Innovation in real life... Helping you create products and services your customers really want.
Expanding the Innovation Horizon Global CEO Study 2006
FYI, the Expanding the Innovation Horizon Global CEO Study 2006 is out and available from IBM.
Joyce Wycoff of the Innovation Network sent out some highlights:
Emphasis is on external partnerships, broadening the mix of innovation (more emphass on business models), and removing barriers. The elevator summary: Think broadly, act personally, manage the mix of innovation.
One interesting graphic is Figure 11 on page 22 which shows that Outperformers use a higher percentage of external ideas. The collaboration gap (importance versus extent of collaboration and partnering) is a significant insight. Anyone who helps organizations cross the IP barrier should be able to do well in this field.
I will be reading this 64 page report over next several weeks and put in my two cents :)
When I talk with people about innovation and creativity I always get asked "Can you measure innovation or creativity in a person?" While there are assessments to assess certain personality traits, I do not believe the word measure should be used.
When the word measure is introduced it brings with it some expectations: a base line measurement and then monitor measurements. This also introduces the notions of "improvement", "growth", "comparison".
Take the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. It's main purpose is to assist a person in identifying some significant personal preferences. It is a self help, self assessment, personal reflection kind of tool. However, I have seen organizations innocently use (at first) this tool on work teams to help them develop as individuals and members of the team. Unfortunately, what happens over time is the team members start to use other team members' Myers-Briggs Type Indicator as a label, to define interactions with people by their indicator. What this does is pigeon hole or box people in. The real effect is that a tool meant for personal reflection is used to create implied barriers in job functions. "You are an INTJ so you can't be suited to this sales position" are they types of misuse I want to avoid.
Interestingly, there is a "test" for creativity called the Remote Associates Test (RAT), a measure of convergent rather than divergent thinking. Interestingly, the original manuscript for this states "(it should) not be used for counseling or placement purposes at the present time."
The RAT hypothesis states "The creative thinking process is the forming of associative elements into new combinations which either meet specified requirements or are in some way useful. The more mutually remote the elements of the new combination, the more creative the process or solution."
What brought me to this entry is the Business Week (Oct 30th, 2006) brief blurb on "The Power Of Ambivalent Thinking". The articles states "ambivalent feelings -- the simultaneous anxiety and excitement of starting a new job, say -- may result in enhanced creativity." So there might be the Ambivalent Assessment Inventory (AAI) coming soon to your HR dept.
I prefer to use MindManager by Mindjet, but there are many other tools that fit various needs and various platforms (Mac, Windows, and Linux!). If you use MindManager, don't forget to look at Mindjet Labs, a place where you can learn more about the uses of MindManager.
Mind maps got some broad exposure recently in Business Week SEPTEMBER 25, 2006; David Kelley, founder of IDEO, published a map focused on preparing an address for a meeting.
"The most important and visible outcropping of the action bias in the excellent companies is their willingness to try things out, to experiment. There is absolutely no magic in the experiment. It is simply a tiny completed action, a manageable test that helps you learn something, just as in high school chemistry. But our experience has been that most big institutions have forgotten how to test and learn. They seem to prefer analysis and debate to trying something out, and they are paralyzed by fear of failure, however small (or improbable)."
Light witty humor makes you think what you take for granted in contests
Last night my wife announced that we need to submit 15 reports to Angie's List so we could win a Nikon 4-megapixel digital camera. I always get suspicious of such contests; was it every Angie's List member who submits 15 qualifying reports gets a digital camera? "Yep" said my wife. So she immediately put in 8 reports. I had a stack of roof repair estimates that I know would be qualified so I planned to enter in some reports.
Later in the evening my wife mentioned in a straight face "The rules state that they may substitute prizes if they run out of cameras ... So we may end up with one-hundred bags of M&M". :)
"Members who submit 15 or more qualifying reports will receive a Nikon 4-megapixel digital camera. Only one prize per household. Cameras will be shipped prior to November 30, or upon first availability from the distributor. (Angie's List reserves the right to substitute the prize for one of equal value if the designated prize should become unavailable for any reason.) Angie's List is not responsible for damage incurred in shipping. "
In all seriousness, they really could substitute a "prize of equal value" in bags of M&Ms.
I just finished reading the letters to the editor for Business Week, Oct 23rd, 2006.
Don Smith of Rochester, NY, writes that brainstorming must take into account that participants must be mentally and physically loose enough to participate, where silly thoughts or ideas are just fine. One anecdote he recounts is the need to solve the issue of having a large aircraft carrier in port during a severe storm avoiding damage due to hitting its dock. One comical idea that came out from a idea generation session was to line up the crew members to blow against the ship to keep it from the dock. This "silly" idea turned into one that was implemented: aircraft are placed on the dock and the plane's backwash is used to hold the ship off the dock.
One of my biggest complaints about "brainstorming" sessions is that people never really practice. Most times it is in a forced setting during a crucial time of year, either near the end of the year or early in beginning of year, both looking to figure out what new products, services, enhancements, etc. will need to be created.
Most people experience a forced facilitation. A leader announces that this is a brainstorming session and that new ideas are needed. Many times the traditional rules are read (lots of sites with these: Six Sigma Brainstorming Rules, NASA, and Business Week). But just as many times the rules are rarely followed.
Brainstorming requires practice, regular practice, individually and in groups. The practice needs to be on a range of problems and challenges. Just like athletic teams practicing regularly, brainstorming needs to be practiced regularly. The practice will help get your mind in a prepared state so that when you need to generate ideas, you will kick into brainstorm mode automatically.
A Hundred Questions: In your notebook (you have a notebook, right?) make a list of one hundred questions that are important to you.
Sharpen your question asking skills by asking simple questions with why, when, who, how, and where. Ask awkward questions
One activity that I practice is to list a challenge, even one that may already have been "solved", and force myself to generate one hundred solutions to address the problem. This is an extension to the A Hundred Questions above.
Sometimes an innovation really is in the way you present it. Take the idea of developing a probe to look for water on the moon. What would you call it? How about H2Probe, Water Explorer, X3228, or Moon Water Finder (MWF). These sound boring (at least to me). What if it was called the Lunar Penguin Program? That actually gives a visualization of birds that hang out near frozen water and it highlights the moon through the use of a synonym.
This idea is mentioned in an this week's Business Week article March Of The Lunar Penguins. The article is about Raytheon's Missile Systems group efforts to avoid becoming a horse whip factory and think about the future, to change and adopt.
The cool thing about Elsie Stix was their interconnectiveness. They could be put together in many ways to create different toys.
They came out in the early 1970's (I got mine between 1973 and 1975ish) and were fun to collect and play with. They were also very portable. I regularly took them to school to make things at recess (I probably lost a few that way:). Some how I managed to keep about 30 stix since that time!
The history of the Elsie Stix appears to have really started in the 1950's with patent 2844910, a construction kit made out of wooden ice cream sticks by the Southern Ice Cream Company of Kansas City, MO. FYI, the patent link works best in Internet Explorer.
This patent was extended in 1972 with patents 3663717 and 3748778. The new toy design utilized plastic and modified the stick interlocking design.
Interestingly, Theora Design in Israel claims to have invented Elsie Stix under the name Icetix and distributed them in the USA through Borden Dairy.
Finding Elsie Stix requires some ingenuity. eBay, the great Super Store, did not have anything for sale today, though some Stix had sold in the summer of 2006.
Why were these innovative? They created a sense of "wow" in kids, they were clever, practical, and (marketing innovation) utilized the notion of "you need more of our product to get the things you want (Stix)".
Tool: Assumption challenge. In the IBEN session, the assumption challenge question was write down all the things you take for granted or assume about restaurants. One person generated more than 20 items!