How to Jumpstart Innovation

Bowl of Minestrone Soup with Pasta, Beans and Vegetables

 

Is your team stuck and in need of an innovation injection?

Are there ways to structure brainstorming to enhance the creative process?

Is it possible to learn how to innovate and create?

 

Make Stone Soup

If you study innovation, creativity and success, you will likely know my friend Jeff DeGraff.  I first met him when I was running a business in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Someone on my team introduced me to the “Dean of Innovation” when we were struggling with a problem.  Dr. DeGraff is a professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan.  He has worked with some of the biggest global corporations including Apple, Visa, GE, Coca-Cola, and Johnson & Johnson.

His most recent book is Making Stone Soup: How to Jumpstart Innovation Teams.  If you want the recipe for collaborative innovation, this colorful book will deliver while inspiring you with new ideas for your team.

 

“Innovation is created as a result of constructive conflict.” -Jeff DeGraff

 

Misconceptions About Innovation

Most of us think of innovation and think of a brilliant inventor, solitarily working when Eureka!  Bam!  Innovation strikes!  You say most innovation doesn’t happen in that manner but, instead, happens in teams.  Tell us more about that.

Any other common misconceptions about innovation?

Most people have a very limited concept of innovation.  They think it’s a gMaking Stone Soup Book Coveradget or an electric powered vehicle.  But these technological inventions are the very end of the innovation chain. What makes your smart phone light and compact has more do with breakthroughs in material science than it does creative design thinking.  More so, innovations are often services or integrated solutions such as Google’s business model. Innovation is by definition a type of deviance from the norm, and therefore what makes an innovation is constantly morphing and progressing.

 

“Innovation is a type of deviance from the norm.” -Jeff DeGraff

 

Conversely, the biggest truth that people miss is that innovation is the only value proposition that happens in the future for which we have no data now.  You must feel your way through the ambiguity and accelerate the unavoidable failure cycle.  That’s how successful inventors, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists do it.  Excessive planning is the number one form of resistance when trying to make innovation happen. You have to take multiple shots on goal.

Most importantly, innovation is not produced through alignment.  It is created as a result of constructive conflict.  Enroll some deep and diverse domain experts and encourage some polite pushing and shoving, and you will be astounded by the hybrid solutions they create.

 

CREATE, COMPETE, CONTROL, COLLABORATE

5 Reasons Why Leaders Must Sometimes Take A Back Seat

Gold Fish
This is a guest post by Matt Driscoll, who is the management and Leadership L&D Consultant at Thales.

3 Basic Styles of Leadership

Leadership training is one of the most important and challenging aspects of learning and development, and there are three basic styles of leadership that one can develop: Managerial, Visionary, and Strategic.

Managerial

Managerial leaders focus all their attention on short-term goals and daily needs.  They are reactive, champions of cost-benefit analysis, and often guilty of micromanaging staff.

Visionary

Visionary leaders, on the other hand, focus their attention on the future.  They create a compelling vision of their company’s future and motivate workers to strive toward that goal. However, because they are consumed with plans for the future, visionary leaders neglect the day-to-day operational necessities and current financial realities of their companies.

Strategic

The most effective leadership style is strategic.  Strategic leaders develop compelling visions for the future of their companies and motivate workers to strive toward the common goals they define, while diligently maintaining the short-term financial stability of their business.

Apart from being attuned to both short and long-term needs, strategic leaders set themselves apart by focusing their attention on human capital within their organizations.  In order to move the company forward, leaders must constantly develop the capabilities and competencies of their teams.  Great leaders make those around them better, but they can only do so by coaching, mentoring, trusting, and ultimately giving their teams space to learn and grow through direct experience.

 

“Great leaders make those around them better.”

 

These are five crucial reasons why the most effective leaders often take a back seat:

 

1. To Develop New Leaders

Successful companies cultivate leadership at every level of the business, so rather than creating a workplace dominated by a single powerful figure, companies must encourage new leaders to rise from within the ranks.  Executives must learn to recognize when employees are capable and motivated to fill leadership roles, allowing them to take charge in order to help them develop.

 

“Successful companies cultivate leadership at every level of the business.”

 

2. To Learn

No matter how successful a team leader may be, he or she cannot be right all the time.  The best leaders know their weaknesses and seek guidance whenever they are out of their depth. Whether that means following the lead of someone else within the business or seeking professional development resources elsewhere, good leaders recognize the need for constant learning.

 

“Growing other leaders from the ranks isn’t just the duty of the leader, it’s an obligation.” –Warren Bennis

 

 

3. To Better Allocate Resources

Avoid the Nightmare of the Email Blind Carbon Copy (BCC).

Zombie

Beware the BCC

I’m not sure exactly when or why the blind carbon copy (BCC) was invented, but I have seen it misused, misunderstood, and misfired too many times to count.  The BCC allows you to write an email TO some people and BCC others.  The people you send it TO don’t know that others are secretly on the BCC line.

Most email problems with the BCC start when an email is written to a few people, but others are blind carbon copied.

“Trust is built with consistency.” -Lincoln Chafee

DANGER: REPLY ALL

The first and most visible problem with the blind carbon copy is when someone who was BCC’d hits reply all. Now the people who were on the email (in the TO or CC lines) are alerted to the fact that they were not the only recipients.  I’ve seen this backfire more times than I can tell you.

Unlike most email mistakes, this one is bigger than most people think. Why?

 

DANGER: REPUTATION RISK

It reduces trust.

It diminishes your brand.

It raises unnecessary questions.

It makes others question your motives.

Let me share a few examples.

  1. A few years ago, I received an email from a colleague. I was on the cc line with two other executives.  The email was addressed to a single person on the TO line.  Two hours after receiving the email, someone hit reply all and made a comment.  Now I wondered why this person was blind carbon copied on the note.  It made me question the motives of the sender.  If someone has to pause and question your motives, that enough is reason to not use the BCC.
  1. A lawyer is BCC’d on a contractual question with a supplier and mistakenly hits reply all with a question.  All of a sudden it escalates an issue to serious status when it may have been a minor disagreement.  The recipient now believes that there is a major legal issue at stake.  Instead of working through the issue, it was held up with that person’s legal counsel.  The entire matter became embroiled in a legal dispute that was unnecessary.  Yes, this happened.
  1. A salesperson sends an article out about an industry trend and BCC’s someone who works for a competitor.  The person was an old friend, and the sales representative meant nothing by it.  But now everyone wonders why you would send something to the competition.  Yes, this happened.

 

“Men trust their ears less than their eyes.” -Herodotus

 

DANGER: WASTED TIME

Leading Culture Change Starts At Home

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It Starts at Home

We talk about corporate and organizational culture every day.  The culture of an organization can make or break a company.  “Culture trumps strategy” is a quote attributed to different people, but the idea is clear.

“The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.” -Confucius

 

If success at work is rooted in culture, why do we ignore it at home?  All homes have unwritten rules, social mores, and patterns of behavior.  In fact, the behavior at home may be much more difficult to change than at work.

How would you define the culture of your home?  Safe, encouraging, and positive?  Or critical, tense, and exhausting?

Take the time to think about your environment at home and whether it is contributing to your family’s success.  And think about how your culture at home impacts your work.

 

“Culture trumps strategy.” -Unknown

 

Assess it.

Sit down with your family or roommates and define the present culture.  This may not be easy.  It requires listening.  In many cases, a third party may be required to gain an objective view.  If it is too challenging, skip this step and focus on what you want it to be.  If you live alone, you’re not excused.  You still have a culture to describe.

Determine what you want it to be.

What type of culture you want to create requires thoughtful planning.  Define it together.  This should be a positive exercise.

Develop plans to close the gap. 

You will immediately see where there are gaps between the current and desired cultures.  Spend time thinking about ways that will move you in the direction you want to go.

Set rules.

How to Create Brand Names That Stick

Hello I Am Awesome Tag. Illustration Design

A Great Name is a Must

Whether you are launching a new company, a new product, or refreshing a brand, you need to have a great name.  Some companies have a name that just fits while others see massive marketing campaigns fail because of a poor name.  Still others have names that are limiting future growth.  For instance, Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com says that Zappos.com started out as ShoeSite.com.

Alexandra Watkins is a nationally recognized naming expert and founder of Eat My Words. She’s been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Inc. and Entreprenuer.  Her clients range from Disney to Fujitsu.  She recently wrote the small, but powerful book Hello, My Name Is Awesome: How to Create Brand Names That Stick.

 

“Your brand name makes a critical first impression. Even more than your shoes.” Alexandra Watkins

 

 

For those not in the field of marketing and branding, why is picking the right brand name so critically important? 

Your name will last longer than any investment you make in your business.  Think about that for a minute…will you have the same tablet, mobile phone, printer, and office furniture twenty years from now?  Not likely.  But you will have the same brand name.  That’s why it’s important for you spend the time to get it right.

 

Qualities of a Perfect Brand Name

What are the qualities of a perfect name? How do you know you’ve landed on the right choice?

A helpful and purely objective checklist for the qualities of a perfect name is my SMILE & SCRATCH Test, a 12-step name evaluation method based on my philosophy, “A name should make you smile, instead of scratch your head.” If your name passes the test (and clears trademarking and international linguistic checks), you can be assured you have a winner.

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SMILE: The 5 Qualities of a Super Sticky Name – the perfect name has all of these characteristics:

Suggestive – evokes something about your brand

Meaningful – resonates with your audience

Imagery – is visually evocative to aid in memory

Legs – lends itself to a theme for extended mileage

Emotional – moves people