63 Innovation Nuggets (for aspiring innovators)

Gold nuggets isolated on white background. Gold currency.

Innovation Nuggets

I’m always studying the world’s greatest innovators. From Apple’s Steve Jobs to Tesla’s Elon Musk, we can admire and emulate some of the practices that inspire creativity. Whether you are looking to boost your own innovative spirit, create an innovative team, or power your creative genius, you may find that regularly reading and studying others sparks new ideas.

 

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” –Steve Jobs

 

One spark may be a new book by George Barbee.

63 Innovation Nuggets (for aspiring innovators) is a practical guide to boosting your innovation. George Barbee developed these nuggets during the span of his 45 year career as an entrepreneur and corporate leader. For the last 15 years, George has taught at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business.

I recently spoke with George about his many decades of teaching and living the subject of innovation.

 

“An innovative network can change the culture of an organization.” -George Barbee

 

Don’t Underestimate Your Ability to Innovate

George, I have heard you say, “Yes, Steve Jobs is a genius, but what about innovating for the rest of us?” What exactly do you mean by that?

Steve was in fact a true genius of “Invention.” He could imagine what people needed and wanted even before they realized it or could verbalize it themselves. He could see around corners into the future.

unnamedBut I believe most of the rest of us way underestimate our ability to “innovate”—especially with focus on techniques and methods within our control to improve this skill. And yes, it is a skill and an art, not an innate ability or something we are necessarily born with. I’ve witnessed this in my business career and the last 15 years teaching at University of Virginia, and interestingly across 40 countries. It’s a major theme underlying the book.

“Invention” is part of the broader scope of “innovation.” In fact, only a slice.

For example, the rest of us can be gifted and train ourselves to “innovate” in new and different ways. Key to the word “innovation” is doing something in a “meaningfully new and different way.” This takes us well beyond just product invention, but “innovation” now incorporates anything that is new and meaningfully different.

In the book we talk about dozens of “nuggets” or little gems that provide insights as to how to innovate. It is, in fact, remarkably easy to develop these skills. Like exercising a good muscle, the more you use it and focus on it, the better it gets. It’s a form of building innovative confidence through practice.

It’s learnable. It’s teachable.

 

“Innovation is best led by vision.” -George Barbee

 

Make Observation and Art

Of the 63 nuggets in 63 Innovation Nuggets, do you have one that is a favorite?

That’s a tough question. I started with over 140 nuggets and in an effort to winnow it down to 52 (one per week) I couldn’t bring myself to cut any more, so I went with 63. Not necessarily brilliant, but sincere.

So, a favorite? Well, not necessarily only one favorite but it’s a good place to start: Nugget #19: Observing as an Art. The power and concentration it takes to observe what is around us is quite challenging. As we say, put yourself in “receive mode.” Just take things in around you. Listen. Look. Smell. Maybe even feel and taste. We observe with all our senses. This is time out to THINK. The key is sensing. Thinking.

 

“Successful innovators have a keen sense of observation.” -George Barbee

 

We go on to encourage note taking. Practice alone or with a like-minded friend and confidant. Have some fun with the process.

We then go on to tell some stories about observing. Practical situations where innovation around us is often under our noses, but we haven’t taken the time out to appreciate it or document it. One example is ATM or teller lines at banks. It used to be that we would go up to one of three tellers or machines and pick one and hope for the best. Woe to the person picking the wrong line! The tendency was then to hop over to the faster moving line. Then came the great innovation in line management—the “I” formation, or lining up in a single line, with the front person going to the next available opening. Brilliant. It takes the early guesswork out of picking the right single line. Happier customers. True Innovation.

 

Innovation Tip: Start conversations with “imagine if…”

 

Think ACROSS to Progress in Your Career

All great things start as one small thing.” -Lee Colan

Lee Colan

How to Create Repeatable Success and Endless Encores

Endless Encores Ken Goldstein

Repeating Success

 

Ever feel frozen in place?

Have you seen something take off and then get consumed with worry about what’s next?

How do we create an encore worthy of that success?

 

Ken Goldstein’s new book, Endless Encores: Repeating Success Through People, Products, and Profits, tackles the difficult topic of creating continued, repeatable success. His various corporate roles make him uniquely suited to share his perspective on success. Currently, he is Chairman & CEO of SHOP.COM and previously he was Executive VP of Disney Online and Publisher of Broderbund.

 

“All success resets expectations for what comes next.” -Ken Goldstein

 

How to Create Repeatable Success

You wrote a fictional story about a topic that seems to haunt many: repeating success. Why did you choose this topic?

I think there are two challenges that weigh heavily on our minds at work: first, how do we achieve success, and second, once we achieve some success, is that the last success we are going to have? In many senses, the second challenge is much more haunting than the first. When we’re initially trying to break through the noise and get noticed, we have nothing to lose, so our leaning toward risk is high and our openness to the unusual is ungated. We are open to helping others, and we welcome their help because together we are stronger. Once we have a reputation of any kind, fear starts creeping into the mix. No one wants to be a one-hit wonder, but often we become our own worst enemy and unintentionally box ourselves in. We worry about our next thing being compared to our last thing. That worry can filter our creativity, our bias to action, even our kindness toward others as competitiveness takes over. None of that negativity helps us win again at all, it just clouds the way forward. That’s why I chose this topic. So many people I know are consumed by it, overwhelmed by it, and sometimes frozen in place. The colleagues I’ve helped in person in a leadership capacity have continued to move forward with the new, and I thought if I could capture that spirit of innovation in a story with real characters, I could inspire others to keep looking forward and only forward.

 

“Leadership is earned and recognized, not granted.” -Ken Goldstein

 

Why We Learn More From Failure

Why is success difficult to repeat? After all, if you did it once, you can follow the same process . . . or not?

Ken GoldsteinHere’s what I have discovered repeatedly: You can almost never recreate a success, but it is absolutely predictable that you can recreate a failure. That’s why we learn more from failure than we do from success. In failure, we learn what not to do again. It didn’t work, so put that on your list of things you don’t need to try again. In success, if we do the same thing again, or even a modest alteration, we will not create the same inventiveness or excitement that we did with the original. Something can only be unique once, and success is usually unique. That’s why it is so hard to repeat success, because no matter who you are, no matter what you’ve done, all that is in the past, and you must start from zero. It’s also why I say you’re not really failing if you’re learning, because the learning is what sends you back to try again. When we embrace the empowerment and humility of starting over, releasing defensiveness and facing the blank canvass with a set of trusted colleagues, we have the best shot at repeat success, which is the same shot we had at first success. Accept that and innovation is all you need to worry about (and that’s plenty).

 

“Offer customers more than what they think they want.” -Ken Goldstein

 

Build a Mission That is More than Words

What’s the best way to have a mission that is “more than words”?

When a company’s mission statement is in a binder on the shelf or buried in the company handbook, it’s dead text — it means nothing and empowers no one. Shared values are what drive people to work together and innovate. A set of shared values allows a mission to be more than words, but only if those around us embrace the values with authenticity and conviction. We live in a cynical world where conflicting data and untested opinions are communicated broadly in real time. If we say “our people are our most valuable asset” and then lay off 20% of our staff because of a bad quarter, was that a shared value? If we say, “We cherish integrity here,” and then our CEO resigns for unexplained reasons around a publicly broadcast compensation scandal, what happened to our commitment to integrity? Walk the walk, lead by example, and you can get the people around you to rally to any cause you share, but you must share it as a set of consistent actions (emphasis on “consistent”), not a slogan.

 

“Long-term leaders spend the majority of their thinking about talent.” -Ken Goldstein

 

3 Steps to Building a Winning Team

5 Choices to Make In Order to Live the Future, Strong

Future Strong: 5 Choices

5 Tough Choices

What are the toughest choices you face as you lead yourself and others into the future?

That question was the focus of new, original research by Bill Jensen and his team. The research shows that certain choices will make you stronger and give you a brighter future. Bill has spent over twenty-five years learning how work gets done. In his latest book, Future Strong: How to Work Unleashed, Lead Boldly, and Live Life Your Way, he outlines these five choices and how the answers will shape your future.

 

Only 29% said they can achieve their dreams where they currently work.

 

Choice One: The Heartbeat of the Past

Let’s talk about the past. You ask, “Will you hear the heartbeat of your past choices?” How do we effectively learn from our past in the Future Strong way?

I’ve spent my whole life asking questions that nobody was asking.

There are already lots of people hyperventilating about how disruptive technologies — wearables, deep analytics, Internet of everything, artificial intelligence, robotics — are going to create futures that are amazingly different from today.

But no one was talking about the choices each of us must make to create our own future in the midst of all that. So my team and I interviewed and surveyed over seven thousand people across the globe, asking each person deeply personal questions about building personal futures.

One of those questions was, “What makes you, you?”

Bill JensenWe uncovered what leadership guru Warren Bennis once attributed to all great leaders — people who are Future Strong leverage their past as a tool to leap into their future. They call upon crucible moments from their past: experiences that forged or tested how they view the world. We found that most everyone who leaps into unknown futures, and boldly goes where they have not gone before, does so by calling upon the courage and wisdom from those crucible moments.

One e-learning pioneer learned how to be creative from her childhood friend Albert Einstein. One venture capitalist, who practices servant leadership, drew upon the kindness he received from strangers when he fled his war-torn country as a child. A media and technology leader learned fast decision-making from his teenage successes and crashes as a semi-pro skateboarder. Me…I call upon my mom’s death to truly appreciate how precious life is. Each of us has one or two or three life-altering moments we can call upon.

To effectively leverage those moments in our lives, we each must truly understand our own hero’s journey — moments from our past when change was thrusted upon us. Initially, most of us deny or resist the new truths; then there’s a moment — the crucible moment — where we embrace how to make that change part of who we are.

So hearing the heartbeat of your past choices is about truly knowing yourself well enough (by the way, about 80% of us think we know ourselves, but really don’t) to call upon deeper courage and wisdom than you thought you had.

 

“Focus on the only thing, past, present and future, within your control.” -Bill Jensen

 

Choice Two: Who To Become