Hunter Lovins, author and promoter of sustainable development, talks with ExecuNet's Tony Vlahos about doing the right thing, trust and curiosity in business leaders. Hunter believes the next 10 years are more important than the next 10,000 years. "We're up against in on climate change; we're up against it on loss of species; we're losing major ecosystems around the planet and we have all the technologies we need to solve all these problems. We can avoid the worst of the disasters that are coming at us out of climate change and do so at a profit." She believes there is a tremendous amount that companies can and must do in terms of human and natural resources. "Doing the right thing is always good business," she said.
Scott Anthony, managing partner of innovative consulting firm Innosight and author of The First Mile: A Launch Manual for Getting Great Ideas into the Market, sat down with ExecuNet's CMO Anthony Vlahos to talk about being an innovative leader in today's world.
As founder of Joie de Vivre, a boutique hotel chain in San Francisco, Chip Conley disrupted the hotel industry by growing his company into the second largest boutique hotel chain in the United States. His creative and disruptive spirit comes from his belief that business needs to create a sense of meaning and emotional connection with customers and employees. "Life and business," he said "is all about where you pay your attention."
The modern industrial corporation is well-suited to executing on known problems but poorly equipped to execute on discovery, experimentation and entrepreneurship. Companies and people today need to be more creative and entrepreneurial in order to meet with success. Peter Sims, coauthor with Bill George of the bestseller True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership and a member of General Electric's Innovation Advisory Panel, shared his views on the real life dynamics behind the creative process.
"Innovation and discovery in general don't often come in three to five million dollar chunks," said Sims. He warned that when you are doing something new you can't put it into a spreadsheet. Predicting how people will respond is an uncertain venture at best. It is better to place a series of small bets than to place a large bet. It is like in — — the batter is better off trying to get on base than swinging for the fences looking for a homerun. Small, concrete bets that you can learn from to drive discovery, with a hit rate of about 6 percent is a better approach.
Hunter Lovins, author of the international bestseller Natural Capitalism and a business leader dedicated to understanding and communicating the transformative power of sustainable business, argued that embracing efficiency, renewables, carbon markets, and new technologies is the smartest decision any organization can make — leading to disruptive new products and business models that generate increased profits and economic growth.
Lovins said that unsustainable business practices contributed to the economic collapse, which will not be resolvable until the fundamental issues are addressed. She said, "This is not about polar bears. It's about your profitability. This is the sweet spot of innovation combined with sustainability. We are beyond what the edge of what the planet can tolerate."
What type of disruptor are you? "Disruptors come in all different shapes and sizes but in every case, disruptors are involved in every change in products, services, processes and business models," according to Trish Gorman, an accomplished strategist who specializes in identifying high potential growth options and a professor at some of the world's leading business schools.
A disruptor is one whose influence or action substantially and irrevocably changes the way businesses function. Displaying remarkable persistence, they continue despite perceived setbacks. Some are experts in the field and some come from a completely different background – something which can be a huge plus because they are free of preconceived limitations.
One industry that has been subjected to disruptive forces in recent years is the healthcare industry. Mark T. Bertolini, Chairman, Chief Executive Officer and President of Aetna, is challenging assumptions around healthcare and positioning the company for future success.
"We're a 163-year-old company. We know how to do everything we've been doing really, really well. Our stock price is at a record high. Our earning revenue and membership revenue are at record highs, and it's now time to destroy our business model," said Bertolini.
Juan Enriquez, one of the world's leading authorities on the impact life sciences are having on business, technology, society, and their vital role as a driver of future wealth, shared his thoughts on how developments many still think of as belonging in science fiction stories are already a reality. Enriquez believes the wealth of the last 30 years is a result of manipulating digital code, and the next huge breakthrough is the emergence of new life code based on the component parts of DNA. Said Enriquez, "We are moving from digital code to life code."
Named by Businessweek as one of the 25 most influential people on the Internet, Joichi Ito believes there is much we can still learn from nature. We are so big and interconnected that what we do no longer has only local impact. The next step in technology use is connected to biology.
The wave of the future in medicine, he stated, is in genetics, and the advances in genetics are going to come from computer people. "Synthetic biology is a lot like computer programming. Codes design a gene sequence for bacteria and they do what they're told," he said. It is efficient and sustainable — but expensive. However, the cost is dropping.
Last week's New Yorker magazine includes an article by Atul Gawande describing how innovation spreads. While we are accustomed to think of technology as "changing the world," those changes only take place because of, well, salespeople. As Gawande explains:
Scott Anthony, Managing Partner at Innosight and leader of the company's AsiaPacific region and venture capital activities, pulled the audience right in with his insights into the challenges associated with what he terms "the first mile" — the crucial time when an idea moves from concept to paper to market. Anthony believes business are most fragile in the first mile, when they move from plan to reality, something which is particularly challenging for large companies. Big companies are designed to execute today's business model; in such an environment, innovators are a natural threat and struggle to survive.
After speaking about the many advances we have seen in the last 25 years, Vivek Wadhwa, recognized by Time Magazine in 2013 as a top 40 most influential mind in technology, China and India could be in trouble in terms of low paying human labor jobs. The reason he said is US manufacturing. Wadhwa said, "The US is seeing a manufacturing revival. It's creeping back now and will be a flood in five to seven years." The key is robotic manufacturing. We have gotten very good at creating robots to do the work of humans. They don't complain, don't join unions and cost about half as much to operate as human laborers, even when exporting the labor.
New York City's South Bronx is traditionally associated with poverty and crime. But Bronx school teacher Stephen Ritz, as leader of the Green Bronx Machine, is driving a movement that is changing people's perceptions and more importantly transforming children's lives. Ritz believes transformation can occur though challenging assumptions and choosing to think differently.
When you're left with nothing to tell your message, you go to the simplest tool — cardboard and some kind of instrument to mark on that board. This engaging short film captures Alex Bogusky's fascination with street-level philanthropy and communication that happens through windshields and open car windows — with entertaining and insightful results.
The implication for business organizations is profound: The world's simplest form of communication turns into a lesson of generosity. There's a simple message here, too, for business executives: When you lead with clarity, purpose and authenticity, then people listen to you.
"We need more innovation around here. We need people to think more creatively and be more entrepreneurial. I've been saying this for the last couple years, and yet very little seems to be changing. It's very frustrating."
This was a recent lament from a client, a senior leader at a medium-sized professional services firm. He was frustrated that even though his organization was encouraging people at every turn to take chances on new ideas, too few were actually stepping up to do it.
Anyone would be inspired by the story of Nick Woodman, the CEO of GoPro, a $2.5B company that makes wearable HD video cameras. The highlights:
In the late 1990s/early 2000s, Woodman blows $4M of VC money on a failed venture called funBugs.com, an ultimately ill-conceived loyalty, sweepstakes and entertainment website. In 2002, unsure of what to do with his life, he takes off to surf in Indonesia and Australia. He wants to capture live-action shots from his surfboard. The only cost-effective way to do this is by strapping a disposable camera to his wrist with rubber bands. Not surprisingly, it doesn't work well.
At the 2013 World Innovation Forum in New York City, ExecuNet gained access to the perspectives of some of the world's foremost authorities, authors, consultants and creative pioneers. Over the last few months, we have posted interviews we conducted with some of the speakers and articles on the various stage presentations. Here is the complete executive summary of the event. We invite you to take some time exploring the boundaries of innovation, as we all seek those unknowns that will help us get ahead in business and with our careers, too.
It's clear that businesses and their leaders need to understand all they can about the Millennial generation – a group that is important to their future business success.
But what's also clear is that the characteristics and qualities of Millennials remain a mystery. In his presentation to World Innovation Forum delegates, Will Pearson, President and Co-founder of trivia magazine and website mental_ floss, provided some insight into this influential generation.
"It's not just knowing some things about Millennials, it's understanding what we then do with that knowledge," said Pearson.
What is design-driven innovation? "It's not just about packaging and graphics," said Mauro Porcini during his stage presentation at the World Innovation Forum in NYC. Porcini, an expert in infusing design thinking into an organization's culture with an innovative, consumer-center approach, said, "It's not just about styling. It's all about people. It starts with people, understanding people."
He stressed how companies can engage people beyond the products they create through ideas and through a vision. "Every time we say we don't design products, we design experiences, there's always a double level of connection and communication between people and product brands," explained Porcini. He said the first level of communication is between you and the product, the pleasure derived from the product.
While he served as the Chief Information Officer of the United States government, Vivek Kundra was charged with managing IT's role within the government. Kundra, who accepted the job in January 2009 when President Barack Obama took office, explained to World Innovation Forum attendees, how he became responsible for managing government technology spending that totaled $80 billion.
Kundra said there was a lack of innovation happening "in the name of security. The focus was primarily inward, not on citizens and citizen services and how you transform them. The shift to cloud computing actually enabled that transformation."
John Kao, called "Mr. Creativity" by The Economist, believes innovation is not yet a field – but it's getting there. "A field is a body of knowledge and best practices and professional standards that are somewhat measurable when there's a coherent framework for discussion," said. "We are heading in that direction. In my opinion, innovation is in beta."
Kao noted how mental maps are decisive and that those maps can determine reality. "Think about the mental maps now exploding in terms of different modifiers and nuances around the term 'innovation,'" he said. Among the types of innovation Kao mentioned included reverse innovation, open source innovation, digital innovation, large-scale innovation, user-centered innovation, design thinking, indigenous innovation, and sustainability innovation.
Business leaders in every industry need to come to terms with a simple fact, said Larry Keeley, a globally recognized leader in innovation effectiveness, during a special Monitor Deloitte breakfast workshop at the World Innovation Forum in New York.
The reality, Keeley explained, is that the pace of change outside your organization is much faster than your organization's capacity to evolve, thereby making innovation a true business mandate with the potential to accelerate growth and leapfrog the competition.
Ankur Jain, founder and CEO of networking company HUMIN, told World Innovation Forum in NYC delegates that the leaders of much bigger, far more developed businesses need to understand that industries are being disrupted in a matter of months now, instead of years or decades. He said, "Innovation isn't only a matter of thinking outside the box; innovation is about thinking inside a different box."
Rebecca Henderson, Co-director of the Business and Environment Initiative at Harvard, told World Innovation Forum in NYC delegates that, "We're getting to the edge of the plant's natural resources and that's going to change the way we do business."
Authenticity, engagement, values, and emotions are essential to building sustainable/regenerative corporations. She said we are consuming the planet's natural resources faster than they can be replenished, and unless businesses change the way they do business and the way we as a global community produce energy, we are running an irreversible global risk.
Innovation authors Bryan Mattimore of The Growth Engine Company and Brad Szollose of Liquid Leadership Worldwide come to the topic of innovation and business growth from different perspectives, but they come to a number of surprisingly similar conclusions about the influence of creativity on people and organizations.
In an exclusive interview with ExecuNet at the 2013 World Innovation Forum in New York, Mattimore and Szollose share their views on the critical nature of corporate culture. They explore how innovation shapes not only an organization's work environment and workforce but also, eventually, its business performance compared to the competition and market expectations.
It seems any global expert on the topic of innovation can't get too far down that path without making some key references to the role of corporate culture in a company's pursuit of new, creative and perhaps even transformative things. That's because people are people. Their motivation and work ethic ebbs and flows with the level of support they feel from colleagues and collaborators alike. The human energy that is the lifeblood of innovation isn't static.
Rather, it's highly variable, and can spread like wildfire if the right people rally around the right challenge. And, of course, it can also disappear when those responsible for change and change management lose their focus, fail to feel the support of superiors, or simply lack the connectivity to the influences of power and capital they need to fully realize their dreams.
The On Your Feet consultancy is a collision between business and the arts; it's an early pioneer of bringing the skills and principles improvisers use on stage into business offices, boardrooms and conference halls around the world.
In an exclusive interview with ExecuNet at the 2013 World Innovation Forum in New York, principals Gary Hirsh and Amy Veltman share their unique story of helping leadership teams optimize collaboration and creativity to achieve the business results they want. They also share some of what makes their immersive learning experiences fun and inspiring for leaders who need to find a new competitive advantage within.
Sarah Miller Caldicott didn't have to look far for inspiration. A relative of the late inventor Thomas Edison, Caldicott has written a book on the innovation process, why it fails and what it takes to catalyze transformative potential into new, market-changing products and services.
Ankur Jain sees the potential in the youngest of budding entrepreneurs, many of whom started building their businesses while still in college. Today, as founder and chairman of the Kairos Society, which ranks the most promising student-run businesses annually, Jain is looking to corporate leaders to help fund and encourage some of the most transformative ideas and future business leaders.
Few companies have pushed the boundaries of established industries like Virgin, and few entrepreneurs have altered the business landscape quite like Sir Richard Branson. Today, George Whitesides, CEO and President of Virgin Galactic, is helping Branson explore new boundaries — in the form of global travel to the edge of space.
Whitesides joins ExecuNet for a revealing look inside Virgin Galactic's ambitious plans to bring people to the edge of space for an incredible new look at our planet, as well as the innovation potential for transporting people and things to new places in record times many still think may be impossible.
Co-director of the Business and Environment Initiative at Harvard, Rebecca Henderson makes the business case for corporate commitments to sustainability and how they may increasingly require new innovations and the cultures to create them.
In this exclusive interview with ExecuNet at the 2013 World Innovation Forum, Henderson shares her take on how capitalism needs to evolve to ensure sustainability and corporate stability in the face of large-scale technology shifts and mounting pressure on the world’s energy supply. Henderson shares her point of view of how a commitment to the triple bottom line including innovation, values and profits can be realized and what it requires of executive leaders now.
Procter & Gamble welcomed back former CEO A.G. Lafley, who led the company during a period of record growth between 2000 and 2009, as its new CEO, President and Chairman following the sudden retirement of CEO Bob McDonald, who cited criticism of his leadership as a distraction for the company. That criticism came despite the fact that Lafley had reportedly groomed McDonald to succeed him.
The news cheered analysts and investors who have actually had much to cheer of late. Shares of P&G stock hit a record high in April, and with Lafley at the helm, analysts will surely be watching for signs of any shifts of strategy, research, innovating and branding that could be felt by shareholders.
Some companies make innovation a mandate every once in awhile. Some leaders believe their teams are capable of innovating yet don't want to assume any new risks to the enterprise. And some meetings produce nothing but a stream of bad ideas that won't yield the profits many now seek.
Innovation is surely one of those things that's easy to talk about, but difficult to actually engage.
All of us find ourselves in pursuit of better, more consistent and more sustainable business results. Many of us had to get pretty creative to survive the economic challenges of the past five years. Yet each of us want to achieve more. The truth is, we must achieve more — for our companies, our families and our nation, too.
How do you market to consumers when their preferences, loyalty and activism around your products begins to redefine your organization and your brand? That's just one of the questions Michael Martin, general manager, North America for sporting goods company Vibram, has had to face head on as his company’s "FiveFingers" footwear has begun to influence the larger running world.
In an exclusive interview at the 2013 World Innovation Forum, Martin sat down with me for a conversation focused on innovations for the marketing function, the creation of a new customer base, and the best ways to prepare for growth when a product takes on an unexpected life of its own.
Dubbed "Mr. Creativity" by The Economist, John Kao shares his unique perspectives on organizational transformation and new media through his work as chairman of the Institute for Large Scale Innovation, an association that gathers 30 national chief innovation officers from around the world.
Kao tells ExecuNet, in an exclusive interview at the 2013 World Innovation Forum, that improvisation is a key for leaders and organizations to stay agile in the face of rapidly evolving transformations that are impacting consumers, markets and competitors. Kao brings a decidedly optimistic view of the global business climate to this interview that covers everything from the drivers of innovation to the art of what he calls "jamming."
Recently, I had a conversation with Bryan Mattimore, one of America's top experts in applied creativity, ideation facilitation and innovation management. Mattimore is the inventor of the creativity training game, Bright Ideas and bestselling author of 99% Inspiration. I was particularly curious to know what led him to explore the power of creativity and why organizations need to be open to them. Here is an excerpt of what he had to say on that topic:
"There were two pivotal moments in my life. The first was when I grew up with my father. He was an entrepreneur with Time Inc., and he started a company called SAMI. That environment really encouraged me and made me wonder how he got his ideas. That really set me on a lifetime search and a passion for understanding the creative process."
In this candid conversation with ExecuNet, innovative branding strategist Russell Stevens tells us about his newest venture, innovation and collaboration.
"There's nothing better than a big idea," he says. His company doesn't try to solve every idea. Instead they focus on solving a very specific problem, using the very best that data and technology have to offer.
In this candid conversation with ExecuNet, innovative branding strategist Russell Stevens shares his views on how great leaders encourage creative thinking within an organization.
He says creativity must be risk-free for the creative types. "You have to take the sense of risk out of it. You can't have people be truly creative if you're going to punish them for it not working. The leaders have to stand side by side with the creatives. You can't just talk about it. You have to commit to it."
In a conversation with ExecuNet's Chief Marketing Officer, Anthony Vlahos, and ExecuNet members, author, speaker and business strategist Don Tapscott discussed his career journey and business philosophies. Here is an excerpt from that teleconference.
In my life, if there's one theme that's been problematic and a challenge for me, it is that I've been doing research and coming up with ideas that the world was really not able to absorb or was not ready for. In the late 70s, we said computers are going to be tools for communication; it's not just data processing. Everyone will use computers. For years, people said I was wrong. The reason is bizarre. The reason they said I was wrong is managers and professionals will never learn to type. It came down to the question of typing efficiency, so I became a typing evangelist. "Typing is fun." That was challenging.
As a founding partner of Insigniam, an international consulting firm dedicated to driving transformation and catalyzing breakthrough results, Nathan Rosenberg has gotten a front-row seat on the kinds of change initiatives that can lead to phenomenal growth.
Rosenberg says there are four steps any innovation-minded company must take in order to embark on the kind of change initiative that could reap significant new results, and he outlines them in this exclusive ExecuNet interview shot behind-the-scenes at the 2012 World Business Forum.
So what should be asked of business leaders when it comes to innovation? NYU professor Clay Shirky says leaders have to cede control of the conversation with customers in order to achieve the kinds of surprises that can lead to real business breakthroughs.
In an exclusive offstage video interview at the 2012 World Innovation Forum, Shirky shared his perspective of the role executives must play to engage customers and set the table for sustainable business results.
Where is your company going? How fast will it grow? And will it be able to attract the kind of people and innovation capital necessary to reach its objectives? It likely all depends on the network of conversations currently underway within your enterprise. Just consider the prospects your sales team may be talking with, or the technology suppliers already engaged with your IT team. Then there are prospective employees who may be interviewing right this minute with your HR leaders and hiring managers.
Leading futurist Ray Kurzweil shares his view about what innovation impacts will be felt in healthcare and the practice of medicine and how data and a wealth of information now available about the human genome will transform the healthcare sector for years to come.
Northwestern University Kellogg School professor Mohanbir Sawhney tells ExecuNet that there are significant human resources implications from the integration of technologies, ideas and market expertise. He shares one example of the virtual workplace and how it could portend change across numerous industries in this exclusive video interview at the 2012 World Innovation Forum.
Recognized as one of the world's leading futurists, Ray Kurzweil shares his view that the democratization of information is having a profound impact on business, on lives and societies and how they interact and provide value for each other.
Henry Chesbrough, globally recognized expert on open innovation, shared his unique perspective on revisiting and renewing the process of innovating with ExecuNet in this video interview, taken at the 2012 World Innovation Forum. His views on open innovation and cross-functional collaboration can raise engagement with customers in many markets around the world.
The business world is still waiting for clarity, for certainty and for signs of sustained economic growth.
As the presidential campaign politicizes any debate about whether investment or some level or badly needed financial discipline makes the most sense for the American people, millions of Americans remain jobless and many employers remain stuck in the "idle" position.
Nearly half (49%) of the executive recruiters surveyed by ExecuNet revealed that executives with proven innovation skills were hard to find, compared to other skills, and 31 percent said companies were willing to pay a premium for innovative talent — even in today's job market.
With product lifecycles declining rapidly, increased global competition and pressure from changing customer needs, executives who have demonstrated they can challenge business assumptions and find the areas of opportunities in current business models are in demand. We counsel executives every day that they have to do more than claim they were "innovative" on their résumés. They need to show a quantifiable history of innovating and its impact on their previous organizations.
At the 2012 World Innovation Forum, social networking expert Clay Shirky explored the business impacts he sees from the emergence of collective intelligence and social collaboration in an exclusive video interview for ExecuNet. Shirky provided some examples from the business world about what companies are learning from their customers and other influencers. Shirky also outlined the right set of expectations for the business impact of mass collaboration and the power of organizing.
At the 2012 World Innovation Forum, global green business and sustainability thought leader Andrew Winston shared his perspectives in a video interview for ExecuNet on how the rise of the consumer, increased global demand for natural resources and demands for more corporate transparency are changing the performance metrics organizations measure themselves against.
What do you do when your boss is a "bozo?" In this exclusive onsite at the 2012 World Innovation Forum video interview Guy Kawasaki, Silicon Valley venture capitalist, bestselling author and Apple Fellow, answers that question; plus, he offers advice on how to innovate your way into a new position.
NYU professor Clay Shirky, a recognized thought leader on the intersection of technology and innovation, says the transformative potential of social and business networks to change human behavior and elevate corporate performance is only now becoming visible to executive leaders.
Shirky explores the business impact of cross-network collaboration, sharing, value exchange and generosity and how it relates to corporate engagement with contributors and end-consumers alike in this exclusive onsite at the 2012 World Innovation Forum video interview for ExecuNet.
Many business leaders speak of failure when they talk about innovation. The tough lessons. The unwise investment decisions. The hours of toil, often without recognition. The near misses, many recount, are especially painful to recall.
Yet through it all — through the missteps of trial and error — we pursue innovation as if it's a pass/fail score in a college classroom. It is not. The recent assemblage of experts on creativity, marketing and technology at the recent World Innovation Forum in New York City drive that point home as never before.
In this video interview Guy Kawasaki, author, former chief evangelist of Apple, founding partner at Garage Technology Ventures, and founder of Alltop.com addresses how to turn innovation into action through prototyping; why going to market faster is critical for growth; and why making money begins with making the world a better place.
"Group action just got easier." That's the synopsis of the more than 150,000 words Clay Shirky has written in his most recent books on social media and collaboration, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations and Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age.
"We now have a medium that changes the way groups of people act and get things done. It's a change in the business environment because it's about every place we come together," Shirky said at the 2012 World Innovation Forum, where ExecuNet exclusively reported.
There are lots of things that are easy to talk about but far harder to actually put into action. Innovation is one such topic.
Creating something new — a product, service, idea, consumer experience or technological advance — requires a lot of resources, both human and capital in nature. Because innovators typically start with a "something big and bold" motivation, it often requires significant investment and a lot of patience to turn a concept into a profit.
Guy Kawasaki, former Chief Evangelist at Apple, and author of 10 books, most recently, Enchantment, said he always uses the "top 10" concept for his presentations. "This way, if I suck, you know exactly how much longer I'll be speaking."
Luckily, for 2012 World Innovation Forum delegates, where ExecuNet exclusively reported, Kawasaki didn't suck, and he even added a bonus step.
Lots of business leaders say they're ready for change. They're eager to get on with something new. But the ugly truth, particularly for executives with a painfully deficit of self-awareness, is that they're simply incapable of change.
This incapacity to see an enterprise from a new or different perspective or to pursue a new course that may require an open-mind and willingness to engage in serious discovery is debilitating. It stops companies in their tracks. It prevents them from ever reaching their full potential. It alienates more self-aware peers and subordinates, and it can also have devastating results on executive careers.
"Make something today, even if it's a mistake," is something a friend said to me last week at the end of a phone conversation. Fear of making a mistake is sometimes the barrier to taking any action, but that also prevents any learning from happening too. And every lesson serves as a building block toward the next success.
It's been said that Thomas Edison counted all his unsuccessful attempts at developing the light bulb not as failures, but as many ways that didn't work on his journey to finding the one that did. Unfortunately, today's business culture is often not as forgiving, and definitely not as encouraging, of mistakes, yet innovation couldn't exist without failure.
There are many ingredients to innovation, and some of the most important are those that define the workplace — culture, mission, leadership and identity.
However, if today's employers view their workforces as static or homogenous resources to be dialed up when opportunity knocks and dialed down when the economic outlook presents unforeseen challenges, they're missing out on the potential of innovation and really failing to recognize all the segments of their employee population.
There are few places left to escape the growing mountain of obstacles that prevent great ideas from being created, and even more roadblocks impeding their execution. Scott Belsky, CEO of Behance and author of Making Ideas Happen, said creative people have to find "windows of non-stimulation" to focus on thinking, research and implications on strategy.
In an intimate "unplugged" setting among a smaller invited audience at the 2011 World Business Forum, where ExecuNet exclusively reported, Belsky said "The more creative we are, the more unlikely we are to take ideas to completion," that we're suffering from "idea to idea syndrome."
What if you were charged with delivering $100 million per week in growth with a staff of 9,000? And the only way you could reach your goals was to add more than 1.8 million people worldwide to your team and enlist them to work for free?
That's the challenge Larry Huston faced while serving as Innovation Officer at P&G. The company needed to maintain 7 percent organic growth per year — $5 billion — but when sales started to flatten, Huston had to find solutions to what P&G saw as an innovation problem.
As senior curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City, Paola Antonelli strives to promote a deeper understanding of design's transformative and constructive influence on the world and how designers help bridge the path to the future.
Designers, as she sees them, are interpreters. They help companies sense needs and preferences and understand consumer behavior. Their work is deeply intertwined and mutually dependent on science and scientists, Antonelli said, because new discoveries and ways of unleashing their potential and connectivity with the human experience hinge on creativity, exploration, imagination and the innovation that results.
How are people motivated to be innovative and creative and energized to come up with breakthrough ideas?
From that simple but deeply resonant question, bestselling author and former White House speechwriter Daniel Pink moved delegates at the 2011 World Innovation Forum, where ExecuNet exclusively reported for attendees, to step outside the corporate hierarchy and business texts and consider what social scientists have learned about what motivates people.
As developed as today's companies and economies have become, however, today's employers remain bound by what Pink termed "the physics of behavior." It's very simple, he said. "If you reward behavior, you typically get more of it, and if you punish behavior, you get less of it," he said. It's the old carrot and stick routine.
How would you feel if the person you cared about most was trapped a half-mile underground somewhere? That's what Greg Hall's company, Drillers Supply International, faced and what drove his high-pressure innovation to help rescue the 33 Chilean miners more than 2,000 feet below the surface.
Eccentric. Derived from the Greek: ek—out of + kentros—center.
When you're off-center, when you're one step ahead of the curve, stray from the norm, you're eccentric — and quite often, superbly successful.
Next month marks the 45th anniversary of the premiere of Star Trek, which followed the interstellar adventures of Commanding Officer James T. Kirk and the crew of an exploration vessel of a 23rd century galactic "United Federation of Planets" — the Starship Enterprise. The show was not just fantastic, it was strange and somewhat off. It lives on in endless reruns and multiple remixes.
Eccentricity in the corner office here on planet Earth? Hardly unusual. There's the headline-making:
World-renowned Harvard Business School professor, consultant and best-selling author Clayton M. Christensen knows the power and potential of what he calls "disruption innovation," but he also knows that unlocking it requires the courage to ask the simple questions competitors simply fail to consider.
"What causes successful companies to fail?" Christensen inquired at the 2011 World Innovation Forum, where ExecuNet exclusively reported for attendees. The revelation, he suggested, is resident in organizations' and leaders' respective capacity to risk failure and all that is required to explore disruptive innovation and their willingness to effectively envision business failure if they do not connect with customers' real needs.
A local pie maker bakes all his pies himself using organic ingredients from local sources. He makes all of his dough from scratch, mixing and rolling his pie crusts by hand. He distinguishes his business by delivering his pies to your door rather than selling them out of a shop. The fact that the man who makes the pie is the same person as the man who sells and delivers it makes the transaction fundamentally different than buying a pie at the supermarket.
A CEO pours his heart into his company...educating customers, one by one, about what great coffee can be through the romance and showmanship of a handmade latte. The barista who's hurrying and scurrying around, fiddling with her arsenal of machines, whipping this or drizzling on that, is part of the fancy beverage's appeal: It's being handmade, right in front of you. It seems better simply because you've watched somebody take the trouble to make it.
Why not go out on a limb? Isn't that where the bird is?
We can risk curiosity. In fact, business leaders have to. Without curiosity, our thinking gets small and our vision narrows. With it, real innovation and growth can happen.
We forget to hire for curiosity. The employee who asks "why" a lot; who is inner-directed and develops her own ideas; who is always doing that which she cannot do, so she may learn how to do it; who explores first and then considers whether she will accept the ramifications — that cat often winds up in lockdown.
Once again, ExecuNet was invited to partner with HSM at their World Innovation Forum as key members of the Bloggers Hub, reporting the powerful insight and thoughtful commentary from the global leaders and business icons onstage — and backstage.
I recently went to a reception announcing the release of Breaking Away, a new book on "how great leaders create innovation that drives sustainable growth — and why others fail." There are many books on innovation, but this one is a keeper. It was written by the Jane Stevenson, Chairman, Board and CEO Services at Korn/Ferry International and Bilal Kaafarani, who has been a "serial" innovator at P&G, Kraft, Pepsi and Coca-Cola.
Stevenson's and Kaafarani's main purpose is to clarify what innovation is and how companies can consistently succeed in making the breakthroughs in innovation that lead to transformational change, revolutionizing an industry, a market or a company itself — the payoff being activating profitable and sustainable growth.
Did you hear the story of how seven million American children vanished overnight and the IRS employee who was behind it all?
At the 2010 HSM World Business Forum in NYC, where ExecuNet exclusively reported, Steve Levitt, author of Freakonomics and a professor in the University of Chicago's economics department, asked the delegates this question. He went on to tell the story of one IRS employee's idea to require taxpayers to report the Social Security numbers of children they claimed as dependents on their tax forms that not only outed a lot of tax cheats, but also added $20 billion into the United States Treasury.
"He didn’t get a raise. Didn't get a promotion. Didn't get a parade," Levitt said. "He had a great idea…but he got no rewards, either social or financial."
"'Design thinking' bridges analytical thinking and intuitive thinking to invent the future," said Roger Martin, during his HSM Online Seminar, Design Thinking: The Next Competitive Advantage.
But finding a company with balance is rare. Companies want to be more innovative but are stymied by analysis as they search for reliability and proof. The counterbalance is intuitive thinking — "knowing" without thinking — which can't be proven and therefore can't be replicated, leaving leaders scratching their heads about what caused success or failure.
"Analytical thinking and intuitive thinking are opposed to each other in organizations," said Martin, almost preventing any movement at all. "Innovation is about advancing knowledge."
President Obama's declaration in his State of the Union address: "This is our generation's Sputnik moment," sent me rushing to Wikipedia, where I learned it was his call to action for innovation. Just as NASA mobilized resources and energy to intensify efforts and be first in the race to space, he said so should Americans take on the challenge to out-innovate the rest of the world.
In this short video interview with ExecuNet's President and Chief Economist Mark Anderson, he explains how our "Sputnik moments" can be tied to individual BHAGS, and three ways to innovate in this job market.
What draws diehard Microsoft users toward some Apple products? Or tempts someone with little interest in cooking to purchase a Fuego grill? Why, when we have a choice between similar products, are we often more likely to have a stronger feeling for one over the other? To Robert Brunner’s mind, it is the design. But what is design?
Design is the interface between a company and its constituents, and Robert Brunner, who has partnered form and function for Apple Computer and now runs Ammunition Group, a brand and product design firm, integrates emotional connection into his work. Brunner stressed that "Design is ideas, not objects," and reminded that while "Objects are important, there needs to be more." Design is "about an experience and what we feel." "Why do you care if Apple goes out of business? It's because of how the company makes you feel. Would your customers shed any tears if you were gone@f0"
"Green" is evolving from a regulatory or moral requirement to a business strategy. Companies have different drivers for adopting green initiatives, but collectively we're moving toward a third era. Joel Makower, author of Strategies for the Green Economy: Opportunities and Challenges in the New World of Business, defined these eras at the 2010 World Innovation Forum, where ExecuNet exclusively reported for attendees.
The Compliance-Driven Era: Do no harm
The Environmentalism Era: Companies can do well by doing good
The Business Value Era: Green creates value by providing better products
Michael Porter did a Q&A session with Bloomberg TV's Eric Schatzker at the World Innovation Forum where ExecuNet was reporting exclusively for attendees.
The biggest problem on Wall Street? "I think that fundamentally what happened on Wall Street is a disconnect between what they are doing and what we need in a real economy. Wall Street is supposed to serve the real economy. The real economy creates wealth in the long-term -- not in a year or a quarter. Most stock used to be held for a decade, and loans were held to maturity. What's happened in the last 10 or 20 years is a disconnect and shortening of horizons. The average stock is held for less than a year, and the average loan is packaged and sold to someone who doesn't even know why the loan was made. As things got more short-term, we saw more trading, more volatility, more hedging. Wall Street began creating products for itself and not its customers. It created products with little value and lots of destructive possibility."
Business leaders create value for organizations either through obedience or risk, and one is at a surplus and no longer needed, said author and marketing expert Seth Godin at the 2010 World Innovation Forum, where ExecuNet exclusively reported for attendees.
Those who generate ideas and "work without a map" are the real high-value leaders, according to Godin, but many companies don't encourage employee innovation nor do they build a culture that fosters creative thinking for fear of failing.
But failure acts as a double-edge sword: "Doing what you're told is a sure way to failure," said Godin of obedience; however, corporate innovation is guaranteed in a culture of failure.
"Leaders do not lead innovation. Leaders have to facilitate it. Leaders will impinge on everyone else's innovation," said Michael Howe at the 2010 World Innovation Forum, where ExecuNet exclusively reported for attendees. Howe, described by Forbes as one of the top 10 innovators of the past decade, believes the goal of businesses should be to create the right environments and support to foster innovation, and to align innovative ideas around business strategy and customer needs.
Howe explored the pace of innovation through the approach he mastered as chief executive of MinuteClinic, pioneer of the retail healthcare concept.
Why have there been advances in virtually every technology invented in the last 100 years, yet management is woefully out of date? At the 2009 World Business Forum, where ExecuNet exclusively reported, strategist and innovator Gary Hamel asked the delegates, "Could technology management change in this century the way it changed in the last century? Almost all organizations are running on 19th century management systems."
Management was created, the author and co-founder of the Management Innovation Lab at the London Business School said, to "get people to show up every day and do the same job over and over again like robots."
"Innovation means doing stuff that is impossible, otherwise people would have done it already," said author and marketing expert Seth Godin at the 2010 World Innovation Forum, where ExecuNet exclusively reported for attendees.
Marketing, Godin said, has largely been about advertisers trying to figure out ways to get consumers to buy more, and, while never a great approach, that is even less effective now. "Mass marketing is to bombard people over and over again. That model — 'I'm going to interrupt my way to success' — is flawed and will stress you out."
"Green" is evolving from a regulatory or moral requirement to a business strategy. But, green will only succeed, said Joel Makower, author of Strategies for the Green Economy: Opportunities and Challenges in the New World of Business, when green equals better.
Makower, executive editor of GreenBiz.com and co-founder of Greener World Media, has tracked the greening of corporations over 20 years and seen it evolve from isolation in the environmental function to spread nearly enterprise-wide. At the 2010 World Innovation Forum, where ExecuNet exclusively reported for attendees, Makower talked to executives about how green innovation can fit into their organizations and careers.
In baseball, if a player averages three hits every 10 chances he's good player; if he averages four hits per 10 chances he's a first ballot Hall of Famer and the stuff of legend. Many call baseball the ultimate failure activity, but the pharmaceutical industry is much more challenging where else is a 1-in-10,000 success rate is considered acceptable?
One would think it's a challenge simply to get out of bed every morning knowing more failures surely await you in the office, but not so, said Pfizer CEO Jeff Kindler at the 2010 World Innovation Forum, where ExecuNet exclusively reported for attendees.
Small goals first; then move on to the entire planet.
No generation, political party or movement has the exclusive on change; it can start in our very own small spaces, and you'd be surprised how far the ripples reach. Everybody at every level, in every career stage, has the ability to change their world.
Troubled times set the tone for change in business and in life. Yet, there remains some fairly depressing cultural wisdom about change that suggests it's hard to teach the proverbial old dog new tricks, said Chip Heath at the 2010 World Innovation Forum, where ExecuNet exclusively reported for attendees.
My head physically spins after two days at the World Innovation Forum from all the untapped possibilities that are out there just waiting for me to think of. For the last couple of years, just as we've done for several years at the World Business Forum, ExecuNet was invited by HSM to capture insights from the intellectual powerhouses on stage and produce thoughtful commentary for attendees and our members.
Without a doubt, the array of speakers challenged me to think in a different way; sometimes radically, like Michael Porter's reinvention of the healthcare delivery system; and sometimes incrementally, doing something to "earn my seat" at work every day, as Seth Godin said.
We saw a great deal in the media about the threat of a "double dip" in our economy.
Bernanke's remarks before Congress this week, expecting 3 percent growth for the rest of this year into 2011, shows we continue to be in a slow growth environment with lots of "noise" but probably not a "double dip."
Anecdotal evidence we received this week also suggests a positive outlook. A team of ExecuNetters covered the HSM's World Innovation Forum that was held in NYC this week. They reported that the world actually was alive and well and returning to basics. With over 900 attendees, the attendance was at an all-time high — more than doubling the prior year. The vibrancy of the discussions and this increased attendance really speak volumes about how business has refocused on innovation and growth — after a hiatus.
Finding new ways to do business is always a challenge, but for success in an ever-changing world, business leaders today must be willing to try new things and remain extremely flexible. Read what some of the world's greatest innovators had to say in this ExecuNet exclusive.