At first, it was funny to hear insurers, IT firms, and startups with no revenues compare themselves to Apple. Since the iPod launched in 2001, I’ve seen hundreds of presentations that liberally use “learnings” from Apple. 1) The word is LESSONS, not “learnings”, my Hillbilly friend. 2) The comparison feels as fresh as that Michael Jackson impression your spouse has been doing since you started dating. 3) Drenching slides (or products) in an iconic brand’s juices won’t transmit innovation, like some benevolent plague. If that were possible, we’d never stop harvesting and packaging Brangelina extract. It’s time for an intervention. Here’s why brands must find their own voice (and scent)…and keep those synthetic Apple fumes from turning into laughing gas.
This is a repost of Steve Faktor’s original Forbes article
I’ll be first to admit that I’m a reforming “innovation” trollop. I’ve thrown the word around too lightly, at any old sailor. I need a hot shower and a Brillo pad… What’s so bad about “innovation”? It doesn’t mean much…and maybe never did. Today, we use it to describe an iPhone newsreader app and the reinvention of space travel by SpaceX. That’s more range than Meryl Streep. My business is about creating great products and services, so I look for great tech partners. Some are startups led by brilliant entrepreneurs, bursting with optimism and 5-Hour Energy. As they describe their app, game, or web service, their words scream Johnny Depp, but the reality is a bit more Judah Friedlander. No shame in that, but I sometimes wonder how we could get these brilliant minds to work on meatier problems. My concern isn’t for them, but for us. The US needs jobs and as I wrote in Econovation, the big numbers still come from physical, capital-intensive businesses. Here are three ways we can help make brilliant minds deliver bigger results.
This is a repost of Steve Faktor’s original article on Forbes.
In a way, innovation is like sex: those talking about it most are probably doing it the least. Before founding IdeaFaktory, I’ve had the privilege (and collateral hair loss) of innovating at top Fortune 100 firms, where ‘talk’ was unavoidable. So I decided to codify my lessons as The 4C’s of Innovation(TM). These are: context, creativity, capabilities, and most importantly, culture. Any innovation worth doing demands cultural change. But who will lead that change? And who will reject it? Why does the same ra-ra event move some employees to tears, but lands like the Hindenburg with others? No need to hire an army of psychologists to electroshock your workforce for answers. Unlike fluffier lists of people to hire, I’ve profiled the nine kinds of people in your company now who will make or break any innovation or change initiative. (For more on culture change, also check out my new podcast with this week’s guest Stan Slap.)
I originally wrote this article for Innovation Excellence.
I just saw this New Yorker piece about the futility of brainstorming. Over the years, I’ve facilitated well over a hundred sessions ranging from small workgroups to big, executive-laden festivals. Like anything else, it can work, but isn’t the right tool for every situation. It’s also not the way to get the best from certain personality types. Brilliant introverts and hyper-stimulated extroverts will work together about as well as calamari cheesecake.
Too often, I’ve caught people trying to use brainstorming as a substitute/short cut for actual work. Just as Twinkies and Pringles look a lot like food, but aren’t, brainstorming creates a flurry of activity that to the untrained eye, looks a lot like work, but isn’t.
I find brainstorming works best when:
Just got this confidentially from a friend working on this project for the US Post Office… Unreal!
—– Forwarded Message —–
Sent: Wednesday, Jan 15, 2012 4:54 PM
Subject: Proposal: New Post Office Business Model – Go Postal!
Having launched and managed several innovation programs at Fortune 100 companies, I can say for certain that Six Sigma is a far more natural fit for most companies than innovation. Six Sigma gives structure to the known, while innovation aims to do so for the unknown. There is nothing scarier/more threatening to a large company than the prospect of disruptive change. That is why most large companies are absolutely terrible at it. Only a handful are built to truly innovate. Digital, unregulated companies with short launch cycles, like Google, can do it. So do a few R&D-heavy ones like GE in the physical world. The rest? They act incrementally and like it that way, unless they feel an imminent threat which makes change inevitable.
Yesterday, I spoke at the Front End of Innovation conference about the future of the US economy and where to innovate as a result. In conversations with some of the attendees, I felt like Dr. Phil talking to Sisyphus (the mythological king destined for eternity to roll a huge boulder uphill.) I think I know why. These smart, creative people may be asking the wrong question. Most conferences focus on telling you how to innovate. The problem? The ‘how?’ is worthless without first answering the ‘what?’.
Imagine you’re goal is to become a great comedian and I offered you the chance to spend 18 hours with Chris Rock. You can ask him anything you want about comedy, his favorite Jonas brother, or why he agreed to this awful experiment. What if I offered you another choice – to spend 18 hours with Yale’s Professor of Comedic Studies, Dr. Hugh Morris. He’s dedicated his entire life to understanding the science of comedy. Which experience would make you funnier? Maybe both or neither, depending on your aptitude. (I can tell you which one might lead a great comedian to prescription painkillers.)
Last Saturday, my father gave me a ride from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Not only was this a great way to get a life lecture from an all-knowing immigrant while trapped in his car, it was also a lesson in price inefficiency. Driving is a series of small decisions. The biggest one on this trip was whether to take the Brooklyn Bridge (free) or the Battery Tunnel ($5.50 toll). Hundreds of other drivers were making that same choice. Guess which one had unbearable gridlock? Yes, the free one. An indicator that the toll was mis-priced, at least for that time or group of drivers.