Innovation Tip: Look Beyond the Data

11 November 10

Look at any industry that has been disrupted over the last half-century, and you’ll discover foretelling data in the years prior to the disruption. In the early part of this millennium, the USPS saw a declining growth rate of the volume of mail it delivered despite steady revenue. The same is true for the music industry as sales of compact discs remained steady in the late ‘90s. The music and postal industry giants made the mistake of being complacent because signs of growth were still evident, even as their disruptors, digital music and communications, were gaining steam.

So ask yourself: how is your organization reviewing and analyzing data? All the metrics you track may look healthy, but remember that your metrics aren’t the only data outputs to pay attention to. Think about what’s happening outside your organization. What companies are growing faster than yours? What are these companies doing differently? What are they doing better? How could they transform your industry 5 years from now? Make it a point to sit down with your team on a regular basis to take stock of your industry, its players, and upstarts in adjacent industries as well. The wider you look, the more you stand to learn.

It’s better to push your boundaries and widen your field of vision now than it is to be sitting on the sidelines five to ten years from now.


Innovation Tip: Make a New Connection

5 November 10

One common characteristic of exceptional innovators is that they constantly reach outside their immediate circles to make new connections with interesting people. Fortunately, this is easier to do today than it ever has been before.

Think of an author who inspires you, or a business leader from another firm who you think might share some interesting insights with you. Look that person up (try LinkedIn if you’re having a hard time) and send them an email. People are usually more than happy to share some of their experiences and insights with you, and, like you, are often looking to connect with new people.

Make a habit of reaching out to people, and you’ll soon find yourself with a network of innovative friends through which you can toss around new ideas and broaden your perspective.

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Our Ideal Smartphone Application

29 October 10

Adapted from

Here at futurethink, we’ve been researching various smartphone applications to feature in our newest resource list on mobile tools that can help support your innovation strategy. These applications focus on features ranging from capturing ideas on the go, connecting and collaborating with various project members, to cloud storage systems, and brainstorming tools. This got us thinking; what would our ideal innovation focused smartphone application look like? While applications that try to be everything for everyone are generally doomed to mediocrity, if we had unlimited resources to design the ideal innovation application, here is where we would start.

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Mobile Apps: Harness your Moments of Genius While on The Go

25 October 10

If the smartphone hasn’t already taken over your life, chances are, it soon will. According to a 2010 Gartner report, by 2013 mobile phones will overtake PC’s as the most common Web access device worldwide. In fact, the install base of smartphones by the year 2013 is projected to be 241.8 million.

Part of what makes a smartphone so smart are the applications one can download and use. There are over 350,000 applications available for the iPhone, Android, and BlackBerry.  A study done by Microsoft on diversity in smartphone usage showed that the median number of apps owned is 50 (and this doesn’t even include iPhone owners).

In today’s world of go, go, go, some apps, like Angry Birds, (a fantastic and fun app by the way) is the digital procrastination tool, while others can really help you be more creative, productive, and collaborative.

Since our goal is to enable you to be all of those things, we are excited to share the release of our latest product, the Mobile Application Resource List.  In this list, we feature 21 of our favorite smartphone apps that stretch your mind, help track your big thoughts, and generally make you more innovative.

Out of the 21, I am most excited about shareyourboard, an Android app that enables you to take a picture of your whiteboard post brainstorm. Gone are the days of discerning ideas from fuzzy flip chart photos.

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Innovation Tip: Sign on the Dotted Line

20 October 10

Innovation efforts that aren’t supported from the top are often doomed to fail—senior managers must commit to support innovation efforts in order for those efforts to really take off. Ask your team to collaborate on drafting a “Leadership Contract”—a brief summary of what leadership will commit to doing in order to drive innovation forward. Have each member of your team come to the table with two or three specific actions or behaviors they’d like leadership to commit to.

Once you’ve met with your team and agreed on your commitments, assemble a one-page document that you can present to senior leadership. Have them sign the document as a show of their commitment to innovation.

This exercise accomplishes three main goals:

  1. It forces teams to clearly articulate what and how they expect senior leaders to commit to innovation.
  2. It forces leadership to make a visible, tangible commitment.
  3. And the final document serves to remind leaders how important their support is.

Looking for more ways to inspire others and become a role model for innovation? Check out our Advanced Guide: How to Be an Effective Innovation Leader.

Innovation Tip: Reframe Your Brainstorms

13 October 10

Reframe Your BrainstormOne of the biggest problems with brainstorming sessions is that as a technique, brainstorming is overused. After years of open-ended brainstorming sessions that have gone nowhere, people are skeptical of their efficacy and probably tired of the exercise altogether.
Remember that there are many methods for idea generation that go beyond the typical brainstorm. One of the easiest things you can do to create a more productive idea generation session is to utilize structured exercises (some are found here) and guided conversations to attack your problems.

* Start with a clearly, succinctly defined problem you’re looking to solve (or a concrete goal you’re trying to reach).
* Plan your session so that it’s not completely open-ended.
* Set an agenda; be sure to keep things moving quickly so that people don’t get bored.
* Create an output worksheet so that participants have a structured format in which to place raw ideas.

Include time in your session for people to sit quietly and write to ensure that quieter individuals have a chance to ‘be heard.’ Balance this time with opportunities to share and discuss ideas. And most importantly: follow up with your team. Turn the skepticism around by updating your team on where their ideas are and what’s being done to move them forward.