In this post, we want to go beyond the typical aspects of innovation culture-building. We simply assume you know that innovation is one of the most demanding jobs, and it needs extraordinary talents to make innovation happen. Many aspects of Motivation, Empowerment, Inspiration, Failure as a way of learning, and a clear innovation mandate are prerequisites to get results and have been discussed countless times. On the contrary, all the many playful ways to inspire people with internal hackathons, innovation days, creativity workshops, pitching contests, and many other activities have not brought a single genuine innovation forward.

Who is an innovation culture for?
Brilliant talents are not interested in playtime; they are interested in making a difference, achieving something nobody else has achieved yet, and making the impossible a reality. The goal to “make the impossible a reality” is not only a goal of intelligent innovators, it is also the dream of the CEO, the hope of early adopters in the market, and even expectation from investors. When those people say innovation, they mean it. They don’t even think of conventional improvements.

It’s all about making the impossible a reality

To make that dream a reality, you should start with a culture that can make it happen.

1) C-Level Involvement

Discussing innovation culture, innovation success, motivation, results-orientation, job satisfaction, and alike topics with innovation managers and executives, it turned out that the most ambitious and most creative people request a clear mandate from the CEO. Most people’s experience has been, that if the C-Level is not actively engaged and sees innovation as a strategic effort, nothing will get done and the career as an innovation manager is in jeopardy in those companies. The CEO does not necessarily need to be a visionary person but needs to ensure that groundbreaking innovation is happening. Highly innovative people look for companies and teams that have a high probability of creating extraordinary outcomes. Grass-roots efforts to build more innovation in a business have so far failed as far as we could see. Highly talented innovation team members, rather join insecure startups than companies that see innovation just as a marketing message and not as an effort to make a difference. And therefore, the innovation culture starts at the top with a clear mandate for groundbreaking innovation, backed by its board.

We see best results when both the innovation culture and innovation purpose comes from the top management and flows down into the relevant teams. Many executives have the hope that every employee becomes innovative. Whether this is a good idea or not is no longer important as top-down culture development automatically reaches the entire organization.

2) Team Composition

Already when assembling an innovation dream team, the innovation culture plays a strategic role. One aspect of the culture is the definition of the team composition. While conventional R&D centers were primarily experts, the ideal innovation team is a highly diverse team from diverse backgrounds. The innovation culture should include that diversity as part of the model. You will want an innovation team that comes from customer-oriented backgrounds such as sales, from a broader market background such as marketing, from an operational or administrative background, definitely from a financial background, and also subject matter experts from your industry field. If you have all engineers, you not only are limited by having more of the same but, most importantly, limited background. Understanding how ideas get created in our brain, a diverse background of experiences (not business experience) is of great importance.

Another aspect of an innovation culture and its team development concerns traits or talents; some call it soft skills. There are a few traits that all team members should share: For instance curiosity, fearlessness, abstract thinking, team spirit, competitiveness as a team, openness, and positive thinking. One mismatch can ruin the whole team. Candidates should know upfront what you are looking for and how you assemble the team. Never try to “re-wire” people’s minds that will either fail immediately or have long-term negative effects on the mindset of the respective individuals.

3) Co-Ideation Culture

Your idea or my idea? In a successful and inspiring innovation culture, it should not matter who’s ideas any given concept was from. The co-ideation culture is an essential part of the innovation culture. The innovation team must know that all ideas come from past experiences and are composed of millions of impressions, often co-produced by other people. Meetings, exchanges, and joint ideation are the sum of all brains, and the confluence of content sparks ideas. There cannot be individual ownership, and it would distract the ideation process to an unbearable degree. Teammates should be rewarded for ideas but also equally rewarded for building new ideas based on previous ideas from other teammates or anybody else for that matter. Groundbreaking innovation rarely comes from one genius individual – but in almost all cases in the past century from a group of people. Co-Ideation as a cultural element can be stimulated when the innovation software has integrated gamification and reward equally the ideation and idea confluence based on other people’s ideas.

4) Information Culture

Groundbreaking innovation is a tough but absolutely doable goal. Working in isolation, i.e., only inside an innovation lab, is a terrible mistake. Groundbreaking innovation means change. When those changes, coming out of the blue, 99% of homo sapiens will reject it as a natural process. If the innovation team is not keeping adjacent teams in the loop, success moves far away. First and foremost, the C-Level needs to be in the loop. If they don’t care, all innovation efforts are a waste of time and resources. Have a jour fix meeting with the CFO or CEO once a week or every other week for only and exactly 3 minutes. Don’t dare to make it a 4-minute presentation. You will need internal supporters, those from sales who help you work with selected customers, or from marketing who provide you with research or finance, which help you get some key insights. Keep them in the loop. Provide an update once a month for 5 minutes, for instance, the first Monday at 11:50 am sharp. Include selected customers and business partners into the process and if necessary ask for a non-disclosure agreement. An even better way to ensure success is an open innovation project where you include others from your market and even those not from your market.

For most corporations, Open Innovation is a no-go. However, it is more than worth considering it and take the necessary actions that public companies need to make in order t communicate with the outside and ensure equal information to their shareholders. The extra effort is negligible compared to the value it adds to the process and the shareholder relationship. The open information strategy represents the most visible aspect of the innovation culture and helps the innovation process band prevents copying ideas. Who will say “we too have this idea” when the idea has no proof yet? Who will want to be a follower of something that does not even exist yet? But you, with your genuine idea, can and prove the concept over time, very much like Microsoft, Tesla, Ikea, and in the past Carl Benz, Robert Bosch, Alfred Escher, and hundreds of others.

5) Performance Culture

Assuming you understand how the brain creates ideas, you will not want to wait for the magical idea or wonder if the prototype even works. You know how to compile groundbreaking ideas, how to develop a vision, how to get approval and funding, how to build your first minimum viable product (MVP), and how you get it to market. You know that any groundbreaking idea gives you a headstart of approximately 3 to 5 years. Yes, you will not want to lose a single day. Every successful startup or Unicorn is executing with relentless speed, working for recognition and growth every single day like there is no tomorrow.

In most conventional innovation centers, however, teams meditate, play games, follow all kinds of stimulation efforts, try to find random ideas, experiment, not know if an idea is working or not, and finally come out with an improvement at best. They are no competition to even mediocre startups.

The performance culture is a strategic part of the innovation culture. You and your team are in it for extraordinary results. The performance to do so and the achievement of the respective milestones are as important to that team as it is for any top-class athlete at the Olympics. Performance culture is mainly for highly intelligent people who compete against the best and brightest around the world for a solution that is thought to be impossible – they are hardly motivated by money. Competitiveness is a trait every innovation team member has to have. This culture is stimulated by serious goals and rewards that reflect the extraordinary outcome, a groundbreaking innovation. To maintain a performance culture as part of the innovation culture, team members are wired to go for a long-term effect on society, building something that nobody believed is possible. Some will try to do it on their own, others prefer to make it in a team that has already some profound resources. Innovation is the ultimate competition of the mind.  Those individuals want to be a part of the organization they bring forward. Getting recognized for their outstanding achievement, become a shareholder, have a chance to make the impossible a reality is the main motive and key to performance.

 

During the BlueCallom implementation, we provide an innovation team development program involving HR/HT Management that includes the development of an innovation culture model that will need to be accepted by the CEO.

 

On Aug. 12th, 2021, BlueCallom will host a “Creating an internal innovation culture” event, part of the Innovative Minds Series. In this Innovative Minds event, gain insights into how to stimulate innovation culture-building from the middle up so it can flow down and how Innovation Leaders can best support it. Please visit to see more details and registration: https://bluecallom.com/creating-an-internal-innovation-culture-webinar/

When is the time to innovate?

The time between the day when the need to innovate is recognized to the day the first version of a prototype is in the market. Innovation speed or perfection? Go for speed any time.

For instance: The need or the dream to have an internet connection in any place in the world, land, or water is as old as the Internet itself. But in 2015, Elon Musk had an idea how to solve it. In Feb 2018, he created a company called StarLink. Today in 2021, we have full coverage, and in the next few years, it will be a standard. By 2025 people will realize that over 30,000 satellites are in orbit and connect all of us any time from anywhere. Look back and wondering how this could happen. Very much how we wonder why there is only one search engine to be considered serious, one computer operating system, one super large social network, one shopping platform, and soon one internet provider. We all heard of StarLink; but so far, nobody dares to compete. Is California or Silicon Valley a time capsule in itself? Time seems to run much faster – but only because we don’t hear a lot from China, in particular Shenzhen.
Only a few decades ago, Shenzhen was a collection of quiet farming and fishing villages. Today, the city is among the world’s leading innovation hotspots—in other words, the perfect location for our Airbus China Innovation Centre (ACIC).

If you want to innovate on Shenzhen speed you got to be even faster. Does it feel impossible? Yes, it does but only due to our massive overhead. If we don’t watch it, we will end like the British empire in 1900 or the Roman Empire in 1600 or Egypt or Mesopotamia or or or.

Western innovation labs, where are your results?

Innovation speed or perfection. In the past 20 years, several hundred innovation labs had been incepted. Yet, the outcome is more or less nonexistent. Yes, there had been nice improvements, some fun stuff, and maybe a few marketing Giggs. But nearly no groundbreaking innovation. They came all from startups. Something major may have gone wrong in those “Lost 20 years,” as one of the top Japanese executives told me recently. Everybody looked at startups because they seem to do something right. However, we all know 90% fail, and if you look at them, you will fail too. We all heard it “Innovation needs amazing creativity, and you can’t enforce it” – ok, so make innovation playgrounds with meditation, lego play games, sing together, and do sports together.  Hmmm – the unicorns show relentless execution, amazing speed; they work under enormous pressure. TIME seems to be a silver bullet. Very much like Elon Musks demonstrates it every day. When I founded my companies and watching my peers and the hundreds of startups we worked with, the best of the best were constantly full of adrenaline.

Groundbreaking Innovation in 40 days

We wanted to know:  What is the Innovation speed limit? The answer: 40 days right now. We can create groundbreaking innovation and validate the concept and bring it to market in 40 days. While most people are driven by their schedule, which is driven by others, who drive other agendas, and so forth, we need to put a stake in the ground NOW. The Nespresso Capsul took 15 years from idea to market success. The Tesla automobile took 15 years from inception to market success. Facebook took less than 10 years, Starlink probably less than 7 years. And the upcoming generation will be even faster. The western world already lost its first race against the red dragon in China. But we are used to not give up, to not surrender – to get up and compete.

Dare to compete

Some people use pacemakers to keep their heart beating – what is your business using? In a few days, we start with the global Ingenuity Cup. The promise is to get to groundbreaking innovation in 40 days. So far, most contestants are startups. While under huge pressure to deliver a real innovation for the first time, enterprise teams are struggling to make quick decisions, get approvals, find ways to put all the other administrative work to the side, and are fearful of failing. We MUST break through that barrier.

Dare to break all barriers and walls

  • You have no time? Never say this again. Take the time for what is most important.
  • You need approval? I don’t think so, because you have a mission.
  • You have other e important things to do? Stop innovating – it’s a waste of time doing it on the side.
  • You worry about your career? 5 years without success in an innovation lab is 25% of your career wasted already.
  • The next company won’t take you !!!!

Mr CEO, tear down that wall

Make your innovation teams play by the rule of global markets, global timelines, global competitors, global speed limits, and compete against everything and everybody. Innovation playground time is over. Every unicorn on earth competes with relentless execution, other nations have no rules and no limits. If you spend more time protecting what you have than investing it into future solutions, you, your board, and investors declare the limits of your abilities.

 

Dare to join the Ingenuity Cup even last minute – Remember innovation speed or perfection, what are you seeking?

400 Million businesses (OECD) may look for a total of 100 Million Innovation Managers during this decade.

100 Million Innovation Managers

Of course, at first sight, it sounds ridiculous. Yet if you take the number of registered businesses around the world plus the enormous growth rate of new businesses it is relatively easy to imagine that 25% of those companies, no matter how small they are, will want at least one person that works on innovation concepts. The fortune 20,000 however, is more like hiring Millions on their own. Of course, there is room to debate the number in both directions. If we consider a 3% investment in innovation, the numbers could also move further up. Who would have thought just 10 years ago that in 2020 we will have 1.5 Billion websites live? And an estimated 100 Million webmasters are handling them.

Gameover for romantic ideation dreams

Now, since we know how the brain is actually composing, processing, and fine-tuning ideas, we can begin strategic innovation management. We know that no idea ever composed was by accident. We know that brainstorming can’t create a single disruptive business model. We know that disruptive innovation takes on average 6 weeks to create. It will not happen in a week nor will it take longer than 12 weeks. With amazing predictability comes manageability but most importantly readiness to invest. Constructing an innovative idea is no longer much different from architecting a new skyscraper. Both have a predictable outcome. All that is opening up new investments. 100 Million Innovation managers become more and more a realistic number.

Now is a good time to build up your experience.

BlueCallom launches its Innovations Management Academy with an orientation webinar on Jan 7 and Jan 18. https://bluecallom.com/certified-innovation-manager-orientation/ We will help innovators, managers, and executives to get their arms around the many counter-intuitive aspects of an innovation lifecycle. It’s already hard enough to find top talents. And that will get even harder in the next few years. Having experience will remain to be a top value in an innovation career. “How many innovation projects did you complete?” “What methods did you use?”. To compete with 100 Million others for a job is equally challenging as trying to get top talents competing with 100 Million other businesses. We interviewed shrimp farm owners in Vietnam, street dealers in Cambodia, car repair shops in Nigeria, and 50+ more businesses. The owners are on average 25, graduated from their local University, and are smart enough to understand that our world is changing very fast. The shrimp farmer considers an AI system to manage the population, the car repair shop an e-commerce system for parts sale, and the street dealer a mobile app to push their daily harvest of ultra-fresh food to sell it the same day. Each one of the innovative concepts is simple at first glance, yet powerful enough to force all their competitors to follow.

Starting January 25, the new BlueCallom Innovations Management Academy will offer four major programs:

Deep Innovation Design Champion – learning all about the methodology
Deep Innovation Design Specialist – applying the acquired knowledge in a project
Innovation Manager – learning to run a full-size innovation project
Innovation Executive – knowing what you can expect from your team

You will find all details here: https://bluecallom.com/imacad/

100 Million Innovation Managers

The Quest for more Innovation

In the last five to ten years, pretty much any business and any government was pushing for more innovation. But if somebody was asked “How do I innovate? Tell me to step by step”, there was no tangible answer. When I was asked that very question, in particular, the “step by step” part, it daunted me, that there was simply no answer that could satisfy this question. Tens of thousands of consultants help people to “open their mind”, other use the “design thinking” model to process ideas – actually very well. But the question remains: “How do you CREATE those innovative ideas on-demand” in the first place – so you can then process them in any of the models!

Innovation on Demand

Innovation was an accidental event – a combination of many instances, experiences, and the brain pushed out an idea. In some cases, those ideas have been big enough to warrant starting a whole new business. But today, we have a situation where we don’t want to have an accidental brain flash leading to a possible innovation. In times where we have a crisis, we actually would want to have solutions on demand.  But as long as we don’t even know how ideas are created, we are far away from creating ideas on demand.

Maybe the Biggest Shift in Innovation History

Neuroscientists helped me understand that human beings are not really creative – we can only COMPOSE ideas from past experiences, from whatever we saw, heard, felt, and so forth. All our daily experiences are actually get associated with existing experiences and create some interesting IDEAS of which we actually don’t really know. The biggest idea machine is our mind when we sleep. There is much to explain but the net of it is: We are not creative and we create ideas by the millions. So what is the problem?

Our historic evolution, our culture, our education, and our brain itself poses a problem: It is conditioned to allow only the most obvious and the least demanding ideas to pop up. Only one in a trillion or less is actually making it from our right brain to the left and stimulates communication between the two, which forms a “thought” that may break through all the other barriers. And once we understand that process, we have the foundation for creating innovation on demand, like we create a house or bridge or something as simple as a paper plane.

Deep Innovation Design – PoC

in 2016 we began our first careful attempts to help startups to come up with disruptive business models. What was thought to be a “one of a million” chance, turned out to be better than 50%. Half of the startups in that, for us historic batch, we’re creating a disruptive model – on demand. They created what we call a “Disruptive Moment”. Disruptive moments are the part of a business model that will push competitors to change their course in order to catch up with these startups. It was the first version of a Prove of Concept (PoC). In the past two years, we went deeper into the “mechanics of our mind”. We learned what we needed to actually DO to play with our billions of neurons and synapses to form those innovative ideas. After two years of work, we found an early concept that works well enough to come up with an innovative solution, whenever we want. It was in itself an innovative concept to create innovation. We called it the “deep innovation design method”.

Four ‘T”s, one “M” of Deep Innovation Design

1) TALENT
We need people who have a “talent” for creating innovation. Very much like others are talented to play music, paint pictures, drive race cars, cook amazing meals, create fashion, help others or simply entertain people. Talent is the ability to play with ideas, seek experiences, are least pre-conditioned, reject conformity, create their own rules. We have millions with that trait. Almost any toddler has that talent until we press them into a societal system that unknowingly suppresses that talent, but it is still there – hidden. Do you remember: “Don’t be so childish”, “you are a dreamer, be more realistic”, “Focus, learn your lesson, you need to repeat it tomorrow in class.”

2) TEAM
Like a music band, or a football team, innovation is a team sport – if you do it alone you end up waiting for accidental ideas. And one of the most important players in the “Innovation Play”, are the affected people: Customers, users, victims. If you start the game without them you are doomed to lose. And if your actors (innovators) are all of the same trade, you will lose as well. Diversity is the magic formula. Understanding that part makes it also very obvious why enterprises CANNOT be innovative. They try to surprise the customer with their ideas instead of co-creating an experience. And their ideas come from a monoculture called R&D centers, engineering teams, or other experts. And finally, the decision-maker, who may not be able to ‘experience’ the idea in their mind will need to reject the idea. It almost couldn’t be worse. We learned that ‘innovation’ is one of the most counterintuitive activities humankind is conducting – yet mother nature is pushing it out wherever she can.

3) TRAINING
Our brain is an old machine with lots of upgrades. More upgrades than any other organ in our human apparatus. It is also the most adaptive body part. To overcome some of the 300,000-year-old habits and some even go back 5 million years, we need to train our brains. I often wonder how long our children would crawl if we never help them to walk. We need to train our bran in opening a treasure chest that is heavily guarded by about 200 million nerve strands or Axons, our so-called Corpus Callosum.
With good talents, a great team, and well-defined techniques we actually can. And that is the beginning of “Innovation on demand”.

4) TOOLS
You know the saying: “I think my head explodes”- right? And that is always when you reach your capacity limits of learning or thinking, or comprehending – or – innovating. In an interesting way, it’s all the same. For the last 12,000 years, we experience this more and more often and we have built more and more tools and ever bigger teams to deal with exactly that problem. We have yardsticks to measure distances much easier than computing them in our brain. We build cranes big enough to lift the weight we need to lift without architecting it over and over again. And today we developed tools, methods, and finally technology that shall help us to go through this rather demanding process called innovation. And guess what – it is no different from what athletes perform in their contests, musicians on stage, race drivers on the street or on the water, and so forth. Both athletes and innovators, can easily loos one or two Kilo of body weight, during such processes. When I processed complex ideas or learned entirely new things rather fast, I fall asleep, equally exhausted than after a 20 km run (12.4 miles). Our brain can consume massive energy! That energy consumption is of extreme importance to know when we try to get groundbreaking ideas out of it.

5) MARKET
Here is when the rubber meets the road. There are an estimated 100 Million patents in drawers that have been never used. It shows that the initial value of innovation, even patented is exactly ZERO. The value is only and exclusively created when an idea gets executed, brought to life, and into the market. The value then grows with the size of its distribution. We can be as innovative as we want – if we cannot make it available to a market or the market is not interesting, the value remains to be zero. In the end, sales channels, creative marketing, service and support organizations, transport (and if it is the Internet) are key to the success of any innovation. This success is seen best when we look through the macroeconomic lens: A company creates a product. It is sold through distribution and dealer channels, it is shipped across all oceans, it is serviced locally, maybe education organizations provide training, maybe consulting companies help apply the product. At the same time, new ideas pop up from companies that build add-ons to that product and create even a market extension. All of a sudden a company with 5,000 employees actually creates 50,000 indirect jobs. That innovation is clearly valuable. The worst of all versions is to create a valuable idea, get a patent and then not only not use it but prevent anybody else from creating it. It is a crime on society – stealing an advancement, just based on self-interests.

How to start from here

On April 23, the BlueCallom Group who worked on the Deep Innovation Design Model for four years is providing a free online seminar (webinar) and explaining how the Deep Innovation Design Model works, where you can get trained and how you can create innovation on demand. The World Innovations Forum is providing training programs and support in emerging countries and is able to provide stipends for talented innovators to learn how to be extremely innovative.