The Next Great Innovation Opportunity

The Great Unwinding by Jeffrey Phillips This week is clearly a “sports” oriented week, as recently I discussed what innovators could learn from baseball. I focused primarily on strategy, coaching and practice. Today’s post was triggered by my family’s enjoyment of tennis. For those of you who enjoy tennis you know the drill. You need a good, fresh set of balls to really enjoy the game. But that started me thinking – what do we do with all of these old balls we generate, which after a few games of tennis are really useless for playing tennis? My family alone generates hundreds of dead tennis balls, and the thought of all of those balls ending up in a landfill sickens me. But tennis balls are merely the tip of the trash spear. Frankly, the next great innovation opportunity will focus on what I call the unwinding. Over …

Posted in Design, Entrepreneurship, Innovation | 2 Comments
It All Began with Balls

Most companies begin on a shoe-string — under-funded, under the gun, and under the radar. The company I co-founded in 1986, Idea Champions, was no exception. When my business partner and I began, we had almost nothing — just an idea, some chutzpah, and a deep desire to succeed. While we both were likable, smart, and skillful schmoozers, we had zippo in the way of a marketing plan. Racking what was left of our over-caffeinated brains, it soon became abundantly clear that we needed some kind of showcase, some kind of “window to the world” — a place to strut our entrepreneurial stuff and get in front of the people who were the likely buyers of our service… Back in those days, this meant one thing — renting a booth at the ASTD convention — the annual meet market in the training and development field. The thought of this made … Continue reading

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How to Sort 2,000 Emails in an Hour

Whether you’re coming back from a long weekend or two full weeks away, your email inbox is going to be really full. The last thing you want to do is waste your entire first day sorting through email. That’s no way to get real work done. Recently I came back from a short two-week paternity break to more than 2,000 unread emails. An hour later I was down to 12 emails in my inbox. Don’t get me wrong, I have a ton to do. But my inbox is not my to-do list. To quickly get caught up and stay focused on what’s most important the rest of the day and week, here are my best practices for sorting through an overwhelming inbox. (By the way, these tips work whether you’re coming back from a long period away or if you’ve just let your inbox get out of control.) 1. Write … Continue reading

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Using Innovation to Disrupt Dominant Logic

One of the ‘quick facts’ that I like to mention in my strategy seminars is that only two of the top 100 US firms in 1900 are still around today. In Australia, the stat isn’t much improved and it points to the extreme difficulty of maintaining the performance of organizations over extended time frames. Of course, some organizations disappear through mergers and acquisitions but a major reason for the disappearance of firms is that they fail to adapt to a changing environment. Often, the environmental threat seems to be obvious to everyone except those inside the business. The strange rationalization of old business practices seems to defy rational explanation. Tim has previously used the example of a media company trying to work out how the internet can augment the newspaper offering. To the rest of us, the newspaper is a burning platform and the question of ‘how do we use … Continue reading

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Evolution of the Innovation Funnel

Today I want to examine a tool that has become a well-worn crutch for many firms, the innovation “funnel”. I’m going to argue that we need to rethink the funnel in fundamental new ways if we are to achieve our innovation goals. First, let’s get into the mood by recognizing what many people think about an innovation funnel, using a cartoon from Tom Fishburne. Many times a funnel is simply a place to collect ideas, ignore them or hope they’ll go away. Remember that we innovators borrowed the idea of a funnel from the sales guys. The analogies are fairly close however – you need many prospects to qualify to close a deal, and many ideas to evaluate to create a new product or service. The first iterations of innovation funnels were simply that – a way to collect internally generated ideas and manage them through the innovation process to … Continue reading

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Trouble with Experts

When somebody asks if you can do something, pause for a moment before saying “NO.” Your first thought may be “that’s impossible,” but upon reflection you can probably figure out how to pull it off. Indeed, there is a very good chance that what you are being asked to do is not what is really needed, anyway. Think about it. We usually evaluate what we can contribute to a situation by imagining that there is someone else who really has the required expertise — and then we interpret our feelings of uncertainty as proof that we are inadequate compared to this all-knowing other (who, by the way, is going through the exact same drill with someone else.) Sound familiar? In reality, our uncertainty (and the humility that, hopefully, accompanies it), are the essential elements of what we really bring to the table — a curiosity about “the situation” — and … Continue reading

Posted in Leadership, Management, Psychology | 2 Comments
Importance of Critical Thinking to Innovation

The more I hear from innovators (some successful and others not-so successful) on the importance of being able to make snap decisions based on intuition alone during critical stages of the innovation process, the more I’m convinced that perhaps, just the opposite may be true. Maybe, what really matters in determining success of the innovation effort is not so much intuition skills but rather, having a more systematic approach–something that resembles classic critical thinking skills. What I’m talking about here is a systematic approach to critical thinking made popular in the 1960s and 70s by researchers such as Charles Kepner and Benjamin Tregoe (just to name a few). These classic methods that link problem solving and decision making have been all but discarded by innovators today because of being deemed too cumbersome, laborious and certainly not suited to rapid demands of the innovation world of today. Yet Kepner and Tregoe … Continue reading

Posted in Innovation, Psychology | 7 Comments