Guerilla Innovation

    Four Criteria for Hiring an Innovation Speaker

    FourCriteriaFour Criteria for Hiring an Innovation Keynoter

    Let this post work as a guide for meeting planners. You don’t have to hire me as your innovation speaker, but if you hire one, you’ll be well served if you pay attention to these four criteria and my comments in bold. Innovation is a complex, wonky topic and it has some special requirements that go beyond the classic things meeting planners look for in a speaker.

    Let’s keep this simple and as neutral as possible — my shameless personal plug is at the very bottom. I’m even going to suggest my competition here. So here goes, in my view an Innovation Speaker should:

    1. Have a background as a successful entrepreneur and/or real world innovator. Innovation happens in the marketplace. If the speaker bio has inventions, patents, companies started-up, products introduced, brands created, processes improved, then you have a real world innovator. Social innovator’s aren’t about profit, but they also should be real world creators. You have to know, and have done, innovation personally to have a valid perspective — this is fundamental. Richard Branson is the ultimate entrepreneur/innovator speaker in my view.

    2. Be a theorist, because approaches to innovation are many, varied, and one size does not fit all. This usually means the speaker has written articles and/or books on the topic. That’s your proof. Read an article or two, you’ll hear their voice and get a sense of expertise. Theory matters because people interested in innovation are either seeking a theory, or, have one they know already to compare with the speakers. However, theory must be balanced. I wouldn’t hire an innovation professor unless they have significant experience beyond the classroom. Professors meet the theory requirement, but to me, are not credible unless they have actually created something using the theory. Apologies in advance to those academics who not only know, but practice well, the art and science of innovation. And, I hate to say this, but many of the scholarly types are too used to students who Must  listen to them. Their orientation as public speakers often leaves out the entertainment and engagement factor — see #4. The best theorist in innovation I know who is also a great speaker is Clayton Christensen. David Burkus on the more creativity oriented side isn’t bad either.

    3. Be a working practitioner, who is currently inventing or managing/consulting on a real innovation process. The world of innovation changes constantly. This is similar to #1 — but the wrinkle is “doing something now, and doing something new.” Does this speaker continue to innovate in some fashion? What’s the new thing the speaker is doing now that will capture the attention of those who’ve already read the books and heard a half-dozen innovation speakers? Dean Kamen is a model for a great “currently working” inventor/innovation speaker.

    4. Be a well trained, experienced, professional speaker. Being a content expert is not near enough.  Speaking skill is not a given no matter how great the level of expertise. A few years ago I heard a talk by one of the greatest living content experts in the field of creativity and innovation, a big name, and somebody I had (and still have beyond speaking) great respect for. What a let down — frankly the talk was worse than bad. It was a rambling, mono-tonish, scatter-brained talk with no central point, poor visuals, no stories, and no specific take-home tools. I had to pinch myself to stay awake, it was nearly worthless. Speaking skill matters, make sure the innovation expert is a communicator. Look at their video, talk to those who’ve heard him or her speak. This is true of any keynoter but perhaps doubly so in innovation, a very “wonky” topic. Get a Wonk who can engage and entertain (Sir Ken Robinson is the model here, profound AND funny). At the end of the day any keynoter has to be a good storyteller.

    I’d also be careful about getting the entrepreneur of the month. Yes, they’ve done it, so they’ve met the first requirement, but they often don’t meet #2, theory, or #4, speaking training. While I often enjoy entrepreneur talks, I typically walk away thinking “how could I replicate that?” Many entrepreneurs are not thoughtful about how they do what they do, and, sometimes they only know one way to innovate. They’re rightly focused on Doing It and that makes them great entrepreneur’s — but incomplete speakers. Hearing the story of a successful entrepreneur can be inspirational, but a day after the talk, do you have something you can use? There are a number of entrepreneurs who fit all four criteria here, just make sure you have one! An innovation keynote should have use-back-at-the-office advice.

    Generally, the challenge of an Innovation Speaker is to say something insightful, useful, and new in the 50 minutes typically given — and be entertaining and inspirational at the same time. Let’s face it, if a keynote doesn’t have a few laughs, and at least one deep reflective moment, people won’t listen anyway. Most professional keynotes focus on a central point and have supporting stories. But the thing is, there is not One Thing with regard to innovation. It’s everything, and, it’s complicated. Simplifying it is convenient for a speaker, but not helpful for those trying to do it unless…the innovation speaker helps audiences sort out the complexity. This means providing concrete ideas on actions they can take in their enterprises — and this should go beyond “hire me and I’ll tell you.”

    Shameless Plug

    Okay, the above was neutral, the following is not: I, Gregg Fraley, am an innovation speaker. Here’s how I match the Four Criteria: I’ve created companies and new products for myself and for others. I say something new because I continue to invent new tools and techniques that are proving to be highly useful in the process of innovating (as part of KILN ). These tools and techniques can be used “back home” by those listening to my talks (without my help). I am a theorist — I wrote a book on structured creative problem solving called Jack’s Notebook, which is used by many prestigious business schools, and I’ve written provocative articles about many aspects of innovation. AND, I have a current practice, working with a wide range of companies from start-ups to multi-nationals. I’m a well trained and experienced speaker with a keen sense of humor (my Elvis impersonation is famous, and much better than Sir Ken Robinson’s). I’m a closet graphic artist, so, my visuals are full of meaning and color. My audiences and those who hire me consistently give me great marks.

    So, if you are looking for an innovation speaker, please consider me, I’m a high value alternative to those mavens — with huge price tags — I mention above.

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    Innovation Facilitation — Death is Easy, Magic Takes Training

    Three Essentials for Magical Innovation Facilitation An essential ingredient to successful innovation projects is good facilitation. Who could argue with that? Innovation combines individual and group activities. Good group collaboration is not a given. Even individual activities need coordination with the group effort. You really need an inspiring, confident, well-trained facilitator to enable innovation. I’m talking about running and managing strategy meetings, ideation sessions, virtual sessions (using IMS), concept writing sessions, and other group work. A good facilitator makes a world of difference in the results of these group meetings and activities. And yet, in the long list of things that can go wrong in innovation initiatives, it’s often the one that is overlooked or taken for granted. The problem

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    Big Imagination is Blind Spot Remover

    Coming 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

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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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