One hobby I enjoy in my free time is brewing my own beer. The obvious benefit is a fridge consistently full of beer, but what really makes it fun is experimentation. When I first started home brewing I would get kits from the local brewery supply store and follow the recipe. The results were good beer, but nothing truly unique. Once I gained a little experience I started to experiment more. The results became mixed. Some beers tasted great while others were great learning opportunities. Currently I have two kegs in the fridge. One is the best beer I’ve ever made and is based off a recipe from a local brewery. The other keg contains the weirdest beer I’ve ever made. I’m personally not a fan of it and it has been described by others as “not bad” and “very interesting”.
Topics: Leading Innovation
Who among us has not smiled at the “Netflix Event” story? The little upstart bringing a behemoth to its knees by defying the odds, reinventing the business model and disrupting an entire industry. As well as we know the story, these events are hard to see while in progress. These are easiest observed after the fact.
Disruption has been happening for a long time, consider…
- railroads destroyed the innovative “Pony Express” system…
- electric lights disrupted the candle makers and gas lamps…
- digital cameras disrupting film photography…
- personal computers disrupting business (and weekends!)…
- online shopping disrupting retailing…and so on.
All along the way there were gurus who knew everything there was to know about trends in the care and feeding of ponies, candle making, film processing, stenography and box store floor plans.
If your best friend called you today and asked you to go scale El Capitan tomorrow morning, would you be able to do it?
For most of us, the answer would be an absolute no, as it would truly end in a cliff hanger.
Most of us are not experts at scaling mountains, and if you have interest in scaling mountains, you likely would start by taking some classes and starting on practice rock-climbing walls before slowly graduating to longer and steeper cliffs.
In other words, you would practice and learn from those who know more and have gone before us.
So, why would you treat innovation any differently?
Whether you know the Cintas name or not, odds are you’ve used their products nearly every day in one capacity or another. Thanks to their uniforms and apparel products and facility services everything from mom and pop restaurants to massive factories have the things they need to run smoothly.
But, like every business, Cintas knows well that in commodity markets it’s important to innovate. And now it was time to turn the focus to a product line we walk all over, mats.
“You might be thinking, ‘What can you possibly do to innovate mats?’ Well, it turns out, you can do quite a bit.” says Innovation Engineering Blue Belt and Innovation Leader for the Mats Category, Rich Bing.
I was recently interviewed by my friend, Justin Zawaly, COO of TalMetrix about innovation & employee engagement...as Justin states, "One of the outcomes of an engaged culture is innovation. Innovation doesn’t just happen, or at least it cannot be sustained, unless both the employer and employee are thriving. Innovation becomes part of organizations culture and must be measured and monitored like anything else to ensure the creative vision is being nurtured."
Check out our interview below:
What does the term ‘innovation’ really mean?
Something that’s meaningfully unique. Unique in that it’s uncommon, unexpected, a wow or dramatically different than any other option. Meaningful in that it makes sense in your customer’s life. It improves something. It adds value.
Interestingly, so many of us over complicate this term. Others oversimplify. But in every case there’s something that holds true in everyone’s definition in a company - and that’s that they’re all different! One of the most common sources of misalignment on innovation is a common definition of innovation. And if I don’t know what we “count” as innovation, then how can I hope to know when I’m working towards it.
Why don’t more companies innovate?
We’ve all seen entrepreneurs on Dragon’s Den or Shark Tank pitching their idea and pouring their heart out because they are so passionate about it. Some say they’ve even remortgaged their home or spent their retirement money to fund their idea, only to hit a death threat that puts the idea in jeopardy. The Dragons or Sharks beg them to stop investing in their idea and kill it before it’s too late.
What a defeating feeling. Imagine investing a bunch of time and money into an idea, only to find a roadblock that is immovable. All those hours and dollars become a sunk cost and leave you wishing you had seen this coming earlier. This happens more often than you’d think – and even multi-million dollar companies experience it.
We’re running our training program off-site this week and it brings to mind all the small things that seem insignificant but can have a drastic impact on the outcome of the week. Through trial and error we’ve come up with some solutions to handle these potential landmines even when we’re off-site. So here are the top three hidden killers for innovation programs and some potential solutions to them.
It is no secret that when you have a "to do" list you get more done and the same goes for innovation. When you use a "to do" list or checklist we see the following:
1. You will ship more innovations.
Innovation projects that leverage a checklist are over twice as likely to be in a development or shipping phase than projects not using a checklist.
2. You will ship faster.
Projects with checklist move 4 times faster.
Checklists tell the project teams: WHAT to do. WHY to do it. And HOW to do it. By removing this mystery at every step in the process teams can do more and move faster.
I recently read a post about the difficulties of becoming of CTO and the struggles of no longer being part of the “doing the menial work” crowd as it relates to a web programming department of an organization.
The job of the leader in this instance isn’t to be on the forefront finding and implementing new technologies, but instead to provide guidance on which technologies can be implemented - and when - based on the information provided by the person that researched it.
So often the leader of an organization or department sets boundaries on how far the employees can go with their research, “because I’m the leader and I know from experience what is best”. How do you know what is best now compared to when you WERE in the trenches?
Imagine the cockpit conversation…
First Officer: Looks like we are headed into turbulent air, sure glad you checked the annunciator panel when we started up and before we took off.
Pilot: Yeah, looks a little rough…wait, what’s that about the annunciator?
First Officer: You did check it, right?
Pilot: I’m supposed to do that before every takeoff?
First Officer: I thought so??
Pilot: Well, why didn’t you say something…