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    Should You Innovate With Your Customers or Not? Part 2

    In part 1 of this two-article series, we began exploring the ongoing debate in innovation as to whether or not companies should involve customers in their innovation efforts and act upon their ideas. I also presented arguments and success stories of both the proponents and opponents of customer involvement in innovation. The pro camp argues that we should listen to customers and innovate by giving them what they want. The contra camp counters that customers don’t know what they want until you give it to them. Contra camp aficionados include prominent creative business leaders such as Henry Ford, Akio Morita, and Steve Jobs. So which camp is right, and when? And how may we possibly reconcile the different views?

    Which camp is right?

    “There are two kinds of truth, small truth and great truth. You can recognize a small truth because its opposite is a falsehood. The opposite of a great truth is another great truth,” noted the Danish physicist Niels Bohr. I believe that the debate between proponents and opponents of customer involvement in innovation is a case of two great truths facing each other. Both sides of the debate have their valid arguments and supporting success stories to prove their points. 

    So who’s right? It depends on the situation — or in other words, what business context you’re in and what you want to achieve. You may ask the following questions to gauge whether or not you should listen to and involve your customers in an innovation project:

    • Do you want to focus on improving an existing process, product, or service? Or are you aiming to create a “new to the world”-innovation in your project? The more disruptive your targeted innovation, the less customer involvement is advisable. 
    • How complicated is your business and innovation challenge? How much do your customers know about your product and service, and the relevant domain knowledge and technologies? The less complex your innovation case, and the more intimately your customers are familiar with it, the more you can listen to them and involve them in the process. 
    • How much time do you have at hand to produce innovation results? The less time you have at hand for an innovation project, the more you should consider involving your customers. Listening to your customers’ expressed needs and ideas is a cost-effective  and fast way to improve existing processes, products, and services immediately or in the short run. However, it’s unlikely that these ideas and typically more incremental innovations will boost your revenues, profits, and margins in the medium- to long-term.
    • Whom do you target with the innovation? A mass-market, a smaller niche segment, or a narrow ‘tribe” of sophisticated elite users? The broader the market you target, the higher your risk of mistakenly listening to and innovating upon the wishes and suggestions of a non-representative sample of customers.
    • On what level of abstraction does the innovation challenge reside? • The narrower and more specific your innovation focus, the easier and more sensible it is to involve customers, vice versa.
    • How dynamic is your industry? How fast do trends change? The faster the speed of change, the more problematic it is to involve customers who typically lag behind trends.

    How to reconcile the opposing views?

    While pondering the contextual rules of thumb listed above, I spotted an overriding approach to reconciling the opposing positions of the two camps in the customer involvement in innovation-debate. Innovation projects vary in the degree of impact that they make in the market, and related, the time and efforts required to pull off an innovation. Consequently, we can distinguish four different innovation types with an accelerating risk-reward profile — continuous improvements, incremental improvements/innovations, evolutionary innovations, and disruptive revolutionary innovations (see the graphic below):

    • Involve customers intensively in innovation efforts that focus on continuous improvements in your processes, products, and services. For example, improving the consistency of a tuna salad and allowing customers to pick their strawberries (instead of having to buy them in prepackaged boxes) are customer ideas that the experiential grocery store chain Stew Leonard implemented successfully.
    • Customer involvement in innovation such as running focus groups may also work well for projects aiming at incremental improvements/innovations of existing products or services (say you want to get ideas or feedback from customers on a new taste or formula variation of a popular product).
    • Invite customers to participate in projects aiming for evolutionary innovations where you want to add substantially more value to your existing customers or expand your offerings to new customer segments. However, here you typically involve customers predominantly in the first stage of the creative process (the Xploration-stage in our X-IDEA innovation method). Thereby, you empathetically listen to them and observe them in their everyday lives interacting with the target object of the innovation project. Moreover, you may also ask them to give you feedback and suggestions on prototypes you’ve built in the critical, realistic evaluation phase. However, in the creative stages (Ideation and Development in X-IDEA) in between, you typically do your own thinking and create your own ideas (that may take inspiration from your learnings during the initial Xploration stage). Two weeks ago, I shared how Ingersoll Rand practiced this approach when they created a substantially improved grinder tool for their industrial clients. We also follow this modus operandi with Thinkergy when we guide clients (especially those from the food or FMCG-industries) through their evolutionary innovation projects with the help of X-IDEA.
    • In your projects targeting revolutionary innovations, however, best practice suggests not to involve your customers actively. This is because they may lack the necessary knowledge on technology, trends, and maybe even their wants and needs related to a “new to the world”-technology or product. For example, while working on the iPhone and iPad, Apple’s development team sought feedback only from its internal “one-man focus group” (named Steve Jobs). As we also discussed in part 1, Akio Morita similarly developed the Sony Walkman with a small product development team against the advice of market research and his internal marketing and finance people (and subsequently sold 400 million units of the Walkman). And thanks to Henry Ford’s unwillingness to listen to customers, we leaped to driving in cars instead of riding on faster horses.

    Suppose you’re a member of the pro camp and are unconcerned of potential confidentiality issues. What if you insisted on involving customers in a project pushing for creating a revolutionary innovation? In that case, my advice would be to invite those customers to participate in an innovation project workshop with a more progressive mindset and personality. How can you find them? By using a personal assessment tool created for innovation. For example, Thinkergy’s innovator profiling system TIPS identifies four such trendy, avant-garde profiles located around the Ideas-base. Ideators, Conceptualizers, Promoters, and Imaginative Experimenters tend to be ahead of their times. They can contribute a mix of geeky, trendy, fashionable, or creatively destructive thinking to broaden your internal project team’s views and inspire bold ideas.

    Conclusion: Customer involvement in Innovation? It depends

    Involve your customers in your innovation projects, and listen to their ideas if

    1. they’re familiar with your products and services,
    2. you want to continuously or incrementally improve these,
    3. you want to evolve your product to a more contemporary version, and
    4. you’re in an industry that is close to your customers’ everyday lives and moves slow enough to allow your customers to keep up with trends and the speed of change.

    In all other cases, limit your customers’ involvement in seeking input and feedback at the front- and back-end stages of the innovation process. And especially when you work on a revolutionary innovation that can potentially disrupt the market, better think, and create progressively in your internal innovation team.

    • Do you belong more to the pro or contra camp of whether or not to involve and follow through on customers’ ideas while innovating? Or do you have any other thoughts and ideas that support your side of the debate — or can reconcile the two views?
    • Do you plan to do an innovation project soon? Regardless of whether or not you want to involve customers in your project, please consider inviting Thinkergy as your external expert innovation process guides. Our innovation facilitators would love to guide your team towards tangible innovation results with the help of our award-winning X-IDEA innovation methodContact us if you would like to learn more.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2020


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    Should You Innovate With Your Customers or Not? Part 1

    To what extent should innovators listen to customer ideas and suggestions while innovating? There is an interesting debate in the innovation domain between proponents and opponents of involving customers in innovation endeavors and of following their ideas. Today, let’s first hear from each camp, then explore different contextual situations that may influence the arguments of either side and finally propose some possible solutions to reconcile the different views.

    The Pro camp: Why customer involvement in innovation is beneficial

    Lou Rossi, the Chief Commercial Officer at the marketing and advertising group Publicis, argues that “More than 50 percent of innovation comes from the voice of the customer.” If he’s right, we’d better embrace our customers’ ideas and feedback, just like they do it at Stew Leonard’s and Ingersoll Rand.

    Stew Leonard’s is a family-owned regional US chain of experiential farm-fresh grocery stores. One reason behind the stores’ phenomenal success is that it is excessively customer-centric, as best expressed by its simple company policy (“Rule 1: The customer is always right. Rule 2: If the customer is ever wrong, reread Rule 1”). But there’s another success secret — the family business’s continuous improvement initiatives based on customers’ ideas:

    From its early days, Stew Leonard’s has involved customers and their ideas in their efforts to making its stores better. At Stew Leonard’s, customer suggestion boxes are filled to the brim every day. Moreover, customers volunteer their Saturday afternoons for participating in focus groups in which they suggest their ideas on how to make Stew Leonard’s stores better.

    The owners of the family business described the secret behind Stew Leonard’s growth as follows: “It’s all about listening to the customers and doing what they say.” When they give customers what they want, they see that Stew Leonard’s acts upon their ideas, and tell their friends about it.

    Involving customers in innovation also seems to work well for innovation initiatives targeting the upgrade of existing products and services. In their book In Search of Excellence, Tom Peters and Robert Waterman tell the tale of a successful product upgrade innovation story involving Ingersoll Rand, an American industrial tool-maker. One of the firm’s leading tool distributors challenged Ingersoll-Rand to develop a more innovative grinder tool within a year—or they’d sign up a competitor to distribute their tools:

    In the early stages of the project, the innovation team visited end-users of their grinders to observe first-hand how they interacted with their tools. To their surprise, they spotted that the workers looked like medieval warriors. They were wearing body armor and helmets to protect all their upper body parts and had wrapped tape around their tool-holding hands to prevent their fingers from accidentally slipping into the grinding surface spinning at 7,000 rpm. The innovation team also interviewed their “real customers,” the workers who, while not purchasing the tool, have to hold it 8 hours each workday to grind off metal edges from molded parts.

    The insights that the team gained exploring the harsh lives of their “real customers” informed the subsequent ideation and development process. The decisive criterion of whether to include an idea in the final product was: “Does this feature make end-users’ lives better?”

    Finally, when the team tested the new product prototype with some workers, one of them commented: “The tool is really okay. But you know what? Now my hands don’t hurt anymore in the evening.” And the Ingersoll-Rand team knew that thanks to involving customers in the new product development process, they had a winner.

    The Contra side: Why customer involvement in innovation is not advisable

    Henry Ford famously said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” The inventor of the moving assembly line rightly highlights that when you ask customers, they tend to suggest ideas that reflect their current needs and what they feel comfortable with, and rarely constitute more radical departures from the established status quo. But as the anonymous quote goes, “True innovation is coming up with a product that the customer didn’t even know they needed.”

    Opponents of deeper customer involvement in innovation efforts such as Apple’s Steve Jobs argue that customers often lack intimate knowledge of what is technologically possible and feasible:

    In Leander Kahney’s book Inside Steve’s Brain, Apple’s former CEO John Sculley relates that while always focusing on the customer experience, Steve Jobs didn’t believe in going out to do consumer testing and asking people what they wanted. Why? “How can I possibly ask someone what a graphics-based computer ought to be when they have no idea what a graphics-based computer is? No one has ever seen one before,” argued Steve Jobs.

    Jobs also gave further rationales of why he doesn’t want to involve customers in innovation projects aiming for a disruptive “new to the world”-tech product (such as the iPod, the iPhone or the iMac): “We have a lot of customers, and we have a lot of research into our installed base. We also watch industry trends pretty carefully. But in the end, for something that complicated, it’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

    Steve Jobs was not the only CEO of a technology company that didn’t believe in listening to customers’ ideas while creating disruptive high-tech products—another one was Akio Morita, one of the Co-Founders of Sony Corporation:

    “Our plan is to lead the public with new products rather than ask them what kind of products they want”, writes Morita in his autobiography Made in Japan. “The public does not know what is possible, but we do. So instead of doing a lot of market research, we refine our thinking on a product and its use and try to create a market for it by educating and communicating with the public. Sometimes a product idea strikes me as a natural. As an example, I can cite a product that surely everybody knows of, the Walkman.”

    The Sony Walkman sold more than 400 million times even though market research surveys suggested customers didn’t want such a technology. Customers couldn’t envision the finished product offering a small device playing music for personal use. Interestingly, Morita had to personally push his product idea into the market even against the vocal opposition of his product development team, and Sony’s marketing and finance departments. “Nobody openly laughed at me, but I didn’t seem to be convincing my own project team, although they reluctantly went along,” noted Morita.

    What are other counterarguments of opponents of listening too much to customers’ ideas in innovation?

    • Customers may have unrealistically high expectations of what they want or need. Or at the other end of the spectrum, they may satisfy with a way too low solution given what’s already possible. This is because often they don’t carefully follow emerging trends and know what’s state-o-the-art in a particular product niche, category, or industry.
    • Customers may also lack more profound domain expertise and experiences to give more discriminative feedback.
    • Customers may represent a wide spectrum of diverse customer types. The few you survey, interview, or invite to focus group may not be a representative sample of your “average customer”. Following the advice of a few “odd users” who don’t align with the majority may lead you down a wrong pathway. They might encourage you to design a product that pleases the needs of a few (sampled) while ignoring most needs of the many (not part of your sample).
    • In a small project team, it is easy to preserve secrecy about a “new to the world”-innovation you’re working on. When you involve customers here, it is likely that at least one of them intentionally or accidentally leaks information to the press, followers, and competitors.
    • Finally, listening too much to your customers’ ideas will blur your thinking if you are a creator who insists upon originality. For example, Steve Jobs believed that outstanding creativity in the arts and technology could not flow if you ask people what they want.

    Interim conclusion: There seems to be more than one truth

    In the debate on whether to involve customers in innovation efforts and act upon their ideas or not, both sides seem to have good arguments and success cases. So which camp is right? And how to possibly reconcile the different views? Come back to this column in two weeks. Then, we will continue the debate by considering different contextual situations in innovation that may tip the balance to one side or the other.

    • Are you a proponent or opponent of customer involvement in innovation and following customers’ ideas? Why? And do you have any other good arguments that support your side of the debate?
    • Do you plan to do an innovation project soon? Do you consider involving your customers in the effort or not? Please take a look at our X-IDEA innovation method that we use to guide our clients towards innovation results. And contact us if you would like to learn more about how we may help you with your concrete innovation project.

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2020.



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    Why Make Time Now for Strategy Exploration (Part 2)

    “The best way to predict the future is to create it,” said Abraham Lincoln. If you are a C-level executive, business unit leader, or an entrepreneur, the start of a new, disruptive decade is an ideal point in time to look at the big picture of your business and to explore the evolving strategic market environment. At Thinkergy, we guide management teams through such a Strategic Xploration-exercise with the help of the strategy toolkit in our X-IDEA toolbox.

    In part 1 of this two-article-series, I first shared with you what happens at the beginning of a Strategy Xploration Project. Then, we discussed at length what happens in the intensive Xploration phase. Here, we direct you to check out facts and assumptions, ask you lots of thought-provoking questions, help you to look at your business from many different perspectives, and map out trends and strategic risks, among others. In today’s final part 2 of this article, I’ll walk you through what happens in the subsequent immersion and extraction steps of a Strategy Xploration Project.

    3. Immerse yourself with fresh information to close your knowledge gaps

    “The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance—it is the illusion of knowledge,” noted the American educator Daniel J. Boorstin. By the end of the Xploration step of Strategy Xploration, you have compiled a long Un-Knowledge List. These are things you don’t know yet about your business and the emerging market space but would want to know. After all, as Aldous Huxley said: “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”

    In the subsequent Xploration Immersion-step, you attempt to close these identified knowledge gaps. You aim to turn un-knowledge into knowledge and —in some cases— into novel insights into your business. How?

    • First, in an Infostorming-exercise, we discuss how to best source a particular piece of missing information and who in your team will be doing it.
    • Then, with Infosourcing, you begin to close all identified knowledge gaps.
      • Typically, you do this by engaging in secondary research (e.g., by mining statistical data on the Internet).
      • However, in important cases, and if time permits, you may even engage in primary research. For example, you may survey critical stakeholders to validate your points listed in an earlier Walk A Mile-exercise. Or you may interview “extreme customers” to learn more about your value offerings. These Friends And Foes either fervently love or hate your company and your products.

    For critical projects, we may suggest you analyze essential company- and customer-related big data. Big data analytics allows for checking out key assumptions that you listed earlier in the tool Assumptions Check. You can also use this to test business hypotheses related to identified points on our Unknowledge List. Often, big data analytics brings out surprising and, at times, even game-changing new insights that alter management’s views on the business.

    For example, such an analysis may reveal that the most profitable customer segment to target going forward is one that you’ve somewhat neglected so far. My company Thinkergy partners with a German data-science-based strategic consulting agency (ScienceWorcs) that, for a fee, can analyze your essential company- and customer-related data.

    4. Xtract your learnings and your outputs

    Xtraction is the final phase in a Strategy Xploration project. By now, you and your teammates have compiled a long list of novel insights into your evolving market environment. For example, you’re likely to have identified relevant emerging trends and shifting market boundaries. You may have spotted potential new market opportunities. And you’ve recognized strategic risks that might threaten or even sink your business.

    Visualize all insights in your Insights List in an Insights Map, which allows you to identify true “ahas” quickly. These are novel and important insights that really deepen and often fundamentally shift your understanding of your business and the evolving strategic market space.

    Then, step back and ask: Is your vision still in line with those novel and important “ahas” you discovered? In case you’ve uncovered some genuinely game-changing novel insights, you may need to revisit your corporate vision. An excellent way to do this is to create Vision Scenarios, where you develop a new preferred vision of your future as well as three alternative scenarios (including a “disowned” one).

    Alternatively, we may ask each team to come up with a BHAG. Thereby, you suggest a “big hairy audacious goal” for your company to pursue that can take the business to a higher level by the end of this decade. An effective BHAG may propose to strive for an ambitious target, to take on a common foe, to emulate an inspiring role model, or to achieve an internal transformation.

    By the end of a Strategy Xploration project, you have gained clarity on what trends and market drivers are likely to affect your business in the coming years, and how to take your business forward towards success in a disruptive new decade. In some cases, you may have already gained a clear understanding on the next steps and strategic actions you need to take in the coming years. In other cases, you may realize a need to disrupt your current business before the market does so. If you realize you need to shift your business to realize new market opportunities and to develop new value propositions, then follow Strategy Xploration with a follow-up project. 

    So you’ve completed Strategy Xploration, what’s next?

    In a Strategy Innovation project, we take the teams through the remaining four stages of X-IDEA (Ideation, Development, Evaluation, Action). How would we guide you through such a workshop?

    • In the Ideation stage, we help each team to come up with 700-1000 raw ideas catering to your strategic focus challenge.
    • In the second creative stage, Development, the teams then take time to design and develop 25-40 concepts of meaningful strategic action initiatives for your business.
    • During Evaluation, the teams evaluate all developed concepts. First, they separate the wheat from the chaff by identifying promising concepts, then enhance those, and finally elect their top five strategic action ideas.
    • In the final Action-stage of X-IDEA, the teams pitch their top ideas to a panel of jurors. We add all strategic action concepts that gain initial executive approval to a Strategic Road Map. This visual tool captures all strategic project initiatives that will be rolled out over the next 3-5 years and move you closer to your preferred vision.

    As such, the main output of a Strategy Innovation Workshop is a Strategic Road Map with meaningful strategic actions. For example, a strategic action concept on Thinkergy’s Strategy Road Map 2020-2023 is, “Set-up an Affiliate Program for our innovator profiling test TIPS.” 

    While a Strategy Road Map gives your efforts strategic focus and sets-out a clear pathway of strategic development and innovation projects, it is not cast in stone. The tool allows you to flexibly accommodate new initiatives that you may come up with later in response to discontinuities or disruptions in the market.

    • Would you like to learn more about X-IDEA? Our award-winning innovation method and toolbox that produces innovation results not only for strategy innovation projects but also for all other modern innovation types (such as product innovation or solution design).
    • Would you be interested to do a Strategy Xploration Project with us (either as ongoing consulting or in workshop formats)?
    • Contact us to tell us more about your innovation agenda 2020 and find out how we may help you deliver on it. 

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2020

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    How Can You Thrive in a Disruptive New Decade?

    The new decade promises to be driven by rapid change, rising complexity, mounting uncertainties, and lots of surprises. Most likely, disruption will rule in the coming decade. How can you transform yourself and your business to flourish in the 2020s? Allow me to ask you three simple questions to help you get ready for a game-changing new decade.

    Background

    Go back in time to December 2009. Ten years ago, did you imagine that ten years later, you have to pay interest rates to banks for keeping your saving accounts? That you can become a millionaire within a few years if you invested a hundred bucks at the right time in a cryptocurrency? That you would stay in a private home of a stranger and not in a hotel room (courtesy of Airbnb) or book a private car ride instead of a public taxi (thanks to Uber)? That a Reality TV Star would be president of the United States? That the United Kingdom would have decided to leave the European Union? 

    Clearly, the world has been changing very fast and in surprising ways in the past decade, and will continue to do so in likely even more disruptive ways in the coming decade. That’s why you may want to take some time off your hectic schedule in the coming weeks and ponder three questions that I am about to ask you now.

    Look back into the second half of the 2010s

    “The stupidity of people comes from having an answer for everything. The wisdom of the novel comes from having a question for everything,” noted the Czech writer Milan Kundera. At Thinkergy, we love to ask people questions when we guide them through innovation projects. That’s why in our X-IDEA Toolbox, we have included a powerful question bank with thought-provoking questions for each of the five stages of X-IDEA.

    In the initial Xploration stage, we ask would-be innovators questions that help them find out what they don’t know about their project, to gain novel insights related to their case, and to come up with initial ideas on how to possibly resolve their challenge.

    To help set yourself and your business up for a successful decade, find the right answers for three simple questions. Here is the first one:

    What has changed in the past five years in your industry and business?

    While pondering this question, also consider thinking about some related, subordinated questions: 

    What has become easier in your business? What has become more challenging? On balance, are things more comfortable or more difficult than five years ago? Why? And what does it mean for you?

    For example, recently, I also asked myself these questions to reflect on what changed in the industry of my company, Thinkergy. Some of the things that changed in the innovation services industry in Southeast Asia during the past five years include:

    • An emerging commoditization of innovation services (many new, inexperienced players offer training in Design Thinking or consulting in innovation at much lower fees and —arguably— much lower quality, and often without being properly trained or licensed to do so, yet find buyers for their services). 
    • Many Multinational Corporations have built up in-house innovation competence on a global and regional level, and now the first large Asian corporations have begun doing so. 
    • An increasing number of Multinational Corporations have centralized the selection process for Learning & Development programs to their regional head office. As a result, local Human Capital teams in these firms cannot decide anymore what innovation training programs they deem best suited for developing their talents and what training service providers they trust.

    Look ahead into the first half of the 2020s

    “When you are running a business, there is a constant need to reinvent oneself. One should have the foresight to stay ahead in times of rapid change and rid ourselves of stickiness in any form in the business,” recommends the Indian billionaire industrialist and philanthropist Shiv Nadar.

    With this in mind, here comes my second question to ask yourself:

    What do you foresee will likely change in your industry and business in the coming five years?

    Start reflecting on this second question by noting your learnings from what has changed in the past five years. Then, quickly jot down anything that comes to mind about changes you expect to happen in your business in the coming five years. Finally, research and contemplate more broadly on possible trends and discontinuities that may be relevant for your industry and business.

    While looking ahead, bear in mind the following factors and phenomena:

    • 2020 will see the advent of a new long wave of technological change. Also known as Kondratiev waves (after the Russian economist Nikolai Kondratiev who discovered them), these waves describe which few technologies propel economic development forward for a certain number of decades. In the Sixth Wave, the lead technologies artificial Intelligence (AI) and digitalization, green & cleantech, and possibly also genomics are expected to drive economic growth and prosperity in the next 25 years. (Learn more about long waves in the article “How cyclicality drives business and innovation”)
    • Historically, periods of globalization and deglobalization have alternated every 3-5 decades. Following the 2008 financial crisis, the pendulum began swinging back towards more deglobalization, nationalism, protectionism, and authoritarian forms of government in many countries. (Check out the article “Does the pendulum swing back?” for more information on this meta-trend).
    • In the next five years, generational shifts in the workplace are also likely to impact your industry. (Learn more about these changes in the article “How generational shifts will impact business and innovation (Part 1 & Part 2)”).
    • When investigating relevant trends for your industry, distinguish between more short-lived phenomena (such as fads, hypes, and temporary fashions) and real trends or even mega-trends that will last for several years or maybe even a decade.
    • Moreover, note that every major trend tends to trigger a countertrend that you can also ride. 
    • A discontinuity is a distinct break from the normal state of affairs in an economy (such as a financial crisis, an armed conflict, or a major recession, among others).  

    For example, an emerging trend that I foresee affecting the innovation industry is the following: Initiatives such as the establishment of rigorous innovation certification standards will make corporate innovation more rigid, formal, and systemic, which will lead to a drop in corporate creativity due to the dilemma of innovation management). I also predict that soon, big data analysis and AI will give companies better insights at the front-end of an innovation project. Consequently, corporations will probably bring in an external innovation company like Thinkergy predominantly to guide them towards outstanding ideas in the creative process stages (Ideation and Development in X-IDEA), while conducting other innovation process steps in-house. 

    Harvest your learnings

    “The best way to predict the future is to create it,” recommended management guru Peter Drucker. The third and final question to ask yourself is as simple as powerful:

    So what?

    So what do the changes you witnessed in the past five years and those you foresee unfolding in the coming five years mean for yourself and your business? What novel insights pop up when looking at the grand picture of your industry and the big picture of your business? What initial ideas come to your mind on how to possibly ride an emerging trend, or realize the upside of a possible threat? 

    For example, as a result of a strategic foresight exercise, we now consider going back to our roots and frame Thinkergy’s services with a much stronger emphasis on creativity (and not on innovation as in the past five years).

    Conclusion: Foresight is better than hindsight

    “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable,” noted the US General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

    Over the past weeks, I have done a strategic exploration project for our innovation company Thinkergy to set ourselves up for success in the disruptive 2020s. Thereby, I walked through the Xploration-stage of our X-IDEA innovation method, and applied ca. 30 X Tools (such as Strategic Risk Map, Trend & Discontinuities Map, or Who The F@#$ Is…? ). In the process, we also asked a lot of X Questions, and I noticed that the three questions I shared with you in today’s article to help grasp rapid change.

    Now, we’re in the process of updating and fine-tuning our strategic company core to reflect our learnings, whereby we may entertain different “Visions scenarios” (see the article “Move from a vision statement to vision scenarios”) to be able to flexibly respond to market changes and possible discontinuities in the market. After the holidays, we will create a strategic road map for the next 3-5 years. We are also considering raising funds from a strategic investor or from venture capital firms to harness the immense upside for our business that we can foresee in the disruptive 2020s.

    • Would you like us to help update your organizational strategy for success in the disruptive 2020s with the help of our award-winning X-IDEA innovation method and X-IDEA Toolbox?
    • Contact us to tell us more about yourself and how we may creatively empower you. 

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2019

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    Who Likes Playing With What Kind of Thinking Tools?

    During the past one-and-a-half decades, I designed and facilitated more than 150 innovation project workshops. One thing I noticed in all these projects is the following reality: Depending on their personality and preferred cognitive styles, different people tend to enjoy working on different types of thinking tools used within the creative process. Thanks to TIPS, Thinkergy’s innovator profiling tool, I can now tell you in advance who’s going to shine working on what kind of thinking tool in an innovation project. Allow me to explain.

    How an innovation project unfolds in a nutshell

    When companies want to tackle a vital innovation challenge in a project, they first find a manager to lead the initiative. Then, this manager forms innovation teams that work on the case in one or more workshops. Next, she invites an external innovation facilitator to guide the teams through the process with the help of a systematic creative process (such as Design Thinking or X-IDEA). Prominent innovation methods consist of a series of process stages (e.g., X-IDEA has five stages called Xploration, Ideation, Development, Evaluation, and Action). As the teams move stage-by-stage through the process, the facilitator introduces specific thinking tools that the teams need to work on to produce the desired outputs and results.

    How cognitive profiling can enhance innovation project work

    Thinkergy’s Innovation Profiling System TIPS uses four socio-economic base orientations (theories, ideas, people, systems) and four cognitive styles (to think, work, interact, and live) to profile people into one of eleven TiPS innovator profiles. 

    Now suppose you’re in charge of an innovation project as a project manager or an innovation facilitator. Would you be keen to know more about the personalities and preferred cognitive styles of each team member participating in the innovation project? 

    Gaining such awareness would make your life much easier. Knowing the TIPS innovator profiles of everyone involved enables you to compose innovation teams that are cognitively diverse within but balanced across all groups. It also allows you to understand who is likely to shine at what stage of the creative process. Last but not least, it even allows you to accurately assign a specific thinking tool to those team members who have a natural affinity to apply it well. 

    Who enjoys working on what thinking tools?

    In the following, let’s go through the 11 TIPS innovator (clockwise on the TIPS Profiling Map starting on the top left) and understand what kind of thinking tools (taken from our X-IDEA toolbox) they delight in:

    • Theorists are logical, abstract thinkers who, above else, care about the truth. In an innovation project, let them work on critical thinking tools such as performing Fact Checks or Assumption Checks, checking for Rules For Fools, or probing for the Lowest Common Denominator related to the project challenge.
    • Conceptualizers are strategic big-picture thinkers who particularly shine in the first process stage of an innovation project. They enjoy creating Trends & Discontinuities Maps or Strategic Road Maps. They also perform well when engaging in Situational Reframing of key project parameters. Conceptualizers also enjoy working on a Challenge Map used to identify the right level of abstraction to frame the Final Challenge (a crucial “how to”-question used to generate ideas later in the project).
    • Ideators are progressive creators who enjoy pushing for bold, disruptive change. it’s little wonder they tend to come up with wild, provocative ideas (courtesy of Ideation tools such as What If, Reversal, or Born To Be Wild). During Evaluation, Ideators are also the most likely to throw in a Wild Card to move forward a disruptive idea concept that the majority of a more conservative team rejects.
    • Promoters are charismatic communicators who connect ideas to people. They enjoy imaginative creativity tools such as Imagination Trips, Star Advisor Board, or My Superstar during Ideation. And Me. In the final process stage, Action, they lead a team’s work efforts on thinking tools such as Storyboarding, Idea Pitch Designer, and Idea Pitch.
    • Partners always want to be around others and care for the needs and desires of people. Hence, chose a few Partners to take an Empathetic Point Of View on your case or to Walk A Mile in the shoes of key stakeholders involved in your challenge. And of course, they enjoy Brainstorming or Battle Of The Sexes (during Ideation) and Ideabook (a more social way to do Evaluation).
    • Organizers are the most operational and hands-on among all the profiles. They naturally focus on the small pictures related to your project case. Hence, they enjoy exploring all the details of your challenge with the help of a questioning tool such as 5W1H. They also like to compile a Project Plan and a 5W2H Action Plan for the actual implementation of a top idea.
    • Systematizers like to preserve the status quo and dislike taking risks. In the first process stage of an innovation project, assign them to work on creating a Strategic Risk Map or coming up with realistic Idea Evaluation Criteria. If involved in the creative stages, they prefer practical creativity tools such as Morphological Matrix and Get Real (used to tame a wild idea). During Evaluation, they prefer “objective” tools such as the Weighted Scoring Model (criteria-based rating and computation of a team’s top ideas).
    • Use Technocrats to play The Numbers Game and check on the plausibility of key quantitative data related to your case. Later on during Evaluation, they take pleasure in composing a Balance Sheet (i.e., listing all the assets & liabilities of an ideas, as well as “below the line” items as possible contingencies). Finally, they don’t mind if you assign them with keeping track of all top concepts that you enter into the Idea Pipeline.
    • Coaches are rare as a unicorn, so count yourself lucky if you have one in an innovation team. Ask a philosophical, humanistic Coach to compile a list of thought-provoking X Questions to both deeply and widely probe for the team’s understanding of the case—and its knowledge gaps. A Coach also enjoys asking Five Times Why to probe for the underlying motivations of doing the project. You may also assign a Coach to think about the Consequences of implementing a particularly disruptive top idea.
    • Experimenters systematically test ideas. As they like to take things apart and reconfigure them anew, they embrace more formal Ideation Tools such as Attribute Listing or Relational Words. And of course, they’re the first to roll up the sleeves when it’s time for Rapid Prototyping of promising concepts.
    • Finally, as an innovation manager or facilitator, be grateful for any All-Rounders taking part in the innovation project. Because All-Rounders have many interests and are the most balanced among all profiles, you can have them work on any thinking tool that is left to do. Alternatively, ask them to support any team member who needs help while working on a particular thinking tool assignment.

    Conclusion: Know your people before assigning the work on innovation tools

    To sum-up, an innovation facilitator who is aware of the innovator profiles of all participants in an innovation project workshop can assign the work on a particular thinking tool to those participants who exhibit conducive cognitive styles. Why is this useful? Three reasons:

    1. Greater enjoyment: When a facilitator assigns thinking tools based on their cognitive fit, all team members work on those tools that they enjoy, thus increasing employee engagement and commitment to innovation.
    2. Higher productivity: Greater enjoyment and involvement increases the odds that everyone produces excellent outputs in a particular stage of the creative process, and that the teams end up with superior innovation results overall by the end of the innovation project
    3. Greater effectiveness: Finally, assigning tool work based on cognitive preference also allows teams to be more time-effective. The facilitator can split up a team into various subgroups where each member works on those tools that are in harmony with cognitive styles and interests. In result, an innovation team can produce more and better outputs in a given amount of time. 

    Of course, gaining such awareness in your people’s innovator profiles requires a small upfront investment of time and money. But aren’t the increases in enjoyment, productivity, and time-effectiveness worth it?

    • Would you like to learn more about how we run innovation projects using our award-winning X-IDEA innovation method?
    • Have you become curious to find out what’s your TIPS innovator profile and your related cognitive styles? Click here to register and buy a coupon for your TIPS online test now.
    • Would you be interested in doing an experiential, eye-opening TIPS training course with your team? Or learn how to use the tools in our X-IDEA toolbox in an X-IDEA training?
    • Contact us to tell us more about yourself and how we may help you. 

    © Dr. Detlef Reis 2019


  • Inspiring Quote - Edison


    Because he successfully practiced a systematic innovation approach, the legendary inventor Thomas Edison was well aware that innovation is largely a numbers game. 

    In Thinkergy's X-IDEA innovation method, we also track the innovation outputs at each stage of the process, thus making sure that you first produce a lot of raw ideas (during Ideation) before you design the most intriguing ones into great ideas (in the Development-stage). 

    When can we guide you and your team through an innovation project with the help of X-IDEA?

  • Who Shines in the Creative Process?

    Have you ever participated in an innovation project? Have you ever worked as a member of an innovation project team on an innovation case that your senior management deemed important? Did you enjoy the entire project experience? Or did your find parts of the innovation workshop boring, tiring or otherwise de-energizing?

    If you’re like most people, then probably you really enjoyed some parts of the innovation project, while other phases didn’t click with you — and you kept asking yourself ‘Why am I here?’

    Why was that? Because of your preferred cognitive styles and your innovator profile. Let me explain who tends to enjoy and perform well when (i.e., in what kind  of work phases or process stages) in an innovation project.

    A creative process gives structure to an innovation project

    In the era of the innovation economy, many companies set up dedicated innovation projects to tackle innovation challenges. Thereby, one or more project teams work on a case by going step-by-step through the stages of a creative process method, such as the classic Creative Problem-Solving Model (CPS, and its modern variations), the popular Design Thinking approach, or Thinkergy’s X-IDEA method. 

    Typically, such creative processes have from 3-6 distinct process stages that for a certain period of time invite would-be innovators to engage in specific styles of thinking, working, interacting, and “living”: 

    • Thinking: What style of thinking dominates in a particular stage? Some process stages require the team members to think more analytically and critically, other stages clearly invite them to think creatively, while many stages call for both styles of thinking. 
    • Working: Some process stages require the teams to work on assignments that are more abstract, conceptual and “big picture” in nature, while other stages are more practical, hands-on and detailed, and some have a mix of both.
    • Interacting: The interactions and conversations between delegates are more fact-based in some stages, and more intuitive or empathetic in others, or may draw upon both.
    • Living: The final aspect captures the levels of formality and energy of how the activities in any one stage are executed and approached. Some process stages unfold in a very formal, controlled and serious way, others are more free-flowing, playful and even apparently chaotic, while many have a healthy mix of formal order and flexible freedom. 

    By the way, unlike the default four stage-model of most creative processes, Thinkergy’s awards-winning innovation method X-IDEA unfolds in five stages: Xploration, Ideation, Development, Evaluation, and Action, Why? We passionately believe that in order to move beyond conventional ideas, a creative process method needs to have two distinct creative process stages (Ideation and Development) that differ in speed, energy and output focus (idea quality vs. concept quality). And we argued our case in an academic paper that we also summed up as a blog article.

    Why do different people shine in different creative process stages?

    Because in the creative process, the required styles of thinking, working, interacting and “living” change from stage to stage, it’s not surprising that different people tend to enjoy different process stages. Or more precisely: different innovator profiles with their preferred styles to think, work, interact and live.

    Sadly, most companies have little to no idea of the preferred cognitive styles of each of their employees — and related, what kind of stages and activities in a creative process a particular employee tends to enjoy. Hence, they ask their employees to attend and work through all process stages of an innovation project, although most people only enjoy —and do well in— 2-3 out of 4-5 process stages (depending on the chosen innovation method or creative process model). In other words: Most people asked to join an innovation project feel like that they are wasting between 25-50% of their work time for something they don’t feel contributes much value — and don’t enjoy. Little wonder that organizations have begun experiencing the phenomenon of innovation fatigue. 

    How to understand the preferred cognitive styles of your people

    Cognitive profiling tools aim to capture differences in the way people prefer to think and work with the help of a questionnaire that is linked to established theories on cognition. 

    Well-known cognitive profiling methods include Herrmann’s Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI) or Alan Black’s MIND Design Concept — and for the past few years, there is also TIPS, Thinkergy’s Innovator Profiling System created to help individuals and organizations optimize the people side of business and innovation. TIPS introduces 11 distinct innovator profiles, each of which has a unique position on the TIPS Profiling Map that is spanned by the four TIPS bases (Theories, Ideas, People, Systems) and marked by the four TIPS styles (to think, work, interact, and live).


    So who shines when in an innovation project?

    Suppose you are a manager in charge of organizing and running an innovation project. You need to convince your busy colleagues to commit time for your project. Suppose further you know all the TIPS profiles of your colleagues (as your company has invested in TIPS as a personal assessment tool for talent acquisition, alignment & management — and for righting the people-side of innovation). Suppose finally you opt to run your innovation project by employing X-IDEA as your creative process method. So, what TIPS profiles tend to shine in what stages of X-IDEA? Or in other words: Who do you invite to participate in your innovation project? And when?

    • Stage X—Xploration:
      You kick-off your X-IDEA-powered innovation project with an initial Xploration Workshop of at least 2 days. What TIPS profiles should you invite to explore your case? Mostly the conceptual, brainy profiles revolving around the Theories- and Ideas-bases who enjoy doing Xploration: Theorists, Ideators and —in particular— Conceptualizers. Moreover, if your project has a strong customer focus, then also add a few Promoters and Partners; they infuse empathetic People-energy and ensure that your customers’ wants, needs and pains are considered, too. Mixed well together, these profiles take care that the innovation teams first Xpress what they do and don’t know about the case, then Xplore it from various perspectives, and finally Xtract novel insights before framing the final challenge. 
    • Stages I—Ideation and D—Development:
      Next, you invite all the creative types to a 1-2 day-long Ideation & Development Workshop. You find these profiles with fantasy and creative energy located near the Ideas- and People-bases: Ideators, Imaginative Conceptualizers and Experimenters, Promoters and Partners enjoy both the frenzy of a wild Ideation-session and the design of novel, original and meaningful idea concepts in the Development-stage. Here, fill-up any gaps in the teams with All-Rounders and maybe also a few Theorists.
    • Stage E—Evaluation:
      Set aside half to —if you also do rapid prototyping— one day for an Evaluation-session, for which you need profiles representing the energies of all four TIPS bases (Theories, Ideas, People, Systems). In particular, now is the time to bring in those critical, pragmatic profiles surrounding the Systems-base: Systematizers, Technocrats, Organizers, and Systematic Experimenters help the innovation teams to get real and down to business, thus making sure that those top ideas selected for implementation both make great meaning and are feasible to implement. 
    • Stage A—Action:
      In the final stage of X-IDEA, Action, you compose an implementation project team involving profiles from all TIPS bases but the Theories-base to transform one top idea into a tangible innovation. While the team mostly consists of more operative, action-oriented profiles at the People- and Systems-base (Partners, Organizers, Systematizers, plus All-Rounders) to enjoy doing operative project work, you should also have at least one clear-cut Promoter and one well-developed Ideator on the team. Why? Your Promoter is the best person to pitch the idea to senior management and other key stakeholders, thus ensuring you secure the necessary budgets and other resources needed for implementation. And your Ideator can add drive and lots of ideas to the team, thus helping them to overcome operational issues, organizational obstacles and plain corporate inertia.

    Conclusion: Boost innovation results by connecting the process-side to the people-side of innovation

    Knowing the preferred cognitive styles of all their employees allows companies to staff innovation project teams in a more flexible, effective and productive way:

    1. More flexible: Invite different innovator profiles for different creative process stages held on different workshop days.
    2. More effective: By adhering to point 1, you demonstrate that you respect the time constraints and preferred cognitive styles of your employees.
    3. More productive: Because of points 1 and 2, all workshop delegates in the innovation teams play on their preferred cognitive styles all of the time. Because the team members feel more engaged and involved, you’re highly likely to have better results in the innovation project — and more commitment to innovation in general.

    But do all of these benefits justify the investment in a cognitive profiling test for all people involved in innovation in your company? Modern knowledge workers often cost a company at least $150-200 per workday. Every day wasted in an innovation project team that is in a process stage that doesn’t suit the preferred cognitive style of your employee means burning that amount of money. Compare that with a small one-time investment of just $89 for a TIPS online profiling test (which also offers many other applications in innovation and beyond for business in general), and you have your ROI justification. 

    So, what’s your TIPS innovator profile? And related to that, what are your preferred cognitive styles? When will you get yourself and your colleagues TIPS-ed?

    • Click here to register and buy a coupon ($89) for your TIPS online personality test now.
    • Contact us to learn more about our experiential, eye-opening TIPS training courses. 


  • 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

  • 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


  • 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. 


  • 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. 

  • 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. 

  • 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. 

  • 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.