I thrive in the space between [CLICK] inspiration andinnovation, and I love designing things that don’t yet exist and creating products that will truly disrupt a marketI love taking an idea in its infancy and developing it into something tangible, something delightful, something meaningful[CLICK]You see,inspiration & innovation are just two points, each on the end of the spectrum…what is not often talked about is what happens in the middle
Getting back to innovation, it can come from anywherebeing immersed in the beauty of a place like this is incredibly inspiringI spent part of my sabbatical this past summer in Yosemite, relaxing and reflecting on what I do.
I did sabbatical things like climbed mountains and grew a beard, … On one of these climbs, I was talking to an amazing youngwoman and she asked what I do. She was thinking about careers and wanted to know how I spend my day.I told her that I design stuff that doesn't exist.She laughed... This may not be the conversation you’re thinking; you see, that’s my DAUGHTER Reagan. Yeah… daughter whose almost 15! And in high school! No, I don’t look good for my age (!); I was 19 when I had her.
Reagan wanted to know how I got to where I am. I looked at her and without hesitation I said I am doing what I do because of her. And she againlooked puzzled. I explained to her thatshe was born, years earlier than I planned to have kids, but at an inflectionpoint in my life in which I realized I had something larger than myself to focus on. Entrepreneurial by nature, I hung out my shingle and started my first company while I was a sophomore in college. [CLICK]This required extraordinary commitment and conviction. In moments of doubt, all I had to remember was that I was doing this for her, she was my motivation and driving force.What I didn’t know is that the infant sitting on my lap would provide incredible insight into how to learn, manage, and foster innovation.
What Reagan helped me realize – then and now– was that my role as a Creative Director and a Father are incredibly similar.No I am not saying designers are children.. I am saying I have learned a few things about being a dad that are similar to what I do at work. Teaching and Mentoring are central to both, and I have been working to distill what I do intuitively into conscious and teachable methodsWhether incubating ideas with my teams or at home teaching my children, my job is to shepherd their ideas, create the safe environment and empower individualsto achieve things they did not think possible
Why is this relevant to innovation? Well, innovation is a topic of many conversations and articles, the subject of Obama’s recent speech and a focus for many of youBut we’re going about it so poorly! a recent study estimated that every year more than a trillion dollars is spent globally on innovation and R&D!!!! [CLICK]it is also estimated that 95% of products and innovative ideas never make it to market! WOW! There are a lot of great ideas out there and we are surrounded by smart people, so why do so many ideas fail to reach the market? How can we be better shepherds that get good ideas safely to market?
Looking back at my experience over the last 15 years, these elements were present for the successes and missing from the failures. Lets talk about how these 5 insights can help us get from inspiration to innovation.
We work inteams with ourclients to guide them through the process of creating products, nurturing ideas from raw insights to success and prosperityThis process starts with ideas and insights… thousands of them. Ideas are cheap. We are surrounded by them. If I asked how you’d like to see something important to you redesigned, I bet you’d have 10 ideas for me almost immediately.
But sometimes it is hard to identify the great ones with the most potential to cultivate into something meaningful. Something that will solve a problem – the RIGHT problem – for people, and also be financially rewarding. Understanding the problem we are trying to solve is the foundation of the idea. We need to identify what problem we are trying to solve, with absolute clarity to understand what success looks like.So we know what success in the market would look like. What success to the business would look like.
once we have the right idea, it needs space to develop, a safe environment, an environment of trust, an environment of exploration, one where anything is possible…The thing is that once an idea coalesces, many peopledo not know how to take it forward and push through adversity to create a product
Developing an idea is like raising a child, we need to foster a safe environment that’s collaborative yet not averse to risk. BUT… the environment is beyond the physical, it it is not a project room and a whiteboard…. It is the culture, it’s a mindset and ensuring there is a champion to block and tackle as challenge arises
Ideas and products take time to develop, take the remote for example, we have been working on it for the last 50 years and are just getting back to the simplicity of where we started, yet for a different reason. We started out with a remote that could do everything, and we kept that thinking. But we failed to realize that we don’t need all of that. We need to get back to the essential. Innovation over time is also about simplification, about distilling an idea to its essence.
Distilling it to its essence, to its soul takes time and attention. It takes time to mature and refine and rushing it will not result in a better product quicker.Persistence,patience and commitment are key to the development of an idea. We cannot wait for perfection though. We need to get a product out and then, over the long view we need to iterate and improve. Yes we need to focus on our annual numbers, and ROI, but don’t drive innovation through the lens of numbers, drive it through inspiration and aspiration. (take the ipod for example, it took 9 quarters before it was a profitable and successful product)
Over the lifecycle of innovation, we learn, we learn by experimenting, we learn through reflection, We through play – even serious things. many of you were flown here by pilots trained on “games” : on flight simulators. Wouldn't’ you rather they practiced crashing THERE?”It is through simulation that we have the ability to try something new in an environment that embraces failure, to learn from mistakes and perfect the task.
Lets accept it… whether that is learning to ride a bike or developing that bicycle … along the way failure will happenBut if we embrace and understand the value of failure, we can encourage our teams to learn from and push through the failures.Be the champions of an iterative approach using prototypes and simulations; learning from the successes and the failures, stepping back to reflect and gain the perspective to move forward. Piet Hein said – To err and err and err, but less and less and less. There’s a lot of wisdom in that simple statement
While developing a product, it is common to be heads down working on the idea and you fail to realize that something in the market has shifted, an expectation, a competing product, a technology.. I worked on this 4 years ago and it was a really compelling product… in 2006.It was released 3 years too late, the game was over, the fans left and the stadium was empty… so the product was taken off the market after 90 days.
So as the idea develops… Stay strong and keep pushing. But!, during the process of developing your idea, maintain an awareness of the critical elements, your focus on the idea, the readiness of the market and your audienceTiming is critical,released too early and the audience is not ready, too late and they may have moved on.
So it may seem strange that innovation and parenting are so closely related, but the next time you think about birthing an idea and nurturing it on the way to market success, pause for a moment and think about your role as a parent, or as a child of a parent. What you’ll realize is that the lessons learned there can not only help us raise amazing young men and women, but help solve our innovation challenge.Thank you