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The Innovator's Insights

  • How to Hire the Right Talents with TIPS

    Have you ever heard of the expression “put the right man into the right job”? Bet you have. Given the wide popularity of this cliché, we can expect that most companies are doing a good job when hiring the right person for an open position, can’t we? Interestingly, numerous surveys indicate the opposite. Today, let’s explore why talent acquisition is so challenging for most companies, and how the inclusion of a cognitive profiling tool such as TIPS can help you to increase the odds of hiring the right person for the right job.

    Background: The staffing game

    In the TIPS Innovation Profiling Workshop, one game we play with delegates is a staffing game. Whereby, each team has to staff 11 open positions related to innovation. They have 15 candidates (each featured with a short biographical and professional profile) who vie to get hired. For every position, there is one ideal candidate (“the right person for the right job”). Moreover, just like in real life, among the applicants there are also a few “wrong people” (whose profile descriptions are based on famous movie villains).

    At the end of the game, most teams have succeeded in putting at least a few right people into the right job. Typically, they will also have hired one or more of the villains (and often will have even placed the “wrong person into the right job”, thus setting them up for causing maximum damage). Clearly, staffing is important and difficult, which is the key message we want to convey to delegates with the little game. 

    The scope and cost of poor hiring

    We intend our TIPS staffing game to represent reality. So, how do companies perform in hiring or talent acquisition game in real life? Here are a selected few of many sobering statistics on the success ratios and related costs of hiring: 

    • In a 2017 survey by CareerBuilder, three out of four companies admitted to have hired the wrong person for a position. Companies estimated the average loss per poor hire at roughly USD 15,000.
    • Forbes estimates the typical cost of replacing an employee at 21% of their annual salary.
    • According to a study from the National Business Research Institute, two out of three employers reported they experienced negative effects of bad hires in 2016. Putting the “wrong person into the right job” led to a decrease in sales for 10% of these companies, and negatively affected employee morale (37%) and client relationships (18%). 
    • According to the Harvard Business Review, 80% of employee turnover has its roots from bad hiring decisions.

    Given the low success rates of putting the right person into the right job, a cynic may be tempted to recommend a hiring line manager and supporting Human Resources manager to save time and costs and rather flip a coin on the top candidates. This may increase their success ratio. So, is there anything that companies can do to improve their odds of recruiting the right talent for the right job? 

    Yes. Include a cognitive profiling tool (such as Herrmann’s Brain Dominance Instrument or Alan Black’s free MIND Design concept) into the recruitment exercise. Or simply use TIPS.

    What is TIPS? And how can it help you in talent acquisition?

    In our TIPS staffing game, the job descriptions of the 11 vacant positions connect to the 11 TIPS innovator profiles. I based the applicant profile of the “right person” for each “right job” on the personality characteristics and biographical data of a famous real-life innovator (for example, Walt Disney is the ideal fit for the open position that calls for the creative change energy of an Ideator, while the Experimenter profile draws upon Apple’s Chief Designer Jonathan Ive). Of course, I created the job profiles and applicant profiles for the TIPS staffing game on the drawing board, but we would largely employ a similar procedure in a real-life hiring project for a company:  

    • You have job positions that connect to certain profiles in TIPS. 
    • You have candidates who apply for the job.
    • We assign a TIPS profile to each applicant depending on how they answer the TIPS questionnaire. 
    • Because all questions in the TIPS questionnaire connect to the four TIPS bases (Theories, Ideas, People, Systems) and the four TIPS styles (to think, work, interact and live), we gain a lot of data input for detailed follow-up questions that allows us —and you!— to check not only how well the different candidates cognitively fit a particular position, but also how consistently and congruently they have answered. 

    How can you use TIPS to hire the right person?

    Below, I outline a 7-step process on how to include TIPS (or a similar cognitive profiling tool of your choice) as part of your hiring process and toolset:

    1. Describe the open position in detail. For each open position, create a detailed job description that outlines the following: a) Job title or name; b) Role summary; c) Duties & responsibilities; d) Qualifications & skills; e) Decision authority; f) Performance goals and desired target outputs.
    2. Translate each open job position into a compatible TIPS profile. When we consult companies on important hiring projects, we work with the hiring managers to help them figure out the ideal TIPS profile for a particular position. We do this by using a card set with descriptive adjective labels that relate to the different positions and profiles. Apart from a primary target profile, we also identify 2-3 “secondary profiles” that represent good (but not “ideal”) fits.
      For example, suppose you wanted to hire a Finance Manager. Then, you may pick descriptive attribute cards such as  “quantitative”, “analytical” and “controlling”. The ideal TIPS profile to fit this position is a Technocrat, with Systematizers or Theorists being possibles. In contrast, say you needed to recruit a new Creative Director for an Ad Agency. Here, you probably look for someone who is “creative”, “flamboyant” and “expressive”. So, a Promoter would be the best fitting TIPS profile, with Ideators and Partners being acceptable alternatives.
    3. Have all shortlisted candidates take the TIPS online test. Contact Thinkergy or a certified TIPS trainer or coach to order a TIPS online test for each candidate (if you order larger numbers in bulk, you can enjoy a price benefit). After you’ve paid for the test, each candidate gets a test coupon to complete the test. We make sure that just like the candidate, you will receive a copy of their reports with their test results.
    4. Analyze the cognitive job fit of each candidate. Do one or more candidates fully fit the ideal profile identified in step 1? Do some of the applicants profile as one of the secondary profiles? Who doesn’t seem to fit the open position well based on their cognitive profiling test result? 
    5. Consider having a certified TIPS coach take part in the final job interviews. Especially if you have to fill a vacancy in senior management, or plan to recruit a larger number of people, consider inviting a certified TIPS coach to be part of the interview committee. For each candidate, your TIPS coach will do a deeper level analysis of the overall TIPS test results and all individual answers, and use the insights to devise a set of practical questions for the job interview (e.g., “You answered in your TIPS questionnaire that you always plan your work day and tend to stick to what’s scheduled. Can you walk us through a typical workday of yours, and give us some examples?”).
      By paying close attention to the verbal and non-verbal answers to such probing questions, it’s more likely to spot inconsistencies in the way candidates portray themselves in the test, and how they answer when put on the spot in the interview. Thereby, your TIPS coach will also listen for keywords that candidates habitually use, as the different profiles tend to use certain words more frequently than the other profiles.
      This plausibility check can both help you avoid hiring “false positives” (people who pretend to be the right person for the job, but likely have a different cognitive profile in reality than they portrayed themselves to have while answering the online test) and “false negatives” ( i.e., those sociopaths, bullies and tyrants who tend to hide their self-centred, misanthropic and antisocial behaviours in normal interviews, and who 66% of companies in the NBRI study only identified as a bad hire ex post after they had ran havoc on their business). 
    6. Specify the cognitive fit of each candidate to an open position. Finally, your TIPS coach can classify all shortlisted candidates into three categories: “Ideal fits” (candidates who fit the ideal profile and seem to answer coherently and plausibly); “possibles” (secondary TIPS profiles); and “non-fits” (other TIPS profiles — or all candidates with too many implausible, incongruent answers), If desired, your TIPS coach can also rank the candidates in relation to their perceived fit to the open position, or assign them a rating score (say, from 1 to 6).
    7. Finally, decide. At the end of the day, your recruitment committee or senior managers need to make a decision on who to hire. Alongside other factors, such as each candidates’ perceived (a) professional fit(their knowledge, skills and experiences repertoires) and (b) cultural & value fit, the c) cognitive fit is one key decision criteria to consider. If you use a rational decision-making tool (such as the Weighted Scoring Model), each of these criteria would be one line in your decision matrix for which you would need to agree on a proportional weight. Then, each manager involved in the hiring decision would rate each candidate for each decision criteria. Finally, you can compute the “rational choice”. Before you go on and act on the hiring decision, however, ask how everyone involved in the process feels about the choice, thus allowing those with a bad gut feeling about the “optimal” candidate to speak up and voice their concern.

    Conclusion: Include cognitive profiling tests in your talent acquisition efforts

    Using a sophisticated cognitive profiling tool as part of your standard recruitment toolkit can noticeably improve your odds of success in hiring the right person for the right job (so you can use that coin for another purpose than flipping heads and tails on candidates). But does it fully protect you from hiring the “wrong man” for the “right job”? While it doesn’t give you complete certainty, it will make it more likely that you can identify potential bad hires in advance. 

    Imagine that the “Joker” from the Batman movies (who is one of the villains in our TIPS staffing game) applied for a job in your product development team. In TIPS, the Joker would profile as an Ideator, thus making him an ideal fit for product development. So, how can you avoid releasing a series of new “explosive” products into the market in the coming years? Simply involve a certified TIPS coach into the interview process. Have her ask the right probing questions, then listen between the lines for revelations of bad character (for example, when asked for his preferred creative process, someone like the Joker may state that “every act of creation is first an act of destruction”), and you’re more likely to spot those villains in fiction and in real life ahead of time.

    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 us to help you in your talent acquisition efforts in a TIPS consulting project? Contact us to tell us more about how we may help you. 

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2018


  • Who Do You Consider To Be A Creative Leader?

    What creative leaders do you know and admire? What makes them special? Why do you admire them? Take a few minutes to think about these questions.

    At Thinkergy, we often set the scene for a session on creative leadership —or a full-fledged Genius Journey training course— with a little warm-up exercise. We break up the learning cohort into small groups and let them work on the above questions. The exercise and ensuing discussions create curiosity for delegates on how they may further their individual creativity and develop their creative leader potential.

    Would you rate these people as a creative leader?

    In a course in creative leadership, the delegates naturally think first of well-known creative business leaders,such as Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Henry Ford, David Ogilvy, Edwin Land, Charles Kettering, Nikola Tesla, Jeff Bezos, Masaru Ibuka, Akio Morita, Jack Ma, or James Dyson.

    But is the concept of creative leaders limited to business leaders only? How about leaders in other fields, such as science, the arts, in politics and in sports:

    • On almost every list of creative leaders, a few universal geniuses such as Albert Einstein or Leonardo da Vinci feature prominently somewhere close to the top.
    • Other universal and/or scientific geniuses such as Benjamin Franklin, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Aristotle, Isaac Newton, Richard Feynman, Charles Darwin, or Richard Buckminster Fuller are also widely considered to be creative leaders in their field.
    • How about creative leaders, top achievers and geniuses in the creative arts in the widest sense? Would you rate  the painters Pablo Picasso, Salvatore Dali, and Vincent van Gogh as creative leaders? How about the writers William Shakespeare, Mark Twain, George Bernard Shaw, and Ralph Waldo Emerson? Or the musical geniuses Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, and John Lennon? How about the movie directors Alfred Hitchcock, Stephen Spielberg, George Lucas and James Cameron?
    • How about if we consider spiritual or political leaders, too? Do Jesus of Nazareth, Gautama Buddha, or Lao Tze qualify as creative leaders for you? How about famous political leaders such as Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Nelson Mandela?
    • How would you rate outstanding top achievers and kinesthetic geniuses in sports? Would you consider Mohammad Ali or Bruce Lee to be a creative leader?

    If you asked me, I’d loudly say “yes” to all the creative leaders listed above. You may disagree with me in some cases, and that’s fine. It’s all depends on how we define the concept, and we will come back to this point below. But first allow me to share with you what I take away from the little warm-up exercise.

    So what does this exercise teach us about creative leader?

    In the past years, I’ve asked the above questions to workshop participants from different parts of the world. The exercise has provided me with some interesting insights about the concept of a creative leader:

    1. Creative leaders abound in many fields. When working on this exercise, the groups suggest a similar selection of creative leaders from a wide variety of fields. The concept of a creative leader seems to be universally understood and interpreted in a multifaceted way. It is not limited to business leaders only, but also extends to geniuses, top achievers and extraordinary creative leaders in science, the arts, spirituality, politics and in sports.
    2. Creative leaders can be found on all levels all over the world. Most lists also include a few creative leaders that are known only locally, nationally or regionally — such as founders of innovative start-up ventures or creative agencies, renowned artists and entertainers, and the like. Do those people also qualify as creative leaders? Probably yes. Someone who creates extraordinary outputs or creatively influences others in a field at a local, national or regional level can qualify as a creative leader, too. The concept of a creative leader does not require a person to be world famous.
    3. Creative leaders stand out from the crowds through their deeds and their minds. How do people justify why they rate someone to be a creative leader? Typically, they make their case either by pointing to breakthrough ideas or the extraordinary outputs that the creative leader created, or by citing some unusual, “abnormal” creative mindsets that differ from those of normal people. Because they create standout outputs, and because they think and do things differently, creative leaders influence and inspire others to be more creative, too.
    4. Calling someone a creative leader doesn’t make them a creative leader. Do I agree to every person listed as a creative leader? Nope. In some cases, I have my reservations or even openly disagree. For example, while I admire Mark Zuckerberg’s achievements as leader of Facebook, I also take note that the original concept behind his social networking site is rooted in the ConnectU concept from the Winklevoss twins. Moreover, the assessment of why someone qualifies as an authentic creative leader may change over time. In the end, it all depends on how we argue our case, and how we define the concept of a creative leader.

    What is a creative leader?

    At Thinkergy, we define creativity as an idea, product or other concept that is at the same time novel and original and meaningful. This definition ensures that we exclude concepts that are secondhand, copied, and unethical or meaningless.

    A leader is often defined as “a person who leads or commands a group, organization or country”. However, expanding on this narrow view, some define a leader as a “person that holds a dominant or superior position within their field, and is able to exercise a high degree of control or influence over others.”

    Let’s combine both aspects into one definition and define a creative leader as:

    “a person who creates extraordinarily novel, original and meaningful outputs in a particular field, and/or creatively leads or influences others to create novel, original and meaningful outputs.”

    Conclusion

    In many creative leadership sessions that I ran in recent years, I noticed that there seems to be an universal, almost intuitive understanding of what the concept of an authentic creative leader encompasses. Take a look at the people who you listed as creative leaders. Are some of your favorite geniuses and creative leaders on my list? Chances are that we have a couple of exact matches.

    In any case, creative leaders think and act differently. They are courageous and curious, confident and positive, inspiring and passionate, creative and all-embracing, flexible and present, focused and balanced. And because they work and live their lives creatively, they are able to come up with breakthrough ideas and create extraordinary outputs that delight and influence others to follow them in their creative footsteps.

    Do you want to become an authentic creative leader yourself? Then, check out Genius Journey, our creative leadership development method. And consider booking a Genius Journey training for your organization? Contact us to tell us more about we can help you begin your creative leadership journey.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2018


  • How to Boost Work Productivity and Performance with TIPS

    “Stressing output is the key to improving productivity, while looking to increase activity can result in just the opposite”, noted the French post-Impressionist artist Paul Gauguin. Having produced more than 500 paintings in his 55 years of life, Gaugin clearly exemplified output focus at work. How does this compare to what’s going on in modern business? 

    Nowadays, countless businesspeople are frantically busy at work. Sadly, all too many of them forget that busy-ness doesn’t equate with productivity. Productivity is the quantity of output delivered in a certain amount of time (such as an hour, day, week, month or year). At the end of the day, business is about producing tangible results — of creating meaningful outputs that matter and which will make a positive difference. 

    But have you ever noticed that different types of people tend to be good at producing different kind of outputs? For example, salespeople who are good at closing deals are often poor in research. Geeks who first apply emerging new technologies and excel at forecasting trends tend to overlook important details when asked to organize a big event. Today, let’s understand with the help of the TIPS Profile why all of this is the case. 

    So, who is good at producing what kinds of outputs? And what does this all mean for executives charged to enhance productivity and performance?

    What is TIPS? And why can it help increase productivity and performance at work?

    TIPS, Thinkergy’s innovation profiling system, uses the four TIPS bases (theories, ideas, people, systems, which are social attractor fields that energize people’s activities) and the four TIPS styles (to think, work, interact and live) to connect people to one of 11 TIPS profiles (or innovator types). Each TIPS profile has a unique talent combination that allows a person to work well and thrive in certain conducive environments. 

    When your work focus aligns to your natural talents, it is EEE (easy, effortless and enjoyable) for you to produce outstanding work outputs; your excellent productivity and performance results advance both your company and career. If you work in an environment that doesn’t suit your styles and talents, however, work often feels DDD (difficult, drudging, and de-energizing); even if you try very hard to do well, your outputs rarely go above average. 

    So, wouldn’t it be great if you knew which target outputs you should focus on producing to play out your natural talents and perform at your best? And if you’re a manager, wouldn’t it be great to improve productivity and performance by better aligning everyone’s work and output focus? 

    What target outputs should each TIPS profile focus on?

    In the following, I propose a general “output category” that roughly outlines what kind of outputs each of the 11 TIPS profiles is best suited at producing. Then, I give you a few examples of how this can be translated into more concrete, tangible and —ideally— countable work outputs. Let’s explore one by one the primary output categories of each of the 11 TIPS innovator profiles. Thereby, on the TIPS Profiling Map, we move clockwise from top left along the four TIPS bases (Theories, Ideas, People, Systems):

    • Theorists deduce theoretical, scientific and arithmetical outputs.
      Of all the TIPS profiles, Theorists are the best at probing for evidence that reveals the truth. They enjoy verifying and advancing scientific theories; producing related research papers and academic books; writing code for computer programs, tech platforms and apps; creating new mathematical models; conducting complex statistical analysis, computing arithmetic solutions and deducing algorithms, among others. 
    • Conceptualizers conceive abstract, conceptual and forward-thinking outputs.
      Conceptualizers are the best at transforming knowledge into new concepts and applied technologies. They like to come up with new conceptual models, methods and tools; conceive consulting blueprints and related tailored solutions; build big data analysis platforms to unveil deep-level insights; create business plans and new business models; plot out trend maps, strategic road maps, and future scenarios; and the like.
    • Ideators create progressive, innovative and entrepreneurial outputs.
      Among all the TIPS profiles, Ideators are the ones who most relish change. Little wonder that they enjoy creating daring ideas for disruptive new products, services, solutions, experiences and concepts; imagine bold new visions of a more meaningful future; and start and often lead new business initiatives and start-up ventures, among others.
    • Promoters spin communicative, entertaining and inspirational outputs.
      Being charismatic, lively and funny, Promoters are the best to create a buzz for something new — be it a product, a brand, or a new movement or campaign. As such, they relish comping up with fresh brand designs; creative promotional campaigns for both traditional media and modern social media; witty slogans and taglines; attractive marketing brochures and materials; talk-of-the-town PR strategies and activities; blog articles and social media posts; and the like. Moreover, they also love to be on stage to “MC” an event, pitch an idea, or deliver a keynote or a sales presentation, among others.
    • Partners collaborate towards interpersonal, empathetic and deal-oriented outputs.
      Partners are all about other people and relationships. Of all the TIPS profiles, they tend to have the biggest network of contacts and the most harmonious relationships. Hence, they enjoy talking to existing customers in face-to-face meetings or in making phone calls; calling on and converting new prospects; closing a sale or striking a deal, and such like. 
    • Organizers sweat out operational, detail-oriented and serviceable outputs.
      Because they enjoy sweating the small stuff, Organizers are the best at getting things done. They enjoy producing concrete results day-by-day, be it manufactured articles; organized events; resolved customer service cases; processed and shipped orders, and so on.
    • Systematizers plod towards producing systematic, procedural and efficient outputs.
      Systematizers prefer producing outputs that add more structure to the backend of business, ensure procedural efficiency and compliance, and reliable performance of various organizational systems. As such, they focus on outputs like implemented and streamlined backend systems: redesigned business processes: executed compliance checks and reports; compiled rulebooks and compliance documents; performed performance checks and organizational restructuring; written performance reports and project reports, and the like.
    • Technocrats scrutinize information to produce administrative, legal and financial outputs.
      Among all the TIPS profiles, Technocrats most relish digging into and producing accurate financial accounts and reports, comprehensive legal texts, and administrative documents such as manuals, handbooks, administrative guidelines, as well as edited and revised texts of various kinds, among others.
    • Coaches relay philosophical, humanistic and motivational outputs.
      Coaches motivate humans to think, work, interact and live in better, more life-affirming ways. As such, their ultimate outputs are more enlightened human beings that —aligned to their natural talents— are able to better live up to their full potential. Outputs that Coaches produce en route to this noble goal include: motivational books, articles and other writings; personal and corporate value and mission statements; development goals and concrete action plans for individuals and teams; coaching calls and periodic progress assessments; and others.
    • Experimenters tinker with things to produce reconfigured, debugged and (re-)designed outputs.
      Compared to all other profiles, Experimenters have an obsession for taking things apart, to see what’s underneath the shiny surface, to notice bugs or things that can be improved, and then to end up with enhanced designs. So, they tend to come up with improved processes and fine-tuned systems; modified business models; redesigned and locally-adapted products and packagings; sketches, blueprints, mock-ups, and other prototypes; and the like.
    • All-Rounders contribute to a multitude of diverse outputs.  
      Last but not least, All-Rounders are able to work well on whatever project or task ends up on their desks. Their primary talent is doing many things well, although their final outputs may be less intricate than if you assigned the work to a specialist in one of the other TIPS profiles. 

    It goes without saying that the list of specific target outputs for each TIPS profile is indicative only. The range of concrete outputs can vary heavily across a multitude of professions and work roles, business functions, industries and organizational types. So, ask yourself: How can you “translate” these general output categories and indicative output examples to your business and organization? What specific work outputs can you add to this list? And what TIPS profile is probably the best to produce each of those additional outputs? 

    How to better align talent and output focus?

    Regardless of whether you’re managing individual performance for yourself, or as a manager for a team or business unit, or as a (Human Resources) executive for an entire organization, here are a few action tips on how to apply the aforementioned insights to boost productivity and performance of yourself, your people and your organization:

    1. Clarify the tangible work outputs that are connected to a role, business unit, or particular project. 
    2. Get yourself and everyone else in your team or business unit TIPS-ed. Do the TIPS online test to reveal the TIPS profile of yourself and other members of your team. Then, map out and analyse the profile mix in your work team. Finally, think about how to best align yourself and your team for higher productivity.  
    3. Take note of the primary and secondary target output categories of each profile. You’ve already learned that linked to your TIPS profile, you have a primary output category, which outlines those results and outcomes that you’re best at producing compared to other profiles. In addition, you also have at least two secondary output categories where you also tend to produce good outputs. You’ll find these supplementary output foci in the neighboring profiles that connect to your TIPS profile.
    4. Make everyone contribute in their “hotspot” or “sweat spots”. When assigning work tasks and projects as a manager to an individual or team, make sure that the activity fits the primary or one of the secondary output categories of the TIPS profiles of the people involved.  
    5. Clarify and document the desired outputs for each person in a HR performance review meeting. What target outputs do you want each team member to focus on in the year ahead? Are they fully or at least largely aligned to person’s TIPS profile?
    6. Take note of how different output categories run on different time scales. The profiles sitting at the bottom of the TIPS Profiling Map (Partner, Organizer, Systematizer) tend to mostly focus on producing outputs that show a result immediately or in the short-term (such as a day, week or month). For a manager, it’s easy to measure performance and assess progress over the year for these “brawny” workers. In contrast, the ultimate work outputs of those profiles on top of the TIPS Profiling Map (Theorist, Conceptualizer, Ideator) often show only in the medium- to long-term (from a quarter to a few years).
      Why is this? Well, it takes time to conduct outstanding research, develop a new-to-the-world technology, create a disruptive product, or get a new project initiative or start-up venture off the ground. As most corporate performance review cycles are annual, the ultimate results often take time to become noticeable. So, to avoid antagonizing those “brainy” workers, agree on interim performance and milestone outputs to assess the relative progress towards achieving the desired long-term target output.

    Do you want to learn more about TIPS Innovation Profiles? Would you like find out more about our TIPS training for your organization? Or would you like us to help you in a TIPS consulting project to define output categories for your organization, and then align your people to those categories that allow them to perform well? Contact us to tell us more about your needs, and we’re happy to help. 

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2018

  • How to Scrutinize Popular Cognitive Profiling Methods (Part 2)

    Part 1 of this two-article episode introduced you to a variety of well-known personality tests or cognitive profiling methods. You may have already heard of —or even been tested in— tools such as Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), Herrmann’s Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI), DISC or the Enneagram. In today’s part 2, allow me to share how to scrutinize the underlying conceptual constructs and design architecture of a cognitive profiling method by answering the following questions: What conceptual features do almost all of these methods have in common? What shortcomings did I notice in many of the profiling tools that I tested? 

    In general, cognitive profiling methods add value because they allow us to learn more about ourselves and other people at work. Unfortunately, most traditional methods are only to a limited extent able to provide insights on how everyone can contribute to an organization’s innovation efforts, as I discovered while hunting for years for a suitable cognitive profiling tool to support the people-side of innovation. This is because most methods that I investigated suffer from one or more common methodological shortcomings. In the end, thinking about how to fix these perceived “bugs” led me to come up with a new cognitive profiling method for innovation: TIPS, Thinkergy’s Innovator Profiling System.

    What are common design features of most cognitive profiling concepts?

    Most cognitive profiling concepts share a set of common design features as follows: 

    • Use of dimensions: Most tools use between one and four dimensions to capture differences in personal styles. These theoretical constructs typically relate to particular cognitive or psychological theories. For example, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) uses four “preferences” linked to Carl Jung’s psychological theories to profile people; Herrmann’s Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) draws upon brain theories to profile people using two dimensions mapped out in a four-by-four matrix; and Kirton’s Adaption-Innovation Inventory (KAI) falls back on his own theory to profile people using a one-dimensional construct. 
    • Use of a questionnaire to measure differences: All concepts capture individual differences by asking people to complete a profiling questionnaire. While the questionnaire design varies based on the overall architecture of each concept, a popular modus operandi is a four-box forced-choice questionnaire (e.g., DISC, M.I.N.D.). 
    • Numerical scoring of profiling results: After completing the questionnaire, most methods present the results in the form of numerical test scores (e.g., M Score of 0 + I Score of 11 + N Score of 0 + D Score of 1 = 12 is a sample result that I got after doing Black’s M.I.N.D. Design concept).
    • Use of a profiling map or table: The numerical test scores are often visualized in a profiling map and/or profiling matrix (e.g., HBDI, Wealth Dynamics). 
    • Assignment of profile types: Some but not all concepts assign distinct profile types to a person based on the test results. At times, these profiles carry an abstract and technical label (e.g., ENTP is one of sixteen profile types of MBTI that I mostly was assigned as a test result); at other times, they use descriptive names that relate to well-known professional roles (e.g., the supervisor and the architect are two of sixteen profile labels of Keirsey’s KTS). The number of profile types of concepts I came across varies between two and forty-nine in those concepts I got myself tested in. 

    What are common shortcomings of many cognitive profiling concepts?

    By testing a great variety of different cognitive profiling tools over almost a decade, I also noticed certain shortcomings, perceptual blindspots and application delivery gaps that got me thinking about how to fix these perceived suboptimal, missing or even “wrong” elements. So what are some of these suboptimal things I noticed? 

    1. Varying and limited number of construct dimensions:
      What is the best number of dimensions or theoretical constructs needed to adequately profile a person? While MBTI and KTS use four dimensions, many concepts suffice with only two-dimensional (WD, HBDI, MIND, Insights Discovery) or even one-dimensional constructs (KAI). Concepts with few dimensions emphasize certain aspects of personal style, but tend to neglect other facets relevant for business and innovation. Interestingly, for a few profiling concepts (including some popular ones that I won’t name), I was unable to understand their methodological design architecture and discern the underlying theoretical constructs. 
    2. Binary design of constructs:
      Many profiling tools interpret the test scores for a cognitive construct as an “either-or” result. For example, in MBTI, you ultimately come out as either an extravert or introvert. But could there be people who are both? Yes, I am one of them, and depending on the contextual situation and the required task at hand, I am as energized running a full-day innovation event in front of a large crowd as spending a day at my desk writing an article or a chapter of a book. Moreover, depending on the test version, I tend to come out more often as an Extravert, but at other times get profiled as an introvert.
    3. Profile allocation even in cases of nearly identical scores:
      In many profiling methods such as MBTI, you’re assigned a profile even when there are only tiny score differences for one or more tested dimensions. Suppose your test results in MBTI would be Extraversion vs. Introversion 51-49, iNtuition vs. Sensing 51-49, Thinking vs. Feeling 51-49 and Judging vs. Perceiving 51-49. In this case, MBTI assigns you a personality type (ENTJ), and that’s how everyone familiar with the method will look at you from now onwards. However, had 2-3 questions been formulated in a slightly different way, or had you not “overthought” your answers, you might have come out as an INFP instead. Of course, this problem is amplified if the expressions for two, three or even all four expressions are identical, making it difficult to classify such a balanced person within one of the 16 MBTI-profile “boxes” with confidence. 
    4. Too many or too few profiling questions:
      What is a fair number of questions to reliably measure the surveyed variables and to adequately profile a candidate? Here the art is to strike a right balance between time effectiveness of taking the test, and the accuracy of its result. While many candidates appreciate how quickly they can complete a short survey, some object that a short questionnaire is inadequate to capture sufficient aspects of their personal style — and vice versa in the case of a long questionnaire. Questions vary in number from as few as nine (M.I.N.D.) to more than a hundred (HBTI, some versions of MBTI).
    5. Too many or too few profiles:
      Suppose you’re a team manager using a cognitive profiling concept to capture the different personalities of your subordinates. Would you prefer to have no profiling types at all and having to recall the test scores only? Probably not. So we agree that having profiles is useful. But what is the best number of profiles to provide sufficient distinctions in style differences without overwhelming users? Are two profile types (KAI) or four profile types (Foresight) adequate to capture sufficient differences in style? Can you easily remember how sixteen profiles (MBTI, KTS) differ from each other? Here, eight to ten profiles seem to be a good number to strike a balance between offering diversity and avoiding over-complexity. 
    6. No descriptive profile labels:
      What do we call someone with a certain cognitive test score? Some profiling concepts (e.g., HBDI, MIND.) give candidates profile scores and detailed descriptions, but don’t use catchy names to describe a profile. Although the profile letters have become technical labels for trained insiders, MBTI suffers from this phenomenon, too. KTS resolved this problem by designating a more descriptive name related to well-known professional roles to each MBTI letter label. Laypeople shrug on hearing that I am an ENTP, but nod their heads when learning this means I am an innovator.
    7. No follow-up application suggestions:
      While providing detailed descriptions of a resulting profile, a number of concepts don’t offer enough concrete follow-up action recommendations to answer the questions: “So what? How to use a particular profiling result to make meaning? Specifically, how to use this result to better perform in business in general and with innovation in particular?” 
    8. No consideration of the dynamic and cyclical nature of business:
      Like many natural phenomena, most parameters in business (e.g., products, technologies, industries, and economies) pass through cyclical wave patterns. For example, Vernon’s product life cycle concept suggests that successful products go through the phases of introduction, growth, maturity and decline. With the exception of Hamilton’s Wealth Dynamics concept (and later on my own concept TIPS), I came across no other profiling method that entertained the idea that certain personality profiles are more suited to lead an organization through different phases of the life cycle of a venture or a product.

    How does TIPS conceptually cure these perceived ills?

    Let’s go through the eight problematic areas identified above one by one, and allow me to explain how TIPS aims to improve on the perceived shortcomings of other profiling methods.

    1. Elegant, enhanced design architecture:
      TIPS uses an elegant multi-layered design architecture that employs five theoretical constructs: the four TIPS styles (to think, work, interact and live) and the TIPS bases (Theories, Ideas, People, Systems). Together, they feed the TIPS questionnaire and span the TIPS profiling map.
    2. Trinary construct design:
      TIPS uses a trinary interpretation of the cognitive styles, meaning you prefer either this style expression or the other, or equally enjoy drawing on both. For example, in my interaction style, I prefer to communicate and make a case using both fact and feeling (and not just one of these style expressions).
    3. Own neutral profile type for close cases:
      TIPS assigns a neutral profile, the All-Rounder, to balanced profiling results where the test scores for three or even all four dimensions are near-identical. So we avoid the problem to “lock someone into a potentially wrong profile box” because of a tiny score difference.
    4. Adequate number of profiling questions:
      With 60 profiling questions, TIPS aims for the middle ground between high accuracy and complexity on one hand and time-effectiveness and simplicity on the other. As we gather more data over time, we aim to reduce the number of profiling questions to 50 or even 40 without losing accuracy (with the help of certain statistical procedures such as factor analysis).
    5. Handy number of profiles:
      TIPS proposes 10+1 profile types. So if you can recall the eleven players of a football (or soccer) team, you’ll also will be able to recall all the TIPS profiles. (By the way, the 11th “special” profile is that of the All-Rounder, see above).
    6. Business-oriented profile names:
      TIPS uses business-related role names to capture the essence of its 10+1 profile types (all labeled with business-related role names). Do you get a rough idea what a person is all about if you hear she is either a Theorist, Ideator, Partner, Systematizer, Conceptualizer, Promoter, Organizer, Technocrat or All-Rounder?
    7. Lots of applications to business and innovation:
      I created TIPS with the intent to help companies to better deal with the people side of innovation. As such, TIPS can give answer to questions such as:
      • What’s my style to innovate?
      • How can I best contribute to the innovation-efforts of a firm in line with my natural talents and preferred styles?
      • Should I rather lead or create innovation at the front, or manage and administer from behind?
      • At what process stages of an innovation project can I add most value with my cognitive styles?
      • What innovation types are closest to my natural interests?
      • What is my typical response to creative change in our organization?
      • What is my potential to be developed into a creative leader for the innovation economy?
      • Who are the profile types who make game-changing innovations happen?
        In addition, TIPS also offers a wide range of business applications, such as:
      • How to hire the most suitable candidate for a position?
      • How to better align the members of a work team to produce better results and higher work satisfaction?
      • How to use my talent in the most conducive work ecosystem?
      • How to manage people in line with their cognitive style?
      • How to understand and mitigate conflict at work?
    8. Reflection of the dynamic, cyclical nature of business:
      Theoretically grounded in constructs from social science and evolutionary economics, the theoretical construct of the TIPS bases allows TIPS to describe how the different TIPS profiles influence performance as a product or a venture moves through the business cycle. The TIPS bases connect two concepts from evolutionary economics, Kontratiev’s long waves and Schumpeter’s concept of creative destruction, which can explain how technological and social change gradually unfolds over longer periods of time.

    Conclusion

    Methods to profile people’s personality and cognitive styles potentially have a wide range of applications in business and innovation. They can be useful for individuals and organizations alike, provided they:

    • paint an accurate picture of the preferred cognitive style and psychological make-up of a person (Who am I? Who are they?), and then 
    • transfer these novel insights into meaningful action recommendations (So what? How to turn this heightened awareness of self and others into tangible results and meaningful contributions? How to make better use of a person’s unique talents and styles?).

    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

  • 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

  • How to Effectively and Creatively Develop Creative Leaders?

    To what extent can businesspeople be developed into creative leaders through a structured creative leadership development method and a related experiential course pedagogy? And how can we verify if the chosen approach is valid both regarding its methodological contents and its pedagogical delivery? Together with my colleagues Brian Hunt and Xavier Parisot (IKI-SEA, Bangkok University), I investigated these research-guiding questions for a new research study titled “Creatively Developing Creative Leaders: Learners’ Feedback on Methodology and Pedagogy.” Earlier this week, I presented our findings at the International Society for Professional Innovation Management (ISPIM)’s Conference 2018 in Stockholm. So what is our paper about, and what findings did we uncover?

    The dawn of creative leadership

    In IBM’s Global CEO Study 2010, CEOs of the world’s leading organizations named creativity as the most important leadership skill to master in times of complexity, disruption and rapid change. When one year later, IBM conducted a follow-up study with the Chief Human Resources Officers of the same corporations, they were surprised to discover that two out of three CHROs acknowledged they had no idea on how to develop creative leaders. IBM attributed this finding to the fact that traditional leadership development programs fail in developing creative leaders. Why? IBM suggested that “The learning initiatives that enable this objective {i.e., developing creative leaders] must be at least as creative as the leaders they seek to foster”. This intriguing insight inspired our research: How can we develop creative leaders in ways that are both effective and —especially— creative?

    Enter Genius Journey: A new creative leadership method

    Genius Journey is a comparatively new creative leadership development method that I’ve created for Thinkergy. The method aims to develop creative leaders by sending participants on a journey to visit ten plus one destination stops. At each stop of the journey, candidates learn about one disempowering mindset that stops them, limits them and keeps them thinking inside the box; and they also learn about a corresponding empowering mindset that unboxes their thinking and allows them to reconnect to their inner genius.

    As such, Genius Journey uses a powerful creative strategy (a metaphor) to help candidates move towards higher levels of creativity and consciousness: “Acquiring the success mindsets and routines of genius leaders is like traveling a journey.” But is this creative approach also effective? With our research, we sought learners’ views on both the methodology and pedagogy of Genius Journey.

    Background and research design of our study

    Our new empirical study builds on two earlier research papers: The first one introduced Genius Journey as a new creative leadership method; thereafter, a second paper outlined the contents and pedagogical design of the related creative leadership development program. 

    In order to investigate learners’ views on the efficacy and creativity of the Genius Journey program, we surveyed two cohorts of learners at the end of a 12-week long training program in creative leadership. The program was offered as an elective course as part of a master in management program at a university in Bangkok, Thailand. The learners were largely business professionals in the age range mid-twenties to mid-thirties from Thailand (54%) and a mix of eight European countries (46%). We collected opinions on the course methodology and pedagogy from 41 learners. 

    Our survey gathered data following a combined quantitative and qualitative approach: We captured the creative leader candidates’ agreement to specific statements using 7-point Likert-scales, and also asked open-ended questions concerning the learner’s perception on the applied methodology and pedagogy. Apart from analyzing the quantitative data using descriptive statistics, we also extracted key themes from the qualitative answers. 

    What are some of the findings that we were able to uncover relating to the efficacy and creativity of both the program’s methodology and pedagogy?

    Findings 1: Learners’ feedback on the efficacy and value of the methodology

    The chart below shows how the surveyed creative leader candidates assessed the value provided by the Genius Journey method, as well as their level of enjoyment of experiencing this journey: 82.9% of learners (very) strongly agreed that the Genius Journey methodology provides value (mean: 6.26 of 7), and three in four candidates (very) strongly enjoyed it (mean: 5.98]).

    Learners comments were: “It’s a great course. It trains people step-by-step to discover their potential and be creative”, noted one, and another added: “I do enjoy the way we learn and focusing on how to be a great thinker and doer! I enjoy the knowledge, methods and tools that are surrounded in daily life, but we never realize its potential before until I have learned this class.”  Another learner commented at the end of the course: “I felt great. I am glad I enrolled in the course, I personally interested in self-development and biography of successful people. This course has been designed in such a way to respond to my self-development step by step.”

    Interestingly, the candidates consider all mindsets of the Genius Journey method to be critical for creative leaders. At the same time, they acknowledge how challenging it is to replace individually limiting mindsets with empowering ones. “I do enjoy the way we learn and focusing on how to be a great thinker and doer! I enjoy the knowledge, methods and tools that are surrounded in daily life, but we never realize its potential before until I have learned in this class.”

    Findings 2: The Genius Journey pedagogy works — and can be optimized

    One key aim of this exploratory study was to better understand from a pedagogical point of view how to develop creative leaders both effectively and creatively. For this reason, we asked learners for detailed feedback on various pedagogical tools used in the Genius Journey program. So how did the learners assess the value provided by each pedagogical tool, and to what extent did they enjoy it?


    Genius Exercises: At each stop of the Genius Journey, the creative leader candidates come into contact with 8 Genius Exercises. These are practiced as in-class activities, in-the-field activities, and/or homework activities. Many learners pointed out that they loved the action-oriented activities related to these Genius Exercises (both in-class and outdoors). For example, one learner commented: “I love so many activities from this course. I do love out-of-class activities.” Another one added: “The outdoor class, it is not boring and make this class so different. Each special place put an anchor to my memory.”

    Interestingly, however,  while acknowledging the value and importance of these exercises to cultivate a creative mindset, many learners felt less enthusiastic of the reflective “homework” part. This finding allowed us to design an optimized action flow for the Genius Exercises in line with David Kolb’s experiential learning cycle theory.

    Buddy Coaching (& peer feedback): During the course, every participant was assigned a “buddy” with whom to review the course contents and Genius Exercises and have peer-level feedback and coaching sessions. Interestingly, learners opinions on the value and level of enjoyment of Buddy Coaching was highly varied based on the perceived quality, maturity and diligence of one’s buddy, as well as a mutual fit of personalities. Generally, however, candidates appreciated this approach provided they had a responsible, diligent buddy. So, to ensure a high quality of “buddy-ness”, a program facilitator has to review the results of each buddy pair on a regular basis to give immediate feedback to those individuals who slack; an even better buddy for those creative leader candidates with budgets to pay for this is to hire a certified professional coach as their buddy. 

    Genius Journey Media (Slides, Handout, Check-in Audit): The saying “You eat with your eyes” doesn’t only hold true for the world of fine dining, but also for creative leadership programs. Learners confirm that they enjoy if the course media in their creative leadership programs not only consist of valuable contents, but are also present in creative, artistic and aesthetically pleasing visual formats. Learners commented in this context: “I enjoyed the visually stimulating and inspiring slides”; “All tools and media are so useful to help in better understanding”; “The handout / exercise / presentation was attractive and very useful. Most of them are very nice, I really want it.” 

    Genius Leader Presentation: During the course, all learners had to self-study one creative leader of their own choice using biographical sources, and then to portray their “genius mentor” in a presentation and report to all other participants. Thereby, they were also asked to look for evidence that (dis-) confirms the creative mindsets of the Genius Journey methodology. Over 80% of learners (very) strongly valued these creative leader studies and pitch presentation, as these portraits animate and authenticate the Genius Journey method. Moreover, notwithstanding the significant work related to the self-study and portrait composition —and for some also the need to get out of their comfort zone in the presentations— almost 70% of candidates (very) strongly enjoyed these pedagogical features. One learner commented: “I enjoy the creative leaders portrait. I think it’s the best way to see and realize that the tools and methods used in the class is practical learning through lives is important.” 

    Other creative pedagogical tools that most learners also approved of were the Creative Puzzles, the Check-in Audit, and the Course Review Games & Toys. 

    Findings 3: So is the Genius Journey program both effective and creative?

    An idea or product is deemed creative if it is at the same time novel, original and valuable. Our study reveals that not only did learners confirm the value of the Genius Journey methodology (as outlined before), but also affirmed the other criteria of creativity. When asked what they liked about the course, learners commented: “The originality of teaching: that was just great!”; and “The unique non-formal class experience with surprises and activities.” Another learner elaborated in greater detail: “It is a completely different course in terms of the teaching method. It is a course to make you aware of things you have inside but you don’t realize you have them yet. And it is a course where, even if there is a therapy, you are not passive but you are an actor, which is highly enjoyable.”

    While the journey metaphor is clearly creative, is it also effective in developing creative leaders? Here is what one learner commented in this context: “It’s a great course. It trains people step-by-step to discover potential and be creative”; another echoes this sentiment: “I felt great. I am glad I enrolled in the course, I personally interested in self-development and biography of successful people. This course has been designed in such a way to respond to my self-development step by step”; and a third noted: “I am very happy and enjoy with this course. I can know myself more after I walk along with the Genius Journey Method”.

    Findings 4: Impacts of the Genius Journey program on creative leader candidates’ creative confidence

    Can a well-structured creative leadership program that is both effective and creative boost both learners’ creative confidence (i.e., the self-belief in one’s creativity) and creative competence (i.e., knowledge and skills in the fields of creativity and innovation)? YES. 

    Almost all learners (very) strongly agreed with Einstein’s comment of a “genius in all of us” (mean: 6.68) and acknowledged their own genius potential (mean: 6.44). For example, when asked for their greatest insight gained from the program, one candidate responded: “I am a genius! I can do everything just only I believe in myself.” Another learner added: “It’s a great course. It trains people step-by-step to discover their potential and be creative”. “It helps you know how to think ‘out of the box’ systematically. It helps you explore your inner potential, and you will find yourself to be more powerful than you ever think of. And you will find that you can be a genius.” Yet another learner noted: “Dr. Detlef’s Genius Journey has modeled me into becoming a much better and productive all-round person.”

    One commented on her feelings at the end of the course as follows: “I feel like I was about to start a new chapter of my life. I learned important things and lessons. I have more faith in me and my skills. And like we make wishes at New Year’s Eve, I am very excited to apply the lessons I have learned and pursue the journey to discover where it could lead.” Yet another candidate summed-up his feelings as follows: “(1) Motivated to start a great business in future. (2) Confident: I have now a lot of concrete methods to find innovation and to develop them. (3) Inspired: because aware I have opportunities to make this work better through responsible business.”

    At the same time, agreement to the statements “I am highly creative” and “I consider myself to be a leader” are noticeably lower (mean scores: 5.38 and 5.27), indicating that the learners have also gained greater self-awareness of where they are now when compared to outstanding creative leaders and top achievers.

    Conclusion: Creative leaders can be made

    We summarize the five main take-aways from our research as follows:

    1. Creative leaders can be developed in a program employing a structured, effective methodology animated through a mix of truly creative pedagogical formats.
    2. Candidates consider all mindsets of the Genius Journey method to be important for creative leaders, while acknowledging the challenge to replace individually limiting mindsets with empowering ones. 
    3. Creative leadership isn’t a quick-fix training program, rather it requires time for action and reflection that encourages mindset transformation and consciousness expansion to become a creative leader. 
    4. Learners pointed out what pedagogical tools for creative leadership development they deem either valuable or enjoyable, or both. 
    5. We concur with Kolb that active experimentation and self-reflective observation are key components of successful learning;  learners’ feedback on the pedagogical tools  used in Genius Journey allow me to  optimize the program and method delivery in line with Kolb’s experiential learning cycle..

    Have you become interested to learn how to become a creative leader in the innovation economy yourself? Then contact us to find out more about our respective Genius Journey Training courses.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2018

  • Fresh Innovation Lessons from the Football World Cup

    The 21st FIFA World Cup has kicked-off in Russia. As the most widely-viewed sporting event in the world, the Football World Cup delights the lives of football fans around the globe for four weeks — mine included. While reading articles on the upcoming World Cup, I came across a range of football quotations that made me smile and realize: Succeeding in the FIFA World Cup with a national team is like successfully mastering an innovation project with your innovation team. Here are 15 football quotes — and my thoughts on how they connect to an innovation project.

    #1

    “Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that.”
    Bill Shankly, Scottish football player and manager of Liverpool FC

    “Innovate or die!” In the past decade, self-proclaimed innovation experts and consultants used this slogan to scare people into doing business with them. With the advent of the innovation economy and the imminent digital tsunami on the horizon, I couldn’t help thinking how serious a matter innovation and digital transformation is for individuals, companies and countries alike. Maybe Bill Shankly’s famous football quote applies to innovation, too?

    #2

    “I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered.”
    George Best, Northern Irish celebrity footballer with Manchester United

    Many companies spend money on symbolic innovation activities or quick-fixes to give the outer world the appearance that they’re innovative. But just like the glamorous winger and ‘bad boy’ George Best was left with nothing to show for it at the end of his career, so do these companies who’ve squandered their innovation budgets on low value activities. In contrast, smart companies strategically invest their budgets in innovation methods and projects that allow them to develop sustainable internal innovation processes, to empower their creative people, and thus to gradually build-up a culture of innovation in-house.

    #3

    “Aim for the sky and you’ll reach the ceiling. Aim for the ceiling and you’ll stay on the floor.”
    —Bill Shankly

    A football team that solely aims to advance to the second round is unlikely to make it to the final. It’s similar for teams working on an innovation project: Aim low, and the best you can hope for are some incremental improvements of your existing products. So, before you start a new innovation project, better aim high: a revolutionary innovation. With hard work and a bit of luck, you may end up producing a game-changing, disruptive innovation — and if not, you’re likely to come up with a few evolutionary innovations that help you to reach new customers with your existing products, or to offer new value propositions to your existing customers.

    #4

    “Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It’s a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”
    David Beckham, English celebrity footballer and fashion icon

    Every young footballer dreams of winning the World Cup for their country. Given the millions of players around the world, achieving this goal is almost an impossible feat. And yet, in a few weeks’ time, some players will again make this impossible dream possible. Creating a bold, disruptive innovation is making the impossible possible, too. Most of mankind’s greatest creations were once called impossible by the majority of people. What impossible new creations would you be excited to create and make possible with your innovation team?

    #5

     “The ball is round, the game lasts ninety minutes, and everything else is just theory.”
    Sepp Herberger, German World-Cup winning coach

    Before the start of a game, football commentators and pundits tend to theorize about who is going to win each game, and why. While a few of these experts were former players with successful careers, many were not. It’s just the same in innovation: many consultants, academics and Innovation experts talk about innovation in theory without having extensive practical experience as “active innovation players”.  But in the end, in both football and innovation, “the truth is found on the pitch” (as the German football coach Otto Rehhagel put it) — based on the performance and the tangible results a team produces.

    #6

    “Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.”
    Pelé, Brazilian 3-times winner of the World Cup and world record-holding goal scorer (1,281 goals in 1,363 games)

    What’s true in becoming a World Cup-winning football star is true for becoming a world-class innovator: You need to be deeply passionate about what you do and the thing you want to innovate, so that you’re willing to put in long hours of work and learning that are needed to create an innovation that wows the world. The Argentinian World Cup winner Diego Maradona reiterates this message as follows: “When people succeed, it is because of hard work. Luck has nothing to do with success.”

    #7

    “The trouble with referees is that they know the rules, but they don’t know the game.”
    —Bill Shankly

    While facilitating innovation projects at Thinkergy, we regularly encounter senior managers who are eager to observe and “referee” the activities and give instructions to the players (i.e., innovation facilitators and project team members). While these executives may have read a book or two on innovation, they typically have never actively participated in an innovation project as “players” and hence don’t really know the “innovation game” in practice.  But what can I say? As a player, you have to acknowledge the referee…

    #8

    “I am constantly being asked about individuals. The only way to win is as a team. Football is not about one or two or three star players.”
    —Pelé

    Innovation in the 21st century is a team sport just as football is. The world’s most innovative companies win in the innovation game not because of a few more widely known top players (such as designer Jonathan Ive and marketer Phil Schiller at Apple). They win because many less celebrated players dedicate their talents, smarts and efforts to the firm’s innovation success. Just as the World Cup is often won by the best team effort, so the performance of the team brings out innovations that wow the world.

    #9

    “Choose the best player for every position, and you’ll end up not with a strong XI, but with 11 strong 1’s.”
    Johan Cruyff, Dutch striker and coach, World Cup-runner up

    In a football team, different players shine in certain positions. Likewise, a successful innovation team requires a mix of diverse talents, experiences and cognitive styles, too. An innovation team needs a player who easily spots trends, a striker who shoots out many original ideas, a defender who tells you what’s wrong with an idea, and a forward who can convincingly pitch a top idea to critical supporters. Consider using a cognitive profiling method (such as Thinkergy’s TIPS) to learn more about the preferred cognitive styles and talents of your people. Then, fielding the right player on the right position in your innovation team becomes easy-peasy.

    #10

    “The football game is ritual hunting, stylized combat and symbolic events.”
    Desmond Morris, English ethologist and author

    At Thinkergy, we prefer to design our innovation project workshops as an energetic experience in line with Morrls’ description of a football game. We invite wanna-be innovators to approach a project with the mindset of a hunter, not a farmer. That’s why we ask the teams to first thoroughly explore the terrain (aka their project case) and hunt for new trends and insights to understand what game they really should aim for, and only then to develop ideas and concepts for their real challenge. Thereby, we have the teams compete with each other to win a particular process stage in X-IDEA (based on the quantity and/or quality of outputs produced), and also engage them in short symbolic games to keep the fun and energy levels up high throughout a long, tiring workshop week. 

    #11

    “If you’re in the penalty area and don’t know what to do with the ball, put it in the net and we’ll discuss the options later.”
    Bob Paisley, English footballer and manager of Liverpool FC

    In modern football, each game is analyzed using many metrics (such as possession, distance run, or number of successful passes). In the end, however, only one metric matters: goals. The team that scores most goals in a football game wins — no wonder that Bob Paisley reminded his strikers to solely focus on scoring goals. 

    In an innovation project, a team wins the game by focusing on producing one or more top ideas that are then activated and turned into a tangible innovation. But in order to get there, we also keep track of other output metrics  (such as insights, raw ideas, concepts, etc.) to ensure project success.

    #12

    “Rugby is a different game. There is an interruption every two minutes also in American football. Our soccer is a moving game: play, play, play, move, move – you don’t interrupt.”
    Franz Beckenbauer, German World Cup winner as both a player and coach

    In the creative process stages of an innovation project (especially during Ideation), it’s important to engage in fluent creative thinking: It’s just like play, play, play in football: Write down one idea, then another one, followed by a third one, and so on. Don’t interrupt your creative flow by judging an idea as impractical or nonsensical! When we think creatively, we play a fluid game like football — and not Rugby or American football, where many breaks and interventions interrupt the game flow.

    #13

    “The World Cup is a very complicated tournament —six games, seven if you make it to the final— and maybe if you lose one game you’re out, even if you’re the best.”
    —Pelé

    An innovation project resembles the tournament structure of the World Cup: A team has to pass through a series of process stages of an innovation method; and like at the World Cup, you need to do well in —and ideally win— every “game” to win the “tournament”. if a team produces poor results at one process stage, it’s essentially “game over” — as the team will carry the poor results forward and will ultimately produce poor top ideas (due to the GIGO principle, “Garbage in, garbage out.”).

    #14

    “Football is simple, but it is difficult to play simple.”
    —Johan Cruyff

    Often, the most beautiful designs and most innovative products emphasize a few essential features that really matter in a simple way that is almost Zen-like. Unfortunately, many innovation teams do the opposite while working on an innovation project. They tend to make things more complex and complicating by adding many additional functions that are superfluous. (a phenomenon known as feature creep”). So, focus on making meaning, but keep things simple.  Remember how simply Sepp Herberger described the essence of football: “The round m

    #15

    Last but not least: 

    “Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win.”
    Gary Lineker, England’s top striker at World Cups and football pundit

    I am not sure what national team you’re going to support in the coming weeks, but I wish you many enjoyable hours of cheering for your team. But please forgive me that as a German, I hope that Gary Lineker will be right once again. And isn’t innovation a bit like football? Many play the game, but at least for a certain period of time, it’s the same few players (aka innovators) and teams (innovative companies) who win in the end.

    Have you become interested to play the innovation game yourself, and go through an innovation project with your team? Then contact us to find out how we may help you win your innovation game with the help of our awards-winning innovation method X-IDEA.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2018

  • What Consciousness Level Do You Operate On?

    Nowadays, most companies embrace personality tests and cognitive profiling methods as a tool to learn more about their people. Clearly, there is no shortage of such profiling tests that range from classic typologies (such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) or the DISC concept) over more cognitively-inclined tools (such as Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument [HBDI] or Alan Black’s MIND Design Concept) to more recent additions such as Insights Discovery or TIPS (Thinkergy’s Innovation Profiling System). But have you ever encountered a person with the same cognitive profile as you who nevertheless approached life in very different ways? While some of these differences may go back to a different social, cultural, educational, professional and/or generational background, they are frequently due to a factor that is greatly overlooked by business: consciousness.

    What does consciousness mean?

    Consciousness can be defined as the state of being aware of one’s surroundings, or one’s perception of something or a person, or the fact of awareness by the mind of itself and the world. In other words, to be conscious means to operate at a certain level of observing awareness and a certain degree of freedom of choice when thinking, feeling, sensing and interacting with people and the environment. 

    Highly conscious people have greater levels of observing awareness. This allows them to be less automatic in their response to situations they encounter, and to rather make an intentional choice how to think about and act upon what’s going on around them and within them. As such, they are able to observe both their outer and inner worlds with detachment, and to “simply be” (as opposed to always having to do something).

    Conceptualising the levels of consciousness (1): Hawkins' Map of Consciousness

    In 1995, the US philosopher and consciousness researcher David R. Hawkins published his book Power vs. Force: An Anatomy of Consciousness. In his book, Hawkins introduced a scale of expanding levels of consciousness that he calibrated using the methods of muscle testing and kinesiology. These consciousness levels are positioned on an exponential scale ranging from zero to one thousand. On his resulting Consciousness Map, Hawkins differentiates eight life-suppressing and nine life-supporting levels of consciousness characterized by the related emotional state or mindset that predominantly underlies a person’s behavior:

    • Presented in accelerating order, the life-suppressing emotional states are shame, guilt, apathy, grief, fear, desire, anger, and pride. All of these negative states calibrate below 200, which is the threshold to the positive consciousness levels.
    • Courage is the first of the live-supporting mindsets at the entry level of 200, followed by neutrality (250), willingness (310), acceptance (350), reason (400), love (500), joy (540), peace (600), and enlightenment (700-1000). 

    According to Hawkins’ observations, 85% of the world’s population lives on the life-suppressing, negative levels of consciousness below 200. Given so much negativity, why hasn’t humanity already destroyed our civilization? Hawkins suggests that the positivity of people operating on higher consciousness levels counterbalances the negativity of thousands or even millions of other people. This explains why Mahatma Gandhi (whom Hawkins calibrated at 760) was able to convince more than a hundred million people to follow his philosophy of non-violent resistance to end the British colonial rule in India.

    Conceptualising the levels of consciousness (2): Spiral Dynamics

    Spiral Dynamics by Don Edward Beck and Chris Cowan is another theoretical concept to explain different human development states (or levels of consciousness). Grounded in the work of Dr. Clare W. Graves, Spiral Dynamics suggests that when forced by life conditions, humans adapt to their environment by constructing new, more complex conceptual models of the world that allow them to better deal with the new problems. Each new model (or “meme”) transcends and includes all previous ones. Spiral Dynamics distinguishes eight “memes” of expanding consciousness; each of which for ease of reference is given a short name and an associated color:

    • “Survival Sense” is the start level of Spiral Dynamics. In this Beige Meme, humans’ sole focus is about staying alive by following ones instincts and innate, automatic sensory responses.
    • The Purple Meme on the next level is animistic and tribal in nature. Popularly described with the name “Kin Spirits”, humans bond here based on blood relationships to jointly master a mystical and scary world.
    • Called “Power Gods”, the Red Meme describes a more egocentric approach to life by enforcing power over self, others, and nature through exploitative independence and dominance.
    • “Truth Force” is the name of the Blue Meme. It is characterized by an authoritarian system of control and order, obedience to authority and an absolute belief in one right way or “truth”.
    • The ambitious, materialistic Orange Meme is named “Strive Drive”. It focuses on making things better for oneself by emphasizing strategy and possibility thinking.
    • “Human Bond” is the popular name of the Green Meme. It focuses on the equality and well-being of a community of people and on building consensus.

    Each of these lower-level memes are linked to states focusing on “having”, while the following memes are on higher levels of “being”:

    • Dubbed “Flex Flow”, the Yellow Meme describes humans who  are able to flexibly adapt to change by synthesizing integrative, interconnected big picture views.
    • Finally, the Turquoise Meme captures the vital few people (0.1%) who want to positively influence whole Earth dynamics and macro-level actions (“Global View”).

    Just like Hawkins’ Anatomy of Consciousness, Beck & Cowan’s Spiral Dynamics can explain why people cooperate and collaborate, or come to conflict with each other over differences in values and the deep-rooted belief systems that form them. One example: In which meme of Spiral Dynamics, and at what level of Hawkins’ Map of Consciousness, would you position the former and current US presidents Obama and Trump? Where would you place the majority of people who voted for them? Can you spot how the political decisions of these two presidents reflect alternative values and beliefs positioned on different levels of consciousness?

    How can you expand your consciousness?

    In order to move to a higher level of consciousness, we need to experience certain situations and/or do certain exercises that allow us to first transform our attitudes and action routines from negative to positive, and then to advance to higher, more integrative and holistic states of conscious being. 

    One way to expand your creativity and consciousness is to travel the Genius Journey, the creative leadership development method that I’ve developed for Thinkergy. The method employs a journey metaphor to help you acquire ten genius mindsets that are located on gradually expanding levels of consciousness. Genius Journey can transform blue or orange executives into yellow or even turquoise creative leaders. On Hawkins’ scale, Genius Journey can work for businesspeople who are on a level of at least 100, and can show them how to gradually expand their creative consciousness to the 400-540 range that may allow them to experience Eureka moments of subconscious peak creativity. 

    What if you strive even higher and aim for a consciousness level beyond 600 on Hawkins’ scale? Then you need to become a pupil of a spiritual guru who’s familiar with these states. As a creative leadership coach, I can only confidently talk about the levels below 600. 

    Why should you bother to expand your consciousness?

    By 2030, humanity will need a third planet Earth to sustainably reproduce all that we consume (of course, we have only one). By 2050, the world’s population will have shot up from currently 7 to 9 billion people. According to Hawkins, 85% of those run on lower, life-suppressing states of consciousness and mostly focus only on getting more for themselves — and not on the greater good of humanity. Moreover, mastering artificial intelligence and digital transformation will require more members of humanity to evolve to a new level of whole-mind awareness; Beck and Cowan already see a new “Coral Meme” emerging that they characterize as “holonic” (i.e., being or involving something that is simultaneously a self-contained entity and a part of a larger system). To sum-up, humanity needs more creative leaders who operate on higher states of consciousness and make more meaningful decisions for the better of the world, their organizations, their followers and themselves. 

    Are you interested to become one of them? Then take the first step today. Contact us to learn more about our Genius Journey creative leader training courses — and maybe even about our Genius Journey creative leadership coach licensing program.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2018

  • Mastering Digital Transformation- Part 3

    In part 2 of this three article series, we discussed the “innovator’s dilemma” to better understand the challenges that the digitalization of business imposes on both established corporations and start-up ventures. We also explored strategies established firms can employ to successfully master digital transformation. In this third and final part, let’s consider eight game plans that start-up ventures may employ to drive digital transformation.

    1. Start with a niche application

    As we discussed in part 2, start-up entrepreneurs are excellent at recognizing opportunities for digital niche products that make meaning, typically either by righting a wrong or by amplifying the quality of people’s lives. Due to their tech background, most digital products are increasingly complex. Hence, as a digital start-up, begin small by focusing on a simple niche product. Make the basics of this niche application awesome first. Then, at a later stage, add more functionalities and other products. 

    The mobile phone banking start-up N26 successfully followed this game plan, as their CEO Valentin Stalf explains: “We started with a fairly niche product — an account and a card. Now we’ve gone from there to a fintech hub.”

    2. Know your target customers

    You have identified a niche facilitating meaningful digital value creation. Next, identify those  customer segments you predominantly want to target with the question: ”Who will most appreciate and benefit from our meaningful new value offering?” 

    N26 clearly focuses on the younger generations (Millennials and Post-Millennials) who are digital natives and heavy users of their mobile phone. Its CEO Valentin Stalf explains: “Maybe we don’t have to get the non-digital natives. Maybe we start with the digital natives — there are around 60 million in Europe. If we win 6 million out of that, 10%, I think it’s going to be pretty successful.”

    3. Map out the customer journey / user experience (for each user type)

    When considering their customers’ journey, established corporations tend to adopt an inside-out perspective: They think along their internal sales funnel or conversion cycle (e.g., awareness, consideration, test and comparison, purchase, after sales, loyalty, advocacy) rather than putting themselves into their customers’ shoes. As a start-up, do the opposite. Adopt your customers’ viewpoints from the outside-in, and map out the digital customer journey. 

    For example, a young customer interested in opening a bank account searches the web for banks offering accounts either for free or at a low monthly fee. Then, she reads online reviews the banks she has shortlisted. Next, she may chat online with friends to seek their views on different banks. Once she’s settled on her favorite, she consults the website of the selected bank; ideally, it has a button that she can click to begin the account opening process online. She submits all required personal information. Then, a bank clerk initiates a video call to verify her ID documentation online. By mapping out the customer experience in a similar way, new N26 customers are able to open a bank account anywhere in the world in around 8 minutes only and without that they have to physically visit a bank branch.

    4. Focus on creating frictionless user experiences

    As we discussed in part 2, disruptive product technologies are simpler, more convenient, more reliable and cheaper than existing alternatives. So, when designing your digital user experience with your start-up, look for ways to remove all these frictions that typically impede many traditional analog user experiences. 

    For example, N26 automatically classifies customers’ purchases paid with their credit card into different categories such as “groceries”, “bars & restaurants”, “travel & holidays” (simplification); it facilities opening new accounts from home in about 8 minutes (increased convenience); it offers instant adjustment of account limits and security settings with the shift of a screen buttons (higher reliability); and its basic account and card comes for free (price reduction).

    5. Rapidly prototype and iterate

    As a start-up venture, apply rapid prototyping while creating a new digital value proposition. Soft-launch a beta-version early and invite test users to tell you “what’s wrong with it.” Then, apply all useful suggestions in an updated version, and through a series of iterations, arrive at a minimum viable digital product that you can fully launch. As such, plan to fail earlier to succeed sooner and be faster and better than incumbents.

    6. Think platforms, not just products

    As a start-up, try to avoid simply creating a meaningful digital product. Consider how you might align your offering with an existing dominant platform, or possibly even on how to create a platform of your own. In The Digital Transformation Playbook, David Roger explains that: 

    “A platform is a business that creates value by facilitating direct interactions between two or more distinct types of customers.” 

    For example, Airbnb created a platform to connect renters (travelers looking for affordable accommodation) with hosts (locals interested to rent out their property to visitors). Similarly, Uber’s platform allows freelance drivers to connect to riders interested in a cheaper, yet more convenient transportation alternative to a taxi. Paypal allows even three parties to process payments over its platform: account holders, merchants, and banks. With our new TIPS innovator profiling test platform that we’re currently building, Thinkergy will also enable individual users, coaches & trainers, and HR & Innovation Departments to independently purchase and allocate online test coupons without our direct involvement. 

    7. Think mobile first, always

    Next year, the number of mobile phone users in the world is expected to pass the five billion mark, meaning that two in three persons will own a mobile phone. So, when you create digital value propositions, preferably design it for use on a mobile phone, or at least ensure that the user experience is as good on a mobile phone as on any other electronic device. 

    N26 didn’t just create a disruptive digital bank account. They intentionally choose to focus on the mobile phone as the device of choice for client interactions.

    8. Digitally interact two-way with your wider customer network

    In the 20th century, industrial corporations mass-produced products to realize economies of scale. Then, they persuaded consumers to purchase those products using mass broadcast marketing strategies. In his Digital Playbook, David Rogers introduces a new model to drive purchasing decisions in the 21st century. Dynamic customer networks are characterized by two-way communications between companies, consumers and influencers to inspire purchases; thereby, many of these communications will take place digitally involving social media (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram), e-sales platforms (such as Amazon, eBay, Craigslist), online forums, and blogs, among others. 

    The shift to this new model also means that digital advertising will continue to rise in importance. By 2020, media experts expect that half of all advertising will be spent online, and will equal all offline advertising spend. 

    Conclusion

    The American inventor Douglas Engelbert noted: “The digital revolution is far more significant than the invention of writing or even of printing.”

    The more I read and think about digitalization, the more I believe he’s right.

    Do you lead, manage or work in an established organization or a start-up? How will the digital wave affect your business? How do you plan to master the challenges of digital transformation with your business? Contact us if you want us to help you with our innovation expertise.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2018



  • Mastering Digital Transformation- Part 2

    Two weeks ago, we discussed how a range of newly emerging, interconnected digital technologies (such as artificial intelligence, big data and the Internet of Things, among others) are predicted to profoundly change business and society. We explored how new technologies pass through different phases of the hype cycle before eventually producing meaningful, marketable applications. In Part 2 of this three episode article, let’s next discuss what challenges digital transformation places on both established and new businesses, and then explore what strategies established firms may employ to successfully master digital transformation.

    What challenges does digital transformation pose on established businesses and start-ups?

    Interestingly: the challenges that digital transformation poses for established firms are the flip-side of those that start-up ventures face. In his classic book “The Innovator’s Dilemma”, Clayton Christensen provides some insights and conceptual model that may help me drive home this point:

    • Christensen distinguishes innovations into two types — sustainable and disruptive ones. Sustainable innovations focus on new ways to grow existing technologies by enhancing their performance, typically through extended functionality or increased capacity. On the other hand, disruptive innovations solve a challenge in an entirely new way or for an entirely new group of people, thus changing the landscape of a whole industry or even sparking a new one altogether.
    • Christensen also introduces a new theoretical framework, the Resources, Processes, Values Model.The RPV model captures how established organizations differ from start-ups in the ways they utilize resources (things and assets which firms can buy, sell, create or destroy), processes (established ways to transform resources into products or services) and values (prioritization criteria for making decisions). Established firms have plentiful resources and well-honed processes, but tend to be too internally-focused, bureaucratic and set in their values. In contrast, start-up ventures are strongly market- and customer-focused, thus allowing them to recognize new business opportunities early while —at least initially— having to deal with scarce resources and less efficient processes. 
    • Christensen highlights that established firms excel at creating sustainable innovations that build on or extend established product and services categories. However, they tend to fall short on coming up with disruptive innovations for three reasons: (1) They heavily invested into the development of resources (their legacy products, services, technologies and systems), and tend to escalate their earlier financial commitments. Moreover, developing new “risky” products and service areas (question mark) may also cannibalize sales of their current stars and cash cows. (2) They are loyal to their established ways of doing things and highly efficient processes. (3) They tend to undervalue the impact and future revenue potential of emerging new technologies and business opportunities at the fringes of their industry.
    • Christensen highlights that established firms excel at creating sustainable innovations that build on or extend established product and services categories. However, they tend to fall short on coming up with disruptive innovations for three reasons: (1) They heavily invested into the development of resources (their legacy products, services, technologies and systems), and tend to escalate their earlier financial commitments. Moreover, developing new “risky” products and service areas (question mark) may also cannibalize sales of their current stars and cash cows. (2) They are loyal to their established ways of doing things and highly efficient processes. (3) They tend to undervalue the impact and future revenue potential of emerging new technologies and business opportunities at the fringes of their industry. On the other side, most start-up ventures focus on —and excel at— producing disruptive innovations. This is because they not only recognize emerging new technologies and business opportunities (which some incumbents do, too), but also use a trial and error approach to uncover promising niches (with regards to customers and/or product applications) and then offer an adequate or even better product at a lower price.
    • The “innovator’s dilemma” describes the situation when an incumbent that originally pioneered or dominated the market would have to cannibalize its own business to successfully compete with a new, disruptive competitor.

    What has all of this to do with digital transformation? Most digital technologies are disruptive in nature, meaning they are simpler, more convenient, more reliable and cheaper than  established technologies. In established firms, commitment to their legacy resources, processes and values makes it unlikely that they can internally rise to the challenges (threats and opportunities) posed by digital transformation and its disruptive innovations. In contrast, start-up ventures have the right values to drive digital transformation and, provided they smartly use and gradually grow their limited resources base and creatively approach the process side of their business.

    What are strategies for established firms to master digital transformation?

    Among others, incumbents may embrace one or more of the following five strategies to build up digital initiatives and know-how that they can fund with their established business operations:

    1. Acquire external digital know-how (fully or partially).  An established corporation can easily add digital products and expertise to its business by acquiring a successful venture with a digital technology or application in a niche that is relevant to its industry. For example, in 2016,  the multinational toymaker Mattel acquired the  San Francisco-based baby health wearable maker Sproutling. Alternatively to a full takeover, an established firm may also acquire stakes in promising digital start-up ventures to participate in their developments. For example, in March 2018, Allianz and Tencent announced investing $160 million for an undisclosed stake in the German mobile phone banking start-up N26.
    2. Spin-out digital initiatives into a new venture. Suppose you’re an established firm pursuing internal R&D initiatives and come up with a worthwhile development project that doesn’t fit to your processes. In this case,  Clayton  Christensen recommends  to spinout the initiative into a separate venture; and to commit some of your most qualified managers and developers to lead it. The spin-out can be run like a lean start-up and may even seek additional external funding from other investors. Spin-out strategies have been not uncommon in certain industries (such as pharmaceuticals or biotechnology) as well as at tech-driven universities. Moreover, digital tech ventures also use it to better market promising new applications that they added later to their initial core offering. For example, in 2014, Fog Creek Software spun out its web-based project management application Trello into a separate company. Going forward, such spin-outs promise to also become a feasible strategy to commercialize new digital projects emerging in mature established corporations. 
    3. Run focused innovation projects, then use “scrum” teams for implementation. Another strategy to gradually add more digital products and services to your established firm is to run a series of focused innovation projects targeting digital value creation. Thereby, one or more project teams go through an innovation project (ideally facilitated by a professional innovation firm such as Thinkergy using a sophisticated and effective innovation process method like X-IDEA) to come up with a series of meaningful digital concepts. Then, build scrum teams to quickly implement the top concepts. Each scrum team consists of a number of skilled developers coordinated by a scrum master (with extensive technical expertise) and is led by a project owner (with business expertise), both of who coordinate with the internal project sponsor and other stakeholders inside and outside the organization.
    4. Transform into a creative company. The most challenging —but in the long run also most promising— strategy is to transform the culture of an established corporation into a creative organization. Gradually building up an innovation-friendly firm requires takes at least three years of gradual change steps and requires the dedicated commitment of the top executive team (see how we suggest executing such a CooL change). For example, in 2005, Jeffrey Immelt successfully launched a creative change initiative based on an “Ecoimagination” theme to transform General Electrics from a sales-driven to an innovation-focused organization.
    5. Identify the right people for your digital transformation. Making your business more digital requires you to take action on the people side, too. On the one hand, companies should heavily involve their “digital natives” (i.e., younger staff belonging to Gen Y and Gen Z) in digital project initiatives. On the other hand, innovation-centered cognitive profiling tools such as Thinkergy’s TIPS can help companies to identify those profiles who have a natural talent and passion for driving digital change into the organization. 

    Interim summary and outlook: Established corporations and start-ups face opposite challenges from digitalization: The former have ample resources and sound processes while lacking entrepreneurial values that allow them to recognize digital opportunities, while  the opposite is true for start-up ventures. Established firms may use at least five strategies to better master digital transformation. But what are game plans for start-ups to seize their ability to recognize worthy digital opportunities in spite of scarcer resources and less refined processes? Find out in two weeks in the third and final episode of this article on digital transformation.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2018.


  • Mastering Digital Transformation- Part 1

    Earlier this month, I followed an invitation to deliver a presentation on the topic “Mastering Digital Transformation: Challenges and Strategies for Brands and New Businesses”.  It was a welcome opportunity to finally dig deeper into a “hot topic” that admittedly, I have largely avoided so far. Interestingly, what I read, pondered and actively processed has made me feel both uncomfortable and excited. Undoubtedly, a digital tsunami is going to come over us within the next decade, and it will change business as we know.  So today and in the coming weeks, allow me to share with you in a three article episode what I have learned related to digital transformation, as well as my thoughts on how we can proactively master it.

    What does digital transformation mean?

    The terms digitization, digitalization and digital transformation are often used synonymously to describe the impact of digital technologies on society. On closer inspection, however, we can appreciate the finer nuances at these concepts:

    • Digitization describes the process of transferring analog data into digital (computer-readable) formats, or put in other words: of turning ABC 123 into 0s and 1s. Rooted in the development of the modern binary system by the German mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz in 1679, digitization really took off in the 1940s with the groundbreaking work of John von Neumann that started the information age.
    • In contrast, digitalization can be defined as the  process of technology-induced changes in business. In other words, the term focuses on how emerging digital technologies may be applied to induce meaningful changes to businesses and its customers.
    • Last but not least, digital transformation focuses on describing the total and overall effects of digitalization on business and society, thus capturing the implications that newly adopted digital technologies will have on the economy, ecology, society, and business ecosystems.

    We may capture these nuances in one sentence as follows: Digitization enables digitalization leading to digital transformation.

    What key digital technologies will drive change?

    In the past years, a range of digital technologies have been much talked about in the media. Chances are that you’ve read or heard about technologies turned buzzwords such as big data, IoT, AR, VR, AI, machine learning, industry 4.0, martech, fintech, blockchain and cryptocurrencies, among others. How to keep up with —and make sense out of— the myriad of new tech-terms? How to find out which technologies are relevant for you and will be game-changers?

    As part of its digital transformation initiative started in 2015, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has identified six digital technology areas that they predict will produce applications that will impact a wide range of industries:

    • Artificial intelligence (AI) will improve the collaboration between humans and intelligent machines that can do things traditionally done by people. AI machines will be able to sense or perceive the world to autonomously collect and process data, and then decide and act independently. AI applications will also be able to sovereignly learn and adapt over time.
    • Big data analytics denotes the computational analysis of extremely large data sets (increasingly stored in the cloud) to reveal surprising new market and customer insights (patterns, trends, and associations, especially relating to human behavior and interactions).
    • The Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to grow from presently 7 billion to almost 50 billion connected devices by 2020. The IoT promises to make the world smarter through a network of everyday objects exchanging information with each other to trigger automated, value-adding activities.
    • Robots and drones are twin technologies that allow for greater automation of tasks in industrial production and services business as well as logistics, thereby helping companies to operate more efficiently, safely and environmentally friendly.
    • Autonomous vehicles (AV) use by a mix of technologies (such as vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure connectivity, GPS, cameras, ultrasonic sensors, among others) that work together seamlessly to safely perform a dynamic driving task in all situations and conditions throughout an entire journey.
    • 3D printing transforms digital blueprint files into three-dimensional solid objects, which are created by laying down consecutive layers of thinly sliced horizontal cross sections of the final output; this technology will allow for more individualized and small size manufacturing on demand and somewhere close to one’s own location, thus reducing the need for parts and goods to be shipped.

    It’s important to understand that these major technologies don’t unfold in isolation, but are interconnected and building upon each other, thus exponentially amplifying the impacts of digitalization. For example, the  IoT enables self-driving cars and trucks that communicate with each other and  with other devices (traffic lights, traffic flow guidance systems, parking meters, etc.). Big data analytics will allow to monitor, enhance and flexibly direct the traffic flow of these autonomous vehicles. Trucks might eventually be replaced by drones gliding down from airborne fulfillment centers to make deliveries straight to a home.

    How fast will these key digital technologies unfold?

    Every year, the  technology research and consulting company Garnter releases its latest Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies. In this chart, Gartner maps out how the expectations on a range of emerging technologies (vertical axis) change over time (horizontal axis). Gartner argues that emerging technologies pass through five distinct phases: After entering into public awareness, a new technology  sees a steady steep rise in expectations (phase 1, named “innovation triggers”) until the new technology reaches the “peak of inflated expectations” (phase 2), from were it plunges into the “trough of disillusionment” (phase 3) before gradually ascending again along the “slope of enlightenment” (phase 4) to eventually reaching the “plateau of productivity” (phase 5) when the technology becomes widely adopted and used in meaningful ways.

    Garnter’s Hype Cycle supports a point made by US futurist John Naisbitt in his book “Mind Set!” Most technological changes are evolutionary, not revolutionary. Typically, they take more time to unfold than people initially expect — but eventually, most predicted changes do happen.

    What are the predicted effects of these digital technologies?

    Digital transformation will have profound implications on business and society. The WEF and Accenture estimate that by 2025, new digital technologies have the potential to unlock 100 trillions USD in net benefits across all industries (including significant reductions in CO2-emissions). Thereby, the consumer goods, automobile, logistics and electricity industries are predicted to benefit most strongly from the new digital technologies.

    However, successfully crossing over into the digital age requires businesses to adjust, renew and renovate their whole value chain for the digital age — which includes their value offerings, business models, distribution channels, organizational models, cultural attitudes, and financial and business metrics.

    Like every period of massive change, digitalization will not only produce winners. Digital transformation threatens established corporations that are unable to start a new, digitally empowered creative growth cycle  to be creatively destroyed. It will also lead to massive  job losses due to a new wave of automation. The WEF and Accenture report that current estimates of global job losses due to digitalization vary from as few as 2 million to as high as 2 billion by 2030. Fortunately, digitalization will also create a range of entirely new jobs. Nevertheless, policy makers face the challenge to ensure that the current workforce is retrained, and that the future workforce is adequately educated, to develop the required skill set for the digital age, and to find ways to mitigate the loss in wages of those who lose their job partially or entirely.

    Interim summary and outlook: Today, we discussed that a wide range of interconnected digital technologies are predicted to profoundly change business and society. Digital transformation promises massive gains in net value, but also puts the future of many established businesses and traditional jobs on the line. In the coming two episodes of this article on digital transformation, I will first discuss what challenges digital transformation places on both established and new businesses, and then explore strategies on how to successfully master digital transformation.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2018


  • How to improve teamwork with TIPS

    In less than three months, the FIFA World Cup in Russia will kick off. Chances are that after the final, not the national squad with the most glamorous star, but the one with the best team will lift World Cup. What’s true in football is true in business, too: great teamwork matters. Today, let’s look at the art of composing and developing an effective team in business with the help of TIPS, Thinkergy’s innovation people profiling method.

    Introducing TIPS

    TIPS is a new cognitive profiling method that I’ve created for Thinkergy. The acronym TIPS stands for four base orientations (theories, ideas, people, systems) that drive people’s behavior in life and at work. With the help of a questionnaire that probes for these four bases and for four related cognitive styles, we profile people into one of 11 innovator profiles (Theorist, Ideator, Partner, Systematizer, Conceptualizer, Promoter, Organizer, Technocrat, Coach, Experimenter and All-Rounder).


    Each TIPS profile has certain natural talents and preferred styles that allow them to perform easily, effortlessly and enjoyably in certain ecosystems (industries, business functions, and organizational types). It’s similar to a position on the pitch in a football game, where certain players are born strikers, or central defenders, or goalkeepers. As in football, the challenge is to use everyone in a team to their best abilities and in ways that make the team effective — and once you know everyone’s TIPS profile, you can follow certain rules on how to best use each player and compose effective work teams.

    How to strengthen teamwork in an organization with TIPS?

    Teamwork is the combined action of a group of people, especially when effective or efficient. But how can we select the right players to make a business team effective and successful? And how can we develop the team as the business evolves? Here are eight recommendations on how to make everyone contribute to business success and align the players for effective and successful teamwork:

    1. Make everyone play in their natural position. Imagine you were a football coach and are lucky enough to have a world-class striker in your team. Where on the pitch would you position your star player? Would you play him in central defense so that he may work on his weaknesses? Or would you rather play him in offense where he has lots of opportunities to let his talent and natural strengths shine?

    Many companies and managers ask their staff to work on improving their weaknesses. I believe in the opposite strategy: Make everyone do those things that are naturally easy, effortless, enjoyable (remember the three Es) for them.

    For example, Ideators like myself like to drive change and create something new out of nothing. Promoters enjoy spreading the word and creating a buzz for a new idea, brand, or trend. Partners know all about their customers’ wants and needs because they deeply care for people.


    2. Use other profiles to fill in for your weaknesses.

    If everyone plays on their strengths, who takes care of those weaknesses that each of us has? The profile at the opposite end of your profile on the TIPS profiling map. 
For example, when working on an innovation case, Theorists enjoy rationally scrutinizing the evidence in a case, but tend to overlook taking into account the human factor. Positioned on the diagonal opposite end of the profile map, Partners have the most intimate customer knowledge and ensure that an innovation team considers the human factor is considered, too.

    3. Make the team composition fit its function. Depending on the main function that a business team performs, certain profiles tend to dominate and are more commonly found than others.

    For example, in an accounting department, most team members are likely to be Technocrats. In contrast, Partners and Promoters tend to prominently feature in a sales team. 
Similarly, certain profiles also tend to predominate certain industries. For example, when we look at different industries, the profile that is most common in a strategy consulting company is the Conceptualizers, while managers in retail companies are often Organizers.


    4. Balance a team with complementary profiles. Because certain profiles tend to dominate in a particular business function or industry, it is important to counterbalance the team with other profiles that support the majority and cover their weaknesses.

    For example, every sales team should have at least one Technocrat or Systematizer who makes sure that call reports are written, entries are accurately entered into an order system, and sales numbers are tracked and regularly discussed in a weekly sales pipeline meeting. Or to a consultant team full of big picture Conceptualizers on the road from client to client, add an Organizer to make sure that schedules are coordinated and kept, travel arrangements are booked and changed, and time sheets and expenditure sheets are filed in a timely way.

    5. Bridge gaps between opposites. In football, the midfielders act as connectors between defenders and strikers. In business, you may likewise use neighboring profiles to bridge a divide between teams that are operating on opposite frequencies.

    For example, many new innovation projects or marketing initiatives (driven by Ideators or Promoters) in banking nowadays get vetoed by officers in the compliance team (who are often Systematizers). Here, a Partner may act as ambassador to moderate the conflict between the sides by finding the lowest common denominator between the interest of the business side (bring in new revenues through innovation and new client acquisition) and compliance (mitigate legal risks, ensure compliance to regulatory requirements such as KYC (know your customer)).

    6. Balance complementing energies in a start-up venture. Most successful start-ups have a leadership team that balances three or even four different energies.

    For example, an ideal team for a tech start-up may comprise an inspiring Promoter as a CEO, a hands-on Organizer as a COO, a number-crunching Technocrat as a CFO, and a geeky Conceptualizer as a CTO. If the venture consists of a leadership triangle, a good combination may be an Ideator as CEO, a partner as Head of Sales, and a Systematizer as COO/CFO.


    7. Change the captain as your business moves into a new cycle phase. A venture moves through different corporate life cycle stages: first, creating a new product; launching and promoting the product; growing sales and customer relations; organizing the back-office to accommodate strong growth; creating stable systems and processes to consolidate the business; leveraging a business through modifications to product niches and adaptations to local markets; and finally, starting a new cycle through a new major product creation initiative.

    If you want to move to the next cycle phases, strengthen the profile that naturally drives this phase: Ideators in product creation, Promoters in launch, Partners for sales activities, Organizers to solidify the back-office, Systematizers to set-up efficient processes and systems, and Experimenters to twist and modify products.

    An alternative approach related to the quadrangular leadership team mentioned in the previous point, first have the CTO drive product development, then let the CEO lead the market introduction phase, then put the COO in charge to set-up the back office organization, and finally let the CFO drive the IPO and set-up of formal systems.


    8. Use All-Rounders to flexibly close gaps in the team. In almost every sports team, you find a few players that can play multiple positions in both offense and defense. While they might not be as good as the specialists, they do reliably well wherever you put them on the pitch.

    In TIPS, we call such players with a balanced set of skills and cognitive styles All-Rounders. Every business, and here in particular start-ups, do well of having one or a few All-Rounders in their team, as they feel home in any type of role and can easily fill gaps if your business grows rapidly or you face a period of staff turnover.

    Conclusion: “No individual can win a game by himself,” noted Pelé, the legendary Brazilian football star, three-time World Cup winner and world record holding scorer with 1,281 career goals. Often, the national team with the best teamwork wins the tournament, not the ones with one super star who everyone else follows. The famed US basketball player Michael Jordan put it this way: “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” Composing an effective team in business is like forming a tournament-winning team in sport — and thanks to TIPS, it’s easy to create effective, focused and balanced teams for every function, industry and project in business.


    Have you become curious to find out more about your TIPS innovator profile? Or would you like to learn how to improve teamwork in your business in a TIPS Innovation Profiling Workshop?  Contact us to learn more about our innovation training courses and find out how you may purchase a coupon for our TIPS online personality test.

  • Becoming Dr. D of Thinkergy

    My name is Detlef Reis — and I am also known as Dr. D of Thinkergy. How did I end up with this personal brand as my alter ego? Today, allow me to share with you some experiences that I’ve had with my name over time and space. In a globalized world, names matter as much for people as they do for brands. What lessons can we learn when we have to name a child, or create a catchy (personal) brand?

    My German family name“Reis” translates into ‘rice’ in English, and you pronounce it in exactly the same way. I’ve always liked my family name: it’s short and crisp, and everyone could get it right away once I highlighted the commonality with the staple food (“rice like noodle”). After I landed a posting to Asia, the jokes came fast and furious. I’ve heard so many, I can now make up my own: “As if Asia needs more Reis”; “Sending Reis to Asia is like sending coals to Newcastle”; “Don’t they have enough rice to begin with?”; “Wow, Reis to Asia, how original!”

    After I had moved to an environment where (bad) English is the unifying language in business, however, I quickly found out that many people called me “Ries” instead of “Rice”. No big deal, I learned to flexibly respond to both pronunciations, and learned to appreciate those few people who bother to ask how to pronounce my family correctly. I also found out that in Asia, some locals take the letter “r” for an “l” (and vice versa), so I embraced “Leis” as a further Asian interpretation of my family name.

    Tip: Choose a name that is easy to pronounce in every language.

    Apparently, my parents first wanted to call me Dieter. At the name registry, however, my Dad had a sudden hunch to switch my first name to Detlef, which means “son of the people” or “belonging to the people”. In the 1950s and 1960s, Detlef was a popular name in Northern Germany, but was rare and unique in Southwestern Germany where we lived. which was probably why my Dad preferred the name over the more common Dieter.

    Tip: Most names have a meaning. Make sure that you investigate the historic roots of a name before you use it to name a child or a brand.

    The ending of my first name comes in two variations, Detlef and Detlev. Predictably, I regularly saw my first name misspelled with a “v” at the end. So if you were me, would you be surprised to receive your doctoral degree and see your first name written with a “v” at the end? The official document was written in Latin, the traditional scientific language of learned people in Europe. In Latin, a “v” is often used in lieu of a“f”, which is why I suppose my university switched to Detlev in my official document. I had already moved to Asia when I received my official doctoral degree, and was busy getting into business in my new job and environment, so I accepted the document as I received it.

    Tip: Ensure that the name of your brand or baby is spelled in one unambiguous way.

    As a little boy, I liked my first name Detlef because it was rare and unique. When I got older, suddenly other kids began teasing me because Detlef was supposed to be a “gay” name. As a teenager, this silly name-calling began to get on my nerves, even more so as I didn’t feel attracted to men. For example, when AIDS came into public awareness in the early eighties, one joke suggested that “AIDS: Alles ist Detlef’s Schuld”, which translates as ”It’s all Detlef’s fault”, or “Blame it on Detlef”. (Nowadays, as the leader of Thinkergy, this motto makes much more sense to me; after all, as the boss, I have ultimate responsibility for anything that goes wrong at my innovation company, so “blame it on Detlef”.)

    Despite the occasional teases on my first name, I never thought of abandoning it. Why should I? I am Detlef and always will be. I believe it’s a wonderful name for me that I am destined to carry proudly in this life. (In contrast, one of my childhood friends decided to officially drop his middle name Detlef as soon as he came of age.)

    Tip: Names may evoke surprising negative connotations over time that you cannot anticipate in advance. Shrug it off if you have a thick skin, or if you can’t, consider letting go of the name.

    So how then did I become Dr. D, and why? When I left my home country to work in Asia, I quickly noticed Detlef to be a name that many non-Germans have problems pronouncing, learning and remembering correctly; this wasn’t only true at first contact, but even with colleagues and students who I worked with for extended periods of time. So, I had the rare opportunity to collect a multitude of creative interpretations of my first name that I encountered in conversations, emails or handed-in assignments, such as: Deplet, Deplef, Detler, Deflet or Deflep, to name but a few. Clearly, Detlef isn’t an international commonplace name like Tom, Dick and Harry.

    Tip: Consider using names of one syllable that are catchy and easy to learn; in the case of first names, Tom is undoubtedly easier to remember than Thomas (particularly when paired with Jerry), Ben has a ring to it (especially when associated with ‘Big’), and Max beats Maximilian (unless you happen to be an emperor).

    Because of the problems that non-Germans had with Detlef, I wondered how I could simplify my first name to make it easier for people to learn. So why not go for one of my German nicknames? Unfortunately, “Deddy” and “Det” don’t work so well in English environments; due to their connotations, these nicknames tend to provoke answers such as “You’re not my Dad” or “Dead? You still look pretty alive”.

    Tip: Check for connotations that short names or nick names may evoke in different languages or locations.

    Eventually, I realized that I should make my first name even simpler, and I arrived at “D” (pronounced “dee”, which in Thailand, where I live, also means “good”). “D” sounded like a good start, but I felt that something is missing So, I added my doctor title in front and became “Dr. D”, which for me complied to Albert Einstein’s maxim to “Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler.” (After all, I had worked very hard on my Ph.D. for roughly 3 years). Moreover, from a Thai perspective, I became “Dr. Good”. Finally, in English “Dee” rhymes with Thinkergy, the name of the innovation company that I founded. So in the end, I became “Dr. D of Thinkergy”, which is a harmonic play of words that took my personal brand from great to wow.

    Tip: Play with words to arrive at alliterations and rhymes, which tend to stick in the mind (think of YouTube, Dunkin’ Donuts or Piggly Wiggly).

    Conclusion: In our Genius Journey training courses, one exercise we do at the second destination stop of the journey is called “I am”. Thereby, delegates first have to introduce themselves to the group using a celebrity persona drawn at random (e.g., “I am Madonna”, or “I am Mahatma Gandhi”). While some delegates feel proud about a person they draw, most introductions look and sound awkward, unconvincing and false. Thereafter, everyone introduces themselves again to the group with their real name, and the second time around, all name introductions sound confident, natural and genuine.

    So how do I introduce myself nowadays? I use both “I am Detlef” and “I am Dr. D of Thinkergy”, as that’s who I am. While some people may regard me as having a split-personality, I enjoy all of my names — knowing that truly creative people are tolerant to how people may call or write their name, and embrace all shades of their personality. It is little wonder that most modern superheroes have an alter ego: Clark Kent aka Superman; Barry Allen aka The Flash; Bruce Wayne aka Batman; and Detlef Reis aka Dr. D of Thinkergy.

    Contact us if you want Dr. D and his fellow-superheroes at Thinkergy help you solve your next big innovation challenge. Thinkergy — know how to wow.

  • 10 Ways Digitization May Impact Innovation

    Digitization is one of the technological mega-trends in business. Humanity has not only moved into the innovation age, but more and more modern innovations include digital elements that allow for a better more meaningful user experience. Digitization is said to bring massive changes to business, and to discuss this fully would go beyond the scope of this article. However, what we can do here is to discuss how digitization may change the ways we innovate.

    What is digitization?

    To get started, let’s establish a common understanding of what digitization means. In a technical sense, digitization is the process of converting information into a digital (i.e. computer-readable) format, resulting in the creation of a digital representation of an object, image, sound, document or signal. In business terms, however, the concept goes far beyond this technical frame. It includes integrating digital elements into existing products and services to ensure a more seamless and better user experience. It also encompasses the digitization of reimagined business processes (both internal and external). This allows companies to cut the number of process steps, reduce the scope of documentation, include automated decision making, and offer frictionless payment solutions while at the same time addressing regulatory and fraud issues. Done well, digitization can lead to much improved user experiences, lower costs and therefore reduced prices, faster decision-making and turnaround times, reduced documentation coupled with increased security and safety.

    How may digitization affect innovation?

    While predicting the future is like looking into a crystal ball, here are 10 predictions about the impact of digitization on innovation that I envision.

    1. Innovative products and services will increasingly have digital components and elements. For example, you may control a product remotely via a smart phone app, or track the delivery status of grocery items that you shopped by scanning code from a retail market billboard while waiting in the subway. Digital components are likely to also extend to solutions (e.g., getting online health consultations from an AI-powered avatar doctor) and even customer experiences (think AR- and VR-powered excursions à la Westworld, hopefully without a bald gunslinger dressed in black).
    2. More and more companies will create digital platforms to globally distribute their digitally-empowered value offerings via the Internet. Such digital platforms add value to customers by reducing frictions in the delivery and payment process; and they add value to the company by giving them increased control over their intellectual property (e.g. through digital rights management solutions) and by allowing them to mine big data for surprising new customer insights.
    3. On the process side of innovation, imagine doing an innovation project with a core group of innovators in a real workshop, who are joined through virtual reality technology by fellow-participants from different offices around the world to work in an innovation team together. A top innovation facilitator from the other side of the world may also guide the teams through the innovation case using a sophisticated innovation process method and tools animated by VR technologies, apps and remotely shared presentation screens. At the front end of the innovation process (e.g. Stage X-Xploration in Thinkergy’s X-IDEA method), companies can use big data mining to arrive at deeper market-, technology- and customer-specific insights that allow them to better frame the real innovation challenge and the teams to develop idea concepts that cater to important insights.
    4. On the systems side of innovation, digitization is likely to further amplify the value of innovation management systems. These are used to virtually pose an innovation challenge, collect ideas from internal and external collaborators, evaluate the submitted ideas (e.g. by creating a virtual idea stock exchange), and to manage the innovation pipeline of top ideas that are going through a real-world implementation process. Some of these systemic solutions exist already today, however, I expect future innovation management systems to become more integrated, immersive and entertaining. Moreover, I predict them to get linked to social networks to invite engage external participants to join internal innovation projects. Provided that these systems share incentives to take part in an innovation challenge in mutually beneficial ways., these external customers, suppliers, distributors and top influencers may not only help companies to create more meaningful innovations, but also to diffuse them faster.
    5. On the people side of innovation, I predict the emergence of cognitive profiling tools based on MRI-scans of the brain (think getting assigned a TIPS profile not by answering a set of questions, but getting your brain scanned at the same time).
    6. On the cultural side of innovation, I anticipate the emergence of online ratings and rankings of company cultures by former current and former employees that will determine whether a firm will be able to hire and retain top creative talents. Changes in these rankings may over time become one factor impacting a company’s stock price and market valuation.
    7. On the individual creativity side, I can see more apps providing creative tools and instant inspirations (e.g. simply shake your phone to receive a fresh, creativity-inducing stimulus). VR may even create digital avatars of famous creative leaders who act as mentors for executives eager to evolve into authentic creative leaders for the innovation economy.
    8. Digitization seems to promise us a brave new world, doesn’t it? However, I also presuppose three problems related to it. As more and more innovative digital products get developed that digitally communicate with their users and —thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT)— with each other, we will see the emergence a giant digital ecosystem with over 75 billion connected devices by 2025. From systems theory, it is well known that the more variables a complex system has, the more likely errors will occur. So, predicting, preventing, controlling and fixing such system bugs will offer opportunities for new innovative digital solutions.
    9. All new innovative digital solutions (websites, apps, etc.) need to be programmed to work across a range of different devices and software technologies. These programs also need to be maintained and regularly updated to keep up with the latest technological advances. As more and more companies are “going digital”, I predict that there will be a scarcity of excellent programmers. The top of the crop will either work for big bucks at “blue chip” old economy companies, or work as a partner in one of the many new creative ventures that will mushroom in line with the shift from a managerial to an entrepreneurial society. This means that the majority of corporations and SMEs will be left with average to mediocre developers. These tend to program average to mediocre digital programs that suffer from bugs and compatibility issues and impair a seamless user experience. Do you still recall my last point made above, the unexpected behaviors of a complex adaptive system? They may be caused by a poorly programmed app that interacts with other devices in totally unexpected ways.
    10. Looking ahead, ever more computers increasingly amplified by artificial intelligence will allow for better intelligence and insights on markets, trends customer wants, needs and behaviors (thanks to big data and weak signals analysis). I foresee that at least for the next 2-3 decades, however, humans and not machines will still rule in breakthrough creativity. I predict that while artificial intelligence will be able to produce ideas using basic creative thinking strategies (such as combination, division, addition, elimination, adoption, adaption, alteration, etc.), machines may still need more time to master advanced creative thinking strategies that often trigger revolutionary innovations or scientific breakthroughs. Let’s pray that my prediction proves to be right here. Otherwise, the singularity challenge may threaten the existence of humanity: Before the majority of people realize, creative super computers and hyper-intelligent machines may start making creations on their own that are good for the machines, but not necessarily for humanity. And according to evolution theory, once a species rises to the top of the evolutionary pyramid, it begins to rule over less evolved species.

    How soon are these predicted changes going to occur (if at all)? 

    Let me answer this question with the words of the famous US futurist John Naisbitt: “Things that we expect to happen always happen more slowly” — but eventually, most of them do happen. What are your views on how digitization may affect innovation? Do my predictions make sense to you or sound non-sensical? Comment to share your views.

    Nota bene: This article is one of 64 sections of an upcoming book that I am presently writing, The Executive Guide to Innovation (targeted for publication in 2Q.2018 by Motivational Press). Contact us if you want to be informed when the book will come out later this year.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2018.

  • Creativity in the Year of the Dog

    Kung Hai Fat Choy, Happy Chinese New Year! Tomorrow marks the start of the Year of the Dog, or to be more precise, the Brown Earth Dog. The dog was the first species that humans domesticated, and thanks to this long bond with humans. dogs are uniquely accustomed to our behaviors. What creative inspirations can we obtain from “man’s best friend” to help us flourish in the coming 12 months?

    Being of value

    Compared to other animals, dogs have developed a strong influence on human society because of both their practical usefulness and the emotional companionship they offer. Dogs serve a wide range of practical roles: hunting, herding, guarding and protection, pulling loads, assisting the police and military, rescuing people in emergencies, aiding the disabled individuals and in other therapeutic roles.

    Moreover, dogs are loyal companions who can light up the day with their playful enthusiasm, sincere affection and emotional sensitivity towards their two-legged friends. As the humorist Josh Billings noted: “A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.”

    Creative inspirations

    Wouldn’t you enjoy doing business with someone who is helpful and at the same time fun to be with? So, ask yourself: How close are we with our customers? How intimately do we know their true wants and needs? How can we become more useful for our core customers? What other roles may we perform for them to make ourselves more useful? How can we design better emotional experiences for the users of our products and services? How can we better satisfy both the functional and emotional wants and needs of our customers?

    “Breeding out” meaningful new ideas

    Humans have selected certain dogs to breed with each other, due to particular physical and behavioral characteristics that support desired functional roles. This selective breeding has led to the hundreds of modern breeds that are classified into certain dog types (such as companion dogs, guard dogs, or herding dogs). These types vary greatly in size, character and behavior and functional roles — from the tiny Chihuahua to the tall Great Dane, or from the stubbornly-dopey Bulldog to the energetically intelligent Border Collie. By the way, did you know that most dog breeds are only a few hundred years old?

    Creative inspiration

    The breeding process is similar to the approach taken by a classic creativity technique, Morphological Matrix. So in the Year of the Dog, how can you engage in morphological thinking? First, create a matrix listing all the morphologies covered by your value offerings. Such categories might be: product features (functional and emotional benefits), service types, customers types, related promotional activities, etc.). Then, list elements under each category (B2B, B2C, NGOs in the customer category, for example), and add as many new elements as possible into each (don’t forget that we’re in the digital age). Finally, ask yourself: How to create meaningful new product and service “breeds” by connecting certain desired features and elements?

    Being a smart dog

    Are dogs intelligent creatures? If you’ve ever owned a dog, you’re likely to nod affirmatively. While breeds vary in intelligence, dogs can perceive information, retain this as knowledge, and later apply it to solve certain problems. They can also learn to respond to different body postures and voice commands. But how do dogs fare when compared to other canines?

    Although dogs and wolves share a lineage, there are noticeable differences between the two species. Free-roaming wolves have longer teeth, bigger skulls and also bigger brains than their domesticated fellow canines. Moreover, experiments have shown that Australian dingos outperform domestic modern dogs in non-social problem-solving.

    Likewise, researchers have found that when presented with an unsolvable variation of an original problem solving task, socialized wolves tried to find a solution themselves, while dogs looked to a human for help. Domestic dogs seem to have “outsourced” more advanced problem-solving to humans, which is convenient but makes them highly dependent.

    Creative inspiration

    Many multinational and large corporations today outsource internal competencies and certain functional roles to outside suppliers. While outsourcing has reduced headcount and —to some extent— overhead costs, it has also led to an organizational brain drain. The situation is comparable to a dog turning to humans to “do the thinking for us”, “solve our problems on our behalf” and “tell us what to do”. But just as a dog is dependent on the smarts of others, so do companies depend on the intelligence of their outsourcing partner. So, ask yourself: “What problem areas and functional roles are so important for our business that we should “insource” the ability again? What topics do we want to resolve by ourselves to control our fate?”

    Staying healthy

    Dogs are often plagued by parasites such as fleas, ticks, mites, and worms. Parasites live in or on another organism and obtain nutrients at the host’s expense. While they typically don’t cause severe harm, they steadily impair health, energy and performance levels.

    Creative inspiration

    Just as you want to keep your dog parasite-free, you may use the Year of the Dog to rid your business of parasitic elements. Ask yourself: Who has benefited from us and derived monetary nutrients at our expense without returning an adequate benefit? Such freeloaders may be suppliers and service providers, advisors and lobbyists, and maybe even certain managers and staff. Investigate how much benefit each derived from you, and what you really got in return. If you notice a gross mismatch, clean out the parasite.

    Rewarding loyalty

    Chinese astrology tends to ascribe characteristics and behaviors observed in an animal of the Chinese Zodiac to sum-up personality traits of people born in the corresponding year. People born in the Year of the Dog are said to be loyal and honest, amiable and kind, responsible and prudent, lively and courageous. Due to having a strong sense of loyalty and sincerity, dogs will do everything for a person —or business— who cares for them.

    Creative inspiration

    Who are key members of your company or team who have loyally and responsibly worked for you for a long time, and contributed to the success of your business? Who are your long-term customers who loyally continue buying from you? Who are other loyalists who have served your cause as loyal suppliers, advisors, advocates, opportunists and cheerleaders? In the Year of the Dog, think about ways to say “Thank you” to these loyal, dependable and sensible companions.

    Learning from Abraham Lincoln’s dog

    Let’s end with a little riddle relating to dogs. Here’s a question of the famous US president Abraham Lincoln: “How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg?” Think about this question for a moment, then settle on a number.

    Got it? Say it out loud. Now here is “Honest” Abe’s answer: “Four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”

    Creative inspiration

    Nowadays, people are very quick at attaching labels to people or things (this even happened before Donald Trump popularized “fake news”). But notice that, for example, calling something going on that affects your business a problem doesn’t mean that it’s really a problem, or that it is the real problem your business faces. So in the Year of the Dog, ponder these questions: What things are we labeling or framing in ways that prevent us from noticing what’s really going on? What uncomfortable realities do we shy away from —or label as “fake news”— so that we can continue staying in our comfort zone? What are the real problems we’re facing and should tackle in the next 12 months? And aren’t these real problems rather opportunities to make a giant leap into a better future?

    Are you ready to get creative in the Year of the Dog? Why don’t you enroll your team in of our Thinkergy training courses?

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2018. 

  • Is your mind set on a genius mindset?

    In September 2018, Motivational Press will publish the first part of my book trilogy “Genius Journey. Developing Creative Leaders for the Innovation Economy.” At the moment, I update and refresh the copy that I originally drafted in 2013-14, and I see this also as an opportunity to simplify how I present key concepts of the Genius Journey method in my creativity and leadership book. So in simple terms, what is the Genius Journey Method? How does it work in general terms, and how can it help you to transform your mindset into the genius that you are?

    What is Genius Journey?

    Genius Journey is a highly effective, experiential and enjoyable creative leadership development method that I created for my innovation company Thinkergy. The method is based on three key insights that I uncovered by reading biographies of geniuses and creative leaders in business and other domains, by studying psychological accounts on traits of highly creative individuals, and by comparing these findings with my experiences during my own personal genius discovery journey. What are these three insights?

    • First insight: Geniuses produce extraordinary ideas and results because they think and work and behave differently than ordinary people. We can also say: They deliver abnormal results because they are not normal, they are abnormal.
    • Second insight: Most geniuses share a similar set of abnormal action routines and mindsets that vary noticeably from those of normal people.
    • Third insight: Normal people can reconnect to their genius if they adopt and practice these abnormal creative success mindsets of geniuses.

    In short, ordinary people share a set of common, normal, usual, expected and conventional attitudes and action routines that disconnect them from their creative source. In contrast, extraordinary creative leaders have acquired and automatically practice a set of uncommon, abnormal, unusual, unexpected and unconventional attitudes and routines that allow them to reconnect to their inner genius and to produce extraordinary ideas and results.

    So Genius Journey is all about transforming your mindset and routines to elevate you to higher levels of consciousness and reconnect you to your creative source, to your inner genius. This leads us to another important question that we discuss in the following.

    What are mindsets and routines?

    A mindset is made of “the established sets of attitudes held by someone”. So what then is an attitude? The word attitude can be defined as “a settled way of thinking or feeling about something, typically one that is reflected in a person’s behavior”, or “a position of the body proper to or implying an action or mental state”. Interestingly, attitude is also an informal way to express “individuality and self-confidence as manifested by appearance or style”. Think of your favorite genius or creative leader — does this person have an individual, self-confident attitude? I bet.

    Likewise, the word routine can be defined as “a set of actions regularly followed; a fixed program”. We routinely undergo certain daily activities, and often routinely respond to a particular situation we experience.

    Note that the unified set of attitudes that forms a certain mindset relates to mental states (cognitive activities taking place in your mind, such as thoughts, beliefs, emotions), while routines are more linked to things we do with our bodies (physical actions or activities such as working, moving, exercising, etc.). Of course, body and mind are interconnected. Your body (posture, facial expressions, pitch of voice, etc.) reflects what’s going on in your mind, and vice versa: Your body can influence through certain actions what the mind thinks and feels.

    In her excellent book titled “Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges”, Amy Cuddy explains how power posing can positively charge your mind: the simple action of assuming an outgoing, empowering pose with your body raises the levels of the dominance hormone testosterone in the body while at the same time lowering those of the stress hormone cortisol, which tends to make you think, act and perform in more empowered ways. (Amy Cuddy also shares key concepts of the book in a highly inspirational TED talk that I recommend you to watch.)

    To sum up, people’s set attitudes and action routines that are connecting mind and body characterize their settled way of thinking and feeling about particular people, things, situations and circumstances they encounter, what thoughts they repeatedly tend to entertain, and what actions they routinely practice while going through a typical day or responding to a particular stimulus.

    How about your mindset and routines?

    Are your attitudes and routines normal or abnormal? Common or uncommon? Do you follow the usual layperson’s way or the unusual genius way? To get your mind primed and curious to partake in this journey, allow me to ask you a few questions related to your mindset:

    How do you typically think and/or feel about:

    • having to encounter an unknown challenge, event, or situation?
    • yourself?
    • making a mistake? Or failing in a project you undertake?
    • life in general? And your life in particular?
    • your work?
    • your domain of expertise?
    • your levels of rationality and responsibility — and of creativity and empathy?
    • change?
    • events in your past?Or about the future?
    • how many hours you must work to be a successful person?

    If you were to travel the Genius Journey, you would encounter questions like these — and your answers determine your current level of genius and how common or uncommon you are. Fortunately, we’re not stuck on a certain level for good. We can always choose to upgrade our mindsets to genius level by working on transforming our minds.

    So how does Genius Journey work?

    The Genius Journey method takes you on an imaginary journey were you visit 10 destinations. At each of the ten destination stops, you learn about one mindset or routine that stops you, limits you, confines you, keeps you small, keeps you thinking inside this tiny little box, keeps you producing normal ideas and normal results. And at each stop of the journey, you will also discover the corresponding mindset that sets you free, unboxes your thinking, expands your consciousness, empowers you to become outstandingly creative and successful, and reconnects you with your inner genius. As such, traveling the Genius Journey gives you the chance to become aware of your typical attitudes and routines, and if they serve or limit you. As you progress in your Genius Journey, you gradually adopt the empowering abnormal attitudes and routines of genius that build upon each other and reinforce themselves in a virtuous cycle that expands your consciousness, thus opening your mind to reconnect to your inner genius.

    Are you ready to become and be abnormal? If yes, consider preordering a copy of Part 1 of the Genius Journey book trilogy, which is titled “The Journey to Your Self”. Or would you be more interested in booking one of our Genius Journey training courses to experience how to think like a genius and develop a creative genius mindset? Or do you rather prefer to stay a normal person, continue thinking and doing the same normal things that everyone else is thinking and doing? The choices are yours.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2018.


  • What innovation types fit your cognitive style?


    A new year is always a new beginning in business and in innovation. In the coming months, many companies will start new innovation project initiatives. They will compose innovation teams assigned to work on specified innovation challenges, such as creating an innovative product, designing a better customer experience, exploring new distribution channels, or designing impactful promotional campaigns, among others. We can distinguish the nature of such innovation project cases by a) the underlying innovation type and b) the desired impact of the innovative change they seek to produce. But did you know that people’s enjoyment of, and performance in, a particular innovation project depends on their preferred cognitive styles and innovator profile? Today, let’s explore what TIPS innovator types tend to fit to what kind of innovation types.

    Introducing the TIPS innovation profiling method

    TIPS is a new innovation people profiling method that I created for my innovation company Thinkergy. The method helps people to identify which of the four TIPS bases (Theories, Ideas, People, Systems) they are naturally attracted to, and also determines their preferred styles to think, work, interact and live.

    Based on the online test results, a person is assigned one of 11 TIPS innovator profiles that fall into three categories:: four pure profiles that rest on one base (Theorist, Ideator, Partner, Systematizer); six dual profiles that play on two bases (Conceptualizer, Promoter, Organizer, Technocrat, Coach and Experimenter); and one multiple profile (All-Rounder) that balances all bases. 

    Introducing the spectrum of modern innovation types

    In the past, innovation mostly focused on only two innovation types (product innovation, process innovation), but in the last 2 decades, a wide spectrum of modern innovation types has emerged that allows companies to innovate in many different ways:

    • Operational innovations target to improve internal processes and operational structures. The related innovation types are process innovation and structure innovation.
    • Value innovations focus on producing new, original and —in particular— meaningful value propositions (products, services, solutions, customer experiences and dreams (or as Tom Peters calls them, experiences plus)). Innovation types that target new value creation are product innovation (sometimes also called new product development), service innovation, solution design, and customer experience design.
    • Leverage innovations fall into two categories that are led by different bases:
      • Innovation types that leverage through multiplication allow you to multiply the impact —and revenues— of an innovative value through new distribution channels, new platforms, networks and strategic partnerships, and innovative business models. Related innovation types are channel innovation, platform and network innovation, and business model innovation.
      • In contrast, innovation types that leverage through magnification aim to make an innovative value offering appear to be even more valuable through a strong brand and exclusive image, thus allowing for higher prices and profit margins. Innovation types that enhance value through design include brand design, image campaign and promotion design, and packaging design.
    • Strategy innovation aims to reposition a business for sustainable and superior growth by working on all previous four levels (superior new value offerings produced at lower operational cost and leveraged with modern channels and design).
    • Finally, social innovation aims to improve the lot of the less fortunate members of society and the environment.

    Larry Keeley discusses ten innovation types in a book titled The Ten Types of Innovation. In an earlier blog article, I expanded on Keeley’s ten innovation types and categorised them as described above. In this connection, please note that before you start a new innovation project targeting a particular innovation type, you should be aware that you have to follow certain application rules of the innovation types game. 

    How the different innovation types relate to TIPS

    Dependent on your TIPS innovator profile, and your related dominant base or bases, you tend to relish certain innovation types more than others, and are likely to perform well in these innovation project that cater to your TIPS “home base”:

    • Operational innovations are largely Systems-driven. If you’re profiled as a Systematizer, Organizer, Technocrat or Systematic Experimenter, you’re likely to enjoy working on innovation projects targeting internal processes and operational structure.
    • Value innovations are dominated by the profiles at the Ideas-base. Ideators, Conceptualizers, Promoters and Imaginative Experimenters dominate innovation projects that aim to create meaningful new products, services, solutions and experiences that delight customers.
    • Theories-based profile types (Theorists, Conceptualizers, Technocrats, and —to a lesser extent— Systematizers) appreciate if they can apply their quantitative-conceptual cognitive style to innovation types that leverage through multiplication (focusing on new channels, networks, platforms, and business models).
    • In contrast, innovation types that leverage through magnification (brand, campaign, promotion and packaging design) are often driven by the profiles at the Ideas- and People-base (Promoters, Ideators, and Partners). Strategy innovation projects are spearheaded by the conceptual profiles at the TIPS bases Theories and Ideas (in particular Conceptualizers, but also Theorists and Ideators).
    • Finally, the profiles surrounding the People-base (Partners, Promoters, Organizers and Coaches) love working on social innovation initiatives. 

    How innovations differ in their impact of change

    The TIPS bases help explain not only what types of projects the different TIPS innovator profiles enjoy working on, but also the degree of change that they naturally prefer. Innovation equates to a positive change and a departure from the status quo. Thereby, different innovations vary in the degree of positive change that they produce. 

    We can categorize innovations into three different intensity levels based on the impact that a change has: incremental improvements (typically of an existing product marketed to an existing user base), evolutionary innovations and revolutionary innovations (disruptive new products allowing a firm to wow existing users and convert new customers). Moreover, evolutionary innovations can be further differentiated as to whether they focus on adding new value to existing users, or if they extend an existing value offering to new customer groups. These differences can be mapped out in an innovation-impact type matrix that is shown below. 

    How much change do innovators at the four TIPS bases prefer to produce?

    Depending on their dominant TIPS base, different innovator types feel comfortable with —and prefer to produce in an innovation project— a certain degree of innovative change:

    • The innovator profiles at the Systems-base (Systematizer, Organizer, Technocrat and Systematic Experimenter) tend to focus more on Incremental improvements by practicing a more adaptive innovation style. They are satisfied with incremental change because in general, they prefer preserving the status quo.
    • In contrast, the dynamic innovator profiles surrounding the TIPS base Ideas (Ideator, Conceptualizer, Promoter and Imaginative Experimenter) like to drive bold, radical change. They really enjoy pushing for revolutionary change and creating disruptive innovations, which they find more exciting than satisfying with an evolutionary innovation or —how boring— wasting their time and creative zest in projects targeting only incremental improvements.
    • Finally, the profiles at the Theories- and People-base can support either the incremental innovation efforts at the Systems-base or the more revolutionary innovation projects of the Ideas-base. But what they really enjoy most is working on projects targeting evolutionary innovations. Thereby, the profiles surrounding the Theories-base prefer to create more and new value to existing users, while the innovator profiles surrounding the People-base enjoy looking for novel ways to extend existing value offerings to new user groups. 

    Conclusion: Before you start a new innovation initiative, determine a) what innovation type the project focuses on, and b) how much change you target. Then, assign a person with a suitable innovator profile to lead the innovation initiative. Finally, invite those people to join the innovation project team who naturally enjoy this type of project based on their TIPS innovator profile, base orientation and related cognitive styles.

    Are you interested in determining your personal TIPS innovator profile? Or would you like to learn more about how to apply TIPS in business and innovation in an experiential 1-day training course, The TIPS Innovation Profiling Workshop? Contact a TIPS Certified Trainer and let us know more about how we may support you.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2018


  • How to make everyone contribute to innovation

    Many books and articles about famous innovation leaders focus on and celebrate one of three archetypes: the geek who first embraced a new technology; the progressive creator who came up with a game-changing idea for a new product; or the storyteller who charismatically leads and promotes a firm’s products. But what if you have a cognitive style that differs from these glamorous innovation archetypes? How can you play on your unique talents and strengths to contribute to the innovation efforts of your firm?

    Corporate innovation involves many other roles and tasks requiring innovators with very different cognitive styles. When we look at the domain of innovation from a wider viewpoint, we can notice many other perspectives beyond the archetypical technological, revolutionary or promotional frames of innovation. Today, let’s discuss how to make everyone contribute to corporate innovation by revealing their cognitive styles and innovator profiles with the help of TIPS, Thinkergy’s innovation people profiling method.

    Innovation requires more than just coming up with ideas

    One of the many learning activities we run in our TIPS workshops invites delegates to link typical tasks that an innovation team needs to perform while working on an innovation project to the TIPS innovator profiles. Allow me to play a variation of this exercise with you now:

    Suppose you had to select colleagues for an innovation team to work on a major innovation challenge of your company. Who in your team, business unit or company is the best person to:

    • do secondary research on the innovation case and check on perceived facts and assumptions?
    • give advice on new technologies and trends related to the challenge?
    • come up with bold ideas that push boundaries?
    • convincingly pitch a top idea to key idea supporters?
    • consult on customers’ needs, wants and dreams?
    • run an idea activation project and manage the project team?
    • critique an idea concept and tell you what’s wrong with it? review financial data or legal documents related to the innovation case?
    • explore anthropological or philosophical questions related to an innovation challenge?
    • roll up the sleeves and get hands-on in a rapid prototyping exercise?

    Do you have someone in mind for each activity?

    This little exercise can help us to understand that people a) differ in their cognitive preferences, talents and strengths, b) are good at and enjoy different work activities, and c) can add value and contribute to an innovation project in different roles and activities that are aligned to their preferred styles, talents and strengths.

    Going beyond the project-side of innovation, we can similarly notice many other innovation-related roles and work activities that require people with different cognitive styles, strengths and talents. Thanks to TIPS, we can now give each of those “innovator types” a profile name and specific roles or activity niches where they can shine with their unique cognitive styles and talents.

    Introducing how each innovator type can contribute to innovation

    Many of the celebrated innovation leaders mentioned above are Conceptualizers, Ideators or Promoters who often create new products and start new companies to market them. All situated at the Ideas-base in TIPS, these profiles are:

    • the first to pick up new trends and emerging technologies (geeky Conceptualizers such as Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg),
    • turn them into revolutionary new products (progressive Ideators such as Walt Disney, Thomas Edison or the older Steve Jobs), and
    • create a buzz for them in the market (enticing Promoters such as the young Steve Jobs or “ad man” David Ogilvy).

    These profiles cover three fundamental perspectives on innovation: strategic-technological (Conceptualizer), progressive-revolutionary (Ideators) and marketing-driven and promotional (Promoter).

    But how about the other TIPS profiles and their perspectives on innovation?

    • Partners (such as the hotel group founders J.W. Marriott or Conrad Hilton) take a customer-centered and social view on innovation. Being situated at the People base of TIPS (Theories, Ideas, People, Systems), they enjoy working on human-centered innovation projects because compared to all TIPS profiles, they are intimately familiar with their customers’ wants, needs and desires. Moreover, they like to get involved in and contribute to social innovation initiatives that aim to help the less fortunate in society.
    • Systematizers (such as the steel industrialists Andrew Carnegie or Lakshmi Mittal) approach innovation more from a systemic and procedural perspective. So, entrust a Systematizer with the tasks of setting up the formal innovation system in your company: organizing the innovation function; defining the processes of how the organization intends to pursue innovation; implementing an IT-driven idea and innovation management system; and specifying the metrics to track the firm’s innovation management performance. In an innovation project, call upon Systematizers in the critical Evaluation-stage towards the end of the process, when they can help an innovation team to “get real” and give feedback on what’s wrong with an idea or prototype.
    • Theorists (like the economist John Maynard Keynes or the young Elon Musk) look at innovation from a research-driven or scientific point of view. Operating from the Theories base, they create or transform base research or —nowadays more often— applied research findings into tangible know-how and technologies that Conceptualizers or Ideators can pick-up and transform into new innovations. In innovation projects, Theorists are valuable contributors in the initial Xploration stage, where they challenge an innovation team to critically check on the viability of facts, assumptions and beliefs related to the innovation project case.
    • Organizers (such as the Southwest Airlines founder Herb Kelleher or Walmart founder Sam Walton) cover the operational and organizational aspects on innovation. They prefer to work on more hands-on, down-to-earth innovation initiatives that aim to continuously or incrementally improve the processes used to produce or deliver an innovation to the market. They also enjoy taking care of all organizational details related to innovation events or conferences so that everyone feels comfortable and well served.
    • Technocrats (such as the Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-Shing or Microsoft co-founder Mark Allen) tend to approach innovation more from a quantitative or administrative point of view. They enjoy taking care of programmatic and financial calculations (e.g. calculating return on investment or market valuations) as well as legal aspects related to an innovation (reviewing legal documents to protect or administer a firm’s intellectual property rights).
    • Coaches (such as the psychologists Carl Gustav Jung or Abraham Maslow) represent the philosophical and psychological perspective on innovation (“Why do humans innovate, and who benefits really from it? How can the discipline innovation elevate the human lot and spirit?”). As Coaches are as rare in real life as unicorns (especially in the business world), let’s not go into detail here about how they precisely animate their noble intentions into tangible innovation contributions and move on to the next profile.
    • Experimenters take an iterative and experimental view on innovation. They passionately look for ways to either scale a viable product to allow for much deeper market penetration (represented by systematic Experimenters such as car maker Henry Ford or McDonald’s Ray Kroc), or to significantly upgrade an existing product by elevating its performance and design aesthetics (exemplified by imaginative Experimenters such as the inventor and entrepreneur James Dyson or Apple’s lead designer Jonathan Ive). In an innovation project, Experimenters are the first to roll up their sleeves for rapidly prototyping a promising idea concept in the Evaluation stage.

    What about the eleventh and final innovator profile in TIPS, the All-Rounder? As they cover all four TIPS bases (Theories, Ideas, People, Systems), All-Rounders can flexibly contribute to innovation in many different roles and activities.

    Conclusion: William Shakespeare wrote: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances.” What’s true for life in general is as for the world of innovation: Everyone can play an important role in innovation and contribute to a firm’s innovation success — but better ensure that we do so in harmony with everyone’s natural talents, preferred cognitive style and innovator profile.

    Have you become curious to find out more about the TIPS innovator profiles of yourself and other players in your team? Contact a certified TIPS trainer to find out how you can take our TIPS online personality test.

    © 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.


  • It’s not only what tools you use, but how you use them

    When you work with a team on an innovation project case, what matters is not only what kind of thinking tool you use when in the innovation process. To do sound thinking and produce adequate outputs, it also matters how exactly you use the tool — or in other words: how you communicate and interact with other team members while applying a particular tool, and how you capture outputs. Today, let’s learn more about the different communication styles that you can use while working on an innovation project.

    Background: The problem with “brainstorming”

    When hearing the words “creativity” and “innovation”, many businesspeople automatically think of another word: brainstorming. Unsurprisingly, they also indiscriminately use this word while working on an innovation case, such as: “We need to brainstorm for ideas”, or “Let’s brainstorm what we know about our case”.

    While applying a particular thinking tool, however, you may alternatively use a range of other —and often better— communication styles. Why shouldn’t you always simply “brainstorm” for outputs with your team?

    Using a variety of communication styles has the following benefits: For one, it often can help teams to noticeably enhance the quantity and quality of their outputs. For two, going beyond “brainstorming” for ideas or outputs is also an effective way to circumvent intercultural issues like ‘saving face’ or ‘respecting seniority or authority.’ For three, varying communication styles can also enhance the levels of fun and enjoyment of an innovation session for the various team members who often differ in their personality and preferred cognitive styles.

    For example, while the more social and extraverted types enjoy “brainstorming”, the more theoretical and private types tend to prefer —and contribute more and better outputs— less dynamic and more well-structured interaction styles. Apart from “brainstorming” for ideas or outputs in a group, you may also fall back on other innovation communication styles depending on the cognitive styles of the different team members and the nature of the thinking tools you intend to use. For example, we may do solo-brainwriting or pool-brainwriting, enjoy a round of buddystorming or brainstorming, among others.

    Variables to decide on while applying thinking tools:

    Say you’re an innovation facilitator who’s guiding an innovation team through the application of one particular thinking tool. Apart from setting the time available for the exercise and ideally a target output quota, you also have to decide on the following variables with regards to the precise application of the tool by a team:

    • Team member split: Do we apply this tool by working with the whole team, in pairs or individually?
    • Feedback: Do we apply a thinking tool so that the output of other team members may stimulate a delegate while producing more outputs (feedback), or do we use it without feedback? e.g., when you exchange idea worksheets, you may read one idea that inspires a new one.
    • Rotation: If various tools are used in parallel by a group of participants, do we rotate the participants working on a specific tools after some time to provide additional input to the work of other participants on another tool? Or do we keep the work groups static?
    • Output capturing: How do you capture outputs? For example, do you write ideas on a flip-chart, blank paper sheets, Post-it notes, worksheets? Do you have one person writing down the outputs for the group, or is everyone writing and producing outputs in parallel?
    • Repetition: Do we apply the tool in one go (which is the norm), or do we allow for multiple rounds?

    What innovation communication styles do we distinguish?

    When an innovation team works on an innovation case, they have the following options to apply a thinking tool within a certain stage of an innovation process method:

    • Brainstorming: This is the default way of how most teams typically apply a particular thinking tool, especially a creativity tool. The team works together as a whole group to produce the desired outputs (e.g., ideas). Thereby, each team member can freely —and without any formal order— suggest thoughts and ideas, which are recorded by at least one person on a paper sheet, a flip-chart or a whiteboard.

    • Round Robin Brainstorming: Sitting at a table or in a circle with your team, you go around and share a thought or idea one by one. Once a round is completed, you start again with the first person and continue going around; when it’s their turn, team members may say “I pass” if they need more time to think (or temporarily go blank). Just as with brainstorming, make sure to have one person to record the comments or ideas.
    • Bodystorming: As a group, enact a role play where you use your bodies to check out or act out a value offering or subject under investigation, such as boarding an airplane or queuing options for immigration checks at airports. As s bodystormer, loudly communicate your experiences and feelings, which are recorded by one team member.

    • Buddystorming: Pair up with your buddy (a newly befriended or already close team member), and work together on a tool to generate the desired outputs (which one of you may record on paper, worksheets or Post-it notes).

    • Think-Pair-Share: This communication style blends solo, pair and teamwork. First think: Work alone silently and note down your thoughts and ideas. Then, pair: Exchange your thoughts and ideas with a buddy. Finally, share: one by one, work through all the thoughts and ideas from each team member, which gives the team the chance to add more content. Make sure to consolidate the individual and pair outputs, or capture the outputs of the sharing session at the end.
    • Solo Brainwriting: Here, all team members silently work and think for themselves, and note down ideas and thoughts on paper sheets, worksheets or Post-it notes. As everyone works in parallel, the team typically produces a much higher output number in a given period of time compared to a team engaging in one of the “brainstorming” styles. Of course, Solo Brainwriting works also for a sole ideator, but it’s more communal doing it together with other ideators.

    • Team Brainwriting: In this communication style, all team members silently work alongside each other in the group and produce outputs (e.g. raw ideas) or throughputs (e.g., associate inputs such as a Morphological Matrix) on flip-chart paper or on paper sheets.

    • Pool Brainwriting: Once again, all team members silently work and think in parallel as a group, but now they exchange the written ideas and thoughts (on worksheets or paper sheets) with their team mates, who then can piggyback on certain ideas or build on other’s thoughts.

    Conclusion: Producing outstanding results in innovation projects is largely a numbers game. An innovation team needs to produce a certain number of outputs, say raw ideas or idea concepts, while working through the different stages of an innovation method to arrive at novel, original and meaningful innovation deliverables by the end of an innovation project. Even if you reach the target output quota, you don’t have a hundred percent certainty that you will always succeed in producing an innovation output that wows your target users.

    However, your odds of success dramatically increase if you use an effective innovation process, select the thinking tools that fit the innovation type that you target with your innovation project, and then also have mastered the art of how to effectively use each tool within the context of the process method with regards to the key parameters (heads: team, solo, pair, small team, large team, or mixed?; feedback: with or without?; team dynamism: static or rotating? output recording: one for group; several per group; or all individual?; interaction styles: brainstorming, round-robin brainstorming, buddystorming, bodystorming, think-pair-share, solo brainwriting, or pool brainwriting?).

    So, facilitating innovation projects is both a science and an art.

    This article is one of 64 sections of The Beginner’s Guide to Innovation, a new book that I am currently working on (targeted for publication in 2Q.2018 by Motivational Press). In our X-IDEAinnovation training courses, we also practice the different innovation communications styles with the training delegates. Innovation trainers can learn the art of comfortably switching between different communication styles in our X-IDEA innovation licensing programs. Contact us if you want to find out more.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017.

  • Innovative companies vs. in-NO-vative companies: Who’s who?

    Take a moment to think about the following questions: What innovative companies do you know? What companies do you consider to be highly creative and innovative? What factors have made these firms become innovation leaders? Would you want to work for one of those innovative companies? Why or why not?

    What innovative companies do you know?

    When we train or consult organizations at my innovation company Thinkergy on how to build more innovation-friendly companies, we ask these questions as a warm-up exercise. While the smaller creative ventures and local innovation heroes vary in different countries, some well-known firms appear on the delegates’ list of innovative companies, with Apple, Google, Amazon often featured first.

    Many businesspeople also intuitively have a good understanding of organizational and cultural factors that differentiate innovative companies from normal organizations. And while a few delegates dare to admit they rather would not want to work for an innovative company (either because their cognitive style favors efficiency and adaptation over creativity and innovation, or because they dislike working in a firm that constantly wants to push the boundaries forward), a vast majority of workshop delegates would sign on at an innovative firm if they got the chance.

    What in-NO-vative companies do you know?

    We also ask workshop delegates the exact opposite set of questions: “What companies do you consider NOT to be innovative? What factors prevent these firms from becoming innovation leaders? Would you want to work for such an in-NO-vative company? Why or why not?”

    Interestingly, the energy levels rise when the delegates list examples of in-NO-vative “Me Too” companies — and of the cultural factors that stand in their way. Laughter, cheers. and a bit of disgust mixed with “Schadenfreude” fills the room, indicating that the delegates had their fair share of negative customer experiences with the blacklisted firms and their poor products and services. Having worked in such an in-NO-vative copycat company before, some delegates are even intimately familiar with what’s wrong with these companies.

    What can we learn from the exercise?

    Most businesspeople and customers intuitively grasp what innovative companies do right — and what in-NO-vative companies do wrong. They are able to pinpoint many of the striking differences in “the ways we do things around here” in innovative versus in-NO-vative companies. So, if not only highly paid consultants but normal people can distinguish poor from best practice and identify what wrongs we need to right, why isn’t every company innovative?

    Changing an established organizational culture is a very hard thing to do. It typically takes at least 2-3 years of focused effort to make a successful transition towards a more creative culture, and those inside the organization who benefited from the old culture may resist change or even sabotage it. 

    What companies lead global innovation rankings?

    A few well-known business magazines and global consulting firms regularly release lists that rank the world’s most innovative companies. The different rankings vary in the methodology and metrics used to rank innovators, thus producing variations in the firms listed as innovation leaders, but also having some names appear in every ranking.

    Boston Consulting Group (BCG)’s annual list of the world’s top innovative companies is my favorite ranking. Because it has been done consistently every year since 2005, it allows us to see shifts and trends in the populace of innovation leaders over time. BCG has steadily evolved its ranking methodology, adding over time objective financial metrics (such as total shareholder premium, revenue and margin growth) and cross-industry ranking to its initial approach to having executives subjectively rank the most innovative companies inside their industry.

    In 2006, BCG’s ten top innovators read (in rank order): Apple, Google, 3M, Toyota, Microsoft, General Electric, Procter & Gamble, Nokia, and. Starbucks. Ten years later, Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Toyota have managed to stay in the top 10, but are now joined by new top innovators that have emerged in the past decade (such as Tesla Motors, Netflix, and Facebook) or have moved up in to the top 10 (Amazon, Samsung, and IBM).

       

    In recent years, other business magazines such as Forbes and Fast Company released their own innovation rankings:

    • href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/innovatorsdna/2017/08/08/how-we-rank-the-most-innovative-companies-2017/?ss=innovative-companies#76e7d5045c46">ranks a firm’s innovativeness based on sales growth and their “innovation premium” (defined as the difference between their market capitalization and the net present value of cash flows from existing businesses(based on a proprietary algorithm from Credit Suisse HOLT)) they achieved. Thereby, Forbes only considers firms with seven years of public financial data and USD 10 billion in market cap. Moreover, Forbes only focuses on industries investing in innovation, excluding non-R&D intensive industries such as banking and financial services or energy and mining.
    • In contrast, Fast Company ranks innovation leaders overall and in many different business segments based on the impacts of recent innovative contributions that they’ve made. Thereby, Fast Company blends subjective editorial judgment with objective artificial intelligence that mines and topographically maps out millions of innovation-related news articles, blog posts, company profiles, and patents across more than 40 sectors to identify trends and the companies that drive them. Due to the different ranking approach of Fast Company, many smaller creative agencies and tech firms (that don’t size up to the BCG or Forbes lists) achieve top ranks alongside the usual suspects.

    Lessons and trends from the global innovation rankings

    When we compare the movements within the BCG ranking over a decade, and also factor in innovators names of other global innovator lists using different ranking methodologies (Forbes, Fast Company), we can discern a few general rules of thumb as well as emerging trends related to the world’s top innovative companies:

    1. Sustainable innovation leaders seem to live by one of Steve Jobs’ mottos: “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” Ten companies have managed to stay on the BCG list for more than a decade, earning them the title of “steady innovators”: Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Toyota, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, BMW General Electric and Nike. Consistent presence in the BCG list indicates that these companies have cultivated innovation-friendly cultures that are unswayed by top managers and management fads coming and going.
    2. In fast-moving industries such as technology, today’s Innovation leaders may lose their relevance and drop out of the rankings quickly if they miss out on emerging technologies (Blackberry, Motorola, Nokia).
    3. Innovation seems to increasingly be moving to Asia: In the past, innovation leaders mainly originated in the US, Europe or Japan, Recent rankings indicate that dynamic innovation increasingly takes place in Asian Emerging Markets (most importantly China and India, but also in smaller countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand).
    4. Innovation shifts from industrial to digital: Ten years ago, many innovation leaders were industrial companies (3M, Toyota, GE, BMW, Honda), while recent rankings are increasingly dominated by new the “digital innovators” that create, market and operate digital platforms (e.g., Amazon.com, Salesforce.com, Facebook, etc.).
    5. Innovation leadership doesn’t equate anymore with being big. In the same strand, while innovative Multinational Corporations (MNC), used to dominate rankings in the past, newer rankings are a blend of MNCs, new up-and-coming Emerging Market Corporation, as well as many smaller ventured in the tech or digital space that were or are about to get listed. This shift supports John Naisbitt’s view that “We’re shifting from a managerial to an entrepreneurial society.”

    Conclusion: “Continued innovation is the best means of defeating competition,” noted the famous innovator Thomas Edison. What was already true more than a hundred years ago is even more true today. Whatever company leads innovation in an industry today, it has to continue innovating with a focus on making meaning and on making the world a better place — or otherwise, it will rather sooner or later loose its relevance and will be replaced by a new class of innovative companies.

    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). Contact us if you’re interested to learn more about our innovation training courses or how we may help your company to do the cool change from in-NO-vation to innovation.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017

  • Does The Pendulum Swing Back?

    Around the time we entered the new millennium, humanity moved from information intensification into a new economic age: the age of creation intensification. In the innovation economy, the key competitive advantage of individuals, companies and countries alike is creation — the ability to use existing and newly emerging theories, know-how and technologies to create novel, original and meaningful value.

    In the coming two to three decades, creativity and innovation rule will be the key drivers of business success and economic prosperity. That is, provided the innovation pendulum that drives or impairs the free flow of goods, people, ideas and capital isn’t swinging back.

    The pendulum: Swinging back and forth between two extreme poles

    Some time ago, we discussed the timing, direction and impact of change. We learned that change typically unfolds in one of four direction movements: linear change, cyclical change (or the wave), the spiral, and finally the pendulum.

    The pendulum describes a directional movement where forces of change swing back and forth between two extreme poles in fairly regular time intervals. In many countries, political change follows the movement of a pendulum. For example, in the United States, political power regularly swings back and forth between two parties promoting more liberal (Democrats) and conservative (Republicans) policies, with occupying the presidency and control of both Congressional chambers representing the extreme pinnacle of power.

    But how about economic change?

    Economic change seems to follow a pendulum movement, too. Here, the international movements of ideas, goods, people and capital is the decisive factor as the pendulum swings back and forth between the poles of ‘free movement and international trade’ versus ‘protectionism and nationalistic trade policies’. How has the pendulum swung back and forth between these two poles over the past two centuries?

    • The time period was an era of modern globalization, with international trade playing a major role in economic activities of the leading European countries. It also featured outstanding intellectual activity and groundbreaking scientific discoveries (such as Einstein’s theory of relativity in 1905) that inspired new business ventures in new industries based on the likes of chemistry or electricity.
    • This period of economic, intellectual and technological progress and prosperity ended with the outbreak of World War I, a major discontinuity that made the pendulum swing back: The period between 1914-1945 was one of deglobalization. Nationalistic parties and autocratic leaders took power in many countries and protected their local economies by regulating and limiting the free movement of goods, people, ideas and capital. Protectionism and the cold-hearted pursuit of national interests led to the Great Depression and culminated in World War II.
    • After the deglobalized period of two world wars had destroyed millions of people and crippled some nations, the pendulum swung back again: The period 1945-2008 saw a fresh phase of globalization, driven by trade and foreign direct investments by thousands of multinational companies, supported by multilateral trade agreements (the GATT rounds and regional free-trade agreements such as the EU, NAFTA, ASEAN) that reduced tariffs and non-tariff trade barriers. Meanwhile, technological innovations (such as computerization and the Internet) and transportation advances (such as container ships) significantly reduced costs and time intervals of international trade and communication. This new flood of prosperity and technologic progress also doubled the number of countries that embraced the concepts of human rights and democracy.
    • The financial crisis of 2008, some experts argue, has made the pendulum swing back to usher a new phase of deglobalization. Many countries have seen (again) the rise of reactionary leaders who won elections based on protectionist, populist policies or took power by military force. So, is the pendulum swinging back? And will this lead to a new outbreak of trade wars —or even real wars— that will limit prosperity and competition?

    What are consequences of inhibiting or promoting free (international) movements of goods, people and ideas?

    Protectionist and nationalistic policies temporarily secure the interests of the old establishment and secure jobs in old industries through tariffs, non-tariff trade barriers, and unfavorable investment regulations or immigration policies. They temporarily prolong the life of corporate dinosaurs and some old jobs, but at a high cost: Such policies cut off local markets and consumers from access to superior goods, cutting-edge technologies, revolutionary ideas, foreign direct and capital investments, and the brightest global talents. But eventually, the pendulum will swing back again, markets will open again, and corporate dinosaurs will face the fate of creative destruction.

    In contrast, policies promoting the free international flow of goods, people, ideas and capital lead to new waves of technological innovation, new ventures, new investments and new prosperity. They create new jobs in new industries that will drive economies and create prosperity for future decades. They attract some of the smartest minds and think the boldest ideas and have the energy and talent to turn them into reality. Innovation and economic growth flourish in times and environments where ideas, goods, people, and capital flow freely.

    But does economic development really follow a pendulum movement?

    It can be argued that movements of ‘globalization versus deglobalization’ and ‘economic freedom versus protectionism’ follow a more hopeful pattern: the spiral.

    That is, while moving back and forth, we also make regular upward leaps as we learn from past mistakes, and we also produce new waves of innovations and technologies that create more prosperity and progress for ever more people. So, we may temporarily move back in the coming years, but let’s hope that in the long run, humanity will continue to move up on the global prosperity spiral.

    How is the “tug of war” of opposing economic directions going to turn out?

    Well, it’s too early to tell. On the one hand, political forces promoting protectionism and nationalism have gained momentum or even power in many countries in the aftermath of the financial crisis 2008. It seems we’ve began moving backwards on the pendulum (or spiral) towards more deglobalization, protectionism and preservation.

    At the same time, innovation will continue to drive economic prosperity in the coming decades, with digitization only further amplifying this meta-trend. This offers major opportunities for those countries and creative cities that decide to boldly go forward and create the free environments that attract international capital and the brightest scientific and creative minds to become an innovation hotbed and drive the sixth long wave that will start around 2020.

    Today’s articles is one of 64 sections of a new book that I plan to finish writing by the end of this year. The Beginner’s Guide to Innovation is targeted for publication in 2Q.2018 by Motivational Press. Contact us if you’re interested in learning more about our trainings or my upcoming book.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 


  • How to Deal Better with Conflicts at Work

    Picture all the people at work with whom you regularly come into contact. If you’re like most people, your colleagues fall into one of four categories: Cool, okay, at times irritating, or really annoying. Now, what if you had a tool to better understand the dynamics behind conflicts at work, learn ways to handle them, and discover why the people who trouble you most should be your best friends?

    Background: How TIPS links to conflict at work

    TIPS is a new cognitive profiling tool that I’ve created for my innovation company Thinkergy. The method uses four home bases (theories, ideas, people, systems) and four styles (thinking, working, interacting, and living) to profile people into 11 innovator types.

    I created TIPS to point individuals and companies towards how everyone can contribute to a firm’s innovation efforts. However, the method has also many business applications, such as: pointing people towards a career environment that suits their talents; composing and aligning effective work teams; managing people according to their preferred styles; and others.

    TIPS can also help explain why some people clash at work. Such conflicts are grounded in different fundamental value orientations and cognitive styles. TIPS’ four bases and four styles can help us understand the situational dynamics that trigger work conflicts.

    How TIPS helps understand the conflict dynamics at work

    Let’s explore the conflict dynamics at work between the four TIPS bases, and how they relate to each of the four TIPS styles. Visualize a grid containing two rows and two squares each. Clockwise from top left, they read T-I-P-S:

    • Your “cool” colleagues tend to belong to the same TIPS base, as they share your core values: theories, theses and truth at the T-base; ideas, inspiration and innovation at the I-base; people, partnership and party at the P-base; or systems, structure and status at the S-base. They also prefer the same styles of thinking, working, interacting and living. So when people are essentially alike, they tend to like and respect each other, and the conflict potential here is “no” to “very low”.
    • Your “okay” colleagues belong to the base that vertically connects to yours (T vs. S and I vs. P). They occasionally disagree with you because they prefer a different work style (brain vs. brawn), which influences what kind of work we enjoy and how we prefer to schedule a work day. “Brainy” T- and I-workers love to think their way through conceptual projects that they work on in longer time blocks of 3-4 hours. In contrast, “brawny” S and P-workers enjoy laboring through a To Do list full of short-term tasks scheduled in much shorter intervals of 15-30 minutes. In roughly one in four work situations (often related to scheduling meetings or agreeing on completion times), these work style differences lead to frictions with people who are otherwise “okay”.
    • Your “irritating” colleagues belong to the TIPS bases that are horizontally opposite of yours (T vs. I and S vs. P). Here, arguments occur because your preferred thinking styles differ (figure vs. fantasy). For example, T-people logically deduce the one right solution by following a sequential flow, while I-people synthesize many solutions by connecting the dots between concepts in a more freewheeling style. When looking at each other’s solution, T-thinkers say I-thinkers have no proof to substantiate their solution logically; I-thinkers counter that the scientific approach of the T-thinkers is too slow, linear, and narrow in possible solutions. Such cognitive differences between Figure and Fantasy thinkers lead to disputes in every other work situation.
    • Your “really annoying” colleagues belong to a home base that is diagonally across your own one (T vs. P and S vs. I). Here, we can expect clashes in ca. three out of four work situations, as both thinking and work styles differ. Moreover, they also differ from you in either preferred interaction style or lifestyle:
      • Because of substantial differences in interaction styles (fact vs. feeling), expect frequent annoyances or hurt feelings when T- and P-people cross paths. Why? T-people make a case and decide based on facts and hard evidence. They argue in a direct, logical and often blunt way that offends sensitive P-people, who consider the feelings of others and are more emotional. On the other hand, “touchy-feely” P-people may annoy more aloof T people by invading their space and —heaven help— even engaging in physical contact.
      • A second major conflict zone runs across the S- and I-bases, given the differences in preferred lifestyle (form vs. flow). Highly dynamic I-people love to take risks, drive change and shake things up. This infuriates S-people, who greatly dislike anyone upsetting the status quote by “rocking the boat”, proposing to “fix something that ain’t broke”, or even proposing a crazy idea of a revolutionary new product. S-people want to preserve the status quo and cherish trusted rituals and past traditions, while I people love to create a better future and radical progress. Because they prefer living in different worlds, S- and I-people are prone to clash often at work.

    In conclusion, we may sum up that the conflict potential between the TIPS bases in the following likelihoods: 0% within a base; 25% between bases on the same vertical axis; 50% between bases on the same horizontal axis; and 75% between bases who are vertically across. However, please note that in all cases, the conflict potential can rise by another 25% due to occasional “clashes of egos” or “cat fights” that may break out between two individuals for reasons other than differences in their core values or preferred cognitive styles.

    What can we do to moderate and mitigate conflicts at work?

    So, now that you know why you get along so well with some colleagues and regularly have issues with others, how can we use these insights to reduce, moderate and mitigate conflicts? Here are four tips:

    1. Differences divide, diversity enriches. Every TIPS base and profile has it’s value and place in business. Good work performance and harmony arise from finding the right mix of talents and styles at the right time.
    2. I’m okay, you’re okay, everyone is okay. Many conflicts at work aren’t personal, but rather related to different value orientations and variations in the preferred styles of thinking, working, interacting and living. Make an effort to appreciate other points of view. Follow Stephen Covey’s advice: “First seek to understand, then to be understood.”
    3. Find moderators to bridge conflicts. Colleagues who express both TIPS bases or styles in their profile can help moderating conflicts. For example, Conceptualizers are ideal to cool an intellectual dispute between a Theorist and an Ideator because of their thinking style (figure and fantasy). Or use a Coach (located on the diagonal axis connecting the T and P bases) to moderate a conflict between a Theorist and Partner.
    4. Opposites complement. Who are your “new best friends at work” — or who should they be? Those colleagues who most annoy you. Why? Because they are strong in all those areas where you are weak; because they enjoy doing those things that you dislike doing; and because they value those aspects of business that you prefer to ignore. They cover your shadow-side, just like you light up their shadow. You balance each other’s energy to provide a Yin-Yang harmony, and like night complements day, and female complements male, so your colleagues located opposite your position on the TIPS profiling map complement you.

    How does TIPS extend to all the profiles?

    So far, we have only discussed the conflict potential between the four TIPS bases. How does the conflict potential break down when we look at each of the 11 TIPS profiles?

    • For the four pure TIPS profiles (Theorist, Ideator, Partner and Systematizer), we simply can adopt the indicative conflict potential likelihoods mentioned before to see how well they get along with each. For example, I am an Ideator, and I have hardly any issues with other Ideators (0%), occasional issues with Partners (25%), regular arguments with Theorists (50%), and frequent clashes with Systematizers (75%). With regards to how a pure profile relates to the other profiles, we can estimate an indicative conflict potential based on the averages of the conflict potentials between two bases.
    • For the dual TIPS profiles, the biggest conflict potential (75%) is with the profile on the opposite end of the TIPS map: Technocrats vs. Promoters, Conceptualizers vs. Organizers, and Coaches vs. Experimenters. We can also predict the conflict likelihood with other profiles by considering the differences in style and values between each profile combination.
    • But what if you profile as an All-Rounder in TIPS? Well, All-Rounders feel home on all four TIPS bases, so they get along great with each other and well with everyone else (no issues with other All-Rounders, and 25% conflict potential with all other profiles).

    Would you like to learn more about TIPS? Are you interested in determining your personal TIPS innovator profile? Would you like to profile your team with our online personality test? Or maybe even learn about TIPS in an experiential 1-day training course, The TIPS Innovation Profiling Workshop? Contact us and let us know more about your needs and how we may support you.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 

    Acknowledgement: Robert “Alan” Black, Ph.D., a well-known US creativity coach for over four decades, was the person who brought to my attention how conflicts at work may relate to differences in people’s preferred cognitive styles. My estimates on the likelihoods of conflicts between certain bases and profiles align with Dr. Alan’s numbers, which he based on research findings in his Ph.D. thesis and observations in the field while facilitating workshops on creativity and his own cognitive profiling method (M.I.N.D. Design).


  • Why and how to protect your intellectual property

    In the last column, we discussed how investing in innovation pays dividends, and how much of a premium innovators (and their investors) can enjoy over their less innovative peers. That is, provided they’ve also secured the intellectual property rights of their innovations.

    What is intellectual property?

    At the end of the 19th century, intellectual property (IP) was formally recognized in two treaties: the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (1883) and the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works (1886).

    According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which oversees both treaties, intellectual property refers to creations of the mind or intellect. Creators can file an application to be assigned the exclusive ownership of their creations, which can be inventions or discoveries; artistic works including literature and music; and symbols, names, phrases, designs and images used commercially.

    What are the most important types of intellectual property rights?

    Like any property right for tangible goods and assets, IP rights let creators (IP owners) benefit from their own creative work and the upfront investment in time, money and other resources. IP rights include patents, industrial design rights, trademarks and copyright:

    • Patents ensure that inventions cannot be commercially made, used, distributed or sold without the patent owner’s approval. Inventors can file a patent application for a product or a process (that provides a new way of doing something, or that offers a new technical solution to a problem). To be granted the patent, the applicant must credibly demonstrate that the invention is novel, original and useful (in short: creative), and that it introduces an “inventive step” that a person with average knowledge of the technical domain cannot deduce.
    • Industrial design rights protect new and original (but non-functional) ornamental or aesthetic aspects (such as shapes, patterns, lines, or colors) of an industrial product or handicraft. They are applied to a wide range of products, including technical and medical instruments watches, jewelry and other luxury items; house wares, electrical appliances, vehicles, architectural structures,; textiles and leisure goods, among others.
    • Trademarks are distinctive signs that signal to customers that certain products or services are made or provided by a trusted company or individual,  not by a counterfeiter. Trademarks may include words, letters and numerals, drawings, symbols and three-dimensional signs, such as the shape and packaging of goods (think of the shape of a Coca-Cola bottle, the logo and the ribbon).
    • Copyright protects the literary and artistic “works” of authors, artists and other creators. These include novels, poems, plays, reference works, newspapers, advertisements, software, databases, films, music, choreography, paintings, drawings, photographs, sculpture, architecture, maps, technical drawings, web content, TV and sound recordings, among others.

    Other IP rights are geographical indications (such as “Swiss” or “Made in Germany”) including appellations of origin (e.g., “Bordeaux”, wine, “Champagne”, “Prosciutto di Parma”, “Habana” cigars) as well as trade secrets (in some jurisdictions only).

    Why should innovators secure their intellectual property?

    Innovators and content creators deserve financial compensation for their often substantial upfront investments of time, money and other resources, as well as a reputational reward for their creativity. They can monetize their intellectual property either by marketing it directly or by licensing or selling it to others.

    IP rights also protect consumers and society from criminal counterfeiters and “cheap” copycats eager to free-ride on innovations without investing their own time, money and brainpower.

    Moreover, patents in particular expand the total body of technical knowledge and stimulate further creativity and innovation, as patent owners need to publicly disclose information on their inventions in exchange for protection.

    How about creators who openly share work, such as open source software, with others for free? Clearly, such “open creation” is noble; however, these creators run the risk that others will monetize all or parts of their inventions and creations, and maybe secure the IP rights for themselves.

    My personal view is this: the more you can monetize your novel, original and meaningful creations, the more money you have to invest in future creative project, the more additional innovations you can produce, the more additional money you make to invest and grow, and the more serious other business players will take you. That is, provided all others play by the rules of IP laws.

    The dark side of intellectual property

    Does investing in securing IP rights mean that you’re always protected? Unfortunately not. Why?

    1. First, as with any physical assets, some people like to take from someone else what they want without paying for it. As Steve Jobs noted: “Stealing things is everybody’s problem. We [Apple]own a lot of intellectual property, and we don’t like when people steal it. So people are stealing stuff and we’re optimists.”
    2. Second, you may not be able to enforce your IP rights for various reasons. Smaller players may lack the deep pockets and screwed IP lawyers to fight a lengthy IP infringement lawsuit with several levels of appeals against a multinational or large local corporate player.
    3. Third, in developing countries with corrupt or nationalistic judiciary, even reputable multinational corporations regularly lose lawsuits against local parties that blatantly violated IP rights.

    As such, being right and having done everything right to protect your intellectual property still doesn’t mean that you’re protected against bullying and unfair practices.

    How do the different IP rights connect to the modern innovation typology?

    Copyrights and patents typically relate to products or other value offerings (value innovation). In contrast, trademarks and industrial design rights are mostly linked to innovation types that leverage value offerings through magnification, such as brand design and packaging design (leverage innovation). Finally, copyrighted works may either relate to a value innovation (products, solutions) but may also be magnifying leverage innovations (such as advertisement campaign designs).

    This article will be part of a new book that I am currently working on, The Beginner’s Guide to Innovation (targeted for publication in 2Q.2018 by Motivational Press). Intellectual property protection is also one of many other topics that we touch upon in Thinkergy’s executive innovation training. Let us know if you’re interested to learn more about our trainings or my upcoming book.

    © 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. 

  • What Keywords Reveal About People’s Personality

    Mahatma Gandhi once said: “Your beliefs become your thoughts. Your thoughts become your words. Your words become your actions. Your actions become your habits. Your habits become your values. Your values become your destiny.” If you want to find out more about people’s core beliefs and thoughts, pay close attention to the words they’re using regularly. Today, I’d like to tell you what these keywords can tell you about someone’s personality, and how you can use these insights for making better decisions when recruiting talent or selecting candidates for talent development.

    Cognitive profiling method in talent acquisition and development

    Nowadays, many companies use personality profiling methods —often long-established tools with well-known acronyms such as MBTI, DISC or HBTI— to learn about the preferred styles of employees, managers and prospective recruits. But what if a candidate intentionally cheats by ticking certain answer options that don’t reflect their true style, but promise to help them landing that job, or getting into that fancy talent development program?

    Enter TIPS and a solution to the personality test dilemma

    TIPS is a cognitive profiling tool that I’ve created for Thinkergy. TIPS stands for four base orientations (theories, ideas, people, systems) that reflect how social and economic change unfolds over time. The TIPS bases also capture basic value orientations, allowing us to check if people fudge their test answers. How?

    Imagine you’re applying for a talent development program focused on innovation. You’re keen to get into this company-sponsored program, because it allows you to learn more about this “hot” topic and to increase both your internal career chances and external employability. But deep down you don’t consider yourself a “creative” person.

    Now imagine being asked to do a cognitive profiling test as part of the selection process. The test questionnaire has certain answer options that allow you to assert how creative you are. What will you do?

    I don’t know about your response, but some candidates will intentionally tick the “wrong” answer options that favorably portray themselves as a creative type and increase their odds of being selected for the program.

    TIPS addresses this problem in two ways:

    • First, I designed the test so that someone who tries to “game” the result will either end up with a balanced All-Rounder profile in the middle of the TIPS profiling map, or get a test score that just edges into one of the other 10 TIPS profiles.
    • Second, if the latter happens, we pay attention to the words that such “borderline” candidates use in a final interview to find out if they really lean more towards one the other TIPS profiles or are rather All-Rounders.  

     

    The keywords to listen for in TIPS

    What are typical keywords that people with different TIPS profiles enjoy using? I recently jotted down a number of them while interviewing 50 applicants for an innovation talent development program (whom we had earlier tested for their TIPS profile). Let’s first get a flavor for the language favored by the four pure TIPS profiles (Theorist, Ideator, Partner, and Systematizer) who rest solely on one TIPS base: 

    • Sitting at the top left Theories-base of the TIPS Map, Theorists  emphasize their passion for the truth through expressions such as “honestly speaking”, “if I am honest”, or “to tell the truth”. They use “reason” and are “reasonable”, and consider the “facts” or “evidence”. They “confront” people who talk nonsense, take intellectual short-cuts, or are not up to a job. They enjoy “thinking” in a “logical” way and use their “knowledge” to build an “argument”. They “define” concepts and “problems” and “weigh pros and cons” involved in a case. Their favorite question particle is “why”.
    • At the bottom-right People-base, Partners are in many ways a flip side of Theorists. They “enjoy” using verbs like “feel”, “touch”, “share”, “help”, “follow” and “lead”. They talk about “teamwork” and “partnerships”. They “care” for “people” and their “team” and “leader”, and cherish a work place that feels like “home” and “family”. Adjectives such as “happy”, “human” and “emotional” predominate. They also enjoy talking about “sales” and “closing deals”. For a Partner, the most important question is “who”.
    • Floating at the Ideas base on the top-right, Ideators like to use creative action verbs like “create”, “innovate, “make it better” or “make it happen”. They love to talk about “change”, “ideas” and “opportunities”, and use adjectives like “dynamic”, “entrepreneurial” and “meaningful”. You’ll hear a lot of “new” phrases — “new ideas”, “new products”, “new services”, “new business”, “new concepts”. Ideators enjoy formulating a lot of “what”-questions.
    • Anchored at the Systems-base on the bottom left, Systematizers are “accurate”, “diligent” and “responsible”. They enjoy talking about the “system” and “processes” that they “implement” and “optimize”. They “manage” “performance”. They make sure that everyone is “compliant” and “follows the rules”. As the profile most concerned with the past, they often use words with the prefix “re-” (meaning either “again” or “again and again” to indicate repetition, or “back” or “backward” to indicate withdrawal or backward motion): so, Systematizers “review”, “remove” and “renovate” where Ideators “view”, “move” and “innovate”. When Systematizers ask questions, they often start with “how” — including “how much” and “how many”.

    How about the keywords of the six dual TIPS profiles (Conceptualizer, Promoter, Organizer, Technocrat, Coach and Experimenter)? Because they locate between two bases, they tend to borrow a lot of the words from the neighboring two profiles at each base. However, each dual profile type also employs certain words that hint at their dual profile. Let’s look at some two sample profiles here:

    • Sitting in between the Theories  and Ideas bases on the top line of the TIPS map, Conceptualizerslove to “learn” about new “tools”, “methods” and “technologies” that they then “apply” or “teach”. They enjoy thinking “big” and focusing on the “big picture”. They enjoy asking “what”  or “why” questions.
    • Promoters connect Ideas with People (on the right side of the TIPS map). They are “lively” and “expressive”, “stylish” and “easy”-going. Promoters enjoy “life” and having “fun”, and love to “communicate” and “convince” people and to “present” in front of them. Promoters tend to ask a lot of questions starting with “what” or “who”.

    Conclusion: Your TIPS profile is hidden in your words — and so is mine and everybody else’s. The keywords that we frequently use in conversations reveal what we value and what makes us tick. So, first pay attention to your own keywords to get hints of your profile. Then, enjoy listening to the conversations of others to learn more about what makes them tick and what personality type they probably have.

    And what if you want to know for sure and do the TIPS online personality test for yourself or your team?  Contact us to find out how you can purchase a coupon for our online personality test.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 


  • How Cyclicality Drives Business and Innovation

    What do the state of the economy, a product, a corporate venture, a leading technology, the four seasons, and living things such as human beings have in common? All evolve and revolve in cycles, in “waves of change”. And as innovation means meaningful change, it often kick-starts a new cycle. Today, let’s understand how cyclicality influences the flow of business and innovation.

    What is cyclicality?

    Cyclicality can be defined as the property or characteristic of being cyclical or revolving in cycles. Cycles are series of events that are regularly repeated in the same order. Many business and economic developments unfold in a cycle comprising several distinct stages over a certain period of time. Just like a wave flows up and down, a particular economic development moves upwards until it reaches a peak, then falls and ebbs out in a trough.

    When tracking a particular cyclical flow in business, we can distinguish between three factors — the type of cycle, its stages and its duration:

    • The cycle type captures what kind of business parameters a cycle describes and how it is measured. Think of a product or company life cycle, a business or economic cycle, and long cycles that capture pace-setting technologies.
    • A cycle typically unfolds in distinct stages. Many business cycles unfold in four stages that some economists likened these to the four seasons: spring (growth), summer (peak), autumn (decline), and winter (trough).
    • Finally, the cycle duration captures how long it takes to complete a full cycle. Some cycles in business are short-lived and complete after a couple of quarters, many take years, and some are long-term and unfold over decades.

    What are types of cycles in business?

    Let’s look at the four most important cycles in business that leaders and innovators should be aware of:

    • The product life cycle captures how a product evolves in the market by tracking its sales and profits over time. Typical stages that the product lifecycle concept distinguishes are development and introduction (spring), growth (summer), maturity (autumn), and decline (winter). The duration varies in different industries: fashion companies think in months, tech ventures in quarters, fast-moving consumer goods companies in years, and energy companies in decades.
    • The company life cycle often maps the stages of the product life cycle. A startup creates and launches an innovative product (spring). Then, it evolves into growth- and sales-focused small- and medium-sized enterprise (summer), which later matures into an established large corporation (autumn) that eventually begins its long, steady decline (winter) before it is closed down. A recent World Economic forum study put the average life span of today’s multinational, Fortune 500-size corporation is 40 to 50 years; interestingly, corporate life spans have shortened in recent years.
    • The business cycle (or economic cycle) captures upward and downward movements of a country’s economy as measured by the gross domestic product. These GDP fluctuations involve shifts between periods of dynamic economic growth (expansions and booms) and periods of decline and stagnation (recessions and depressions). For example, the US economy passed through 11 business cycles from 1945 to 2009, with the average cycle lasting about 69 months, or a little less than six years. Expansions tend to last longer than contractions (58 months vs. 11 months for the US).
    • Long cycles describe major technological shifts that happen in long waves of four to six decades, known as Kondratiev waves for the Russian economist who uncovered these tech-driven long cycles. In the last 235 years, we have passed through five such long cycles, each of which was driven by distinct lead technologies: Water power, textiles and iron led the first wave (1785-1845), followed by steam, railway and steel (1845-1900), electricity, chemicals and automobiles (1900-1950) and petrochemicals, aviation, and electronics (1950-1990). The current fifth wave is driven by digital networks, software, and new media (1990-2020). The  sixth wave (2020-2045) is expected to be driven by clean technologies that promote resource efficiency. Interestingly, the duration of the long waves shortens with each new one — and so does the average life span of corporations.

    These four major cycle types not only connect to each other, but also influence many other phenomena in business. For example, the stock market tends to move with the business cycle. Industries (and the technologies that get them started) move into a new season with each new long wave. Moreover, each long wave comprises five or more business cycles. Some analysts even suggest that peace and war cycles can be explained with the help of long waves.

    Why is it important to track cyclicality in business?

    Depending on the season (or cycle phase), a business needs to have a different focus, embrace a different leadership type, and shoot for a different type of creativity:

    • In spring, focus on creating new value (a product or technology) and of launching it in the market. This phase requires upfront investment and an agile creative leader who drives fast, meaningful change. Creativity is often technology-driven and pushes for bold, revolutionary ideas.
    • In summer, the focus shifts to customers and sales. Here, a people-oriented leader is the best choice to entice customers and motivate the team to reach ambitious growth targets. Creativity is marketing- and customer-driven and targets more evolutionary ideas.
    • In autumn, revenue growth flattens but profitability is still high. Now, a business needs to consolidate its growth with stable operations. The ideal leader here is a person focused on operational excellence and getting things done. Creativity focuses on practical improvements and customer service.
    • In winter, the emphasis shifts to setting up efficient, well-structured processes and systems that allow for scaling the business. As revenues and profits start to decline, the best leader is someone who enjoys tracking performance and enforcing organizational efficiency and financial discipline. Creativity targets incremental improvements of products and processes following an adaptive approach.

    Interested to learn more about this? Contact us to learn more about how to master cyclicality and successfully ride the waves of change in our innovation training courses.

    © 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. 

  • The ten rules of the innovation types game (Part 2)

    A couple weeks ago, I introduced to you a systematic scheme to organize modern innovation types on three levels: operational, value and leverage innovations. We discussed some of the main innovation types and their position in those three hierarchical levels. Then, we looked at the first four rules of using innovation types: #1. Play to stay in the game. #2. You won’t win with a strong defense only. #3. Create meaningful new value first. #4. Shift the value differential in your favor. Today, let’s learn more about the remaining six rules of the innovation types game.

    Rule #5: Leverage meaningful value only.

    Once you have created a meaningful new value proposition (a new product, service, solution, or experience), you can move to the top level of innovation types and leverage it. Why do you need to wait until you know your value differential is good? Leverage is a neutral agent. It boosts your reputation and profits if your value wows your customers, and it can sink your firm if your value proposition sucks.

    In order to leverage a value offering, you can use two different strategies (and related innovation types):

    • Leverage through multiplication helps you sell your creation dozens, hundreds, thousands, and even millions of times. Innovation types that leverage through multiplication are channel innovation (physical and virtual distribution), network innovation (strategic partnerships, physical and virtual networks, and digital platforms), and business model innovation (multiplying revenues through new ways to get paid for your value).
    • Leverage through magnification: Make your product appear more valuable in the eyes of your customers through a strong brand, cool campaigns or sensual packaging. If you successfully magnify the value perception, you entice customers to pay more and thus increase your margin.

    Rule #6: Strategy innovation to redraw the business on all levels.

    Proactive corporations —or those with their backs against the wall— may pursue a strategy innovation project at least once every decade. Strategy innovation aims to create and leverage meaningful new value propositions produced in more cost-effective ways. Ideally done in an uncontested and/or newly emerging market, strategy innovation can lead to sustainable revenue and profit margin growth at a lower cost base by using all three innovation type levels (operations, value creation and leverage).

    For example, Cirque du Soleil reinvented the circus by dropping all the elements perceived as antiquated (animals, clowns, etc.), and keeping and amplifying the artistic and aesthetic elements to deliver artistic, sensational show experiences under a circus tent. Cirque du Soleil enjoys higher profit margins because it created a memorable customer experience magnified through a global acknowledged brand and delivered at reduced cost.

    Rule #7: Innovation leaders play on the full spectrum of innovation types.

    Many companies that lead innovation in their industry have gradually built their dominance by starting with one innovation type, and then adding more and more.

    For example, after Steve Jobs returned as CEO in 1997, Apple created not only super-strong products including game-changing devices (iPhone, iPad) that launched new categories (smartphones and tablets), but also expande repair and training services, opened experiential stores and hosted cult-like product launch events and developer conferences. Apple also created new channels and platforms (iTunes, App Store) to multiply revenues, and is a design-driven company with eclectic brands, sleek packaging and trendy campaigns.

    Rule #8: Focus on “orphan” innovation types.

    Most players in an industry focus their innovation efforts on the same “traditional” innovation types. You can stand out by identifying what your industry is ignoring.

    For example, Nestle started to sell its Nespresso coffee machines and capsules in luxury shopping malls, which was a channel innovation in an industry used to selling coffee in supermarkets or coffee shops.

    Likewise, Tesla Motors and SpaceX achieved prominent positions in electric cars and space transport because Elon Musk’s insistence on developing all required components in-house (a structure innovation that allows them to be faster and cheaper than their industry peers who have outsourced the production of major components to external suppliers).

    Rule #9: Connect the dots on different levels.

    Newcomers to an industry can create new value for customers —and shock incumbents— by combining a focused selection of innovation types on all three levels (operations, value creation and leverage).

    For example, AirBnB has created a digital solution to connect people in need of affordable lodging with people who can supply it. Some guests also get to experience a city like a local and connect with the hosts on a personal level. Likewise, Uber created a meaningful new solution to connect consumers who need car transportation with drivers eager to earn income with their personal vehicles. Uber drivers also provide  transportation services to users living in remote areas where most taxis don’t want to go.

    Both AirBnB and Uber facilitate the match between the demand and supply via mobile apps and websites. These are network innovations that  easily leverage matching solutions and can quickly multiply to different cities and countries. Best of all, unlike their competitors, neither needs to commit any physical assets. AirBnB is now considered the largest accommodation company in the world without owning any hotel room, while Uber is the biggest taxi company without owning any cars. Both have integrated this structure innovation into their business set-up.

    Rule #10: Innovate for the less fortunate through social innovation.

    Social innovation aims to empower the less fortunate and make the world a better place. But how can you actually innovate here? Look at a particular social issue, then pick the innovation type that best suits your challenge.

    For example, micro-finance is a social service innovation of Grameen Bank to reduce poverty in Bangladesh by providing micro-loans to poor women only. In contrast, Greenpeace rights environmental wrongs by creating whopping action campaigns with local, regional or even global impact (social campaign design).

    Would you love to learn how to play with modern innovation types in one of our Thinkergy training courses? Contact us or one of our certified trainers and tell us more about your needs.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 

  • The ten rules of the innovation types game (Part 1)

    When companies pursued innovation in the past, they typically worked on one of two innovation types: product innovation (also called new product development) and process innovation. Over the last two decades, however, a compendium of modern innovation types has emerged that allow companies to play the innovation game in many new ways. But as with any other game, you need to follow a set of rules. In this 2-part article we’ll look at the spectrum of modern innovation types, and then learn more about the 10 rules that you need to understand and follow.

    The spectrum of modern innovation types

    At Thinkergy, we position modern innovation types on three levels related to operations, value creation, and the leverage of a created value offering:

    • Operation innovations locate at the entry level. Companies pursue them to enhance and optimise the operations needed to create value propositions. Here we can see two innovation types: process innovation (redesigning operational processes in leaner, more efficient and cheaper ways) and structure innovation (restructuring the  units and related assets needed for creating value).
    • Value innovations aim to create meaningful, novel and original value propositions. The related innovation types encompass product innovation (developing new products in an established or new category), service innovation (new services offered stand-alone or in connection with a product), solution design (new solutions that address specific problems of business clients or end consumers), and customer experience design (crafting an impactful customer journey full of emotional, sensory-pleasing and “sticky” moments).
    • Finally, leverage innovations aim to allow organizations to multiply revenues or magnify profits from their value propositions. Innovation types include channel innovation (delivering the value through new channel concepts), network innovation (mushrooming analog and digital networks through delivery partnerships and digital platforms), business model innovation (creating new ways to get paid for a given value), brand design (creating an impactful, emotive brand that attracts a tribe of loyal customers), campaign design (crafting moving, clever and effective campaigns) and packaging design (presenting a value offering in elegant, sensory-pleasing and aesthetics coverings).

    Now you have a good overview of modern innovation types, with the exception of strategy innovation and social innovation, which we will cover later. But what about the rules for playing the innovation types game? 

    Rule #1: Play to stay in the game.

    In today's innovation economy, you need to play the game on the field to avoid falling behind. Watching the moves of other innovators as a spectator on the sidelines won’t suffice. What happens to a company that only settles for milking the cash cows of a once-better past? Gradual decline and eventual extinction.

    Nowadays, depending on the industry you’re in, you may fall behind faster than you think possible. Who dominated the photographical film business before the turn of the millennium? Kodak, which missed the transition from analog to digital imaging. Who led the mobile phone market mid in the early noughties? Motorola and Nokia, who were slow to embrace the shift from dumb to smart phones. 

    As Rubert Murdoch said: “The world is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow.” So, get on the field and start playing. And if you’re already on the field, keep playing and enjoy the innovation game.

    Rule #2: You won’t win with a strong defense only.

    The easiest way to innovate is through operation innovations, which is why most corporations do it. Successful process and structure innovation initiatives help save costs, increase efficiencies and improve the bottomline. They add a few pennies to your corporate piggy bank, but won’t bring you industry-leading profits. Having a strong defense is keeping you in the game longer, but it won’t bring you a major trophy.

    Rule #3: Create meaningful new value first.

    Value innovations such as product and service innovation as well as solutions and customer experience design are on the next level. Focus your efforts on creating a novel, original and meaningful value proposition first. In particular, ensure that a new product, service, solution or experience truly makes meaning to customers; when it does, it will make you money, too. But when it does not, you end up with a wacky invention such as the Dynasphere (a monowheel electric vehicle from 1932) that may be new and original, but fails to impress buyers. As Thomas Edison said: “Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success.”

    Rule #4: Shift the value differential in your favor.

    While pursuing value innovation, aim to boost your profit margins by raising the value perception in the eyes of your customers. You can do this through one of two strategies:

    • Aim to add significantly more value to an existing value proposition. For example, Dyson has concentrated on product innovation in traditional household goods such as vacuum cleaners, fans and hair dryers. While staying in established product categories, Dyson has pushed the value differential to new levels of usability, aesthetics and performance, enabling the company to command higher prices and enjoy higher margins. Inventor James Dyson puts it simply: “People buy products if they’re better.”
    • Climb up the value pyramid to higher levels of value perception by moving from products or services to solutions and customer experiences. For example, carmakers are promoting car-sharing solutions to urban consumers who don’t want to own a vehicle. Likewise, Starbucks is not just a coffee shop; it has designed an experience that allows guests to hang out in a “third place” between home and work where they can relax and connect with like-minded, sophisticated people.

    What are the remaining six rules of playing the innovation types game? We'll share those in part 2.

    Would you be interested to learn more about modern innovation types in a keynote or an Executive Innovation Brief? Contact us and tell us more about how we can help you.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 


  • Does your talent fit your work environment?

    Albert Einstein once said: “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Sadly, many businesspeople are on career tracks where they feel like a fish being asked to climb trees. 

    I used to be one of those people earlier in my professional career, before I discovered which work environment best fits my innate talents. But how about you? Do you work in a “hot” work environment that supports your natural abilities? Or are you stuck in a “not” environment that does not allow you to flourish?

    Background: Hot or not? 

    In TIPS (theories, ideas, people, systems), Thinkergy’s innovation people profiling method, my profile is that of an “extreme Ideator” — a colorful creative entrepreneurial business person who operates at the forefront of change. Twelve years ago I started Thinkergy, an innovation company that allows me to play on my TIPS home base “Ideas” and my dominant TIPS style of “flow”. Ever since, I’ve been in a “hot” environment that perfectly suits my preferred styles and natural talents.

    But that’s not how I started my professional career. For more than 15 years, I tried hard to make a career in banking, an industry I entered to fund my graduate and doctoral studies. I worked hard and did my best to fit in, but at heart I was not a banker. I preferred to think, work, interact, live and even dress differently than the typical banker.

    As I know now, the banking industry operates on the opposite TIPS base (Systems) and TIPS style (form) from mine. Big banks favor people who adhere to rules and formal protocols and don’t rock the boat. In many ways, I am just the opposite. I went from a career that increasingly felt DDD (dull, drudgery, de-energizing) to one that feels EEE (easy, effortless and enjoyable).

    Why is it important to align talent to a hot environment?

    From a macroeconomic point of view, it’s a giant waste of talent, money and energy invested in education if people lose years or even decades of productive work time in a career that isn’t their natural path.

    On a personal level, it’s a travesty to labor in a DDD job when you could make major meaningful contributions in an EEE career. Fortunately, knowing your TIPS profile can help you to align yourself with a “hot” environment.

    What do I mean by “work environment”? The concept can encompass (1) a business function such as marketing, sales or accounting; (2) an industry such as finance, fast-moving consumer goods or consulting; and/or (3) an organizational type such as a start-up, a government agency or a non-government organization (NGO).

    What are “hot” and “not” environments for different profiles?

    Each of the 11 TIPS profiles has a dominant style, which points you to work environments that suit your profile. While we can’t list all the combinations, here are some “hot fits”:

    • Theorists do well in “smart”, evidence-driven universities, think tanks and research institutions.
    • Ideators excel at starting new (technology) ventures or working on new product development, content creation or design projects.
    • Partners shine in people- and service-driven industries such as healthcare, hotels and gastronomy. They also feel at home in NGOs.
    • Systematizers do well in asset-driven, consolidating industries such as banking, oil and gas, steel or utilities.
    • Conceptualizers play out their brains best in industries such as consulting or software development.
    • Promoters show their creative communication talents in creative industries such as advertising, PR or entertainment.
    • Organizers ensure smooth operations in industries such as manufacturing, logistics or airlines, where it’s important to pay attention to small details.
    • Finally, Technocrats can best contribute with their thorough, accurate business minds in administrative, quantitative environments such as accounting and law firms, as well as in government agencies.

    Note that every profile has also a “not” work environment that suppresses your talents. You can find it diametrically opposite your profile on the TIPS Profiling Map.

    So what does this all mean to you?

    What can you do to check if you’re on a career track that is “hot” or “not”?

    • Take the TIPS online personality test to find out what’s your TIPS profile.
    • Check the section “hot or not” in your profiling report, and see if you’re currently working in environment that is “hot”, “okay” or “not” for you.
    • If come out as “hot” fit, smile and be happy that you’re aligned to an environment that suits your natural styles and talents.
    • If you find out that —as I did years ago— that you’re on the wrong track, check out the recommended “hot” work environments and ponder if one of the fields entices you.
    • But if you want to make a change, resist the temptation to do so right away. Instead, first acquire the know-how, skills and contacts needed to succeed in your new field (which should feel highly motivating and empowering to you). Then, once you’re sure that you can earn sufficient income in a new role in your “hot” work environment, take the plunge and enjoy the flight.

    To discover how TIPS, and its 20 applications for talent development, business and innovation, can benefit you and your organization, or to find a Certified TIPS Trainer, contact us today

    © 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. 


  • How to put the right people into the right job

    Wouldn’t it be great if all your new recruits fit perfectly  into the vacant positions you wanted them to fill? And if everyone on a team worked in a role that allowed them to let their talents shine and played on their strengths, while others compensated for any weakness?

    Some of the hardest things to get right in business are staffing open positions and aligning the members of a team so that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. But what if there were a tool that allowed you to put the right people into the right job — and to turn your organization into a true “human capital bank”?

    Background:

    Thinkergy’s innovation people profiling method TIPS (theories, ideas, people, systems) profiles people based on their preferred styles of thinking, working, interacting, living, and innovating. Every candidate who answers the TIPS profiling questionnaire is classified in line with their cognitive preferences as one of 11 innovator profiles (theorist, ideator, partner, systematizer, conceptualizer, promoter, organizer, technocrat, coach, experimenter and all-rounder).

    While I created TIPS originally to improve the people side of innovation, it has many other applications, and can give organizations more talent and people awareness. So, how do we help organizations optimize their mix of human talents and put the right people into the right job?

    Step 1. Profile your staff:

    Start by making a small investment in your human capital by allowing us to profile all your staff to unveil their innovator profiles and personal styles. Ideally, send them also through a TIPS Innovation Profiling Workshop to animate their different styles and profiles.

    Step 2. Create a group profiling map:

    Next, we position each one of your employees on a TIPS group profiling map based on their test scores and innovator profiles; a group can be a work team, a department, a business unit, the entire organization, or all of the aforementioned. When looking at a group profiling map, we ask you a number of questions:

    • Is there any concentration of profiles in this group? Typically, a map reflects a dominant base and style in line with either your business function, industry, or corporate life cycle stage. 
For example, Thinkergy is an innovation company, and we’ve just began moving from the initial development to our growth phase. Thus we have a heavy profile concentration around the TIPS base “Ideas” and the TIPS style “Flow”.
    • Are there any profile gaps? When you notice a profile concentration, consider adding a few members to the team who are strong in those tasks that don’t come naturally easy to the others

     

    Step 3. Define each job profile:

    A good job profile describes in detail what each position is all about:

    • What responsibilities and regular tasks are associated with the role?
    • What outputs is the job owner expected to produce?
    • What decisions need to be made, and how important are these?

    Step 4. Link each job profile to specifics:

    How would you sum-up each job profile in just three words? We’ve created a deck with 33 cards (featuring descriptive attribute labels such as “entrepreneurial”, “conceptual” or “quantitative”) to translate a comprehensive job profile into the simple language of TIPS.

    We ask a client to pick those three attributes that best describe the essential success factors of each job profile. For example, attributes that fittingly describe a project manager responsible for implementing concrete projects could be “practical”, “operational” and “down-to-earth”.

    Step 5. Define suitable TIPS profiles for the role:

    Each of the 11 TIPS profiles links to three primary attributes. We use the descriptive labels that a client chooses for each role to recommend a primary, best-fitting as well as one to two secondary profiles. For example, profiles that fit to a project manager (based on the previously listed attributes) are the organizer (primary) and either partner or systematizer (secondary options).

    Step 6. Align the job to candidates with a fitting profile:

    If the position is already staffed, we check if the incumbent has one of the suggested TIPS profiles. If yes, all is already well. If not, we investigate if swapping the person with a better fitting colleague may lead to a mutually satisfying realignment that makes everyone happy and more productive.

    If a role isn’t staffed yet, or if no one in the organization has a fitting profile, then you need to recruit a new candidate — and you can use the TIPS personality test to profile each of them for a good fit.

    At the end of this exercise, you should have put every person into the right job —at least in theory. So, with the final step, you take care of linking theory with reality.

    Step 7. Track job satisfaction and teamwork improvement:

    Do a survey with each individual employee involved in the exercise a few weeks and then six months after the exercise to track satisfaction. Use the feedback to make further alignments if needed. If all is well, give yourself a pat on the back: You have mastered the science and art of putting the right person into the right job.

    Do you want to learn more about how our new innovation people profiling method TIPS can help you putting the right people into the right job? Contact us to find a certified TIPS trainer who can help maximize your organization's talent.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017.

  • Play “The Dating Game” to Find New Growth

    Discovering new meaning for an established product with a stagnant or negative revenue outlook is like re-entering the dating game. This metaphor underlies a new thinking tool called “The Dating Game” that I’ve created as a new addition to our X-IDEA Thinking Toolbox. Today, allow me to share with you how you may the dating analogy to find new ways to reinvigorate sales of a flailing product.

    The background story

    A few weeks ago, I was in Germany to kick-off the first phase of a X-IDEA Innovation Project with a Multinational Corporation. The workshop focused on the initial stage of our X -IDEA innovation method, Xploration. We sent three project teams on an Xplorer’s Journey to get a new take on a high-performance product that until now has enjoyed profitable growth. However, almost all sales are concentrated in one application that is due to be replaced by a technical innovation that most clients are predicted to switch over to in the coming years.

    As such, the teams explored the wider emerging market field to understand what other applications, market fields and business models could be considered to extend the product’s lifecycle.

    We invited the teams to check their assumptions, asked lot’s of provocative questions, made them look at the challenge from different angles to identify new opportunities and unmet customer needs, and mapped out trends as well as potential market fields. All these activities helped the teams to gain novel insights into their real challenges related to this niche product.

    For this workshop, I also created a new thinking tool called “The Dating Game” — a popular US TV show ran from the 1990s to the 1990s — to help people look at their product with fresh eyes. In the end, I decided against using it because some delegates were too conservative. But as I trust the readers of this column to be creative at heart, I am sharing this new tool with you now.

    Step 1: Characterize your dating client

    Imagine a struggling product as a person who —after the break-up of a long relationship— re-enters the dating game to find new love. How would you describe your product’s attributes?

    • What’s it’s essential nature? How old is it? Young, middle-aged or old? Is it male, female or maybe transexual? Modern-progressive or conservative-traditional? Dynamic or static? Small or large? Heavy or light? Fashionable and stylish or old-fashioned and classic? Hip or time-honored?
    • How does it look? Clear, black-and-white, uni-color or very colorful? Light or dark? Sharp or blurry?
    • How does it sound? Soft or loud? Slow or fast? Low or High? Far or near?
    • How does it feel? Soft or hard? Hot or cool? Rough or smooth? Intermittent or constant?
    • How would it smell? Strong or faint?Pleasant or unpleasant? Natural or chemical? Floral? Musky? Sweet or sharp?
    • How would it taste? Mild or strong? Spicy-hot or bland? Salty? Sweet? Bitter? Sour?
    • What other attributes come to your mind?

    Once you have identified the fitting attributes, use them to write a compelling, attractive dating profile for your product.

    Step 2: Describe the attributes of your ideal date

    Imagine the new application, customer or business opportunity for your product were a person you’d love to date? What are the characteristics or your ideal date? List down all attributes of your ideal date. List them all.

    Of course, while we dream of finding the perfect partner, we rarely get everything we’re looking for. As such, go through your list of attributes and underline those that your date really must have to be the right fit. The fewer “must haves” you insist on, the broader your pool of possible candidates. Once you have narrowed down your list, create one or —even better— a few target profiles to use.

    Step 3: Do a make-over

    Now go back to your product’s dating profile and take a critical look at it: How attractive is your product to these target dates? Does it need a makeover? New profile photos? A physical tune-up to boost your product’s attractiveness? Write down any ideas you get here.

    Step 4: Specify appropriate dating channels

    Nowadays, people use both traditional and modern activities, venues, media and communication channels to find love, beyond just going to a pub or club. Ask friends for recommendations and introductions. Go to networking events. Enroll in clubs and classes. Use a matchmaking service. Use online dating platforms like Match.com. Use dating apps like Tinder. And use social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and maybe even LinkedIn, to befriend potential dating targets.

    How does this all relate to your product? What’s the equivalent of all the aforementioned activities, events, places, brokers and communication channels when it comes to your product? How can you discover and hook up with potential target dates for your product — and vice versa? Remember that dating is a numbers game: the more channels you use and the more dates you go on, the more potential opportunities you have.

    Step 5: How to wow your date and start a relationship?

    Now that you’ve identified fitting activities, events, channels and media, how do you wow dates at your first sight? How can you present your product’s attributes at their best? How can you make your dates reveal their secret wants and needs? Can your product satisfy them? If yes, in what ways? How can you explore a mutually satisfying future? How can you co-create a win-win partnership? And how will you know that you’ve really clicked?

    Once again, add fresh insights and initial ideas on how to transform a date into a lasting, mutually satisfying partnership. Finally, at the end of the Xploration, extract your final challenge that you want to work on in a subsequent IDEA workshop introducing the remaining four stages of X-IDEA.

    Do you have a good product with declining sales? Would you like to extend its lifecycle by playing the dating game? Are you interested in doing an innovation project by having us expose your team to our systematic innovation method X-IDEA? Contact us to tell us more about your innovation needs.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 

  • Harnessing the Yin Yang flow of innovation

    Two weeks ago, we discussed how to embrace the Yin Yang concept of Chinese philosophy as a simple but effective way to talk about creativity and innovation. We learned that to build a creative company, we need to focus on boosting its creative Yin energy: hire and promote more creative Yin people; have a leader with a creative Yin mindset; and gradually build a creative Yin culture. Today, let’s talk about the fourth and final aspect: the creative process — and how you may use the Yin Yang flow of innovation to guide your thinking while working on a creative project.

    Master creative projects using a Yin Yang flow in the creative process

    When you want to pursue a creative project with an innovation project team, you can use the dynamic interplay of Yin Yang to guide you in a simple way through the various phases of the creative process. Why? Almost all creative processes unfold in a harmonious rhythm of divergent thinking alternating with convergent thinking:

    • Yang energy represents convergent thinking, meaning we “narrow down” our thinking by employing more left brain-directed cognitive processes like analysis, critical evaluation and rational decision-making.
    • In contrast, Yin energy aligns with divergent thinking, broadening our horizons by using more right brain-directed cognitive activities such as empathizing, ideating and imagining.

    How does the Yin Yang flow of innovation unfold?

    I designed a simple creative process flow that unfolds in seven Yin Yang-cycles. Each starts convergent thinking (Yang) that is followed by a phase of divergent thinking (Yin). An innovation project team can apply these seven cycles over seven time intervals (e.g., half-days, days or weeks). How exactly do these seven cycles of the Yin Yang flow work?

    Yang 1: State your case. Specify what the innovation project is all about: the creative challenge, and what you know about the case. We converge our thinking to what we initially perceive to be the essential facets of the case.

    Yin 1: Explore your challenge. Next, diverge the thinking by examining the case more broadly, based on the four cardinal points of the compass:

    • Check for “True North” by examining facts, assumptions, beliefs and rules.
    • Go West to curiously ask and answer many questions related to the case, especially those that make people feel uncomfortable.
    • Head South to look at your case from new viewpoints, especially those of your customers and other key stakeholders.
    • Look East to map and sketch what you know about your case.

    Yang 2: Frame your real challenge. Condense all your learnings from phase 1 by framing what you uncovered as your real innovation challenge, which typically differs from what you initially perceived.

    Yin 2: Generate hundreds of ideas. Have fun and enjoy brainstorming and ideating many, many ideas for your challenge with the help of creativity tools. Make an effort to generate at least 250 ideas with your innovation team. Follow the ground rules of brainstorming and ideation, especially Rule No. 1: “No killing of ideas.”

    Yang 3: Discover intriguing ideas. Review what you’ve generated to find roughly fifty ideas that are more interesting — or maybe even a bit wild. When you narrow down your idea pool, and throw away all conventional and obvious ideas, you engage in Yang-style convergent thinking.

    Yin 3: Design realistic, meaningful concepts. Use the three creative principles of elaboration, combination and transmutation:

    • Detail out and enlarge interesting ideas that already carry enough value potential by themselves (elaboration).
    • Find ideas that seem to connect, then combine those into more valuable concepts (combination).
    • Take a wild idea and creatively look for ways to tame its wild nature while preserving its intriguing aspects (transmutation).

    Shoot for at least a dozen idea concept with your innovation team in this phase.

    Yang 4: Evaluate your idea concepts. Now it’s time for some critical convergent thinking. Evaluate and critique each concept in your idea concept portfolio to better understand its pros and cons.

    Yin 4: Enhance and rapidly prototype promising concepts. Take a look at the cons of each concept and ask: “How can we creatively fix these bugs?” Then, do rapid prototyping on the most promising concepts to quickly learn more about their value potential and feasibility through iterative rounds of trial and error coupled with feedback.

    Yang 5: Select your top idea concept. Select at least one top idea for real life activation. Use simple voting techniques to reach a team consensus, or employ more advanced decision-making tools to settle diverging views.

    Yin 5: Design a winning pitch. Every top idea needs support from superiors, sponsors and suppliers to secure the resources to bring it to life. Create an impactful idea pitch that animates the benefits of your idea by addressing both the functional and emotional needs of those whose support is critical.

    Yang 6: Pitch your top idea. Use Yang energy to pitch and convincingly respond to any questions raised. If your pitch succeeds, move to the next Yin phase, otherwise lick your wounds and go back to the previous one.

    Yin 6: Party. You’ve succeeded and earned the funding and approval needed for activating your top idea. Celebrate the moment. You’ve thought and worked hard to create a winning idea, and you will have to put in lots more effort to bring it to life.

    Yang 7: Plan for idea activation, then activate your top idea. Specify key parameters, and begin with the activation of your funded idea, reviewing your progress at every critical milestone and adjusting your plan if needed.

    Yin 7: Release the idea into the market. Create a momentum-building launch event. Then, start shipping and continue creatively promoting your “wow” innovation. Finally, begin the Yin Yang flow anew by starting a new innovation project.

    Nota bene: The Yin Yang flow of innovation is a simplification of Thinkergy’s awards-winning innovation process method X-IDEA. If you like to learn more about the Yin-Yang nature of innovation, check out an earlier article that was published in this blog titled "The Yin of Creativity".

    Contact us if you want to learn more about our innovation trainings, or become a Thinkergy certified trainer.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 

  • The Yin of Creativity

    “How can we make our organization more creative? And please, keep it simple,” a client interested in a creativity training for a group of senior executives asked me. Infusing more creativity into an organization comes down to four basic challenges. 

    They are:
    (1) Find out who your creative people are, and how many of them you have.
    (2) Ensure most of your leaders have a creative mindset, especially those at the top.
    (3) Use your creative leaders as change catalysts to build a creative culture.
    (4) Pursue meaningful creative projects with the help of a well-structured creative process.

    The client sighs: “Is there a way to explain this to them in an even easier way?”
    “Yes”, I said. “Think Yin and Yang — and simply use the Yin of creativity.”

    How the Yin Yang concept relates to business and creativity

    The ancient Chinese concept of Yin Yang highlights the interplay of polar opposites in nature. It postulates that dual opposites both dynamically challenge and harmoniously balance each other. Common examples of such interdependent and interconnected opposites (listed in the order Yang before Yin) are male and female, day and night, sun and moon, among others.

    How can you employ Yin Yang to make your organization more creative? How to use the Yin of creativity?

    • Think of creativity (and related concepts of customer care and change) as Yin, and opposite business concepts such as financial performance, facts and efficiency are Yang.
    • Next, look at the the organization from a Yin Yang perspective: the personality of people working in it; the prevailing mindset of executives leading it; the culture driving people’s behaviors; and the thinking tools and process used while working on projects.
    • Finally, if you notice Yang energy dominates the organization, address the four factors — employee personality, leader mindset, corporate culture and thinking process — and gradually shift them one by one from Yang to Yin.

    Creative people have a Yin personality

    How do you identify the creative people in your organization? Use an effective cognitive profiling method (personality test) that clearly identifies those people who prefer creative thinking.

    In Thinkergy’s innovation people profiling method TIPS, we mainly identify creative people by probing for a person’s preferred thinking style. Thereby, “fantasy thinkers” are Yin, while “figure thinkers” are Yang. TIPS also checks on two related styles preferred by creative people: creative Yin thinkers tend to interact with others using Yin-style empathy, emotion and feeling; and they tend to prefer a Yin-lifestyle (i.e. flexibly going with the flow of life).

    Question: Are the people in your team more Yin (creative, empathic, flexible) or Yang (analytical, factual, formal)? Do some express both elements?

    Creative leaders have a Yin mindset

    Mindset describes the way you routinely do things and think about things and people (including yourself). Typically, a creative mindset aligns with a creative personality.  People with a Yin personality have an easier path to develop into a creative leader. However, they still need to change a few limiting habitual thought patterns to a creative Yin mindset.

    A Yin mindset indicates that you enjoy creative thinking, and also have many interests apart from having expertise in a domain that excites you. You insist on your own personality and original creativity rather than copying the thoughts, ways and ideas of others. You dare to act and take initiative. As a positive, playful optimist, you’re open to other viewpoints and ideas. Yin leaders love what they do, so they passionately work hard in a focused way. But they also know when to let go of work and relax to invite fresh inspirations.

    How can you develop authentic creative leaders to creatively lead your organization in line with the Yin of creativity? Employ an effective creative leadership method (such as Genius Journey) that can show them how to adopt and adapt the Yin mindsets of a creative leader.

    Questions: Do you possess more of a Yin mindset or are you more Yang — a critical, analytical expert who stays in the safe confines of established doctrines and action routines, who mainly works for the pay, perks and prestige linked to your job, and who’s always busy keeping up with all the demands of the job without being overly productive? And how about your superiors — are they more of a Yin or Yang leader?

    Creative organizations have a Yin culture

    Culture is the way things are typically done in an organization. Many well-established corporations have a Yang culture embedded in the organizational DNA by generations of Yang leaders who succeeded the original Yin founder of the venture long ago. So, put a Yin leader in charge to switch the corporate culture back.

    A creative Yin culture encourages everyone to express individuality, and embraces diversity of thoughts, backgrounds and interests. Such openness fosters a playful, friendly climate that encourages people to share, nurture and act on ideas by rapidly prototyping them (in line with the maxim “Fail earlier to succeed sooner”).

    In a Yin culture, employees and teams largely manage themselves and work in a disciplined, focused way; high degrees of freedom blend with a pursuit of excellence. Employees enjoy coming to work because they are intrinsically motivated by interesting projects; they empathically care to resolve creative challenges that make meaning for customers.

    In contrast, a Yang culture prefers a uniform set of people conforming to expected norms and behaviors that are monitored and controlled by superiors, leading to a tense, serious work climate where everyone is  working busily (often on internal matters), ideas are quickly dismissed and people are reactive because they’re afraid of failure — and where mediocre, “it’s good enough” results are the norm because people essentially are in their job only for the money.

    Questions: Do you work in a Yin or Yang culture? And if you long for a cool change to the Yin of creativity, do you have an effective culture transformation method (such as CooL – Creativity UnLimited) to help you switch?

    Outlook: Today, you learned that if you want to make your organization more creative, you need to focus on strengthen its creative Yin energy: Hire and promote more creative Yin people; and put a leader with a creative Yin mindset in charge to gradually build a creative Yin culture. Finally, use the dynamic interplay between Yin and Yang to pursue a concrete creative project. Come back to this column in two weeks to find out how exactly this creative process unfolds.

    Want to learn more about how the Yin of creativity, or the Yin Yang of innovation? Or do you want to dig deeper and delve into one of our four proprietary innovation methods? Contact us to tell us more about your innovation needs.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 

  • Why so afraid? Human up! (Part 2)


    In the first part of this article, I pointed out that we are all descendants of brave, action-oriented and creative primal humans who boldly acted, created and collaborated to make humanity rise to the pinnacle of the evolutionary pyramid. I was moved to explore this subject because I’d been encountering so many businesspeople who seem paralyzed by doubts, worries and fears. Why so scared, I wondered?

    In order to remain the dominant species (in light of the onset of robots and artificially intelligent machines), we had better learn how to rein in all those doubts, worries and fears, and reconnect to our essential core of being courageous, action-oriented and creative humans. But how exactly can we “human up”? Here are ten tips.

    1. Let go of the illusion of total control of your destiny. “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans,” said Woody Allen. We’re living in a highly dynamic world with too many variables beyond our control. So, while I endorse making plans, I recommend executing them in a flexible way to respond to changes and surprises.

    2. Believe all will work out well in the end. Have you ever experienced a negative incident that in hindsight turned out to be a blessing in disguise? Start seeing setbacks and temporary failures as what they really are: feedback to stir you forward towards personal happiness and success. Don’t be afraid. Honestly confront the facts of your present reality, do what’s needed to survive now and increase the odds of future success, and believe that in the end, everything will turn out well. Consider living by the following mantra: “Everything that happens to me is the best possible thing that can happen to me.”

    3. Realize most doubts, worries and fears aren’t real. They are just disempowering, limiting thoughts going on in your head. As Mark Twain put it, “I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.”

    So, instead of entertaining fearful thoughts about a distant future, focus on what you need to do now. Practice mindfulness to gain more awareness of your inner dialogue, let anxious thoughts pass without attaching energy to them, and to pay attention to the present moment.

    4. Just do it. “Always do what you fear”, recommends the American essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson. So, human up. Proactively facing a fear is the fastest way to overcome it, and to turn the unknown into a new experience. So, why not human up and finally ask your boss for the raise you both know you deserve?

    5. Be bold but don’t be stupid. The Greek philosopher Aristotle considered courage  “the mean between fear and recklessness.” For example, if you’re afraid of snakes, consider visiting a snake farm to encounter and learn about their ways, and maybe touch a non-poisonous one — but don’t be reckless and step in front of a cobra.
 In business, courageously take action on new projects, but don’t engage in activities that may bring you into serious trouble, such as: doing things that are illegal, highly speculative or unethical.

    6. Shape up. Getting and staying fit will not only make your body stronger, leaner and more flexible; thanks to the body-mind connection, it will have the same effects on your mind. Physical exercise positively changes the neurochemical balance in your brain to make you more confident, courageous and happy. As the ancient Romans already knew, “Mens sana in corpore sano” (A sound mind in a sound body).

    7. Open up. Anxiety is a sign of a closed, judgmental mind. It’s the opposite of the curious, open and flexible mindset of primal humans who explored the world and learned how to seize its opportunities. So, open your mind to new trends, ideas, viewpoints and ways of doing things to keep from falling behind in a fast-changing world. As the American social philosopher Eric Hoffer said: “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”

    8. Relax, recharge and sleep. Sleep is crucially important to ensure optimum physical and cognitive performance. Consider taking a power nap once you notice your energy levels are down, and plan for enough downtime in your day to recharge and relax. But most importantly, ensure you get 7-8 hours of reenergizing sleep every night.

    9. Reconnect to the hunter in you. Nowadays, too many businesspeople have become “farmers”: they passively sit back, hoping to perpetually reap the rewards of the seeds sown long ago, and to squeeze the last drops of milk out of ragged cash cows. Recall that primal humans were hunters. It’s in our essential primal nature to move and actively hunt for —and bring down— prey that often is much bigger than us. Become a hunter again, too: life is full of new opportunities once you venture out.

    10. Move on when too much is wrong. When you work in an  environment that regularly fills your mind with doubtful, worrisome and fearful thoughts, it’s a sign that something is seriously wrong. Whether you feel afraid of a venomous colleague or drained by constant political manoeuvring, acknowledge persistent feelings of anxiety, stress and unhappiness for what they really are: a signal to make a change.

    Leave that poisonous, energy-sapping or stagnant environment behind for a new hunting ground. Join another firm, found or join a start-up, or dedicate your talents to a meaningful non-profit organization. Life is too short to waste on a cause that doesn’t feel right for you. So if its time for you to move on, human up!

    Want to learn more about how to human up? Enroll in one of our Genius Journey training courses.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 

  • Creativity in the Year of the Rooster

    Kung Hai Fat Choy, Happy Chinese New Year! This month marks the start of the Year of the Rooster, or to be more precise: The Red Fire Rooster. What creative inspirations can we get from roosters, hens and young chicken to help us flourish and succeed in the coming twelve months?

    Follow the ways of the rooster

    Chinese astrology ascribes characteristics and behaviors observed in an animal to sum-up personality traits of people born in the corresponding year of the Chinese Zodiac. People born in the year of the rooster are said to be hardworking, very active and responsible. They are  social, gregarious and communicative. While they can be boastful and presumptuous, they are generally trustworthy and honest. Roosters are also praised for their punctuality and sense of timeliness.

    Inspiration: In the Year of the Rooster, do as roosters do. Work hard and be active. Make an effort to go out and socialize with other businesspeople to offer your services and help. In your communication, strive for the safe middle ground of being confident without coming across as arrogant, and  honest without coming across as blunt. If you’re a night-owl like me, experiment with rising in the wee hours as rooster do, to gauge whether an early start positively affects your life and work productivity.

    Aim for hen-like productivity

    Hens tirelessly produce eggs throughout the year. Some hens can produce over 300 eggs per year, and the world record in egg-laying stands at 371 eggs in 364 days. In other words, productive hens lay roughly one egg per day, six days a week.

    Inspiration: In the Year of the Rooster, emulate the high productivity of hens by producing a lot of outputs. Ideally, follow the output rate of egg-laying hens and produce a tangible output on six of the seven days of the week. Depending on what you do, a tangible output might be a sale that you close, a presentation you design, an article you write, an account you audit, a spreadsheet you create, or an investment that you enter into. Imagine the progress if you produced a tangible output on 300 of the next 365 days.

    Be on the lookout

    A rooster guards the nests of his hens, often from a high perch (hence the term “rooster”), and attacks other roosters that enter his territory. If he spots predators nearby, he warns the group with a special alarm call.

    Inspiration: While the turbulent Year of the Monkey has come to end, the Year of the Rooster may still be affected by a lot of market uncertainty and political and economic discontinuity. Make it a habit to regularly “sit on a high perch” to observe the wider business environment for potential dangers and risks. When you sound the alarm on imminent danger, don’t forget that opportunity hides in every difficulty.

    Incubate for ideas

    Domestic hens lay eggs only until a clutch (usually about a dozen) is complete, and then “go broody”. A broody hen sits on the nest and incubates its eggs, and rarely leaves the nest to eat, drink, or dust-bathe. At the end of the incubation period of about 21 days, fertile eggs hatch and a young chicken enters the world.

    Inspiration: Do as the hens and experiment with “incubating” ideas. Incubation is the most advanced —and most challenging— creative thinking strategy. To make the this process work its magic, you must first immerse yourself for a substantial amount of time (several weeks or months) with a creative challenge that is really important and cognitively stimulating. This may be a specific scientific or technological challenge, or a broader personal challenge you’d love to tackle (such as what you really should do in your life other than working only for the money).

    
Once you feel you’ve worked exhaustively to find “the right answer”, stop all mental striving. “Sit on” the challenge and incubate on it. Focus on something else and allow your subconscious mind to breed out the right idea. Have courage to trust in the power of the incubation process — and all of a sudden, a breakthrough idea may appear in front of your eye. If it happens, you instantly know that “this is it”, and all that is left for you to do is to verify the solution and implement the idea.

    Embrace other viewpoints

    One of the most fascinating and distinguishing features of a true rooster is his unique shout. Roosters crow in the early morning to welcome the day, but they often crow on other occasions throughout the day as well.

    Have you ever noticed how different cultures describe this sound? In my home country Germany, we hear and say “ki-keri-ki”. The Italians (chicchiricchi) and Spanish (quiquiriquí) hear a similar sound — unlike the French (Coceri-coc) and the Swedes (kuekeli-kue), as well as the Brits, Aussies, Kiwis and Americans (cock-a-doodle-do).

    How about Asia? In Thailand, the rooster goes “eg-i-eg-eg”, while the Vietnamese describe the sound as “gà gáy vang ò ó o” and the Japanese as “ko-ke-kok-ko”. In China, we find even two rooster calls: “ko-ko-ko-ko” in Southern China and “o-o-o-o” in the rest of the country. And in the Philippines, I tracked down three different rooster shouts: “tik-ti-la-ok”, “tok-to-ga-ok”, and “top-sali-o”. Given so many different names for the same sound, we may wonder: Who’s right? They all are — or aren’t, depending on your point of view.

    Inspiration: Flexibly shift your perspective. Instead of insisting on your point of view as the “absolute truth”, realize that on almost every issue, there are many alternative viewpoints. Mental flexibility and the ability to entertain other people’s viewpoints are a hallmark of a true creative mind, so become more flexible, open and emphatic in the Year of the Rooster.

    How can Thinkergy serve you in the Year of the Rooster with our expertise in creativity and innovation? Contact us let us know more about your innovation needs to explore how we may help you.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 

  • 10 Predictions on How Innovation Will Disrupt Business in 2017

    In his recent article outline the "10 Predictions on How Innovation Will Disrupt Business and Culture in 2017", author Alex Goryachev shared some alarming revelations for companies that don't have an innovation strategy in place. 

    According to Goryachev, the pace of change will force companies to look at new ways to adapt or create disruptive solutions - not only to the products and services they market, but in how they are developed internally. 

    His predictions are:

    1. Companies will disrupt themselves to survive the digital age
    2. The pace of change will force businesses to create game-changing solutions rather than incremental improvements
    3. Smart companies will recognize that innovation can come from anywhere
    4. Silicon Valley startup traits will be infused into corporate workforces
    5. Successful companies will adapt the best of both worlds by balancing the tension between startup and big-enterprise cultures
    6. Coaches and mentors will become more important than traditional managers
    7. Organizations will encourage cross-functional innovation teams
    8. Organizations will encourage cross-functional innovation teams
    9. The rise of innovation ecosystem and co-innovation
    10. Internal and external innovation will converge

    For companies that want to embrace these changes, Thinkergy's methods for ideation, talent development, leadership development and culture are a great solution. 

  • Forbes' Article on Stimulating Innovation Misses One Key Point

    Forbes just published an article on "25 Easy Ways to Stimulate Innovation". Basically it is a simple list of techniques to shift your perspective so you come at your challenge from a new direction.  However a key point it misses is WHEN to use those techniques within the ideation process.

    Within Thinkergy's X-IDEA there are over 150 tools and techniques that are used, but each is only used at a specific stage. For instance:

         - 5 Times Why, Assumptions Check and Insights list are used during the Xploration stage

         - What If, Other Worlds, Idea Planes and Matrix are used during the Ideation stage

         - Pass The Buck, Idea Circles and SCAMPER are used during the Development stage

    With additional techniques used during the Evaluation and Action stages.

    It isn't enough just to have a lot of tools. Knowing how and when to use them in a systematic way is essential to getting results. Even in a one day session our clients generate hundreds and hundreds of ideas, refine them and turn them action. The process matters.

  • Why so afraid? Time to “human up” (Part 1)


    In recent months, I have encountered many businesspeople who somehow seemed to be afraid: afraid of making a mistake at work; afraid of failing with a project they’ve been assigned to lead; afraid of not having all details the of how an event will unfold; afraid of making decisions; afraid of standing up for their beliefs, values and convictions; afraid of harming their career; afraid of potentially losing their job. Many of the worried faces belonged to smart and seasoned business professionals who had every reason to walk and stand tall.  I started to wonder: Why are they so afraid?

    What’s behind the emotional state of being afraid? Doubts, worries and fears. In my creative leadership method Genius Journey, learning to overcome your doubts, worries and fears is the pivotal first stepping stone you need to pass to enter the realm of unlimited creativity.
    Fear is a natural response to prevent us from physical harm. But the doubts, worries and fears of modern businesspeople rarely concern physical survival, but are based on emotional and psychological dread that  takes place only in our minds. Common examples of such socially conditioned and learned fears are the fear of losing control, of social rejection (“losing face”), or of having to face the unknown. Often these fears don’t constitute a real threat now, but relate to an event imagined to possibly take place in future.

    What’s wrong with being afraid? Doubts, worries and fears stop you from producing results, from growing as a person or as a business, from reaching your full potential. They keep you small, stagnant, and limited. In order to start the journey to rediscover your genius and true potential, you need to stop your doubts, worries and fears, and start being a courageous, action-oriented and persistent believer.

    Some of you may want to argue: It’s easy to talk down to me from your point of view. Just imagine walking in my shoes: I have a family to feed. I have bills and debts to pay. I have a job to loose. I may not have enough money to retire when I am old. Can’t you see why I am so afraid?

    Well, I was once walking in shoes very similar to yours — heavy, bulky and ill-fitting shoes. When I realized who I really am and what I should really do with my life, I courageously walked away from a high-paying job in corporate banking. I’ve continued my journey on the less-trodden path — boldly and barefoot. I have never looked back.

    My new journey into the unknown was adventurous and risky, arduous and at times rocky, but also highly rewarding and wondrous. In 2005, I started the innovation company Thinkergy and embarked on a mission to create innovators. In the last decade, I didn’t make as much money as I would have in my old career, but it didn’t really matter (and it was always enough to pay the bills and live simply but comfortably). In the coming decade, I probably am going to make a lot more money in my new career, but it really doesn’t matter either.

    What matters is that in primal human style, I have courageously moved forward together with those who chose to join me on our Thinkergy journey, and we creatively deal with all opportunities and challenges that we encounter..

    How can you stop being so afraid? Human up! Commit to becoming a true human being again. Have you ever wondered how primal humans rose to the pinnacle of the evolutionary pyramid? Because of our long teeth and sharp claws? Because of our giant size and heavy weight? Because we move faster or outmuscle all others?

    Humans have become the dominant species because we think smartly and act courageously. Because we flexibly and creatively deal with dangers and challenges. Because we try things and fail, then try again until we succeed. Because we eagerly and curiously learn and grow. Because we creatively invented tools to hunt, defend ourselves and make our lives easier. Because we care and feel for others. Because we cooperate and jointly develop effective tactics and strategies to hunt prey and overcome predators and competitors.

    Humanities journey started in the African savannah with a small group of primal humans who had the curiosity and tremendous courage to explore and venture out into the unknown. They wandered lands and continents. They crossed mountain ranges and oceans. They flexibly and creatively dealt with new challenges of life in a foreign, often hostile environment. In his theory of evolution, Charles Darwin observed, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” That’s us! That’s you!

    We’re all descendants of these brave, action-oriented, curious, flexible creative primal humans who, against all odds, conquered the world. So why are you so afraid of not being able to live up to the future? How did we allow society and our institutions to condition us and turn so many of us into fearful, docile sheep — to neglect our essential nature of being bold, confident and creative?

    What can you do to bounce back? Human up! Stop down all those doubts, worries and fears in your mind. Shape up and stand up confident and tall. Go primal and reconnect to your essential core as a courageous, flexible, creative, and caring human.

    We need to “human up” quickly to ensure our species stays on top of the pyramid in view of the onset of robots and artificial intelligence. What will keep us on top is not our ability to carefully deliberate, calculate, analyze and scrutinize. It’s our courageous human core, our ability to flexibly adapt, create, cooperate, care and love.

    So how exactly can you “human up”? Come back to this column on February 16, when I will share ten tips on how to fight your doubts, worries and fears and reconnect to your essential creative core.

    © 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. 

  • How to Creatively Plan for the New Year

    Happy New Year to you! If you’re proactive person like me, then the first week of 2017 is the time to creatively plan for the new year. How can you make 2017 a successful, joyful and happy one? Here are some dos and don’ts for you to consider.

    • DO creatively plan for the new year ahead. Why? As the motivational expert Brian Tracy points out, “Every minute in planning saves ten minutes in execution.” A good plan provides direction and focus. It clarifies what you need to do when in order to achieve specific goals and results. It creates an overview of key events, activities and projects that you encounter or want to tackle in the coming twelve months. It sets you up for progress and success.
      And why should you creatively plan for the new year? We’re all unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach for an effective yearly plan. So, be creative and listen to your intuition as you factor in those things that will make a positive difference in your life.
    • DO start your planning by recalling your “strategic core”: (1) Who are you? What’s your core identity? (2) Why are you here? What’s your mission (or ultimate calling in life)? (3) How do you approach this mission? What are your values? (4) What is your general strategy that you employ to live up to your mission?
      For example, I am an innovation expert and meta-creator on a mission to create innovators. I value creativity, progress and meaningful change. With my innovation company Thinkergy, we live up to this mission and values by setting up a network of licensed partners who train wanna-be innovators to effectively use our of novel, original and meaningful innovation methods.
    • DON’T miss the opportunity to learn from the past. Look back to last year: How happy are you with your activities and achievements in 2016? How can you improve in the new year?
      For example, overall I was happy with 2016. I wrote a book, upgraded one of our innovation methods and launched Thinkergy US, among others. I pushed myself really hard, but at a cost: By year end, I felt exhausted — no wonder, as I didn’t take time for an extended vacation. Lesson learned: do better this year.
    • DO creatively plan your vacation first. It’s important to ensure your long-term productivity by avoiding burnout. I’ve blocked three weeks in August for a longer vacation, and earmarked four other extended weekends off. When will you take your time-outs in 2017?
    • DON’T cram too much into your plan for 2017. Most people overestimate how much they can achieve in the short run (a day, week, month or year). So, be realistic when you creatively plan how much you can do in a year — and the following point can help you to set priorities.
    • DO focus on “The ONE Thing”. In his book of the same title, Gary Keller recommends to ask a simple question: “What’s the ONE Thing I can do so that by doing it everything else will be easier or redundant?”
      When you plan your year ahead, determine your “one thing” for the whole year, as well as for each quarter and each month.  Keep these in mind as you go through the year, and ask what’s the one thing you can do this week and today to move closer to your goals.
    • DO cultivate an output focus. You only make progress if you produce tangible results. So, plan your main outputs for the year in total and for each quarter. As you go through 2017, settle on the one output you intend to produce by the end of each day, week, and month.
    • DO  check on your progress regularly. At the end of each time interval (day, week, month, quarter), review your results. Feel good about the outputs you’ve produced, celebrate major achievements and, if necessary, adjust your plans to reflect changes in priorities or the external environment.
    • DO reflect on both your professional and private roles when you creatively plan for the new year. For example, I am an entrepreneur, creator, innovation guide, trainer, speaker, author, blogger, professor and researcher as part of my professional roles, as well as a partner, family member, friend, and society member as part of my private roles. How about you? Do you want to give all your roles equal weight in 2017? Or are there some that you want to emphasize in the year ahead? Here consider using ABC classification to rank your priorities.
      In your private roles, for instance, you might ask yourself: What good things can I do for me in 2017? How can I deepen my personal relationships, make a better home, and improve my financial position?
    • DO plan how you want to grow. After all, as the saying goes, “A tree is either growing or dying”. It’s important that we don’t stand still, but rather actively seek new learning and experiences. What new knowledge, skills or experiences do you want to acquire in 2017?
    • DON’T forget to plan how you want to play. A good way to boost short-term happiness and ensure long-term productivity is to establish daily routines for play and balance. Do you take part in physical activities such as running or yoga to train your body and balance your mind? Do you engage in spiritual practices such as meditation? What can you do to play more and balance yourself?
    • DON’T forget to say “No”. Many people don’t achieve their goals because they agree to take on tasks that are of high priority to others but not to themselves. In 2017, resolve to say “No” to all those things that take your time away from your “one thing”.
    • Last but not least: DON’T be a slave to your yearly plan. A plan is only a rough guide to focus your efforts, so interpret it flexibly to react to unexpected events and surprises that could lead to dangers and/or new opportunities.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2017. 


  • Why death is the unlikely ally of creation

    The email is titled “2017 Creative Mornings Themes” and opens with the question: “Interested to talk about one topic as keynote speaker?” I go through the list of themes: mystery, moments, taboo, beyond, serendipity, survival, equality, genius, compassion, pioneer, death, and context. Instantly, I am attracted to “genius”. After all, reconnecting to our inner genius is what Thinkergy’s creative leadership method Genius Journey is all about.
    But one topic in the list surprises me and makes me feel uncomfortable: death. Does the Grim Reaper have a creative side? I begin thinking about it — and indeed, death is an unlikely ally of creativity and creation.

    What are Creative Mornings?

    Creative Mornings is an hour-long creative speaker held in cities across the globe once a month. In each city, invited keynote speakers discuss one theme in the context of creativity. The organizer in Bangkok is the Institute for Knowledge & Innovation – South-East Asia (IKI-SEA), Bangkok University organizes the Creative Mornings events, which I have just joined as an Assistant Professor on a part-time basis. Bangkok University positions itself as “The Creative University”, which seems like a good fit to my innovation company Thinkergy and our mission to create more innovators.

    What are the creative dimensions of death?

    Death is the action or fact of dying or being killed; it can also be the destruction or permanent end of something. Death and destruction are antonyms of life and creation. So how can they have a creative side? Interestingly, these opposites seem to feed on each other in three paradoxical ways:

    1. Creation and creative destruction (death) complement each other, depend on each other, and complete each other.
    2. While we cannot avoid death, creation is the way to circumvent it.
    3. In order to a that, death can remind us to focus our creative energies wisely.

    Let’s discuss each of these three insights in greater detail in the following.

    Insight 1. Death completes and supports creation, and vice versa

    “For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.” Just as the writer Khalil Gibran noted in The Prophet, life and death are intertwined in a never-ending cycle. Every form of life passes through this cycle of creative conception, birth, growth, maturity, death, and decay. The cycle of life applies to human beings, animals or natural phenomena like plants, typhoons or galaxies, and it also holds true for an idea, a theory, a product, a technology, a company, or an industry.

    What if this cycle had no end? What if there were only creation and life without any destruction and death? We would live in a world overcrowded with people and stuff. And old people, things and ideas would suppress the new, and limit its ability to develop, thrive and mature. Apple’s Steve Jobs put it this way: “No one wants to die… And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life’s change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new.”

    Insight 2. Creation is a way to circumvent death

    While none of us can avoid death, we can live on after we’re gone. How? By using the force of creation. Human beings are the only species that can employ two creative strategies to prolong life after death:

    1. Procreation. “Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them,” noted the British author George Eliot. So, procreate. Start a family and having children that live on and remember you once you’re gone. It is likely to prolong your life for one to two generations before you will be eventually forgotten and dead for good.
    2. Creation. In this life, focus your work and energy on creative output in a field where your talents, skills and passions intersect. The more outputs you create during your life time, the greater the odds that at least one of your creations becomes an eternal masterpiece and you  live on in the hearts of present and future generations, just like Steve Jobs does.

    Insight 3. Death is a tool to focus creative energy

    Use the prospect of death as a tool to focus your time and energy on those things that are most important for you. Steve Jobs said in this context: “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”

    Sadly, most busy businesspeople use time management systems to deal with their schedules. What they forget is that “busyness” (filling hours with activity) doesn’t equate to productivity and creativity (producing results and creative outputs). Moreover, how can you manage time if you don’t know how much time you have left? Here’s Steve Jobs again: “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”

    So, “carpe diem” — use each day wisely. Make each day you’ve left count by living your life instead of living up to the expectations of others. Make it count by spending time with people you love and who bring out the best in you. Make it count by procreating and bringing up functional children. Make it count by following your passion and doing what you think is important. Make it count by leaving a lasting legacy. Then, when you have your appointment with death, you can look back with a gratifying smile, and look forward to a new adventure.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016.

  • A Creepy Creative Story

    Have you ever wondered what it feels like to check-in at Bates Motel? Or to wander the dark corridors of Dracula’s castle on a stormy night? Earlier this year, I got a taste of it. Allow me to share with you a strange, creepy, and maybe even slightly embarrassing personal creative story, and explain how it connects to one of our innovation methods.

    Last September, we launched Thinkergy US, a network of licensed Thinkergy innovation trainers to help spread our innovation methods across North America. It was my last day in Minneapolis after eight days of highly intensive —and successful— train-the-trainer workshops. All I longed for was a drink and a comfy bed for the night before flying on to New York the next morning.

    Unfortunately, the hotel I had stayed at all week was fully booked on my final day. I needed a five-star hotel close to the airport. Kevin Ehlinger Wilde, my host and local business partner, hadn’t booked a hotel yet, but with over 200 four- and five-star hotels in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, we foresaw no problem.

    We checked out all the four and five-star hotels near the airport. All were fully booked. We widened our search online and no luck. The only place with a vacancy was a country club close to Kevin’s home at Lake Minnetonka. “I know the place,” he told me. “Let’s bring you there for the night.”

    As we drove towards Lake Minnetonka, the sky darkened. Night was falling fast. Thunder rolled in the distance. A tremendous thunderstorm was about to break lose. Five miles later, a torrential rain set in. We had to maneuvre around large puddles and storm-tossed trees. “It seems I’m doomed”, I remarked. Finally, the outline of a large mansion emerged. “Here we are. This is the country club you’re staying tonight”, said Kevin. The building lay in complete darkness. A line from the Eagles’ song “Hotel California” entered my mind: “You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave.”

    We parked the car under the roof terrace and entered a dark hotel lobby. “Sorry, we have a brownout,” was the receptionist’s welcome message: “Probably some trees crashed on the electric cables.”

    “How long does it take to bring the power back,” I asked.

    “Maybe an hour or two. Maybe the whole night. But we have a flashlight for each guest to take to their rooms.”

    Kevin comes in: “We’ll take one room for my guest. Here is my credit card.”

    “Sorry, Sir, we can’t do a check-in now as the computers are down. Here’s the key to the room on the third floor. Sorry the elevators don’t work, so please take the stairs.”

    Like the thunder, my gut rumbled: “This all feels bad.” But Kevin had already taken one of my bags. I grabbed the other one and followed him upstairs. Reaching the third floor, we pushed open a heavy wooden door. A loud, creaking noise reverberated. My room was right opposite. I entered the pitch dark room and dropped my bags. In the glow of the flashlight the room looked luxurious, but my gut was now rebelling and yelling: “Don’t stay here.”

    I followed Kevin back to the lobby. I had a really uneasy feeling. We had a quick chat on our pick-up arrangement for the next morning. Suddenly, four firemen, drenched from the storm and armed with heavy axes, entered the lobby. Without a word, they walked upstairs. I commented on the absurdity of the situation: “The Ghostbusters have arrived. Finally!”

    Kevin started laughing, but now my gut told me: “Walk away.”

    I mastered all my courage and went to the receptionist: “Sorry, Ma’am, may I ask you a stupid question: Is this place haunted?”

    She looked at me in surprise: “How did you know?” Then, looking down, she said: “We occasionally have sightings on the third floor, but down here it’s safe.”

    “Thanks for your honesty,” I replied. “I can feel it. Sorry, I won’t stay.”

    We went back to the room, grabbed my bags, and drove off to Kevin’s apartment. He put out an air mattress on the floor for me. It felt simple, humble and good. Opening my phone to check for messages, I noticed that, by accident, I seemed to have recorded a short video at the time I was in the room at the country club. It showed a door handle repeatedly moving up and down. I deleted it to put the incident out of my mind. Finally, feeling safe and sound, I drifted off into a deep sleep.

    So why do I tell you this creepy creative story?

    It relates to Genius Journey, the creative leadership development method that I created for Thinkergy and will publish as a book mid of next year. Genius Journey teaches how to identify and discard disempowering mindsets and action routines and replace them with corresponding empowering mindsets that set you and your creativity free.

    On the foundational level, Genius Journey asks you first to stop your doubts, worries and fears. Instead, become a courageous, action-oriented and persistent believer. Now guess how I train candidates on the Genius Journey to fight their fears? I take them through a fake haunted house. Now you’re asking: Why did I chicken out at the country club at Lake Minnetonka?

    Creative leaders trained in the Genius Journey method are integrated whole-mind thinkers. They’ve built-up a highly attuned intuitive, creative mind that complements their well-developed rational, scientific mind:

    • My rational mind knew that statistically, it’s highly improbable for so many unlikely events occur all at once: my hotel is fully booked on my last day; my host forgot to book another room; all but one of more than 200 hotels are fully booked; a heavy storm knocked out the power to my last-chance hotel; and so on.
    • But more importantly, my intuitive mind signaled me that something felt wrong all along. It took real courage to ask if the hotel was haunted. I felt stupid, but it would have been more stupid, even reckless, to ignore my gut feeling.

    What would you have done? Stayed the night with a flashlight in a dark room? It all comes back to our beliefs, the starting point of Genius Journey. 

    Personally, I believe in the existence of a higher spiritual force for good that guides and protects me on my path. I also believe in the Yin-Yang principle: Where there is good, there are also dark, evil forces somewhere at work. And I have learned that if trust my inner sense of self and listen to my gut, all things turn out well in the end — and even a strange, creepy creative story will have a happy end.

    Happy Holidays to all of you!

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 22 December 2016.

  • How Muhammad Ali exemplified the genius mindsets of creative leaders (Part 2)

    Two weeks ago, we discussed in this column how Muhammad Ali epitomized the genius mindsets of creative leaders that I identified while studying the biographies of geniuses, creative business leaders and top achievers. These genius mindsets help form my creative leadership development method Genius Journey that features 10 destination stops were you learn more about how to reconnect with your inner genius.

    In part 1 we discussed how Ali, “The Greatest of all times”, truly exemplified the four foundational mindsets that we encounter on destination stops 1-4 of the Genius Journey. Today, let’s continue honoring the legend of Muhammad Ali as we learn more about the remaining six genius mindsets of creative leaders.

    Stop 5: Intrinsic Motivation, Passion and Purpose

    The fifth destination stop on the Genius Journey reminds you to stop working only for the money, and to start loving what you do — and knowing why you do it.

    Ali wasn’t fighting for the money only, but because he loved boxing. It was his natural talent, which he jokingly expressed as follows: “Grass grows, birds fly, waves pound the sand. I beat people up.” But he became a legend not because he was a world champion. He transcended his passion of boxing by also having a purpose of why he did it: “I wanted to use my fame and this face that everyone knows so well to help uplift and inspire people around the world.”

    In and out of the boxing ring, he fought what he believed was the good fight, the just fight, the right fight. For example, fighting for more civil rights for Afro-American citizens was a good fight, while fighting an unjust war in Vietnam was not.

    Ali was doing what he did because he wanted to help and inspire ordinary people. In a tribute, a reporter recalled how on a joint tour through South America, he saw Ali giving away 100 dollar each to beggars lining up outside his hotel in the morning. “Champ, why are you doing it?” Ali responded: “For me, it’s just a 100 dollar, but for them, it’s worth here as much as ten thousand dollars for me at home.”

    Stop 6: Integrated Whole Mind

    Stop 6 of the Genius Journey invites you to start becoming an integrated whole-brain thinker and stop using only half of your mind.

    Muhammad Ali was an ingenious boxer who employed his creativity not only to come up with witty entertaining sayings and one of the shortest and most impactful poems of all times (“I shook up the world. Me! We!”), but also to devise creative tactics that won fights everyone expected him to lose.

    Before the epic “rumble in the jungle” with George Foreman, Ali announced that to win the fight, “I’m going to dance”. But to the surprise of everyone, he switched in round 2 to a new creative tactic, the “rope-a-dope”, leaning back against the rope for three rounds and absorbing punches while protecting his head. Soon Foreman was tired and Ali went on the offensive, ending the fight in round 8 with a knockout to regain his World Championship title. “The man who has no imagination, has no wings”, he said, and elaborated further: “If my mind can conceive it, and my heart can believe it – then I can achieve it.”

    Stop 7: Expert & Generalist (T-Shaped Leader)

    Stop 7 of the Genius Journey asks you to stop getting trapped in the expert tunnel and start living, working and learning as a modern renaissance man or woman with many talents and interests.

    Muhammad Ali exemplifies the concept of a T-shaped person who combines expertise in one focus domain (boxing) with a broad repertoire of knowledge, skills and experience. Outside the ring, Ali was a civil rights fighter and political activist, a religious disciple and preacher, an entertainer and joker, a magician and poet, a promoter and businessman. Ali sought to experience life in all it’s dimensions: “Live every day as if it were your last because some day you’re going to right.”

    Stop 8: Movement, Flexibility & Change

    Stop 8 of the Genius Journey reminds you to stop being habitual, rigid and fixated; instead, start to change, move and flex yourself.

    Ali had a very unorthodox boxing style he described as: “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee. You can’t hit what your eyes don’t see.” In his fights, Ali was constantly moving, dancing through the ring and doing the “Ali shuffle” (a famous series of boxing footwork he created as a taunting mechanism), making it difficult for his opponents to strike and pin him down.

    Stop 9: Mindfulness & Present Moment Awareness

    Stop 9 of the Genius Journey asks you to stop acting mindlessly, and instead start taking focused actions now.

    Clearly, as one of world Champion in boxing, Ali tuned into the moment and pay attention with all of his senses to what’s happening right now.

    In a famous footage showing him training for the “rumble in the jungle”, he boxed against a camera to demonstrate from an unusual perspective what it would mean every moment for George Foreman to fight against Ali: “Now you see me, now you don’t”, Ali joked as he appeared and disappeared out of the camera’s field of sight.

    Stop 10: Focused Doing, Relaxed Being (Balance, Rhythm & Flow)

    At the tenth stop of the Genius Journey, you’re prompted to stop doing, doing, doing something all the time. Instead, start harmoniously balancing focused doing with relaxed being to develop a rhythm that brings you into flow, the state of optimal experience were everything flows easily and you perform at your very peak.

    A box bout follows an inherent rhythm of focused action (the fighting in each round), alternating with breaks for the fighters to recharge and get advice. Interestingly, Ali used the breaks for being with himself and reconnecting to his inner core, his inner self, his beliefs and willpower — and not for strategizing: “My trainer don’t tell me nothing between rounds. I don’t allow him to. I fight the fight. All I want to know is did I win the round. It’s too late for advice,” he said.

    Stop 11: Subconscious Creativity (Preparation- Incubation-Illumination- Verification)

    For some people, the Genius Journey may reveal a secret eleventh stop. When all genius mindsets are in sync, you may experience a moment of breakthrough creativity, where you receive a breakthrough idea in an instant moment of flash illumination, which typically happens in a moment of flow. While there is no account of Ali sharing a Eureka experiences, he probably had moments of sparks in those split seconds when he intuitively unleashed his Championship-winning knockout punches.

    Conclusion: Muhammad Ali was not only an iconic boxer, he was a true genius who exemplified all genius mindsets and action routines of outstanding creative leaders. “I’ve made my share of mistakes along the way, but if I have changed even one life for the better, I haven’t lived in vain.” You have touched the lives of millions of people and inspired them to the better. R.I.P. you legendary genius, you were truly The Greatest.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. 

  • New Research Study Proves Innovation Training Works

    Dr. Detlef Reis (Dr. D), the founder of Thinkergy, presented the results of a research study at The ISPIM Innovation Summit 2016 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last week. The paper titled "Training Business People in Structured Innovation: Uncovering the Innovation Learner's Experience" revealed some significant insights into innovation training. 

    The study aimed to shed more light on the following research questions:

    1. What is going on inside learners’ minds while undertaking a training program in business creativity and applied innovation?

    2. How might educators use the insights drawn from the learners’ experiences to design more effective creativity and innovation training programs?

    3. How do learners value and subsequently personalize the benefits of using a structured innovation method and related thinking tools?

    Conclusions:

    The outcomes of this study provide insights for innovation educators and facilitators of innovation workshops on to design more effective creativity and innovation courses in line with the learning experience of business professionals. Some of the key insight from the study include:

    • Over twice as many participants considered themselves to be "highly creative" upon completion of the training
    • 72% strongly agreed that "individual creativity can be improved through training and exercises" while the remaining 28% somewhat agreed or were neutral. 
    • Business professionals asserted that such a course improved their creative competence and confidence.
    • They also the confirmed that using a systematic innovation method increases the quantity and quality of insights, ideas and innovative outputs.
    • 74% strongly agreed that the "use of thinking tools leads to more meaningful value creation.

    Creative skills can be effectively taught to and acquired by business professionals in a course that combines theoretical instructions with the practical application on real-life innovation cases like those found in X-IDEA.

    Click here to download the complete paper and slide deck from the ISPIM Innovation Summit.

  • Creative cultural change is like striving to live a healthier life

    This week, I attended the ISPIM (International Society of Professional Innovation Management) 2016 Innovation Summit in Kuala Lumpur. Apart from presenting an academic conference paper on the innovation learner’s experience and running a workshop on our innovation people profiling method TIPS, I also was asked to moderate a panel discussion on “Creating a Culture for Innovation”. While preparing for the session, I noticed an interesting similarity: Creating an innovation-friendly, creative culture in an organization is like striving to live a healthier life.

    All change starts with a major impetus

    When do people begin to long for a healthier lifestyle? Only when they realize that something is seriously wrong. It might be burnout, weight gain, a performance drop at work, or even a heart attack that sends an unmistakable signal: you must change your lifestyle NOW.

    Likewise, every established corporation occasionally receives an urgent wake-up call that now is the time for building a creative culture: a sharp drop in sales or profits; a fast-growing, agile new player that is eating up your market share; or a new technology that threatens to make your business obsolete.

    Get a check-up

    What do you do when you notice something’s wrong with your health? You see a doctor, who will examine you and perform tests to identify the causes for your declining well-being, and then recommends effective treatments.

    When a corporation expresses a desire to evolve into a more creative culture, an innovation consultant prescribes a comprehensive innovation capacity audit. This “health check” identifies the presence or, more typically, absence of certain organizational factors that support creativity and innovation.

    For example, in the innovation audit that is a key feature of Thinkergy’s innovation transformation method CooL – Creativity UnLimited, we check for 64 bipolar factors that relate to five bases: leadership, commitment, collaboration, culture and structure. A good “innovation health check” creates a clear profiles of the organizational innovation capacity, and identifies problem areas that need fixing to perform a “cool change” towards a more creative culture.

    Adopt an open, curious mindset

    After a health checkup, you know in theory what things you need to do to start living better. Does this awareness alone help you succeed? Nope. First take a look at your existing mindset: What habitual thoughts and action routines led to your decline in the first place? Become aware of your unhealthy ways and the disempowering thoughts and situations that trigger them. Then you can replace them with new, empowering healthy action strategies, and reframe your health challenge as an opportunity to discover a new, exciting side of life.

    Similarly, an innovation consultant needs to determine if the “brains” of the organization are willing —and able— to change. Leading change towards a more creative culture requires top executives to stop talking the innovation talk, and start walking it. Ask: Are they willing to revisit the strategic core of the organization (vision, mission, values, core value propositions)? Are they eager to conduct a strategy innovation project to discover new fields of sustained, profitable future growth? And on a personal level, are they open to undergo a creative leadership development program such as Thinkergy’s Genius Journey method?

    Commit to the achieve the desired changes

    Once you’ve begun cultivating an open, curious mindset for healthy change, you need commit the necessary resources: enough time to exercise, meditate and sleep; additional money to purchase healthier meals, and so on.

    Likewise, corporate leaders need to make serious commitments of resources for the creative culture change initiative: committing their own time to create momentum; setting budgets for new projects and innovation initiatives; and forming an innovation team to support the creative change effort. Commitment is the acid test to find out how serious the leadership really is towards creating a creative culture.

    Collaborate to jointly change

    Now you have a motivated mindset to pursue a healthy lifestyle and have earmarked sufficient time and money to achieve success. But how can you be sure you won’t fall back to your old, unhealthy habits? You could team-up with “buddies” who have similar health goals, or hire a coach. Your collaborators will check on your progress and hold you accountable if you stray from the path.

    In an organization, you can introduce collaborative creative projects and innovation initiatives that break down boundaries and silos, unite like-minded, progressive creative minds, and build momentum and enthusiasm for creativity and innovation.

    Work on the cultural factors

    Finally, everything is in place to create a healthier you. Now you just need to do it, which is easier said then done. So, develop new routines and actions that make health and wellness a core part of the way you live: mediate first thing in the morning; eat a healthy breakfast; take supplements; go running, or do a gym or Yoga session on your lunch break; replace unhealthy snacks and drinks with healthy alternatives; go to bed in time to for allow for sufficient sleep.

    Likewise, organizations need to get busy changing their routines and cultural habits to foster a more innovation-friendly climate: practice rapid prototyping; praise people who take initiative even if they sometimes fail; be more flexible about how, when and where people work — while at the same time raising standards and output expectations from “good enough” to the pursuit of excellence.

    Measure your progress

    Shifting to a healthier lifestyle isn’t easy and takes time — and the same holds true for organisations craving a creative culture. Avoid sliding back to your old ways by measuring your progress. The data tell you which strategies and regimens work and which you need adjusting. And seeing progress creates momentum to intensify and sustain the change.

    On a personal level, you regularly track vital signs (resting pulse rate, blood pressure, weight) and annually check how your lifestyle changes are reflected in key health indicators on a cellular level.

    In just the same way, organizations should work together with innovation experts to develop their individualized set of innovation-related key performance indicators on three levels (inputs, throughputs, outputs) that get tracked on a quarterly and annual basis.

    Contact us if you want to find out how we can jointly co-create a innovative change in your organization and help you cultivate a creative culture.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 8 December 2016.

  • How Muhammad Ali exemplified the genius mindsets of creative leaders (Part 1)


    I was half-way in an exercise set at the gym when my eye spotted the breaking news on CNN: “Boxing legend Muhammad Ali dead at 74″. I feel great sadness that one of my heroes has moved on to a higher place. Muhammad Ali was one of the creative role models I studied when I was devising Genius Journey, my creative leadership development method. “The Greatest” exemplified all genius mindsets that most great creative leaders share.

    The Genius Journey sends people in search of their creativity on a journey to visit 10 destination stops. At each stop, they learn about one mindset that stops them, limits them, keeps them small, keeps them thinking inside the box. And they learn about 10 corresponding mindsets that allow them to unbox their thinking, expand their consciousness, and rediscover their creative selfs.

    To honor the life of Muhammad Ali, and to inspire more businesspeople to build-up their genius mindsets and reconnect with their inner genius, let’s tour the 10 destinations stops of the Genius Journey together with Ali today and in two weeks from now.

    Journey Stop 1: Belief, courage, action-orientation and persistence

    Muhammad Ali is a role-model for the foundational first stop of the Genius Journey: Stop your doubts, worries and fears. Start to be a courageous, action-oriented and persistent believer.

    “I am an ordinary man who worked hard to develop the talent I was given. I believed in myself, and I believe in the goodness of others,” he once said, and he also noted: “It’s lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself.”

    Ali knew: “It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.” Hence, he used affirmations as a tactic to convince himself and others that he is the greatest indeed: “I figured that if I said it enough, I would convince the world that I really was the greatest.” And the greatest he became, true to his belief that, “What you are thinking about, you are becoming.”

    Ali was also aware that belief powers courage: “It’s lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges.” His faith gave Ali the courage to go into the ring against towering champions like Sonny Liston and George Foreman, and to win fights most experts considered impossible for him. But Ali looked at an impossible as a motivating challenge: “Impossible is just a word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they’ve been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It’s an opinion. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing.”

    His faith also gave Ali the courage to refuse to be drafted to fight in what he saw as  an unjust war in Vietnam. That conviction would cost him his title, his money and his freedom: “Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? … I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But … I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.”

    “He who is not courageous enough to take risks, will accomplish nothing in life,” noted Ali. His courage gave him the willpower to act and persist in the face of hardship and pain that every champion and genius leader needs to master: “Champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them-a desire, a dream, a vision. They have to have last-minute stamina, they have to be a little faster, they have to have the skill and the will. But the will must be stronger than the skill.” He admitted he hated every minute of training, but told himself: “Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”

    Journey Stop 2: Self-confidence and individuality

    Stop 2 of the Genius Journey is where you learn to stop your ego — your false self, the role you’re playing to please others — and start being yourself.

    “I know where I’m going and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want,” said Ali. Instead of copying the thoughts, values and opinions of others, he insisted upon himself: “My principles are more important than the money or my title.” His insistence on his individuality even made him change his name from Cassius Clay to Muhammad Ali (which means ‘beloved of God’). When people continued calling him with his old name, he responded confidently: “I’m not your slave. I’m Muhammad Ali.”

    While extremely self-confident, Ali was also humble and respectful to ordinary fellow humans. He admitted once: “At home I am a nice guy: but I don’t want the world to know. Humble people, I’ve found, don’t get very far.”

    Stop 3: Curiosity and open-mindedness


    Stop 4: Playfulness, positivity & optimism

    The genius mindsets at the stops 3 and 4 of the Genius Journey are located at the same consciousness level. Here you’re asked to stop being judgmental and closed, a negative, serious pessimist. Instead, start being open and curious, a positive playful optimist.

    Muhammad Ali was open and curious to meet people and learn: “I sought the advice and cooperation from all of those around me – but not permission.” He became popular because he loved people and entertained them with funny rants against  opponents (“I’ve seen George Foreman shadow boxing, and the shadow won”) and witty poems (“I’ve wrestled with alligators, I’ve tussled with a whale. I done handcuffed lightning, And throw thunder in jail.”).

    Clearly, throughout his life, Ali maintained a curious, open, positive and playful beginner’s mind of a child, which explains while disease ravaged his body in his last decades, it “couldn’t take the spark from his eyes”, as US President Obama said it his tribute.

    In two weeks, we will continue the remaining stops of the Genius Journey to see how “The Greatest of all times”also epitomized the other genius mindsets. Contact us if you want to learn more about how you can become a genius and discover your genius mindsets with our creative leadership method Genius Journey.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. 

  • Escaping the GIGO principle of innovation

    Last week, I began planning a comprehensive innovation project with a client. This project is of a high importance for this Multinational Corporation, which is seeking for new applications in new industries for a highly profitable product that is now locked into one industry and one application niche. The first challenge in this complex innovation project, I told the client, would be to understand —and escape— the GIGO principle of innovation.

    What is the GIGO principle?

    GIGO stands for “Garbage in, garbage out”. Originating from the domain of computer science and information technology, the GIGO principle describes the following fact:

    If you input unintended, even nonsensical, data (“garbage in”) to a computer (operated by logical processes), then it will unquestioningly produce undesired, often nonsensical, output (“garbage out”).

    In more than a decade of working on over 150 innovation projects, I’ve seen how GIGO also applies to the field of innovation in five dimensions: project, process, money, time, and people.

    The project dimension

    The project dimension of the GIGO principle of innovation goes as follows:

    If you input an unintended, even nonsensical, innovation case at the start of an innovation project (garbage in), then it will produce undesired, often nonsensical, ideas and innovation outputs (garbage out).

    How to escape “garbage in” on the project side?

    • When you plan a new innovation project, ensure that it is relevant, realistic and meaningful for both your organization and key project stakeholders. Ask yourself: How to make key stakeholders rally behind this project? How to make participants feel eager to take part, and look forward to starting?
    • Identify the main innovation type you intend to pursue (e.g., process innovation, product innovation, service innovation, customer experience design, campaign design, business model innovation, or strategy innovation, among others).

    The process dimension

    On a meta-level, we can formulate the process dimension of the GIGO principle of innovation as follows:

    If you use an incomplete or dysfunctional innovation process for an innovation project (garbage in), then it will result in incomplete or substandard ideas and innovation results (garbage out).

    Moreover, every innovation process consists of different process stages, and employs thinking tools that innovation teams apply while working in a stage. As such, the process-related GIGO principle of innovation has a corollary on a stage-level:

    If you enter an insufficient quantity and/or poor quality of inputs into a process stage of a well-structured innovation method (garbage in), then it will produce too few, substandard outputs and results at the end of this stage (garbage out).

    The same holds true on the tool-level: Even the best, most carefully selected thinking tools will produce undesired, or even nonsensical, outputs (“garbage out”) if you input low-quality information (“garbage in”).

    How to escape “garbage in” on the process side?

    • Select and use an innovation process that is well-structured and complete, and that measures inputs and outputs on different levels (such as Thinkergy’s awards-winning X-IDEA method).
    • At the end of a process stage (or a thinking tool-exercise within a stage), make sure that you have outputs in a sufficient quantity and an adequate quality before you move on to the next stage (tool).

    The monetary dimension

    Going through an innovation project requires an adequate budget investment, which leads us to the monetary dimension of the GIGO principle of innovation:

    If you run an innovation project on a shoestring (garbage in), then your pennies will buy you only third-rate delivery partners with faulty innovation processes and limited experience, leading to suboptimal innovation results (garbage out).

    How to escape “garbage in” on the monetary side?

    • Relate the budget to the relative importance of the innovation project (high, medium, low).
    • Hire external innovation professionals with effective process methods to facilitate projects of medium and especially high importance. Recall David Ogilvy’s advice: “Pay peanuts, get monkeys”.
    • Ensure you budget can also pay for a functional event space and for the logistics and travel costs related to the innovation events.
    • Quantify the potential financial benefits of the project, such as estimated revenue and/or profit margin growth. View your project budget in relation to these desired benefits to arrive at an adequate level. For example, a project budget of USD 100,000 seems like a lot, but when viewed in relative terms against expected project benefits (say, USD 50 mio), it translates into a tiny fraction (here 0.2%).

    The time dimension

    Good thinking leading to great innovations takes time. All too often, businesspeople underestimate the time needed to do an innovation project adequately (a phenomenon related to a cognitive bias known as planning fallacy). This leads us to the time dimension of the GIGO principle of innovation:

    If you provide inadequate time commitments to an innovation project and each of its stages; garbage in), then it will produce half-baked outputs and results (garbage out).

    How to escape “garbage in” on the time side?

    • Relate the time commitment to the relative importance of the project (high, medium, low). Consider the following minimum number of innovation workshop days for each importance level: one event day (low), two to three days (medium), and four to five days (high).
    • For high importance cases, spread the innovation project out over a couple of months. Invest time upfront for a thorough immersion during an initial Xploration phase. It will pay dividends later on, ensuring that your innovation teams can address your real innovation challenge, which typically differs from the one you initially perceive to be your challenge.

    The people dimension

    The right number of the right people create great innovation to improve people’s lives. Last but not least, this notion is reflected in the people dimension of the GIGO principle of innovation:

    If an insufficient number of, or the wrong type of people work on an innovation project (or a particular process stage; garbage in), then they will produce too few or suboptimal ideas and innovation outputs (garbage out).

    How to escape “garbage in” on the people side?

    • For innovation projects of medium or high importance, have more than one innovation team (comprising eight to 10 members) working on the project case in parallel.
    • Optimize the people side of innovation: Use cognitive profiling tools (such as Thinkergy’s people innovation profiling method TIPS) to invite people to each innovation process stage who have a natural talent for the type of thinking required in that stage. For example, when applying X-IDEA, I noted that conceptual thinkers do well in the initial Xploration stage; creative thinkers shine in the two creative stages Ideation and Development; critical thinkers help a team to get real in the Evaluation stage; and operational doers get things done in the Action-stage.
    • For highly important innovation projects, broaden viewpoints and the pool of ideas by inviting topic experts (e.g., scientists, futurists, trend scouts) and external collaborators (e.g., clients, suppliers, creative agency partners).

    Do you plan working on an important innovation project in 2017, too? Do you want to escape the GIGO principle of innovation? Contact us if you want to find out how we can guide you towards meaningful innovation results with our systematic innovation method X-IDEA.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. 

  • Understanding the cycles of change using TIPS (Part 2)


    In Part 1 of this article, we looked at the driving forces of change in societies by looking at four traditional roles that underpin most societies: a smart scholar or academic; a progressive merchant or entrepreneur; a collegial farmer or worker; and the rule-enforcing warrior or cop. We learned how these four traditional roles are associated with the four bases — Theories, Ideas, People, and Systems — of TIPS, Thinkergy’s innovation people-profiling method. 

    Today, allow me give you more insights into how to ride the cycles of change in society and business by looking at the four TIPS bases through another lens: the concepts of evolutionary economics and long cycles of Joseph Schumpeter and Nikolai Kondratiev.

    A brief introduction to Schumpeter

    Roughly a hundred years ago, the Austrian economist Joseph A. Schumpeter proposed a radically new theory of macroeconomics. Inspired by Darwin’s theory of evolution, evolutionary economics focuses on the non-equilibrium processes —especially technological and institutional innovations— that transform an economy from within and drive the cycles of change:

    • Most established industries are in a state of balance and relative stasis — the macroeconomic equilibrium that Schumpeter acknowledged as “the normal mode of economic affairs”, in which a few market leaders dominate the industry. According to Pareto theory (80/20 thinking), around 20% of companies in any industry make around 80% of revenues generated in that industry. Typically, two or three command the highest market shares, two or three follow at a distance, and a myriad of smaller players vie for the balance.
    • Over time, new research and new technologies surface. Progressive entrepreneurs and agile ventures operating at the fringes of an established market space recognize these as a business opportunity and pick them up. While the incumbents are preoccupied with “milking the cow”, making incremental improvements and fighting tactical battles for market share, entrepreneurs enter the market space with a truly innovative technology. As Schumpeter emphasized: “Innovations are changes which cannot be decomposed into infinitesimal steps.”
    • If the entrepreneurs succeed, their “disruptive technology” upsets the established order of economic life. They become the dominant players of a new market, and the incumbents fall behind.
    • Eventually, a once mighty outdated corporation or its flagship business gets acquired or is closed. Schumpeter called this process “creative destruction”, describing it as follows: “The opening up of new markets, foreign or domestic, and the organizational development from the craft shop and factory to such concerns as U. S. Steel illustrate the same process of industrial mutation — if I may use that biological term — that incessantly revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating a new one. This process of Creative Destruction is the essential fact about capitalism.”
    • Radical shifts in lead technologies disrupt the traditional order of markets and societies, and instigate major social changes. As Schumpeter observed: “Capitalism inevitably and by virtue of the very logic of its civilization creates, educates and subsidizes a vested interest in social unrest.”
    • How does the story continue? Over time, a new equilibrium establishes itself in the new industry. The leaders of the now dominating new market eventually become part of the economic establishment and comfortably enjoy the returns of their disruptive innovation — until a new disruptive technology comes along. A new macroeconomic cycle has begun, giving birth to a new industry and a new round of creative destruction of the old.

    The long waves of economic change

    Schumpeter and the Russian economist Nikolai Kondratiev both observed that major shifts in lead technologies happen in long cycles that flow in waves (known as Schumpeter-waves or Kondratiev-waves). What long cycles and related lead technologies can we distinguish?

    Water power, textiles and iron led the first wave (ca. 1785-1845), followed by steam, railway and steel (1845-1900). Electricity, chemicals and automobiles powered the third wave (1900-1950), followed by petrochemicals, aviation, and electronics in the fourth wave (1950-1990). The current fifth wave is driven by digital networks, software, and new media (1990-2020).

    What industries will dominate the next wave (2020-2045)? In his book The Sixth Wave, John Moody predicts that resources efficiency and clean technologies will be major drivers.

    By the way, have you noticed that the duration of the long waves seems to shorten? And so does the life span of corporations. The cycles of change are accelerating — or to put it in the words of Schumpeter: the incessant process of creative destruction is speeding up.

    Evolutionary economics, long cycles and TIPS

    Our innovation people profiling method TIPS distinguishes four bases that drive the behavior of individuals and organizations, industries or economies alike: Theories, Ideas, People and Systems. How do the evolutionary economic processes that drive the cycles of change relate to the four bases of TIPS?

    • An established industry resting in a macroeconomic equilibrium is Systems-driven. A few mighty corporations dominate the industry and focus on keeping control and defending their commanding market shares. Typically, they are too busy with themselves and their established peers to notice emerging trends on the horizon, thus facing the threat of creative destruction by a new disruptive technology.
    • Over time, the Theories base produces new base and applied research that crystallizes in new technologies, the catalyst of transformative change.
    • Entrepreneurs and agile ventures at the Ideas base are the first to recognize the market potential of an emerging technology. Thanks to their appetite for both progress and profit, they are willing to undertake both the risks related to investing in the new technology and the efforts to turn it into marketable products.
    • Finally, the People base is needed to make a new technology and a related products a market success. People become the consumers of the new technology, paying for it with money earned in an old industry or by switching to work in the new industry.

    Over time, the successful entrepreneurial venture grows through the People base and solidifies into a large corporation at the Systems base. A new macroeconomic equilibrium sets in that years later will be unsettled by the start of a new long cycle. And so flow the cycles of change, the incessant economic cycles of creation and creative destruction.

    Wanna learn more about our new innovation people profiling method TIPS? Take a look at this video — and contact us if you want to be informed of the launch of our new online profiling platform in a few weeks.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. 

  • The Creator-Manager Dilemma


    In my work, I play two major roles. One is as an innovator, creating new ideas and products. But I am also a manager. Thinking about these roles has made me aware of a dilemma facing creators, and the companies that employ them.

    Working styles
    There are as many work styles and cognitive preferences as there are people, but there are some clear categories into which they fall. One major division is what I call “brain vs. brawn”. Do you engage in abstract conceptual thinking (brain), or do you prefer to do things (brawn)? Are you a “brainiac” or a “brawniac” based on your thinking style and work style — or a mix of both?

    Braniacs are more abstract and strategic in their thinking, and look at the big picture. They think about the medium to long term, and enjoy pursuing and achieving what are often ambitious and challenging goals. They enjoy difficult conceptual problems, and are often the ones with breakthrough ideas.

    Brawniacs, on the other hand, focus more on operational issues. They take care of the details. They enjoy completing a list of tasks, and their short-term focus gets those tasks done quickly and efficiently.

    Creators and managers
    As you may already have guessed, brawniacs make excellent managers. They are good at identifying and solving operational issues, paying attention to detail, ensuring that things are working smoothly, and producing results, at least in the short term. They are good at these things because they enjoy them.

    In contrast, due to their conceptual cognitive preferences, brainiacs enjoy both thinking and creating new things. They don’t like dealing with the nuts and bolts. They are not managers, and they are unlikely to enjoy being managers, as it forces them to do things they don’t enjoy. Brainiacs can become great strategic leaders, but they will be, at best, competent managers.

    The dilemma
    Consider a hard-working, talented brainiac. The quality of her work brings her to the attention of higher management, who decide to “reward” her with a promotion to a managerial position. While she may enjoy the additional authority and status — not to mention an enhanced paycheck — she may soon come to regard her “reward” as a curse rather than a blessing. Now she has to direct and monitor the efforts of others, instead of doing the conceptual, analytical, and creative work she enjoys. She has to focus on short-term goals, and get her team to meet them. She spends much of her time in meetings. She has to pay attention to details, not only in her own work, but also in that of her team. She is likely to become frustrated and annoyed, perhaps even depressed, because as a manager, she can no longer do the conceptual, analytical or creative work that she enjoys and is good at.

    This is the dilemma: in most organizations, brainiacs need to become managers if they are to advance their careers. They don’t enjoy being managers, and would add significantly more value to the organization if they did the work they are best at. This is a problem not only for the brainiac; it is also a problem for the organization, even for society at large. Requiring creators to become managers to rise in an organization is a misuse of talent, and risks losing valuable ideas from a creator-turned-manager who no longer has time to create.

    The solution
    Because they cannot execute their preferred work style and cannot play out their preferred conceptual thinking style, many disillusioned creator-managers wind up leaving their managerial jobs and becoming free agents, or starting new ventures where they can do the strategic, creative work they love, and hire others to take care of the operational details. In this way, many organizations lose top talent, and with them the investment they have made in them.

    How can an organization resolve this problem? In industries such as software, some firms have dual career tracks. Employees can advance either as managers (e.g., managing a team of programmers) or as creators (e.g., writing software). Both the manager track and the creator track offer equal rewards, and those rewards are based on the value the individual adds to the organization, rather than, say, how many people work for them.

    Are we likely to see many organizations adopt dual career tracks to resolve the creator-manager dilemma? Probably not. Measuring the value added by individuals is in general very difficult. But more importantly, even though a dual career track program may be desirable from the perspective of the shareholders of a firm, the managers of that firm are unlikely to implement it, as they would see it as threatening their own status and rewards.

    If you’re a brawniac — a pragmatic doer and talented manager — be happy: you can do the managing that you love and that fits your cognitive preferences, and get both honored and paid well. But if you’re a brainiac, a conceptual thinker and creator stuck in a managerial role that doesn’t fit to your preferred thinking style and work style, think about whether you should stay for the money or cash out and start doing what you love and what is more in line with your cognitive preferences. That’s what I did, and it was the best decision I ever made.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis

  • The Brainiac-Brawniac Scheduling Conflict


    In the article “creator-manager dilemma”, we discussed categorizing people based on their preferred work style as “brainiacs”, who like abstract conceptual thinking, and “brawniacs”, who like getting things done. Good managers are typically brawniacs, as they are good at the nuts and bolts of business, and produce short-term results. Brainiacs, on the other hand, may become great strategic leaders, but will rarely be more than competent as managers, as they prefer strategic and abstract thinking. In most organizations, this leads to a dilemma for brainiacs. In order to advance in their careers, brainiacs need to become managers. This forces them to stop doing work they enjoy and are good at, and instead do work they dislike and at which they rarely excel.

    Even when the creator-manager dilemma isn’t a factor, there is a difference in the work style between brainiacs and brawniacs that causes a lot of frustration at work, and that is their differing approaches to time.

    It’s just a short meeting
    Recently, a fellow professor asked me to meet with him and the management team of a company to discuss human talent acquisition and retention. When I said no, my colleague objected, “But it’s just one hour.” Well, yes and no. For me, such a meeting would cost me much more than just one hour, even if the meeting miraculously ended on time. In fact, I would have lost a full day of work had I joined the meeting, because of the way that I, as a brainiac, use time.

    The brain-brawn scheduling conflict
    Brawniacs and brainiacs work on very different time schedules. This is because their tasks require different time commitments:

    • Brawniacs schedule their work in increments of 15 minutes to one hour. The tasks they work on are practical and operational, and can be started, and completed, in a short time, and that time is fairly predictable. Brawniacs tend to schedule as many tasks or meetings in a day as will fit into the available hours. At the end of the day, they feel satisfied if they’ve got many things done or have participated in successful meetings.
    • Brainiacs, however, must schedule their work in increments of at least half a day. Each day, they can focus on only one or two conceptual tasks requiring substantial abstract thought. These tasks —writing an article, coding software, creating a financial model of a company — can not be done quickly and cannot be done in a few minutes here and a few minutes there. They require at least a few hours, and frequently a whole day, of undisturbed, concentrated work. If all goes well, brainiacs may “get into flow” and become so deeply absorbed by the work that they forget about everything else. This, the most productive time for a brainiac, can never happen if their work gets interrupted.

    If you’re a brawniac — a pragmatic doer and talented manager — be glad. The world runs on a brawniac’s schedule. In the U.S. it’s estimated that two out of three people are brawniacs. Even more importantly, most managers are brawniacs, and manage on their own schedule.

    However, if you’re a brainiac — a conceptual thinker and creator — you will inevitably and frequently come in conflict with a brawniac’s schedule due to your preferred work style. Although you need long stretches of time to produce good work, you will be asked to schedule time as if you were a brawniac. That mid-morning meeting may cost the brawniacs only an hour, but you lose at least a half day’s work as a result.

    Solutions
    How can a brainiac, or a brawniac manager of brainiacs, most effectively deal with this conflict? How can the brainiac produce their best work in a world running on the brawniac’s schedule? Here are three ideas for a brainiac to consider:

    1. Learn to say no. When you have conceptual work to do, refuse demands on your time that would destroy your productivity, just as I did to my fellow professor above. The first few times, you’ll have to explain why a half-hour task can destroy a full day of conceptual work. Eventually they will come to understand that your needs are different from theirs, and they should be able to see that allowing you your schedule results in your producing more, and better, work. Find a compromise that gives you the time you need based on your preferred work style, but which also lets you be seen as a committed member of the team.
    2. Schedule meetings at your least productive times. Whenever possible, I schedule meetings in the late afternoon. By then I have usually done the most vital parts of my conceptual work for the day and am happy to deal with people’s needs or operational details.
    3. Be a brawniac for one day each week. Make an agreement with yourself, your superior, and your team members that on one day each week you will work on a brawniac’s schedule. Schedule all your meetings, short operational tasks, service calls, etc., on this day, and do your best to be a brawniac for that day. This will free up the other days for you to work on your brainiac’s schedule, and enjoy four days of undisturbed conceptual work each week.

    Finally, if you’re a brawniac manager of brainiacs, try to give your brainiacs as much advance notice as possible of meetings and the like so they can arrange their work schedules for the least disruption. When possible, schedule meetings late in the day. Your brainiacs will complain less about them, and regardless of their preferred work style, everyone can use the mornings to be productive. And as an added bonus, meetings late in the day are more focused and shorter, because everyone wants to go home.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis

  • What kind of innovator does your business need?

    In an earlier article titled Growing with the flow, I discussed that, like living things, companies develop by passing through distinct phases in their life cycle. What’s also true is that as a company develops from a startup to a multinational corporation, different basic innovator dimensions dominate at different stages of a company’s life. Let me explain.

    The four dimensions of innovators

    Over the past few years, I’ve been developing an innovation-focused personality profiling system, and am currently fine-tuning it for market release in the first quarter of 2014. This system that we call TIPS is based on the idea that your natural work style, thinking style, life style and innovation style depend on the mix of four basic dimensions that drive your mental focus and energy. These four dimensions are: THEORIES, IDEAS, PEOPLE, and SYSTEMS (which together make for the acronym TIPS).

    When assessed on their combinations of these fundamental orientations, people fall into 11 types: Theorists, Ideators, Partners, Systematizers, Conceptualizers, Promoters, Organizers, Technocrats, Coaches, Experimenters, and All-rounders. Each of these innovation styles can contribute to a company’s innovation efforts, but different innovation styles come to the forefront at different stages in the corporate life cycle.

    How different dimensions drive and affect a company during its life cycle

    Let’s follow the life of a company to better understand how the need for the various innovator types — and their profiles — changes as it goes from a tiny new venture to a mighty behemoth:

    Phase 1: Great companies start with great IDEAS
    The idea on which a business is founded may be to fill an unmet need. An example of this is YouTube, whose founders Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim noticed the lack of an easy way to share videos on the web. The idea might also be to exploit a new technology or method, as in the case of Polaroid, founded by Edwin H. Land. The more radical, game-changing, and bold the idea, the more risky it is, the more reward it offers, and the more it can change the world. Ideators, the idea creators, often create and lead start-ups through their initial phase.

    Phase 2: Spread the word about the IDEAS to PEOPLE
    The second phase of company growth calls on both the IDEAS and the PEOPLE dimensions. Once a new product has been developed, then it’s time to build a brand and promote both the product and the brand. Among the 11 innovator types, the Promoter is most naturally suited to create convincing campaigns and to spread the word to the market.

    Phase 3: Get PEOPLE for Sales and Delivery
    This third phase is all about PEOPLE. You need to find the right people to sell your brand and product, and ensure satisfactory delivery and customer care. Partners are the innovator type most needed at this stage of a company’s development.

    Phase 4: PEOPLE use SYSTEMS to tame the chaos
    Sooner or later, if your sales team is successful, you will have a new problem: your organization will have problems keeping up with growth and maintaining consistent quality in products, delivery and services. This phase involves mostly the PEOPLE and SYSTEMS dimensions, as management realizes the need for organization at the front end, as well as a need for a more sophisticated back-end organization to ensure consistent service quality and customer care. The Organizer is the innovator type best suited to bring both order and a focus on service to a fast-growing company.

    Phase 5: Build smooth-running SYSTEMS
    As a company matures into a large corporation, the SYSTEMS dimension gains added importance. Senior management focuses on efficiency and productivity. The Systematizer is the right kind of person needed to drive and direct the transformation of a company into an efficient, productive corporation that is self-sustaining and not dependent on any one individual.

    Phase 6: IDEAS improve the SYSTEMS
    Once well-oiled SYSTEMS have been put in place, they can be shaped to improve the company. In order to do this, IDEAS are needed, along with the willingness to experiment and tinker with things to find the right business model, delivery channels, and partnerships to multiply the firm’s value. The Experimenter is the innovator type best able to figure out how to make the company successful in different markets, countries or even industries.

    Phase 7: Reinvent yourself and start a new cycle — or decline and perish
    By this time, your once-tiny startup has become a mature multinational corporation. However, natural systems have another phase in their life cycle: decline and, finally, death. Sooner or later, a new technology, business idea, or venture will emerge which challenges your company’s existence. If your company cannot adapt, renovate or reinvent itself — often because everyone in the company ignores the world-changing events around them — your company will start to decline, and may even perish, the victim of Schumpeter’s “creative destruction”.

     

    What about THEORIES?

    If you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed that we’ve only mentioned the IDEAS, PEOPLE and SYSTEMS. Where do THEORIES come in? The answer is: Always.

    Theories and information inform your actions at every phase of the cycle. However, the focus of the theories shifts as the other dimensions come to the fore.

    • When IDEAS are most important, you need conceptual or creativity-related theories, such as basic research.
    • When PEOPLE are the focus, your firm needs marketing and human capital-related knowledge.
    • Building strong, flexible SYSTEMS requires a good theoretical grounding in operations, efficiency, and process.

    And those innovator types we haven’t mentioned yet —Theorists, Conceptualizers, Coaches, Technocrats, and All-Rounders? Their role is in creating, disseminating, and applying theories and information throughout all phases of the corporate life cycle.

     
    © Dr. Detlef Reis

  • Why using one creative process stage leads to dull ideas

    When you “brainstorm” for ideas with a team, do you typically deliver conventional ideas that —if you’re honest— you could have got without dedicating extra time? Well, the reason you ended up with these ordinary low-hanging fruits doesn’t mean that you and your teammates are not creative. Rather, it means that you used an ineffective process — if you used a process at all.

    Most innovation process methods don’t allow you to move beyond the “obvious” ideas — the ones everyone else in your industry also thinks of first — because they use only one creative process stage. Today, let me explain how you can move from ordinary ideas to extraordinary ideas by adding a second creative stage to your innovation process.

    The unspoken problem of most innovation processes:

    Most innovation process methods have only one creative process stage. For example, the classic Creative Problem-solving (CPS) model labels this creative stage “idea finding”; the models of Bragg & Bragg, Clegg & Birch or VanGundy call it “idea generation”; and the popular design thinking method names it “ideation”. In all these process methods, this sole creative process stage is directly followed by a stage used to critically evaluate the ideas and select the best ones for further implementation.

    “That’s precisely how we always do it, too”, you may be saying. “So what’s wrong with that?” Well, you’re likely to end up with a low number of ideas that are all safe, sane and set.

    What causes the problem?

    When generating ideas, innovation project team members are supposed to follow four ground rules of ideation suggested by Alex Osborn, the famous advertiser and inventor of Brainstorming and other creativity techniques:

    • #1. No killing of any idea. Defer judgment.
    • #2. Go for idea quantity as it breeds quality.
    • #3. Shoot for wild, crazy, funny off the wall ideas.
    • #4. Combine and improve on ideas.

    Unfortunately, it’s difficult to comply to these four ground rules if your innovation method has only one creative process stage. Why?

    Why using one creative stage isn’t enough

    If idea generation is going to be followed directly by evaluation, how likely are you adhere to all ground rules of ideation? Quantity over quality, no idea too wild or crazy?

    Most probably not. It’s highly likely that your inner voice of judgment dismisses any wild idea the very moment you think it — and you won’t write it down. As such, you end up with fewer ideas overall — and most of them are ordinary or even boring.

    There is another problem related to using only one creative process stage: Suppose that against all odds, you had really mastered all your courage to adhere to the ground rules of ideation. If there were only one creative stage, would you be likely to select any wild idea for further in-depth evaluation?

    No way! You would kill all wild ideas right at the beginning of the critical evaluation phase, as you regarded them as useless to resolve your innovation challenge.

    Interestingly, a wild idea is often the seedling of a truly outstanding idea. That’s why we need to have two creative stages to make an innovation process really work and move beyond the same set of conventional ideas.

    The solution: Move from one to two creative stages

    Thinkergy’s X-IDEA innovation method is designed to move beyond conventional ideas by introducing a second, distinctively different creative stage, Development. In X-IDEA, the creative process flows as follows.

    • First we investigate the innovation project case in the Xploration stage to gain novel insights into what our real challenge is.
    • Then, the first creative process stage, Ideation, emphasizes idea quantity. Here we make an effort to produce hundreds of raw ideas (including many wild and uncommon ones) in a playful, fast and furious atmosphere.
    • In the second creative process stage, Development, we take our time to transform idea quantity into quality. Here it’s our job to design and develop a smaller portfolio of two to three dozens of novel, original and meaningful idea concepts.
    • Next, we evaluate the pros and cons of our idea concepts in a critical and realistic stage,Evaluation. Now we’re finally allowed to judge our ideas, but not before.
    • Finally, we take Action on those ideas that we selected for real-life activation

    How exactly to does the second creative stage work?

    In the Development-stage, we discover, design and develop to turn idea quantity into idea quality:

    • First, we discover intriguing ideas within the large portfolio of raw ideas generated during Ideation.
    • Then, we use these intriguing ideas to design realistic idea concepts through refinement, combination and transmutation.
    • Finally, we develop these designed concepts further by looking for ways to add even more value to them.

    Just like during Ideation, we also must follow four ground rules in the Development-stage. While ground rules #1 and #4 stay the same as before, two rules are changed compared to Ideation to reflect the altered objective of the Development stage:

    • Rule #2: Go for quality, and take your time.
    • Rule #3. The more meaningful, the better. Shoot for valuable, useful, realistic, meaningful idea concepts.

    Lesson: A creative process can unfold its magic only once it consists of two creative stages. Continue using a conventional, ordinary innovation process method with one creative process stage if you only want conventional ideas. Or switch to an unconventional innovation process method with two creative process stages (like X-IDEA) if you want to get unconventional, extraordinary ideas.

    Contact us if you want to learn more about how the two creative stages of X-IDEA may help your innovation teams to make the leap from ordinary to extraordinary ideas.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article is published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 26 May 2016.

  • Understanding the Cycles of Changes Using TIPS (part 1)

    Imagine a time machine brought you a few hundred years back in time to a feudal principality in the agricultural age. Upon your arrival, you’re randomly assigned to join one of three traditional social groups: farmers, clerics or warriors. You have to perform the duties associated with your newly assigned role. If you’re lucky, you feel a natural connection with your class, and perform well in your new role. But what if not? Today and in two weeks time, we’re going to explore the societal classes that preserve the traditional order and those that drive change — and how this struggle between stasis and progress perpetually drives the cycles of change in society and business.

    Introducing the traditional fabrics of society

    For centuries, the three social groups described in our imaginative scenario could be found in most countries:

    • The nobility was the first class. They owned and ruled the land. They paid for a standing force of loyal warriors who defended the lands against external enemies, kept the social order and collected taxes.
    • The noblemen also sponsored the second class: the clergy and scholars, who provided the nobles with knowledge and counsel, and also gave spiritual consolation to commoners to keep them docile.
    • Finally, commoners with many duties and hardly any rights formed the third class. These farmers and craftsmen did all of the menial work and paid taxes to the nobility in lieu of getting security.

    Together, these three groups formed a stable, traditional societal system. In every era, we can find similar social groups — for example, had you traveled back only a hundred years to the industrial age, you would see three similar groups: workers, academics, and policemen or soldiers.

    Fortunately, the feudal days are long gone, and the industrial age has ended, too. We have passed through the information age and are now entering the innovation economy. This raises an interesting question: What forces have led to the demise of each of the traditional societal models that dominated past centuries? Let’s answer that with the help of TIPS, Thinkergy’s innovation people profiling method.

    Introducing the four TIPS bases

    Most established personality profiling instruments exclusively use constructs to profile differences in people’s preferred cognitive styles. TIPS adds a new layer on top of these purely cognitive dimensions: the TIPS bases, which can capture both the dynamic, cyclical nature of business and social change, and people’s responses to these changes.

    TIPS distinguishes four bases: Theories, Ideas, People and Systems. We are all attracted to one or more of these fundamental base orientations. For example, the entrepreneur and inventor Elon Musk plays exclusively on the ideas base with his bold new ventures, while investment legend Warren Buffet’s success rests equally on two bases: theories and systems.

    The three traditional social classes mentioned above relate to the three TIPS bases systems (the nobilities and their warrior class), theories (the clergy and scholars), and people (common farmers and workers). But what if you were forced to work in a role that does not align with your natural base?

    Introducing the driving force of change

    Let’s expand on our introductory scenario: Imagine you didn’t go back in time alone, but in a group that included Elon Musk and Warren Buffet, both of whom were randomly assigned to work as farmers. What a waste of talent, you may think. Now, while Warren Buffet may accept his fate, Elon Musk will be a troublemaker. Why is that?

    There is a fourth social group that complements the three traditional ones. Depending on the historical context, we may call this fourth group merchants, voyagers, capitalists, entrepreneurs, creators, inventors, or pioneers. Elon Musk is one of them. The rebellious people belonging to this fourth group love to shake up the traditional way of doing things. In TIPS, these progressives  associate with the fourth base, ideas.
    Ideas people have high energy levels, as if change and progress were programmed into their DNA:

    • They take up new research and technological progress created at the theories base, and use it to create bold ideas and progressive change in the form of new social ideas or new products and ventures.
    • They know how to convince some people from the traditional bases to provide funds for their new ventures, or even better, they have already succeeded before with an earlier venture so that they can fund themselves.
    • Finally, they know how to enchant the people base to join their work force and consume their buy their products, earning them with their labour.

    In short, people aligned to the ideas base recognize opportunities to transform emerging new technologies into innovative products that they then introduce to the markets. They drive the cycles of change.

    Interim conclusion and outlook: In our TIPS Innovation Profiling Workshop, we bring the introductory scenario to life by enacting a game that allows people to experience what it means being assigned one’s right social role — or being stuck in the wrong one.

    So how about you? Do you play on a base that feels home for you? Do you see yourself as more of a smart intellectual, progressive entrepreneur, collegial worker, or rule-enforcing cop? Are you someone who stimulates, creates, enjoys or resists change? Come back in two weeks time, when I give you more insights into how to ride the cycles of change in society and business by looking at the four TIPS bases through another lens: the evolutionary macroeconomic concepts of Joseph Schumpeter.

    And if you’re curious to learn more about our new innovation people profiling method TIPS, then check out this video — and contact us if you want to be informed of the launch of our new online profiling platform in a few weeks from now.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 29 September 2016.

  • Taking Creativity Tools Apart

    As a kid, did you ever take apart a toy to see what’s inside? Or as an adult, have you ever taken apart an electronic gadget –or maybe even your car- to understand the inner workings of its different parts? In today’s article, we’ll take a look below the surface of creativity tools – why we need them, what they are, how they work and even how you can create your own ones. Ready? Then let’s go.

    Why do we need creativity tools?
    In our Thinkergy innovation training, we typically ask participants at the beginning of the ideation stage to do a brainstorming exercise for a given challenge. When we review the ideas afterwards, the same interesting pattern always emerges: many ideas appear in each of the different brainstorming groups. This is a clear indication that such an idea is not highly original, but rather common and obvious. Why is that happening? When people are just doing a simple brainstorming, they are likely to produce rather obvious ideas that are all within a very narrow range of thinking. The ideators are stuck in what I call the “tunnel of expertise and conventional thoughts”. So how can you get out of the tunnel? Here is where creativity tools come in.

    What are creativity tools?
    Creativity tools are mechanistic processes that can reliably push your individual thinking into a new direction with the help of one or more triggers in order to generate ideas for your creative challenges (i.e., for the problems that you face or for the opportunities that you want to realize). A creativity tool works in a similar way to a revolver. When you pull the trigger, you reliably set in motion a mechanistic process that propels a bullet out of the gun towards a target. Similarly, creativity tools reliably push your thinking to a new starting point that is outside of your “tunnel of expertise and conventional thoughts”. From this fresh starting point, you are able to come up with new ideas that are very less common — and in some cases highly original.

    How do creativity tools work?
    So far, so good. Like a good car mechanic strips an engine to understand how it works, let’s similarly dissect creativity tools even further by trying to understand the underlying principles of their working. Here we come to the trigger that propel us to a new starting point. These “motors of a creativity tool” can be constituted using one or more of the following schemes:

    • First, a trigger can be a fresh perspective or novel point of view to look at the underlying problem in a completely different way, thus allowing coming up with ideas that are really different. For example, in a strategy innovation case, imagine how a visiting Alien without any “emotional baggage” and historical attachment would reposition your company for the future.
    • Secondly, a trigger may enable you to come up with many new associations — these are the mental images that pop-up in your mind when you hear a certain word or concept. For example, when we you hear the word New York, you may think of 9/11, the Empire State Building, Central Park, Wall Street, and other concepts that you’ve associated with the concept ‘New York’.
    • Thirdly, a trigger may be a formal framework or a sequence of thinking steps that you need to follow in a systematic order. For example, in the creativity tool Morphological Matrix, you first construct a table of input that then you use as stimulus for generating fresh ideas.
    • Fourthly and lastly, a trigger can be a question that fires up your imagination, or that takes your thinking to unusual heights. This last type of trigger is exemplified by What If-questions like “What if you were granted 3 wishes by a good fairy?”

    Once you have understood the inner workings of the “motor” of creativity tools, and how to combine and pull the different triggers, then you can easily compose your own creativity tools.

    How do creativity tools work in practice?
    Let’s end this article by sharing with you one creativity tool (or I-Tools as we call them at Thinkergy) from our X-IDEA Innovation Toolbox. Word Association Chain is a beautiful and easy-to-learn creativity tool. It allows you to individually generate ideas that are inspired by a chain of words that you build as a stimulating trigger. All you need to use this tool is a blank piece of paper, a pen and your brain. Here is how you apply this tool:

    1. Review your challenge—say: “How to create a novel lip care product?”
    2. Get yourself any word. For example, you look into a news magazine and pick the first word you see: RED.
    3. Start a word association chain by completing the sentence: “When I think of RED, I think of the MAASAI”. Then repeat this procedure for each new word in a fast pace: “When I think of MAASAI, I think of AFRICA”. “When I think of AFRICA, I think of KILIMANJARO”. “When I think of KILIMANJARO, I think of SNOW”. And so on. Continue until your paper is full of associations.
    4. Review your word association chain, and use it as stimulus to create ideas for your lip care innovation challenge. For example, the word MAASAI might trigger the idea “Print ethnic tribal motives on a lip care stick”, while the word SNOW might inspire the idea “Create a cooling lip care product made from snow”.

    Conclusion: Creativity tools help you to fight two enemies of creativity: They remove your tunnel vision caused by the “expert syndrome” and your habitual conventional ways of thinking. Moreover, they also overcome a lack of inspiration or complacency, as using creativity tools is usually great fun. When are you ready to play for ideas?

     
    © Dr. Detlef Reis 

  • Why Perfectionism is a Foe of Creativity and Innovation

    Perfectionists, be warned: This article isn’t perfect. I started it around midnight a few days ago when I got the idea for it. I continued working on it in a coffee shop the next morning, and completed it in between two client meetings, all the while knowing it wouldn’t be article. This raises an interesting question: is there something like “the perfect article?” Or “the perfect product?” Today, let’s talk about the perfectionism in business and innovation, and how the urge for perfection may stop you from being truly creative, innovative and productive.

    What is perfection?

    Perfection can be defined as the condition, state or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects; or it can be the action or process of improving something until it is faultless or as faultless as possible. If this article were perfect, I would have written it —and my editor would have honed it— in faultless English using perfect words to express the subject of this article in perfectly logical order of discussion points. Had my editor and I strived for the perfect article, this spot would be empty now, as we both were still busy writing and editing the masterpiece.

    So, what’s wrong with striving for perfection?

    Perfectionism is the refusal to accept any standard short of perfection, and as the noted the American novelist John Updike noted: “Perfectionism is the enemy of creation.” Why?

    • Perfectionism breaks your creative flow while your creating something new, be it a new column or a new product. Instead of simply letting your thoughts flow, your urge for perfection breaks the creative flow by continuously judging your output and dismissing it as “not yet perfect”. Perfectionism emphasizes critiquing over creating.
    • Perfectionism slows you down also when it comes to shipping a new product. While you continue trying to optimize that last 0.5% you need to make your product a masterpiece, faster competitors start shipping their new products and capture the market with a functional, 99.5%-ready product.
    • Perfectionism is expensive. It drives up your costs as you require ever more resources (materials, people, capital) as you continue working to perfect the last tiny bits and pieces.
    • Perfectionism locks you into a tunnel. Because you focus so much on perfecting what you’ve been working on for a long time, you fail to notice that in the meantime, the world has moved on and changed: a new technology has emerged; consumer preferences have changed; and the economy has moved into a new cycle. In short, the product your work on perfecting doesn’t resonate with the market anymore.

    To sum up, in the highly dynamic modern business environment of the early 21st century, perfectionism drives you out of business sooner rather than later.

    Why are many business leaders and managers perfectionists?

    Perfectionists are usually people with an overinflated sense of self-importance. Such people have a very vocal inner critic who relentlessly demands perfection from the team and themselves. If you tend to be a perfectionist, then resolve today to begin ignoring your ego’s demands for perfection. Set yourself and your team free from your critical, perfectionistic ego. Simply be yourself — it boosts your creative energy, and speeds up and amplifies your creative outputs.

    How to overcome the urge for perfectionism?

    Here are four tips that help you producing more creative outputs and meaningful products by fighting your urge for perfection:

    1. First create, then critique: Instantly judging what you create is like driving with one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake — you lurch forward at a slow, awkward pace. Better focus on creating first (and suspend judgment). Later on, you can spend time critiquing your creation by asking, “What’s wrong with it?”
    2. Strive for excellence, not perfection: “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence,” said the famous American football coach Vince Lombardi. You can still move towards excellence and let go of your need for perfection without dropping your standards. Don’t insist on perfect products that are 100% faultless, but also don’t settle for mediocre products that are “good enough”. Aim for excellence, which are excellent products that are 95-99% perfect.
    3. Do rapid prototyping and iterate based on user feedback: Nature is full of apparently imperfect yet functional and well- working designs. Nature constantly improves and refines its present designs through the evolutionary process of feedback as well as trial and error. Follow the success principles of nature by practicing rapid prototyping: Build simple prototypes of your products, then show them to people to get critical feedback; quickly iterate and build new prototype versions that reflect your learnings; release great-working, but not yet “perfect” beta-solutions into the market; finally, quickly fix any unresolved bugs based on user feedback. As a result, you speed up your product development cycle and increase the overall number of creative outputs.
    4. Do your best within a target date: Set yourself a challenging, yet possible deadline to complete a functional, well-acceptable first version of a new product. Tame your inner critic who demands perfection by following this maxim: “I herewith resolve to produce the best possible output that I can come up with by the deadline.” If time is really tight, aim to get 95% of deliverables 95% ready.

    Conclusion: Let’s face it: The “perfect product” (or perfect creative output) doesn’t exist. What’s perfect today won’t be perfect tomorrow. So, relax and start striving for excellence, not perfection. Or as Salvator Dali put it: “Have no fear of perfection – you’ll never reach it.

    Do you want to learn how to tame the inner perfectionist in you? Contact us to find out how Genius Journey, our creative leadership method, may help you to create more and critique less.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 15 September 2016.

  • Turning Critics into Allies with Rapid Prototyping

    Want to know one of the success secrets of global innovation leaders such as Google or Apple? They all heavily use a technique known as rapid prototyping. “We make a lot of models and prototypes, and we go back and iterate. We strongly believe in prototyping and making things so that you can pick them up and touch them,” says Jonathan Ive, Apple’s chief designer. “We make lots and lots of prototypes: the number of solutions we make to get one solution is quite embarassing, but it’s a healthy part of what we do.”

    What is rapid prototyping?
    Rapid prototyping is a powerful idea evaluation and activation technique that every wanna-be-innovator should want to have in his toolkit. Prototyping can be used for real-life testing of products, services, processes, and experiences and works at all stages along the value chain (e.g., development, marketing, distribution, sales).

    What are the main benefits of rapid prototyping?
    In rapid prototyping, you aim to evaluate the potential of an idea and enhance its disadvantages by using one of several methods to make the idea more visual and tangible. The objective of rapid prototyping is to detect the flaws of an idea early and then to quickly find solutions to “fix the bugs”. Thus, you plan to fail earlier in order to succeed sooner.

    Probably the most important thing to understand about this method is that rapid prototyping follows an iterative approach that is based on trial and error and the principle of negative feedback. Thereby, you first develop a prototype using the one of the seven methods that we discuss below. Then, show your early prototype to other people and ask them to tell you what’s wrong with it and how they would improve it. Thereafter, quickly build a better prototype by using all the sensible tips for improvement, and once again expose it to the critical scrutiny of other people. Continue this process until you arrive at a prototype that can represent a meaningful value proposition and can be turned into a tangible innovation deliverable. As such, prototyping allows you to unknowingly make those eternal critics to become your allies in creation.

    How exactly can you do rapid prototyping?
    At Thinkergy, we distinguish eight ways to bring rapid prototyping into play. Here are the four most popular methods:

    1. Sketch out your idea. The starting point of prototyping is to draw a simple sketch that communicates the essence of your idea. Alternatively, make a collage by combining photos, drawn elements and written text that you cut out of a newspaper or magazine into a picture that gives meaning to your idea.
    2. Build a simple model or mock-up. “If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a prototype is worth a million words”, believes IDEO founder David Kelley. The second option for prototyping (that often expands on the first one) is to build a simple model of your idea that is made of paper or carton-paper, paper-mâché, modeling clay, or any other materials that you glue or tape together in a quick and dirty way. After gaining some initial feedback, go through several iterations of more and more sophisticated and realistic models and mock-ups using more realistic materials before arriving at a final prototype mock-up version.
    3. Act out your idea as a role-play. An excellent method to rapidly prototype an idea for a process improvement or service innovation is to create a short role-play to bring out the benefits of your idea.
      Devise a storyline that clearly explains how your idea adds value and caters to a resolution of your challenge. For example, in a process innovation project, stage a role-play showing first the old process with its major shortfalls and then how you correct those with your redesigned new process idea. Or act out your idea for a new service —say, a temporary office rental service that offers high-end offices by the hour— and show how it creates meaning for small business owners or entrepreneurs. Or in a customer experience design project, role-play an idea for a memorable WOW-experience.
    4. Build a test-website. Build a simple website to test your idea by seeking online feedback from users on your value-proposition. Then, rapidly prototype your website using the user feedback to improve its value from iteration to iteration until you arrive at a version that you can take. For example, Google rapidly prototypes new solutions as beta-website before officially integrating it into its alpha-website; many novel value propositions that created in the past years (such as Google Insights or Google Trends) have been enhanced along this path.

    Aside from the aforementioned four methods, you could also do rapid prototyping by developing visual test designs of your product ideas with the help of CAD-software tools, creating a photo story (for example, of your idea for a new nightclub-service that specializes in matching singles), shooting a video clip (e.g., on how to improve the chaotic passenger flow at peak times in some BTS stations), or by testing different tag-line in online ads In brand and corporate image design projects to learn through the clicks on the online which slogan resonates most with your audience.

    Conclusion: Rapid prototyping is a powerful, highly effective technique to quickly turn a great idea into a tangible innovation. But be warned – rapid prototyping is hard work, as emphasized in the famous quote by the first master of prototyping, Thomas Edison: “Genius is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration. Accordingly, a ‘genius’ is often merely a talented person who has done all of his or her homework.”

     
    © Dr. Detlef Reis 

  • How to become a more fluent creative thinker (Part 2)


    Two weeks ago, we discussed how your inner critic prevents you from being a fluent creative thinker, leading you to produce only a few, typically ordinary ideas in an Ideation effort. This is because your inner voice of judgment dismisses any uncommon or wild ideas, thus stopping you from producing a lot of ideas. Today, you’ll learn why your inner critic is wrong, how to gain control over your idea-killing inner voice of judgment, and how to train your mind to become a more fluent creative thinker.

    A new creative thinking exercise:

    In order to give you a hint on how to effectively overcome the reasons of fluency, let’s do a new creative exercise that builds on the previous one. Two weeks ago, I asked you to come up with as many ideas as possible in two minutes on “How to make good use of an empty plastic water bottle?” Now, write down on a piece of paper as as many ideas as possible for this slightly modified creative challenge: “How to NOT use an empty plastic water bottle?”

    Here are the things you can NOT do with a water bottle I came up with in 120 seconds (I recorded the ideas):

    An empty plastic bottle can NOT be used: 1. to drive. 2. to shoot at people. 3. to run. 4. to cook food. 5. to create something new. 6. to make someone laugh. 7. to dress someone up. 8. as food. 9. as a watch. 10. as a phone. 11. as a computer. 12. as a calendar. 13. as a bag. 14. as a house. 15. as a shoe. 16. as a weapon to kill people. 17. as a health device. 18. to help people make money. 19. as a way for entrepreneurs to know what’s the next big thing. 20. as a fitness device. 21. as a water pool. 22. as a transportation means. 23. as a tool to learn in university. 24. as a tool to learn in school. 25. as a toy.

    How to silence the inner critic?

    With the previous exercise, we’ve given our inner critic permission and time to do what it likes to do most: telling us what doesn’t work, what’s nonsense or just plain ridiculous. But is our inner critic right? Can we really not use an empty bottle in the ways described above?

    Let’s pick some examples and apply some creativity. An empty plastic bottle cannot be used:

    • as a shoe. Well, in Africa, people turn empty water bottles into flip-flops.
    • as a watch. Fill one bottle with sand, connect it to a second one, and turn it into an hourglass. Or stick it into the ground, and turn it into a sun watch by using its shadow to tell you the time.
    • as a fitness device. Fill it with water, sand, or stones to turn it into a dumb-bell.
    • as a computer. Recycle the plastic and use it as input material for cheap computers (just think of the “one laptop per child”-project).
    • as a way for entrepreneurs to know what’s the next big. Pose the empty bottle-challenge as a warm-up exercise at a futurist convention. Then, turn them loose on the question: “What are impossible business trends that cannot happen in the next years?” Next, have the futurists brainstorm on how each of the impossible trends might materialize. Finally, harness your insights on new business opportunities and emerging trends on the fringes.

    So what have you learned from this exercise? If we make an effort, we can come up with ideas for making each “cannot use” comment of our inner critic into a “can do” idea.

    How to become a more fluent creative thinker?

    Here are eight tips that help you speed up your divergent thinking, amplify your creative outputs, and gradually evolve into a more fluent creative thinker:

    1. Follow the ground rules of Ideation: Whenever you generate ideas, remind yourself and other ideators to comply to the ground rules of Ideation: #1. No killing of ideas. Defer judgment. #2. Go for quantity, because quantity breeds quality. #3. The wilder the better. Shoot for wild, crazy, silly, zany, off-the-walls ideas. #4. Combine and improve on ideas.
    2. Set an idea quota: In a real Ideation session with a team, set an ambitious, yet achievable idea quota. For example, with a group of eight people, push for at least 250 ideas in one hour of brainstorming.
    3. Silence your inner critic: Whenever you hear your inner voice of judgment dismissing an idea, scream “Shut up” and jot down the idea.
    4. Silence others: If another team member judges one of your ideas in a brainstorming session, remind him to comply with ground rule 1 of Ideation.
    5. Practice, practice, practice: Generate ideas whenever you have an opportunity, be it in an real brainstorming session or unofficially on a personal challenge in a boring meeting. Creative thinking is a skill just like learning a language or playing golf — the more you practice, the better you get at it.
    6. Play word associations: Get a start word, and then use it to quickly come up with more words by using the sentence “When I think of the word ___, I think of the word ___.” For example, say our start word is money. “When I think of money, I think of bank. When I think of bank, I think of stock market”. Then you go on: Wall Street, New York, Big Apple, fruit, orange, juice, drink, party, music, and so on.
    7. Create a word concept map: This is a free association exercise similar to the last one, just that you engage in concept mapping. Think of one word that you write into the center of a piece of paper (say: light bulb). Then, come up with related words that you write clockwise around —and connect with a line to— the start word (creativity, idea, Edison, electricity, lamp, light, illumination, candle). Finally, add more words around each of the related words as they pop up in your mind (illumination: Eureka, subconscious mind, breakthrough, luminous being; lamp: cord, switch, stand, shade, Pixar; candle: flame, fire, matches, wax, etc.).
    8. Get into a rhythm: One way to become a more fluent creative thinker is to follow a rhythm of suggesting ideas. For example, suggest one idea every 15 seconds. Don’t panic if you don’t come up with an idea in each interval, but playfully embrace the time challenge to speed up your ideation pace. Here are two playful ways to practice rhythmic creative thinking to boost your creative fluency: use a virtual metronome while coming up with ideas; or step forward and backward following a steady rhythm while playing word associations.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 1 September 2016.

  • How to become a more fluent creative thinker (Part 1)

    How much of a fluent creative thinker are you? What is standing in your way to becoming a more fluent creative thinker? How can you boost your creative fluency? Let’s seek answers to these questions in today’s column as well as the next.

    Setting the scene:

    At Thinkergy, we draw upon four psychological parameters (that E. Paul Torrence and other cognitive psychologists formulated to measure individual creativeness) to objectively assess the quality of the work and the outputs in an Ideation session: the qualitative criteria offlexibility, originality and elaboration of ideas, and the quantitative criterion of fluency of creative thinking. While all four parameters affect the performance of individuals and groups during Ideation, the latter is the most important one. In order to explain these four parameters, let’s do a little creative exercise as follows:

    As I type these lines, I’m looking at an empty plastic water bottle. Let’s frame a simple creative challenge: “How to make good use of an empty plastic bottle?” Now, get a piece of paper and a pen and take two minutes to come up with ideas for this creative challenge.

    Here are the ones I came up with in 120 seconds:

    1. Recycle it. 2. Use to water flowers. 3. Use it to water the lawn. 4. Use to store tab water for a water shortage. 5. Refill it with water. 6. Refill it with lemonade. 7. Refill it with iced tea. 8. Refill it with wine. 9. Refill it with beer. 10. Use it to throw at someone who annoys you. 11. Use it to hit someone who attacks you. 12. Fill it with sand. 13. Fill it with stones. 14. Use as a dumbbell, filled with water, sand or stones). 15. Use it as a piggy bank to store coins. 16. Use it to capture rain water. 17. Use as a flower pot. 18. Use to fill a bath tab. 19. Use to flush the toilet. 20. Use it to splash water at other people celebrating Songkran (the Thai water festival). 21. Use it to cleanse Buddha statues in a temple at Songkran.

    How flexible is your creative thinking?

    Flexibility is the first parameter we use to check on the quality of idea outputs. It is based on the variety of different categories of suggested ideas. For example, the ideas 4-9 all belong to the same category (refilling with a liquid). Overall, the more categories you have, the more flexible a creative thinker you are. Depending on how strictly you categorize, we can distinguish 10-15 different categories in the example above. How flexible a creative thinker are you?

    How original are your ideas?

    The second parameter used to assess the quality of our idea generation efforts is originality. Here we measure the relative degree of “uncommonness” of raw ideas (how rare is an idea compared with all responses in the overall population). For example, if you have three groups brainstorming and an idea pops up in each group, it is not original.

    While we have no comparison here, I guess “throw it at someone annoying you” or “use it as a dumbbell” are more original than, say, “recycle it”. Probably about five of the ideas above are more uncommon and thus more original.

    How elaborated are your ideas?

    The third and arguably most important assessment criteria of idea quality is elaboration. Here, we look at how developed or embellished an idea is — meaning how many words it has. For example, in the example above, ideas #14 and #20 are much more elaborated than idea #1. Here note as a rule of thumb that the more elaborated an idea is, the more interesting it becomes.

    How fluent a creative thinker are you?

    Fluency is the sole measure used to assess the quantitative performance of an ideation effort. Thereby, we simply count the number of ideas in absolute and (if the numbers of members differs between teams in an innovation project) relative terms. The more ideas you can come up with in a given time, the more of a fluent creative thinker you are. How many ideas did you create in two minutes on how to use of an empty water bottle? Did you beat my 21?

    If you’re like most people, you probably have created about 10-12 ideas in the given time interval, which is a sound performance. In all likelihood, you could have easily had a higher score, but you secretly judged some ideas you thought instead of letting those ideas simply flow onto the paper. Am I right?

    What stops you from being a more fluent creative thinker?

    Why do so many people struggle to come up with a high number of ideas during an Ideation effort? What prevents fluency of creative thinking? It all comes back to judgment.

    Most people don’t produce a lot of ideas because they secretly judge an unusual or even wild idea as soon as they think it. Their inner critic (or “inner voice of judgment”) instantly reacts to an unusual or even wild idea with silent comments such as, “This is impractical”, “This is crazy”, “People will laugh at you”, and so on. This violates the ground rules 1 to 3 of Ideation formulated by Alex Osborn, the inventor of Brainstorming: #1. No killing of ideas. Defer judgment. #2. Go for quantity, because quantity breeds quality. #3. The wilder the better. Shoot for wild, crazy, silly, zany, off-the-walls ideas.

    Interim lesson: Judgment slows you down during Ideation, leading you to produce only a few ordinary ideas instead of a large pool of normal, interesting and wild ideas. What can we do to silence the inner critic who impairs creative fluency? What cognitive strategies and creative exercises can help us transform ourselves into more fluent creative thinkers?

    Come back in two weeks from today, when we will discuss these questions with the help of another creative thinking exercise. And contact us if you want to learn more about how using creativity tools and a systematic innovation process such as Thinkergy’s X-IDEA method may help you to become a more fluent creative thinker.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 18 August 2016.

  • Creative Leaders and Innovation Managers: Same but different

    Do creative leaders and innovation managers perform the same innovation role? A few months ago, I had an interesting conversation related to this question with the global head of idea and innovation management of a tech multinational. When we talked about the responsibilities related to his role, my counterpart revealed to my surprise that he sometimes has to key in ideas into his organization’s idea management system. Now know that this particular innovation executive is a strategic big picture thinker who is ideally suited for creatively driving major innovation initiatives across his organization. Sweating the small stuff is a waste of his time and talent, if you ask me.

    Many organizations seem to interpret the role of the executive spearheading corporate innovation function as a “Mr. Know-it-all-do-it-all”. I believe that’s wrong, and how I believe we must make a distinction between the role of a creative leader and that of an innovation manager. Let me elaborate by discussing the responsibilities of each role and, with the help of my innovation-people profiling method TIPS, make a case for why these roles suit fundamentally different personality types.

    Creative leaders: driving innovation from the front

    Creative leaders run the “innovation front-office” of their organization:

    • They set or influence the innovation agenda by identifying new trends and technologies to focus on.
    • They spearhead or participate in innovation initiatives of business units or dedicated innovation teams, such as new product development or product design teams.
    • They participate in innovation events and conferences to promote innovation within and outside of the organization.

    Creative leaders inspire and drive innovation teams towards excellence to bring truly novel, original and meaningful ideas to life in the form of new products, new services, new solutions or new customer experiences. They look for new business models, strategic partnerships, networks and channel solutions to multiply revenue from innovation. Finally, they drive campaign, packaging and branding initiatives that magnify the innovation in the eyes of customers.

    Creative leaders ought to be at the very top of the executive structure, whether as CEO or chief innovation officer (CIO). This allows them to drive or at least influence the top management agenda, and to intervene and remove any internal barriers preventing innovation. Famous CEOs who exemplify the role of a creative leader are Thomas Edison, Walt Disney, Steve Jobs (Apple), Jeff Bezos (Amazon) or Jeffrey Immelt (General Electrics), among others.

    Innovation managers: driving innovation from the back

    Innovation managers run the “innovation back-office” of their organization. They take care of certain internal responsibilities related to innovation, such as:

    • organizing and administering the formal innovation management system (how innovation is organized and formalized within the organization);
    • managing the corporate innovation pipeline (top ideas earmarked for activation);
    • administering and maintaining an online idea submission and evaluation system;
    • organizing and coordinating innovation events and project initiatives;
    • developing and fine-tuning an innovation measurement system; and
    • measuring and controlling innovation performance and efficiency.

    The innovation manager heads a dedicated administrative innovation team that supports and directly reports to the creative leader. A good example representing the systematic, reliable mindset of an innovation manager is Tim Cook, who took care of Apple’s “back office” to support Steve Jobs before rising to CEO when the latter passed away.

    Why does the innovation function benefit from two separate lead roles?

    Thinkergy’s Innovation Profiling System TIPS (Theories, Ideas, People, Systems) helps us to understand why it is beneficial to separate the two roles of a creative leader and an innovation manager: They draw upon diametrically opposite base energies, and should be staffed by different profiles:

    • Creative leaders are all about the TIPS base “Ideas”. Ideas people innately drive change, innovation and progress. They are strategic visionaries who enjoy focusing on boosting corporate performance, profitability and margins through innovations. TIPS profiles that naturally cater to this energy —and thus qualify to be a creative leader or be developed into a future one— are Ideators, Conceptualizers, Promoters and Imaginative Experimenters.
    • In contrast, innovation managers draw on the TIPS base “Systems”. Systems people enjoy managing, organizing, directing, coordinating and controlling internal activities. They take pleasure in setting-up and administering an innovation management system, including defining measures that allow them to check-on innovation performance and efficiency (How to increase our innovation outputs? How to more efficiently employ internal and external resources for innovation?). TIPS profiles that innately operate on Systems energy —and thus make dependable innovation managers— are Systematizers, Organizers, Technocrats, and Systematic Experimenters.

    But what if you insisted on keeping the two roles together? One compromise would be to staff the role of a “creative innovation manager” with a balanced Experimenter or an All-Rounder, both of whom can bridge the divide between the two polar energies “Ideas” and “Systems”. But, as with most compromises, you end up with a suboptimal result, because one person will be less effective than a real S-based innovation manager supporting a real I-based creative leader.

    Conclusion: Not either or, but both 

    Both creative leaders and innovation managers care for driving innovation in an organization. But they do it by different means and by focusing on different ends. Both roles support and complement each other by letting each person play to their strengths while compensating for the weaknesses of each others’ shadow-side. So, separate the two functions of the creative leader and the innovation manager of your organization. And consider using TIPS to find out how to out the right person in each role.

    Contact us if you want to learn more about how TIPS may help you getting the people side of innovation right in your organization — or if you’re curious to find out what’s your TIPS innovator profile. Our TIPS online personality test is going live soon.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 4 August 2016.

  • Business model innovation: It’s all about the money

    Last month, I presented a research paper at the International Society of Professional Innovation Management’s Innovation Conference in Porto, Portugal. When looking at recent trends in innovation research, I discerned one popular topic at this year’s ISPIM conference: business model innovation. Today, let’s discuss what business model innovation means and why it’s valuable, then look at examples of “classic” innovative business models before exploring applications in a real-life innovation project.

    What is business model innovation?

    Business model innovation is one of roughly 15 modern innovation types that the innovation literature distinguishes. Innovation experts look at this concept either through a wider, more global lens or a narrower, more focused one:

    • Through a wider lens, business model innovation is a synonym to what the majority of innovation experts (including myself) call strategy innovation. In a strategic innovation exercise, a senior-level innovation team aims to create meaningful strategic action ideas that allow for prolonged, sustainable growth, ideally in a newly emerging, uncontested market space. 
Their ideas typically can play on all levels: generating novel, original and meaningful value propositions; finding cost-effective processes and structures to produce these value propositions; exploring new channels, networks, platforms, and business models to deliver them to the market; and magnifying new value propositions with impactful brand, image and campaign designs.
    • If you look at the concept using a narrow lens (as I do), business model innovation simply means coming up with novel, original and meaningful ways to get paid for a value proposition that you release to the market. 
Here the scope is more narrow: we just focus on the profit model, as opposed to the “do it all in one go” approach of a more abstract strategy innovation project. The following looks at business model innovation through the narrow lens.

    Why is business model innovation useful?

    Compared to using a plain-vanilla way to get paid, creating an innovative business model can help you make more money from a meaningful value proposition by increasing revenues and/or profit margins. It can also differentiate your product from those of competitors using more traditional business models. Finally, it can extend your market presence by tapping into new customer groups that —for economic, lifestyle or convenience reasons— prefer payment schemes deviating from the industry standard.

    What are famous examples of business model innovations?

    Many books on business model innovation describe a number of already “classic” business model innovations. Here are three examples to make you curious to look for more:

    1. The “hook and bait” model reverses the pricing structure between the durable and disposable parts of a product. A company sells the durable part at low cost (or even a loss) to enjoy recurring revenues from disposable parts sold at a premium. Gillette popularized this model with razors (baits) and blades (hook). Other examples are printers and cartridges, or more Nestlé’s Nespresso cheap coffee machines and pricey coffee capsules.
    2. The “freemium” model offers a basic value proposition for free, with access to premium offerings by charging a membership fee or premium. Example of companies using this model include the business networking platform LinkedIn and the music streaming platform Spotify.
    3. The “subscription” model gives you access to a value proposition (often content or services) after you subscribe and pay for a periodic membership. Think of pay-TV channel packages or Netflix video-streaming.

    How can you do business model innovation for your business?

    Before you begin, ensure you have a truly novel, original and —in particular— meaningful value proposition at hand in the first place. Why? Business model innovation is one of the innovation types used to leverage an existing value proposition. Leverage is a neutral agent: It can help you increase revenues and margins if your value proposition is meaningful, but can harm your finances and reputation if your value is lousy.

    With a meaningful value proposition in hand, you can aim to monetize it in novel, more profitable ways:

    • First, take some time to explore alternative business models used in different industries and markets.
    • Then, run an ideation session to come up with ideas for the challenge: “How else to monetize this value proposition in the market?”
    • Next, discover interesting ideas to design into realistic, relevant and valuable idea concepts through elaboration, combination and transmutation.
    • Finally, evaluate all the concepts to find the most suitable business model, then take action to implement it.

    The Business Model Matrix is a creativity technique that I’ve created for Thinkergy to support ideation in business model innovation. The matrix contains four categories related to business models:

    • activities (what else could we do?);
    • business models (how else could we get paid?);
    • variations (how else could we charge for it? What variables can we twist in what ways?); and
    • business model trends (What new models are others using?).

    Each category lists many sample elements that allow you to connect the dots between different matrix elements, making it easy, effortless and enjoyable for you to come up with ideas for new business models.

    For example, you may ‘organize events’ or ‘educate clients’ (activities); you may ‘auction off’ or ‘charge a reservation fee’ for a value proposition that is short in supply and high in demand (business models); you may charge a fee ‘onetime—periodic—ongoing’ that is ‘flat—increasing—decreasing—progressive—degressive’ (variations); or you may provide certain values for ‘free with a requested donation, as with shareware’ (business model trends).

    To give an example, Thinkergy is planning an expansion into the US market using a licensing model with a one-time upfront certification fee, regular sales-based royalty payments, and a periodic re-certification fee.

    Contact us if you want to learn more about that cater to business model innovation-specific thinking tools in X-IDEA, our systematic innovation method and toolbox. When would now be a great time to start an innovation project to create innovative business models to monetize your business?

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2016. This article was published in parallel in the Bangkok Post under the same title on 21 July 2016.

  • How do you prefer to think, work, interact and live? (Part 2)

    Do you know how you — and everyone else on your team — really tick? In our increasingly complex and dynamic business environment, self- and team-awareness are more important than ever to use the talents and strengths of a team. For that reason, I have developed a ‘people’-oriented innovation profiling system called TIPS. TIPS is based on the idea that people have one or two of four basic orientations: theories and knowledge (T); ideas (I); people (P); and systems and processes (S).

    Combinations of these orientations define 11 innovator profiles, and there are four other preferences that explain how people prefer to think, work, interact and live. In the last column, we looked at differences in how people prefer to think (Figure vs. Fantasy) and work (Brain vs. Brawn). Today we discuss the two remaining preferences that explain how you and others interact and live.

    How do you prefer to interact?

    People communicate with others in different ways, and also make decisions differently. The third TIPS preference, called Fact vs. Feeling, illuminates those differences. It explains why some people cannot communicate well. This preference is adapted from some elements of the psychoanalyst Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types.

    People at the Fact extreme of this preference prefer a more factual, objective, and distant style in their interactions, whereas those at the Feeling extreme listen to their heart and interact in emotional, intuitive, and empathic ways. As with all of these preferences, some people balance these extremes, and draw on, flexibly shift between, and combine the two disparate styles of interaction.

    Both fact-based and feeling-based people produce results by relying on their intelligence, albeit in different ways: fact-based people pride themselves on having a well-developed logical intelligence (IQ), while feeling-based people have better-developed emotional intelligence (EQ). When working on projects, “thinkers” rationally look at and argue based on facts and evidence, while “feelers” consider how projects affect stakeholder groups, and make passionate pleas for considering the needs of others. Unsurprisingly, these two very different interaction styles often make very different decisions: “thinkers” logically deduce or compute the “rational choice”, while “feelers” tend to go with their gut.

    It’s interesting to note is that “thinkers” tend to be “lone wolves” who prefer to think and work by themselves, while “feelers” tend to be “joiners” who love to be around and work with others. Those people who combine Fact and Feeling are usually flexible loner-joiners who decide when they need space and solitude for thinking and when they need stimulation from, and interactions with, other members of the team.

    Questions: How about you? Do you prefer to interact with others and produce results by looking objectively at the facts and relying on your intellect (head over heart)? Or do you thrive on social interactions and produce results by trusting your gut and your high EQ (heart over head)? Or are you a case of head meets heart, i.e., you interact with others with both rationality and empathy, and look at things with both logic and intuition?

    How do you prefer to live in the world?

    The fourth and final TIPS preference is arguably the most important in both individual and organizational innovation. This construct adapts elements of two earlier psychometric concepts: Michael Kirton’s Adaption-Innovation theory, and Isabel Myers Briggs’ extension of Carl Jung’s theory of psychological types. This fourth TIPS preference, called Form vs. Flow, shows whether you prefer to live in a highly structured, well-organized world  that focuses on preserving the status quo and the established order(Form), or prefer things to be more fluid, flexibly changing and steadily evolving (Flow).

    Form vs. Flow explains the differences in people’s innovation styles. If you are a form-person, you generally dislike change and prefer that things remain, in essence, the same. You’re satisfied with making things incrementally better and fixing things and processes that don’t work well. You focus on efficiency. In other words, in the terminology of Kirton’s Adoption-Innovation theory, you are an adaptor. In contrast, if you are a flow-person, you are an innovator who is able to tolerate or even enjoys driving change. You push for evolutionary or even revolutionary ideas that are radical game-changer thanks to your high creative energy and drive.

    Form-people prefer to work and live in stable institutions with an established order and control and a clear hierarchy, while flow-people value individual freedom and are highly individualized, even if this means that they have to tolerate more uncertainty and to take higher risks — both of which they feel comfortable with. Form-people are risk avoiders with a very low tolerance for uncertainty. Because they are rooted in the past and value traditions and heritage, form-people are loyal to the institutions that they associate with, and to the established societal order. In contrast, flow-people look forward to the future and stay loyal to their personal beliefs and values and the causes that they choose to pursue. Form vs. Flow also explains the different frequencies that people operate at work: flow-people usually think and talk at a fast pace and work in leaps and bursts, while form-people prefer to think and work at a more moderate, yet steady pace.

    Questions: Are you a person who likes stability and essentially likes things to stay the same? Or do you prefer to creatively drive change and enjoy variety and freedom? Or do you enjoy stability when it’s blended with occasional doses of excitement, creativity and change?

    © Dr. Detlef Reis

  • How do you prefer to think, work, interact and live? (Part 1)

    Wouldn’t it be great if you understood what made everyone on your team tick — including yourself? That's why we've created a people-oriented innovation profiling method that I call TIPS. It’s based on my observation that people orient themselves towards one or two of these four dimensions: Theories and knowledge (T); Ideas (I); People (P); and Systems and processes (S).

    The preferences you orient yourself toward determine which of 11 innovator types you match most closely. In addition to this, there are four other variables that describe your preferences, and which will help you understand thinking, working, interacting and lifestyles — both yours and those of your team and organization.

    Understanding what drives behaviors at work

    The four TIPS Preferences with their three different expressions represent fundamental differences in people’s thinking style, work style and lifestyle preferences based on their preferred TIPS preferences. The preferences are: Figure vs Fantasy; Brain vs Brawn; Fact vs Feeling; and last but not least, Form vs Flow.

    It is important to note that each preference comes in three expressions: e.g., the three expressions of the fourth preference “Figure vs Fantasy” are: (a) Figure, (b) Figure & Fantasy, (c) Fantasy. These different expressions signify the major differences of people’s preferred style of thinking, working, interacting and living.

    Moreover, the different preference expressions can also help to better understand and manage the conflict potential of people according to their TIPS Innovation Profile. We explain the essence of each preference in the following paragraphs.

    How do you prefer to think?

    The Nobel Prize-winning neuropsychologist Roger Sperry tested the functioning of each of the two hemispheres of the neo-cortex (the powerful “outer shell” of the human brain) independently of the other in split-brain patients.

    In his resulting split-brain theory, Sperry noted important differences between the two cognitive functioning of the two hemispheres: the left hemisphere is said to be more analytic, rational and logical in nature, while the right hemisphere is more creative, holistic and intuitive.

    According to their thinking preferences, people are categorized in one of three groups: those who prefer to engage in cognitive activities related to analytical thinking (such as rational reasoning, numerical calculations, analysis, among others); those who enjoy practicing creative thinking (such as using your imagination, creating ideas, or creating metaphors); and those who feel comfortable in both analytical and creative thinking (integrated whole-brain thinkers).

    In Thinkergy’s TIPS Innovation Profile, we capture this notion with a preference called Figure vs Fantasy, which tracks whether people are more left-brain or right-brain-directed thinkers. If you’re a leader or manager, this preference helps you to identify who in your team is an analytical “number cruncher” (Figure); who is a more creative “dreamer” (Fantasy); and who is an integrated whole-brain thinker (Figure & Fantasy).

    What is interesting to note that left brain-directed thinkers tend to follow a linear-sequential, step-by-step approach in their thinking and aim to produce a specific solution, while right brain-directed thinkers prefer following a heuristic, more radiant and holistic cognitive approach that is more vague and open-ended.

    Moreover, Figure persons tend to be more critical thinkers who look to find the underlying problem when confronted with a challenge, while Fantasy persons prefer to take a positive, optimistic look on everything and look for the hidden opportunity in every challenge.

    Questions: How about you? Do you prefer to predominantly engage in analytical thinking? Or do you enjoy creative thinking and know how to use your imagination? Or do you see yourself as an integrated whole-brain thinker who feels at home both approaches?

    How do you prefer to work?

    While working on his theory of psychological types, the famous Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung noticed that some people preferred to focus their attention on details, while others tended to have “their head in the clouds” and to focus on more abstract matters.

    The second TIPS preference, Brain vs Brawn, checks the see whether people prefer to work as abstract conceptual creators (Brain) or as practical doers (Brawn). Of course, as with our first preference, there are also people who don’t mind working both on the details and on more abstract concepts, and who excel at flexibly switching between the small and big pictures (Brain & Brawn).

    Brawniacs put their work focus more on operational matters and tend to focus on the small picture (or pictures), while brainiacs enjoy looking at the big picture and prefer to work more on strategic issues. The former get satisfaction from completing a task due to their pronounced orientation toward short-term results, while the latter get it from achieving a goal (typically more medium- to long-term in nature).

    What is interesting about this TIPS preference is that brawniacs like to manage and execute, while brainiacs prefer to make and create. This helps you to understand why in most mature organizations, the practical doers and not the abstract thinkers tend to rise to the top of the hierarchy. We discussed this phenomenon in two earlier articles (“The creator-manager dilemma” and “The brainiac-brawniac scheduling conflict“).

    A final point worth mentioning: most brawniacs pride themselves as being specialists and love to give lots of explanations about their work, while brainiacs tend to look at themselves as being generalists who prefer to ask many questions.

    Questions: Are you a person who stands firmly with both feet on the ground and likes to take care of the details? Do you prefer to work “up in the cloud” on more conceptual, abstract challenges? Or do you enjoy flexibly shifting between detail-orientation and conceptual work?

    In the next column, we will look at the other two TIPS preferences, which will help you to understand how you — and the people around you — prefer to interact with others and live in this world.

     

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 

  • TIPS Figure vs. Fantasy


    The last preference Figure vs. Fantasy tracks if people are more left-brain or right-brain
    directed thinkers.

    This preference helps to identify who are the analytical “number-crunchers” (Figure) and who are the creative “dreamers” (Fantasy).

  • TIPS Brain vs. Brawn


    The third preference Brain vs. Brawn checks if people are abstract conceptual thinkers (Brain) or practical doers (Brawn).

    This preference helps to understand why in most firms, the doers and not the thinkers tend to rise to the top of the hierarchy.

  • TIPS Fact vs. Feeling


    Fact vs. Feeling expresses if people prefer to decide and communicate based on rational judgment and facts or based on their feelings and emotions. This preference helps to explain why some people cannot interact and communicate well with each other.

  • TIPS Form vs. Flow


    Form vs. Flow captures if people prefer to live in a highly structured, well-organized world (Form) or prefer things to be more flexible, changing and steadily evolving (Flow).

    It is the most important preference to explain differences in people’s innovation styles.

  • Mastering the Art of Ideation

    “How can I get better ideas for a problem that I face?” is a question I am often asked these days. First of all, remember that generating ideas with the help of creativity tools is just one part of the creative process. In order to do proper thinking, you first need to understand and define your challenge. Then generate ideas. Next, develop these into meaningful solutions or value propositions, which you then evaluate in order to find those vital few solutions that really deserve being brought to life. At Thinkergy, our proprietary systematic innovation method X-IDEA captures all these essential steps in the five stages Xploration, Ideation, Development, Evaluation and Action.

    Back to our initial question: Idea generation is an art. And effective ideation depends on the situation you are in. How important is the problem or challenge that you face? Do you have to solve a problem alone, or can you tackle it in a team? And how much time do you have at hand?

    Let’s capture these different contexts in a four-field matrix. On the vertical axis, we distinguish two basic scenarios related to the number of people involved – you’re alone, or you work in a team on the case. On the horizontal axis, we cover the other two aspects. First, decide if whether or not a resolution of your challenge is very important for you or your organization. In the former case, commit sufficient time for the ideation. If the importance is low to medium, than you can cut down your time investment. In result, we end up with four quadrants that suggest you different ideation approaches based on the respective situation.

    Scenario 1: The Notebook.
    Here you work alone and you need some ideas for a challenge that is not highly important – for example, “How to provide meaningful rewards for highly active participants in a training session?” Start to ideate by listing down at least 25 ideas to your challenge in your idea notebook (buy one if you don’t have one yet – and make sure that it is unlined, blank paper). In addition, use some simple creativity tools (such as Free Association, Word Association Chains or Concept Mapping) to generate some associations that may trigger further ideas. Go on until you reach a number of 50 ideas.

    Scenario 2: The Eureka Seeker.
    You have already worked for some time on an important individual challenge that you face – say, you are a scientist or a Ph.D. student and need a great idea to solve a tough conceptual problem. As you continue to explore your challenge, collect ideas that come along in your idea notebook. You also may apply some creativity tools such as Metaphors here. In addition, take some time out to engage in imagination exercises (like envisioning yourself in a perfect world where your challenge is resolved), and take notes of any new ideas and insights that may occur to you in result. For example, Albert Einstein used this technique extensively to collect “jigsaw puzzle pieces” that became part of his theory of relativity, thereby imagining himself surfing on a ray of light through time and space.

    Finally, if by now you still feel that none of the ideas that you have noted down is the right solution, then you might activate the process of incubation (which was subject of the last article in this column two weeks ago). Let go of your challenge, work on something else, take amble time for relaxing activities and incubate on the solution – and with luck, you will experience your personal Eureka-Moment and get the breakthrough solution to your challenge. Sure, all of this takes time — but aren’t you happy to invest time in an important personal endeavor?

    Scenario 3: The Brainstorming Session.
    In the third scenario, you work in a team on a challenge of medium importance, like saving costs in face of a temporary economic downturn. Send out an invitation for a 2-3 hours brainstorming meeting to your team member, wherein you brief them about the challenge and ask each member to bring in at least 10 ideas. At the beginning of the session, remind everybody of the four ground rules of ideation, then Brainstorm and do Pool Brainwriting to add to your initial ideas. Thereby, ideally integrate some other creativity tools (like Metaphors or Random Word) to broaden the scope of your ideas. After you have created a sufficient ground stock of ideas – say at least 300 raw ideas – start to turn them into meaningful idea concepts by combining and improving on your most promising raw ideas.

    Scenario 4: The Idea Circuit.
    In the last scenario, you look for meaningful ideas for a really important challenge that your company faces – like a new product development, customer experience design or strategy innovation project — that is of critical importance for the medium- to long-term success of your firm. Here, your best bet to get some really good ideas is to send your team into a full-fledged idea circuit over the course of one day. Thereby, you expose the ideators to 8-10 creativity tools to great a large pool of raw ideas (here were talking about four digit numbers) that you later develop further into meaningful value propositions. If you have no in-house ideation expert, it really pays to hire an experienced ideation and innovation company such as Thinkergy to facilitate the session and to take care for the process and the selection of effective creativity tools that light up the imaginations of the ideators and stimulate out-of-the-box ideas. It’s like when you have to undergo an important surgical operation — you just want to make sure that the doctor selects the right tools and knows how to handle them to get the job right.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis

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