Category Archives: Creativity

To create a successful business, you sometimes have to break rules. But which ones?

Which rules should we break, but won’t bring our business down if we do? This is a question that not too many businesses ask themselves but should. The simplest answer is to kill some stupid rules, the ones that no one has questioned because “that’s just the way we do things here”; break those and you’ll spark some innovative ideas.

We don’t need a society of more entrepreneurs; we need a society of hungry minds

creativity is a habitAs we continue discussing The Future for Youth, we’ve come up with some interesting ideas about what that looks like. One of the key ideas that has come up again and again is that parents should raise entrepreneurial children with the aim that everyone is and should be an entrepreneur.

Should we teach young people to be entrepreneurs?

Will Chief Innovation Officers still exist in five years?

Will Chief Innovation Officers still exist in five years?

A recent article in Fast Company touched on the topic of CIOs (Chief Innovation Officer) and how they’ve become more ubiquitous inside large organizations. This is an enterprise innovation tactic years in the making. But, do they actually mean anything?

My take is that in the CEOs call for innovation, there is also a jump for innovation by placing the responsibility for innovation on a single person: the Chief Innovation Officer. Frankly, the Chief Innovation Officer is more akin to placing blame on someone for being “disrupted”; other than the CEO. Why? Because it is a reactive move; not a proactive one.

The CIOs job is to maneuver the business around irrelevance. Giving someone a title can have unintended consequences such as ego driven decision making, which usually leads to blown opportunities and ideas that never had the chance to take off.

And that’s the problem.

If your organization is truly committed to innovation, which it should, then the CEO needs to be the CIO (chief Innovation Officer), period. His job is to set the context for innovation to happen anywhere in the organization; not just R&D, marketing, a team from McKinsey or some special forces team.

There are signs that will tell you when you’ve created an innovation primordial soup, one is ideas are valued more than hierarchy; not the other way around. To be clear, I’m not saying Chief Innovation Officers are worthless, I’m saying we shouldn’t see them as a sign that “innovation” is going to happen.

So, will Chief Innovation Officers still exist in five years? Hopefully not. The better question to ask is, “how might we change organizations so in the next 5 years innovation is expected and not mandated?”.

Bottom line: Innovation can’t be owned or mandated, it needs to be allowed. You can’t tell innovative people to be innovative, but you can let them. Unleash the black sheep and get out of their way; rest assured they’ll innovate.

True innovators create and set new standards

push the envelopeHappy New Year! Last week I vacationed in Mexico City, where I ringed in the new year. It’s the first time I’ve spent considerable time there, it’s a huge city and covering it in a week is impossible. Good thing they have sightseeing buses, or turibus as they’re known there, that take you on different routes to show you “what you need to see” around the city. So, I took one!

Even as a tourist I still reflect about the experiences I have with products and services I interact with in my travels. Friends of mine also know that, so when I posted a selfie of my cousins and I on the turibus I was not surprised that I friend of mine who lives in the city quickly tweeted back that he wanted to know my thoughts about my turibus experience.

Late that night, I sent him an email with my thoughts; which could be summed up this way: it was good, but not great.

The turibus, is a convenience “get to know the city” service Mexico City offers tourists and residents. The key word is “convenience”, a time saver. And as such it’s not bad, but it didn’t blow my mind either; I believe it’s the same situation with sightseeing buses in other large cities. Thus, you have the same expectations about sightseeing buses in large cities.

To a true innovator, that smells like an opportunity to raise or redefine expectations. How?

First of all, ask yourself a fundamental question: what are people really trying to accomplish? An easy answer is people hire a turibus to get educated about the city and its culture.

Great! Next, ask yourself one question: how might I make this more interesting?

The point of asking yourself, “how might I make this more interesting?”, is to question your own assumptions, shift your perspective and not mindlessly follow the first thing that pops into your head.

In addition, I like to use other adjectives such as:

  • more memorable;
  • more exciting;
  • more fun;
  • more funny;
  • more high quality;
  • more surprising;
  • more novel;
  • more useful;
  • etc..

The last three being the criteria I use to determine whether or not an idea has the potential to be innovative: new, surprising and radically useful.

The point is you shouldn’t accept the current reality as a given. Remember, reality is malleable; don’t be afraid to set standards. True innovators aim to be the only ones, not the best or first ones. That intent comes from setting, meeting and exceeding their own standards; not everyone else’s. Thus making competition irrelevant.

With that said, though I won’t do a thorough exercise on how I would approach said challenge, below are some questions that you can re-purpose for other domains to help uncover assumptions as well as understand current expectations; I’ll use the sightseeing bus experience example:

  • What are the core components of the sightseeing bus experience?
  • What do people expect from a sightseeing bus?
  • What wouldn’t people expect from a sightseeing bus?
  • What would easily surprise them?
  • What do people value, and viceversa, and why?
  • What does everyone agree on?
  • What hasn’t changed about the sightseeing bus experience?
  • Why hasn’t anyone done anything new?

Next, ask yourself: how can we better the sightseeing bus experience by delivering an unexpected and radically useful solution?

Here are some thought provoking questions to get you warmed up:

  • How might we use _insert some emerging technology_ to enhance how people experience the sightseeing bus experience?
  • What if the sights come come alive in people’s phones/tablets?
  • If millennials started designing the sightseeing bus experience, what would they do differently and why?

Bottom line: products and services can quickly become dull and routine; even to tourists. Sometimes the fundamental goal people are trying to accomplish changes, other times it doesn’t. Our job as game-changing innovators is to constantly raise and/or redefine expectations by questioning assumptions, looking beyond the obvious, and understanding that oftentimes people can’t articulate what they really want. Let’s show them something they would never think off.