Open Innovation

    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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    Harvard’s Kodak Moment?

    Have you ever been in the position where you thought, “gee, if only I was better educated, or just smarter, this complex decision in front of me would be easy.” In the innovation world the agonizing decision of whether to embrace a new trend and leave behind your old business model is always brutally dificult. Organizations have been torn to shreds in the conflict about what to do. Some have made those big choices and survived, like IBM, or, made bad choices and bit the dust, like Kodak. Part of the psychology of leadership is the doubt, the fear, that you’re not quite smart enough to make a good decision. One of the reasons people flock to Harvard to get

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    People Got To Be Free

    Power. It’s not something people talk about in the context of innovation. They talk about Leadership, Change, Management, and Teams — but they rarely talk about what’s behind all of those concepts, Power. I’ve been making a habit lately of talking about the unsaid in innovation, and power is a huge unsaid in innovation. I’m going to have to be a little bit snarky here. I’ll balance that by citing those gurus of innovation, The Rascals (who were in fact genuinely kind hearted guys who worked for civil rights). But first, my citation: Power, wielded with a heavy hand, is the enemy of innovation. Power, aligned with values people believe in, is the enabler of innovation. The higher up an

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    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.

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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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    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

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    Orin Davis Report from World Innovation Forum

    The following are thoughts from Orin Davis, Phd, who is covering the World Innovation Forum. As always, Orin makes some good points, notes from talks from the Mayor of Asheville, NC, the On Your Feet Improv group, and Michael Martin of Vibram. So, here’s what you missed at WIF. ****** Ideas from the World Innovation Forum  (by Orin Davis, Phd) With some speakers, you just have to be there to really get the marrow of what they have to say, but here are some piquant ideas from speakers at the World Innovation Forum:  Terry Bellamy — Mayor of Asheville, NC Make an investment in a sustainability endeavor, and keep reusing the savings in other sustainability endeavors to have sustainable infrastructure

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    KILN Continues to Innovate Innovation Services

    I’m off to the FEI show (Front End of Innovation) in Boston this week. In my view it’s the most serious innovation conference in the world, and the USA edition features speakers and participants from a who’s who of international organizations. I’m particularly interested in hearing Denise Morrison CEO of Campbell Soup about their use of culture in the innovation process, and also Nelson Farris of Nike about corporate storytelling. It will be great to catch up with Idea Management System vendors like CogniStreamer, and innovation service firms like Ideas To Go and Maddock Douglas. They’re always doing something new. I’m glad the show is in Boston. After the recent troubles it feels appropriate that a conference dedicated to positive change is

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    Innovation in Michiana, How Whirlpool Creates Magic

    Benton Harbor, Michigan, have you heard of it? It’s a big enough town that it shows up on the weather maps of Chicago TV stations. It’s directly across Lake Michigan from Chicago. It’s in tourist area, but it’s hardly a garden spot — not nearly as quaint as nearby victorian-gingerbreadish St. Joseph. Locals call the area Michiana, a term to describe the cachement of small and medium sized towns along the Indiana-Michigan border (Gary, Michigan City, Niles, Elkhart, South Bend, Three Oaks, New Buffalo…). Michiana is a lovely area — if you like the beach, vineyards, and the woods. It’s not exactly Silicon Valley. It wasn’t always so. Once upon a time Benton Harbor was home to one of my

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    Top 40 Innovation Blogger? (Top 10!)

    Precious readers, greetings from the dark night, where I write, jet-lagged, arthritis-nagged, caffiene-jagged — but writing for you, once again, trying to provide insight, information, and ultimately value about this wacky idea of innovation. Please forgive the somewhat naval gazing aspect of this post. The good news for you is over the past year you may have missed some of my more interesting posts and the bullet list below provides some quick links to stuff you might find interesting. A request for help: Every year, Innovation Excellence, a premier portal for innovation content, has a popularity contest style “Top 40″ Innovation Bloggers of the year listing. I admit, I wish to be on the list. I wasn’t last year and

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