In this article, Robyn Bolton guides the pursuit of innovation through various storms.
Everyone knows about brainstorms but did you know there are three other types of storms that can blow you to your innovation destination?
First introduced in The Innovator’s DNA, these storms happen at the start of an innovation effort and seek to surface all the assumptions, expectations, concerns, and actual questions currently locked in individuals’ brains.
The value of this session is that it makes the implicit explicit, removes hidden agendas, eliminates guessing games, and establishes a culture of curiosity, exploration, and learning versus demands and fear.
You run Questionstorms just like brainstorms – give everyone 3-5 minutes to silently write a long list of thoughts. Then, give everyone another 3-5 minutes to turn each thought into a question and write the question on a sticky note. For example, “We need to realize $250M revenue in Year 3 to make this work” becomes “How might we design and run an innovation function that generates $250M in Year 3?” Then, each person reads their sticky notes to the group before placing them on a wall. The goal is to ask 50 questions before you start grouping and prioritizing.
I first learned about this storm from IDEO and am genuinely surprised by how effectively they re-energize teams and propel the work forward. These storms happen after the first phase of a project, usually the research phase.
An Intuition-storm’s value comes from its ability to pull the team out of the minutiae of the previous weeks and months of work and back up to seeing the big picture. In the process, they rapidly synthesize insights that may have gotten lost in the more traditional left-brained approach of gathering and summarizing details.
Again, just like brainstorms, start by posing the big question that the project intends to answer, then give people 3-5 minutes to write down their answers. Too much time and they may dig into documents and details, too little time and you’ll get recency bias in the responses. Then go around the room and share. Once everyone has shared, discuss the elements in common and the unique ones. Be clear that this isn’t about getting to THE answer, but about tapping into the full of everyone’s experience, expertise, and wisdom.
By now, we all know what it means to brainstorm, and we’ve all probably been part of one or two brainstorming sessions. But do you know where it all started?
In the mid-nineteenth century, “brainstorm” was a colloquial term for “fit of acute delirious mania; sudden dethronement of reason and will under the stress of strong emotion, usually accompanied by manifestations of violence.” Not exactly the type of thing most businesspeople aim for.
However, in 1939, advertising executive Alex F. Osborn got so frustrated with his employees’ ability to generate creative ideas for ad campaigns that he developed a new approach dubbed “organized ideation.” This approach, later renamed to “brainstorm” by his employees, was governed by four rules:
- Go for quantity
- Withhold criticism
- Welcome wild ideas
- Combine and improve ideas
While the methods and tools for brainstorming have evolved over the past 80+ years, it’s a testament to Osborn’s approach that the rules have not.
Read the full article, 4 Storms that Accelerate Innovation, on MileZero.io.
Kaihan Krippendorff provides an article that offers a new twist on innovation development.
To keep up with today’s rapid pace of disruption, every company feels the pressure to innovate. Most of them, when trying to shift to an innovative culture, feel like they have to pursue brand new ideas. But when I was recently invited to judge an innovation competition for Macmillan Learning, I saw that there is another way.
An innovation competition without any new ideas? This was the case for Macmillan’s Innovation Tournament. The goal was to celebrate the existing innovations from over the past 12 months.
As it turns out, there was already plenty of innovation going on inside the company: 217 employees submitted 46 projects—overall representing 25% of the workforce. Sometimes innovation isn’t about coming up with completely novel ideas, but instead making room to celebrate what is already there.
What they did and why
I spoke to Kate Geraghty, VP of Communications and Training, to find out more about how the company designed and spread the word about the untraditional hackathon.
She told me, “Our Innovation Tournament required teams of two or more employees to send in a project highlighting an innovation that happened in the last 12 months or one that was currently in flight. The goal was to celebrate the work and the results, even if failure was a part of those results.”
Employees were invited to submit ideas in the following categories: What We Create; What, How, & Where We Deliver; Our Customers, Our Markets; and Our People & Culture. Macmillan brought in speakers like Dr. Linda Hill, co-author of Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation, to motivate and inspire teams. Tournament leaders sent promotional emails and opened Slack channels for participants, judges, and finalists. Weekly office hours were set up for employees to refine their submissions.
Key points include:
- Driving innovation from within
- Celebration amplifies innovation
- Launching an innovation tournament
Read the full article, An Innovation Tournament Without New Ideas? Macmillan Offers a Fresh Twist, on Kaihan.net.
Umbrex is pleased to welcome Daniel Behr. Daniel is an entrepreneurial leader skilled at developing and implementing growth and innovation strategies. He brings a unique combination of experiences in strategy consulting, startups, business development and the commercialization of new technologies in the life and physical sciences. Daniel seeks to help leadership teams figure out “where to play” and “how to win”. He is based in the Boston area.
If you have experienced great ideas die in the making and want to avoid this in the future, read on. Robyn Bolton offers a few expert tips on how to combat the problem of the ‘derailers’ in your midst.
Innovating – doing something different that creates value – is hard.
Innovating within a large organization can feel impossible.
In my work with corporate innovators, we always start with great optimism that this time will be different, this time innovation will stick and become the engine that drives lasting growth.
Within weeks, sometimes days, however, we start to be “loved to death,” a practice that takes one of two forms:
The Protector who says, “That’s not how we do things and, if you insist on doing things that way, you’ll get shut down. Instead, do things this way”
The Enthusiast who exclaims, “This is amazing! I would love to be involved. And you should share what you’re doing with this person, and definitely tap into this other person’s experience, and I know this third person will want to be involved, and you definitely must talk to….”
Neither mean harm. In fact, they’re trying to help, but if intrapreneurs aren’t careful, The Protector will edit their work into something that is neither different nor value creating, and The Enthusiast will suffocate them with meetings.
4 More Innovation Derailers
Being “loved to death,” is just one of ways I’ve seen corporate innovation efforts get derailed. Here are the others:
Performances for senior executives. Yes, it’s important to meet regularly with senior leaders to keep them apprised of progress, learnings, results, and next steps. But there’s a fine line between updating executives because they’re investors and conference room performances to show off shiny objects and excite executives. It takes time for innovation teams to prepare for meetings (one team I worked with spent over 100 hours preparing for a meeting) which is time they aren’t spending working, learning, and making progress.
Key points include:
- Evolve what you measure when
- Use transparency to build support and let experience drive progress
- Base incentives on the core business and innovation objectives.
Read the full article, 5 Innovation Derailers (And What To Do Instead), on Milezero.io.
In this article, Robyn M. Bolton provides a few practical steps that can be taken to help build and improve innovation in the workplace.
According to a 2018 survey by NPR and The Marist Poll, the most common New Year’s resolution is to exercise more. Not surprisingly, losing weight and eating a more healthy diet ranked third and further, respectively (“stop smoking” was #2, in case you’re curious).
Hitting the gym to drop weight and build muscle is a great habit to build, but don’t forget about the regular work needed to build other muscles.
Specifically, your innovation muscles.
Innovation mindsets, skills, and behaviors can be learned but if you don’t continuously use them, like muscles, they can weaken and atrophy. That’s why it’s important to create opportunities to flex them.
One of the tools I use with clients who are committed to building innovation as a capability, rather than scheduling it as an event, is QMWD – the Quarterly-Monthly-Weekly-Daily practices required to build and sustain innovation as a habit.
Leave the office and talk to at least 3 of your customers
It’s tempting to rely on survey results, research reports, and listening in on customer service calls as a means to understand what your customers truly think and feel. But there’s incredible (and unintended) bias in those results.
Take, for example, this story from former P&G CEO AG Lafley.
Key insights include:
- Why consumers can’t tell you what they want
- Sharing mistakes with your team
- Making small, but conscious, changes
Read the full article, 5 ways to Build Your Innovation Muscles in the New Year, on MileZero.io.
Sean McCoy shares a blog post from his company website that presents a case for and against spending resources on ‘innovation’.
Innovation is hard. Most companies do not do it well. Long is the list of established market leaders that were The Disruptee instead of The Disrupter. But firms are not to blame. Most innovations fail period, regardless of who is doing the innovation. Innovation is a high-failure sport.
Nevertheless, conventional wisdom holds that large businesses should be more innovative. It’s even a famous imperative: Innovate or Die. But why should a firm that is organized around low-failure productivity embrace high-failure innovation? Why should a large company make innovation when it can buy innovation?
The argument against ‘Make it’
There are many reasons why a large firm making its own innovation might not make sense. Finance departments balk at the lost capital that could have been allocated to a known winner. HR departments can be reluctant to promote high-failure entrepreneurs, knowing how poorly that will be received by those that receive the opposite treatment for a string of failures. Audit, Compliance, Legal, and Quality Assurance departments usually do not take kindly to bug-y minimum viable products, nor to operators who move fast and break stuff.
Innovation at a big firm is equally difficult from the perspective of the innovator. The large number of stakeholders slows down decision-making. Once decisions are made, the work itself takes longer than entrepreneurs would like, because a company’s processes involve many hands, and innovators want speed.
Points covered in this article include:
- Making innovation
- Buying innovation
- Leveraging an ecosystem
Read the full post, Should your innovation strategy leverage an ecosystem?, on the McCoy Consulting Group website.
Robbie Kellman Baxter shares expert tips on how to build revenue through a subscription business model.
I’ve been noticing something funny recently.
As I make my rounds being interviewed by podcasters, influencers and subject matter experts, the conversations turn from ‘advice for listeners’ to ‘advice for the host.’
In other words, these solopreneurs, subject matter experts, and social media celebrities are trying to figure out how to build a viable, profitable business around their own community and expertise. They’re not just trying to provide useful information to their audiences–they’re struggling with their own revenue model.
Don’t underestimate the power of the “forever transaction” for small businesses.
Subscriptions can be a powerful tool for virtually any organizations–public, private, big, small, venture-backed, family-owned, non-profit, old, emerging, and across all industries. It can be a particularly effective tool for the smallest businesses.
This week, I presented my work to several hundred small business owners through BNI Global, and was inundated with questions. They wanted to know how to apply the principles to their accounting firms, restaurants, car washes, real-estate businesses and solo-consultancies.
Membership models and subscription pricing work great for most small businesses, subject matter experts and even celebrity influencers.
Included in this article:
- Identifying the value
- Segmenting the audience
- The ROI of Free and Freemium
Read the full article, How Influencers, Subject Matter Experts and Small Business Owners Can Build Subscription Revenue on LinkedIn.
Robbie Kellman Baxter shares a story about her favourite bookstore and how it provides a great example of the Membership Economy in action.
When a Menlo Park bookstore was economically threatened, the community stepped in and created a membership program to improve long-term sustainability.
Founded in 1955 by peace activist Roy Kepler, Kepler’s Books is a large independent bookstore. After its founding, it quickly became a center for intellectual thought and community discussion for the people living in the suburbs surrounding Stanford University. Over the years, the bookstore moved to increasingly larger locations, until it found its current home in downtown Menlo Park, California. Kepler’s is a neighbor to many of the Membership Economy pioneers featured in this book. After its move to Silicon Valley, many of the most innovative and successful investors and entrepreneurs frequented Kepler’s as a favorite browsing destination.
By 2005, however, the bookselling landscape had changed, due in large part to the innovations of online retailers like Amazon. On August 31, 2005, Kepler’s Books closed its doors.
Read the full article, Kepler’s Books – A Story of a Local Business and the Membership Economy, on LinkedIn.
Robbie Kellman Baxter explains why a free trial is not always the best tactic and identifies three reasons a subscription business isn’t attracting new members.
Recently, a CEO of a major professional association asked me what I thought of a 30 day free trial for new members.
He worried that potential members would sign up for the free trial, binge the value in that free period and then cancel without paying. But his board was concerned that not enough people were joining and thought a free trial could be the solution.
In this case, I agree with the CEO, not the board, about offering a free trial. Here’s why.
A free trial is a taste of the best you’ve got, which you offer because either:
- They don’t understand what it tastes like
- They don’t believe it tastes as good as you say
Read the full article, “Free” Is a Tactic, not a Strategy, on Linkedin.
Robbie Kellman Baxter makes the case for subscription-based businesses and provides a few expert tips on how to take your business in that direction.
If you’ve been tasked with launching a subscription-based business at your organization, or are thinking about starting your own XXX-as-a-service or XXX-of-the-month-club, before diving in, take a step back.
To ensure a solid foundation, I encourage companies to devote a few weeks (usually at least 2 and no more than 12 weeks) to fleshing out the business case before proceeding. After all, the objective of testing is to assess the viability of the model, make necessary adjustments, and get the green light to move forward at a broader level. Without understanding the business case, how will you, and your organization, know whether you’re on the right track.
Details covered in this article include:
- The business rationale
- The forever promise
- Executing the vision
- The risks of the strategy
- The early steps, research, and tests needed
- Criteria for board support
Read the full article, Making the Case for a Subscription-Based Business, on LinkedIn.
Subscription businesses were a big deal in 2019, so what’s the forecast for 2020? Robbie Kellman Baxter shares her expertise on what lies ahead.
I’m no fortune teller, but something about the beginning of a new year and a new decade makes me want to start spouting predictions. Actually, this isn’t the first time I have taken a crack at predictions. The final chapter of my new book THE FOREVER TRANSACTION is all about the future of subscription and membership models too.
Here’s what I think will happen.
In this post, topics covered include:
- There will be a right-sizing of the “Subscription Box” industry.
- Subscription “Managers” Will be Everywhere.
- Subscription CMOs will swing back toward strategy and away from “growth hacking”.
- Consumers will start subscribing to the thing itself, not just services and boxes.
- Big Companies will try to buy their way into the Membership Economy through Acquisition.
- Healthcare will become increasingly consumer-centric, which will lead to more forever transactions.
Read the full article, Crystal Ball: The World of Subscriptions in 2020, on LinkedIn.