Guerilla Innovation

    Want Innovation? Ask.

    AskLogov1Not everything about innovation is complicated.

    I recently gave a creative problem solving workshop to a group of scientists who all worked for the same outfit. It was a lively session. In addition to learning structured creative problem solving (Osborn-Parnes-Basadur framework) we did some short bits of ideation around new business concepts. This was more as a sampler than it was a real session. It wasn’t the goal of the session to reinvent their business, nonetheless, in a short time there were some relevant business growth ideas with potential on the table.

    An executive with the company remarked after the session that “nobody ever comes to me” with new business ideas. Talking more with this man a reason why emerged: He never asked. He assumed his employees would know he wanted their ideas. 

    Keep in mind that this is a successful business, in fact, a growing business. It’s easy to understand why there was never an ask. Innovation is what people think about when things are not going well. If you’re growing do you need innovation? As an executive, if you’re growing, you think you’ve done innovation.

    From an employee perspective, when folks are focused on the task at hand — operations — who’s taking time to think about new business ideas? People always have ideas but they quickly put them aside and out of mind because they are “out of focus”. It sometimes feels wrong to be thinking in an innovative way. This is reinforced by middle managers who harp on people to stick with laser like focus on those essential projects. They in turn are often pressured by upper management for quarter by quarter bottom line results.

    If you’re trying to get an innovation culture going, and get folks thinking and pitching ideas, one of the first and simplest things you can do is simply make it known that you Want Ideas. In other words, ASK. If you can be specific with your question to the group, great, even better, but it starts with just opening the door. Let your people know that you want ideas. Maybe you want new business ideas, sales ideas, product improvement ideas, process enhancement ideas — tell them what you want — and start tracking what comes back. Maybe have a monthly “pitch hour” where anybody can come in present an idea. I can promise that you’ll be surprised by both the ideas and who shows up to pitch them.

    Anyway,  just ask for ideas.

    It’s a start. It may be the first rung on the ladder, but your have to start somewhere.

    I could further suggest Not to Make It a Suggestion Box sort of thing. Suggestion Boxes are unfocused and often result in gripes disguised as ideas. Something like a quarterly ask of a focused question to the general employee population makes sense. It would be another good basic step towards establishing innovation culture and regular innovation cycles.

    It’s sad to think that some executive doors are really closed to new ideas. And, sometimes it’s probably worse than just closed. There’s an invisible sign on the door that says “Beware of suggesting ideas — you risk respect, job, salary, and lifestyle.” If that’s your culture you’ve got a long way to go.

    Asking is the first step, and, be prepared to give feedback and/or take action. If you don’t take action the message you’ll be giving is, I asked for ideas – but I really don’t want ideas.

    So ask already.

     

    Comments

    Four Criteria for Hiring an Innovation Speaker

    Four 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

    Read More..
    Comments

    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

    Read More..
    Comments

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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.

    Read More..
    Comments