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    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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    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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    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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    Love a Meeting Planner Day

    As Valentines Day approaches I’m reminded that everybody needs love. Even Meeting Planners. I’ve worked with many different meeting planners over the years and it’s a tough job. Endless details. Complex challenges. Ego’s to manage. Negotiations. Speakers to hire (ahem). Clients to please. Sore feet. Migranes. Exhaustion. Pre-meeting anxiety, post meeting collapses. I do appreciate Meeting Planners, but I wouldn’t want to be one! And always the unexpected. No matter how well planned an event is, something always happens that is unpredictable. Meeting Planners are often very creative in resolving problems. So, today January 30th, is Love a Meeting Planner Day. Why? Because I said so. I declare it. How to show the love today?  Here are 10 ways: Thank

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    Ideational Speaker, Gregg Fraley

    I do keynotes on creativity and innovation topics — and this is not something I hide. It’s all over my website and I do my best to promote my speaking on FaceBook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and in my blog postings. So, it’s not unusual for me to be confronted — at a cocktail party or a business meeting — with the comment: So you’re a “Motivational Speaker.” It’s a fair observation, but it’s really…inexact when it comes to describing what I actually do. It’s not Wrong, but there’s more to my speaking than motivation. My talks are about ideas, so really, I’m an Ideational Speaker.  Yes, I make an effort to motivate people to be more creative and innovative. So, I

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    Spontaneous Thinking and the Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad, Jonathan Winters

    “If your ship doesn’t come in, swim out to meet it.” Jonathan Winters Last week, a personal hero of mine, Jonathan Winters, passed away. He had a long, full, complicated, crazy, and indeed, mad, mad, mad, mad, life. If you don’t know who he is or why I’d be doing a post about him in a creativity and innovation blog, please just go to YouTube and watch this. If you really want to snort milk through your nose, try this one. Winters was a comic genius, a creative tour-de-force, and, a man who “used” his affliction with bi-polar disorder positively. He was one of the first public figures to admit to treatment for mental illness having “gone to the zoo”

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    Destructive Intelligence Limits Innovation

    My illustrious partner at KILN, the subtly dynamic Mr. Indy Neogy, MBA, has penned a very insightful piece on how research and analytical intelligence actually hoses innovation. Hoses, a term I’ve borrowed from Bob & Doug McKenzie, means “screws up” or “ruined”. To read the full piece click here. I did an illustration to go along with the words, which I’m posting below because it’s a bit of fun.* By the way, KILN is an innovation services company — I’m proud to be a founding partner. Indy’s article and my illustration are to be found in KILN’s newsletter Kindling — brain food for your innovation efforts (sign up here to get it via email). That’s all for today folks, but read

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    Dying is Easy, Starting Creative Projects is Hard

    I’m in Cincinnati visiting for Christmas and coincidentally have been invited to the First Annual Cincinnati Comedians Homecoming Show. I’ll be going to Funny Bone Newport, KY tonight and hope to see a few of my old colleagues from the early 80′s, back when I was doing stand-up. People often ask me what doing stand-up was like, so, here’s the story, but with a twist. I’m going to relate it to starting anything creatively challenging. In the late 70′s and early 80′s comedy went from a somewhat quaint and staid art practiced mostly in the Catskills and New York City to something more akin to rock and roll. The influence of Saturday Night Live and the late, great, seminal comics

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    Do You Want Innovation or a Dirty Martini?

    I’ve been following some interesting posts lately by Paul Hobcraft regarding management engagement in Innovation. Paul’s posts have a lot to do with the concept of engagement. It inspired the attached cartoon. I think many high level executives simply don’t know what they have. Until it’s too late. There are a lot of smart people out there, with great ideas. Talent is something you need if you really want to innovate. And yet, really, most organizations already have that talent. No, not every employee is Jony Ives and is an impact player at that level, but nearly every company has some people that, under the right circumstances, can hit home runs (score goals, set records, win gold, etc.). Ives himself

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    Secret Wish #11, Creative Goofing

    Is there a value to goofy, no purpose, experimenting? Does it make you more creative? I think yes. Madge here wanted to be goofy — and see if anybody noticed. Nobody noticed. She didn’t care. She felt better and got off the train with a giggle in her heart. Creative tip: giggles in your heart are a good thing. Have them. Make them happen. Toodles.  

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