similar vein, those who opposed LGBTQ rights often did so on the basis of family values and it was, for decades, a very effective strategy. That is, until LGBTQ activists used it against them. After all, shouldn’t those of different sexual orientations be able to live in committed relationships and raise happy and health families? If you believe in the importance of families, how could you not support same sex marriages?

The strategy works just as well in a corporate environment. In our Transformation & Change workshops, we ask executives what those who oppose their idea say about it. From there, we can usually identify the underlying shared value and then leverage it to make our case. Once you identify common ground, it’s much easier to move forward.

Surviving Victory

Steve Jobs, along with his co-founder Steve Wozniak, started Apple to make computers. But if that’s all Apple ever did, it would never have become the world’s most valuable company. What made Jobs the iconic figure he became had nothing to do with any one product, but because he came to represent something more: the fusion of technology and design.

In his autobiography of Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson noted that he revolutionized six industries, ranging from music to animated movies, far afield from the computer industry. He was able to do that because he continued to focus on the core values of using technology and design to make products more accessible to ordinary people.

In other words, in every venture he undertook he looked for common ground by asking himself, “how can we make this as easy as possible for those who are not comfortable with technology.” He didn’t merely cater to the differences of his hard core enthusiasts, but constantly looked to bring everybody else in.

Many companies have had hit products, but very few have had the continued success of Apple. In fact, success often breeds failure because it attracts new networks of competitors. Put another way, many entrepreneurs fail to survive victory because they focus on a particular product rather than the shared values that product was based on.

Jobs was different. He was passionate about his products, but his true calling was tapping into basic human desires. In other words, he understood that truly revolutionary change is always built on common ground.

— Article courtesy of the Digital Tonto blog
— Image credit: Unsplash

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Why So Much Innoflation?

Why So Much Innoflation?

GUEST POST from Arlen Meyers

Inflation is all over the news and at your kitchen table. In case you cut all those economics classes, inflation happens when too much money chases too few goods. It’s happening now because of COVID variations in consumer demand, government stimulus, some fed actions and supply chain glitches. Who knew? The Goldilocks economy describes when prices are not too high, but not too low. Instead, they are just right to stimulate the growth of the economy and the standard of living.

In the midst of all this, we have been seeing a simultaneous rise in sickcare innoflation (i.e. too many overfunded startups and companies creating too few valuable products and services that don’t scale). What’s the answer?

  1. Rethink hospital-based care innovation centers
  2. Create more scalerators and euthanators instead of accelerators
  3. Involve healthcare professionals with the appropriate knowledge, skills, abilities and competencies with an entrepreneurial mindset early in the startup and product development lifecycle.
  4. Change the rules and regulations
  5. Build better ecosystems
  6. Change medical education and training
  7. Fix how we disseminate and implement sickcare solutions and make them equitably accessible.
  8. Close innovation silos
  9. Teach physician entrepreneurs how to play nice with others
  10. Change how we recruit, develop and promote sick care system of system leaders

Building back better will just get us to where we used to be. Instead, we need to create the future better to get us where we want to go. Not too much. Not too little. Just right.

Image credit: Pixabay

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Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2021

Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2021After a week of torrid voting and much passionate support, along with a lot of gut-wrenching consideration and jostling during the judging round, I am proud to announce your Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2021:

  1. Janet Sernack
    Janet SernackJanet Sernack is the Founder and CEO of ImagineNation™ which provides innovation consulting services to help organizations adapt, innovate and grow through disruption by challenging businesses to be, think and act differently to co-create a world where people matter & innovation is the norm.

  2. Greg Satell
    Greg SatellGreg Satell is a popular speaker and consultant. His first book, Mapping Innovation: A Playbook for Navigating a Disruptive Age, was selected as one of the best business books in 2017. Follow his blog at Digital Tonto or on Twitter @Digital Tonto.

  3. Braden Kelley
    Braden KelleyBraden Kelley is a Human-Centered Experience, Innovation and Transformation consultant at HCL Technologies, a popular innovation speaker, workshop leader, and creator of the Human-Centered Change™ methodology. He is the author of Stoking Your Innovation Bonfire from John Wiley & Sons and Charting Change from Palgrave Macmillan. Follow him on Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

  4. Jesse Nieminen
    Jesse NieminenJesse Nieminen is the Co-founder and Chairman at Viima, the best way to collect and develop ideas. Viima’s innovation management software is already loved by thousands of organizations all the way to the Global Fortune 500. He’s passionate about helping leaders drive innovation in their organizations and frequently writes on the topic, usually in Viima’s blog.

  5. Robert B Tucker
    Robert TuckerRobert B. Tucker is the President of The Innovation Resource Consulting Group. He is a speaker, seminar leader and an expert in the management of innovation and assisting companies in accelerating ideas to market.

  6. Rachel Audige
    Rachel AudigeRachel Audige is an Innovation Architect who helps organisations embed inventive thinking as well as a certified Systematic Inventive Thinking Facilitator, based in Melbourne.

  7. Howard Tiersky
    Howard TierskyHoward Tiersky is an inspiring and passionate speaker, the Founder and CEO of FROM, The Digital Transformation Agency, innovation consultant, serial entrepreneur, and the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Winning Digital Customers: The Antidote to Irrelevance. IDG named him one of the “10 Digital Transformation Influencers to Follow Today”, and Enterprise Management 360 named Howard “One of the Top 10 Digital Transformation Influencers That Will Change Your World.”

  8. Paul Sloane
    Paul SloanePaul Sloane writes, speaks and leads workshops on creativity, innovation and leadership. He is the author of The Innovative Leader and editor of A Guide to Open Innovation and Crowdsourcing, both published by Kogan-Page.

  9. Pete Foley
    A twenty-five year Procter & Gamble veteran, Pete has spent the last 8+ years applying insights from psychology and behavioral science to innovation, product design, and brand communication. He spent 17 years as a serial innovator, creating novel products, perfume delivery systems, cleaning technologies, devices and many other consumer-centric innovations, resulting in well over 100 granted or published patents. Find him at pete.mindmatters@gmail.com

  10. Nicolas Bry
    Nicolas BryNicolas is an International Innovation Executive, expert in corporate innovation programs, and innovation labs, designing place where good innovation thrives! He currently helps the 20 innovation managers of Orange Africa to develop their projects locally. In 2019 he wrote The Intrapreneurs’ Factory, a practical guide to leverage intrapreneurship for your company, and is the writer of the innovation blog RapidInnovation.fr.

  11. Build a common language of innovation on your team

  12. Arlen Meyers
    Arlen MyersArlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at www.sopenet.org

  13. Linda Naiman
    Linda NaimanLinda Naiman helps executives and their teams develop creativity, innovation, and leadership capabilities, through coaching, training and consulting. She brings a multi-disciplinary approach to learning and development by leveraging arts-based practices to foster creativity at work, and design thinking as a strategy for innovation.

  14. Anthony Mills
    Anthony MillsAnthony Mills is the Founder & CEO of Legacy Innovation Group (www.legacyinnova.com), a world-leading strategic innovation consulting firm working with organizations all over the world. Anthony is also the Executive Director of GInI – Global Innovation Institute (www.gini.org), the world’s foremost certification, accreditation, and membership organization in the field of innovation. Anthony has advised leaders from around the world on how to successfully drive long-term growth and resilience through new innovation. Learn more at www.anthonymills.com. Anthony can be reached directly at anthony@anthonymills.com.

  15. John Bessant
    John BessantJohn Bessant has been active in research, teaching, and consulting in technology and innovation management for over 25 years. Today, he is Chair in Innovation and Entrepreneurship, and Research Director, at Exeter University. In 2003, he was awarded a Fellowship with the Advanced Institute for Management Research and was also elected a Fellow of the British Academy of Management. He has acted as advisor to various national governments and international bodies including the United Nations, The World Bank, and the OECD. John has authored many books including Managing innovation and High Involvement Innovation (Wiley). Follow @johnbessant

  16. Mike Shipulski
    Mike ShipulskiMike Shipulski brings together people, culture, and tools to change engineering behavior. He writes daily on Twitter as @MikeShipulski and weekly on his blog Shipulski On Design.

  17. Scott Anthony
    Scott AnthonyScott Anthony is a strategic advisor, writer and speaker on topics of growth and innovation. He has been based in Singapore since 2010, and currently serves at the Managing Director of Innosight’s Asia-Pacific operations.

  18. Jeffrey Phillips
    Jeffrey Phillips has over 15 years of experience leading innovation in Fortune 500 companies, federal government agencies and non-profits. He is experienced in innovation strategy, defining and implementing front end processes, tools and teams and leading innovation projects. He is the author of Relentless Innovation and OutManeuver. Jeffrey writes the popular Innovate on Purpose blog. Follow him @ovoinnovation

  19. Phil McKinney
    Phil McKinneyPhil McKinney is the Author of “Beyond The Obvious”​, Host of the Killer Innovations Podcast and Syndicated Radio Show, a Keynote Speaker, President & CEO CableLabs and an Innovation Mentor and Coach.

  20. Gijs van Wulfen
    Gijs van WulfenGijs van Wulfen helps organizations to structure the chaotic start of innovation as author, speaker and facilitator. He is the founder of the FORTH innovation method and author of the innovation bestseller The Innovation Expedition. He was chosen by LinkedIn as one of their first 150 Influencers. Follow Gijs @gijsvanwulfen

  21. Kate Hammer
    Kate HammerKate Hammer is a joint founder of KILN, working with large-scale companies in the USA and Australia to transform their internal innovation processes. Kate works as a business storyteller. In 2012, she created StoryFORMs to help others articulate their commercial & organisational stories. Kate offers workshops & 1:1 coaching.

  22. Accelerate your change and transformation success

  23. Phil Buckley
    Phil BuckleyPhil Buckley is an award-winning author and change management strategist with over 32 large-scale change initiatives, including co-leading global change management for the $19.6 billion Kraft Foods acquisition of Cadbury. He is the author of two books: Change on the Run and Change with Confidence. You can find Phil’s podcast and monthly newsletter at www.changewithconfidence.com.

  24. Tamara Ghandour
    Tamara GhandourTamara Ghandour of GoToLaunchStreet is a TED speaker and entrepreneur. From building and running multimillion dollar businesses, advising Fortune 500 like Disney, Procter and Gamble and RICOH on fostering innovative ideas and people. Tamara’s life is about breaking through the status quo for game-changing results, and that’s what her keynotes, online programs and assessments can do for you.

  25. Tom Koulopoulos
    Thomas KoulopoulosTom Koulopoulos is the author of 10 books and founder of the Delphi Group, a 25-year-old Boston-based think tank and a past Inc. 500 company that focuses on innovation and the future of business. He tweets from @tkspeaks.

  26. Michael Graber
    Michael GraberMichael Graber is the cofounder and managing partner at Southern Growth Studio, a Memphis-based firm that specializes in growth strategy and innovation. A published poet and musician, Graber is the creative force that complements the analytical side of the house. He speaks and publishes frequently on best practices in design thinking, business strategy, and innovation and earned an MFA from the University of Memphis.

  27. Yoram Solomon
    Four Rules to Snap Judge a New VentureDr. Yoram Solomon is the author of The Book of Trust and 12 more books, a TEDx and keynote speaker, the founder of the Innovation Culture Institute, and an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship. You can follow him everywhere on @yoramsolomon.

  28. Shilpi Kumar
    Shilpi KumarShilpi Kumar an inquisitive researcher, designer, strategist and an educator with over 15 years of experience, who truly believes that we can design a better world by understanding human behavior. I work with organizations to identify strategic opportunities and offer user-centric solutions.

  29. Shawn Nason
    Shawn NasonShawn Nason, founder and CEO of MOFI, lives his life with a commitment to make everyone he meets a part of his family. Armed with the gift of discernment, he has the uncanny ability to walk alongside people as they struggle to connect with their deepest passions and engage their most debilitating demons. He challenges the world around him to be fully present, get real, and knock down the barrier that separates the various compartments in their lives.

  30. John Carter
    John CarterJohn Carter has been a widely respected adviser to technology firms over his career. John is the author of Innovate Products Faster: Graphical Tools for Accelerating Product Development. As Founder and Principal of TCGen Inc., he has advised some of the most revered technology firms in the world.

  31. Jeff Rubingh
    Jeff RubinghJeff Rubingh is a technology innovation expert, consultant and analyst. Focused on the intersection between technology and business, Jeff helps clients identify ground-breaking solutions that maximize ROI across existing and emerging technology disciplines.

  32. Ludwig Melik
    Ludwig MelikLudwig Melik is CEO of Planbox, whose mission is to help organizations thrive by transforming the culture of agile work, continuous innovation, and creativity across the entire organization… Connect with him on LinkedIn or join the conversation by following Planbox on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

    Get the Change Planning Toolkit

  33. Soren Kaplan
    Soren KaplanSoren Kaplan is the bestselling and award-winning author of Leapfrogging and The Invisible Advantage, an affiliated professor at USC’s Center for Effective Organizations, a former corporate executive, and a co-founder of UpBOARD. He has been recognized by the Thinkers50 as one of the world’s top keynote speakers and thought leaders in business strategy and innovation.

  34. Shelly Greenway
    Shelly GreenwayShelly Greenway is a front-end innovation strategist and partner at The Strategy Distillery – a brand innovation consultancy that specialises in opportunity hunting and proposition development. Their success rates are driven by their proprietary consumer co-creation IP. Follow @ChiefDistiller

  35. Eric Eskey
    Eric EskeyEric Eskey is a Managing Director at Strategyn, an innovation consultancy. Eric is in the business of creating the future. I aim to use the resources he has – his work, investments, voice, and imagination – to encourage innovation and defeat the hidden forces that resist it.

  36. Mick Simonelli
    Mick SimonelliMick Simonelli is an innovator with 20+ years of implementing change and positive disruption at USAA. As a military veteran, he held transformation roles in numerous military organizations; and as a business executive, he purposely hired vets to help launch numerous innovations as the Chief Innovation Officer for a Fortune 500 company. Mick currently serves as an innovation consultant and can be found at www.micksimonelli.com Follow @MickSimonelli

  37. Mitch Ditkoff
    Mitch Ditkoff is the Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions and the author of “Awake at the Wheel”, as well as the very popular Heart of Innovation blog.

  38. Peter Cook
    Peter CookPeter Cook leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock, providing Keynotes, Organisational Development and Coaching. He is the author of seven books on business leadership. His three passions are science, business and music, having led innovation teams for 18 years to develop life-saving drugs including the first treatments for AIDS and the development of Human Insulin. Peter is Music and Business editor at Innovation Excellence. You can follow him on twitter @Academyofrock.

  39. Mukesh Gupta
    Mukesh GuptaMukesh Gupta is Director of Customer Advocacy, SAP India Private Limited. He also served as Executive Liaison for the SAP User group in India, and as a Global Lead in Sales & Business Development. He blogs, and shares podcasts and videos, on his site rmukeshgupta.com

  40. Paul Hobcraft
    Paul HobcraftPaul Hobcraft runs Agility Innovation, an advisory business that stimulates sound innovation practice, researches topics that relate to innovation for the future, as well as aligning innovation to organizations core capabilities. Follow @paul4innovating

  41. Ralph Christian Ohr
    Ralph OhrDr. Ralph-Christian Ohr has extensive experience in product/innovation management for international technology-based companies. His particular interest is targeted at the intersection of organizational and human innovation capabilities. You can follow him on Twitter @Ralph_Ohr.

  42. Randy Pennington
    Randy PenningtonRandy Pennington is an award-winning author, speaker, and leading authority for helping leaders deliver positive results in a world of uncertainty and change. To learn more or to engage Randy for your organization, visit www.penningtongroup.com, email info@penningtongroup.com, or call 972-980-9857 (U.S.).

If your favorite didn’t make the list, then next year try to rally more votes for them or convince them to increase the quality and quantity of their contributions.

Our lists from the ten previous years have been tremendously popular, including:

Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2015
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2016
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2017
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2018
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2019
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2020

Download PDF versions of the Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2020 and 2021 lists here:

Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2020 PDF . . . Top 40 Innovation Bloggers of 2021

Happy New Year everyone!

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Developing 21st-Century Leader and Team Superpowers

Developing 21st-Century Leader and Team Superpowers

GUEST POST from Janet Sernack

According to McKinsey & Co, in a recent article The new roles of leaders in 21st-century organizations they say that the focus of leaders, in traditional organisations, is to maximize value for shareholders. To do this effectively, they say that traditional leaders typically play four different roles – the planner (developing strategy and translating it into a plan); the director (assigning responsibility); and the controller (making sure everyone does what they should minimize variance against the plan). Whilst these represent the core and foundational business management and leadership roles essential to successful organisational performance, the world has changed significantly, and traditional organisations are being severely disrupted. Requiring the development of new, adaptive, and supplementary, and new leadership and team roles, which embrace the set of 21st-century superpowers for leaders and teams – strategically supported by digital technologies, and an ecosystem focus to thrive in the face of exponential change and a VUCA world.

Maximizing the dormant space

This creates a space of unparalleled opportunity towards reshaping the world anew by activating what might be considered the dormant space, between traditional leadership roles and the possibility of a set of 21st-century superpowers for leaders and teams.

To be embraced, enacted, and embodied by conscious leaders and collaborative teams in more purposeful, meaningful, and innovative ways that serve people, customers, and the common good.

The new roles of leaders and teams in the 21st century

The leadership paradigm has shifted, in the past 20 years, to focus more on “co-creating meaningful value with and for all stakeholders, expanding beyond shareholders to include customers, employees, partners, and our broader society”.

Taking the stance that in an open system, everyone must win through co-creation, collaboration, experimentation, and innovation that results in delivering great customer experiences.  To retain and sustain current customers, and to attract and attain new ones in an increasingly competitive global marketplace!

Making the key “leadership challenge of our times” as one which cultivates transformative eco-system-led learning and change, nurturing connections, exploration, discovery, creativity, collaboration, experimentation, and innovation at all levels of the system.

Requiring the traditional organisational leadership roles, to shift towards bravely and boldly “stepping into the uncharted territories of future possibility” and weaving these possibilities into the way people work and commune together.

To co-create new “holding spaces” for igniting, harnessing, and activating people’s collective intelligence to embrace and execute change and deliver the desired commercial outcomes their organisation wants.

Openings for unparalleled opportunities

It seems that we not only survived through the emotional and mental anxiety and overwhelm of living in “a world of disruption, drama, and despair” we also saw the range of disruptive events as a “crack” or opening in our operating systems, for unparalleled opportunities.

By intentionally embracing the “key changes that currently reshape all our innovative learning systems” including the action confidence (courage and capacity to step into something new and bring it into being, creating reality as we step into it) to:

  • Deepen the learning cycle (from head-centric to the whole person: heart, head, and gut-centric).
  • Broaden our perspectives and actions (from an individual focus to an eco-system focus).

A moment in time – taking a deep breath

One of the many challenges our collective at ImagineNation™ faced during the Covid-19 pandemic-induced lockdowns (we had six long ones here in Melbourne, Australia over 18 months) was the opportunity to slow down, hit our pause buttons, retreat and reflect and take some very deep and slow breaths.

To make time and space to rethink, respond, regroup, experiment, and play with a range of wondrous, imaginative, and playful ideas, to unlearn, learn and relearn new ways of being, thinking, and acting to sense and actualize a future that is wanting to emerge – even though, then and right now, it was and still is unclear how.

Acknowledging that whilst many of us, and the majority of our clients were experiencing the range of significant emotional reactions, mental stalling, and the anxiety and overwhelm of living in “a world of disruption, drama, and despair” as well as sensing and perceiving the world that is emerging as one of unparalleled opportunity”.

Stepping up and into new spaces of possibility and learning

Individually and collectively, we focussed on a range of rethinking, responding, and regrouping strategies including adopting new 21st-century leadership roles.

Initially by taking responsibility for sustaining our own, our partners, and our families, emotional energy, mental toughness, engagement, and overall wellness.

Then consciously enact and embody the new set of emerging 21st-century leadership roles as visionaries, architects, coaches, and catalysts:

  • Being visionaries: by co-creating a collaborative and global collective of aligned ecosystem partners with clear accountabilities within a virtual, profit share business model.
  • Being architects: by iterating, pivoting and sharing our IP and learning programs to close peoples’ “knowing-doing gaps” to help them unlearn, learn, relearn, reshape and develop their 21st-century superpowers for leaders and teams.
  • Being coaches: by exploring working with the range of innovative new coaching platforms, including BetterUp and CoachHub to better democratize, scale, and share our strengths, knowledge, and skills to help a significant number of people deal more effectively with the impact of virtual hybrid workplaces.
  • Being catalysts: by focussing on partnering with clients to break down their self-induced protective and defensive “silos” to support them to become aware, acknowledge, accept, and resolve their feelings of loneliness, isolation, and disconnection, and overall anxiety.

21st-century superpowers for leaders and teams

It seems that these are just some of the 21st-century superpowers for leaders and teams which act as the foundations necessary to survive and thrive through the emerging decade of both disruption and transformation.

Summing these up into more concrete actions for leaders and teams include cultivating and sustaining these five superpowers:

  1. Transformational Literacy: The ability to increase our capacity to collaborate and co-create across institutional and sector boundaries through “shifting consciousness from ego-system awareness to eco-system awareness.” to pioneer solutions that bridge the ecological, the social, and the spiritual divides existing in the 21st
  2. Nimbleness and Agility: The ability to shift and re-think and re-learn in changing contexts, to quickly experiment, iterate and pivot to adapt and move forwards collaboratively through mindset flips to emerge creative ideas and innovative solutions that are appreciated, valued, and cherished.
  3. Scalability: The ability to rapidly build desired and most relevant internal capabilities, to shift capacity and service levels through increasing creativity, invention, and innovation in ways that meet changing customer expectations, and satisfy their demands and future requirements.
  4. Stability: The ability to maintain “action confidence” and operational excellence under pressure that frees people from the constraints of “getting it right” and allows them to continuously unlearn, learn, relearn and change through “failing fast” or forward, without being blamed or shamed.
  5. Optionality: The ability to “get out of the box” to build and develop value chains, stakeholder engagements, or an ecosystem focus to acquire new capabilities through external collaboration.

Walking the path forward

According to Otto Scharmer, in a recent article “Action Confidence: Laying Down the Path in Walking” the leadership qualities we also need to nurture in order to lean into the current moment and to source the courage to act are: Humility. Vulnerability. Surrender. Trust.

It might be time to hit your own pause button, retreat and reflect, inhale a deep breath in this precious moment in time to develop your path forwards and develop an ecosystem focus and an ecosystem focus and a human-centric, future-fit focus.

To embrace, enact and embody a set of 21st-century superpowers for leaders and teams and reshape your innovative learning systems by developing the action confidence to adopt an ecosystem, whole person, and a whole perspective that contributes to the good of the whole.

Join our next free “Making Innovation a Habit” masterclass to re-engage 2022!

Our 90-minute masterclass and creative conversation will help you develop your post-Covid-19 re-engagement strategy.  It’s on Thursday, 10th February at 6.30 pm Sydney and Melbourne, 8.30 pm Auckland, 3.30 pm Singapore, 11.30 am Abu Dhabi and 8.30 am Berlin. Find out more.

Image credit: Unsplash

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