Category Archives: Methods

Solution-to-Problem Innovation

FFFInnovation is the process of taking an idea and putting it into practice. Creativity, on the other hand, is what you do in your head to generate the idea, an idea that meets three criteria. An innovative idea must be new, useful, and surprising.

New means that no one else has done it before. Useful means that it delivers some new value for you or your customers. And surprising? It means that the market will be delighted with your latest innovation.

Most people think the way you create an idea is to start with a well formed problem and then brainstorm a solution to it. What if you turned that around 180 degrees - It sounds counterintuitive, but you really can innovate by starting with a solution and then work backwards to the problem. In the Systematic Inventive Thinking method, we call it the Function Follows Form principle. Here’s how it works.

First, you start with an existing situation. That situation can be a product. It can be a service, or perhaps a process. You take that item and you make a list of its components and attributes. Then, you apply one of the five thinking tools - They’re called Subtraction, Division, Multiplication, Task Unification, and Attribute Dependency. I know some of these sound mathematical, but they’re really not as you’ll see when you start applying them.

When you apply one of the five tools to the existing situation, you artificially change it. It morphs into something that, at first, might seem really weird or absurd. That’s perfectly normal. In fact, as you get more comfortable with this method, you’ll come to expect it. We consider this strange thing a Virtual Product. It doesn't really exist except in one place – right up here in your mind.

This step is really important. Take your time. You have to mentally define and visualize the virtual product. I like to close my eyes at this step and mentally see an image of the item once it’s be manipulated. As you practice the method more, this will get a lot easier.

At this next stage, you ask yourself two questions, and you do it in this specific order. First question is, should we do it? Does this new configuration create any advantage or solve some problem? Is there a target audience who would find this beneficial? Does it deliver an unmet need? We call this step the market filter. It’s a filter because if you cannot identify even the tiniest benefit at this step, you throw the concept out the window. You don’t waste anymore time on it. This is very different than other ideation techniques like Brainstorming where “there’s no bad idea.” Trust me! There are plenty of bad ideas, and if you realize one here, you eject it and you go back and re-apply the tool to generate a different concept.

If you do identify some benefit, then and only then do you ask yourself the second question: Can we do it? Do we have the technical know-how to make this concept? Is it feasible? Do we have the intellectual property? Are there regulatory or legal barriers? This step is the Implementation Filter, because, once again, if you have a great idea in theory but you have no way to make it, don't waste anymore time on it.

If you pass through both filters, you move to the Adaptations step where you allow yourself some degree of freedom to modify the concept to make it even stronger and deliver even more value. You may have to iterate through these steps several times before you end up with what I would consider an idea.

The Principle of Function Follows Form - innovating from the Solution to the Problem.

Valentine’s Day: Creative Gifts and Most Popular Picks

Valentines 3
A new national study by Pollfish [www.pollfish.com], reveals this year's most coveted brands, products, and restaurants for Valentine's Day 2017. According to the Pollfish Valentine's Day National Survey, the world's leading self-service mobile survey and market research platform,  men are 1.6x as likely as women to buy expensive gifts for Valentine's Day. Other notable findings include: 
 
AMERICANS MOST WANT TO BUY EDIBLE GIFTS FOR VALENTINE'S DAY

Q: Which types of products would you like to buy for your significant other on Valentine's Day?
        1. Dinner or drinks (58%)
        2. Chocolates or candy (54%)
        3. Flowers (40%)
        4. Greeting cards (38%)
        5. Clothing or accessories (31%)
 
HERSHEY'S IS THE MOST COVETED CHOCOLATE BRAND

Q: Which chocolate brands would you most like to buy for your significant other on Valentine's Day?
        1. Hershey's (50%)
        2. Dove (40%)
        3. Russell Stover (36%)
        4. Ghirardelli (34%)
        5. Godiva (32%)
 
ZALES IS THE MOST COVETED JEWELRY STORE

Q: From which store would you most like to buy jewelry for your significant other on Valentine's Day?
        1. Zales (37%)
        2. Kays (37%)
        3. Jared (29%)
        4. Pandora (23%)
        5. Tiffany & Co (20%)
 
MEN ARE ALMOST TWICE AS LIKELY AS WOMEN TO BUY EXPENSIVE GIFTS

Men are 1.6x as likely as women to buy expensive Valentine's Day gifts. 55% of men and 33% of women intend to spend $50 or more on their significant other this year.

AMERICANS PREFER TO EAT AT RED LOBSTER

Q: How likely are you to recommend eating at this national chain restaurant for Valentine's Day to a friend or colleague? Net promoter score, aka NPS, measures customer satisfaction and brand perception on a scale of -100 to +100. (A positive, high score means consumers actively recommend the brand; a negative score could mean consumers actively dissuade friends.) The majority of national chain restaurants received a negative NPS, indicating that most Americans might prefer to dine out at an independent restaurant for Valentine's Day.
        1. Red Lobster: NPS of 1
        2. Olive Garden: NPS of 0
        3. Outback Steakhouse: NPS of -1
        4. The Cheesecake Factory: NPS of -4
        5. TGI Friday's: NPS of -22

In addition to choosing from one of these popular favorites this Valentine's season, you can learn creative gift ideas for that special someone via my interview on Fox 19 HERE.

If you're interested in learning more about branding fundamentals, please see my online course through Lynda.com.

Innovation: The Ultimate Team Sport

Team-innovationA fast way to boost your creativity is to harness the brainpower of others. Creativity is a team sport, and you’ll generate better ideas if you surround yourself with people to help you.

When you invite colleagues to be part of a creativity session, be sure to create a diverse team. Diversity helps people see more possibilities. It creates a stronger sense of group accountability. Diverse groups cause people to bring their best thinking, to behave properly, and to maintain their status in the group as a positive contributor.

You want diversity in three ways: functional, gender, and cultural.

Functional diversity means that team members come from different parts of the company. Now it depends a lot on the topic you’re generating ideas for. Generally speaking, I try to include co-workers from marketing, from my technical team, and from my sales or customer support team. But at times, it makes sense to include colleagues with financial skills or regulatory knowledge.

Taken together, you want the right people in the room who can help you not only generate ideas, but also help you decide which ideas are the best and most feasible. That takes a team of people with different skills and knowledge.

You also need a team with good gender diversity. Research suggests men tend to create more aggressive ideas while women are more pragmatic. Working together averages out these tendencies to produce novel and practical solutions. Without gender diversity, your team may end up producing a larger share of uninteresting or unsupportable concepts.

Finally is cultural diversity. The best teams have members with different ethnic backgrounds. They broaden the team's perspective on how best to commercialize new inventions on a global scale. Without this, teams produce a larger share of niche ideas that may satisfy only one regional market.

Now here are some tips.

  • Be sure to keep the group size at twelve or less. Any larger than that becomes hard to facilitate.
  • Be sure participants are fully committed to participation in the workshop. Avoid letting people drop in and out as it suits their schedule. Otherwise, it interrupts the flow of the workshop. And be sure participants have right level of knowledge about the topic. They’ll have trouble contributing if they know nothing about the subject matter.
  • Finally, make sure you reward the participants for being a part of your session. You do that by practicing the Golden Rule of Creativity - give back your time and expertise to those who gave it to you. The most creative people practice the principle of reciprocity by helping others and asking their help when needed.

Breaking the Barriers of Creativity

Break_the_barriersWhat holds people back from being creative? Is it a lack of time? Do you not have a budget for doing creative work? Perhaps you work in an industry where there are lots of regulatory or legal barriers that seem to make it hard to generate novel ideas.

For many people, these types of constraints seem frustrating and overwhelming. They appear to be strict boundaries that seem to limit your ability to be creative.

But guess what? Surprisingly, constraints are not a barrier to creativity. In fact, constraints are a necessary condition for creativity to occur. Your brain works harder and smarter when given tight boundaries. The more constrained you are, the more creative you’ll be.

So what is it that seems to limit our creativity? The answer is a condition known as fixedness. Fixedness is a cognitive bias that limits our ability to see the world around us differently than what we’re used to. There are at least three types.

First is functional fixedness. Functional fixedness makes it hard for you to consider an object doing a job other than what it you know it to do. When you see a dry erase marker, for example, you instantly relegate it to the job of...well...marking. If you could force it in your mind to be available to do another job, you end up with a creative idea.

One of my pet peeves is when someone takes a permanent marker and writes on a white board. Okay, maybe I’ve done it once or twice.  When that happens, take a regular dry erase marker and write over it. Voila! Permanent marks are gone! Now that’s creative.

The second type is structural fixedness. This type makes it really hard to imagine objects having a different structure than what we’re used to. Let’s go back to our dry erase marker. Why are these markers always straight? That’s fixedness. What if we could imagine a curved marker or perhaps one with a grip. Instead of holding it like a pencil, we can bend it so it fits in our hand better. Again, that’s creative.

Finally is what we call relational fixedness. This type of fixedness makes it very hard to imagine two objects having a relationship that wasn’t there before. As one object changes, the other object changes. Our mind doesn’t form these connections naturally because of relational fixedness.

Look at our simple whiteboard marker. What if it could change colors automatically when writing on different areas of the white board? Are there certain applications where that would be more convenient. When we find that application, we’ve generated a creative idea. We’ve broken through our fixedness to create new value.

We all have all three types of fixedness, and they hold back our ability to generate new possibilities. The good news is that you can break all three types. But you need a set of cognitive tools to do it.

Where Great Ideas Come From

CuttingBoardTemplate

So where do great ideas come from? The answer might surprise you. Let’s look at the most successful rock band in history, The Beatles. In a biography of Paul McCartney  he shared his secret: “As usual for these co-written things, John often had just the first verse which was always enough. It was the direction it was the signpost and it was the inspiration for the whole song. I hate the word, but it was the template”

Paul and John used a formula early in their careers to create many blockbuster songs. They’re not the only ones. Many artists, authors, songwriters, and composers also use templates of some form.

Agatha Christie, for example, wrote over 60 novels and has sold more books than anyone. She did it by using a very familiar template in each of her books. That template helped structure her thinking in a way that made her more creative. Interestingly, most creative people don't want you to know they use templates. It seems to take away from their creative genius, when in fact templates make them more creative.

Highly creative people aren't the only ones that use patterns. Innovators for thousands of years have used patterns into their inventions usually without realizing it. Those patterns are now embedded into the products and services you see around you. Think of them almost as the DNA of a product or service. Imagine if there was a way for you to extract that DNA and reapply it to the products and services that are important to you. This is the essence of a method called Systematic Inventive Thinking. We call it SIT for short.

With SIT, innovation follows a set of patterns that can be reapplied to any product, service, or process. What these patterns do is channel your ideation process. They regulate your thinking so that you can innovate in a systematic way on demand. Let’s learn more about these patterns.

Surprisingly, the majority of innovative products and services can be explained by just five patterns.

First is subtraction: this is the elimination of a core component - something that seemed essential at first.

Next is task unification: where a component of a product has been assigned an additional job. One that it wasn’t designed to do.  

Then there is multiplication: many innovative products have taken a component and copied it, but change the component in some counterintuitive way.

Then we have division: where you take a component, or the product itself and divide it along some physical or functional line and then rearrange it back into the product.

And finally attribute dependency: this is where a product has a correlation between two attributes of the product and its environment. As one thing changes, another thing changes.

These five patterns are a crucial foundation to driving innovation in your business. Learn how to use these patterns to help you invent new products, services, and processes here: Business Innovation at Lynda.com.

Are You an Innovator? Take the Quiz

InnovatorPlace a check mark beside the statement you agree with most.

1.     A. Innovation occurs by adding features to a product.
        B. Innovation occurs by taking features out of a product.

2.     A. Innovation is finding problems that are solved by hypothetical solutions.
        B. Innovation is finding solutions to difficult problems.

3.     A. I am more likely to innovate when I work alone.
        B. I am more likely to innovate when I work in a group.

4.     A. Innovation is more about creating novel ideas.
        B. Innovation is more about selecting the best ideas.

5.     A. When I innovate, I "brainstorm" ideas out of my head.
        B. When I innovate, I apply patterns to find ideas.

6.     A. Innovating is predictable and not risky.
        B. Innovating is unpredictable and risky.

7.     A. The ability to innovate is a gift that you are born with.
        B. The ability to innovate is a skill that you can learn.

8.     A. I prefer ambiguity when pondering new ideas.
        B. I prefer clarity when pondering new ideas.

9.     A. The Post-It Note is a good example of innovation because it was spontaneous.
        B. The Post-It Note is a bad example of innovation because it was spontaneous.

10.     A. I feel responsible for innovating new ideas.
          B. I feel others are responsible for innovating new ideas.

11.     A. Innovating is a random, improvisational, back-and-forth experience.
          B. Innovating is a systematic, linear experience.

12.     A. Constraints on resources like time and money drive innovation.
          B. Constraints on resources like time and money inhibit innovation.

13.     A. Homogeneous groups are more likely to innovate.
          B. Diverse groups are more likely to innovate.

14.     A. Innovation can be scheduled. It can occur anytime I want.
          B. Innovation cannot be scheduled. It occurs randomly.

15.     A. Innovation is an unstructured process.
          B. Innovation is a patterned, "templated" process.

Scoring:

For odd numbered questions, give yourself one point for each “B” statement.

For even numbered questions, give yourself one point for each “A” statement.

How do you rate? Here is a general guideline:

  • 11 to 15 points: Consider yourself an innovator.
  • 6 to 10 points: Innovating is a mixed bag for you, but you may be headed in the right direction.
  • 0 to 5 points: Innovation is a mystery to you. Consider formal training.

Boost Your Creative Output By Working in Small Teams

2-dogs-sharing-a-stickHave you ever been in a meeting when someone starts dominating the conversation and they won't stop? And they go on and on about that same old pet idea of theirs? And it's not a particularly good idea, but you've been told there's no such thing as a bad idea. So you have to sit there and not criticize. If you're like most people, these typical brainstorming sessions can be frustrating, one person talks while the rest of you listen. People start mentally checking out. They start looking at their smartphones, sending text messages. The ideas are either really weird, or really boring, and you come away from these meetings feeling unsatisfied.

A very simple technique is, instead of working as a large group, imagine breaking the group down into smaller teams, pairs, or groups of three. Why does this work? Working in pairs has many advantages. When you work with another person, you give that person your undivided attention. You feel a certain accountability to that other person to do your fair share of the thinking.

You bounce ideas off each other. You give each other suggestions. And working in pairs creates a certain camaraderie and team spirit. But there's also another advantage to working in small groups. It's much more efficient. Here's an example. Imagine you're generating ideas in a typical brainstorming session with ten people. One person talks, and nine other people listen. That's ten people working on one idea. But if you took that same group and created five groups of two people.

Now you have five times the ideas coming out in the same amount of time. That's a huge boost to your creative output.

Now, here's the way to manage it. When you start an ideation session with your colleagues, first have everybody in the room stand up, then ask them to find a partner, but ask them to find a colleague that they normally don't work with. It's critical that you try to mix things up every so often. Then have the pairs sit down, but be sure the people spread out in the room a little bit.

Otherwise, you'll notice they have a tendency to want to come back together. So what is their assignment? You remember that list of components that you generated earlier? Take one component off that list and assign each pair a component from that list. That's going to allow them to focus on just that issue. By the way, make sure you give them a time limit, say three minutes. This further constrains them inside the box, so they come up with that breakthrough idea.

 

 

Eight Years of Blogging at Innovation in Practice

Drew 1This month marks the eight year anniversary of Innovation in Practice. As always, I want to thank my many readers and supporters who follow it.

When you start blogging, you're never quite sure who will read it and continue reading it. A fellow innovation blogger told me not to worry about. "Blog it, and they will come," is what he said. In essence, readers self-select based on their interest in the topic. I can't control it.

That said, I've learned a lot in the last eight years, and I see predictable patterns in the types of people who find me here and contact me about speaking engagements. They are:

  • Strategy/Innovation Leaders: executives who are looking to make transformational change in their business
  • Technical/R&D Leaders: executives who are driven to fill their product pipeline
  • Commercial Leaders: marketing executives who need to strengthen their franchise vis-a-vis their colleague's franchises
  • HR/Leadership Training Leaders: HR executives or consultants who want to embed innovation in their programs
  • Meeting Planners: people who source talent for a wide variety of programs

My goal is to make this blog different from other innovation blogs and websites. Instead of focusing on why innovation is important, I focus on how innovation happens.  The themes of this blog are:

  • Innovation can be learned like any other skill such as marketing, leadership, or playing the guitar.  To be an innovator, learn a method.Teach it to others.
  • Innovation must be linked to strategy. Innovation for innovation's sake doesn't matter. Innovation that is guided by strategy or helps guide strategy yields the most opportunity for corporate growth.
  • Innovation is a two-way phenomena. We can start with a problem and innovate solutions. Or we can generate hypothetical solutions and explore problems that they solve. To be a great innovator, you need to be a two-way innovator.
  • The corporate perspective, where innovation is practiced day-to-day, is what must be understood and kept at the center of attention. This is where truth is separated from hype.

I'm expecting 2016 to be another strong year in terms of keynotes, workshops, and training programs. My marketing and PR team are going to completely re-position the "Drew Boyd" brand in terms of a new website, design, and messaging. It's an exciting project, to be launched in the first quarter.

The book, Inside the Box, is now in fifteen languages and continues to sell well globally. As of now, I have three additional book projects lined up with some amazingly-talented co-authors. Four more video courses will be added to my lynda.com lineup. Now that LinkedIn owns lynda.com, the viewership of my courses has skyrocketed.

And the biggest news for 2016 is...the launch of our new web app - Innovate! Inside the Box, a software tool that helps you use the SIT Innovation Method. Today, we have an iPad version of the app, but this new app will be browser-based so you'll be able to access from any Internet-connected appliance. STAY TUNED!

I want to thank Jacob, as well as Amnon Levav, Yoni Stern, and the entire team at SIT LLC. I thank Marta Dapena-Baron at Big Picture Partners, Bob Cialdini and the team at Influence at Work, Yury Boshyk at Global Executive Learning, the Washington Speakers Bureau, the team at Lynda.com, Jim Levine, Emilie D'Agostino, Shelley Bamburger, the team at Wordsworth Communications, and my fellow faculty at the UC Lindner College of Business.

Drew

Eight Years of Blogging at Innovation in Practice

Drew 1This month marks the eight year anniversary of Innovation in Practice. As always, I want to thank my many readers and supporters who follow it.

When you start blogging, you're never quite sure who will read it and continue reading it. A fellow innovation blogger told me not to worry about. "Blog it, and they will come," is what he said. In essence, readers self-select based on their interest in the topic. I can't control it.

That said, I've learned a lot in the last eight years, and I see predictable patterns in the types of people who find me here and contact me about speaking engagements. They are:

  • Strategy/Innovation Leaders: executives who are looking to make transformational change in their business
  • Technical/R&D Leaders: executives who are driven to fill their product pipeline
  • Commercial Leaders: marketing executives who need to strengthen their franchise vis-a-vis their colleague's franchises
  • HR/Leadership Training Leaders: HR executives or consultants who want to embed innovation in their programs
  • Meeting Planners: people who source talent for a wide variety of programs

My goal is to make this blog different from other innovation blogs and websites. Instead of focusing on why innovation is important, I focus on how innovation happens.  The themes of this blog are:

  • Innovation can be learned like any other skill such as marketing, leadership, or playing the guitar.  To be an innovator, learn a method.Teach it to others.
  • Innovation must be linked to strategy. Innovation for innovation's sake doesn't matter. Innovation that is guided by strategy or helps guide strategy yields the most opportunity for corporate growth.
  • Innovation is a two-way phenomena. We can start with a problem and innovate solutions. Or we can generate hypothetical solutions and explore problems that they solve. To be a great innovator, you need to be a two-way innovator.
  • The corporate perspective, where innovation is practiced day-to-day, is what must be understood and kept at the center of attention. This is where truth is separated from hype.

I'm expecting 2016 to be another strong year in terms of keynotes, workshops, and training programs. My marketing and PR team are going to completely re-position the "Drew Boyd" brand in terms of a new website, design, and messaging. It's an exciting project, to be launched in the first quarter.

The book, Inside the Box, is now in fifteen languages and continues to sell well globally. As of now, I have three additional book projects lined up with some amazingly-talented co-authors. Four more video courses will be added to my lynda.com lineup. Now that LinkedIn owns lynda.com, the viewership of my courses has skyrocketed.

And the biggest news for 2016 is...the launch of our new web app - Innovate! Inside the Box, a software tool that helps you use the SIT Innovation Method. Today, we have an iPad version of the app, but this new app will be browser-based so you'll be able to access from any Internet-connected appliance. STAY TUNED!

I want to thank Jacob, as well as Amnon Levav, Yoni Stern, and the entire team at SIT LLC. I thank Marta Dapena-Baron at Big Picture Partners, Bob Cialdini and the team at Influence at Work, Yury Boshyk at Global Executive Learning, the Washington Speakers Bureau, the team at Lynda.com, Jim Levine, Emilie D'Agostino, Shelley Bamburger, the team at Wordsworth Communications, and my fellow faculty at the UC Lindner College of Business.

Drew

The Flawed Crawl Walk Run Methodology

The Flawed Crawl Walk Run MethodologyMany of you may have heard of the Crawl Walk Run project methodology. For those of you that haven't the idea is that if a project team is trying to achieve something big, that sometimes you have to evolve your approach in stages rather than trying to make all the changes all at once. Many people are quite fond of this approach and can be heard repeating the mantra... Continue reading