Different Ideas Emerge From Different Doing

    Differentv1Different Isn’t That Difficult; It Requires … Doing Things Differently

    Innovation Programs Based On Best Practices are Doomed to Mediocrity

    Things I’ve heard recently from c-suite executives about their own innovation programs:

    “Floundering and ineffective, if I’m honest.”

    “Mediocre results, we just can’t seem to get to anything really different.”

    “Lackluster. I’m not impressed by what they come up with.”

    “We don’t do idea generation well.”

    These are the words I’ve heard innovation directors and c-suite executives use to describe their own innovation programs. Sad isn’t it, those words are depressing. It’s enough to contemplate bringing a swift end to the thing. The quotes above are all from larger company high level managers who already have highly defined innovation processes in place.

    This post is to make a simple point about innovation. Here it is:

    You won’t get different, if you don’t do different.

    There is so much written about innovation, it’s actually quite difficult to keep up with the literature, there’s a new book every other day. The managers above have read a lot of that literature, taken it to heart, gotten training, and put processes in place. And they’re still not getting the results they want. One of the reasons is much of the literature isn’t really new, it’s just rehashes of things that have been stated since the 50’s. But I digress.

    I’m sure “do different” is bad grammar, but I stand by the meaning. How can you expect your innovation program to thrive if:

    • It’s much like every other company in your industry
    • It relies on proven “best practice” tools and techniques that are up to 70 years old
    • Facilitators use the same old tools time and again, boring your best thinkers to tears
    • It only looks at low risk options — whether this is overtly stated or not
    • It’s done by people who have been told directly that breakthrough isn’t what your organization is after
    • It relies on very careful market research that worships what consumers say, but pays little attention to behavior they can’t articulate
    • It doesn’t take customer empathy seriously enough, but only pays lip service to understanding customer needs and behaviors

    My innovation colleague Stephen Shapiro said it well in his book Best Practices are Stupid. If you are relying on best practices, and not making an effort to go beyond them, you aren’t going to arrive at different or breakthrough ideas. Best practices are good to know, good as jumping off points, but they don’t usually provide breakthrough results.

    To think differently, you need to organize ideation or strategy sessions — and the entire front end of innovation cycle — using different tools and techniques, different settings, new stimulus, new speakers, new and different everything. You need to embrace Different, and also it’s cousins, Risk and New to enliven innovation projects.

    For example, instead of doing a classic brainstorm, or ideation, do a MoshPit.  MoshPit is a new way to combine existing trends and technologies to get to new and different. MoshPit has not been widely adopted, yet. Right now, it’s a competitive advantage. But please, wait for concrete proof (and be mediocre.)

    Instead of using SWOT use a Challenge Map.

    Instead of doing Brainstorming, do Brainwriting, or better yet, a BrainWalk. Or, here’s a twist, all the above.

    Are you lost? Have you not heard of these tools?

    If you want different, you need to try different.

    Go ahead, ask me how.


    Innovation MoshPit

    What’s Really Needed is an Innovation MoshPit Reinventing Combinations, Concept Blends, and Mash-Ups I’ve been touting concept blends in innovation for some time. My reason is simple, it’s a fast path to new and different ideas. From the Printing Press to the iPhone, big new market-creating innovation happens when concepts from two different domains are combined. These Mash-Ups are not intuitive for most people to do and maybe that’s why some people try it and fail. Take heart, smart people can do concept blends with careful mental scaffolding. The key benefit to concept blends for organizations is finding breakthrough innovation. It’s my contention that a lot of breakthrough innovation is left on the table because not enough thinking work is

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    Colorado Innovation Training

    A brief post to make sure you know about the upcoming Denver, CO public course in Advanced Innovation Facilitation.  This is a high value training. It’s partially sponsored so the price is much lower than usual. Here’s a page with details. It’s next week Starting Wednesday February 1, continuing on Feb 2, finishing at noon on Feb. 3rd. Essentially this is intensive, hands-on workshop that trains people in innovation frameworks, and tools for strategy, ideation, research, and project management. It’s being held at the Community Research Center and I’m working with CO local Kim Smoyer of Smoyer & Associates. It’s a course for innovation project managers, consultants, intrapreneurs, and entrepreneurs who want to have more productive strategy, idea generation, and

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    Get a Grip on Innovation — 10 Questions, 20 Minutes

    Get a Grip on Innovation — 10 Questions, 20 Minutes Ten questions for you to focus on assessing the state of your organization’s innovation program. Twenty minutes to learn something and take action steps. If you think your current program is working, non-existent, or just a disaster — you will learn something by taking this quick survey. Yes, there are other ways to assess innovation culture that are more thorough (such as Teresa Amabile Ph.D. “KEYS“). However, the purpose of these ten questions is to get you off the dime and into action around your innovation program/department. If these questions raise any red flags, you might need to go deeper, perhaps using a qualitative approach. But in the interest of

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    Invest in Innovation Skill Building

    Invest in Your Innovation Capacity In my various consulting engagements I have learned not to take much for granted. I thought by this year in history (2016) everyone in the business world would have a clue as to how to do ideation (aka brainstorming) properly. Wow, not even close. It’s a glaring missing ingredient in staying competitive. It’s a key to growth and it’s routinely done poorly. The art and science of developing valid business ideas has a formula. There are variations but at the heart of it you have: Problem Framing, Ideation, Idea Development, and Actions. Within each of those areas there are tools and techniques. If you know them, and use them in the context of an innovation

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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 See BrainWriting How-To Instructions at the Bottom of this Post* 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

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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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    Innovation Facilitator Tool Kit

    I am sometimes asked what a Facilitator should have in their kit bag. Here’s my answer — the Innovation Facilitator Tool Kit list. The items are below in bold. Many have links to where you can source the materials. I’m assuming the facilitator is a hands-on project leader who facilitates meetings, such as idea generation or strategy sessions. I did not take into consideration travel via plane or car. Obviously, some things are more portable than others. Consider this a master list which you can subset for your needs. Some of these items are not available off the shelf retail, so, put this kit together ahead of time so you can focus on design and executing your session plan as

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    Temporary Innovation Veep

    The case for bringing in a temporary Innovation Veep.* “On Call Innovation Director/Mentor/Trainer”? What really changes innovation culture? Are you seeking a change in your innovation approach? Is your organization mired in a non-innovative swamp? First let me say what does NOT change innovation culture. It’s not that these services that I’ll mention below can’t be helpful, they can. But on there own, they will not change innovation at your organization. There’s one thing that will change culture and I talk about that at the bottom of this post. Don’t skip ahead. * Let me acknowledge the ideas of author Michael Foster — we discussed these concepts about a Temp Veep over coffee in San Jose a few weeks ago

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