Editorial Results (free)
1. When Did We Stop New Thinking?
- Monday, August 31, 2015
Human evolution is a complex topic. Personal growth may be more perplexing even to the best psychologists. The theme that really defies reason is when a whole organization or market segment falls into the trap of formal rigidity, as in “it’s just the way it is.”
2. Use Driving Insights To Bolster Growth
- Monday, August 24, 2015
The lifecycle of an innovation project uncovers far more insights than can be filtered, harnessed or used.
Those new to an innovation discipline can get intoxicated from this endless wellspring of insights.
3. Equity Firms Should Leverage Innovation
- Monday, August 17, 2015
On the strategy side of our business, we work with many private equity-backed companies. We get called in when the growth trajectory and investment thesis aren’t being realized as projected.
We complete a diagnosis, based on a holistic evaluation of the market, competition, culture, marketing and operations of the firm. Applying a variety of in-depth primary and secondary forms of research and analysis, we develop a roadmap of real, organic growth.
4. Why Hesitate? Innovate.
- Monday, August 10, 2015
Often there is so much anxiety about innovation. Is it just a fad, or is it a viable, potent form of value generation?
Is it something that needs to be outsourced, set up as a skunk works, or can I add it to the existing responsibilities of our employees?
5. Ethnography Alone Cannot Generate Transformative Insights
- Monday, August 03, 2015
Consumer anthropology offers such refreshing insights into the marketplace, re-humanizing the relationship between people, things and stores in very profound and moving ways. This movement also has helped stores get their noses out of spreadsheet and theories and keep their eye on the customer experience.
6. The Corporate Inquisition Of Intuition
- Monday, July 27, 2015
While there are clear benefits of data and analytics when applied to growth efforts, a widespread, unhealthy dependence on a purely analytical approach to business cripples too many corporations.
While small- and mid-sized organizations still welcome some calculated risks backed by and bet on a team of spirited rising leaders, corporations appear more risk averse to their approach to launching new products in the market. In fact, the gestalt is that we’ve entered a second age of enlightenment where nothing gets signed into action unless analytic models, predictive tools, and others first bless it with a numerical score.
7. Spotting Your Organization’s Orthodoxies
- Monday, July 20, 2015
Often the very factors of success around which you launch, build, and manage an organization can turn on you like a venomous snake. The framework that worked so well, for so long, now limits the growth of the place. At some points the factors have turned into choke points.
8. The Objective Leader’s Vision
- Monday, July 13, 2015
“Once in a while you get shown the light/In the strangest of places/If you look at it right” – The Grateful Dead
To celebrate the iconic lifestyle brand of the Grateful Dead and their recent sold out 50th anniversary reunion stadium run, let’s talk about vision and its shadow side, blind spots.
9. Culture Trumps Concepts
- Monday, June 29, 2015
When many people hear the word “Innovation” they think of a service that created a category: Xerox or FedEx. Or, they think of one that made bold, brilliant moves to earn a leadership position in an emerging space: Google, Facebook, Uber and Airbnb.
10. When Less Means More
- Monday, June 22, 2015
Anxiety floods the boardroom, the conference rooms, every decision. Costs are rising. Returns are flat. Margins are thinning. Now, private label competitors are beating us in every area: technology, price, placement, design and sales. Worse, they have turned the category that we invented into a commoditized war zone and keep us in a rigid box that controls every factor of our influence and gives them every advantage.
11. Talent-Supporting Structures
- Monday, June 15, 2015
A fallacy about organizational management prevents many firms from getting the best out of their best people: the notion that everyone who excels in their jobs will eventually become managers, directors, etc. True, some may have a talent for management, while others flourish in active roles that have nothing to do with managing.
12. Once Upon A Time at Work
- Monday, June 08, 2015
In business and daily life, we are wired for stories as a species. One creation myth begins by saying God created humans because he needed good stories. Stories bind us together, creating an emotionally connected narrative through which we make sense of the world. I want to share a “Here’s What I Love About My Career” story with you.
13. Job Search Advice: Care Enough to Prepare
- Monday, May 25, 2015
So, you want a job? We’ve been on a hiring frenzy at the Studio. Sadly, the drudgery of the interview process has wasted too much time and energy.
More than 90 percent of the time, we end up playing a role that seems more like a professional coach, friend or therapist, trying to help the candidate figure out their core strengths and where they may potentially make a good fit in our culture. Then we stop being so nice, realizing this is their job, their ticket to the meeting.
14. The Real Benefit of Design Thinking
- Monday, May 18, 2015
Many days I catch myself uttering “thank you” to the universe, which the mystic Meister Eckhart claims is a prayer sufficient enough to carry an individual through an entire life.
Unlike a policeman or a bartender, I have the radical blessing to work in-depth with people doing inspiring exercises, which bring out the best side of their humanity. Being human is an incredible birthright. Our senses, instincts, and capacity for wonder can evoke awe upon contemplation.
15. Successful Ideation: Mindset and Methods
- Monday, May 11, 2015
Define what ideation means to your organization. Many companies practice some form of brainstorming or ideation. While it can be freeing to withhold restraints such as costs and technical matters and enter into the unchartered frontiers of “What If,” a lack of focus and too few creative restraints make it a fun but fruitless experience.
This is what we call idling instead of ideating. Thrilling, but a waste of time and money – incapable of generating the volume and range of ideas that make a difference.
16. Welcome to the New Era of Automation
- Monday, May 04, 2015
When Netflix put the video rental retail stores in their coffins, there was still a sizable segment of people who missed the convenience, were suspect of a mail-order or streaming subscription service or simply didn’t have the connectivity to enjoy it.
17. What I Tell My Team
- Monday, April 27, 2015
Ask the hard questions. As a thriving consultancy, our primary vocation is providing insight that adds value to our clients. To meet this objective we have to play enlightened court jester, asking the unaskable questions those inside the company cannot ask.
We also have to set the stage, carefully constructing an atmosphere of trust where we can mine issues deeply, uncover hidden orthodoxies, serve as a mirror, and always point out reachable possibilities for growth. We also have a duty to name the obstacles. Sometimes there are “family-style” secrets inside companies and denial as thick as prison walls. Be respectful on this quest. People, especially tough people, are really tender.
18. Business Hacking
- Monday, April 20, 2015
There’s an intriguing term known as Life hacking. According to Wikipedia, “Life hacking refers to any trick, shortcut, skill or novelty method that increases productivity and efficiency, in all walks of life … anything that solves an everyday problem in an inspired, ingenious manner.
19. The Perils of Pure Advertising for SMBs
- Monday, April 13, 2015
Many first-generation small and mid-sized businesses get confused about the differences of advertising and marketing. After the founders come up with a name, marketing is an afterthought for too long.
20. Signs That You Need to Fire a Client
- Monday, March 30, 2015
A beginning of a client and consultant relationship is a lot like a romantic courtship. Each party starts in a gleeful mode, inspired by the pure potential of working together. But all relationships, including professional ones, crash down to earth after an initial high. At this point your firm can tell if the partnership is a short-term assignment or a long-term collaborative relationship.
21. Taking Off the Training Wheels
- Monday, March 23, 2015
Here’s a Studio secret. We have a natural client attrition plan inherent in our business model. We not only lead innovation projects, but also give away our practices as part of the process.
When you set up your projects as both a value-generating project and an innovation-training program, it is a great success when clients complete a project cycle and then are eager to take off their training wheels.
22. Don’t Make a Shrine of Your Success
- Monday, March 16, 2015
There is a scene in the black-and-white section of The Wizard of Oz when one of the farmers (who later transforms into the Tin Man) tells Auntie Mae, “They’re going to make of a statue of me one day!” Her response handled the ego inflation with a dose of pragmatic farm wisdom. As she pointed to his next chore, she retorts, “Don’t start posing for it now.”
23. Four Internal Benefits of Practicing Innovation
- Monday, March 09, 2015
Ultimately, innovation must be defined by the new value it creates for an organization.
Sure, there are many innovations that create nominal value by shaving costs at various points of the value chain. These incremental product or service adaptations are a positive by-product of having an innovation discipline. Sights need to be set higher to really change a category for the better and create a sustainable leadership position in the market.
24. How to Delve Further Into User Insights
- Monday, March 02, 2015
Think of it as the front end of the front end, this fusion of methods for solving problems for real people and creating a better experience for them.
By fusing Design Thinking and User Experience, you learn the socio-psychological wants and desires of your user base and understand their world, as well unpacking attitudes, reactions, and emotions about a specific tested object.
25. The Poetics Of Information Architecture
- Monday, February 16, 2015
Note: I wrote this piece 15 years ago and just rediscovered it. Sadly, the points bear repeating, and reprinting in the era of social media, client portals, and HTML5, as it seems truer than ever.
26. Lack of Innovation at Nonprofits
- Monday, February 09, 2015
Through the Southern Growth Studio, I have the great honor to work with nonprofits. Big ones. Growing ones. And ones on the verge of collapse.
There is an odd tendency for almost all of these organizations to respond to innovations in the same way; they desire them deeply but are wildly timid. It’s a dizzying and paralyzing fear-based response. “What if it doesn’t work? I don’t know. …” They yearn to roll out a new program or re-create an experience that gets better results, but something nagging in the culture keeps them from enacting the very thing that may set them apart and catalyze their potential.
27. Leadership Lessons From the Duke
- Monday, February 02, 2015
The American Master of Music, Duke Ellington, also stands as an ideal role model of leadership for the emerging business and nonprofit world. As the global workplace moves toward open workspaces and sees the value of multidimensional team filled with hard-to-traditionally-manage creative professionals, a look into Ellington’s leadership style can inspire outstanding results.
28. Keys for Compelling Storytelling
- Monday, January 26, 2015
Most innovations fail because they are too good, too smart and too unfamiliar to the existing business to risk launching.
The last phase of a full-cycle innovation process, storytelling, was rushed. A power point deck was created using the language of the business culture, unconsciously framing the new concept in the old world of the doldrums of existing operations. The new ideas get applause for their “brave, fresh thinking," then are summarily placed on the back burner to be ignored for eternity.
29. The Real Work of Innovation
- Monday, January 19, 2015
Being creative. Generating thousands of ideas. Making employees feel heard, valued, more than a cog in a machine.
These are the superficial by-products of an in-depth discipline.
Unto themselves, these tiny crumbs of the vast buffet of genuine innovation methods are not an Innovation effort. They represent mere pacification. Any board member or C-Suite executive who believes they have the Innovation box checked because they have an online idea submission forum and a committee that ranks ideas needs to resign. Enough with lip service. Stop the confusion of New Product Development and Innovation.
30. Metrics for Front-End Innovation Projects
- Monday, January 12, 2015
“What are the metrics?” We get this question all the time from nervous directors and VPs who are struggling with the philosophical underpinnings of front-end innovation. They are eager to launch an innovation program, but want to be able to foresee the outcome before embarking on the journey of discovery.
31. Empathy For Successful Innovation
- Monday, January 05, 2015
If you unpack the stories of most successful innovations, you’ll find that a deep immersion into the user experience of a product or service is the key that often unlocks the potential of the concept.
32. Market Understanding Leads to Wins
- Monday, December 15, 2014
Unlocking Value. Why do innovations end up in a “black hole?”
Jeff Pierce states that the hubris of Market Leaders keeps them from innovating. Pierce serves as the innovation architect of Pitney Bowes’ Corporate Innovation Program. He’s on a mission to change how the company sees itself.
33. How to Gain Immunity From Funding Cuts
- Monday, December 08, 2014
Martin Elliott, senior director of Mattel Inc.’s New Business Ventures, tells innovators how to avoid the budget cut thresher. Think like a V.C.
34. Even Procurement is Innovating
- Monday, December 01, 2014
Derick Kurdy from J&J and Neel Tilak from Janssen discuss the potency of an innovation culture in the procurement department and how it works with key suppliers.
They began with a story about the Band-Aid, about how the inventor made it as an act of love for his wife. The moral of the story; innovations start with a need that is cared for and executed for a real problem.
35. Why Corporate Innovations Fail
- Monday, November 24, 2014
Iliya Rybchin of the Highnote Foundry and formally of Bloomberg discusses where innovations break down in the corporate world. He was stronger than a good cup of coffee.
He comes out swinging. Warning: "I'm going to offend some people here." The room perked up. Then, Rybchin notes the most critical points of failure.
36. Building Innovation Networks
- Monday, November 17, 2014
This Learning Lab was presented at the Back End of Innovation 2014 Conference, by Ayelet Baron, Futurist, Simplifying Work and Innovator in Residence, Roche/Genentech.
“Get out of your work building and go into the world,” says the speaker. The team she is working with at Roche have started a program called “Get Out of the Building” as a way to not only get exposed to new ideas but also to build new relationships. It’s great advice.
37. Motivating the Corporate Elephant to Innovate
- Monday, November 10, 2014
VF Corp. created a series of Bright Spots to augment their product mix and sell the innovations inside the company to ensure the innovation eggs hatched in the market. The real goal was to change the culture to accept innovation.
38. Navigating a New Era of Medical Innovations
- Monday, November 03, 2014
Executive director of Cleveland Clinic Innovations, Gary Fingerhut, discusses the emerging era of medical innovation and commercialized new inventions and platforms.
Fingerhut opens by echoing a recurring theme; innovation begins with empathy. A deep understanding of the humanity, the personal narratives, fears and inspirations of patients empowers better care and inspires hospital systems to treat people differently than in the past.
39. Key Tools for the Backend of Innovation
- Monday, October 27, 2014
Alekasandro Grabulou, director of innovation and development of Philips, talks about key tools for redefining the role of innovation in a fast-paced era.
Philips is a leader in health care, consumer lifestyle and lighting. And, they fused their front end and back end innovation efforts with great results and a compelling story.
40. Midnight Lunch: Innovation Insights
- Monday, October 20, 2014
Sarah Miller Caldicott, the grandniece of Edison and CEO of Power Patterns of Innovation, presents “Midnight Lunch: Building an Innovator’s Toolkit for Success.”
What was Edison’s execution process?
41. Bringing Innovation to Innovation
- Tuesday, October 14, 2014
Notes from a keynote by John Kao, BEI 2014, Las Vegas
2.6 billion Google queries were on "innovation" last month, Kao posits. The issue, there is no shared definition, or mental map, of innovation. We are creating a tower of Babel effect.
42. Financial Elements of the Innovation Process
- Monday, October 06, 2014
Innovation is a saturated field, but one with a hole in it. Many companies can generate thousands of potentially valuable ideas, but have no accepted cultural method for placing a value on them.
Many of these same companies can do Wicked Thinking, block out Business Model Canvases, and follow a Design Thinking Sprint, but they lack credible and concrete thinking about the financial side of their innovation concepts as the front-end process is progressing.
43. Soft Skills for Emerging Leaders
- Monday, September 29, 2014
As a professional, as a leader, even as a brand ask yourself this critical question: are you empathetic? Do you have the genuine ability to “understand and share the feelings of another.”
44. The Only Difference: Mindset
- Monday, September 22, 2014
The same truths not brought into action present themselves as lessons, ongoing themes. This one rings with more truth every time I encounter it. Mindset is the real pivot point, the only true sustainable, competitive advantage (other than exclusivity, which is always temporary) for organizations that want to flourish.
45. Allow Innovation to Expand Business Model
- Monday, September 15, 2014
As your innovation efforts begin to move from the ideation to the testing phase, or the co-creation with consumers or customers, outlandish and disruptive concepts present themselves. As messy as children arriving, they show up, saying, "Feed me, let me scream at the top of my lungs, I’m uncivilized,” all without speaking.
46. Regenerate Corporate Cultures
- Monday, September 08, 2014
What’s good for the bee is good for the hive. Marcus Aurelius noted that "If a thing is not good for the hive, it is not good for the bee.” This statement has profound implications for corporate cultures. In a workplace setting, anything that keeps a culture from dynamically regenerating itself is harmful to its people.
47. The Gold Left on the Table
- Monday, September 01, 2014
I always feel bad for clients of a full-cycle innovation project. After the many ideation and co-creation sessions, there are far too many viable concepts to pursue. In many cases, millions of dollars of market expansion, new products with tested, validated appeal and new licensing opportunities get swept aside just because there are too many possibilities.
48. Primary Research and Talking Sticks
- Monday, August 25, 2014
Business, organizations, and nonprofits grow with the level of firsthand experiences they have with their prospects, customers, members or donors. These entities both know themselves and also know their audience, their tribe.
49. Consumers Driving Health Care Innovation
- Monday, August 18, 2014
Everyone in the U.S complains about health care – the rising costs of insurance premiums and co-pays, the lack of innovation, the poor experience at doctor’s offices and hospitals, and price of medications.
50. Why Experts Live in Fear
- Monday, August 11, 2014
More trouble has fallen upon companies that tempt the universe with this ego-inflated statement: "We are the experts.” A sizable lack of innovation occurs in the practice of being perceived as experts instead of practicing humility in the workplace.
51. The Power of Unplugging
- Monday, August 04, 2014
I am returning from a vacation on the Forgotten Coast, a cape wedged in between the sea and a bay. The best part of the location is that my smartphone connection did not work.
All of the incessant demands of running a business, having clients, making social media updates, keeping up with news for organizations for whom I serve on boards: poof, gone.
52. Atkinson Joins Dermaflage Team
- Tuesday, July 08, 2014
Michael Graber asked that I write this week’s column to both announce my move to join the leadership team at our Ventures company, Silicone Arts Labs, and to reflect on the last seven years at Southern Growth Studio. We announce my departure from the Studio with a great sense of pride and accomplishment, as it is one of the ways we are meeting our mission and making a positive impact in Memphis.
53. Business Becomes Human
- Monday, June 30, 2014
After sifting through 20-plus in-depth consumer narratives of their condition, an R&D scientist said to me, “We need to always begin new product development projects this way.”
These people went into great details about their lives, their struggles, their rituals, their beliefs. As we unpacked their learnings, the scientist understood the complexities of having a rich, full contextual understanding of the people for whom he will design new, innovative solutions.
54. Necessary Disruptions
- Monday, June 23, 2014
Last week, the New Yorker published an article about how Disruptive Innovations have failed and how the theory is bogus. The long piece went into great depth about the emerging Disruption industry of consultants, the Disruption ethos prevalent in Silicon Valley and the many Disruption discussions in boardrooms across the globe. As a local practitioner of innovation methodologies, several people asked me my take on the piece.
55. Perfection vs. Petri Dish
- Monday, June 16, 2014
We live in the fastest-evolving marketplace in history, so why is it that so many companies still move so slowly bringing new products to market?
We believe it is because they are holding fast to an industrial revolution mindset where innovations are carefully devised, honed and perfected. The heft of extensive machines and expensive infrastructure mire down the collective mindset, locking in a collective fear of imperfection. There is much to learn from the nimble tech industry that focuses on speed to market over perfection.
56. Culture of Collaboration
- Monday, June 09, 2014
Despite tremendous advances in technology that yield nearly infinite access to information and the Internet’s connectivity of the world’s greatest experts, many companies continue to look inward for new product development and innovation.
57. Enroll the Skeptics Early
- Monday, June 02, 2014
After working on hundreds of innovation projects, one fact remains. If you cannot get executive sponsorship of the final concepts, they will never launch. We recommend a few steps to get leadership engaged in solving the problem with you as part of the process; therefore, they will feel invested in the outcome of the innovations in the marketplace.
58. Have Courage to Leap
- Monday, May 26, 2014
As Innovation and Growth Strategy consultants, we have methods, processes and exercises that we apply to client problems.
While tools from this vast toolbox work for any type of organization seeking to provide a better service or product (health care, nonprofit, hospitality, consumer goods, financial services, wholesalers and B2B) to generate insights and custom solutions that set them up as a category leader, what we sell is something else ultimately. This is perhaps the rarest asset in corporate America for an unknown reason, called courage.
59. How to Get Unstuck From a Rut
- Monday, May 19, 2014
Perspective is everything. In life and work life this adage proves true time and time again.
If you can see opportunity without preset lenses, you are more prone to make advantageous use of this gift. If you harness the skill to zoom out and zoom in, you see your business in many different settings, in different categories and segments, and serving different customers. We, at the Studio, cannot empathize the power of fresh thinking and a cached perspective.
60. Being Social Entrepreneurs
- Monday, May 12, 2014
There is a lot of talk these days about social entrepreneurs and social ventures but not a lot of clarity around what this really means.
It seems the term is just a new spin on not-for-profits, a new label for startup organizations that focus on social issues. However, there is a big difference – social ventures can be for-profit or nonprofit in their structure.
61. Running on Autopilot?
- Monday, May 05, 2014
With the first quarter behind us, it is time to evaluate your business performance and start assessing the effectiveness of the tactics in your growth strategy. At the end of each quarter it is imperative to run a series of diagnostics to attain a deeper understanding of why the results are what they are, regardless of whether they are positive or negative.
62. Go Deep or Go Home
- Monday, April 28, 2014
We meet companies and nonprofits who have been marketing to the same lists for years. Often, these lists and the assumptions about the people on their lists are more than a decade old. These aged lists may have been scrubbed, but that is simply for those who have fallen off the grid, one way or another. This point should be obvious to any reader of this column: there are major problems with this scenario.
63. Innovation Risk Brings Rewards
- Monday, April 21, 2014
Suppose I told you that you could spend $185,000 and turn it into $25 million or more in a few years. You would accuse me of phishing, an investment scam, or dismiss the proposition as foolhardy. Yet, these are the types of returns we see from clients and those in the world who invest in breakthrough innovation at their companies.
64. Backend of Innovation
- Monday, April 14, 2014
Many of the CEOs we talk to tell us that they have more growth ideas than they know what to do with. It seems like there is a universal love affair with generating ideas but less enthusiasm when it comes to figuring out which ideas are the most commercially viable and how to actually implement.
65. Trendcasting and Innovation
- Monday, April 07, 2014
Did you wake up this morning to realize that the world has changed and your business has not changed with it? If you are a regular reader of this column you know we discuss growth strategy and innovation and all of the challenges that accompany those pursuits. We see many companies of all sizes that are dying a slow death in a saturated market with outdated business models. They fail to get out ahead of what’s next.
66. The Right ROI of Innovation for Your Firm
- Monday, March 31, 2014
Innovation as investment is a simple three-step process. First, figure out the risk tolerance level at a firm. Then you can get real with your expectations, roles, resources, and metrics. Second, come up with a mix based on the risk-tolerance level of your culture. Third, formalize the assignment – and kick off all projects with visible executive leadership support. The executive support is critically important.
67. Slow Down to Innovate
- Monday, March 24, 2014
Somewhere in the Industrial Revolution a prejudice was created for speed.
Efficiency came to mean effectiveness. From this mindset emerged two paradigmatic biases: more is better (more work, more inventory, more money) and speed wins (time to market, time is money, etc.). This mindset was a boon in its era, but has outlived its usefulness.
68. Marketing Is About Strategy
- Monday, March 17, 2014
The word marketing has lost its true meaning in common business vernacular. Instead of a strategic activity that contemplates price, product, promotion and place, marketing has largely come to mean tactical execution of advertising or sales materials.
69. Nichols’ Rookie Award Comes With Accolades
- Friday, March 14, 2014
First, there was the debate. Would Briarcrest star Austin Nichols really stay home and play for the Memphis Tigers? Or would outside offers, including ones from Duke, Kansas and North Carolina, be too good to pass up?
70. Keep Your Finger On The Pulse
- Monday, March 10, 2014
Would you believe us if we told you that traditional market research is an antiquated practice that is heading toward obsolescence? Even the online survey, the modern successor of the traditional door-to-door and phone surveys doesn’t really cut it in today’s complex world.
71. Next Step: Innovate Open Young Minds
- Monday, March 03, 2014
Our last Let’s Grow column focused on an outgrowth of our efforts with some sharp peers, the Memphis Innovation Bootcamp.
One objective of the Bootcamp is to build a community of innovators. The more we socialize these methods and tools, the larger the social and business problems can be met with creativity, empathy and the widest range of possible solutions.
72. Innovation for the Rest of Us
- Monday, February 24, 2014
Innovation, as a discipline, tends to be special assignment work that is reserved for the creative hotshots, iconoclasts, those in hot spots like Palo Alto, or on an esteemed university campus, such as MIT.
73. Your Intellectual Property Strategy
- Monday, February 17, 2014
Entrepreneurs and businesses alike wrestle with the question of patents. Patents can be an accelerator or a hurdle as new products and technology travel through the pipeline and approach the market.
74. Prioritize Market Opportunities
- Monday, February 10, 2014
Too often companies rush to bring new products to market without first considering which verticals to sell into and which sales channels to utilize. This leads to a series of detrimental scenarios that end in lackluster market performance or white rabbit chasing that burns cash and never yields market traction.
75. Corporate Shamanism
- Monday, February 03, 2014
Everyday we advise clients to take risks, leap into unknown and unexplored areas, express themselves in new ways – all to locate, validate and capitalize on new areas of growth.
We have formal methods and processes for unlocking potential and manifesting new realities for them. We always tell them to be true to themselves, their organizations and be a positive force on the planet. We embolden and encourage. We connect them to the real lives that use their creations.
76. The Role of Play in Innovation
- Monday, January 27, 2014
In the Creative Economy, inspiring a sense of play in culture, marketing and innovation is critical to success. You have to engage your people so that they can engage prospects and customers with a lively sense of mission and purpose. Too often the roles we assign diminish this sense of play.
77. If It Can Be Imagined, It Can Be Made
- Monday, January 20, 2014
The industrial revolution brought efficiency but led to the decline of human creation by hand. We stopped tinkering and started operating machines, becoming inherently less ingenious.
Over the past century, new product developed hinged on access to expensive machines out of reach for the individual. Thus, new production development and innovation became the domain of companies with the cutting edge equipment.
78. Time for Biz Housekeeping
- Monday, January 13, 2014
The new year is a time of growth planning, renewed focus and basic housekeeping. We encourage you to take this time to evaluate your business for pruning opportunities. Just like nature’s cycle, the old must die to make room for the new in the business realm as well.
79. Will a Leader Take a Stand?
- Monday, January 06, 2014
Despite its history of entrepreneurialism, Memphis is a ghost town when it comes to birthing and growing businesses.
We keep beating this drum, hoping people will hear and that a leader will answer the call. Memphis needs an entrepreneurial champion.
80. Shooting for the Moon
- Monday, December 23, 2013
The Commerical Appeal ran a story last week about the Greater Memphis Chamber’s Chairman’s Circle and its “Moon Missions.” While the details remain nebulous, the Chairman’s Circle consists of private sector leaders that contribute funding and business perspective to identify, analyze and define solutions for some of Memphis’ greatest challenges.
81. Since When is Failure Good?
- Monday, December 16, 2013
Failure is the new business and innovation buzzword. Magazine articles, consultants and even professors are encouraging everyone to “learn to fail.”
Their intent is to break the hardwiring in our culture that trains us to strive for success and perfection because they believe this limits our appetite for taking risk. They hold up poor Thomas Edison as a famous failure and use Winston Churchill’s quote “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm” as support for their mantra. The failure zealots celebrate failure and encourage everyone to not just fail, but fail a lot.
82. Revenue Model Innovation Exercise
- Monday, December 09, 2013
One generative exercise for any CPG company to explore growing market share is hold a session where a team role-plays a wide array of alternative revenue models for a particular brand.
As far as the ground rules for this ideation session, any ideas should be welcomed – and the cultural antibodies of “how we have always done things” need to be silenced. This session will not only challenge your existing model and inspire new, profitable thinking, but will also unlock new avenues of growth the existing paradigm of doing business usually will not allow considering.
83. Listening: The Hardest Part
- Monday, December 02, 2013
For many in the innovation field, the hardest task is listening – real listening, deep listening. To listen without building a mental model or rushing to a conclusion is a cultivated skill.
To listen to a person’s summary of your product or service and honor their experience as the only experience that matters is not only a great courtesy, but it can be a competitive advantage; that is, if you are willing to collect feedback from a lot of customers and apply adaptive intelligence.
84. Define Your Core Business
- Monday, November 25, 2013
Most successful new businesses begin by taking advantage of a new, untapped opportunity that develops in the marketplace. These businesses can grow organically for many years by continuing to take advantage of their formula for success.
85. End User Holds the Keys
- Monday, November 18, 2013
Last week we had Shekhar Mitra, the former head of global research and development for Procter & Gamble in Memphis for a strategy working session with our Southern Growth Ventures portfolio company, Dermaflage. We are very fortunate to have Mr. Mitra on the board, and we asked him to share his innovation model with the team over lunch.
86. Parts or Whole?
- Monday, November 11, 2013
What do you call a single cell in a huge body acting counter to the general flow of a body? A rebel cell.
The theory of cancer is happening at the corpuses of businesses everywhere. When parts are running in different directions than the whole, there is a schism a hand.
87. Be Open To Surprises
- Monday, November 04, 2013
The commercial world of research and development, product development and innovation can learn from the insights of poetry by applying the deep wisdom to its process and pipeline. A single line from a Robert Frost essay has the gravity to change the growth trajectory of a business: “No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.”
88. You Should Play to Win in Business
- Monday, October 28, 2013
A.G. Lafley, CEO of Procter & Gamble, the keynote speaker at the FedEx Institute of Technology’s Innovation Expo, shared a wealth of insights on leadership and strategy from his experience and his collaboration with Peter Drucker. However, his most impactful message was so simple, many in the audience may have missed it – strategy is about making choices. That’s all there is to it. Make decisions about what business you are in, how you win in this business and then stick to them.
89. Bite Yourself Before You Get Bitten
- Monday, October 21, 2013
A few weeks ago we attended the FedEx Institute of Technology’s Innovation Expo to hear Philip Mudd, formally of the CIA and FBI, speak about risk, and A.G. Lafley, CEO of Procter & Gamble, discuss product development and market strategy. We will share with you their messages in our next two columns, as both had unique insight on strategy.
90. Private Labels Winning Brand Wars
- Friday, October 11, 2013
Almost everyday the Studio faces challenges that private label competitors impose upon our branded products clients. More and more private label brands are taking lessons out of the innovation and brand strategy playbooks and getting ahead of the once category-leading brand product.
91. Go Beyond Insight to Foresight
- Friday, October 04, 2013
Foresight is better than insight.
Given advances in market research, innovation methods and data analysis, insights should aim for being less descriptive and more predictive.
The highest and best value of business is to find new opportunities and plug into emerging trends, rather than make deeper sense of what already exists. These envisioning roles and departments should be renamed the Foresight department rather than Insights.
92. Avoid Competitive Blind Spots
- Friday, September 27, 2013
Pop quiz: do you complete a formal competitive analysis at your company a few times a year? Do you have a systematic way to monitor and capture competitive information real-time?
Be honest. It’s too bad we even have to ask this question, but the vast majority of the companies we meet with do not have a formal process nor do they analyze competitors regularly as a matter of course. They make excuses, telling us that their sales guys know exactly what’s going on in the marketplace. They tell us they rely on the “Magic Quadrant” put out by their industry’s presiding research firm. But the truth is they operate on hearsay and gut feelings. This is true for large and small companies alike, all myopically focused on the tasks at hand and the daily fires.
93. Don’t Let People Halt Progress
- Friday, September 20, 2013
Many times it is the people on the team that limit their own company’s growth. Infighting, politics and a lack of conviction at the top are the most common inhibitors to growth that we see in our work as consultants. Sure, breakthrough ideas backed by a strong business case are needed to fuel continued growth, but many times those are easier to come by than team collaboration and consensus. People stand in the way of progress.
94. Ideation Different Than Brainstorming
- Friday, September 06, 2013
As a critical phase of any innovation project, ideation brings the generative possibilities to life. While there are similarities with traditional brainstorming, there are also some key differences. Let’s explore both in this column.
95. The [Fill in the Blank] Way
- Friday, August 30, 2013
Each professional entity has a way of handling business. This way is encoded with spoken and codified rules and unspoken and non-verbal clues on how to perform. What gets done, how decisions are made and how money gets allocated can be defined as “culture.” This way, then, is an explicit and implicit set of rituals that reward or punish based on its own complicated, internal logic.
96. Drowning in Big Data
- Friday, August 23, 2013
“We have so much data but no answers.” This phrase echoes down the halls of all of the larger clients with whom we meet. In a quantitative world, where there is every dimension of research and analysis available, unreality multiples. The business world is drowning in data and, by the level of panic and anxiety, has lost its rudder.
97. Turning Good Ideas Into Great Products
- Friday, August 16, 2013
One innovation method is to invite customers (in a B-2-B situation) or consumers (in a B-2-C scenario) into the creative process with you. Here, they will ideate, workshop concepts that arise in the session, augment concepts provided for them, and create some new product or service ideas that do not yet exist.
98. Execs: Feed Yourself First
- Friday, August 09, 2013
So many new business ventures die on the vine. Statistics vary, and we’ll keep the details of the debate to a minimum here. Let’s say that 1 in 20 make it. Let’s define the “Making It” as either having a profitable company after five years of existence or selling to a larger firm for a wealth-creating sum.
99. Your Company Must Play to Win
- Friday, August 02, 2013
Are you rewarding your team for outrageous thinking about your product or service mix? Do you give them ample room to experiment and defy expectations about such things as new customer experiences, new business models, new strategies, growth ideas, and new lines of revenue? Can they play and not be punished for generating new thinking about old problems? Can they learn by doing?
100. Purposeful Innovations
- Friday, July 26, 2013
Many of the Let’s Grow columns discuss practical and theoretical strategies and tactics to help companies better innovate.
While these tips and tools can serve as a guide to creating breakthrough and incremental innovations at your firm, they tend to have a higher rate of success in corporate cultures that provide the process, rewards, metrics, training and resources to innovate. More important, perhaps, is a mindset that fine tunes the organization. This mindset can galvanize a culture. This mindset is based in an overarching purpose.