Playing Personality Poker with Your Innovation Team

This week’s guest is involved in the innovation game for as long as I’ve been around. Stephen Shapiro is a leading speaker and author on innovation, who previously lead a 20,000-person innovation practice at Accenture. We will discuss creativity, reframing questions, and how diverse personalities can come together to create a thriving innovation team.

Innovation Team

Innovation Team

Creativity & the Innovation Team

Stephen says that we all start with a high level of creativity. We are all creative in our ways, but some people approach creativity differently. As we discussed in the previous show, every innovation team needs a variety of different players with varying levels of creativity to achieve success. Stephen says collaborating with teams is vital to innovation success. Finding what teams are and what they are not will help them surround themselves with the key members that are needed. What is one lesson you learned from your time at Accenture? Stephen says he learned early on that everyone is creative and innovative; we just contribute in different ways.

Personality Poker

Stephen created a card game to help bring different people together to achieve a goal, known as Personality Poker. The game has four steps to the innovation process, and four different styles are linking back to the steps. While in Vegas playing Blackjack, I got the idea of 4 steps, 4 styles, 4 suits, went home and grabbed a deck of poker cards, and got writing. The goal is for people to play to their strong suit, and to make sure your innovation team is playing with a full deck. Not playing a strong suit is where a lot of organizations are falling flat.

We tend to hire people and who “fit the mold” and result in the loss of breadth of experience and thinking. How would you compare this to something like Gallup Strengthfinders? Stephen says it’s not about what you are good at, but what gives you energy. We can be good at something, but it might rob us of our energy. The game helps you see what you do well and what gives you energy while telling you who you are and aren’t. How have these impacted teams? Stephen says there are 52 cards as well as words that describe behavioral attributes.

People can gift these cards to others, which allows you to see how you are perceived and how people remember you. It acts as a great conversation starter within organizations and helps to bring the right people to the right team. On top of that, the game emphasizes having diverse perspectives and appreciating what each person brings to the table.

Reframing the Question

What drove you to write your new book, “Invisible Solutions”? Stephen says that his previous book emphasized asking better questions but did not explain how to do it. I spent the last ten years building a toolkit on reframing problems and decided it was time to put it into a book. “Invisible Solutions” are the solutions right in front of you, but you can’t see them because you are asking the wrong questions. What approach do you use to craft good questions that people understand? I created a systematic approach to reframe questions, not to generate new questions necessarily.

What is the “aha” moment for people in figuring out how to reframe questions? Stephen says they first come to have a deep appreciation of how important it is. They also start to understand how difficult it is. People usually don’t want to take the time to stop and think about what the right approach is. Thirdly, people can’t stay in the question stage, and they just want to start solving the next one. Most people don’t spend enough time trying to solve the problem, and they just rush the answer.

Advice for the Listeners

What is one story that will give the listener some advice to take away? Stephen says a great example would be of a group called Pumps & Pipes in Houston, Texas. This group is composed of cardiologists who get together with people from the oil and gas pipeline industry. As far apart as those groups sound, they both work with the movement of fluid through a tube. In one story, a cardiologist was trying to figure out how to break up clots in the body. An oil engineer was dealing with the same issue from sludge and had developed a filter. They collaborated and were able to create a filter that breaks up clots in the body.

If you want to keep up with what Stephen Shapiro is doing, check out his website here. Follow him on LinkedIn here.

About Our Guest: Stephen Shapiro

Stephen Shapiro is a full-time innovation speaker and advisor to clients around the world. Before becoming a full-time speaker, Stephen created and led a 20,000-person innovation practice at Accenture. His work has been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, SUCCESS Magazine, CNBC, ABC News, TLC, and USA Network. He is the author of four books and continues to teach and lead innovation and problem solving everywhere he goes.

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, or you can go to 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 Personality Poker and how to come together as a thriving innovation team, listen to this week’s show: Playing Personality Poker with Your Innovation Team.

RELATED:   Subscribe To The Killer Innovations Podcast

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.


  • 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, or you can go to 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.

RELATED:   Subscribe To The Killer Innovations Podcast

Looking Back at 15 Years of Killer Innovations

We are celebrating the 16th season of The Killer Innovations Show. This week, Bob O’Donnell, Silicon Valley veteran, the President, Founder, and Chief Analyst at TECHnalysis Research, joins us to discuss the history of Killer Innovations and some memorable moments throughout the history of the show.

Killer Innovations

How It All Started

Let’s talk about the backstory of the podcast. In 2004 while at HP, I spoke with my mentor Bob Davis. I asked him how I could pay him back for all the help he had given me in my life. He laughed at me and told me just to pay it forward. Fast forward to March 2005, where I recorded a little test show while in a bathroom at the Marriot Resort in Arizona, and the show was born. For me, it was all about innovation. Everybody thinks of me as being a tech guy because of my time at HP, but my background also covers things like wireless and mobile. It’s all about giving people an inside look at things and helping them take ideas and develop them into knockout products and services. It doesn’t matter if you’re running a lawn care service or a large multi-national company providing auto insurance.

Our listeners cover a wide variety of sizes and industries. Innovation is a skill that anyone can learn, and anyone can become proficient at it. We are all born naturally creative, and we need to find those channels of creativity to create and share the ideas running around in our heads. It’s all about taking those ideas and not letting the fear of failure stop you from successfully solving those problems.


Recently, we’ve been working with Brother, the U.S Marine Corps and the Veterans Administration, helping the government understand innovation from a unique perspective. We teach a framework with four elements around the word FIRE. F stands for focus, and it’s about identifying where the upside opportunity is. Once you define the problem space, then you can get into the I which is ideation. There are a lot of different ways to come up with ideas. Each person goes off on their own and comes up with ideas. Then they come back and share those ideas with their group. The third step is ranking. Very few organizations participate in rankings. There are different processes for ranking ideas, but as a leader, it is vital to get your team involved in it. The last letter is E for execution. Without execution, it’s a hobby. For the Marine Corps, we can do focus, ideation, and ranking in two to three hours. That includes problem statement definition, individual and team brainstorming, ranking, and an early phase of execution.

Memorable Shows

Over the many years of the show, there have been many memorable shows and moments. I’ve had Peter Guber, co-owner of the Golden State Warriors on the show, and got to be in one of his books. Bob Metcalfe, the founder of 3Com which co-invented ethernet, was also on the show. In 2005 before iTunes was a thing, I started podcasting. There was a company called Odeo that specialized in podcatching so people could get podcasts on their iPods and phones. They reached out to me, asking for feedback when they were first conceiving their product. Odeo ended up becoming the social media platform Twitter. The show we did with Dean Kamen (FIRST/ Inventor of the Segway) recently was also a very memorable one.

Fan Moments

It’s motivating for me when I get feedback from fans of the show. My very first fan engagement was in London, back in the early days of the show. A guy reached out to me, asking if he could meet me. We ended up going to a pizza restaurant across the street from the hotel I was staying in. I thought he would be the only one there, but it turns out the whole restaurant was filled with fans of the show. Not too long after that, HP acquired webOS, and I announced that I would be flying to New York. When I got to the hotel at around 2 am, there were almost a dozen people I didn’t know waiting in the lobby to talk to me.

The Innovators Network

The podcast has growth going from an individual podcast to the Innovators Network and onto the Bizz Talk Radio. The Innovators Network launched around two and a half years ago. We wanted to create a platform allowing up and coming podcasters to get distributed on platforms like iHeart and Spotify. It is a host distributor for innovation podcasts such as Tech.Pinions, Killer Innovations, 5 Minutes to New Ideas, and the Kym McNicholas on Innovation podcast focused on medical-tech innovation. A few years ago we got asked to syndicate the The Killer Innovations Show on BizTalk Radio and are now on ~63 radio stations in the United States.

Glad you could join us for the kick-off of season 16. Thanks for taking the time to listen to the show. 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, or you can go to 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 know more about the history of the show and what we’re up to in Season 16, listen to this week’s show: Looking Back at 15 Years of Killer Innovations.

RELATED:   Subscribe To The Killer Innovations Podcast

Sports Tech Innovation Beyond The Field

This week’s guest is an old friend of mine with an entrepreneurial spirit and a passion for collegiate athletics. Craig Ridley, CEO, and Co-Founder of ROUTE Analytics Inc. joins us to discuss some game-changing innovation efforts in the world of college sports recruitment. On today’s show, we will discuss sports tech innovation and what ROUTE is doing to help young student-athletes make their dreams come true.

sports tech innovation


What is ROUTE? Craig says ROUTE Analytics is the convergence of three of his many passions. It’s sports, technology, and innovation through data science. We help high school athletes find their best path to play collegiate sports. We are grounded in the sport of football for three reasons: It is the most popular American sport, it is the most complex in terms of recruiting, and it is the most lucrative. There are many challenges for the parents, players, and coaches, in the recruiting process.

What is the process of getting an athlete noticed by colleges today? Craig says it’s more competitive than ever, and much of the lift falls on the athletes and the parents. That process begins earlier than ever, and the student-athletes and their families need to find the best opportunities to play. Collegiate athletic organizations such as the NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA all have varying restrictions on college coaches and student-athletes contacting each other. That is where ROUTE comes into play.

What kickstarted ROUTE? My son played football as a wide receiver in high school and wanted to play Division 1 football, but his coach told him that he was a Div. II/Div. III player. Through the recruiting process, we realized it wasn’t that simple. Long story short, we took a sports tech innovation approach to the process and my son was able to get recruited to play at West Virginia University.

The Birth of ROUTE

Craig says that a dream without a plan is a wish. We put up a plan to help my son achieve his goal. When the coach told us that he was a D2/D3 player, we were looking at about 417 schools and a total of 672 schools with football programs in the NCAA. We went to a football camp at the University of Maryland and realized that with 350 kids at the camp, the coaches were unable to evaluate all the kid’s talents. Realistically, you can only do about five football camps a summer with the five weeks in between football seasons.

We came back from that camp and got smarter with our approach. I started to build a spreadsheet and went to athletic and academic websites, journaling information and narrowing down the schools to target. That is the approach that we took to get my son to his dream. After navigating that process, I had parents asking me for help, but I could only help one family at a time. With my sports tech innovation background, I wondered if there was a way to help navigate this process more efficiently. With regards to ROUTE, what has been the response from coaches and schools? Craig says the coaches love it because it makes their jobs easier. We provide the research and analytics and the predicted outcomes, simplifying the process.

Spreadsheet to Business

How did you go from a spreadsheet to launching a business? Craig says he started by looking for a great data scientist. I was blessed to find three of them and with some tremendous diverse experience. From there, we built a prototype and took it to the American Football Coaches Association (AFCA). The coaches at the show said they had never seen anything like it and encouraged us to build it. I put the initial capital in to go from prototype to beta, and now we’re post-beta and working on version three. 80% of our current customers are on IOS devices and we are working on getting it available on Android as well. We have athletes from every state in the country, Canada, as well as users from Europe using our product.

What is the next sport after football? Craig says basketball would be next, due to the number of kids playing it in the U.S. What does it take to bring on a new sport? Craig says they acquire a massive amount of data, so it is not a simple task. It’s not just on the athletes, but on the school’s athletic and academic data. We want to be the foremost data analytics and research company in the area we are in now. Focusing on sports tech innovation in one key area at a time is vital to maximization.

Advice for Startups

With ROUTE being your fifth startup, what is the advice you wish you had before all the startups? Aligning your interests with the folks you’re working is beneficial for everyone. Startups don’t die because they run out of money, but because the founders run out of energy. It comes down to what you’re willing to sacrifice to achieve your dream. How do you validate that your interests are aligned? Craig says it comes down to leadership. Listening is an underrated leadership skill. If you ask the right questions and you listen, you’ll hear who and what makes them tick. Assembling my team was the essential step in creating ROUTE.

If you want to keep up with ROUTE and download the ROUTE app, check out their website here. Follow Craig on LinkedIn here.

About Our Guest: Craig Ridley

Craig Ridley is the Co-founder and CEO of ROUTE Analytics Inc. ROUTE is a college football recruiting application that helps athletes make better decisions about where to play. Craig has a background in sports tech innovation through data science and was involved in five different startups.

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 or you can go to 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 latest in sports tech innovation and ROUTE, listen to this week’s show: Sports Tech Innovation Beyond The Field.

RELATED:   Subscribe To The Killer Innovations Podcast

Bringing the Game to Gaming Tech Innovation #CES2020

Today’s guest is one that I had the privilege of working alongside during my time at HP. Luca Di Fiore, Head of Products at Xtreme Performance Gear, joins us here at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2020, to discuss some game-changing innovation efforts. On this week’s show, we will discuss gaming tech innovation and the latest at Xtreme Performance Gear (XPG).

Gaming Tech Innovation


During my time at HP, I worked alongside Luca in the Innovation Program Office. Luca leads the effort for the carbon fiber laptop known as the Voodoo Envy. He went on to work for Razer, leading the VR efforts over there. Luca says after working on some award-winning products at Razer, he moved on to a new venture known as XPG by ADATA, a memory company. XPG had an exciting plan to push into gaming.

Given an innovation budget, Luca has the freedom to innovate. Why would a memory company want to get into gaming? Luca says it’s more evident than it looks. The connection is very simple. Memory is the one part that you can really push through the next level with gaming. XPG was able to assemble a team of people passionate about gaming tech innovation from different companies such as Razer, HyperX, Corsair, etc. How big is the group? Luca says he has three teams working in product management, marketing, and RND, totaling almost thirty people. In less than eleven months, we’ve managed to launch short of twenty products with a relatively low budget. Luca says most of his team is in Taipei, Taiwan, a hub of competitive gaming.

New Products

With XPG, you guys have made a ton of announcements recently. Can you give us the rundown? Luca says the big announcements here at CES are called “Invasion has Begun” and the fact that XPG entered into systems. There aren’t many gaming companies that can do accessories, peripherals, and systems at the same time, so this is big for us.

On top of that, we announced a new gaming laptop and a partnership with intel. We also partnered with a U.S startup called Pixeldisplay to create one of the most innovative gaming tech monitors in the market. We looked at how much time tech enthusiasts spend on their monitor and wanted to find a way to preserve their eyesight. We’ve implemented Pixeldisplay’s technology, which offers a better quality of the image that doesn’t filter out the blue color, but just the harmful blue LED properties. How big is this display? Luca says it’s the same size as any other display with the difference that it does not ship with a stand.

On the peripheral side, we have brought in our innovation spearhead called XPG Headshot. In developing this product, we asked the question of how to create an ultra-lightweight mouse. We used 3D printing to create a nicely structured mouse built into one place.

Product Customization

Typically, with mice today, there is a universal set of hand sizes, such as small, medium, and large. With 3D printing, do you customize the mice at XPG? We built this AI application to help in the customization of the mouse. An AI algorithm is used to take a picture of your hand and modify it based on the specific dimension. We let you choose your grip style and personalize the mouse specifically for your needs. Scalability isn’t a problem because our gaming tech innovation allows us to build anywhere in the world with these 3D printers.

What are some other announcements from XPG? We are sponsoring an ESL tournament in Bangkok, Thailand, and we brought a 24-karat gold keyboard, worth $10,000 as the prize. We also have a laptop collaboration with Intel. It is a gaming laptop with a 15″ display and is available to ship in Taiwan and Latin America, acting almost like a field trial for the future U.S market.

Idea to Product

Many listeners of the show have ideas. They’ve come up with but no expertise on how to turn them into a product. What advice would you give to an entrepreneur with a fresh idea? Luca says the first rule of thumb is to do great prototypes and make them as functional as possible. For example, my monitors had a prototype that could turn around in a month’s time frame. We have a lot of prototyping housing in Asia, specifically Taiwan, due to the cost-effectiveness of the area. The area also has a lot of companies that help with startups. Having a prototype will get you started in creating your gaming tech innovation products or any other product types.

About our Guest: Luca Di Fiore

Luca Di Fiore is the Head of Products at Xtreme Performance Gear (XPG) at ADATA. Luca is a bleeding-edge technologist with an international mindset and years of experience innovating and solving problems within the ICT industry, looking to make a difference in people’s lives through new human-machine paradigms. His previous experience includes Director of R&D at Razer, and Senior R&D Manager, CTO Office-Innovation Programs at Hewlett-Packard.

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 or you can go to 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 gaming tech innovation and the latest at XPG, listen to this week’s show: Bringing the Game to Gaming Tech Innovation #CES2020.

RELATED:   Subscribe To The Killer Innovations Podcast

Renaissance Era in Innovation #CES2020

Two outstanding guests joined us while we were at the Consumer Electronics Show 2020 (CES). Bob O’Donnell, the President, Founder, and Chief Analyst at TECHnalysis Research, and Greg Johnston from Manta5, a company that offers the world’s first Hydrofoil Bike that replicates the cycling experience on the water. This week on Killer Innovations, we will discuss CES, the PC industry, and Manta5’s new game-changing product.

Renaissance Era

Standing Out at CES

With the size and noise of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), how do companies attract attention? Bob says that flashy press conferences are the key to getting noticed. Panasonic brought out Michael Phelps and showcased Star Wars characters to broadcast their work with Walt Disney Imagineering. Sony rolled out a car prototype known as the Vison-S during a press conference to promote the component technologies they are producing for the automotive industry. Having something that stands out is vital to gaining attention at an event like CES.

PC Growth

Bob and I had the pleasure of growing up together. We reconnected many years later through the PC industry. Bob has been a follower and influencer of the PC industry for a long time. With talk about PCs being dead, Bob shared some thoughts on the matter. The PC market has never reached its height. Still very much alive and kicking today, PCs have proved to be relevant even in the days of smartphones. The capabilities offered from PCs such as a larger screen and a physical keyboard are incredibly important. We saw some of the most significant innovations of PCs have been in recent times. AMD came out with their Ryzen 4000 Series parts for desktop and laptops based on their Zen 2 Core. Intel just debuted Tiger Lake, their next-generation Intel Core processor. On top of that, these guys are also exploring AI and 5G within the PC realm. That is why I partly believe we are in a real renaissance era of the PC market.

If you want to follow Bob’s endeavors, check out his recently started Forbes column here. He writes for Tech.pinions and has the Tech.pinions podcast, so check that out here. If you want to dig in, go to Bob’s website here.


Here at CES, you will see just about anything and everything under the sun. Joining us is New Zealander Greg Johnston, CEO of Manta5, a company with a unique product. What is Manta5, you might ask? Greg says that Manta5 is the “brain-child” of its founder Guy Howard-Willis, an avid cyclist who had the dream of cycling on the water. Years later, that dream came true when Manta5 created the world’s first Hydrofoil Bike on water. The bike itself has two wings and a propeller, and while the user peddles, the cycle planes on the water.

Idea to Product

As an innovator, I know how hard it is to translate an idea into a product. How was the process of turning this idea into a product? Greg said there wasn’t much to go off at first, so they started with a bike frame and a propeller. We used a private pool and experimented with heaps of different prototypes trying to develop the hydrofoils. Once we nailed the rider position relative to the foils, we received a grant from Callaghan to develop the propeller and foils with an engineer. How long was the time frame for this process? It took about seven years to get the product out, and the product has been on the market for about a year now. It is a customized product except for the handlebars, the seat, and the pedals. What was the feedback on the product? Greg says the feedback has been overwhelming. We created an unboxing experience to deliver directly to the customer which they loved.

Growing Manta5

What was the learning process for the company with the blow-up of the product? Going from creating a prototype, to designing the product, to producing it on a scale has been a significant challenge. We’ve grown our design team as well as our production and engineering team over time. We’ve also been developing our relationships with suppliers for when we are ready to mass-produce these products. How did you guys catch the attention of manufacturers with this product? Greg says that Manta5 worked with an agent in Taiwan who knew their founders. Building relationships is everything. If manufacturers like you as a person and your vision as a company, that is huge.

Vision for the Future

What’s next for Manta5? The vision is to become cycling’s new frontier. We want to create a range of new products in biking while cultivating a sport through our product. When it comes to any game-changing product, copycats always arise. How will Manta5 deal with copycat products? We at Manta5 place importance on establishing ourselves as the leader in Hydrofoil Biking. We support other brands that may pop up in the future, as we want to cultivate a sport out of Hydrofoil Biking.

Follow Manta5 and check out the world’s first Hydrofoil Bike, view their website here, and check out their Facebook here.

About our Guest: Bob O’Donnell

Bob O’Donnell is the President, Founder, and Chief Analyst of TECHnalysis Research. The firm’s research and O’Donnell’s opinions are also regularly used by major media outlets, including Bloomberg TV, CNBC, CNN, Investor’s Business Daily, the Wall Street Journal, Yahoo Finance, and more. O’Donnell writes regular columns for USAToday and Forbes, as well as a weekly blog for published on TechSpot, SeekingAlpha, and LinkedIn. Before founding TECHnalysis Research, Bob served as Program Vice President, Clients and Displays for industry research firm IDC. He is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame.

About our Guest: Greg Johnston

Greg Johnston is the CEO of Manta5, the creator of the world’s first Hydrofoil Bike, that replicates the cycling experience on the water. Greg is a driven entrepreneur who’s passionate about high growth startups and innovative social enterprise. He’s currently working alongside the original Torpedo7 founders to commercialize the Manta5 Hydrofoil Bike. Greg enjoys being a part of the Waikato startup and business scene. He’s always keen to meet new people, help connect others, and find ways to collaborate.

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, or you can go to 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 renaissance era of the PC industry and the new game-changing product, Manta5, listen to this week’s show: Renaissance Era in Innovation #CES2020.

RELATED:   Subscribe To The Killer Innovations Podcast

Impact From Innovation: Personal and Global #CES2020

This week on Killer Innovations, we are joined by two guests here at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). Scott Kim, CEO of NEOFECT USA, an innovative health tech company, and Sarah Brown, the Director of Event Communications for the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) are joining us on the show. We will discuss technology in the health industry and the future of CES.



NEOFECT’s focus is on aiding people in stroke rehabilitation by providing them with top tier health technology. Their products, such as the Smart Glove, run solely on AI technology. The technology is a more independent therapy option for users while tracking their progress over time. Scott Kim’s passion and vision for the company come from hard life experiences. He was born with Spinal Bifida, making him very familiar with the rehabilitation process at a young age. He worked through his adversities and created something successful and meaningful.

While NEOFECT has established itself as a high-end health tech company, it wasn’t an easy journey. Scott Kim started with a team of eight founders, and only three currently remain with the company. The company started small with limited funding and worked for four years to launch its first product. Today, the company has multiple products to aid stroke patients, as well as products to help children in dealing with motor challenges.

What’s New

Going forward, NEOFECT is launching an app called NEOFECT Connect. This app will give its users live rehab solutions to aid in recovering from a stroke. It will act similarly to Skype and will provide users with the human relationship aspect of therapy. To keep up with NEOFECT and what they are currently doing, check out their Facebook page here.

Trends at CES

Consumer Electronics Show (CES) is the world’s largest and most influential tech event. Sarah Brown, the Director of Event Communications for CTA joined us to discuss the growth and future of CES. A new trend is visibly starting up, as non-tech centered companies are attending CES. New industries such as travel and tourism, have been promoting products and services as well. Aimed at making communities better prepared for natural disasters, smart sities have been popping up at the event. An array of different companies also joined to show off their products to the world. CES has become the “go-to” show not only for innovators but for policymakers as well. Representatives from the government, such as the Department of Energy, as well as international representatives from the EU, were in attendance.

Growth and Expansion

With all the different companies at CES, there is a magical competition between companies large and small. Startups are trying to gain the attention of investors and larger companies with their products. More and more companies are attending each year, filling up many Las Vegas hotels. With this continual growth, some questions come to mind. How much bigger can CES become? Sarah says that if companies want to be at CES, then we want them here. With space running out, facilities expansion is necessary to make sure that even small companies can attend.  What is one thing at #CES2020 that wows you? Sarah says flying cars are the coolest. Companies like Hyundai are partnering with Uber to bring flying cars to the people.

About Our Guest: Scott Kim

Scott Kim is the CEO of NEOFECT USA (San Francisco, CA), and Co-founder of NEOFECT, its parent company based in South Korea. The company is a rehabilitation technology company focused on providing vital rehab equipment to those recovering from strokes and suffering from motor challenges. Scott was born with Spinal Bifida, which gave him a unique understanding of the rehabilitation process. His prior work experience includes working in the gaming industry for GREE, Z2Live, and 505 Games.  He received a bachelor’s of Business Administration from Korea University, as well as a master’s in Business Administration from the University of Virginia.

About our Guest: Sarah Brown

Sarah Brown is the Director of Event Communications for the Consumer Technology Association (CTA). She serves as a spokesperson for CES and leads the media relations strategy for the show. Previously, Brown led the global media strategy for leisure, innovation, and food & beverage for Hilton Worldwide. Before her time at Hilton Worldwide, Brown worked for Ketchum, a global public relations firm. Sarah Brown earned her bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Arizona and a master’s in public relations and corporate communications from Georgetown University.

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, or you can go to 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 technology in the health industry and the future of CES, listen to this week’s show: Impact From Innovation: Personal and Global #CES2020.

RELATED:   Subscribe To The Killer Innovations Podcast

Six Innovation Skills Everyone Needs

What are the innovation skills needed to be successful in creating new ideas and products? Many people often find themselves void of creativity in the innovation world. This stems from a deeper issue. On today’s show, we will go through in more detail what innovation skills separate those that have limited success to those that have continual success. The core set of skills to be successful and to win regardless of your organization type, size or geographical location are the same.

Self-Confidence in Creativity

The number one skillset I have discussed many times over the years is self-confidence that you are creative. We were all born highly creative. Watch kids with the creative things they say, do and come up with. The problem is creativity is driven out of us from an early age. Children learn conformity from grade school through college. We are brainwashed into thinking that it is vital to act the same in order to be relevant. When we move into a professional career we are asked to be more creative, think differently and come up with solutions, after being taught conformity for 16+ years. It’s no myth that CEOs recruit creativity. Creativity drives innovation. It’s a catalyst for growth in a business. If you are not exercising your creativity and unlocking its potential you could become irrelevant.


Another key skillset is bravery. The opposite if innovation bravery is conformity. You have to go out and apply your creativity. Share your thoughts and ideas. Take some risks. Try something you haven’t done before. The fear and feeling of failure holds us back and kills the bravery. You have to get over the fear of failure to be brave. Step out, get permission or give permission to go and fail. Go out and experiment, test the limits, break the norm and be brave.

Seeing with Fresh Eyes

One important skillset that gets harder to use as you get more experienced is your perspective. Seeing with fresh eyes and having a beginner’s mind will guide you to develop breakout products and services. Don’t let your area of expertise cloud your vision, but have an attitude of openness. Every year of experience in an expertise or capability area you become more and more closed to different approaches or new opportunities. No matter how many times you have seen and worked a type of initiative/project you need to put aside your expertise and come in with a new mindset to each initiative. Adopt an approach with many possibilities and avoid getting caught in the trap of an expert mindset with fewer possibilities and being categorized as a naysayer.

Ability to Craft & Ask Great Questions

How does one get the creative thoughts and ideas flowing? The answer is by asking questions. Questions hold great power. They get people thinking. There are simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions, leading questions and questions you craft to discover. The power of creating and collecting your own questions is critical in the innovation world. It will help you create new ideas and eliminate problems. Coming in as a new leader I crafted four questions to gain a unique insight. Developing these questions is vital to deriving input from your team, vendors, partners, leaders as well as potential beneficiaries of your idea.

Continually, coming up with different ways of asking a question can generate discoveries that are unique. For instance, if I ask you the question of what is half of thirteen and you respond six and a half. I would give you an ‘A ‘on a math test, but in innovation, I would give you a ‘C’. Why, because you stopped at the first obvious answer. Now if I craft the question slightly differently and ask you how many different ways can you convey half of thirteen? There are more ways than one, and it would surprise you how creative you can get.

To help out I’ve crafted a card deck that asks questions with a variety of angles to challenge you to think differently. Learning how to come up with ways to ask questions and reword them to ask differently, will give you a skill that generates new insights. The power of questions is absolutely critical in the innovation game. Begin creating and collecting your own questions today.

Dealing with Innovation Antibodies

One skill we need, but tend to overlook is dealing with innovation antibodies. When operating in the world of innovation, opposition often occurs. People may feel threatened by your idea for one reason or another. These people act as innovation antibodies, attacking your idea. How do you deal with this issue? No matter where you are in innovation, you will encounter different responses, and will have to work through them.

Here are the types of responses you will need to work through:

  • Ego Response – The jealousy of your idea coming from position of authority. Share some of the idea/give credit to get around these people
  • Fatigue Response – “I’ve tried that before.” Treat them as an adviser to help your idea
  • No-Risk Response – “That’s too risky.” Empathize with them and take risk seriously
  • Comfort Response – “We don’t need change, we’re doing good.” Show them that things will not be good forever

Do you know an innovation antibody in your organization? What category would you put them in? Do others call you an innovation antibody? If so, what type are you?

 Innovation Attitude

A key skillset that is vital to success in innovation is to have an innovation attitude that permeates your culture. This based on a term I use called CARE to help push

C – Candor – freely share your creative thoughts and ideas with others. Be respectful, but be honest and encourage candor among yourselves and others. Invite them to act as an innovation antibody even on your ideas. If you don’t share your thoughts and ideas they don’t become real innovations—they have zero value.

A – Action – Act on ideas that will impact your organization. Take charge to enable progress and lean in. Provide solutions to issues both big and small regardless if it is your idea. Don’t let good ideas become stale because it wasn’t your idea, take action to drive them forward.

R – Risk – Understand the uncertainty and risk associated with trying new ideas. Take calculated risks or act on perceived risks. Get rid of perceived risks—many are not real risks. Learn from experiments and calculated risks. Understand how to manage risks and push forward.

E – Empower – Trust yourself and others to make a difference. Feel like you are empowered and have permission. Empower others and encourage leaders to empower—enable permission.


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 or you can go to 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 about the skills needed for a successful innovation, listen to this week’s show: The Six Innovation Skills Everyone Needs.

RELATED:   Subscribe To The Killer Innovations Podcast

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 or you can go to 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.

RELATED:   Subscribe To The Killer Innovations Podcast

Innovation Process: Develop…Then Design Later?

In the traditional R&D process, the product is developed and then handed off to the design team to “wrap” it and make it look pretty. The drawback is that this approach is out of date; in the last ten years consumers have become much more design-savvy. Consumers want functional, usable design that highlights ease of use, or a more emotive design that adds a personal connection with the product or in some way broadcasts a statement about the user’s more subtle, hard-to-define beliefs about themselves.

We can all name a handful of companies that are melding form and function in a way that resonates with users and creates a deep-seated brand loyalty. Look at JetBlue. They are essentially a low-cost carrier, but their design does a masterful job of suggesting that they provide a full-service experience. Their terminal at JFK is a flashback to the old-world style of travel—more elegant and sophisticated than its customers would expect it to be, and more pleasant to spend time in compared with the terminals of most of its competitors, the so-called legacy carriers.

RELATED:  Extract Value from Old Assets

It’s important to constantly ask why you develop your product elements in a particular order. This is especially true if your organization has been in business for a substantial length of time and yet you’re still developing your products in an order that was devised to suit production methods from decades ago. Ford Motor Company worked with Ideo and the New York–based design firm Smart Design on the Ford Fusion. This was a daring move for Ford, as the car industry has always believed in keeping new ideas proprietary. By bringing in outside firms they risked their design being leaked prematurely. However, they recognized both that they needed to do something bold with the design to reflect the radically new nature of the car and that they didn’t know where to start.

RELATED:  Is The Project Worth Pursuing?


Sparking Points

  • In what order do you develop an idea and its components? What would happen if you changed that?
  • How did you make the determination about your customers’ priorities in regards to how you ordered the phases of R&D?
  • When do you involve design in the R&D? What would be the impact if you change it?