Guerilla Innovation

    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.

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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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    Ten Ideas for Using Innovation Film Clips

    I’ve written an article on Innovation in movies – Inspiring Innovation Films: a Top Ten List.  It’s been published on the Innovation Excellence portal — I’d be most grateful if you’d read it and comment over there. Today’s post is a value add to that article with some ideas on how to use creativity and innovation clips in projects and meetings. If you’re an innovation educator, manager, or team leader you may want to consider using clips as training and/or stimulus tools. I’m a big one for keeping things entertaining no matter what you’re doing. Movie clips are a great way to do that. Here are Ten Ideas on how to integrate film clips into an innovation project: Send out a

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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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    Zombies, Dreamers, Managers and Leaders

    I’ve been preparing a new keynote speech on Imagination and it’s been a real challenge to get my thoughts together on such a big and creatively important concept. My focus is usually on Creativity. To be honest I’m enthralled with the concept of imagination, and yet have avoided talking about it directly because it’s so individual and amorphous. That’s why I’m so excited about one aspect of my new talk I wanted to share it with my readers right away, so here it is, my “Johari Window” of Imagination (note to self: need better label). It’s helpful in getting a handle on who imagines and how, and might be helpful to individuals and groups who seek to improve imaginative capacity.

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    The Innovation State of the Union

    President Obama made mention in his state of the union address that he wishes to expand the National Netowrk for Manufacturing Innovation concept. I wholly applaud the idea, AND, there might be a more fundamental challenge that needs addressed first. I’ve made the acquaintance of a thought leader with her finger on the pulse of where the nation sits in terms of technological readiness to innovate. Her name is Pamela Menges, and she’s President of a high-tech start up in Cincinnati. She’s also a professor at the University of Cincinnati in their Engineering department. Steve Jobs once challenged Obama to find him 30,000 engineers so he could build a plant in California. That challenge remains a big one, and again,

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    Detroit Soup — Serving Hope & Innovation

    As a Michigander I’m always looking for some good vibes on the economy. I found it last night on NBC Nightly News, an inspirational story about Detroit Soup.  It’s not a restaurant, but it does serve soup — and something a lot more precious for down-on-its-luck-Motown — hope. Here’s the concept: Detroit Soup is a monthly dinner to fund creative and entrepreneurial projects. Micro grants are awarded at the dinner. Five dollars ($5.00) is the entry fee and it gets you a simple meal — soup, salad, bread — and a vote. They hold the dinner in an old warehouse. Click over to their site and read their backstory, it’s interesting. Apparently this concept has been happening for over three years.

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    Run to the Innovation Jungle

    Guerilla Innovation Chapter Fourteen Run to the Jungle I’ve written what amounts to a short book on innovation for small business these last couple months. I’ve called it Guerilla Innovation (the starting post is here) and I’ve targeted those who want to create a start-up, or, are internal innovators at companies who have little experience with innovation (and innovation-speak). This is a basic, but I think highly useful, field-guide-like innovation book for small business. Every business starts as a small business, so, I’m not limiting the book to those who don’t have much ambition — I merely wanted to provide a more readable, more practical, approach to innovation without all the “MBA-speak”. In the spirit of providing real value in this

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