November 14, 2018

VIDEO: What Would You Do If You Could Not Fail?

In this video, Regina Dugan, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, asks the question: “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?” In this presentation, she describes some of the extraordinary projects — a robotic hummingbird, a prosthetic arm controlled by thought, and, well, the internet — that her agency has created by not worrying that they might fail. (Followed by a Q&A with TED‘s Chris Anderson)

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The Five Personalities of Innovators: Which One Are You?

What Type of Innovator Are You?Forbes Insights’ recent study, “Nurturing Europe’s Spirit of Enterprise: How Entrepreneurial Executives Mobilize Organizations to Innovate,” isolates and identifies five major personalities crucial to fostering a healthy atmosphere of innovation within an organization. Some are more entrepreneurial, and some more process-oriented – but all play a critical role in the process. To wit: thinkers need doers to get things done, and idealists need number crunchers to tether them to reality.”

Read the full article here.

Thank you to Jeannette Paladino of Write, Speak, Sell for sending this article along.  It is well worth the read!

I just want to add that the innovation process requires these five types.  You will find people who will bring 20 ideas into the conversation every ten minutes and then people who are more cautious and will play the role of the devil’s advocate. It is critical to know when and how to leverage each type of innovator on your team.

5 Steps for Becoming a Worldclass Innovator

Duct Tape Dress

Low On Cash for the Prom? Try a Duct Tape Dress Instead of the Expensive Prom Gown!

We have been talking a great deal lately on our blog about the topic of innovation…what it means, how you go about innovation and what it takes to truly become a world class innovator.

Today, I want to share with you five strategies I have used with companies to not only help move along the innovation cycle but methods you can use every day to help your team if they are stuck.

So, here we o:

1. ALL IDEAS ARE GOOD IDEAS…NO MATTER HOW BIZARRE THEY SEEM.  Many companies are so traditional that the thought of a “way out there on the fringe” idea is just not a viable option. The reality is that those ideas that people think would NEVER stick did stick.  Just look at how Duct Tape went to a multi-million dollar product, because people found some of the best AND most odd ways to use the material.  People just thought it would be ordinary tape, but people all over the world have shared stories about how they have used duct tape…from making a couch, to sealing off the entire back windows of cars to making a prom dress like the one you see to the side.  Make sure to go out to Google and type in “odd uses for duct tape”.  You will even find pictures of people who have used duct tapes for wounds and to cover up body parts that have cracks in them.

2. PLAY:  As “grown ups”, we have adopted some odd belief that when we turn 21 (or younger), we suddenly have to become super serious and work our fingers to the bone…no time for PLAY.  My perspective is this:  Play is a very productive use of time.  When you move into play mode, your team will loosen up, and a part of their brain that stimulates creative juices is forced into sleep mode for most of the day.  Open up your team by becoming curious, playing games (Where is Waldo or Pictionary are both great, or you can even play a child’s game like Hide and Seek to see who can find the most creative place to “hide”…if you think this sounds silly, just try it and watch as camaraderie and energy build!).

3. SPICE THINGS UP!  Have you really looked at your ideas to see how you can spice them up a bit?  You may have had a great idea one year ago, and it has become stale and without flavor.  Take an old idea and do something quirky, radical or offbeat with it through the marketing or business building perspective.  If you want to know how to go about this, just watch the Will It Blend guy as he literally blends an iPad in his blender:

While I don’t recommend buying a $600.00 tool just to show how powerful your blender (or other tool) is at turning a hard metal object into smoke and ash, this guy has gone so radical that it makes buying a blender fun and exciting…and definitely a conversation topic. And…I just have to point out that the “Will It Blend” guy has stayed relevant by continuing to pulverize the most current technology gadgets on the market.

4. MIX IT UP!  Have you ever thought about taking 3 or 4 of your ideas and distilling them down into one bigger idea?  If you have not tried this, give it a try.  If you are in business, and you have 3 or 4 products or services, they all do have something in common…you and your business.  So, chances are pretty good that those 3 or 4 products could come together to develop a 5th idea (the concept of the 5th mind of masterminding is the underlying concept).

5. CUT, DICE AND SLICE:  You may have a very big product, service or idea that could be cut into smaller parts and sold a-la-cart.  People may be buying a product or service for one reason only and not using about 75% of the product or service they invented.  This is where Steve Jobs was brilliant.  He knew that many people who bought an entire album or CD were buying it to only get access to one song.  So, why not just sell songs a-la-carte?  Looks like it worked very, very well for Apple, and it can for you as well.

If you are someone who is looking to move into a cycle of innovation, contact me about setting up a day of brainstorming.  I will bring my box of tools, and we will have a blast

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The Politics of American Innovation Today by Laura Schlafly

Laura Schlafly of Career Choices with Laura

Laura Schlafly of Career Choices With Laura

I want to thank Laura Schlafly of Career Choices With Laura for submitting this great post on The Politics of American Innovation Today.

Within an organization, be it a local non-profit or an international manufacturing behemoth like Apple, we will always find individuals who are the internal politicians and influencers within any decision process.  If we have a proposal, our agenda, for some significant change then it behooves us to entice the influencers to be inclined to our idea by offering something which will be seen as a desirable advantage for them.

Similarly, but on a more global scale, the decisions that stem from the desire for companies and countries to be ever more innovative to achieve mastery of global markets, growth of emerging economies, and international political hegemony, creates tremendous pressures on a country’s leadership. I read with great fascination a recent January 21, 2012 N.Y. Times article, titled:

How the U.S. Lost Out on IPhone Work This well-researched article elicited many comments and opinions on the current state of innovation in America, which has been widely decried as having become substandard in various ways, when compared to that of China.  To me, it is an economic transition that played out in the 1960’s through the 1980’s with Japan’s path from a country of cheaply made copycat products, to a world super power producer of superior designs with high quality.

Below, I have posted the reply of one of the anonymous commenters, which I happen to align with.

___________________________________________________________________________

“We sell iPhones in over a hundred countries,” a current Apple executive said. “We don’t have an obligation to solve America’s problems. Our only obligation is making the best product possible.””

Exactly.  It is up to us as individuals and up to our government as our representatives to solve these problems. As individuals we can make sure to educate ourselves and have good skills. Our representatives need to ensure that our schools can teach such skills to those willing to learn them and to provide the type of environment where companies can succeed.

We cannot force anyone to manufacture anything here unless the environment is right. If we force companies to produce here in an unprofitable way,  soon no one will be producing here. Better, we can entice high tech companies with an educated work force, a predictable business environment, good infrastructure, and a steady tax regime. We also have to accept that we cannot out compete the world in every industry.


Let’s start by educating our kids so that they can perform engineering and design jobs. We should not lament that we do not have any 12 hour night time factory jobs where workers live on-site. We should instead prepare our children for higher value-added jobs so that they can enjoy a better life.

_______________________________________________________________________

Such are the politics involved in the selection of where to locate major production facilities in a global economy.  So much more political maneuvering occurred behind the scenes than is revealed in this article.

Laura Schlafly
Career Choices with Laura

Celebrating the Life of Steve Jobs and How He Changed Our World

Pick up the 5,000 leadership books from the past five years, and my hunch is that you may not hear in those books that Steve Jobs is considered one of the greatest leaders of our times.  People spoke often about his difficulties with people, his perfectionism and his distaste for the press.  He never finished college, had a few rocky patches in life, but that did not stop him from being one of the most celebrated geniuses of our times.

Now that Steve Jobs is no longer with us, something tells me that he will be in history books as the man who truly changed our world during the 20th and early 21st century.  While he may not have been the best people person, there are many different types of leaders, and hands down, Steve Jobs (in my opinion) is the greatest visionary leader of the past 50 years.  He did not just change the way we live and work in the United States but changed the lives of billions of people worldwide.  In my opinion, someone who changes the entire world during their lifetime is certainly someone who defines true leadership.

When it comes to leadership, being a true visionary is a gift…not many people really have it.  To get people to buy into a big, world changing vision is very tough, but not for Jobs.  After a series of ups and downs, 10 years ago, Jobs went on a quest to truly change the world when he unveiled the iPod to the world.  I remember seeing the tiny, simple, sleek, thin and sexy looking device and thought “It can hold over 10,000 songs?  That little thing…no way!  Can’t happen and wont.  And who in the world will buy it at that price?.”  Boy, was I wrong.  When I suddenly “got” that the new device could download 10,000 songs from iTunes and watched my kids going crazy downloading songs with white earbuds in their ears, I became a believer and a buyer.  I now own an iPod, iTouch, iPhone and an iPad.  I still work on a Windows computer, but I want an Apple computer…that will be the next computer I own.

To see the timeline of the innovative process of Steve Jobs, just flip through this slideshow on CNN.  Really amazing!

Many people will tell you that Steve Jobs was not the tech guy (although I do take some argument with that statement…you don’t run one of the largest technology based businesses in the world without a great deal of tech knowledge), but instead, he was the man who could see where we are all going in our hyper-connected world and knew how to bring the greatest minds together to get his futuristic ideas to work.  He knew the home computer could do more, look and feel a lot more cool and could make life simpler for everyone and people can spend time even playing games on their computers, if you’re one of those people you can even use sites like mycsgoboosting.com to improve in games as csgo faster.  He was a music lover and knew that people would love to be able to pull out a tiny device and scroll to their favorite song out of a list of 10,000 and that those songs could then be streamed into your home stereo system.  He knew that the iPhone would not just dial numbers…that it would serve as a mini computer that could be a GPS system, could turn on your lights while you were away from home, could be a barcode scanner, would eventually be able to scan credit cards and could help you find the pet of your dreams.  And, once the public fell in love with the iPhone, he knew people would want something like the iPhone in a bigger form…in the form of a tablet.  The interesting thing is this:  Steve Jobs had a way of knowing what we wanted before we knew we wanted it, and once  we had our iBooks, iPods, iPhones and iPads, we then wanted the newer version, more apps to be more efficient in life and would probably not be able live without them.  And of course, as a result of Steve Jobs’ innovative spirit, his competitors around the world tried to come up with their own ideas (which were actually copycat versions of what Jobs had already built)  to compete with the genius.  While a few of his competitors have come close, they really have not yet quite hit the mark, and Jobs was always 2 steps ahead of the rest of the world of technology.

I know the world is grieving today, but I want to encourage you all to also celebrate his life and legacy to the world.  Steve Job said it all best in his commencement speech to Stanford in 2011:

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life,” Jobs said that day.

“No one wants to die,” he added. ”Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet, death is the destination we all share. ”

“Your time is limited,” Jobs added. ”So don’t waste it living someone else’s life. … Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.

As we grieve today, let’s all celebrate the life and legacy of Steve Jobs…and look at his words closely…Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.

Watch the video tribute to Steve Jobs on Gizmodo

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How Do You Keep Your Top Talent Excited About Staying With Your Company?

Watch This Guy In the Video…Watch Him Very, Very Closely

 

Did you get very, very sleepy?  I know I did.  Thank God the video was only 18 seconds.  The pencil tapping and fiddling with the keyboard were my first clues, but when he started nodding, leaning on his hand and YES! Finally fell out of the chair…I knew!  THIS POOR GUY IS BORED OUT OF HIS MIND! And the odd thing is, the employees in the background just kept on about their business as if this is a normal scene in their workplace…probably so!

How many of us, and how many of our employees feel just like this guy?  Just looking for an excuse to head to the coffee pot, to run an errand or get a terrible stomach bug in the middle of the day.

So, the question is “How in the world do you keep your top talent excited about not only staying with your company but literally dancing out the door to get to work every day?

The answer: RADICAL INNOVATION!

Radical innovation is going to be a critical component in a leader’s toolkit in the future, and this does not mean that you “try innovation” over a week-end brainstorming retreat. It happens by disrupting the current environment, challenging old assumptions and even turning the culture upside down so that you can move ahead and start being highly competitive.

Each day I meet leaders, and the first question I ask is “On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being super sticky, how stuck are you?” Most people laugh, and they usually respond by saying “I’m a 20 or a 25!” So, when you are stuck, you have to break up the pattern, turn a table upside down and figure out a way to still use the table as an eating surface, roll out of the bed on the other side, shave with the hand you don’t normally use…do something to be disruptive. This is the same for companies.  What would happen if you do the opposite of what you’ve always done? What would you do if you totally destroyed your most profitable item and had to start from scratch? Or, how would an artist, physician or scientist suggest that you change your company?

To keep your company relevant, a culture must foster a sense of psychological safety for employees to not only feel comfortable but be encouraged to challenge the status quo and bring fresh, radical ideas to the table and feel safe that they are not going to be criticized or made to feel silly in the process. Everyone in the company needs to be brought up to speed on the vision and direction of the company, and the leader needs to make a statement that the game is now on!  Everyone is going to be challenged to think radically, innovate, think strategically and that a part of this is to be open to divergent thinking and to allow open debate to get to the root of the issue. You have to be willing to get very uncomfortable…to laugh nervously and feel the sweat bead up on your brow.

Staying ahead will also call leaders to design an environment that includes a diversity of people, a mix of cultures, ages, ethnicities and religions can bring new, more creative ideas to the table. It will also be very important to add a Chief Knowledge Officer to your staff is someone who has their finger on the pulse of what is going on in the world and how your company fits in and how competitive you are to people who are thousands of miles around the world from you.

THINKPAK Deck by Michael Michalko

To get started, I highly recommend the book Thinkertoys and a Thinkpak set to get your team thinking in a radical direction.  What WOULD a ballerina do if she were asked to build a skyscraper.  What WOULD a scientist do if he were asked to design the next trend in the fashion industry.  And finally, what WOULD your age 22-30 employees do if they were asked to take your company to the billion dollar mark in profits.  Think I’m crazy?  Just look around you at a few people you may have heard of like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg who turned the world upside down before they were 30.

Tomorrow is already here. Are you relevant, or are you becoming obsolete? Only you can answer that question!

“Just as energy is the basis of life itself, and ideas the source of innovation, so is innovation the vital spark of all human change, improvement and progress”

-Ted Levitt, American Economist and Professor-Harvard Business School

Leaders Are Made When New Paths Are Made by Yvonne Thompson

Yvonne Thompson

I want to thank guest blogger Yvonne Thompson for this post on those inspiring leaders in our lives who blaze new trails and set new trends.  We certainly need them these days!

Leaders Are Made When New Paths Are Made

By: Yvonne Thompson

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” This quote by Harold R. McAlindon, author, speaker, and CEO more clearly defines what a leader does than any I have seen.   Here’s why. . .

When thinking about leading and leaders, I can’t help but think of those who blaze new trails and set new trends.  Not all leaders fit this mold; many remind us of a flag on a pole.  They stand above us waving, making sure we stay on course and remember who we are and where we are going.  We need those, too.  Without those, I think the work of the trailblazers would all be lost as we might once again lose our way when the going gets rough.

Leadership Arises

Then there are those leaders that don’t think of themselves as leaders, they just do what they do.  They are either appointed leaders by their peers or labeled a leader by their superiors.  I know this is true from one of my own personal experiences with leadership.

Prior to working independently, supporting clients as a virtual assistant, I worked for several years as a telecom project manager for a major financial institution.   I had recently started work in the voice telecom department when the company started some acquisitions.  These acquisitions had voice technology systems that needed to be quickly immersed into our larger systems. Unfortunately, there was no process in place for how to best absorb these new systems.

No one wanted the assignment as there was so much uncertainty as to the impact on one’s career if it failed.  You see, there was no manual to follow, no proven procedure.  Being the new kid on the block, unaware of the political perils involved, the project was assigned to me.

Realizing that I did not understand how to complete the entire project, I knew there were some team members available who understood how to complete other parts.  The project needed a plan and a team.   So I built a team of both internal and external members.  Then we developed a project plan, with input from the entire team.

We broke the process down into three phases: preparation, implementation, follow-up.  We worked together following a precise project plan.  There were problems, issues, misfires. But we did it…successfully…several times for several acquisitions.  There were missteps along the way, but we learned from them, and improved each time.

A Leader is Born

By the end of the project, we realized we had a workable system.  So I documented the entire process, all three phases, preparation, implementation, and follow-up.    There was little recognition for what we did, except for our internal satisfaction, knowing we succeeded.

Then the company began the biggest acquisition yet…one with the most at stake and the most visibility.  Anyone on this project was bound for a huge raise with a comparable promotion. So I presented the process we designed from the smaller acquisitions and asked for the assignment.

Ultimately, the assignment was given to another co-worker, one with much less experience on this type of project, but more political favor in the organization.  However, they armed her with a written copy of the process designed by me and the team I worked with previously.

Initially, I was furious and felt slighted.  But my manager’s response was “You should be proud. You took the lead.  This is your process.”  My manager immediately promoted me to Assistant Vice President without my having to work on the project.

That was years ago, but it was when I learned that a leader is sometimes the one who dives in, gets dirty, and makes a new way; not always the one out front that shines the brightest.

About Author Yvonne Thompson:

Yvonne has a broad background covering a wide range of experience that includes project management, public relations, and writing. She spent over 16 years as a telecom project manager with Bank of America and finished her career there as a Vice President.

In 2002, after leaving Bank of America, Yvonne started her own business as a Virtual Assistant and Project Manager, YTVP, (Yvonne Thompson, Virtual Partner at www.ytvp.com) where she specializes in blogging support. She presently combines that with her position as staff editor at New Media Entertainment (NME).

Leadership Coaching Lesson: Shake Things Up!

Lady Gaga in Meat dress

I wonder if this dress smelled bad.

If you have not read the recent article in Fast Company about Nike’s CEO John Parker shook up the shoe industry, I think it’s something we all need to start considering….shaking things up.  Many criticize Parker for being eccentric and irreverent.  I just think he wants to be the best and to be the best you can’s keep doing the things you always have done them.  As a matter of fact, my daughter bought a pair of dress pumps recently with the nike air cushion built in…ahhh…felt great!

Do you think Steve Jobs is boring?  Mediocre?  Doesn’t shake things up?  Look at how he has changed our world.  Many of you will feel that he has made things worth with our addiction to the iPhone, iPod, iPad and all of the apps that keep flying out of Apple, but at the end of the day, Steve Jobs has revolutionized the digital industry.

And, I just can’t end this post without talking about Lady Gaga’s meat dress.  I know PETA is all in a tizzy, but I am not quite sure that this stunt was to show us she is a meat eater or animal killer.  Mabye just the opposite…how disgusting it looks.  I don’t know…just wondering about her motive.  I am just wondering if it smelled bad.  She is the oddest human on the planet right now, but she is a business woman who is building a brand and followers.  I just hope she can keep her clothes on and her middle finger where it belongs so that she can mature a bit into being a true leader.  But right now…she is certainly shakin’ things up.  If she were not, she wouldn’t be on every channel 24/7.

And, if you want one more example of someone shaking things up to change an industry, go back and read my post:

Michael Jackson: The King of Pop But Also A Global Leader

What do you think?  Are folks going too far?  Please weigh in?
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Temple Grandin Video: The World Needs All Kinds of Minds