Entrepreneurial

    Big Imagination is Blind Spot Remover

    photo-14Coming back from a trip to Toronto (visiting with the amazing Min Basadur) I spotted an interesting billboard at O’Hare airport. IBM suggests they can help “Remove the Blind Spots from Your Business” — by using Big Data and analytics. The visual of a man at a kind of virtual desktop that has visibility to ships, trucks, retail, and factories indicates that if you can just know more about what’s going on out there you’ll have nothing to worry about.

    If only that were so.

    I’m not bad rapping IBM here, I’m sure they can indeed provide lots of interesting insight using Big Data and analytics. Many companies would be well served to do a better job with this. Using Big Data (and would someone please define that?) might indeed help you find a blind spot.

    However, there are blind spots no amount of data crunching is going to find for you.

    The thing that’s going to bite a company in the ass, their true blind spot, are the things that Big Data and analytics can’t tell them smack about. What happens outside the garden wall of the companies industry domain and sphere of influence is trends. Trends that are subtly building in the lives of consumers and in the marketplace. These are the weak signals that hold the promise of new opportunity or sure disaster.

    Unless Big Data is doing cultural analysis on a global basis it can’t tell you how, say, the democratization of the market will impact your sales in 2020. Big Data can’t tell you there is a good chance there will be a blight in banana production. It can’t tell you how a collapsing mono-culture in bananas could lead to a dramatic change in many products cost basis, or a shift towards dairy products for breakfast. It wouldn’t have told Levi-Strauss in the early 90′s that prison culture would profoundly impact their bottom line for many years. It wouldn’t have told Sony, who owned mobile music for 30 years, that device superiority wasn’t enough to continue to win.

    The very front end of innovation, that messy fuzzy, uncomfortable place is less about analytics and more about Finding New Problems you can transform into opportunities. If you want to make sure you see blind spots before they blind you, you need to regularly be scanning the landscape over your garden wall for things seemingly unrelated to your business in any way. Then ask yourself to Imagine connections. And you can’t do this once a year. You need to do it regularly and with rigour.

    Call it Big Imagination.

    Best if you couple this mini-process with a structured creative problem solving process like Min Basadur’s Simplexity, or design thinking. Feed that Stage-Gate process with something more interesting than luke-warm insights from expensive qualitative research.

    If you don’t have that skill, don’t call IBM, call KILN, they can show you how to keep an eye on the horizon — and not only spot trend data — but actually use it to form Brave New Questions. Is there anything more fascinating but ultimately useless than a massive trend-deck? Making meaning of trends ought to be a whole-brained group exercise. If it isn’t, it’s not likely you’ll arrive at anything but the most obvious insights.

    Without Brave New Questions, you won’t have bold new answers, ideas, products or spin-out ventures. Better buy, or build, a better blind spot remover — Big Imagination.

    Comments

    Training is an Innovation Accelerant

    Creativity and innovation training is a highly effective accelerant for business results. When I step into a room to facilitate an innovation, strategy, or idea generation session I nearly always find a great deal of energy. What I also often find is inexperience — in the kind of thinking necessary to innovate. Successful managers and leaders are promoted up the ladder because of their great analytical thinking skills. Day to day, operationally, that’s what’s called for and that’s what’s rewarded. The bad news is the more imaginative and divergent thinking required at the front end of innovation is rarely used and almost never rewarded. That’s why those sessions often start with a great deal of pizazz but fade into lethargy

    Read More..
    Comments

    Support RAMI

    We Can’t Get Serious About Manufacturing Soon Enough. I support RAMI. I read with interest a post on the congressional blog The Hill. In a rare example of cross party cooperation it would appear that the Senate is taking action on supporting growth in our manufacturing sector. Do read the piece but in essence the idea is to set up a national network for manufacturing innovation. This would build on the pilot center/hubs for innovation already set up by the Obama administration. Kudos to Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Roy Blunt (R-Missouri). I like your style gentlemen — first for working in a true bipartisan manner, and secondly for doing it on something so important. The bill is called Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act (RAMI). Congressman Tom Reed (R-New York) and

    Read More..
    Comments

    Eleven Weird Ways to Create Innovation Culture

    Eleven Weird Ways to Create Innovation Culture Lately I’ve been seeing the glass half empty when it comes to innovation topics. I want everyone to know that, wow, can I ever be positive. In fact, highly creative and insightful, when it comes to inspiring innovation. Are you an empowered leader who wants to make something innovative happen? Try these Eleven Weird Ways — they work to improve the innovation culture. Surprise and delight the team. There’s nothing like a good surprise to inject new energy into a group. It can be really simple stuff. I once gave everyone on the staff a pair of Ray Bans. Smiles everywhere the rest of the day, and they wore those shades for years. Have

    Read More..
    Comments

    Minimum Wage Boost in Silicon Valley Ups the Cinderella Factor

    Let’s put politics aside for a moment and pretend the minimum wage is not a party-centric issue. Let’s look at it from a pragmatic perspective if possible. Raising the minimum wage in Silicon Valley (beyond San Jose which has already done so) is a very important and rational thing to do for the economic health of the valley, California, and the USA economy as a whole. I’m sure a lot could be written about the class warfare aspect of this, but to me, the innovation guy, that’s not the key issue. The issue is continuing the incredible innovation that happens in Silicon Valley. As of March 2014 it’s 87% more expensive to live in Silicon Valley than the USA average.

    Read More..
    Comments

    Six Reasons Why Employees Shun Innovation

    Leadership is Uninvolved with Innovation. Yes, I just said that. Take me out to the wall and shoot me — but in many companies this is a major problem. I used to frequent a bagel shop on the south side of Chicago. It wasn’t a chain. Just a small business with great tasting bagels in a good location. I popped in one day about 9:00 am for a raisin bagel with cream cheese and was a bit startled to find myself the only customer in the store. I remarked to the young lady behind the counter that it was pretty quiet for that time of day. She said, with no irony, “isn’t that great!” I’ll skip the fake ‘I’m so

    Read More..
    Comments

    Leaders Hate the Concept of Creativity

    SNARK ALERT I’m not trying to be snarky. I am snarky. I’ve always been snarky.  I like being snarky, it’s fun. Here’s the problem: Being snarky is a bit like being the boy that cried wolf. When you’re being a smart ass just for practice you often stretch the truth. Okay, I often throw the truth out the window to be funny or to shock — but not in this blogg! As a creativity and innovation writer I suppress my inner Snark in order to be taken seriously. But now I think I’m doing you a disservice. The value of SNARK is it can be a wakeup call. As an innovation thought leader, I’m here to help. You can improve, you can

    Read More..
    Comments

    A New Idea for Black Friday

    The concept of Black Friday has me thinking about what we reward as consumers. My idea of shopping has nothing to do with sharp elbows, crowds, or even bargains. The kind of shopping I like is when I find something truly unique, really special and creative or innovative, at a small shop or family business. Best for me if it’s made in America, and of high quality craftsmanship, to me, this is real value — and I’ll buy that, I’ll reward that. That kind of shopping is increasingly hard to do. As I watched CNN this morning I was a bit amazed by all the “news” around the concept of Black Friday. Man-on-the-spot interviews at shopping malls, traffic reports from WalMart,

    Read More..
    Comments

    Moisturize for Innovation

    I have a beautiful Martin guitar. It has a wonderful tone and it’s easy to play, it’s a love relationship. It’s a well engineered, and under some conditions, a quite delicate instrument. As the winter weather descends on the midwest I’m remembering I need to keep it moisturized. Yes, moisturized. And yes, your innovation environment needs moisturized in order to make beautiful music. Five years ago I left my prized guitar out of it’s case on a stand in my living room. I had no idea that the very dry air in my apartment would suck all the water out of that rosewood and maple. I got up one morning and started strumming — and it sounded terrible. I flipped

    Read More..
    Comments

    An Outsider’s Perspective Can Drive Innovation

    I’ve been researching an industry (coin operated vending) in preparation for a speech I’m giving.  I make an effort to tailor my keynotes, as much as is practical, in order to deliver more specific value to my audiences. In doing my research some obvious (to me) opportunity areas for innovation have become apparent. Strangely, when I bring up these interesting and potentially lucrative market adjacencies most of the folks I talk to in the industry reject these potential opportunities with barely a pause in the conversation. It’s true that “I don’t know” why these innovation possibilities can’t work. My argument is, for innovation, that can be a real strength. I’m not “in the box” of the people I’m interviewing, I

    Read More..
    Comments