Innovation Lessons from Bose

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.

Innovation Lessons from Bose

Innovation Lessons from Bose

Background

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.

To know more about John Carter and the lessons he learned at Bose, listen to this week’s show: Innovation Lessons from Bose.

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Out Of The Box Thinking – Part 2

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.

Out if the Box Thinking

Out if the Box Thinking

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.

New Perspective

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 [1] 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.

To know more about out of the box thinking and thinking with a new perspective, listen to this week’s show: Out Of The Box Thinking – Part 2.

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Source:
  1. https://www.formpl.us/blog/ethnographic-research

Out Of The Box Thinking – Part 1

This week, we will cover a topic that is a bit of a spin-off from a show on buzzwords that 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

Out of the Box Thinking

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

‘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.”

To know more about your thinking style and how to think outside the box, listen to this week’s show: Out Of The Box Thinking – Part 1

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Thoughts on Innovation

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

Thoughts on Innovation

Thoughts on Innovation

SpaceX

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

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

The Future of Businesses

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

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

Virtual Brainstorming

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

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

Thoughts on Innovation Misconceptions

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

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

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

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Lessons Learned from Past Innovation Failures of AI

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.

Innovation Failures

Innovation Failures

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.

To know more about utilizing AI to help businesses and learning from past innovation failures, listen to this week’s show: Lessons Learned from Past Innovation Failures of AI.

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Game-Changing Esport Innovations During COVID-19

While I was CTO at HP, I had the gaming division reporting to me. Also, I used to be a hardcore gamer, so gaming is something that has always held my interest. This week’s guest does an exciting twist on the typical gaming strategies/approaches. Austin Smith is the Co-founder and CEO of Mission Control. We will discuss esport innovations, and what his company is doing to change the esports world.

Esport Innovations

Esport Innovations

Gaming

Austin found his passion for gaming while growing up and gaming with his brother and his friends. He does not consider himself a hardcore gamer but engages in gaming for social interaction and fun. Austin used to view gaming as something you either do on your own or occasionally with friends, but that changed. He sees esports as very similar to recreational sports. The social and community aspect of sports is what inspired Mission Control. You don’t have to be a hardcore gamer to enjoy game-changing esports with your friends.

I, too, realized how big the gaming market was when I attended a huge gaming event in Korea. This was in 2006, and there was around 45,000 people in attendance. The experience changed my view of gaming from a strictly social activity to a competitive sport.

Mission Control

Austin came from a line of business owners, so creating a business was natural to him. While in college, he befriended his co-founder, Byron. They worked on a lot of things together in college. They ended up getting hired and worked together professionally after college, growing their friendship and teamwork. Austin says they have overlapping values and visions, but also have very different personalities and skills that help them excel in their business. Austin said that he and his partner noticed how esports was growing and wanted to dive in and build something. They couldn’t walk away from it, and in late 2018 they left their jobs to pursue Mission Control.

Byron is very focused and is the one who executes, while Austin is more creative and acts as the visionary. Their team reminded me of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. Jobs was the visionary, and Steve Wozniak put the vision into play. It is vital to find that compatible partnership early on in a business pursuit to be successful.

Esport Innovations

COVID-19 has given Mission Control an advantage as they provide social interaction but on a digital level. Gaming offers interaction and community through our rec-games, and they gained a lot of attention as soon as things started shutting down. Mission Control focuses on the micro-community. We gather those micro-communities from all over the place and create a social community of those people. We don’t focus on gathering the best players around the world but focus on having fun as a group.

Mission Control has been around for about a year now and launched a beta in 2019. Austin says they launched their product to a larger group and started scaling it in early 2020. In the past months, they have had 3 times the amount of plays than in their whole history. Duke University, MIT, and GameStop are some notable groups that use their product to create community experiences. Austin says that Mission Control’s biggest hurdle is giving everyone what they want. They are so many game-changing things you can add to a platform, so that is where it gets tough. Players do have a mobile app that they can download and schedule games. They can also communicate with other teams, similar to a fantasy league, but they are many other things that can be future add-ons.

When looking back, Austin said there are some things that they could’ve have done differently. Over planning is one thing that Mission Control struggled with early on, as they focused more on planning than executing. Austin says it is essential to have good people that specialize in different things around you. Austin found his staff while looking for intelligent, open, kind, and curious people.

If you want to keep track of Mission Control’s esport innovations, check out their website here. Check out Austin Smith’s LinkedIn here.

About our Guest: Austin Smith

Austin Smith is the Co-founder and CEO of Mission Control, a platform for rec league esports, similar to a local adult softball league or college intramural — but video games. Mission Control manages the league schedule, validates scores, and determines the champion while serving as a community forum for league members and friends. Austin attended St. Louis University, where he studied Economics, Entrepreneurship, and Service Leadership.

To know more about esport innovations during the COVID-19 pandemic, listen to this week’s show: Game-Changing Esport Innovations During COVID-19.

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COVID-19 Innovations: From Scuba to Medical Face Mask With 3D Printing

This week’s guest on The Killer Innovations Show has innovation experience in a variety of different industries. Jonah Myerberg is the CTO at Desktop Metal, a company that specializes in metal and carbon fiber 3D printing technology. We will discuss 3D printing and the COVID-19 innovations that Desktop Metal is doing during this pandemic.

COVID-19 Innovations

COVID-19 Innovations

Jonah’s experience

Jonah started at Black & Decker, making power tools. He went on to work at Bose Corporations, which exposed him to a high level of innovation. The creation of A123 Systems reintroduced him to engineering, which his team eventually sold to a Chinese conglomerate. While at HP, I had the benefit of getting a personal demonstration from Dr. Bose himself. He spent 20 plus years of research on a suspension system, leading a great example of innovation. I don’t know any other organization that was committed to innovation on that scale for that amount of time. In the innovation game, some people tend to focus on the present rather than what can come in the future. Dr. Bose set a great example of how important long-term innovation is.

3D printing is an excellent example of this, as it came from “traditional” printing to the 3D printing technology we have available today. Jonah states that the huge killer innovation does not necessarily have to be your invention, but your invention can enable the next killer innovation.

Desktop Metal

Jonah was designing high-performance batteries for racing teams. While working with these racing teams, he saw how they efficiently and effectively used 3D printing to optimize their performance. He thought this technology was something that everyone should use, not just elite racers. Making 3D printing accessible to everybody who wanted to use it lead to the creation of Desktop Metal. There are so many industries that are attracted to 3D printing in one way or another. Apart from the automotive industry, consumer electronics invests heavily in single designs for small parts. The jewelry industry has to manufacture small metal parts and would love to print precious metals like silver, copper, and gold.

Judging the performance of produced parts is a traditional focal point for 3D printing. Fidelity is an essential factor in 3D printing, but performance is generally the central focus. The material needs to be strong and have the right chemistry for the intended purpose. At Desktop Metal, they realized that the big challenge is when new materials and processes get presented within 3D printing. They started with materials that were well known and commonly used. Even if the process of forming is different, many engineers feel comfortable using 3D parts built out of stainless steel because the material used is familiar.

Aiding the fight

With the current pandemic, many companies have come together to develop COVID-19 innovations to aid the situation. Desktop Metal opened its doors of technology and asked what they could do to help with the situation. They reached out to hospitals and essential workers and got a lot of feedback on needed supplies they could help out with. They had requests from the VA hospitals to make scuba masks into COVID-19 face masks, as well as ventilators for other hospitals. Swabs were one highly requested item that Desktop Metal and some other companies teamed up to develop.

When it comes to the face masks, Desktop Metal was asked by doctors to design and provide a converter that would take an N95 filter and connect it to a scuba mask. As far as the ventilators go, hospitals acquired a ton of them after they had run out. The only issue was that there was no way to connect them. They ended up printing several connector pieces and attaching them to the ventilators. These COVID-19 innovations are essential as they’ll be able to help health workers and patients alike.

Advice for the Listeners

Throughout Jonah’s wide-ranging career, he has had a lot of beneficial experience. When asked for advice if he was to mentor a new innovator starting a career, Jonah’s advice is to dive in.

“Don’t be afraid to ask what needs to be fixed and try to fix it. Also, do not be afraid to fail at your attempt to fix it. Try to help people because they all have different challenges that need fixing. Don’t focus yourself in one area, instead learn broadly. Cross functionality is essential for success in innovation. Don’t reinvent the wheel; apply it in different areas.”

If you want to stay up to date with Jonah Myerberg and Desktop Metal, check out their website here. Check out their LinkedIn here.

To know more about COVID-19 innovations and 3D printing, listen to this week’s show: COVID-19 Innovations: From Scuba to Medical Face Mask With 3D Printing.

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Innovation Buzzwords

This week, we will do something a bit different from that of our recent shows. We will be discussing innovation buzzwords, things that are often misused inside and outside of the innovation world.

Innovation Buzzwords

Innovation Buzzwords

A buzzword is a term that can be technical or specific to an industry or a job function. It is often used to impress ordinary people, and also often pushing them away. One typical example is synergy, which simply means working together. Another example would be clickbait, which is used as a negative slam for those who create content. Growth hacking is also a buzzword that has gone way overboard. It consists of trying to figure out how to grow an organization. Buzzwords are meant to simplify things for some people, but others often don’t know what they mean. It would be so much easier if we just simplified our language in a way that everyone could understand it.

In the Innovation game, we have our own set of buzzwords that tend to drive people crazy. The number one innovation buzzword in my book is design-thinking. This buzzword has been around for quite some time and is a term hated by actual designers. The original intent was to find a process in which the needs of the user were conceived from the start of the project and all the way through. These days, design-thinking has lost its meaning and fully turned into an innovation buzzword.

Ideation/Disruptor

The next innovation buzzword I want to discuss is ideation, a term that I use a lot. We at The Innovators Network teach workshops on the process of ideation. What does it mean? Ideation is a process where innovators generate ideas. People outside of the innovation industry can be highly annoyed by it. In reality, it is a made-up word. What is the difference between ideation and brainstorming? Honestly, I couldn’t tell you the difference. The output of both ideation and brainstorming is ideas. In some cases, you can argue that the usage of ideation arose as a way to find new clients.

The next buzzword is one that I also use a lot. The term disruptor describes someone who “rocks the boat,” coming into an existing industry with a unique and different angle. Disruptors may not necessarily be bad people, but they come in and disrupt already established settings. An example of this would be Uber changing the ride-hailing industry. Uber disrupted the industry earning itself the reputation of a disruptor. A

long the lines of disruptor, we have the buzzword innovator — which is someone who introduces a new product, service, or a revolutionary new strategy. The challenge is that everyone and their mother says they are an innovator. People often describe themselves as innovators to be seen as extraordinary. As a result, it’s meaning has become less and less differentiated, making it hard to tell who’s an innovator. Some argue that innovator is not a buzzword, but I say it is based on how much it is thrown around and applied so loosely.

System-Thinking/Pain Points

The next innovation buzzword we will discuss is system-thinking. You may have heard of this from one of the big six consulting houses attempting to differentiate themselves. I used to be part of this group, so I understand what these companies are trying to do. They use the term system-thinking in which they look at complicated things as systems rather than a defined and well-understood process. This concept is so vague that most people don’t know what it means. They are trying to make something sound way more complicated than it is.

Next, we have the buzzword pain points, which refer to answering the things that drive customers crazy. Another buzzword used is social innovation, which I have had a good amount of experience with. This term has been used to the point that it is almost meaningless. It is meant to focus on innovating to fix a social problem.

Thought Leader/IMS

The next buzzword we will discuss is the term thought leader. This term should be the goal of all aspiring innovation leaders but can become cringe-worthy and overused. Do you call yourself a thought leader? Or do others call you a thought leader? You need to be genuine in your thought leadership and humble with it.

Idea management software is a term that appeared in the last ten years. Its sole purpose is to capture and track ideas. The misuse of the term comes when people label their excel spreadsheets as idea management systems, which simply are not. Calling something an idea management system just because it is a popular buzzword is misusing the term. I often find myself using many of the buzzwords we discussed, which end up confusing people. My goal this year is to get rid of the barriers that separate those inside and outside the innovation arena, starting with buzzwords.

Thanks for joining us. Check out my blog here and my book here. If you want fast updates on what I am doing, text Innovation to 44222 (U.S), or send me an email at innovation@killerinnovations.com. This will add you to my contact list and update you on any of my upcoming webinars.

To know more about innovation buzzwords, listen to this week’s show: Innovation Buzzwords.

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Virtual Brainstorming: Innovating Ideas for New Zoom Features

Due to the great feedback we received from our previous Virtual Brainstorming show, we will be doing another one this week. Our goal at the end of the show is to come up with a list of suggested features for our sponsor, Zoom. They have experienced a lot of growth during the COVID-19 pandemic and has seen new usage in a lot of unique ways.

Virtual Brainstorming

Virtual Brainstorming

Part of today’s objective is to show how you guys can conduct a virtual brainstorm by yourselves using Jamboard. The process will help you generate tons of new ideas on whatever issues, opportunities, or needs you and your organization may face.

Question 1

We will be dealing with three questions from the Killer Questions Card Deck derived from my book “Beyond the Obvious.” On the front of a Killer Questions Card, there is a set of questions. On the back, there is what I like to call “sparking questions,” which are there to push you to the next idea or unique insight. The card deck consists of who, what, and how cards that come in gold, blue, and green.

Today we will be focusing on who and what. Question number one asks, “Who is using my product in a way I never expected?”

The sparking questions are: “What problems and needs are you looking to address? Are you too focused on what you believe your customer’s problems and needs are that you are missing out on a potential opportunity?”.

The second sparking question is, “How can you identify existing customers and observe how they use your product?”.

Thirdly, “Is there a way to allow your potential customers to play with and use your product without giving them specific parameters on how and when they should use it?”.

Let’s hop onto Jamboard to get this session going:

  • Education – If there’s one thing regarding the use of Zoom that surprised me, it’s this one: 1:1 with teachers, virtual classrooms, students doing team projects, and students just hanging out together.
  • Speech-Language Pathologists – School-based therapists had to offer tele-practice services due to COVID-19 suddenly. 1:1 calls between therapists and clients provide the ability to see and hear each other. We have seen 3rd party apps that the therapist and client can do over Zoom to work on specific skills while having fun.
  • Musicians – Using Zoom to hold virtual concerts given that each musician is in their homes. For King & Country, they used virtual tools to write a new song called “Together.” Musicians are giving music lessons over Zoom.
  • Gymnastics/Dance Studios – Zoom has allowed these lessons to continue. Grandparents like me can watch our grandkids no matter how far away they are.

Question 2

Question number two asks, “What features of my product create unanticipated passion”? 

The sparking questions are, “What are the features that have elicited the strongest emotional response from my customers?”, “How do you ensure these are carried forward both in your current and future products?” and “How do you avoid killing the passion?”.

Let’s jump into brainstorming:

  • Free Zoom to Schools/Teachers – It elicited so much passion because it was the right thing to do. They made it easy for schools to avoid budget issues.
  • Virtual Backgrounds – It allows you to hide the messiness of any background. We hold background competitions at my office every Friday. Zoom has virtual background competitions. There is now a new category of graphic designers and photographers that create libraries of Zoom virtual backgrounds.
  • Original Audio – This takes away all the filtering of audio. This feature has allowed for music-making/the listening of live concerts without hearing the chopped-up sound. Zoom offers this feature to remove all the filtering.
  • Grid View – This allows you to see upwards of twenty-five to fifty people at a time. The grid view gives you the feeling of everyone being present, eye-to-eye. It offers a much more personal perspective and has generated a lot of passion.
  • Ease of Use – Zoom works across all platforms, making it super convenient to use. Given how easy it is to get people to join a Zoom call, people are using it to stay connected with their friends and family members.

Question 3

Question number three asks, “What emotional, psychological, or status benefits could people derive from using my product”? 

The sparking questions are, “Does your product create a connection with its customers that goes beyond just being a good solution to their needs?”, “Can you refine it to reflect the changing needs and desires of your customers?”, “Is the emotional connection literally between the customer and the product, or between the customer and what the product signifies?” and “Are there good or interesting reasons to resist an emotional connection and prevent them from happening?”.

Let’s hop on Jamboard and crank out some ideas:

  • Being Together – Using video to stay connected with friends and family. Zoom allowing teams to feel like they are together and working effectively.
  • Reduce the Feeling of Loneliness –Especially for those who are single and by themselves. It helps family members in nursing homes feel less lonely.
  • Feeding the Spiritual Needs of the Community –Churches using Zoom for services, small groups, and for generally getting together to talk and support each other within a given faith community.

Ideation for Zoom

Based on thinking deeply about these three questions, what new features would you present to Zoom? Let’s hop back on Jamboard to get some ideas going:

  • Video Overlay (similar to what I am doing with Jamboard/Youtube) – this allows the speaker to engage the viewer and “make eye contact” with them.
  • Remote Karaoke – allows for social interaction and rates how well you hit the notes and sang.
  • Payment System tied in with Zoom – allows Zoom to become a revenue-generating platform for those who are putting out content such as fitness trainers or musicians.
  • TV Streaming Via Zoom – allows the audience to watch a movie or show at the same time and allowing them to communicate with each other during the event.

Thanks for listening to the show. Do you have a topic, opportunity, or problem you would like to propose for a Virtual Brainstorm? Send it to me at phil@killerinnovations.com. Check out the brainstorm for this show that I did on Jamboard here.

To know more about our ideation and doing a virtual brainstorming for Zoom features, listen to this week’s show: Virtual Brainstorming: Innovating Ideas for New Zoom Features.

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Virtual Brainstorm

On this week’s show, I will be demonstrating a private ideation session that you can do on your own. A virtual brainstorm session helps in generating key ideas and solutions to the various problems you may be facing. There are numerous tools you can use for this, but today I will be using Jamboard from Google.

Virtual Brainstorm

Virtual Brainstorm

With the COVID-19 pandemic going on, there are a lot of unknowns. You currently have two choices. You can freak out and go into hibernation, or you can sit down and brainstorm ideas that will allow you to not only survive but thrive during the crisis. On this virtual brainstorm, we will look at two questions from the Killer Questions Card Deck as they relate to COVID-19. These questions have been edited to focus the ideation specifically around COVID-19 because better focus increases the quantity and quality of the ideas. Our first question asks what customer segments will no longer exist or will be significantly impacted as a result of COVID-19. Our second question asks what customer segments could emerge as a result of COVID-19.

COVID-19 Changes

Let’s get into ideas for our first question. What segments will no longer exist or will be significantly impacted as a result of COVID-19? One idea I thought about would be sports and concert fans. These people love going to social activities and are going to be significantly impacted by COVID-19. The other segment that I thought of was travel influencers— people who travel to review different places will be affected as a whole. Similarly, businesses that are dependent on tourism, such as hotels, tour guides, and national parks are going to be challenged going forward with this crisis.

New Emergence

Let’s move on to our second question. What segments could emerge as a result of COVID-19? The first one I came up with is the social distancing butler. This role is assigned to a family member or friend who helps with errands such as grocery shopping and picking up various needed items. This person helps reduce the risk for someone who might be more affected by the virus. Another idea is what I call the COVID gig. These are people who have become contractors to essential businesses such as restockers or delivery drivers. These might be those who have been furloughed from their jobs and are filling the gap somewhere else. My next idea is what I call the virtual babysitter. Being a grandparent, I often babysit my grandkids for our kids that live in the area. With COVID-19, things are a little different as they cannot drop the kids off and go on a date anymore. Two to three times a week, my wife and I will virtually read bedtime stories to our grandkids via Facebook. Virtual babysitting gives the parents a bit of a break from the kids and provides us with some quality time with our loved ones. The final idea I thought of is what I call a virtual background creator. As a result of COVID-19, our sponsor Zoom has seen an astounding amount of new users. With this growth in video calls, virtual backgrounds are going to become very important going forward, and I think the demand for the software will see an increase.

Let me know what you think of the virtual brainstorming and feel free to propose a topic and killer question for a future “virtual brainstorm.” Check out the brainstorming session I did on Jamboard here. Watch the brainstorming session on YouTube here.

To know more about ideation and doing a virtual brainstorming session, listen to this week’s show: Virtual Brainstorm.

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