Category Archives: systematic innovation

Innovation Sighting: LG’s New Smart Vacuum Doubles as a Home Security System

LG VacuumThe rush to put new technology in the home is heating up like never before. Challengers include Amazon (Echo), Google (Home), and soon we'll have Apple's Siri device. Microsoft can't be far behind.

Now here's a completely different take on home technology, and it's a perfect example of the Task Unification Technique, one of five in the S.I.T. innovation method. Task Unification is defined as: assigning an additional task to an existing resource. That resource should be in the immediate vicinity of the problem, or what we call The Closed World. In essence, it's taking something that is already around you and giving an additional job. The new LG Hom-Bot robotic vacuum does just that. Here's a report from Architectural Digest:

Looking to buy a security system for your home? Consider a vacuum.

LG's newest Hom-Bot robotic vacuum, available this month, merges cleaning and home security into one smartphone-controlled system.

In addition to sweeping up dust and crumbs, the Hom-Bot has front and top-facing cameras that can be accessed through its app at any time. In a true representation of the "smart" vacuum, once it's become accustomed to your home, the Hom-Bot will also automatically snap photos and message them to you if it detects movement in an area of the home or at a time of the day when activity is unusual.

A square-ish rather than rounded shape allows it to edge into tighter corners, and its cameras not only act as a safety measure but also help it more accurately map the room to achieve an efficient cleaning route. Its final feature is a sure appeal to a millennial audience: The vacuum is a rose-hued shade of "metallic gold."

LG's Hom-Bot Turbo+ costs $999 but additional models without cameras retail for $799 and $699.

 To get the most out of the Task Unification technique, you follow five basic steps:

  1. List all of the components, both internal and external, that are part of the Closed World of the product, service, or process.
  2. Select a component from the list. Assign it an additional task, using one of three methods:
  • Choose an external component and use it to perform a task that the product accomplishes already
  • Choose an internal component and make it do something new or extra
  • Choose an internal component and make it perform the function of an external component, effectively “stealing” the external component’s function
  1. Visualize the new (or changed) products or services.
  2. What are the potential benefits, markets, and values? Who would want this, and why would they find it valuable? If you are trying to solve a specific problem, how can it help address that particular challenge?
  3. If you decide the new product or service is valuable, then ask: Is it feasible? Can you actually create these new products? Perform these new services? Why or why not? Is there any way to refine or adapt the idea to make it viable?

Innovation Sighting: LG’s New Smart Vacuum Doubles as a Home Security System

LG VacuumThe rush to put new technology in the home is heating up like never before. Challengers include Amazon (Echo), Google (Home), and soon we'll have Apple's Siri device. Microsoft can't be far behind.

Now here's a completely different take on home technology, and it's a perfect example of the Task Unification Technique, one of five in the S.I.T. innovation method. Task Unification is defined as: assigning an additional task to an existing resource. That resource should be in the immediate vicinity of the problem, or what we call The Closed World. In essence, it's taking something that is already around you and giving an additional job. The new LG Hom-Bot robotic vacuum does just that. Here's a report from Architectural Digest:

Looking to buy a security system for your home? Consider a vacuum.

LG's newest Hom-Bot robotic vacuum, available this month, merges cleaning and home security into one smartphone-controlled system.

In addition to sweeping up dust and crumbs, the Hom-Bot has front and top-facing cameras that can be accessed through its app at any time. In a true representation of the "smart" vacuum, once it's become accustomed to your home, the Hom-Bot will also automatically snap photos and message them to you if it detects movement in an area of the home or at a time of the day when activity is unusual.

A square-ish rather than rounded shape allows it to edge into tighter corners, and its cameras not only act as a safety measure but also help it more accurately map the room to achieve an efficient cleaning route. Its final feature is a sure appeal to a millennial audience: The vacuum is a rose-hued shade of "metallic gold."

LG's Hom-Bot Turbo+ costs $999 but additional models without cameras retail for $799 and $699.

 To get the most out of the Task Unification technique, you follow five basic steps:

  1. List all of the components, both internal and external, that are part of the Closed World of the product, service, or process.
  2. Select a component from the list. Assign it an additional task, using one of three methods:
  • Choose an external component and use it to perform a task that the product accomplishes already
  • Choose an internal component and make it do something new or extra
  • Choose an internal component and make it perform the function of an external component, effectively “stealing” the external component’s function
  1. Visualize the new (or changed) products or services.
  2. What are the potential benefits, markets, and values? Who would want this, and why would they find it valuable? If you are trying to solve a specific problem, how can it help address that particular challenge?
  3. If you decide the new product or service is valuable, then ask: Is it feasible? Can you actually create these new products? Perform these new services? Why or why not? Is there any way to refine or adapt the idea to make it viable?

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.

Practical Points on Critical Thinking

CtWhat exactly is critical thinking? Do we know how to define it, or better yet, to foster it in those we are teaching? In her article, “Teaching Critical Thinking: Some Practical Points,” Dr. Linda B. Nilson aptly describes how critical thinking can be encouraged and successfully practiced in the classroom.

Nilson recognizes there is much confusion in scholastics when it comes to delineating what precisely makes thinking “critical.” However, she also sees commonality of thought in the literature surrounding the topic. Dr. Nilson draws from these unified principles to outline a number of practical, open-ended questions to ask when attempting to foster critical thinking. Such questions include:

  • What is your interpretation/analysis of this passage/data/argument?
  • What are your reasons for favoring that interpretation/analysis? What is your evidence?
  • How well does your interpretation/analysis handle the complexities of the passage/data/argument?
  • What is another interpretation/analysis of the passage/data/argument? Any others?
  • What are the implications of each interpretation/analysis?
  • Let’s look at all the interpretations/analyses and evaluate them. How strong is the evidence for each one?
  • How honestly and impartially are you representing the other interpretations/analyses? Do you have a vested interest in one interpretation/analysis over another?
  • What additional information would help us to narrow down our interpretations/analyses?

Dr. Nilson insightfully points out that in addition to providing students with such thought-provoking questions, an educator also needs to facilitate a venue where such processing can happen. Such opportunities might include classroom discussion times, debriefing of complex cases, simulations, or role plays. And Nilson is quick to recognize that this learning space is only as effective as the educator’s willingness to also engage and model critical thinking to the students:

“Students need to see us showing the courage to question our own opinions and values, the fair-mindedness to represent multiple perspectives accurately, and the open-mindedness to entertain viewpoints opposed to our own. When we do this, we should let students know that we are practicing critical thinking.”

The application of Linda Nilson’s rich insight reaches far beyond the four walls of the classroom and into the world of innovation. Just as Systematic Inventive Thinking is critical to innovation, critical thinking is the platform on which SIT stands. Critical thinkers can be the best innovators when they create thoughtful, template-based products that stand the test of time.

 

Innovation Leaders Need Peers

Leadership

There’s an old saying in business. Don’t make enemies of your peers. If you do, you won’t need any more enemies. They’ll be able to do you in...just fine.

So what’s my point? Your peers are an essential resource and support network. By peers, I mean those at the same level in other departments: finance, sales, human resources, marketing, R&D, and operations. After all, innovation is an essential commercial activity. Without an effective and strong base of support from these peers, you’re going to fail at leading innovation in your firm.

So here are some key steps you can take to forge effective peer relationships as an innovation leader.

First, meet with each peer one-on-one. Do this very early in your new position. Now I know it’s tempting to jump right in and start tackling your big innovation challenges. Be careful. I’d advise you meet with your peers within the first week of your new appointment. Peers are that important.

Meet with them to assure them of one thing: that you’re a collaborator, not a competitor. You’ll see throughout this course that consulting your peers on key decisions will move you forward, reduce risk, and solidify you as a competent innovation leader.

Peers help you pressure test your assumptions. They have important information for you. When they align with you, it share the risks...and rewards of big wins. You have to make this a priority.

One very important area to collaborate with your peers is in people development. You have people reporting to you, and so do they. You’re all committed, or should be committed, to developing the most competent teams you can. So work together. Use your peers to give you feedback about individual team members, give feedback to them about their people, and look for ways to share development resources and assignments that help people grow.

If you’re seen as a collaborator, you’ll survive. If you’re seen by your peers as a lone wolf, it’s just a matter of time…

And that leads me to my final piece of advice. Practice the Rule of Reciprocity. Reciprocity is a social rule that every human society teaches its members. If someone helps you, you’re obligated to help them back. But the key is - you have to make the first move. You have to do something that helps a peer in a way that’s unexpected. They’ll not only appreciate it, but they’ll start looking for ways they can help you in return.

So meet with your peers. Look for insights on how you can make THEM successful. That’s right. Them, not you. If you help your peers first, you’ll be seen as a credible, trustworthy partner who’s trying to move the business forward. And that will help YOU succeed in the long run.

Innovating Through Partnerships

CoattailsHave you ever heard the expression, "Riding on the Coattails of Others?" What it means is - achieving success by associating with other people or groups. In sales and marketing, it’s another great way to create opportunities and improve your sales revenue. Let’s look at how.

To achieve success through others, you have to form partnerships, or what we sometimes call a joint venture. Each partner in the venture does something that benefits the other partner. That way, both sides have a good reason to be involved. In sales and marketing, there are many ways companies can help each other.

Just sharing information such as marketing research can be of value. For example, if your company collects information about consumer preferences and a non-competing company has different information about those same customers, you could swap the data and learn more about your customers.

A partnership can be formed to share sales leads with each other. When one company makes a sale, they give that lead to the other company so they can go in there and make a sale. This opens up a whole new source of leads to put into your sales funnel.

Co-marketing can become much more aggressive than just sharing information and sales leads. For example, each company in the partnership could promote and sell the other one’s products and services. If you sell real estate, you might want to co-promote with moving companies. Once you’ve established a strong relationship with your customer base, selling other company’s products can increase your revenue by taking commissions on those sales.

Finally, another great way a partnership can work is when the partners share resources like channels of distribution or training resources. The secret is to give your partner something that is inexpensive for you to provide but of great value to them, and vice versa.

The key is to pick the right partner and strike the right deal. A good partner is someone who does not compete with your company, but is closely related enough that customers would understand why the two of you are associated. Think about the profile of the customers you want to reach.

Ask yourself, what companies out there also sell to these people? What companies have insights about their buying habits and needs? Do they have a relationship with these customers, and do they have sales channels to reach them? If so, you’ve found an ideal candidate to partner with.

Now here’s a tip. You want to be careful that you don’t create a situation where your reps are distracted selling the other company’s products to the point where they miss forecast on your products. A simple way around that is to bundle the products together. That means putting two or more products together so the customer buys all of them at the same time. For example, if you sell vacation packages, you might bundle travel insurance with it.

So take a look at potential partners given the types of products and services you sell. Give them a call and discuss the possibilities. You’ll be surprised at the many advantages of riding on the coattails of others.

Innovation Sighting: Coca Cola’s Green Billboard

Coke-green-billboard

The Task Unification Technique is great because it generates novel ideas that tend to be novel and resourceful. It's one of five techniques in the SIT Innovation Method.

Task Unification is defined as: assigning an additional task to an existing resource. That resource should be in the immediate vicinity of the problem, or what we call The Closed World. In essence, it's taking something that is already around you and giving an additional job.

Here's a great example - Coca Cola's green billboard functions as a traditional billboard by communicating its brand while filtering the air with live plants. From AdWeek:

Advertising doesn't get much greener than this: Coca-Cola and the World Wildlife Fund have unveiled a new 60-by-60-foot billboard in the Philippines that's covered in Fukien tea plants, which absorb air pollution. Each plant can absorb up to 13 pounds of carbon dioxide a year. "This billboard helps alleviate air pollution within its proximate areas as it can absorb a total of 46,800 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, on estimate," says botanist Anthony Gao. The rest of the billboard is just as environmentally friendly. The plants are contained in 3,600 pots made from old Coke bottles and designed to help the plants grow sideways. The potting mixture was made from industrial byproducts and organic fertilizers. And a drip irrigation system was installed, which saves water and fertilizer by allowing water to drip slowly to the roots of plants, through a network of valves, pipes, tubing, and emitters. "We are proud that we have brought to life the first plant billboard in the country," says Guillermo Aponte, president of Coca-Cola Philippines. "It is an embodiment of our company's 'Live Positively' commitment to making a positive difference in the world by incorporating sustainability into everything that we do. With this, we hope to inspire Filipinos to join us in our journey, because we know that together, we can make a positive impact." 

To get the most out of the Task Unification technique, you follow five basic steps:

1. List all of the components, both internal and external, that are part of the Closed World of the product, service, or process.

2. Select a component from the list. Assign it an additional task, using one of three methods:

  • Choose an external component and use it to perform a task that the product accomplishes already
  • Choose an internal component and make it do something new or extra
  • Choose an internal component and make it perform the function of an external component, effectively “stealing” the external component’s function

3. Visualize the new (or changed) products or services.

4. What are the potential benefits, markets, and values? Who would want this, and why would they find it valuable? If you are trying to solve a specific problem, how can it help address that particular challenge?

5. If you decide the new product or service is valuable, then ask: Is it feasible? Can you actually create these new products? Perform these new services? Why or why not? Is there any way to refine or adapt the idea to make it viable?

 

 

Innovation Sighting: Coca Cola’s Green Billboard

Coke-green-billboard

The Task Unification Technique is great because it generates novel ideas that tend to be novel and resourceful. It's one of five techniques in the SIT Innovation Method.

Task Unification is defined as: assigning an additional task to an existing resource. That resource should be in the immediate vicinity of the problem, or what we call The Closed World. In essence, it's taking something that is already around you and giving an additional job.

Here's a great example - Coca Cola's green billboard functions as a traditional billboard by communicating its brand while filtering the air with live plants. From AdWeek:

Advertising doesn't get much greener than this: Coca-Cola and the World Wildlife Fund have unveiled a new 60-by-60-foot billboard in the Philippines that's covered in Fukien tea plants, which absorb air pollution. Each plant can absorb up to 13 pounds of carbon dioxide a year. "This billboard helps alleviate air pollution within its proximate areas as it can absorb a total of 46,800 pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, on estimate," says botanist Anthony Gao. The rest of the billboard is just as environmentally friendly. The plants are contained in 3,600 pots made from old Coke bottles and designed to help the plants grow sideways. The potting mixture was made from industrial byproducts and organic fertilizers. And a drip irrigation system was installed, which saves water and fertilizer by allowing water to drip slowly to the roots of plants, through a network of valves, pipes, tubing, and emitters. "We are proud that we have brought to life the first plant billboard in the country," says Guillermo Aponte, president of Coca-Cola Philippines. "It is an embodiment of our company's 'Live Positively' commitment to making a positive difference in the world by incorporating sustainability into everything that we do. With this, we hope to inspire Filipinos to join us in our journey, because we know that together, we can make a positive impact." 

To get the most out of the Task Unification technique, you follow five basic steps:

1. List all of the components, both internal and external, that are part of the Closed World of the product, service, or process.

2. Select a component from the list. Assign it an additional task, using one of three methods:

  • Choose an external component and use it to perform a task that the product accomplishes already
  • Choose an internal component and make it do something new or extra
  • Choose an internal component and make it perform the function of an external component, effectively “stealing” the external component’s function

3. Visualize the new (or changed) products or services.

4. What are the potential benefits, markets, and values? Who would want this, and why would they find it valuable? If you are trying to solve a specific problem, how can it help address that particular challenge?

5. If you decide the new product or service is valuable, then ask: Is it feasible? Can you actually create these new products? Perform these new services? Why or why not? Is there any way to refine or adapt the idea to make it viable?