Marketing

    Big Imagination is Blind Spot Remover

    photo-14Coming 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 Big Data (and would someone please define that?) might indeed help you find a blind spot.

    However, there are blind spots no amount of data crunching is going to find for you.

    The thing that’s going to bite a company in the ass, their true blind spot, are the things that Big Data and analytics can’t tell them smack about. What happens outside the garden wall of the companies industry domain and sphere of influence is trends. Trends that are subtly building in the lives of consumers and in the marketplace. These are the weak signals that hold the promise of new opportunity or sure disaster.

    Unless Big Data is doing cultural analysis on a global basis it can’t tell you how, say, the democratization of the market will impact your sales in 2020. Big Data can’t tell you there is a good chance there will be a blight in banana production. It can’t tell you how a collapsing mono-culture in bananas could lead to a dramatic change in many products cost basis, or a shift towards dairy products for breakfast. It wouldn’t have told Levi-Strauss in the early 90′s that prison culture would profoundly impact their bottom line for many years. It wouldn’t have told Sony, who owned mobile music for 30 years, that device superiority wasn’t enough to continue to win.

    The very front end of innovation, that messy fuzzy, uncomfortable place is less about analytics and more about Finding New Problems you can transform into opportunities. If you want to make sure you see blind spots before they blind you, you need to regularly be scanning the landscape over your garden wall for things seemingly unrelated to your business in any way. Then ask yourself to Imagine connections. And you can’t do this once a year. You need to do it regularly and with rigour.

    Call it Big Imagination.

    Best if you couple this mini-process with a structured creative problem solving process like Min Basadur’s Simplexity, or design thinking. Feed that Stage-Gate process with something more interesting than luke-warm insights from expensive qualitative research.

    If you don’t have that skill, don’t call IBM, call KILN, they can show you how to keep an eye on the horizon — and not only spot trend data — but actually use it to form Brave New Questions. Is there anything more fascinating but ultimately useless than a massive trend-deck? Making meaning of trends ought to be a whole-brained group exercise. If it isn’t, it’s not likely you’ll arrive at anything but the most obvious insights.

    Without Brave New Questions, you won’t have bold new answers, ideas, products or spin-out ventures. Better buy, or build, a better blind spot remover — Big Imagination.

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    Six Ideas for Creative Action

    What kind of action can you take, today, to advance your dream? What action can you take today to make real your invention, your new business idea, or art project? This is a post about taking creative action. All the great ideas in the world, all the wonderful concepts, all the ground-breaking thoughts we have are useless unless we get into real world action. It’s an easy concept to forget for people who love ideas, concepts, and imaginative thinking. Somehow — we are such great rationalisers — the good vibes generated when we have those lovely thoughts feel like action. But sadly they are not. Every day that slips by without real world forward progress on our creative ideas is

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    Training is an Innovation Accelerant

    Creativity and innovation training is a highly effective accelerant for business results. When I step into a room to facilitate an innovation, strategy, or idea generation session I nearly always find a great deal of energy. What I also often find is inexperience — in the kind of thinking necessary to innovate. Successful managers and leaders are promoted up the ladder because of their great analytical thinking skills. Day to day, operationally, that’s what’s called for and that’s what’s rewarded. The bad news is the more imaginative and divergent thinking required at the front end of innovation is rarely used and almost never rewarded. That’s why those sessions often start with a great deal of pizazz but fade into lethargy

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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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    Eight Politically Incorrect Statements About Innovation

    I asked myself a different question today: What do I believe about innovation but simply avoid saying to be politically correct? What am I not saying? At the risk of being labeled a curmudgeon I’ve decided to state some things I believe to be true about innovation which may offend. Innovation is difficult and it doesn’t happen enough because of these eight impediments, so, this needs said. Eight Politically Incorrect Statements About Innovation: Top Management doesn’t understand creativity. They say they want it but when they experience it the gut reaction is to disavow it, restrain it, fire it. Most top managers are uncomfortable with classically creative people. A lot of people with innovation in their title do little or no

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    Take Advantage — Innovate More for Less

    I’ve done 385 general interest creativity and innovation posts in the last few years. This post is different — it contains a commercial offer — albeit a fairly innovative one. If you’re not interested please ignore this post. Here’s the offer – I’ve decided to double the value I provide to my customers by offering a good old fashioned two-for-one deal. Why? I want to generate more buzz about my service offerings. To generate more buzz I want the perception of my value to be exceptional. So exceptional that people will talk , tweet, and refer. There is no sleight of hand here, I’ll be working twice for one fee. For both services delivered I won’t be cutting preparation time or the customization I

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    A New Idea for Black Friday

    The concept of Black Friday has me thinking about what we reward as consumers. My idea of shopping has nothing to do with sharp elbows, crowds, or even bargains. The kind of shopping I like is when I find something truly unique, really special and creative or innovative, at a small shop or family business. Best for me if it’s made in America, and of high quality craftsmanship, to me, this is real value — and I’ll buy that, I’ll reward that. That kind of shopping is increasingly hard to do. As I watched CNN this morning I was a bit amazed by all the “news” around the concept of Black Friday. Man-on-the-spot interviews at shopping malls, traffic reports from WalMart,

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    What’s Your Innovation Plan for 2014?

    It’s that time of year again. Time to think about what your innovation plan for 2014 is going to be. Have you done anything more than ponder this question? Have you even noodled about with it? Written anything down? The time is NOW! It doesn’t really matter if you have on your personal beret or your business fedora — if you don’t plan, and soon, you won’t be starting 2014 with anything like momentum. What you want, at the very least, is a general statement that focuses your efforts, and a breakdown of how you’ll get there through the next four quarters. If you’ve never done this before, I would suggest that you put creativity, creative problem solving, and innovation

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    Reading Widely Means More Dots to Connect

    People ask me what I read. I think this question is inspired by my citing some arcane fact or that I make a weird connection now and then. I am a voracious reader, but I think what I actually read might surprise. Most of it is NOT directly about creativity and innovation (that’s a way to guarantee you’re boring!) Reading widely provides more dots to connect. Broadly, I’m thinking I’m improving my database by reading a lot of varied and weird content. There is some science to this; one can make more conceptual blends if one has more to blend. And, concept blending, new connections, are where innovation comes from. So, this is a snapshot of what I’m reading, for

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    The Value of a “Cross Domain” View

      Dr. Orin Davis (@DrOrinDavis) has written up two more short pieces — essentially his reflections from the talks of Rebecca Henderson and Dan Pink at the recent World Innovation Forum. His comments on Pink are somewhat provocative, so, be aware I do not share Orin’s views exactly. Orin is a well read academic (and practitioner as well) and he knows a lot about the wide array of literature that exists for creativity and innovation — that’s why I’ m publishing his insightful work here. His critique of Pink is interesting to me because I was not aware of who Pink borrows from, and, if he is borrowing faithfully to the original research. That said, I think there’s a real value for people

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