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Most innovation centers failed to genuinely innovate – Now let’s fix it

What worked for startups can now also work for enterprises. While the innovation process, purpose, and reasoning should be the same, the leadership structure is very different. Over the past four years, we learned so much about the difference between innovation in corporations and in startups that today realize: Enterprises had no realistic chance to be innovative – even when acquiring a startup. That difference requires an understanding of how innovative ideas are created, getting your c-level involved in crafting an innovation mandate, and redefining your innovation process to focus on your customer’s true needs and dreams. It’s time to rethink the act of innovation and pursue genuine groundbreaking innovation. 

How ideas get created

Neuroscience had the single biggest impact on our modern understanding of innovation. One key aspect is the realization that ideas don’t come randomly and there are no “magic ideas out of the blue”. The brain composes ideas from past experiences and those compositions represent the power and the limit of our creativity. We cannot have ideas about situations that we have never experienced. Every successful innovation started by observing and understanding an existing problem. If there is no problem to solve, there is no success to be gained. When we know how innovation is created, we can request certain results, we can request insights, and measure and manage the effort. Most importantly executives, now know what they can expect or request from an innovation effort. This understanding drives an entirely different ideation process and calls for a very different innovation process in general: it requires CEO and customers involvement.

Innovation is a CEO mandate

Genuine Innovation is a long-term engagement. It usually takes less than six months to create an innovative solution, but on average 5 to 10 years to be recognized as an innovation in the market. Innovation is the duality of brilliant ideation and relentless execution. Even the fastest startups took 7 to 10 years to become market leaders. Moreover, most of today’s innovations of significance consumed more than a billion dollars to become successful. Capital requirements of that size cannot be decided by an innovation department. With today’s knowledge of how innovative ideas can be stimulated and how those ideas could be brought to market, repeatability, the act of innovation is changing profoundly – even for startups. With that, another key consideration needs to be made: An innovation team that comes up with a new idea must also bring it successfully to market. The existing sales, marketing, production, and logistics departments do not offer any leverage – it’s the opposite; they cannot bring a highly innovative solution to market and sell conventional products to conventional buyers. It’s about Time, Capital, and Structure decisions that CEOs together with their boards can only make.

For more information and additional insights download the “Innovation is a CEO mandate” Whitepaper.

It’s all about the customer

By working with thousands of startups, we learned that innovation success stemmed from a deep understanding of the customer’s problems. This knowledge, combined with our understanding of how innovative ideas are composed, made us realize there was a need for completely rethinking innovation. While corporate innovation labs either spend lots of time finding ideas, experimenting or randomly ideating, the top unicorns developed brilliant ideas based on their research and moved on to relentless execution. Corporate innovation labs try to solve problems they believe exist. They follow the model of “wouldn’t it be cool if we could…” and they love to play all kinds of “thinking games”. They heard about “fail and fail fast”, “pivoting” and “experimenting” without ever questioning if that is actually delivering results.  They copy the 90% of startups that fail without even knowing. 

Successful entrepreneurs look intensely into what their designated audience is doing, what they like and dislike, what they think, and how they see their future. They may not build what their customers asked for, but develop and deliver a solution that is in their dreams. 

Stop looking at what others do

find out what your customers are dreaming about.

Solve the problems they have that others could not solve yet.

 

You can catch up with the market to survive by following what others do. But the financial market will recognize it accordingly. A follower won’t beat the innovator. Rethink the act of innovation – define the innovation culture at the top, listen to your customers and stop being a follower.

Authored by: Alyssa Wengi

 

The Innovation Master Plan, a blueprint for innovation success. 

After building four innovative businesses, two growing into the billion Dollar revenue range and later helping several hundred startups to become innovative; we decided to create this Innovation Master Plan as a blueprint for innovation success.

The foundation of this Innovation Master Plan is the Deep Innovation Design method. The method is highly influenced by neuroscience, how our brain composes ideas. Creativity and innovation are done laterally in our brains. Lateral thinking and lateral processes are becoming of strategic importance in empowering teams to create the disruptive concepts, businesses need to stay competitive.

The full details and additional insights can be downloaded as a Whitepaper.

(1) Pillars of Innovation

When having a chance to learn from neuroscience how ideas get created in our brain and extrapolate the impact of that learning, we also see several aspects of innovation like purpose to innovate, the time and finance to innovate as well as the overall outcome in a very different light. Also, the entire innovation process can be seen in a very different light and the necessity for a stringent process is rising. The least used but biggest power of our brain is lateral thinking. When putting the key learnings together, the pillars of innovation become an important part of innovative thinking.

(2) Preparation for Innovation

When preparing for innovation there are several key components to take into consideration, starting with an Innovation Readiness Check. By completing a simple checklist you can determine if your top executives are on board, understand your current access to customers, and grasp your readiness to create groundbreaking innovations.

Leadership buy-in is key to your success. Genuine Innovation is a long-term engagement. It usually takes less than six months to create an innovative solution, but on average 5 to 10 years to be recognized as an innovation in the market. Innovation is a CEO mandate. Without a dedicated innovation strategy that comes from the very top of an organization, no innovation is realistically possible.

Next, craft an innovation mandate and an innovation strategy. An Innovation Mandate is similar to a declaration, mission statement, or manifesto. It is therefore not just the wish to be more innovative but building an entirely new operation within the company that may be able to compete and disrupt an existing business for the benefit of the market and the benefit of staying highly competitive. Once the executive team agrees on becoming an innovative business an innovation strategy needs to be crafted. Such a strategy is not focused on a certain innovation target, product, audience, or technology but the strategic position of the company, the fact that innovation is not a single event but a continuum, and what value the company sees in innovating.

Finally, assemble an innovation dream team and establish an innovation culture. Every business starts with a team. Our research and our own experience have shown that a highly diverse team will always beat a team of specialists. Make very clear what the goal and objectives are. The team must know the magnitude of that venture and make sure there are unique rewards for the team. Intelligent people argue with logic and facts, not ego and self-interest. The smartest people don’t work for money but for self-fulfillment. Have a base innovation culture statement ready before you attract talents. Then shape it together with the team you hire.

Innovation is the duality of brilliant ideation and relentless execution.

(3) Innovation Life Cycle

An innovation effort is a long-term engagement that deserves thorough planning. None of the highly innovative disruptors has hit the billion-dollar mark within just a year or two. The complete innovation life cycle is best described with an innovation journey map. That map shows the very origin or starting point of an innovation effort and all the major episodes of the innovation life cycle, all the way to global market acceptance. Even the greatest idea ever is no innovation unless it is recognized as such in the designated market. Like every journey, innovation has a destination. However, in our case, the destination is “Innovation Continuum”.

To help navigate the journey, BlueCallom created a methodical approach that starts at a point where a team may have no idea where to start, includes getting market feedback, from that point creates an innovative concept. From there the concept gets verified in the market and with positive feedback, it is much easier to finance. Then we are building prototypes that we call MVPs (Minimum viable Products) and bring those to market. After the market introduction, we spend a lot of effort in scaling the innovative business and go global. We purposefully do not go step-by-step through that journey but work in episodes and may jump back to an episode as needed. It’s part of the lateral thinking process. This is why the Innovation Journey map is not a linear path from one activity to the next but allows the freedom to go back and forth.

Putting the Innovation Master Plan to work

To implement a successful innovation master plan be PREPARED:

  1. Complete an Innovation Readiness Assessment
  2. Get the buy-in from the CEO
  3. Develop an innovation strategy
  4. Assemble your Innovation Dream

Finally, EXECUTE the entire Innovation Life Cycle. Start with the Innovation Opportunity Discovery all the way to bringing the innovation to market. There are many good reasons why the conventional sales and marketing teams cannot successfully bring disruptive innovation to market while working on the conventional and main solution offering.

Time is money – literally, execute relentlessly and focus on a 1% growth rate per day, creating exponential growth.

To download the complete whitepaper, please visit here.

 

Neuro Innovation – How ideas get created

Neuroscience had the single biggest impact on our modern understanding of innovation, in particular Neuro Innovation. One key aspect is the realization that ideas don’t come randomly and there are no “magic ideas out of the blue”. The brain composes ideas from past experiences and those compositions represent the power and the limit of our creativity.

Linear vs. Lateral

Your innovative brain thinks lateral. Your logical brain thinks in linear processes. That’s why almost all business tools are built in a linear manner – step by step.  But in recent years one business process has sneaked into our business life: INNOVATION. Yet, this creative process is still handled in a linear way: step by step. For instance “Empathize”, “Design”, “Ideation”, “Prototyping”, and “Testing”.  To make it more flexible, iteration is part of the process but that is still between modules and still not lateral.

Every idea ever created

Knowing how the brain is actually composing, processing, and fine-tuning ideas, has a profound impact on any type of innovation management process. Today, we know that every idea ever created, was a composition of past experiences. Our brain cells or neuron cells can not create any new idea from scratch. We also know that brainstorming has never created a single disruptive business model. We know that disruptive innovation takes on average 6 weeks to create. It will not happen on any hackathon weekend.

Deeper insights are provided during the education programs of the BlueCallom Innovation Management Academy.

Let us now explore the 10 things that change with Neuro Innovation.

1) Lateral Thinking

The good news is that we do not need to train anybody with lateral thinking. It is an integral part of our brain’s superpower. All we need to do is creating awareness of what exactly lateral thinking is and how it behaves. Simply speaking, instead of looking at things in a linear process (step by step | learn and repeat), we look at things in parallel and don’t repeat or iterate until it works. When you drive a car you steer the car, look at the street, once in a while in the rear mirror, on the speedometer, hear music, keep an eye on the remaining fuel, look at the scenery – all at the same time. Your conscious, sub-conscious, and motoric minds, work all in parallel. When you watch movies, you follow the story, wonder if certain things are possible, manage emotions, listen to theatrical music, and more.  When you THINK – any thought – you do that in parallel. When you “create”, meaning build and craft anything your brain works many tasks in parallel. Lateral thinking is a very fast back and forth of thoughts, verifications, and more.

Innovation is taking lateral thinking to perfection.

Attempts to make innovation, in particular ideation, a linear process is a perfect way to kill the outcome. The major episodes in the innovation process are linear and one builds on top of the other, but within the episodes, lateral thinking is the way to go. And one group of humans does it pretty well: startup-teams.
Creating a lateral thinking environment.

2) What should we innovate?

Instead of watching competitors – a far more effective way to innovate is to watch customers. The first question an innovation team should have an answer for is where and for whom they innovate. We know that disrupters could come from anywhere and can change the way an industry segment does business in just a very short period of time. But there is absolutely no magic involved. They simply found out what the respective audience has trouble with – whether they can articulate it or not. So why not do the same for your business? Moreover, you sit right in this market. The best way to find out is to conduct very specific research in your market. No questionnaire and no interview with countless questions. Just a well-guided casual conversation.
Creating leaders not followers

3) Innovation instead of improvement

instead of settling with improvements – focus exclusively on disruptive innovation. In our research, we discovered that the only difference between searching for a disruptive innovation versus settling with an improvement is the time and the way we interact with our brains. So there is no reason to accept an improvement if you can get to disruptive innovation. The first step is to get rid of brainstorming. While brainstorming was a great first step in leveraging the brain in the ideation process, it produced only very obvious ideas. And instead of hoping for a great idea that may strike you like a lightning bolt – our brain is able to get to amazingly disruptive ideas over a sequence of sessions that stimulates new and different searches. The final composition with a highly diverse team can be reached in 4 to 8 weeks of very specific exploration tasks.
Getting truly creative literally and laterally ;) 

4) Leveraging thousands of ideas

Instead of selecting one or only a few ideas from brainstorming – Neuro ideation produces thousands of ideas and idea pieces during a project. You will want to use them all – and you should. A complete disruptive innovation concept has never been just a single idea. Aggregating thousands of inputs including idea pieces, opinion, customer feedback, and research data can no longer be managed with colorful stickers and whiteboards.  You will need computer power to capture all the data, rate and rank them, sort and store them, and finally, analyze them. Looks like work but billion-dollar businesses do not come for free.
Creating full concepts not only ideas

5) In-market idea validation 

Instead of random experimentation in a lab – validate the “idea-success-fit” in your market. There is no better validation than exploration sessions with future clients. The added value of having your audience not only help validate the idea but also help shape it to the real-world application is priceless. To this point, there was not wasted a single penny in prototyping, experimentation, or testing. And please do not fear that somebody can steal your idea. Only weak and obvious ideas can be stolen. Little improvements can easily be stolen, so keep them for yourself – but please do not call them innovation.
Not wasting time, nor money

6) Innovation comes with team diversity

Instead of working only with experts – assemble a highly diverse innovation dream team. Having more of the same experience is of no value in innovation. But having a greatly diverse team brings far better results than the best expert team in the world. Experience diversity is the new order in innovation. On top of all, involve your customers and business partners in the process.
Producing the best possible outcome

7) Market born products

Instead of building prototypes and testing them in labs, use a unique “market born” product design method.  A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that shows only one feature is more important than a shiny but mediocre improvement. There is no lab that can compete with real user experiences. A lateral collaboration model with your customers and early adopters is bringing you more insights faster than any internal team ever can.
And still – no funding needed so far

8) Innovation financing

Current estimates show that 90% of innovation projects won’t make it to get funding. And the more innovative and disruptive a concept is, the less likely the approval to go forward. This, theoretically insane behavior, stems from the way disruptive ideas get perceived. In particular, finance people are conservative thinkers. Therefore, at last, one finance person should be part of the innovation team. Collaboration with the finance department on a bi-weekly cycle is highly suggested. Also here, neuroscience is an important guide on how to involve the executive bench in innovation projects to prime their thinking with what you are doing. Keep in mind that the next billion-dollar product line will need maybe a 100 million and more investment over time. To get such a financial commitment, the innovation management system must provide an extraordinary set of data to be able to defend an innovative concept. The fifty most innovative businesses from the past 20 years consumed more than $500 Million in funding before they became profitable. And investors worked with the management team on a weekly or monthly basis.
CFOs need relevant financial data – and learn to be an investor

9) Innovation to market

Instead of conventional market introduction, leverage neuroscience to select perfectly matching early adopters for creating a successful path into global markets. Innovative products will NEVER be purchased by 75% of your customer before the first 5% of early adopters got very excited. Most industry segments fail to innovate even with extraordinary solutions because they never had to do this in the past 20+ years. When IBM decided to go with an innovative computer into the market, they created a completely autonomous company: the “red IBM” but still did not manage to really scale it.
What every startup does due to the lack of a customer base

10) Executive level reporting

Executives need to understand every process in an enterprise – no matter what. And the way this is done today is simply through data. The Deep Innovation Design process, when run with the corresponding software provides on average 25,000+ data points to analyze and feed an entire KPI framework. When moving from LINEAR to LATERAL thinking and corresponding methods, we gain an incomparable amount of data. The data ranges from real-time budget consumption along the way, various timelines such as Time-to-Innovate TTI, Time-to-Validation TTV, Time-to-Market TTM, and ROI data that may be even dynamic based on the progress. The data also deliver qualitative data such as Ideation-Network data measuring the degrees of ideation connections and ideation stacks as well as quantitative data like idea contribution volume, contributor network size, or idea validation levels and volume, and more.
Neuro innovation and lateral thinking are the two keys to profoundly different innovation data.

10 things that change with Neuro Innovation

All in all, some of the topics in Neuro Innovation have not even been part of the conventional innovation processes, so that means no change, only additional learning. In other words, we don’t touch existing neuro pathways but help build new ones. Summarizing the new ones:

  • What should we innovate?
  • Innovation Financing
  • Innovation-to-market

Neuro Innovation is a key factor in ideation, idea validation, innovation financing, and innovation-to-market processes.

Deep Innovation Design Training

All the above is part of a new, one-week training: Deep Innovation Design Champion starting Feb 22
See the full program here:

https://bluecallom.com/bcdm-training/

Innovation is no serendipity – Earth is no disk. :)

 

The end of an exceptional project, and the beginning of a new journey, BlueCallom.

In 2015 we asked ourselves: “how can we help startups in our accelerator to create a disruptive business model?” The initial response was – impossible. Impossible was all my life a ‘wake word’ triggering my mind like no other word. With first successes and countless questions about how we came up with all our innovative ideas, in 2016 we began to seek answers that go beyond ‘thinking big’ and ‘out of the box’. Our quest, finding out how innovative and disruptive ideas are created in our minds, has been overwhelmingly successful. The beginning of a new journey, BlueCallom. The project “BlueCallom” took unexpected turns and eventually an unexpected finish for all of us. Not only did we find amazing insights and made surprising discoveries, our work even resulted in an all-new business opportunity. BlueCallom became a methodology and eventually a software solution (SaaS). We even consider renaming the company Society3 into BlueCallom. The origin of the name BlueCallom has been shared already in the previous post. I want to thank a few exceptional people who have been part of this journey in different capacities: Dr. Matthes Fleck (Prof. for entrepreneurship at the University for Arts and Science, Lucerne, Switzerland, Marita Schultze co-founder of Society3, George Parish VP Sales Society3 Silicon Valley, Huong BK Holdings, Vietnam, Tobias Gunzenhauser, Yamo, Switzerland, Sandipan, Sonect Switzerland, two global enterprises that I hope to be able to name any soon, and many others who encouraged and supported us on this journey.

A new beginning

After we have transferred all our startup support activities into our foundation “World Innovations Forum“, the Society3 Website became actually dormant and was used to report about our quest. This quest was so amazing and the findings so overwhelming that we gave the site a new name: BlueCallom. Now we are proceeding with the company by sharing what we learned and providing tools (software) to easily apply the learning. Society3 is on its way to re-launch and morphs into BlueCallom, the digital augmentation of our two brain halves with a digital brain extension.

An almost infinite journey

Please join us in this new way of understanding how our mind is composing ideas in general and innovation in particular. It may help us to not only better understand how to innovate. It may help us understand how we can leverage the single most powerful tool, homo sapiens has been given by nature, that will continue to set us far above any machine: Our ability to compose billions of experiences to more new ideas than stars in our universe. 

How do you think innovatively? 

After 4 years of research, we found the answer to one of the most often asked questions: “How did you guys come up with all your innovative ideas?” One in particular, “How do you think innovatively? Tell me, step by step”. Four years ago we did not have any clear answer. Our answers were pretty much what all innovative minds would say, “Think big, think outside the box, think different, think bold….” but all these commands don’t even scratch the surface. They don’t say anything about how to think innovatively. And the only thing we found out: there are no tangible answers.

Nobody could Answer that Question

We took all our previous business ideas upside down, looking for clues. We found a few and when talking to other innovative founders we found some similarities but still no tangible answer to “how we think”. A year into it we found ways to create disruptive business models we were even beginning to teach it to startups with a surprisingly high success rate of about 50%. We realized that by looking at the behavior of the brain outcome we needed to truly understand how the brain is actually getting so amazingly creative and whether this apparently random process has at least some pattern.

Key to Extreme Creativity – There is no Creativity at all

Our first encounter with neuroscience was more depressing than anything else. Tons of arguments and discussions about brain damage, brain illnesses, and so forth. Almost giving up on that path we found Dr. David Eagleman, a neuroscientist from Stanford University talking about neural pathways, and how they connect and possible disconnect. For the next three years, we learned how the brain is not creating anything but composing new ideas based on previous experiences and previous experiences only. It became clear that homo sapiens is no creative and cannot “create” a single new idea. BUT – and that was the ultimate key to innovative thinking: All humans can compose new ideas by compiling them from past experiences. Hence our initial slogan: “Stop thinking outside the box – your innovative ideas are already inside”. Far more to learn than it would fit inside this blogpost.

Corpus Callosum (Callum)

One of the things we learned is how the Corpus Callosum operates in our brain. It sits deep below the two brain halves and connects both sides with approximately 200 Million nerve fibers (Axons). In this process, it also filters far-reaching “events” if it cannot see a meaning. While this is an important, energy-saving mechanism and in the past 300,000 years even a life saving protection, it may be an obstacle when coming to extraordinary and unique idea formation. Our 3-pound brain, by the way, is the most energy-consuming organ in our body. And if we stress it too much we notice: “Oh I’m brain dead now – or – oh my brain explodes….” In those moments we realize, it is giving up on us and wants to reduce energy consumption. But if we use it carefully and try not to overload it all at once, it provides an amazing service. It delivers groundbreaking ideas – Innovation – on the silver plate. Obviously, our understanding of the Callum is in a very early stage – but it helped us to get to a fundamentally different approach when it comes to innovation. AND – it gave our new solution its name: BlueCallom.

Our First Accelerator Program

When we launched our first Accelerator Program, in San Francisco in April 2014, little did we know that we may end up as an innovation development organization? While we had great successes helping our startups thrive, and were named one of the top 100 most influential accelerators in the world, already one year later, in 2015, we noticed that our unique and methodical approach gave us an enormous advantage over all our competitors.  Unlike most conventional accelerators, our program was scaleable. Even though “methodical approach” didn’t sound right in a fast-evolving startup ecosystem – it is one of those counterintuitive things about disruption in general, which made the real difference. Our accelerator was in a similar way disruptive like all the four businesses we created before. After discussions with other accelerators about teaching disruption, it seemed to be equally odd. How can somebody teach disruption when each disruption is taking an entire industry onto a radically different course and nobody has seen anything like that before?

In 2016 we began to work on our first accelerator flight to create disruptive business models. We looked for the key characteristic of disruption, how can one become disruptive and how can somebody come to a disruptive business model idea. In our 2016 accelerator, we managed to get 5 out of 8 participating companies to create a disruptive business model. This was a totally unexpected success for us and our teams. When we started this program we were hoping to get 1 out of 8 to come out with a disruptive business model.

How is innovation really created?

Approximately 2 years of research and continuous observation of our own thought processes got us ever closer to understand certain mechanisms how our brain gets to ideas and how ideas are actually formed in our brain. In 2019, we began to realize that methodically guided thought processes show far better results than the random ideation and brainstorming processes. It felt a bit like the difference between randomly hitting piano keys and hitting them in a structured order. And we also realized the analogy was deeply grounded in the very mechanism of innovation. Musicians, actually do not call their process a creation but composition. And we learned that also innovation is no real creation but a composition.

However, when hitting keys, we see our hand, get haptic feedback and kind of know how we move our hands around. But we don’t really know – yet – how we trigger our roughly 86 billion neurons and trillions of synapsis. We learned that those neurons are not statically connected to each other but can dynamically “rewire” themselves. That means our 1,000 Trillions of network nodes are a masterpiece of information aggregation and dynamic association. In a nutshell: Ideas get formed based on dynamic connections of our neurons, which in turn carries information that we accumulated one way or the other from the moment we have been created as an embryo.

To build an analogy to a computer, we don’t need to know the billions of transistors in a CPU and all the connected chips and devices – all we need to know is a programing language to develop code that know where to go. Very similarly we need to know a language or method that triggers the brain’s trillions of synapse through their neural networks. With that understanding we started to model ways to create innovative and disruptive concepts with an astounding high success rate. Getting a glimpse of an understanding how the brain works was an interesting step in understanding innovation creation.

All this is just the very beginning of an amazing journey to come.