What Is Innovation?
Inspiring 2-minute video for anyone interested in innovation. BTW, if you google "definitions of innovation," you will get more than 27 million references.
October 26, 2013
Virtual Brainstorm Facilitation Training
We've done it! We've belled the cat. We've created the perpetual motion machine of facilitator training. We've found the Holy Grail.
More precisely, we've figured out how to virtually train people to become savvy brainstorm facilitators!
And that means great cost savings for you and your company. No more booking hotel rooms, flights, and travel expenses. No more people losing work time by being on the road. No more full days lost to training, either.
We will come to you in a series of highly-engaging virtual online sessions to teach your people how to design and deliver breakthrough brainstorming sessions.
And these sessions will not be "off-the-shelf." They will be customized to fit the needs of your organization. Our simple needs assessment process will give us the information we need to know exactly how tailor our agenda to address the specific needs of your enterprise.
No one size fits all.
We can also adjust our schedule to match the schedules of your people. We can deliver in either one, two, three, or four-hour segments. And, depending on what type of program best suits your needs, we can schedule the training to happen quickly -- over a period of a few days -- or spread it out over six months.
With our extended program (3 - 6 months), participants get a chance to practice and incorporate each session's learnings between sessions -- held two weeks apart. In the intervening weeks, they'll have engaging assignments to do -- done individually or in teams -- to deepen and apply the learning on the job.
By the end of their time with us, they'll be ideation ninjas, ready for any challenge you throw their way.October 23, 2013
It All Began With Balls
Sometimes you just gotta take a risk -- especially when its time to launch a new product, service, or business. Easy to say. Harder to do. Here is the story of how my business partner and I did exactly that when starting our company. Just published in the Huffington Post.October 22, 2013
WOBI: Big Visions, Little Strokes and Everything in Between
The Heart of Innovation is happy to publish the following guest post from Lynnea Brinkerhoff, Idea Champions' Empress of Organizational Development, reporting on the June, 2013 WOBI conference in New York City.
Lobby crawling at the World Business Forum (WOBI) in the famed Radio City Music Hall amid thousands of clean-cut global corporate sophisticates, I feel a strange remembrance of the world that launched me.
While suit cuts and hair styles have been updated, many of the ideas have not. I find this both comforting and strangely disquieting.
Four thousand world business leaders sit at seeming attention as we are reminded, again and again, through parable, to embrace radical solutions during these times of massive disruption.
We are called to progress, to have courage, to transform our organizations beyond what we think is possible -- called by Carlos Brito, CEO of Anheuser Busch to maximize performance and culture, functionality and elegance -- to attempt what we are not sure we can do.
Nancy Koehn, of Harvard. offers a historical view of leadership and highlights a story about the perilous, ultimately victorious journey of Edgar Shackleton, told in exquisite detail and infused with undeniable lessons for every leader in the room.
She reminds us that, once the mission is clear and embraced, once resources are secured and the gaze of glory is fixed on the future, giving up is not an option.
One of my perennial favorites, Winston Churchill, would certainly have agreed -- that, when records are broken, unchartered territory discovered, and national pride gained, we must follow his simple edict, proceed. While touted as viable journeys, however, they are not the only ones worth making.
Ben Franklin said it best (unfortunately, he did not make an in-person keynote at WOBI this year). "Little strokes fell big oaks."
These are the two sides of the coin these days. We need massive, BHAGS (big, hairy, audacious goals) focused on blue sky thinking AND we need people willing to make small changes -- eyes open to what is being called for, moment-to-moment, on the ground.
We need people who can take bold action amidst the kind of disruptive future that Alec Ross, media and technology director for the Obama campaign, declares is coming our way AND we need people making stealth interventions to help sustain a gentle momentum in a positive direction over a long period of time.
Progress or protect? Transform or continue? Courage or caution?
The only answer to these seeming polarities, explains thought leader Barry Johnson, is YES, beseeching us to find a creative way to seek something beyond EITHER/OR --- the lens we usually look though to examine yesterday's problems -- assuming that only one answer rules.
Claudio Fernandez Araoz, global talent specialist. reminds us just how far past those days are past with one mind jamming sentence: "In such times as these, even the past is uncertain."
Ubiquitously discussed at WOBI is the vital need for today's leaders to exercise the forbearance of cultural icons and unsung heroes -- leaders like Abraham Lincoln who persevered through unprecedented losses, depression and doubt. Obama today exercises this quality amid unthinkable complexity.
Jack Welsh, a man not necessarily known for his forbearance, reminded us to lead with the generosity gene and show gratitude for those who serve our mission -- though he still narrowly refers to winning as the only point of business.
One thing I found missing from two-day WOBI conference was the unspoken impact of global business on the environment.
If we only get what we measure, as Jack never ceases to remind us, then the imperative to regenerate the natural places that nourish us as we extract commodities to add to life's conveniences seems germane.
Means do not always justify the ends.
It seems to me that only resilient, thoughtful, broadly considered decisions made by stakeholders in a well-choreographed, trust-infused dialogue, does justice to means and ends.
It's as close as we can get these days to a solution that honors the complexity of our modern day dilemmas, or VUCA as the military specialists like to call it: Volatility, Uncertainty, Chaos, and Ambiguity
Measurement? Why not measure that which makes for a better life?
The piece de resistance of the conference? Maestro-Mensch of the 21st Century, Ben Zander, as hands on as it gets (the keyboard of a piano!), who turned us all onto our own muses -- and the inspiration at the root of all creative ventures.
"Who am I being that the eyes of my employees are shining... or not?" he asked us, explaining that his job, as the conductor of an orchestra for the last 37 years, has been to "remind the players of the rhythm of transformation and to remove obstacles to their playing their best sound".
Reminding us that we always have three choices -- resignation, anger or possibility -- Zander invited the rapt audience to chose the third.
We can resign when we die. For now, life is for the living and leadership's job is to ensure further life by cultivating sustained health in the organizations and ecosystems in which we serve.
Disruption or not, the way through all of the ambiguity before us is the daily recommitment to polishing our best selves and surrounding ourselves with those who are aspiring to the same kind of excellence.
And that is the task WOBI has taken on -- reminding senior leaders to be worthy examples of the very best of what it means to authentically lead during these times of radical change, dislocation, and opportunity.
A big THANK YOU to Fallon Prinzivalli for inviting us to the WOBI conference. Much appreciated.
Leonardo DaVinci got his idea for the airplane by watching birds in flight. The creators of Kung Fu developed many of their techniques by watching animals fight. The pharmaceutical industry develops many of its "miracle cures" by studying the natural healing properties of herbs and plants.
Bottom line, nature is a great source of breakthrough ideas.
The secret for meeting your biggest challenge, in fact, may have already been worked out thousands of years ago by a cockroach.
1. Frame your challenge as a question that begins with "How can I"
2. Everywhere you go today, notice how nature "gets things done." (i.e. bee hives, ants, sunflowers, etc.)
3. Make a connection between the natural world and your challenge (i.e. "What can I learn about my challenge from an ant colony?")October 16, 2013
One Coin Is All It Takes
Who's gonna put the coin in the hat in your business? Who's gonna play?The School in the Cloud
This is quite extraordinary. Sugata Mitra's TED talk on the future of learning. Blows the top off of what you think education is and how you think it happens. Exciting times!October 15, 2013
Go Beyond the Impostor Syndrome
In a rapidly changing, highly complex and unpredictable world, leadership has little to do with being the smartest person in the room.
It is often the case that those holding positions of authority believe they must justify their position by providing the best solutions to the problems they face.
Often this need to demonstrate that one "has the answer" is grounded in a deeply rooted fear that one, in fact, does not truly know what to do and that revealing one's uncertainty will lead to an erosion of confidence in one's superiors and subordinates.
They see their authority as grounded in their knowledge and expertise and feel obliged to demonstrate their acumen whenever consequential problems are addressed.
This phenomenon invariably leads to compensatory behavior in which one's inner doubts and uncertainty about how to address complex and ambiguous issues leads to unjustified rigidity of positions and an inability to see the value of alternative points of view.
If we must constantly prove to everyone that we deserve the position we have attained, we can never allow ourselves to be seen as needing to learn anything or to rely on anyone else.
This dilemma -- often referred to as the "impostor syndrome", -- systematically undermines one's ability to learn, to benefit from the perspectives of others, and to appreciate the value of others' strengths and points of view.
It also often leads to behaviors in which we diminish others in order to reassure ourselves of our importance and our value.
Lastly, it virtually guarantees that the decisions that get made are not the best ones because they are not informed by the experience, insight, and creativity of the people around us.
- Barry Gruenberg
The Musical Dynamics of Brainstorm Facilitation
A well-facilitated brainstorming session is like a symphony -- or, at the very least, a really good performance of any kind of music.
Embedded in its DNA are dynamics (i.e. "variation and contrast in force and intensity") -- the skillful modulation of elements that fully engages a person's attention.
The opposite? Muzak.
Next time you listen to a piece of music, be aware of dynamics -- the various ways in which the composition holds your interest (i.e. rhythm, pauses, crescendos, harmonies, solos, and multiple variations of soft and loud).
As a brainstorm facilitator, you need to do everything in your power to keep the session as dynamic as possible so participants remain fully engaged -- poised and ready to respond.
If the session is boring (or takes a "dip" after a brief period of engagement), your chances of succeeding decline exponentially.
Towards this end, think of yourself as a "conductor" -- the one who guides a group of individual contributors ("soloists") through an artful process that ensures a quality experience and a meaningful outcome.October 10, 2013
Beyond Sage on the Stage Consulting
To borrow a phrase from the radically changing world of healthcare -- the essence of organizational culture change can be boiled down to three words: "Physician heal thyself"-- as in companies restoring optimum health to their enterprise from the inside out.
While many patients, anxious about their well-being, simply want the doctor to tell them what to do, that is, ultimately, a prescription for failure. Sustainable change only happens when people take full responsibility for their own condition.
Being told to "take two aspirins and see me in the morning" by someone with a framed medical school degree above their desk may be comforting in the short-term, but it completely misses the point. It's a paradigm whose time has come and gone.
The long and disappointing history of "change initiatives" bears this out. The data is there. 70% of them fail. And the main reason why 70% of them fail is because most organizations who enter into the culture change process rely too much on outside "experts" who, invariably treat their "patients" as someone incapable or unwilling to heal themselves.
Does the phrase "co-dependence" ring a bell?
If you expect your organization to make the kind of changes required for it to succeed, long-term, know this: the outside consultant as prescriber model (referred to in the OD world as "sage on the stage") has got to go. It will not work.
We understand, of course, that your company's Senior Leaders need some kind of roadmap or blueprint to help them navigate their way forward. They are not about to embrace an "organic process" that does not frame out the strategies and tactics required to help their company become an agile, innovative, best-company-to-work for enterprise.
This we understand. And, we will be happy to provide you with a blueprint.
But please understand this: embedded into the DNA of our blueprint is the highly collaborative process of co-creating the blueprint with you, your Design Team, and selected Senior Leaders.
We are not prescribing two aspirins. We are not asking you to call us in the morning so we can prescribe two more aspirins or a tourniquet. We are engaging you in a dynamic, interactive, collaborative partnership to ensure that the effort made is genuine, robust, and sustainable.
And that only happens when a critical mass of people in your organization are deeply engaged in the change process from the very beginning. No aspirins required.
This is the primary difference between our approach and traditional "sage on the stage" consulting.
And while we're at it, here's another way to think about your the choices before you -- vacations.
Some people like to go on Safaris. Some people like to go to 5-Star hotels.
On Safari, everything is not always neat and clean. Conditions change. Weather shifts. The road is often bumpy. There are unknowns and surprises that require flexibility, adaptability, and in-the-moment decision making.
In a 5-Star hotel, everything is buttoned down, pre-programmed, and effortless. Indeed, that is what 5-Star Hotel customers are paying for -- for someone else to do the work, someone else to cook the food, someone else to make the bed. We get it.
But a large scale, organizational change effort is not a 5-Star Hotel
It is more like a Safari. And while there are definitely best practices to abide by and time-tested principles to be guided by, success cannot be prescribed by a third party -- especially if you are committed to internalizing the mindset, skills, tools, and processes, needed for you organization to make this their own, replicable process in the years to come.
Make sense?October 08, 2013
The Telekinesis Coffee Shop
This is a brilliant marketing idea made manifest -- a way to promote a new movie, virally, via some real-time faux telekinesis in a coffee shop.