the dangerous and radical and disruptive are squashed

You are an innovator – and you are proud to be an innovator. You pride yourself on listening to your customer’s desires and building products which do just that. The only problem is: your customer’s job-to-be-done is not aligned with your company’s job-to-be-done. You’ve researched deeply – you’ve looked at the market – you’ve talked…

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The Upside Of Black Swans

The Coronavirus is a Black Swan: The black swan theory or theory of black swan events is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. The term is based on an ancient saying that presumed…

The post The Upside Of Black Swans appeared first on hellofuture.

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The Upside Of Black Swans

The Coronavirus is a Black Swan: The black swan theory or theory of black swan events is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. The term is based on an ancient saying that presumed…

The post The Upside Of Black Swans appeared first on hellofuture.

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How To Ignite Passion In Your Employees

Employee engagement is at crisis levels in some companies – sure, maybe your people show up physically (or perhaps not, depending on your telecommute policies) but do they show up mentally? Are they willing to give their maximum effort to your company for what you are paying them, or are they just going through the motions and phoning in their job, waiting to jump to the next company that they may be more interested in (don’t worry, there are only a few of those, so chances are low).

How do you take your employees and ratchet up their engagement levels? How do you get them to genuinely care about your company, and exceed your expectation of them in their roles? Driving this kind of passion requires a few things you may or may not already have – here are some things which help:

  • Do you have a strong vision, articulated by your leadership, for the company?
  • Does this strong vision talk about getting rich, or helping your customers realize their dreams?
  • Do you have a visible leader who provides this kind of guidance?
  • read more

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    Ask Not If Your Idea Can Make Money, Ask If It Can Help Humans

    A common refrain that I hear from individuals at some of the companies that we’ve worked with in the past (and some prospects who ultimately decide not to work with us) is that we are experts at generating ideas, but most of those ideas simply do not have a business model – which is, of course, a fancy way of saying “we can’t figure out how to make any money with this idea”.

    It may be totally groundbreaking, disruptive and even unique enough to be patentable, but right now, we can’t imagine how to monetize it. That’s a normal thought – many organizations today are subject to this malady – applying the business models of today to the ideas of the future. The ideas may be generated based on some assumptions of a predicted future – and you have to think – is this idea going to have a business model in the future – not today. Sometimes its difficult to imagine.

    However, if the idea has merit (and you can easily tell this actually – you can do customer focus groups but in many cases, it can be as simple as a gut feel) it may not have a current business model.

    The ideas that your employees will generate during our typical program run the gamut from incremental improvements (which can be everything from minor to major improvements to your bottom line – or customer satisfaction – over time) to truly out-there ideas.

    In many cases, the reason that those ideas are considered “out-there” is that they currently lack a current business model, or they pre-suppose a predicted sea change in your customers, industry, technology or product/service mix which may or may not occur. Many of the biggest companies of today launched products in just that environment, hoping that once the idea was made real and launched into the world, then the market would find a business model for it.

    This is one reason why many firms around here are funded and remain profitless for years until they find the right business model. Notable examples are Twitter (initially developed as a way for podcasters to let their listeners know that there is a new show available) and Snapchat (for kids to share their test answers with each other in the classroom), now valued in the billions – created to address a need, to help humans, not make money.

    I doubt that the founders of Twitter and Snapchat ever even imagined that their little skunkworks or side project would ever become what it is today. Many of the ideas generated by our programs may fall into this category, but that does not mean that you shouldn’t pursue them.

    If you are looking for truly disruptive innovation, you should be encouraging these sometimes-thought-of-as wild ideas, possibly bereft of profitability, because those are the ones that may not only end up being brand new billion-dollar businesses, they’ll also drive your culture to generate even more of them, eventually turning you into a company with innovation at its core.

    So ask not if your idea can make money, ask if your ideas help humans first, then the money will follow.

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    Your Startup (or Innovation Program) Needs Both Kirk and Scotty

    To Be Successful, You Need Both These Attributes In Equal Measure

    If you look at most of the successful startups (and internal innovation programs) throughout history, you’ll note a trend – there are usually two or more partner founders (or intrapreneurs) right there at the beginning (although eBay is a notable difference). Additionally, these partners need to have specific traits, typically one is the more extroverted sales type, and the other is the more introverted engineering type, even though there are those who have both of those skill sets.

    I’d venture to say that you can build the archetypes out even further than that – and Star Trek (the original series, of course) gives us near perfect role models. Of those, the only two you really need at a minimum at the outset are Kirk and Scotty. The qualities of Kirk (or Kirk-type) that you need are his willingness to take risks, make big decisions, and be the voice of the company (just as he is the voice of the Enterprise). Then as Kirk makes deals, confronts the alien menaces or confuses the evil computer with illogic, it’s up to Scotty-type to execute those deals.

    When a Kirk-type has a need based on talking to the customer, he asks a Scotty-type to execute whatever needs to happen to keep that customer happy. The Scotty-type doesn’t want or need to be the one talking to the customer, he or she is most happy delivering Warp 5 or reading technical manuals, while the Kirk-types do all of the schmoozing. While many startup founders fall neatly into these roles, what some don’t get is that the relationship between these two is truly symbiotic – without a Kirk-type, the Enterprise would not know where to go, and without a Scotty-type, the ship wouldn’t go anywhere, no matter what customers say or what orders are barked.

    In every startup, you need a good working relationship between Kirk-types and Scotty-types, each understanding that the other is absolutely necessary for the startup to be successful or the ship to get anywhere.

    Sadly, there have been many cases where Scotty-types, despite laboring in the engine room to deliver everything that Kirk-types ask for (and usually more) gets short shrift, people perceiving that the Kirk-type is somehow more valuable to the company than the Scotty-type, and in these cases, Scotty gets (or feels) screwed, and requests a transfer.

    In every startup, in every successful innovation program, both Kirk-types and Scotty-types are equally important to the success of the startup or the initiative. It’s not enough to have the communicator/connector, you need the builder as well.

    Same goes for your innovation program – you can’t just have your people generate ideas, you need some kind of execution too. Without execution, your program will fail, as your inventors realize that their ideas never get the chance to ever be built.

    What about Spock and McCoy you ask? Well, as the startups get larger, you need to bring Spock in to provide that keen analysis, and McCoy to keep the culture healthy,  but at the very beginning, Kirk and Scotty are all you really need.

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    When People Say “We’re Not Like Google”, I Say “Why Not?”

    I’ve worked with a number of clients over the years who seem to have a bit of a self-esteem issue. We have very successful ideation sessions, a number of great ideas are generated, but then when it comes to taking the best of the best of these ideas and turning them into reality, they get cold feet. The phrase I hear a lot of is “We’re not like Google, we don’t have unlimited funds to spend on crazy, out-of-the-box moonshots.” It’s lucky for you then, that you don’t need unlimited funds to drive innovative new products and services out of your organization.

    Sure, the might be true in some ways, but it doesn’t mean that you get off having to innovate, and actually implement some of those innovations.

    For example, people can look at something like Google Glass, and the millions of dollars spent to develop it, launch it, support it, then finally kill it, as a huge waste of money. What they don’t think about are all of the ancillary benefits just doing something like Glass, even if it wasn’t the ideal product. out into the world.

    Google expanded our consciousness about what can and cant be done (and as a side effect exposed the personalities of some people) even if the product itself didn’t fly. It made us think about what augmented reality devices should look like, and feel like. It made us think about a future where these kinds of devices are much more commonplace. It drove commentary and innovation about these devices and their more likely future form factor. As an experiment, it helped open the Overton Window on augmented reality by moving us into an uncomfortable space, where we could think new thoughts and possibilities. It likely created a ton of employee engagement internally as well, from both the pro and anti Glass folks.

    We all learned a lot from that, even though many people say it as a failure. Google did spend a lot of money, but they got in return a ton of other good stuff.

    You can do the same thing as they did, without the “spending tons of money part”. These days, with the available tools and frameworks, it can take almost no time and money for you to develop the best of the best of the ideas that you come up with during your internal ideation sessions and turn it into a real live proof of concept, or even a product just for internal use.

    When I worked with Yahoo!, there were plenty of internal projects (known as “dog food” – which were built and launched for internal use only, just so we could see if they would fly) At the very least, create a simple prototype in your labs and test it with a focus group, either your employees, prospects or customers.

    When you do take the best ideas and create prototypes, make sure that all of this activity is communicated to the inventors of the idea, as well as the rest of the company. Be loud and proud about the great ideas generated internally, and be even more vocal about the plans for the prototype. If it tests well, shout about that as well.

    Do this long enough and hard enough, and you can be as innovative as Google, without having to spend the big bucks.

    After all, are you trying to dent the universe, or just make your company more profitable and future proof? The latter is far cheaper.




    photo credit Lubomir Panak flickr


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    How To Get The Best Most Disruptive Ideas Out There

    Anonymity Helps Innovation

    As I mentioned in a previous post, our culture and technology are making it much easier to survive and thrive in the world as an introvert, and in so doing, more and more of us are becoming introverts. With the ability to work from home, and have everything delivered 24/7, there are many people who are taking that route. Some of your best people prefer to interface with others through the internet and in non-face-to-face interactions.

    At the same time, in some companies, the internal culture can be a strong innovation demotivator: if you are in one of these companies, then you constantly feel like its a war between those who want to move things forward and innovate, and those who think things are just fine the way they are and you shouldn’t rock the boat. I sometimes refer to that as the war between the DoIts and the ShouldWes.

    I’ll bet that there are plenty of “closet” DoIts in your company, politically sensitive folks who are afraid to come out with some great ideas, thinking, maybe incorrectly, that they will be dismissed, or even worse, fall on deaf ears.  Just like on social media, there are plenty of folks who’ve learned to be politically correct, and just say nothing, because if their true feelings are known, they could lose friends, family, jobs or more.

    But when it comes to innovation, and charting the future course of your business, everything should be on the table, even those ideas not politically correct within your organization.

    So how do you ensure that those contributions are heard? How do you run an effective ideation session, brainstorming new ideas in a team setting, when maybe half of your people may be too worried to speak up? If not introverts, you may have an entire cadre of folks who are afraid to truly think outside the box, lest their ideas are shot down, or in the worst case, get retribution from their manager.

    Situations where the corporate culture is very hierarchical, where employees are told to go to their immediate manager with ideas, those managers may feel threatened when those ideas, which may have been shot down by the manager, are brought up again and again in these sessions.

    You have to disconnect the idea from the ideator.

    When running an enterprise futurist or innovation program, we typically encourage our clients to allow people to post ideas into the system anonymously, so if they feel that their ideas might be too disruptive and/or ruffle too many feathers, at least they are heard. Additionally, those who vote for an idea should also be allowed to vote anonymously, so that they can vote for an idea fearlessly.

    But what do you do when you have in-person sessions? We strive to ensure that all voices are heard, so in all sessions, we include both personal ideation time and group ideation time. For example, at the start of each session, right after introduction, we use post-its or index cards and some quiet time to allow those introverts politically sensitive ideators to write down their ideas, unafraid of repercussions. We then have them place their cards or post-its in a box, then have a member of our team pull them out and put them on the board for group discussion.

    At this point, the introverts work could be done – the idea is out there, disconnected from the submitter, and the idea receives consideration. By the same token, the political sensitives are also protected from any repercussions. When we present these ideas, it’s our job as innovators and facilitators to ensure that even the craziest, most out-of-the-box ideas are considered and properly discussed.

    Above all, all of your innovators, whether introverted, closeted or outspoken DoIts, need to be heard.


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