Transcript of "Innovationexcellenceweeklyv36 130620131328-phpapp02"
June 20, 2013
Issue 36 – June 14, 2013
1. Innovators Challenge Orthodoxies: Elon Musk ......................................... Rowan Gibson
2. A Brilliantly Simple Way to Boost our Creativity …….……..……….... Jerome Provensal
3. Phone as Bank: Are You Ready for Disruptive Innovation? ……......…… Holly G Green
4. 4 Ways Technology Is Transforming Business……………..…………...…...... Greg Satell
5. Microsoft ReOrg – Crafty or Confusing? .…………………..…...…...……… Adam Hartung
6. (Mis)understanding Technology… ………………………………..…………..…. Greg Satell
7. The Design Manager Comprehensive Role in Innovation Process ……...…. Nicolas Bry
8. Innovation is All Relative …………………………………………......…….. Kevin McFarthing
9. Using Books as Tools ……………………………………………….…….…...….. Julie Anixter
10. Innovative Feelings ………………………………..……..…...…..…..…. Jeffrey Baumgartner
Your hosts, Braden Kelley, Julie Anixter and Rowan Gibson, are innovation writers, speakers and
strategic advisors to many of the world’s leading companies.
“Our mission is to help you achieve innovation excellence inside your own organization by making
innovation resources, answers, and best practices accessible for the greater good.”
Cover Image credit: Mom Daughter Style
Innovators Challenge Orthodoxies: Elon Musk
Posted on June 6, 2013 by Rowan Gibson
Great innovators tend to be contrarians. They have an almost innate tendency to challenge industry orthodoxies, upend
conventional wisdom, and turn the seemingly “impossible” into the possible. For me, one of the greatest modern examples
of this is Elon Musk – of Paypal, SpaceX, and Tesla fame.
If you didn’t catch Elon’s interview at the recent All Things Digital® conference, it’s a must-see video for anyone who
claims to take innovation seriously.
You can view the full video here.
Let’s go back in time to the Wild Wild Web of the mid- to late-nineties, when it simply wasn’t safe or easy to move money
around online. Musk refused to accept that it had to be so, or that only giant financial services companies could come up
with a solution. So in March 1999 he decided to start his own Internet financial services company, called X.com, which
quickly became one of the Web’s leading financial institutions. One year later, in March 2000, X.com bought another
Internet startup called Confinity and formed PayPal. In 2002, eBay bought PayPal for $1.5 billion. Today, Paypal is the
leading global online payment transfer provider.
So what did Elon Musk do next? Sit back and enjoy his millions? Nope. He set out to take on some even bigger, and
arguably much more important innovation challenges. Indeed, as Chris Anderson put it last year in a Wired magazine
interview, “he decided to disrupt the most difficult-to-master industries in the world”.
The first of these challenges was reinventing space rocket technology – a field that was
assumed to be the exclusive territory of large government-funded organizations like NASA –
with the audacious goal of reducing the cost of rocket launches by a factor of 10. Another
challenge was reinvigorating space exploration itself (NASA’s efforts were being choked by
continuous budget cuts), with the even more audacious goal of launching a privately-funded
manned mission to Mars within 10 to 20 years. In June 2002, Musk founded SpaceX with
$100 million of his early fortune, and set out to redesign space rockets and space exploration
from scratch, challenging a plethora of orthodoxies and assumptions that had been around since the 1960s.
His initial and most fundamental question was “Why do space rockets have to be so expensive?” Musk took a look at the
actual material cost of a space rocket – the aluminum alloys, titanium, copper, and carbon fiber – and found that it
represented only about 2 percent of the typical price of the rocket itself. So, having decided that this was a crazy and
unacceptable ratio, he set out to design and build his own space rockets (!) at a fraction of the normal cost.
In the process, Musk identified all kinds of absurdities in the aerospace market.
He found that it was largely bogged down by bureaucracy, and locked into legacy technologies from the past, which was
keeping prices unnecessarily high. By challenging these absurdities, Musk was able to figure out ways of doing things that
he calculates could save US taxpayers at least a billion dollars a year.
Over the last decade, Musk’s SpaceX team has designed, built and launched a whole series of next-generation rockets
that have literally changed industry economics. In 2008, NASA awarded SpaceX a $1.6 billion contract for 12 cargo flights
to and from the International Space Station, effectively replacing the Space Shuttle. And on May 25th, 2012, SpaceX
made history when its Dragon spacecraft became the first commercial vehicle in history to successfully dock with the
International Space Station.
Another important question Musk asked was, “Why can’t space rockets be reusable?”. Most people think the space
shuttle was reusable, but in fact the main tank was thrown away after every flight, and the refurbishment of other parts
before each new mission was so expensive that the shuttle actually cost four times more than an expendable rocket with
its sequentially ejected stages.
Musk’s argument is that full and rapid reusability is “the fundamental thing that’s necessary for humanity to become a
space-faring civilization. America would never have been colonized if ships weren’t reusable.” So SpaceX has made this
another primary goal. In 2010, it became the first private company to successfully launch a spacecraft into Earth’s orbit
and then bring it back. And now Musk is testing his incredibly ambitious “Grasshopper Project”, which is a huge Falcon 9
rocket that can take off, go into orbit, then turn around and return to the launch site, landing vertically, like something from
a 1950s Sci-fi movie.
All of this has been just a precursor to Musk’s ultimate goal of colonizing space.
SpaceX’s first manned flights – under a NASA award – are expected in 2015. And, after radically reducing the cost of
space flight and making rockets reusable, Musk’s original question “Why can’t we send people to Mars?” (the question
that drove him to found SpaceX in the first place), doesn’t seem so ridiculous after all.
Oh and, by the way, in his spare time Elon Musk is also reinventing the way we drive. In 2003, he co-founded Tesla
Motors to create affordable mass market all-electric vehicles for mainstream consumers. Ten years later, his Tesla Model
S is the third best-selling luxury car in California (the biggest economy in America and the 12th largest in the world), after
Mercedes and BMW, with a 12.7% share of the market.
The Model S has received the highest Consumer Reports score of any car since 2007, and has picked up numerous
awards. Tesla has understandably become a favorite on the NYSE, with the stock up 185% this year (2013), and 72%
over the last month alone. Shares are up 447% since the company went public in late June 2010. In fact, Tesla’s market
capitalization has risen by more than $4 billion since May 8, hitting a recent high of $10.7 billion, putting SpaceX on a par
(in terms of market cap) with Staples, Tiffany and Whirlpool. The company has recently raised a billion dollars of new
cash, and has paid off its half-a-billion dollar federal loan (part of Obama’s clean energy program) almost a decade early.
Not bad for a venture that everyone in the automobile industry predicted would be a disaster.
Again, Musk’s whole success story is based on his propensity for challenging industry orthodoxies. In the “All Things
Digital” interview mentioned earlier, he talks about two false assumptions that have dominated the thinking of Detroit’s
senior executives for decades. First, “that you couldn’t make a compelling electric car – one that was aesthetically
appealing, long-range, and high performance.” And, second, “that even if you did all those things, people would still not
buy it because it was electric.” There also were other deeply-held and widely-shared beliefs that had put the brakes on the
electric car opportunity for years (following GM’S failed foray into this space in the 1990s with the EV-1). Musk had been
told, “You’ll never be able to bring it to market, you’ll never be able to produce it in volumes, and you’ll never be able to
make a profit.” But, although it’s early days and the jury’s still out, it would seem that these industry “experts” may all have
been completely wrong.
In addition to transforming space travel and automobiles, Elon Musk is transforming energy with SolarCity, a startup that
leases solar-power systems to homeowners as well as educational, commercial and governmental users. And he has also
hinted at another breakthrough project he has been working on in secret, called Hyperloop. He admits that he was irritated
when he found out about the Californian government’s proposal to invest $60 billion in a bullet train project from LA to San
Francisco, because, as he argues, it would be “the slowest bullet train in the world at the highest cost per mile”. As an
alternative, Musk is proposing a hypothetical mode of high-speed transportation that he describes as a “cross between a
Concorde and a railgun and an air hockey table”. He estimates that the cost of his SF-LA Hyperloop would be about $6
billion, one tenth as costly as the proposed high speed rail serving those cities.
“We have planes, trains, automobiles and boats,” Musk says. “What if there was a fifth mode?”. And here is his own
tantalizing description of this “fifth mode of transportation”:
“How would you like something that can never crash, is immune to weather, it goes 3 or 4 times faster than the bullet
train… it goes an average speed of twice what an aircraft would do. You would go from downtown LA to downtown San
Francisco in under 30 minutes. It would cost you much less than an air ticket or than any other mode of transport. I think
we could actually make it self-powering if you put solar panels on it, you could generate more power than you would
consume in the system. There’s a way to store the power so it would run 24/7 without using batteries.”
Nobody knows exactly what Musk has in mind. But his track record as an innovator affords him enough credibility to be
taken seriously, even if he’s talking about “a ground-based Concorde” or a kind of “railgun” without rails, that can travel at
speeds of more than 685 mph (1,102 km/h). Let’s face it, with ideas like these, anyone but Elon Musk would be
discounted as a nutcase. But it’s exactly by delivering on his big, radical ideas (remind anyone of Steve Jobs?) that he
has become such an innovation icon. This week, Rolfe Winkler of The Wall Street Journal wrote, “Each time Mr. Musk
delivers a better, less-expensive electric car or launches another rocket successfully, he proves his doubters wrong”.
Jon Favreau, director of the first two Iron Man movies, famously modeled the on-screen character of Tony Stark, the
eccentric billionaire inventor, on Musk. And in an article for Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World”,
Favreau described Musk as “a Renaissance man in an era that needs them.” That’s as good a description as any for this
INVITATION FROM THE AUTHOR:
“Challenging Orthodoxies” is one of The Four Lenses of Innovation I describe in my bestselling book Innovation to the
Core (Harvard Business Press) – the other three lenses are “Harnessing Trends”, “Leveraging Resources”, and
I’m currently collecting other compelling examples of “Challenging Orthodoxies” from all kinds of companies,
industries and individual innovators. If you have a brief case, example or story you want to share, either from your own
experience, reading or research, or from your own company, I’d love to hear from you either by email at
firstname.lastname@example.org or as a comment on this article. And of course I’ll give you a big, personal acknowledgment in
my upcoming book, which is published next year. So, what are the one or two best innovation examples of
“Challenging Orthodoxies” you can think of?
Email me or simply comment on this article today.
image credits: allthingsd.com; teslamotors.com
Rowan Gibson, co-founder of Innovationexcellence.com, is one of today’s foremost thought leaders on business innovation.
He is co-author of the bestseller Innovation to the Core and a much in-demand public speaker in 60 countries around the
world. You can follow him on Twitter @RowanGibson
A Brilliantly Simple Way to Boost our Creativity
Posted on June 8, 2013 by Jerome Provensal
In this fascinating Scientific American article, the authors (Oren Shapira and
Nira Liberman) tell us that creativity is not bound by the sole innate
characteristics of an individual and can in fact be changed based on situation
Consider this experiment: 2 groups of participants from the Indiana University
were asked to list as many different modes of transportation as possible. The
first group was told that the task had been developed by Indiana University
students studying in Greece and the second group was told instead that the
task had been developed by Indiana University students studying in Indiana. The first group was able to generate more
numerous and original modes of transportation that the second group.
How can such a minute detail have any significant influence on creativity?!
This phenomenon is referred as “Construal Level Theory (CLT) of Psychological Distance”, i.e. anything that we do
not experience as occurring now and here. Attempting to take another person’s perspective or by thinking of a question as
if it were unreal and unlikely, also fall in to that category of “psychological distant”.
According to CLT, psychological distance affects how we mentally represent things, where distant things are represented
in an abstract way. Once classified as abstract (vs. concrete), it seems that the mind get an extra boost of creativity in
solving or manipulating those abstract things.
Studies have also shown that projecting an event into the remote future can enhance creativity. In a series of experiments
examining how temporal distance affects performance of insight and creativity tasks, participants were asked to imagine
their lives a year later (distant future) or the next day (near future), and then to imagine working on a task on that day in
the future. Once again, participants who imagined a distant future were more creative and insightful.
Finally, evidence shows that study participants were more successful at solving problems when they believe that they
were unlikely to encounter the full task.
These findings have interesting practical implications. One can take simple
steps to increase creativity by:
travelling (in person or just thinking about it) to faraway places,
envisioning distant future and
considering improbable alternatives to reality.
So, next time you are stuck on a problem that requires creativity, just picture yourself in a faraway place, in a far future,
dreaming up of unlikely scenarios.
Now, if you do this in a shower, there will be no stopping you!
Questions/Comments? Use the comment box below.
image credit: http://bit.ly/Wj349m
Jérôme Provensal is Director of Software Development for a leading FinTech company and blogs from LightBulbBites.
He is a Software Engineer by training and passion, with a MS in Computer Science and IT Systems from Université
Pierre et Marie Curie. Born, raised and educated in France, he’s resided in the US (Los Angeles) for 20+ years.
Phone as Bank: Are You Ready for Disruptive Innovation?
Posted on June 7, 2013 by Holly G Green
Does your bank fit inside your cell phone?
If not, it soon will. And if today’s banks don’t come to terms with this fact very soon (as in
starting yesterday), they may no longer exist in 10 or even five years. How’s that for
I just finished reading Bank 3.0 –Why Banking Is No Longer Somewhere You Go But
What You Do by Brett King. If this book doesn’t convince you that the world is changing
faster that most of us can imagine, nothing will! It also puts to rest a common thought bubble that many business leaders
are desperately clinging to: new technologies may shake things up a bit, but they won’t disrupt my industry.
In his well-researched book, King asserts that the mobile phone (in conjunction with the Internet) is causing a shift in bank
practices and distribution models like nothing that has come before. Very soon, this will result in a highly mobile, portable
banking world that is light years away from the traditional model of delivering goods and services through branch offices.
Banks that fail to adapt to this new model will be replaced by upstarts (i.e., industry outsiders) that use new technologies
to completely redefine what it means to bank.
The most fundamental change is that instead of heading to the nearest branch to conduct our banking needs, we will
literally carry our bank with us wherever we go. The institutions that succeed in this radically new banking world will be
those that use digital technologies to facilitate seamless mobile financial transactions whenever and wherever the
The implications, not just to bankers but to all types of financial institutions, are staggering!
Imagine that you’ve spent the last quarter of a century developing and refining a business model that revolves around
building large numbers of physical branches. Now, your customer is saying, “I don’t want to come to your branches
anymore. I want to bank wherever I am. If you don’t offer that kind of mobility, I’ll take my business to someone who will.”
This not only demands that banks change virtually everything they do, it also leads the playing field wide open for new
players that aren’t encumbered with billion-dollar investments in branch assets and entrenched ways of thinking.
How do you prepare for change of this magnitude in your industry? Here are a few suggestions as you head down this
uncertain but necessary path:
Get out of denial. Disruptive change is here to stay. If it hasn’t hit your industry yet, it’s only a matter of time. So pull your
head out of the sand and start thinking about how your industry will change and when.
Do an industry status check. How much has your industry changed in the last five years? 10? 25? Industries with the
least amount of change are the ripest for disruption.
Examine your assumptions. The more you’re absolutely, positively sure you know what your customers want, they
harder it is to let go of old ways of thinking. When was the last time you checked your thought bubbles against real,
Expand your idea of competitive threats. Stop focusing just on existing competition and start looking at where you
might be vulnerable to threats outside your industry. For example, VISA and Mastercard require a huge, global
infrastructure for their credit card transactions. Very soon, however, all that will be required to facilitate payments is a cell
phone and the appropriate apps. Goodbye barriers to entry; hello wide-open playing field.
Stop resisting social media. It took five to 10 years for companies to really figure out how to do business on the Internet.
We’re now reaching that point with social media. Stop seeing it as just a tool for blasting marketing messages to your
target markets. Start exploring ways to use it to facilitate delivery of your products and services.
Expand your data sources. Even when you expect disruptive change, it can be hard to see where it will come from and
what it will look like. Make it a habit to gather data from outside your industry. Look at how other industries are getting
blown up and see how those lessons might apply to yours. Ask yourself, what new technologies could remove existing
barriers to entry in our industry? Who might jump in once they are gone?
Personally, I’m looking forward to not having to go to a bank anymore. Which begs two very important questions. What
are your customers looking forward to not having to do anymore? And who will give it to them — you or someone else?
Call to action: Read Bank 3.0 and apply the principles to your industry.
image credit: money.howstuffworks.com
Holly is the CEO of THE HUMAN FACTOR, Inc. (www.TheHumanFactor.biz) and is a highly sought after and acclaimed
speaker, business consultant, and author. Her unique approach to creating strategic agility, helping others go slow to go fast,
will change your thinking.
4 Ways Technology Is Transforming Business
Posted on June 6, 2013 by Greg Satell
When Clayton Christensen was a newly minted professor at Harvard
Business School and began his famous study of why companies fail, he
took an unusual approach.
He wanted to look not just at any companies, but successful ones. The
kind whose stocks were once high flyers and whose CEO’s graced the
covers of top business magazines. Not the losers, but the winners who
stumbled and fell. What he found was startling.
While he expected to see once great companies who lost their way, what
he found was firms that followed all of the best practices taught at
business schools like his. In other words, he found that technology shifts
can radically change business principles. Today, as the technology continues to evolve, we need to take these four shifts
1. We Think in Linear Terms, but Technology Moves at an Exponential Pace
Business schools teach us to be logical and methodical, but the truth is that we’re not as rational as we’d like to think.
Executives need to make thousands of decisions and speed is important, so we take short cuts, relying on rules of thumb
to fill in the gaps in our data.
Therefore, we often extrapolate, using personal experience to make common sense judgments. The problem is that
today’s business environment is fraught with S-curves and non-linear digital laws, not the step-by-step advance that we
experience on a journey in the physical world.
What’s driving the change is the increasing informational content of our products and services. We used to operate in an
economy of atoms, in which value was created by transforming matter and energy. Nowadays, value is often created by
design through informationally driven technologies such as CAD software, 3-D printing and genomics.
Technology pioneer Ray Kurzweil predicts that in the future, “all technologies will essentially become information
technologies, including energy.” So exponential rates of progress will increasingly become the norm.
2. Scale Advantages Have Diminished
Banks used to be situated in large, ornate buildings that radiated size and power. The idea was that scale meant safety.
Doing business with a big company meant that you could be sure that they would be around in the future and could stand
by their promises. In those days, no one ever got fired for buying IBM.
That was then, this is now. Of the 500 companies on Fortune’s original list of the largest companies, only 71 were still
there as of 2008 . Their scale provided little insulation from market forces. Meanwhile, companies like Google, Facebook
and Instagram spring up out of nowhere, becoming billion dollar companies overnight.
That’s the essence of the new semantic economy. Upstarts can get access to resources that used to be available only to
large ones. Whether it’s infrastructure in the cloud, outsourced manufacturing or capital from angels, VC’s and
crowdfunding, very few industries still have significant barriers to entry.
About the only real advantage that incumbents have these days is the ability to hire lobbyists through trade associations
and that is often more a sign of weakness than of strength.
3. Business Models No Longer Last
In the industrial age, a company’s business model didn’t change much. The way a firm would create, deliver and
capture value could stay fairly constant for generations. The practice of management was mostly focused on execution. If
you could move men and material efficiently, buy for a dollar and sell for two, you’d be successful, sometimes enormously
As Saul Kaplan rightly points out in his excellent book, The Business Model Innovation Factory, that’s no longer true.
We have come to expect a number of upheavals in any given industry during the course of a career or even within a
decade. With scale advantages disappearing, no one is immune. We all have to adapt.
What’s more, the process is accelerating. As technological cycles compress and planning cycles struggle to keep up,
we need to experiment more and plan less. This is creating a strategic shift where strategy becomes more emergent,
collaborative and Bayesian.
4. The Lunatics Run The Asylum
Way back in 1969, while hippies were making their pilgrimage to Woodstock and Niel Armstrong was preparing for his
moonwalk, Peter Drucker was predicting the oncoming of a new age, which he called the knowledge economy, where
managers would have to supervise subordinates who had expertise that they themselves lacked.
One of the key ramifications that he foresaw was that we have to treat almost everyone as if they were a volunteer. No
amount of monitoring and auditing can suffice. Control becomes a dangerous illusion in a knowledge economy.
The result is we’re at the mercy of the lowest common denominator. No one cares what the CEO says in the annual report
if the front line people aren’t performing well and making good decisions. Business moves too fast and is far too complex
for rules and regulations to drive competent performance.
The lunatics run the asylum, the best that managers can do is help them run it right.
The Ramifications of an Information Economy and Accelerating Returns
While there is no lack of discussion about the digital age, I’m not sure that we’ve fully accepted the consequences of the
transition from atoms to bits.
It’s not just that technology is moving faster, the rate of change is actually accelerating and that alters the logic by
which we need to operate. Our intuition and experience lead us to assume a much slower pace.
Further, as the informational content of products and services increases, the economics change. While material and
energy costs become less important, the information component is becoming exponentially more efficient. We’ve seen
this in computer hardware and software, but now we’re seeing it in life sciences and even manufacturing.
Everywhere you look, efficiency is being automated. From robots in factories to pattern recognition software that
automates analytical tasks, machine capabilities are replacing human ones in every area except one: our ability to interact
with each other. That’s the essence of the new passion economy.
In a fully automated age, the only truly valuable asset will be the human spirit.
image credit: hbr.com
Greg Satell is an internationally recognized authority on Digital Strategy and Innovation. He consults and speaks in the
areas of digital innovation, innovation management, digital marketing and publishing, as well as offshore web and app
development. His blog is Digital Tonto and you can follow him on Twitter.
Microsoft ReOrg – Crafty or Confusing?
Posted on June 8, 2013 by Adam Hartung
Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer appears to be planning a major
reorganization. The apparent objective is to help the company
move toward becoming a “devices and services company” as
presented in the company’s annual shareholder letter last
But, the question for investors is whether this is a crafty move
that will help Microsoft launch renewed profitable growth, or is
it leadership further confusing customers and analysts while
leaving Microsoft languishing in stalled markets? After all, the
shares are up some 31% the last 6 months and it is a good
time to decide if an investor should buy, hold or sell.
There are a lot of things not going well for Microsoft right now.
Everyone knows PC sales have started dropping. IDC recently lowered its forecast for 2013 from a decline of 1.3% to
negative 7.8%. The mobile market is already larger than PC sales, and IDC now expects tablet sales (excluding
smartphones) will surpass PCs in 2015. Because the PC is Microsoft’s “core” market – producing almost all the
company’s profitability – declining sales are not a good thing.
Microsoft hoped Windows 8 would reverse the trend. That has not happened. Unfortunately, ever since being launched
Windows 8 has underperformed the horrific sales of Vista. Eight months into the new product it is selling at about half
the rate Vista did back in 2007 – which was the worst launch in company history. Win8 still has fewer users than Vista,
and at 4% share 1/10th the share of market leaders Windows 7 and XP.
Microsoft is launching an update to Windows 8, called Windows 8.1 or “blue.” But rather than offering a slew of new
features to please an admiring audience the release looks more like an early “fix” of things users simply don’t like, such
as bringing back the old “start” button. Reviewers aren’t talking about how exciting the update is, but rather wondering if
these admissions of poor initial design will slow conversion to tablets.
And tablets are still the market where Microsoft isn’t – even if it did pioneer the product years before the iPad. Bloomberg
reported that Microsoft has been forced to cut the price of RT. So far historical partners such as HP and HTC have
shunned Windows tablets, leaving Acer the lone company putting out Windows a mini-tab, and Dell (itself struggling with
its efforts to go private) the only company declaring a commitment to future products.
And whether it’s too late for mobile Windows is very much a real question. At the last shareholder meeting Nokia’s
investors cried loud and hard for management to abandon its commitment to Microsoft in favor of returning to old
operating systems or moving forward with Android. This many years into the game, and with the Google and Apple
ecosystems so far in the lead, Microsoft needed a game changer if it was to grab substantial share. But Win 8 has not
proven to be a game changer.
In an effort to develop its own e-reader market Microsoft dumped some $300million into Barnes & Noble’s Nook last year.
But the e-reader market is fast disappearing as it is overtaken by more general-purpose tablets such as the Kindle Fire.
Yet, Microsoft appears to be pushing good money after bad by upping its investment by another $1B to buy the rest of
Nook, apparently hoping to obtain enough content to keep the market alive when Barnes & Noble goes the way of
Borders. But chasing content this late, behind Amazon, Apple and Google, is going to be much more costly than $1B –
and an even lower probability than winning in hardware or software.
Then there’s the new Microsoft Office. In late May Microsoft leadership hoped investors would be charmed to hear that
1M $99 subscriptions had been sold in 3.5 months. However, that was to an installed base of hundreds of millions of
PCs – a less than thrilling adoption rate for such a widely used product. Companies that reached 1M subscribers from a
standing (no installed base) start include Instagram in 2.5 months, Spotify in 5 months, Dropbox in 7 months and
Facebook (which pioneered an entire new marketplace in Social) in only 10 months. One could have easily expected a
much better launch for a product already so widely used, and offered at about a third the price of previous licenses.
A new xBox was launched on May 21st. Unfortunately, like all digital markets gaming is moving increasingly mobile,
and consoles show all the signs of going the way of desktop computers. Microsoft hopes xBox can become the hub of the
family room, but we’re now in a market where a quarter of homes lead by people under 50 don’t really use “the family
room” any longer.
xBox might have had a future as an enterprise networking hub, but so far Kinnect has not even been marketed as a tool
for business, and it has not yet incorporated the full network functionality (such as Skype) necessary to succeed at
creating this new market against competitors like Cisco.
Thankfully, after more than a decade losing money, xBox reached break-even recently. However, margins are only 15%,
compared to historical Microsoft margins of 60% in “core” products. It would take a major growth in gaming, plus a big
market share gain, for Microsoft to hope to replace lost PC profits with xBox sales. Microsoft has alluded to xBox being
the next iTunes, but lacking mobility, or any other game changer, it is very hard to see how that claim holds water.
The Microsoft re-org has highlighted 3 new divisions focused on servers and tools, Skype/Lync and xBox. What is to
happen with the business which has driven three decades of Microsoft growth – operating systems and office software –
is, well, unclear. How upping the focus on these three businesses, so late in the market cycle, and with such low
profitability will re-invigorate Microsoft’s value is, well, unclear.
In fact, given how Microsoft has historically made money it is wholly unclear what being a “devices and services” company
means. And this re-organization does nothing to make it clear.
My past columns on Microsoft have led some commenters to call me a “Microsoft hater.” That is not true. More apt would
be to say I am a Microsoft bear. Its historical core market is shrinking, and Microsoft’s leadership invested far too much
developing new products for that market in hopes the decline would be delayed – which did not work. By trying to defend
and extend the PC world Microsoft’s leaders chose to ignore the growing mobile market (smartphones and tablets) until
far too late – and with products which were not game changers.
Although Microsoft’s leaders invested heavily in acquisitions and other markets (Skype, Nook, xBox recently) those very
large investments came far too late, and did little to change markets in Microsoft’s favor. None of these have created
much excitement, and recently Rick Sherland at Nomura securities came out with a prediction that Microsoft might well
sell the xBox division (a call I made in this column back in January.)
As consumers, suppliers and investors we like the idea of a near-monopoly. It gives us comfort to believe we can trust in a
market leader to bring out new products upon which we can rely – and which will continue to make long-term profits. But,
good as this feels, it has rarely been successful. Markets shift, and historical leaders fall as new competitors emerge;
largely because the old leadership continues investing in what they know rather than shifting investments early into new
This Microsoft reorganization appears to be rearranging the chairs on the Titanic. The mobile iceberg has slashed a huge
gash in Microsoft’s PC hull. Leadership keeps playing familiar songs, but the boat cannot float without those historical PC
profits. Investors would be smart to flee in the lifeboat of recent share price gains.
image credit: cnet
Adam Hartung, author of Create Marketplace Disruption, is a Faculty and Board member of the Lake Forest Graduate School
of Management, Managing Partner of Spark Partners, and writes for Forbes and the Journal for Innovation Science.
Posted on June 9, 2013 by Greg Satell
…Why 140 Characters is Better than a Flying Car
Progress is a funny thing. As Bruce Gibney noted in the Founders Fund
Manifesto, we were expecting to have flying cars by now, but ended up with 140
characters instead. What gives?
And Mr. Gibney isn’t the only one to question progress. From Nassim Taleb to
Evgeny Morozov, a fair number of highly intelligent and very well informed
people are arguing that, for all of the hubbub, what we consider to be
technological progress isn’t really all that meaningful.
I believe that much of the criticism stems from a misunderstanding about the function and purpose
While skeptics are right to point out that the basic functionality of many inventions hasn’t improved for decades (or even
centuries), our goal for the future should not be to merely improve upon the past, but to advance beyond it.
The Great Debate
Probably the strongest critic of technological progress is Robert Gordon, who published an influential paper on the
subject. His argument is twofold. Firstly, he contends that we are facing six headwinds (e.g. aging population, debt,
pollution, etc.) that reduce productivity growth.
Secondly, he points to indications that the progress of the industrial age was driven by one-time events, such as the
discovery of the steam engine, the internal combustion engine and electricity, while the productivity improvements of the
computer age have been short lived and won’t be able to overcome the six headwinds he identified.
On the other side is Erik Brynjolfsson who argues in his book (along with Andrew McAfee) that information technology
provides accelerating returns which are just beginning to filter into the physical world. In his view, the new industrial
revolution, driven by robots and algorithms, has just begun.
(Brynjolfsson and Gordon presented and then debated their arguments at TED 2013. I’ve included the videos at the end
of this post).
With all due respect to both men, I feel that their arguments fall short in that they focus on dueling statistics and largely
miss the underlying societal change that technology brings about. As longtime technology observer Rishad Tobaccowala
often says, the future does not fit in the containers of the past.
At the heart of the confusion is a misunderstanding of what drives technology. Both Gordon and Brynjolfsson focus on the
things that we build. However, as Martin Heidegger argued in his landmark 1950 essay, we don’t build technology as
much as we uncover it and put it to use in a particular context (a process he refers to as “enframing”).
He gives the example of a hydroelectric dam:
The hydroelectric plant is set into the current of the Rhine. It sets the Rhine to supplying its
hydraulic pressure, which then sets the turbines turning. This turning sets those machines in motion
whose thrust sets going the electric current for which the long-distance power station and its
network of cables are set up to dispatch electricity. In the context of the interlocking processes
pertaining to the orderly disposition of electrical energy, even the Rhine itself appears to be
something at our command.
So the dam itself isn’t technology, but its agent, much like Facebook and Twitter aren’t social networks, but tools for
uncovering particular truths about human relationships that have always existed. It is through unlocking those forces that
Therefore, to compare computers with steam engines and electricity desperately misses the point. It is not the tools of
technology that we should be focusing on, but the opportunities that we are presented with when natural forces are
revealed and put to good use.
Building Dwelling Thinking
Everybody is deeply affected by the particular context in which they live and work. Gordon, for example, is a 72 year-old
economist who dedicated his career to the study of broad macroeconomic trends, while Brynjolfsson is a 51 year-old
economist who works alongside the technological wizards at MIT.
Heidegger, was a German who was deeply affected by World War II. In the late 40’s and early 50’s Germany was in
shambles; physically, economically and in spirit. It was during this period that he wrote, Building Dwelling Thinking, in
which he argued that rebuilding Germany would entail much more than the mere construction of edifices.
However hard and bitter, however hampering and threatening the lack of houses remains, the real
plight of dwelling does not lie merely in a lack of houses. The real plight of dwelling is indeed older
than the world wars with their destruction, older also than the increase of the earth’s population
and the condition of the industrial workers. The real dwelling plight lies in this, that mortals ever
search anew for the nature of dwelling, that they must ever learn to dwell.
It is much the same way with technology. The forces we uncover and put to use will have a profound effect on what we
build, how we live and how we think. Much like the automobile enabled suburbs, shopping malls and the consumer
culture, the new information age is changing how we work, design our cities and see our place in the world.
Therefore, it is misguided, if not dangerous, to try to judge new technology in the context of old paradigms. Completely
different forces are being uncovered and put to wholly distinctive uses. A supersonic flight will always be subject to the
limits of Newtonian physics; a Skype call is not.
In my own particular context of spending most of my adult life in the emerging economies of Eastern Europe, I have been
able to see this effect up close. While it takes decades to build infrastructure, the benefits of the information age are
diffused at lightning speed. Research suggests that the effect in Asia and Africa may be even more dramatic.
However, it is not the forces of energy trapped in chemical bonds or even the awesome power of the atom that we are
now beginning to unleash, but human potential itself. While that may not manifest itself in large physical artifacts or
supersonic speed, it matters, possibly more so than anything that has come before.
The Economics of Well-Being
The advancements of the 20th century were impressive. Human and animal labor were replaced by machine power,
enabling us to build massive structures and overcome the limits of time, distance and physical endurance. The result was
a massive increase in economic output and life expectancy and an equally important reduction in poverty
However, while everybody would like to have more material wealth, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that
beyond a certain point it does us little good. For example, Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman has found that there is little
benefit from income gains beyond a household income of $75,000.
And so, by evaluating new technology through old metrics we ignore the economics of well-being and risk confusing
value creation with value capture. Does a banker with a multimillion-dollar bonus really represent a greater contribution
than Tim-Berners-Lee or Linus Torvalds? .
In a similar vein, is the Skype call between my child and her grandmother on another continent really worthless because
its free? Should we evaluate fossil fuels, which are detrimental to our health and contribute to health care costs, the same
way we do clean technology that has a much smaller environmental footprint?
In the final analysis, the value of a technology isn’t its capacity to improve on achievements of the past but to unlock the
potential of a better future.
image credit: 140characters.ie
Greg Satell is an internationally recognized authority on Digital Strategy and Innovation. He consults and speaks in the
areas of digital innovation, innovation management, digital marketing and publishing, as well as offshore web and app
development. His blog is Digital Tonto and you can follow him on Twitter.
The Design Manager Comprehensive Role in Innovation
Process – Patrick Le Quément
Posted on June 7, 2013 by Nicolas Bry
What is a design manager? Is it someone who is active in design
Well yes and no, or rather not completely as it implies only a part of the
responsibilities of a design manager and that, in some companies, design
management is not the Design department’s responsibility, it’s often in the
hands of the Marketing activity.
Design management and managing design team
Design management is principally concerned with the brand, creating a
vision, developing it into a plan, deploying it, making regular checks on how it is progressing, correcting the trajectory
whenever that is necessary, making a step by step journey towards excellence, towards creating even more value… Aim
towards that nirvana for our brand that we all aspire to reach.
(Also read the “design ladder” model which provides three levels for design: design seen as style, performance or
Yes but, a design manager what does that mean if it is not related to design management? The very notion of the verb
«manage» is interesting, it suggests to achieve by whatever means, to carry on despite difficulties or again, to succeed in
accomplishing despite obstacles… as in : «I managed to get the last 2 tickets to the cup final».
I manage a group of designers, or I’m the design manager? Managing a team of designers does not seem to warrant
further explanations, or does it?
Let me tell you that looking after the destiny of a team of designers, on a daily basis, is no picnic. Managing them is a little
like watching with great attention a saucepan full of milk on a gas stove. Stressing! as the risk of spilling over if you wait
too long are real, and the consequences annoying, but if you take the saucepan off the stove too soon, the risk maybe
that you will have to face a mug full of lukewarm milk, which I don’t know about you, but it always makes me feel sick.
So, what is a good design manager? It’s someone who will leave the saucepan on the stove long enough to be at the right
temperature, keeps himself focused, and takes a timely decision, what else?
A timely professional
A design manager must be an excellent administrator who encourages beyond reproach behavior in order to avoid the
prejudice associated with «arty types», which would reduce to ashes the carefully built edifice of creative excellence. If the
team of a design manager is often referred to «that bunch of artists» the thing is beyond repair. The worm is in the apple,
it signals the end is not far, the fruit will soon crash rotten to the ground.
A good design manager will know how to orient his team towards excellence in order for it to be acknowledged as a well
managed team. It will, for example, always arrive on time, (I never want to hear again : «We’re just waiting for Design»), it
will anticipate, prepare its presentation meticulously, communicate beforehand with its partners, its logistics will be be at
the very best level, it will not allow its monthly reporting systems to be late : be it its overtime statements, the projects
worked upon or its traveling expenses.
Its reflexions will be nourished by a 360° approach, whilst making the team’s right hemisphere work at full power, after all,
it is their most precious asset. A good design manager will run his team like a high level sport organization, in order to
obtain a highly creative output.
And that, only allows you to have a right to speak, not to be relegated as being a group of teenagers, nice bunch of
people, but that cannot be trusted for the more serious stuff. But if, by chance, a design manager understands the
importance of passing the day to day examination, that finally allows the word designer to be associated with the word
rigor… Well then, the Design entity will not only have a say in the company but more than that, it will be able to claim a
strategic role, if of course it has the intellectual qualities, that is…
A listening leader
But then what is a design manager as viewed by his own team? It’s someone who ensures that his team remains at it’s
highest potential level of creativity. He will be attentive to maintaining a careful balance, knowing that a good team spirit is
something very delicate to nurture, particularly as today, teamwork has replaced the solitary genius.
And yet the design manager knows that within his team, he has champions but also close seconds, and others… that
even though we may find the George Orwell citation from Animal Farm cruel : «Everybody is equal, but some are more
equal to others», a team could be looked upon as being made up of losers and winers, the losers being the majority of
those whose projects have not been chosen. The design manager has to be able to handle such a sensitive moment
when a designer learns that the project he has worked upon for so long has not been selected. He will make sure that no
one loses face in this peer to peer relationship, he will know how to deal when that moment comes and someone realizes
: «My project has not been chosen».
For design is a question of feelings, of engagement, of what I am, of the deeper me. So is this an impossible mission in
which our design manager can only but fail? And what if… What if the design manager shared openly with the whole team
the project? What if he sponsored each of the propositions made by the individual designers, encouraging each one to per
sue an individual path, promoting the notion of a design open house where each one is given a specific mission?
For then, at the moment the choice is made by the client, the projects that have not been selected can no longer be
described as failures, they will have all taken part in the team’s exploratory phase, each one contributing to a part of the
creative overview, leading to the emergence of the selected project. And that is for me the key to a team in full bloom.
In the case where designers work within multidisciplinary teams, be they as members of an innovation team, or perhaps
a feature team, the design manager should not step back and abandon his team member to the manager in charge of the
entity. This is what I have too often witnessed, and it invariably leads to the creation of animosity and organizational
dysfunctions. On the contrary, it’s all important that the design manager maintains an even closer relationship with the
designer, helping him, coaching him to better contribute to the project team as a whole, and amongst other things : to
distill creative free flowing approaches that might not be common practice to other members of the project team.
So all is well, our Design team is in high spirits but, vis à vis the outside world, out there it can be cold and hostile, is our
radiant team performing at its best level as a whole, or is it starting to purr like a self satisfied cat?
A holistic chef
A design manager is not only responsible for the performance of his team at a given moment, he also has the
responsibility to make sure that, where it is going is not a dead end. How many design teams have corked the
Champagne following a well deserved success without noticing that it was driving on an almost empty fuel tank, that it
was feeding itself on petits fours and forgetting to nourish it’s source of inspiration? How many designers entered the
boulevard of mediocrity without even noticing?
Without inspiration, without external influences coming from the parallel worlds that exist all around us, we designers can
become rapidly experts in our thing, we can lose the contact with the real world, the people, their habits, the permanently
changing culture, the appearance of weak signals.
I’ve always been struck by this phenomena so often to be found with impassioned individuals, as for example automobile
designers. Of course automobile design can become addictive, it can very quickly materialize in a closed world to outside
influences, it then becomes a selective passion which eventually turns out to be an exclusive obsession. That is why, in
the year 2000, when I clearly noticed that the creative inspiration of our team was waning, I proposed to our automobile
designers to participate in a program called Trend Missions (which phonetically is close to Transmission): we took them
out of their close environment, their comfort zone, we took them to the Milan Furniture Fair, we accompanied small groups
of 5 to 6 designers for a 3 day discovery, meeting and exchanging with remarkable designers coming from other planets,
be it Ross Lovegrove, Tom Dixon, Ingo Maurer, Patricia Urquiola, Richard Sapper, or Jean-Marie Massaud…
We also visited extraordinary cities like Stockholm, Barcelona, London, Berlin, Tokyo, Moscow or New York. Each time
we encouraged debates to take place, meetings, exchanges, and we made videos in order to share with those who were
not lucky enough to join the trip.
Soon enough the videos were shared with our closest
colleagues in other departments, Product Planing,
Marketing, Advanced Engineering and then it spread like
a bush fire, and the President himself was always keen
to have his review and ask pertinent questions.
Thus Corporate Design was able to instill an overture, to
encourage a far greater sense of curiosity to its
designers, which progressively turned into a new wind of
change within the whole company. And that is also the
mission of a DESIGN MANAGER, which we then can
write with capital letters.
Patrick le Quément is a world famous Car Designer. Patrick’s motto is Design = Quality; his structural changes of Renault
design were to develop an independent and innovative formal language, turning Renault Design in an effective brand
Patrick is now working as independant Designer, and President of the Advisory Board “the Sustainable Design School”.
image credits: www.complydirect.com, unmaldesmots.blogspot.com, jdca2025.wordpress.com, www.flickr.com, www.interiordesign.net,
Nicolas is a senior VP at Orange Innovation Group. Serial innovator, he set-up creative BU with an international challenge,
and a focus on new TV experiences. Forward thinker, he completed a thesis on “Rapid Innovation”, implemented
successfully at Orange, and further developed at nbry.wordpress.com. He tweets @nicobry
Innovation is All Relative
Posted on June 10, 2013 by Kevin McFarthing
Many words and expressions are clearly relative, such as “larger” or
“smaller”. These are easy adjectives as they often invite the word
“than” after them. Other words are more subtly relative, like
innovation; not grammatically but inherently.
These thoughts were crystallized in an online discussion with Jorge
Barba on the subject of innovation failure. Innovation often fails
because companies are beaten to market by a competitor who
scoops your offering on performance, timing or another element of
competitive advantage. The creative concept may have been
compelling and original; the project execution done perfectly to plan;
the launch implemented flawlessly. You called everything right, except for one thing. Relative to your innovation,
somebody else did it better.
All innovation requires comparison to be successful. Companies often exhort their innovation teams to produce initiatives
that are, for example in the case of Unilever, Bigger, Better and Faster. It always begs the question, “than what”? What
exactly will the new innovation surpass in terms of size, performance and speed? In an ideal world, the innovation that is
introduced to a particular market will work better, hit the market sooner and only as a result of that become bigger in terms
of market share and revenue.
Very often the comparators for the Bigger, Better and Faster are existing internal projects that don’t reach the company’s
strategic objectives. This is just a start but only tells you that you are improving against your own internal benchmark.
Introspection may leave you with the warm fuzzy feeling that you’re getting better but doesn’t remove the vulnerability to
It’s much better to take an external perspective. It enables prioritization of those projects that will make the biggest
difference; it will allow redirection of resource to improve those options with the greatest opportunity to have competitive
advantage, and to those that are under the biggest competitive threat.
The choice of comparator, whether company or product, is a crucial element of any innovation project. It’s very easy to
stick with the “usual suspects” of existing products in existing markets from existing competitors. It may be fine to do this if
the market in question is robust, growing and resistant to rapid change, commoditization and disruption. However if there
is an opening to disrupt a key element of the offering, innovation must take that into context as a minimum, and ideally
seize the opportunity presented by the change in market dynamics.
Consumers/users/customers are the ones to define the parameters by which innovation is measured. Whatever is
important to them should form the basis for understanding and insight; what is then tested; and what is the focus for
beating current and future competition. In addition there should be some foresight to anticipate both opportunities and
threats for disruptive innovation.
When Smith Corona decided to remain the producer of the world’s best typewriters they simultaneously defined the
comparative set for any future innovation. As a result they were totally disrupted by the rapid adoption of word processing.
Despite attempts to produce word processing machines, they remained firmly in the mindset of a typewriter manufacturer.
They didn’t define comparators on the basis of consumer understanding.
So it is important to remember that innovation is always relative. In that context, companies should:
Fully understand what matters to consumers/users/customers
Define innovation on that user understanding
Put more emphasis on external comparison than internal options
Compare existing and likely future competition on user parameters
Actively include potentially disruptive options when testing innovation comparators
Innovation is relative, so always add “than x” after “better”.
image credit: word collage image from bigstock
Kevin McFarthing runs the Innovation Fixer consultancy, helping companies to improve the output and efficiency of their
innovation, and to implement Open Innovation. He spent 17 years with Reckitt Benckiser in innovation leadership positions,
and also has experience in life sciences.
Using Books as Tools
Posted on June 10, 2013 by Julie Anixter
We are celebrating and shining a spotlight on how innovators use Books as Tools™, tools for driving the shifts that
innovation requires, with a series of the same name, and founded in on our belief that books aren’t really books. They’re
incendiary tools for personal revolution and organizational change. They can and often do serve as inspiration or impetus
at the right time. They don’t have to be consumed all at once like a cold beer. But they can be. And when consumed by
the sip or the drink they are windows into the different worlds that form Innovation.
Innovation is such emergent field that no one map can or will suffice because everyone comes from their own entry point.
That’s why we created this series. The books we’ll highlight, some new and some old, have a particular magic for
innovators, or those who simply want to own the vision, skills and confidence to move to new ways of doing, being and
living. We’ll also be taking your suggestions, and look forward to being a big fat channel and discussion forum for the most
inspiring works by, about and for people who want to innovate. Whether you’re trying to:
break through some intellectual concrete,
find just-in-time expertise or new ways of working,
compare and contrast architectural approaches to enterprise innovation in other industries,
develop your own interpretation about what is needed now,
or simply find some solace, a pick me up, when the world or your own resistance is just too much, there is nothing
quite like a book.
To quote the philosopher and inventor Dr. Fernando Flores, “reading is a conversation with the author, to which we bring
our concerns.” And it seems we have no shortage of concerns when it comes to how to innovate. Which is where Books
as Tools™ began.
We’re Aiming for a Non-Exhaustive Lexicon of Innovation
Did We Say We Plan to Go Deeper
Each of these categories is drawn from, and against the challenges of meeting organizations where they are – across the
spectrum of challenges they’re facing and the relative sophistication of their experience and going in knowledge.
Conversations with the Authors is the Start. As you know, we started with How Stella Saved the Farm by Chris Trimble
and Vijay Govindarajan.
St. Martins’ Press and the International Thought Leaders Network, sponsored a series of Web Chats with Chris that many
of you have participated in…we started with a great spirit of discovery, and here’s what we’ve learned…there is an
appetite on the part of both the authors and our audience to talk about how to use
a book to drive change, where the ideas came from, what it was like to
write a different kind of book (a fable!) and so much more. This led to a
now ongoing series of terrific small group discussions via
Abobe Connect (no firewall issues or software to download.) We will be doing more author Web Chats,
sponsored or not…this has been our practice field and we’ll do our final one for the summer this Thursday,
June 13 at noon edt, on How Stella Can Engage Your Students. You can join us by registering here.
And of Course, the Back Stories – How to Use these Books as Tools of
In which we highlight one book from just three of the six categories and how it can be used it to lessen innovation anxiety
and stoke your courage to act. Sometimes you need to know where to start. For each of us, the innovation journey starts
in a different place. When an organization is taking a first step, and many are, the validation of the past is useful, and quite
comforting. My friend the author and meta-communicator Judith Glaser is currently deconstructing the US Constitution
through the lens of Conversational Intelligence™, and neuroscience – to understand how this collective conversation
even occurred much less transformed history. It’s part of her life’s work – and she, like many of us, likes to ‘look back to
Historical Contextual Enterprise Team The Work Personal
I’ve used Arie De Geuss’s book, The Living Company. As head of planning for Royal Dutch
Shell he found himself wondering “what keeps companies ALIVE?” This book summarizes the
research he commissioned at Royal Dutch Shell to answer the questions: how many
companies have lived to be over hundred years old? If organizations were species, how many
really thrive and persist (it’s a very small number) and why? What he learned has profound
implications for leaders making decisions about where and now to invest. It’s sober. One of
the four characteristics was a strong balance sheet or “cash in hand,” while still allowing
“tolerance at the margins.” That this came from Royal Dutch Shell, which has been a successful performance engine
company with a rep for imbedding innovation makes the book all the more powerful a reference: it can be done.
Historical Contextual Enterprise Team The Work Personal
When we intend to embrace innovation, where do we begin? The five books in this category
each provide sweeping, diverse interpretations of the innovation landscape – the state of the
discipline today. They each come from thinkers and doers who’ve honed their perspectives on
the anvil of the world’s most complex
companies. One timeless example,
Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm,
operationalized Everett Rogers’
Diffusion of Innovation research and
“made the historic and elegantly obvious argument that there is a
chasm between the early adopters of the product (the technology
enthusiasts and visionaries) and the early majority (the pragmatists).
Moore explored those differences and suggested attitudes and techniques to successfully cross the “chasm.” Those
distinctions are still extremely useful, still very much with us as short-hand, today, explaining why innovation must be
Historical Contextual Enterprise Team The Work Personal
While the five books in this category could each be used a primer for architecting and implementing
innovation inside of large organizations, The Lean Startup is extremely important right now as a
tool of change, because it’s focused on capabilities that are most often missing or atrophied in
enterprises – specifically the way of working that agile software developers use: the disciplined
learning, customer testing and iteration of new products and services. Author Eric Ries says:
“Too many startups begin with an idea for a product that they think people want. They then spend
months, sometimes years, perfecting that product without ever showing the product, even in a very
rudimentary form, to the prospective customer. When they fail to reach broad uptake from customers, it is often because
they never spoke to prospective customers and determined whether or not the product was interesting.”
This is not just true of startups, this is true of very large corporations and explains in part the large failure rate of new
product and service introductions. Stay tuned…and let us know if you’d like information about our discussions with these
and many more authors by signing up here.
Time to tool up and hit the books!
 Dictionary.com  Judith Glaser; image credit: jsonline.com
Julie Anixter is a principle at Think Remarkable and the executive editor and co-founder of Innovation Excellence. She also
serves as Chief Innovation Officer of Maga Design, a leading visual information mapping firm.The co-author of three books,
she’s working on a fourth on courage and innovation. She worked with Tom Peters for five years on bringing big ideas to
big audiences. Now she works with the US Military, Healthcare, Manufacturing and other high test innovation cultures that
make a difference.
Posted on June 11, 2013 by Jeffrey Baumgartner
When it comes to feelings, business innovation gets it all wrong. It takes into
account feelings when it should not and then ignore feelings when it should
take them into serious consideration.
When You Can Ignore Feelings
Typically, the only time business innovation takes into account feelings is
during the ideation phase. Brainstorming, for instance, prohibits the criticism
of ideas because to do so might hurt brainstormers’ feelings and inhibit them
from sharing more ideas. Although this belief is widely held and applied in
numerous ideation processes, it has been demonstrated not to be true
. Criticism of ideas, followed by debate and
discussion results in a higher level of creativity. Moreover, in my own experience, allowing criticism does not lead to hurt
feelings. Rather it leads to in depth discussion of promising ideas.
Likewise, most on-line suggestion schemes, crowdsourcing tools and idea management tools include a voting system
whereby participants can vote up ideas they like. However, unless these on-line tools specify criteria for voting (and I have
yet to see a product which does so), voting is based on feelings. If you like an idea, if you feel good about an idea, you
vote for it. However, on-line voting has been demonstrated to be useless at identifying particularly creative or even good
When You Should Not Ignore Feelings
As I’ve written here in the past, people do not like creative ideas
. That seems to be because creative ideas mean change
and that change is often outside the control of the people affected by the change. A classic example of this is Coca Cola’s
infamous launch of New Coke in 1985
. The people at Coca Cola researched people’s taste preferences thoroughly and
used that information to change the recipe of their classic drinking product. In theory, this innovation should have worked
fine. They had a product with massive global sales and they improved the flavour to make it even better. They even
proved people preferred the new flavour in blind taste tests.
What the researchers neglected to do, however, was to take into account Coca Cola’s customers’ feelings about the
original soft drink. Sure, in blind taste tests, such people might have preferred the new drink. But when they saw that the
company had changed their favourite drinking product, people felt upset. They felt hurt. Moreover, this change was
outside of their control. Initially, Coca Cola did not ask their customers if they wanted a new drink. They did not offer
customers a choice. Customers had to drink the new Coke because the old one was not available.
As you probably know, this was a disaster. Customers were upset and they bought less Coke. Ironically, they bought cola
drinks from other brands, even though that also would have tasted different from the original coke — further
demonstration that this dislike of the changed product was about feelings and not taste.
Eventually, realised their mistake. They renamed the new drink “Coke II” and the original drink was reintroduced as “Coca
Cola Classic”. People had a choice and they chose Classic. Indeed, Coke II eventually disappeared from the shop
shelves. By finally offering their customers a choice, Coca Cola probably saved their company!
When you introduce a new product or change an existing product, your customers will have feelings about the new
product. This will be based on the product itself as well as customers’ previous experience with your products and your
reputation. Consider Facebook. Every time the company makes a change in how it works, users are in an uproar. They
don’t like the change. The liked the older version better. They did not get a choice and that irritates them. Users feel that
the new version of Facebook has been implemented on them against their will. As a result, they simply do not like it — at
least until they get used to the new version. Then, they forget about the change until Facebook introduces another
change. Suddenly, the same users are in an uproar all over again! Suddenly, they prefer the version of Facebook that
they complained about a few months ago. I suspect that if Facebook were to revert users to a older version of Facebook,
users would again be in an uproar. That’s because people are not complaining about the functionality or quality of the new
version. It is the change, over which they have no control, that they do not like. People do not like change without control
or choice over the change.
If customers dislike innovative new ideas that result in change, employees truly hate such ideas. If customers feel
unhappy about your new product, they don’t buy it. When employees dislike the operational changes that result from an
innovation, they cannot easily change job. They are stuck with the change.
This is why employees are often critical of new ideas that will change operations, particularly when those changes affect
their own activities. Indeed, if you have ever sat in on a staff meeting when a manager announces a change, the initial
reaction is almost always negative, even when the change theoretically makes employees’ work easier. The
computerisation of processes, for example, usually speeds up processes — however, there is typically a learning curve
that temporarily disrupts operations. In spite of the improvement in efficiency, you can be sure that employees will
complain about the change. They do not have positive feelings towards change when they have no control over that
What Can You Do?
If your customers and your employees will dislike the change that results from your innovation, you might wonder why
bother? What’s the point of innovating if no one likes the innovation. Unfortunately, if you intend to remain competitive in
today’s hyper-competitive market, you need to out-innovate your competitors.
On a positive note, after a change has been implemented and people grow used to it, they soon forget their dislike.
Facebook users quickly grow comfortable with the updates they hated a couple of months previously, readying them to
complain about the next update!
Employees too soon grow used to change. Moreover, in view of high levels of unemployment, many employees have no
choice but to accept change. But that does not mean they have to like it. And one danger you need to watch out for, when
innovation changes operations, is employees who subconsciously sabotage change. For instance, a company is
launching a new accounting system that will streamline billing and make it easier for customers to pay. However, it will
result in substantial changes in operations in the accounting department. In order to initiate the system, the head of the
accounting department needs to provide a report together with key information. She may postpone the report, believing
she has more important things to do. Or she may present the key information in such a way that will make it more difficult
to implement the new system. She is not doing this intentionally. Rather, she does not like it that a new accounting system
is being thrust upon her and subconsciously she does what she can to impede the change.
Clearly, your innovation efforts need to take into account the feelings of customers and employees. When evaluating new
ideas, do not just look at the metrics and the business analysis. Think about how those affected by the innovation might
feel about it. If your customers love your product, they may hate any change. And if your customers hate your product (for
instance, people everywhere seem to hate their telephony companies!), they will be suspicious of any change and hate it
If you are lucky to have loved products, consider whether or not the new product retains enough of what our customers
love about your old product while at the same time being a sufficient improvement to bring in new customers? If your
customers hate you, ask if the change will make you seem like an even more heartless, evil organisation.
Importantly, bear in mind that the thing customers and employees feel worst about is having change thrust upon them in a
way in which they feel they have no control. This is particularly true of employees. So, ask yourself, are there ways we
can make employees feel they have control over this change? Can you involve them in the evaluation process, perhaps
garnering feedback, so they feel they have some element of control in the implementation of a new idea? The danger
here, of course, is that employees may provide only negative feedback, making it harder to implement your idea.
You can also communicate to employees, in a sympathetic way, the complete story of why you are making the change,
the benefit to the company and, most importantly, the benefit to the employees. You can sympathise about the initial
struggle to implement the change and show how once the change is fully implemented, it will be better for everyone. You
can also use creativity. Run anticonventional thinking (ACT) or other creative ideation sessions to generate ideas about
how employees can benefit from the change.
For instance, a consultant implementing change in a school system came to me recently. He explained that teachers were
reluctant to change their ways, even though research had shown the new methods would be better for students. I asked
him to think about how the change would benefit the teachers and suggested that he focuses some creative thinking on
identifying teachers’ benefits.
Business Innovation Affects People
Business innovation affects people, lots of them: your employees, your customers, your suppliers and possibly even the
general public. People have feelings. If you disregard those feelings, you put your innovative efforts into jeopardy. So,
don’t disregard feelings. Make them a key issue in innovation.
1. Matthew Feinberg, Charlan Nemeth (2008) “The ‘Rules’ of Brainstorming: An Impediment to Creativity?”, Institute for Research on
Labor and Employment Working Paper Series (University of California, Berkeley) Paper iirwps-167-08;
2. Jeffrey Baumgartner (2010) “Voting in On-Line Suggestion Schemes” Report 103
3. “Everyone Loves a Creative Idea — Unless It Applies to Them” (2103) Report 103
4. “New Coke” Wikipedia
Jeffrey Baumgartner is the author of the book, The Way of the Innovation Master; the author/editor of Report 103, a popular
newsletter on creativity and innovation in business. He is currently developing and running workshops around the world on
Anticonventional Thinking, a radical new approach to achieving goals through creativity — and an alternative to
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