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What if everything you know about creativity and innovation is wrong?  What if incentives can actually hinder innovation?  What if brainstorming is not the best way to generate new ideas?  And most importantly what makes some companies and individuals more innovative than others?

All these questions and more are addressed in David Burkus’ upcoming book: The Myths of Creativity – The Truth About How Innovative Companies and People Generate Great Ideas.

As someone who is passionate about innovation, I believe idea generation and creativity can differentiate good companies from great ones.  Innovation makes common sense to me.  Innovative companies are open to new ideas and continually challenge the status quo, turning their ideas into new successes.  Yet so many companies struggle with the concept of innovation and how to create a culture which successfully fosters creative output.  Given my passion around innovation, I was fortunate to be selected to be a part of the book launch team for The Myths of Creativity, which demystifies the processes which drive innovation.

In the Myths of Creativity, Burkus debunks 10 common innovation myths and describes how companies and individuals can act on the truths behind these myths to increase their creative output.  Myths analyzed include:

  • The Eureka Myth: Creative insights happen in a flash
  • The Expert Myth: Innovative solutions come from highly trained experts
  • The Incentive Myth: The more incentives given, the more innovation can be achieved
  • The Brainstorming Myth: Brainstorming is needed to achieve creative ideas
  • The Mousetrap Myth: If you have a great idea, the world will jump onboard

Interested in learning more about how your company can create an innovative culture where the best ideas, projects, processes and programs can be identified and achieved?  Or how you can become more innovative?  Check out the preview video of the Myths of Creativity below and consider pre-ordering the book on Amazon.

Times | Flickr - Photo Sharing!It can be argued that businesses were traditionally built to be predictable, consistent and stable. Processes were designed to ensure consistent output and to control employee behavior to produce efficient outcomes. I would argue that in recent years the great recession, technological change and other factors have transformed business as we used to know it, into a more dynamic environment characterized by a faster speed of change than ever seen before.

Here are my 5 success strategies organizations can leverage to survive and thrive in today’s dynamic business environment:

1. Accept that Constant and Fast Change is the New Normal

In recent years the business environment has under gone a transformative shift where a heightened pace of change has become the new normal. As David Burstein author of the Fast Future argues:

The future is coming at us faster and faster, the rate of change is increasing and the amount of change that takes place in a given year is skyrocketing as well. So much change has taken place so fast that our governments, businesses, and other large institutions haven’t always had enough time to fully catch up.”

We are living in a time where anyone has the potential to make an impact. Start-ups can transform technology capabilities and anyone can share a message with the world through social platforms. While change can be daunting, executives need to embrace change and accept that the future is harder to predict than ever before.

2. Leverage the Possibilities of Big Data

Most organizations sit on a mountain of data. Today large, complex data sets can be analyzed to obtain greater business intelligence and statistical information than ever before. This data can be leveraged to improve the customer experience, product/service, logistics, customer segmentation, pricing, customer retention, inventory management and many other factors. David Court, McKinsey Director argues that regardless of whether or not you are a data based company, all businesses can leverage data and analytics to make stronger data-supported predictions and optimize performance by obtaining a broader view of operations. It is important organizations ensure data doesn’t become siloed, so they can fully optimize and take advantage of advanced analytics. Information may not be valuable for long so it’s important businesses exploit it and get utility out of it, to strengthen their competitive position.

3. Constant Innovation

Given the dynamic environment a constant focus on innovation is fundamental. It is important executives recognize that innovations can come from anywhere in the organization. Communication channels need to be open to allow for the free flow of information throughout all levels of the hierarchy. Employees need to be empowered to innovate everyday and share knowledge. To facilitate this change in organizational thinking, employee performance systems will need to be adapted to award innovative thinking as opposed to following corporate created guidelines.

4. Agility

Traditional bureaucratic organizational structures are slow to change and thus not adaptable enough for today’s innovative business environment. Organizations need to be redesigned to be more agile; to adjust in real-time as change occurs.

5. Face Disruption Head On

Almost 50% of the companies in 1999’s FT 500 were no longer in the FT 500 by 2009. It can be argued that while businesses are focused on constant improvement, they don’t always change in the right ways. If we take the case of Tower Records, the former music store peaked and had their most success year ever in 1999. In the years that followed Tower Records continued to improve their operations and efficiency, however they failed to recognize that customer demand could be met better in a new way: through online music; to the detriment of the survival of their business. It is important that companies continually scan the environment in which they operate and constantly research new ways in which they can better meet their customers’ needs.

What other strategies do you think organizations can leverage to survive and thrive in today’s dynamic business environment? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

Created by Canadian start-up Thalmic Labs, MYO may be a potential replacement to camera/movement tracking technologies. But what is MYO? MYO is an armband that detects gestures from muscle activity and motion sensing. The MYO armband uses Bluetooth connectivity to wirelessly pair with devices and send commands. Rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and an ARM processor, power the MYO armband. If the product lives up to expectations it could transform how we interact with digital technologies. Check out this video to see how MYO is expected to function:

Here are 5 reasons why I believe MYO could be a potential game changer:

1. It’s Non-Invasive

The MYO armband should be no different from wearing a watch (albeit higher on your arm). It’s not in front of your eyes, potentially getting in your way like Google’s Project Glass technology. My only concern regarding wear-ability is MYO’s “one size fits most” claim. I have thin arms, (a lucky problem to have in some instances) and can’t help but wonder if a MYO armband will fit looser and not function as well on my arm? Time will tell if Thalmic Labs may need to recreate the MYO armband in different sizes to guarantee optimal functionality.

2. Large Audience /Multi-Use Appeal

MYO can be used to interface with video games and for other entertainment purposes. It also has an educational application, enabling its user to sweep through PowerPoint presentations (without holding a remote or standing behind a computer) and circle data. In addition MYO can be used by runners and snowboarders for example to measure speed. MYO can also interact with devices to serve a mouse or remote type function. MYO’s large amount of uses, make this technology potentially accessible to a mass audience.

Pinterest _ Search results for MYO gesture

3. PC/MAC Compatibility

MYO will be fully compatible with PCs and MACs from launch, making it widely accessible. Thalmic Labs are also looking into offering Linux support.

4. It’s Affordable!

MYO is available for pre-order for $149 and can be shipped anywhere in the world for $10.

5. Open Source Development

Thalmic Labs have been smart enough to recognize that they will not be able to think of all the ways MYO could be used. As a result anyone can utilize MYO’s hardware to experiment, build and profit creating a MYO app.

My Recommendation

I think MYO could potentially be very successful. However, getting the armband into the mass market before an established technology company releases something similar (e.g. Google’s Project Glass), will impact Thalmic Labs’ success. I would recommend Thalmic Labs partner with a large technology company for example Microsoft’s Kinect to greater increase the likelihood of this technology having a fast impact. Educational partnerships with schools, colleges and technology centers could further ensure a successful launch.

Want to be an early adopter of this gesture technology? Click here to preorder a MYO armband. 

Why Managing Sucks - Launch TeamLast year I wrote several posts on the results-only work environment concept and the benefits of this approach.  To recap a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) is a management philosophy focused on employee results over presence.  With ROWE employees are free to come and go as they please and do whatever they want, so long as work gets done and deadlines are met.

The ROWE concept is pioneered by Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler from consulting group Culture RX.  In 2008 Thompson and Ressler’s book on ROWE: “Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It” was named “The Year’s Best Book on Work-Life Balance” by Business Week.  The concept has gathered acclaim from all over the world and Daniel Pink best selling author of Drive, describes ROWE as:

“One of the biggest ideas in talent in the last decade.”

Now Thompson and Ressler are back with a new book called “Why Managing Sucks and How to Fix It” that shows how management can be reinvented.  The book is described as “a results-only guide to taking control of work, not people.”  In addition to Thompson and Ressler’s narratives on ROWE and management, the book also features case studies written by Culture RX’s clients illustrating how the ROWE concept can “make an organization more entrepreneurial, more connected with the broader industry trends, and more willing to take smart risks.”  Indeed, organizations that have adopted ROWE have on average experienced increased engagement, a 35% increase in productivity and a 90% decrease in voluntary turnover.  Here is a trailer that sums up what this book is all about:

Last year my blog posts on ROWE attracted the attention of Ressler and Thompson and I was asked to guest post on the Culture RX blog.  Roll on a year and I am excited to have been asked to be a part of the book launch team for “Why Managing Sucks and How to Fix It!” Check out the first chapter today and consider purchasing the book to readjust your thinking on work.

“We’re tweeting live from HR where we’re all being fired! Exciting!! #hmvXFactorFiring”

If you’re going to fire your social media planner wouldn’t you think to change the passwords first? This week British retailer HMV’s slight oversight, led to a live broadcast of their 60 person mass layoff to their official twitter account’s 60,000 + followers.

So who are HMV and what happened?

HMV is a 91-year-old British entertainment retailer similar to the almost defunct Virgin Megastore. I have always been a huge music fan and in my teens this was one of my favorite stores. As you can imagine given the online shift HMV has struggled to adapt its business model fast enough to the changed business environment.

On January 15, 2013 HMV entered administration (a form of bankruptcy).

On January 31, 2013 following advice from Deloitte, HMV laid off 190 employees from their corporate office and distribution centers. While this was always going to be a difficult task, the situation gained more exposure than HMV could ever have imagined, as their about to be laid off social media planner Poppy Rose Cleere tweeted the events live from the company’s twitter account:

Jilted employee live-tweets layoffs—from company account | Articles | Home

Comparing the corporate office mass firing of 60 employees to an X Factor elimination the hashtag #hmvXFactorFiring quickly went viral as HMV gained over 10,000 new Twitter followers.

The remaining employee’s lack of ability with social media was laid out for the world to see as these tweets reveal:

Jilted employee live-tweets layoffs—from company account | Articles | Home-1Poppy Rose (poppy_powers) on Twitter

The tweets were later taken down but the damage had been done and they are now part of the company’s digital footprint. Poppy Rose Cleere who had been responsible for managing HMV’s social media accounts for over 2 years, explained her action as the result of frustration at seeing the company she loved ruined. She hopes her actions can help educate HMV remaining executives finally realize the importance of social media:

“I worked tirelessly to educate the business of the importance of social media – not as a short-term commercial tool, but as a tool to build and strengthen the customer relationship – and to gain invaluable real-time feedback from the consumers that have kept us going for over 91 years. While many colleagues understood and supported this, it was the more senior members of staff who never seemed to grasp its importance. I hoped that [Thursday's] actions would finally show them the true power and importance of social media, and I hope they’re finally listening.”

HMV has responded by sending out the following tweets:

hmv (hmvtweets) on Twitter

Time will tell if their remaining marketing staff choose to utilize social media as a way to engage with their customers. For now HMV needs to find a way to create customer experiences to stop the brand from heading to “Borders” town.

What’s your take on this story? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

Rocket Science | Flickr - Photo Sharing!Recreational space travel was once seen as accessible only to billionaires, yet today the emergence of a commercial space travel industry targeting a broader demographic has never been closer. With an anticipated launch as early as 2014, space travel reservations are already being taken by Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace.

Virgin Galactic

Richard Branson had grown up dreaming of going space, yet as the years went by he observed that:

“NASA didn’t seem to be that interested in getting you and me into space.”

In 1990, ever the opportunistic entrepreneur Branson patented the name Virgin Galactic and began to investigate the feasibility of commercial space flights. In 2004 he licensed SpaceShipOne technology (the technology behind the first manned commercial vehicle to reach suborbital space) to create SpaceShipTwo. Double the size of its predecessor, SpaceShipTwo holds 2 pilots and 6 public participants (not called passengers due to legal reasons around the safety risks of space travel). To date Branson has spent over $200 million on turning his commercial space travel dream into a reality.

Virgin Galactic space travelers will fly out a spaceport in New Mexico. Branson anticipates that after arriving in space, travelers will be able to float around in the back cabin to experience about five minutes of weightlessness. The company is already taking reservations at $200,000 a ticket ($20,000 minimum deposit) or $1,000,000 to reserve an exclusive space flight for you and up to 5 friends. Here is Branson’s short video on Virgin Galactic:

XCOR Aerospace

Created in 1999 by a group of rocket engineers, XCOR Aerospace is setting out to become the “Southwest” of space travel. To date the start-up has spent over $45 million on developing a spaceship the Lynx that can operate like a commercial airliner. XCOR’s chief test pilot is “39 days in space” pilot commander Richard Searfoss.

Pinterest _ Search results for xcor aerospaceXCOR aim to offer up to 4 flights a day, 6 days a week departing from Midland, TX. Some flights will be for space travelers, while other flights will carry space experiments and small satellites for deployment. Chief test pilot and former NASA astronaut Richard Searfoss describes XCOR’s positioning:

“We’re trying to position the Lynx adventure as kind of The Right Stuff experience.”

Like Virgin Galactic, XCOR Aerospace flights will travel up to sub-orbit providing about 5 minutes of weightlessness. However, at this time due to safety concerns and given the prospect of space sickness, XCOR Aerospace travelers will not be able to float around the cabin. XCOR Aerospace are currently taking reservations for $95,000 a ticket. Check out this short video to learn more about their proposed experience:

As with any new industry it will take time for prices to come down enough for space travel to become accessible to the mass market. Nevertheless this is an exciting start to the creation of a commercial space travel industry.

But what do you think? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

E. 38th St and Mass Ave. | Flickr - Photo Sharing!-1A few years ago, Princeton PhD and Google CIO Douglas Merrill was enjoying some time by his pool when he received a phone call. The phone call was from his sister-in-law Vicki who was a single mom of 3, balancing full-time work and school. Vicki had called in a bind unable to afford new tires for her car. The expense was unanticipated and without new tires she would not have been able to get to work. Merrill lent her the money and asked what she would have done if it weren’t for him. Vicki responded that she would have got a payday loan. This one event led to the creation of an idea that would forever change Merrill’s career path.

Merrill considered it unfair that people with sub prime credit, who don’t have financially supportive relatives, have to resort to overpriced payday or pawn shop loans. Merrill gives the stats:

“According to the National Federation for Credit Counselors, 64% of Americans do not have a savings account of $1,000 or more to cover emergency expenses. About 17% are… able to borrow money from a family member. Unfortunately, that leaves the majority of Americans with no family to turn to, and no access to traditional credit. Unexpected expenses can push them over the edge of financial stability.”

Approximately 30 million Americans take out at least 1 payday or pawn shop loan each year to help cover unexpected expenses. These loans are essentially predatory debt, often with interest rates of over 600% hurting borrowers’ chances of regaining financial stability. Indeed payday loan payments are fee based resulting in a large number of payments that aren’t applied to the principal. In 2011 payday loan borrowers paid over $8 billion in fees.

Merrill saw a gap in the market to offer a form of credit with rates somewhere in between credit cards and payday loans. He created ZestCash (now ZestFinance) in 2010 to offer an alternative solution to payday and pawn shop loans for Americans who don’t qualify for credit cards, but may still be reliable borrowers if the traditional FICO credit assessment formula is rethought.

Close to the Hollywood Sign | Flickr - Photo Sharing!Merrill teamed up with Shawn Budde a senior executive for Capital One who was experienced in traditional underwriting. Together they set out to use big data to give what Merrill refers to as the “underbanked” access to lower cost credit, potentially saving this group billions of dollars in the long run.

Traditionally underwriting has utilized between 10-15 variables through logistic algorithms and or decision trees to decide whether or not to offer credit. By using big data, advanced mathematics and machine learning, ZestFinance goes beyond the traditional under writing approach, by analyzing thousands of potential credit variables (previously not examined) to assess fraud potential, default risk and long-term customer relationship potential. One previously unexamined variable which ZestFinance analyzes to determine willingness to pay, regards pre paid cell phones (popular among those with sub prime credit). A person’s willingness to keep their pre-paid phone number active, can correlate with the likelihood they will make payments on their loan.

Today ZestFinance offer loans of $300 to $800 through Spotloan for rates approximately 50% less than standard payday loans. Unlike payday loans every payment made by the borrower reduces the principal as well as paying down the interest.

ZestFinance hope to bring the “underbanked” back into the financial mainstream. Merrill argues that if they can get just 10% of payday loan customers to qualify for ZestFinance loans, they will help save that group of money conscious customers $800 million. The loans are not cheap, but are a more affordable alternative for those that don’t qualify for traditional credit or don’t have relatives to borrow funds from.

To learn more about Douglas Merrill’s “big idea” watch his TedX presentation below:

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