The Overlooked Secret To Innovation

As a society, we have a problem. 

overlooked secret

overlooked secret

Some years ago, the late Nobel Prize winner Dr. Albert Schweitzer was asked by a reporter, “Doctor, what’s wrong with people today?” The famous doctor was silent for a moment, then he said, “People simply don’t think!”

Why do some not use our brains and think? The brain is a fabulous mechanism. It is capable of processing eight hundred inputs per second for seventy-five years without exhausting itself.

Scientists tell us that humans use approximately 2 percent of the brainpower available to us. We are all equal. We all have the same 2%. 

As a society, some of us have chosen not to use this powerful tool. We let others do our thinking for us. Why?


Rollo May, the distinguished psychiatrist, wrote a book called “Man’s Search From Himself,” and in the book, he says, “The opposite of courage in our society is not cowardice .. it is conformity.” And there you have the reason why some people choose not to think for themselves. Conformity.

They handed over their ability to succeed and fail by conforming to others. Conformity allows them to coast through life or so they believe. They wonder why they are not as successful as others. 

Have you wondered why innovators are different? Innovators are anything but conformists – coasters. Innovators are driven to solve problems, to invent, to make life better for everyone. 

Why do innovators seem to have the magic touch? Why are Elon Musk or Dean Kamin so successful? They didn’t start out as billionaires. They started out just like the rest of us. 

Being a highly successful innovator is available to everyone. No constraint. No skill or ability beyond what you have available to you right now. 

Overlooked Secret

So what is the overlooked secret to being a successful innovator?

Having goals. Innovators with goals succeed because they know where they are going. They have a focus to apply their 2% of brainpower. 

Think of driving a car. If every time you come to a red light you make a left turn, green light you go straight, and at stop signs, you turn right. Where would you end up after driving for an hour? Who knows. Your path is randomly chosen by the timing of lights and the appearance of stop signs. 

If on the other hand, you have a destination and load the address into the GPS. You now have a plan to get there. While you may run into obstacles such as traffic or road closures, you can adjust your plan and still arrive at your destination. 

Having a goal, like a destination, is the overlooked secret to success for innovators. Without it, your success is based on random chance. 

So decide now. What is it you want? Plant your goal in your mind and commit to applying your brain’s 2% to achieving it. 

Do you want to invent a solution to a specific problem? Do you want to be an entrepreneur and start a business around one of your innovations? Do you want to be a famous innovation coach?

To succeed, commit to that goal. Reflect on it every day, and it will become a reality. 

It not only will — there is no way it cannot become real. 

Don’t Settle For Less

We are where we are, because we were willing to settle for less. What is it you are settling for? Each of us lives off the fruit of our goals, because the goals set today, tomorrow, next month, and next year will move your life and determine your future. You are guided by your goals. 

The moment you decide on your innovation goal, you are instantly stepping ahead of most everyone else, and you are in that rare group of people who know where you are going. You have set your destination. 

Do not concern yourself on how you are going to achieve your goal. Leave that to your human ingenuity, and the power of the self-conscious. All you have to do is know where you are going. The answers as to what to do next will come to you at just the right time. 

Setting a goal and having the tenacity to stick with it is hard. Conformity will look easy while sticking to your goal will have its struggles and frustrations. 

As Frederick Crane said, “Individuality is the mark of genius. Mediocrity finds safety in conformity.” 

You deserve what you are willing to settle for. Are you willing to be mediocre or are you out to change the world with your ideas? 

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On January 13, 2018, the people of Hawaii woke to a shocking alert on their phones and TVs. An incoming ballistic missile was on its way and that the warning was not a drill. It was 38 minutes later that the alert was retracted.



During those 38 minutes — panic set in. People were trying to figure out what to do. People drove their families to highway tunnels in hopes it would protect them. We can only imagine the fear that raced through the population of more than a million people. 

How did this happen?

Hawaii Emergency Alert System

The alert was accidentally triggered by a state employee who was attempting to perform an internal test. As the Washington Post reported, the user interface for the emergency management system had a drop-down menu with two choices — TEST MISSILE ALERT and MISSILE ALERT. The two options worded almost identically and with no confirmation required. 

It is harder to erase a photograph from your phone that it was to scare the citizens and tourists in Hawaii.

The designer did not consider the confusion of choosing the wrong menu option. There were no signals to the user about the action they were about to take. 

What if the same lack of thought and consideration has been applied to airplanes, water treatment facilities, or nuclear power plants?

It isn’t restricted to exotic or high-risk areas. You experience these signals every day.  

Office Affordance

Have you ever walked up to a door and instead of a door handle, you were presented with a flat panel area where the door handle would normally be? What do you do?

You push and the door opens. 

This signal of the properties of the door, in this case, to push, is called affordance. Affordance can also signal what not to do with the door. With no handle, you are not to pull on the door. 

In our office, there is a conference room near my cube. On the glass doors are handles. I invariably grab the handles and pull. What happens? Nothing. To open the door you need to push. So after I pull, then I push. While I’ve been in this conference rooms hundreds of times, I pull each and every time. The visual queue, affordance, overrides my memory of the last time I tried to enter the conference room — and I pull on the handle. 

While we may chuckle at these design oversights, the use of affordance can give customers a clear signal of how-to, and how not to, experience a product or service. 

Sony Walkman Affordance

In 1980, I got my first Sony Walkman. This innovation had quickly become “the tech” everyone had to have. It allowed you to take your music with you. At the time, I was into DJing and making my version of mixtapes. The walkman allowed me to enjoy my music wherever I went — to the annoyance of the then-girlfriend and now wife. 

What I found intriguing with the Walkman was what it didn’t do — as much as what it did do. Yes — it was the first highly portable way to listen to recorded music. What it did not allow you to do was record music. 

That’s right — you could listen to music but you could not record it. Why? Up to that time, every cassette player allowed you to record. 

Sony made the clever design decision to not have a feature to signal to customers what it was — a portable music player. This decision had other benefits including reducing complexity and lower intimidation that technology can sometimes cause. 

This design decision by Sony is another example of affordance. It signed what you can and cannot do with a Sony Walkman. 

Affordance applies to all kinds of products and services.

McDonald’s Affordance

Have you ever wondered why McDonald’s does not offer cutlery? I can honestly say that I’ve never been tempted to use a fork and knife to eat a Quarterpounder. 

In its early days, McDonald’s didn’t offer cutlery as an affordance signal to its customers in how they were to enjoy their meal — with their hands. 

For companies, paying attention to affordance can create highly differentiated customer experiences that create brand loyalty. 

Apple Affordance

Apple is one such company. By limiting options, radical simplicity, and clear signaling of what every action will be, Apple has created a cult following. 

Ignoring affordance can lead to customer confusion and frustration which will open the doors to others to your market. 

Ask yourself — what affordance signals are you sending to your customers? Maybe it is the front door? Or a user interface in your mobile app or website? Or maybe a feature available or unavailable with your product?

How do you find these affordances that you can fix or leverage? By testing with your customers.

Remember, you are not a proxy for your customer. Affordance is in the eye of the customer. 

Be more like Apple – and less like the Hawaii Emergency Alert system. 

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Innovation Mentoring vs. Innovation Coaching: Which Do You Need?

Mentoring is certainly not a new concept. In fact, the name comes from a character named “Mentor” in Homer’s Odyssey. He was a trusted advisor to Odysseus’ son. Even though its roots run back thousands of years, however, the recent growth of social learning has given rise to a boom in mentoring and coaching programs. In fact, the 2014 Global Leadership Research Project, for the fourth year in a row, found that coaching and mentoring are the most common practices used by companies to develop leaders.

Mentoring and coaching have become such popular buzzwords that they are often used synonymously. However, there are key differences between the two. An analysis of the differences between innovation mentoring and coaching will help you identify which relationship is best for you or your organization, helping you get the most out of the social learning experience.

Specific Instruction (Coaching) vs. Big Picture (Mentoring)

A coach provides specific instruction regarding how to improve your performance. For example, a baseball coach will help his team members improve specific functions, like pitching, catching or batting. He will offer clear directives and suggestions for improvement. The degree of improvement is also tangible, easy to measure. In a business environment, a coach will give specific instruction on key areas of improvement or new skills that need to be learned, such as technical processes, management techniques, or strategic planning. Coaching is a great way to come up with innovative solutions for problems with your workflow, processes, or strategies. Instead of lifeless textbook training classes, employees get practical instruction from coaches with real-world experience.

Alternatively, a mentoring relationship is less specific and looks more at the big picture. A mentor becomes more of a trusted advisor in areas that can cross personal and professional lines. The mentor may still help you craft specific goals, but those objectives will be centered around broader areas, such as creativity and ideas you’re developing that don’t necessarily have a concrete timeline or structure yet. The mentor looks at the big picture and helps you gain broader skills that will help you innovate throughout your entire career.

Mentoring focuses on the individual’s needs, not the needs of the organization they work for. The mentor’s role is to not only help the mentee now, but help them develop the skills needed for future roles. A mentor offers big-picture advice for the whole person and their ideas, as opposed to just advice about the person’s work performance. Mentors have often had a successful career path, starting in a similar place as the mentee. They offer assistance through sharing their own experiences, providing valuable feedback and giving the mentee access to their personal network.

Short and Sweet vs. Long-Term Relationship

Coaching is often a short-term relationship. Coaching sessions are structured and have specific durations with either an individual or a group. Some coaching relationships may last longer, but they still have a definite end, usually when the original objectives have been accomplished. When a coaching need is identified, such as when a team needs help overcoming a specific challenge in developing a new product, competencies are quickly assessed and a coach is matched for the task quickly. A timeline and plan of action is used to guide the relationship.

Mentoring is more of a long-term relationship. Much thought is put into the design phase to identify the best mentoring model and to match the best mentor. Building the mentor/mentee relationship requires time to establish trust and open communication. The mentor endeavors to create an atmosphere where the mentee feels free to share his or her concerns confidentially, both personal and professional. There is no specific timeline or end date, and interactions are less formal and on an as-needed basis.

How Much is the Employer Involved?

Employer involvement is another key differentiator between mentoring and coaching programs. Managers and employers are a critical part of the coaching process. They know the specific skills that need to be improved upon and which employees need coaching the most. Managers often communicate regularly with the coach about their employee’s progress. With mentoring, however, managers and employers are usually much more hands-off. There is a bond of integrity and trust between mentor and mentee that requires this. While managers may recommend a mentor or offer ways to use the mentoring program, they do not generally communicate with the mentor themselves.

Assess Your Needs and Take Action

Still need help determining which relationship dynamic would work best for your innovation needs? Is your goal to develop specific skills or overcome a specific challenge? Coaching is your best option. Are you seeking to develop innovation leaders among your current staff as part of their professional development, or develop as an innovator yourself? Then, choose a mentoring program. Other areas where coaching is beneficial might be when a group of employees are not meeting job expectations, need training on a new process or software system, or when someone has taken on a new role and needs to improve certain skills.

Mentoring should be considered when the areas of improvement are less specific. Maybe you notice an employee who always seems to have great ideas but struggles to follow through on them. You may want to develop talent from within the organization by using the experience of long-time employees to help younger, less experienced ones. Developing leaders involves more than just teaching new skills. A mentor relationship molds today’s up-and-comers into tomorrow’s great innovative minds.

Coaches and mentors have specific roles that are vital to the development of an innovative organization. While different, both relationships give you the opportunity to retain the most talented staff and continually improve your innovative efforts.

Contact me to learn more about the benefits of mentoring and coaching.

This post was originally published on January 21st, 2016.
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How Competition and Gamification Can Spur Innovation

The concept of gamification is increasingly popular as a means of motivating employees, increasing productivity, and moving ideas forward. This trend is one driving force behind the proliferation of innovation competitions around the world, but it’s also true that these kinds of competitions aren’t anything new. The concept dates back to the 1700s when governments […]

Exceptionally Normal

It is normal that no two people are exactly alike. Not even twins. So the word normal should not be confused with the word average. If you leave your fingerprints on something, you might as well leave your name and address since no two people have the same prints. 


You hear music and see a sunrise differently from any other person. You might enjoy a movie that your spouse would do anything to avoid. You might like being in a crowd of friends while your spouse prefers an evening being just the two of you. 

When you say, “I want my child to be normal,” you don’t mean average, and you shouldn’t. What you mean is that you want your child to grow up with their own abilities, talents, likes, and dislikes. So to be normal is not to be average; it is to be different.

But for some reason, we are not comfortable showing our differences because we think society is expecting something we are not. We present one face to the world, as a rule, and another one to ourselves.

There are millions of people who feel inadequate just because they’re not like what they think they see around themselves. They’re not inadequate at all. It’s just that they’ve never understood that we’re not supposed to be like everyone else because no one is. We’re supposed to be ourselves and realize that we are distinct individuals.

Face it, we are all quirky. Take a look at the great thought leaders: Socrates stood for hours in the snow, oblivious to the wind and cold, working out a philosophy problem; Churchill walked into the bedroom of the president of the United States with only a towel wrapped around his waist; Einstein could go a whole lifetime without giving a thought to whether or not he needed a haircut. Are these people normal or abnormal? They’re normal. That is the way they do things — which is their normal. 

I’m sure there are lots of people who are keeping themselves from something they’d like to be doing because none of their friends are doing it. The truth of the matter is that they would be normal to follow their own natural inclinations, since no two people are alike, and they are in fact being abnormal in copying their friends. 

If you try to conform to the crowd, you’re trying to act as people act on the surface. It isn’t you.

What’s normal for you, for me, is not easily discovered. It is not found by looking around at other people. It is found only by inward searching, by the knowledge of “who I am,” not by watching “others.” Each of us is outstanding in some way. Every person on earth has a superpower for something.

When we find it, life takes on a new meaning and excitement. When you committed the effort to develop your superpower, a lot of other people will wish they were like you. But they shouldn’t. Being normal is being what you are as an individual.

This applies to everyone including those that society labels as “not normal” such as those on the autism spectrum. Rather than someone on the autism spectrum trying to act like people who society thinks of as “being normal”, what is wrong with them being themselves and acting their normal?

We as a society have defined normal based on some artificial standard we see around ourselves. Society has never understood that we’re not supposed to be like everyone else because no one is. We need to realize that each person is a distinct individual.

So what are the steps to being content with being ourselves? 

Everybody Knows:

You can’t be all things to all people.

You can’t do all things at once.

You can’t do all things equally well.

You can’t do all things better than everyone else.

Your humanity is showing just like everyone else’s.


You have to find out who you are and be that.

You have to decide what comes first, and do that.

You have to discover your strengths, and use them.

You have to learn not to compete with others,

Because no one else is in the contest of “being you”.


You will have learned to accept your own uniqueness.

You will have learned to set priorities and make decisions.

You will have learned to live with your limitations.

You will have learned to give yourself the respect that is due.

And you’ll be a vital part of society.

Dare To Believe:

That you are a wonderful, unique person.

That you are a once-in-all-history event.

That it’s more than a right, it’s your duty, to be who you are.

That appearing normal is not a puzzle you need to solve.

And you will be comfortable being your unique self and not someone else.

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Each and one of us is a mystery and a miracle. What a shame it is to try to paint over the amazing you with a likeness of someone else. 

To be normal is to be ourselves — and never to be average. 

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Great Leaders Keep Cool Under Fire

My grandfather had an old saying when I was growing up, “Never burn a bridge.” At the time, I thought it was a strange saying. It was only later that I realized what he was saying. No matter how someone treats you, don’t get angry and never retaliate as to destroy the relationship. Great leaders keep cool even when the attacker is making it personal.

Leaders Keep Cool Under Stress

The president of a large corporation was confronted by an employee who stormed into his office and said, “I have a thing or two to say to you.” He then angrily poured out his complaints and pent-up feelings. As he did so, the president calmly listened. The employee was surprised that he didn’t get more of a reaction. When he was finished, the president said a simple “Thank you.” 

The president had wisely remained cool like Solomon, the writer of Proverbs, who said: “A gentle tongue is a tree of life.”

Emerson made the same point when he wrote, “Keep cool, and you command everybody.” The person who winds up in charge is the one who can remain calm and in control under the most intense pressure. There are strength and power in stillness and quietness. It is the most universally important quality of great leaders — they are unflappable. Leaders know that they don’t make the best decisions when made with emotions or in the heat of anger. 

Leader’s Most Valuable Lesson

If a person can learn to remain calm in situations of stress, they have discovered one of a leader’s most valuable lessons — one that the vast majority of people never learn.

Earlier in my career, I was on a trip overseas, when I saw two drivers whose trucks came face-to-face in a narrow street. Neither would back up to let the other by. So what did they do? They started blowing their horns and yelling profanities at each other. After a few minutes of watching this spectacle, I went on to my meeting. When I returned a few hours later, they were in the same place, still blocking each other, red in the face yelling at each other. I wonder if they are still there.

They were the perfect representations of what happens when anger and emotion overcome reason — nothing constructive happens. Logic says that when they had first seen each other, one of them should have immediately backed up and both could have been on their way. 

Losing Your Cool

While it is easy to point out the flaws in others, we need to recognize when we have fallen short. My mom, a fellow redhead, said I got a double helping of the “red-headed temper.” To emphasize the point, she used to tell me a story … 

There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His mother gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the back of the fence.

The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks, as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered each day gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.

Controlling His Temper… 

Finally, the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. She then instructed him to pull out one nail for each day he was now able to hold his anger. The days passed, and the young boy was able to tell his mother that all the nails were gone.

The mother took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. She said, “You have done well, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like the holes in the fence. It won’t matter how many times you say your sorry. The holes are still there.” 

The little boy then understood how powerful his words were. He looked up at his mother and said, “I hope you can forgive me mother, for the holes I put in you.”

“Of course I can,” said the mother.

Don’t Get Angry

Every day, I strive to follow my grandfathers’ warning to stay calm, don’t get angry, and never burn a bridge no matter how someone acts, says, or treats me. 

“Keep cool, and you command everyone.” Emerson was right. Even a youngster, who keeps his composure in the face of raving parents, makes them look ridiculous.

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Find A Way To Say ‘Yes’ To Non-Obvious Ideas

The world is made up of ‘yes’ people and ‘no’ people. We need more optimistic — more hopeful people who find a way to say yes to non-obvious ideas.

During Thomas Jefferson’s presidency in the early 1800’s, he and a group of travelers were crossing a river that had overflowed its banks. Each man crossed on horseback fighting for his life. A lone traveler watched the group traverse the treacherous river and then asked President Jefferson to take him across. The president agreed without hesitation, the man climbed on, and the two made it safely to the other side of the river where somebody asked him: “Why did you select the President to ask this favor?” The man was shocked, admitting he had no idea it was the President of the United States who had carried him safely across. “All I know,” he said, “is that on some of your faces was written the answer ‘No’ and on some of them was the answer ‘Yes.’ His was a ‘Yes’ face.”

There are times to say no, of course. But success belongs to the people who say, thoughtfully and hopefully, “Yes – let’s try it.” These individuals have thrown their hat in the rings and are part of the answer rather than part of the problem.

When we say ‘no’ to a non-obvious concept that might become a great idea, we shield ourselves of responsibility should the idea fail. We give the impression that we have superior knowledge compared to everyone else as to the outcome. In reality, our objective with our ‘no’ is to reduce risk by maintaining order and the status quo. However, the unintended consequence of our ‘no’ is the impeding of what might have been a great idea.

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Why is it that 95% of the people in a typical organization believes it is their responsibility to say no? They are playing the role of the anti-risk innovation antibody. There is no risk by saying no. Projects that are rejected with a ‘no’ can’t fail since they never got a chance. If later the idea turned out to be a breakthrough innovation executed by some other organization, nobody will remember who said no.

Why are we afraid of being wrong about a new idea?

Most ‘no’ people seem to live under a suffocating dread that they might be wrong or make a mistake. Perhaps their parents punished them for every little mistake. ‘Yes,’ people use their best judgment but realize that failure and mistakes are part of living and growing and are always a possibility when something new is tried.

I recall one high profile project that was not successful. Someone on the original evaluation team came up to me and said, “I knew that wasn’t going to work.”

My reply was “No you didn’t know it wasn’t going to work. You just hoped it wouldn’t”

As innovators, we should be the ones that most often say “yes – let’s try it and see if the idea works”.

When we say ‘yes’ to someone else’s idea, we are committing to them that we are willing to invest all of ourselves to their idea. That is a powerful message to send to someone who is taking the risk and putting their idea out in the open for support or for rejection.


Google’s Executive Chairman, Eric Schmidt shared how important it is to say yes more often which included the following mantra:

During an innovation project, you will say yes or no 100’s of times. However, without that first yes, we have nothing. That idea is dead on the spot.

So take a risk, be willing to be wrong, and say ‘yes’ to a new idea. If the idea is not working out, then stop it and say ‘yes’ to the next idea.

There are times to say no, of course. But success belongs to the people who say “Yes – let’s try it.” Those organizations who say ‘yes’ more often than ‘no’ are more willing to throw their hat in the ring and be part of the answer.

Ask yourself — are you a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ person in your organization?

I’m Phil McKinney and thank for listening.

9/11 Reflections and Memories of Charles Falkenberg

If you are a regular reader of the blog, you know it is my policy to avoid mentioning companies and specific individuals … this is a special case – I want you to know Charles Falkenberg.

Charles was the Director of Research (CTO) for ECOLogic – a small company based in Washington DC where I served on the Board of Directors.  Charles was incredibly brilliant and the work he did in data visualization for earth data allowed for ECOLogic to grow and expand including spinning off companies (e.g. Datazen) to commercialize the research from Charles and team.

Charles and his family (Dana (3), Zoe (8) and his wife Leslie) were on the American flight that hit the Pentagon.  They were in transit to Australia where Leslie would be a visiting professor.  Charles asked for a leave of absence but instead, the company asked him to continue his research … from Australia.  In his last week, he started to clean out his office so that someone else could use it while he was gone.  The response from his co-workers was “no” —  his office would be waiting for him when he got back. He still packed it up just in case someone needed to use it while he was gone.

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Here is a video tribute that was put together to memorialize the family.

With 9/11 upon us and the fact that I’m on the east coast, I decided to make a special trip to the new 9/11 Pentagon Memorial.  When I came around the corner of the Pentagon and saw the memorial, the impact was profound.  Each person who perished has a bench with their name.

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Pentagon Memorial for 9/11

The benches are organized by year of birth.  As a result, Charles’s youngest daughter, Dana, is the first bench you see when you enter the memorial.

Charles Falkenberg – you are missed.

I can’t easily explain the emotion I felt when I saw their benches …  the memories of that day all came rushing back …

Update: 9/11/2019 — Re-post of the original from 9/11/2008

Vision Video Of The Near Future: Diverse Thinkers Wanted

Last week, we released our fourth installment in the Near Future series of vision videos. I started creating these vision video’s back in 2006 when I was at HP. The most recent film titled The Near Future: Diverse Thinkers Wanted explores the impact of technologies on our work lives.


Technology Vision Of The Future

The Future Vision

The film’s narrative is centered on Nikki, an ambitious executive who’s about to meet with the CEO for a very important presentation. But as often happens, things don’t go as planned and Nikki and her team are faced with a number of challenges.

Fortunately, they have all the tools needed to not only solve every problem but to do so without ever slowing down. Thanks to advanced tech at their fingertips, they have the opportunity to be their best, most creative and efficient self, and to make smart, calculated decisions without ever losing focus. Not everyone’s workday will resemble what is shown in the film, but this kind of technological advancement is certain to have a profound effect on the way we approach our daily tasks, conduct meetings and solve problems in the near future, no matter what line of work we’re in.

Technologies That Will Help Us Get There

The technology shown in the film will shape the way we think about work in the future. Powered by a 10G multi-gigabit network of tomorrow, it will create a more efficient, productive and creative work environment that will help us perform at our best. For example, technology can be used to:

  • Manage our time better: Picture a world where you don’t waste half your morning resolving calendar conflicts or worrying about logistics. How much more would you be able to get done in a day? According to Accenture, technologies such as Nikki’s ear-piece AI assistant are projected to increase labor productivity by up to 40 percent, enabling you to make more efficient use of your time.
  • Access the information we need, whenever we need it: A lot of workplace slowdowns occur because of missing or inadequate information. How much more productive do you think you’d be if all the information you ever needed was readily available to you? In the film, Nikki’s eyeglasses have built-in mixed-reality tech that overlays street addresses and other data on top of everything she sees, allowing her to make critical decisions on the go.
  • Collaborate more efficiently, from anywhere: To accommodate a more talented and diverse workforce, businesses around the world are seeking advanced remote collaboration solutions that allow their teams to seamlessly interact as if they’re physically present at the same location. In the film, we explore a few ideas about how this might work, including layered videoconferencing technology that combines traditional video with mixed and virtual reality, public light field tables and holographic telepresence systems (holo-rooms), where Nikki’s entire team gathers to work on a common project.
  • Enhance our skills and abilities: According to the World Economic Forum, 65 percent of children now entering elementary school will hold jobs that currently don’t exist. 
  • Focus on creative solutions: According to McKinsey, 50 percent of current work activities are automatable, and the demand for skills like creativity, critical thinking, decision making and complex information processing is projected to grow 19 percent in the United States by 2030. Outsourcing some of the boring and mundane tasks—such as double-checking locations, hailing a cab or booking a room—to machines will free up more of our brainpower for a whole new level of creativity and imagination.

Predicting the future is not for the faint of heart. It can be tricky to know what and when something is going to happen. It’s not enough to just have an opinion of what the future holds but you have to have a way to show the future so others can see and respond to it in their own way. 

Hopefully, you have found the above and the previous vision video’s challenging and maybe even a little inspiration in your thinking about the future.

What is your vision of the future? 

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Avoiding The Habit Trap

When I was growing up, one time my grandmother baked a fantastic German Chocolate cake. I can see it now — that moist chocolate cake and rich icing. It was great and everyone in the family let her know how great it was. We devoured the cake. But from that time on, we could count on a German Chocolate cake as THE dessert every time we would visit. It became a little boring. Needless to say, I never told her that. 

Everyone wants and needs change. But on the other hand, we enjoy doing what we do well that has reinforced by others expressing their appreciation. We all have experienced applauding a small child’s, or in my case grandchildren’s, performance — perhaps a somersault or a dance — only to have the child repeat it over and over again until we could jump up and run out of the room screaming. We as adults are no different. We tend to limit ourselves to the things we learn to do well. It’s easier for one thing, and it beats the risk of trying something new.

When it comes to innovation, this plays out in spades. When a new innovation team achieves some level of success — such as the creation of a new product or service — they jump to the assumption that it was the process that enabled them to achieve success. Or maybe it was the way that one brainstorm session was run and therefore all future brainstorming should be done the exact same way. Or maybe it was the evaluation and idea selection process that was key for its success so all future idea evaluations should be done in the exact same way. 

Just as the enthusiastic applause for a child puts the child on auto-repeat, success to an innovation team does the same. We create a habit of repeating the exact same steps in what we believe is the perfect innovation process.

When that happens, its the first indication that an innovation team is on the glide path to mediocrity. 

It was NOT the process that enabled success. It was the idea. And building rigid repetitive processes are NOT conducive to creating a stimulating environment for generating new and exciting ideas. 

It’s easy to fall into uninteresting grooves of habit. And the only way to avoid it, to keep change and creativity in our lives, is to do it deliberately. To achieve sustained innovation success, it is a good idea to break up the patterns from time to time. It will stimulate you and the team resulting in a new, fresh outlook on things.

Remember — no habit has any real hold on you other than the hold you have on it. 

Habits and routines have a way of sneaking up on us. It starts off with us finding a way of doing things that become easily repeatable — comfortable. Soon it becomes the way “we innovate”. Samuel Johnson, in 1784, put habit in its right context, “The chains of habit are too weak to be noticed until they are too strong to be broken.”

Be on guard to avoid the habit trap.

Innovation is about being disruptive. So disrupt how you do everything — including how you innovate. If you can apply innovation to products, services, sales, marketing, HR, finance — why not innovate the way you innovate? 

Turn the habit mirror on yourself. We are quick to criticize the expense report process as being too rigid and in need of innovation. Could others say the same about your innovation frameworks and processes? 

Does this mean you change your innovation frameworks and processes after each project? No. What it does mean is to be deliberate in trying new things. Do not allow the feeling of the safe to hold you back from taking risks. 

There are things you would like to leave as is. But German Chocolate cake — or anything else — gets old and boring fast. 

We need a change in our lives. It’s a basic human need. If we don’t get it, the concrete starts to harden. We need to be willing to change ourselves first and through it, influence others that change is what is needed if we are to keep moving forward.  

Most people who drive cars to work leave at the same time and follow the same route, after having the same thing for breakfast. Arriving on the job, they continue the routine. 

So start tomorrow. Have something different for breakfast. Leave earlier and take a different route to work. You might see something that could spark a great idea and also see some interesting parts of the town or the countryside. We all can do things to get us out of our ruts .. and avoid the habit trap.

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I’m Phil McKinney and thanks for listening.