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

Innovation Training: Fast Food And Fast Thinking

Posted by Corie Roudebush Spialek on Aug 10, 2016 2:46:26 PM


People often ask us where to start and what about training?  We wanted to share one companies experience with the trianing we LOVE the most:

Picture the scene: ‘Eureka Ranch’ in suburban Ohio; a meeting of professional minds from such diverse backgrounds as an international supermarket giant, Hawaiian culture programme INPEACE and a Canadian fish company; a super-charged week of 12 hour days with exercises timed against the clock and assignments graded in real time; a ‘no whining’ policy in place; and American-sized food portions and a self-serve M&M bar that would keep us fueled throughout.

It was the scene of our ‘Blue-Belt’ training in Innovation Engineering last month. IE is a world class innovation system deployed by power brands like P&G and with $8 billion worth of innovations in active development. The claims are no less impressive than its calibre: increasing speed to market by up to six times and reducing risk by 30-80%, and they have data from more than 20,000 innovations and 33 years of quantitative research to back it up.

We arrived having already completed around 13 hours of assignments but with a hunger to immerse ourselves in the system and put the theory into practice. Day one, we were presented with an equation (don’t worry, what follows isn’t a lesson in algebra)…

MU stands for two words at the heart of the IE system: Meaningfully Unique. It seeks ideas with a purpose that are genuinely new and different. Why so important? Well 50% of companies’ profit growth comes from leap innovations – those with a Equation-photo credit Guy&Co.pnglonger-term view, carrying bigger risks but crucially bigger rewards. A nostalgic reference to brands like Nokia and Yellow Pages helped crystallise the point for us; brands can never rest on their laurels and expect to remain relevant in consumers’ lives if they don’t innovate.

So what does meaningfully unique equal in the equation? Well the first part is stimulus (S) to the p0wer of diversity (D); the need for rich stimulus from people with different experience, expertise and thinking styles, to help cross train our brains. The system helps nurture curiosity to truly understand a company’s offering, market and audiences, and to use it as insightful stimulus for idea generation – casting diverse minds to think about problems differently. As leader of the IE movement and our mentor for the week, Doug Hall, puts it: “You don’t know what you don’t know.” The bottom part of the equation is driving out fear (F): creating a culture of suspending judgment, coaching innovators to let go and think big, and reducing fear of failure systematically through rapid test and learn cycles.


The week ensued with a jam-packed agenda of lectures, stimulus and exercises to help us understand components of the system and give us hypothetical briefs to put them into practice. We worked through the 3Cs: the sequential stages of create, communicate and commercialise.

In the create stage, we learnt the importance of setting the strategic mission to get alignment amongst leadership. We played with tools that helped us think laterally about stimulus and super-charged idea generation through ‘spark decks’ – positioning disruptiveDoug-Hall-300x225.jpg photo credit guy & co insights next to divergent questions. Exercise after exercise was done against the clock – mind mapping, throwing dice to free associate, doing ‘brand takeovers’, using random items as unrelated stimulus… Uncomfortably fast at times, they demonstrated speed removing boundaries and allowing people to think bolder and looser. If you’re not getting good ideas, simply go faster. We reached ideas that verged on the ridiculous – one of my personal favourites being the ‘gerbil vest’ – but each one teaching us skills along the way and being received with rapturous applause by the group (one of the people skills we learnt to help bring people on the innovation journey).

In the communicate stage, we learnt to define candidate ideas through problem, promise and proof – keeping concepts sharp and killing mindless marketing. IE indoctrinates the principle of ‘fail fast, fail cheap’ – the constant pitching, reworking, testing and, at times, abandoning of ideas. It looks early at meaningful unique scores, death threats and Fermi estimations (or back of the envelope calculations) to quantify the value of ideas. An evening task saw us create and communicate ideas for a new pizza that would later become our dinner – pitched to and scored by Cincinnati’s pizza king, Gary Pizzelii.

In the final commercialise stage we got our hands dirty with some statistical IE tools for price estimation and sales forecasting, and learnt about patent filing. We prototyped through poster tests and even a paper-aeroplane exercise to teach the process of ‘PDSA’ (plan, do, study, act) cycles.

A group task on the last day helped us stitch all parts of the system together, with a brief to come up with a new bike. And yes, David really is smashing aGuyandCo photo smashing_tomatoes.jpg tomato in this picture, in a bid to demonstrate the safety features of his concept…

Now a month on back at our own Edinburgh ranch, we’ve had time to reflect on the inspiration and learnings from the ranch and formulate them into our own blend of innovation system – ‘Guy & Co-creation’ – which we’re already putting into practice for clients. Just as no two (patented) ideas are the same, neither are two clients, so we’re flexing Guy & Co-creation to add value in different ways depending on their objectives and resources. From leading the whole leap innovation process for Border Biscuits, to supporting veteran IE practitioners Edrington on their test and learn cycles for new whisky concepts.

*Thank you to Guy & Co for allowing us to reprint and share their blog post!

The next Innovation College is September 12 - 16, 2016.

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Topics: innovation, Leading Innovation, innovation system, innovation training, Education

Corie Roudebush Spialek

Written by Corie Roudebush Spialek

Corie is the Director of Operations at Eureka! Ranch. She has a superlative attention to detail, yet sees the big picture. She is vigilant at doing the right things – even if they are not the easy thing to do. She’s efficient, persistent, dedicated, and unflinchingly committed to the Ranch and her clients. During her over 14 years with the Ranch she has helped push teams from a diverse group of companies like Jim Beam, Tyson Foods, Walmart, General Mills, Infantino, Public Radio International, National Wildlife Federation, and The Student Conservation Association to new places in their approach to innovation. Corie is a DePauw University graduate who gets the job done with grace and good humor. She and her husband Ed live in Cincinnati, Ohio with their son and twin girls. She is a DePauw University graduate who spends her free time at the pool or on the lake with her husband and three kids.

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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