Archive for June, 2017

Having a personal innovation strategy in a time of change

June 27, 2017 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Strategy

Do you have a “personal innovation strategy?” Do you need one?

My friend Robert Tucker recently published a Forbes article on disruption, and why we generally associate it with companies rather than our own careers. He notes, “in a time of exponential change and dislocation, with job functions being automated and algorithms doing more of the work humans used to do, it’s more important than ever to develop a personal career road-map that keeps you on course, no matter what comes at you.”

I wholeheartedly agree that we all need to develop our own written plan to keep us on course through good times and bad, and to help us roll with the punches. Robert suggests six ways to get started on your personal innovation strategy. I’ve shared a snippet here, and encourage you to read the rest over at Forbes:

1. Take time to develop your strategy.

A Personal Innovation Strategy is a well-conceived and written set of goals, habits, and daily actions that alert you to threats, helps you seize opportunities, and insures your viability over time. Whether you’re an independent contractor (part of the “gig” economy), or a corporate employee, think of yourself as You, Inc. Since the likelihood is almost 100 percent that you’ll be independent at some point, think of yourself in this context already.

Action step: Take at least fifteen minutes daily to strategize and invest time in contemplating your future. Make it a point to learn something new every day about the changing fortunes in your profession or industry. Collect articles, ask questions, read books, do research, and take notes. Lifelong learning begins here.

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Google’s 9 Principles of Innovation

June 23, 2017 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Culture of Innovation

Google is one of the most innovative companies in the world, because it actively pursues a culture of innovation. Google for years has worked to ensure that innovative ideas are continually flowing in order to position the company for success well into the future. What is Google doing, and how can we learn from their innovative culture?

This article from Robert Brands over at Innovation Coach  is a few months old, but you may still glean some valuable insights:

From the Mind of Google: Google’s Nine Principles of Innovation

  1. Innovation comes from anywhere. At Google, this principle emphasizes that innovation is in nobody’s job title, but is everyone’s responsibility. Moreover, ideas can come from anyone in the organization, regardless if they are top-level executives, employees who work in roles or departments not typically associated with innovation, or employees on the “bottom” of the company’s totem pole. For example, at Google it was their Google Health product manager who suggested that the company optimize information on suicide prevention hotlines whenever a related search was conducted. As a result of this innovative suggestion, Google’s search information results will automatically give a suggestion of where to call for help (i.e., the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and its free, 24/7 phone hotline) when a user makes a Google search seemingly focused on suicide.[3]

A popular innovation myth is that innovation only happens within a company’s engineering and R&D departments. To the contrary, it is often the employees on the front lines who come up with the most innovative ideas. Professional expertise alone doesn’t lead to innovation and new product development; life experiences are just as valuable, if not more valuable to the innovation process. For example, AT&T’s exceptionally popular Drive Mode app (a mobile app that can be set-up to automatically send a customizable reply to incoming messages when the vehicle starts moving at 25 mph, in order to reduce a driver’s temptation to look away from the road at his or her incoming text messages) was the innovative brainchild of an AT&T call center employee who had been personally affected by the dangers of texting-while-driving.

2. Focus on the user. A long-standing Google principle is that the company encourages its employees to build products with the user, not profits, in mind. By doing this, Gopi Kallayil, Google’s Chief Evangelist for Brand Marketing, said “revenue issues take care of themselves.”[4]

3. Think 10x, not 10 percent. This Google principle is about striving to improve something by a tenfold difference rather than just improving it by 10 percent. In other words, making a revolutionary change rather than an evolutionary change. This innovation driver comes from Google cofounder Larry Page’s preference for radical innovation over incremental innovation.[5] At Google, this 10x principle is what drove revolutionary projects such as Project Loon, where Google used high-altitude balloons to bring Wi-Fi connections to remote areas.Keep in mind that whereas this lofty think 10x principle may be appropriate for mega-companies such as Google, it’s not necessarily appropriate for all companies. Revolutionary innovation is a great thing to strive for, but it’s not the only successful type of innovation. As discussed in a previously published blog on this site, innovation doesn’t always have to be about reinventing the wheel, it can also be about simply improving the wheel. Incremental innovation—small-scale improvements that make a product better or more marketable—can drive successful, profitable innovation at your company. Also, incremental innovation—as opposed to revolutionary innovation and massive step-change innovation—makes the idea of innovation considerably less daunting and more accessible to a wider range of people.Some examples of incremental innovation include Gillette’s razors, which began with just a single razor blade. As time passed, Gillette then incrementally innovated its razors by adding additional blades and different features that better met customer needs and improved the product. Another example of incremental innovation is Coca-Cola’s brand-line extensions such as Coke Zero and more recently, Coca-Cola Life.Most companies stick with focusing on incremental innovation because it requires less risk and less investment. Especially when there is a proven track record of a company’s new product development process working in the market, incremental innovation is the safe choice. However, keep in mind that many companies are potentially missing out on massive rewards because they refuse to innovate beyond incremental innovation.

4. Bet on technical insights. Every organization has its unique insights—and betting on these unique insights can lead to major innovation. It was Google—not the automotive industry—that came up with the idea of the self-driving car. Google was able to make this major innovation because they already had the unique insights and building blocks in place to engineer a self-driving car. Google was able to tie its various information assets (data gleaned from its existing Google Maps, Google Earth, and Street View cars programs) to create the all new product entity of the self-driving car.At your business, think about whether your business has any unique insights or information assets that can be used and combined to innovate something new.

 Read Google’s next five here.

The Next Wave of Innovation in the Chemicals Industry

June 20, 2017 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Innovators

New discoveries in materials science will undoubtedly lead to a new era of growth. You may be asking who is best positioned to benefit — incumbent companies or upstarts?

The answer may surprise you.  I found an interesting article I thought I’d pass along, highlighting several new developments that could help the chemicals industry lead a new age of materials innovation, according to Strategy + Business:

The world is potentially on the brink of an age of new powerful materials, ushered in by innovation in the chemicals industry. But to be central players in this story, today’s incumbent chemicals companies will need some vital prerequisites: restructuring of their product portfolios, successful exploitation of digital technologies, and rewriting business models to generate higher returns on their investment in innovation.

To understand the dilemma facing the chemicals industry today, you have to understand its past.

Read the rest here:

Running Future Cities on Blockchain

June 16, 2017 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Blockchain

D!gitalist Magazine is futurecasting about blockchain technology, a trend I have been blogging about more frequently in the past year.  If you can see into a crystal ball, would you imagine that every agency, building, office, residence, and piece of infrastructure has an entry on a blockchain used as a city’s digital ledger?  How will blockchain transform entire cities?

Here is an excerpt:

Some experts say these seemingly far-future speculations about the possibilities of combining technologies using blockchain are actually both inevitable and imminent:

  • Property owners could easily monetize assets by renting rooms, selling solar power back to the grid, and more.
  • Utilities could use customer data and AIs to make energy-saving recommendations, and smart contracts to automatically adjust power usage for greater efficiency.
  • Embedded sensors could sense problems (like a water main break) and alert an AI to send a technician with the right parts, tools, and training.
  • Autonomous vehicles could route themselves to open parking spaces or charging stations, and pay for services safely and automatically.
  • Cities could improve traffic monitoring and routing, saving commuters’ time and fuel while increasing productivity.

Every interaction would be transparent and verifiable, providing more data to analyze for future improvements.

Could this be the next industrial revolution?  It certainly is something we should be keeping an eye on, and looking to the future to see how we can implement and contribute to innovation in the years ahead.

For more info, click on Running Future Cities on Blockchain.

25 Reasons Why Brainstorming Sessions Fail in Your Company

June 12, 2017 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Innovation Fatigue

I love working with clients who value the creative process. I always learn a few new ways to brainstorm on bringing new, innovative ideas to the marketplace. But not everyone enjoys their company’s brainstorming sessions. I cover a lot of this in the book, Conquering Innovation Fatigue: Overcoming the Barriers to Personal and Corporate Success.

Over on the Heart of Innovation site, the authors offer 25 ways companies and participants often kill the creative process, and I thought I’d share. Do any of these sound familiar to you? Do you have any ideas on how you can turn things around to get the creative flow flowing again?

1. Lame facilitation
2. Wrong problem statement
3. Unmotivated participants
4. Hidden (or competing) agendas
5. Insufficient diversity of participants
6. Addiction to the status quo
7. Lack of clear ground rules
8. Sterile meeting space
9. No transition from “business as usual”
10. Lack of robust participation
11. The extroverts take over
12. Habitual idea killing
13. Attachment to pet ideas
14. Discomfort with ambiguity
15. Hyper-seriousness
16. Endless interruptions
17. People come late and leave early
18. Premature adoption of the first “right idea”
19. Group think
20. Hierarchy, turfs, and competing sub-groups
21. Imbalance of divergent and convergent thinking
22. No tools or techniques to spark creativity
23. Inadequate idea capture methods
24. Premature evaluation
25. No real closure or next step


Celebrating innovation in your own backyard

June 8, 2017 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Innovation Sites

Have you ever stopped to think your next breakthrough product may be right under your nose? Or that ‘local’ could go very global with the right development support and customer-needs tailoring?

A few days ago I was engaged in a lively discussion with my LinkedIn contacts on the story I posted, Top 10 U.S. Cities for Corporate Innovation. Many were wondering why their cities were left out, and others rightly pointed out (as I did in my article), that innovation happens in both large and small cities; and on campuses from large universities to small technical colleges.  So I thought I’d revisit some of the interesting innovation stories I’ve covered in my own backyard from the heartland of Wisconsin. I hope you are inspired to do the same in your home state. Please share those with me in the comments section below!

I am invited to speak at many conferences across my state, including the Northeast Wisconsin Global Trade Conference in Green Bay. S.C. Johnson’s “Delivering Game-Changing Innovation” event in Racine,

I also gather frequently with leaders from many of our global corporations. Recently in Madison I met with innovation leaders from Motorola, Kimberly-Clark, Rockwell Collins Avionics, Viasys NeuroCare, Cardinal Health, Bou-matic and Applied Marketing Concepts at the PDMA (Product Development & Management Association’s Wisconsin Chapter) event. I also enjoy meeting with entrepreneurs at our annual Wisconsin Entrepreneurs’ Conference in Milwaukee.

Closer to my own town of Appleton, Wisconsin, our entire team cheers when innovation is showcased. We have an outstanding example of that in our local Fab Lab housed on the Fox Valley Technical College (FVTC) campus in Appleton. It was established in the summer of 2007 and the Fab Lab at FVTC  and became the 17th in the world!

I don’t know about your town, but here in my community we have a surprisingly rich history of invention and innovation. Granted, this region is one of the most patent-rich parts of the Midwest largely due to the intense patenting activities of consumer products companies like Kimberly-Clark Corp. (which usually gets more patents each year than MIT!) and Georgia-Pacific.

Still, I imagine that there are many inventive and innovative people working everywhere, but possibly not being recognized. Here are just a few of the innovations that have come from my small region (population under 200,000 people) in the past decade. The important thing to keep in mind is not just how these were patented, but how they were commercialized. Perhaps it will spark some ideas for you, too.

1. Carbonless paper and a host of innovations related to microcapsules applied to paper. Appleton Paper helped lead the way, developing the coating processes that allowed microcapsules to be applied to paper at high speed without crushing them. Recently Procter & Gamble licensed
Appleton’s encapsulation technology to apply long-lasting fragrance in microcapsules to laundry via Downy laundry sheets. Numerous innovative applications remain to be developed.

2. Cellucotton or creped tissue paper: the absorbent paper wadding material used as a wound dressing and then as the basis for Kotex feminine care products, invented by Ernst Mahler of Kimberly-Clark Corporation. This also led to Kleenex facial tissue and numerous related innovations, including anti-viral tissue, many innovations in processing and packaging, and eventually soft uncreped tissue (with about 50 patents protecting this significant advance in technology, the basis now for several leading products)

3. High performance disposable diapers were invented in the Fox Valley. Key innovations include the use of superabsorbent polymers to increase absorbency and a variety of structures for reducing leakage and improving comfort.

4. The world’s first test-tube tree, a triploid quaking aspen, cloned by Dr. Lawson Winton in April of 1969 at the Institute of Paper Chemistry. Genetic engineering of trees is now the basis for some of the world’s largest suppliers of renewable fiber, such as Fibria of Brazil.

5. “Packaging Container for Microwave Popcorn Popping,” by Tim Bohrer, Tom Pawlowski and Richard Brown of Fort James Corp., now Georgia-Pacific. This patent series led to development of the first microwaveable popcorn package which ensured more kernels would pop and that the package would expand to accommodate the popped corn. The invention was a huge success selling over a billion units per year in North America. The chemical deactivation technology also led to patented processes for products used by Kraft, Heinz, Ore-Ida, ConAgra, and others.

6. LiveYearbook. This is a startup company that is inventing new ways to provide long-lasting, dynamic yearbooks at low cost for schools and organizations. They were the first IT company and first Northeastern WI company to win the Governor¹s Business Prize Award (2010). The programming for this concept is being done here in the Fox Valley.

7. The famous enMotion® paper towel dispenser, the one that automatically delivers towel by waving your hands in front of it, was developed in Neenah by a Georgia-Pacific team.

8. A variety of papermaking advances have their origins in the valley, including Georgia Pacific’s foam-based tissue forming technology that was commercialized in France and novel fabrics for papermaking from Kimberly-Clark, Appleton Wire (now Albany International), and Asten Johnson.

9. Some of the most valuable advances in nonwoven textiles and fabrics came from Fox Valley inventors working for Kimberly-Clark Corp. This includes the foundation for many of the laminated fabrics that are used in medical gowns and other health care products, the soft webs used in diapers and many other products, stretchable nonwovens, and polymer-paper fiber composites.

So take a look both inside your company and your community, perhaps sponsor a talent search or innovation challenge. You never know — mining for innovation talent might unearth the next big thing! At the very least you will be giving your local economy a boost by creating opportunities.


Why San Fran leads the U.S. in corporate innovation

June 6, 2017 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Innovation

Yesterday I featured the Top Ten U.S. Cities for Corporate Innovation from Innovation Leader magazine, and I thought today you’d like to see the reason they selected San Francisco as the No. 1 corporate leader in innovation.

Here’s what Innovation Leader had to say:

Well before chip companies like Fairchild Semiconductor helped the peninsula between San Jose and San Francisco attain fame as Silicon Valley, companies like Wells Fargo (the PayPal of its day) and Levi Strauss & Co. (which made the first pair of blue jeans in 1873) were innovating here.

The original accelerator program, Y Combinator, holds regular “demo days” featuring startups that are developing electric airplanes and dermatology apps. Walmart Labs employs about 2,500 people to build software for the retailer’s digital channels, and a new incubator, Store No 8, will bring in entrepreneurs under the supervision of founder Marc Lore, whose company was acquired by Walmart last year. Target’s Open House Store in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood features an array of new connected devices, from Adidas’ smart soccer ball to electric skateboards to coffeemakers. Not far off is a Verizon Innovation Center, focused on smart city technologies, and Visa’s One Market Center, where the company prototypes the future of payment with the help of its customers.

Tesla’s highly-automated factory in Fremont, Calif. relies on more than 150 robots, including some of the largest in the world.

Jim McCarthy, Visa’s Executive Vice President of Innovations, says that Visa’s management team moved into the facility in part so they can get a window on customer challenges. “In the nearly three years since One Market Center opened its doors,” he says, “we have honed our process for how we collaborate with our clients — tackling real-world challenges with real solutions built together.”

San Francisco stalwart Wells Fargo announced a major artificial intelligence initiative in February, and in March at the South by Southwest Interactive Festival, Levi’s unveiled a collaboration with Google: a denim jacket for commuters with navigation and phone controls built in.

In Menlo Park, the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz brings in executives from big companies, often CTOs and CIOs, for new technology briefings from startups in the Andreessen Horowitz portfolio. Incubators like Plug and Play Tech Center and Rocketspace offer opportunities for corporates to rub shoulders with the entrepreneurs who rent space there.

Tesla is in the midst of doubling the footprint of its massive and highly-automated factory in Fremont, across San Francisco Bay, in part to support production of its lower-priced Model 3 sedan.

Other carmakers, including Ford, General Motors, Volkswagen, and Mercedes-Benz have their own R&D facilities peppered around the area.

In the world of entertainment, San Francisco can lay claim to Netflix, Lucasfilm (now part of Disney), Pixar, YouTube, and Dolby Laboratories, which constantly rolls out new technologies to cinemas and home theaters. Life sciences companies like Celgene, Bayer, Illumina, and FibroGen have flocked to the city’s Mission Bay neighborhood to be close to the University of California at San Francisco—so much so that a 2016 headline blared “Biotech Hotspot is Running Out of Room.”

Down in Palo Alto, Stanford University’s StartX accelerator helps students and alumni build companies, and the affiliated Stanford-StartX Fund has, as of 2017, invested in roughly 225 ventures. At Berkeley, open innovation guru Henry Chesbrough teaches, writes, and helps oversee the Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation.

Let’s not forget the companies founded by Steve and Steve (Apple), David and Bill (Hewlett-Packard), Zuck (Facebook), Gordon and Robert (Intel), Larry & Sergey (Google), Travis (Uber), and Ev and Jack (Twitter.) Or big conclaves like TechCrunch Disrupt, Dreamforce, Lean Startup Week, and Oracle OpenWorld. As a result, the Bay Area easily walks off with the top spot on our list.

Read the rest here.

Top Ten U.S. Cities for Corporate Innovation

June 5, 2017 Cheryl Perkins No Comments » Innovation

Graphic from Innovation Leader magazine

I am always amazed at the incredible amount of creative energy you can find in smaller towns across the United States. Many people think that you need to be in the hub of a big city or university center in order to see corporate innovation at work.  That being said, Innovation Leader Magazine has just put out its Top 10 List for cities with the most innovative corporate workforces.

Most of these won’t surprise you (see the image on the right), but you can get a full explanation in the article, which I found interesting!

Here are the five factors they used to build the list:

  1. Global 1000 companies with R&D labs or innovation centers, and their R&D investment levels
  2. Trend-setting tech companies with large partner ecosystems (e.g. Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Salesforce)
  3. Startup density, including accelerator programs, incubators, and co-working spaces
  4. The presence of top-tier research universities
  5. Conferences, trade shows, and networking events that foster interactions among corporate executives, entrepreneurs, and academic researchers.

Check out the list here.