Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda Innovation

    Wouldacouldashouldav1The Time is Now to Plan for 2016 Innovation

    This time of year it’s natural to get an innovation plan in place — if you’re not there already — the time is now.

    Talking to customers about their innovation efforts I’m hearing regrets in December. Wishes for having done more, and done more sooner.

    Shel Silverstein wrote a poem that sums it up nicely:

    Woulda-Coulda- Shoulda

    All the Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas
    Layin’ in the sun,
    Talkin’ bout the things
    They woulda-coulda-shoulda done…
    But those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas
    All ran away and hid
    From one little did.

    by Shel Silverstein

    A Simple Innovation Plan — in 7 Steps

    I get it, innovation, if it’s not part of your culture, is hard to kick start and get going.

    And yet, it can be as simple as a one page plan. How about four projects, one per quarter, next year? Here’s a model simple plan:

    1. Set up a team with an empowered leader. It can be an ad hoc team. What they mostly need is time. If this “stops you” — you’ve got bigger problems than innovation.
    2. Each project starts with a blank page and ends up with pitches to the top decision maker.
    3. Each project takes one quarter of the calendar. If you’re a very big organization, maybe do two or three instead of four. Consider alternating projects between incremental innovation and bigger risk innovation. Start with one that provides a low-risk win.
    4. Each cycle or project progresses from a blank page, to a platform question, to ideation, to convergence, to pitch presentations. For more on this basic Front End of Innovation structure see this article I wrote with my KILN partners Kate Hammer and Indy Neogy — which provides more detail.
    5. The top person chooses one or more of the pitched ideas to put into the product development pipeline for introduction. If you don’t have a pipeline, start one, and test the idea as cheaply as you can before you advance to the next stage of development (as in Lean Product Development). If the big cheese keeps saying no, you’ve got another problem that falls outside of innovation.
    6. Each quarterly project has a different project leader to spread the work around and get more people involved. Or, create an Innovation Director position and make sure you’ve got a real ramrod in that key post. A true collaborative leader!
    7. After each cycle/project, you measure how many ideas you generated, how many you pitch, how many are selected, and how many ideas get put into play. Over time you can measure revenue from in play innovations. Rinse and repeat.

    If you’ve read one of the 10,086 innovation books you know innovation can be difficult and complex. Of course, those books are going to sort it all out for you! If you haven’t got time to read them all now here’s the simplest bit of advice I can give you:

    Innovation is about the “one little did”.  Innovation = Projects. If you don’t have innovation projects going on, you aren’t doing innovation.

    It’s just that simple.

    So, sit down with the team and plot out your simple plan. And then you won’t be reciting “Woulda-Coulda-Shoulda” at the end of 2016.


    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 it’s 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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    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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    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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    CPS is Innovation Basic Training

    Six Reasons Why CPS Training Is Innovation Training It’s ironic that the so-called soft skills often have the biggest payoff in business results. I’m always straddling the fence between creativity and innovation. I do this because innovation is why people pay me. Yet creativity is where it all starts. Creative training only feels like a soft skill. In reality it has the potential to create more value than any other type of training. But not any kind of creative training. What I’m talking about is structured Creative Problem Solving. Basic training in these crucial thinking skills might be the highest leverage training activity an organization can undertake. The plural on skills is intentional because there are several types of creative thinking, from

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    Improv and Innovation Do Mix

    Improv and Innovation do mix — and it’s not funny. You don’t have to be funny for Improv training to be useful in innovation. There are two things holding back more business people from pushing the Improv training button: 1.) They believe that Improv is difficult and that you need to have a funny bone, and, 2.) They believe that while Improv might be a good soft skill there is no direct and near term benefit to innovation (or other corporate goals). Classic improvisation games can help solve serious business problems and you don’t have to be particularly clever or funny. The benefits of using Improv — if done properly — are immediate. If you want the specifics of how,

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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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