Author Archives: Jeffrey Phillips

Stop Worrying and Collect Ideas

If like me you are a film buff, you may be familiar with the Peter Sellers movie Dr. Strangelove. The subtitle has always been my favorite: How I learned to stop worrying and love the bomb. In case you haven’t seen it, I’d highly recommend it. Sellers plays a number of characters in this movie, which is an “over the top” look at strategic planning in the military and the potential use of nuclear weapons. At it’s heart is a paradox. Both we and our enemies (in this case the Russians) need nuclear arms but don’t want to be the first to use them. However, if our enemies use them, we want to be sure to retaliate and wipe them off the planet. So we spend more and more to build weapons we hope to God we’ll never use. Anyway, rent …

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Should leading an innovation team be a reward?

Paul Sloane wrote an article a while back that for some reason just popped into my consciousness. I guess I have Twitter to thank for that. Paul’s article examines the fact that many organizations place junior executives on innovation efforts. The thinking often is that more experienced executives are running “important” businesses or products and can’t be bothered to run an innovation project. He highlights a story about IBM and the fact that IBM was constantly “killing” new innovative ideas due to a lack of management and resources. I won’t repeat the entire Sloane article. You can read it for yourself here. What I do want to think through with you today, gentle reader, is the great “what if” of innovation. What if it was a reward to run an innovation project or initiative, rather than a burden or a risk? What if …

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Innovation Requires Continued Engagement

Like it or not, all successful innovators share at least one characteristic with Blanche Dubois. We rely on interactions with strangers to drive our best ideas. Thanks to Tim Kastelle, I found this recent work by Jared Diamond, who uses anthropology to demonstrate that people need interactions to create and sustain new technologies. Diamond uses the example of Tasmania, which is an isolated island off the coast of an isolated continent. At one point in history, Tasmania and Australia were connected. At that point in time the people living in both locations had roughly the same technologies and advancement. As the sea levels rose, there were far fewer people on Tasmania who lost interaction with a relatively small population of Australians. When first “discovered” by Europeans, Tasmanians lacked many of the technology innovations that their distant relatives on Australia had created during the separation. Since …

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Innovation - Who Should You Fast Follow?

In a recent, and strangely unremarked post, I wrote about some reasons that firms don’t innovate. Perhaps one of the most telling is what I call the “safety of sameness”. No one ever gets fired if they: Hire IBM Execute a strategy McKinsey suggested, or Become a “fast follower” and mimic what other firms in the space do The beauty of the safety of sameness strategy is that we’ll allow others to take all of the innovation risk and we’ll swoop down, copy their ideas and we’ll be the winner. In theory this is a great idea, in practice there are a number of reasons why this is risky. First, becoming a fast follower, if there is such a thing, means intentionally adopting a reactive posture. If you are a fast follower you are intentionally setting out your strategies, processes and operations to react to what others do – in … Continue reading

Posted in Innovation, Strategy | 5 Comments
Innovation Perspectives - Decide to be Different

This is the first of several ‘Innovation Perspectives’ articles we will publish this week from multiple authors to get different perspectives on ‘What are three specific actions that a non-innovative company can take to become more innovative?’. Here is the initial perspective in the series: by Jeffrey Phillips Every firm has the capacity to innovate, so what’s often lacking has to do with strategy and vision. To be an “innovative” company means being willing to be different – to upset the structure of competition in an industry. So, one of the first things a non-innovative company must do is to decide to be different – to become a leader and a pioneer rather than a follower. To become proactive rather than reactive. As we like to say, the firm must leave the “safety of sameness”. Next, once the decision has been made at the executive levels to embrace innovation, …

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Innovation and Optimism

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the power of optimism and how it pertains to innovation and to issues like the Gulf Oil spill. This promises to be a long and rambling post, so suffice it to say that most innovators are optimists, and wouldn’t be innovators otherwise. Yet we have to balance the challenges that optimism introduces into the reality the world imposes. Continue reading

Posted in Innovation, Psychology | 6 Comments
7 Reasons Why Your Firm Can't Innovate

I was meeting with a group that is interested in fostering innovation in the state where I live and we were talking about the reasons why organizations don’t innovate. We talked about the lack of strategy and cultural barriers and a number of other reasons. There are hosts of very smart people writing books and research papers on this very topic, but it struck me that I should be able to communicate the reasons firms don’t innovate in a way that a fifth grader can understand, since some of the folks we work with..never mind. At any rate, I created my alliterative list of reasons why firms don’t innovate, and if I get the time I’ll explore them in more detail over the next week or so. I encourage you to add your own reasons in the comments – alliterative or not, they are welcome as we begin …

Posted in Culture & Values, Innovation, Leadership, Management | 3 Comments