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

What’s Your Innovation Fear?

Posted by David Lafkas on Aug 9, 2016 10:00:00 AM

We all have fears. 

Some are rational, some are not. 

Some drive us to action, some freeze us into stagnation.

When innovating, one must drive out fear in oneself and one’s team.  It is only through reducing fear that we can drive the action forward and to success.

Which of the following fears is the biggest for you and your team, and what could you do to reduce each to help your innovation?

Atelophobia – fear of not being good enough or imperfection. 

Allow yourself or your team to “fail.”  None of us get it right the first time.  Remember learning to ride a bike?  You fall - a lot.  You get scratched up.  But, you get back up on that bike and start balancing and pedaling again.  Same in innovating.  When you or your team falls short of what you had hoped, share that learning with the team and together pivot and improve so next time is better.  And then celebrate that failure so everyone understands that is OK and something that should happen.

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Topics: innovation, Math, decisions

Innovation Pop Quiz, Will You Pass?

Posted by Maggie Slovonic Pfeifer on Aug 5, 2016 1:54:06 PM

Is Innovation a priority where you work?

Is “being Innovative” one of your skill sets?

Okay, Pop Quiz.

1. Can you DEFINE "Innovation"?

2. Are you having FUN Innovating? 

3. Can you REPLICATE success with Innovation? 

Let's see how you did. 

1. DEFINITION: If you answered yes, my follow on question to you is, "Is
your definition the the same as the one your coworkers would give?" If you can't define it, how do you know if you're doing it? Or doing it well?

We use a simple definition. Innovation is equal to Meaningful Uniqueness. A Meaningfully Unique idea or solution meets the following criteria; A) the idea is MEANINGFUL to three parties, the organization, the customer/stakeholder, and the individual who works on it, and B) the idea is UNIQUE compared with alternative options. 

This definition guides our work. We often say, if you're not Meaningfully Unique, you better be cheap. And that applies to your product, service, processes, and YOU as an individual. 

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Topics: innovation, Education

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

3 Simple Principles for thinking about Innovation Training

Posted by Maggie Slovonic Pfeifer on Jul 26, 2016 10:40:12 AM

Our friends at Innovation Leader recently reached out to us and asked if we would answer a question from one of their readers.   Below is an excerpt from Maggie Pfeifer, Director of Education, response to the question:

Q&A: How to start training on innovation?

This member question was answered by Maggie Pfeifer, Director of Education at Eureka! Ranch, which is a nearly 30-year-old firm that has developed a method for increasing innovation speed and decreasing risk. A partner of Innovation Leader, Eureka! developed a field of study known as “Innovation Engineering” with the University of Maine. Because of Eureka’s extensive experience educating executives at many of our members’ companies, we thought Maggie was uniquely positioned to answer this member question…

Question: Was fascinated by the educational / training data in your 2015 Innovation Benchmarking Report. We’re in the process of starting an educational / training initiative around innovation, and could use some guidance on where to start. Is there a typical starting point for these programs? We’re a relatively big company (15,000+ employees) and are struggling with whether we begin in marketing, product management, product development, executive management, etc. Any thoughts or best practices or the progression / trajectory of such programs???

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Topics: innovation, Leading Innovation, leadership

3 Ways to Have a Systems Mindset

Posted by Greg Lemmon on Jul 20, 2016 2:08:44 PM

Happy Birthday, No Guru Needed! Wow it has been a whole year since we’ve started this blog and after publishing just over 100 posts it is time to reflect on what we’ve learned. When summarizing the data from this blog I did my best to have a systems mindset. Meaning, my focus was less on the details of each blog post and more on the variance between them.

Here are 3 things I do differently when I have a systems mindset:

1. Don’t blame or reward workers:
We have 9 people writing post here and not a single writer is more popular than another. Is it because we’re all the same? Absolutely not. Each member of our team has their own strengths and weaknesses. We are not the same, but we are working in the same system. If you’ve been reading our post over the past year then you may recognize this quote:

“94% of the problems are due to the system, not the worker.”

We often quote Deming on this in attempts to educate leadership and get them to stop blaming and/or rewarding the worker based on occurrences caused by the system.

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Topics: innovation, Innovation Systems, Metrics

What are Your Options For Innovation Education?

Posted by Jesse Bechtold on Jul 12, 2016 10:00:00 AM

If you want to be truly successful invest in yourself to get the knowledge you need to find your unique factor.  When you find it and focus on it and persevere your success will blossom.
- Sidney Madwed

If you are taking the time to read this you probably understand learning and education are a life-long pursuit. 

Arguably the most powerful tenet of Innovation Engineering is our belief that ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things.  This kind of optimism and hope comes from a conviction that when people supply the motivation and confidence, the skills enabling meaningfully unique innovation can be taught.

Many options exist for studying innovation.  Executive programs, conferences, seminars and webinars can be found every week where we can hear about the latest study or the newest product launch.  I enjoy going to these, too.

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Topics: innovation, Leading Innovation, Education

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

Innovation is not about a job title

Posted by Corie Roudebush Spialek on Jun 21, 2016 10:00:00 AM

The below post is reprinted with permission from Wendy Ferris at InVision Edge in Winnipeg.

When most people think of innovation, they think of Steve Jobs. They are right to do so. He was absolutely an innovator who changed the world with the work that he did. (Can you imagine carrying a camera, iPod, books and a cell phone separately now? The man saved me several pounds of luggage weight for my vacations with his inventions!)

Given that Steve Jobs is an icon, he sets the bar really high for the average person to think that they have anything innovative to offer. And although the average person innovates all the time in their personal lives tinkering in their garages, kitchens, workshops, basements… we are afraid to define ourselves as innovative at work. Instead, we leave it to the engineers and product development people.

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Topics: innovation, leadership

Don’t be a Helicopter Leader

Posted by Scott Dunkle on Jun 16, 2016 1:31:41 PM

Summer.  The time of year when many children and teenagers head off to summer camp for a week of independence.  Parents everywhere are wondering at that moment and throughout the week: “will my child lose all their things?”…“will my child make the right decisions?”

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Topics: innovation, leadership, fail fast fail cheap

Why You Should Talk To Strangers

Posted by Greg Lemmon on Jun 14, 2016 12:35:27 PM

Typically talking to strangers is not behavior I recommend. However in the case of leading innovation it is behavior that not only should be encouraged, but should be systematized.

Last week we collected 100 responses to a survey by talking to strangers at a brewery. That research went great and brought an innovation project one step closer to shipping. Here are 3 reasons why you should get out of the office and talk to strangers about your innovations.

  1. Learn more from people. We created the survey to capture all the needed data for our test, but it can't capture everything. From people’s excitement when seeing something new to their faces when they taste something great or not so great. All of these moments and interactions can spark new ideas that are missed when you outsource the research.
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Topics: innovation, Math, Consumer Research

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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