Following the financial crises of 2008, organizations pulled back from

Pursuing Big Ideas

“thinking big” and embraced small, incremental ideas. The problem with this is these ideas still require investment of time, energy and money but with very little financial and emotional return. The result is a lot of “talk but no action” on the ideas.

To IGNITE Innovation we have to return to THINKING BIG!

In my new roll as Chief Inventor / Chairman of the Eureka! Ranch my focus is 100% on igniting fresh ideas, bold ideas, crazy ideas that stretch thinking. It’s not my job to be reasonable, prudent or politically correct :). As I’ve gotten into the new roll of being a pure idea catalyst – I’ve been having a ton fo fun. The new systems we have with spark decks, 6 types of stimulus mining, artificial intelligence “instant” concept feedback, etc. – make it easier then ever to THINK BIG.

As I’m having fun cranking ideas – I’ve had opportunities to talk with executives about what holds them back. Here are the five top reasons I’m hearing.

  1. “Our Success Standards are just too LOW.” Our research on $17 Billion worth of innovations shows that successful companies success standards are much higher than unsuccessful companies. We are finding that most companies testing standards for “go” decisions on innovations were fine in the 80’s but today – with the more crowded marketplace – they are are 2 standard deviations too low. Quite simply – what was good enough yesterday is not today. We need to take all of our success standards up significantly if we are to win with innovation.
  2. “We don’t trust our development system so we PLAY IT SAFE”  Most organizations only pursue ideas they already know how to execute. If an idea has serious technical, financial, manufacturing, sales or marketing challenges they “chicken out” and play it safe. They do this because they don’t believe their people, teams, company, system, bureaucracy can problem solve the challenges. What’s needed is INNOVATION ON THE INNOVATION SYSTEM. This means investing in education, tools and systems for innovating faster, smarter and more creatively. THINK – is your innovation system faster, more effective and successful than it was a year ago. If not what are you waiting for? I don’t care if you use our approach or another – it’s time to take action.
  3. “The Aim of Our System is to CONTROL not ENABLE” Sadly, most innovation systems are designed to prevent failure as opposed to accelerate success. THINK – does your system enable employees during development to experiment, explore and discover ways to work smarter and create bigger and bolder ideas. OR, is it designed to prevent waste, mistakes and failure at all costs.
  4. We have no ability to Fail FAST and Fail CHEAP” In Development. When feedback loops during the development process are slow and expensive there will be NO BIG IDEAS. When it takes as one lady told me two months to test a new product formulation then employees will play it safe. Alternatively, when during development employees can prototype and test ideas fast and cheap they run bolder experiments – and in the process discover ways to upgrade your innovation making it bigger, bolder and more successful. It all starts with a mindset – is the aim of development to create bigger and more successful ideas or is the aim of development to simply find a way to get the idea as defined executed. 
  5. “There is no Pride of Work”.  Today’s corporate structure has replaced pride of work with profit per case. Craftsmanship has been replaced with task completion. Personal passion with KPI bribery. What’s needed is a transformation from Command and Control to the US and Canadian MIlitary’s method of enabling front line troops called Commanders Intent. In this case – Leaders move from being dictatorial managers to inspirational leaders. Leadership sets the mission, explaining what and why (called a Blue Card in our language) then the front line folks turn the mission into reality (called a Yellow Card and PDSA cycles of learning).