Build a Strong Foundation for Innovation

Build a Strong Foundation for Innovation

Those of you who know me won't be shocked by the fact that I have a serious passion for innovation. I believe you always need to be constantly pushing your organization (and your life) forward. You need to focus on reinventing what you do and how you do it as often as possible to drive new value for your customers and your organization. To succeed, you need to build a strong foundation for innovation. Companies like GE or IBM who have consistently changed their business sold off core components, reinvented their primary revenue base, and evolved how they execute based on the demands of an evolving market. These are great examples of companies that innovate very well. But their innovative success isn't based solely on a mindset, fancy frameworks, or crazy wild innovators (although that helps). To earn the right to be innovative they first had to be exceptional companies. (more…)...
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Who Are The Innovators?

Who Are The Innovators?

Over the past several months I've been spending a lot of time looking at the industry in which I work (Financial Services) and wondering what it is that keeps this industry from being a leader in Innovation. Like many other industries the leaders in banking regularly talk about their Innovation agenda and some even claim to be be leaders in Innovation, but as I look across the industry I see very little real change - even the best innovators in Financial Services seem to be making incremental changes with very little disruptive change coming from the large incumbent companies. (more…)...
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Who’s Driving Your Innovation Bus?

Who’s Driving Your Innovation Bus?

Innovation has become the buzzword of the decade with every CEO, Senior Manager, and CTO beating the drum for "Innovation" in their companies. While I don't disagree with them on the need for innovation, I do have a major issue with the way that many of them are driving that innovation agenda. When tech leaders or business leaders drive an innovation agenda within their own areas of speciality without integrating that agenda with the core value creating areas of the business the agenda is doomed to mediocrity. In addition, in most cases these leaders are not differentiating between "Innovating" (solving problems in new ways) and "Implementing Innovations" (the application of other's innovations within your business). (more…)...
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Sniper With A Shotgun

Sniper With A Shotgun

Generally it is considered mutually exclusive to take the "shotgun" approach to innovation or the "sniper" approach to innovation. You are either in one camp or the other, but certainly not in both. In the shotgun approach you fire lots of little ideas at the wall in a seemingly random fashion in hopes that one of those ideas sticks and becomes a hit. With the sniper approach you spend much more time planning and you fire a single higher calibre round at the defined target, having done the prework and testing to validate that the selected target is the highest value option. (more…)...
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Connecting the Value Chain

Connecting the Value Chain

Many of the recent Innovation success stories have been about the creation of new ecosystems which have created new customer value in a way that wasn't imagined previously.  The iPod and iTunes created an ecosystem of music which included the simple purchase, organization, and portable playback that previously took several steps and suppliers to achieve.  Square is doing a similar thing by connecting the wallet and payment process with the retail point-of-sale system to build an ecosystem and environment that allows both sides of the payment equation to do things more easily than they have in the past. Much has been made of the "ecosystem" as the business model of the future and a key to Innovation success, but in most of the reading I've done the piece that doesn't get connected is how exactly one should think about innovating a new ecosystem.  Certainly if several people and companies have been successful in building new ecosystems in the past we should...
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Innovate Everything

Innovate Everything

Most often when people hear the word Innovation it springs to mind images of high tech gadgets like the iPhone and iPad. For a smaller group of people it may also trigger images of service innovations like NetFlix or Starbucks. A few really creative folks might even register images of business model innovation like Google Adwords or Zipcar. But how many people think about process innovation, procedure innovation, or project execution innovation. Fancy gadgets and new services and business models get all the press and air time in business journals because their outcomes are sexy and well recognized, but the same approaches used to disrupt markets from a product, service, or business model perspective can also be used to disrupt your own internal processes, procedures, and projects. Think about your own organization's processes and procedures. Unless you work for an incredibly unique company you are likely laden with the legacy of scientific management and control frameworks with 12 templates for every document...
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fail to Avoid Failure

fail to Avoid Failure

I often get quizzical looks when I suggest that the adoption of a failure acceptance mindset in an organization or team is one of the most critical factors in the success of an organization.  I believe very strongly in the mantra put forward by design firm IDEO: Fail early and often to succeed sooner. - IDEO The key to failure acceptance though is that when I recommend "failing forward" I'm talking about the concept of "little f failure" as opposed to the type of failing that most people think about which I call "big F Failure".  While both constitute a failure in the outcome in relation to the desired outcome, the biggest difference is the scale and timing. "Big F Failure" are those notable and legendary failures where an individual, team, or organization have made a plan, stuck to that plan, and then discovered at the end that the outcome was a long way from what was intended.  Consider the launch of the...
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Skate Where The Puck Is Going

Skate Where The Puck Is Going

Unless you are just starting our in your business and have a completely clean slate you carry some baggage into each decision in the form of the outcomes of your previous decisions.  That baggage sets the foundation for your future decisions and can take the form of organizational structure, staffing decisions, technology investments, brand image and positioning, and many others.  This baggage is very real and does create very real constraints on the decision process, but if you allow it to control the decision making process you are doomed to mediocre decisions and moderate growth at best over the long haul. Let's consider the baggage of technology investments, something that I have the most experience dealing with.  There is a concept called "technology debt" which is made up of all of the gaps between the tactical or not quite strategic investment or architecture decisions you have made to the ideal solution, added over time.  In many older organizations this debt level...
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It’s The End of the World (And I Feel Fine)

It’s The End of the World (And I Feel Fine)

So today marks the end of the world according to the Mayan calendar and it also marks the end of my work days for 2012 so I thought it made a fitting setting to wish everyone all the best in the pending apocalypse,  or over the holiday season, whichever turns out to be more accurate. Television and the Internet have been clogged lately with reviews of the Mayan prediction for the end of the world, movies depicting the various ways we might be destroyed, and accounts of people who are preparing for the impending doom by installing bunkers and buying years worth of non-perishable food supplies. It all seems a bit comical to me, but in some ways I do think we are facing a fundamental shift in the world that could be equated to the Mayan prediction most accurately through the immortal words of Michael Stipe: It's the end of the world as we know it. No I don't believe that we'll be seeing...
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Never Turn Your Back On The Ocean

Never Turn Your Back On The Ocean

There is an old Hawaiian proverb that says "Never Turn Your Back On The Ocean".  The people of Hawaii have a tremendous respect for the Ocean and it's beauty, but also for it's tremendous power.   One minute you may be relaxing in the sun enjoying the sun and surf, and in the next moment you can find yourself swept out to sea.  The calm of the Ocean is hypnotic, lulling you into a sense of security and safety beside this enormous body of water, but when you least expect it the Ocean can turn and delivery a powerful blow with an unexpected wave that has the power of significant destruction. I was reminded yesterday of the concept of "pre-acting" in a post by Daniel Burris on LinkedIn (3 Keys Leaders Can Use to See the Future).  Burris is the author of a fantastic book called Flash Foresight which provides a terrific framework for looking into the future and leading forward...
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