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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