Tag Archives: Innovation

Architecting the Invisible: Creating a Culture of Innovation

For innovation create chaos“Without order, nothing can exist. Without chaos, nothing can evolve”.

Just found this is great talk by Greg Horowitt, Chief Evangelist and Co-Founder of T2 Venture Creation, about what it takes to create a culture of innovation. It’s about belief systems; both a mindset and heart-set.

Therefore, what does it take to solve problems in the world? It’s your imagination, because often the knowledge to solve a new and different challenge doesn’t yet exist. Innovation requires experimentation and iteration; evolution. It is human-centric. New beliefs lead to new behaviors, which lead to better actions and outcomes.

For innovation: More prototypes, less powerpoints

rapid prototyping innovationRadically better products don’t stand on the shoulder of giants, but on the shoulders of lots of iterations. The basis for success then, and for continual product excellence, is speed. – Eric Schmidt

Indeed. Scrappy startups are known for acting with speed and conviction, while established organizations are slow and risk averse. When implemented well, speed and surprise are the ultimate equalizers. To achieve surprise, you need an unexpected idea first. Second, you need to have the ability to execute that idea. Third, you need to decide when and how to execute the idea.

It is at the moment of making the decision where most established organizations fail. Why? Because most large organizations don’t empower their employees to make decisions.

No standard behavior change, no innovation

“After this, the world will never be the same…” Those are the words a true innovator should say with complete conviction about their product or service because a world-changing outcome is what she/he sees in the future. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case on most occasions.

Most entrepreneurs I know aim to make money by taking advantage of a need. This is the most obvious path to “innovation”, but is satisfying an existing need innovative?

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.

CEOs don’t really want a new business model

Find the revolution before it finds youThere are various reasons why established businesses fail at innovation, but one stands above all: CEOs don’t really want a new business model.

True innovation, not the incremental type, brings forth new approaches and business models. If you are an upstart, that means you are probably creating a new business model. For an established company, it means coming to grips with the reality that your existing business model is going to become irrelevant; if you don’t act first.

But, no matter how many times we see an established business drop rock bottom because its leaders failed anticipate and change with the times, CEOs of other businesses are content with maintaining the status quo. Seems like learning from others doesn’t fit their mindset.

True innovators create and set new standards

Happy 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.