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  • 84% of the World Hates Innovation - This Is Why

    The prolific American innovator Charles F. Kettering once said: “The world hates change. Yet it is the only thing that has brought progress.” Innovation means change. Ergo, the world hates innovation, one might conclude. Let’s investigate Kettering’s statement to understand why, and what it means for us as innovators.

    Innovation means progress

    Let’s first take a look at the second part of Kettering’s message. Change means innovation, and innovation means meaningful changes that improve our lives and make the world a better place. So, innovation means progress.

    What has brought humanity out of caves into comfortable homes full of appliances and modern technology? The accumulation of many innovations that unfolded in several waves over thousands of years. Would you go back to living in cold, damp, smoky cave? Maybe that’s too radical, so let’s make it easier: Would you give me your mobile phone and go back to having only landlines at home and at work and pay phones on the street? Or if this proposition is still too extreme, would you swap your smart phone for a dumb phone? You’re likely to decline these offers.

    Clearly, Charles Kettering was right in saying that innovation or change is the only thing that has brought us progress. But what about the first part of the sentence?

    The world hates innovation and change. Is this really true?

    In 2005, Alan Deutschman wrote a fascinating article for Fast Company, titled “Change or Die”, on an interesting real-life decision scenario: What if you were given a choice by a well-informed, trusted and benevolent authority: You have to radically and enduringly change your life — or you have to die. Which option would you choose?

    Clearly, almost all people say they would choose to make significant changes in their life to avoid death. But when we contrast this proclaimed intent with the actual number of people who follow through, nine out of ten people choose to die. Why?

    The scenario relates to patients who had undergone heart bypass surgery and were told by their cardiologist to shift to a healthy lifestyle to avoid a relapse. Yet very few did. Statistics show that two years after surgery, 90% of the patients have not changed their lifestyle — and within a few years, they died after a new heart attack.

    Why is it so difficult for most people to change?

    People differ in their response to change because of their personality and their preferred cognitive styles. Few people have what Good to Great author Jim Collins calls “psycho- dynamic” minds, which relish or even drive change. However, many people have “psycho-static” minds that give them distaste change.

    Why do most people hate change?

    First, humans are creatures of habit. Many behaviors are ingrained into our brains, and because they served us well in the past (or did no noticeable harm), we are reluctant to do something radically new. People with psycho-static minds in particular relish their habits and cherish rules and traditions.

    Second, most people are afraid of the unknown, and every change is a departure from the status quo. Third, when people do try something new, they run the risk of failure and —especially in some cultures— the related risk of losing face. Sticking with what’s familiar is a safer option.

    Lastly, many people feel comfortable in their established ways, and some are really lazy. Every change means more work, new challenges, new learnings, and temporary discomforts. Why bother?

    Change needs an impetus and a positive frame

    Every change initiative needs a powerful motivation to succeed permanently. As the life coach Tony Robbinsnoted, people are motivated to make changes either by moving away from pain or moving towards pleasure. But isn’t the fear of death one of the most powerful motivator there is? Why then do nine out of ten people still choose death?

    Alan Deutschman suggested that a powerful impetus to change alone might not be good enough, but the odds of success increase when we use a positive frame of reference. More bypass patients stick with healthier lifestyles when their doctors reframe the challenge from a negative (“change to avoid death”) to a positive frame (“change to enjoy life”). Moving towards pleasure seems to motivate more people to make lasting changes than moving away from pain.

    In addition, humans need support groups and mechanisms as well as fast visible successes (“quick wins”) to stick with new behaviors long enough to embed new habits.

    From “change or die” to “Innovate or die”

    To recap: when confronted with the threat of early death, ten out of ten bypass patients say they’re ready to make healthy lifestyle changes, but only one in ten follows through. Isn’t this just like many executives in mature corporations with declining revenues and margins approach innovation? Everyone is talking the innovation talk, but few are walking their talk in earnest.

    When roughly a decade ago, innovation started to become a hot topic in business, some innovation experts and consultants marketed their services using the “innovate or die”-frame. Truth be told, we all die eventually, and they should really say: “Innovate or die sooner”.

    But why are more struggling corporations not motivated to avoid “sudden death” by making serious innovation efforts? Perhaps, just like the bypass patients, “innovate or die” doesn’t motivate enough people in an organization to make the necessary sacrifices for a creative change succeed.

    So, use a positive frame (“Let’s change to lead innovation in our industry”) and move towards pleasure. Then, link this positive frame with a compelling vision of a bright future. Finally, carefully design the stages of creative change to give the people the support structures and wins needed to hang in and see it through to success.

    Steve Jobs did this when he returned to Apple in 1997 and saved the company with a focused series of new computers (including the colorful iMacs) and his “Think Different” campaigns. More recently, Jeffrey Immelt renewed General Electric by stimulating new creative growth with a focus on clean and green technology through the “Ecomagination” initiative.

    Conclusion: The world hates change indeed

    Charles Kettering was right: although it brought so much progress that everyone enjoys and won’t want to live without, “the world hates change”, the world hates innovation. We can even quantify this uncomfortable truth. How many percent of people hate innovation or change? According to Everett Rogers’ “diffusion of innovation theory”, it’s 84 percent. Luckily for all, the remaining 16 percent of people have enough creativity, energy and guts to drive meaningful new innovations into the early majority, so that eventually, anyone who hates innovation can enjoy progress. Rogers calls these change drivers “innovators” and “early adopters”, and if you read these lines, chance are you’re one of them.

    “The world hates innovation. This is why” is one of 64 sections of a new book that I am currently writing, The Executive’s Guide to Innovation (targeted for publication in 2H.2019). Understanding the various facets of change and innovation is also a key aspect we touch upon in “The C-(reative) Class. The Executive Innovation Brief”, Thinkergy’s innovation training for busy executives. Contact us if you’re interested to learn more about our trainings or my upcoming book.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis  

  • How to Scrutinize Popular Cognitive Profiling Methods (Part 1)

    What if you were hired by a mature corporation as their new innovation manager. One of your first tasks is to find all the creative talents within the organization. What will you do? Will you walk around and observe how people dress and behave at work to pinpoint the creative types? Or interview everyone? Whatever you do, chances are that while you surely can expect having some hits, you’re likely to also have a lot of misses — and a lot of “false positives”. So what else can you do? Here cognitive profiling tools can come to your aid and rescue — provided you pick the right one. 

    What are cognitive profiling methods?

    Cognitive profiling methods and —in a wider sense— personality-profiling instruments use well-structured questionnaires to determine the preferred cognitive styles of people. Ideally, the questions asked in the survey relate to certain psychological dimensions or cognitive styles that form the theoretical underpinning of a particular method. As such, these tests aim to capture differences in people’s personal preferences in areas such as cognition, behavior at work, communication and creative problem-solving, and innovation, among others.

    Typically, respondents self-assess their preferred ways with regards to the set of questions (known as personal assessment). In behavioral personality tests, however, other people report on the observed behavior of an evaluatee; in professional settings, this is often done as a “360 degree evaluation” involving a mix of superiors, subordinates, and professional peers.

    Based on the chosen answers, the evaluatee is then assigned a profiling score and/or a personality profile that describes their psychological preferences or preferred cognitive styles.

    Why are personality test and cognitive profiling methods useful?

    Critics belittle personal assessment tools by saying that they are pseudoscientific and no better than reading horoscopes. In contrast, proponents (and I am one of them) see value in using these methods to ensure a better alignment of people to environments that allow them to play on their natural talents.

    Personality tests and cognitive profiling tools give the respondents greater self-awareness on their preferred ways and cognitive styles, and on their natural talent as well as likely strengths and weaknesses related to a particular profile or profiling result. 

    These tests also give people- and team-awareness to managers and colleagues who work together in a team, so that they not only know what makes themselves tick, but also what makes everyone else in a work team tick.

    To harness such higher self- and people-awareness, some methods propose specific applications for improving business performance, such as a more focused career planning, talent development, effective team-building, and the like.

    An overview of existing cognitive style profiling concepts

    Nowadays, you can easily google the keywords “personality test” or “cognitive profiling” to find a myriad of different personality or cognitive profiling tools, each of which has its merit in one way or another. So, which cognitive profiling method may work for you? Well, it all depends on what you want to find out and want to use the method for. So, to get started, let me introduce a few profiling concepts to you that are either highly popular or which caught my interest while I was investigating different methods for their suitability to explain and support the people-side of creativity and innovation: 

    • Arguably the most widely used psychometric instrument is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). MBTI goes back on the work of the Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung, who introduced three dimensions to capture differences in personal style: Extraversion (E) vs. Introversion (I); iNutuition (N) vs Sensing (S); and Thinking (T) vs. Feeling (F). Later on, Katharine Cook Briggs and her daughter Isabel Briggs Myers augmented the Jungian preferences by a fourth dimension (Judging (J) vs. Perceiving (P)) and developed the MBTI typology of sixteen personality types. After taking a questionnaire, test subjects are assigned their profile type based on the letter combination of the highest score for each preferences (e.g. I come out as an ENTP). 
    • In his Keirsey Temperament Sorter (KTS), David Keirsey expanded the MBTI concept by introducing a new hierarchy of the MBTI dimensions and by grouping the types according to Plato’s four classic temperaments (e.g., guardian, artisan, idealist, rational). In addition, Keirsey suggested useful descriptive names for each of the MBTI types (e.g., the inventor in the case of the ENTP). 
    • Developed by the psychologist Ned Herrmann, the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) is yet another well-liked concept to measure and describe thinking preferences in people. HBDI is based on a two-dimensional model grounded in theories on the development of the human brain. It distinguishes four brain modes (a cerebral vs. limbic mode and a left vs. right mode), and measures four related cognitive styles (A. analytical; B. practical; C. emotional; and D. experimental). The scores of an individual’s test result are presented within the context of a profiling map that shows which of the four styles is predominantly used by a test subject.
    • A related concept that leans on Herrmann’s model is the M.I.N.D. Design concept (M.I.N.D.) by Robert Alan Black. Like HBDI, Black distinguishes four styles that also christen the concept (M – Meditative; I – Intuitive; N – Negotiative; D – Directive), and uses the test results to indicate the extent to which a test subject draws upon each of the four styles. However, unlike the 120 profiling questions of HBDI, Black uses only nine questions to arrive at a largely accurate test result and descriptive report. 
    • An important profiling tool to captures style differences in creative problem-solving and innovation is Michael Kirton’s Adaption-Innovation Inventory (KAI). KAI captures on a one-dimensional scale the degree to which someone prefers to think and work as an adapter (who likes improving on existing concepts) or an innovator (who enjoys coming up with new solutions). 
    • Roger Hamilton’s Wealth Dynamics (WD) concept also draws upon some constructs from Carl Jung’s work on personality style, but merges them with elements of the classic Chinese I Ching concept. WD uses four variables (dynamo, blaze, tempo, steel) to assign test subjects one of eight profiles (e.g., creator, star, supporter, deal-maker, among others). What is special about the WD concept is that Hamilton describes how certain profile types are better suited to lead a company at different points of time as the venture evolves and moves through the company life cycle. 
    • One more profiling concept that works with only two Jungian dimensions (extraversion vs. introversion and thinking vs. feeling) is Insights Discovery. Created by a father and son team (Andi and Andy Lothian), the concept turns a 2×2-matrix into four color types (fiery red, sunshine yellow, earth green, cool blue) and then arrives at eight colored profile types with business-related names (e.g. director, motivator, inspirer). 
    • Another well-known profiling instrument is the DISC behaviour assessment tool. Grounded in Marston’s DISC theory, this tool measures the prevalence of four different behavioural traits (dominance, influence, steadiness, and compliance) in a person. In its original version, it assigns a person one of 15 profile patterns (named achiever, investigator, developer, among others) based on the test results. 
    • Other cognitive profiling tools that you may come across include Miller’s Innovation Styles concept, Lafferty’s Life Styles Inventory (LSI), the Big Five personality traits (also known as the Five Factor Model), or the Enneagram.

    Yet other popular profiling tests don’t target personality or cognitive style, but emphasize other aspects that may also give useful hints. For example, Don Clifton’s Strengthfinder test determines the top 5 strengths of a person (from an overall set of 34 talent themes). For example, my top 5 talents when I did the test in 2008 were “intellection, ideation, input, learner, competition’.

    So which cognitive profiling tool should you use?

    My advice is to test every new profiling tool you come across and find appealing to possibly learn new nuances about yourself. You will notice that some tools really “click” with you and offer valuable new insights, while others may be well-reputed but don’t resonate with you. Never mind, that’s part of learning more about yourself.

    In any case, the more tools you use, the more you notice that certain personality traits and cognitive styles seem to overlap across various tests, thus pointing to a particular direction where your unique personality and related cognitive styles and talents reside. And the more tests you do, the more you also come across some surprising new factors that make you one-of-a-kind. It’s just like collecting more and more jigsaw pieces of nuances of your personality, and once you find the right missing piece, you suddenly see a wonderful wholesome picture of who you really are. 

    But coming back to our introductory scenario: What cognitive profiling tool can help you as a supposedly newly appointed Innovation Manager to reliably identify those creative types in your organization who genuinely are drivers and agents of innovation and organization change? And what tool can give you hints on how you can make everyone contribute to innovation in line with their preferred styles and natural talents? 

    For almost a decade, I hunted for such a cognitive profiling tool to lighten up the people-side of innovation, testing method after method with always the same result: Most methods had certain aspects that I really liked and found valuable and accurate, but also had some “bugs” or delivery gaps that I perceived to be sub-optimal, missing or plain “wrong”. And while thinking about how to improve on these perceived shortcomings, I suddenly had created my own profiling concept: TIPS, Thinkergy’s innovation people profiling system.

    I created TIPS with the intent to give individuals and organizations clear insights on how everyone can contribute to corporate innovation by using the preferred styles of each profile type. The TIPS innovation people-profiling method draws inspirations from theoretical constructs of a range of earlier cognitive profiling concepts listed above, but also includes new concepts adapted from other disciplines (e.g. evolutionary economics and social science).

    Interim conclusion and outlook

    While testing a great variety of different cognitive profiling tools and online personality tests, I’ve learned how to scrutinize the underlying conceptual constructs and design architecture of such methods. What conceptual features do almost all of these methods have in common? What shortcomings did I notice in many of the tools that I tested? And how does TIPS aim to cure these perceived ills? In two weeks, you’ll get the answers to these questions in a sequel to this article. 

    Do you want to learn more about TIPS? Would you like find out more about our TIPS training for your organization? Or would you like to take the TIPS profiling test yourself? Contact us and let us know more how we may help you. 

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2018

  • The Coming of Age of the Innovation Discipline

    A few weeks ago, I participated and presented a paper at the International Society for Professional Innovation Management (ISPIM)’s Innovation Conference in Stockholm. While listening to the keynote talks and academic paper presentations, actively participating in workshops and hot topic sessions, and observing the hustle and bustle of the conference, a thought suddenly struck me: “Innovation has come of age — both as an academic discipline and as a business service.” Why would this be?

    1. Innovation has transformed from a cool niche to a hot vogue in business

    In 2003, I entered the worlds of creativity and innovation as a highly passionate and talented domain novice. At that time, creativity and innovation were “cool” domains within the wider area of management studies:

    • Creativity was a domain largely dominated by psychology and the artistic fields, while business creativity was viewed as an offbeat niche within management studies. 
    • In contrast, innovation largely emphasized more left-brain directed, managerial approaches and perspectives, thus making it already a more established academic track in management.  

    From the Seventies to the Noughties, marketing used to be the hot “go-to” domain for the hip kids in town studying business. While marketing continues to be a popular choice today, it is no longer hot and sexy as it used to be. Innovation is the new cool kid on the block. It is the rising star within the functional directions in management studies. I believe it will continue to do so over the next couple of decades.  

    2. The academic domain of innovation is growing

    By regularly presenting at one to three ISPIM conferences a year, I couldn’t fail to notice how the academic discipline of innovation has been transforming and growing in importance:

    • Looking through the profile details of fellow delegates of the ISPIM conference in Stockholm, I see that in recent years, a lot of new professorship positions in innovation have been created — especially in Scandinavia, Central Europe and the Anglo-American countries. 
    • Likewise, the number of doctoral students in innovation is also on the rise, fueling the next wave of innovation initiatives in academic research and teaching. 
    • In the past years, new master programs specifically emphasizing innovation have been set-up at the more progressive business school — even in some developing countries, where most universities continue to embrace traditional MBA programs. For example, my main academic home at present, the Institute of Knowledge and Innovation, South-East Asia (IKI-SEA), Bangkok University, launched a new Master in Business Innovation program in 2016 that since has been growing in popularity. 
    • The dynamic growth of innovation within management studies can also be tracked by the numbers of publications. In an interesting paper titled “A Review of Research Methods in ISPIM Publications” presented at ISPIM Stockholm, Teemu Santonen, Marcus Tynnhammar and Steffen Conn  reported a sharp increase in the number of published ISPIM conference papers (from 25 in 2003 over 188 in 2008 to 345 in 2014).

    3. Innovation has started to solidify to make inroads into the establishment

    Like any other “product” or concept, the academic domain of innovation (and the related industry) has also moved along the “adoption curve” (and goes through the seasons of the business cycle): 

    • In his diffusion of innovation theory, Everett Rogers describes how a new innovation is gradually adopted by more and more segments of a population. A few innovators create a new concept, which the early adopters promote and endorse. Once the idea reaches the early majority, it becomes a success. Eventually, it is also embraced by the late majority, who eventually also convinces the laggards to see the value of the concept. So where on the adoption curve is the innovation domain now? 15 years after I first caught fire, innovation is a now has talked about by the “late majority”.
    • Not only the innovation domain in toto progresses along the adoption curve, but so does —albeit at a much faster pace— the “hot topics” that dominate current research interests and academic debates. For example. at ISPIM, fresh topics appear and get introduced by a few delegates; in the following year, other delegates have picked up some of those topics and ran with them; yet another year later, those topics become central conference themes, attracting many paper contributions and much debate; finally, the once “hot topics” start to lose their glow and brilliance. For example, at ISPIM Stockholm, “digitalization” appeared new on the scene as a fresh topic, “design thinking” plateaued, while formerly hot topics such as “open innovation” or “social innovation” have already lost their appeal. 
    • As the innovation domain has reached the late majority (or in the business cycle moves from summer into autumn), new topics emerge and vie for leadership: For example, some academics and consultants advocate “establishing firm innovation management standards” and certifying “best innovation practices”. I predict that such new systemic and administrative initiatives on innovation will not meet resistance in well-established, mature corporations. Why? Many executives in bluechip organizations in mature industries have psycho-static mindsets (and tend to profile in TIPS as Systematizers, Organizers or Technocrats). So, they have a natural affinity for initiatives aiming to systematize, standardize, quality-certify and benchmark things — probably even innovation. 

    So how do I personally feel about all of this? I am deeply passionate about creativity and innovation. So, I am happy to see how much the innovation domain has grown in importance. Moreover, as a creative person, I acknowledge that as many roads lead to Rome, there are many pathways to reach innovation. At the same time, I am a fervent advocate of more fluid innovation methods and tools to arrive at tangible innovation results.

    Conclusion

    Clearly, innovation has come of age. It’s hot, growing in importance and scope, and even shows initial signs of solidifying — of becoming an established domain in business. Together, these factors have attracted an increasing number of players in the innovation field advocating a myriad of different approaches, methods, platforms and events that promise to bring you into innovation heaven. 

    As an industry, innovation has become big business. But in view of an ever growing number of innovation methods and tools, events and conferences, academics and consultants contesting for “the innovation dollar”, a company eager for producing innovation may wonder: “What’s the best approach to get good returns from our innovation investment?” Let’ see. In the end, it will all come down to what approaches are able to produce tangible innovation results, and what impacts those make on customers.

    Have you become interested to become part of ISPIM? Do you agree —or disagree— with my views? Or are you interested to learn more about TIPS or our other innovation methods that we suggest using to produce innovation results? We like to hear from you. Contact us  and tell us more about you and how we may help you.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2018

  • Learning from the daily routines of creative top achievers

    Genius Journey, the creative leadership development method that I’ve created, invites candidates to go on an imaginary journey where they travel to ten destinations to rediscover their inner creativity. At each destination stop, they learn about one disempowering mindset or action routine that limits their creativity, and they also get introduced to a corresponding empowering mindset that reconnects them to their inner creativity. 

    At the 10th stop of Genius Journey, you need to stop being busy, busy, busy all the time; instead, start cultivating daily routines that balance focused doing with relaxed being. If you find a harmonious rhythm between focused work and relaxed play, you can more easily get into flow, a state of optimal experience where you perform at your peak and creative sparks fly. But in our hectic and busy times, how to get into a harmonious rhythm between focused doing and relaxed being? Today, let’s find out by studying the daily routines of creative top achievers.

    Investigating the daily routines of creative top achievers

    In his book Daily Rituals. How Artists Work, Mason Currey shares the daily routines and habits of 161 creative top achievers: Currey studied the schedules of a collection of top achievers from a wide range of creative domains: composers such as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven or Richard Strauss; painters such as Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh or Joan Miró; philosophers like René Descartes, Søren Kierkegaard, or Jean Paul Sartre, scientists (in the widest sense of the word) such as Charles Darwin, Sigmund Freud, or Carl Jung; inventors, designers and entrepreneurs such as Le Corbusier, Richard Buckminster Fuller, Nikola Tesla or Benjamin Franklin; and many, many writers such as Mark Twain, Earnest Hemingway, Friedrich Schiller, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.

    While almost all creative top achievers had their unique daily schedule and peculiar preferences, they surprisingly share many commonalities in the way they approach a typical work day. Like the German philosopher Immanuel Kant, who preferred “a certain uniformity in the way of living and in the matters about which I employ my mind,” many creative top achievers are creatures of habit in the way they approached a typical workday. Why do they do it?

    Apparently, most creative top achievers noticed at some point in time that maintaining certain work routines and daily habits increases the likelihood of getting into the state of flow and creative kisses by their muse and inner genius. The French novelist Gustave Flaubert put it this way: “Be regular and ordinary in your life, so that you may violent and original in your work.”

    Uncovering patterns in the daily routines of creative top achievers

    RJ Andrews at Infowetrust.com visualized some of the more detailed schedules presented in Currey’s book in an infographic mapping out the hourly schedules of 16 creative top achievers. Other contributors (such as podio.com) added visual schedules of further creatives. In order to identify patterns in the work schedules and daily routines of creative top achievers, I visualized these data in an aggregated chart that shows six activity areas grouped in three main categories:

    • WORK (separated in main creative work; secondary creative work;  and drudgery)
    • PLAY (separated as time for exercising and leisure (e.g., meals, socializing, and spiritual activities)
    • SLEEP

    Please note that in the chart, the time displayed on the horizontal axis depicts time total hours committed to an activity irrespective of the precise time of the day on a clock, which are shown in infographics of the other sources listed above; moreover, for the main creative work activities, the chart shows a split of the work time into 1-3 creative phases.

    Looking at the chart above, I was able to spot the following common threats running through the schedules and daily routines of the featured creative top achievers:

    • Counterintuitive to what most laypeople expect of creatives, most creative top achievers stayed true to a precise daily work schedule, believing the routine helps them to get more easily into a creative flow. For example, the British-American writer W. H. Auden explained why he followed a strict daily time schedule: “A modern stoic knows that the surest way to discipline passion is to discipline time: decide what you want or ought to do during the day, then always do it at exactly the same moment every day, and passion will give you no trouble.”
    • Creative top achievers invested on average 6.5 hours per day in their main creative work activity. Thereby, the span is very wide ranging from two to 13.5 hours. Most writers seem to prefer one long creative phase per day (of 3-7 hours in length), while the featured artists worked in two creative time blocks and some scientists even had a third creative work phase.
    • Often, creative top achievers either commit to undergo their main creative work for a fixed number of hours each day (normally anywhere from 3 to 8 hours) or until they hit a certain output target (such as the two thousand words quota that Stephen King commits writing on every day of the year).
    • Most creative top achievers get to their main creative activity within 2 hours of rising at the start of their work day. Thereby, roughly seven in ten prefer to complete their main creative daywork in the morning; however, many of the late-rising creatives also began work as one of their first activities of the day in the afternoon or at night.
    • Apart from their main creative work, roughly four in ten also invested time in secondary work activities that supported their primary creative work (often in reading that can provide more “dots” to connect to a creative work project).
    • Three in ten of the featured artists (and here most prominently Mozart) had to invest time in other day jobs (typically teaching, but in some cases also administrative work)  that helped them make ends meet. However, most creative top achievers managed to avoid spending precious time for drudgery.
    • Interestingly, two in three creative top achievers regularly exercised (often walking, but also running, swimming, horse-riding or even chopping wood). Those engaging in exercise invested on average 1.5 hours a day for this activity. Why? It seems that exercise not only it helped them to stay productive and to deal with occasional frustrations and blockages, but is also a proven way to get creative inspirations and ideas — and to collect more and fresh dots to connect to one’s creative work. For example, for more than a quarter century, Huraki Murakami has kept up his daily routine to go for an hourly run around noon. Charles Dickens left his desk at 2 p.m. every day for a brisk 3-hour walk through the streets of London or countryside, a strategy intended to “searching for some pictures I wanted to build upon” in his novels.
    • The featured creative top achievers also invested 6.5 hours in average for leisure activities including meals, personal grooming, socializing and spiritual practice (once again, the range here varies widely from 1.5 to 12 hours).
    • More than nine out of ten creative leaders slept around 7-8 hours per day, highlighting the importance of sleep to reinvigorate their bodies and minds.

    What can we learn from the daily routines of creative top achievers?

    “We have failed to recognize our great asset: time. A conscientious use of it could make us into something amazing.” In line with the German playwright Friedrich Schiller, please find ten recommendations (that I personally also follow every day whenever possible) on how you may produce more and better creative outputs by harmoniously balancing time for focused work with relaxed play:

    1. Take your time to develop your unique schedule and daily routines that works for you and allows you to get your creativity flowing. None of the creative top achievers featured above copied the schedule of other people, so neither should you. “Be original. Insist upon yourself”, as Ralph Waldo Emerson recommended.
    2. Pay attention to your natural energy rhythm. If you’re a lark, consider starting work in the wee hours of a new day. However, as an owl, don’t feel shy in beginning your work day in the afternoon or evening when your energy levels start to come into full swing.
    3. Emulate the work-play pattern of creative top achievers to ensure a long creatively productive and happy life: Dedicate 8 hours (plus minus 30 minutes) each for work, play and sleep.
    4. Block at least 3-4 hours of time at the beginning of your work day to focus on your main creative work (e.g., writing). During this time, focus on one creative project and output that you want to produce by the end of that time. The English writer and social critic Charles Dickens noted in this context: “I never could have done what I have done without the habits of punctuality, order, and diligence, without the determination to concentrate myself on one subject at a time.”
    5. If your schedule permits, consider adding a second creative phase of 2-3 hours in the second half of your work day (either for adding more creative outputs, or for editing and improving on the outputs from phase 1).
    6. Consider adopting a firm routine of either committing a certain number of hours for creative work each day, or committing to achieve a certain creative output target (e.g., hitting a certain word count).  Complete any administrative work or drudgery towards the end of the workday (after you have completed your creative work for the day).
    7. Consider exercising for one hour each day as part of your daily routines to refresh your body and creative mind. Expect to get new creative inspirations and ideas while you sweat it out.
    8. Apart from exercising, commit quality time for leisure activities (dining, socializing and meeting with friends, meditation, reading, etc.). If creative top achievers can play in average for 6.5 hours, so can you.
    9. Don’t skimp on your sleep if you want to be healthy, productive and creative in the long run. If you travel a lot or temporarily need to do with less than the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep, experiment with cat naps (just like Thomas Edison or Richard Buckminster Fuller did) or doing mindfulness meditation to compensate for the lost hours of sleep.
    10. Finally, find your own work-play rhythm. Experiment with different ways to schedule the day to find a rhythm that works for you and helps you to be both creative and productive. Once you’ve noticed that a schedule works and induces creative flow, stick with this trusted routine it like the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami: “I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.”

    This article will be an addition to the third part of my upcoming new book Genius Journey. Developing Authentic Creative Leaders for the Innovation Economy (targeted for publication in 1Q.2018 by Motivational Press). 

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017.


  • How Generational Shifts will Impact Business and Innovation (Part 2)

    In part 1 of How Generational Shifts will Impact Business and Innovation, we discussed the concept of social generations and introduced those generations that are currently alive. Today, we will explore how the generations presently active in the workplace differ in their work aspirations, behaviors and styles, and how generational shifts that will unfold in the labour market in the next decade are likely to change the nature of business in general and innovation in special.

    Introducing the styles of different generations at work

    Let’s get a better understanding of the different mindsets, aspirations, and work styles of those generations that still form an active part of the workforce. Here, bear in mind that of course, every generation consists of lots of different individual types, so that the following descriptions represent more of a dominating tendency for each social cohort. Nevertheless, the following differences reflect the specific social markers and technologies as well as the educational upbringing of different generations.

    • Having to live through the Great Depression and World War II in their early lives, Traditionalistslearned the hard way. Being educated in a more formal, instructive disciplined and military style education system, “Silents” show great respect and deference for authority. They follow established rules and policies, and feel uncomfortable with conflict, change and new technologies. Most silents dutifully and loyally worked hard in one career for one employer throughout their working life.
    • The Baby Boomers grew up in the economic boom after WWII. They were educated in a structured, data-focused and evidence-based style, Boomers are career-focused workaholics who are driven by titles and financial rewards and show respect for power. While being early IT adopters, they feel unsure towards new technological advances and take time to embrace change.
    • Generation Xers like me grew up in the sober social and economic climate of the 80s. After witnessing the first waves of corporate rightsizing exercise early on in our work careers, many Gen Xers developed a pragmatic to pessimistic outlook on traditional corporate careers, and evolved into self-reliant, independent free agents. They are pragmatic and resourceful, creative and entrepreneurial, self-managing and adaptable, cynical and skeptical of authority. They value work-life balance and personal freedom.Gen Xers are digital immigrants who grew up with PCs and the internet and feel comfortable keeping up with newly emerging technologies.
    • Millennials were mostly raised by baby boomer “helicopter parents on steroids” and a more nurturing, “touchy-feely” education system that was more participative, emotional and story-based. No wonder that many Gen Yers approach work collaboratively .and are very socially engaged. They are said to be idealistic, dedicated and goal-oriented, and want to do meaningful work. Millennials are digital natives who are “native speakers” of the digital language of computers, the Internet, videos, video games, social media, etc. that they all learned to master in their adolescence.
    • Post-Millennials are technology natives who’ve widely used the Internet from a young age. These “technoholics”, often entirely depend on IT for doing things, with a limited grasp of offline or non-digital alternatives. Many Gen Zers start entering the workforce, often in new apprenticeships or part-time jobs. As permanent, long-term jobs will become fewer and fewer, many Post-Millennials will likely become flexible career multi-taskers who move seamlessly between established organizations and smaller “pop-up” ventures in rather short-term, transactional project roles. all the while longing for more security and stability.

    Upcoming generational shifts in the labor market

    By 2030, organizations will face massive human resources challenges due to generational shifts in the labour market:

    • The last remaining Traditionalists will all have retired by 2020.
    • Likewise, the first wave of baby boomers is already retiring en masse and will continue The second wave of boomers (55-64) will still be a driving force in established organizations. until the mid 20s, when they will also leave.
    • Gen Xers will gradually rise to power in established businesses threatened by the fast-changing, highly dynamic modern market environment, and also lead the business-side of start-ups together with more digital-affine Gen Y leaders.
    • In 2016, Millennials overtook the baby boomers as the biggest group in the labor market. In the coming years, they will gain strong influence as Bruce Tulgan notes in a white paper: “We should not expect the new Millennial workforce to eventually ‘grow up and settle down’ and start thinking and behaving more like those of previous generations. Rather, the ‘grown-ups’ will find themselves thinking and behaving more and more like the Millennials.”
    • The chairs left behind by the retiring Baby Boomers will be filled by Gen Zers starting their work life (although not the ones in the corner offices).

    Implications of generational shifts on innovation

    How will these generational shifts impact innovation? No one knows for sure. However, by factoring in the educational upbringing, general work qualities, and attitudes towards technology and change, I foresee on the risk of being wrong the following nine innovation impacts of generational shifts:

    1. Expect innovation to flourish when the pragmatic, creative and entrepreneurial Gen Xers innovate alongside the collaborative, idealistic Gen Yers supported by the fresh ideas of the flexible, multicultural and balanced Gen Zers. Coupled with the shift from a managerial to an entrepreneurial society, I even foresee an Inno-naissance (an innovation-driven Renaissance).
    2. Innovation focus will shift to meaningful emphasis from making money first regardless what it takes” (Boomers) to focus on make meaning first, then we will make money anyway (idealistic Millennials coupled with pragmatic Gen Xers).
    3. After the gradual disappearance of the remaining baby boomers in the next decade, everyone remaining in the workforce will be digital citizen: either an immigrant (Gen X), native (Gen Y), or digital everything (Gen Z).
    4. Expect almost all innovations to have digital elements by 2030. Powered by the advent of the sixth long wave of technological change, new lead technologies and related industries will emerge that will drive economic growth for the next 2-3 decades.
    5. When contrasting the different educational upbringing of the generations, and linking it to the four bases of Thinkergy’s innovation people profiling method TIPS (theories, ideas, people, systems), I noticed that the Traditionalists were educated in a disciplined military style (Systems base), Baby Boomers in an evidence- and data-focused style (Theories), Gen Xers in a pragmatic, applications and solutions-oriented style (Ideas), and finally Millennials in a collaborative, story-oriented and kinesthetic style (People). 
Interestingly, I also spotted a pattern how the influence of the different TIPS bases impacted the innovation focus of different eras: mass-market, systemic and operational (1946-70, run by the G.I. Generation supported by Traditionalists); systemic, data-based and quantitive (1970-95, run by Traditionalists and the Baby Boomers); and data-based, conceptual and entrepreneurial (1995-2020, driven by Baby Boomers seconded by Gen Xers). Looking ahead to the next 25 years, I predict the character of many innovations to be more entrepreneurial, social, qualitative and life-affirming (e.g. clean technologies, energies and food). 
    6. Innovation training courses and innovation project workshops will continue to take place in real-life formats for the next ten years, and demand for these formats will increase. This is because of the educational upbringing (Cafe-style, social and collaborative) and preferred training focus (emotional, participative, stories, continuous, expected) of the now largest generation at work (Millennials), coupled with the training preferences of Gen Xers (spontaneous, interactive, round-table style, relaxed with a practical, applications-oriented focus), who will increasingly sign the checks to pay for innovation education. In the long run, however, digital training courses will gradually gain prominence reflecting the more technology-driven training preferences of Post-Millennials.
    7. With regards to the process side of innovation in future, I also foresee the emergence of virtual reality solutions that allow innovation team members based in various creative cities to collaborate in real-time on an innovation project in an virtual reality space under the guidance of an innovation process expert.
    8. With the gradual departure of the Baby Boomers from the C-suite of big corporations, I forecast the renovation and creative cultural transformation of many established corporations led by the more pragmatic, entrepreneurial and creative Gen X leaders.
    9. Innovation will continue moving from the closed towards a more open paradigm as collaborative Millennials and technology-addicted Post-Millennials will gradually gain more influence in the labor market — provided open innovation will be organized in a win-win-win way.

    Conclusion: Have you got a better grasp of both the generational differences in socialization, education and work behavior (work aspirations, attitudes and styles) and the scope of the generational shifts in the labour market unfolding in the next decade? Once the last remaining Traditionalists and hordes of Baby Boomers will have gone into their well-deserved retirement, many ways of how we do business and innovate will change. Hopefully, my predictions and rationales are useful to help you realign your business and innovation set-up ahead of time.

    This two-article episode is one of 64 sections of an upcoming new book of mine titled The Beginner’s Guide to Innovation (targeted for publication in 2Q.2018 by Motivational Press). Contact us if you’d like to learn more about our innovation training courses.


  • How Generational Shifts will Impact Business and Innovation (Part 1)

    In the coming decade, major generational shifts will take place in the workplace. Today and in two weeks, let’s understand more about the concept of social generations, how the socialization of different generational cohorts impacts the way they think, work, decide, communicate, manage and lead, and how generational shifts will affect the ways we do business and innovate.

    Background: Training a group of global nomads

    In April 2017, I had the pleasure of training a fascinating group of highly successful businesspeople in our creative leadership method Genius Journey. Led by an impressive young Briton, the training group entirely consisted of an accumulation of global nomads, who flew in from all-around-the world to Phuket, Thailand, for a joint gig and team holiday. Together, the group operates an online platform for business coaches to host an annual international online coaching conference and to disseminate quality contents for a global coaching community.

    All Millennials in their late 20s or early 30s, the fourteen delegates came from eight diverse nationalities (UK, US, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Croatia, Romania and India); with one exception, none of them actually lived in their home country. Moreover, while the group has a hub connecting all spokes, both are “moving targets”: the hub (= “head office” where the core team has pitched tents for the time being) only recently shifted from Costa Rica to Croatia, and most of the “spokes” (= individual team members) are frequently traveling between countries. Nevertheless, all collaborate together seamlessly and successfully across different time zones using the Internet and modern communication solutions.

    Why do I tell you this story? Training this group of international global nomads —and witnessing them working in the evening after our training with other colleagues who couldn’t make the offsite — made me realize the huge differences in work styles, work-life aspirations and educational backgrounds of Millennials (also known as Generation Y) compared to those generations who still tend to run or influence most businesses today.

    For the first time, I fully understood the importance of appreciating the style differences between social generations, and I began investigating and pondering how the impending generational shifts in the workplace will affect business and innovation.

    Introducing the concepts of social generations

    In social science, the concept of social generations describes cohorts of people born within a specific time period (ranging between 15 to 30 years) who jointly experience significant historical landmark events and witness the emergence of certain iconic technologies and trendy cultural phenomena during their formative years and while coming of age.

    Because the shared social marker experiences within a single generation differ from those of previous or later cohorts, generations tend to vary from each other in their values, aspirations and motivations, the ways they work, communicate, make decisions, interact with certain technologies, etc. As a result, when one generation starts to retire, other generations take over, and a new generation enters the work place, these generational shifts tend to have major impacts on the economies and businesses.

    Introducing the present generations and their sociological background

    Let’s gain an overview of what generations are presently still alive, and gain an impression of the landmark events, technologies and cultural phenomena that shaped them (here note that the time spans between different generations is indicative only and varies in the literature, and the terminology follows the most common one developed in the USA):

    • The Lost Generation (1883-1900) describes the cohort who grew up in the culturally and scientifically rich period of the late imperialistic era and fought in World War I, a traumatic experience that led to their name coined by Gertrude Stein and popularized by Earnest Hemingway. At the point of writing, there is a sole survivor of this generation.
    • The G.I. Generation (1901-1924) includes those who lived through WWI in their younger years. Because they had to master the Great Depression and fought in World War II, they are also called the “Greatest Generation” in the USA.
    • The Traditionalists (1925-1945) includes most of those who were born or growing up during the Great Depression and World War II, and who fought the Korean War and in some cases during the Vietnam War. Also called the Silent Generation (or “Silents” because they were socialized at a time of conformity to authority), they grew up with Jazz and Swing (Glen Miller, Frank Sinatra), flocked to “Gone with the Wind” in the cinema, and saw the advent of TV.
    • The Baby Boomers (1946-1964) got their name from the baby-boom following World War II. They are a large demographic cohort and due to the long time-span, they are sometimes distinguished in early boomers (1946-1955) and late boomers (1956-1964). They grew up during the early Cold War era with the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War, and witnessed the moon landing and the civil and women’s rights movements that challenged the established order. Rock ‘n’ Roll (Elvis, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Woodstock) and the Boomtown Disco period, the movies “Easy Rider” and “The Graduate”, and the arrival of Color TV were important cultural phenomena shaping the boomers.
    • I am a member of Generation X (Gen X, 1965-1980), the “baby bust” generation characterized by a drop in birth rates following the invention of the birth control pill. We experienced a series of negative landmark events and social markers, such as the AIDS crisis, a renewed nuclear arms race in the late Cold War era, the Challenger explosion and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, but also the sensational fall of the Berlin Wall and lifting of the iron curtain in Eastern Europe. Sometimes called the “MTV generation”, we enjoyed watching pop videos (Madonna, Michael Jackson) and listening to new wave and house music. Movies such as E.T., Star Wars or Alien made an impact on us, too, and the Walkman, VCR and in particular Personal Computers (IBM PC, Macintosh) were iconic technologies for us.
    • The Millennials (Generation Y, 1981-1994) grew up during the Dot-com boom, enjoyed the turn of the Millennium and suffered from the 9/11 terror attacks. Being mostly the offspring of the demographically large baby-boomers. they are also a huge cohort that has just surpassed the number of the Baby Boomers in the US. Millennials witnessed in their youth a series of major technological shifts such as the advent of the Internet, mobile phones, email, SMS, and the DVD. Cultural phenomena that shaped Millennials were hip hop (Eminem, Puff Daddy) and singers like Britney Spears or Jennifer Lopez, the movie “Titanic”, the emergence of Reality TV and Pay TV, and fancy gaming playing consoles (Playstation, XBox).
    • The Post-Millennials (1995-2010) witnessed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Asian tsunami and the global financial crisis as landmark events. Also known as Generation Z or Gen 2020, they grew up with the iPad (and other tablets), social media (Facebook, Google, Twitter, Snapchat) and mobile apps. Culturally, Post-Millennials often have a thing with musical interpreters such as Justin Bieber, Rihanna, or Taylor Swift, and got greatly influenced by the movie “Avatar” and other 3D movies.

    Interim Conclusion: Generational shifts and developments —hopefully— never stop. Some sociologists suggest the next generation has already emerged: Generation Alpha (people born from 2011 onwards — and my newborn daughter Zoë is a recent addition to Gen α). After introducing the different generations in today’s article, come back in two weeks time to learn more about the generational differences in the workplace (work aspirations, behaviors and styles), and how the generational shifts in the labour market in the next decade are likely to change business in general and innovation in special.

    This article is one of 64 sections of an upcoming book that I am presently writing, The Beginner’s Guide to Innovation (targeted for publication in 2Q.2018 by Motivational Press). 

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017.


  • How Generational Shifts will Impact Business and Innovation (Part 1)

    In the coming decade, major generational shifts will take place in the workplace. Today and in two weeks, let’s understand more about the concept of social generations, how the socialization of different generational cohorts impacts the way they think, work, decide, communicate, manage and lead, and how generational shifts will affect the ways we do business and innovate.

    Background: Training a group of global nomads

    In April 2017, I had the pleasure of training a fascinating group of highly successful businesspeople in our creative leadership method Genius Journey. Led by an impressive young Briton, the training group entirely consisted of an accumulation of global nomads, who flew in from all-around-the world to Phuket, Thailand, for a joint gig and team holiday. Together, the group operates an online platform for business coaches to host an annual international online coaching conference and to disseminate quality contents for a global coaching community.

    All Millennials in their late 20s or early 30s, the fourteen delegates came from eight diverse nationalities (UK, US, Australia, New Zealand, Austria, Croatia, Romania and India); with one exception, none of them actually lived in their home country. Moreover, while the group has a hub connecting all spokes, both are “moving targets”: the hub (= “head office” where the core team has pitched tents for the time being) only recently shifted from Costa Rica to Croatia, and most of the “spokes” (= individual team members) are frequently traveling between countries. Nevertheless, all collaborate together seamlessly and successfully across different time zones using the Internet and modern communication solutions.

    Why do I tell you this story? Training this group of international global nomads —and witnessing them working in the evening after our training with other colleagues who couldn’t make the offsite — made me realize the huge differences in work styles, work-life aspirations and educational backgrounds of Millennials (also known as Generation Y) compared to those generations who still tend to run or influence most businesses today.

    For the first time, I fully understood the importance of appreciating the style differences between social generations, and I began investigating and pondering how the impending generational shifts in the workplace will affect business and innovation.

    Introducing the concepts of social generations

    In social science, the concept of social generations describes cohorts of people born within a specific time period (ranging between 15 to 30 years) who jointly experience significant historical landmark events and witness the emergence of certain iconic technologies and trendy cultural phenomena during their formative years and while coming of age.

    Because the shared social marker experiences within a single generation differ from those of previous or later cohorts, generations tend to vary from each other in their values, aspirations and motivations, the ways they work, communicate, make decisions, interact with certain technologies, etc. As a result, when one generation starts to retire, other generations take over, and a new generation enters the work place, these generational shifts tend to have major impacts on the economies and businesses.

    Introducing the present generations and their sociological background

    Let’s gain an overview of what generations are presently still alive, and gain an impression of the landmark events, technologies and cultural phenomena that shaped them (here note that the time spans between different generations is indicative only and varies in the literature, and the terminology follows the most common one developed in the USA):

    • The Lost Generation (1883-1900) describes the cohort who grew up in the culturally and scientifically rich period of the late imperialistic era and fought in World War I, a traumatic experience that led to their name coined by Gertrude Stein and popularized by Earnest Hemingway. At the point of writing, there is a sole survivor of this generation.
    • The G.I. Generation (1901-1924) includes those who lived through WWI in their younger years. Because they had to master the Great Depression and fought in World War II, they are also called the “Greatest Generation” in the USA.
    • The Traditionalists (1925-1945) includes most of those who were born or growing up during the Great Depression and World War II, and who fought the Korean War and in some cases during the Vietnam War. Also called the Silent Generation (or “Silents” because they were socialized at a time of conformity to authority), they grew up with Jazz and Swing (Glen Miller, Frank Sinatra), flocked to “Gone with the Wind” in the cinema, and saw the advent of TV.
    • The Baby Boomers (1946-1964) got their name from the baby-boom following World War II. They are a large demographic cohort and due to the long time-span, they are sometimes distinguished in early boomers (1946-1955) and late boomers (1956-1964). They grew up during the early Cold War era with the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Vietnam War, and witnessed the moon landing and the civil and women’s rights movements that challenged the established order. Rock ‘n’ Roll (Elvis, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Woodstock) and the Boomtown Disco period, the movies “Easy Rider” and “The Graduate”, and the arrival of Color TV were important cultural phenomena shaping the boomers.
    • I am a member of Generation X (Gen X, 1965-1980), the “baby bust” generation characterized by a drop in birth rates following the invention of the birth control pill. We experienced a series of negative landmark events and social markers, such as the AIDS crisis, a renewed nuclear arms race in the late Cold War era, the Challenger explosion and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, but also the sensational fall of the Berlin Wall and lifting of the iron curtain in Eastern Europe. Sometimes called the “MTV generation”, we enjoyed watching pop videos (Madonna, Michael Jackson) and listening to new wave and house music. Movies such as E.T., Star Wars or Alien made an impact on us, too, and the Walkman, VCR and in particular Personal Computers (IBM PC, Macintosh) were iconic technologies for us.
    • The Millennials (Generation Y, 1981-1994) grew up during the Dot-com boom, enjoyed the turn of the Millennium and suffered from the 9/11 terror attacks. Being mostly the offspring of the demographically large baby-boomers. they are also a huge cohort that has just surpassed the number of the Baby Boomers in the US. Millennials witnessed in their youth a series of major technological shifts such as the advent of the Internet, mobile phones, email, SMS, and the DVD. Cultural phenomena that shaped Millennials were hip hop (Eminem, Puff Daddy) and singers like Britney Spears or Jennifer Lopez, the movie “Titanic”, the emergence of Reality TV and Pay TV, and fancy gaming playing consoles (Playstation, XBox).
    • The Post-Millennials (1995-2010) witnessed the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Asian tsunami and the global financial crisis as landmark events. Also known as Generation Z or Gen 2020, they grew up with the iPad (and other tablets), social media (Facebook, Google, Twitter, Snapchat) and mobile apps. Culturally, Post-Millennials often have a thing with musical interpreters such as Justin Bieber, Rihanna, or Taylor Swift, and got greatly influenced by the movie “Avatar” and other 3D movies.

    Interim Conclusion: Generational shifts and developments —hopefully— never stop. Some sociologists suggest the next generation has already emerged: Generation Alpha (people born from 2011 onwards — and my newborn daughter Zoë is a recent addition to Gen α). After introducing the different generations in today’s article, come back in two weeks time to learn more about the generational differences in the workplace (work aspirations, behaviors and styles), and how the generational shifts in the labour market in the next decade are likely to change business in general and innovation in special.

    This article is one of 64 sections of an upcoming book that I am presently writing, The Beginner’s Guide to Innovation (targeted for publication in 2Q.2018 by Motivational Press). 

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017.


  • How Innovation Affects Financial Performance

    Does innovation really deliver tangible financial results a company? Do investments in innovation yield a positive return? Does innovation pay? And if yes, how much positive impact does it have on financial performance?

    Tracking the innovation premium

    In 2006, BusinessWeek magazine and Boston Consulting Group (BCG) jointly devised a ranking of the world’s 25 most innovative companies. The list was led by Apple, Google, and 3M, and also included Toyota, Microsoft, General Electric, Procter & Gamble, Nokia, Starbucks, IBM, Virgin and Samsung, among others. Then, they compared the profit margins and stock prices of these Top 25 innovators with the median for all companies in the Standard & Poor’s Global 1200 index over a 10-year time period.

    The Top 25 innovators delivered median profit margin growth of 3.4% a year from 1995-2005, compared with 0.4% for the S&P’s Global 1200. This striking difference, which BW attributed “in large parts to innovation”, also showed when comparing the median annual stock returns of both groups: The Top 25 innovators yielded 14.3% over the 10 years, a full three percentage points better than the S&P 1200 median. No wonder that BusinessWeek titled the article “Creativity Pays. Here’s How Much”.

    In a follow-up study in 2009, BCG found a similar result: Innovative companies achieved significantly higher total shareholder return premiums  — 4.3% higher over three years and 2.6% higher over 10 years — than their less innovative industry peers. Interestingly, the figures for Asia-Pacific were much higher, at 17.7% over three years and 5.5% over 10 years, suggesting that it pays even more to lead innovation in traditionally less innovative environments.

    One of the most dramatic examples of superior stock performance by an innovator is Apple. When Steve Jobs returned to Apple on July 9 1997, the firm was on the verge of bankruptcy and its stock closed at $0.49 (in today’s prices after various share splits in between). Ten years later, the share price had soared to $18.62, a multiple of 38 times. Twenty years later, the price had skyrocketed to $145.06, a multiple of nearly 300. Had you purchased two Apple shares for one dollar on the day of Steve Jobs’ return, they were now worth nearly $300.

    So, 20 years of fanatical focus on innovation at Apple led to tremendous value, not only for consumers who benefited from groundbreaking innovations such as the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad, but also for Apple shareholders who reaped massive wealth gains. 

    Investing in design pays too, as several studies have confirmed:

    • A 2007 study by the British Design Council found that design-focused firms didn’t need to compete on price as much as their peers. Every £100 they invested in design increased turnover by £225, and their shares outperformed key stock market indices by 200%.
    • In a 2014 Harvard Business Review article, Jeneanne Rae introduced the Design Value Index, a new tool to track the financial performance of design-centric companies against those that are not. When comparing the stock performance of 15 design-focused companies it showed that over 10 years, shares of design-centric firms (such as Target, Walt Disney or Nike) beat the S&P index by 228%.

    To summarize, all the aforementioned study findings suggest that investing in innovation and design pays huge dividends for companies and their shareholders alike.

    Why do innovative firms perform better financially?

    BCG found that innovative companies tend to grow faster, have richer product mixes than their peers, expand into adjacent or new categories (especially if these promise higher margins), and produce more patents than less innovative companies.

    Innovative companies also enjoy higher profit margins because customers are willing to pay higher prices for more innovative products perceived to offer more value than ‘plain vanilla’ products.

    Innovative companies can charge even higher prices for their more innovative value offering (products, services, solutions and experiences) if they also invest in standout design, which further magnifies the perceived value in the eyes of their customers.

    Ergo, they enjoy considerably higher operating profit margins — and the best innovators even amplify those further through operational innovations (such as optimized processes and innovative structures) that allow them to produce superior value at a lower cost base than their peers.

    Moreover, innovative products sell faster and more frequently than normal ones, thus boosting revenues further, especially if the top innovators also multiply revenues through the leverage innovation types.

    Mapping out the financial dynamics and implications of innovation investments

    We can sum-up the financial performance implication of investing in innovations as follows:

    1. Innovative value offerings sell at higher prices and in higher volumes, both of which increase revenues. The higher the value differential, the higher the revenue growth driven by both price and volumes.
    2. Firms that magnify the perception of value of their products (and other value offerings) through design can achieve higher prices, which again boosts revenues and increases (operating) profit margins.
    3. Likewise, companies who make operational innovations typically can produce their value offerings at lower costs, which also increases profit margins (albeit to a much lower degree).
    4. Companies that market a value proposition through innovative channels, networks, platforms, partnerships and business models can multiply their revenues even further.
    5. Strong revenue and profit margin growth increase the demand for a company’s stock and its share price, and may trigger a positively reinforcing loop. If the innovative company shares part of its superior profits with its investors in the form of dividends, the share price and demand for the stock rise even further. A rising share price increases market capitalization, and over time the company shifts from being a potential acquisition target to being a dominant player with amble opportunities for strategic acquisitions.

    Conclusion: Embrace innovation and invest in innovative firms, as innovative firms deliver a noticeably better financial performance compared to the market average. It’s seems to be a safe bet to increase your wealth in the long run. As Warren Buffet put it: “Value is what you get.”

    Contact us to let us know how we can help you improve your financial performance with our innovation solutions.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 

  • Understanding the Inner Workings of Innovation Methods

    Have you ever wondered what an innovation process method is? And what it’s good for? And how it works? Today, let’s answer these questions and find out what innovation methods are good for and all have in common.

    Setting the scene:

    What if you were assigned to lead a new innovation project to develop a new product? What concrete work activities do you need to do? Please take a moment to think about this scenario.

    So what innovation project-related activities have you come up with? When I give graduate students and delegates in innovation training courses a few minutes to think about this, typical  answers that emerge include:

    “Brainstorm for ideas” … “Implement the idea” … “Do market research” … “Create a prototype” … “Analyze our competitors and their products” … “Pitch our idea” … “Look at trends” … “Ship the product” … “Select the best ideas” … “Empathize with the users” … “Frame the innovation challenge” … “Calculate the expected return on investment from an idea” … “Check on project-related facts and evidence” … “Evaluate ideas” … and so on.

    Have thought of some of the above — or something similar? If so: congratulations. You’re on track to becoming an innovator if you do such things. But here is another important question:

    WHAT exactly do we need to DO and WHEN to get WHAT kind of RESULTS?

    Or put in other words: What activities do we need to perform when in an innovation project do produce what kind of outputs? To answer these questions, a few people who enjoy thinking about such things (including myself) have created different kinds of innovation methods.

    What are innovation methods?

    Innovation methods (sometimes called creative problem-solving methods or creative processes) are systematic process flows that outline the steps and cognitive activities that an individual or a team needs to follow while thinking their way through an innovation challenge, or while working on solving a problem creatively.

    What are prominent examples of innovation methods?

    Going back on the work of the creativity pioneers Alex Osborne and Sid Parnes, the classic Creative Problem-Solving Model (CPS) is probably the longest-serving and best-known process method. Others include Design Thinking (created by the Palo Alto-based innovation company IDEO and its academic offspring, the D-School at Stanford University); the “Idea Machine” of the Swiss innovation company Brainstorm; or Systematic Inventive Thinking created by the Israeli company of the same name, among others. Finally, X-IDEA is an up-and-coming new innovation method that I created for Thinkergy.

    Why are innovation methods useful?

    All innovation process methods are based on the belief that if you follow a systematic thinking process, you will get better ideas and results compared to when you think through an innovation project in a largely unstructured way. Why?

    Innovation projects are messy and lengthy affairs. They may last anything from a few days to weeks, months or even years. They often involve a smaller core team and dozens of supporters who join in for certain activities (such as idea generation). They also produce large amounts of interim outputs (for example, dozens of new insights or hundreds of raw ideas) needed to eventually arrive at a final innovation deliverable.

    An elegant, well-designed and effective innovation process method can cut through the messiness and safely guide an individual or team towards meaningful results. It provides focus to the innovation efforts by specifying what do to next to produce the outputs needed in the subsequent steps.

    How do innovation methods work in general?

    An innovation method provides you with a systematic order of work or thinking steps: First do this, then that, then do a third thing, followed by another task, until you eventually  conclude the process. Most innovation processes propose a linear sequence of steps and associated cognitive activities / work tasks that wanna-be-innovators need to perform while working on a case.

    Some innovation methods are more detailed and comprehensive than others and require more steps and related work activities. But while it allows innovators to work more thoroughly, more steps and details also make it harder for novices to learn the method  — and for facilitators to keep track of the correct order of doing things.

    To resolve this potential conflict between high accuracy and simplicity, some innovation methods aggregate three or more process steps on a higher level of abstraction in a process stage. For example, looking through the activities listed in our “warm-up exercise”, we may integrate “Evaluate ideas”, “Prototype ideas” and “Select the best ideas” in a stage that we call “Evaluation”.

    Consequently, more thorough innovation process methods such as Design Thinking or X-IDEA consist of typically 3-5 process stages, with each stage having subordinated work steps.

    Finally, many innovation process methods imply circularity on two levels:

    • On a micro-level, you may have to circle back to the previous step to repeat the related work activities whenever you notice that the inputs form the preceding step are insufficient in quality or quality to produce the desired outputs in the current step.
    • On a macro-level, circularity means that once you’ve successfully completed an innovation project, you start a new one. Enter a new project into your innovation process method, and take step one in stage one.

    Which innovation method should you adopt?

    Please don’t ask me. I have a clear recommendation for you, and I admit I am biased. But after putting on a neutral thinker cap, I advise would to proceed as follows:

    1. Select an innovation method that promises to fit your situation with regards to:
      (a) how often you do innovation projects,
      (b) how sophisticated or simple you want the method to be, and
      (c) what innovation types you typically pursue.
    2. Then, experiment with different creative processes and innovation methods.
    3. Continue trying out the different innovation methods until you find the one that best suits your innovation needs and fits your people.

    Would you love to learn more about the X-IDEA innovation method and our related trainingcourses and innovation project workshops? Contact us and tell us more about your company and innovation needs.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 

  • Tracking the long-term impacts of innovation training

    What are the long-term impacts on learners who have taken training in structured innovation? What do they recall from the course? What is the long-term effectiveness of a systematic creativity training with regards to building-up creative confidence and creative confidence in learners? Did the learning journey to the creative side of life inspire some former learners to pursuit creative careers?

    My colleague Dr. Brian Hunt and I investigated these questions in a new research study that is part of my research program “Teaching and learning creativity and innovation”. We will publish our complete results in a conference paper titled “Training Businesspeople in Structured Innovation: Tracking down Long-Term Impacts” that I will present at the ISPIM (International Society for Professional Innovation Management) Innovation Conference in Vienna in two months. Today, allow me to share some of our interesting findings here.

    Background of the study

    Our new research builds on two earlier papers that introduced the course content and pedagogical design of a training program in structured innovation, and then mapped out the  learner’s emotional journey through an experiential training course in business creativity (these findings were published in this previous article on Uncovering the Innovation Learner's Experience.

    To investigate the long-term impacts of innovation training, we contacted 400 former learners via email and social media and collected 53 usable responses. The mean time that had passed since the respondents completed the course in structured innovation training course was 4 years, in spans varying from 1.5 to 11.5 years.

    The respondents were almost equally split between male and female, with ages ranging from 24 to 69 years with a mean of 33. 

    What are some of the findings that we uncovered on the long-term impacts of structured innovation training?

    Finding 1: Structured innovation training can anchor creative confidence and competence

    Taking a well-designed training program in structured innovation improved both learners’ creative confidence (self-belief in one’s creativity) and creative competence (knowledge and skills in the fields of creativity and innovation) in the long run. Almost 80% of the former learners confirmed that they consider themselves to be more creative than their colleagues at work (creative confidence) and to know more about creativity and innovation than their colleagues (creative competence).

    Many comments echoed the notion that “everyone can be creative” and that “you can systematically create creative results using methods and tools”, underlining the themes of creative confidence and competence. One former learner said: “I now truly believe everyone is creative, I look at people around and especially myself very differently. I have a lot more confidence in thinking out of the box and pitching ideas. And with the belief, ideas flow.” Another respondent voiced surprise on “how little other people know about business creativity”.

    Finding 2: Structured innovation training can inspire more creative career paths

    Our data confirmed that being exposed to experiential innovation training encourages roughly half of the learners to pursue careers in creative industries or more creative business functions, or even to start their own creative ventures.

    One former learner said: “I left the corporate world and joined startups in order to be able to create and try different approaches instead of being stuck with corporate compliance”. Others said the training “helped me to launch my startup instead of working in a big company. I work on innovation because of it”, or “inspired me to pursue a career in indie game development where creativity truly thrives”.

    Others said the training helped them to approach their existing job responsibilities more creatively and successfully. One former learner stated the training “has given me a wider perspective and know-how in how to approach creative team building and brainstorm or knowledge accumulation process”.

    Finding 3: An enjoyable learning experience can enhance the recall and application of innovation know-how

    Given that on average four years had passed since the learners took their innovation training, we were pleasantly surprised how well they recalled innovation methods and thinking tools as well as key creative principles taught:

    • Many explicitly remembered X-IDEA, Thinkergy’s innovation process method X-IDEA that formed the structural backbone of the innovation training program: “I remember all the stages of X-IDEA and their significance along with tools used in each stage like jotting down as many ideas as possible on post-its, merging them together to combine ideas, etc.” Others praised X-IDEA’s effectiveness as follows: “A systematic innovation process is always effective when going through an innovation project – hence, a systematic process with a focus on productivity is key”; and “we had our final idea and thought it would not have been even remotely possible to come up with such an idea with the convention thinking process”.
    • Other course graduates recalled and applied the TIPS (Theories, Ideas, People, Systems) profiling method. (“I understand myself more with TIPS and apply it to I work with people”; “My most memorable moment was when we leaned about our TIPS profile and how our type relates to and interacts with others”.)
    • A number of former learners recalled important creative principles, such as moving from idea quantity to idea quality, thereby transforming wild ideas into novel, original and meaningful concepts: “One main insight I gained was never to judge and kill any ideas at the beginning. They can lead to potentially become the big idea.” Others noted that in the context of a structured creative process, a “crazy idea can become a practical one” and that a “wild idea creates innovation”.

    Finding 4: Course application and appreciation is most intensive at the upper and top management levels

    Interestingly, those former learners who now play leading roles in their organizations voiced the highest long-term appreciation of the innovation training’s usefulness and creative effectiveness. While middle managers coordinate teams and work “in the business” with a focus on efficiency and “getting things done”, top-level leaders work more strategically and creatively “on the business”.

    Conclusion: Our findings suggest that an effective training in structured innovation with long-term impact on the learners should follow these course design tips:

    1. Make learning fun, enjoyable and creative (“The course was in a complete different style than any other lecture. The different approach led to a different way of learning and unfolding creative potential”.)
    2. Design “sticky” activities and memorable moments (“fun activities”, “laying flat on floor”, “balloons and paper airplanes”, “the alien game”) into the creative learning journey to aid long-term knowledge recall .
    3. Teach useful knowledge and skills with a focus on practical application. (“The way of X-IDEA was very practical and logical”.)
    4. Build-up and anchor the creative confidence and creative competence of learners through realistic innovation practice cases. (“I’m more creative and I always think out of the box”.)

    Do you want to build-up your creative competence and creative confidence with a structured innovation training?  Do you want to learn more about our systematic innovation method X-IDEA? Or find out what’s your preferred cognitive style and your TIPS innovator profile? Contact us to learn how our team of certified trainers can unbox the thinking of your people with a long-term impact.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 


  • Uncovering the innovation learner’s experience

    What’s going on in the minds of businesspeople who undergo training in business creativity and the use of a structured innovation method? What is their creative learning experience like? How do learners feel as they get trained in innovation?

    Together with my colleague Dr. Brian Hunt, I investigated these questions in a comprehensive research project involving young business professionals learning creativity and applied innovation in a Business Creativity course taught as part of a master in management program at the College of Management, Mahidol University. The findings were presented in a conference paper at the ISPIM (International Society for Professional Innovation Management) Innovation Summit 2016 in Kuala Lumpur. Today, let’s take a peek at some of the interesting results of our research.

    How we researched the innovation learner’s experience

    In our empirical study, Brian and I employed a longitudinal research design to investigate the innovation learner’s experience. We collected data from learners at four points of time during the training program: Immediately before, half-way, three-quarters through, and at the end of the course. We gathered data from six courses with overall 158 learners using a combined quantitative and qualitative survey design, which we then analyzed using descriptive statistics, word cloud technology and qualitative data analysis.

    What’s going on in the learners’ minds as they get trained in innovation?

    Let me introduce the innovation learner’s experience in chronological order by sharing with you what happens in the training program, and what responses the course design elicits in the learners’ minds:

    • With the first survey, we tracked learners’ feelings and expectations right before the start of the first training session. Most learners had no prior exposure to creativity and innovation concepts and tools. How did most learners feel right before the start of their creative learning journey? Positively excited, curious and a bit nervous.
    • All activities in the first half of the training program are designed to build-up creative competence (know-how and creative thinking skills) and creative confidence (belief in one’s creativity). The learners acquire foundational know-how about the concepts of creativity and innovation, gain an understanding of mindsets and routines that limit or fuel their individual creativity, and learn about their preferred cognitive styles and their innovator profile. They also work on a potpourri of creative puzzles, exercises, tests, games and individual homework assignments.
    • From week 4 onwards, I introduce X-IDEA, the awards-winning systematic innovation process method and related toolbox that I’ve created for Thinkergy. In the first stage of X-IDEA, Xploration, participants learn how to thoroughly explore an innovation case in order to gain novel insights and frame their real innovation challenge. Next, in the energetic Ideation stage, they learn how to easily and playfully produce many raw ideas by using creativity tools and following the ground rules of ideation (especially no 1: No killing of ideas).
    • What are the effects of this empowering creative learning regime? Our second survey half-way through the course revealed that the learners felt delighted, happy and creative. They express recognizing and enjoying their creativity. Some said that for the first time in their education, they felt empowered to freely express even unconventional or really wild ideas and opinions without being criticised, which they regarded as liberating.
    • The third quarter of the innovation training program is designed to blend awakened creative energy with a more sober focus on realistic, meaningful outputs and results.
      At this point, the participants get introduced to the more pragmatic final three process stages of X-IDEA. They learn how to design realistic, relevant and meaningful concepts (Development); how to evaluate those concepts —and do rapid prototyping with the most promising ones— to find the top ideas (Evaluation); and how to pitch these top ideas for support and real-life activation (Action stage). In addition, they begin to individually and collectively work on simulated yet realistic innovation project cases (which get scored and graded).
    • How do learners feel at this point? Challenged but motivated by interesting project cases — and in some cases, confused and a bit overwhelmed. The innovation project cases are unlike the usual school assignments, which require learners to work through a clearly defined assignment to produce the one “right” solution on the answer sheet.
      In contrast, innovation cases are usually fuzzy, ill-defined and expansive, with many possible routes to travel and many possible solutions for each possible challenge. Here is a typical learner comment: “It’s very interesting. However, I have to spend a lot of time to think and understand the question. I have to think a lot.” Another related: “It’s quite tough but we’re having a lot of fun.”
    • In the final three weeks of the training program, the learners go through an intensive realistic Ideation & Development workshop with their innovation project case, learn how to evaluate their idea concepts, and finally have to pitch their top ideas in the final Action-stage.
    • How do participants feel at the end of the innovation training program? Creatively accomplished, happy and proud that they have risen to the occasion and successfully created novel, original and meaningful solutions. The overall satisfaction rating with the course is very high, and the learners agree that the training format has noticeably enhanced their creativity and structured thinking capabilities.

    Key take-aways from our research:

    The results of our empirical research led us to five main findings on how to design and improve the innovation learner’s experience:

    1. Creative thinking skills and structured innovation know-how can be effectively taught to and acquired by business professionals in a training program (of ca. 36 hours) that combines theoretical instructions with the practical application of the course contents and creative skills on real-life innovation cases.
    2. The learners confirmed that when working on an innovation case, the use of a structured innovation method and related thinking tools improves the quality of both thinking and outputs.
    3. Most learners appreciate it when they get challenged by ambitious, real-life innovation cases as project assignments; difficult but interesting innovation challenges increase motivation, effort and creativity.
    4. Rising up to and successfully mastering these challenges augments learners’ overall course satisfaction — and contributes to improving their confidence in their creative skills.
    5. A successful creative learning journey in structured innovation resembles an emotional roller-coaster that flows along the four emotional states: learners first feel “positively excited”, then “playfully creative”, then “interestingly challenged”, and finally “creatively accomplished”.

    Curious to live the innovation learner’s experience yourself? Contact us if you want to find out more about our innovation training courses related to X-IDEA and other structured innovation methods.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016.