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insights

sharing the how

the art of creating what’s next : purpose, people, process and pathways

PURPOSE

alignment and engagement with vision
Define the Purpose
Define the why. Why are you doing what you are doing? Why does it matter? What purpose does it fulfill? Is the purpose timeless? Consider finding a purpose that summarizes the goal in mind, but keeps specific enough on it’s deliverable. For example if you are in the car business, is it “Make the car go fast?” If the purpose is about making the car go fast, than it provides a focal point where efforts are focused on car speed. Imagine discovering and utilizing a new technology that made the weight of the tire rims lighter. The weight reduction would help the car go faster. However, if the technology adds weight than it does not support the purpose and should not be utilized. Identifying the purpose can be challenging, but once solved the purpose provides clarity and gives leadership, team members and partners a clear and attainable objective.
Define the Vision
The vision is a powerful tool. It paints the long term view of where you ultimately want to go. The purpose is the why and the vision gives you direction. Clarity on direction keeps you going on the right path, even if the path you are building is uncharted.
Elevate the Value
Ideas fail before they get off the ground because the value cannot be recognized. Define and build an identity around ideas, innovations, and systems so they can become translate to others and in turn become valuable to the enterprise. Be sure to shape and formulate ideas, to apply transformation and strategic thinking to processes, to think creatively to see what may or may not be implied and what may have been overlooked and to apply marketing and communication methods to ideas, thus making it easier to convey the necessity of the innovation through presentations and consumer testing.
Activate Innovation
New innovations need an identified value beyond what’s obvious and unstated. Successful innovation captures and fulfills unmet needs. Innovations may be singular ideas or a collection of ideas under a unifying platform. The innovation platform or individual innovations will need to solve near-term and long-term business goals. Be sure to extract the value, recognize patterns where the innovations can be expanded and identify the many way and opportunities where innovations can be utilized or go-to-market.
Actionable Ideas
Look for innovations that are actionable. The ones that you can originate, develop, and deliver. To help these new actionable ideas come to life take the time to frame their value through branding, design, strategy and a one page business model canvas. Concepts need to be packaged in a way that makes them compelling. Answer some of the hard questions, understand that you won’t have all the answers, but define a product and service enough to portray and define it’s potential commercial success.
Reason to Believe
Making use of marketing concepts early on in innovation development as an important aspect of the process is often overlooked. Since most new product and service ideas are conceived outside of the marketing organization, it is important to give ideas the elevation they need by taking advantage of the clarity and finesse of marketing communications. When a product message is instilled with a Reason To Believe, it effectively helps motivate and sell the idea beyond the confines of its birthplace. Not only that, having a Reason To Believe will give the idea fuel and clarity throughout the development process so the idea will stick to its framework and not wither away due to a lack of definition. A Reason To Believe gives the idea clarity and helps keep it on track as it is passed from one discipline to another within an organization and then on to the final customer. Additional marketing-based resources include gaining an understanding of marketplace economics, performing competitor research, clarifying directional aspects of success, and creating communication tools.
Innovation Validation
Ideas require more than positive motivation. Innovative ideas need validation; they need facts and data to back them up. Ideas need a plan of attack in terms of how, when, where, etc. they will fit into the market. In order to make great leaps and bounds, innovation needs purpose, clear direction, and a captain to sail the ship to port, a captain who has an innovation compass and map. Without that map and compass, innovation wouldn’t find the ports it needs to sell its wares.

PEOPLE

engage others to make an impact
Engaged Leadership
Proactive innovation leaders spend time with their teams. They take the time to nurture their teams and participants. They actively engage and participate in innovation processes. By taking an active role, both leaders and team members are better aligned to overcome the difficulties innovation brings as well as to the benefits innovation yields when it succeeds.
Open Innovation
Having a fresh pair of eyes in an industry or on a new business challenge can add new value and provide insight into a future opportunity or vision. Participants who have little knowledge of the problem can ask questions that might be easily overlooked and may be able to translate or bring to table solutions and examples used elsewhere in a business or other industry. Bring other participants in, even if temporary, can help innovations with novelties from one industry to another with current and future products and services. Ideas require more than one kind of input; generally, the most valuable inputs come from the unknown rather than the known. Extracting methods and solutions from diverse industries and talent can  lead to new insights and product differentiation when facing an innovation dilemma within a unrelated target area.

 

Product Managers
Product managers wears many hats, but the one not often called out is the role of bridging disciplines. They live within the waters of innovation and they do need d to be a niche specialist like a rocket scientist or a chemist, but rather someone who can keep all the balls juggling in the air. Someone who listens well, effectively communicates and understand the technology, the issues, and the constraints underlying each varied situation. This kind of understanding is a milestone requirement. Note that having this kind of understanding does not manifest itself by mirroring the exact exchange of words and vocabulary in order to make others gain the same insight—rather, it requires an innate ability to translate and transform that understanding into concepts that can be understood by other multi-disciplinary team members coming from divergent and different domains of business (i.e., from design, engineering, and marketing). The PM is also called the project manager can also benefit from understanding issues across different business domains such as design, engineering, marketing, research, and finance. Each aspect of a project or program they are working on may employ a different vocabulary and different cultural references to relate to the issues at hand (and to be relevant across various disciplines). This means that any leader who has a program for success must build bridges between management and the diverse partners involved in a project. Some times, that leader is a generalist who is capable of shepherding transition and conjoining issues to make innovation a success.
Innovation Champions
Achieving success with any innovation initiative requires support and alignment at senior levels of the organization. Finding a champion to help individuals and teams succeed is an important element and step to overcome obstacles along the way. The champion can help guide the teams on where to go and potentially what to do. But more significantly they can help innovators know what resonates and what doesn’t within organization to help frame ideas and innovation activities in the right way to succeed. To increase the chances of success, an organization’s senior suite leadership must lend its full support to idea development programs by being actively engaged in the proceedings, available for updates and inquires, and providing necessary assistance in overcoming obstacles along the innovation journey. This requires that senior leadership does not waver in its communications to participants and that team members continue to provide their full support. Half-hearted support will cause turmoil within the organization and among outside participants, which in turn will lead to a lack of focus on initially-supported ideas.  This lack of focus will result in inaction and diffusion of the ideas as they attempt to progress and develop. With full support and unwavering commitment, innovation thrives; without it, innovation can die. With full top-level support, innovation managers and business/product development teams will have a better chance of success Innovation leadership requires communication, understanding, direction, vision, collaboration, teamwork, creative thinking, a hands-on approach, relationship building; leaders must have the ability to learn, assist, partner, coach, and mentor teams, partners, individuals, and organizations along the commercialization journey. Jack Welch the former CEO of GE said ““Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”

PROCESS

methods to help actualize innovation
Innovation Processing
Manufacturing is a process. Innovation is a process. Without processes, nothing gets done. Clarifying and detailing processes is important. Once a plan is in place, issues must be managed on an on-going basis; resources, timing, and budgets must be established and adjusted whenever necessary. However, the Innovation process is unique. One would not manage marketing with a manufacturing process. Nor should the way that current products are maintained be the same process a new product should follow. Consider how best to manage innovation and the requires taking a serious look at existing processes and creating a new process that enables innovation to succeed. Many existing processes may eliminate innovation just by they way they work.
Applying Innovation
If leaders can nurture innovation with a clear time horizon, magic can be made into reality and all other benefits can be seamlessly integrated. Innovation in many instances can suffer when forced to operate within the constraints of typical business processes. In other words, when innovation is constantly being put under scrutiny in a series of endless reviews to drive today’s revenue, it degenerates—the magic of it, the potential of it, and the significance of it withers. The traditional business process in how businesses operate on managing current processes is not an effective way to run innovation. The metrics and outcomes are different. If you manage innovation the traditional way, than you will stagnate or force innovation to fail. To keep up excitement and enthusiasm of the innovation, the ideas and the participants, innovation needs to be relatively independent yet empowered. Innovation needs to thrive. Which dictates a different process of valuing and tracking innovation activities. It’s important to give innovation the room it needs to develop and find it’s way.
Team Alignment
To get teams motivated and engaged, a leader must create a vision, identify and lay out a plan for success, and enable people to brainstorm around the innovation. A leader must get people engaged in helping solve the problem at hand as well as allow people to make mistakes and to fail as part of that process. A leader must delineate boundaries and conditions: what, when, how, why, who, and where to enable team alignment.
Nurture Innovation
Nurturing the growth of innovation is like nurturing the growth of a child. Ideas—like children—must grow into a living, breathing entity, one that possesses emotion, functionality, and operation. Although children can physically grow if they’re ignored, their potential would be greatly suppressed—they need to be nurtured and fed with love, guidance, and support in order to prosper. In the same way, ideas require support, nurturing, and commitment. Innovation is fragile, babying innovation may be the strategic approach to succeeding with innovation.
 Innovation Culture
Innovation can be exhilarating and scary. By its nature, innovation is fraught with failure. Small innovation success along the way help participants feel more confident on the riskier path. Each successive win helps team members stay engaged and helps them continue the path towards implementing innovation. The way to nurture a culture capable of overcoming the challenges of innovation is to foster rewards that are different than within a traditional organization. Explore innovation stage gate goals and find ways to reward team members, such as time off or “fun” group outings or exercises to unite team members. Remember innovation is a relentless journey. if an organization is true to their goals that talking about innovation versus pursuing innovation is a culture-killer. Innovation must be driven by action and organizational commitment. To help succeed with culture, it’s important to provide clarity around goals, objectives, timelines, resources, funding, boundaries and above all encouragement with executive sponsors. In the innovation culture, be supportive of one another efforts. Learn to have fun. Be collaborative and engage and enroll executive leadership in supporting innovation teams.

PATHWAYS

maintain effective communication
The Power of Communication
Embrace an objective and open flow of communication. Innovation takes time and it’s important to bring everyone along even at the risk of slowing down innovation. If partners, team members or executives lack understanding than they can inadvertently slow innovation down in a significant way. Those who lack understanding and who are do not buy into the innovation activities may reduce funding, reallocate resources or deny accesses or support. Communication allows leaders to effectively maintain engagement.
Be Transparent
To succeed with innovation, deception is not a problematic tactic. Problems arise when innovation developments are kept secret from various staff members who are working on various aspects of the project. Team member are an integral part of the innovation development  process. Provide clear and specified deliverables so everyone can achieve objectives on a timely basis. By providing clarity and transparency allows everyone to work in unison on the common goal. Make sure to resolve unresolved issues. Have the conversations and discussions in the open. Address the issues as they come up and keep the ball rolling. 
Act with Design
Embrace design as a functional communication tool elevates the prospects and potential successes of innovation. If you give products a face, it gives them emotion, and that in turn provides something that people can get behind. Emotion is an important differentiation tool. This tool not only promotes ideas and the products that stem from innovation, emotion gives a project wings and excitement that can be used to sell it within the organization and outside of it. Emotion helps demonstrate the benefits of new products and services to others in simplified, clear ways. Product design (as opposed to engineering design or marketing) gives products a face and a place. Visual representations allow understanding via operation, utility in real-life scenarios, and placements in environmental settings. Note that this is the kind of design thinking and design development that comes from an in-depth education at a design school—it is not the same skill that may be learned in an engineering or marketing program.
Utilizing Analogy in Innovation
Analogy can be an effective tool for communicating new ideas and new products in the marketplace. In particular, using analogy when talking about innovation is a key enabler in getting an idea past the mental barriers of decision-makers and potential partners. Analogy can help ideas survive and thrive even when subjected to differing needs and communications styles across the disciplines of research, design, engineering, marketing, finance and sales.
 Harnessing Analogy
Analogy acts as a translator—it bridges disciplinary and mental gaps. It allows product teams to stay true to the vision of the product and stay focused on the end objective of the processes, a goal that is sometimes hard to achieve—it’s easy to get distracted or shift focus as a product goes through the development process. As a idea moves through the innovation process, it gains more clarity…but it also changes, and change can be an idea’s nemesis. Ideas can be corrupted by continual change as they transition from being an idea to becoming a developed product to achieving market delivery. Analogy, in other words, may be a powerful tool to diminish the the negative forces that could deflate an idea. Ideas are the potential new lifeblood of business. Without new ideas emerging from the silo’s and  hierarchies, businesses can lose their innovative edge and newness in the marketplace. Analogy is an innovator’s friend when barriers need to be overcome and ideas need to attain a higher translation value in the corporate world. Admittedly, discovering the right domain and the right fit for an analogy and an idea isn’t easy to do—it can take a lot of mental energy and magic. But it’s well worth the effort. By creatively using analogies, innovators as well as businesses can slay the proverbial dragon guarding the treasure box of success. Once it’s opened, a world of possibly awaits those that have the heart, the vision, and the ability to take their ideas wherever they need to go. Ideas may start out as magnificent (yet tiny) grains of sand, but the right ideas can enable businesses to truly grow and evolve.
The Role of Analogy
Analogy provides both a clear focus and filtering process. After all, at each junction of the service and product development processes, it’s possible for talented experts to suggest changes that would be made for the right reasons but would be wrong for the overall product vision. If analogy is utilized to make innovation clear and specific, however, then the innovation will evolve and become something rather than remaining nothing. Experts don’t intentionally sabotage ideas and possibilities. Throughout the process of nurturing an idea into being, though, “novel” changes can become catastrophic as each expert takes the reins of designing, engineering, marketing, and delivering the product. The combination of each individual’s need to contribute to the project and leave his or her mark on it can result in unintentional disorganization. This chaos can send the idea spinning towards market death. Unfortunately, each addition, tweak, and contribution—if not properly aligned throughout the process—can permanently damage an idea, thus killing its ability to succeed in the marketplace. It is important to remember that analogy is not only a focal point of definition for an idea, analogy also guides, aligns, and shines a spotlight on the product so that it does not veer off to a tragic and untimely demise. Success demands clarity.  By using analogy to provide a clear focus throughout the process of making an idea into reality, an idea is more likely to be solidified the way it was originally conceived.

PATTERNS

foundation elements of innovation
The Spark of Innovation
The Industrial Revolution changed the world in the late 1800s. It revolutionized every single product, every single process, and every single industry. The revolution helped streamline and create new processes that led to dramatic efficiencies, economies of scale and manufacturing change. The companies who first embraced the new economies of scale, efficiencies, and newfound capacities grew in leaps and bounds over those who did not. Those who were resistant to change lost out on new opportunities and accelerated growth. At that point in history when the world’s systems began functioning as a mechanistic society. Over the years success in production and economics have been facilitated by the massive expansion of manufacturing processes coupled with the ability to deliver and distribute what was being produced. With the flood of new products criss-crossing borders, state lines, and countries, a new “economy of goods” society began to take place. Trains and ships began transporting the wave of consumer consumption of home goods, appliances, tools, and building materials; in turn, that consumption ushered in a new wave of skilled labor working on the construction, development, and growth of various municipal and construction projects such as new roads, infrastructure, homes, businesses, and cities. Individual and societal consumers became the new growth engine of the modern economy: each expansion project supported the mechanisms of the new age of commerce. We became a manufacturing society supported by consumption and facilitated by commerce.
 
To fuel this growth, niche sectors flourished. These specialties or “focal points” of commerce began to take off. From the banker who would lend you money to the country store clerk who would sell you goods on credit, from the seamstress who made your garments to the shoemaker who made your boots, each sector of commerce had a role to play. Each was fulfilling a new need and function in the marketplace. These niches became intersection points for exchanging services and products for money. That money fueled new growth, new opportunity, and new wealth. From that time onward anyone could become a specialist and begin selling their specific services or products—Main Street USA was birthed and nurtured by the Industrial Revolution. Anyone could build, design, and manufacture something. Marketing at that time was unnecessary, unquantifiable. If you dreamt it, you could make it, period. You didn’t need an advertising campaign for it. Ideas began to be patented; they bloomed and flowered at incredible rates. Inventors like Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison created new ideas and concepts that fueled the new economy. The world at that time was a world of newness, change, and opportunity. Everyone had their role to play in the new economy of products and ideas.
A Transformed World
Many things have changed and evolved over the course of the intervening decades of the Industrial Revolution; since then, for example, we have created many processes and job functions to deliver on modern-day niches that have only recently been developed. The varied needs of business, marketing, financing, savings (and loan), and accounting led to those niches becoming integral functions within society and therefore professions within their own right. As the economy has grown, so have the “points” of commerce. They began to morph into diverse fields such as engineering, design, medicine, and legal occupations. Everyone has come to have their skill and their role in the economy. As our world has changed and the mechanisms of modern society have evolved, each niche has become a functional cog in the new modern machine of the Industrial Revolution. During the course of our last 100 years as an industrialized economy, we’ve adopted, optimized, and developed new specialties to coax new products and services into life. These processes have resulted in a very complex and step-by-step model of bringing new products and services to fruition. Still, even though we are now living and working in the 21st century, we are still using mechanisms derived from the Industrial Revolution. Things have changed yet again, however: we are no longer in a point-to-point-driven economy, but rather an integrated, functional one. And innovation is crucial in compressing and integrating services into the creation of new products and services. When the functional “points” aren’t fully integrated from hand-off to hand-off, businesses lack necessary activators to create innovative products and services. We have become a social economy. We work at the intersection of many on-going functions and points. In order for modern commerce to be successful, we can no longer go from one point to the next in a sequence of events—rather, we have to juggle multiple events happening simultaneously. We are living, in short, in an Innovation Economy. What was formerly disparate, multiple sets of activities has become compressed nodes of various services nodes; they occur in rapid-fire, simultaneous bursts instead of continuous, linear events.  Our business world has become something new: a tangled web of services and skills that functions as one organism. The companies who embrace this complexity and are able to flow with changes will succeed in the new revolution. Welcome to the New Industrial Revolution: The Innovation Economy
Think Outside your Industry
Methods for creating new growth by thinking beyond the known and into the unknown to discover new growth may be found in alternative industries. In order to understand and to embark upon this journey, one must look at the problem in a worldly sense through a global lens as well as a localized one. Many mistakes in innovation happen when new values and opportunities aren’t identified—in other words, when the big picture is neglected. Taking on a myopic perspective can hinder growth and may limit the effectiveness of design, strategy, and business development. Expanded viewpoints = ideas rich with creativity and potential.
Innovation Alchemy

The Trilogy – the three legs of Innovation – The dynamics and interchange of design, engineering and business disciplines are challenging for most innovation initiatives. Balancing and embracing these three simultaneously can be challenging for both startups and large corporations, however those that can will gain a competitive edge.

Design as an enabler

Design makes things look great. Design makes an experience better, simpler and more intuitive. Design adds the necessary emotional zing and appeal. Design can give ideas, products and services the visual cues they need to resonate with decision-makers and future consumers. Design is a key enabler in driving innovation. Design can bring to life brands through logo’s, space design, messaging and graphical treatments. Design in tangible products can be accomplished through surface treatment, form, materials, colors, packaging, and smart and intuitive functionality. And design also impacts digital products through many touch points from interaction, customer experience, flow, graphics and utility.

 Engineering as an enabler

Engineering makes this real. It brings ideas to life through functionality. Engineering identifies and solves a particular problem or a set of problems. Engineering is more than mechanical and electrical systems or manufacturing and distribution operations. Engineering is technology. Engineering is functional utility. Engineering is what happens to make the magic, the experience, or the interaction successfully come to life.. It is more than industrial frameworks or technology—rather, it is a system and method of containing or delivering content. From digital media to moving components, engineering provides a way of connecting and approaching the world. Every tangible (and non-tangible) man-made entity that’s structural in nature or necessitates movement from one place to another follows a set of protocols and definitions framed and conceived by the world of engineering. For any product or service to prevail, it must utilize a network and the systems devised and managed by engineers. Not only do the engineers design, analyze, and build things, they make concepts into realities: from printing to web surfing, from manufacturing consumer products to putting a man on the moon, engineers make it happen.

 Business as an enabler

Business is the exchange of products and services between people or between businesses. These activities Business facilitates and attracts financing, gets people engaged, and communicates what’s happening to the masses. Business is also about the management of people, resources, budgets, facilities, and products. From market research to cost estimates, business looks at the world and figures out a way to exchange goods or services for something of equal or potentially greater value. Business is the key interface between the customer and the product or service that’s being offered. Business tells the stories of why people should believe in and choose a particular service or purchase a product. It creates the business mechanisms for market penetration, growth, diversification, and consolidation. Without business, we would lack holistic systems to engage in the operations and transactions of enterprise. Think of marketing, storytelling, branding, communications, and profits—business is the front man, the face of the brand, the higher-level awareness of a collection of products and services. Although it doesn’t do it all, business encapsulates it all.