Igniting Innovation: Tips, Sparks and Ideas for Acting on Innovation

Maggie Nichols

Maggie Nichols
Maggie is President & COO of Eureka! Ranch not only leading the team at the Ranch and the Innovation Engineering Institute, but coaching and helping C-Level executives across the world guide their employees and teams through innovation.
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Recent Posts

Innovation & Employee Engagement: Lessons from a Chief Innovator

Posted by Maggie Nichols on Nov 2, 2016 8:00:00 AM

 I was recently interviewed by my friend, Justin Zawaly, COO  of TalMetrix about innovation & employee engagement...as Justin states, "One of the outcomes of an engaged culture is innovation. Innovation doesn’t just happen, or at least it cannot be sustained, unless both the employer and employee are thriving. Innovation becomes part of organizations culture and must be measured and monitored like anything else to ensure the creative vision is being nurtured."

Check out our interview below:

What does the term ‘innovation’ really mean?

Something that’s meaningfully unique. Unique in that it’s uncommon, unexpected, a wow or dramatically different than any other option. Meaningful in that it makes sense in your customer’s life. It improves something. It adds value.

Interestingly, so many of us over complicate this term. Others oversimplify. But in every case there’s something that holds true in everyone’s definition in a company - and that’s that they’re all different! One of the most common sources of misalignment on innovation is a common definition of innovation. And if I don’t know what we “count” as innovation, then how can I hope to know when I’m working towards it.

Why don’t more companies innovate?

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Topics: innovation, Leading Innovation, culture change, Innovation Culture, leadership

The Smallest Thing you can do to get a Big Change

Posted by Maggie Nichols on Sep 29, 2016 8:00:00 AM

Change is hard.  Change is scary.  Change is uncertain.  Change is chaos.  

And when something is hard, scary, uncertain, and chaotic any human does a cry out - a reach out for help to survive it.  It’s often a knee jerk reaction, but a real and fragile reaction all the same.  

In that moment - when the fear is high - it’s that moment when it’s most important for the support to stay calm and help them take the first step out of the dark.

Let me explain with 2 recent encounters.

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Topics: innovation, leadership, fail fast fail cheap

Take a Minute as a Leader to Think About 2,000 Tomorrow's from Now

Posted by Maggie Nichols on Aug 30, 2016 10:00:00 AM

For years I've run projects for large companies, small companies and all in between.  And for many of those years our company used a "gimme the ball" approach to creating ideas.  And with each session we focused first and foremost on the objective for the session, to make sure we got the company what they needed.  The objective setting conversation went something like this...

ThemWe'd like to create ideas ideas that we can launch soon - in the next 6-12 months - and also ideas that are further out.

UsWe can help you with either of those, but we know focus helps us increase our odds of success and that's particularly true with an objective.  With 2 targets we minimize our ability to do either one really well.  If you had to give a % of effort allocation between the 2 - short term versus long term - what would you say?

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Topics: Create, innovation, Leading Innovation

Innovation is about things you DON'T do

Posted by Maggie Nichols on Aug 2, 2016 10:34:22 AM

Leading Innovation is about choices.  The big choice to do innovation could almost be considered the easy one.  Innovation is shown to make a meaningful impact to a bottom line, to a company’s return, to employee pocket books, and morale.  Doing the new thing isn’t necessarily hard, it’s NOT doing other things that forces you to make choices that’s hard.

When innovation is at stake, when you have people clamoring, “We can’t work any more!  Our plates are full!  Innovation is nice, but we have no time!  We’re too busy!”  It would be easy at that point to walk away and just put off the innovation decision until later.  Until the day when your employees come back and tell you, “What else can we do for you?  We’ve finished all of our tasks early and we’d like to do more.  We noticed that earnings aren’t what they once were so we’d like to give back a bit of our pay.”  (And if you’re saying to yourself, that’s a long-shot - you’d be right.)

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Topics: innovation, Leading Innovation

Get the "Close to the Work" ReEnergizer

Posted by Maggie Nichols on Jun 28, 2016 10:00:00 AM

Most everyone want to be the leader.  Over the course of your career you're groomed and goaded to "get to the top."  Because when you get there, you get to do the real stuff.  You get to direct, not do.  To make all the best decisions that the yutzes before you missed.  To
inspire.  To be the envy of your peers.  And when you get to the top, it might indeed be all those things.  But it will also be many other things - annoying, frustrating, stressful, tiring, overwhelming...the list goes on.  And while I can't help you overcome all those things in one blog post, I can help you with one:  HOW DO YOU GET ENERGY as a leader? 

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Topics: Create, innovation, Leading Innovation

3 Ways to LEAD your Leader

Posted by Maggie Nichols on Apr 26, 2016 10:21:03 AM

Every now and again I get the privilege to sit with some great leaders.  Some I simply observe - to see what they do and what their followers do in return.  But on the rare occasion I’ve been lucky enough to get them to slow down - to reveal the running commentary in their own head of why they do, what they do, when they do.  This is one such account from early in my career.

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Topics: leadership

The Top 7 Ways to Screw Up Innovation

Posted by Maggie Nichols on Mar 24, 2016 10:00:00 AM

To truly screw up doing innovation would simply be to not do innovation at all.  So if you’re at least reading this list, likelihood is you’ve overcome at least that one fundamental hurdle.  If you’re doing something, anything at all - you’ve at least taken the first step of acknowledging how critical it is. 

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Topics: innovation, Leading Innovation, strategy

How Passion Leads Innovation

Posted by Maggie Nichols on Feb 23, 2016 10:00:00 AM

So many times we talk about Passion and I fear it's a concept that's agreed to logically, but a very difficult practice to follow.  When we educate people on a system for Innovation we teach, "Power to the Worker!"  "She/he closest to the work should make the decision to kill an idea."  "If no one has passion enough to volunteer for a project, then you don't do the project."

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Topics: innovation, leadership, passion

Which comes first..the Innovation System or the Innovation Culture?

Posted by Maggie Nichols on Jan 21, 2016 10:00:00 AM

I’d like to share with you a tale of two companies.  

At the start...

Company A:  We’d like to do more innovation.  But we have to get our culture right first.

We’re going to bring in some creative speakers to get our employees ‘fired up.’  We might even start asking them for their ideas and we’re going to start an incentive program where we pay them for every idea they give us.  After we get everyone thinking the right way and being more innovative, then we’ll be in a place to do a ‘real’ innovation system.

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Topics: innovation, Leading Innovation, Innovation Culture, innovation system

The Butt - Head Principle

Posted by Maggie Nichols on Dec 22, 2015 10:00:00 AM

Do you ever notice that when something is really important to you, you make time for it?  What’s more, if it’s really important to you, you get mobile.  You show up for your kids’ dance recital even though you’ve got a work fire to put out at every turn.  You show up to the gym in January after making a New Year’s Resolution to get healthy, even though you’d much rather be sleeping.  You show up to your house when the contractor calls and says, “So what part of the roof did you want me to replace again?”

When it’s important, you make time.  When it’s important, you go.

Now turn the view back to your work life.  When you tell your staff something is extremely important, do you make time for it.  Do you go to where it is?

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Topics: leadership

Welcome to the first blog from the Eureka! Ranch and Innovation Engineering Institute team.  Here you will find a diverse group of innovators dedicated to changing the world by transforming innovation from a random gamble to a reliable system that delivers increased innovation speed and decreased risk.


So, many exciting things are going on at Eureka! Ranch and with Innovation Engineering don't miss out on anything:

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