Archive for: February, 2010

Failure is an idea not an outcome

the eagle

We are all failures – at least, all the best of us are. – J.M. Barrie

As a society, what keeps us from creating anything worthwhile?


Rock climbing requires a tremendous amount of focus. You need to keep your emotions in check in the ever present fear of falling to your death. If don’t control your fear, you die. It’s that simple!

For climbers falling isn’t failing, falling is just part of succeeding.

Must read innovation stories of the week: Mental models determine business models

Much like humans have mental models that determine their beliefs about how the world works, businesses have business models that do the same. And, just how us humans get stuck in our own thoughts if we don’t feed ourselves new experiences, business models become irrelevant when they don’t evolve.

, and this means you have to start with the culture in your organization and how they view the world. You need to work on questioning the assumptions your culture has about how the world works, so it can start thinking about how it can work better for you.

. Want a new business model? Check your mental model first.

Weekend innovation tip: Look for tipping points


Here’s a fascinating talk about our digital future by Carnegie Mellon University Professor Jesse Schnell who dives into a world of game development which will emerge from the popular "Facebook Games" era. Prof. Schnell sees a future where our behavior is determined by the same way outcomes in games are determined: by the number of points we get by doing a task.


This is very interesting and you should definitely watch the video, it’s well worth the 28 minutes!


As a fellow gamer, this doesn’t hit me as strange because games have built ‘addictive mechanisms’ that while annoying sometimes; you’re still playing another 2 hours. And now we have all these social games that are also moving into the mobile arena that will get us doing things to get more points while interacting with out environment. The fact is, games are addictive and companies like Zynga and Foursquare know this and are making great use of these mechanisms (I’ve stayed away from Farmville as I believe is a BIG waste of time but know people who are HOOKED on it like crack!).

What’s happening beneath these ‘trends’ is that industries are overlapping on one another and the tipping point was when Facebook opened it’s application platform to developers a few years back and then network effects took over that now almost half a billion are only a click away from becoming contributors to point gaining behavior.


Could we have predicted that social gaming would take off as it has? No. Could we have anticipated? Most likely.


We’re evolving!

Different domains are converging with one another and is shaping our behavior. Yesterday I posted my thoughts on the topic of evolution and I argue that . Change doesn’t come from doing the same thing over and over again, it comes from the convergence of different domains. It’s very hard to predict what might happen, but what we can do is try to anticipate these changes or if you’re brave enough, create the change you want to see in the world yourself.


So how do we look for turning points? Here’s how I go about it:


> Try to determine the underlying causes behind competition in different domains and think about how these might overlap.

> Look for any sudden successes or failures in the business world that people find hard to explain.

> Examine the greatest anxieties of those on the inside of any business or industry.

> Keep an eye out for any kind of shifts in tastes or values.


More importantly after you’ve thought about the things above, ask yourself ‘WHY’ 5 times for each! You don’t have to be a great forecaster (for all we know they don’t know either!), you just have to be aware that things evolve. How this happens and what the outcome will be is what we want to anticipate.

Change not growth

mexican walking fish

What’s very dangerous is not to evolve.

See that strange looking animal that looks like it was in the movie Avatar? It’s called a Mexican walking fish, or axolotl, and is one of the most bizarre creatures on the planet. Not just because of how it looks but because it has the distinct ability to regrow limbs. The mexican walking fish isn’t really a fish, it’s salamander and it’s closely related to frogs and other amphibians with whom they share some of the same characteristics.

Enough with biology class. Why did I put that picture in this post?

Because as bizarre a creature this is, it reminded me of how everything evolves and how different species combine or recombine themselves to form new species that adopt the abilities of others and so forth. We’re so used to seeing the same types of animals all the time that when we see something like an Axototl it seems alien to us.


The same happens in business, we get so used to seeing the same types of businesses all the time that when we see one that operates in a totally different way than the others they seem crazy to us. And you know why? Because we’re not evolving, we’re getting left behind and pretty soon the one’s that are evolving will put us out of business.


And then the cycle repeats itself. Where in the cycle are you?

I think it’s important that we be aware that we also must evolve. Consultants will tell you that you need to cannibalize your business, what they’re really trying to tell you is your business needs to evolve not because they say so but because everything changes.


To evolve doesn’t mean to grow, it means to change.

Like evolution, change doesn’t start in the mainstream where you’re sitting, it starts at the edges. Like new types of businesses, new species of animals are created at the edges and then some eventually move to the mainstream while others stay on the edge.

Do you think your dog, cat or fish has looked that way forever? Do you think your business will look the same way in 5 years? Do you think your customers will always want the same thing you’re selling? Do you think the industry/market you operate in will always exist, operating in the same way with the same players in 5 years? Do you think tomorrow is going to be the same as today?


The answer is: NO.


One last thought to remember and you knew it was coming: It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change. – Charles Darwin.

Hopefully we’re all changing to stay relevant, not just in the pursuit of growth.

For breakthrough ideas read the unreadable


Chaos, where brilliant dreams are born.

Do you ever get this feeling that when you read the same stuff over and over and then you try to read something completely unrelated you become bored very easily? Well that’s a very bad problem to have if you want to get into the business of ‘doing innovation’ because breakthrough ideas rarely come from looking in the same place.

You want some new ideas everyday? Read stuff that’s unrelated to your field. John Jantsch calls this ‘’ and he’s right, the best ideas come from the intersection between ideas from different domains.

Why should people learn to innovate?

In my entrepreneurial journey I’ve come across people who pretty much don’t care about ‘innovation’ but what they do care about is how they can extract (notice I said extract and not create) more value from their customers. It’s fair to say that those of us who preach the ‘there’s always a better way’ gospel run into this type of thinking all the time.

Yet how do we explain to these people that they too should learn to wield the sword?

Here’s my answer:


Because .

We all have the innate ability to be creative and therefore with help, collaborate towards something better. Innovation is a team sport and is something and not outsource it to a special few. Anybody can and should contribute and I believe (leaders) to bring them with us.

Sure there’s risk involved but then again when has anything worthwhile been done without risk? We don’t have to minimize risk, we have to manage it to push us forward.

Bottom line is innovation is something that results in something that is bigger than ourselves and this in turn brings society together in new ways towards progress.


What say you?

Innovation: respect the process


Master the instrument, master the music, then forget all that shit and play. – Charlie Parker

Some say innovation is predictable, I agree. But to a larger degree it is not because you can’t really tell where it’s going to come from and who will be holding all the cards. Right now you’re probably in the ‘innovate or die’ mindset, you’re also probably feeling frustrated because you’re reading blogs, following innovation consultants on Twitter to try and do innovation but you are not getting anywhere.

Let me help clear things up for you, . It needs to be nourished, it needs to be practiced, it needs to be mastered.