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Saturday, April 24, 2010

Happiness - Ten Key Things to Know

by Kevin Roberts

Happiness - Ten Key Things to KnowHaving looked at history and done theory on happiness in recent blogs, here's a Top 10 from Dr Mike Pratt to pin to your wall:
  1. Progress towards meaningful goals using 'signature strengths' contributes significantly to happiness.

  2. Happy people take time to do things that give them pleasure.

  3. Quality time with friends and family is top of the happiness list.

  4. Doing altruistic things for others creates enduring happiness.

  5. Expressing gratitude enhances your own well-being and that of the recipient.

  6. People quickly adapt to material advances.

  7. Beyond satisfaction of needs, more money does not make people significantly happier.

  8. Positive experiences tend to provide more enduring happiness than tangible purchases (social benefits).

  9. We get little enduring pleasure from short cuts.

  10. Regular exercise increases happiness.

A conversation and buzz around happiness is innately optimistic, healthy, and I think the more inquiry the better. Here's a recent take from the New York Times "Talk Deeply, Be Happy?" by Roni Caryn Rabin about the work of University of Arizona psychologist Matthias Mehl which starts with the question: "Would you be happier if you spent more time discussing the state of the world and the meaning of life - and less time talking about the weather?"

If you missed Happiness Part One, you can find it here, or Parts Two and Three here.

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Kevin RobertsKevin Roberts is the CEO worldwide of The Lovemarks Company, Saatchi & Saatchi. For more information on Kevin, please go to www.saatchikevin.com. To see this blog at its original source, please go to www.krconnect.blogspot.com.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

Innovative Brainpower, Social Media, and Business School Transformation

by Dr. Ellen Weber

Increasingly people who pony up tuition, also question current MBAs ability to upgrade business. Yet, within social media's pool of people, prater and performance, business schools too often dig for everything but innovative brainpower with quality paybacks. What a waste of social media's ability to power-up innovation.

I've sensed that novelty, human intelligence, and social media can offer assurance to MBA leaders, like those I teach and mentor, who go for gold. Imagine entire MBA programs joining those prized brainpower strands in social media to stoke dendrite innovative brain cells. With a few social media approaches, business schools could spark brainpower that ignites an entire generation of global leaders.

It means building better bridges between brains, social media and business leaders though. Skilled entrepreneurs intricately weave their wisdom through well crafted social media meetings, and those who'll lead our current creative era, are making mental notes daily about how to find or furnish that next golden thread.

Innovative brainpower rarely pops up by accident, however, nor does it always appear on demand. Over 25 years of building visionary links to brainpower, I've discovered social media dividends that advance new pathways into high performance business minds. It's a bit like polishing a magic lantern, until a genie appears to move original ideas into that winning design for a new era.

For example:

1. Scan the TweetDeck for one big idea to design or kindle. With endless ideas out there - it's often a matter of capturing one to crystallize. Fast Company celebrated the last decade's 14 biggest such design moments, all of which passed through Twitter's collective brainpower where shots of dopamine helped open participants to novelty. Anthony Grace at the University of Pittsburgh describes a feedback loop that involves a chemical and electrical interactions between dopamine and novel or unexpected events. This lively process on Twitter appears to lock in memory, and it also engages the amygdala where the brain processes emotional and socially exchanged information as fuel for increased innovation.

2. Mimic creative people by engaging at their web site. New brain discoveries confirm that you literally adopt another person's unique approaches by observing them at work. It's also true that while innovation may be more vital than ever at your workplace, individuals who think, act and build differently often remain at a premium. That's where social media brainpower can help MBAs, so that more people learn innovative tactics that generate profitable designs. Simply stated, mirror neurons can create innovative cultures from carefully constructed imitation. In this video on mirror neurons, for instance people watch and mirror folks who differ. Consider the consequences if business leaders witnessed how that deep within brain cells await neurons that fire in reaction to mirroring other's talents as they roll into activity. If new opportunities for innovation get stomped on where they work, MBAs can mimic more online innovator's actions, and report benefits from an advantage of mirror neurons in action.

3. Blog opposite ideas to build from polar ends. Too many similar routines in toxic workplaces mentally barricade neuron pathways to creativity for cutting edge projects. To insert risks that increase your ROI - build an innovative culture by linking opposites through a shared blog, in ways that traditionalists often miss. Shared blogs on innovation, will link unique insights across viewpoints from high-performance minds. Online communities open new segues to leap-frog workers over ruts and routines that shut down brilliant people. Traditions tend to breed language for clinging to old approaches, yet when you engage opposing views, the brain's best response may be to tame an amygdala here and there in order to harness unique contributions. Rather than take potshots at people, blogs can build differences into tools for goodwill across cultures. Diversity is to shared blogs what a new neuron highways is to innovative solutions. Engage genius thinkers online, and innovation soon begins to stoke your work community.

4. Run from digital cynics. Have you noticed how stocks rise when people twitter hope? Or have you seen financial markets nosedive when online naysayers spout doom? Luckily pools of innovative brainpower lie beyond the sea of online cynicism. This trend hinges on the fact that hope adds serotonin to spark curiosity and fuel the brain. Cortisol, on the other hand, shuts down originality, and increases fear of failure. Make sense? When cynics spread fear, brainpower shuts down before social media's innovation stands a chance. When creators spark curiosity imagination kicks back delightfully in genius creators.

5. Start social network discussions on YouTube. You might start a back-and-forth on YouTube inventions such as pickle ice-cream, or simply toss around as I did - recent brain facts about multi-tasking that limits innovation. Few people know how multi-tasking works against innovation - because it bottle necks the brain's ability to focus or innovate. Just as all brains wire differently though, Internet discussions allow people view to multi-tasking as it relates to their own innovation. You could say that social networks add new colors and textures to innovative brainpower, because people hold up shared experiences to the rainbow for another look.

6. Build tone tools on Facebook through a climate of creativity. Innovation gets lost in climates where toxins such as bullying or intimidation exist. In climates resistant to change, toxins come faster than lightening strikes an iron rod in an electric storm. Sadly stress or negativity shoot down a brain’s best ideas, and innovators often tell you it's less stressful to hang up their cleats in favor of doing bare routines. Where people tend to kill initiatives, tone tactics act like a vehicle to tug innovation back into play. It helps to google examples of good tone from gentle, or effective leaders, and then discuss online how to offer olive branches back and forth at work. Or why not ask other innovators on Facebook what tone they hear in people's words. Then compare responses to words that convey invention or vision.

7. Pose two-footed questions on LinkedIn. The best way to integrate innovation into your firm's existing practices is to question ways that lead away from creative solutions. Start with stubborn problems, and toss in a two-footed question that probes the solution from angles of fact and interest. I recently presented an MBA course on Leading Innovation with the Brain in Mind, to a university business school, and I plan to challenge change leaders on LinkedIn with a follow-up question: What will innovation look like in the 21st Century, and how can business schools promote creative intelligence through top facilitation of innovative brainpower? What two-footed question would launch your next innovative offering at a LinkedIn roundtable?

8. Reward talent in online networks. Offer a book for a contest winner, publish a blog on the most innovative leader for tough times as Harvard Business leader, Bill George did recently to my online story about Dr Bill Cala. In too many workplaces problems go unsolved while some of the finest minds are left outside of the innovative process. In order to bridge the gap between the multiple intelligences people bring to work, and the problems that need solutions, organizations reward people for refreshing new ideas. As part of that process why not survey your unique intelligences to see which talents you have up and running innovatively. Don't forget to toss out tips for avoiding disagreements that kill innovation in meetings though.

As people awaken innovative intelligences online - for life-changing designs at work, brainpowered teams will rise up to garner the most diverse perspectives. Check out refreshing and profitable innovations that happened this month at Braden Kelley's Blogging Innovation site, for example. It's my prediction that we'll see a finer ROI on our collective efforts there - all because of added social media brainpower.

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Dr. Ellen WeberDr. Ellen Weber is the Director of the MITA International Brain Center in New York and an internationally known innovation leader, speaker, mentor and columnist, who certifies business and university leaders in brain based facilitation approaches. Her blog suggests approaches to accomplish things never before accomplished by using parts of the brain never before used.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Leadership Vacuums and Overcoming Barriers to Innovation

by Robert F. Brands with Jeff Zbar

Leadership Vacuums and Overcoming Barriers to InnovationYou want to innovate. You want your company and people to embrace new ideas, get ahead of the curve - and competition. You want to be progressive, thoughtful and creative.

But you're stymied by barriers to innovation that get in the way. They bog down your team, repel creativity and leave the organization wanting for more. Projects can't get started. Initiatives don't leave the gate. There's a general failure to launch.

For some organizations, innovation is the much sought-after Holy Grail of thoughtful, productive creativity. Yet for those where innovation ceases to exist, the organization itself often is at a loss to identify the culprit.

In reality, the barriers to innovation often are the same barriers that prevent other progressive initiatives from taking root. In a recent survey, innovation blogger and consultant Braden Kelley asked readers, "What is your organization's biggest barrier to innovation?"

Braden Kelley poll on barriers to innovation
Tops among the 550 (and counting) responses, some 32 percent of respondents said 'organizational psychology' - as Kelley put it, "the way people think in the organization, the culture - fear of failure, risk aversion, etc."

Next, 26 percent of respondents said an absence of an innovative strategy.

The rest, in order, were Organizational Structure (15 percent), Level of Trust and Respect (13), and Information Sharing (11).

Yet in all my years, I've found one essential barrier not mentioned by respondents here but which supersedes them all, and if well placed and respected, can eliminate most if not all the barriers mentioned:

Leadership - thoughtful, progressive, inclusive leadership. A CEO who sets the vision for the company, establishes policies for innovation, and encourages his team to embrace all in kind.

Leaders of innovation embrace corporate entrepreneurship. They encourage people to step out of their cubes and beyond the safety of just "doing their day jobs." They expect workers - from the executive ranks to the reception desk - to push back and explore beyond the boundaries of their comfort zones.

They define innovation; after all, it can mean different things to different people. Let people retain their respective, personal definitions. But for purposes of the organization, innovation and the goals sought must be defined from the top. They then must be encouraged to welcome the challenge and inspired to rise to the occasion.

Research around "Most Innovative Companies" (Updated April 26, 2010 Edition) from BusinessWeek and Boston Consulting Group backed up this intuition.

When asked "Who is the biggest force driving innovation at your company?" some 44.5 percent of respondents said it was the CEO (see slide No. 9). Interestingly, only 3 percent answered the vice president of innovation.

Innovation Leader

In order to blow through the myriad obstacles that thwart innovation - whether a lack of innovative strategy, structure, trust and respect, sharing of information, or even organizational psychology - the impetus starts in the C-Suite. To be sure, the structure has to be in place, and the organization - and its people - have to know who they are and what their mission is.

Only with the right leader, will the environment and enablers be in place, the resources be made available, and the roadblocks be dismantled. The barriers will be removed. Innovation, in the end, will have the fertile grounds to launch and take flight.

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Robert F BrandsRobert Brands is the founder of InnovationCoach.com, and the author of "Robert's Rules of Innovation: A 10-Step Program for Corporate Survival", with Martin Kleinman - to be published in March by Wiley (www.robertsrulesofinnovation.com).

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Top 16 Reasons Why Human Beings Love Lists

by Mitch Ditkoff

Top 16 Reasons Why Human Beings Love ListsThis just in.

My three most popular postings on this blog have one thing in common: They are all lists.
  1. 100 Simple Ways to Be More Creative on the Job

  2. The Top 100 Lamest Excuses for Not Innovating

  3. 26 Reasons Why Most Brainstorming Sessions Don't Work

While I acknowledge that these three postings are engaging, entertaining, and useful, I don't think they are that much more engaging, entertaining, and useful than the rest of the stuff on our blog to warrant as much attention as they've been getting.

Something else is afoot.

And that, I believe, is the medium through which the content of these postings have been communicated: Lists.

What's up with lists? Why so popular? Why does every men's and women's magazine plaster their covers with them? Why do blogs?

After some major noodling on the topic and a few consultations with the Master of the Tradition, I am very pleased to report my recent findings to you. Here we go...


  1. We are all victims of information overload. Lists help us make sense of the world.

  2. Lists simplify.

  3. Lists promise instant knowledge.

  4. Lists make it seem as if the list maker knows something that list readers don't.

  5. Lists appeal to an ever expanding population of ADD sufferers.

  6. Lists provide choices.

  7. Lists are made of soundbytes. Soundbytes 'R Us.

  8. Lists appeal to the left brain need for order and linearity.

  9. Lists are familiar. We grew up making them: laundry lists, grocery lists, and Christmas lists.

  10. Lists can be updated, added to, or subtracted from easily.

  11. Lists give us an instant opportunity to disagree.

  12. Lists, with their declarative headlines, make list readers feel like they are just about to get a crash course on a topic of great significance.

  13. Lists, when forwarded to friends or clients, position the list forwarder as a knowledgeable resource.

  14. Lists include items that are numbered - and most readers assume that an item that's numbered must be more true than an item that's merely bulleted.

  15. Lists can be printed quickly, folded up, and put into one's pocket - as opposed to New Yorker articles, the collected works of Henry Miller, or Sunday's New York Times.

  16. Lists are great ways for list makers, especially in the hyperlinked blogosphere, to plug their own businesses and books, not to mention the businesses and books of their friends, chiropractors, and college roommates.

PS: If we've omitted any TOP REASONS why human beings love lists, leave us a comment. When we get ten or more, we'll post what our readers have sent us. As a list, of course.

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Mitch DitkoffMitch Ditkoff is the Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions and the author of "Awake at the Wheel", as well as the very popular Heart of Innovation blog.

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Who are your positive deviants?

by Hutch Carpenter

positive deviants"The future is already here - it is just unevenly distributed"

The famous William Gibson quote above is generally considered in the context of advanced technologies. Makes sense, seeing as he is a science fiction writer. But I'd like to bring the concept down to a more tangible, prosaic level. One that has value for large organizations.

Specifically, Gibson's quote is a good way way to think about innovative practices that are present in a given ecosystem or community, but which are unknown to most people.

A few months ago, the Boston Globe ran an article titled, The power of positive deviants. It profiled a new way of thinking about innovation, "positive deviance". What is that?

"Positive deviance is an approach to behavioral and social change. Instead of imposing solutions from without, the method identifies outliers in a community who, despite having no special advantages, are doing exceptionally well. By respecting local ingenuity, proponents say, the approach galvanizes community members and is often more effective and sustainable than imported blueprints"

The article includes an example, in which authorities were seeking ideas to fight incidents of the MRSA bacteria, which cling to clothes for days and are thus hard to counteract. In canvassing hospitals for a solution, researchers came across the practice of a patient transporter, Jasper Palmer. He would ball up his hospital gown, and stuff it in his inverted hospital gloves. It turns out, this is highly effective in stopping the spread of MRSA. His technique has been widely adopted, and is now called the Palmer method.

See...the future of MRSA control was already here. It was just unevenly distributed.

There are two key concepts in positive deviance:

  1. Outliers as sources of innovative practices
  2. The power of a practice that emerges from a community, not one imposed from outside it

While the Boston Globe article focuses on efforts for improving humanitarian and social problems, the approach is a useful one to consider in the context of solving tough problems for any organization.

Which Organizations Benefit?

Well, any organization can benefit from looking for examples of positive deviance to solve problems.

Who are your positive deviants?
But perhaps the approach is best suited for companies with these qualities:

  • Large, with workers distributed geographically
  • Many employees engaged in similar tasks in these various locations

The distribution of the workforce has the effect of letting different ideas propagate independently. Each person has her own ideas for how to solve different problems that will inevitably occur. Consider this evolution in the realm of work practices. Multiple species of practices can emerge, and some are better suited for long term sustainability than others.

The similarity of activities means the positive deviances can be sources of value for others. Otherwise, these outlier practices are only of value to a limited set of peers.

Eliciting Those Positive Deviations

This is the challenge, isn't it? How can organizations surface the outlier, positive deviations of employees? This is a conundrum that has bedeviled the knowledge management industry for years. People do not simply record all the things they know and do. It's not in the flow of their daily work. There's no motivation to sift through all the different things they do to.

Rather, organizations need to go looking for their positive deviants, because they're out there. Two models exist for this:
  1. Organizations treat the mining of these positive deviations as a campaign
  2. Individuals post their call for examples of how others address a problem

The first model is great for generating a large set of possible solutions to a problem. It leverages the internal communication infrastructure, and the motivation that comes when senior managers are backing an initiative. Rewards can be included in the campaign, increasing the motivation.

But that doesn't have to be the only way. Individuals will face problems that colleagues have solved previously, perhaps in an unorthodox way (e.g. the Palmer method for MRSA). Letting individuals cast a call for ideas is necessary as well. Don't make them wait until a full campaign is undertaken.

Crowdsource the solution from one's peers. With today's tools, the process of crowdsourcing for solutions is easy, enriched with analytics, anchored with workflow, searchable by everybody, and provides the basis for generating reputation scores and rewards.

The great part of this is that solutions coming from others in the organization will generally get a warmer reception than a solution from a consultant. It's just the nature of us. We listen to those who face the same challenges we do first, before someone who doesn't know the business as well.

Go ahead, find the positive deviants in your organization. Make the future a little more evenly distributed.

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Hutch CarpenterHutch Carpenter is the Vice President of Product at Spigit. Spigit integrates social collaboration tools into a SaaS enterprise idea management platform used by global Fortune 2000 firms to drive innovation.

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Happiness Parts Two and Three

by Kevin Roberts

Happiness Parts Two and ThreeHaving previously looked with Dr. Mike Pratt at the first step of choice in happiness, the second step has to do with activities. There are two types. First, activities that provide gratification. This comes through progress towards meaningful personal, work-related and also altruistic goals.

The second kind of activities are ones that simply bring pleasure. This is about creating time for and being engaged in things that you really enjoy doing, and a variety of them too. Steer clear of the toxic polar points of these two types of activities, workaholism and hedonism. A single-minded pursuit of work can bust up social relationships, A single-minded pursuit of pleasure can be addictive.

The third happy step, along with choice and activities, is about authenticity and personal purpose. This is where signature strengths (a concept developed by Martin Seligman) are developed and applied to gratifications. When we use unique signature strengths and virtues towards a higher purpose beyond our own needs or desires, the 'meaningful life' comes into play. Knowing your signature strengths can enhance performance, make life more fulfilling, help you tackle difficult situations more easily and provide a basis for developing your personal purpose.

If you missed Happiness Part One, you can find it here.

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Kevin RobertsKevin Roberts is the CEO worldwide of The Lovemarks Company, Saatchi & Saatchi. For more information on Kevin, please go to www.saatchikevin.com. To see this blog at its original source, please go to www.krconnect.blogspot.com.

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

Happiness Theory Part 1 - Choice

by Kevin Roberts

Happiness Theory Part 1 – ChoiceIn building steps to happiness to achieve Peak Performance, Dr. Mike Pratt starts with choice: choice as self-discipline and as self-determination.

The self-discipline part is about rejecting immediate pleasure, relaxation and satisfaction for a higher goal. This lets you implement your decisions, be resilient in the face of failure and setbacks, and act with perseverance to reach your goals. It's like weight training your mind. There are aches, pains, sweat and one hell of a pay off.

The self-determination part matters in all domains: work, family and social. It's about autonomy, engaging meaningfully with others and performing "just right" challenges, the ones that stretch us without making us do the splits. Control people, and they do only what is required. Inflate people's incentives, and they are prone to forego autonomy and to distort and destroy what matters most.

Here's a 10-point quiz to assess how self-determined you are. Mark yourself from -10 to +10, add your score, and take it from there. Next up on the quest for happiness, we go from choice to action.
  1. My days are typically filled with fresh new ideas, sights and experiences.

  2. I can try out different activities to learn and grow.

  3. My life often gives me the opportunity to be curious, inquisitive and amazed.

  4. My days are filled with meaningful activities that I love doing.

  5. Most days I feel very productive.

  6. I am able to take time to be proactive and choiceful about my goals.

  7. My life provides me with the opportunity to take time with and care for other people.

  8. I really like the people I engage in activities with.

  9. I regularly review my activities and eliminate those that don't make me happy.

  10. I am aware of my skills and abilities and my activities regularly give me the opportunity to enhance them.

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Kevin RobertsKevin Roberts is the CEO worldwide of The Lovemarks Company, Saatchi & Saatchi. For more information on Kevin, please go to www.saatchikevin.com. To see this blog at its original source, please go to www.krconnect.blogspot.com.

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Monday, April 05, 2010

Breaking Down Internal Barriers to Innovation

by Paul Sloane

Breaking Down Internal Barriers to InnovationWithin larger organizations one of the biggest obstacles to innovation is poor internal communication. A silo mentality develops so that departments guard information and ideas rather than share them. People work hard - but in isolated groups. Internal politics can compound the problem with rivalry and turf wars obstructing collaboration. It can reach the ridiculous stage where the enemy is seen as another department inside rather than the competitors outside.

The leader has to tear down the internal fences, punish internal politics and reward cooperation. This sometimes calls for drastic or innovative actions.

Nokia has an informal rule that no one should eat lunch at their desk or go out for lunch. People are encouraged to eat in the subsidized cafeterias and to mix with people from outside their department. They have found that the informal meetings across departments are beneficial in sharing ideas and understanding.

Every organization has to find ways to promote internal communication and collaboration and to fight internal division and competition. Here are some ideas for breaking down barriers to communication:
  • Publish everyone's objectives and activities on the intranet so that people know what other people are working on.
  • Organize cross-functional teams for all sorts of projects. Make them as loose or as formal as you see fit but be sure that there is good mixing and that all of the departments contribute.
  • Arrange plenty of social and extracurricular activities, such as sports, quizzes, book clubs, hobby clubs, special interest groups etc.
  • Have innovation contests where cross-functional teams compete.
  • Have people frequently take secondary assignments in other departments.
  • Deliberately rearrange the office layout from time to time so that people move desks and sit with new groups (or adopt a 'hot desk' approach).
  • Organize a cross-functional innovation incubator.
  • Encourage department managers to look for ideas, input and solutions from outside their departments. Publicly praise managers who do this.


It is natural for departments in organizations to become more insular. As the organization grows, good internal communication becomes more and more difficult. There was a saying in Hewlett Packard: "If only HP knew what HP knows!" Very often the knowledge and skills needed to solve your problem exist elsewhere in the company. Knowledge sharing and collaboration are essential for innovation success. A key responsibility of the innovative leader is to constantly fight the silting up of the internal communications and to force contact and sharing between departments.

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Paul SloanePaul Sloane writes, speaks and leads workshops on creativity, innovation and leadership. He is the author of The Innovative Leader published by Kogan-Page.

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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Who Needs Information?

by Kevin Roberts

Who Needs Information?Roger Waters asked rhetorically "Who needs information?" in 1985 on his album Radio K.A.O.S. The answer is, sadly, one fifth of the workforce, who keep their Blackberries on at all times, night, day, weekend and wedding anniversary. I'm all for sight, sound and motion, and the enhancement of the screen to become a force for good in the world, but not at the expense of the world itself.

Enhancement doesn't mean dominating your time, it doesn't mean taking all of your focus. It should be about providing extra joy, happier attention, useful solutions - none of these are time dependent.

Some studies suggest that UK workers are doing an extra 10 days work a year just checking their handhelds. The quality of that work is likely to be substandard - staying informed doesn't necessarily mean making good decisions, or making any decisions at all. And if you don't have to make a decision, what are you checking for?

What's ironic is that buyers of these smartphones are not even happy with the phones they have in their hands. Apparently "57% of smartphone users are disappointed with handset and application performance." Which goes to show that it takes more than technology to make the screen come alive - it's about how consumers feel about what they are interacting with. You can hardly blame a manufacturer for wanting to make a good phone with good features though. The responsibility lies with ourselves.

So turn your screens off every now and then, read the bus timetable at the station rather than asking your app for it, talk to the person next to you without wondering when the next work email is coming, and what will be in it, and enjoy every minute of your life that you can (and men, I'm looking at you, you're even worse at switching off).

The result? When you turn on your screen, you'll be fresher, more decisive, more certain of whether an app or a feature will work for you, more delighted with the innovation in front of you. The information will jump out, and it will probably be the information you're looking for.

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Kevin RobertsKevin Roberts is the CEO worldwide of The Lovemarks Company, Saatchi & Saatchi. For more information on Kevin, please go to www.saatchikevin.com. To see this blog at its original source, please go to www.krconnect.blogspot.com.

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Sunday, March 28, 2010

Good News Travels Faster

Good News Travels Faster
Image Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

by Kevin Roberts

Debate on the upside and downside of the Internet continues to rage, and won't be settled any time soon. I'm an upsider, and take the view that powering forward imperfectly beats staying still or rolling back perfectly. The liberating and involving nature of the Internet cuts creativity loose on such a fantastic scale, that I think we'll have the capability to fix the flaws as we go.

Recent research at the University of Pennsylvania through the New York Times is encouraging. It turns out good news travels faster than bad and that the positive emotion of awe travels fastest. Large scale awe-inspiring stories that make us see the world in a different way catch fire.

Make what you will of this, but 'emotional communion' of this kind suggests that people move towards positive change, and will get in behind it when it counts. A booster for the case that 'the glass half full' holds plenty of water.

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Kevin RobertsKevin Roberts is the CEO worldwide of The Lovemarks Company, Saatchi & Saatchi. For more information on Kevin, please go to www.saatchikevin.com. To see this blog at its original source, please go to www.krconnect.blogspot.com.

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Enemy inside the Gate - The Biggest Barrier to Innovation in the Middle East

by Kamal Hassan

Enemy inside the Gate - The Biggest Barrier to Innovation in the Middle EastWhat are the drivers for innovation in the Middle East? I recently asked this question of my colleagues in the social mediasphere. I wanted to better understand how people innovate in the Middle East, and compare the drivers for innovation here with that of other societies.

My question provoked many responses, several of which pointed to one underlying driver - necessity. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention. However, necessity is the most basic driver for innovation. Many other societies have moved beyond necessity.

In China, for example, innovation is technologically and industrially driven, and their R&D spending matches that of the U.S. and Europe.

The Japanese believe that if they lose money, they will recover it, but if they lose time, they won't. So a driver of innovation there is the need to produce new offerings quickly, and to be the first to market.

In the U.S., there are multiple factors that support innovation - a higher education system that encourages thought leadership and innovation, and a strong entreprenurial spirit and privately funded venture capital system. These factors combined lead to increased competition, which further drives innovation.

In the Middle East, we have necessity. The need to develop viable means of income in addition to oil. The need to improve quality of life for those in poor Middle East countries. The need to solve the water shortage crisis, unemployment among youths, technological backwardness, and more.

We also have government-led initiatives designed to foster innovation and support entrepreneurship. The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation is a good example, as is the Qatar Foundation, and the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia. All represent significant government investments to drive innovation. Certainly the resources and the will to innovate are there. Where we are in danger of falling short is the execution and sustainability of these plans.

Apathy - The Enemy of Innovation

It is interesting that in response to my question, what drives innovation in the Middle East, many responses listed the barriers to innovation here - the "buy versus make" culture; lack of support for entrepreneurship, especially among youths; too much talk and not enough action.

I believe that all of these problems are rooted in apathy. During the past year, I have visited many companies throughout the Gulf region. Although everyone expresses an interest in innovation, few put any resources into it. One organization, a multi-billion dollar telecom company, had one person in charge of R&D who was let go two years ago. Another, a $50 billion company with diversified holdings, has an R&D budget of $0.

These are not isolated examples. A 2008 report from the Economist Intelligence Unit put the region's R&D expenditure at less than one percent of profits. Compare that to Japan, which allocates more than twe percent to R&D.

In addition, some companies confuse innovation with suggestion boxes or brainstorming sessions. More often than not, these poorly planned programs merely generate "opinions" from unhappy employees, or incremental improvements to existing products, services and business models. These approaches are not a substitute for true innovation.

How do these companies survive? Because we have made it acceptible to rely on the innovation of others, which we reuse and resell. Where some societies and organizations struggle with the "it's not made here" mentality, we have the opposite problem. If it's not made, tested, proven and sold elsewhere, we tend to distrust it. We have created a culture of apathy that can afford to buy innovation elsewhere.

As a result, local ingenuity is often overlooked or discouraged in favor of imported innovation, and we become a hub that innovation passes through. We verbally commit to entrepreneurship, but the costly and difficult system of establishing a business here belies that commitment. In addition, there is too little privately funded venture capital to support entrepreneurs or new innovative models.

This culture of apathy threatens to negatively affect the execution and sustainability of current innovation initiatives. It is not enough to set aside financial resources for innovation and entrepreneurship. Without a systematic approach to innovation execution, any progress made will be minimal and difficult to sustain.

What would such an approach look like? Here are some high-level steps:
  • Understand that innovation is a process and a system that needs to be well managed.

  • Revamp business infrastructure so that it not only supports entrepreneurs, but allows them to fail and learn from their mistakes.

  • Increase micro-financing and venture capital funding, and remove the red tape that discourages private funding.

  • Increase the competitive landscape by easing government control on growing industries that require significant new technologies and innovation.

  • Increase R&D budgets across the board, and educate organizations on how to maximize R&D spending (through systematic innovation).

  • Embed innovation training in all levels of the education system, and for all employees.

  • Focus on necessities instead of luxuries (water resources versus high-rises, enabling technologies versus shopping malls, production versus consumption).

On a personal scale, we need to work to overcome apathy and encourage creativity. This means we stop accepting the status quo and resolve to change it. We challenge old assumptions. We think outside the box. We share knowledge. We start trusting each other, and our abilities.

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Kamal HassanKamal Hassan is President and CEO of Innovation 360 Institute, and is responsible for leading the company's global operations and customer acquisition.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

How to Spark a Snowcrash & What the Web Really Does

by Venessa Miemis

It's been an interesting week, to say the least.

In a lot of ways, we all just pulled each other up to a new frequency, I think. We've been sharing our ideas and perspectives of our personal discoveries for a while now, and all of a sudden all these perspectives assembled into an insight that helped me understand why the human network is so important, and why building a personal 'trust network' is critical for moving forward in society. (For anyone new here, check out An Idea Worth Spreading post and comment thread as an orientation to this site and the thinking going on here.)

So the past few days have been spent thinking about what just happened, and how we can keep doing it.

I have realized what's happening here is that this blog has become a public learning community, where we are all literally learning how to learn. We are learning how to think in this new way. This new way of thinking, this 'network thinking', by default requires a network. We can't learn how to think in the new way alone. We can only figure it out through experimentation and collaboration. This is the "shift" everyone is talking about, the big thing that individuals and organizations "need" to operate in the 21st Century. We're revealing it, unfolding it, right now, together.

My takeaway of what this means and how to do it:

1. Create a personal 'trust network' for yourself first.

In order to understand the implications of the shift and to internalize it, you need to experience it firsthand. You can't tell your organization that you're going to be implementing "social media" and everyone is going to start "collaborating," and assume that waving a magic wand is going to make this happen. My experience has been that I had to learn what trusting and sharing means on my own.

That really sounds bizarre, and I feel a bit sub-human that it took me so long to re-learn how to trust someone and share resources. It's what we're taught as children, but apparently society does a good job beating it out of us.

All of us have a trust network already 'in real life'. It's your family and your close friends and colleagues, all those strong ties, and also your extended family, community, and coworkers, your weak ties. These people are crucial, they are your companions day to day. But what about people beyond your real life connections? Is there a way to extend our connections and build trust with strangers who have a diversity of backgrounds, skills, strengths, resources, and knowledge? People who could help us if we needed help? Could we establish a global trust network?

What I discovered through Twitter was that there are people out there who know what community means. Who really, truly know. These people have already internalized what a society could look like based on a cooperative model, and it seems that this is what's really going on on the web. Beyond all the superficial stuff out there, all the mindless entertainment and porn, at the core (or maybe at the periphery) is a community of...thousands?...millions?...of people who have jobs and careers and passions that they carry out "in the real world," but have already embraced the vision of a much different way of life that is based in trust.

And they are modeling it online.

What is actually happening on the web is an epic experiment in creating a new society.

When you hear people talk about this online "gift economy," and "building value and trust," and "sharing" - this is WAY beyond a new gimmick for your business. Please don't underestimate what's going on. This is actually people laying down the foundation and infrastructure for a new global economy. There is a movement that is slowly gaining steam as people are "waking up," and it has the potential to change the world.

That thing you think about before you go to sleep at night, when you say "sigh, if only the world was a little more like ________" - that thing is actually going on right now. It's terrifying and magical, because it means that there is hope. It means that we don't have to stand by and let the economy and education and government all erode and crumble around us as we watch from the sidelines. There's the opportunity to actually get involved, take charge of our own lives, and join in the experiment and see how to make it a reality. How to make it THE reality.

The beauty of the complexity of it is that in order to really reap the benefits of it, you have to participate in it genuinely, and in order to participate genuinely, you have to do it intentionally, and in order to do it intentionally, you have to understand it, and in order to understand it, you have to understand yourself, and in order to understand yourself, you have to learn how to give, and in order to learn how to give, you have to establish a network to give to.

It's a complex interrelated web, but it seems that establishing the network is a first step.

2. Share yourself.

This is the part where mindfulness comes in, and where you really have to start exploring the depths of personal Identity.

That's a lot to ask, and you may not have even asked yourself that question in a while. That's the point. If you were really going to live in a trust-based society - what would that look like? Who would you be?

There's a big path of self-discovery and self-reflection that goes on, there's a lot of confronting your beliefs and your ego, and it's painful sometimes.

For me, that is kind of the beauty of the web. It can help you to help yourself, if you choose to use it to that end.

And the way that 'it' helps you, is that PEOPLE help you. It's the people. It has always been about the people.

Why has our society become so jaded, so selfish, so afraid, so arrogant, so egotistical, and so greedy?

I think it's because our society doesn't give us many chances to share ourselves with each other. To really let our guards down and just be authentic, good people, who are not out for gain, who are not out to exploit each other in order to get ahead, but who just want to be able to freely exchange gifts and collaborate because it makes us feel good.

Society doesn't want this. You want to know why?

Because these things are free.

What does society reward? Cheating. Stealing. Exploitation. Fame. Big houses. Fancy cars. Executive titles. Material stuff. All these things are attached to something else. Something has to be sacrificed to get these things. And they often don't make you happy in the end. They're not who you really are, or what you really care about, but you do them because that's how it's set up, and we're just operating within the framework that exists.

But, there's this other way.

In this experimental society in which you can participate, if you want - people are a little more 'real'. People will give you advice, pass along a link they think might interest you, offer to collaborate on a real project, or exchange some information with you, for no other reason besides that it's "how THIS system works."

The precondition is trust. You can't buy trust. You can't force trust.

You earn trust.

You earn it by sharing your gifts. I don't know how to tell you what yours is. It took me years of exploration to find mine, but I can say from my firsthand experience on the web, that my trust network pulled me forward into the realm where I made the discovery. The search for self-identity that I've been on my life was actually aided by real people around the planet who I've never actually met.

The process of self-discovery is of course completely personal. I can only tell you that for me, starting my blog was one of my greatest tools. Writing my thoughts was a powerful way for me to practice thinking about what I think, and critically evaluate myself. The even better part is when other people started leaving comments on my posts, challenging the way I think, offering their perspectives, and making me rethink what I thought I knew. These conversations have been evolving for months, but each blog post resulted in people leaving comments that challenged my thinking further and further. Sometimes people disagreed with me, and sometimes I wanted to lash out and defend my thinking.

But instead, I tried to understand that other person's perspective, see where they're coming from, and imagine why they might think what they think. I tried to learn empathy. I think empathy is a critical emotion to develop in a trust society, and also a necessary one to help bring about 'the shift'.

The learning process that takes place during this self-discovery isn't just a discovery of self, but the discovery of self in relation to others. The thinking process becomes one that can encompass the idea of interdependence. I don't know how to explain this, but I can only say this "new way of thinking" involves a transcendence of ego. It is a mental model that assumes that problems cannot be solved alone, and that collaboration is not just desirable, but is actually a display of higher intelligence.

When you are able to put your ego aside, and realize that problems can only be solved by many, your mentality shifts from "I know the answer" to one of "How can I contribute to the solution?"

For me, when this started, it felt like a video game. I would send people links, or retweet people's stuff that seemed useful, and when I got a "thank you," it caused a little high. People were appreciating my contributions. When people would comment on my blog posts or retweet my posts to their networks, it caused a little high again, because again I was being appreciated.

As you start sharing more of yourself and your ideas, your art, your gifts, your insights, people will start to notice. You don't have to try to 'sell yourself'. You have to try to BE yourself.

There's a difference. And the difference gets noticed.

And the shift starts to creep into your brain, as this behavior becomes reinforced over and over and over again.

Every time someone shows you some appreciation for being you, even something as small as a retweet, a different kind of synapse starts firing in the brain.

We start getting rewarded for giving and for sharing.

We get rewarded for being our authentic self.

It starts to build self-confidence and self-esteem in a strangely gratifying way, because all you're doing is kind of having a good time, and just being yourself.

Just keep doing this.

3. Rewire your brain

In order to function in this new society, what it comes down to is that you need to kickstart your brain.

Beyond all the fun and giving and sharing is an actual restructuring of the way the brain works. We have to teach our brains how to process the type of information that now needs to be processed. Digital information. Information that has a place it needs to go in order to be useful. We are problem solvers, but we are also transmitters. We need to build a new brain.

This new brain is intuition based.

I actually think it's not a new brain at all, but the 'real' brain. I think what happens is that we start to unlearn some things, and then rediscover how the optimal brain actually functions.

I have read quite a bit of research on complexity science, evolutionary theory, neuroscience, and really so much more, so this isn't coming from a place of being uninformed, but there's something different about this brain.

Because it's intuition based, it defies description. It doesn't think hierarchically or in a linear way, instead it operates in patterns. It happens seemingly instantaneously. It happens through intention.

Someone gave me the example of reaching out for a glass. Do you think about all the muscles and movements involved in moving your arm, or do you simply have an intention for your hand to grasp the glass?

It's complex beyond reason, and blows away our current models of description.

It happens because we just 'know'.

I think what's happened to us is we have trained our brains to operate like machines for 100 years. We have been working in jobs that have set descriptions, with specific tasks and roles, and they box in our mind. I think our minds have actually struggled to form the linear paths to think in the linear way that typical organizations want us to operate in; following directions, following rules, doing repetitive tasks, regurgitating information.

But the brain doesn't want to work like that. It wants to work like a network. It wants to send ideas and information all over the place, jumping from synapse to synapse on multiple pathways. It wants to be contextual, relational, adaptive, and non-linear. It wants to imagine things, map new models, and revise itself constantly. I think it WANTS to be a learning machine. As we pick up on new ways of thinking about things and assembling information, new synapses form, helping information reach its destination faster and more effectively.

I started to think about the brain this way by watching the way information travels on Twitter. This was a huge help in shifting my thinking. I imagined each person as a node in a network, even imagining the people out there who I wasn't following. I tried to imagine EVERYONE who's on Twitter. All the humans around the world. I imagined we each operated as a switch and a filter.

As a switch, we each can decide where to allow information to spread into our network. (Keep toggling this example between how Twitter works and how the brain's neural nets work)

When we retweet, we expose our entire network of relationships to this particular piece of information. That's like flipping the switch 'on'. It fires the synapse. Or we can take no action, and the tweet just passes through the stream. The switch stayed 'off'.

In addition, we can also be a filter. We can add extra data to a tweet, leaving a short comment about it, or cc'ing specific people on it, or just sending it directly to people.

As we become more familiar with who we're following and who's within our human network, we individually get better at being a switch and a filter.

We become more discriminatory about what to tweet, what to retweet, and where to send information.

Like the brain that forms new pathways for effectiveness, we also learn to more effectively move information.

I think that the act of doing this in itself trains the brain. It teaches the brain to recognize itself. It's like you giving your brain permission to operate the way you're modeling the movement of information in Twitter. Your tweets don't get seen by the same people after every tweet, and you never know who is going to pick up your tweet and send it to their network. If the person is influential, they can cause a huge number of people to see your tweet, sending along all kinds of new and unexpected pathways. But the travel of a tweet is kind of random - you can't predict exactly where it will go or who will combine it with some other novel piece of information, it's just this organic process.

Now the interesting thing is when you stop thinking about tweets, and stop thinking about the screennames that are retweeting tweets.

Instead, think that you are sending an important piece of information. And think that your network isn't Twitter, it's human beings who need certain information in order for them to be able to solve problems. And then assume that you've got a pretty good read on the human beings within your personal network, and you have a pretty good intuition about who you should send that information to in order for it to get to where you think it needs to go and be seen and processed in order for it to have the most impact.

Now you're operating intelligently.

My little snowcrash was understanding this process of information travel. It's non-hierarchical, fluid, organic, and unpredictable. But it's a lot closer to how the brain wants to function than the way we usually use it.

I think that by observing how information moves in Twitter, by literally SEEING it, watching it, observing, we can teach the brain to recognize itself, and jumpstart this shift process.

It's said that "two neurons that fire together, wire together."

This is the snowcrash. It's the moment that a new connection, a new pathway, is forged in the brain. Or maybe many pathways. Maybe a whole new network of pathways. Maybe that 'lightning bolt' feeling is really what it looks like, just a ton of new pathways blazing across your brain.

At any rate, once your brain locks in this new set of pathways, you're in.

Now you're ready to start doing some reeaaalllllly interesting things.

I think this might be the way innovation works. It might be the way idea generation works. It might be the way creativity works. It's allowing the hierarchical thinking to loosen its grip on your brain, and let it do what it wants to do. I think it will start jumping in these non-lateral patterns and joining up ideas that you would have never thought to join before, because you have a whole new set of pathways to connect them.

And if your individual brain starts acting like that, and then you tune up your whole organization to that frequency and have a network of minds operating in this non-lateral way... well... the combined intelligence of a network like that seems pretty radical.


I wanted this to be an abridged version of the last post, but it seems like it has gotten pretty lengthy as well. I'm looking forward to your perspectives on the way I'm interpreting what happened, and for those that have had a similar experience, please share your version of how it happened and how you think the process can be accelerated.

I think our capacity to learn and grow is going to skyrocket once we start experimenting with building these new paths in the brain.

So, what I've covered here is three (3) concepts for boosting our intelligence:
  1. Build a web of relationships, of alliances, with people who will help us to grow and learn

  2. Initiate the process of self-discovery and self-awareness / mindfulness, and learn to share, trust and empathize

  3. Intentionally rewire the brain through watching its behavior modeled in the way information travels on Twitter

The other component that I'm going to cover in the next post is dialogue.

I've thought a lot on this, and the thing that's missing from this formula is the spoken word.

I'll get into the concept of orality and generative dialogue, but I think this is the other critical component for us to learn and challenge our minds. We have to engage in spoken 'debate', in a mutually respectful way, to share the way we understand things with others, and then get their perspectives and insights. Some of my greatest growth has happened during conversations that go late into the night, where my mind is stretched to new levels.

I generated what seems like a potentially powerful way to do this publicly online so many can learn at once, which evolved out of my thoughts for starting a Junto.

Sneak preview: Intelligent dialogue -> Chat Roulette format + livestream + Twitter backchannel

I'll explain more about it soon!

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Venessa MiemisVenessa Miemis is a Media Studies graduate student at the New School in NYC, exploring what happens at the intersection of technology, culture, and communication. Connect with her at www.emergentbydesign.com and on Twitter @venessamiemis.

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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Do you have an Anti-Creativity Checklist?

by Braden Kelley

I came across Yougme Moon's "Anti-Creativity Checklist" over at the Harvard Business Review after a tweet from @lindegaard and it got me thinking...

In order to build a culture capable of encouraging innovation or creativity (or both), you must first do an inventory of the psychology and mental models in play in your organization.

One great way to do this would be to build an 'anti-innovation checklist' or an 'anti-creativity checklist'. If you start watching the vocabulary that people use in meetings where ideas are being discussed, the behavior of senior leadership as it relates to these areas, and most importantly - how people respond - you'll get a better sense of where your organizational challenges lie with respect to innovation and creativity. Wouldn't that make such an exercise of great value to an organization?

Anyways, as an example, I've pulled out the fourteen items on Yougme Moon's checklist from the video above, which you may just want to watch:
  1. Play it safe. Listen to that inner voice.
  2. Know your limitations. Don't be afraid to pigeonhole yourself.
  3. Remind yourself: It's just a job.
  4. Show you're the smartest guy in the room. Make skepticism your middle name.
  5. Be the tough guy. Demand to see the data.
  6. Respect history. Always give the past the benefit of the doubt.
  7. Stop the madness before it can get started. Crush early-stage ideas with your business savvy.
  8. Been there, done that. Use experience as weapon.
  9. Keep your eyes closed. Your mind too.
  10. Assume there is no problem.
  11. Underestimate your customers.
  12. Be a mentor. Give sound advice to the people who work for you.
  13. Be suspicious of the "creatives" in your organization.
  14. When all else fails, act like a grown-up.

What is on your "anti-innovation checklist" or your "anti-creativity checklist"?

Please feel free to share yours in the comments below.

Related Article:

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Braden KelleyBraden Kelley is the editor of Blogging Innovation and founder of Business Strategy Innovation, a consultancy focusing on innovation and marketing strategy. Braden is also @innovate on Twitter.

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Friday, March 05, 2010

What's the Best Environment to Improve Innovation?

by Michael A. Dalton

What's the Best Environment to Improve Innovation?I had an interesting discussion recently with a company vice-president that asked me what he could do in terms of facilities design to make the work environment more conducive to innovation. Anyone familiar with my Theory of Constraints (TOC) based approach to innovation improvement will know that my response was to ask him if the facility was his innovation bottleneck. After getting an unsure look, I continued and asked what one thing was most constraining his organization's new product throughput.

He pondered my question for a second or two and replied, "I guess I'd have to say that it's finding more impactful new product ideas."

That made my response simple. "Then if you want to create a better environment for innovation, get out of yours and into theirs."

He stared at me with a puzzled look for a moment then smiled. "So the internal stuff isn't where I should focus."

Bingo - one of the most impactful things a leader can do is to keep their organization focused on high leverage activities. But internal facilities were far from his biggest problem.

Of course, it's the era of design. So I don't mean to completely dismiss the role that the physical environment and culture can play in fostering creativity. If you're putting up a new building, it's probably worth considering. Having worked in situations where R&D and marketing were located in separate buildings and where they were co-located, I can say that locating them together definitely helps people interact and problem solve more easily. Similarly, I've worked in some cutting-edge facilities from a design and aesthetic view. Who could argue against having views that inspire, lots of open spaces, and ample team meeting areas?

But for most companies, it's really missing the point to make the R&D and office work environment the focus of your innovation improvement efforts. Instead, the important thing is to get people out of the office more often to visit customers and end users in their work environments. That's where the actual problems exist and where the real inspiration for new products will come from!

The best new products solve customers' problems by simplifying or eliminating costly, difficult, time consuming, or unpleasant tasks. These kinds of ideas aren't likely to come to your people while they're in the office. These problems live out in the market. An entire discipline of ethnographic research has grown out of watching users in action to identify these problem tasks. When researchers see these problems firsthand, they get additional insights into the problem that lead to a better solution.

The 3M Post-it is a great example of the how getting out of the office can help create great new product ideas. 3M Scientist, Art Fry, was a singer in his church choir and was frustrated when the little bits of paper he used to mark pages kept falling out of the hymnal. Unfortunately, he couldn't use any of 3M's tape products because that would have torn the pages. Fry invented Post-its when he recalled the poor adhesive one of his colleagues had accidentally cooked up and began using it to make his hymnal markers easily removable.

Customer focused innovation works best when researchers can get out and see the problems firsthand. When SC Johnson researchers observed consumers problems with cleaning the shower, they invented the Scrubbing Bubbles automated shower cleaner as a way to simplify the job. Push the button on your way out of the shower and it keeps the shower clean for you. Sometimes it takes development people with a strong understanding of the technology to see the customers' problem and at the same time envision how they can solve it.

Many companies will struggle with this advice because they leave the customer interaction to sales and marketing. But limiting your R&D group to work on the ideas that others bring in is like asking them to work with part of their brain tied behind their back. Often, these companies come to me saying that they have plenty of ideas, but they just aren't seeing the results they had hoped for out of new products. Well, it's no wonder. Most sales and marketing people focus on selling what's available today. Occasionally they look for opportunities to tweak or customize products. That can create new business but rarely results in high growth new products.

The Simple Bottom Line:

Work environment plays a role in innovation and creativity, but if your constraint is in finding better opportunities, you'll do better to focus externally on the customers work environment. That's where the problems are. If you can connect your development with those problems, that's also where you'll see the most new product impact.

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Mike DaltonMike Dalton is the Chief Innovation Coach for Guided Innovation Group and the author of "Simplifying Innovation" and the Simplifying Innovation Blog. Guided Innovation Group has a simple mission - helping companies turn their new product innovation into more bottom-line impact.

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Saturday, February 20, 2010

Thinking Fearlessly

by Kevin Roberts

Think FearlesslySometimes in life - boardroom, living room or classroom - we get so scared of failure that we make it impossible for ourselves to succeed. In an economy in reset mode, the unreasonable power of creativity is what will set smart people and companies apart. But the thing about creativity is that it breeds failure as well as success.

That's the paradox. In a jittery economy, people suppress creativity to minimize the risk of failure, and companies often encourage that kind of insular thinking. But it's exactly the wrong approach - if allowed to set in, fear of failure will set an organization on auto-pilot, nose down.

Jonah Lehrer wrote on his blog in December about how psychologists are learning more about how the creative brain functions. He used the example of a simple but powerful experiment among college students. Two groups were told to list as many modes of transport as they could. The only difference was that one group was told the idea for the research came from exchange students in Greece, and the second group was told it came from classmates from down the hall.

Fascinating results. The 'down the hall' group came in with a predictable set of responses like car, bus and train. The 'Greece' group let their imagination run wild, generating far more answers, naming horses, ancient warships, spaceships and, yes, Segways.

The only difference was that one group was given the smallest permission to think fearlessly, and they jumped at it. Lehrer uses this research to argue in favor of the mind-opening possibilities of travel, and he's right. More importantly, it reveals the way the creative mind flourishes in the right conditions, and closes down in the wrong ones.

Fast Company magazine backed this up when they reported the findings of Harvard Business School research into the work habits of 238 creative professionals. The findings revealed that "creativity is positively associated with joy and love and negatively associated with anger, fear, and anxiety." The researchers argue that a fearful or negative workplace environment is an anathema to creativity and that "when people are doing work that they love and they're allowed to deeply engage in it - and when the work itself is valued and recognized - then creativity will flourish."

The lesson is obvious. We need to overwhelm tough times with our boundless and brazen creativity - not the other way around.

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Kevin RobertsKevin Roberts is the CEO worldwide of The Lovemarks Company, Saatchi & Saatchi. For more information on Kevin, please go to www.saatchikevin.com. To see this blog at its original source, please go to www.krconnect.blogspot.com.

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Part 3 - Three Innovation Distinctions

by Stephen Shapiro

Part 3 - Three Innovation DistinctionsThis is the third of my "Innovation Distinctions" entries.

In the first part of this series, I wrote why you should focus on "Challenges, not Ideas." Next, I addressed the distinction of "Process, not Events."

In this final entry, I discuss why innovation requires "Diversity not Homogeneity." Be sure to read the previous two articles before reading this one.

As mentioned in the other blog entries, I first shared these distinctions with a group of speakers and authors who were brainstorming ways to improve the learning experience for other speakers and authors who attend their conferences. Here's the Catch 22: Having only speakers and authors speaking to other speakers and authors does not lead to much creativity. Most of the "ideas" presented are well-worn and don't address the "real world" outside of the industry.

Therefore, my last suggestion to the group was to increase the level of diversity at these learning experiences. This would provide a wider range of ideas, suggestions, and points-of-view.

How does diversity apply to an organization?

Diversity can mean a wide variety of things:
  • Diversity of race, creed, color, sex, etc.
  • Diversity of innovation styles
  • Diversity of disciplines

I won't address the first point as that has been a topic of discussion for decades. Let me tackle the next two.

Diversity of Innovation Styles

The second point ties directly to my Innovation Personality Poker system.

In the card-based game, I discuss the four primary innovation styles: analytical, creative, planning/action, engagement. Most organizations favor one over another and therefore do not have a good balance of styles. There's a reason for this.

Although homogeneous teams are often more efficient (i.e., you get things done faster), having a bunch of "yes men" working for you is not the answer for long-term growth. When people think too much alike, new ideas struggle to surface. In these homogeneous climates, innovation and growth (i.e., effectiveness) suffer.

The essence of successful companies, then, is the ability to be both efficient and effective. They are able to focus on both production and innovation, not just doing things right but also doing the right things.

There's plenty of evidence that team diversity translates directly into corporate profits. Sigal Barsade and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton business school studied top management teams at large corporations in the United States. Interestingly, the more diverse the functional roles of the members of those teams were, the greater the average, market-adjusted financial return in those companies. Diversity of the top leaders translated into bottom-line results.

In Personality Poker, there are four key concepts:
  • You need people in your organization "play to their strong suit." That is, make sure that everyone understands how they contribute to and detract from the innovation process. This includes ensuring that you have the right people with the right leadership styles in your organization.

  • As an organization, "play with a full deck." You must embrace a wide range of innovation styles. Instead of hiring on competency and chemistry, also hire for a diversity of innovation styles. Every step of the innovation process must be addressed. You need people who are great at conducting research, delivering results, developing plans and reports, building relationships, and creating new ideas, amongst other things.

  • "Deal out the work." That is, you must divide and conquer. You can't have everyone in your organization do everything. Instead, get them to divvy up the work based on which style is most effective at a given task. You can't have everyone generating ideas, or focusing on planning.

  • Recognize that in order to treat everyone the same, you must treat everyone differently. People have different needs in terms of how they like to be managed, how they like to be praised, and how they want to contribute to the organization. In order to attract and retain a well-balanced organization you must be prepared to treat people as they want to be treated. To do this, you must overcome the inertia of your company's personality and embrace the needs of the individual personalities.

I could write a whole book on the value of diverse teams. Oh, wait, I did! My Personality Poker book will be published by Penguin's Portfolio imprint Fall 2010. Throughout, I provide examples of, and evidence for the value of having a diversity of "styles" within your organization.

But what about the third type of diversity: The diversity of disciplines.

Diversity of Discipline

A discipline is any area of expertise like biology, chemistry, physics or mathematics. You can have an organization comprised of diverse innovation styles while sharing only one discipline.

A while back, I spoke with Al Bredenberg, Senior Researcher from ILO Institute. He subsequently wrote an excellent blog entry on the topic of diversity where he quotes me. He also mentions a Harvard Business Review article by Lee Fleming that suggests that companies with less diversity of discipline produce better overall financial results than highly diverse ones.

"The financial value of the innovations resulting from such cross-pollination is lower, on average, than the value of those that come out of more conventional, siloed approaches. In other words, as the distance between the team members' fields or disciplines increases, the overall quality of the innovations falls. But, my research also suggests that the breakthroughs that do arise from such multidisciplinary work, though extremely rare, are frequently of unusually high value - superior to the best innovations achieved by conventional approaches... When members of a team are cut from the same cloth, you don't see many failures, but you don't see many extraordinary breakthroughs either."

However, as the diversity of disciplines increases, "the average value of the team's innovations falls while the variation in value around that average increases. You see more failures, but you also see occasional breakthroughs of unusually high value."

Therefore, although there is value to diversity of disciplines, the challenges seem to outweigh the benefits.

What's the solution to having a diversity of disciplines without having to deal with the inherent complexities?

Open Innovation. By working with companies like InnoCentive, you get the value of discipline diversity while having few of the downsides. You get the take advantage of a wide range of experiences while only paying for successful solutions.

I will write more on Open Innovation in subsequent entries.

The Bottom Line

Diversity can create incredible value for an organization. It can help facilitate the innovation process. It can help increase the quantity and quality of breakthrough ideas. The key is knowing the right way of managing and engaging a diverse set of perspectives.

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Stephen ShapiroStephen Shapiro is the author of three books, a popular innovation speaker, and is the Chief Innovation Evangelist for Innocentive, the leader in Open Innovation.

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