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Kowabunga! Moving Notice & Repost: Got Ideas? Collaborators & YOUR creative brilliance sought for Kowabunga!

Kowabunga! will be moving to www.ridingthewave.net very soon!  As many subscribers were dropped by the previous subscription service, please resubscribe on the new site so you don't miss any posts!
In the meantime — we're still looking for your ideas for blog posts and interactivity, so here is a repost on our contest, below.  Win Langdon Morris' great new book, The Innovation Master Plan or your own special interview on Kowabunga!

Dear readers, Boys in leaves

I hope that you have been gleaning some value and reading pleasure from this blog, as well as enjoying some of our fabulous photos!  We're off to a good start exploring different facets of creative thinking and how to cultivate it in organizations, and I'm pleased to see that we have readers from around the world!

With your help, I’d like to "take it up a notch” soon and make Kowabunga! more a more interactive and creative forum.  The timing of my invitation is appropriate, as my next post will be on collaboration!

You can either respond on the blog site comment section, or write me directly at adams at ridingthewave dot net.

  1. Please send me your ideas for posts, contests, interactivity, podcasts, interviews, videos… Whatever you can dream of… 
  2. Let me know if you’d be interested in writing a guest post or collaborating with me on a post or related project.

Keep in mind that if you post your ideas in the comments section for everyone to see, those may inspire other people's ideas — That's the beauty of brainstorming, or "what iffing."   

PRIZES!  In return for those who provide the most and best ideas*, I'm offering some added incentive:

  • One winner will receive Langdon Morris' new book, hot off the press and signed by the author:  The Innovation Master Plan.  You'll be invited to share a review, if you like.
  • Another grand prize: We'll create a post or fun podcast featuring YOU and your creative and innovative work and/or related topic of your choice.

I would like to think that we've only just begun with what Kowabunga!  can become, and that your support and creativity may play a role!

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best wishes,

Veronica Adams
Riding the Wave Training & Development
adams at ridingthewave dot net

 

 * Disclaimer: The contest judges offer no objective criteria whatsoever for what will be deemed the "best" ideas.  Just ones we think that we all might enjoy!  😉

Tree bud A friend recently said he didn’t know that when I talk about innovation I am referring to improvements in processes, workflows, and efficiency, in addition to new product and service development.  So, let me set the record straight.

According to The American Heritage Dictionary (2006), “innovation” is defined as:
n. 1. The act of introducing something new. 2. Something newly introduced.

In Oxford American, it’s:
Change, alteration, revolution, upheaval, transformation, metamorphosis, breakthrough; new measures, new methods, modernization, creativity, ingenuity, inspiration….

So, as the terms "new methods" and “new measures" don’t exactly indicate radical marketing breakthroughs or revolutionary unique products, being innovative can simply mean applying ideas to doing routine procedures in somewhat more efficient or more effective ways.

Making Improvements in Processes vs. "Process Improvement":
The term "process improvement," for some, brings a system like “Six Sigma”to mind.  Although there is resounding evidence that formal programs such as Sigma have made significant contributions toward achieving greater efficiency and eliminating waste, this sort of system has been found to be detrimental to the creative process in research and development departments, such as the one at innovative 3M, as reviewed in an interesting Business Week article

Many of us would agree that it's a matter of balance, and one solution certainly does not fit all situations.  Of course, R&D programs should discipline themselves to be as efficient as possible in their planning, collaboration and communication processes, in vetting ideas, and rapid prototyping, without being hindered by some of the Six Sigma-type constraints.

KISS 2 K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Silly!):  For some of us, the term “process improvement” simply means what it always has: modest improvements in how we do things.  Such as, “Let’s start writing the dates completed on the boxes that we’ve sorted through so no one wastes time going back through them.”  It can be any “new method” that’s never been done before that helps us to achieve greater efficiency in our workflows or improve quality – like the 100+ ideas that each Toyota employee is encouraged to contribute to their company every year.

Most of us have numerous process and work-flow improvement ideas pop into our heads at work all the time.  As Langdon Morris has written, part of innovation involves the creative tension of “seeing things as they are and things as they could be.”  Unfortunately, many people are not empowered by their employers to share their suggestions, let alone see them discussed or implemented.   This all too common situation is a tremendous waste of brainpower and resources, frustrates employees, and contributes to low moral and higher turnover.

 

Many Forms of Innovation:
At a conference on innovation, Brownell Langdrum of Draw Success (www.DrawSuccess.com) supplemented her own list of types of innovation with ideas generated by a group of chief innovation officers from companies such as Google, Mattel, and Hewlett-Packard.  A few of these are included below.   If you go to her full document, you will find that some of the descriptions are, fittingly, quite original.  Actually, the list itself could be a very useful tool for generating ideas!!

 

First, let’s look at some of forms which are perhaps less recognized as “innovation, but which relate to Quality & Productivity Clock
Improvements in internal operations:

Efficiency Innovation:

Efficiency innovation delivers ways to improve efficiency and the speed of effectiveness.  It can include internal systems and processes or ways to expedite the customer/client experience.

Financial Innovation:
This form of innovation conveys ways to increase sales, reduce costs, improve tracking of expenses, and reduce accounts receivable, along with other ways of managing finances to enhance profitability.  It also includes ideas to improve tax/audit compliance.

Process Innovation:
Process Innovation encompasses the implementation of a new or significantly improved production or delivery method.

Note: I’m a big fan of efficiency, so I believed that process improvements imply greater efficiency.  But, it was pointed out to me that changes that improve quality do not always result in greater “efficiency,” in that these can slow speed of operations down.  I think the argument can be made that improvements in quality are ultimately more efficient uses of time and effort, but for now, I yield to these as being two distinct forms of innovation.

Systems Innovations:
This form of innovation includes introducing a new infrastructure or system, which could produce new sectors, and induce major change across several areas of business.

 

Fireworks 2 And now for some of the more 
Flashy Definitions of Innovation:

Breakthrough, disruptive or radical innovation:
These forms of innovation involve launching entirely novel products or services rather than providing improved products and services along the same lines as currently marketed.  Breakthrough innovations are rare because of the risk and uncertainty, but they can deliver tremendous rewards.  They require large leaps of thought and a high-risk tolerance.

Business Model Innovation:
Business model innovation involves changing the way business is done, whether in terms of sales and distribution, marketing, pricing or any other core business strategy.

Incremental Innovation:
This is when one adds something extra to a product or service that the competition doesn't have or isn't doing.  Or, when one makes something last longer, more convenient or faster.

Marketing Innovation:
This involves development of new marketing methods with improvement in product design or packaging, product promotion, communication or advertising, pricing or distribution.

Product Innovation:
Product innovation is the introduction of a good or service that is new or substantially improved, which may include improvements in functional characteristics, technical abilities, ease of use, or any other dimension.

Service Innovation:
Service Innovation, compared to goods or product innovation or process innovation, delivers ways to improve the delivery of a service or expertise and is both interactive and information-intensive.

Technological Innovation:
This may include coming up with new technologies to solve a problem or new uses for existing technologies.  Solutions may be high-tech (i.e. computer systems) or low-tech (a better mouse trap).

 

In summary, when I use the term “innovation,”  I mean a range of ways of putting good, new ideas into action within operations, workflows, and processes as well as in the marketplace and in solving social, environmental, and economic issues.  The organizations that will survive and thrive in this rapidly changing environment welcome and apply ideas on a wide range of topics – the more the merrier!

Lightbulb full of ideas

* WikipediaSix Sigma is a business mangement strategy originally developed by Motorola, USA in 1986.  As of 2010, it is widely used in many sectors of industry, although its use is not without controversy.  It seeks to improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects (errors) and minimizing variability in manufacturing and business processes. 

I recently posted about the “Creative Geniuses” that are found throughout Jester organizations.  Again, each of us carries creativity within us.  Some of us may need coaxing in order for our creativity to reemerge.  For all, a certain amount of support and structures are needed in order for our ideas to manifest.

In the recent "Leader as Conductor," post, I outlined some specific ways that managers can foster innovation in organizations.  But in what capacities?  In his terrific white paper, “Creating the Innovative Culture: Geniuses, Champions, & Leaders,” Langdon Morris of InnovationLabs outlines two other essential types of roles necessary to create an innovative culture:  “Innovation Champions” and “Innovation Leaders.”  

 Innovation Champions:  They support innovation by helping creative people overcome the obstacles that otherwise inevitably impede their innovation efforts.

Innovation Leaders:  They define firms’ expectations and policies to favor innovation. 

Working in partnership, these two distinct role models set the stage for creating the environment to grow, direct, and apply the creative genius within an organization.  As Mr. Morris writes, “The genius of firms like Apple, Cisco, and Toyota… [is that] their leaders seem to have found a way to standardize the process of innovation.”  

INNOVATION CHAMPIONS build the practical means for effective innovation by:
  • “Finding creative thinkers and encouraging them [often through coaching and mentoring] to think and work in new ways” or to "seek new experiences that spark new ideas;“ and
  • “They create a regular operations context in which sharing and developing new ideas is the norm.” 

Champions might have any title in the organization, from that of senior manager to front line operations staff.  Regardless of title, they “provide the bridge between the strategic directives of senior managers and the day-to-day focus of front line workers.”

“Hewlett Packard’s MBWA (mgt.-by-walking-around) was a great innovation champion technique for learning about innovation efforts and supporting them.”

Innovation champions “are usually persistent networkers… [who] know what’s going on many levels.”  They know who has the skills, talents, and resources; who needs what; what’s not working, and what can be done to move the process forward.

In his best-seller book The Tipping Point, author Malcolm Gladwell outlines three roles he sees as key to the success of ideas taking hold in organizations.  As Mr. Morris sees it, all three of these mantles are embodied in effective innovation champions:

  • Mavens who have deep knowledge that they are keen to share.
  • Salesmen who like to influence others to take action.
  • Connectors who have strong relationships with many people.
     

Collaboration & Trust:
Champions forge collaboration and trust while also helping to develop infrastructures that support innovation.  This includes creating environments that allow for the face-to-face partnering that is indispensable.  “They build collaboration, and they build the trust upon which effective collaboration occurs.  Innovation is a collaborative endeavor… There is little innovation without collaboration, and there is no collaboration without trust.”

Film edit director All the World's a Stage…
My undergraduate degree was in theater (Go, University of Detroit!).  As one whose right brain is well developed and who naturally thinks in terms of connections and similarities, I'll share how I see the roles of champions and leaders in terms of the parts they would play in artistic productions, as in theater or film. 

I envision the role of champions as similar to that of theater or film directors.  Collaboratively honing the production vision, they take the various tools and perimeters; the scripts and story-lines; the stage/sets, budgets, and timelines given to them by the producers; the talents, experience, strengths, weaknesses, and personalities of the actors, design and crews — and they orchestrate all of these.

Sometimes, depending on the size and budget of the production, the role of director is shared and divided among various people who serve as executive director, art director, assistant director, etc.  Similarly, there is (or should be) more than one champion within an organization.

Champions and directors work with "the talent" to create a shared, organic vision and then to manifest it.  While keeping their focus on the progress of the various production teams, they also work closely with the individuals.  They coach the actors to explore and hone their roles and to interact in the most effective ways with the other cast members.  They work similarly with the design and set crews.   

Key to the success of many directors is that they develop trusting relationships with the various individual artists in order to bring out the best in their talents, while building the collaboration and high trust that is needed for great ensemble productions and (what is called in the non-theater world) high-functioning teams.

Enter the other indispensable player… 
INNOVATION LEADERS influence the core structures and the basic operations of an organization in order to support innovation.  Such core structures include:

  • The design of the organization
  • Policies and underlying principles – “The Rules of the Game”
  • Metrics and rewards.

In keeping with my theater arts metaphor, I think of innovation leaders as the "producers."  Without a producer’s backing, there will be no show.  Producers don't have to be particularly creative themselves, and they don't need to be involved in a hands-on manner.  Nonetheless, they either "set the stage," or else they sabotage the production by the resources they provide (or fail to) and the perimeters they establish.  Some leaders are creative themselves and will be involved artistically, just as some producers are.  (Examples of top leaders with a hands-on approach: Immelt at GE and Iger at Disney, who has helped to design games himself.)

Given that innovation needs to be treated as a strategic concern, “innovation leaders are typically, though not exclusively, senior managers” who have the authority to make key decisions, related to questions such as:

  • Do budgets include a line item such as “investment in innovation”? 
  • Are there seed funds to invest in promising new ideas, or teams of people to manage ideas that do not fit inside existing business units?
    — If not, then innovation isn’t likely to happen.

In his book, Permanent Innovation, Mr. Morris asserts, “There is no innovation without leadership… Top managers can be powerful champions of innovation, or dark clouds of suppression…. They [need to] work diligently to eliminate the many obstacles that otherwise impede or even crush both creativity and innovation.”  

In closing, dear audience… 

Hat’s off to those Champions and Leaders who orchestrate creative genius and make the great innovations that move us all forward possible!

 

English miss

(Blog author, on another stage, long ago… )

 

Click on the link to download a free copy of Langdon Morris' excellent book:  Permanent Innovation: The Essential Guide to the Strategies, Principles, and Practices of Successful Innovators

And for his white paper: "Creating the Innovative Culture: Geniuses, Champions, & Leaders"

 

 

 

 

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