Innovation

    Retro Motorcycles Signal Innovation In Goshen, IN

    Manufacturing in America — Using the Past to Create an Innovative Future

    It’s heartening to learn about a small USA manufacturer who’s doing something creative, new, and interehalcyon-product2sting.

    Janus Motorcycles in Goshen, Indiana is creating hand-crafted, small batch motorcycles. These are simple, accessible, easy-to-work-with bikes. They are throwbacks in a certain way, but don’t get me wrong they’re elegant. The retro-ish designs are informed by old American bike brands like Indian, and old British bikes like Triumph and Norton. It’s not hard to imagine that famous Hoosier, James Dean, riding one of these bikes around the countryside.

    The bikes look like James Dean era rides because Janus purposefully leaves the bikes open, in the sense that all the parts can be seen, and of course, worked with. This is counter to the trend of car and motorcycle manufacturers that discourage amateurs working with their products by covering parts with hoods and hard-to-break-into enclosures. Love that aspect of this story — how do you encourage makers if you can’t play with, fool around with, tinker with, products?

    I love this story for a number of reasons beyond the open design.

    First of all, it’s a young group of guys who put this together. Honest-to-God thirty-something entrepreneurs who are building something with love and passion. Next, they’re American and making something almost entirely in Northern, Indiana. Not just assembly, but design, parts — nearly everything (they do source a motor from overseas… if only somebody would come along and provide an American made motor Janus would be 100% American made!)

    Then there’s the Amish connection.

    Goshen, Indiana, which for those of you who read this around the country is something like Andy Griffith’s Mayberry, but without the southern accents. It’s the country, it’s corn, soybeans, orchards, and Blake Shelton on the radio country. That said, Goshen is not far from Elkhart where a lot of fancy RV products are made, so, yes, there is manufacturing in this countryside. The Studebaker was once made in South Bend, as was the Avanti, not far from Goshen, but those companies are long gone. Goshen is in the heart of Amish country. As Janus was getting started, Amish craftsman helped them figure out how to make some of the bits and pieces necessary to assemble these motorcycles. Little known fact but the Amish are incredible “makers” who know how to work with metal and sophisticated tools. The “maker movement” is not just for hipsters in urban areas!

    The business grew out of the co-founders love for mopeds and small bikes. They knew that market well. They started making custom bikes together and found a synergy in the way they think and create. One a creative out-of-the-box approach, the other a respect for design and a hard won comprehensive knowledge of small displacement bikes.

    Devin Biek and Richard Worsham, the Janus co-founders, were not experienced manufacturers when they got this going — but they figured it out. They prove that smart people, seeking to build something with high quality, can manufacture. This is not a trivial thing because in America we’re going to have to learn how to manufacture again. We can do it. This is proof.

    Reshoring is a concept where you think of businesses coming back to America to make things. As a trend it’s slow in developing because there is so little incentive for those outfits to return. For mass production you go where there is cheap labor. Really, we don’t want those companies back if they’re not going to pay people middle class wages. Reshoring may happen here and there, but to recreate a manufacturing sector we kind of need to start over.

    In reality, jobs are created in manufacturing now in America by people like Biek and Worsham, who are starting from scratch, learning as they go, and making something great. They’re really not competing with Honda or the other big players because they are making something with a truly unique high value, special, Limited Edition products. That’s how you get started, and that’s how eventually you reinvent industries. That’s not reshoring, that’s re-creating. That’s how you grow job bases in regions.

    Rebuilding the manufacturing base is going to require about 100,000 more companies like Janus, not the pipe dream of big companies coming back. Don’t believe the lies some politicians tell about this. You don’t reverse a 40 year trend of offshoring just by talking loud. You do it by encouraging, supporting, teaching, and in general, loving, young makers. That takes time, and what governments can do is either stay out of the way, or, do something to support the maker movement in education and in worker re-training.

    They have a lovely video on the Janus home page, about 25 minutes long that tells their story. If you want to be inspired as an entrepreneur, have a look. Good luck Janus!

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    Projects Are How Innovation Happens

    Projects, Projects, Projects Innovation is complex and difficult — but one thing about it is not. What’s quite simple about innovation is that projects are what make innovation real. The following concepts, frameworks, approaches, etc. are Not Innovation.  Unless they are in the context of an actual project. Thinking about things is not innovation Having beers and kicking ideas around are not innovation Brainstorming sessions are not innovation Idea Campaigns are not innovation Guided visualizations are not innovation Design Thinking is not innovation Creative Problem Solving is not innovation DeBono’s Six Thinking Hats are not innovation Lean is not innovation Prototyping is not innovation Crowd sourcing or Open innovation are not innovation TQM and Six Sigma are not innovation Defining




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    Fast Company’s Brainstorming Fail

    Fast Company Article “Brainstorming is Dumb” Misses the Point Brainstorming, Done Properly, Is Not a Tool, It’s A Multi-Step Process Here we go again. And yet another major publication publishes a misleading article about brainstorming — Brainstorming is Dumb. This happens about every six months. This time it’s Fast Company. The article gets a few things right, but misses the big picture, and smears a giant of the field, Alex Osborn. The headline is dead wrong, but wonderfully provocative. Fast Company missed an opportunity to inform more fully at the very least. The omission is so large one wonders if they have a fact checker on staff. The big picture the article misses is that brainstorming is not a single




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    Innovation Strategy Power Tools

    Challenge Mapping & IdeaKeg Do you want to cut through the clutter when it comes to innovation strategy? Are you sorting through plans for year-end strategy and ideation sessions? Are you at the very front end of innovation and not sure where to go, where to start? Are you asking questions like these (you should be!): What projects might we get started before the end of the year? What might be our innovation focus for 2017? How might we leverage those research insights we’ve developed? What trends and ideas outside our industry might we adapt to innovate? These questions can be tough to sort out. I’m suggesting here two bits of “sorting out” technology. Consider using two powerful innovation and




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    Trump: Learn to Steal Smart

    Stealing Smart and Stealing Stupid Melania Trump’s speech last evening at the GOP convention, and today’s subsequent media uproar and fiasco, is symbolic of several things in my view. Summarizing my themes here: Competence, Theft, and Ideas (or lack of them). I’ll take flack for writing this post, but understand, this is not about politics. It involves politics — but my comments have more to do with creativity and innovation. As most of you know, my interests are in those areas, so, I’m looking at recent events with that lens. Not as a lefty, not as a righty. I’m looking at this with the green tinted shades of the artist and the black and white lens of a professional innovator.




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    The Risk of Not Innovating

    I recently was a guest blogger for Gibson Insurance and I wrote this piece about the risk of Not Innovating. I’ll make the point again here — with fewer words. For more detail, read my post over at Gibson. Risk Aversion is a Risk Itself Many leaders pull back on innovation programs because of expenses, and, fear of change. They settle for small changes and improvements and continue to look at innovation as if it’s extra work. They pay lip service to innovation and waste time doing culture assessments. They also spend precious time developing a precise process for innovation. Cultural awareness of the climate for innovation is a good thing, and a defined process is as well, but don’t




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    Six Ideas for Coping with Little “d” Depression in Innovation Projects

    Innovation and Depression …Six Ideas for Coping with Little “d” Depression… Nobody talks about the dark emotions related to innovation. You hear about the emotional high of a big “aha” moment. Or, less frequently, about the “oh crap” moment when a project hits a brick wall. But nobody talks about how personal battles with the dark side impact innovation. How many promising projects have gone up in smoke because the creator, the innovator, the project leader, or a team member lost faith in a dark moment? Losing heart for something you want to do can happen when a wave of negative emotion carries you away. It’s why people give up. Emotional highs and lows are part of life. I’m not




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    Intrapreneurship Chicago 2016

    Authentically Different Conference In recent years I’ve become a bit anti-conference. I still go to some but I find the formats tired. The formula favors big name authors and speakers who sometimes miss the mark. The agenda is so jammed you don’t have time to talk to your peers. The social events are fun, but a bit… forced. So, you may be surprised when I bend over backwards to promote Intrapreneurship Chicago 2016.  The event is going to be held at the TechNexus accelerator in the River North area. Chicago area innovators and intrapreneurs, take note. June 22! This conference is authentically different. And highly useful if you are a real working Intrapreneur. 90% of the conference attendees will be




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    Nine Ways to Play at Work

    Nine Ways to Play At Work (see list below) The idea that one should invoke a sense of play around challenges is not a new one. Tim Brown of IDEO did that great TED speech on play, and there have been several more TED play-centric talks (Stuart Brown, John Cohn, Sue Palmer) all variations on the theme. Sunni Brown’s talk on Doodling is a personal favorite because she gets specific about how one can begin to be more creatively playful with problem solving. An emerging trend in business is using improvisation games as the basis for team building and problem solving. The work of Del Close, who shaped the serious play of long form Improv and Viola Spolin, who invented




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    10 Essential Elements of an Innovation Mandate

    Getting 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




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