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The Next Step In Driving Meaningful Innovation

In Sunday’s article “The First Step in Driving Meaningful Innovation“, I discussed the key steps in getting started and that was to focus on outcomes vs the idea and built a team to help vet your ideas.

Once that’s done, what’s the next step in keeping the momentum moving forward?

Well, if you read to the bottom of Sunday’s article, you may have noticed I said I’d be posting the article the next day. That didn’t happen of course, and it doesn’t matter the reason why, but was a fail on my part. This is important, because the next step in meaningful innovation is becoming comfortable with failure.

There’s many ways to do this, typically it’s going out and trying something multiple times, and building on the previous step, could mean taking your concept and beginning to circulate it to a broader audience. Perhaps though, it’s simply a mental exercise accepting that you may fail in what you’re trying to do, and that’s ok, or doing something particularly risky knowing fully well that risk goes hand in hand with failure.

The concept “failing forward” though is important, because it means you didn’t succeed but you’re better off because of the attempt. Whether it’s learning something new about a business situation you didn’t know about, getting first hand experience on the corporate politics of your company, or understanding what not to say in front of a particular executive. The important thing to remember is that a job is something that can be replaced and bosses are people that will come and go in your life, but the experiences you gain from attempting big things sticks with you for life.

Too many people are afraid to fail in a company, because they attach their job to safety and that causes fear – the most powerful motivator in the world – to protect you from going outside of the bounds you feel most comfortable in. This is a problem though, because it’s not the walls that protect your job like a castle but rather keep you penned into your job like a prison. The funny thing is that prisons and castles can be the same building, just depends on the purpose.

The same is true for risk, though too many people use it use risk avoidance as a prison to keep themselves locked into a certain mindset vs embracing risk and protecting themselves from a life of boredom or complacency. The phrase “a rolling stone gathers no moss” couldn’t be more appropriate, given today’s dynamic society, and statistics around how fast jobs and skills are being swapped in and out. The one skill that’ll never go out of style though? Embracing change, and learning to adapt. It’s not a book you read, it’s a muscle you flex and grow.

If you’re pushing meaningful innovation inside your company, you won’t be successful most of the time with most of the people. It’s an uphill battle, where you’ll get people fighting you at many levels of an organization. A corporation has an immune system that rejects a heart transplant, even though it’s the best thing for the company because risk means volatile stock prices and uncertain 3-5 year performance forecasts. However, it’s also the slow boiling heat that cooks the frog, if you take a look at big companies going bust over the past several years. Furthermore, how many start-ups are now bigger than Fortune 1000 companies from 10-15 years back?

Yes, change is inevitable and is a wave that rises those that surf on boards made of meaningful innovation but also washes out those stuck on the beach punching the clock each day hoping they can hide from that very same wave. The most valuable lesson I learned during my time at the Boeing Company, is that lay-offs are largely out of your control and happen when you least expect it, so the most dangerous thing you can do is not stay nimble and flexible to embrace something new if you have to.

Though that may be a broader narrative for life, it’s most important when you throw yourself into an intentionally risky space, like pitching new ideas in a company and stirring up “the way we do things around here”. That takes some mental fortitude, and preparation to get yourself in the mindset of running your own start-up, and having now to go sell and close people in your company on your idea.

Innovation isn’t something you can do once either, it takes 100’s of attempts over time to get good at hearing no, and thinking then about new ways to get to yes. But it’s worth it, you most likely won’t be putting your life at risk (depending on what you’re presenting), and you’ll gain an experience and learn a lesson that you will take forward into your next experience. The most important thing though, is you’ll flex that risk muscle, and get stronger in the face of larger amounts of uncertainty and ambiguous work situations.

I could give you exercises in doing this, but I think you already know 2-3 potentially risky moves you could make that get you out of your comfort zone. Don’t do anything wild and crazy to start if you don’t want to, sky diving probably isn’t a good place to start if you’re scared of heights, but start by jumping off the high dive at your local YMCA pool and work your way up to jumping out of planes. The key here is walking up to that edge, and not being afraid to look over the edge – not becoming the world’s greatest base jumper and taking on risk for risk’s sake – adrenaline junkies are in their own camp with their own set of motivations.

In a corporate environment, it means taking the concept you’ve gotten vetted and focused around outcomes, and getting prepared to start telling people outside of the folks you know and accepting not everyone is going to like it (this is most in line with calculated risks than fool hardy risks throwing something at a wall and hoping it sticks). Then take that idea, refine it, and be prepared for the next step in meaningful innovation – building the prototype.

Stay tuned then, for the next article in the meaningful innovation series, “Effective Ways to Prototype Your Innovative Idea“.

Follow me here on LinkedIn to stay in the loop or via my blog at DanMaycock.com, and share with people you think would care to learn more about what meaningful Innovation could look like – follow me on twitter @DanMaycock to see articles posted on whats possible or drop me a line at dan@transform.digital if you have any questions or doubts around this topic of Innovation that does something measurable and impacting for your company.

Dan Maycock is the author of “Building The Expo”, which shares best practices on leveraging #Innovation in meaningful ways and saving the concept from it’s overused but underutilized past. The book has first hand stories, and best practices from Dan’s years of experience working with Fortune 1000 companies dealing with emerging technology adoption in an increasingly dynamic business environment. You can purchase the book at Amazon.com or learn more about Dan at http://www.transform.digital

What Lies Between Ideas & Outcomes

As part of my journey to do 500 words a day for the next two months (see http://thegeekypress.com/2015/03/06/the-500words-writing-challenge-join-me/) I am starting with a topic that’s very near and dear to my heart, and is the thing I’d say that gets me out of bed in the morning and is the reason for doing what I do so it’ll go a little past 500 words I think.

So many people in the world today are full of good ideas, and have passions and purpose locked within them. Yet, too many people are stuck in a place they don’t want to be doing something they don’t want to be doing, and hope that someday those ideas will come to the surface and manifest themselves into that person’s reality.

Oftentimes, this is a corporate employee working for a company they believe has all the ingredients to be great, but they’re in a job that piles on too much work with decisions swirling around them that gets in the way of their vision for what things could be like. People with ideas on how to make companies better, or projects more effective, or products that work better but are so tired and worn out by the day to day job they have to maintain that they’ve all but given up on ever seeing these ideas come to light.

Some leave to start their own thing, most stay because job security is so important today when someone has people depending on them. And in between the world of ideas and meaningful outcomes that get projects, jobs, and careers sponsored by executives is the need to keep up, stay profitable, and focus on survival. Innovative ideas are bogged down by politics and individual agendas, near term concerns around risky and potentially public blunders, and an uncertain and continually shifting economic landscape.

Meaningful innovation though, stands in that gap and helps those down trodden by this stark reality, and offers up a path to success while bringing both employees and executives along with it. Ideas that can fund themselves, groups within companies that can act like start-ups, and people motivated by passion and purpose to put in the work it takes to shift a company culture in a new direction.

innovation needs the word meaningful, because using the word by itself is often seen as a four letter word by pragmatic leadership focused on what works today with as little risk to the bottom line as possible. It means workshops and sticky notes, far out of the practical reality of profitable and efficient business operation and flies in the face of several years of good corporate governance and MBA-built business models that focus on incremental and sustainable returns vs large bet-the-farm gambles that can take entire companies out with one fell swoop.

Yet inaction and status quo thinking can be the slow heat that eventually cooks the frog, and the signs of this can be seen all around companies across the US. I’ve been a consultant for long enough to see these signs, and wrote a book to try and help people see what’s possible even in the midst of situations where the deck is stacked against them and there isn’t enough time in the day to stay above the fray and think about doing things differently.

Yes, meaningful has to be in there because innovation as a concept isn’t enough today in corporate America – innovation has to do something, and do something meaningful. Whether it’s lowering attrition, improving revenues, or helping more effectively adopt digital technologies. It’s a multi-headed hydra with impacts on every part of a company, and involves a multi-level approach to affect culture, technology, politics, revenues, and leadership. It’s intentional, well thought out, and driven by outcomes that both employees and shareholders care about.

Yes, it’s still risky, but it’s a calculated risk and one meant to not just keep people employed, but put folks on the cover of Forbes and help be a model to competitors around that company wondering what it takes to get ahead vs just keeping up.

If you’re reading this now, and I’ve kept your attention so far, then I hope I’ve kept your attention long enough to share that this is possible and it’s do-able and companies around the world are seeing the impacts of innovation done the right way. If you’re an executive, the next question should be where to start? If you’re an employee, the next question should be where can I learn more? If you’re hopeful about an innovation rich culture, the next question should be what can I do to help?

The good news is, you have many of the answers probably inside you. People that know their own company are the most effective at helping make innovation solutions come to light. The bad news is being that kind of expert can also bias you around what is or is not possible.

Stay tuned though, and in the coming weeks I’ll share more about this possible reality and how your company can begin to see the kinds of effects that get recruits excited, employees passionate, and competitors envious. It starts though, with you accepting this is possible and willing to sign up for the challenge of helping drive meaningful innovation where you work.

Tomorrow’s entry: The first step in driving meaningful innovation

5 Things You Need To Focus On In 2015

Another year, and another list of things you are hoping to change/fix/sort/plan/move/adopt for the coming year. With so much coming at every person though, it’s hard to know what to really focus on vs pushing off for the next year.

In the book “The One Thing” By Gary Keller and Jay Papasan, the concept of focusing on just one thing at a time can have dramatic results as multi-tasking is becoming a modern day virus everyone should find the right mental vaccine for.

It’s with that in mind, that I offer up 5 trends you should choose from when selecting what one thing to start focusing on this new year until you have it down, then move onto the next one. Let’s agree to make 2015 the year we make resolutions happen, and move into the kind of habits that can help regardless of what you do.

1. Data Mining, No Matter What Your Job Is (#dataviz)

It’s evident everywhere you look that the ability to understand and utilize data in some shape or form is quickly becoming the #1 skill for business professionals. How you use data and information has always been the key to getting ahead (that, and maybe bleached teeth). Never before though, has it been possible for everyone to use data in some way or form to help their professional careers advance. Whether it’s incorporating free & public data sets into a business case justifying your business concept to potential investors, to leveraging internal company data to help your next pitch to the boss, the ability to mine and leverage data is not only possible but necessary to staying ahead of the curve in today’s hyper-competitive business market.

2. Personal Incubation (#personalbranding)

Failure is the hallmark of every great entrepreneur they say, but it’s not failing but quickly failing forward, learning from that, and moving onto the next idea that makes the difference between someone like Elon Musk and other entrepreneurs that you haven’t heard of. Even if you have a corporate job, your professional life is changing rapidly and the ability to quickly pivot what you do into the next thing people care about is more important than ever. Whether you create your own relevance, and make something you know about into the next hot trend, or jump onto some emerging technology and become the master of something brand new, it’s important to get good at getting good at things. It doesn’t matter what your background is, what degrees you have, or what you think you’re qualified for, the ability to learn something new is all you need here and a lot of confidence along with a support team (see #4) to get you into your first new thing. If you aren’t passionate about what you’re doing, you’re not going to do as well as someone doing the same thing that loves it. Get good at trying something out then, till your passions, knowledge, and relationships start to mesh together and you’re on your way to trying, failing, and winning. Be your own start-up, build your brand, and don’t get complacent this year.

3. Professional #Innovation (that does something useful)

Say you’re awesome at what you do, you love the company you work for, but you have a hard time getting other people on board with the change you see coming. Innovation is one of those four letter words everyone rolls their eyes at, and it’s not the concept that’s bad but how it’s been overused in board rooms the last several years. Your company needs to get good at doing things differently, and quickly. Being on top today means little, if you consider how many of the Fortune 50 companies today existed 15 years ago, as technology continues to give start-ups the ability to disrupt entrenched brands in the past several years. Innovation needs to be a core competency, whether you’re an accountant or you’re the CEO, you have a part to play in your company making Innovation something meaningful.

4. Foxhole Buddies (#networking)

Your professional life is a war zone, whether you want to admit it or not. There’s not a job that’s safe these days, and the worst thing you can do is stick around in one place professionally for too long. We are in the age of “everyone is a freelancer”, and the successes you rack up now can mean the promotion vs the unemployment line sooner than you think. We are in an age of machine-to-machine technology and intelligent computing eliminating millions of jobs in the future, and it’s more important than ever to start thinking about how you can pivot what you do into what will be in demand. Even as jobs are being eliminated by computers, it’ll create millions of new jobs no one is qualified for – you won’t get there on your own though, especially with the stresses of everything else going on in your life.

Consider the tight network you have around you, of close friends and mentors, digging in with you to help you navigate this new reality. Who would you dig in with, and help through transition? The concept of a foxhole buddy is someone that’s willing to fight alongside you, that you trust with your life, and make the bombardment of an enemy easier to handle and in turn survive because they have your back no matter what.

Do you have a fox hole buddy, you’d go through a tough transition with or encourage to make a big life change? Who has your back when everything else goes south? Think about who you spend your time with, and consider building 5-10 strong relationships this year vs 50 so so relationships. It’s good to know a lot of people, but if that means you don’t have strong relationships as a result then consider building a couple into strong relationships you can make into fox hole buddies. These folks will help encourage you, provide introductions, or mentor you and help you get into the dynamic one person startup you need to be, to stay dynamic and flexible in any professional situation.

5. Morning Rituals (#morningritual)

The most successful people you know, whether you know it or not, probably have a morning ritual. It’s more than just taking a shower and getting dressed, it’s an intentional focus on what matters each day so that they can set themselves up for success. If you are letting life just happen to you, consider what that’s costing you – either financially, personally, or professionally. Regardless of what the ritual is, be intentional about how you spend your mornings. I’m not going to say you should work out and eat oatmeal, what you do is up to you, but figure out what you want that ritual to be and stick to it. Discipline will be very tough, as people have a hard time changing patterns, but that’s what your Foxhole buddies are for! The point is that you do something meaningful with your morning, and use that to set up the rest of your day.

That’s my list of 5 things you should focus on, one at a time, till you have it down. The #1 most important thing though, is to appreciate the life you have – no matter how desperate or miserable an existence you feel you have. You can’t make any change if you’re in a bad place, so get into a good state of mind first and go from there (easier said than done, of course). Did I miss something you think is important for 2015? Include it in the comments below.

Happy 2015! May it be successful, meaningful, and relationally rich and be sure and drop me a note if you need encouragement to get started.

Dan Maycock is the author of “Building The Expo“, which shares best practices on leveraging Innovation in meaningful ways and saving the concept from it’s underutilized and overused past. The book has first hand stories, and best practices from Dan’s years of experience working with Fortune 1000 companies dealing with emerging technology adoption in an increasingly dynamic business environment. You can purchase the book on Amazon.com or learn more about him at http://www.danmaycock.com

 

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