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The Kauffman Foundation is hosting a series of speakers in Kansas City to provide ideas, inspiration, and innovation lessons for how Kansas City can best take advantage of innovation opportunities with the The Google Fiber project. The latest Google Fiber project innovation talk was from Nick Donofrio, former executive vice president for innovation and technology at IBM. You can watch the presentation here.

My top 7 innovation lesson takeaways from the Nick Donofrio speech include:

1. Innovation isn’t about starting with the solution. Make sure you start with understanding the problem.

Donofrio stresses that starting with the solution often occurs because that is where our experience, specialization, and biases are. He stressed over and over that Kansas City can’t view Google Fiber as a solution, but rather as a tool or an enabler for solving significant problems.

2. Understand this century’s recipe for innovation.

The recipe for innovation in the 21st century is an environment that is collaborative, open, multi-disciplinary, and global.

3. It is just as important (and sometimes more) to innovate in process and in business model as it is to innovate in product or service.

Donofrio detailed examples from Sweden and India. In Sweden, the deputy mayor of Stockholm changed the process for dealing with a large project, from bidding it out one piece at a time, to bidding it as a whole. In India, Bharti Airtel moved away from a business model in telecommunications that called for owning everything to one that just owns the client interface. Vendors and suppliers own/run the network, the back office, etc. Oh, and the phones are really free.

4. Count on it being an instrumented, interconnected world, so innovation must work in those areas.

There are now 250 billion devices connected to the Internet. The trend is on its way to one trillion devices connected to the Internet.

5. In education beware of the “flop on top” when it comes to technology.

Too often in the U.S., we impose technology on education (our solution) without an understanding of what problem we are trying to solve.

6. There is a huge opportunity for innovation using big data sets.

The cost of calculation has decreased by a magnitude of 16 in the last 100 years (10 to the 16 power). In the next 20 years, the cost of calculation is expected to decrease another magnitude of 8. This dramatic reduction in the cost of calculation allows modeling and simulation of almost anything.

7. You never know who has the last piece of the puzzle when solving significant problems.

The innovation lesson is that it is vital innovation efforts be inclusive. For societies, this creates both an opportunity and a responsibility for those at that top of the socio-economic pyramid to make sure that those at the base of the socio-economic pyramid are included and have genuine opportunity.  – Barrett Sydnor


How can ultra high-speed Internet speeds drive economic development? 
“Building the Gigabit City: Brainzooming the Google Fiber Roadmap,” a free 120-page report, shares 60 business opportunities for and hundreds of ideas for education, healthcare, jobs, community activities, and more.  Download this exclusive report on the Google Fiber project by The Brainzooming Group addressing how ultra high-speed Internet can spur economic development, growth, and improved lifestyles globally. 

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Being a Winner or Being a Loser

Photo by: kallejipp | Source: photocase.com

Don’t ever assume your job is “safe.” In baseball, you only hear you’re “safe” after a play’s over. Be playing all the time.

Being ahead in the score only matters at the end of the game. You don’t HAVE to be the winner at half time.

Besides, you can’t make a second half comeback until the second half.

Sometimes you just have to refuse to jump through hoops when they don’t make sense.

It’s better to learn from the successes of being a winner, but at least learning from mistakes makes mistakes valuable.

“What would have happened if?” discussions are for TV reporters. Real players make things happen no matter what.

As much as you may like being a winner, sometimes it’s best to step up and be the first person to give in when everybody’s being stupid and proud.

When you have lost something, it’s always in the last place you look for it.

How a Winner Leads

And as a final note, here’s a compelling article from the Kansas City Star about former University of Kansas basketball coach Larry Brown’s relationship with current coach Bill Self, and his involvement with the team this past season. Larry Brown certainly has both fans and detractors for his style, but I was really struck by how, as much as the national championship game meant to him, he departed before the game to avoid the possibility of compromising any confidences he held about Kentucky, KU’s opponent in last Monday’s national championship basketball game. What a wonderful example of someone acting for the greater good even though it wasn’t what he would have wanted. And that behavior is a lot about what defines a winner. - Mike Brown

 

If you’d like to add an interactive, educationally-stimulating presentation on strategy, innovation, branding, social media or a variety of other topics to your event, Mike Brown is the answer. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call 816-509-5320 to learn how Mike can get your audience members Brainzooming!

 

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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At a recent presentation, an audience member recommended talking in the future about what has helped create my personal career accomplishments.  I don’t recall ever being asked that intriguing question before, and the answer isn’t covered in any one place on the Brainzooming blog. That’s more than enough reason to take a run at sharing the most important 6 gifts behind personal career accomplishments in my life so far:

1. My Parents

Beyond supplying the DNA, growing up with my parents absolutely shaped how I think about hard work, accomplishments, and the right ways to achieve success. Plus, the fact they’re so different from each other provided a wide variety of personality characteristics to wind up adopting. That’s why I describe myself as an introvert (much more like my mom), but lots of people who know me think I’m very outgoing (like my dad). It’s been wonderful to have such a wide field to play on throughout my life.

2. Cyndi

As high school seniors, our instructor, Fr. Mike Scully, O.F.M. Cap, told us two things: Wait until you’re 25 to get married and marry your best friend. Being one to take solid advice, I got married when I was 24 years and 11 months to my best friend in the world, Cyndi. For all my tendencies to be contemplative about decisions, Cyndi is the one who pushes us to act, even if she has to trick me into doing it. When I was wandering spiritually, she was integral in me receiving the greatest gift ever – the rekindling of my faith (see the next point).

3. Spirituality

It wasn’t until I truly returned to the Catholic Church after a more than 10 year absence that I realized how influential spirituality had been in my life. Going to mass every day for many years now, you get exposed to a lot of the Bible, and I’ve been continually amazed at how many of the lessons that have shaped me are right there. This is especially surprising since I’d never gone to daily mass other than for a few months earlier in my life. Somehow the messages got to me through family, school, and a weekly dose on Sundays, however, and I wouldn’t be me without it.

4. Strategic Mentors

I’ve written about the three individuals who have been my most important strategic mentors on previous occasions. Each of them was (and in two cases, still are) important influences in how I think about, plan for, and conduct myself in business.

5. Gifts from God

At heart, it is hard not to be influenced by the talents we were blessed enough to receive. I was truly blessed to receive an eclectic mix of talents across a wide variety of areas. This has led to wide diversity of interests and a huge benefit of being able to adapt and change my focus throughout my career (i.e., ranging from being a left-brained researcher at the start of my career to a right-brained marketing communications leader). Every positive has its downside, and while having a breadth of interests, I do not have the gift of a deep and focused expertise in any one area.

6. Opportunities to be on Stage

For somebody who is a self-described introvert in new one-on-one interactions, I love to be up in front of a group of people. This is especially true if I am using gifts I have been given to share learnings with an audience. Because people who know me interpersonally are always surprised when the quiet guy gets up in front of a group and seems to have a different personality, being on stage has been a regular opportunity to surprise people, create expanded perceptions, and open new career opportunities. Certainly in my corporate career, the ability to get up in front of a group and improvise content led to a whole host of new opportunities.

Enough About Me – What About You?

Turning this great question around to you, what have been the gifts behind your personal career accomplishments?

No Blog Tomorrow

Tomorrow is Good Friday, so in keeping with tradition around here, there won’t be a new blog post published. See you back here Monday! – Mike Brown

Download the free Brainzooming eBook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative ideas for any other area of your life! For an organizational creativity boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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2

I was in a brief planning conversation about the strategy for an upcoming program. Someone had decided an element of the program had to be “big” to attract customer attention. The challenge was the budget and time necessary to arrange something “big” to attract customer attention would not permit meeting other important planning deadlines. All in all, there was a need to resolve contradictory assumptions within the constraints being faced.

Suppose you’re faced with a similar strategy problem where a variety of apparently necessary strategic variables are not all going to fit together successfully into a strategy. What is a strategic thinking exercise you can use to resolve the contradictions?

A fantastic technique in these situations is to use a two-question strategic thinking exercise to clarify the objective and challenge assumptions.

  • Step 1 of the strategic thinking exercise is to clarify what the objective really is by asking, “What are we trying to achieve?” Pushing for an honest answer to this question can get you to a much needed strategic foundation on which to continue the conversation.
  • Step 2 is to then challenge assumptions individually about what’s required and what isn’t by asking, “What if we eliminated that strategic assumption?”

In this example, the objective wasn’t really having a “big” element. The objective was getting customers to attend the event. With that clarification to the objectives, it was then easier to challenge the assumption that a big attraction was the only way to get customers to attend.

With that strategic foundation in place, we explored a whole variety of other strategies that could be used to attract people based on surprise, intrigue, and affiliation. In working through these possibilities, we identified missing information we needed to gather to make a decision. We also identified an alternative strategy for inviting people that allowed us to meet planning deadlines and incorporate suspense to engage potential attendees in new ways.

The short question-based discussion allowed us to resume making positive forward steps.

Try this two-question strategic thinking exercise (clarifying the objective, then trying to eliminate contradictory assumptions) whenever you feel like you’re in an unsolvable situation. Most likely, you’ll get to a workable solution that the original strategic assumptions would have blocked. - Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

 

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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We’ve written previously about our perspective that a broad group of an organization’s employees should be supported and trained to be strategic thinkers. One typical counter argument to this point of view is having a high percentage of strategic thinkers among an organization’s front line employees causes confusion (and misdirection) because only a company’s upper management should be focused on strategy.

While it makes sense for upper management to be establishing overall strategy for an organization, our contention is you want all employees (including front line employees) expected to carry out a company’s or business unit’s strategy to be strategic thinkers.

The reason?

Because when front line employees encounter situations which don’t fit the organization strategy, you want them to be able to strategically improvise rather than carrying out strategies exactly as stated when they don’t make sense.

Need proof? Here are a couple of examples.

At a client session on customer service and retention I hosted, customer service performance was one of the critical topics on the agenda. The topic under discussion was how to get a customer service rep (CSR) to do the proper thing when facing a situation outside the norm?

One attendee told about a CSR who demanded the immediate return of a cable converter box destroyed in a fire because the fire wasn’t the cable company’s problem. Tragically, the fire claimed the lives of two family members, making the cable company’s policies insignificant by comparison. Afterward, the supervisor was left to ask the CSR if making the demand felt right while it was happening.

Another person told how a mystery research caller to his service center was stymied in performing call evaluations. The researcher needed to know what city the CSR was in for the evaluation, but CSRs had been told to never disclose their city location. As a result, the researcher couldn’t get beyond the generic response CSRs had been instructed to provide.

In both cases, CSRs were simply following what they were told. They focused on “what mattered” as explicitly instructed by their supervisors, i.e., get the cable box back; don’t say where you’re located.

The challenge is when you provide explicit answers about what matters, you get explicit behaviors.

When you don’t allow for or support strategic thinking skills among front line employees, you can get blind performance which appears on the surface to be correct, but is truly detrimental.

What are you doing in your company relative to strategic thinking? Are you trying to get more employees to understand strategic thinking and learn frameworks on what to do when the current strategy isn’t working? - Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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Suppose you are part of your organization’s management team. The organization is trying to encourage an employee idea program so employees will come up with possibilities to improve your prospects, processes, and products. You really want to get employees involved generating and sharing ideas, but nothing is happening. That may be because your organization is committing some or all of the sixteen employee idea killers in the list below.

Employee Idea Killers

  • The management team does not share information about the organization to allow employees to generate strategic ideas.
  • No one openly requests employees share their expertise and insights.
  • Requiring all employees to participate in the program.
  • Not explaining the impact employees can have on the organization with their participation.
  • Hanging up a suggestion box – either physical or virtual – and expecting the rest to take care of itself.
  • Designing an overly complicated process for employees participation.
  • Demanding employees only share completely brand new ideas.
  • Announcing the organization is only looking for “big” or “game-changing” thinking.
  • The management team exerts pressure for employees to participate – or else.
  • The management team criticizes employee submissions (or allowing others to do so) prematurely and inappropriately.
  • Not demonstrating appreciation when team members participate.
  • Prematurely comparing ideas to one another.
  • Unnecessarily trying to correct and fix ideas in their early stages.
  • Rewarding participating employees with additional unwanted work to document ideas.
  • Expecting someone who has submitted a concept with big impact will always have big impact ideas.
  • Never sharing success stories of the impact employee-generated ideas are having for the organization.

Are any of these sixteen employee idea killers going on in your organization?

Are there other idea killers you see happening?

Are you part of  a management team that is struggling with committing some of these employee idea killers in your organization?

If so, you need to stop it right away and get on with trying to rehabilitate your employee idea generation efforts. Right now. - Mike Brown

The Brainzooming Group helps make smart organizations more successful by rapidly expanding their strategic options and creating innovative plans they can efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can help you enhance your strategy and implementation efforts.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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4

I haven’t watched 10 minutes of Desperate Housewives in the years it has been on ABC. My lack of personal context with the show didn’t stop me though from reading a recap story about Desperate Housewives in Entertainment Weekly. The article, “Housewives Confidential,” provides behind the scenes reminiscences about the show from its actors and executives. These Entertainment Weekly stories always seem to include both new creativity and innovation lessons or provide real life backdrop to creativity and innovation lessons we’ve already covered here on the Brainzooming blog. Here are five beneficial lessons from the Desperate Housewives article:

1. When a brand is damaged, there’s a lot less risk in “swinging for the fences.”

Susan Lyne, who was the president of ABC Entertainment when Desperate Housewives was green lighted, recalls that ABC was the fourth place network then. As a result, the network was looking for innovative types of programs which, “if executed perfectly,” could be massive hits. It’s always fun, and potentially very rewarding, to swing for the creative fences.

2. Plan ahead so you can be ready to ignore the plan.

Desperate Housewives creator Marc Cherry, in discussing some less than popular storylines and characters in the show’s second season, explained the challenge as not having good ideas and no time to think of any good ideas. The second season taught him the importance of planning six months in the future. The start of year three was marked by significantly more story planning than previously. Yet, when one of the main stars became pregnant in real life, Cherry had to be flexible in dealing with unplanned events.

3. You need to run different variables through creative formulas to stay innovative.

By the fifth season of Desperate Housewives, the show’s storyline was shifted five years into the future to freshen up the show. As Cherry points out, he wanted to try a new angle to the story since he didn’t want the “formula to get tired.” When you are able to capture your creative pursuits in some type of formulaic approach, it allows you to be much more deliberate in how you manipulate vital creative variables without blowing up the formula that’s worked.

4. Creativity and tight resources are intermingled. Get over it.

In a move that wound up in court with a lawsuit for wrongful termination, Marc Cherry killed off actress Nicollette Sheridan’s character unexpectedly. In court testimony, Cherry explained that amid a tight production budget, part of his consideration for the death was the salary a major character commanded could be spread across three or four actors the following season. With more actors in the creative mix, the creative story possibilities increase. What a fantastic reminder to never think you can use tight resources as an excuse to not be creative and innovative.

5. Get off the ride with a little creative juice left.

The plan was for Desperate Housewives to run nine seasons, but Cherry elected to wrap up the program in its eighth season. Co-executive producer, Bob Daily, notes how often the phrase, “We’ve done that…,” had crept into writing discussions. With a sense that all the viable storylines had been explored, Cherry stepped in to end the show early. While it is tough, stopping early is a decision many creative people and programs ignore, much to their ultimate chagrin.

Have you been watching Desperate Housewives?

If you’re a Desperate Housewives fan, what creative elements are you going to miss from the show once it’s gone?  – Mike Brown

Download the free Brainzooming eBook, “Taking the NO Out of InNOvation” to help you generate fantastic creative ideas for any other area of your life! For an organizational creativity boost, contact The Brainzooming Group to help your team be more successful by rapidly expanding strategic options and creating innovative plans to efficiently implement. Email us at info@brainzooming.com or call us at 816-509-5320 to learn how we can deliver these benefits for you.

Mike Brown

Founder of The Brainzooming Group, and an expert on strategy, creativity, and innovation. Mike is a frequent speaker on innovation, strategic thinking, and social media.

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