Monday, October 22, 2012

Six Elements of A "Perfect Brainstorm"

Kelley describes seven secrets to the perfect brainstorm in the Art of Innovation. First, Sharpen the focus is a key idea in keeping the mind on the prize. He describes that you need a clear descriptive problem statement because if you don’t know what you’re trying to solve “any road will get you there” and you’ll be at a loss. Also, focus on the customer needs rather than internal organization gains.
Second is to create playful rules. You want an encouraging and open environment that fosters the ideation process. Criticism is allowed but positively and constructively. Take the time in the beginning to write out the rules either collectively with the team or before the team gets there.
Thirdly, number your ideas. Although this may sound simple enough, there are two main benefits of doing so. The first is to create a goal for the team to obtain a certain number of ideas for motivation and the second is to keep track of your ideas. It’s easier to be able to go from one idea to another if they’re numbered.
It is important to not lose the motivation buzz in during a brainstorm session and the author’s fourth thing to keep in  mind is a concept called “Build and Jump.” Build is essentially building upon an idea that comes up rather than moving directly into the next category. For example, if someone suggests certain padding at a door entrance to prevent slipping, you may want to ask for other ideas to prevent slipping or how could the slipping occur in order to prevent it. Jump is completely opposite where you switch to a new part of the problem statement or return to an idea that has already been discussed.
The fifth concept of “Space Remembers” is about writing all the ideas down so that the team can see what they’ve come up with already and it also spurs other ideas. Also, as a facilitator, you can take a mental note of which ones to go back to and when you do, our spatial memory allows us to help re-create the feeling that created the idea in the first place.
The sixth thing sums up the idea of stretching the mind before and during brainstorming sessions either through icebreakers (depending on the team) or taking field trips prior to the session.
Finally, the seventh idea is to “Get Physical” talks about three things to help the idea process but two that I liked the most. One is to bring materials to build up the ideas on the spot in order to sense and feel it and the second is to use your body in order to act out how someone will react or behave to a concept or product.

Vijay Kumar's Four Principles of Design Innovation

1.       Kumar discussed four principles of design innovation and below is a brief description of each with an example.
a.       “Build innovations around people’s experiences” Normally, innovation is due to new technology or market space that industries want to tap into however it is important to connect to what people already know and are comfortable with. For example, there are different human senses such as physical, cognitive, cultural and social that needs to be related when designing a new product/system. For physical interactions, it’s how the products connects to the users from either touch or feel of it. Cultural connections is recognizing the diverse world the product is launched into and being able to adapt to these differences. People connect with the world through social networks (either in person or virtually). When Ford was going to re-launch the Fiesta model in the US, it gave out 100 cars to different people across the nation and asked them to utilize the online social networks to discuss their experience. This was a way for the word to spread about the Fiesta in an exponential way.  (
b.      “Innovations as Systems.” Companies develop a new product and think blindly just thinking of that one product and how it’ll function in the market. Systems are usually not created where the product exists between. The system elements can include (definitely not limited to) the service, the brand, the experience, and the networking. By innovating a system, the user feels that there are no voids in the product experience. Netflix is a good example of this because it took one simple service of streaming movies/tv shows and created convenient avenues to do so. First, if you have a membership to Netflix you can stream moves from your phone, computer and most commonly your tv at home (through blueray, dvd or xbox system for example.) Second, there are Facebook and Twitter pages to like/follow in order to know the circle of Netflix users and network the product virtually. And finally, customer service is helpful by phone or on the website and this is important for any questions or concerns relating to the service. The brand is the creation of convenience by being able to watch almost anything you want instantly.
c.       “Cultivating an innovative culture within an organization.” Innovation needs to come from the top, as we’ve learned in various readings. The strategies need to accept and foster an environment of innovation and employees at all levels need to understand why or how innovation plays a part in their company. Innovation can be risky and intimidating for most and by encouraging those to step outside the box and create new ideas for systems and products, enables a company to excel with the market and be agile. Case studies reference Intel for innovation as they set time aside specifically for innovation, according to some of my previous engineering management courses. There are three basic behaviors that the senior leadership demonstrate at Intel that cultivates a culture for innovation. The first is setting challenges with goals and strategies and not tactical approaches to achieving those goals. For example, when wanting to create the faster transistor in the world, the senior leader just set the direction but didn’t say how it was going to be done. This enabled the teams to approach the solution however they wanted to get a solution. Second, is to allow the teams to create prototypes and not just develop ideas on paper. Essentially you need to build and test it and play with it to feel the product and how it’ll work. And third, is to not micro-manage and rather champion projects and serve as a resource to remove barriers/bottlenecks. (
d.      “Adapt  rigorous design processes & structured methods.” Create a structured process to innovate and force ideation (i.e. IDEO every day work.) The idea is to move away from ad-hoc processes for innovation starting from the problem and rather use techniques that standardized processes for new products/systems. Johnson & Johnson is known for their structured innovation that essentially “channel and regulate the ideation process.” The process is basically having a template for innovation based on recognizing a set of patterns to “recognize and replicate patterns” in order to build/create your product.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Just Stop- Take A Minute or Two

Just stop. Give yourself at least 30 minutes and stop. Where are you right now? Is this where you're supposed to be? What's the important thing to you? Is that what you're putting your efforts on?

In today's fast pace world, we lose sight of what we should be working or should be investing time in. We get caught up in activities that seem like a good idea but don't necessarily fit in the big picture. As a leader, I need to know when to stop and reflect. A good activity is to write all of your activities out. Then you ask yourself- is this a goal or a task? Most of the time they're tasks and ones we shouldn't be working on.

It's important to stop and reflect in order to ensure we're heading in the right direction. "values never change, you might just have different goals along the way." we need to remember what it is we're after and ensure it links to our true values. What makes you a great leader? Person? Sister? Mother? Father? Brother? Friend? Student? What is your brand?

Just stop- sometimes for five minutes to breath and you'll realize within a blink of an eye to continue or to drop it. Stopping now will get you closer to your goal.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

"For Your Improvement"

For Your Improvement
Michael M. Lombardo Rober W. Eichinger

The intent is to help leaders (or individual contributors) with improving key  behaviors that may be affecting their performance. Each section is broken down by “unskilled, skilled, overused skill” with referenced behaviors to improve the unskilled and overused skill. Then on the next page they guide you on what is needed to improve in this behavior (“The Map”) and some suggested support remedies. Quotes are in every section as well as suggested reading.

My Strategy to reading FYI:

Start from behavior number one. If it doesn't apply, move to 2. If it applies, mark the referenced numbers with sticky notes for improving unskilled or the overused skills. Then ready behavior number one and make notes as necessary. Then move to the sticky notes that you have marked off. This way you can start improving your weaknesses without having to have gone through the entire book. If one of the behaviors you marked with a sticky note doesn't apply, remove the sticky note and go to the next section. Remember, take what applies and leave the rest. 

Monday, October 1, 2012

More to Patience Than Patience Itself

"patience is made a condition of success and prosperity"

There's more to patience than just waiting- it's understanding the unknown. They say patience is a virtue and it is, all because it helps you stop and take a step back.

In an organizational setting, being patient is key when setting a strategic objective and waiting for the employees to align. True success in keeping up with the competitive global market, relies on making and sustaining massive culture changes. Of course, it does not happen overnight. For example, you set a plan and why the plan is good for the organization to pursue and then wait for the team to get properly equipped, in order to adapt to the changes. The human element is the hardest in making huge strives of strategic change however, it's all timing in learning when to do what.

Outside of work- it can be even more difficult because emotions can get involved but the same principles exist. First and above all- you need Trust. (also in an organizational setting) When you set a vision, you need to know why that was set and what the agenda is. And when you have two people on opposite sides of the spectrum, that agenda can be in completely different languages.

Being patient in this situation is knowing and accepting there's something you don't know. The timing isn't right to communicate certain elements as long as it doesn't impact the trust.

Willy Wonka's Veruca Salt was known for her "but I want it now!" line, being the spoiled brat that she grew up to be . What distinguishes adults and children is that adults or parents know certain facts that affect decisions to be made. Children just see something they want and whine until they get it not knowing the consequences.

This concept applies in any setting- when a decision is being made, at what level are you making the decision? How deep in the system have you dove into to help set an action? Patience exists here both as the decider and the person with the request. The most difficult part is transparency without jeopardizing the timing.

Although I will keep this brief, the intent is to not only be patient but to know enough of the situation to keep you open-minded to what the future may or may not bring.

Being impatient can destroy relationships and in succeeding organizational goals. Look at the entire system and recognize there's a hidden element. So just breath and look for the risks when dealing with a project or the benefit of the doubt, with anyone else.