Box Think – Crafting The Problem Statement

Crafting well-written problem statements that focus the idea of creation are critical. Albert Einstein said, “If I only had one hour to save the world, I would spend fifty-five minutes defining the problem, and five minutes finding the solution.” This week, we will discuss combining out of the box thinking with inside the box thinking, and how this can be used to create problem statements and solve your problems.

Problem Statements

Well-defined problem statements are freeing because they allow a team to innovate within certain guardrails. The goal of a problem statement is to solve a problem, remove a barrier, or improve an experience. One key characteristic of a problem statement is that it has to be solvable. It’s not just about solving the problem but being able to define it within the confines of your resources. Some problem validation questions need to be applied.

Firstly, do you think it is a problem or is it a problem? If you think it’s a problem, chances are it might not be. You are not a proxy for your customers. You have to prove that it is a problem by getting feedback from your customers. Secondly, find out how often this problem occurs and how long it has been occurring.

The elements of a problem statement focus on three key areas: who the customer is, what the problem is, and why it is important.

  • Who is the customer – Who is the target? Outline the broad or narrow customer segments. You need to define and describe the customer.
  • What is the problem – Define the problem that is occurring.
  • Why – Find out why it is crucial to solving the problem, and why you are spending time on it.

Examples

Let’s look at an example of a first draft problem statement. Middletown Hospital’s current diagnosis protocol and tools are resulting in low diagnosis effectiveness/efficiency causing up to 40% of its critical care patients painful extended treatments while substantially reducing the hospital’s earning potential and resource efficiency.

Let’s try to make this statement more concise. Middletown Hospitals’ current diagnosis protocol and tools are resulting in low diagnosis effectiveness/efficiency, substantially reducing the hospital’s earning potential and resource efficiency. This statement is better as effectiveness and efficiency stand out, but we can do better.

Middletown Hospitals’ current diagnosis protocol and tools are resulting in low diagnosis effectiveness and efficiency, causing up to 40% of its critical care patients painful extended treatment periods. I think this one is good because it defines the problem and why it is essential, but we’re going to try to make it a little better. Up to 40% of critical care patients are experiencing painful extended treatment periods due to low diagnosis effectiveness and efficiency of current diagnosis protocols and tools.

The one characteristic seen through these four examples is that they are getting shorter and more precise each time. Spending time thinking about the problem statement and making it efficient and crisp is critical. The example was an actual problem statement used to help an organization for ideation sessions they wanted to host.

Here is a template that I use when crafting my problem statements. The what (describe the problem) effects the who (describe the customer), resulting in (Describe why it’s important/what the benefit is).

Box Think

Box think is doing both inside the box thinking and out of the box thinking. Using this process, an organization can create a complete collection of ideas that lead to better innovations. The first step of box think is to define the problem statement. Secondly, you need to identify your industry/company constraints. What are the operational rules of your company and industry? For inside the box thinking, you want to operate within those constraints. For out of the box, you want to remove those constraints and modify the problem statement accordingly.

Now I am going to walk you through a real example from when I was at HP. Our laptops are highly personal items, therefore, need to be designed and marketed to target demographics to increase sales in next year’s peak selling season. The first constraint here was a time constraint. The peak selling season for laptops is the Christmas holiday season. The second constraint was the demographic that was going to be targeted. The product that ended up coming from this problem statement was a digital clutch designed by Vivienne Tam.

Recap

It would be best if you took the time to understand the problem before you expect your team to be effective at generating ideas. If you aren’t sure what problems to target, you need to ideate on the problems. People tend to seek solutions when they find problems, which can be difficult. You need to ideate problems and then rank them accordingly. Set aside an hour to identify the top one or two problems, which will turn into problem statements. Crank out as many problems that you can find without worrying about solutions. Rank your problems and then allow your team to vote. After you identify your problems, choose the goal and timeline that you will apply to move forward.

To know more about box think and crafting problem statements, listen to this week’s show: Box Think – Crafting The Problem Statement.

 

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How to Use Nature to Innovate Manufacturing

This week’s show is a follow up of a recent episode we did about 3D printing. A lot of the listeners were interested in learning more about the overall tools and techniques of 3D printing. Andy Roberts, Vice President, inventor, and lead developer of Live Parts™ at Desktop Metal, joins us to discuss 3D printing and how they seek to innovate manufacturing processes.

Innovate Manufacturing

Innovate Manufacturing

Background

Andy Roberts was in the software industry for many years before getting involved with 3D printing. Eventually, he wanted to be involved in something more tangible, like manufacturing. When Desktop Metal started, he saw an opportunity to innovate manufacturing by mixing software with hardware through 3D printing technology.

I have a little background in subtractive manufacturing, or building by removing material. My father worked at an old milling machine company. I find additive manufacturing, or construction by adding material, very interesting.

The technology allows parts to be made in ways that they weren’t able to be made before. The creation of finished or near-finished products makes the technology quite sophisticated. Desktop Metal is building printers for the creation of products, as well as the software for people to use them properly. Good software is essential. If a user is not from a manufacturing background, the software will still allow them to create quality parts.

Live PartsTM

Andy was interested in innovating manufacturing by creating new design tools for engineers. One day, he was looking out a window and watching trees blow in the wind. Thinking about nature, he asked how no one designs a tree. One plants a seed, then it grows and adapts on its own. Andy started studying cells and how individual cells grow and take the form of different shapes. He created a prototype design tool based on this process.

While it seemed like a cool idea twelve years ago, the technology was not there, so Andy put it on the shelf and pursued other ventures. Desktop Metal started four years later. He reached out to them to help build this software through 3D printing. The process begins with an assembly of existing parts. You then designate the regions that have to connect to different parts and send the information to the system. You need to specify the material which defines the strength of the parts. The system knows to get rid of excess material for less weight or to add material for more strength.

Innovating Manufacturing Processes

Andy walked us through a video showing the process of a skateboard being created by Live PartsTM. The parts were shown growing to fill in the regions connecting the pieces. Next, they went through a process of adapting, in which old cells were killed off, and new cells were spawned. The analysis of the part simultaneously takes place as the part grows, similarly to what happens in nature.

When it comes to different materials, the parts can be very different. Engineers have the opportunity to choose different materials and change them during the process based on their wants. The parts react just like living cells and adapt accordingly, which is how Live PartsTM has innovated manufacturing through 3D printing.

Advice for the Listeners

In the innovator space, there is a lot of interest in rapid prototyping to get ideas tangible. Many innovators have the ideas but don’t have a mechanical background or any experience with 3D printing. Andy recommends that innovators get their feet wet with 3D printing in some capacity. If you work for an organization that has access to printing materials such as plastic or polymer, start using them.

Learn about the benefits and drawbacks of using 3D printing technologies. A common misconception is that you push a button and it starts printing things. There are a lot of details and constraints that will affect your design when you are attempting to innovate manufacturing. Involvement in not about buying a 3D printer. There are a lot of places that have access to 3D printers so you can get started.

About our Guest: Andy Roberts 

Andy Roberts is Vice President, inventor and lead developer of Live Parts™, a new generative design tool at Desktop Metal. The tool uses morphogenetic principles to enable engineers and designers to quickly realize the benefits of additive manufacturing, including material and cost efficiency, and design flexibility. A graduate of Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology with extensive experience at leading technology innovators such as Parametric Technology Corp., Ab Initio, Azuki Systems, and IBM, Andy has a proven track record of bringing to market successful products for engineers and developers.

If you want to keep updated with what Andy is doing with Live Parts, check out Desktop Metal’s website here.

To know more about 3D printing and using nature to innovate manufacturing, listen to this week’s show: How to Use Nature to Innovate Manufacturing.

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Audio Innovations You Can Hear

This week’s guest innovates in an area that most view as already being innovated to its max potential. This view can’t be further from the truth, as this innovator and his team have made game-changing new products. Dave Fabry, Chief Innovation Officer at Starkey, joins us to discuss the innovation of hearing aids. We will discuss audio innovations and what Dave and Starkey are doing to advance hearing aids technology.

Audio Innovations

Audio Innovations

Dave’s Background

Dave is not the typical CIO, as he didn’t come from a tech background. Growing up, he wanted to be a veterinarian and found audiology while on that path. In the early 1980s, Dave went to the Mayo Clinic as an extern, and fell in love with clinical practice and working one-on-one with those who suffered from bad hearing but were reluctant to use aids. After getting his PHD., he went on to Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where he got direct exposure to acoustic pathology that many soldiers struggle with. Later in his career, he switched over from the clinical side of audiology to the industry side, and that eventually lead him to Starkey.

Hearing Aid Technology

In the U.S, only one in three people that need hearing aids wear them. If people become complacent with that, they leave room for a newcomer to disrupt. The mission at Starkey is to self-disrupt the market while still focusing on its core strategy of better hearing. They wanted to provide the first hearing aid with employed sensors connected to the internet. Starkey aims to turn hearing aids from something that people have to wear, into something they want to have and wear.

On the show, we have talked about battling innovation antibodies, and how people deal with their innovation antibodies in an organization. At Starkey, Dave challenges himself to look at what the needs of the patient are rather than what his perspective would lead him to believe. He wears the products at times and works directly with patients when working on new technology. Many organizations view innovation programs as lab-oriented activities. You need to get out there and see first-hand what the customer is interested in, to fill their needs and wants genuinely.

Starkey’s Audio Innovations

Dave has a relatively young staff under him at Starkey. The average first-time hearing aid user is 67 years old. Starkey continually has to adjust their perspective to that of the end-user as they do not see things the same way as their older users might. On top of that, they have to care enough to learn about the patient’s situation. They are increasingly taking in consideration of other elements that the family and users need. One challenge of innovating for an aging population is the intimidation factor.

For me, I had my Starkey’s custom-built to help me hear questions coming from large audiences, and I’m a tech-savvy person. If it were my grandparents in the same situation, it would go right over their heads. Starkey focuses on creating hearing that is useful and effective without much effort from the user. They recently introduced Edge Mode that uses AI technology that provides an acoustic analysis of the situation by just tapping on the device. Starkey has partnered with companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon to take advantage of cloud computing. They also have a feature called thrive care that allows the family to monitor the user’s activity from an app with the user’s permission. They also have Bluetooth features that are compatible with iPhone and Android platforms.

Challenges/Changes

Starkey is continuously working on multi-functionality for its users. One unique challenge is similar to a problem I had at HP, which is battery life. A little bit of optimization makes a big difference, as battery life is only going up 10% a year. At Starkey, they have rapidly changed from regular batteries to rechargeable batteries that give more efficiency to their product. Innovation isn’t about reinventing the wheel but instead thinking about what is in front of you differently.

About our Guest: Dave Fabry

Dave Fabry, Ph.D., is the Chief Innovation Officer at Starkey leading end-to-end innovations within the clinical audiology department. Dave received his Ph.D. in hearing science from the University of Minnesota. Subsequently, he divided his career between academic/clinical roles at the Mayo Clinic, Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the University of Miami Medical Center, and several industry positions. He served as President and Board Member of the American Academy of Audiology, and recently, elected to the Board of Directors of the American Auditory Society. Dave has served as Editor-in-Chief of Audiology Today since 2008 and is a past Editor of the American Journal of Audiology and Section Editor of Ear and Hearing. He is a licensed Audiologist in Minnesota, Florida, and Rwanda. His 30+ years of industry experience and proven ability to implement forward-thinking concepts are instrumental in shaping future innovations at Starkey.

If you want to keep update with what Dave and Starkey are doing, check out their Facebook here. Check out Starkey’s website here.

To know more about hearing aid technology and other audio innovations, listen to this week’s show: Audio Innovations You Can Hear.

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Thoughts on Innovation

This week’s show is a little different than usual. I will be discussing some of my thoughts on innovation, mainly on what’s going on, the current events. I will also be responding to some fan feedback.

Thoughts on Innovation

Thoughts on Innovation

SpaceX

One thing that has recently piqued my interest was the SpaceX Dragon demo launch. I was glued to the NASA stream and was quite impressed. The stream offered a great look at the inside of the rocket, and I got to watch the rocket launch into space. As a kid, I watched Apollo’s launch and Neil Armstrong taking steps on the moon, which excited me. I am a big believer in space due to the history of the U.S space program. It is an excellent catalyst for innovation.

I believe all governments have a role in encouraging innovation. Technology, such as a sensor to monitor blood or oxygen levels, is just one of many creations that came from NASA. An innovative friend of mine, Gretchen McClain (former AD for NASA ISS), started a public-private partnership where the U.S paid others to build capabilities. The Russians built the U.S module that is part of ISS. I had the distinct privilege to be Gretchen’s guest at NASA to see the U.S module go up to be part of the ISS. Gretchen realized that to explore space better, it was essential to co-innovate. We are seeing more and more of this being done by our government today. The key is to define a problem in such a way that people feel like they can solve it.

The Future of Businesses

Over the weekend, a friend sent me an article due to my interest in “megatrends” over the years. It was from the Charter Tribune by Chris Jones. The article was looking at the impact of COVID-19 on cities and asked whether they would recover. My friends asked me what I thought about all of this based on my megatrends research. My research always focuses on 10-20 years out and is constantly changing. No one can predict anything too accurately, but it is more about laying out the range of possible futures to be better prepared.

In the case of COVID, schools were out, businesses went to working from home, etc. Luckily, 80% of U.S homes have access to broadband services at home and have tools like Zoom to assist them. Zoom has turned out to be the tool that a lot of people are using for school and work purposes. We are learning how to work at remote locations other than the office. In my case, I have run the radio show from many places such as Florida, Kentucky, Las Vegas, D.C, etc., and have done it with similar efficiency as in the studio. I see a future model of working from anywhere springing up rapidly due to COVID.

Virtual Brainstorming

Last week, I took a meeting request from a key government agency in the U.S. They heard about the work I’ve been doing with the Marine Corps, VA hospitals, and in the past, the U.S Department of Education. They wanted to take what we have been doing with other agencies and apply it to them. I ran them through what we had done in the past and how we do our one-day Ideation Workshops. One question that was posed was, “can this be done virtually?”. My answer was yes. It can be done just as good virtually.

Since COVID, I have been putting out “Virtual Brainstorming Demonstrations” on YouTube and have been hosting virtual brainstorms. The process has been made easy with tools like Jamboard. Through doing this, I have found that it can be more inclusive and diverse. You can invite anyone from the world to join the session without the cost of travel and extra constraints. A virtual workshop opens up more opportunities to build a better team. Another benefit is the fact that it requires less time. It takes little time to fire up a Zoom or Jamboard session and get working. More people will be willing to join in a session like this because of how hassle-free, efficient, and convenient it is.

Thoughts on Innovation Misconceptions

I received an email from a listener asking if it is a good time to start a business or invent a new product or service. This is tied to the question around COVID-19. I’ve heard all kinds of excuses and have had tons of conversations about this. People often have a great idea but haven’t done anything about it. It is often thought that innovation is for the young, but that is not the case. Vera Wang, a fashion designer, didn’t start innovating till she was forty. Colonel Sanders of KFC didn’t get to franchising till his sixties. Henry Ford didn’t start his motor company until his forties. Age is not a constraining factor, and you can’t let it stop you from innovating.

People often say, “don’t start a business in a recession/depression.” Companies like Disney and HP both started in a depression. Some think you need a special degree, which isn’t the case either. Some think you have to have all the contacts and a ton of money. There are many ways that you can work around those factors. Maybe you don’t know where to start. Firstly, you should find a community of people with similar passions. If you are an innovator like myself, join The Innovators Community. Share your own thoughts on innovation. We have about one thousand members range from high-up CEOs to innovators working out of their garage, who are supporting each other. My final question to you, “What are you waiting for”?

What are your thoughts on innovation? To know more about my opinion on recent events, listen to this week’s show: Thoughts on Innovation

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The Optimal Innovation Team Size Is

On this week’s show, we will be discussing the most optimal innovation team size that will generate the most creativity and innovative ideas. This topic is something that would have helped me much if I had studied and learned it early on in my career. I will also discuss eight types of people that every innovation team needs to be successful.

Optimal Innovation Team Size

Innovation Team Size Study

Does team size have an impact? Recently, I read a study done by Jeanne Brett and Dashum Wang from the Kellogg School of Management and Northwestern University titled “If You Want Creativity, Keep Your Team Small”. This study said that large teams solve problems, and small teams generate new problems to solve. As the teams grew from 1-50, the levels of disruptiveness decreased. The large teams delivered value by developing established ideas and used smaller companies to be disruptive.

The issues that impacted teams as they got larger were:

  • Relational Loss – the perception of team members that they are working with little support from other members
  • Social Loafing – the tendency of the individual group members to contribute less than they would contribute to working in a smaller group or alone.
  • Lack of Development Maturity – larger teams tend to look to leaders for direction and motivation. Smaller teams frequently progress to periods of intense productivity fueled by “trust-based” relationships, structures, etc. With five or six people on your innovation team, it is easier to move forward with a common vision for the problem you are trying to solve.

How do you address the innovation team size problem? Through utilizing Multi-Team Systems (MTS), which is the process of breaking down a large team into smaller teams with some form of structural network. Implementing this process will bring efficiency and a higher rate of success.

My Experience with Innovation Team Size

We will now discuss my experience with team sizes throughout my career. My career started at Deltak, where we developed computer and video-based training. This publishing operation required large teams. Later in my career, I joined Thumbscan, which had mid-sized teams of a couple of dozen people, and the lack of efficiency frustrated me. Through my frustration, I branched off to create a product called PCBoot, which ended up winning product of the year at Computer Dealers Exhibition (Comdex), the precursor to Consumer Electronics Show (CES). It took me by myself a long time to build that product to the point where the parent company ran out of money. Through these times, I realized not only how important a team is, but the size of the team as well.

Other Teams

Let’s talk about other teams outside of my direct experiences like Apple Macintosh in the 80s. They came out with the Apple 1, 2, and then the 3, which was not very successful because a large team developed it. Apple’s success came when Steve Jobs hand-picked his MacIntosh team and locked the doors to anyone outside of the team. He separated the team from the larger organization to reduce the risk of large team influence, and it paid off. Now let’s look at the Manhattan Project. It started with a small team and split up into smaller teams in different areas focused on various aspects of the project. Each team knew what they had to generate to contribute to the larger overall objective, and they were very successful. When teams are broken down and given a specific objective, they become efficient in obtaining their specific goal.

My Optimal Innovation Team

 I’d like to use a religious reference here. Jesus had twelve disciples, so why would I try to handle more than he could? Throughout my career, I’ve learned that my optimal innovation team size is in the 6-8-person range. If I have more than that, I tend to lose focus and feel less engaged. I would argue that nobody should have more than twelve people directly reporting to them. While the number is essential, the make-up of the team is also important. As a leader, it is your responsibility to bring together an innovation team with the right skillsets.

Here are seven people that I believe are core to any high-impact innovation team:

  • The Visionary – the person who is the heart and soul of the idea.
  • The Leader – the person who recruits and motivates the best possible team.
  • The Mother – the person who is sensitive to everyone and makes sure everyone is taken care of.
  • The Energizer – the person who will get it done, sometimes at a cost. They pump energy into the team
  • The Customer Advocate – the person who advocates for the customer. They are the voice of the customer on the project.
  • Radar O-Reilly – (from the movie and TV show Mash): The person who can find/secure anything you need by understanding the process in an organization.
  • The Designer – the designer is no longer a behind the scenes activity.

 Bonus:

  • Neurodiversity – get people who think differently than you on your innovation team. They can see what others don’t see uniquely.

With these key players on your innovation team, you are that much closer to creating that game-changing product or idea.

Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is feedback@philmckinney.com, or you can go to PhilMcKinney.com and drop me a note there. If you are looking for innovation support, go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops. Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

To learn more about optimal team sizes, listen to this week’s show: The Optimal Innovation Team Size Is.

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Where is IoT Going? #CES2020

Today’s guest is no stranger to the Killer Innovations Show,  John Osborne II, Chairman of the Board of the Zigbee Alliance and General – Manager of Leedarson North America, joins us at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). On this week’s show, we will discuss the growth of IoT devices and the trend of consolidation within IoT.

IoT

The Zigbee Alliance 

With the recent scale-up of the device connectivity arena, what’s Zigbee been up to? John says that Zigbee has formed together with Apple, Google, and Amazon, to drive the industry into a common direction. If we can accomplish what we are trying to do with the big four, it will drive the industry towards consolidation. Consumers can go to stores and buy the product they want rather than focusing on specific brands. We don’t want this to be just another standard. Instead, we want to take the top existing technologies and put them together. We’ve seen more and more large companies desiring consolidation.

LEEDARSON and IoT

I get a lot of inquiries from listeners on the show with ideas for IoT devices. With your experience, what advice would you give to someone with these ideas? The company I work for, LEEDARSON, specializes in that. Whether one comes with a design ready to be built, or they have an idea, we can walk them through it. We try to educate, as well as walk them through the design process, and occasionally do real-time iterations. We’re happy to help whether they’re a multi-billion-dollar company or someone new to the industry. Sometimes people come in with similar ideas for devices that we already have. We’ll modify their idea, make it compliant, package it, and ship it to them. Others come in with great ideas about different devices, and we’ll test them and possibly do a joint development. We don’t strictly manufacture. We are involved in many different things.

Advancing IoT Products

What unique applications of IoT have you seen? John says there are very few significant new ideas. It’s mostly the same products being improved over time. The most changes we’ve seen are on the AI side. We’re trying to get the end device smart enough to operate without the cloud. Recently, I’ve seen some cool new things in the lighting arena. Lighting has been recently tied to entertainment. If you’re playing Fortnite, you want the room around you to emulate what is happening. However, this can often be tricky.

In the case of many IoT devices, there is a cost lift to each of these modified products. What is that cost lift? John says people want more functionality at a lower price. For example, people are willing to pay about $5 premium on a smart bulb. That is a target we are all shooting for. Today, it is at around $10 premium. What are the other barriers holding people from buying IoT devices? Most people won’t just throw away their already purchased light bulbs. LED bulbs last a long time, so people get comfortable with them. We need to figure out how to incentivize people to swap out a good bulb for something more connected.

Increasing Consolidation

As Chairman of Zigbee, what else have you been working on? Part of what we have been dealing with is whether we’re a technology or an alliance. We may be changing the name soon. We’ve been partnering with different entities and working to put our differences aside to reach common goals. We have also been working on consolidating internal protocols to gain more flexibility. Some massive changes are coming for Zigbee. With all these groups newly combining, do you see this continuing over the next 4-5 years? These organizations have assigned full-time resources into it, as it is essential to them. I believe we will see this consolidation grow a lot over the next couple of years.

If you want to keep up with Zigbee Alliance, check out their website here. Follow John on his Linkedin here and his website here.

About our Guest: John Osborne II

John Osborne is currently General Manager at LEEDARSON North America and Chairman of the Board of the Zigbee Alliance. In these capacities, he helps educate and grow the IoT market globally. LEEDARSON is a global provider in traditional and connected lighting and sensors. The Zigbee Alliance is the premier Internet of Things (IoT) standards development organization since 2002. John has extensive experience in new product development, rapid product commercialization, systems innovations, and operations improvement. He has demonstrated the ability to manage and inspire multi-cultural, internal-external teams. He is a skilled communicator and presenter and has a sound background in budgeting, resource allocation, and operations efficiency.

Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter. If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is feedback@philmckinney.com, or you can go to PhilMcKinney.com and drop me a note there. If you are looking for innovation support, go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops. Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

To learn more about the growth of IoT devices and the trend of consolidation within IoT, listen to this week’s show: Where is IoT Going? #CES2020.

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James ‘Hondo’ Geurts on Taking the Navy into the Next Wave of Innovation

How do you manage over $100B in spending to innovate and not let that scale overcome your vision and approach to driving the most effective outcomes?  Can you balance speed and performance, short and long term innovation in parallel? Today’s guest on Killer Innovations stands at the forefront of these decisive decisions every day and has a keen eye for high speed, low drag. Assistant Secretary of Research, Development, and Acquisition James ‘Hondo’ Geurts has been innovating the U.S military’s ecosystem for over 30 years. During the interview, he discusses his efforts in accelerating the Navy into the next wave of innovation.

Overseeing and innovating throughout the US Navy’s vast programs to protect is a daunting task at hand. From basic to in-depth research, development, procurement, and sustainment of assets, the Navy is always working to stay one step ahead in global innovation. To give the Navy an advantage, Jim focuses on creating conditions to make optimal choices and take the right risks while empowering the workforce to successfully complete a job.

Staying Focused While Differentiating

The demands of the US Navy required a multi-dexterous approach. One’s that avoid getting overwhelmed by bureaucracy and standardization that far too often limits flexibility needed for today’s forces. Many organizations have problems doing many things well or even multiple workstreams, multiple ways. Jim’s task is to ensure the Navy can do that while boldly stepping out and harnessing innovation with scale and speed. Always knowing there are certain areas they absolutely cannot fail in. With such a vast organization and many opportunities to advance the Navy, Jim uses a simple, but powerful wet-dry framework to differentiate the work.

In a large scale innovation, you have to operate with speed of relevancy. Simultaneously, you may have one group operating with a longer-term workstream or low iteration speed that requires assured performance. While the other works at high iteration speed and low iteration cost. You can’t lock into one approach for multiple threads of innovation pacing in a single deliverable or launch. However, those workstreams have to operate and synchronize for an effective state-of-the-art product deliverable. Each group that is innovating at a speed relevant to their workstream needs to be valued equally. Though they may have a different culture.

Staying focused on the mission and how each contributes allows you to have differentiating approaches, innovation paces, and cultures in one large scale innovation effort. Another challenge in balancing the speed and relevancy of a mission need is the absorption rate. Sometimes rapid innovation outpaces the ability to absorb and integrate, deploy, train and operationalize capabilities. Keeping an active focus and appropriate disciplines on mission speed and relevancy ensure efficiency.

Innovation Leadership

How do you manage the right thing at the right time and synthesize it to meet a critical mission? Can you deliver on the expectation of out-innovating your competition? In a leadership position with demands like this, one is often faced with the challenge of how to operationalize and develop a successful team. Jim discusses his strategy to motivate his workforce in three core ways:

  • Ruthlessly Decentralize – layout vision with a focus on intent and empower your workforce—free to make decisions
  • Offer Various Tools – differentiate the work, allow them to use multiple tools and customize for the right tools as needed
  • Have an Agility Mindset – create a good enough plan with proper intent, tools needed and be ready to pivot with pivot speed and adapt to change
  • Get Rid of Stupid – remove things that are wasting time in the organization and don’t replace it with more stupid time wasters, but with items that create or preserve value

When in a leadership position such as Jim Geurts, there is limited opportunity to be specifically involved in each situation. To deliver excellence for the mission, he has focused on enablers to deliver his intent to the organization, even when not available:

  • Learn Fast and Act Fast – press the boundaries, expect 50% failure with appropriate judgment and measured risk
  • It’s About Team – the outcome of the idea and answer to the problem is more important than who it came from
  • Be a Servant Leader – create conditions and foundations for others to succeed—realize that you are there to help those under you, not vice versa
  • Explain Your Intent – continuously repeat your intent until your audience gets it

Importance of Agility in Innovation

How do you plan for the unknown? The unknown can be a daunting thought to those unprepared for it. Building a culture, mindset, and set of skills that increase pivot speed to take advantage of upside opportunities prepares you for the unknown. Ultimately, it makes or breaks an organization’s success. Couple of insights Jim has learned from his Special Operations Command days and other experiences he employs today:

  • Get Over Fear of Failure try something new
  • All about a Learning Environment – value best ideas not necessarily individual ideas—collaborate and improve on individual ideas with a team
  • Have a Network that is Diverse and Inclusive – engage a variety of functions, levels, internal and external organizations
  • Rip Off and Deploy – don’t just value inventing yourself, look for what can be innovated on
  • Kill Projects Fast – if a project is not going anywhere, move on – that takes thoughtful deliberation, courage, and leadership
  • Don’t Overvalue Discovery and Undervalue Deployment – ideas must be made real and delivered to a customer – as Phil states “ideas without execution is a hobby, I’m not in the hobby business”

When it comes to working with the military, many businesses are intimidated by it. So how do you create a friendlier and easier path to make a contribution? Jim’s strategies focus on reducing barriers with a variety of incentives to bring the best ideas forward at the lowest cost. These include connecting the idea generators from the sailor to the startup with access points. As well as enabling an environment in which contributors bring their best in class solutions at the best price to the Navy.

Engaging to Contribute to Success

There is no one perfect path or mechanism for organizations to contribute to the Navy’s mission. However, Jim Geurts, or ‘Hondo’ as many call him, has created as large a surface as he can to attract innovative solutions from any internal or external entity. With his leadership the Navy has:

  • Spent $500M+ each year on Small Business Innovation Research (SBIRs) – broadcasting events, educating and discussing needs.
  • Doubled Efforts to Leverage Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRDA)
  • Instituted Tech Bridges – multiple tech clusters to help certain mission areas
  • Created Challenges for Solutions – pay on the spot
  • Shortened Procurement Timelines – idea to contract in 90 days or fewer programs

Hondo emphasizes the Navy’s focus on being multi-dexterous—good at all things from small to large while enabling scale and speed. There are many challenges from talent development to mission solutions. Innovation advances when we open up our approach and mindset working with outside sources, like inventors such as Dean Kaman. Opportunities abound to leverage more innovation and apply technologies to elements we didn’t envision as traditional tech solutions. That requires an ecosystem of the best/most qualified internal and external entities supporting to complete any given mission with efficiency.

About our Guest: James ‘Hondo’ Geurts

James ‘Hondo’ Geurts is Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development and Acquisition). Mr. Geurts is responsible for a $100B+ budget, as well as supporting and equipping Marines and Sailors with the top technology and systems to better them in their pursuit to defend the United States of America. Prior to his time current position, he served as Acquisition Executive of US Special Operations Command (SOCOM), with the responsibility of overseeing special operations forces acquisition, technology, and logistics. Through this position, Geurts innovative leadership and mindset bettered USSOCOM and earned him the Presidential Rank Award, USSOCOM Medal, William Perry Award, and Federal Times Vanguard Award for Executive of the Year.

Prior to his service with USSOCOM, Mr. Geurts served as an executive officer with the Air Force. Throughout Geurts 30 years of extensive joint acquisition experience and service, he has earned the respect of many of his colleagues and has used his innovative mindset to better the defenses of the United States.

Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter.  If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know.  The email address is feedback@philmckinney.com or you can go to PhilMcKinney.com and drop me a note there.  If you are looking for innovation support go to TheInnovators.Network or want to be challenged to develop the next big idea, check out our Disruptive Ideation Workshops, with our next one in Washington DC, November 18-19th.  Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

To learn about the Navy’s next wave of innovation, listen to this week’s show: James ‘Hondo’ Geurts on Taking the Navy into the Next Wave of Innovation.

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Mike George on Manufacturing Innovation Using AI

On this week’s show of Killer Innovations, Michael George, Author, Entrepreneur and CEO of AI Technologies joins us as our guest. He is the founder of Lean Six Sigma, the most widely used process improvement method used globally. Since 2012, Mike has worked on applying Artificial Intelligence (AI) as the next big process breakthrough beyond Lean Six Sigma.  Over the years, Mike has worked with Fortune 100 companies and Government’s globally and was Founder and CEO of The George Group, which he sold to Accenture as well as Founder and CEO of International Power Machines which he took Public and then sold to Rolls Royce. He has authored 8 books including “Fast Innovation”, “Lean Six Sigma”, “Conquering Complexity in Your Business” and his latest “Lean Six Sigma in the Age of Artificial Intelligence”.  

Manufacturing Innovation

Manufacturing Innovation

The Power of Process Innovation 

Innovating processes and discovering ways to leverage process to bring exponential returns on innovation initiatives and product development has been a mission of Michael and the results of his work has created and preserved value.  The combination of Lean and Six Sigma brought a breakthrough for non-repetitive processes and global leaders enjoyed the elimination of waste and enhanced quality.  However, leaders had another dilemma “How to Get to Market Faster with Quality Products”.  

Fast Innovation gave them:

  • Speed in the Product Development Process
  • Market Velocity with Better Forecasting and Predicting 
  • Preservation and Enhanced Quality
  • Innovation Blitzes – Fast Gating while discovering Drivers of Delays

The next iteration of Process Innovation applies AI to drive Innovation’s through a lifecycle as well as discover ideas that can create breakthroughs.

Fourth Industrial Revolution: Solving Unsolvable Problems 

Michael has been engaged in Deep Learning Neural Networks for many years.  With the onset of ‘Big Data’ we can now apply AI and machine learning to recognize patterns to help solve what has been unsolvable in the past.  With Lean Six Sigma in Age of AI they have discovered a number of valuable insights that will power organizations to the next level and help them harness the power of the Fourth Industrial Revolution:

  • Don’t get overwhelmed with your data.  Over-engineering your data quality and data cleansing efforts can grind you to a halt and not necessary – there are a number of processes to get high value sets of data for analysis in short order – a challenge for CEO’s today
  • Unseen discoveries are attainable even in the most proficient organizations—a recent effort revealed 60% of inefficiency came from only 20% of revenue
  • AI and machine learning didn’t eliminate jobs, but created more opportunities and growth while developing more productive employees

So what can leaders do to take advantage of the next wave? Michael believes every CEO should have their own AI and data expert that can comb every aspect of a business or organization to find common patterns in their activities (for instance product development and innovation initiatives) that elude human interaction. 

Future Advances 

So, what game changing innovation does Michael expect to see? AI provides approximate answers. The next big thing after AI, that is also complimentary, is quantum computing.  An exponential game changer. As it has been in the past, from the internet to semi-conductors, the Government will play a big role in quantum computing. With patience, funds and applicable activities the organization that is best suited, and has always been a leader in advancements, is the U.S. Department of Defense.  To learn more insights, keep up with Michael and his Firm.

Let’s connect; I am on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter.  If we do connect, drop me a note and let me know. The email address is feedback@philmckinney.com or you can go to Philmckinney.com and drop me a note there.  Don’t forget to join our Innovators Community to enjoy more conversations around innovation.

To learn more about the power of the process of innovation, listen to this week’s show: Manufacturing Innovation Using AI.

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Unshakable Beliefs: Know What Your Customers Want

What are your unshakable beliefs about what your customers want?

One thing is to know what your customers want to do, another is to understand how they intend to get it done. It’s easy to look at their goals and tell yourself that your product will match their needs. However, if you don’t understand their internal philosophy about what they are doing and why they are doing it, you may find that they consider your product a complete failure. Competing companies can have the same goals but radically different strategies about how to achieve them. One of the clearest examples of this is the decades-long tussle between Airbus and Boeing. Both companies brought new long-range aircraft to market at more or less the same time. However, their respective offerings, the A380 and the 787 Dreamliner reflect radically different ideas of how airlines will meet the needs and desires of their passengers.

Both companies understand the bottom line in their industry, getting CASM—cost per available seat mile—as low as possible. Both claim that their aircrafts are highly fuel-efficient. Each also uses radically new technologies. The 787 is made of lightweight and high-durability composites and advanced aluminum alloy. The A380 boasts new integrated avionics systems in the cockpit, designed with fewer parts to push maintenance costs down, and its cockpit is designed to be simpler for a pilot to switch between one Airbus model and another (giving airlines more flexibility with their crews). The onboard servers are robust enough to ensure that pilots can safely go “paperless.” Crews can now ditch their bulky manuals and instead rely on the on-board computers to supply all the charts, logs, maintenance records, and performance calculations they need during a flight.

However, the A380 and the 787 reflect completely different philosophies about how passengers will get from one destination to the other. The A380 is a hub-to-hub aircraft. Its size limits the airports it can service. You’ll see it at places like London Heathrow, Los Angeles International, and Singapore’s Changi Airport. You won’t see it in Cleveland or Oslo or Fort Lauderdale. Airlines placing orders for the A380 are betting on two things. First, they assume that there will be a meaningful number of passengers who are simply looking to fly from hub to hub. Some examples might include the businessperson in London who needs to make a presentation in L.A. or the family in Sydney who wants to vacation in Paris. Second, they are betting that passengers will be willing to adhere to the old model of international transportation and connect from second- and third-tier airports via a hub.

Boeing is betting the other way. The 787 is small and nimble enough to service second-tier cities, yet its fuel efficiency allows it to function as a long-range aircraft. If Delta’s or United’s marketing department decide that Columbus, Ohio, needs nonstop service to Paris, they could do it with the Dreamliner. They couldn’t do it with the A380.

Airbus and Boeing both asked themselves the same Killer Question: What are our unshakable beliefs about what our customers want? Yet as soon as they’d asked that question and started to investigate it, they veered off in radically different directions based on what they believed their customers’ needs and wants were.

The jury is out on who made the better bet, but my gut instinct is that both companies will struggle before eventually finding sufficient market share to justify their gamble. Innovation isn’t always about beating your competitors. Each thinks they’ve satisfied one need, but really their customers have multiple needs. A goliath like United Continental will have needs for aircraft that can extract the most value from long-haul, large-volume routes while at the same time having aircraft that can service smaller airports. The bigger problem for manufacturers will be if airlines decide to embrace fleet homogeneity and restrict themselves to using either Airbus or Boeing.

 

Sparking Points

  • Do you have one “Who” or many? By this I mean do your customers and your competitors’ customers have the same criteria as one another, or do they have different needs and selection processes?
  • How would you engage with your competitors’ customers? And how could you align their needs with what you are doing?
  • How do you prioritize complementary and conflicting needs between your various customer groups? What is the selection process for getting an aggregated list of wants from across these groups? 

12-16-16 How Silver Spring Networks is Making Your City Smarter To Solve Plaguing Problems

President-elect Donald Trump visits Silicon Valley to meet with some of the biggest names in technology and that got me to thinking… what will come of the expanded White House Smart Cities Initiative that was announced in September, which allocates more than $80 million in new federal investment and a doubling of the participating cities and communities to more than 70. The initiative makes it easier for cities, federal agencies, universities, and the private sector to all work collaboratively to research, develop, deploy, and testbed, new technologies designed to help make our cities more inhabitable, cleaner, as well as more equitable. For example – developing new data and analytics tools to help buildings reduce their energy footprint. Creating an entire urban network of connected and autonomous vehicles that can automatically cooperate to improve safety and travel efficiency, such as the one being funded in Chattanooga. And most importantly, implementing more effective warning systems to help first responders act more rapidly to save lives. It’s all about connectivity! One of the companies at the heart of the Smart City is Silver Spring Networks. This company has deployed nearly 25 million ‘smart’ enabled devices across five continents – deployments of which are enabling smart cities, smart utilities, iOT, and industrial internet of things applications. To tell us what this means, who better than the Chief Technology Officer, or CTO of Silver Spring Networks, Don Reeves, who joins us to talk about why our cities are behind the times in implementing new technologies and what’s being done to expedite adoption and impact.