Entrepreneurial

    Training is an Innovation Accelerant

    trainingfireCreativity 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 right after lunch. A good facilitator can help but the artist formerly known as Prince couldn’t keep some of these sessions rockin. Mercy!

    Energy, motivation, even inspiration are important factors in getting innovation rolling. But none of them, or all of them together, are enough to overcome untrained thinking. Creative thinking skills are taken for granted — and that’s a problem because without training and practice very few people are naturally good at creative thinking. Everyone is creative, everyone has that capacity, but it’s latent until trained. I have the capacity to run a Marathon — it’s possible — but if I went out there today I’d be lucky to walk 26 miles.

    Yes, you can train the various aspects of creative thinking (imaginative, divergent, visioning, strategic, conceptual). If you want idea generation of any kind to work – don’t skip training. Much of the research that says brainstorming doesn’t work studied groups with no training. Training, a good facilitator, and frequent practice are foundational elements to effective sessions and organizational innovation culture.

    That difficult bit of  invention that analysis can’t quite solve on its own is especially challenging for corporations. Training can make a big difference in bridging the gap between market knowledge and… what could be. It’s not enough to know a market white space. It’s not enough to have “insights” from in-depth research. It’s the creative thinking that builds on that research and insight that gets you workable concepts and ultimately market results.

    Managers, leaders, and innovation teams need to understand how to think about innovation — and they need to know how to think and implement innovation. It doesn’t just happen.

    You’ll see immediate and positive results with creativity and innovation training. Min Basadur did a rigorous study, see here, and that’s not the only proof. Individuals learn how to think and express ideas in a more positive, focused, and free flowing way with certain types of creativity training. Teams achieve breakthrough results when properly facilitated through through a rapid, flexible, but structured process at the front end of innovation. Frameworks like CPS are essential. Power tools like applied improvisation games can help you run faster. Stimulus tools like KILN’s IdeaKeg help you scaffold your thinking using trends from outside your industry or category.

    Creativity training feeds innovation process like wood wool feeds flame.

    The creative training many experts advocate is structured Creative Problem Solving training (CPS, aka ‘Osborn-Parnes model’) and Front End of Innovation process training (FEI). CPS is a time-tested framework. Many innovation consultants use CPS or their own modified versions of CPS (see my business novel about CPS, Jack’s Notebook.) CPS is broad enough and flexible enough to incorporate Design Thinking tools and even applied improvisation games. FEI process training is about how to conduct and orchestrate a series of activities that happen before the classic stage-gate/pipeline of new product development. Stage-gate is in the textbooks. FEI training is being done, but is relatively obscure. CPS training is generally more available — but not ubiquitous.

    If you have a team that is already trained, take it to the next level with an Improv to Innovate workshop. Improv isn’t just about comedy — it’s about improved access to spontaneous thinking, and applied creativity to business challenges.

    Sadly, it’s notable that as an innovation budget line item — it is often left out entirely, or, it’s the first sacrificial lamb to be cut. It should be the first thing done because creativity and innovation training is an accelerant towards more rapid business results.

    Training Accelerates Innovation in Five Strategic Ways:

    1. Improved creative thinking skill leads to more breakthrough new business concepts
    2. Training helps instil structured creative thinking and innovation process as a cultural value and habit
    3. CPS and FEI training provide innovation teams with a common language and framework to solve problems. This means expedited resolution of challenges and more rapid iteration of new business concepts
    4. Training corrects many of the common myths that surround creativity and innovation. There is a science to this that is largely ignored. For those that learn and practice the science — it’s a competitive advantage.
    5. Team efficiency improves because a lot of useless chatter, debate, and conflict is reduced or eliminated

    If you are in charge of an innovation program or initiative — do training first. All activities that happen afterwards will be performed at a higher level, and from day one. Imagine creativity applied to research, platform question framing, idea generation, concept development, and management presentations. Imagine an innovation framework your team can get better and better at…

    Creative training is the fuel for innovation fire.

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    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

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    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

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    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.

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    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

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    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

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    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,

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    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

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    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

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    Four Lessons Innovators Can Learn From the ACA Failure

    The fiasco surrounding the roll-out of The Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka Obamacare) website might be the most predictable innovation failure of the last 30 years. It pains me to say so, as I’m a believer in the law, but wow, the Obama administration screwed the pooch on this one. There really is no excuse  – although there are logical reasons — why this happened. Sound application development principles are well known in the IT community. Somebody should have known how to use modern techniques to insure success. I’m sure many people building this application did know — sadly, political matters trumped a consumer perspective, good design principles, and creative problem solving. I feel their pain. As an entrepreneur in

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