Idea Generation

    10 Essential Elements of an Innovation Mandate

    InnovationMandateGetting a Mandate to Innovate is Key

    Larger companies typically have an innovation process in place. They don’t always work, but the majority of the Fortune 1000 has some kind of innovation process or system. There is an implied consent then, to innovate, at those organizations. There are people, budgets, expectations.

    At smaller companies, the Mis-Fortune 5000 as I sometimes jest, there is often not a process in place. In many of these still sizable firms innovation tends to be a reaction to an emergency, or a sporadic effort that takes a back seat to operations. They often default to incremental improvement of the product or service based on customer demands.

    A newly appointed Innovation VP or Director at a Mis-Fortune company like this is essentially starting from scratch. People in that position scramble to find a process they can adopt. That’s a good thing. Nearly any process is better than no process. Deliberate or structured Innovation can be defined as proactive management of risk, and the sooner you get after it, with some kind of process the better off you’re going to be. At the core of nearly any process is… a project.


    Stumbling into innovation projects without a mandate is a disaster waiting to happen.

    I’ve seen the following scenario happen: New Innovation Director gets a project started. Forms an ad hoc team. Finds an opportunity area, then the team jams ideas and even does some feasibility and research to polish up a Pitch. Maybe even a prototype. Then they do a Pitch to management and the whole thing blows up. Management says No. Maybe a reprimand. Maybe even a firing. The Innovation Director rightly asks, what did you hire me for? It won’t be said out loud, but the unstated reason for the title is — it’s window dressing. Not every company has the motivation to innovate. And that is not often acknowledged. Even at big companies with in-place innovation processes, a Mandate for innovation makes sense, because an implied consent leaves wiggle room for, “we didn’t really approve this.”

    Why would Executive Management say No?

    Lots of reasons, here’s a list:

    • The big guy (or gal) is a control freak and is basically upset that a project is going on without approval. Best way to demonstrate displeasure? Say No.
    • Management wanted to be involved. Leaders like to be involved when it’s something strategic.
    • Management had an idea for another kind of innovation project entirely, something more strategic, or, something more tactical.
    • The surprise factor had Exec. Management vomiting on the ideas. Big ideas can be quite jarring to the stomach. I’m serious, big ideas are upsetting and the initial reaction can be projectile vomit.
    • Management knows something you don’t, in terms of the market, or the context of a project. With involvement they could have steered the project in the right direction.
    • Management has an entirely different agenda and innovation is upsetting the apple cart.

    There are many more reasons, but you get the idea.

    You Need a Mandate To Innovate

    I’m not the first person to say this, but to proceed with an innovation effort you need a Mandate. An Executive Mandate. As my father used to say “all bets are made on the first tee.” A mandate is what you need to avoid misunderstandings later. It’s making a bet from the outset that everyone can live with.

    What does that look like? Here are 10 Elements of an Innovation Mandate

    1. Permission to begin, and the basic resources to do so
    2. Permission to form a team and time for those people to work on Innovation
    3. A project or opportunity area (and a list of same)
    4. An understanding that there will be on-going front-end-of-innovation projects
    5. A process, even a simple one, for running projects
    6. An expectation of project timing(s), in other words, is it a month, a quarter, a year?
    7. An understanding that the effort will be supported from the top down
    8. Touch points during the process to confirm direction, including a final Pitch meeting
    9. An agreement to resource those ideas that pass through the Pitch meeting with a Yes (fund the back end of innovation)
    10. The ability to monitor and measure the various steps in the process and project cycles, other words Metrics

    There are details under each of these that are context specific, but the above can form the basis of the Mandate.

    Having the Mandate discussion might lead to compromises, additions, or changes to how things are done. That’s exactly what you want — a negotiated agreement to innovate. Get everyone on the same page and then get started on projects! Use the above as a starting point, a discussion guide for getting a Mandate. Use it. Please!





    Five Magic Imagination Guidelines

    Five Magic Imagination Guidelines You hear it so often that it becomes one of those things that you really don’t think about it. “Use your imagination” is the phrase or thought that I’m talking about. I believe that many of us actually fear our own imagination. That’s tragic, don’t be afraid. It occurs to me that most people have the desire, deep down, to use their imagination more — but have no idea how. Here’s how. First of all Access your imagination more often. Do it deliberately. If you ask your imagination for ideas or visions once a year it’s a bit like that faucet in the back of the house you never use. When you turn it on, it’s

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    Seven Essentials of an Effective Innovation Project Manager

    Outsourcing innovation project management might be the most strategic money you spend this year. It’s not a new idea but it’s one more companies should consider. It sure beats doing nothing. See my Seven Essentials for hiring below. But first: If you’ve not got an innovation plan in the process of being executed, right now, you are treading water and will eventually drown. So what’s stopping you from kicking off an innovation initiative? I often hear resources. What I hear from top management: “we don’t have the time or resources for innovation projects, we’ll start later this year.” I get it. How is it possible to do this separate thing that requires its own focus and resources while keeping the

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    Mash-Ups for Innovation, a How To Guide

    How to Do Mash-Ups for Innovation This is an article length, comprehensive post on Mash-Ups for Innovation. To say the least Mash-Ups hold great promise in helping people and organizations find useful and sometimes breakthrough innovations. This article will likely be part of a book on the front end of innovation that’s in development, stay tuned. Meanwhile I hope you find this guide useful. To digest this in bits, simply use the index to go to the section that interests you. There is value to reading these sections in order, but for those with an urgent need, you’ll find instructions for facilitation in the Continuum of Mash-Ups and How To sections below. Generally, if you’re looking for more breakthrough results

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    Innovation 2015 or Five Lame Excuses?

    Death or Kryptonite? I have a  vinyl record with one of those strategic skips that has it repeating — it drives me nuts — but I still play the record because I love the song so much. The song is Jimmy Olsen’s Blues by the Spin Doctors. It’s a hard rocker about the lament of Superman’s pal who has a crush on Superman’s gal. In the song Jimmy Olsen is competing with the man of steel for the affection of Miss Lois Lane. He’s got a secret weapon, a pocketful of Kryptonite. Innovation ca feel a lot like that — your competition is a big tough impossible-to-beat player like Superman. And no matter your size as an organization, you’d better be like

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    Want Innovation? Ask.

    Not 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:

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    Quick & Dirty Innovation

    Many companies started 2014 with the good intention of “getting after innovation” this year. Was that your organization? How’s that going? Are you jumping for joy or singing the blues? Some companies have worked hard and consistently at innovation all this year. They started the year running and got things done. Look at the slew of announcements Apple just made (to be fair the watch took years). Other companies made a good start but got caught up in the red tape of too much process. So, it’s September now. For those of you who’ve been busy keeping up with business operations and haven’t had time to do formal innovation this year, all is not lost. Consider: Quick & Dirty Innovation (QDI) “Wake up

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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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    Changing Innovation Culture by Doing — Three Reasons It Doesn’t Happen

    Innovation culture doesn’t change with assessment or analysis. You can learn a great deal about who you are and what your culture is like with the various assessment tools, but knowing isn’t changing. I’m a huge fan of KEYS, FourSight, and other assessment tools but they are not the answer. Training can help, but training alone will not do the job either. What changes innovation culture then? Doing. You change culture by Doing.  When employees are empowered to solve problems and those solutions are put into play, it’s motivating. It changes hearts and minds. And it changes them faster than anything else. Min Basadur says it’s the only way a culture will change. I agree with Min. Min’s been around

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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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