Box Think is doing both inside the box thinking and out of the box thinking. As we discussed in past shows, out of the box thinking is what most people use when they think of creative thinking. People often overlook what I call inside the box thinking and try to stay away from it.
Out Of The Box Thinking
The term “out of the box thinking” is a metaphor that means to think from a new perspective. It originally came from some management consulting firms that were trying to solve problems in new ways. The term was attached to a concept known as the nine-dot problem.
When challenged to do “out of the box thinking,”, you need to utilize risk-oriented thinking. You need to take all the risk constraints out of the scenario, whether it is financial, technology-based, etc.
Next, you need to rely on shared thinking. Shared thinking can be hard but is necessary to accelerate your ability to “think outside the box.”
Lastly, practice reflective thinking. We all love our ideas, as they are our “babies.” In some cases, we need to take a step back and take our emotions out of it. We need to distance ourselves from our ideas and look at other views as well. Set aside time to practice all of these thinking processes, and you will be able to successfully “think outside the box.”
Inside The Box Thinking
‘Inside the box thinking’ means to innovate within the constraints defined by the box. It is more generally described as constraint-based innovation. The idea behind it is understanding your constraints and utilizing those constraints to innovate beyond the box. The box can be an organization, government, or even a team. It defines where you are operating here and now. The box can contain inside constraints that you can change.
Most people tend to think that good ideas only come from out of the box thinking, which is not true. Inside the box thinking is to constrain the problem but not the potential ways of solving it. Inside the box thinking is also to constrain the atmosphere, but not the team. Inside the box thinking is restricting the resources but not the ways to utilize them.
Constraint-based innovation is hugely powerful in limiting resources and can empower a team to create something novel.
Box Think is the process of combining BOTH outside the box and inside the box thinking. To ensure you have a complete view of all possibilities for innovation, you need to do both and this is done by crafting problem statements that challenge the teams during ideation/brainstorming to look at the problem in both ways.
This week’s guest has been around in the innovation industry for quite some time. We know a lot of the same people as we were at two companies that worked closely together. Brad Chase is an author and a former Senior VP at Microsoft. We will discuss innovation advantage through strategy and insights from his […]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Over the last few weeks, we have been focusing the shows on different thinking styles, such as out of the box thinking. This week’s topic is a different twist on what we have been recently discussing. People often overlook what I call inside the box thinking and try to stay away from it. On today’s show, we will discuss inside the box thinking and how it can be utilized in any team or organization to boost innovation success.
Inside the Box Thinking
‘Inside the box thinking’ means to innovate within the constraints defined by the box. It is more generally described as constraint-based innovation. The idea behind it is understanding your constraints and utilizing those constraints to innovate beyond the box. The box can be an organization, government, or even a team. It defines where you are operating here and now. The box can contain inside constraints that you can change. It may also include outside the box constraints that are out of your control. Let’s look at what those constraints can look like:
Strategy/Vision – Going into a particular market with a fixed and specific plan.
Policies/Procedures – Depending on how these are set up, they can be very constraining.
Decision Making – Who makes the decisions? What are the decision-making criteria?
Resource Allocation – How does your organization allocate resources (time, people, money, equipment)?
The Seven Laws of Innovation
Dealing with inside constraints can be a tough task. What I like to call the seven laws of innovation , are laws that are critically important for inside the box thinking. Here’s what the seven laws mean:
Leadership – Having leaders within an organization that support innovation is critical. An alignment amongst the organization must happen to achieve innovation success.
Innovation Culture – Culture is key because an innovation culture encourages people to get out and try new ideas. Likewise, a bad culture can drag an organization down.
Resources – It is critical to have resources that are devoted to innovation, and to use your best resources.
Innovation Framework Process – You need to have an innovation framework process that is tailored to your organization’s culture.
Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) – What is the colossal objective that you are going to pursue? The goal needs a timeline and plan of execution.
Execution – Remember that ideas without execution are hobbies. There is no value without execution.
These can include competition, outside investments, partners/suppliers, government regulations, etc. I’ve worked in regulated industries, which have given me a good perspective on what this is all about. Outside constraints are typically outside of your control and have been imposed upon you. These don’t always have to be negative and can often be used to your advantage. Let’s look at what these are:
Competition – If your competitor is much larger than you, they can invest and fund a lot more than you. You can innovate around the economy of scale by blowing it up. Look at what Uber and Lyft did to the taxi and rental car industry.
Outside Investments – Innovation requires capital. It is challenging to do game-changing innovations without capital these days. That being said, there are a ton of different ways to get capital.
Partners/Suppliers – If you combine your innovation efforts with partners, you can bring products to market faster. I call this co-innovation, and I have done this a lot throughout my career. A common interest and culture are vital when partnering with someone.
Government Regulations – Governments can define regulations that restrict your access to raw materials/different markets. Sometimes you have to meet specific requirements to operate in a particular market.
Like I mentioned earlier, people tend to think that good ideas only come from out of the box thinking, which is not true. Inside the box thinking is to constrain the problem but not the potential ways of solving it. Problem statements are critical because they radically increase the quantity and quality of your ideas. Inside the box thinking is also to constrain the atmosphere, but not the team. This is around culture and giving permission and autonomy to innovate. You don’t want to limit the team so that they can’t innovate ideas. Another part of inside the box thinking is restricting the resources but not the ways to utilize them. Constraint-based innovation is hugely powerful in limiting resources and can empower a team to create something novel.
To know more about inside of the box thinking or innovating with inside constraints, listen to this week’s show: Inside the Box Thinking.
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This week we are joined by a guest who has helped a wide range of companies speed up the process of innovation. John Carter, an inventor of Bose’s Noise Cancelling Headphones, designer of Apple’s New Product Process, and founder of TCGen Inc., joins us to talk innovation. We will discuss the lessons John learned while working under Dr. Bose that can help you better your innovation pursuits.
John believes that viewing things as a system rather than individual components helps achieve more profound innovations. By system, John means a collection of components that lead to consumer value. He found his interest in systems while studying engineering at Harvey Mudd College. His attention was focused on sound systems, so he pursued a master’s degree at MIT after graduating. While at MIT, he got connected with Dr. Bose and went on to work at Bose for 15 years. John learned many life-changing lessons from Dr. Bose that greatly impacted his career.
Lessons Learned at Bose
While at Bose, John worked on noise-canceling headphones for seven years. He learned an important innovation lesson right away while working on microphones for headphones and quality loudspeakers. His first two sole projects were with Dr. Bose and a technician. During the first couple of months, they were making significant progress on the headphones but were having some challenges. Dr. Bose decided to drop the other program and focus on the headphones. While focusing on improving the base and distortion of the headphones, they realized that the customers wanted noise cancellation. As the inventor, they thought they knew how the customer would like the product, and they were dead wrong. John and his team made the mistakes of not understanding the actual benefits of the product and overengineering.
When I was at HP, there was a lot of overengineering with our printing business. We were engineering way out on the curve, while the customers couldn’t even tell the difference that we thought was noticeable.
John says that Bose was able to beat its competitors by not focusing on improvements that aren’t very noticeable.
Importance of Marketing
In the last segment, we talked about the patience required through the innovation process. The noise-canceling headphones have always impressed me, not just the product, but how it was brought to the market. $300 noise-canceling headphones were so new and radical to the market. Some of the greatest innovations at Bose were done on the marketing and sales front, not the product. They used simple product mission statements such as “great sound from small packages.”
While John was developing products in the lab, Dr. Bose was focused on retail and marketing experiments. He used an innovation process of successive refinement and thought outside the box. First, Dr. Bose tried selling their products door to door. Then he went to direct mail by putting coupons in magazines. Lastly, he went through a radio station that covered various products. This process allowed Bose to build a dedicated fan base and taught John the importance of third-party credibility. Having someone else in a position of authority talk about you in glowing terms is very impactful.
Dr. Bose was a fantastic innovator when it came to marketing. His willingness to experiment, fail, and try again is what brought Bose to where they are today. Failure is education and is about cutting out dead alleys to find the right way.
Innovation Lessons and Advice
One common question I get is around innovation investment. In John’s experience, you should spend about 10% of your budget innovation three-five years into the future. When I first got to HP, innovation was a low percentage of the budget. Over time, we shifted to using 10% of our budget on innovation as well. For smaller organizations, John says a rule of thumb is to fund about ten to twenty thousand dollars a year of every technical person you have on board as an investment. Many organizations hurt themselves by not hiring the right people and not letting them do their thing. Having small teams and a high focus is very important for innovation success.
If you want to keep updated with what John is doing, check out his website here. Check out his book here.
About our Guest: John Carter
John Carter is a widely respected expert on product development. He is an inventor of Bose’s Noise Cancelling Headphones and designer of Apple’s New Product Process. As Founder of TCGen Inc., John has consulted for Abbott, Amazon, Apple, Cisco, HP, IBM, Mozilla, Roche, and 3M. He is the author of “Innovate Products Faster,” featuring more than 40 tools for accelerating product development speed and innovation. John has an MS in Engineering from MIT.
We are picking up from where we left off on last week’s show. We discussed out of the box thinking, which means to think from a different perspective. In Part 1, we discussed thinking differently and thinking unconventionally. On this week’s show, we will discuss thinking specifically from a new perspective.
Recap of Part 1
We started last week talking about thinking styles. Some of us may have multiple styles, such as myself. I like to come up with creative ideas, but also tend to be an analyst that likes collecting information. Next, we talked about thinking differently. We discussed seven different ways that are vital to thinking differently. You want to practice strategic, inquisitive, big-picture thinking, focused, risk-oriented thinking, shared-thinking, and reflective thinking.
As I shared last week, one of these is not better than the other. You should do all seven of these in some scheduled way. Set some time on your calendar to utilize each of these seven types of thinking. Set an hour a week for strategic thinking, then another hour for inquisitive thinking. Ask what questions you should be asking of your team or customers. Step back and take some time to look at the big picture. Go somewhere isolated where you can focus on an opportunity area. Find someone more willing to take the risks that you won’t. Collect ideas from people. Set aside all of these times to reflect on new ideas.
One key area of thinking outside the box is to think from a new perspective. It would be best if you change your perspective by taking a different route than your current one. One challenge that I give my staff is to take a different path to work. Sometimes we get in the zone and don’t notice new things as we are stuck in the same route every day.
Firstly, we need to get a new perspective  to help us see customers, products, and opportunities differently. Let’s look at five ways to do this:
Naturalism – This is an approach where one sits back and observes. At HP we did a project on lower-middle-class members in India. The project was looking at communication with family members that had gone to college and moved to Europe or North America. Instead of asking questions, we stayed in people’s homes. We observed how they interacted and communicated right then and there, which was an eye-opening experience.
Participant Observation – This is observing while asking questions. The best example of this is when I would go into Best Buy to observe and ask customers why they chose a product other than HP’s.
Interview – This is a large observation. We do this for our Innovation Bootcamp, where we bring customers to dinner, and the students in the class ask the audience questions.
Survey – This is gathering information about the group. The best way to do this is by asking questions of different types. A variation of this is focus groups. I am not of a big fan of focus groups and surveys because I think bias can be injected into the surveys based on the questions asked.
Archival Research – There is a ton of work that has been done by other researchers. You can learn from others, so find research that may disagree with you and look at it transparently. Get out of your comfort zone, because changing to a new perspective can help you find that next great idea.
The Customers Perspective
Now we will discuss how to walk in your customer’s shoes. The best way to do this is to create a customer journey map. This tool examines how your customers interact with you. Let’s look at what is needed to do this:
Establish User Personas – This is a semi-fictional character based on your prospective and current customers. You take a collection of your customers from surveys or observational studies and categorize them. Allow yourself to think about it in the context of that customer.
Understand Your Customer Touch Points – How will your customers interact from start to finish? You need to understand their perspective of your ads, websites, product quality, etc.
Actors Who Influence Your Customers – These are people out of your control who can influence a positive or negative experience. If I am at Best Buy observing/talking to people and someone brings a friend with them, that friend can have a significant impact on what product they end up buying.
The first thing you want to do when you have all of this is to create an empathy map. An empathy map examines how the customer feels during each interaction. An example of this is Chick-fil-A employees saying my pleasure after serving you. Next, you want to sketch the customer’s journey on a whiteboard, post-it notes, mind map, etc. This process helps create innovations that will have a considerable impact.
Think Out of the Box
This two-part series was about out of the box thinking. In part one, we discussed different thinking styles. It is crucial to understand how others think and to have people with varying styles of thinking on your team. Next, you want to think differently through all seven of the styles previously stated. In part two, we discussed getting a different perspective. Do interviews, invite prospects to dinner, do surveys, etc. Next, create a customer journey map and personas to get into the customer’s shoes. Then, understand how customers interact and how they are influenced. Lastly, create a customer empathy map and sketch your customer journey to find how to make their experience better.
This week, we will cover a topic that is a bit of a spin-off from a show on buzzwordsthat I recently did. A listener of the show was confused about buzzwords and buzzphrases often used in the innovation space and sent me an email. We will discuss the buzzphrase “out of the box thinking,” analyze it, and discuss how you can think outside of the box to gain an edge in the world today.
Out of the Box Thinking
The term “out of the box thinking” is a metaphor that means to think from a new perspective. It originally came from some management consulting firms that were trying to solve problems in new ways. The term was attached to a concept known as the nine-dot problem. The idea is a 3 x 3 grid of dots formed in the shape of a square, equaling nine dots. The challenge is to draw a line through all nine dots without retracing over a previous line or lifting your pen. You need to use out of the box thinking to solve this problem. Initially, four lines in sort of a triangle shape were commonly used. Next, someone came up with drawing three-wide lines going around the box, touching all the dots. Then, someone solved the problem with one very fat line.
If you’ve been a long-time listener of the show, you have heard me give the challenge of answering what half of thirteen is. If you answered 6.5, you’d get an A on your math test. On an innovation test, I’d give you a C-, because you solved it with one easy answer. You could write it out as 1 and 3 and split it vertically, creating two digits. You could also write it out as Roman Numeral thirteen and split it vertically, which gives you eleven and two. There are thousands of different ways to answer these types of questions. The key is to not stop at the most obvious answer or to say it does not have an answer. Part of thinking out of the box is to think differently and understand the problem from a different perspective.
Thinking Styles and Types
We each have our natural thinking styles. It’s important to know what your preferred style of thinking is, and if you are a mix of different styles. Let’s dig into what those thinking styles are:
Synthesist – These people are creative and open to a wide range of ideas. The synthesist is an interesting type of person that is always exploring new things.
Idealist – These people are always working towards a big goal. They set the bar high for themselves and others around them. Idealists are great at achieving things that nobody thought could be done.
Pragmatists – These people take the logical approach to problem-solving. They tend to be focused on immediate results and driven by quarterly or annual achievements.
Analysts – These people are interested in the facts and data points. Analysts have a clear procedure for doing things. They love data and are big on metrics. These people get satisfaction from achieving success by using defined processes.
Realist – These people tackle problems head-on. They don’t feel challenged by everyday ambiguity. These are the people who get stuff done in an organization.
Once you know your style, you need to figure out how you can think differently to achieve success.
‘Thinking differently’ is the key question to tackle once you know your thinking style. I’m now going to share seven ways you can think differently. The key is to utilize all seven of these approaches to be free of blind spots:
Strategic Thinking – This helps prepare for uncertainty. It gives you a plan to prepare for the what-if situations. Strategic thinking puts you ahead of every situation that could occur.
Inquisitive Thinking – Question everything. This causes people to think differently and look at problems differently. This can be applied to everything. Ask questions to gain knowledge.
Big-Picture Thinking – This applies heavily to analysts. Think about the situation from another person’s lenses, whoever that may be. This gives you a different and valuable perspective.
Focus Thinking – This shuts out the operations and takes away distractions. You need time to think away from the everyday busyness of society.
How to Think Differently
When challenged to do “out of the box thinking,” there are a few ways you can approach it. Firstly, you need to utilize risk-oriented thinking. As a leader, you need to dream bigger than most. Whether you are a leader of teams or ideas, you need to think big. We tend to mentally apply a risk model to these situations, which needs to be eliminated from the thought process. You need to take all the risk constraints out of the scenario, whether it is financial, technology-based, etc. Once this is done, you will be more comfortable taking the necessary risks to be successful.
Next, you need to rely on shared thinking. Collaboration in the innovation space is critical. You need to get input from others because you are not always the smartest person in the room. Shared thinking can be hard but is necessary in some cases to accelerate your ability to “think outside the box.” Lastly, practice reflective thinking. We all love our ideas, as they are our “babies.” In some cases, we need to take a step back and take our emotions out of it. We need to distance ourselves from our ideas and look at other views as well. Set aside time to practice all of these thinking processes, and you will be able to successfully “think outside the box.”
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.
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.
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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This week’s guest comes from my family’s neck of the woods, the state of Ohio. Jerry Abiog is the Co-founder and CMO of Standard Insights, an AI service growth platform. We will discuss his learning from past innovation failures, and how Standard Insights utilize AI to aid the growth of businesses.
Background and Innovation Failures
Jerry and I share a mutual appreciation for Ohio, as both my family and Jerry are from there. While talking about the state, we got into discussing the funding programs for startups that Cincinnati offers. I have been supporting a company from Cincinnati called LISNR, which is an audio technology that allows you to embed data and audio that humans do not hear. I would describe Cincinnati as a non-traditional high-tech center, not as high up as Boston or Atlanta, but steadily growing in its technology presence.
Jerry has about 25 years of experience in sales and marketing. He left the corporate world around nine years ago to help out software companies with sales and marketing initiatives. Working with an AI startup turned out to be on of the innovation failures, but this has taught him a lot. Jerry said he learned that it doesn’t matter what software platform you are selling. It has to be easy to use and solve your customer’s problems. After this, he ended up meeting his co-founder, and Standard Insights was up and running.
Lessons from an AI Startup
Jerry said that the main lesson he learned from the AI startup failure was that it can’t always be about you. No one cares about how good your technology is unless you can solve a problem with it. When It comes to starting Standard Insights, the vision was to help businesses drive buyers with AI. There are great tools out there with regards to AI, but they are not on an easy-to-use platform. Standard Insights helps businesses target the right person with the right product or service at the right time. Standard Insights is different because they incorporate all the text stacks into one, making it simple and easy to email, text, or run social media campaigns. It’s not about creating something that is a big breakthrough but making something that is already out there better.
Standard Insights and COVID-19
In the business world, there has been a new drive for digital transformation. With COVID, it has become an imperative thing. Grocery stores are taking online orders and doing curbside pickup, as well as restaurants taking orders and payments online. At Standard Insights, they developed a digital menu for restaurants last year, but it wasn’t taken too well. Now, they are bringing it back and launching it. You can access the menu on your phone and order from there, making it faster to get your order in. It also benefits restaurants as they don’t have to use Grubhub or Uber Eats, which costs them a good amount of extra money. In times of disruptive shock such as COVID-19, more and more innovative technologies continue to spring up.
Advice for the Listeners
Jerry gave some good advice from his experience as an entrepreneur. He said never to give up and always be open to learning. If it were not for his past innovation failures, he would not be where he is today. He said, try to do something difficult every day, if not professional, personal. He competes in Ironman fitness competitions, which helps him stay sharp for his business dealings. When it comes to being an entrepreneur, failure comes with the territory. I always tell entrepreneurs that innovation failures are part of the experience. Most investors look for entrepreneurs that have experienced failure.
About our Guest: Jerry Abiog
Jerry Abiog is a Co-Founder and CMO of Standard Insights, an AI service growth platform that enables businesses to execute data-driven omnichannel campaigns. Jerry has roughly 25 years of experience in sales and marketing and has been involved in several startups throughout his career. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Cincinnati.
If you want to keep updated with what Jerry is doing, check out his LinkedIn here. Check out Standard Insights website here.
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