The United States Needs More Innovation

I’ve just come across the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) survey from 2008 on Business R&D and Innovation. This was a study conducted by the NSF across a wide swath of US firms of all sizes and industries. The results should scare you. I’m surprised they haven’t been front page news. The results suggest that about 1 in 5 manufacturers indicate they produced a significant new product innovation in the period 2006-2008 and about the same percentage produced a significant new process innovation in the same period. One manufacturer in five thinks they created a significantly new product or process over a two year period. Wow. But it gets worse. The results suggest that 1 in 12 non-manufacturing firms indicate they produced a significant new product innovation in 2006-2008, and the same number suggest they created a new process innovation in the same period. We’ve suspected …

Posted in Government, Innovation | 2 Comments
Commitment and Resource Allocation

It is common in organizations for any type of project, but even more problematic in innovation: the resource allocation issue. How many times have you encountered the following problem: Top management is now really committed to innovation Very serious idea generation methodologies and innovation management processes and tools in place Many interesting ideas generated, people enthusiastic, management enthusiastic But, many interesting ideas stalled due to lack of resource allocation and commitment to their development and implementation Resource allocation problems are created in several ways. When it comes to financial resources, the problem is often the yearly budget cycle. If not in the budget, then implementation will start next year, after the new budget has been approved. Some ideas might end up being delayed for 6-9 months this way and that might be just too long, especially in fast moving consumer goods industries. Another issue with financial resources is the question … Continue reading

Posted in Innovation, Management | 2 Comments
How do you teach entrepreneurship to high school students?

How do you teach entrepreneurship to high school juniors? In only one hour? I had the privilege this summer of speaking for an hour to students at the Neighborhood Academy, a college prep school in Pittsburgh for low-income students, about being an entrepreneur. “Being an entrepreneur” is certainly a broad topic, and you could choose to focus on a number of different areas. I decided that I would have three goals: make it simple, make it inspiring, and make it practical. So when I was considering what topics to cover, I stayed away from the “administrative nuts and bolts” of being an entrepreneur – accounting, taxes, legal, HR, etc. Not that those aren’t important activities, but they certainly weren’t going to meet my 3 goals. I also chose not to talk about the “psychological” aspects of being an entrepreneur – making mistakes, keeping the faith, …

Posted in Entrepreneurship, Headlines, education | 4 Comments
3 Powerful Words You Should Be Using Everyday

Our pastor, Fr. Don Cullen, was teaching an adult religious education class recently, talking about lessons learned in more than three decades of religious life. One lesson was when a child hands you a picture he or she has made, starts to tell you about it, and then looks for your reaction, the correct thing to say is, “Tell me more.” Not only does “tell me more” work in this instance, it got me thinking about all the other business and life situations in which it’s the best thing to say such as when: Somebody is telling you about a confusing situation and is looking for a reaction You’re stumped for an answer when someone asks you a question Another person is on the verge of figuring out a dilemma they’re struggling with You’re learning valuable new information from someone Since it seems like at least one of these situations … Continue reading

Posted in Management, Psychology, Strategy | 1 Comment
More Medicine for Your Complexity Complex

It seems like I touched a nerve with my two recent blogs on complexity. The feedback I’ve received from clients and business associates reinforces my belief that managing complexity represents one of today’s most compelling leadership issues. With that in mind, here are some more strategies for keeping your organization ahead of the complexity curve: Identify your thought bubbles. Thought bubbles are the unspoken limiting beliefs that drive our decisions and behaviors. They tell us we don’t need to pause to get clear on winning. They cause us to overlook evidence that contradicts what we know to be true. And they get in the way of developing appropriate responses to changes in our markets. Thought bubbles sound like: “It’s too much work. We already tried it that way. Our customers would never pay for that.” The frenetic pace of today’s business world makes it easy to buy into statements that … Continue reading

Posted in Leadership, Management, Psychology, Strategy | 3 Comments
Sandbox Innovation

More Tips for Remarkable Ideas by Paul Williams The lead at your last brainstorm session probably preambled with something like this: “Remember team, there is no such things as a bad idea in brainstorming. And there are no boundaries. Let the sky be the limit!” They were correct. Yet, the process of coming up with ideas to solve, grow, think or create is a process that expands and contracts. This is technically called divergent thinking (move apart) and convergent thinking (come together). I’ve compared this process to a roller coaster. We start with the broad issue that there is a problem or opportunity. We narrow that down to a laser-focused objective. What we are specifically solving. (This is sometimes called framing). Next, we go broad again – thinking up as many potential ideas as possible – in a world without boundaries. Finally, we go very narrow again – picking the … Continue reading

Posted in Innovation | 1 Comment
Tempting Innovation, Tainted Innovation

An idea stands a better chance of surviving if it is not attributed to the individual who conceived it. Otherwise, the idea carries with it all the baggage and perception of its owner, good or bad. During idea evaluation, people struggle separating their feelings about the creator from the idea itself. If they like the person, they like their idea… and vice versa. What this means in practice is that you don’t want to give credit for good ideas. In facilitated ideation sessions, you need to get ideas out of people’s heads in a way that no one will know who it came from. This is contrary to the popular notion that organizations need to reward people for their ideas to stimulate innovation. Rather than reward their ideas, it might be better to reward their participation in innovation as Stefan Lindegaard points out. This insight comes from …

Posted in Innovation, Management, Psychology | 2 Comments