Before the Deluge

There are a few questions about value that should be asked before trying to bring change into an organization:

What matters to the people affected?
What matters to the organization?
How will the change affect the quality being delivered by the organization?
What value does the change offer to promote a culture of innovation?
How will the change affect the environment?
How will the change be perceived by the organization and its consumers?

Having a clear sense of the value proposition for the change in all these areas will help to assure success.

These questions are based on Dr. Edward de Bono’s “Six Value Medals”TM. More here.


So You Got Some Data: That Don’t Impress Me Much

If you lose your audience when presenting data in support of your great idea, you are probably formatting it poorly.  Data should be aimed squarely at its audience, made obvious through the reduction of irrelevant information, and highlight your compelling story.

 A good question to ask yourself:  if the viewer shares one brief idea from my presentation with others, what would I want this to be?  Then think hard about how to transfer this idea in the most powerful way possible.

Here’s a place to get some great ways to do this:  Presenting Data

The Million Secrets of Innovation

Have you noticed how many numbered secrets there are in cyberspace?   These may be innovation, marketing or sales secrets to name a few.  Usually there seem to be around 5 to 9 secrets huddled together, perhaps hoping no one analyzes them too rigorously.  Occasionally there is the The Secret…I even had the audacity to propose one in a previous posting.

Maybe our brains just like the simplicity of lists with less than 10 items.  Or maybe we would just like to be given the answers without having to think too hard.  Just take such lists with a big grain of salt.

A few principles:

If it’s on the internet, it cannot be a secret anymore.

If it makes promises that real efforts, setbacks and surprises can be eliminated, it is wishful thinking.

If the items on the list seem obvious, they may be true (though perhaps not overly inspiring).

For inspiration, identify a significant unmet need and develop a solution, rather than reading lists of innovation secrets.

Wearable Electronics: What a Stretch

Traditional circuit boards and flex circuits lack the ability to extend and contract freely.  This makes them difficult to introduce into clothing where easy movement is needed for comfort and reliabilty.

Fear not!  Stretchable circuitry more suited to human movement and, someday perhaps, robotic skin is coming!

Stretchable circuitry.

You Forgot Your Change

When an organization wants innovation, it is important to align expectations on the changes needed for implementation. There are a wide range of possibilities, including:

1. Refinement and realization of already-existing ideas;
2. Leveraging of capabilities within the current organization;
3. Ideas that require acquisition of new capabilities (inside or outside the organization);
4. Concepts that require the reconfiguration of the organization;
5. Disruptive approaches that make existing offerings obsolete.

Failure to understand and agree on an organization’s tolerance for (and commitment to) change often prevents ideas from delivering the impact needed.

My Fracking Brain

Hydrofracturing, commonly called “fracking”, has proven to be effective (if controversial) at extracting petroleum and natural gas otherwise locked in masses of shale.

Whether you agree this is a good environmental approach, I think it is interesting to think about how this might be an analog to what allows us to think more creatively. What inputs cause our brains to rearrange our fixed patterns and release innovative thinking? How can we all exercise the neuroplasticity of our brains more effectively?

Perhaps by pumping in some new experiences…learning a new language, travel, taking a class, volunteering…for a start. Such experiences put pressure on our brains because they force us to reconsider and reconfigure our customary ways of thinking.

The True Secret of Innovation

I recently attending a reading by Natalie Goldberg, where she read from her book The True Secret of Writing. Her message was simple, hard to execute and applicable to all human efforts. Writing is a practice, which means that specific time commitments must be made to the activity, follow-through must take top priority, and one must consistently “show up” and actually do the work even when it seems like a drag.

As applied to innovation, this practice could take many forms, depending on where one is in the innovation process. When looking for ideas, perhaps it means trolling the internet or conversing with others outside of one’s area of knowledge for an hour each day, looking for productive crossover points. Maybe it’s making a prototype. Perhaps it is getting user feedback to improve the value of the idea to users. All these things demonstrate “showing up” for the real work involved in innovation.

Without this ongoing, at times difficult, practice, would-be innovators may get hung up on all their cool concepts, simply learn to dress the part, or fail to follow through with the steady determination required to make their innovation real.

100 Ideas by Tomorrow Morning

Crowdsourcing to generate innovative ideas is powerful, but not without attendant risks.  Since it is typically in the public domain, anyone can see and potentially use the information.  This is not the right forum for ideas that one might like to keep a little closer to one’s chest.

An Australian company has an interesting approach, which amounts to more private and reliably quick crowdsourcing.  The idea is to submit your request by 4pm, and then be able to review the 100 or so ideas the next morning at 10am.  Idea generated are owned by the requestor.

While not particularly inexpensive (the current special is on the order of $500), a single good idea would easily justify this expense.  And it gives new meaning to the idea of “sleeping on it”.

Ideas While You Sleep

The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly on the BRAIN

A human brain has on the order of 1011 (one hundred billion) neurons with an average 7,000 synaptic connections to other neurons.  No wonder the BRAIN initiative to map its activity will take development of innovative tools and computational horsepower…perhaps yottabytes. (One yottabyte is equal to a billion petabytes.  One petabyte is 1,024 terabytes.  Oh never mind, it’s a lot of data!)

The potential for curing diseases, improving computers, and understanding how thought works are all admirable goals.  But I don’t expect all this effort to explain consciousness itself, which is experiential rather than something that can be explained by taking ever-finer measurements and crunching ever-more data.


Iterating It

Because software can incorporate unlimited numbers of features, its nature has driven development teams to adopt Agile (or scrum) methods.  This approach allows for small iterations and mid-course corrections as the perceived priority of features evolves.

A complementary concept is a Minimum Viable Product, a process and strategy to make and sell viable products more quickly.  Increased input from potential users (usually early adopters) informs the design process, and helps prevent developers from proceeding down blind pathways.

More at Minimum Viable Product.


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