63 Innovation Nuggets (for aspiring innovators)

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

How to Create Repeatable Success and Endless Encores

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

How to Drive Superior Results By Serving Others

A Bold Ambition to Serve

Do you love the people you’ve decided to serve?

It has been my privilege and passion to speak about servant leadership in forums all over the world. My free e-book on Leading With Others In Mind has been downloaded thousands of times around the world.

Not too long ago, I read a compelling new book on the topic, Dare to Serve: How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others. The author is not just an author, but the CEO of Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen, Inc., a multibillion-dollar global chain. Prior to Popeyes, she held leadership positions at Yum! Brands, Domino’s Pizza, RJR Nabisco, the Gillette Company, and P&G.

Back to the opening question: Do you love the people you’ve decided to serve?

Cheryl asks that tough question in this book and goes on to explain why the answer is key to delivering superior results.

 

“Most of us…have jobs that are too small for our spirits.” –Studs Terkel

 

Fired! How a Humbling Event Changed Everything

Cheryl, your book, Dare to Serve: How to Drive Superior Results by Serving Others, starts out with a humble account of you getting fired. That seems to have been a turning point for you personally and professionally. How did this contribute to your beliefs?

Thankfully there have been several humbling events in my life – events that reminded me that I am not in control, I am not God. I have found the trials in my life, like facing breast cancer or getting fired from KFC, were the events that led me to new insights and personal growth. They have made me a better person and a better leader.

Losing my job made me question my leadership and business capability. This crisis of confidence led me to a ruthless review of my wiring, my strengths, my values and my experiences. In that process, I gained conviction about who I was and importantly, what kind of leader I wanted to be. When I came to the Popeyes opportunity, I was refreshed and ready to lead out of these convictions.

 

“You prove what you measure.” –Popeyes Mantra

 

Cheryl Bachelder, Used by Permission Cheryl Bachelder, Used by Permission

The Benefits of Daring to Serve

Would you share some of the benefits leaders receive if they adopt the Dare to Serve leadership model?

The benefits are many. Leading this way has been the most exciting, challenging, and rewarding experience of my career. And I think the Leadership Team at Popeyes would say the same thing.

It has been incredibly challenging to transform the culture, the business, and the leaders simultaneously. Chasing the bold goals sets the bar high – which leads us to be more innovative – which leads us go assemble amazing people – which leads us to be tenacious and determined to get to the daring destination. We are better leaders because we are stretching and learning continuously.

The decision to serve our franchise owners well has focused us on a process of building alignment – to define the problem together and to solve together – and has built strong, productive relationships with our most important partners. Sometimes this feels slow or inefficient, but once aligned, it has enabled incredible speed to market.

And finally, the rewarding experience of bringing together a capable team – then nurturing and developing their leadership qualities. This is essential to performance in a fast growing company, but it is also important, purposeful work that can leave a legacy of future leaders.

 

“Personal purpose accelerates employee engagement and organizational performance.” -@CABachelder

 

Set Off to a Daring Destination

Xbox Revisited: Develop Your Successful Game Plan

Develop Your Successful Game Plan

Robbie Bach’s book, Xbox Revisited: A Game Plan for Corporate and Civic Renewal, uniquely shares the stories behind the creation of the Xbox, the business strategy blueprints for others to follow, and Robbie’s personal philosophy of civic renewal.

For twenty-two years, Robbie Bach worked at Microsoft in various marketing, management and leadership roles. As Chief Xbox Officer, Robbie led the launch of Xbox. He retired from Microsoft in 2010 and now serves on charitable boards while writing articles on various civic issues.

I recently asked Robbie to reflect back on his many years at Microsoft. What he learned provides lessons for us all.

 

“Without principles, a team has no central rudder to keep it on course.” -Robbie Bach

 

Hitting Rock Bottom

Robbie, the book is a wonderful read as both the inside story of the Xbox creation and then also about your personal goals in what you call your Act 2. As I reflect back on the entire book, though, one email you included in it sticks with me. It was your “rock bottom” email when you tried to resign from Xbox. Tell us more about that.

The period leading up to the Xbox launch was very challenging on many fronts. I certainly was struggling to provide the right type of leadership; the team was like the United Nations with many differing points of view on important topics, and the mountain in front of us was a difficult climb under any circumstances. Ultimately, however, none of that led to me submitting my resignation. The real issue was the impact work was having on my personal life and my inability to manage that situation. It was just another instance of me being unprepared for the challenges presented by the Xbox project, but this one was very personal and cut to the core of my beliefs. I’m a “family first” guy, and when I realized I wasn’t living up to that, I knew something needed to change.

 

The Importance of Accountability and Transparency

What strikes me about this email was this: no excuses, no blaming, just pure personal accountability. You outline what you think is needed and then what you don’t feel you can do. Would other executives be served by being this transparent or did it work uniquely within the Microsoft culture?

E3 XBox Press Briefing Robbie Bach 17 MS_05_2004I am a believer in transparency – it is very difficult to solve problems when you obfuscate the situation with a fog filled with excuses. So I think this is an important skill for all leaders – in business, non-profits, or government. With that said, how you approach transparency and full disclosure absolutely will (and should) vary depending on the situation, the organizational culture, and the personalities involved. I clearly trusted my boss, Rick Belluzzo, to manage this situation appropriately, and he was remarkably helpful during a difficult time. In other circumstances, I might have used a different approach to declare the issues, and I might have pursued the discussion through other channels. Bottom line: being honest with yourself and open to your manager and your team is an important skill to master. Done well, it can fundamentally change the dynamics and attitude of a team in a very positive way.

 

“If you don’t define your purpose, you don’t know what you’re doing or why.” -Robbie Bach

 

Developing a Strategic Framework

5 Tips to Increase Your Efficiency and Impact

Power Tips to Increase Your Impact

All of us want to be more productive. David Horsager is a productivity expert. His work has been featured in numerous publications from The Wall Street Journal to The Washington Post. His research is focused on the impact of trust, and his client list ranges from the New York Yankees to John Deere.

His latest book is The Daily Edge: Simple Strategies to Increase Efficiency and Make an Impact Every Day. I recently asked him about five of the thirty-five tips included in his new book.

 

“Lost time is never found again.” -Ben Franklin

 

Manage Your Energy 

Tip 7Tip 7. Managing your energy is something few think about. We are often on autopilot. How do we become more conscious of our energy? What’s the best way to use our energy through the day?

Before you make any changes, you have to become aware of how you are spending your time. Take two weeks and log it. Keep track of both your time usage and the level of energy you feel at that time. Then, take time to study it and make a few adjustments with how you spend your time. Log for another week if you need to in order to gather useful information.

Try scheduling an early morning meeting and then not another until after lunch. See how creating this pocket of time affects your daily productivity and energy levels. Maybe you need to schedule as many meetings as possible on one day so that other days are left more open. I have learned that morning is my most effective time, so that is when I tackle writing, research, and other more difficult projects. I try to protect a morning power hour so I can have at least one uninterrupted hour on my most difficult tasks first thing in the morning. My team knows to try to schedule meetings with me right after lunch. Since I am an extrovert, the people I meet with during that low-energy time of day end up energizing me for the remainder of the afternoon!

You can’t dictate everything about your schedule, but you can influence it to meet your needs. A lot of people squander their most valuable time doing their easiest activities and tackle their toughest tasks when their energy is at a low point. Don’t let that happen to you! Leverage your time and schedule so that it works for you. Awareness and intentionality come first. If you can do this, it will build momentum and your work life will be easier.

 

“Clutter is a result of delayed decisions.” -Audrey Thomas

 

Efficient Email 

unnamed-4Tip 13. Email. Some people really struggle with it. What tips have you seen make a difference for those who find it a challenge?

If you feel you have an e-mail problem, it isn’t going to go away any time soon. Ignoring your lack of a system will compound the problem and affect the rest of your work life. Some people have hundreds if not thousands of e-mails in their inbox. This is a very common area to struggle with because of the sheer number of e-mails we receive every day. Managing it is simpler than you might think once you have a process in place. It’s going to require getting disciplined about it. I know an executive who went from 57,000 emails to 9 in his inbox! He called and said, “I’ve never felt better!” Before you get too overwhelmed thinking about it, consider the following ideas.

  • Get rid of the chime or prompt. Ask yourself: Are the e-mails coming into your inbox worthy of dropping everything to read and respond? If the answer is no, then turn off the notification function.
  • Let them bundle. You think things are urgent, but the cost of interruptions is enormous. See if you can only check e-mail at the top of every hour. So much time is spent managing e-mail. Don’t fall victim to this.
  • Get in the habit of going through these four steps. The minute you open an e-mail, archive or delete if at all possible. Deal with it right away. Don’t read it now and also read it later.
  • File it or archive it. Get it out of your inbox once you’ve replied. It takes your mindshare if it’s always there as a distraction. It’s overwhelming. Feelings of being overwhelmed are the killers of productivity. Try setting up filters for certain e-mails you don’t want to see until you are ready. For example, I auto-filter newsletters for when I have extra time to read on the plane or in a taxi.
  • Flag it for later or attach it to the calendar. If you know you will need to reference it prior to a meeting, flag it for a later date or attach it to your calendar. Again, our mindshare is limited, so avoid constant exposure to something you don’t need to look at for a while. The information will be there for you when you need it.

By the way, e-mail with an emotional context can absorb an enormous amount of time. Leave the emotional conversations for a phone call or an in-person meeting. You will be less likely to be misunderstood and e-mail will be preserved as a means for information sharing – the way it was intended. 

 

“With each sunrise, we start anew.” -Anonymous

 

 

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