Author Archives: Dennis Stauffer

Innovation Essentials - Unlearning

It goes without saying that to successfully innovate, we need to be willing to learn new things. What doesn’t get said as often is that we also need to be willing to unlearn old things—and that’s often the more important task. One of the central challenges innovators manage to overcome is the tendency to cling to past assumptions and beliefs and orthodoxies. Being willing and able to escape that mental inertia is one of the things that most distinguishes innovators. They’re skilled unlearners. This means two things. Being willing to change our assumptions and beliefs about how to do things. For example what we believe is the best way to market music. Recording artists have had to unlearn some assumptions about the necessity of retail sales of CDs, in order to embrace a different business model of online digital downloads Being willing to rethink how we use our own heads. … Continue reading

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Innovation Essentials - Mindset

Mindset may the most overlooked strategic issue in business today. Getting yourself and your people into the right frame of mind is becoming a crucial determinant of competitiveness, thanks to two huge business trends. The first trend: For decades organizations have been growing flatter, with fewer layers of management and increasingly dispersed decision making. It’s a strategy that has reduced costs while making organizations more nimble and responsive to customer needs and market shifts. This deliberate move away from centralized control has weakened the power of the few in favor of the many, so that issues can be best addressed by those closest to the problem. The second trend: We’re now in the midst of a similar move to democratize the generation of new ideas, inside organizations and even extending outside. It’s driven by the need for innovation and the realization that to be effective, innovation must tap into many … Continue reading

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Innovators are Effectual Thinkers

Innovation is less about causal thinking than it is about effectual thinking. I confess I didn’t know “effectual” was a word until I was recently directed to the ground breaking research of Dr. Saras Sarasvathy, a professor at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. She interviewed 45 successful entrepreneurs. (Or, more accurately, asked them to think out loud about how they would handle a hypothetical business start-up.) From that, she was able to identify some common patterns and strategies that are different from those of other types of business executives. She and a co-researcher found that successful corporate executives devote considerable time and resources to making future predictions, which they use to guide their decisions. They tend to set very specific goals and then determine how to achieve them (causal thinking). Veteran entrepreneurs are more focused on their personal strengths and what resources they have, and build out … Continue reading

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