Tag Archives: Innovation

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.

From the Industrial Age to the Connection Age

This is a guest post by my friend and fellow Generalist, Arnold Beekes.

WTF! What is happening?

It is clear that we are in a period of time, which is called ‘transition’, the process or a period of changing from one state or condition to another. We are coming out of the Industrial Age (characterized by efficiency, repetition and thus standardization – building a ‘system of sameness’ in every aspect of life) into a new age, which some people call the Information Age. I am not sure about that name, Information Age, as I see information as, the enabler, rather than the purpose and intention in itself. I would like to call it the Age of Connection (characterized by creation, contribution and thus participation – building a ‘universe of uniqueness’), to be truly connected with ourselves, with others, animals and with nature.

But we are not there yet; we are really in this no man’s land, this limbo.

How to think

We’re one week away from 2015, people will make their resolutions and try to keep them for a whole year; which usually doesn’t work out as planned. One resolution, an ongoing effort actually, that we should all aim for on a daily basis is that of making better decisions.

That means thinking better, which will have a cumulative effect in all else we do; including executing on our New Year resolutions.

A question I get asked often is something along the lines of , “How can I improve my ability to make better decisions?” To this, I respond with a counter question, “why do you think you make bad decisions in the first place?”

The reframing of the question, is good example of “what to do” to make better decisions. Thus, an easy way to make better decisions is to ask yourself questions, but that usually comes after you’ve done some grunt work to define a better question beforehand.

What kills most innovation isn’t a lack of ideas, it’s a lack of relationships

Do we still need old-fashioned physical offices to do work?

Contrary to reports that the demise of the office is near, I believe we still need physical offices; and more importantly physical interactions. I believe that the model that will be dominant for most types of organizations is a hybrid between being a mobile worker and being at a physical office.

The true innovator’s motto: We’ll figure it out…

we'll figure it outIt is very common that innovation efforts are squandered because the people involved, frankly, should not be there in the first place. Of the projects you’ve been a part of, how many had people that were willing to roll with the punches and figure out a path forward? I assume you can count them with one hand.

Innovation is not easy, it takes risk and requires a team of people who are comfortable operating in the unknown;  people who get excited about starting from scratch and having a go at it; people who are willing to work through challenges that have no precedent.

Innovators widen their view of competition

I’m sure you’ve been in meetings where everyone worries about competition more than they worry about customers. It is a fact that for traditionally run businesses, any talk about strategy quickly shifts to competition. It’s unavoidable and it pisses me off.  Traditional business practice is based on beating the competition, which assumes that there is competition that looks and plays just like you if you are starting a business.