Killer Innovations with Phil McKinney
An award-winning podcast that looks at the innovations that are changing our lives and how their innovators used creativity and design to take their raw idea and create game-changing products or services. Phil McKinney, retired CTO of HP and the creator, and host of Killer Innovations has been credited with forming and leading multiple teams that FastCompany and BusinessWeek list as one of the “50 Most Innovative”. His recognition includes Vanity Fair naming him the “The Innovation Guru”, MSNBC and Fox Business calling him "The Gadget Guy" and the San Jose Mercury News dubbing him the "chief seer".

Success in innovation requires more than great ideas, that amazing product, the unique service.  Innovators need support from others to make their innovations a reality. How does the innovation leader persuade and influence others to support his/her innovations?  Executive presence plays a key role. This is Part Two of the two-part series that will help you create a strong executive presence.

The Innovator and Executive Presence

Ideas without execution are a hobby.  Innovators are not in the hobby business.  To execute on those ideas, innovators need funding and support.  People are willing to listen and take a chance on the innovation leader with strong executive presence.  For some, executive presence comes naturally. Others have to work at it. Hence, this two-part series, a first for Killer Innovations.  It’s within everyone’s reach to create a strong executive presence.  Part One covered three traits and their associated skills: maintaining composure, making connections, and charisma.  Let’s explore more traits that convey executive presence.

Trait Four: Confidence

An important aspect of executive presence is confidence.  Confidence isn’t only about what’s said. Non-verbal cues reveal confidence or a lack of it.  Practice body hacks that display confidence.

  • Stand straight, head up, face and eyes forward.
  • Smile.
  • Don’t cross arms.
  • Don’t cross legs.
  • Have a strong, firm handshake.
  • Plant feet a shoulder width apart.  Don’t sway.
  • Make good eye contact.
  • Lower voice pitch.

Nonverbal cues speak volumes about a person.  Interested, engaged, and strong. Or indecisive, weak, and nervous.  Not naturally confident? These hacks will help to exude an aura of confidence and create a strong executive presence.

Trait Five: Credibility

A crucial trait of executive presence is credibility.  Building and maintaining credibility is a multi-faceted effort.  Faking it won’t make it. Sooner or later, people will find out and executive presence dissolves.   Credibility takes a long time and hard work to establish, but it’s easy to lose. Never risk your credibility.  

Steps to building credibility:

  • Establish trust
    • If people trust you, they will do business with you.
  • Exhibit competency
    • Become an expert in your field.
    • If you have the expertise, let others know without bragging.
  • Be consistent
    • Your actions and the messages you send out should align with who you are and what you do.
  • Be authentic
    • Don’t fake it till you make it.
    • Base your business or leadership on a solid foundation.  This will provide lasting stability no matter what changes may be ahead.
  • Exhibit sincerity
    • Don’t say everything you think, but mean everything you say.
    • It takes commitment, dedication, always being straightforward.
  • Respect everyone
    • No matter who or what position they hold, respect people.
    • Respect because everyone deserves it.
  • Be accountable
    • Own up to mistakes and correct them.
  • Be honest

[shareable cite="Phil McKinney"]Your trust account is more important than your bank account.[/shareable]

Trait Six: Clear, Concise Communication

Communication has a huge effect on executive presence.  Yet, it can be one of the biggest downfalls. To create a strong executive presence, you must know how to communicate with senior executives.  When conveying information to senior executives, less is more. The more concise, but clear the communication, the better. Being wordy does not impress.  

Here are some basic tips to communicating to senior executives:

  • Lead with your main point.
    • Get to the main point within the first two sentences.
  • Cut the jargon.
    • Leave jargon and slang out.
    • Use clear, concise language.
  • Use short, direct sentences.
    • Put the subject in the beginning.
  • In speaking, if the sentence has a comma, it’s too long.
    • This is advice from my speech coach in preparing for my TEDxBoulder talk.
  • Be clear with the ask.
    • When presenting to an executive, inform up front whether you have an ask or not.
  • For written communication, read it aloud.
    • If you stumble reading aloud, others will stumble reading it.
    • This helps to simplify and clarify.
  • Communicate emotion in person.
    • Don’t email or text in an emotional state.
    • Type it up, leave the address line blank, then delete it.
    • Maintain composure.

You can build or destroy strong executive presence depending on how and what you say.  Through concise and effective communication, you can persuade others to support what you’re doing.

Executive presence is critical for the innovation leader.  Leading, influencing and persuading people to come onboard with your innovation requires executive presence.  It’s not easy to create a strong executive presence. But, it’s attainable.

I hope I’ve achieved my objective in helping you to create a strong executive presence.  I’d love to get your feedback. Do you know someone who could benefit from knowing how to create a strong executive presence?  Tell them about the show. The show has grown in subscribers since March 2005 by word of mouth. Thank you for telling others.

Continue the conversation with us on this and other topics over at The Innovators Community (  It’s a free online community of innovators, designers, and creative people just like you.

If you join The Innovators Community before the end of the year, you’ll receive 25% off an order at Innovation.Tools, including the Killer Questions Card Deck.

Direct download: How_to_Create_a_Strong_Executive_Presence_Part_Two_S14_Ep42.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 12:00am PST

What makes great leaders great?  Those who motivate and inspire others and draw a following embody a strong executive presence.  If you want to lead in innovation, strong executive presence is a must. Although it may seem an elusive quality, it’s not.  Today’s show is one of a two-part series on what defines, exemplifies, and comprises executive presence. With focus and effort, you can create a strong executive presence.

Elements of a Leader

The person with strong executive presence stands out as a leader.  Executive presence is a blend of temperament, competence, and skills that send out the right signals.  It conveys that this person is in charge, confident, and capable of leading others. Leaders with strong executive presence influence others and drive results.  To garner support for their ideas, innovation leaders should harness the elements of executive presence.

Learning through Observing

Many leaders with strong executive presence learned from mentors who modelled this quality.  My mentor, Bob Davis, a leading software executive, recruited me out of college.  I learned by observing. I watched how he conducted himself, his strategies, and his dealings with senior executives.  Bob had a servant-leader focus, an important aspect of executive presence. I benefited from working with Alex Mandl at Teligent.  Alex demonstrated strong executive presence. I observed how he engaged with others and operated. These were two great examples in my life.

Every organization is different.  Be ready to adapt and be flexible.  If you’re starting out in your career, watch senior executives.  See how they operate. This can lay the foundation for your success.

Executive Presence: Traits of Great Leaders

This two-part series is the result of my observation and experience in the innovation arena.  Creating executive presence is possible. By learning, observing and practicing, you can become an innovation leader with strong executive presence.  

The three traits discussed in this show are composure, making connections, and charisma.

Trait One: Composure

Composure is the state of being calm and in control of oneself.  The ability to remain in control and calm under pressure is a key element of executive presence.  Nobody wants to follow someone who cracks under pressure or has a fierce temper. The ability to remain composed will attract positive attention.  Letting negative emotions take over results in regret and solves nothing.

[shareable]Realize that your reputation is disproportionately affected by how you handle yourself under pressure.[/shareable]

Focus to remain in control.  Focus on the underlying issue causing the problem and how to solve it.  You win when you remain calm and focused. Some people might disengage when faced with pressures.  Do not disengage. Leaders don’t give up and retreat.

Maintain perspective to remain calm in crisis.  Reputation is at stake. Regrettable words and actions make things worse.  The effect of remaining calm under pressure can build up one’s reputation. Others will take note.

Prepare for those stressful situations.  Exercise and taking deep breathes helps calm and relax the body and mind.

Trait Two: Making Connections

Building relationships with people is integral to executive presence.  Develop the ability to read and understand people. This involves one on one conversations with people.  Through direct interaction, you can demonstrate you are a person of intelligence and helpfulness.

Here are some tips for building connections with people.

  • Extreme helpfulness
    • Build up IOUs in the bank by helping others where needed.  
    • Keep a positive balance of IOUs.
  • Make people feel special
    • Remember names
    • Be encouraging
    • Give recognition
    • Remember details, e.g. hobbies, interests
    • Keep things positive
    • Be curious about people’s life and interests outside of work
  • Have open body language
    • Show interest and attention, e.g. lean forward at meetings
    • Smile, be jovial, be upbeat
    • Be approachable, don’t fold your arms across your chest
  • Maintain regular, face to face contact with your network of people
    • Have an objective when you meet
    • Give something before asking for anything, e.g. a lead on a potential client

I have a list of 25 people with whom I keep in contact on a regular basis.

Trait Three: Charisma

Charisma is the ability to attract, charm, and influence the people around you.  This trait helps you rouse followers and band people together in pursuit of a goal.  You may think that charisma is an innate trait, you’re either born with it or not. From firsthand experience, I know that’s not true.  When I first met Steve Jobs in the 1980s, he did not have charisma. He acquired it along the way. He went on to lead the Macintosh team that ultimately created the iPhone.  You can develop charisma.

Here are some starter points to building up charisma:

  • Have confidence
    • Do the research and prepare
    • Don’t wait for perfection, take risks
    • Have exuberance – that positive energy that gets others excited
  • Have optimism
    • Be optimistic your team can win
    • Smile, be approachable
  • Develop a voice tone that is friendly and passionate

These are three traits that can help you develop an executive presence.  In Part two, I’ll share more traits of executive presence. To make sure you don't miss it, subscribe to the show on iTunes or wherever you get your podcast.

If you know someone who could benefit from this series, why not tell them about it. Word of mouth is how we've grown our subscribers to the show since March 2005.

To continue our conversation on this and topics related to innovation, creativity, leadership, career, join me in The Innovators Community. Visit  Membership is free.  The community is growing. That's where I hang out every day, answer questions, throw ideas out, contribute to other people's posts. Hop on over to The Innovators Community.

Direct download: How_to_Create_a_Strong_Executive_Presence_S14_Ep41.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 7:45am PST

We’ve all heard these larger than life claims made about some innovation.  If it’s too good to be true, it probably is. Bogus innovations cause serious damage.  They hurt consumers, employees, investors, and the innovator community as a whole. But how do you know if it’s fake?  There are telltale signs that should cause you to dig deeper. These tells will clue you in to a bogus innovation.  

The 4 Tells of Bogus Innovation

Before you invest in that startup, join that cutting-edge innovation company, buy the latest device, assess.  Check the organization and innovation against these four tells.

  1. Unvalidated claims
  2. Technical oversight
  3. Fact checking
  4. Organizational governance

Don’t take for granted that someone else, perhaps a well-known board member, is standing by it.  Do the due diligence yourself. Be aware and avoid the expense and pain of being fooled by bogus innovations.

Tell Number One

Companies often promote their innovation as the next big thing.  But, claims without validation should be treated with great suspicion.  To a degree, most companies want to protect the secret to their innovation.  But when a company insists on keeping the entire input secret and expects you to trust them, alarm bells should ring.  The company should be able to demonstrate an input and the resulting output to back up their claim.

I am often asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) before I ever lay eyes on an innovation.  I won’t. An NDA binds you even if you uncover some fault with the claims. It requires a level of secrecy and trust before validating the claim.  When a company goes to great lengths to protect their own testing and status of the innovation, beware. Dubious companies may use NDAs, employee agreements, arbitration agreements to create a fear factor.  These could be a firewall for a false narrative.

Theranos, the now defunct medical technology company, made unvalidated claims.  They claimed their blood testing equipment could perform a number of blood tests with a single drop of blood.  Many bought into their claims without validation. The day of truth came and Theranos claims were proven false.  But not without first hurting a number people and creating a lot of damage.

Best practices to validate claims are emerging in the wake of bogus innovation scandals.  

Best practices:

  • Get independent lab results throughout the funding phases.
  • Have senior leaders (CEO, CIO, CTO) attest to the results.

Tell Number Two

A lack of technical oversight should be another red flag.  The lack of industry and technology experts on the boards of companies is shocking.  Many companies stack the board of directors with big names, former CEOs or CFOs with backgrounds in sales or finance.  There’s a dearth of technical expertise. Bernie Madoff bilked millions from investors. No one questioned the lack of technical oversight until it was too late.

I’m a big proponent of diversity, with a particular interest in neurodiversity.  On the board of directors, diversity of expertise is essential.  The board should include an independent, deep technical expert who can push back and challenge where needed.  This expert should not be the inventor or closely linked to the innovation. There’s an alternative to a technical board member.  Set up a Science and Technology Advisory board to investigate and validate claims.

Best Practices:  

  • Include an independent technical expert on board of directors, or
  • Have a Science and Technology board.

Tell Number Three

Simple fact checking could reveal something’s amiss.  Many biomedical innovations have claims of FDA approval.  A quick fact check could reveal if this is true. Companies may make other government endorsement claims.  Theranos made false claims that the Defense Department used their product on the battlefield. This was not the case.    

Hire a fact checker to research every claim a company makes.  Should any claims prove misleading or false, make them public and have them corrected.

Companies should consider supporting an ombudsman type role.  This would be the company’s point of contact for external concerns about false or misleading claims.  An ombudsman investigates claims and reports directly to senior leaders.

Best Practices:

  • Hire a professional fact checker to go through each claim a company makes.
  • Talk to every customer a company claims to have sold to.
  • Make misleading or false claims public and correct them.
  • Companies should appoint an ombudsman to field outside concerns and investigate.

Tell Number Four

Organizational governance is tell number four.  Many companies caught in fraud had stellar innovation leaders on their boards.  The fact is, many board members fail to do the due diligence. They instead do what I call due diligence by proxy.  They assume the other members of the board have done the research. Many people on boards are serving on too many boards.  They are lending their name without making the effort to ensure that what they are backing is real innovation.

Best Practices:

  • Ensure each board member has done his/her own due diligence.
  • Review board participation to see if they are fully behind the company.

Keep the Bogus Innovation at Bay

I’m concerned about the growing list of bogus innovations.  Fake and false claims hurt people – investors, employees, customers.  Keep a lookout for the four tells of a bogus innovation. It’s up to those of us who are passionate about innovation to raise the bar.  Keep lies, fraud, and false claims out of the innovation arena.


If you have an example or comment about this, join me at The Innovators Community (  The Innovators Community is a free community of innovators, designers, creators, and futurists.  I hang out there every day. It’s where we can collectively go deeper on topics like bogus innovation.  Head over there to continue the conversation.

We will be at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas soon.  If you’re going to be at CES, let me know. For details on where we will be located at CES, visit The Innovators Community

Thanks for listening.  If you enjoyed this episode, share it with somebody.

Check out Zoom, our sponsor.  Let them know you heard about them on this show.

Direct download: 4_Ways_to_Sniff_Out_a_Bogus_Innovation_S14_Ep40.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 7:36am PST

A good number of us harbor a secret fear about our abilities or qualifications.  We’re shadowed by clouds of doubt. Do you feel like a fraud and an impostor when it comes to your career?  You’re not alone. I was an innovator with Impostor Syndrome. In this week’s show, I share my recent TEDxBoulder talk about my experience.  


The Truth About Impostor Syndrome

Impostor syndrome is a real fear founded in unreality.  It’s a fear that you’re not good enough. Maybe it’s a secret you’ve held onto that you feel discredits all you’ve accomplished.  That was the case for me. After a twenty-five year, rather successful, career, my secret came out on the front page of a major newspaper.  I never graduated from college. Once the secret was out, the fears dissolved in the days following. I realized others did not view me as the impostor I felt I was.  All those years, I had held onto the fear and my feelings of not being up to par.  In the end, it didn’t matter to others that I didn’t graduate from college.  I wasn’t an impostor, but I was an innovator with Impostor Syndrome.

Overcome the Fear

Seventy-five percent of adults feel they are a fake, a fraud, not worthy, an impostor when it comes to their career.   Impostor syndrome is universal, transcending titles and backgrounds. It can have crippling effects. For me, with each new success, the fear intensified.  Fear is False Evidence that Appears Real. You need to test the fear.  Is it real?  Or is it false evidence that only appears real?

How do you overcome the Impostor Syndrome?  

Two pieces of advice:

  1. Tell someone about your fears.  
    • Reveal your secret on your terms.  
    • Find a place and person you are comfortable with.
    • Let others know when you are impressed by their skills or abilities.
  2. Be an encourager.

Don’t be an innovator with Impostor Syndrome.  Don’t delay pushing back on Impostor Syndrome. It cost me 25 years of unneeded worry.  


The TEDxBoulder Adventure

When I got the call to do a talk at TEDxBoulder, I was excited about the opportunity.  While I'm a regular attender at TED, I never could have imagined the prep that goes into giving one of these talks.  I had to condense a prior talk on Impostor Syndrome I gave from 45 minutes to nine minutes. I spent more time on this talk than any other talk in my entire career, bar none.  The pressure was intense. What you see of TEDx on YouTube is not what you get live. Speakers may fumble, freeze, forget lines. They can pause and restart their talk if that happens.  Then, it’s polished and edited on the recording for release.


The practice, the memorizing, the coaching was worth the effort.  The subject definitely struck a chord with the audience.  A number of people came up to me afterwards to talk about it and share their struggles with Impostor Syndrome.  It was great to share my personal journey and struggle with Impostor Syndrome. I hope you’ve found it useful.


Are you looking for a place to talk about challenges in the innovation game or with Impostor Syndrome?  Hop over to The Innovators Community (  It’s a free online network of innovators who help each other.  I’m on The Innovators Community every day. Share your innovation struggle, post a question, or send me a private message through The Innovators Community.



Five Minutes to New Ideas

Does your product evoke a strong emotion?  Is there a benefit to being disliked by some?  Could this set your product apart? Five Minutes to New Ideas challenges you to think in unique ways about creating your own community of customers.


Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to listen.  

If you have comments, drop me a line.

I’ve been doing this show since 2005 to pay back my early mentor by paying it forward.  

Would you help me pay it forward?  

  • Share the show with others.
  • Give us a rating wherever you get your podcasts.

This show is produced by The Innovators Network

Direct download: An_Innovator_with_Impostor_Syndrome_S14_Ep39.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 7:04am PST

When delivery fails, it costs in more ways than one.  In today’s show, I talk with Santiago Navarro, founder and CEO of Garçon Wines.  Santiago shares his unique solution to a constraint that caused major problems for his online wine business.  Based in the UK, Santiago developed a packaging innovation that ensures delivery the first time. But his flat wine bottle does much more than simply guarantee delivery.  This constraint-based innovation gives rise to market opportunities beyond the mailbox.   

Constraints that Spark Innovation

Santiago’s online wine business suffered because wine bottles would not fit through the traditional UK mailbox.  Failed deliveries cost the business. This was the spark for his flat wine bottle innovation. In developing the bottle design, other constraints factored.  When it comes to wine, heritage and tradition are strong elements. The wine bottle designs used today date back 200 years and are steeped in tradition.  The challenge was to toe the line of tradition as much as possible with the packaging innovation.  Another constraint was aesthetics. The new design had to present well on the table. In the case of this constraint-based innovation, the constraints further refined the product.

Shaping the Flat Wine Bottle

The design process involved focus on three circles of a Venn diagram:

  • Aesthetic, emotional and experiential in one circle,
  • Function and functionality in another circle,
  • Sustainability in the third circle.

Respect for tradition along with these elements helped to shape the design.  The result was a packaging innovation that solves a number of problems. Aside from cost savings, the flat wine bottle leaves a smaller carbon footprint.  It minimizes the space needed in delivery. The bottle is made of post-consumer recyclable material. This also makes the packaging innovation friendly to the environment.

Timing is Everything

The flat wine bottle has gained broad acceptance.  Leaders in wine and wine logistics are taking notice.  Airlines, where space is a premium, are interested. His packaging innovation has won awards and received plenty of media attention.  In fact, I posted an article on the flat wine bottle at The Innovator’s Community, which led to this show.

[shareable cite="Santiago Navarro, Founder Garçon Wines"]For us, it's fundamentally important to take our business customers through an innovation journey, not a sales process.[/shareable]

The desire for convenience, sustainability and cost savings resonates with people.  The timing is right for the flat wine bottle.  It’s a wine bottle for the 21st century.  But Santiago recognizes that not everyone is ready to embrace it.  He doesn’t want to rush it.

Words of Advice

It took years to get his packaging innovation from idea to market.  Reflecting on this, Santiago says don’t give up if you believe in what you’re doing.  

He offers another word of advice for those innovating a physical product.  Get a minimum viable product (MVP) as soon as possible.  This is essential when presenting your idea to people.  It will save time and money in the long run.

For details on Garçon Wines, visit

Today’s Guest

Santiago Navarro is founder and CEO of Garçon Wines, creator of the flat wine bottle.  He is a serial entrepreneur, launching his first start-up, Vinopic Wines, in 2011. He is also co-founder of, an online hotel booking site.

You may follow him on Twitter at SantiagoBiz.  

You may also reach him through The Innovators Community (, a free online community for innovators.

[xyz-ihs snippet="Packaging-Innovation-S14-Ep38"]

Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to listen.  

Would you help me pay back my early mentor by paying it forward?

  • Share the show with others.
  • Give us a rating wherever you get your podcasts.

We are getting ready for CES 2019.  If you know someone who will be at CES and would be a great guest on the show,  drop me a line.  We will be hosting Killer Innovations in the Mobile Studio at CES. If you’ll be there, stop by the Mobile Studio to check it out.

For more on innovation, check out my book, Beyond the Obvious including extensive excerpts, over at  You can find hardcover, digital, and audio versions of my book on Amazon or wherever you get your books.

This show is produced by The Innovators Network.

Direct download: The_Wine_Bottle_Ripe_for_Packaging_Innovation_S14_Ep38.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:06am PST

For innovation leaders, one of the hardest tasks is keeping the innovation funnel full.  Yet, this is key to sustaining an innovation effort. What’s worked for me is to create an innovation challenge.  Today’s show lays out a process for making an innovation challenge. Creating a challenge will keep the funnel stocked with high quality ideas.

What’s an Innovation Challenge?

An innovation challenge is no mere cattle call.  A vague request for innovative ideas from everyone will result in low quality ideas and not many.  An innovation challenge is a well-defined effort to draw in the best and non-obvious ideas.  It invites those whose daily job may not be innovation. It opens up the funnel to unique perspectives.  

[shareable cite="Phil McKinney"]The wisdom of the crowd is always more powerful than the wisdom of one. [/shareable]

An innovation challenge requires two things.

1) Crafting an innovation challenge statement.

2) Creating the process that invites people to submit their ideas.

Innovation is a team sport.  But if you limit the game to those on your innovation team, you may be missing out.  While the innovation team is busy bringing ideas to market, the funnel is drying up. You need backup.  Use the power of the crowd to help fill your funnel with breakthrough, game changing ideas.

Defining the Challenge

To get your innovation challenge started, begin with focus.  It’s the “F” in the FIRE framework (Focus, Ideation, Ranking, Execution).   Create a focused innovation challenge statement.  

The key elements of the challenge statement answer who, what, and when.

  • Who is the target for the innovation?
  • What is the problem or opportunity?
  • When will the challenge be realized?

Those invited to participate in your challenge will answer the “how.”  

The more specific and targeted your statement, the better the ideas that result.  In fact, the smart use of constraints will also improve the quality and impact of the ideas submitted.  

Take time to get your innovation challenge statement right.  Once you’ve drafted the statement, test it with a small group of people.  Listen carefully to feedback and make changes. Test it two to three times before releasing the final innovation challenge statement.

Setting Up the Challenge

In deciding how to run the challenge, determine:  

  • What constitutes success in the innovation challenge?  
    • Is it the number of ideas received?
    • Is it the attention the challenge generates for the sponsor?
    • Is it the innovative solution to an actual problem?
  • To whom will the challenge be open?
    • Will it be open to the general public?
    • Will it be internal to the organization?
    • Will it be by invitation only?
  • What is the motivation to participate?
    • Will the challenge offer prize money, royalties, investment in the idea?
    • Will name recognition or promotion be the motivator?

Consult a legal team while developing the challenge.  The legal team can help set clear guidelines on who owns an idea that’s been entered.

Launching the Challenge

Once you’ve got your challenge statement and structured the challenge, you need participants.  The next step is promoting the challenge. Find out where your target participants hang out. What social media are they on?   If the innovation is a social challenge, engage the press in promoting it. Use the networks of others to reach out. If you’re opening an innovation challenge to the public, drop me a note.  Or join The Innovators Community and promote your challenge there.  Keep promoting the challenge until it closes.

After the Challenge

Once you’ve created and launched the challenge, here are some points to keep in mind.

Recognize the best ideas.  Call out the people who came up with them.  

Keep every idea.  It may be useful in the future.  The difference between a good idea and a great idea is rarely the idea. It's the timing.  

Set up a regular schedule if an innovation challenge will become part of your long-term strategy.  This will allow people to prepare for your next challenge.

Now go out and create an innovation challenge that will fill that funnel with game changing ideas.


[xyz-ihs snippet="Innovation-Challenge"]


Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to listen.  

Would you help me pay back my early mentor by paying it forward?

  • Share the show with others.
  • Give us a rating wherever you get your podcasts.

We are getting ready for CES 2019.  If you know someone who will be at CES and would be a great guest on the show,  drop me a line.  We will be hosting Killer Innovations in the Mobile Studio at CES. If you’ll be there, stop by the Mobile Studio to check it out.

For more on innovation, check out my book, Beyond the Obvious including extensive excerpts, over at  You can find hardcover, digital, and audio versions of my book on Amazon or wherever you get your books.

This show is produced by The Innovators Network.

Direct download: Dont_Let_the_Funnel_Dry_Up__Create_an_Innovation_Challenge_S14_Ep37.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 10:44am PST

Big corporate innovation or startup getting off the ground, the challenges are similar.  Amy Radin knows something of both. She went from direct marketing to becoming the first Chief Innovation Officer of Citibank.  Now she advises startups. Her latest book, The Change Maker’s Playbook, offers insight on getting your innovation from idea to scaling.  In today’s show, Amy defines what it means to be a change maker and how to win in the innovation game.

The Change Maker at Work

As the internet emerged, Amy recognized its future impact.  Her direct marketing experience gave her insight. She went on to lead digital transformation at Citibank.  She knows first-hand the hard work of corporate innovation. The nature of big companies is “predictability” and “continuity.”  Innovation disrupts that momentum. Amy prepared for resistance by pulling together a strong, diverse, collaborative team.  She built strong partnerships.  And she used her direct marketing skills.  Amy put consumer insight up front: know the customer’s unmet need, then meet it with technology.

[shareable cite="Amy Radin, Author The Change Maker’s Playbook"]I think tough problems are more likely to be solved when you have diversity of thought, expertise, perspective, life experience.[/shareable]

Corporate Innovator versus Startup

When it comes to innovation, do corporate innovators and startups have anything in common?  

Amy interviewed innovators from large and small sized companies across sectors. She found that the “how” differs, but the challenges are similar.  The startup has speed, passion, and purpose. The less agile corporate entity has the advantage of resources, scale, and brand infrastructure. With each having its advantage, the real success for corporations and startups is to partner.

Defining a Change Maker

A change maker finds a solution to a market problem.  With purpose and passion, the change maker drives the idea to execution and scaling.  Through hurdles and successes, the change maker sees it through.  In reality, rarely is it one person who does it all.  The change maker is a team. One person may have the initial idea and leadership.  That person brings the right team together, finding those who have the skills to fill the gaps.  This team becomes the change maker.

Framework for Innovation

Amy has developed a framework for innovation.  It’s based on thorough research and her own experience.  Through interviews with founders, investors and corporate innovators across sectors, she formed this practical approach.  

The pillars of this framework are seek, seed, scale.  

  1. Seek
    • Once an idea takes root, focusing on target users’ insights.
    • Finding answers through users’ behavior.
  2. Seed
    • Validating your concept through prototype.
    • Connecting user insights to your business model.
  3. Scale
    • Amy calls it the “green light moment”
    • Confirm you have what’s needed to scale.

Key Advice from a Change Maker

Amy’s key advice for innovators and change makers is to listen.  Listen to users so you can fully grasp their needs.  Listen to those you need to influence. Listen for the emotional reaction.  In Amy’s words, “360 listening is going to help change makers be more successful.”

To learn more about Amy’s framework for innovation and how to be a change maker, read The Change Maker’s Playbook.  Find excerpts and a free download infographic on seek, seed, scale at Amy’s website.

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Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to listen.  

We are getting ready for CES 2019.  If you know someone who would be a great guest for our CES show in the Mobile Studio,  drop me a line.

Would you help me pay back my early mentor by paying it forward?

  • Share the show with others.
  • Give us a rating wherever you get your podcasts.


This show is produced by The Innovators Network

Direct download: A_Change_Maker_in_the_Innovation_Game_S14_Ep36.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:36am PST

Today we delve into the future.  I discuss topics in three areas: top innovations, teaching the future, and tomorrow’s healthcare.  What innovations will have the most impact on our future? What can we do today to prepare students for the future?  How will technology help tomorrow’s healthcare? I based this show on a speech I delivered recently to staff of federal policy makers. It’s a future look at innovation, education, and healthcare.

Top Innovations with Future Impact

The top innovations that will transform our lives in the future are already in the works today. Artificial intelligence, light field display, and next generation storage will be life-changing. But a future look reveals issues.  These issues need study now to ensure that innovations better the lives of future generations.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is one area that will dominate the future.  People tend to think AI as something off in the distant future. But it's here.  The social media imbedded with AI gathers data on users. AI captures behavior patterns to improve user experience and focus advertising.  The impact of AI today is significant. Its future will be exponential. The power and potential of AI give rise to concerns of ethics Now is the time to explore and define the ethical boundaries for AI.

Light field display is another innovation that will impact our future.  Also known as volumetric display, light field display projects an image creating depth without the use of special glasses.  It is a high resolution, full color image you can walk around. Light field display will transform the way we view content. The latest vision video, The Near Future: Ready for Anything features light field displays.

Next generation storage will be like carrying a personal cloud in your pocket.  It will transform computing. Every bit of information – photographs, videos, documents, files, data – will fit in a small kind of USB key.

Educating for the Future

Are we teaching the future to students?  How do we prepare students for a job that does not yet exist, using a technology that has not yet been invented, to solve a problem we don't even know exists?  This presents a lot of unknowns. But one thing I do know: traditional methods of teaching are no longer enough.  

Students will need skills in critical thinking, creative thinking, collaboration.  Students who learn to look at any problem and derive a solution will be ready for the future.  Teaching the future means encouraging natural curiosity and investigation. I believe jobs of the future will be fluid. Learning to translate ideas from one area, industry, or discipline to another will help prepare students.  Teaching the future requires rethinking education. Finding ways to develop those critical skills in students will drive future success.

Tech for Tomorrow’s Healthcare

Healthcare is a hot topic now.  One reason is the rise in the aging population in the U.S. and many other parts of the world.  Low birth rates in recent decades mean less people fueling the economy and fewer people to care for the aging.  With the increasing aging population, what are the needs for tomorrow’s healthcare? In a future look at healthcare, here are areas to innovate and bring value to people’s lives.

There are not enough assisted living facilities in the United States to fill the need.  That fact and my own experience with my grandmother have caused me to think about “aging in place.”  Can we help aging people through tech and innovation live independent and fulfilling lives in their own homes?  Technologies that allow remote monitoring need to be intelligent, not just collecting data.  The tech needs to be unobtrusive. It should maintain privacy and independence, but still alert caregivers or family if something isn’t right.  This is a huge, open area to innovate tomorrow’s healthcare.

Another area open for innovation is communication for the aging.  Obstacles like limited hearing, lack of tech, or knowing how to use it can be big barriers.  Isolation is a real problem for many aging people. Having a better, simpler, more interactive way to communicate could add value to the lives of the aging.

Remote medical monitoring is another area to innovate.  This tech could track a patient’s condition after surgery.  But hand in hand with that, the laws need to keep pace with the technology.  Having tech to adjust a patient’s medicine remotely is worthless if the law doesn’t allow it.  

I hope this future look at what will impact us in innovation, education, and healthcare will spark deeper thoughts.   These are areas for innovators and policy makers to work out the challenges of tomorrow today.

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Thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to listen.  
If you have comments, drop me a line.
I’ve been doing this show since 2005 to pay back my early mentor by paying it forward.  
Would you help me pay it forward?  
  • Share the show with others.
  • Give us a rating wherever you get your podcasts.
This show is produced by The Innovators Network

[shareable cite="Antoine de Saint Exupéry"]The time for action is now. It’s never too late to do something.[/shareable]

When the enemy is in close pursuit, there’s not a lot of time to decide what’s next.  Fighter pilots are trained to make decisions fast. It’s a decision that could mean life or death.  And fast is not enough. Fighter pilots must make fast and accurate decisions.  Decision-making is critical in innovation too.  Freezing, making the wrong move, or having a slow process for decision-making can mean endgame.  A competitor will swoop in and take over, leaving you in the dust.  What works for fighter pilots may work for you. It’s called the OODA Loop.

Speed up the Pace

Continuing the series on innovation leadership skill sets, this show addresses a question from a number of listeners.  The question centers on decision-making. You’ve been trying to stand up an innovation effort in your organization.  But, the decision process through the organization is slow.  How can you speed up decision-making?

What has worked for me over the years is the OODA Loop.  It’s a military framework for decision-making.  A military leader developed the OODA Loop to train pilots to make swift, critical decisions.  The OODA Loop helps pilots in crisis situations. It trains them to avoid rote thinking and solve immediate problems creatively.  This decision-making framework translates well beyond the military.  It has had wide use across business, industry, and organizations.

What it Means

OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act.  These are the steps to take to making fast and accurate decisions.  The Loop is the repeat of the steps until you arrive at the solution.    The OODA loop guides you to look and evaluate a variety of things, test them, and act on them.  Based on the result, you go back through the OODA loop again until you can get to a solution. Each time you go through the loop, you add what you learned from the last loop.  If your first run through the OODA Loop doesn’t resolve the issue, on the next Loop, you know what to change.

The Steps


  • Collect data – this could be hard data, customer surveys and feedback, sales numbers, competitor’s sales info
  • Gather information from observing – customers, competitors
  • Rapidly gather as much information as possible accurately.
  • This will never be complete, but don’t let that delay you.


  • Identify the barriers to decision-making
  • Recognize biases – “we’ve always done it this way”
  • Traditions -- competitors will predict your move based on them
  • Beware of confirmation bias – leaning on what’s worked in the past
  • Sift through the overflow of information to pull out essential elements
  • Synthesize information gathered in unique and different ways


  • Use the information observed and orientated to make informed decision
  • Choose the most relevant option
  • Avoid first conclusion bias – don’t make the same decision over and over again if the outcome was negative


  • Act quickly on the rational decision
  • Test it, experiment
  • If it doesn’t work, go back through the OODA Loop
  • Use the results to feed into the OODA Loop

Keep in mind that you need to cycle through the OODA Loop very fast.  Don’t stay in any one step of the Loop for any length of time. The quick- paced, continuous loop improves decision-making.  With each cycle, it’s a feedback mechanism.

OODA Loop Advantages

I’ve used the OODA Loop with many teams and projects.  For a number of reasons, I like using the OODA Loop.

  1. It unfreezes teams
    • In nearly every innovation project, there’s a point where things freeze.  
    • The OODA Loop helps teams break free of that state.  
    • It forces teams to do something continuously.  
  2. Speed
    • It is a fast and accurate way to decision-making.
    • Good teams will cycle through the OODA Loop to action in minutes.
  3. Gets teams comfortable with uncertainty
    • You will never have perfect data.
    • Teams learn to accept that and move on with the data at hand.
  4. Helps teams to create the unpredictable
    • The fast pace and unique synthesis of data creates an unpredictable output.
    • This will baffle the competition.
  5. Based on testing
    • As you cycle through the OODA Loop, you can test the action
    • The testing result can be fed back into the Loop

Using a framework such as the OODA Loop, you can reach fast and accurate decisions.  What’s worked for fighter pilots in intense dogfights can help you to keep ahead of your competitors and win in the innovation game.

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Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to listen to the show.  If you have any questions or comments, drop me a note.

If you’ve enjoyed the show, would you do me a favor?   Rate the show wherever you get your podcast.

This show is produced by The Innovators Network.
Direct download: Decision-making_OODA_Loop_for_Fast_and_Accurate_Decisions_S14_Ep33.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 4:14am PST

Every year Chicago highlights the art of invention and innovation.  I’m honored to welcome back Tom Kuczmarski to the show.  Tom talks about exciting things going on in the realm of Chicago innovation and student invention.  If you’ve had trouble buttering your toast, today’s show might have the solution. At the Chicago Student Invention Convention, one student invention solves a simple breakfast hassle.  Great and small, Chicago innovation is making a difference and Tom is helping to lead it.

Chicago’s Invention and Innovation Evangelist

Tom’s enthusiasm for innovation is catching.  His career is multifaceted. Senior Lecturer at Northwestern University, author, and President of Kuczmarski Innovation. Tom is dedicated to bringing the art of invention and innovation to life in greater Chicago.  Co-founder of the Chicago Innovation Awards, he has cheered on Chicago innovation for seventeen years. Recently, offshoots of the Chicago Innovation Awards have emerged. The Chicago Student Invention Convention and the Woman’s Mentoring Co-Op have been huge successes.  

Inspiring Young Minds through Student Invention

The Student Invention Convention challenges young students in the greater Chicago area to invent.  Students work with teachers in a ten-week program to create inventions that solve a range of problems.  It thrills Tom to see these kids engaged in the art of invention and innovation.  The exposure to invention and innovation at an early age unlocks their future potential.  

Fostering Woman Entrepreneurship and Innovation

The Woman’s Mentoring Co-Op has nearly doubled every year since its inception.  This program involves successful women mentoring women innovators who want to grow their business.  It’s a way for women to help each other with the unique challenges for women in business and innovation.  Tom’s proud of the strength and power created by this new community of Chicago innovation.

Unlikely Partners

Tom recalls a conversation several years ago with the CEO of a major hotel chain.  Tom broached the topic of Airbnb as a potential competitor. The CEO dismissed his concern. In the last five years, Tom’s seen a major shift in the thinking of major corporations.  Rather than keeping innovation in-house, corporations are opening up.  Major corporations are seeing the need and benefit of partnering with startups.  That’s where the Chicago Corporate Start-Up Matchmaking program comes into play. It’s similar to the CableLabs Fiterator program, but on a broader spectrum.  The Matchmaking program connects corporations with start-ups whose Chicago innovation can bring value.

What Recognizing Others Reaps

Tom likes to recognize others in their innovation and invention.  There is power in creating an environment that values people at all levels.  His latest book is co-authored with Susan Smith Kuczmarski.  Lifting People Up: The Power of Recognition focuses on encouraging people.  He sees this as pivotal for leadership now and the future.  In fact, he feels peopleship should replace leadership. Leaders should motivate and value the people within the organization.  This is especially critical in innovation, which is a team effort.

[shareable cite="Tom Kuczmarski, Co-author Lifting People Up: The Power of Recognition"]Peopleship needs to be the word now that captures what leadership is all about because our focus has to be on the people within an organization.[/shareable]

Just as Tom likes to award and recognize others, the same returns to him.  Tom and Susan have already garnered awards since their book’s May release. They received both the Living Now Awards Silver medal and the Carl Sandburg Award.  

Innovation Practices with Big Impact

As innovation consultant, Tom highlights two best practices.  

  1. Understand and address consumer pain points.
    • When a company solves a consumer pain point, it is on the right track.
    • Example: Abbott’s innovations to manage diabetes.
  2. Have a cross functional team.
    • The more diverse the better with different perspectives and experience.

Tom has done so much for promoting and encouraging Chicago innovation.  The Chicago Innovation Awards recognize top innovators. He is opening up new worlds for students introducing them to the art of invention and innovation.  Through his efforts and others, Chicago’s women innovators are building a strong community for success.

Interested in tracking what Tom is doing?  Visit Kuczmarski Innovation.

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Direct download: The_Art_of_Invention_and_Innovation_in_Chicago_S14_Ep32.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:08am PST

Anyone who wants to be highly creative, be an innovator, and generate killer ideas needs above all else one thing.  You need your brain. That’s why it’s of primary importance that you take care of your brain health. Your brain, like any muscle can be exercised and strengthened.  In today’s show, we talk about how you can optimize your brain health for innovation and creativity.  

Good News for Your Brain

Reading the Chicago Tribune, I came across an interesting article by Leslie Barker.  The article reveals research findings from the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas.  At the forefront of the research is Sandra Bond Chapman, founder of the Center for Brain Health.  The research indicates that we can strengthen our brain and improve our brain health.  If you’re thinking Sudoku, think again. And while I do practice some of these tips for brain health, there is room for improvement. Since I plan to be in the innovation game for life, brain health is essential.  So, I’ll be working on these. I hope you’ll join me.

Steps to Brain Health

What’s good for your body is also good for your brain.  Want to increase your brain bandwidth to maximize your innovation and creativity output?  Do you fear the potential diseases of Dementia and Alzheimer’s? Maybe someone in your family has gone through one of these cognitive diseases.  Don’t sit back and give up because the disease is in the genes. There’s hope to increase your brain’s potential and minimize decline.

Physical Exercise

First, getting physical exercise increases your brain health.  The higher your fitness level, the better your brain wiring. Exercise can increase the number of pathways through your brain and widen pathways.  This can only increase your ability for innovation and creativity. Physical fitness may also slow cognitive decline. Conversely, if you let your body get out of shape, your brain will follow.  To slow or prevent the development of Dementia or Alzheimer’s, stay active. The study recommends 30 minutes most days. I’ll admit, this doesn’t come easy for me. While my wife is great at keeping an exercise regimen, this is something I have to get better at.  Set the goal and make exercise a habit for your brain health.  

Five by Five

The second step for brain health is to take five -minute breaks five times a day.  It’s what we call five by five. Breaks can mean getting up from your desk and taking a walk outside or even staying at your desk, but unplugging from work.  In the office, I sometimes sit back in my chair at my cubicle, close my eyes, and take a short break. As CEO, I do this in full view of my team as we are all in cubicles.  In this way, I let them know it’s ok to take a brain break. If you’re a leader, I encourage you to model this with your team. Those of us in the innovation game put our brain under a lot of pressure and stress.  By doing five by five brain breaks, the benefits are all around.  Brain health improves innovation and creativity.  Remember five by five.

Quit Multitasking: Focus

The third step to brain health is to stop multitasking.  This one goes hand in hand with the “F” in the innovation framework FIRE.  That is focus. If you are doing multiple tasks at once, the quality of your work declines and the potential for mistakes increases.  The time it takes to do these tasks increases. By focusing on a single task, your ideas will have greater depth and quality. Even better, you are exercising your brain when you focus on one thing at a time.  In the office, when I need deep focus, I put my earbuds in and listen to instrumental music. No lyrics and low volume. This helps to minimize the background office noise and keep me focused on the one task at hand.

Eat More Fruits and Veggies

For brain health, increase your intake of fruits and vegetables.  If my wife were listening to this podcast, she would quote this back to me.  Your brain needs healthy eating. Eat whole berries, fresh vegetables like green leafy vegetables, healthy fats like olive oil, nuts, and fish.  I’m getting better at this. Eating more fish. Snacking on trail mix. Trying to eliminate the sugary drinks. As I was preparing for my TedX Boulder talk, I noticed I needed more fuel.  I’ve put more effort into this talk than any talk I’ve ever done in my whole career.  The mental energy has made me consume more. But I didn’t crave the sugary stuff. I craved real fuel, healthy food.  Feed your brain the good stuff.

Practice Innovative Thinking

Innovative thinking actually improves your brain health.  Thinking about things differently and in new ways increases the brain’s strength.  This helps you to maintain mental independence as you age.  It’s also what we do in the innovation game.  Innovation and creativity are good for brain health.  Just in the day to day, some ways to practice innovative thinking are coming up with new words to thank someone.  Or use a different structure for your emails. Change it up. Find creative ways to practice innovative thinking daily.

Put the Tech to Rest

As laughable as it may seem coming from me, put the tech away to give your brain a rest.  While technology may stimulate the brain, it may not always do so in a beneficial way. So, give your brain a respite.  In my own experience, I don’t seem to retain as much information reading from a screen versus paper copy. Research shows that reading things digitally, the brain tends to click into skimming mode.  For depth, retention, and the thinking process, shut off the technology. If there’s a topic or book I want to think deeply on, I’ll buy the book. Even consider removing technology from meetings. It may result in shorter more productive meetings.  Give your brain a break from the digital.

Don’t Doubt Your Brain

If relatives have suffered from Alzheimer’s or Dementia, don’t give in to fears that it’s on the horizon for you.  Believe that your brain will be strong and that you can strengthen it. Through exercise and eating well, exercising your creative muscle and keeping your brain sharp, you can push back symptoms.  

If you’re in the innovation and creativity game, you are doing amazing things.  What’s helping you to do those amazing things is your brain. It’s your most valuable asset.  So, I hope these tips will help you to protect, maintain, and improve your most valuable asset, your brain.

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Thank you for listening to the show.  Killer Innovations exists to pay back my early mentor, Bob Davis, by paying it forward.  If you like the show, please do me a favor and pay it forward. Give us a rating wherever you get your podcast and tell others about the show.

This episode of Killer Innovations is produced by The Innovators Network.
Direct download: Brain_Health_for_Innovation_and_Creativity_S14_Ep31.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:15am PST

Growing up with an inventor dad, Jarl Jensen knew innovation and ideas were in his future.  As a kid, his dad would play the “Invention Game” with him.  His dad would present an object and together they would come up with different ideas for its use.  In his teens, Jarl was already on the road to success writing a medical patent. Now Jarl has several patents in medical innovations.  He was also front and center in Euro-Med, Inc., a company launched in 1991 and recently selling at a record high multiple.  But Jarl sees the economy as an area void of innovation. It is a passionate concern of his.  He shares his unique perspective on innovating the economy.

Contracting Economy

Currently, Jarl is working on further patents in advanced burn care as well as two startups.  But his thoughts linger on the economy. He is the author of Optimizing America.  It’s a parable of sorts which explores what could be if economic change took place.  What is Jarl concerned about? Over the last 100 years the economy has operated in much the same way.  In the beginning, opportunities for economic expansion were wide open. But over the years, what defines the economy has narrowed.  In Jarl’s view, the economy is on a path to contraction rather than expansion. It’s an economy based on debt with banks holding the controls.  The catch to innovating the economy is that the shareholders in this case are the banks. And what is in the best interest of the banks may not be in the best interest of people.

[shareable cite="Jarl Jensen, author, Optimizing America"]…if you took a bunch of innovators from any other industry and put them in charge of currency and our money, very quickly you come up with some very different ideas of how to run the economy and how to use the money for the benefit of everyone…[/shareable]

Innovation Antibodies and the Economy

In Jarl’s view, who are the innovation antibodies?  Commercial banks hinder innovation of the economy.  He fears the day is coming when more jobs will go away than will be created.  Like the proverbial frog in boiling water, the economy has evolved and we are so used to it, we don’t recognize the problem.  Are there changes, small or large, that could achieve a more balanced, less debt-ridden economy? Is there a broader purpose to serve?  Are there better ways to grow the economy than means that hinge on loans and debt? Do banks have too much control over technology and innovation because they control the outflow of money to support innovation?  These are thoughts for innovators and leaders to contemplate.

If you’d like to track what Jarl Jensen is doing, visit his blog Optimizing America.  You may also find Jarl’s books at Amazon.

We are getting ready for CES 2019.  If you’ll be in Las Vegas for CES, stop by the Mobile Studio for a tour.  If you know someone who will be at CES and would be a great guest for the show, contact me.

[xyz-ihs snippet="Innovating-the-Economy-S14-Ep30"]

Direct download: Innovating_the_Economy_S14_Ep30.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 5:03am PST

September is National Peripheral Artery Disease Awareness month.  In view of this, today’s show is an edited re-broadcast of two shows from November 2017.   Kym McNicholas and I interview Ra Medical founder, Dean Irwin.  Dean shares his unusual path to medical innovation with some key lessons for innovators.

From TV Tubes to Thermonuclear Fusion

Dean started his journey of lifelong learning and discovery as a kid.  Tinkering with old television sets led to working in a television repair shop as an early teen.  He was self-taught, reading about electronics and buying test equipment with paper route money. Innate curiosity and boldness brought him to the door of Universal Voltronics at 16.  That cold call opened the door to designing circuits. People came alongside.  They taught Dean the corporate ropes and helped him develop his technical skills.  It was here he had a chance to work with an M.I.T. group on the Alcator program. This introduction to thermonuclear fusion opened a new world for Dean.

At 17, Dean moved from the east coast to California and joined General Atomics.  The physicists gave him exposure to different areas and helped him determine his strength in Applied Physics.  With experience gained at General Atomics, Dean launched his first startup. He built custom designed equipment for General Atomics.  He was 21. After a good run of six years, his company went bankrupt. Going through the bankruptcy was a learning experience.  As Dean says, “You actually build up a tool chest to help you navigate.”  It gives you the “hindsight” to help “predict some of these issues before they arise.”  

Charting a New Path

The bankruptcy didn’t stop him.  He teamed up with another startup.  This was the beginning of Dean’s foray into medical innovation.  Believe it or not, thermonuclear fusion was the groundwork for the medical innovation he spearheads today.   According to Dean, the path was straight. And it was a clear link between thermonuclear fusion and designing a treatment for atherosclerotic disease.  In fact, the transition from repairing televisions to working in thermonuclear fusion was no great leap. Dean has an innate curiosity. His transfer of knowledge and skills in one field to a seemingly unrelated field boils down to one question.  Why not? The principles are the same with different constraints.   

[shareable cite="Dean Irwin, Ra Medical CEO"]There are so many similarities in physics and in nature that you'll see the same problems solved perhaps many different ways, but with a very common thread. And that common thread can tie it all together. [/shareable]

Pushback?  Persevere.

The Ra Medical excimer laser has proven itself in over 500 cases.  It’s used in six countries and has gained FDA approval. It’s ease of use while cutting through plaque sets this product apart.   Add to this the positive patient outcome and cost-efficiency.

Dean connected similarities from nuclear fusion to medical innovation.  This has produced a design that is definitively outside of the box.  Others said it would not work.  Engineers, scientists and physicians were skeptical.  Unfazed by naysayers, Dean persevered.    He didn’t let innovation antibodies distract him.  He kept focus on the medical innovation that will impact people’s lives.  Breaking from the mold, he’s developed a product that is truly innovative.

If you’d like to learn the latest from Ra Medical, check out Linkedin or the Ra Medical Systems website.

Are you battling innovation antibodies?  Need some help with your innovation. Connect to a community of innovators who support each other through the innovation process?  Join The Innovators Community.

Direct download: Unusual_Path_to_Medical_Innovation__Ra_Medicals_Dean_Irwin_S14_Ep29.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 4:14am PST

A recent event brought back to mind a blog I posted in January 2017 on the innovation economy.  A news agency reporting on a candidate running for governor referenced that blog post.  The candidate‘s platform is the innovation economy. It seems to be gaining traction this political season.  There is a drive for economic rebirth of urban areas or to reestablish the growth engine for states. This has turned eyes on the innovation economy.  

Some term it the “creative economy.”  Gary Hamel calls it the “new economy.”  I refer to it as the “innovation economy.”  But what exactly is it? The ability of people to create, innovate, and develop ideas, products, and services that generate value.  The value people place above the bill of materials is the innovation value. Done well that value elicits a margin premium, the growth engine of an innovation economy.

Turning the Downturn Around

Like the steel industry, which tanked in the 70s, a number of states in the U.S. have been facing economic downturn.  Their economies relied on industries that have slowed, shrunk or halted. Politicians are seeking economic growth engines to re-energize their state and local economies.  Places like Detroit are establishing programs, activities, and systems to attract creative people to relocate. They are seeking creative minds who will jump start the innovation economy with their ideas, products, and services.  

There are success stories - Boulder, CO; Portland, OR; Austin, TX and Boston’s Route 128.  These places built an innovation economy that flourishes, creating jobs and economic growth.  But it’s not a quick fix. Establishing a thriving innovation economy takes long-term commitment.  

Humble Beginnings to World Stage

From its beginning in a garage in Palo Alto, CA, HP became the match that started the flame.  Silicon Valley became a thriving innovation economy. This sparked highly creative, rapid growth and expansion in the tech industry.  Today, I can’t go anywhere without seeing the effects of that, even in name. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has become known as the “Silicon Prairie.”  

The innovation economy is changing the world.  Disruptions have spread across a variety of industries.   Crowd sharing technologies have allowed unexpected disruption.  Airbnb, the largest provider of overnight accommodation, does not own a hotel.  Uber, the largest provider of passenger transport, does not own a fleet of vehicles.  Brick and mortar retailers are closing as online retailers take over. The impact of the innovation economy is undeniable.  Don’t think any job is above that impact. One company uses chatbots and artificial agents to process and negotiate traffic tickets in court.  X-rays are sent overseas for diagnostics. Like it or not, the innovation economy is here to stay. Don’t let your sphere of influence sink. Get started building an innovation economy where you are.

Building the Innovation Economy in Your Sphere

So, what’s a politician or anyone who cares about their livelihood, their business, the place they call home to do? Start by asking the questions:

  • What are the rules by which an industry operates?
  • What would totally disrupt that industry?
  • What would happen if it turned on its head and completely changed?
  • What is that impact?  What is its unintended consequence?  Or its intended consequences?

Perhaps this has already happened in your area and you are left to deal with the unintended consequences.  Possibly an industry has dissolved and joblessness is an issue. Then you need to counter that by building a new, innovation economy.  

Whether you foresee what may happen or are dealing with the aftermath, ask:

  • What can I do to encourage a creative or innovation economy within my local area?

A good place to begin building the innovation economy is the education system.  Shift the teaching model. Move toward emphasis on STEAM: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math.  Students need to be prepared to compete in a new economy.  Students need to know how to use technologies that have not yet been invented to solve problems that don’t exist today.  To do this, educators must develop their students’ critical thinking skills.  They must help students find and exercise their creativity.  The classroom should be the incubator for teamwork, collaboration, leadership, and ideation.

Another segment of the population affected by disruption is the aging population.  This is something communities and politicians should be aware of. When industries decline, older workers face a dilemma: be jobless, retrain, or retire.  Left unaddressed, such concerns will put strain on the economy in areas such as social services. Make the investment now. Develop programs to prepare people for the innovation economy.  The innovation economy can also bring amazing means to enrich the lives of the aging.  Be attuned to the resources on the horizon that can make life better for the citizens in your community.

What’s Stopping You?

Massachusetts is experiencing phenomenal growth through its innovation economy.  It is a leader in economic output from the innovation sector. This takes years to cultivate.  Having impact in the innovation economy comes from having prepared workers. This means education that prepares students to work in the innovation economy.  In addition, it requires developing the means to attract creative talent.

The biggest barrier to an innovation economy is lack of ideas.  That goes hand in hand with creativity. Creativity has been stifled in our education system.  Yet, today the number one skill CEOs are looking for is creativity. Nurture creativity. And with that comes ideas.  Allow those ideas to develop and translate into innovations. Innovation is ideas made real.

The innovation economy impacts us all.  It is for us all. Anyone can take advantage of the innovation economy. Anyone can make their ideas real, make their innovations count, and contribute to economic growth.

I’d love to get your feedback on this show.  Post your comments at Killer Innovations or wherever you get this podcast.

[xyz-ihs snippet="Innovation-Economy-S14-Ep-28"]

Thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to join me.
If you have any comments or suggestions, drop me a note.
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This episode of Killer Innovations was produced by The Innovators Network.
Direct download: The_Impact_of_the_Innovation_Economy_S14_Ep28.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 2:41am PST

In a recent show, I talked about setting innovation objectives.  Listeners wrote in asking for details on how to include innovation in the objective setting process.   So, in this week’s show I share the steps to setting innovation objectives. Done well, innovation objectives can result in exponential success for your organization.

The purpose for setting objectives is to gain alignment in the organization.   Innovation success depends on getting everyone in the boat and rowing in the same direction.  When you incorporate innovation objectives into individual, team, and organizational objectives, you gain alignment.  This will be evident around the innovation focus, funnel, and strategy.


Setting innovation objectives is hard work.  Over the years, my approach has changed. In my days leading teams at HP, objectives did not provide clear guidance leaving engineers to figure things out.  When objectives are vague, people wonder whether what they’re doing aligns with the organization.  

Other issues arise when objectives are…

  • Too task-oriented leaving no room for creativity.  
  • Too rigid, locked in concrete until annual performance reviews.  
  • Too broad or include too many things creating a fog.   
  • Measurable, hence tied to performance review and annual budget cycles.  

Getting it Right

To help with setting innovation objectives, I’ve come to believe in OKRs (Objectives and Key Results).  Andy Grove, co-founder of Intel, defined this objective setting process. Many major companies are using OKRs today.  I use a simplified version of OKRs.  Think of the objective as the vision or goal line.  It’s where you want to go. The key results are the measurable steps to get you there.   When the objectives are clear and the key results align, the outcome is inspiring. People see a successful and meaningful impact in their efforts.  

To begin, I set the objective with two to five key results.  It can be set for one year to five years. Key results are laid out in a six-month rolling process.  Every six months, a key result is met and the next key result begins.

Alignment and autonomy are the overarching goals.  Get the entire organization aligned. Give employees the goal and allow them to use their creativity to achieve it.  Provide the direction and measurement of success. Leave the ‘how’ to them.

Advice on Setting Objectives

  • Take time to set objectives.  
    • I spend hundreds of hours, write and rewrite, and get feedback from others.
  • Make sure there is clarity.
    • Wording is important.  
    • Clarity is key to getting alignment.
  • Be transparent.  
    • Share objectives with others.
  • Avoid too many objectives.  
    • Three to five objectives with two to five key results for each.
  • Objectives should be adaptable.
    • Change the objective based on learning.
  • Objectives should be specific.  

Good Innovation Objectives

A basic element of good innovation objectives is a framework.  I use the FIRE framework.  FIRE stands for Focus, Ideation, Ranking, Execution.  I’ve done many blogs and shows over the past fourteen years on FIRE.  It’s also laid out in my bookBeyond the Obvious.  

Below I describe the FIRE framework and give examples of using it to develop innovation objectives.

  1. Focus.
    • Focusing the search for areas of innovation.
    • Three focus areas are “who”, “what”, “how”.
      • Example of “who”:  
        • What could be the focus over the next six months to learn more about who your customer is?
      • Example of “what”:
        • What focus areas should you set for your products or services.
      • Example of “how”:
        • Focus on how you operate, how you innovate your team/organization to be better than the competition.
    • The objective is to expand your search for areas of innovation.
    • The Key Result would be the steps that need to be taken to do the search.
    • Another objective could be relooking at old ideas.
  2. Ideation.
    • This is the generating of ideas.  “The fuel for innovation.”
    • Hundreds of ways to generate ideas (Thinkertoys, brainstorming)
    • Determine which tools work for your organization.
    • An objective could be “experiment with different approaches to creating ideas.”
    • Another objective could be “deploy an Idea Management System” (IMS).
  3. Ranking.
    • Fills your innovation funnel.
    • Score ideas and work on highest scored ideas first.
    • Examples of objectives around ranking:
      • Testing the scoring method
      • Determine if ranking approach draws out truly high-quality ideas.
      • Ensure the funnel is full of high quality ideas.
      • Re-score ideas in the IMS that are not in the funnel.
      • Search for external high-quality ideas.
  4. Execution.
    • Examples of objectives:
      • How many ideas are there in each phase of execution?
        • How many in market validation, customer validation, prototype, commercial launch?
      • How many proof of concepts working on or have shown.
      • Measure the end result of innovations that shipped. What was the impact?
      • Track your kill rate. How many ideas in each phase don't make it to the next phase?

Things to Keep in Mind

  • I keep a rolling 12 months of objectives and key results, broken up into 6-month increments.  Work on and complete key results in first six months, but have second set ready for the next six months.
  • Look back and assess which objectives and key results worked and which ones didn’t.  Adjust accordingly.
  • Test objectives after a while to see if they contribute to the long-term success and impact of the overall objective.
  • Share and learn from others.  Find out how others set objectives.  A great way to share and learn from other innovators is The Innovators Community, our online Slack community.  Join to share and get coaching and advice from the community of innovators.

[xyz-ihs snippet="Setting-Innovation-Objectives-S14-Ep27"]

Five Minutes to New Ideas is now available as a standalone show.  It’s designed for the creative mind looking for that next great idea.  Listen on Apple iTunes, Spotify or at
Direct download: Setting_Innovation_Objectives_S14_Ep27.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:34am PST

A key mission for an innovation leader is to motivate, support, and help your teams learn good innovation habits.  This should occur daily with each interaction. Modeling leadership habits and exhibiting leadership skills inspires employees to become leaders.  In today’s show, I share six questions I ask my employees. These questions encourage good habits and sharpen innovation leadership skills within my organization.

I weave the questions into one on one meetings with my direct staff and skip levels (those who report to my direct staff).  The questions reflect an innovation culture that is essential to success. Another element of refining the innovation culture is organizational objectives.  This year, my organization is redefining objectives. Using the objectives and key results framework (OKRs), focus is on the long-range vision.  This promotes thinking long term rather than on annual goals that tie to budget, pay raises, and bonuses.  To build a high impact innovation organization, you need to instill good leadership skills and habits in line with long-range goals.  So, here are the six questions that can help move your organization in that direction.

Six Questions to Ask Your Employees

1. What went well since we last met?  

Once you ask the question, sit back and listen.  Give employees the opportunity to relate their successes and share….

  • What their priorities were.
  • Where they made good progress.
  • Who played a key role in that success.
  • Who helped, even outside the team/department.
  • What's next.

Offer sincere support and appreciation.  Stay in the loop on where they're heading.  Provide coaching and mentoring. Reinforce that innovation is a team sport.  Help them get into the habit of giving credit to others who’ve contributed to the team’s success.  Giving credit to others is vital to good innovation leadership skills.

2. What went wrong and what did you learn from it?

We will always have things that go wrong, mistakes that happen.  Nothing is completely in our control.  The key is to put it on the table. Don’t hide it when things go off course.  Encourage employees to share what went wrong and what they’ve learned.

The benefits of doing this…

  • Others in the organization can learn how to avoid the same or similar pitfalls.  
  • They’re in good company.  Good innovation teams tend to have an 80 to 90% failure rate.  
  • It’s liberating for the organization if leaders are willing to share their mistakes or failures.  
  • It shows support for experimentation.

3. What did you find that was broken or could be improved?  What did you do to fix or improve it?

This gives people permission to go fix things.  IF YOU SEE IT, FIX IT.

What employees learn from this:

  • We are all in this together.    
  • Don’t find something wrong, then point to someone else to fix it.
  • Silos and turf should not exist.  If you can fix it, don’t worry that it’s not in your department.

4. What did you do to help create a motivating environment?  Who did you catch doing something right?

When someone pitches an innovation idea, what is the reaction?    In our organization, we give out gift cards to recognize employees’ efforts and good innovation habits.  

To create a motivating environment…

Good leaders find people who are doing right.  Then they reinforce it by acknowledging it publicly.  This shows others what habits and actions to strive for in their team and organization.  

5. What roadblocks are you facing that I could help clear for you and your team?

As a leader, your job is to be the filter, sifting out things that hinder team productivity.  Roadblocks can be anything from issues with purchasing to a cumbersome process for expense reporting.  Nothing is too insignificant. If there is an admin issue they’ve tried to resolve, but can’t, you as the leader should step in.  Leaders should remove the barriers so that their teams can stay focused on what’s important. Don't let sand get in the gears and slow things down. The pace of innovations is accelerating.  We have to find ways to drive productivity and efficiency.

6. What else would you like to talk about?

This open-ended question allows your employees to share something that might be weighing on their mind.  It gives you the opportunity to see where you could make a difference.  One of my organization’s core values is “candor with respect.”  This gives employees confidence to be honest and transparent free from concern about negative reactions.  Protect confidentiality so employees feel they can open up. I’ve had employees present challenges in their personal lives.  In some cases, I’ve been able to help. The results have improved employee morale and generated positive change for the organization.

I hope these questions will help you inspire innovation leadership skills in your sphere of influence.

Want to share your experiences and learn from others in the innovation world?  Join The Innovators Community.

[xyz-ihs snippet="6-Questions-Great-Leaders-Ask-Their-Employees-S14-Ep26"]

Five Minutes to New Ideas is now available as a standalone show.  It’s designed for the creative mind looking for that next great idea.  Listen on Apple iTunes, Spotify or at

A common question I get from listeners is how to fight against the roadblocks and barriers to innovation.  In this week’s show, I address five of the biggest barriers to innovation. The list is based on the 2018 Innovation Leader study done in partnership with KPMG.  The study surveyed Chief Innovation Officers in organizations ranging from small to large.  As many of you have let me know, these barriers resonate with you. As we walk through the list, I will share my thoughts on each of these barriers to innovation.

The Roadblocks and Speed Bumps

First, here’s the list of barriers to innovation and how they rank among Chief Innovation Officers surveyed.

  1. Politics, turf wars, no alignment.   55% of innovation leaders say this is the #1 issue.
  2. Cultural issues.  45% claim this as the #2 barrier to innovation.
  3. Inability to act on signals.  41% placed this at #3.
  4. Lack of budget. 40% of innovation leaders found this to be the #4 obstacle.
  5. Lack of strategy, lack of vision.  35% put this at #5.

Let’s take a closer look at these and what I would do to get around these barriers to innovation.

Number One: Politics, Turf Wars, No Alignment

There are many manifestations of politics be it people vying for credit or the corporate antibody.  Politics can be a big challenge especially in large organizations.  The higher people rise within an organization, the more risk averse and defensive they tend to become.

Turf wars can erupt when “innovation” is used in a team name or a position title.  The innovation team creates an innovation for a product group. The product group team gives it an icy reception.  It’s an invasion of their turf.

No alignment occurs when people within the organization are going in different directions.  Leaders announce the need for innovation fast, but give no guidance. There’s no alignment of the activities or the overall organizational vision.  This is a lack of leadership.

Here are ways to bring down these barriers:


  • Don’t worry about getting credit.  It’s about the impact to the organization.  Good leadership will recognize where the credit is due.
  • Don’t use the word “innovation” in a team name or job title.  Innovation is not the realm of a single team. It should permeate the organization.  

Turf Wars

  • Don’t innovate in isolation.  Open up opportunities for innovation across the organization.  Think ecosystem.

No alignment

  • Have focus up front and communicate that focus to your organization.  When you define the where and what, you get maximum leverage. Quantity and quality of ideas will increase.

Number Two: Culture

Some of the underlying issues I’ve seen with culture are fear of failure and unwillingness to experiment.  If these are concerns, a work around is to go stealth with your innovation.  

But, if you really want to fix the problem…

  • Identify core values that encourage innovation.  
  • Include the core values in employees’ performance reviews.  

Number Three: Inability to Act on Signals

The inability to act on signals signifies inflexibility within the organization.  Maybe you see a new opportunity or risk on the horizon but all resources are committed until the next budget cycle.  Or maybe you do not have a mechanism in place to identify weak signals.

The key to breaking this barrier to innovation:

  • Identify weak signals.
  • Be willing to change.
  • Have the flexibility to change.

Number Four: Lack of Budget

Budget is a challenge for innovation because budget cycles tend to be annual, but innovation does not follow an annual cycle.  Budget does not support or align with innovation. It creates a start-stop interference to innovation programs. I’ve been experimenting with trended spending in my organization.  It gives innovation teams flexibility to adjust funding and confidence funds will be there when needed.

The Rule of 18 also comes into play as a barrier.   It is the length of time senior leaders are willing to commit to a project before they expect to see some form of impact.  If the innovation project does not show impact within 18 months, it’s likely to be axed.

My advice for budget related barriers to innovation:

  • Chunk down your projects to show impact and deliverables on an 18-month cycle.
  • CEOs and Chief Innovation Officers: make a multi-year commitment and stick with it.
  • Don’t underspend.  Budget is not the metric in innovation.

Number Five: Lack of Vision, Lack of Strategy

If an organization’s overall vision does not include the innovation vision and strategy, it’s unlikely innovations will succeed.  

My advice:

  • Define an innovation vision and innovation strategy.
  • Need help with this?  There’s a lot of good material available.  Drop me an email and I will point you to some sources.

If you’ve got a specific example or you’re struggling with an innovation issue, drop me an email.

Better yet, join us at The Innovators Community, a private slack community of leading innovators from around the world.  Post your questions or direct message for advice and feedback.


Five Minutes to New Ideas is now available as a standalone show.  It’s designed for the creative mind looking for that next great idea.  Listen on Apple iTunes, Spotify or at
Direct download: Five_Barriers_to_Innovation_S14_Ep25.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 4:33am PST

Success in the innovation game requires strong innovation leadership.   But there is confusion about what defines leadership. To understand leadership, we need to boil it down to the essence – what it is and what it isn’t.  We need to identify a key leadership skill and determine how this skill can elicit success. There are leaders who stand out in my mind. They have had an effect on me through my career and life.  They have one common leadership skill: influence.

What It’s Not

I’ve had the title of Chief Technology Officer at HP.  Now I have the title of CEO leading 200 bright and motivated people.  But a title does not make a leader. Some may think leadership is directing people in what to do.  It’s assigning tasks, then watching from on high while others do the work.  That is not leadership. There are those who confuse leadership with micromanagement.  They expect their managers to clear every decision with them before they make it. That is not leadership.  How do you distinguish true leaders from managers, supervisors or those who just have control?

Essence of Leadership

Leadership is about inspiring others.  It’s about motivating others to achieve success beyond what they could’ve ever imagined.  One leader who’s inspired me is Bob Davis.  He hired me in my first real job and became my mentor.  He modeled leadership and I was drawn to the projects and teams he led.  When I considered what made Bob different from others in management, it came down to leadership skills.  His skills in leadership led to success. What made him stand out was his ability to influence.

Innovation Leadership

Leadership isn’t just for managers.   It’s essential to any team. You need leadership skills when you are a team contributor, self-leading, and when there is no clear person in charge.  That is why leadership is crucial in innovation.  Innovation leadership drives innovation from ideas on a whiteboard or in a notebook to something mind-blowing.  How do you hone the skills of innovation leadership? Let’s examine one key skill.

The Key

Influence is the key skill in innovation leadership.  

Two definitions of influence are

  1. The power to cause change without forcing the change to happen.  
    • Not making the change happen.
    • Not doing the task.
    • Not giving the answer.
  2. A person who affects someone in an important way.
    • Someone you admire who has inspired you.
    • Someone whose behavior you want to model.
    • Could be your spouse, an old boss, a teacher, a professor, a friend.  

Attributes of Influence

There are three attributes of influence that leaders have.

  1. Knowledge
    • Experience – successful work in the past that is the same or similar to the work at hand.
    • Expertise – relevant training (such as college) or working for an expert in the field.
  2. Credibility
    • Past actions – how the leader achieved success and handled failure.
    • Thinking beyond self – working for the larger, mutually beneficial goal.
    • Follow through – leaders do what they say they’re going to do
  3. Integrity
    • The core set of values that guide what one does.
    • Projected through actions.
    • Core values include
      • Honesty and truthfulness
      • Win-win always
      • Transparency
      • Team first

How to Influence for Success

Influence is core to innovation leadership.  Those who have the ability to elicit positive change have mastered the skill of influence.  How can you influence others? It’s a non-obvious answer. The most powerful influence you can have is often not trying to influence.  

How to exert influence without authority?

Step One:   Understand those you want to influence.

  • Learn their motivations, objectives, dreams, fears and desires.
  • Craft a win-win.  Achieve what you want to achieve while supporting and enabling those you want to influence to reach their objectives.

Step Two:  Active listening.

  • Shut up and listen.
  • Let others feel they are part of the conversation, that they’re contributing.

Step Three:  Ask questions.

  • Well thought out questions that do not convey an agenda or define a target
  • Questions that prompt conversation and allow others to share their opinions, thoughts, experience and expertise.

Innovation needs innovation leadership and influence is the key to success.

[xyz-ihs snippet="Using-Influence-for-Success-S14-Ep24"]

Five Minutes to New Ideas is now available as a standalone show.  It’s designed for the creative mind looking for that next great idea.  Listen on Apple iTunes, Spotify or at
Direct download: Innovation_Leadership_Using_Influence_for_Success_S14_Ep24.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:46am PST


Today’s show is unique.  I recorded it as I drove back to Denver from an annual event in Keystone, Colorado.  The event centers around what’s coming in the next three to eight years in technology and innovation.  So, sit back and enjoy the ride as I share my thoughts on innovation and the near future.


Pondering AI and Ethics

I delivered two keynotes at the event.  During one, I got a question about Artificial Intelligence.  To be specific, did I agree or disagree with what other tech leaders were saying about AI.  This prompted a lively talk during the keynote and afterwards. The discourse kept me mulling over thoughts on innovation, AI and the future.


We’ve featured some shows this year that touch on the use of AI.  Recently, the Box Chief Product Officer shared how Box is using AI for content management.  Earlier in the year, Microsoft’s Corporate VP for AI, Steve Guggenheimer, gave insight into applying AI for innovative solutions.  


Yet, some have negative views on AI and where it could lead.  They preach a doomsday message - job losses, robots taking over.   Where am I in this spectrum? In my response to the question, one of my points was to consider ethical innovation.  The innovation doesn’t matter. People can innovate for good or evil. What we need to think about is how we define ethical innovation.  Are there innovations that should not be made for ethical reasons?  And we must consider the unintended consequences of innovations.  

I don’t have all the answers.  But the conversation should continue.  Innovators must ponder, discuss, and debate the ethics.  I’m interested in your thoughts on ethical innovation. Hop on over to Killer Innovations, look at the show notes, and post your comments.  Let’s raise the visibility. If we in the innovation game don’t address this now, there could be greater issues and dire effects in the future.


Keeping up with the Pace of Innovation

Continuing my thoughts on innovation is another topic.  The pace of innovation and absorption. As the pace of innovation increases, it impacts industries.  It especially affects those dependent on ecosystems. The window to develop innovation, bring it to market and get a return on investment is short.  As the cycle concludes, the next round of innovation pushes forward. Customers can’t always keep up with the pace. Absorption becomes an issue.


How do you synchronize it?  How do you mesh the creation of innovation with the customers’ ability to implement?  And is it worth it to the customer to keep up with the constant influx of innovations?


The Near Future

One of the highlights of the event is the premiere of the latest in the vision video series The Near Future.  We’ve been doing this since 2016 at CableLabs.  I’ve worked on vision videos most of my career. During my tenure at HP, I made a series of six vision videos.  One influential video was Roku Reward – The Future of AR Gaming produced in 2006.  It became a popular pitch lead in for entrepreneurs.  The video predates iTunes, connectivity, and mobile apps.  It’s a precursor to the now popular Pokémon Go. At the time Roku Reward was made, we were anticipating this technology would arrive within eight years.  It actually took ten, but the vision was there.


The intent of The Near Future series is to create a visual on innovations in everyday life three to eight years out.  The 2016 film, called The Near Future: Bring It On, opens up a window into what the future looks like in a home with ultra-high-speed bandwidth.  In 2017, the video The Near Future: A Better Place, featured Rance Howard, actor and father of director Ron Howard.  This video gives a glimpse of the future for older adults. It shows how innovation can enable independent living, mobility and immediate access to healthcare.


Last week we premiered The Near Future: Ready for Anything.  It takes a look at education of the future.  From a virtual chemistry lab to connecting students globally, see how the next generation will learn in the near future.

Vision videos are a great way to tell your product’s story.  If you’d like to do a vision video, reach out.  I could give advice, guidance, and make introductions to help bring your story to life.


Thanks for joining me as I share my thoughts on innovation.  I would love to get your comments on any of the topics mentioned and start the dialogue.  Leave your comments after the show notes at Killer Innovations.


Want to discuss these and other innovation issues with your fellow innovators?  Join The Innovators Community.


Five Minutes to New Ideas

Price is king.  Build ‘em cheap stack ‘em high.  It’s practically the motto for most segments of the tech industry.  It’s a core assumption about what the majority of customers want. But that assumption is not always true.  Take the sales of the HP DreamScreen in India, for example. Value sometimes outweighs price in a customer’s decision.  If the value the product brings to lives justifies the cost, they will go to the ends of the earth to find a way to make that purchase.  Price and value are not the same thing. Listen to Five Minutes to New Ideas for more on customer perceptions and innovative ways to bring value at the right price.



Direct download: On_the_Road_Thoughts_on_Innovation_S14_Ep23.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:08am PST


Often when we think about innovation, it’s high tech or a game changing breakthrough.  Today, we look at innovation through a different set of glasses. Rather than innovating a product or service, “costovation” innovates on the business model.  Stephen Wunker talks about innovating behind the scenes, creating customer value through cost innovation.

New Markets Advisors founder and managing director, Stephen has had a successful and varied career.  From innovation consultant to leading innovator developing the first smartphone, he’s come full circle.  Back in consulting, he’s worked with Harvard professor and innovation great Clayton Christensen for many years.  (If you’ve never read Clayton’s books, they’re a must.)  Stephen has co-authored Costovation: Innovation that Gives Your Customers Exactly What They Want—and Nothing More.  His book opens up a new way of thinking about innovation.

What is Costovation?

If you’re like me, the initial thought on cost innovation may be that it’s just cutting costs and going down market.  But Stephen demonstrates that it’s much more and the result is not a cheap offering. It’s not about delivering an inexpensive product or service that is less than adequate.  Costovation is finding the “opportunity in the guts of the business”. Then, delivering customer value while minimizing costs.   

Cost innovation on the overall business model can create immediate profits or make products more affordable.  

The Importance of Costovation

While the U.S. economy has experienced a long recession-free streak, it would be foolhardy not to plan for a downturn.  Furthermore, median incomes are flat and many people are not growing with the economy. There is a market for people who deserve value.  They can’t afford the top of the line and don’t need all the bells and whistles.  The focus in costovation is to delight the customer with what they need at a price point they can afford.

Costovation Success Stories

Costovation is stocked with success stories.  Stephen’s book gives many examples from a spectrum of industries.  BMW’s re-release of the Mini Cooper is one example. BMW turned around the generally low profit market of small cars.  The Mini is low-cost to produce. Yet, BMW found a way to a market premium. They offer post production detail options to customize the Mini.  Their cost innovations have succeeded in creating customer value. The Mini is well built and a market success.

Another example is the electric toothbrush company quip.  By selling customer direct and using their own brand name, quip offers an electric toothbrush at much lower cost.

How to Costovate

The three common steps to cost innovation are

  1. Get a breakthrough perspective.
  • Step back from industry
  • Critically look at long held industry assumptions
  • Take a fresh look
  1. Have a relentless focus
  2. Blur the boundaries

Through cost innovation, you can unlock new markets and deliver customer value for less.

For more on costovation, read Costovation: Innovation that Gives Your Customers Exactly What They Want—and Nothing More.  You can also read Stephen’s articles in Harvard Business Review and other publications.

To keep up with what Stephen’s working on, visit the New Markets Advisors blog, join him on Twitter @costovation, or visit the New Markets Advisors website.


Five Minutes to New Ideas

It’s not enough to know what your customer needs and wants.  Dig deeper. You need to understand the internal philosophy of what the customer’s doing and why.  If you don’t, your product may miss the mark.

This week’s Five Minutes to New Ideas challenges you to ask the questions that will reveal a deeper understanding of your customer.


If you know someone that you think would be a great guest on the show, drop me a note.  I would love to give people the spotlight who are doing interesting things, thinking about things in a different way and transforming their business, their community, their lives through innovation and creativity.  

Check out The Innovators Network, the producer of this show and others.  Kym McNicholas’s show, “Kym on Innovation”, is over there.  Kym has been on my show many times. She’s an Emmy Award winning Forbes reporter living in Silicon Valley.  

Direct download: Creating_Customer_Value_through_Cost_Innovation_S14_Ep22.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:54am PST

On today’s show, instead of hosting a guest, I am the guest.  Erich Viedge interviews me for his podcast, The Skeptical Executive.  Erich brings innovation to unique industries.  He’s also an early listener of Killer Innovations. Erich has some good questions to ask me. We touch on a range of thoughts and issues around innovation and creativity.

Is Innovation for Everyone?

Are there industries or businesses where there’s no role for innovation?  Many companies claim innovation as a value. Erich’s local carpet cleaner has ads claiming “innovation”.  Erich’s skeptical. My belief is that there’s always room to innovate.  That carpet cleaner may not revolutionize the cleaning process.  But he could innovate the customer experience. That may set the cleaner apart from the competition.   If you’re not innovating, you’re standing still. If you’re standing still, someone’s going to go right past you.  In any industry, there’s opportunity to look at the business, the customers, the operations differently. All are ripe areas for innovation.

Hidden Benefits

What are the hidden benefits of innovation done right?

When I was CTO at HP, our market share in PC laptops was low and we were losing money.  It was my job to turn it around. The prevailing thought at the time was there wasn’t much to innovate in laptops.  My team proved that wrong. We researched and found the customers’ spoken and unspoken needs. The result: our market share jumped to number one.  The hidden benefits were several. It boosted employee morale. The innovations energized the engineers with the chance to do something different. Shareholders benefited.  The profits gave HP flexibility to invest in new product lines.

Even commoditized products like laptops can use innovation.  When you meet customers’ needs and wants, they will pay a margin premium.  A margin premium gives you flexibility to adapt your business, to be the leader in the marketplace.  It’s that breathing room that becomes critical in these highly competitive times.

The Right Consultant

What should a CEO do when ready for innovation?  How does that CEO find the right innovation consultant?  Here are some questions to consider in vetting a prospective consultant.

  1. Does the consultant have experience leading innovation?
    • Experience in the trenches dealing with organizational change?
    • Done it, lived it, been successful at it?
  2. What is the consultant’s philosophy on a business’s culture?
    • In his/her view, what kind of culture fosters innovation?
    • Does that view align with the CEO’s?
    • Does the consultant address major issues such as
      • Fear of failure,
      • Corporate antibodies,
      • How authority is handled,
      • How decisions are made.
  3. What is the consultant’s innovation process?
    • Does he/she expect the organization to adapt to his/her process, or
    • Will the consultant create and adapt processes to fit the organization?

Sometimes the culture of a business needs to change before innovation can happen.  Erich’s experience with the mining industry demonstrates how challenging changing the culture can be.  For one mining client, it took two years for the culture to change before innovation processes could begin.

Habits for Innovation Success

Creativity is essential for innovation.  It’s like a muscle that needs to be exercised.  My habit for building creativity is to spend 30 minutes Monday through Friday ideating. This is my time to brainstorm creative solutions to problem areas for the various roles I hold.  On Saturday, I rank these ideas and prepare the best for teams working the problem space. For momentum in my ideation session, I start with some inspiration (music or a brainteaser) and set a quota for ideas.  I keep going until I meet the idea quota.

Trend safaris are another great way to spark creativity.  I take these safaris with teams or individuals to places far and near looking for trends and weak signals.

Think you’re not creative?  Think again.  We all are born creative.  Unfortunately, we are untaught this creativity along the way.  Looking to reignite that creativity? Check out more Killer Innovations shows or read about creativity at

Thank you, Erich, for a great interview.

Direct download: No_Limits_to_Innovation_and_Creativity_S14_Ep21.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:49am PST


From my shows on this year’s CES, you’ll know I’m leery of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the many companies touting it.  On the flip side, I have also featured some interesting ventures into AI.  When I heard that Box was delving into AI, I had to learn more.  In this show, hear how Box’s content management innovation increases the value of content stored.


Can Awesome Get Better?

Box offers cloud content and file sharing for businesses large and small.  This company has a solid reputation and millions of users. I have used Box since the inception of my Killer Innovations show.  Through Box, I also worked with my editor, publisher, and fact checkers on my book, Beyond the Obvious.  Before that, my team at HP used Box.  I’m definitely a fan. But how can AI be applied to content sitting in a cloud?  Today Jeetu Patel, Box Chief Product Officer, shares how AI is changing the value of content in Box.  This company is developing smarter ways to manage their customers’ critical asset – their content.


The Megatrend Tailwind

Jeetu watches the megatrends.  He’s seen three megatrends impacting our world.  Two, the cloud and the mobile revolution – have had profound effects on how we all do business.  Jeetu sees AI as the tailwind powering the next wave of innovation. Riding this wave, Box goes beyond merely a repository of content.  Through content management innovation, Box brings value to the content their customers entrust them with. Machine learning organizes and tags the content.  In a complex world, things just got simpler. Content residing in Box becomes worth more inside the Box platform than outside it.

Help!  I Can’t Find …

Box’s customer content is doubling every 12 – 14 months.  The exponential growth of content is overwhelming. It can make finding any particular bit of data time consuming.  With this customer problem in mind, Box has introduced AI machine learning to their platform. Box Skills, launched last year, uses sophisticated tagging mechanisms to label, classify and transcribe content.  This content management innovation enables quick, precise retrieval of objects and text within content files.  Machine learning integrated into Box offers facial and voice recognition, topic deduction and sentiment analysis.  Not only does this increase efficiency, but also use cases.


Connecting the Content

Box Skills has made content search easier.  But Box Graph enhances content, making connections.  This content management innovation recognizes relationships in content and among users.  With this intelligence, Box Graph makes recommendations in such areas as security, compliance and workflow.  


At Stake in the AI Revolution

Applying AI can revolutionize the way we do things.  There are certain tasks that machines can do better at scale.  As AI gains traction, Jeetu believes the tech industry bears responsibility for helping transition society.  The disruption AI may cause will affect lives and jobs.  The industry must consider how to retrain and prepare people for this revolution.


Sustaining Innovation

How does Box continue to innovate and build its customer base from small businesses to Fortune 500s?  Jeetu gives two secrets to Box’s success.

  1. Keep team’s small – 8 to 10 people
  2. Scarcity is your friend.  Limit resources to focus the team on the task.


Interested in learning more about Box and its content management innovation?  Go to  

If you’re in the Bay area August 29 & 30, come to BoxWorks an annual event hosted by Box.



Five Minutes to New Ideas

Seeing the value in something considered worthless can make all the difference.  To make game changing innovations, you have to deconstruct your assumptions about what has value and what doesn’t.  I did this as an executive at the telecom Telligent in 1997. My discovery allowed us to stand out in a crowd of competitors.  Listen to Five Minutes to New Ideas.  I hope it inspires you to come up with your own game changer.



We’re getting ready to head out on travel in the Mobile Studio.  We're looking for innovators in non-obvious industries and non-obvious locations.  Fin Gourmet Foods in Paducah, Kentucky kicked off this theme.  If you have a company or location doing really interesting innovation, drop me a note.  We’d love to see if we can come by with the Mobile Studio and do a broadcast.  Between now and the end of the year, we’ll be focusing east of the Mississippi.  After the first of the new year, we’ll be focusing west of the Mississippi.


  • Find out about my book, Beyond the Obvious, at  Get a copy through Amazon or wherever you get your books.
  • Pay it forward.  When I wanted to repay my mentor for his investment in my career, he told me to pay it forward.  Help me pay it forward. Give us a rating where you get your podcast. Help spread the word. Tell others about the show.  
  • Be part of the conversation between the shows.  I hang out at The Innovators Community on Slack.  This private community of vetted innovators helps each other succeed.


The Killer Innovations podcast is produced by The Innovators Network.

Direct download: Catching_the_AI_Wave-_Content_Management_Innovation_S14_Ep20.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:23am PST

Keywords:  innovation; fuel efficiency innovation


Competing for Fuel Efficiency Innovation

There’s been an explosion of innovation competitions in recent years.  They highlight the fact that innovation can come from non-obvious sources.   These competitions bring together smart people – usually industry outsiders - to tackle a problem.   The annual Shell Eco-marathon Americas took place this year in Sonoma, California.  In today’s show I welcome three members of the Duke Electric Vehicles team from Duke University.  They share their experience of competing for fuel efficiency innovation.


The Shell Eco-marathon Americas draws teams of high school and college students from North, Central, and South America.  The challenge is to create the most fuel-efficient car. The Duke Electric Vehicles team took first place in three categories.  On the track, they won awards in hydrogen fuel cell and electric prototypes. Off track, they won in technical innovation. Shomik Verma, Gerry Chen, and Patrick Grady give a glimpse of the competition and their road to victory.


The Race is On

The team starts in August and works on the car throughout the school year.  Amid academic studies and other obligations, students devote evenings and weekends to making the car.  They spend the first semester designing. The second semester, they build and test the car. The Duke Electric Vehicle team built a small, oblong 50-pound car in which the driver has to lie flat.  The car gets an estimated 12,000 miles per gallon. The secret to their fuel efficiency innovation: a super capacitor in the hydrogen powertrain. Now that the team has tasted victory, they are not stopping.  This summer they are working on beating the Guinness World Record for the most fuel-efficient car.


Learning Innovation Hands-On

Students don’t often get to bridge the theoretical to the practical in school.  The competition offers the chance to put the classroom theory into practice.  At the competition, there was a unique level of cooperation among the teams – from borrowing tools to asking advice.  The focus on one problem, fuel efficiency, maximized the potential for innovative solutions. The team members sharpened essential skills of innovation - problem-solving, creativity and collaboration.  


Lessons Learned

  • Have determination and perseverance.
    • Shomik learned determination and to persevere through unexpected difficulties.  In his words, “It was really important for us to rely on team members and rely on the fact that we knew we did good work.”
  • Use a methodical, organized approach.
    • Gerry learned the importance of a methodical approach, being organized, and breaking things down into subcomponents.
  • Go back to basic theory for the solutions.
    • This was Patrick’s fourth year on the team and second as team president.  He learned many lessons through the years working on efficiency vehicles. One of the biggest was how to go back to basic theory.

Wishing the Duke Electric Vehicles team the best in breaking the Guinness World Record and beyond.

Want to keep track of the Duke Electric Vehicles Team?  Visit the Duke Electric Vehicles  Facebook page.  Or check out their website:


Five Minutes to New Ideas

Could your business benefit from creating a standardized offering of a custom product?  Back in 1985, there was no such thing as a standard PC. You owned a specific brand and had access to programs written specifically for that make.  Each company was attempting to create lock-in for their third-party software developers. Working for a startup in Silicon Valley, my colleague and I faced a dilemma.  What PC should we tailor our typing instruction program to? We came up with a creative solution. Listen to Five Minutes to New Ideas.  Hear how going in the opposite direction of the crowd can pay off.



We’re getting ready to head out on travel in the Mobile Studio.  We're looking for innovators in non-obvious industries and non-obvious locations.  Fin Gourmet Foods in Paducah, Kentucky kicked off this theme.  If you have a company or location doing really interesting innovation, drop me a note.  We’d love to see if we can come by with the Mobile Studio and do a broadcast.  Between now and the end of the year, we’ll be focusing east of the Mississippi.  After the first of the new year, we’ll be focusing west of the Mississippi.


  • Find out about my book, Beyond the Obvious, at  Get a copy through Amazon or wherever you get your books.
  • Pay it forward.  When I wanted to repay my mentor for his investment in my career, he told me to pay it forward.  Help me pay it forward. Give us a rating where you get your podcast. Help spread the word. Tell others about the show.  
  • Be part of the conversation between the shows.  I hang out at The Innovators Community on Slack.  This private community of vetted innovators helps each other succeed.


The Killer Innovations podcast is produced by The Innovators Network.

Direct download: Competing_for_Fuel_Efficiency_Innovation_S14_Ep19.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 5:04am PST

Great ideas come and go, but what makes an idea into something bigger?  How do you develop your idea into a product that will attract venture capitalists and scale your business?  Is the idea sustainable beyond one or two seasons of growth? Can the idea bloom into a niche market and then cross pollinate?    Patrick Henry, QuestFusion founder and CEO, shares his framework for cultivating ideation that reaps success.  He calls it smart ideation.

Steps to Smart Ideation

Smart ideation is a five-step process for entrepreneurs and business owners building a growth company.  The process focuses on business factors rather than simply developing the product.  Patrick’s book, Plan, Commit, Win: 90 Days to Creating a Fundable Startup, lays out the framework for smart ideation.

The steps are as follows:

  1.  Customer Problem Solution Test

This test answers three questions:

  • Is it a big and important problem for the customer?
  • Is the customer desperate to solve the problem?
  • Is my solution superior to alternatives?
  1.  Sustainable Competitive Advantage Test

Once you answer yes to the questions in #1…

  • How do you sustain business growth over time?
  • What is your innovation roadmap for the next five to ten years?
  • Can your core technology penetrate adjacent product market segments?
  • Can you build layers of competitive advantage?
  1.  The Intersection Test

Facing the challenges to scale your business, you need an intersection of

  • Passion
  • Domain expertise – specialized product and market knowledge
  • A big customer problem
  • A team who can execute
  1.  The Market Size and Growth Test

Applies to businesses funded by venture capital

  • Success or failure hinges on this
  • Must determine growth opportunity in your target market
  • Penetrate a defensible niche, then conquer adjacent markets
  • Have a big long-term vision to scale your business
  • VCs looking for upwards of $100 million in annual revenue
  1.  The Idea Refinement Test

Three ways to refine your idea.  

  • Through intimate customer engagement
  • Through a technical and business advisory board that will provide unbiased feedback
  • Through teaching customers willing to provide feedback early on in exchange for some exclusive benefit


Qualities of a Successful Ideator

Along with the smart ideation process, consider what makes a successful ideator.  Patrick sees the successful ideator as one with a unique perspective and perpetual curiosity.  They are the tinkerers, gadget users, early adopters who come up with new ways of doing things.  These people are disciplined, hardworking, and passionate.


Are you ready to scale your business, to bring it to the next level?  For more information on smart ideation, go to  For a detailed guide to smart ideation, go to

Find Patrick on Twitter: @questfusion, Facebook: @questfusion, and Instagram: @plancommitwin.

Five Minutes to New Ideas

How do you address customer complaints?  Are they an annoyance to dismiss and be done with?  Don’t make the mistake major companies have made minimizing or ignoring complaints.  It may come back to haunt you. Be proactive in addressing customer issues. Listen to this week’s Five Minutes to New Ideas for insight on this important topic.

I’m getting ready to head out in the Mobile Studio in search of interesting innovators.  I’ll be east of the Mississippi this Fall and west of the Mississippi the first of 2019. If you know somebody who would be a great guest on the show, drop me a note at


  • Find out about my book, Beyond the Obvious, at  Get a copy through Amazon or wherever you get your books.
  • Pay it forward.  When I wanted to repay my mentor for his investment in my career, he told me to pay it forward.  Help me pay it forward. Give us a rating where you get your podcast. Help spread the word. Tell others about the show.  
  • Be part of the conversation between the shows.  I hang out at The Innovators Community on Slack.  This private community of vetted innovators helps each other succeed.


The Killer Innovations podcast is produced by The Innovators Network.

Direct download: Smart_Ideation_to_Scale_Your_Business_S14_Ep18.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:02am PST

Did you ever set a goal or New Year’s resolution only to abandon it?  Do find your life lacks purpose? Do you doubt your ability to accomplish amazing things?  Today’s show features Tal Gur, blogger, author, motivational speaker.  Tal’s goal, or one of many, is to inspire you to set goals and achieve them.


The Start of a Life Journey

Some people may do one or two extraordinary things in their lifetime.  Maybe it’s traveling to a far-away country, running a marathon, or mastering a foreign language.  Tal Gur has done at least one hundred and counting. From learning to speak Spanish to becoming an international public speaker, Tal set out to live the dream.  Abandoning the 9 to 5 job, he established a source of passive income and went on a journey. It was a journey of self- discovery and facing challenges head on. Each year he set a major life goal and accomplished it.  After ten years, he penned his experience in the book, The Art of Fully Living: 1 Man. 10 Years. 100 Goals.


It may sound like for Tal goal setting and achievement come easy.  Not so. He faced self-doubt and hurdles. After all, who would expect a smoker to do a triathlon?  Tal felt doubt about this daring goal, especially since he was a smoker.  He found ways to overcome the challenges.   And he did, indeed, do a triathlon.


Tal considers a goal as the container.  Your personal growth as you work towards the goal is what’s most important in setting and achieving goals.  


Goal Setting Strategies

Tal’s book lays out steps to setting and achieving goals.  He shares some of these with us.

  • Make the goal specific.  When the goal is clear, it is more achievable.
  • Immersion.  By immersing yourself, you learn more lessons and extract more wisdom out of the journey.  When you immerse yourself in achieving a major goal, set smaller, milestone goals.  It creates momentum for the major goal.  
  • Put happiness before goals.  Don’t expect achieving your goal will bring happiness.  Find inner happiness independent of your goals.


Tal discovered some truths to help in goal setting and your life journey.

  • A crisis or challenge can lead to a great calling.
  • Start from the inside out.  Don’t focus on the mechanics, the how-to.  If you have the right mind-set and source from the inside, the goal will be easier to reach.
  • Develop and use intuition.  The more you practice using intuition, the better you get.  For more on intuition, Tal recommends the book Thinking Fast Slow by Daniel Kahneman.
  • Redefine failure.  Not achieving your goal is not failure.  Failure is not trying.

Interested in tracking Tal and his adventures.  Visit his blog:

Need help in setting and reaching your life goals.  Get his book, The Art of Fully Living: 1 Man. 10 Years. 100 Goals., in paperback, audio or Kindle on Amazon.


Five Minutes to New Ideas

What input, if reduced, would allow you to cut the price for your product or service by 25%.  To get ahead of the competition, you need to make game changing moves. A bold move like big savings could place you in the leader of the pack position.  One car manufacturer with rock bottom prices may soon take U.S. manufacturers by surprise.  Are there gaps in your product offering for a competitor to sneak a game changer into the marketplace?  Could you make a sidestep in your product development to prevent this? For insight, listen to Five Minutes to New Ideas.    



  • Find out about my book, Beyond the Obvious, at  Get a copy through Amazon or wherever you get your books.
  • Pay it forward.  When I wanted to repay my mentor for his investment in my career, he told me to pay it forward.  Help me pay it forward. Give us a rating where you get your podcast. Help spread the word. Tell others about the show.  
  • Be part of the conversation between the shows.  I hang out at The Innovators Community on Slack.  This private community of vetted innovators helps each other succeed.



The Killer Innovations podcast is produced by The Innovators Network.

Direct download: Goals_and_the_Journey_to_Fully_Living_S14_Ep17.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 4:58am PST

The pressure is intense in the U.S. government to get innovation efforts underway.  “Beltway bandits” riddle proposals with “innovation” in hopes of securing contracts.  Politicians believe it will solve all the problems. This politics of innovation doesn’t always bring about impactful innovation.  What can governments do to generate meaningful innovation? How should politicians think about innovation?

Satyajit Das’s article in Forbes India makes good points on the politics of innovation.  Here are some of his points along with my thoughts on how politicians can promote impactful innovation.

A Vague Notion

When politicians promote innovation, often the idea is vague and broad.  Politicians push innovation without careful thought to what areas need innovation.  The “how” is clear, but the “what” is not. The more defined the focus area is, the better the results.   The quality of ideas will flourish when it is clear what the innovation needs are.

Money is Not Always the Answer

Offering financial incentive to attract innovation may produce short term benefits.


This alone won’t bring significant innovation.  Few policymakers are concerned with long-range innovation.  Funding for it has steeply declined. Yet, only the government can sustain long-range innovation and fundamental research that will have future impact.  Some great innovations we benefit from today are long-range innovations the government developed over many years. For example, NASA made major life-changing innovations.

Misperception of Innovation Impact

Many politicians see innovation as the solution to ills their constituents face.  The statistics tell otherwise. Less than 10% of U.S. GDP is technology. Only 0.5% of employees are in industries that didn’t exist before 2000.  Only 1.8% of employees in Silicon Valley work in new industries.

Another misperception: innovation translates to technology.  Innovation applies to all industries, all segments, all jobs.  Manufacturing comprises 25% of jobs. Yet, scarce innovation funding is focused in this sector.  Politicians need to think beyond Silicon Valley. The Innovators Network highlights innovation in non-traditional industries in non-traditional locations.  


Innovation and Inequality

Many believe that innovation creates economic inequality.  Innovations may not have universal distribution early on. But they spread quickly.  Another concern is that AI and robotics will increase unemployment. Looking at the past, similar fears proved unfounded.  In the 1960s, predictions were made that computers would bring a 50% unemployment rate. That has not been the case.

Innovation is a global phenomenon.  The boundaries of innovation do not stop at the boundaries of countries.  Politicians should be careful of trade barriers that block or protect innovations.  In the politics of innovation, politicians must adopt a new way of thinking.

Promoting Innovations that Work

  1. Focus the search for innovations.
  2. Crowdsource ideas.
  1. Learn to experiment and test.
    • Get comfortable with failure.
    • Don’t expect a Big Bang.
    • Internet was multi-decade investment
    • Invest in near, mid- and long-term innovations
  2. Do NOT ignore long-range research.

Don’t let the innovation funnel dry up.  JFK’s BHAG put a man on the moon.  Consider the destiny we leave for our children and grandchildren.  Create the BHAG for today and the future.


Five Minutes to New Ideas

We tend to assume that any customer is a good customer.  Are there cases when this is not true? The most ardent customers can create unexpected issues for your overall business.  You may have to ask the question, “who do I not want as my customer?”  Listen to this week’s Five Minutes to New Ideas to hear some creative solutions companies have found to manage customers.  




  • You can also find out information about my book, Beyond the Obvious, at  Get a copy through Amazon or wherever you get your books.
  • Pay it forward.  When I wanted to repay my mentor for his investment in my career, he told me to pay it forward.  Help me pay it forward. Give us a rating where you get your podcast. Help spread the word. Tell others about the show.  
  • Be part of the conversation between the shows.  I hang out at The Innovators Community on Slack.  This private community of vetted innovators helps each other succeed.



The Killer Innovations podcast is produced by The Innovators Network.

What brought a successful Wall Street investor and a lauded entrepreneur to Central Ohio?  Flavio Lobato and John D’Orazio, Ikove Capital Co-Founders, saw amazing innovation where few were looking.  To cultivate technology growth in the Midwest, Ikove Capital developed the Innovation Nursery.


Nurturing the Startup

Ikove means “growth” in the Brazilian indigenous language Tupi-Guarani.  This aptly describes the focus of Ikove Capital. It is a firm dedicated to venture development.   Through a hands-on approach Ikove
Capital nurtures startups in its Innovation Nursery.  The trend for venture capitalists is toward late stage investing.  Ikove Capital co- founder Flavio Lobato saw the opportunity. There is a huge investment in research that flows into the Central Ohio region to the tune of $70 billion.  Yet, only one percent of resulting research attains commercialization. Early stage funding is tough to obtain.  Hence, the baby never matures.  In steps Ikove Capital to spur technology growth from inception.

Setting Up the Innovation Nursery

Ikove looks for regional technology research that has commercial potential globally.  They search for babies to fill the innovation nursery.  The search list includes universities - Ohio State and Wright State.  It also includes Air Force research labs, The Cleveland Clinic, the James Cancer Hospital.  A hub of research and development and an ample engineering talent pool offer plenty of choice.  Ikove Capital identifies and vets potential projects. They divide projects into three verticals – STEM, Med Tech, Agri-Tech.  A fourth is on the way – Food Tech.


The Ikove Capital team offers corporate expertise in finance, entrepreneurship, business acumen.  They bring all the resources together that a startup needs to grow and thrive.


From Local to Global

Although the research and innovation start in the Midwest, the reach is global.  The final company established may be anywhere in the world.  The funding that gets these startups into the innovation nursery and through the process of growing is global too.  Investors from ten countries sourced the latest round of investing. Over 25 years in business and finance, Ikove founders have established global connections.  

Technology growth is a global demand.  Ikove’s future is to take the Innovation Nursery to new regions within the U.S. and beyond.  Flavio sees global opportunity for the Innovation Nursery. Plans are in the works to offer Ikove Capital venture development in Europe and Asia within the next five years.


Learn more about Ikove Capital at



Five Minutes to New Ideas

What assumptions do you make about why your customer buys your product?  Are your customers using your product as you intended? Have they found a unique way to customize your product to suit their needs?  As in the blog IKEA hackers, there may be some unusual ways to repurpose or customize your product.  Listen to Five Minutes to New Ideas.  Hear how the owner at my local bakery made use of an HP product in a non obvious way.




  • You can also find out information about my book, Beyond the Obvious, at  Get a copy through Amazon or wherever you get your books.
  • Pay it forward.  When I wanted to repay my mentor for his investment in my career, he told me to pay it forward.  Help me pay it forward. Give us a rating where you get your podcast. Help spread the word. Tell others about the show.  
  • Be part of the conversation between the shows.  I hang out at The Innovators Community on Slack.  This private community of vetted innovators helps each other succeed.


The Killer Innovations podcast is produced by The Innovators Network.

Direct download: The_Innovation_Nursery-_Technology_Growth_in_the_Midwest.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 5:12am PST

At the Innovation Boot Camp, I had a chance to talk with Kym McNicholas.  We’ve both been traveling.  Kym’s made stops in Europe and Asia to promote medical innovations.  I’ve driven 12,000 miles in four months in the Mobile Studio. On the road, we’ve found innovation in non-obvious locations.  Here’s a recap of what we’ve been tracking in the innovation arena.


A New Market of Employees

Kym notes, “Real innovation is happening in different parts of the country.”  I found this in Paducah, Kentucky. FIn Gourmet Foods is innovating on several levels.  This company has created a unique solution to an invasive species problem.  Their processing method renders Asian Carp a hot menu item in tony New York restaurants.  They also employ felons on parole. Through employment, they help these people readjust to independent living.  


On our diverging travels, one stop Kym and I had in common was South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, TX.  I hosted a talk on neurodiversity hiring.  Like FIn Gourmet Foods hiring approach, I encourage companies to discover a new market for employees.   Working with Hacking Autism I’m exploring ways to bridge the work gap for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder.  Companies interested in sparking innovation should consider a neurodiversity hiring program.  Many autistic adults are highly intelligent, capable people. They can offer a fresh and different perspective to a team.  By establishing this hiring program, companies will gain an edge. At CableLabs, the people in our program are having phenomenal impacts on our business.


An Invitation to Create

At SXSW, Kym’s focus was on electric vertical take-off and landing vehicles (VTOLs).  Kym joined a discussion with partners Embraer and Uber.  There are challenges and potential for VTOLs in urban settings.  Embraer and Uber invited the innovation community to get involved.  The drive is to start testing by 2020 and market by 2024.  Through empowering the community to create with them, Uber and Embraer hope to achieve this goal.  Other companies may create in parallel. But Uber realizes the need for an ecosystem.

Tell the Story

One of the challenges in launching a “flying car” is navigating the regulatory system.  VTOL creators need to ensure federal, state and local regulations accommodate use in urban environments.  As with many innovations that face this issue, innovators need to convey the story. It’s not the pitch laden with tech speak.  It’s not something that sounds good but doesn’t hold water. The innovation story has to be genuine, compelling and convincing.  It has to reach the audience. The story should make them understand what you’re doing, see the value in it, and realize why it’s important.



Five Minutes to New Ideas

Magazine publishers are in a predicament.    With free content available on the internet, magazine publishers must make their content worth paying for.  One creative way to keep customers engaged with the product is to tap into the backlog of content. Those willing to experiment and try repurposing will discover new areas of growth in their business. Could you provide components separately or in unique combinations to serve new customers?  Listen to Five Minutes to New Ideas to learn more.



  • You can also find out information about my book, Beyond the Obvious, at  Get a copy through Amazon or wherever you get your books.
  • Pay it forward.  When I wanted to repay my mentor for his investment in my career, he told me to pay it forward.  Help me pay it forward. Give us a rating where you get your podcast. Help spread the word. Tell others about the show.  
  • Be part of the conversation between the shows.  I hang out at The Innovators Community on Slack.  This private community of vetted innovators helps each other succeed.



The Killer Innovations podcast is produced by The Innovators Network.

Take a look in an unexpected direction and discover non-obvious innovation.  One entrepreneur is building solutions to meet basic needs in rural and urban slums of India.  Hasit Ganatra is founder of ReMaterials.  His company designs and produces the ModRoof, roofing for the developing world.  ReMaterials solves a serious problem in a non-obvious location.


Microchips to Roofing

Hasit could have made a comfortable living in L.A.   He held an Engineering degree from the University of Southern California.  He worked in microchip design. But far from the tech hub, inspiration sprung from a non-obvious location.  A trip to the vegetable market in India with his mother sparked the idea for his first startup.


His second startup is a non-obvious innovation in roofing.  Hasit’s scope and vision for Re-Materials is far-reaching. His roofing solves issues of leaks, excessive heat, toxicity, and roof deterioration.  Beyond that, Hasit and his team are designing solar panels to attach to the roofing. The solar panels will provide power for lighting. Lighting is a major need throughout the developing world.  Meeting this basic need allows a better life and future to an underserved population.


Seeing Things in a Different Light

What drove Hasit to leave L.A. for the non-obvious location of rural and slum areas of India?  In his words: “Always wanting to solve real problems on the ground.  Be in the action.”  Seeing the problems of India’s rural and urban poor communities, Hasit bypassed a high tech career.

Hasit credits C.K. Prahalad’s The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid with helping to see things in a different light.   Prahalad’s book was an inspiration to my wife and me as well, prompting us to invest in developing countries.  The book dispels the myth that rural and low-income communities are not a starting point for investment.  What we consider a non-obvious location for investment may soon become obvious to many.


Hasit’s for-profit business model combines social impact and profit.  ReMaterials produces the ModRoof using biodegradable, recycled materials.  Hasit states, “Our goal was not to be cheapest in market, but the best in the market.”  For customers who cannot afford the outright expense, microfinancing is available.


Advice on Non-Obvious Innovation in a Non-Obvious Location

  • You have to be passionate about living and working in the non-obvious location.
  • There are going to be issues.
    • You can’t give up in these situations.
  • Test the waters.
    • Experience the location on a trial basis (i.e., internship).
    • This will help you determine if you’re willing to give your life to it.
  • Once you  get involved, it will require 100% commitment.
    • It’s no longer a hobby.


Learn more about ReMaterials and how Hasit is making an impact in India.  Contact Hasit through the website


Five Minutes to New Ideas

Could offering an unfinished product increase the value of your product?  There are companies successful in offering such products. Some advantages to this model allow companies to

  1. reduce risks by minimizing inventory and
  2. charge a premium for the pleasure of assembling the product.

It’s a fine line.  If assembling the product is too easy, it feels like cheating.  If it’s too complex, the consumer sees no value in the supposed convenience.  The right balance gives the customer the satisfying feeling of “I did this.”

Consider the possibility of creating an on-demand service for your product.


The Killer Innovations podcast is produced by The Innovators Network.

Direct download: Non-Obvious_Innovation_Non-Obvious_Location_S14_Ep13.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 5:51am PST

Keywords: (1) Copycat Innovation and (2) Ethical Innovator


Copycat Innovation and the Ethical Innovator


This year at South by Southwest (SXSW), I facilitated a discussion on neurodiversity hiring.  This is part of my work with Hacking Autism.  SXSW is a multi-week event, part music festival, part innovation reveal.  It’s where big names like Twitter first launched. However, I noticed at this year’s SXSW, as with CES, a shocking lack of originality.  The trend towards identical look, feel, and function is unsettling. This prompted me to ponder the copycat innovation and the ethical innovator.


First or So They Claim…

As I observed hundreds of nearly identical products, the degree of copycat innovation was mind-boggling.  Everyone is copying everyone else. I am bothered by the claims made on copycat innovation. Companies claim to be the originator or the first in their category even when they clearly are not.  There is a dearth of acknowledgment for those that came before.


Is all copycat innovation bad?  No. There’s nothing wrong with taking a product or service and improving on it.  There are many cases of borrowing an idea from another source to create an innovation.  Biomimicry is a good example of copycat innovation.  Innovators look to nature and replicate its creative solutions.  The very name biomimicry indicates the source of inspiration.


The problem comes when the innovator lays claims to being the first to create or innovate when that is not the case.  Being first doesn’t always mean being the best. The ethical innovator would steer clear of making such claims. Innovations and innovative ideas are process of building on what you observe and know.  Innovation is not creating in isolation. Great innovators make unique connections from inspirations.  They may look to others and improve on existing products or services.  Be an ethical innovator. Don’t get caught up on staking a claim as the “first.”


Credit: Is it Better to Give or Take?

Another issue is the failure to acknowledge or give credit to the true originator of an idea.  Rather than making shaky claims, the innovator who improves on someone else’s idea should give credit where it’s due.  Giving credit to others will not discredit your product or service if it’s a worthwhile innovation. Strive to be an ethical innovator, giving credit for the source of your inspiration.


Innovators should consider a way to acknowledge their inspiration.  Just as academics provide detailed footnotes in their papers, innovators could create a means to credit those who’ve come before.  On that note, I’d like to credit Earl Nightingale with being the inspiration for this podcast.  I’ve been on air now for fourteen years. My inspiration for the Killer Innovations show was the Nightingale-Conant audio series Insight, which I subscribed to in the 80s.


I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic of copycat innovation and the ethical innovator.  Drop me a note.  Share your thoughts, contributions, and experiences in acknowledging others or being acknowledged.


Continue this and other conversations around innovation.  Join The Innovators Community on Slack.  This is a private community of vetted innovators helping each other succeed.



Five Minutes to New Ideas

Understanding the life cycle of your industry is essential to continued success.  A big part of business is responding to life cycles of industry and its customers.  By challenging yourself and your team to think about your customer’s future, you stand a great chance of staying ahead of those inevitable changes.


Listen to this week’s Five Minutes to New Ideas to learn more about staying connected to your customer through the life cycle.


The Killer Innovations podcast is produced by The Innovators Network.

Direct download: Copycat_Innovation_and_the_Ethical_Innovator_S14_Ep12.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 2:00am PST

Being content may be a positive emotion in some senses.  Not so with innovation. If you are ready to rest on your laurels after a triumph or a stressful circumstance, get ready.  Major change could be looming around the corner. Let me explain why I believe being content can be the enemy of innovation.


First, consider what being content means.  Feelings of peace, calm, acceptance of where we are in life, happiness, satisfaction.  Doesn’t sound too bad. The problem comes when we embrace contentment to the point of giving up.  We don’t want to let go of being content. Therefore, we avoid conflict, stress or anything that may rock the boat and shake up the status quo.  


Innovation is the antithesis of stasis.  It’s about being tuned in to what’s wrong with the picture.  Not just seeing the problems but seeking ways to improve on things.  When we are fixed on being content, we develop a false sense that change is slowing down.  It’s at this time that we will miss the weak signals, subtle signs that major change is coming down the pike.  


A false sense of satisfaction is its own form of an innovation antibody.  This state of being content will cause you to shy away from change and avoid risk.  You will trade off the challenges of innovation, going against the grain, for that easy feeling.  Being content becomes the enemy of innovation. True innovators are not content.

Three or four times across my life I’ve slipped into this state of being content.  That is, I felt satisfied and turned on autopilot. Rather than being active, engaged and looking for new ways and new directions to move, I put blinders on and checked out.  The content feelings were short lived. I was taken off guard. Some major change in the world around me took me by surprise. The contentment quickly dissolved.


Don’t get caught off guard.  Here’s what you can do to keep the enemy of innovation at bay.

  1. Challenge yourself to do something uncomfortable.
  • Do something you’ve never done before.
  • Learn something new, something outside your skill set.
  • It opens your eyes to new things and energizes you.


  1. Change up how you do things.


  1. Do daily creative muscle exercises
    • Challenge yourself to come up with 5 problems that need to be solved.
    • These can be
  • personally
  • in your community
  • at your job or school
  • for a non-profit


There are always problems to be solved.  Find a problem. Then go innovate a way to fix it.



Five Minutes to New Ideas

Some products or services evoke strong emotional responses.  They are either loved by devoted fans or hated by others. Plenty of companies trade on the fact that mainstream culture will find their product offensive or questionable.  


Is there any benefit or purpose to being strategically disliked by some and adored by select devotees?  Listen to Five Minutes to New Ideas to hear why you might consider this approach.




  • You can also find out information about my book, Beyond the Obvious, at  Get a copy through Amazon or wherever you get your books.
  • Pay it forward.  When I wanted to repay my mentor for his investment in my career, he told me to pay it forward.  Help me pay it forward. Give us a rating where you get your podcast. Help spread the word. Tell others about the show.  
  • Be part of the conversation between the shows.  I hang out at The Innovators Community on Slack.  This private community of vetted innovators helps each other succeed.



The Killer Innovations podcast is produced by The Innovators Network.

Direct download: Being_Content_is_the_Enemy_of_Innovation_S14_Ep11.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 7:22am PST

Ever wish you could travel the world discovering better ways of doing things?  The next best thing - read the book. Author Mark Stevenson is an innovation explorer.  He’s visited remote parts and populous cities worldwide. This ‘reluctant futurist’ searches for people whose innovations are making a positive impact.  In the process, he’s discovering the roadmap to a better future. His book, We Do Things Differently: The Outsiders Rebooting Our World imparts the stories of those paving the way.


The rapid pace of change in today’s world leaves many behind.  Advances in technology can create a wake of unintended consequences.  Mark isn’t here to paint a doomsday picture, but to illuminate the roadmap to a better future.  His book tells the story of innovators, inventors and creatives who are making major impacts on communities.


Technology has often led to job losses as new processes replace old ways.  It is a certain fact read out in headlines throughout history. Loss of jobs due to tech advances is a transition from an old economy to a new one.  A better future demands that education, government, and other systems swiftly adapt to these changes.  While some countries such as Estonia address this need, many do not.  The catalyst for his book is those who have successfully affected systemic changes.  They are the ones plotting the roadmap to a better future.

Mark lays out the good, the bad, and the ugly.  The next twenty years are critical in developing the roadmap to a better future.  Major changes are necessary in our systems of education, government, healthcare, and businesses.  

  • Bad news first: everything’s broken.  
  • Good news: it’s fixable.  
  • It’s going to get ugly.

Mark wants to “make the transition less messy for less people and make it a little bit shorter.”


A systemic approach to tech advances is essential for a better future.  Mark dislikes the moniker “futurist”. The term suggests one who sees technology as the answer to all problems.  For Mark, technology is the question. Technology development should not be done in isolation. People must evaluate factors beyond the technology itself.  Policy makers and innovators alike have to step back and look at the big picture. What are the far-reaching, future results of the technology? How will it affect society?  Developing the correct measure for success is just as important as developing the innovation.


In the quest for discovering systemic changes that work, Mark has found common threads:

  • They come from the bottom up – grassroots people who make a change to fix what’s broken.
  • The catalyst is a new technology or way of thinking.
  • In the service of a different social contract - decisions and choices for reasons other than money.
  • The catalyst is outside the system
  • The actors have herculean levels of perseverance and powerful motivation.


To find out more about Mark and his books track him on Twitter @optimistontour or via his website:



Five Minutes to New Ideas

How do you design a product the customer will prefer or crave over the competition?

You need to determine

  • how your business environments are evolving.
  • how your customers are changing.
  • what you need to modify to keep the product relevant and desirable.

Go beyond the competition.  Look at industries that are distinctly different but share similar key elements with your business.  By asking the right questions and looking at non-obvious businesses, you may find that one inspiration that can transform you and your ideas.



  • You can also find out information about my book, Beyond the Obvious, at  Get a copy through Amazon or wherever you get your books.
  • Pay it forward.  When I wanted to repay my mentor for his investment in my career, he told me to pay it forward.  Help me pay it forward. Rate the show where you get your podcast. Help spread the word. Tell others about the show.  
  • Be part of the conversation between the shows.  I hang out at The Innovators Community on Slack.  This private community of vetted innovators helps each other succeed.


The Killer Innovations podcast is produced by The Innovators Network.

Direct download: Discovering_the_Roadmap_to_a_Better_Future_S14_Ep10.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:10am PST

When civic and business leaders have a meeting of the minds, amazing things can happen.  Cincinnati is home to several major corporations and health care organizations. The demand is high for tech innovation.  This midwestern city has created a unique approach to draw in the best talent.  Cintrifuse is the confluence of innovation in Cincinnati.

Cintrifuse exists through public private partnership.  Its purpose is threefold. It’s a startup accelerator and venture capital fund.   It’s also the go to source for large companies seeking innovative solutions to their tech problems.  CEO Wendy Lea comes to Cincinnati from Silicon Valley as an expert in digital innovation.

[shareable cite="Wendy Lea, CEO Cintrifuse"]To build a sustainable economy, you have to have supply and demand. We're unique in that we have two portfolios of supply for startups and we have an amazing set of large companies with strong appetite for technology innovation.[/shareable]

West Coast to Midwest

Arriving in the Cincinnati area, it surprised Wendy to find six major healthcare systems in the region.  In addition, there are 140 major companies including Proctor & Gamble that call this area home.  The local government sought economic growth.  The need for cutting edge tech innovation and economic growth brought all these players together.  The perspective from the various communities is distinct from what Wendy’s observed in Silicon Valley.  These communities work closely together to tackle regional issues. Their collaborative effort formed Cintrifuse.  

Startup versus BigCo

Contrary to what one might think, this is not a face off between startup and big companies.  Large companies seek to draw the entrepreneurs, ideas and talent. They are the customers to the startups product or service offering.  

Growing the Startup Community

Wendy has seen Cintrifuse’s portfolio of startups grow 40% year over year.  What started with eleven startups on the Cintrifuse books has grown to 470 startups in the region.  Some startups that come through Cintrifuse’s doors are located within the Cincinnati area. Others located elsewhere benefit from Cintrifuse venture capital funds.  The benefits are mutual. The relationships developed allow Cintrifuse to connect startups with large companies seeking tech innovation.

To learn more about Cintrifuse, check out

Check out The Innovators Network where you can listen to podcasts with Kym McNicholas on Innovation and Killer Innovations with Phil McKinney.

Exploring rural innovation, I stopped in Paducah, Kentucky.  Drs. Lula Luu and John Crilly, founders of FIn Gourmet Foods, joined the mobile studio.  Word got around town. Monica Bilak contacted me through The Innovator’s Community.  I’m pleased to welcome Monica and Jimi Gwinn.  They share how Sprocket is inspiring student innovation in Paducah.

Sprocket is a makerspace for students and the local community to learn and create with access to technology. Three years ago, the idea emerged.  Today, Monica is the Development Director with a background in education and design. Jimi Gwinn, the Director, brings engineering, woodworking and metal artistry skills to the table.  A boiler room and coal closet transforms into an 840 square foot space to design, build, innovate.

The Creative Drivers

What brought Monica from East Africa to Paducah 17 years ago was a spirit of creativity.  For a dollar, she bought a house under the Artist Relocation program. In her words, Paducah was “a little town that had something going.”  She opened a fair trade and coffee shop and worked in downtown development. Eventually she returned to her roots in education.

Life brought new challenges for Jimi Gwinn when he was in a car accident.  One challenge was the awkward fit of his legs and wheelchair at the desks in college.  He designed his own desk. Starting with basic materials, he finished with a mahogany, teak and burled cherry desk.  He found his passion for woodworking.

Another life changing moment came with spinal fusion.  The relief from constant pain freed his mind to think in new directions.  He began designing a wheelchair controlled by body lean. A retired engineer pointed him towards University of Kentucky.  Jimi jumped into the engineering program. His experience and training made him a prime candidate for inspiring student innovation.  Monica recruited him to lead Sprocket.

The Perfect Storm

Monica was working with homeless 6th graders in an afterschool program.  She introduced technologies and programming.  Highly motivated, the kids loved learning in this non-traditional environment.  Inspiring student innovation this way was one element of a perfect storm.

Local business, Computer Services Incorporated, reached out to educators.  They valued their local employees and wanted to continue hiring locally.  The problem – how to find the local talent. The next generation of skilled employees needed to build those skills now.  The community went to work.

Monica took time off from her design degree pursuit.  She focused on students’ needs.

[shareable cite="Monica Bilak"]The district has the profound awareness that the world is changing really fast…the system of education is not aligned with how we think and need to work in this age.[/shareable]

They needed to develop highly valuable skills, build social networks and connect to local business and industry.  The idea of a makerspace struck a chord. Sprocket launched with grants from the Kentucky Workforce and Education Cabinet, fundraising, and donations from companies like Toyota.

Lessons to Share

What Monica and Jimi learned along the way…

  • Start – even if it’s small and imperfect.
  • Keep going – don’t let failure be the end game.
  • Cast the vision wide -take time to meet everybody.
  • Don’t stop building the culture of innovation.

Keep up with Sprocket or support their effort at or  You can also contact them through Paducah Innovation on Facebook.

Is there a guest you think should be on the show?  Is your community doing interesting things? Drop me note at Killer Innovations or The Innovators Studio on Facebook.

Direct download: Small_Spaces_Inspiring_Student_Innovation_S14_Ep8.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:33am PST

Every so often we should pause and reflect.  On the way to the airport after hosting a South by Southwest meet up on neural diversity hiring, traffic was slow.  This allowed an engaging conversation with the taxi driver.  He asked me what led to success in my life. This prompted me to write down my 7 rules to live by.  I hope these will help you in creating personal and professional success.

My 7 Rules to Live By

  1. Stay connected to the people who matter most.
    • I learned from my early mentor to regularly get in touch with those who matter to me.
    • Make personal contact (phone call/meet up). Electronic contact (Facebook, email, etc.) doesn’t qualify.
    • I have an in-depth, personal relationship with the people who matter to me.
  2. Listen more, talk less.
    • Listen actively, ask questions. Have genuine interest in others.
    • Conclude conversation by asking how you can help.
  3. Make commitments you are truly committed to follow through on.
    • Don’t make false promises.
    • If you can’t deliver, admit it. Then ask if there’s something else you could do.
    • Don’t swing the pendulum the other way and never commit to anything.
  4. Don’t get hung up on credit.
    • Credit will always find its natural owner.
    • Innovation’s a team sport.
    • If you grab credit, it could kill others’ interest to participate and contribute.
  5. Acknowledge others – give out words of encouragement.
    • I didn’t get to CEO position by myself. Others played a critical role.
    • Mentoring and reverse mentoring - great ways to acknowledge and encourage.
  6. Hug the haters.
    • With success, there are always those who are critical.
    • I pause before I respond. Count to ten or wait a day.
    • Sometimes it’s better not to respond at all.
    • Ask others to hear the criticism and your response before delivering it.
    • Respond with compassion, not harshness, rudeness, or name calling.
    • Never, ever burn the bridge.
  7. Set priorities.
    • When demands come, you can filter what needs to be done.
    • For me it’s “the 5 Fs
      1. Faith – I don’t get involved if it doesn’t align with my faith.
      2. Family – My wife, kids and grandkids.
      3. Friends – ties into my Rule #1 Stay Connected
      4. Fitness – Don’t overwork, burnout, and suffer health issues.
      5. Finance – Takes care of itself, if put finances at the bottom and follow other rules, it

Now that you have my 7 rules to live by, define your own set of rules to creating personal and professional success in your life.


Five Minutes to New Ideas

Weak signals are all around us.  How can you stay attuned and take advantage of emerging trends or fads?  Tune in to Segment 4 of today’s podcast to learn more.


Thanks for taking the time to join us.  We’d love to hear your comments. You can add your comments at  

Better yet, join us at The Innovators Community (, an online Slack community where you can be a part of the conversation with leading innovators from around the world.

Creating safe transportation on the African continent takes a unique approach.  The solutions of the Western world and Silicon Valley simply won’t work.  Colonial cities have grown into major urban environments. The infrastructure doesn’t sustain the growth.  Traffic jams, broken-down vehicles, bad road conditions are endemic.  But there are individuals making a difference in creating safe transportation.

As our guest Barrett Nash says, “The best way to make a solution is to solve a problem you yourself experience.”  

A death defying motorcycle ride through a crowded city and a question of safety.  Barrett Nash, Co-Founder and CEO of SafeMotos recalls the day.  He took a ride on a motorcycle taxi through Kigali, Rwanda to meet roommate Peter Kariuki for a beer.  The two men talked about the dangers of motorcycle taxi rides. This prompted them to imagine ways to make the motorcycle taxi ride safer.  That’s what it took to start the journey for SafeMotos.

Safety: An Obvious Assumption

Vehicle travel across an urban setting in Africa can be fraught with risk.  Sometimes the choice is waiting hours for a bus, sitting in traffic in a vehicle, or hopping on the back of a motorcycle taxi for a more convenient ride.  While the motorcycle taxi might get you there quicker, the risk is high. In fact, the #2 killer in the emerging world is vehicle accidents. Eighty percent of accidents in Rwanda involve motorcycle taxis.

You would think people would jump at the option for safer urban travel.  Not so. Creating safe transportation has its challenges. Selling it even more so.  Initially, SafeMotos followed the Uber business model. Customers could locate a safe ride via smartphone.  SafeMotos vetted and rated the motorcycle taxi drivers on driving practices and experience. For a higher price, people would get a safer option.  

What the Customer Really Wants

What they quickly realized is price and convenience outweighed safety in Kigali.  To make their product offering viable, they had to consider the product/market fit and the pain points.  Their focus shifted.  Creating safe transportation became the by-product.  

Blind Luck and Help from Unusual Places

Barrett and Co-founder Peter have been at it since 2014.  Doing business in Africa has challenges. While there is a spirit of entrepreneurship, few startups succeed.  As Barrett puts it, blind luck put them in touch with an accelerator in Cork, Ireland. This helped jumpstart SafeMotos.

[shareable cite="Barrett Nash, SafeMotos"]Technology needs to disconnect from a Silicon Valley style problem solving format. We’re not trying to solve middle class problems. We’re trying to enable a middle class. That’s where technology can really disrupt the arc of the story of Africa.[/shareable]

Barrett’s advice for startups, especially in Africa:

  • Make sure you are solving a pain point
  • Have a profit-making business model from unit economic perspective day one
  • Don’t launch too soon - get finance and story figured out
  • You have to go through the journey

Barrett welcomes you to reach out at

If you’ve got a guest you think should be on the show, drop me a note.

We’re continuing trips across the country, talking to rural entrepreneurs.  If you’d like us to stop by your town to meet your entrepreneurs, drop a note at The Innovators Studio on Facebook.

Direct download: Creating_Safe_Transportation_in_Urban_Africa_S14_Ep6.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 7:38am PST

Today’s show addresses questions from listeners on innovation KPIs.  I’m back in Colorado after clocking 12,000 miles in the mobile Innovators Studio.  On the road, I talked with interesting innovators and analysts.  Taking a break from interviews, I’d like to answer your questions on measuring innovation success.

There are hundreds of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure innovation success.  What are the right innovation KPIs to use?  What KPIs will give insight into the innovation process?   KPIs should be unique to your organization.  Think through what KPIs will measure and how that can guide innovations and your organization.

KPI Building Blocks

I’ve broken innovation KPIs into categories, like building blocks.  Build up the blocks to get a complete perspective on your innovation effort.  

Six categories for Innovation KPIs:

  1. Idea process/managing the idea funnel
    • What’s done to get ideas, put them in a funnel, review, manage and analyze them?
      • Raw ideas
      • Raw ideas validated
      • Ideas prototyped
      • Age of ideas
  2. Idea commercialization
    • Innovation idea brought to market.
      • Innovations that became a product
      • Innovations that make a profit
      • Are early customers willing to pay a margin premium?
      • Innovations purchased
      • Are resources in organization aligning to make product a reality?
  3. Financial impact
    • Tough to measure - long lag from time of investment to product launch in market
      • Revenue from new innovations
      • Profit from innovations
      • Revenue protected by patents
      • Revenue from patent licensing
  4. Customer impact
    • Customer success compared from old product to new innovation

      • What has new product allowed customers to achieve?
      • How many customers have shifted to new?
      • Market share trend for innovation - grabbing from competitors?
  5. Organizational impact
    • New products/services have an impact
    • Can pull organization into new category or focus
      • Ratio of sales from old versus new - sales ramping up for new/declining for old?
      • Ratio of profit from old versus new
      • Investments – is investment shifting from old to new?
      • Rate of return on innovation investment
      • Has it driven brand awareness?
  6. Pure Innovation KPIs
    • Catch-all
      • Staff trained for innovation
      • Use of formal creativity tools
      • Implementation and use of Idea Management System
      • Structured problem-solving tools
      • Committed resources to innovation
      • Patents/year



  1. Pick three to five KPIs from each category that work for your organization.
  2. Ensure you have the ability to measure them.
  3. Validate KPIs drive the right behavior and achieve the desired outcome.
  4. Test/adjust KPIs as needed.
  5. Share with the community.


We’d love your feedback.  What do you think about the five-minute focus in the last segment of today’s show?

Like what you hear?  Leave us a comment or review where you listen to the show.

Check out the show notes on  We post on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter.  Follow us on your favorite social media site.

Direct download: Innovation_KPIs_Six_Categories_to_Measure_Success_S14_Ep5.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 5:37am PST

Delays at the grocery checkout line set William Chomley on a retail innovation course.  Like most of us who are short on time, a quick stop at the supermarket took longer than he liked.  He began ideating on a better way to shop – reinventing the checkout process.

William Chomley, Founder and CEO of IMAGR, joins me in the mobile studio from his home base in New Zealand. He’s been working on his retail innovation concept for three years. It’s been an uphill trek, but the company is now ready to put the product to the test.

When Will’s retail innovation idea sparked, he jumped in head first.  Quitting his finance job, he focused on a solution using RFID (radio frequency identification) technology.  It was simple: put RFID tags on products and eliminate the checkout line. But it wasn’t that easy. He ran into roadblocks, cost to implement and technology limitations to name a few.  His business failed.

Will didn’t give up on his idea.  He reworked it – went back to the drawing board.  This time he did the product/market fit research.  This involved a lot of talking and listening to retailers, researchers and investors.  His new design incorporated computer vision, a form of Artificial Intelligence (AI). A computer with computer vision “sees” and processes information much like the human eye, then performs tasks accordingly.

With a new design plan, Will pitched to investor after investor.  Rejection brought him nearly to the “end of his tether”. Over 150 investors later, he finally got the funding in 2016.  Through all, he held three jobs to keep afloat. Persistent and undaunted, Will kept going through tough times and held fast to his vision.

The SmartCart will undergo trial testing this year.  It’s a shopping cart equipped with small cameras to capture product data as the shopper places a product in the cart.  The cart system is synced to the shopper’s mobile phone. Through an app, the shopper sets up the payment method prior to shopping.

Looking back, Will has three points of advice for entrepreneurs.

  1.  Do product/market fit as soon as possible.
  1.  “Get in front of as many people as you can.”
  • He learned through the experience of facing numerous investors
  • The rejections/failures helped refine his product and pitch.
  1.  Look for “smart money.”
  • Seek investors experienced in your area of innovation who can guide/advise.
  • Be picky about who you bring into your business

The best place to track Will’s retail innovation:

If you have a guest you think should be on the show, drop me a note.

Direct download: Retail_Innovation_for_the_Impatient_Shopper_S14_Ep4.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:26am PST

If we were to trace the roots of what we do online, what would we assume about the creation of the online community?  Whether it’s taking college courses or Facebooking, when did it start. The 1990s with the internet. Was that the start of online video games, chat rooms, blogging, online courses? Most of us know the foundation of the internet – the ARPANET.   With ARPANET, the first successful network computer message was sent in 1969.  Less known is the internet forerunner, the PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operations) system.  The creation of the online community truly began with PLATO.

Before PC there was PLATO

Plato said, “You know that the beginning is the most important part of any work.”

Before the ARPANET, an interpersonal computer revolution kindled.  A group at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign created the PLATO system.  It was 1960 and thousands of miles from Silicon Valley. The intent for PLATO was a computerized learning system.   Ambitious and wild as it may have seemed, by the mid-1960s, the University offered college credit for courses taken through PLATO.  Here was the beginning of computer-based training.

Beyond Computer Based Training

Through the 60s and 70s PLATO bloomed into an orange glow of computing innovation.  Expanding the purpose for the PLATO System, students, professors, hackers and hobbyists joined the fun.  Innovative and sometimes eccentric, this motley group continued adding functions and apps to PLATO.  Through the orange glow of plasma screens, a vibrant and varied community ideated, created, and chatted.  The creation of the online community emerged.

History in the Making

You might wonder why hasn’t everybody heard about PLATO?  You’re in good company.  Enter Brian Dear. Brian has collected data on PLATO for over thirty years.  His early career working on PLATO sparked his fascination with its capacity. By the 70s, the PLATO system already had touch screen and plasma displays among its features.

PLATO had fundamental influence on the technologies that we have in our pocket and on our desks.  Yet, this amazing system seemed unrecognized, uncredited, unnoticed. By creating PLATO, brilliant minds had invented the future.  Now PLATO was slipping into the shadows.

[shareable cite="Brian Dear , Author The Friendly Orange Glow"]I knew even in the 80s that it was something really phenomenal….This was historic, what was going on.[/shareable]

Brian waited for someone to write the book.  He could not even find PLATO referenced in computer history books.  He feared this important piece of computer history would disappear. Finally, he set out to do the work himself.  The result is The Friendly Orange Glow: The Untold Story of the PLATO System and the Dawn of Cyberculture.  The book captures the history of PLATO and the creation of the online community around the orange glow.

Want to know the story behind the term “orange glow”?  Listen to the story on the podcast.

Find out more about Brian Dear and his book at

For large companies, does innovation happen tucked away in a lab?  How does a professional services company innovate?  I delve into these questions with Michael Whitaker (“Whit”) of ICF.  He dispels misguided concepts about service innovation. The unique challenges of this industry demand a unique process.  Whit shares his process for innovation at ICF.

A global company, ICF delivers strategic consulting services.  ICF employs experts in a range of fields. It may seem an unlikely place to innovate.  But it’s a non-traditional industry creating non-obvious solutions.  

Whit joined ICF after ICF acquired his startup, Symbiotic Engineering.  He went from a small, nine-person company to a large, global one. Innovation at Symbiotic Engineering may have been tenable.  It is a bigger challenge at ICF. He watched efforts to instill an innovation culture. But it didn’t take off. ICF lacked a clear pathway to innovation.  With advancing technology, ICF recognized the need to keep apace.  It was time to get serious about innovation.  ICF established Whit’s position as President of Emerging Solutions.  

The Challenges

Whit employs a “pragmatic agitation approach”.  The ICF performance engine is delivery of expert services.  To provide clients with the cutting-edge, ICF must keep ahead of technology.  It’s a delicate balancing act.

In the services business…

  • profit margins are narrow
  • clients are risk averse
  • there is no R&D budget
  • innovation is not the main focus

You have to weave innovation into the company’s daily workings. Service innovation must happen while keeping the performance engine on track.

[shareable cite="Michael Whitaker, ICF"]The vast majority of employees throughout their entire careers have been incentivized and trained for execution, not for innovation.[/shareable]

This industry conditions most employees to execute not innovate.  Execution and innovation are different skill sets and mind sets. How do you get the domain expert to think about innovation?  

The Process

Whit considers his role as supportive and integrative.  He works to lay out clear and believable pathways to innovation.

The book Influencer: The New Science of Leading Change has been a good resource.  He highly recommends this book to those pursuing service innovation.

Steps to building service innovation include:

  • Choose an area to incubate.
  • Conduct surveys to assess your organization’s culture of innovation.
  • Establish a common language of innovation.
  • Make innovation management a core project delivery discipline.
  • Build training programs to grow innovation skill sets.
    • Teach the language of innovation
    • Encourage employees to share peer stories of innovation
    • Encourage innovation discussions with the team and client
    • Train a subset of employees on spark sessions
    • Coach emerging innovation managers/leaders

To learn more about ICF, visit their website:

You can follow Whit on Twitter at Papa_Whit

On Linkedin:

Would you like to continue the discussion with Whit?  Join him at The Innovator’s Community on the Slack channel.

If you know someone who would be a great guest for the show, drop me a note.

Direct download: Emerging_Solutions_Service_Innovation_S14_Ep2.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 4:18am PST

I’m searching for real innovation in Artificial Intelligence (AI).  A surfeit of AI products leaves me skeptical. Not to rain on anybody’s parade, but the term appears on countless products.  Even so, some companies do the work of real innovation in AI.

Charting AI Territory

DeviceBits is one such company.  This start-up charts a unique path.  Their AI customer support suite is distinctly real innovation.  AI customer support is new ground and makes a widespread impact.  It brings value to people’s everyday lives.

The Rankled Customer

Who hasn’t reached peak frustration with some new tech product that won’t function?  You seek answers on the internet and through product instructions. Finally, you call customer service.  This heightens the tension. Maybe the customer service agent can’t resolve the issue. Or the agent doesn’t answer the phone quick enough.  At this point, you may do one of the following. 1) vow never to buy that company’s products again. 2) return the faulty item to the store. 3) shelf it until something better arrives on the market.  From the company’s perspective, they lost a customer.

The Catalyst for Real Innovation

This frustration was the catalyst for JC Ramey, DeviceBits CEO.  His previous start-up focused on mobile application development. This was early in the mobile applications market.  The business grew from a basic text messaging app to millions of apps. In a short time, the growth of technology was exponential.

During this tech spurt, JC observed customers - including himself, friends, and family.  People struggled to understand, use and fix these products.  This highlighted an area for improvement: customer support. JC had career experience in tech and telecom.  He’s also a self-described “ultimate consumer.” This gave JC insight from both sides. 

AI Innovation Gets Real

DeviceBits’ customer support solutions integrate AI.  Customer service agents access AI generated knowledge portals.  The portals enable quick response and resolution. Another option is AI assisted self-service.  Customers can resolve issues on their own using this interactive support. These products exemplify real innovation.  They reach beyond incremental improvements.  DeviceBits transforms a critical aspect of business.

The Takeaway

Key lessons JC shares from his experience (big telecom to start-up):

1. Put yourself in the place where things happen.  

  • For JC, this was Silicon Valley.  The move set things in motion for him.

2. Your team is critical.

  • Temperaments and skill sets should complement and sometimes even conflict.
  • To garner respect and bring value, team members should know their swim lane.

[shareable cite="JC Ramey, DeviceBits CEO"]Know your swim lane really, really well. And no matter how brash you may appear, everybody respects the knowledge that you have and what you bring to the organization.[/shareable]

Track DeviceBits at

Today’s Killer Innovations podcast begins Season 14.  It’s hard to believe the show has run for thirteen years.  I’m thrilled to propagate the best of the innovation world.  Killer Innovations exists to foster creativity and innovation. This past year welcomed two new resources to stoke the innovation fires. The Killer Innovations mobile studio and The Innovator’s Community. I'm excited about the new season and hope you are too.

Direct download: Real_Innovation_in_Artificial_Intelligence_S14_Ep1.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 5:57am PST

Are VR/AR (Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality) glasses the future?  It might bring to mind an awkward image. People lumbering with bulky headgear.  Besides intense gaming, what are the practical uses for VR/AR technology? By refocusing the innovation and having the courage to pivot, GridRaster Inc. reveals that VR/AR technology is not reserved for gaming enthusiasts.  This innovative start-up is creating the foundation for a new world.

Seeing Beyond the Bulky Glasses

Rishi Ranjan, CEO and Founder of GridRaster Inc., joins me in the mobile studio to share his insights on this burgeoning technology.  VR/AR tech has amazing, unexpected uses. But it’s hard work on the road ahead. It’s a road with some twists and turns, such as when the GridRaster team made the decision to pivot.  

Rishi highlights the complexities of developing infrastructure to sustain VR/AR for the future.  Speaking of future, Rishi believes VR/AR glasses will be the next ubiquitous device.

“We strongly believe by 2025, everyone will be walking around with these glasses.  But, we have to start building the infrastructure today.”

Mobile phone shelved, we will all don a pair of streamlined VR/AR glasses to interact with the world.  Think sunglasses with superpowers.

Consumer or Industry: Refocus

Things weren’t so clear for Rishi in the beginning.  When GridRaster Inc. started in 2015, the focus was on VR/AR for the general public – the consumer.  They centered the technology around the mobile device platform. Gaming was the assumed end use.

GridRaster soon realized  refocusing the innovation was essential.  Their focus shifted from consumer to industrial and retail businesses.  Industries can afford to invest in this technology and see a return on investment.  

Time to Pivot

Business partner ODG helped GridRaster pivot.  They homed in on three use cases - industrial maintenance work, industrial training, and retail business.

Rishi states, “This will be the beachhead - they can build the network based on these use cases.” GridRaster continues to develop and refine their technology.  As they establish infrastructure, the game's afoot.  By refocusing the innovation now, their future customers will have a product that is usable and affordable for gaming and beyond.

[shareable cite="Rishi Ranjan, GridRaster, Inc."]It’s hard to change the passion, but you can’t afford to lose time in a start-up.[/shareable]

Balance and Adapt

Rishi has two lessons to share:

1. Keep your family onboard with the start-up process.

  • Don’t lose sight of what’s most important – your loved ones.
  • Apprise family members of what’s going on
  • Have balance – don’t let your start-up consume your life

2. Be ready and willing to adapt, refocusing the innovation if needed.

  • Weigh input from partners, mentors, customers.
  • Same input from multiple sources? Might be time to pivot.

Check out GridRaster’s innovative VR/AR technology at

Follow us on the road at The Innovators Studio on Facebook to check out where the mobile studio is headed next.

If you are looking for advice and coaching around your innovation efforts, then reach to The Innovators Network or look into joining the community of innovators that are hanging out at The Innovators Community.

Direct download: Refocusing_the_Innovation_for_the_Future_S13_Ep53.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 5:03am PST

Walt Disney said, “You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.”  Marco Carvalho would like to share this lesson with a fellow entrepreneur and innovator.

As Marco travelled the world, he discovered the need to reach out to others and extend a hand.  Be it mentoring, networking, sharing of information and expertise, innovation doesn't happen in a vacuum.

Small Town Entrepreneur with Big Dreams

At thirteen, he teamed with a friend’s father to bring internet to his hometown in Brazil.  Arriving in Shanghai as a late teen, he confronted the complete aloneness of his situation.  A mentor would have made the way smoother.  Although the road was difficult going it alone, Marco acquired a gamut of international business development and trade experience.

Mentoring that Made the Difference

Marco’s dream is in the realm of interactive children’s toys.  Endeavor is a non-profit organization that promotes entrepreneurs worldwide.  Through the support of Endeavor, Marco developed a solid network of mentors and supporters.   Now based in California, he continues to expand his vision in interactive entertainment through his company, Immersive Play.

[shareable cite="Marco Carvalho"]When you’re an entrepreneur, everybody will tell you that you’re crazy.[/shareable]

Making the Right Connections

Technology barriers in product development led Marco to connect with Chirp.  This U.K. based company uses sound to encode and transmit data.  The U.S. network Marco gained through Endeavor allowed him to further Chirp’s exposure in the U.S.  He now oversees Chirp’s business development efforts in the Americas.  This is a symbiotic relationship.  Marco uses Chirp technology in his Immersive Play products.

Keep the Dream Going

Marco states: “When you’re an entrepreneur, everybody will tell you that you’re crazy.”  This didn’t deter him.  It generated excitement.

Marco’s advice for entrepreneurs is two-fold:

  1. Mentoring is essential.
  • His experience in China highlighted this need
  • Endeavor showed him the immense benefit of mentoring
  • He mentors and is mentored regularly

     2. Innovation takes time.  Don’t rush it, test it…

  • Do your MVPs (Minimal Viable Products)
  • Take time to work out the issues
  • Don’t release a product until your customer base is ready for it

Marco and I had the honor of hearing Eric Ries speak at a CES event.  Eric provides an excellent gauge for keeping innovation on track.

  • Check out his books The Startup Way and The Lean Startup.
  • Eric’s advice benefits the entrepreneur getting started, the big corporation, and every innovation driven organization in between.

To check out what Chirp has to offer, visit

Immersive Play can be found at

Marco welcomes you to connect with him on LinkedIn (

Seeking an innovation mentor or a community to share what you’ve learned as an entrepreneur?  Join The Innovators Network.

Direct download: No_Entrepreneur_is_an_Island_Mentoring_Networking_Sharing_S13_Ep52.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 5:54am PST

Imagine a major sporting event that you can’t sit at home with friends to watch on TV.  Maybe you’ve had to work late or you’re a student returning from classes on the subway.  You do the next best thing.  You take out your mobile device to live stream it.  To add to the excitement, you live chat with friends who are streaming the event.  Then, you hear your friends cheer.  What just happened?  You missed it - the winning goal your friends saw first.  Only seconds of delay but big disappointment.  It’s prime time for a live streaming innovation.

South Korean start up company Hecas has tackled this problem.  The company focuses on live video streaming solutions.  Hoisoo Cho, Hecas Marketing Director, joined me in the mobile studio to discuss Hecas and its live streaming innovation.

Making Real Time Real

In live streaming, latency is the delay between a live event and the time it appears on your viewing device.  As Hoisoo points out, what’s called live is not in real time because of latency.  South Koreans love video live streaming.  From sporting events to K-pop to personal broadcasters, South Koreans like to connect and watch in real time.

[shareable cite="Hoisoo Chu"]The seconds of latency will make the difference between users who stay or leave.[/shareable]

Hecas has stepped up to meet this demand for mobile low latency live streaming.  With the Olympics hosted in South Korea, the timing couldn’t be better.  Their customer driven solution has gained traction with big players in South Korea.  Companies like South Korean Telecom have tapped into Hecas’s mobile live streaming innovation.  Now Hecas is ready to break through international markets.

“The seconds of latency will make the difference between users who stay or leave.”  Hoisoo affirms.  For video streaming, I agree - latency is the new metric.  It’s impact on a variety of applications is going to become more critical.

Friends and Failure

Two things that Hoisoo learned in the start up process:

  1.  Teaming with the right people is everything
  • Hoisoo was fortunate to make great connections at university – a core group of like-minded friends who had the entrepreneurial vision
  • She launched her first start up with these friends
  1. Failure can be a good thing.
  • University is an excellent environment to initiate a start up – it’s a safe place to experiment and fail.
  • Failure can offer valuable lessons

Listen to this week’s podcast to learn about Hecas.  It’s journey from a group of college friends to a company working with the largest telecom company in South Korea is inspiring.

Track how Hecas is shaping the future with live streaming innovation at

Direct download: In_Real_Time_-_Live_Streaming_Innovation_S13_Ep51.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 11:50am PST

A video game competition between siblings is one of those simple joys of childhood.  But it is no simple thing when one of those children has physical limitations that have kept him from that joy.  His smile when at last he can play a virtual soccer match against his sister speaks volumes.  Xogo is an accessible innovation that makes things possible for the physically challenged.

Motivation and Inspiration

People with disabilities are a largely underrepresented group in the U.S.  Bansen Labs, the company behind Xogo, focuses on the needs of these people.  One of their goals is to make technologies accessible at a reasonable price.  Their merging of business and social good is inspiring.

Ray Abel, CEO of Bansen Labs, tells us about this remarkable product. He shares what brought the company from class project to the Cable Labs Fiterator. One of the things that sets Bansen Labs apart is its unique perspective.  Dalton Banks, Bansen’s Chief of Product, grew up with a person who was physically disabled.  This was his inspiration behind the class project.

When it comes to accessible innovation, Ray feels that those who have a personal connection have the advantage.  The result is a product that looks better, works better, has a broader range, and a lower price.

From Classroom to Living Room

When you think of gaming, you may not think life changing innovation.  From its beginnings as a class project, Xogo has emerged as an innovation with a broad range of uses.   This technology interface product enables people easier access to and control of home electronics.

As the Xogo technology matures, its potential uses have expanded.  If you know someone who gets frustrated with technology in the home, consider Xogo.  It simplifies and streamlines home electronics.  Bansen Labs has created an accessible innovation that opens new worlds to people.

To learn more about Bansen Labs and Xogo, visit and

Direct download: Gaming_and_Beyond_Accessible_Innovation_S13_Ep50.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 6:59am PST

Innovation can spring out of ideating beyond your own needs.  Look to others’ challenges to shine a light on prime areas for innovation.  Innovation can also come from dire need.  Both cases push innovators to ask questions.  What can I do to make this better?  Can innovation through collaboration improve or accelerate the process?

Overdue Innovation

John Chang, co-founder of Willow, discusses his solution to an overlooked problem.  A mechanical engineer, John had the technical background.  But the conversation with his wife about the challenges moms face launched Willow Pumps.

As part of a business incubator, John searched for areas of innovation.  The spark of an idea began with his wife’s input.  It became an innovation through collaboration with mothers – relatives, friends, business associates.  He asked these women “what are the unmet needs of mothers with babies.” 

[shareable cite="John Chang, Co-Founder of Willow"]The most gratifying result: knowing this product has helped women and babies. [/shareable]

The recurring theme: the breastfeeding pump is overdue for innovation.  The products on the market were bulky and noisy.  The basic design had not changed much since the pump’s development.  In designing the product, John focused on the target customer.   

Now available, the Willow pump is discrete, quiet, handsfree, and mobile.  The most gratifying result: this product has helped women and babies.

Learn more about Willow at

Timing is Everything

On the battlefield getting the right product could be a matter of life or death.  The problem – long lead times for innovations.  As a soldier, Jay Rogers felt open sourcing and crowdsourcing could accelerate military vehicle innovations.  The faster turnaround would benefit the military.

Jay founded Local Motors to build upon this idea of innovation through collaboration.  His first success was the Rally Fighter, the world’s first crowdsourced vehicle.  It reached market within one year.  

Justin Fishkin is Chief Strategy Officer for Local Motors.  He is committed to impact investing and the environment.  The company mirrors these values.  At the core of Local Motors’ business are co-creation and microfactories.  A microfactory is small volume production in local markets.  This sustainable way of doing business has future impact.  Justin believes it “could solve the issues globalization may have caused in the early days of outsourcing.”

Local Motors’ innovations are a fusion of ideas from contributors in all walks of life.  The company exemplifies innovation through collaboration.  In a sense, Local Motors is bridging the local and the global communities.  Drawing innovative ideas from the far reaches of the world and bringing production down home to local communities.

  • Check out Local Motors’ Olli, a self-driving vehicle.  Watch it in action at CableLabs on Youtube.
  • Track the latest with Local Motors at  
  • Join the Local Motors innovators at the crowdsource platform
Direct download: Innovation_Through_Collaboration_S13_Ep49_UPDATED.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 9:00am PST

Among the emerging technologies, gadgets and hype, what innovation standouts were at CES 2018?  What trends have staying power?  

With almost every startup claiming AI, I’m having flashbacks to the dot com era when every business changed its name to get in on the buzzword bandwagon.  Is there something behind the AI buzzword that substantiates the fervor?  Interestingly enough, while the competition intensifies in areas of innovation, I notice a new level of cooperation among industry leaders in other areas.

I welcomed three guests-Tim Bajarin, Steve Guggenheimer, and Teresa Hsu- to the mobile studio to discuss the innovation standouts we’ll see in 2018.

Tim Bajarin

Tim Bajarin is President of Creative Strategies, Inc, and a renowned technology trends analyst.  During the interview, he shared his view of  some innovation standouts in Augmented Reality (AR), 8K TV and Voice User Interface.

[shareable cite="Tim Bajarin"]Don’t create what you think the customer wants – address the pain points to create the solution.[/shareable]

Tim’s eyes weren’t on AI so much as AR.  He anticipates AR becoming more sophisticated in its capabilities and uses. He envisions an evolution of AR technology that eventually delivers real time information and overlays of data through a pair of voice command AR glasses.

Tim considers the leap in TV resolution to 8K remarkable.  Sometimes the drivers that propel innovation come from unusual places.

Voice User Interface technology is a neck and neck competition in an ecosystem battle.  In Tim’s opinion, Amazon has emerged as an unexpected leader because they asked the right questions.  He advises clients: don’t create what you think the customer wants – address the pain points to create the solution.

Interested in hearing more from Tim?  Follow him on Twitter @bajarin or visit his website Creative Strategies

Steve Guggenheimer

Steve Guggenheimer has been a long time executive at Microsoft having most recently been Microsoft Chief Evangelist. In his new role as Microsoft Corporate Vice President of AI Business, Steve has shared what he sees as the real benefits of AI solutions.  In summary -- he sees AI as a phenomenal area for innovation.

[shareable cite="Steve Guggenheimer"]Take time to experiment and apply AI to focused areas for innovative solutions.[/shareable]

Three types of industries Steve believes AI can be applied to are:

  1.    Businesses with voice driven and agent based front ends.
  • Explore cognitive services, agent technology or bot framework and know how to use them.
  1.    Businesses with a significant amount of data.
  • Apply machine learning tools to data to drive real insight.
  1.    Businesses with a horizontal problem.
  • Build a solution from the ground up using AI.

His advice: take time to experiment and apply AI to focused areas for innovative solutions.

You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevenguggs  and discover more about AI and what it can do for your business at

Teresa Hsu

The technologies on display cover a broad spectrum across all avenues of our lives.  Teresa Hsu, Senior Manager with Consumer Technology Association (host of CES), shared that the trend is not just gadgets, but the technology inside and behind products that make them smarter.

What technologies are on the innovation horizon for this year? I had a chance to sit down with acclaimed Silicon Valley tech analyst, Bob O’Donnell, at the The International Consumer Electronics Show (CES), to discuss the highlights of the show and where tech innovation is headed.

Bob shared that many of the products on view at CES were technologies debuted in past years, but with tweaks, improvements and continuing development. In his opinion, we are now coming in to the necessary, but less thrilling, phase of making things work together – a gradual progression, migration and integration - steps that need to happen to make these innovations a viable reality.

Fully Autonomous Vehicle

One of the biggest features at CES that Bob was most excited about was the fully autonomous vehicle. The timeline for final market release of these vehicles is a good example of how public expectation and actuality are not synchronized. Bob shared that this is a great example of where the public may expect an innovation to become accessible within six months, but in reality it will be three to five years before we are closer to these vehicles hitting the road.

Voice-based Computing

Voice-based computing was everywhere and the competition is stiff in the area of voice-assisted tech. Bob proclaimed that this is the new OS war with a lot of contenders. The advances and possibilities in smart home technology were impressive although smart home and voice assisted technologies are not without their problems.

[shareable cite="Bob O'Donnell"]Voice-based computing is the new OS war[/shareable]

2018 Technologies On The Innovation Horizon

Some of Bob’s predictions for 2018 (You can see his predictions in more detail at Tech.pinionsTechspot and Seeking Alpha):

  1. Empathetic AI: You will see AI drive empathetic computing. Our devices are still not smart, there’s no sense of context, but you will start to see that at end of 2018.
  2. The Year of the Accelerator: Development of neural network accelerators using chip technologies that operate more efficiently and are extremely power sensitive, allowing you to put more intelligence on the Edge.
  3. Growth of Edge computing: Now everything connects to the Cloud. Companies are innovating in the realm of Edge computing as an alternative to Cloud based computing.
  4. Voice computing: This year we will see refinements and enhancements in voice computing.
  5. Streaming services: As such services multiply – in media and beyond, the integration of these services will be a focus.

Want to keep up to date with what Bob is tracking? Check out

[callout]Click below to listen to Bob O'Donnell's discussing the technology and innovations at CES 2018[/callout]

Direct download: What_Technologies_Are_On_The_Innovation_Horizon_For_2018_S13_Ep47.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 8:16am PST

Have you ever circled around a busy city block searching for parking? You know how frustrating it can be. If you run a business that depends on drivers finding a parking space, parking becomes mission critical. Is there an innovative parking solution that addresses this problem?

This weeks guest, Jeremy Leval, discusses the parking challenge and how Parknav addresses it. He shares his journey from entrepreneurial youth to becoming a part of an innovative solution to a very common problem.

[shareable cite="Jeremy Level"]Don’t overlook the benefit of accelerators and incubators to grow your business[/shareable]

As a child with the lemonade stand, Jeremy had the idea of offering free pretzels to keep the customers coming back for more. His desire to challenge himself and stand out compelled him to try new things, learn new skills and use these skills to establish start-ups. Jeremy continued to move into new avenues of entrepreneurship, seeking ways to solve everyday problems in creative ways.

Innovative Parking Solution: Parknav

While enrolled in an MBA program, Leval kept the entrepreneurial flame burning by teaming up with a colleague, now Parknav CEO, to establish a forum for engaging a community of entrepreneurial-minded people. Jeremy  found that listening to and learning from others’ mistakes was especially useful in side-stepping potential pitfalls in his own venture. He emphasizes the value of having input from people who are disconnected from your particular venture and are willing to provide a critical, independent and qualified viewpoint.

After college, he met a University of Illinois professor who had a simple problem: finding street parking in the city. Such was the beginnings of Parknav, a navigation system that finds that elusive street parking space for you.

As Parknav began to come together as a business entity, Jeremy and his business partners had to determine where to focus their product offering – who was their best target audience. They came to a decision to pivot from their original consumer focus to focus more on a business-to-business solution.

[shareable cite="Jeremy Leval"] Don’t give up on the first no. Persevere.[/shareable]

Innovators Advice:

During the interview, Jeremy shares his advice to innovators:

  • Have a community and advisers,
  • Knowing when to pivot
  • Take advantage of business accelerators to help launch your business that will bring the right partnersto the table.

Show Links:

[callout]Click below to listen to this weeks show on innovating solutions to very common problems[/callout]

Innovation is not something restricted to Silicon Valley or other Silicon Valley like location (e.g. Austin, Boston, etc). Innovation can happen anywhere. If you are willing to invest some time and little effort, you can find non-obvious innovation happening in some very unusual locations.

This week, we take the new mobile studio to Paducah, Kentucky to interview the founders of Fin Gourmet Foods. The business challenges some basic assumptions of innovation including:

  • Turn other peoples trash into a product: Fin takes the Asian Carp, which is an invasive species that is taking over the Mississippi and Ohio river systems., and innovate a way to turn it into a great food source.
  • Give opportunities to people overlooked: In addition to locating in a rural part of the country, Fin works with local halfway houses to offer jobs to former prison inmates and others down on their luck.
  • Breathe life back into a industry overlooked by others: Fin pays a premium price for what many considered "trash" to help local independent fishing families to transition to this new species of fish and the economy it can support.

What is the non-obvious innovation at Fin?

Fin has two patented processing techniques:

  1. To debone Asian Carp fillets and
  2. To make all-natural surimi (Japanese fish paste) from the Carp without using water or chemicals.

More on Fin Gourmet Foods:

Started in 2010, Fin’s mission and vision are that the Asian Carp provide economic opportunities for our communities, fostering jobs creation and revitalizing the inland fishing industry. Together with fisherman like Ronny Hopkins, we will better manage the Asian Carp so that our rivers/lakes/estuaries are better protected while employing people who need second chances from incarceration, drug court, domestic violence, or just to have a better life path.

[callout]Click below to listen to this weeks show on non-obvious innovation from unexpected places.[/callout]

Lets face it. Innovation is hard word and requires leadership support if an organization is going to be successful at it. Thus every CEO needs an innovation coach who can come alongside and help the CEO achieve innovation success.

Why does an organization success with innovation fall in the lap of the CEO? Because the CEO needs to own the innovation agenda. This is not something that can easily be passed on to the others. While an organization may hire an CINO (chief innovation officer), the innovation success of an organization is not something that can be handed off.

4 Reasons Every CEO Needs An Innovation Coach

  1. Innovation Coach Can Help A CEO Find Their Blind Spot: We all have blind spots and we need an outsiders perspective to see them. This is especially true when it comes innovation blind spots.
  2. Innovation Coach Takes A Dispassionate View: Innovation can become very political inside an organization. A CEO needs a dispassionate independent adviser who doesn't have a dog in the hunt.
  3. Innovation Coach Can Ask The CEO Questions No One Else Can: CEO needs to be able to talk and work through issues with someone who has the role and permission to challenge and advise. The CEO cannot have this same level of conversation with their Board or team. The coach must ask the questions no one else will.
  4. Great Performers Have A Coach: People and team who want to outperform their peers have coaches. These include business, leadership and personal coaches. If innovation is import to your organization, then you need an innovation coach.

As a CEO myself, I can attest to the challenges and loneliness of the role. Having a team of advisers and coaches are invaluable to achieving personal and leadership success. Innovation should be the next area of coaching every CEO should take advantage of.

[callout]Click below to listen to this weeks show on the 4 reasons every CEO needs an innovation coach. [/callout]

Show Links:

For peer-to-peer coaching, check out TheInnovators.Community. A private Slack community of people who are passionate about innovation.

Additional Resources:

[callout]Click below to listen to this weeks show on the 4 reasons every CEO needs an innovation coach. [/callout]

Direct download: 4_Reasons_Every_CEO_Needs_An_Innovation_Coach_S13_Ep44.mp3
Category:Past Shows -- posted at: 9:00am PST